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D&D 5e

Cognisant

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I bought books on sale yesterday and I've got aspirations of running a game for a group of friends from work, all IT people and I don't think any of them have played tabletop before. Based on what I've read thus far it's much like Pathfinder but simplified in some minor aspects, the advantage/disadvantage system saves having to memorize a lot of different modifiers. If anyone wants to offer advice or explain some subtleties of the system (like exploits and rule conflicts I should watch out for) that would be appreciated.

While reading about hit dice and long/short rest breaks I had the idea that maybe characters could gain experience points for eating nice food, staying in a nice inn, enjoying luxuries like smoking and alcohol, etc. The idea being to encourage players to roleplay their character enjoying their newfound relative wealth, also as their characters progress the relative gain of these activities will diminish. This will prompt the players to seek out ever finer pleasures for their characters, perhaps tempting them into using addictive drugs, magical experimentation, or to make a fuss when the meal they ordered is under/over cooked.

Any advice to balance this? At very least I'll ensure that the players have to seek out expensive pleasures, they won't be able to spend 200gp in the starting village for an instant level up (even if they had the money) because there's nothing worth that much for the villagers to provide. Unless they party wants to take a long holiday enjoying the best the town has to offer until they've spent 200gp, which is actually pretty realistic. But if they do that after every adventure they'll have crap equipment and the human characters will probably die of old age before the campaign is over... Which in a world where every other race seems to live centuries is also pretty realistic.

Also any ideas for fantasy food/drink/drugs/games/gambling/pastimes/pleasures/etc?

I've been influenced by reading this:
http://mangakakalot.com/chapter/dungeon_meshi/chapter_0
 

Hadoblado

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5E?

It's pretty easy to pick up. They took a lot of emphasis off playing numbers and made it more about the characters themselves. They also nerfed casters a *lot*... even though they're still the strongest :P

While reading about hit dice and long/short rest breaks I had the idea that maybe characters could gain experience points for eating nice food, staying in a nice inn, enjoying luxuries like smoking and alcohol, etc. The idea being to encourage players to roleplay their character enjoying their newfound relative wealth, also as their characters progress the relative gain of these activities will diminish. This will prompt the players to seek out ever finer pleasures for their characters, perhaps tempting them into using addictive drugs, magical experimentation, or to make a fuss when the meal they ordered is under/over cooked.
While that's a good mechanic for a computer game maybe, it'll be a complete pain in the arse to constantly manage. As the GM you don't want to make it a chore for yourself, and while I find these systems fun to come up with, they're not fun to compute.
 

Jennywocky

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5E?

It's pretty easy to pick up. They took a lot of emphasis off playing numbers and made it more about the characters themselves. They also nerfed casters a *lot*... even though they're still the strongest :P
Yeah, I am not going to cry for the casters. I think 5e is better balanced overall in light of the various classes, but high level casters are going to rock, still. I also like the Warlock class concept, with more emphasis on cantrips and class powers, with a short rest to get the few spell slots back. You know what else helps the casters? Spell scaling -- if you cast a lower level spell in a higher-level slot, you get increased efficacy. This has been something that has been a long time coming, spells no longer necessarily become useless after you reach higher levels.

The game is GREATLY streamlined without being weak. The game keeps skill creep down (you won't need to get proficiencies in the 20-30's for high level campaigns), everyone has a few skills they do decently in now which means even if you're not a skill wonk you might be useful to the group. The advantage/disadvantage thing is simple while still be useful. Monks seem to play much better than before and fighters might be better balanced at later levels. There are not three zillion feats that make building characters or playing complicated.

The short vs long rests give parties an option beyond having to rest for eight hours to get health back. You can adventure more than you rest now.

The weapons charts are simplified sensibly. Magic items are less essential for survivor, they are more like "boosters". Again, you don't have to be loaded for bear dragons anymore to have fun playing + surviving.

All in all, the game just feels far easier to play while still covering all the bases. It's as phenomenal an effort as 4e sucked.

---

Cog, your addition seems to make a 'different game' out of 5E and sounds like it would add as much complexity as was taken out. I mean, you don't even need a system, you can just wing it as you go, I suppose. Of course, worst case is that the characters just become junkies who adventure to support their fine-living habits, ha ha. Way to support addiction subculture. :D Then you can have the authorities tax everything, forcing them to adventure even more to squeak out more of the finer pleasures in life.

Is it going to be fun, long-term? That's the biggest question. Is it something players want to commit to over the long haul? Not sure if it's worth developing a system that no one wants to play.
 

Cognisant

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The argument against added complexity is very convincing, especially considering my last attempt to DM was a failure because I was overwhelmed by the complexity.

But still, I want to align player and character motivations, for example getting a new enchanted sword is something both the player and their character can be excited about, and this alignment of motivation creates immersion because the player empathizes with their character. I want to encourage players to empathize with their character's desires for comfort, luxury and fun, to be excited about going to tavern to get drunk, to want to take their armour off when they're out of combat, to seek out fine food and comfortable lodgings rather than subsisting on rations and camping all the time.

