Friday, December 26, 2014

The classic World of Greyhawk is back!

In a nice bit of Christmas news for the OSR, the 1983 boxed set of the World of Greyhawk is avaliable on PDF again. You can get it here from DnD Classics website, RPGNow, or DrivethruRPG.

While I known for promoting the Wilderlands and hexcrawls, I started with the World of Greyhawk for the first couple of campaigns I ran after getting the DMG. As a fan of Tolkien appendices in the a Return of the King, I was impressed with the epic sweep of history in Greyhawk. The fact the Gygax had barbarian migrations as a major component alongside elves, dwarves, orcs, etc was impressive to me back then.

The only downside was that I never thought that religion got the same type of detail. Instead we got a hodgepodge focused on the deities not the religions. Well I fixed that for myself with this article on Greyhawk Gods.

I hope everybody had a Merry Christmas and I hope you all have a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Where should all the Dwarven Forge go?

Between using Virtual Tabletop for gaming on Monday Night, conventions, the game store campaign, and friends now scattered across the United States, I haven't done much gaming at my house for a long time.

For games outside of Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, this meant I had to find a way of transporting my game room with me. Or more specifically all my miniatures, props, and dwarven forge.

In the past two years I acquired a collection of Dwarven Forge Dungeon , Medieval building set, and most recently Dwarven Forge Cavern. It used to be all I needed was my two milk crates of miniatures and my rolling laptop bag. But now I need to transport my Dwarven Forge as well.

Yeah I know I could run a game without all that claptrap. But this is for when you DO want to run with all that claptrap. Like when you put on a spectacle of a City State erupting in flames.

The calm before the storm

The riot in full swing

The dead

For a while I been relying on a hodgepodge of storage. A combination of a really nice wooden box that my friend +Dwayne Gillingham let me use for a set of dwarven forge style dungeon pieces he made. Along with some of the original DF boxes reinforced with duct table placed in a rolling toolbox I bought. And some other toolboxes I picked up as well.

The Dwarven Forge Cavern pieces were the final straw. I asked Kelly Anne, my wife, to get something the next time she was in Erie. She does hairsticks and other handmade jewelry so she is always in stores that have storage stuff. And she found me these. She got me two sets for four total.

And they are great, ultimately with six of them I was able to store all Three sets of Cavern pieces and addons I bought. Now I wanted more for my existing Dungeon Pieces.

I took advantage this weekend to stop at Target and see what they had.

I found this

And after looking around I found this as well.

After fiddling around I found that the Storage will fit eight of the big Stack and Carry bins in two stacks of four each. I also Found that two of the small Stack and Carry turn sideways is roughly equal in area to a stack of two of the large Stack and Carry. I opted to buy the tote, six large stack and carry, and two small sets of Stack and Carry (three each).

When nested properly it looks like this.

When I got home I found I was able to get all my Dwarven Forge Dungeon pieces in there. In addition I have plastic baggies of what I call my horde miniatures. I lucked out one time when my friend +Daniel McEntee got somebody's collection of plastic DnD miniature in a trade for MtG cards.

In exchange for helping him sort it out, he let me have some of the miniatures he didn't want. This included two dozen twisted demon looking things, two dozen hobgoblin zombies, and two dozen thin undead things. I designated these as my hordes miniature to use when I need to put out a lot of something. They were in a small cardbox box from a Power supply I bought but now they went into one of the small Stack and Carries.

I may buy another set like above and some foam trays  and try to get everything into two storage totes.

The pricing on this from Target was

$10 for the Storage Tote
$20 for the two Small Stack and Carry with three each
$30 for the three Large Stack and Carry with two each.

$60 + tax for all them.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Delving into AD&D: How combat is supposed work.

+Erik Tenkar blogs on casting time segments in ADnD 1st edition. For me the gold standard for figure how combat is supposed to work by the book in first edition is DM Prata's A.D.D.I.C.T essay over on Dragonsfoot.

The two main things I learned from reading ADDICT is that
  • Speed Factors only come into play with a tied initiative.
  • That side (or individual) starts on the segment indicated on opponent's die roll.
The second point needs some further explanation. What the convoluted explanation in the DMG boils down too is that if I rolled a 5 for initiative and you roll a 2 for initiative. This means you start on segment 5 and I start on segment 2. If I was a spell caster, that would mean that I would cast any 1 or 2 segments spells before you could act. If  I cast a 3 segment spell we would go at the same rime. Or rather we would then go to the speed factor rules to see who go first. If you have  a speed factor 2 or less weapon you would go before me because of the 3 segment casting time. If you had a speed factor 3 weapon, then the spell and the melee attack would be simultaneous.

The most important thing about ADDICT is that it reinforced the feeling I was developing about ADnD 1st Edition. That the game as a system didn't deserve to be on the pedestal I placed it on. Don't get me wrong, I think the writing and aides in the DMG are pure gold, I think the PHB reflects what most people want for their characters when playing classic DnD. The Monster Manual likewise is still a classic in my eyes. But is more of a ODnD book than a ADnD book.

With Playing at the World and Hawk and Moor documenting and explaining the genesis of Dungeons and Dragons, I fine myself respecting ODnD far more than ADnD. Why? Because it was developed as a direct result of Gygax running his campaign. Despite is poor presentation almost everything in that book was actually used at some point by Gygax. 

In contrast ADnD 1st edition feels more or less designed. I haven't read any account of Gygax actually using the combat system in the DMG, or other subsystems like Pummeling, Grappling, and Overbearing. The few accounts of I read suggest that there is a whole lot of "Well that seems like a good idea, lets put it in." and little actual playing of the content. And on top of that, TSR was being bombarded by rule questions, and having to deal with tournaments*. Which I feel had a major influence on what Gygax focused on.

I realize that Gygax did play some of ADnD but it wasn't developed the same way as DnD**. I do realize that some parts of ADnD improved on ODnD especially in terms of clarity.

However the differences in how they were developed is why I opted to build the Majestic Wilderlands on top of Swords and Wizardry instead of OSRIC. The Majestic Wilderlands is born of what I actually did in my campaigns and ODnD proved to be a better fit than ADnD.

*Organized play has been both a boon and a bane for tabletop RPGs from the beginning. in the 1970s to today.

**For modern example of a RPG designed this way, look at Goodman Games DCC RPG. +Joseph Goodman+Harley Stroh, and their team spent countless sessions of actual play, playtesting the game before it was printed. It is my opinion is that it is best way to a good design if you have the time and resources to do it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gothridge Games Starter Adventures, a story about a lot of maps.

+Tim Shorts finally released Starter Adventures. For those you who liked his Knowledge Illuminates, you will like this. Moreso because you don't get just one adventure, you get about a dozen and a half adventures, locales, creatures, and items. Along with great art from +Jason Sholtis and maps from me.

Lulu PDF
Lulu Print

The Map from Bender's End.

I tell you need to be careful around Tim with cartography. He just might have you redo the trees ....

Nope. But to be fair showing just the tree trunks was not a good idea. 

Nope. Didn't like the spiky branches or gray transparency. So tried round trunks and transparent foliage.

Nope. now I tried a general fill.