There's a few benefits to this:

1. Roleplay, if the party order meals at a tavern and one of them receives a bowl of soup with a fly in it the character's enjoyment of the meal is marred and I tell the player they won't receive as much of an XP bonus as the other characters. The player now empathizes with their character's distaste, they might choose to pick the fly out and just accept their bad luck, call a waiter over and complain so it doesn’t happen again or send the soup back and demand a refund. The situation begs to be roleplayed and regardless of what choice the player makes the choice itself is character building, maybe a half-orc stays quiet to avoid making a scene, maybe he takes it as an insult that they assumed he'd be okay with it, maybe he eats the fly and says aloud "ahh just like Momma used ta make".

2. Worldbuilding, rather than making it up on the spot I'll prepare menus and spend some time thinking about what luxuries each settlement has to offer, this gives me an opportunity to develop the world and motivates the players to spend some time exploring it. The available luxuries (indeed what's considered a luxury) differs by culture and region, if I wanted to be really ambitious I could secretly devise preferences for each character which the players have to discover by exploring and trying new things, maybe spicy food is a delicacy for one character but awful for another?

3. Wealth, encouraging players to spend their gold on non-essential things means I can afford to give them more goodies to find, both in terms of currency and things which are of no benefit in combat but might appeal to the characters themselves. For example maybe an elven character obtains some jewelry of historical significance (like the white gems in Smaug's hoard) which mechanically provide 1xp per day, the player will be very reluctant to part with these and delivering them to the elven royalty is a quest they might decide entirely upon their own volition to undertake (once they've levelled up enough that 1xp isn't worth bothering with any more).

4. Opportunities, if the party receives an invitation to a noble's masquerade ball they'll want to go for the sake of going, not simply to loot the place and pick fights, instead they might meet a few important people, hear a speech, maybe gain some juicy gossip, make some new friends and leave at the end of the night without ever having a single round of combat. For the DM having players motivated to play the game in a way that doesn’t necessitate killing things all the time opens up a whole new world of opportunities, you don't have to have an assassin show up and attack the noble to keep things interesting, indeed after several such non-combat situations having an assassin attack would be more interesting because the players wouldn’t have expected it the moment they got the invite.

I probably don’t have the skill to make this work but I think it’s still worth discussing.
 

Jennywocky

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1. That kind of thing is roleplayed already, if the player wants to do that. And if not, forcing them to do it is probably making the game less fun for them.

2. Sure, detail and diversity can be interesting, if the players are into that. Certainly all the food porn in Hannibal is what made the show fascinating (among other things), even for those who never before paid attention to food. Again, the players need to be interested in it, but embellishment can make a world feel more real.

3. 1xp per day is lousy even at first level, since it costs 500xp or more to level up to 2. 500 days of sitting on your ass, if you want; or you can trade in this awesome gem of Smaug's lair quality for a few hundred GP and actually buy something you can use. Meanwhile, killing a goblin or kobold (as piddly as they come) might give you 10xp -- that's 10 less days you have to sit on your ass at first level to level up. This feels like another form of control, where you are trying to force hack-n-slash players to roleplay.

4. My groups already do this shit and have a blast doing it. Yes, we've had a number of nights without any fights because we were doing social intrigue and exploration, and we got experience from the GM for doing it. It's called roleplaying. Aren't your players roleplaying at all? It doesn't really need to be spelled out, the GM is perfectly free to eyeball XP based on what seems appropriate.

I'm just not sure what spending a lot of time developing an intricate system that could be a real pain to implement in-game would accomplish, since some of this is already part of a normal roleplaying session. You also don't want to force your players to do things they hate continuously, or they'll quit your game because it isn't fun. Give more options, not less.

are you asking about how to train hack-slashers to pursue the pleasures of roleplaying?
 

Hadoblado

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I think that before you implement any systems, you should see how the players play. Part of the job of the DM is to give the players what they want, and they'll likely be strained in learning the base rules anyway.

As a player I can tell you I fucking hate it when the DM chooses to implement their own rules that tells me how I should or should not play my character. I generally have my own character concept that defines my play, and it usually doesn't involve making lots of small decisions about lifestyle. If I were playing in your campaign, I would just want to pay a monthly sum for cost of living and assume all the small things. If a player has an idea about what they want to play, you should reward them for being consistent with that idea. Greg tends to eat like an Obelix, and no amount of DM control would make me play him different.
 

redbaron

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We've come full circle!

Tbh Cog I think the trick is just letting the players have their way by rewarding them for the stuff they like. When I ran my campaign I just ad libbed a lot of stuff. Like there's no reason that you can't let one player pay a monthly price for stuff while another has drunken fly-soup brawls.

At some point I remember somebody decided to hit a statue and I hadn't planned anything, but I just said that it opened a secret room full of stuff - because they actually missed 2 secret rooms in earlier sessions. No one could have known I faked it, and I had the stuff there for them to do the things, I just did it in that instance instead of the one I 'planned'.

My point being that you should focus on creating the world and letting the players interact with it freely, mostly defining their own pathway. You can't focus on defining how others play and then make the world around that - it isn't really fun for the players then because they're no longer role-playing in a cool world, they're just pawns in a machine.