Nope. He finally made up his damn mind combining the branching trunks with transparent foliage.

I can't complain as Tim as been putting up with my bad grammar for years when editing my stuff.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Now for a word about Traveller

Traveller has always been one of my favorite science fiction RPGs. One of the hallmarks of Traveller is its dedicated fanbase and the fact they have supported the game continuously since its publication. First with Fanzines, then with mailing list, finally through a succession of websites. There may have times when there was nobody publishing Traveller material but there never been a time when the fans were not doing something with Traveller or its quintessential setting the Third Imperium.

There are some useful Traveller Links

Far Future Enterprise
Mongoose Traveller
GURPS Traveller
The Traveller Wiki
The Traveller Map
The Traveller Forum

The most cost effective method of owning older Traveller material are the Far Future CD-ROMS

Of all the subsequent editions The Mongoose Traveller Core Book is the most worthy successor to Classic Traveller. However their supplement quality has been spotty (but improved in later printing). At all cost avoid the 1st edition/printing of Mongoose Mercernary.

If you want a printed copy of Classic Traveller, Far Future has you covered on RPGNow with the Traveller Book for $20 plus shipping.

GURPS Traveller has the best supplements, like their historical books they are useful even if you don't use the rules. GURPS Traveller:Nobles, GURPS Traveller:Far Trader, and GURPS Traveller: Solomani Rim are particularly good. The only real dud in their line is their version of the Spinward Marches.

The Traveller Map is an incredible resource. Probably the best one ever made for any RPG. It even allows you to pick any of the its sectors and download it in a booklet form that is similar to the original Classic Spinward Marches. Some of the utilities can be used with custom data that you created for your own Traveller setting.

Now go and answer that mayday!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Comments on 5e combat.

From my answer to a question on RPG Stack Exchange about the deadliness of 5e combat.

Yes 5e combat can be deadly. I blogged about the initial encounter in detail in this post.
The Party
  • Elven Wizard
  • Human Rogue
  • Human Wizard
  • Human Fighter
The Fight
  • Four hours outside of Phandelver the party ran into an ambush set by four goblins.
  • The party roll perception rolls. The goblins rolled various 20s for their stealth check. The Goblins got a surprise round.
  • In the surprise round, the goblins shot arrows taking out both the human wizard and the elven wizard.
  • The Goblins win initiative over everybody except for the downed wizards. They shout a NPC Wagon Driver and the Human Fighter who remain standing.
  • The human rogue starts running towards the goblin shooting his short bow. The human fighter dashes toward the nearest goblin.
  • The Human Wizard rolls a natural 20 on his death check. The Elven Wizards get a successful death check.
  • The next round the goblins focuses on the charging Human Fighter but his high armor class prevents him from being hit.
  • The Human Rogue closes in and kills a goblin with his short bow. The Human Fighter reaches a goblin. The Human Wizard hides. The Elven Wizards continue to roll death checks.
  • The next round the Human Wizard cast sleep causing one more goblin to fall.
  • The remaining two goblins start running away
  • The Human Rogue shot down one goblin, and the Human Fighter kill the last goblin.
  • The fight is over with all goblins down. The Elven Wizard is stabilized.
  • Surprise is important and goblins are good at creating a surprise round due to their high stealth.
  • In general low CR 5e monsters have one special ability they are good at. This can be decisive under the right circumstances.
  • Quantity is also a decisive advantage. For another group with 8 PCs I ran this encounter with 8 goblins. The goblins were completely outclassed even with surprise. It is my opinion that the multiplier for number of opponents needs to be used for the party size as well. In subsequent session it is obvious that doubling the monster does not provide the same challenge if you double of the number of PCs. It wasn't until I increase the difficultly to four times the original I was able to get comparable results for the eight PC group as I did for the four PC group.
  • 5e combat is highly situational. Different plans, different terrains, different initial conditions can produce widely varying results. The result is that small differences in CR don't mean much. Only when the numbers are increased from 50% or 100% on either side the differences become decisive.
  • 5e rewards system mastery but there is less to master. And because of 5e combat sensitivity to circumstances, there is no combinations of abilities that make for an instant win.
  • The use of a d20 and the flat probability curve means that a run of bad or inferior dice rolls can and will happen. The same with a run of superior dice roll. In combination with 5e's sensitivity to situational factors this means results can vary wildly from group to group even when using the same PCs.
In general the book values work great for four man parties. Try running a few encounters with a four man party, Phandelver is good for this. Do this to get a feel of how 5e combat is supposed to be like. Then for a larger group, increase your encounter size by 25% increments until you get the same feel as the smaller group.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The D20 Hairsticks are back!

Kelly Anne, my wife, has operated a Etsy store selling hair sticks for a few years now. On occasion, she will buy d20s and turn them into jewelry namely hair sticks. She hasn't been stocking them for a few years and I been nagging her to make some more. She has a iron cauldron filled with d20 ready to be turned into hairsticks. Finally this year she did and half of them sold all ready. So if you looking for a gift for yourself or a loved one check out her selection.

The one she currently has for sale are:

Gathering Magic (pictured above)
The Sparkling Sorceress
The Water Elemental

Plus a new style for this year

The Shield Maiden

Check out the rest of the selection at Aliarose. She also takes custom orders. 

Game Notes:

Sharpened Hairsticks: Dmg: 1d3, RoF 2, Rng: 10/30. Up to 6 may be worn in a character's hair.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Playing 5e Combat from the other side of the screen

Monday I got to play 5e as a player character. We wrapped up Phandelver and switched over to +Ken H's Monteporte Megadungeon. Ken decided to go with the 5e rules and we converted all of our characters over. The party consisted of a Male Human Warlock (+Chris C.) , a Female Gnome Barbarian (+Joshua Macy), and my character, a Human Rogue, Thief archetype. We also had a small army of henchmen the most important of which is Little Larry a Kobold archer. Unfortunately for this session most of them, except for Little Larry, had to be left behind beyond a chasm that had to be crossed to get into this level.

The Conversion
Ken prorated the experience between our Blood and Treasure characters and 5th edition. If a character was 2/3rd of the way to 7th level then the character xp total was 2/3rd of the way to the 5th edition 7th level. For Luven Lightfinger, my thief, this meant he was 200 xp short of 8th level.

Our stats translated over 'as is'. Leaving Luven Lightfinger at a start point of  Str 10, Dex 15, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 15, and of course his signature trait of having a 7 charisma. As human this meant it translated to Str 11, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 9, Wis 15, Cha 8. I use Luven slight more winsome in a 5e world.

Luven is a 7th level Rogue, I opted for the Thief archetype as it reflected Luven's thug prowess. I took the Criminal background. Luven is a scumbag so that fit. Despite Ken allowing feats I opted for an ability increase at 4th level to get Luven's dexterity up to 18. For skills by 7th level I opted for Acrobatics, Deception (yeah right), and Sleight of Hand. For expertise I had Athletics, Thieves' Tools, Perception, and Stealth. Why Athletics? Because Luven is at heart nothing more than a street thug so a physical skill like Athletics fits well.

By this point in the Monteporte campaign we have accumulated lot of magic items.