I mean you could even have a world and decide there's no specific way to have open a secret room, you simply decide as the DM to open it when someone does something sufficiently clever or something. Then maybe another time you don't - it encourages them to experiment and explore, to try out new things and to actually do stuff. By making it more rewarding to do novel or interesting stuff, players will probably do it. Make a world that rewards this stuff and the players will respond positively I think.
 

Cognisant

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It's called roleplaying. Aren't your players roleplaying at all?
I bought the books on Sunday the 2nd of July, I'm way ahead of myself like usual :D

Don't worry I'm totally convinced not to implement any of my ideas.

As a player I can tell you I fucking hate it when the DM chooses to implement their own rules that tells me how I should or should not play my character.
That wasn't my intent... but after a few hours thinking about it I'm starting to see where you're coming from.

Offer too little bonus XP and players will just ignore it as irrelevant, offer too much and they'll start optimizing their behavior to maximize XP and so instead of making out-of-combat activities more meaningful I'll have made them part of the game and participation in them, if not mandatory, disadvantageous to ignore which with Greg as the example would reduce Hado's freedom of expression.

I can't see any way out of this :storks:

Oh well, I'll still write a tavern menu and come up with luxuries for characters to enjoy, I enjoy world building for its own sake, but I see now that offering bonus XP for anything is fraught with peril.
 

redbaron

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Diminishing returns?

First out of combat quest thing yields extra XP. Second one not so much etc.

Same with combat. Killing the same enemy over and over doesn't have to keep yielding XP. Gold, items, XP, stat bonuses, misc. bonuses and so on can all be used. Just have them not be exploitable, which kind of makes sense anyway.

If you started a barfight 5 times, the first one might be a real learning experience. But by the time you're starting your 5th one, you're kind of pushing it if you expect to get rewarded by the DM - you might even get punished or have to pay higher prices for food since the barkeep dislikes you.

Basically you want to reward people for roleplaying their characters well, not for being repetitive to exploit a system.

I think your issue is that you just think too extremely about it like, "haha! Entire non-combat levelling!" when you could simply reward players for some non-combat stuff, then some combat stuff. Or come up with situations where players are rewarded for diplomacy but not necessarily punished e.g. hostage situation where you get extra reward for resolving peacefully but if you get some innocents killed no one's going to hold it against you necessarily (but later on a grieving mother asks for your help as penance or something - oOOOOoOoo!!)

Anything can work, just don't focus too heavily on any one thing. It's fun to try new stuff out for both the players and the DM.
 

travelnjones

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If you were playing a game where players spent exp to increase skill or naturally increased skills after an adventure (read earthdawn and runequest) i would not say this.

Just forget exp completely and say this section of the adventure you are level 1 . Once you hit this point everyone levels. and so on. It works so much better in D&D.
 

Jennywocky

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Baron made some great posts above. ^^

If you were playing a game where players spent exp to increase skill or naturally increased skills after an adventure (read earthdawn and runequest) i would not say this.

Just forget exp completely and say this section of the adventure you are level 1 . Once you hit this point everyone levels. and so on. It works so much better in D&D.
Yeah, I've been in campaigns (including the 5e campaign we just started) where basically the GM has a gauge on the difficulty of the adventures, and that's how it's been handled. You never really have characters leveling at different times (which would be a nightmare in retaining balance after time, plus people arguing about XP when someone else gets more), and you can control the level of difficulty much easier so you don't get a party wipe unnecessarily, etc. Plus less nightmare calculating XP.

So pretty much any constructive behavior (combat or not) gets rewarded in some way. There are also rewards that have nothing to do with XP. For example, a GM can grant an item, or a particular contact, or a bonus Trait (in Pathfinder), or some other benefit for particular novel solutions to problems. It doesn't all have to be about XP and having the players jump through hoops.


... in my last Aberrant campaign (White Wolf superhero game), you don't get XP, you just get Skill Point awards every so often, which you can spend to buy new skills or improve old ones. Normally the smallest common denominator is "1" (like, whole numbers), but when a player would do something really novel or come out with some great unexpected line (usually a hilarious one), the GM would just say, "you get a quarter [or half] Skill Point" as a cookie award. If you collected enough to make a whole point, it could be used like regular points.
 

Hadoblado

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It's kinda funny, because most people end up leveling up at the same time regardless of XP bonuses. Unless you're handing out enormous sums, the windows for people actually being an entire level up are usually quite small. XP bonuses feels like an impotent mechanic.

However, I still like it. I dunno, I want people to be rewarded for their engagement in the game. If every objective assumes you've got a comparable power level it feels contrived. I almost always want my parties exposed to threats they cannot yet deal with, just so that the universe feels bigger than they are.

I like the suggestions about having different kinds of rewards. All of my favourite 'rewards' have been small things of near irrelevant value. Stuff that you need to work to make useful. "Mundane" magical items or traits.
 

Cognisant

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NPC Names
I got most of these from an AskReddit page about words that can also be names.
Isosceles (If that's not a wizard name I don't know what is)
Scalene
Symphony
Sonata
Fellatio (need to say it with an accent like Fellatio del Toro :D)
Evinrude
Rosemary
Lavender
Thyme
Basil
Soda
Mesothelioma (elf name)
Chlamydia (even better elf name)
Cherry
Eloquence
Gavin
Pugsly
Pubert
Themos
Sincere
Epiphany
Euphoria
River
Rain
Raven
Rogue
Solstice
Mantis
Cedar
Oak
Willow
Chrysalis
Iris
Magenta
Cyan
Helius
Lithius
Beryllius
Boron
Fluorine
Neon (too cyberpunk?)
Phosphorus
Chlorine
Argon
Vandius
Gallius
Selen
Arsenic (have to make this guy a king's advisor or something and give him a goatee, black clothes and have him laugh a lot for no reason)
Zircon
Caesius (Caesium, all the roman sounding ones are elements with the 'm' exchanged for an 's')
Topaz
Ruby
Sapphire
Jade
Lazuli (I like this one)

I figure if I give NPCs stupid names the players are more likely to remember them and if it becomes annoying I'll kill them off.
World History
I haven't been able to find an official world history and I want to make up my own anyway, one that makes sense to me.

In the beginning of beginnings the gods which exist outside of time & space created reality, then destroyed it, this happened many times. They could all poof reality in & out of existence all they wanted but they couldn't poof each other away and there was much disagreement about how the world should be. Eventually they overcame their mutual pettiness (which took eons) and agreed upon a set of rules by which they could all contribute to the mutual creation of the world as it now exists.

With the creation of the world came the first five races each of which was meant to inhabit a different part of the world and coexist, not that any of the gods actually believed they would.
Hills - Halflings: Arguably the most peaceful race the halflings were created to inhabit the rolling hills, they love music food and merriment, the other gods were baffled by this race and yet they've proven to be quite tenacious, even one of the most successful in the age of man.
Plains - Elves: Swift graceful and long lived the elves were the first to develop spears and bows which they used to great effect against the orcs that endlessly harassed them, but it wasn't until the gnomes taught them magic that their golden age began.
Valleys - Gnomes: Curious clever and inventive the gnomes were the first to develop magic and shared it freely with the other races, insofar as the other races allowed them to, really only the elves took to this gift in any great number, as with the halflings one can't help but wonder what their gods were thinking.
Forests - Orcs: Stupendously strong and tough the gods that created them clearly did so with a simplistic goal, to wipe out all other races, however during the first age the elves and gnomes kept them in check and in the elven golden age they were almost pushed to extinction.
Mountains - Goblins: Tenacity exemplified, short lived but fiendishly clever they breed prolifically and in the age of man have become very successful as both opportunistic raiders and, oddly enough, trusted servants.

The First Age
All five races started off without technology or culture, much of the first age was spent developing rudimentary things. Most cultural development came from the halflings who invented cooking, art, music and alcohol. The gnomes invented architecture, agriculture and many other practical things, chances are if it's technological and the humans didn't invent it the gnomes did. The elves lived a tribal life not that unlike the orcs until they traded with the halflings and gnomes, all three races were united against the orcs and goblins until the golden age began.

The Golden Age (the age of the elves)
When the gnomes taught magic to the elves shit hit the fan, the long lived elves were really good at it and quickly became masters of it equal to the gnomes that taught them, the halflings not so much. As soon as the elves had mastered magic they set about solving the orc and goblin problems by creating humans and dwarves from some combination of elf, gnome and halfling essences, mostly the latter too hence the facial hair and round ears. Humans though not as large or strong as orcs bred just as quickly and were highly receptive to training. At last the elves and gnomes could stand their ground in open warfare, their human shock troops giving them a front line that wouldn't scatter and run the moment the orcs reached it. The dwarves too were great miners and tunnel fighters, capturing and collapsing the labyrinthine tunnels the goblins had dug under the elven/gnomish lands and settlements.

After this war of (not quite) extermination the elves kept the dwarves and humans as indentured servants as they were always intended to be, that is until the humans (and the dwarves with human encouragement) rebelled against the elves in the war of independence. The gnomes never approved of their essences being used to create humans and found it hilarious to see it come back to bite the elves in their asses, seeing their long time friends and allies being slaughtered was however less amusing. Thanks to gnomish intervention the rebellion ended more or less peacefully, a lot of elves and humans had died but the humans bounced back pretty quickly, the elves are still recovering and will probably never be as numerous as the races they have created.

The halflings for the most part stayed out of this as they had the war of extermination, the elves felt a kinship with them as a fellow first race, the humans and dwarves were predominately derived from halfling essence so there's actual kinship there and the gnomes don't care so all in all the wars hardly affected them.

The Silver Age (the age of man)
Now the orcs are back, not quite the great hordes they used to be but they're making a resurgence, with every passing year their raiding parties grow more powerful and more frequent. Humans are everywhere, the dwarves have carved entire mountains into cities, the halflings are stilling minding their own business, the gnomes are semi-integrated into human and elven society, the elves have fucked off to the most remote and easily defensible places they can find. The goblins are also everywhere, the humans (who have a bit more essence of elf than the dwarves) decided it was a good idea to have goblin servants so now there's "domesticated" goblins that live in human towns, in contrast to the feral goblins out in the wild.