  • +2 swortsword, the Sword of Karn
  • +1 dagger that does +1d6 lightning damage, reset on a long rest, the Blade of Ung
  • +1 throwing daggers, the Knives of Melvin Spellpudding that allow me to attack twice with one attack option. They only do 1d3+1 damage tho. 
  • Magic cloak that gives me +2 to all save and +1 to all skills
  • Earring of Stoss, +1 to perception check involving hearing, and gives me a sonar ability to see 10 feet in total darkness.
  • A Ruby that does 1d4 healing, reset on a long rest.
  • A Ring of Mind Shielding
  • The Ring of Iktark, +1 protection, +3 protection versus dragons.

Plus I have a Marcus Aurelius a magic intelligent shortsword. It is +1 to hit, +2 to hit when backstabbing, and +4 to damage when backstabbing. It also grants 120 feet darkvision as well as +3 to Climb check, Phantasmal Force 1/day, Quench fire 3/day, fireball of considerable damage when fighting evil clerics Marcus Aurelius was the one magic item I had that had to be substantially altered due to the +4 bonus when backstabbing. Ken decided it was now +2 to hit and still +4 to damage. Marcus is also mouthy as hell and I rarely use them keeping the obnoxious sword muffled in its scabbard.

In Blood and Treasure I took Finesse as a Feat. But 5e already has that so I opted for the ability increase. If Ken allowed the alternative human racial package I would have opted for the Tavern Brawler feat.

The Game
The session consisted mostly exploration of the 21 miles down level, the introduction of Joshua's Female Gnome Barbarian, and several fight. Monteporte has a lot of empty rooms so exploration takes up a lot of the session's time. In particular was a room with a pink pool that we had to figure out how to use in order to open various secret doors one the wall. In involved the chucking of valuable gold or silver into the pool much to Luven's regret. Well perhaps not so much Luven's regret but the other party member regret who dumped gold and silver bars into the pool.

Luven also decided that it was a great time to start using the hand signals he developed to use when he is scouting ahead and needs to tell the party silently whats ahead. Of course with an intelligence of 9 and a Charisma of 8, Luven's Investigation and Performance ability were not quite up to the task to be used to a system of hand signals. Come to think of it, he never did get to use Investigation as the party never responded to Luven's signals. I am sure that the new Gnome Barbariasn was thinking that Luven was batshit crazy. She probably correct in that regard.

While the roleplaying was as usual zany and highly entertaining, the combat I was looking forward to. I have refereed 5e for nearly two dozen sessions and I was looking forward to fighting as a player. The two times I played 5e the two referees used theater of the mind. I am fine with that but I knew Ken used maps and tokens so I was excited to see how that would work out from the player side.

The Hydra
Our first combat encounter was with a hydra. After solving the mystery of the Pink Pool the western passageway led to an empty room with a north and south passageway. Since south was to our left we followed Adzeer's (+Tim Shorts' character) rule and went south. This lead to a series of large caverns. The first of which had a large pool of water. While exploring, a multi-headed Hydra emerged from the western passage.

Part of the charm of 5e is that while as experienced hands at DnD we knew what a hydra is and that it multiple heads make is a tough mid level monster for a party of three and their henchmen. What didn't know is the one or two abilities that 5e adds on top of the classic stats that make 5e creatures a novelty to fight. Especially when I hadn't ran or used a Hydra in any of the game I ran. So the party was totally in the dark about this version of the Hydra.

As it turned out we totally lucked out as Dante, the human warlock, had as his prime attack that one thing that shuts down a hydra, fire. Otherwise we would be facing a rapidly multiplying set of head making the hydra deadlier as combat went on.

We entered from a passage to the north of the cavern with the lake. The Hydra emerged from the west. Luven was on the westside of the lake. Lucky Luven's Earring of Stoss gave him ample warning so I opted to move to the cavern wall and hide behind some rocks. I rolled a 27 for stealth. Good thing because the Hydra rolled a nat 20 giving it a 26 for a perception check. Good but not good enough to find Luven. My goal was to stay to the rear of the Hydra and be in position to use Marcus despite his sarcasm and mouthiness. The damn sword won't shut up so Luven keeps it in his scabbard.

While I hid the rest of the party retreated back to the north passage in hopes of using it as a bottleneck. Now some of you thinking that it is a dumb ass idea to split the idea. While it is true that it is stupid to split a party in most situation, you have to understand what a split party truly is. Splits not only occur because of position but also because of time. What kills split parties is the inability for the one half to arrive to the aid of the other half in a short enough time. Luven is a rogue with Cunning Actions, I can move up to 90 feet per round, I can move up to 60 feet with a disengage. So while I was behind the hydra my ability to reach the rest of the party was not compromised.

Now it happens to be that Rob Conley the player is a hell of lot smarter about tactics than Luven. But in this case it worked out because Luven had done this dozens of time before in order to use Marcus' backstab ability. The only thing about the damn sword that makes it worth keeping from Luven's point of view.

The only problem in combat is that Ken forgot that Monster get actions as well and did not have the Hydra dash to where the party was. So the party had a lot of time to pepper Hydra with ranged attack. Between the barbarians hand axes, Larry's arrows, and Dante's fiery eldritch blasts, the Hydra already lost half his heads before reaching the entrance of the north corridor.

In the mean time I was holding my action, setting the condition that if the Hydra melee attacks I would attack. That is up until I saw the Hydra was one move away from the entrance. In which case I made my condition if the Hydra reaches the entrance I would do a dash. The reason for this so I can kite the Hydra on the next round,

When my turn came up again, I use part of my move to close the distance with the Hydra, pulling out Marcus at the last minute (incidental action), I successfully make my strike with advantage bringing in my +4d6 sneak attack into play. Doing 22 points of damage in the process. I then used my Cunning Action to disengage as a bonus action and move out of melee range hoping like hell my attack didn't attract the hydra's attention.

As it turned out the hydra was much more pissed about the eldritch blasts and the multiple arrow shots then me. I also lucked out in that the Gnome barbarian ran out of hand axes and decided to rage. The subsequent image of a small gnome women hulking out is going to have trouble leaving Luven's head. That was wrong on several levels. But it did have the advantage of bringing the barbarian into melee which meant I could continue to use my sneak attack bonus.

Thanks to Dante' Eldritch Blast the party was in never in any real trouble. Between the three of us and Little Larry the Hydra fell a few rounds earlier.

The outcome of this fight was largely due to a matter of luck. Ken not taking advantage of the Dash attack which give the ranged attacks of the party an extra two rounds in which to inflict damage. But more important that Chris' warlock, Dante, had the one attack that was the key in putting down the monster, fire based eldritch blasts.

In the monster lair we found a bunch of partially eaten bodies and a rug with a teleporter exit. While it wasn't  match for the rug with the teleporter entrance we already had. It was an interesting find. Luven really wants to find the entrance rug as he has all kinds of ideas of what to do with a matched set.

The Gricks
After exploring all the caverns we returned to the entrance room to this section and went North. Once again Luven scouted ahead and discovered a room with three worm like creatures with tentacles. One of them a lot bigger than the other two. Luven conveyed his discovery to the rest of the party through hand signals. Who then promptly thought that either Luven discovered something doing something obscene or that Luven wanted to do something obscene. Either way the party wasn't too keen on finding out the details.