Goblins are a bit like hyenas, the females are the big aggressive ones whereas the males (especially those raised by humans and domestic goblins) tend to be a lot more chill. So by keeping the females away from the males (except in controlled circumstances) the humans have created a class of servile goblins that, by virtue of their cleverness, are able to fit in with human society. The halfling reaction is "oh so that's a thing now", the gnomes can't agree whether this is better or worse than humans trying to exterminate the goblins. The dwarves don't know whether to cheer or be horrified and the elves are horrified by everything the humans do by default but they can see the elfishness of this and are proud in a "I hope this bites you in the ass too" kind of way.
 

Cognisant

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The domesticated goblins is something I'm unsure of, it's dark, really really dark.

In my head goblins have a matriarchal clan system whereby the bigger/stronger/healthier a female is the more males she can have in her gang, the males can come and go between gangs as they please. Goblins in the wild rarely make it past their twenties, it's a rough lifestyle and if a female thinks a male isn't pulling his weight he either leaves the gang or she'll kill him. The males are easily lead, they instinctively do whatever the female wants which in the wild makes them aggressive opportunists however when indentured/enslaved (depends how you look at it) by a human family they dote on and serve the family matriarch. This surprisingly results in a goblin that's well dressed, combs his hair, trims his nails, is well spoken, gregarious and instinctively servile, think Dobby in a butler outfit.

But they're still wild goblins and they're not just animals, goblins are highly intelligent indeed possibly the most intelligent race were it not for their short lifespans (a 35yr old goblin is like a 100yr old human) they could be great inventors and wizards. In the wild females pass on shamanistic magic to their daughters, they haven't the time to perfect anything but they adapt and learn with astounding speed, from one generation to a next these shamans may have completely different sets of spells.

Tangent: Every race has equal magical aptitude, even orcs can learn magic but it's rare to find one that has the patience to persevere with it, likewise halflings and dwarves tend not to learn it for their own idiosyncratic reasons.

The problem is male goblins are still male goblins and as happy as they might be to serve the human families they were raised by they still have a strong desire to seek out female goblins. However meeting a wild female almost always results in their swift death, if they're unlucky it'll be a slow excruciating death as the female interrogates them for opportunities to exploit. Knowing this they tend to take a gift in a vain attempt to placate the female, if the gift is impressive this may work at first but no female goblin has the patience to entertain such a fool for long, at best she'll send him back to steal more things for her.

Alternatively the goblin servant (they are paid a meager amount) can visit one of the human run "leisure houses" provided for his kind, suffice to say this is where human families get their baby goblins from and the people who run the venue gain income from both sources. The females are inherently chaotic evil but as pragmatic as it may be beneath the assurances and the veneer of civility this is essentially a system of slavery and rape, not at all unlike the practice of breeding/selling/owning dogs.

It's so very very dark but I'm curious to see how players will react to it, if they wish to stop it how far are they willing to go? To stop such a profitable and culturally entrenched practice they'll have to get it outlawed and those in power won't listen to a few opinionated low level adventurers. Will they resort to terrorism to achieve their goals, maybe frame some innocent goblins for murder to make the public lose their trust in their slaves/servants?

Maybe there's already an underground organization dedicated to this goal, an organization run/funded by elves who may or may not have ulterior motives.

Edit: Having doubts, this is possibly too dark even for me.
 

Jennywocky

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We started a new campaign two months ago, with GM duties moving back to a prior GM.

with our old 15-month campaign, basically a port of Pathfinder's "Crimson Throne" to 5e:

I was very excited that my Halfling monk with a level each of rogue, barb, and fighter, with the strength belt and having eaten three different colored dragon's hearts survived to the end of the campaign. I think only two of us by the end were initial characters. (We finished as level 17 chars.)

My favorite moment in the campaign was when on a magic sword run where two characters died -- a pretty nasty bit, one was a paladin who got turned to dust -- and the rest of us were touch and go, we were fighting a few things at once (shit was hitting the fan and people were fighting over the sword, which kept changing hands) and Molly ran right up the wall and jumped on top of an undead beholder nailing our party from 40' in the air and was beating the crap out of him while standing on his head... and I was making a flurry of saves from all eye beams and kept rolling hot and making the saves (!)... and the thing ducked down a side tunnel with Molly still on its head, like the ending of Riki Tiki Tavi where Riki the mongoose goes after the cobra in its hole.

She eventually hopped off and ran back out of the tunnel, and it came after her and was gnawing on her partway into its mouth while she was beating on its face with her fists when it finally died... and she fell 40' to the ground and got up and managed to save the day while having all her clothes burned off by acid. It's a long story, but damn...!

I really didn't know if I'd live, and the fact I did just made it so much awesome!

He started a new rule -- there's a huge 20 sider sitting in front of his screen. Once per night, someone in the group (or the group altogether) can indicate for another player to add the die to a roll ... essentially giving them advantage on a roll ... if it's something they need to make. But you have to offer it before they roll.

It's for actions that are either damn necessary to make (like a death save) or for something that is crazy but heroic, typically.

We can use the die MORE than once during a night... but every time we use it extra, the GM is also allowed to use it for an NPC at some point of the night.

We keep forgetting to use it, though. Until after the fact. It's just not something we normally think of.


My new campaign, I'm playing an Indian-looking shadow sorc (variant human) named Princess Kabrina. She is not a real princess, her father used to just call her that so she calls herself that as well. Her sorc focus is a metal tiara her father gave her (a family heirloom). We have two half-orcs in our party. One is a paladin of Try, who is a very smite the injust kind of god. This paladin was raised in an orphanage with a warlock friend and both aspire to be "noble warriors" serving the gods. While our group is 7 people, they give deference to the "princess" and are overprotective of her in that half-orc brusque way because they think she'll grant them a knighthood when we succeed in our quest. She just thinks they are being nice. It's quite the comedy of errors.

"HEY! Don't talk that way to the princess!" [Half-orc turns right around and starts mansplaining, err orcsplaining, to the diminutive sorc]


Being a sorc is very different than a monk, and not just the squishy stuff. Basically I feel like a loaded gun with a limited number of bullets, along with what amounts to an unlimited slingshot. So either I spent on of my hard-earned bullets (where some shots might turn the tide of the battle, and another shot might just be a dud) and I can't reload the clip until the next day) or I hit something with my piddly slingslot (cantrips). it's much more resource-management focused.
 

travelnjones

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Cantrips become better at some levels 5 maybe. Our casters seem pretty potent with just them. Hellish rebuke seems potent.
 

Hadoblado

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Isn't hellish rebuke level 1?

Are you thinking of eldritch blast?

E l d r i t c h B l a s t
Evocation cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous
A beam o f crackling energy streaks toward a creature
within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the
target. On a hit, the target takes 1dlO force damage.
The spell creates more than one beam when you reach
higher levels: two beams at 5th level, three beams at
11th level, and four beams at 17th level. You can direct
the beams at the same target or at different ones. Make
a separate attack roll for each beam.

That's more of a class feature than a cantrip. It's warlock only, and is more akin to an auto-attack than a spell IMO.
 

Jennywocky

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Yeah, Hellish Rebuke is level 1 invocation.

Eldritch Blast is easily the 'best' damage cantrip out there, due to range and Force not typically being resisted. You can get it as a non-warlock only either with a class dip or by blowing a stat/feat gain on the appropriate feat. About the most comparable Sorc cantrip is Firebolt (which I use regularly) but unfortunately could arguably be the most commonly resisted energy type. There's a few other Sorc cantrips that are of other energy types but usually ask for a save instead... not bad, depending on target, but often it's against the things that more commonly resist. (For example, Frostbite causes disadvantage on next attack + 1d6 cold if they fail, but it's a CON save... usually what fighting monsters -- the type of enemy you WANT to disadvantage -- are good with resisting.)

Don't get me wrong, the ongoing use of cantrips to "fill in" the spell rotation is a welcome addition. It allows a caster to still be casting spells rather than resorting to a dagger or crossbow for similar damage depending on spell when they can't do anything else. So it makes the "flavor" better. At the same time, it's still about resource management -- when do I use a cantrip that costs me nothing vs when do I spend one of those revered slots to do something more powerful that might or might not work anyway?

I've managed to be creative with Lesser Illusion or whatever the cantrip form is. The other night, I cast a 5x5 image of an empty corridor right in front of the face of an enemy fighter and he failed his check to disbelieve, so it was for a few rounds a de factor Invisibility spell in the middle of the fight, he couldn't see our guys, lol.
 

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At the same time, it's still about resource management -- when do I use a cantrip that costs me nothing vs when do I spend one of those revered slots to do something more powerful that might or might not work anyway?
This is why I really like playing a crossbow hexblade warlock, you don't get many slots but it's stuff like Misty Step, Spider Climb, Hex, Protection From Good & Evil (they should just call it Protection) y'know stuff that doesn't have a save it just works and synergizes really well with the crossbowman playstyle.
 

Jennywocky

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At the same time, it's still about resource management -- when do I use a cantrip that costs me nothing vs when do I spend one of those revered slots to do something more powerful that might or might not work anyway?
This is why I really like playing a crossbow hexblade warlock, you don't get many slots but it's stuff like Misty Step, Spider Climb, Hex, Protection From Good & Evil (they should just call it Protection) y'know stuff that doesn't have a save it just works and synergizes really well with the crossbowman playstyle.
Yeah, I haven't dug into it but I've heard of that build before as being very viable.

We had a warlock in our last campaign who had Elven accuracy and spell Sniper and was otherwise built around being able to regularly deliver multiple eldritch blasts per round with a high level of accuracy (sometimes getting double advantage, which obviously pushes up the crit chance -- it was brutal if the targets were in Darkness that the warlock could see through). The burst wasn't as high as the high-level pally smite but it could put out a regular flow of damage + you get all the utility spells that you are describing.

I had picked up a bard level with my sorc so I could do spot healing, but in practice... well, yes, I get bard spells which is helpful, but even with Healing Word (bonus action minor distance heal), I'm still so strapped for slots that I don't do it unless absolutely necessary. At fourth level I have four 1st level slots, three 2nd level slots, + 3 sorc points (since I only have 3 sorc levels). you could burn through all your slots in short order trying to heal on that basis.... and of course 5e seems to reward not healing people until they drop.