Luven returned to the party and cleared up the confusion and the group decided to attack. We all hit them with ranged attacks and retreated down the corridor to use the north exit into entrance room as a bottleneck. While we didn't exactly planned this out the party did the right thing by taking out the small guys first and then focusing on the big guy. In these type of situation it is best to eliminate the sources of extra attacks as fast as possible. Sometime the reverse is needed but not in this fight.

The first small Grick was taken out by ranged attack. Then they closed into melee ranged. Luven was able to use his sneak attack to take out the second smaller Grick and the party started in on the bigger grick. Unlike the fight with the Hydra, Ken used dash so there was only two rounds of ranged attacks. Once in melee several party members took hits especially Chris's warlock, Dante who went down after being smacked around by the tentacles of a very pissed off alpha Grick. Little Larry accepted disadvantage and shot his bow in melee, amazingly he got at least one hit every round thanks to his two attacks. Between the Gnome barbarian and Luven we were able to take down the Alpha.

We searched the Grick's Lair can came up with several gold and silver bars. At which point we decided to take a short rest and end the session for the night.


I was very pleased at how 5e worked out as a player. I liked the tactical interplay of the various options and felt it compared well to what I experienced when playing and refereeing with GURPS. Now granted GURPS has far more options overall but in practical terms when a single GURPS character is played only a dozen or so will be actually used by that character.

Like GURPS combat options, the different 5e options played nice with each other and felt like a well designed whole. Unlike GURPS, the total number of options is much more reasonable so we quickly understood what each of us could and could not do.

It also helped that the group had a dozen or more session of 5e sessions in the Phandelver campaign.

I also liked that actions didn't feel particularly gamey and that they adequately translated what my character was doing into game terms. This part I despised the most about 4e despite it being a fun well designed game in its own right. And it is one of the reason why I like GURPS so much that nearly every GURPS mechanic is some genre or real world action in game terms. 5e is more abstract than GURPS but not as much as OD&D or other classic editions.

Certainly it played very fast unlike 4e which is a plus in its favor. The only reason we had two combat is because of in-game exploration, out of game bullshitting, and the fact we had to do some logistics to get our characters straightened out due to the fact that we were playing 5e for the first time. For the most part a typical session of Monteporte.

The first Hydra fight shows how important positioning for your best attack is in 5e. The Hydra is a melee monster. The extra time we had for ranged attacks meant the advantage was all on the party's side. Which resulted in a fight with little damage to the party. The Grick fight showed what should have typically happened.

Luckily 5e is just not that complex, a referee using tactical combat can easily master the combat rules within his first half dozen session.

And while it didn't come up in this session remember numbers have an outsize effect in 5e. Those of you refereeing large groups that are having an easy time of defeating encounters of equal CR it is because the number of PCs geometrically not linearly increases their ability to handle threats. So when gauging the difficulty of the encounter you need to take that into account.

So thanks Ken for a running a good game and looking forward to seeing what next in two weeks.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

5e mapping and hex maps

In case it was missed in my mammoth review, I made a set of hex maps to be used with the 5e mapping system as outlined in the Dungeon Master's Guilde on page 14.

5e mapping system.

I designed them so that they nest side by side. The master grid and the sub grids are on layers so you can turn them off if you don't want them.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Delving into the 5e DMG, Final Thoughts

Having read through the whole book I would rate it 9 out of 10. It is a very good DMG and definitely worthy enough to stand alongside the First Edition DMG by Gygax. I would not say it is better than 1st edition. Sections of the 5e DMG are way better in terms of organization and clarity but still nothing beats the 1st edition DMG in terms of being packed with awesomeness.

Another great thing is that the authors deliver on the promise of Dungeons and Dragons your way. Every chapter is packed with alternatives.

So why would I rate it a 9 out of 10?

Because in Master of Adventures they failed to talk about Sandbox Campaigns in a meaningful way.

First off I realize I am biased on this matter having promoted and published a variety of projects for sandbox campaigns and sandbox adventures. However the idea of adventures and campaigns that are driven by the characters actions as opposed to plot or story is no longer an obscure idea. Also while hexcrawl format is still not a common choice for setting, I would think it is now well known enough to warrant a mention as well.

Before I go on, I think much of my criticism on this point is mitigated by the advice on mapping with hexes in Master of Worlds along with the extensive discussion of Event based adventures in Master of Adventures.

There is just too much reference to story and too much borrowing of concepts from writing and scripting. The strength of tabletop roleplaying is in its ability to be a pen and paper virtual reality, its ability to place the players within a experience rather than to be observers of an experience. No other form of entertainment is as easy as a tabletop roleplaying game in creating experiences to participate in. None are as flexible in accommodating all the crazy things a player could come up with. If tabletop roleplaying is to survive in the 21st century this flexibility is what RPGs must emphasize. Especially in the face of the alternatives, like CRPGs or MMORPGs, that are easier for a player to become involved in.

In past years there have been controversy over the ideas of Ron Edwards, GNS theory, and Story games where the focus is on the narrative. In my opinion this is NOT where Wizards is going with their advice on the story of an adventure. Instead it is aimed at catering to fans of Paizo's adventure paths. Having run LARP events and experienced the demands of RPG publishing, when you do something like a adventure path, you need to have a plot or story that the adventures revolve around. It what makes the project possible.

Paizo has great success with their adventure paths. Certainly more success than people like myself had with sandbox products. So it is understandable why the author choose to put advice about story into the 5e DMG.

Understand this problem with the 5e DMG warrants only knocking 1 point off out of 10. So while it is a problem, it is a minor one compared to how useful and well organized the book is. And the idea of fixing it brings up a another good point about possible third party products.

The 5e DMG is drenched with the idea of Dungeons and Dragons your way. Like I said earlier nearly every piece of advice is presented with alternatives. The rules themselves presents just enough to be useful and are obviously setup as a foundation for the referee to expand on.

The 3.X books and the D20 SRD also offered a foundation to expand on. However it was a foundation more in the spirit of GURPS and Hero System. The D20 system was a framework and toolkit that was designed to be through so that the subsequent add-ons play nice with existing elements of the d20 system.

This both worked and did not work. It never delivered on the promise of add-ons becoming part of a balanced and coherent system.  Even if you stuck with only Wizards products there are certain supplements when combined that offered chains of abilities that broke the game. The formal structure meant that products that attempted to do something truly different relegated to a niche in the marketplace.

In my opinion the 5e DMG is written within the spirit of the OSR, simple rules that can be combined in a variety of ways to make campaigns work the way the referee and his players want them to work. Rules that can be expanded on to make more detailed subsystem or a game within the game for those who want more detail. For example ACKS and their domain mechanics.

The nice thing about Wizards taking this approach is that if they allow for a broad third party license I think it will lead to a diverse third party market. Some will focus on adding a lot of details and mechanics on top of 5e in spirit of the d20 system, with many others taking a lighter mechanical approach similar to that of the OSR. The expectation that it supposed to all just work together will be greatly diminished in favor of Dungeons and Dragon your way.