I've been trying Chromatic Orb and I might just dump it. Yes, it causes a lot of damage at low levels, but I've cast it four times and failed to hit all four times (it's a ranged attack roll) so the spell didn't do anything. Magic Missile cast at higher levels has been so much more consistent for me, lol...

I already ditched Sleep. It was really useful at level 1 or 2, but doesn't scale super-well.
 

Cognisant

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Lvl5 Human Hexblade Warlock
Feats: Crossbow Expert and I think Sharpshooter
Invocations: Improved Pact Weapon, Thirsting Blade
With the Thirsting Blade invocation I was getting three ranged attacks per round that ignore all but full cover and count as magical for overcoming damage resistance and physical damage immunity, add Hex to that and it's just disgusting.

As much fun as it was I ended up using an app with macros rather than rolling dice and if I was to play this build again I'd probably replace Improved Pact Weapon and Sharpshooter with things less optimal for combat but more interesting for roleplay.
 

Jennywocky

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well, this campaign is still ongoing. We are now level 8. We have a horrid mortality rate -- I'm kinda peeved at our GM. I love the guy to death as a person, and he's damned smart whether in or outside a game. Just because as a player he goes through 3-4 characters during a campaign (he doesn't get attached to his characters) himself, doesn't mean the rest of us don't.

I view gaming as a collaborative story process. Sometimes random shit happens and someone dies (because of a bad decision they made or because they make a nuanced decision they know could kill them but they figure it's worth it), so okay. That's fine. But you gotta question when we've had about 6-7 permanent deaths in a 7 person party over the course of 23-24 sessions, and most NOT from bad playing.

Kabrina is still alive, but mostly out of luck. When she was level 5 or so, we got dumped into a Wild Magic room; it took us time to figure out what was going on + then there were random explosions in the room causing buku amounts of damage, and the exits kept moving every few rounds, and it was a large spherical room where we weren't even on ground level. Like, it was deathtrap insane and we weren't even expecting it. Anyway, she got stunned, turned into a sheep, confused, and then when an explosion off -- completely killed. Basically I could do nothing in the room... all I could do was die. Weirdly, one of the wild magic effects in the large chart is "if you die in a minute, get reincarnated." So I was immediately reincarnated as a tiefling.

I tried to take advantage of this in a roleplaying sense (and boy did the paladins get all over my ass for the next session or two -- "WAS SHE A DEMON ALL THIS TIME???") since as a shadow sorcerer she always had doubts about herself and now... was she a demon or not for truth? Eventually we ended up being in a laboratory full of experiments by ithillids, and they offered to take my brain out and put me in a human body very similar to my old one. So she went for it... and the operation was successful... but I'm still not quite human because I'm a "tiefling brain in a human body" literally. Even if the memories are the old Kabrina. i plan on playing this up and being more aggressive, unpredictable, with commensurate eating habits, etc. I'm trying to figure out what being a tiefling brain means for her.

Anyway, the gashlycrumb tinies of our group:

K is for Krinn, who fell down a pit
H is for Haydon, digested a bit
P is for Princess, horned-headed this time
R is for Raze, encased within rime
J is for Joseph, who now must drink blood
Z is for Zelda, Ma Toomey's new bod
F is for Frosty, brain gone and in pieces

Krinn leaned on an illusory rock in a cave (!) in a fight and was torn to pieces by demons at the bottom. (He was, what, 2nd-3rd level?)

Haydon and Frosty were attacking a fungasaurus from the inside (like a fungal t-rex) and when it died, it fell down and the GM rolled damage. Haydon died and no one could get to him in time, even though the fight was officially over.

Kabrina was stunned, confused, turned into a sheep, then exploded.

Raze was breathed on by an ancient frost dragon in a dark chamber when we didn't even know the dragon was there. The first freeze froze him and killed him, the second breath (since he couldn't dodge and we couldn't get him out of the ice) perma-killed him from the 12d8. (I think we were sixth level.) He's still in that dark room somewhere with that dragon, frozen inside a large ice plume.

Joseph was in the wild magic room trying to get Haydon reincarnated by random magic but only managed to turn him into a zombie + get himself killed and reincarnated as a dhampir (essentially) so he left.

Zelda offered to help Ma Toomey (the 125 year old halfling) get young again -- the ithillids did this by sucking her mind into the collective, then putting Toomey's brain into the now vacated young body.

Frosty apparently was jumped by an intellect devourer for the 6 seconds he had his ring of Mind-Shielding off, so we didn't know he was dead for two sessions because the devourer was pretending to be him. Eventually he got killed in battle, the devourer came out and got killed by a fireball, and then apparently a fiend who Frosty was inhibiting within his own body was able to escape, ripping his body to pieces. Wheee.