So that wraps up my review of the 5e DMG. For now I am going to enjoy playing and refereeing it. Of course I will share as much as I can on the stuff  If Wizards comes out with a decent third party license I do plan on taking advantage of that as well as continuing with my OSR work. I hope you enjoyed this review and that it was informative.

Now I gotta go, I have a City-State to map and along with putting the labels on the seven remaining Wilderlands of High Fantasy maps.

Link to all parts of the Review

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Delving into the 5e DMG Part 7 - Options, Options, and Building things. Plus some appendices.

Interestingly this section starts off with a full page illustration of a epic battle between forces of darkness and forces of light. A metaphor for the edition wars this section will cause? Let see if it warrants such a prophecy.

In the intro the author stress that the dungeon master isn't limited by the rules in the PHB, the guidelines in the DMG, or the monsters in the MM. They stress that when you add something new you should consider.

  • Will the Rules improve my Game?
  • Will my players like it?

Good Advice in my opinion.

After this the chapter starts off with Ability Options.

Proficiency Dice is the first one. Instead of a fixed bonus per level you can roll a proficiency dice. The average will be slightly higher than the bonus (2.5 for 1d4 at 1st level). But there also a lot less certainty what proficiency will actually give you.

Next is Skill Variants

Instead of Skill Proficiencies you have ability check proficiencies. Each character is proficient in one ability because of his class and proficient in another because of his background.

The next skill variant is Background Proficiency. There are no skill or tool proficiency instead you gain your proficiency bonus to any check that is reasonable tied to your background. For example if you are a noble you can get proficiency bonus to a Persuasion check when talking to courtier but not when you are talking to a street thug.

The next skill variant is Personality Trait Proficiency. Here you gain your proficiency bonus to any ability check related to the character's personality.

I doubt I will use any of these variant but it is nice that 5e is flexible enough to accommodate three wildly varying intrepetations of skills and ability checks. It will undoubtly be useful for referee trying to come up with sub systems or mini-games within the 5e rules.

The next option is Hero Points. You get so many hero points when you level (including starting out). When you spend one you get to roll a d6 and add it to your d20 roll. Only 1 point per roll. When you level you lose any unspent point and reset at a slightly higher hero point total.

Honor and Sanity are presented as two new attributes. The authors discuss how to integrate them into point buy and when to use Honor and Sanity Check. They are not tied together so one or the other can be added.  The Sanity Attributes uses the Madness rules from the previous chapter.

Moving from Ability Options we get into Adventuring Options.

First is a section on options for Fear and Horror. The the consequences of fear mechanics revolve around whether the character gains the frightened condition. Horror in contrast involves gaining madness as detailed in the previous chapter. For those who need a refresher frightened mean you have disadvantage on ability checks, and you can't move closer to the source of fear.

Next are options for healing, options to make the game more heroic and option to make the game more gritter.

The first one is Healer's Kit dependency, you can't spend Hit dice during a short rest until somebody expends one use of a healer's kit on your wounds. Next one is a heroic option, you can use your hit dice in a manner similar to 4th edition's healing surges. Finally there is slow natural healing where you don't get all your hit point back with a long rest, instead you have to spend hit dice. Remember you regain half of your hit dice during a long rest. I can see this options being used in varying way by fans of classic D&D and 4e to tweak 5th edition to be more of they like.

Now we get into Rest variants where options are presented on how long Short Rest and Long rest are. Epic Heroism shortens the rest to allow combat to occur more often during a game day. While Gritty Realism lengthens rest times.

Firearms are presented next with information on proficiency, properties, Explosives, bombs, gunpowder, dynamite, and grenades. The section winds up with a selection of weapons drawn from the renaissance, modern era, and the future. After Firearms is a section on ALien technology, holy Barriar Peaks Zelligar!. This option includes mechanics on figure out high tech or alien devices.

THe next section is on Plot Points. Basically players have a plot point that they can use to make up something during the game. When every player has spent their plot point everybody get another point. There are there option on how to use this during a session. They are labeled What a Twist!, The Plot Thickens, and The Gods must be Crazy. They differ in how involved the players are in the running of plot with The Gods must be Crazy a DMless variant.

After adventuring options are combat options.

We have three initiative variants, a fixed initiative score, rolling once for each side of a combat, and using Speed Factors. Note that Speed Factor involves the player declaring their action before initiative. This declaration is what determines their bonus (or minus) to initiative.

Next are the Action Options. These include Climb onto a bigger creature, Disarm, Mark, Overrun, Shove Aside, and Tumble. Mark is no where near as gamey as its 4e counterpart. Instead it is a way to gain advantage on oppourtunity attacks against a single target. I see alot people adopting overrun and shove aside as they both make sense when trying to go through a occupied space. Not sure why they are not in the main rules. The next combat options are, Hitting Cover, and Cleaving through Creatures/

After this is and option on lingering injuries. THis is a table where various bad things can happen to a character like Lose a Foot or a horrible scar. The author give some suggestions for the condition under which a linger injury can occur, critical hit, hitting zero hit points, or failing a death save by 5. I might use this with a failed death save by 5 being the only thing to force a roll on this table. After this is a massive damage option with a table with various detriment effect that can occur if the target takes more than half of their maximum hit points in damage. After this is Morale, if certain conditions are met then the opposing side needs to make DC 10 Wisdom save or run away!

And this ends the rules options.

Next the authors get into Creating a Monster. It is a lengthy section. The first thing you need to understand that it is not an exact process. But it is more than "Make something up that looks good." The heart of the process is the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating. You stat out your monster the way you want and use this table to figure out its challenge rating. There is another table to help you judge the effect of special abilities on the Challenge Ratings. The author present a quick method and a detailed method of creating monsters.

After monsters are NPC Stat Blocks, advice on how to use the NPC stat block from the back of the Monster Manual. There are suggestions for when you make NPCs from Scratch and finally what to do when you want to have Monsters with Class. This section has a table listing all the races including some monster races and the stats you need to use them with the NPC templates.

After this is advice on Creating a Spell. It is not as detailed as the Monster section but give some guidelines for figuring out the level of a new spell. Then the authors get into creating a magic item, focusing on how to figure out the rarity of a new magic item. After this is a section on creating a race or subrace. It gets into Cosmetic Alterations, Cultural Alterations, Creating a New Subrace, and Creating a New Race. It give Eladrin as an example of a new subrace and Assimar as an example of a new Race.

After this the author talk about Modifying a Class including Changing proficiencies, changing spell lists, restricting class access, substituting class features, and creating new class options. This section also presents spell points as a variant. The authors then get into the creation of new backgrounds. They recommend the following

  1. Root it in your world 
  2. Suggest Personal characteristics 
  3. Assign proficiencies or languages
  4. Include starting equipment
  5. Settle on a background feature

And that wraps up Chapter 9 and the DMG proper.

After this are four appendices.

The first is Appendix A Random Dungeon. It is a updated cleaned up version of the original AD&D 1st random dungeon generator. Probably the best use of this section is in the secondary tables like dungeon dressing and randomg traps. Helpful when you are trying to figure what goes into the last dozen or so rooms of the level you created.

Appendix B are various monster lists. The first set are Monsters by Environment, monster for various types of terrain are listed and sorted by CR. After this is Monster by Challenger Rating that many felt was missing from the Monster Manual.

New to D&D editions is Appendix C Maps. Six pages of beautifully drawn and useful maps. In order they are

  • A Windmill cutaway
  • A two story building
  • A updated map of the original sample dungeon found in 1st edition ADnD.
  • Another dungeon map with both dungeon and cavern sections.
  • A seaside town next to a estuary and a large bridge.
  • A town built in and around a river delta. The delta is not marshy but comprised of a series of rocky pinnacles. Much of the town is built on the sides of the pinnacles.
  • A small cavern
  • The upper and lower deck of a large sailing ship
  • A dungeons built alongside a crevasse.

Finally there is Appendix D; Dungeon Master Inspiration a list of works that can be read to inspire your refereeing of a fantasy campaign.

Finally there is a index in very small print like the PHB.

Next are concluding thoughts

Link to all parts of the Review

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Delving into the 5e DMG Part 6 - Rules, Rules, Rules

Master of Rules opens with Chapter 8 Running the Game. The author talk about the nuts and bolts of running a tabletop RPG session. Like the other chapters this section has options but unlike the next chapter what presented here is expected to be a normal party of most 5e campaigns. And just like the other chapter, the tone is drenched in the attitude of DnD your way.

Right off they talk about Table Rules namely Foster Respect, Avoid distractions, and Have Snacks. Next is Table Talk a short section on advice on how to deal with in-game and out of game conversations during the session. Following this are advice on Dice rolling conventions and a short note on if you roll attack dice and damage dice things go quicker. After this the author goes on to talk about Rules Discussions during the game, Metagame thinking, Missing Players, Small Groups, and New Players.

The next major section is on the Role of Dice why, when and how to use dice as a means of adjudication. It starts with Rolling with it, commentary on why you roll dice. Then goes onto Ignoring the Dice, and The Middle Path.

The authors then talk about Using ability scores. Talking about Ability Check including when multiple ability checks are used. The general position on repeated checks is that if you are willing to spend ten times the amount of time on the task you automatically succeed. There is a chart with each ability and what they are commonly used for when used as a check. And wraps with Contents. There is also a box explaining in detail the difference between a Intelligence Check and a Wisdom check. Wisdom allows you to notice things that are there, Intelligence allows you to figure out what it actually means.

The rules continued with Attack Rolls, Saving Throws and what ability is used for what. A saving throw is considered an instant response to a danger. Next is Difficulty Class and how to set them. Moderate is 15 Nearly Impossible is the highest at 30. There is a variant you can use for automatic success. You compare the relevant ability score (not bonus) to the DC if it five or more the task automatically succeeds. For example if you need a DC 10 to break down a door a character with a 15 strength can do it automatically. Then the section goes on to Proficiency, talking about Skill, Tools, Saving Throws, and Attack Rolls. It reminds you that proficient skills and tools can be used with different ability depending on the task. After proficiency comes the advice on setting Advantage and Disadvantage.

After this the author has a fairly long discussion of Inspiration. How to award it for Roleplaying, Heroism, a Rewards for Heroism, along with using Inspiration for rewarding Genre Emulation, and talks about how players can award another player with their inspiration. The section goes on to talk about When do you award Inspiration, Tracking Inspiration, and when to ignore inspiration. It also present a variant where only player award inspiration along with the variant's pros and cons.

Finally the Dice Roll section ends up with a discussion by the authors on Resolution and Consquence of the dice roll. It recommends that if a players fails by 1 or 2 that player is successful but at a cost. Along with Degrees of Failure and Critical Success or Failure.

Then authors move onto rules for Exploration starting with how to use a map. There is a chart that tells you the distance and the number of square or hexes at various maps scales and travel speed. For example A City has 100 ft square and if you are rushing through at a Fast Pace you cover 4 squares or 400 ft a minute. Following this is advice for when a special travel pace is being used like a carpet of flying. Next is a short section on Visibility Outdoors, followed by Noticing other Creatures. Then the authors get into Tracking with a table of DCs to use to adjudicate tracking a creature.

After this is Social Interactions. It starts with Resolving Interactions. Talking about

  • Starting Attitude
  • The Conservation
  • The Charisma Check
  • Then Repeat?  advice on what happens afterwards.

After this the authors talk about Roleplaying, taking a page out of my advice book and stressing that the key is to imagine if you are really there as the character. Along with advising Show not tell.  It talks about Being the NPC, using your voice including when you are not interested or can't do the funny voices. It talks about using your face and arms, along with tips on engaging the players. This includes Appeal to Player preferences and Target specific characters.

After this is all about Objects namely the applicaitons and use of brute force and ignorance on the valued possession of the setting's inhabitants. Objects have an Armor Class, and of course hit points. They give advice for huge object. Either say it takes a certain amount of time or deal with it section by section. Finally some comments on effect of damage types on objects and the fact some objects have Damage Threshold.

The next major section is Combat.  Which include various methods of tracking initiative; Hidden List, Visible List, or Index Cards. Tracking Monster Hit points is discussed including some example. I personally recommend saying away from Mur the ogre who smells like poo. Next is talks about Monsters and Critical Hits. This party is about how to handle Critical Hits when you use average damage. After this is a section on Improvising Damage when you have to make it up. It ranges from 1d10 for being burned by coals to 24d10 from tumbling into a vortex of fire on the Elemental Plane of FIre. There is another charts cross indexing character level and whether the damage is a Setback, Dangerous or Deadly.  At the top of the page is a chart for hexes and squarss for different sizes of creatures on a grid.

People who do Theater of the Mind style adjudication are going to love the next section. It is about Adjudicating Area of Effect when you are not using a grid or miniatures. There is a chart where you look up the type of area of effect and then divide the area by a number. That gives the average number of enemies effected. As an option you can roll a 1d3 and add or subtract it to the number. For example a Fireball has a 20 foot radius. The charts say divide the radius by 5. So on average 4 opponents will be effected.

Next is a equally useful section on how to handle mobs. When you have dozens of opponents attacking at once. It gives a formula and a chart that you can use to quickly determine the number of attackers need to score a hit. For example a horde of zombies is trying to hit your AC 15 fighter with a +3 attack. Subtract 3 from 15 to get 12. Look on the table you will see that for 2 zombies one will score a hit.

Miniatures get support as well in the next section. There are diagrams on how to trace cover and calculate flanking on squares and hexes. There is advice on Tactical Maps, How the size of the creatures relates to the number of hexes or squares they cover. Area of Effect, Line or Sigh, and Cover are discussed. There is an optional rule for Flanking which grants advantage to attackers on opposing sides of an opponent. There an optional rule for diagonals which is more realistic given the geometry of squares. Finally there is an optional rule on Facing including it effect on Shields, where a character can attack, and the effect of a rear attack, (It grants advantage). There is short section on the timing of reaction in regards to the action that triggered them.