Okay, and then LAST session:

We knew there was a beholder down here somewhere but were trying to avoid it. Well, Blix (our goblin scout) was wearing the Invisibility Ring we got just last session, and he was scouting ahead... right as someone dropped into our group to say "TURN AROUND, RUN AWAY, THERE'S AN AWFUL CREATURE AHEAD" ... right as our invisible scout is hit by three rays alone ahead in the beholder's room. He drops. Kabrina heals him from afar while everyone else runs. Blix wakes up just enough to escape the room and run like hell before the anti-magic field comes back into effect.

Kabrina meanwhile is screwed -- she is hit by a necrotic ray before she can run and fails her Dex save, which could easily mean she was dead. We have a spare die we can use once per session by party choice.... we had already used it to help Blix to escape... but you can use it more than once a session, it just means the GM also gets a free use himself for every time after. So she made the save that time, takes damage anyway, and runs.

But basically we almost lost TWO people from an encounter we were unable to avoid, when we were doing everything right. No one was being stupid, we were being careful. Stuff happens in life, sure, but since I view our sessions as "collaborative stories," it kind of kills any chance for story arcs or meaningful choices by characters. It's more like, "Well, shit, you were walking to store for groceries and a bus jumps three lanes + the curb and kills you from behind. Oh, and your friend the next day contracts flesh-eating bacteria from stepping in a puddle by accident that splashes onto a minor cut, and dies from sepsis. And her kids eat the tainted melons that no one knew about and die from e coli. And then your buddy Joe has a brain aneurysm the next week." NOT FUN.
 

Hadoblado

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"Hard" DMs are a different beast. I remember my first ever session rolling up a first level character, jumping into an eighth level campaign, and being nuked by an effectively global (and thus unavoidable) ice storm before my first encounter. No save against Six HP is not a survive good well today.

Then the dude wonders why I power game.

It's hard for DM's to know where the line is sometimes. I think the distinction you've drawn (doing everything right and still suffering frequent casualties) is a valuable one.
 

Jennywocky

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"Hard" DMs are a different beast. I remember my first ever session rolling up a first level character, jumping into an eighth level campaign, and being nuked by an effectively global (and thus unavoidable) ice storm before my first encounter. No save against Six HP is not a survive good well today.
HAHAHAHAHA!

Maybe I'll stop bitching. That's a little crazy.

Then the dude wonders why I power game.
Only the Strong Survive.

It's hard for DM's to know where the line is sometimes. I think the distinction you've drawn (doing everything right and still suffering frequent casualties) is a valuable one.
Thanks. We play to tell stories and we play to have fun. When either or both of those are stripped from the practice, do we want to continue?

It's difficult because I've also had fun in the guy's games, and I enjoy a challenge. He's the GM who also ran the game where my tengu became a thrallherd lich, as one of the "good guys." There, I was having to make DC40 rolls to survive save-or-suck spells/traps (this is in Pathfinder, and that is still damned high), they were BRUTAL... but I had a character able to handle it... AND it was my choice, I was knew I was doing dangerous things but went for it anyway.

He told us in for this campaign, there were encounters that would kill us and that running away was a viable and sensible option. Which we all took to heart. I just think it's silly for level 8 characters to not even have a chance to run when we are attacked by a CR15 creature.
 

Cognisant

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Last character, abandoned dwarven mine, inhabited by kobolds, all is going well.
The party encounters a young red dragon. The rogue almost made it out.
My gnome wizard was the first to fall, Fukushima-shadowed on a wall.

I think it's okay for the DM to occasionally drop a bomb on the party because y'know sometimes life just ain't fair and the party shouldn't expect every encounter to abide the CR system, but most encounters should.

Zelda offered to help Ma Toomey (the 125 year old halfling) get young again -- the ithillids did this by sucking her mind into the collective, then putting Toomey's brain into the now vacated young body.
What happened to Zelda?
Also "Zelda"?
 

Jennywocky

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Zelda has been uploaded to the Collective.... I guess like tree heaven in Avatar. Oh blessed day, calloo, callay.
 

Hadoblado

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In the hard games I've played, usually there is a non-death cost to dying (unless the DM doesn't like you). Perma killing people requires some hoops jumping. You just have to go into debt to be resurrected which is then plot fodder for your next adventure. That character died three more times catching up in levels, then never died again in that continuity after I invested very heavily in utility and contingencies. In the same period the waaaay overpowered Minotaur fighter died over 20 times (but he could afford it). Something about 1v1 scenarios - the DM was happy to lose battles but never played single combat even close to fairly.
 

Jennywocky

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We don't really have options in this campaign -- we're spelunking into old cave systems to find a meteor of precious metal for a reward, competing against NPC spelunker groups.

Our only commerce/NPC resource is an old mining town that kind of got swamped by outsiders similar to a "gold rush" scenario. They have a trading post with the basics; any magic is random and sparse, it depends on what other NPCs brought back / brought with them. And the priests are only mid-level; the last time we asked for their help in containing an evil summoning scroll, they accidentally triggered it and someone almost got killed by what got summoned. So we're kind of on our own, we can't "buy" magic stuff.

DnD doesn't really assign gp value to magic items anyway; you just get the rarity level, and cost is roleplayed / balanced on that level. It really moves away from a gold economy unlike Pathfinder where crafting items or buying items was very tied to specific gold values.
 
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