Next is something I didn't expect, rules and advice on resolving chases. These include Beginning a Chase, Running the Chase, Ending the Chase, Chase Complications (with tables), Splitting Up, Mapping the Chase, and what to do about Role Reversal. THe basic chase mechanics is that you only get a limited amount of dashes (3 + constitution modifier) before exhaustion sets in. If you make a DC 10 con save you can stave off exhaustion for a round. The chase end when one side catches up or stops. There is a chance that if the side makes a opposed Stealth vs Perception check they can evade their pursuers. Chase complications rise on every turn and use a chart to see what happens. There is one for Urban chases and one for Wilderness charges.

Overall I like this section and may use it over the Paizo Chase Cards I been using. The complications are less fantastic then some of the Paizo chase cards.

What DMG is complete without Siege Weapons! You get stats and rules for Ballista, Cannon, Boiling Cauldrons. Mangonel, Rams, Siege Tower, and Trebuchet. After is the ever favorite Diseases including Cackle Fever, and Sewer Plague. Bascially you need to make various save at different times or bad things happend to the character. After this is another old standby Poisons The 5e DMG give 17 different types ranging from Assassin's Blood, Purple Worm poison, and Truth Serum. There is also advice and rules for Purchasing Poisons and Crafting/Harvesting Poisons.

For fans of James Raggi's modules and Call of Cthulu there is a section on Madness including Going Mad (failing a Wisdom or Charisma save), Madness Effects, Short term effects, long term madness, and indefinite madness. Finally ends up with Cure Madness. There is mention of a Sanity system that will be in Chapter 9.

Next is all about Experience Points, what they are, what to do about absent characters, and how to deal with non combat challenges. They present a milestone system where player are rewarded XP for completing a campaign or personal goal. They even talk about Level Advancement without XP including session based advancement, and story based advancement.

Next time the one that will get tongues wagging the options found in the Dungeon Master Workshop.

Link to all parts of the Review

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Delving into the 5e DMG Part 5

Master of Adventures winds up with Chapter 7 in what is perhaps the longest section of the book, Magic Items and their details.

Now for some specifics. Treasure in this section is categorized as Coin, Gemstones, Art Objects, and Magic Items. There are random treasure tables categorized by challenge level. Gemstones have a series of tables sorted by value that allow you to generate a specific type of gem. The same goes for art objects. The author give advice on the buying and selling of magic items, the default being MIs are too rare to have much of a market. There is a section on identifying a magic items. Basically take a short rest and you can figure it out. If you need to know right now use a identify spell. If you want to be more old school and make identification difficult they give you advice on that.

Some magic items need attunement. You have to meet the items prerequisite, and spend a short rest bonding with the item. You can't have more than three items attuned to you at one time. Cursed items are discussed including the fact the unfortunate bearer can be attuned to the cursed item. The different categories of magic items are discussed, Armor, Potions, RIngs, Rods, Scrolls, Staffs. Wands, Weapons, and Wondrous Items. Wearing and Wield a magic items is discussed and the operative rule is use your common sense for times like a character tries to wear two helms. Ways of activating magic items is talked about including command word, consumables, spells, and charges. Advice is given on the resilience of magic items. Most magic items, other than potions and scrolls, have resistance to damage over their mundane counterpart.

The next section is a really good addition to DnD. It called Special Features and it is a series of table you can use to make a bog standard magic item distinct. These tables include

  • Who created the item?
  • What is a detail from its history?
  • What minor property does it have?
  • What quirk does it have?

After a series of random magic items charts that works in conjunction with the random treasure table is 64 pages of magic items. The magic items are described evocatively with the prose kept short. Many of the old favorites are back. The cap is generally +3 on bonuses and often lower. The pages are littered with the best illustrations of magic items of any edition and beg to be put on cards to be used at the table.

Following this is a section where the author give rules and advice on creating Sentient Magic Items. Their abilities, how they communicate, what senses they have,their alignment, it is suggested to the NPC personality tables, and what special purpose the sentient items has. Next is advice and rules on what happens when the item's personality comes into conflict with the wielder. Which basically involves an opposed Charisma check. Mmmmm I think one of my characters is in trouble with this. And for the win, this section concludes with a write up of the classic trio from White Plume Mountain, Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor, along with an item I am not familiar with Moonblades.

Next is the one of the sections that people drool over. There are not as many as ADnD 1st edition but the author do a really good job with the one they include. This section also see the return on random artifact properties; Minor Beneficial, Major Beneficial, Minor Detrimental, Major Detrimental. There is also a section on destroying artifacts. The artifacts that made the cut for 5e are: Axe of the Dwarvish Lords, Book of Exalted Deeds, Book of Vile Darkness, Eye and Hand of Vecna (no head sorry), Orb of Dragonkind, Sword of Kas, and the Wand of Orcus. Again this section is really well done.

And the chapter does not end at this point. It has a surprise in that new types of rewards are listed. In Other Rewards, the authors talked about Supernatural Gifts. Marks Prestige, and Epic Boons.

Supernatural Gifts include blessings and charms. Basically minor magical abilities gain as result of service to a god or somebody discovering special esoteric knowledge. These are things like your constitution score goes up by 2 to a max of 22. Or a sword in your possession acts as a dragon slayer for the next 9 days.

Marks of Prestige are the mundane world counterpart to blessings and charms. They include things like Letters of Recommendation, Medals, Parcels of Land, Special Favors, Special Rights, Strongholds, Titles, and Training. The section is filled with good idea on rewards that doesn't involve more gold pieces, or more items.

Epic Boons is likely going to a topic of discussion as it serves as 5e method of post 20th level progression. The basic mechanic is that for every 30,000 xp after 20th level (350,000 xp) you gain a epic boon. For example a Boon of Skill Proficiency, you gain proficiency in all skills. If you think this makes your campaign too epic then there is toned down alternative where character can earn ability score improvement up to 30 or keep on taking feats.

So this ends Masters of Adventures, next up is Chapter 8 and Masters of Rules.

Link to all parts of the Review

Monday, December 1, 2014

Delving into the 5e DMG Part 4

As promised in Chapter 3, Adventure Environments is packed full of advice for creating and fleshing out places to set adventures in.

First off the author leap into creating and detailing Dungeons. They have advice and tables for Dungeon Location, Who created the Dungeon, The purpose of the Dungeon, and a table for Key Events in the Dungeon's history. The authors go on to talk about the inhabitants of the dungeons, factions, and ecology. They have some interesting advice on encounter difficulty, suggesting that the referee should mix it up rather than slavishly follow the idea of deeper levels are more dangerous.

Then the authors get into Mapping a Dungeon. Features like Walls, Doors, Secret Doors, Concealed Doors, Portcullises, Darkness, Light, Air Quality and Sounds. Whew while it only one or two paragraph of advice per items it pretty comprehensive. There is a nice sample of a basic Dungeon Map on page 103. The dungeon section ends up with Dungeon Hazards which include Brown Mold, Green Slime, Webs, Yellow and Mold,

The next major section is Wilderness. The author outline two broad approaches to Wilderness travel, Travel-Montage Approach, and Hour-by-Hour Approach. They give the pros and cons of each and advice on how to do either way well. I think it is a great section and really shows off how the DMG is trying to be omnibus of a variety of play styles rather than presenting the one true way.

Mapping the Wilderness is the next section. The authors talk about Movement on the Map along with various Wilderness features. These features include Monster Lair, Monuments, Settlements, Strongholds, and Weird Locales. There are tables for Monuments and Weird Locales.

Next the authors discuss what is perhaps my friends favorite sections the Harn Wea... errr Wilderness Survival. Of course it starts off with the weather. Has tables for temperature, wind , and precipitation. Interestingly the authors do something different with temperature. You roll and get a number that plus or minus from the seasonal average. I think it is a good idea especially for those referee who don't want to go into great deal about the weather.

The authors go on to talks about how to handle Extreme Cold, Extreme Heat, Strong Winds, and Heavy Precipitation. The mechanics revolving around making saving throws or suffer levels of exhaustion which can be found on page 291 of the PHB. There also a short section on High Altitude. Its main mechanic is that you can only go half as far before gaining exhaustion. Simple and straight forward. Various Wilderness Hazards are then described like Desecrated Ground, Frigid Water, Quicksand, Raazorvine, Slippery Ice, and Thin Ice.

Next is a section on Forage for Food and Water. You roll Survival twice versus a DC depending on the terrain. If you succeed you find 1d6 + wisdom bonus lbs of food or gallons of waters. A little different than usable but like the other mechanics it is short, simple, and too the point. I am glad they didn't come up with something abstract and opted for lbs and gallons, Finally winds up with Becoming Lost. Again it is a Wisdom Survival check versus a DC 15 or head off in the wrong direction.

The authors then start talking about Settlement. It is mostly a bunch of random table. Interestingly they state you need now the size of the settlement and its government. I think that that the way to go as it is near impossible to come up with a Traveller style system of populating a overland map with settlements. The tables that are included are Race Relations, Ruler's Status, Notable Traits, What the settlement is known for, and Current Calamity.

After this section comes a part on generating random building. It not for making a settlement on the fly. Rather it for those times when a PC is chasing somebody, or need to evade a pursuer, or just pops into a random building for no particular reason. The tables helps the referee figure out what the building is and what it contains. There are tables for Building Type and sub tables for Residences, Religious Building, Taverns (and Tavern Names), Warehouse, and Shops. Next is some advice on Mapping a Settlement.

On Page 115 is full page overhead shot of a wall town, one of the many useful illustrations that a referee can scan and make use of. Just prior to this picture is a section on Urban Encounters including a sample table using the d12+d8 system introduced earlier. It then talke briefly aobut each result from the table giving ideas and suggestions.

After the authors go on to describe Unusual Environments like Underwater, and The Sea. Both have random encounter tables to use. Underwater has notes on swimming and visibility. The Sea has notes on Navigation, Weather, Visibility and Owning a Ship. It pretty basic but there is just enough details to use a foundation for a sea faring campaign. Stats are given for cost, speed, crew, passengers, Cargo (in tons), AC, Hit Points, and Damage Threshold. There also a airship on the table. This section wraps with notes on traveling through the sky.

Next is a section full of advice on everybody favorite type of hazard, traps. There is advice on triggering a trap, detecting/disabling a trap, trap effects with tables, and complex traps. Traps are rated to whether they cause a setback, dangerous, or deadly. From that you get the Save DC, Attack Bonus for the trap. The damage is also cross indexed with the character level. Where this section shines is in the sample tables. Seven traps described in detail. These include Collapsing Roof, Falling Net, Fire-Breathing Statue, Pits (Locking and spiked variety as well), Poison Darts, Poison Needle, Rolling Sphere (cue Indiana Jones Themes) and last everybody favorite from the Tomb of Horrors the Sphere of Annihilation including a variant where a charm is on the trap to compel creatures to crawl in. And that wraps it up for Chapter 5.

Chapter 6 is about what happens between Adventures. The authors feel is not only important to have adventures but to fill up the time in between the adventures to give the campaign a natural ebb and flow.

The authors start off talking about Linking Adventures with advice on Using an Overarching Story, Planting Adventure Seeds, and Foreshadowing. Next advice is given on Campaign Tracking and the different ways you can keep track of the details including a Planner, Notes, Handouts, Calendar and Adventure Logs.

The next two section are probably the one that many will look at in this section. First is recurring expenses. It builds on the Lifestyle expenses found on page 157 of the PHB by presenting more options for the PCs to spend their hard won gold on. This is in form of a table detailing Maintenance Costs. Each type of item has the Total Cost per day, the number of skilled hirelings and untrained hirelings you will need to pay for using the service table on page 159 of the PHB. Items include things like Abbey, Farm, Guildhall, Inn rural, Inn town, Keep, Hunting Lodge, Noble Estate, Outpost, Palace, Shop, different sizes of temples, Tower, and Trading Post. The section goes on to note that some of these include soldiers or guards as part of the skilled hireling totals. Like the section on ships this is not overly detailed. While some may find it simplistic most will be happy with this level of detail.

The next section details Downtime Activities. You can do things other just spend your gold. Well some of the activities still involve spending gold but in a interesting way. First up is Building a Stronghold. The able list the construction cost and construction time of the items on the Maintenance Cost table. Next is Carousing! Really want nothing to show for your gold than a good time. Then use the Carousing table. The result range from being jailed to winning even more gold from gambling.

A section inspiring debates since the release of OD&D is crafting magic items. Yup the 5e DMG has rules for making your own magic item. Like the other systems presents thus far it is pretty simple. A magic items is common, uncommon, rare, very rare, or legendary. Each level has a escalating creation cost (from 100 gp to 500,000 gp) and a minimum levels (common is 3rd, legendary is 17th). The time to make these bad boys is 25 gp per day per character. So if you want to make a legendary class MI yourself we are talking 20,000 days or 55 years. A common items will take four days to make yourself.

Next you can use your downtime to gain renown in your organization, perform sacred rites, run a business and, gasp!, sell your magic items. Other actitives include Sowing Rumors and something from all the way back from ADnD 1st edition training to gain levels.

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For all your magic items needs please come to the Sorcerer Supply House, Regal Street, City-State of the Invincible Overlord, Wilderlands of High Fantasy.
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Gaining Renown is about how many days you have to spend in doing mundane activities for your organization. If you spend at least 10 days performing sacred rites you gain inspiration for 2d6 game days. Running a Business involves rolling a d100 adding the number of days you spent at the business (max 30) and looking up the result. You could pay 1 1/2 times the maintenance cost or make a profit of up to 50 gp per 30 days.

Selling a magic items involves looking up the item's rarity and finding not only the base prices but how many days it takes to find a buyer. The item's rarity also acts as a modifier on the selling chart which determines how much you get offered for it. The more rare the item the less likely somebody can pay full price.

Sowing a Rumor gives advice on why this may be useful and a table to use to see how long it takes to get a rumor going. The larger the settlement the longer it takes. Training to gain levels starts with 10 days and 20 gp at 1st to 4th level to 40 days and 80 gp at 17th to 20th level. Finally this section ends up with a section on creating your own downtime activities.

This section is pretty darn good on multiple levels. First all of this stuff can be ignored. But if used doesn't require looking up tons of modifiers and mechanics. Last it easily expandable into something more detailed for the few who want that type of thing in their campaign. I can see people coming up with alternative tables or tables for specific businesses.

Next we wind up Master of Adventures with Chapter 7 treasure.

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