I’ve just posted R A T T L E D, my rules / campaign framework / “web app” for no-prep Skeleton adventure gaming that you can run from your phone.
Get it here:
If you paid attention in Hebrew/Sunday School, you might know some of these.
I’ve got a big collection that I’m updating all the time; here’s a selection. (Next time, you might get bonus quotations from Boethius.)
Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed?
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places
Plunder the silver,plunder the gold!There is no end of the treasureor of the wealth of all precious things.
Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.
Through a land of trouble and anguish,from where come the lioness and the lion,the adder and the flying fiery serpent,they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys,and their treasures on the humps of camels,to a people that cannot profit them.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers?
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Pathfinder 2 put out playtest docs. Here’s the first dungeon but annotated by yrs trvly to be actually usable at the table:
Time to talk about it.
Consistent, classy theme. We’ve got a goblin tribe with a weirdo leader in the sewers, stealing things, occuyping and desecrating an area formerly sacred to a death goddess. Fine by me. Easy to drop into whatever.
There’s kind of a loop maybe. If you connect A7 and A12 via secret/concealed portal, you’re golden. Do that.
Some okay traps.
Holy water that gives you vision of future.
Stuff that happens (really good!) when you reconsecrate a holy place.
Locked doors, stuck doors.
Written as if for aliens from Despacito.
Writers paid by word?
No map annotations.
Map originally had black background, obviously due to collusion with Big Printer Ink.
Seriously, written for a race of brains-in-vats.
Why can’t the BBG just be a fat goblin or a smart goblin or a weirdo goblin or even a hobgoblin, why’s it gotta be a shapeshifter whatever pretending to be a hobgoblin? Who cares? Chad weirdo goblin > fake shapeshifter. And yes, I know the annotation says vampire(?)/bugbear, but who cares if it’s a bugbear or hobgoblin that’s not even one of those?
Too small, too linear, too horizontal. Add a sublevel, some empty rooms, something.
Needs another faction or an interesting NPC.
PF2 seems far too fiddly for my tastes, but that’s really not a problem with the module.
Recently, I read a G+ post from Alex about how he hates stocking dungeons, especially from random tables, and feels a twinge of guilt at this realization.
I feel the same way about the “received” method of stocking, where, for each room, you roll a die on a table to see what kind of thing to put there (monster, monster and treasure, trap, special, nothing), then on subtables to determine the species of that thing to put there.
That method works, but it works as a mechanical exercise that’s better performed by a computer. It’s padding out content. Sometimes perhaps you will want to do this, in which case it will not strike you as drudgery but as exactly what is needed.
And yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
For this to work, your dungeon needs to have a backstory, a way it got the way it is now, complete with figures who were responsible for it and the legacy of their actions. If you don’t have that in mind, it won’t work, and you can use the received method instead.
But let’s say your dungeon does have a story, either in its particularly as This Dungeon, or as an example of A Kind of Place.
For instance, your dungeon could have a particular identity in your mind, as The Grave of Confessor Eustace. Or you could have just written “Saint Grave” on your overland map, because a “Saint Grave” is a thing in your setting, but you don’t know anything of particular interest about this grave here.
Both situations are fine. You’ve got enough seed content to work with.
You’ve got a backstory for your dungeon, or at least for the kind of place your dungeon is. You’re now going to use your understanding of the dungeon-story to create your Environmental Storytelling Table.
This is what you will use for inspiration when stocking the rooms (or in generating rooms that do not yet correspond to a mapped area—whether a map exists or not yet is irrelevant).
(This table is orthogonal to and thus compatible with the “received” stocking method.)
To create this table, note in a numbered list the propositions you know about the dungeon. If or when the players know these propositions, they will know the backstory of the dungeon. (This has the side benefit of multitasking as a rumor table and a reference for you.)
I also recommend doing this in a cloudy software program so you can add to the list from wherever you are. I use the free version of Evernote.
Lets do an example: Weathertop after the events of Fellowship of the Ring. I’m not terribly keen on my Tolkien lore any longer; I’m just going to list what I remember or imagine.
Weathertop: a Ruined Fortress
Weathertop is on a steep hill east of Bree. Only the foundations remain.
And that’s all I feel like doing. Of course, you will likely have more interesting tidbits with your homebrew nerd lore.
You will notice that nothing in the list is something you can put in a room. Rather each entry suggests
… that you can put in a room. And one proposition can become instantiated in multiple “stockings”.
Let’s take entry 5: there was a palantir here. Here are some things this suggests immediately to me:
The goal of doing this isn’t really to lay down traps and monsters. The point is to let the players and their PCs discover the story of the dungeon by interacting with the environment and reflecting on what it means.
When you’re stocking this way, you’re not thinking, “What kind of monster goes here and how do I make that make sense?” You’re thinking, “What part of the story of the dungeon does this area tell?”
I find that approaching things in this way makes me more excited to do the stocking and makes the assignment of room contents feel more natural.
I’ve just started playing FarCry 5, and it occurs to me that it provides a way to structure a focused sandbox for tabletop play.
The structure of FC5 is this:
The application to tabletop seems straightforward:
If unlocking confrontations is too gamey, you could reframe it as infuriating the opposition so much that they get reckless and expose themselves to the players in attempts at retribution.
As you may have heard,
Mathfinder Pathfinder has announced a second edition (along with playtest documents that you get the privilege of paying for as if they were finished products).
Edit: According to a lovely commenter, the pdfs of the playtest materials will be free.
I myself listened to most of the podcast and perused the document and got to thinking: I bet a lot of my 5e-favorin’ players would dig some of these changes (especially since Paizo is using a lot of the rules 5e does now anyway, whether they want to admit that or not).
So here are the ways I think you can take what we know of PF2 and houserule it into your 5e game so that you don’t have to admit to yourself you’re actually playing
(Combat is last; so skip there if you want. Big changes for sure.)
Oooh baby, players gonna love you.
Race (“Ancestry”) hp + class hp + Con mod = T H I C C
For example, a human paladin at first level with no Con mod has 18 hp (8 for race, 10 for class, +0 for Con mod of 0).
Don’t roll; use your class’s max HD result.
Long rests restore Con mod x level hp.
Take damage 1:1 per feet fallen. 10 foot fall = 10 damage
A creature with resist # X takes # less damage from X damage type. Weakness is the reverse.
I kind of like this as well. Reminds of how 4e did it.
I know from the playtest AP that skeletons, for instance, have resistance to fire and slashing and piercing but are weak 2 to positive energy / holy / divine damage.
You could mix and match this style by giving some monsters weak # X style properties and others weak double X / resist half X style, as in 5e.
You level at 1000 XP. When you level, reset XP to 0 and add the remainder.
So if I had 500 XP and gained 600 XP, I’d spend 500 of that gain to get me to 1000. I’d level up then, with 100 XP left over, which I’d add toward my new level, giving me a total of 100/1000 XP.
Presumably, they’ve got some different scheme for awarding XP, but I don’t know what it is yet. I assume it’s some relative scale of difficulty, together with ad-hoc awards, which a lot of people already do something similar to anyway.
Neato alternatives here for a bit more crunch.
Make a relevant ability check:
- untrained: -1
- trained: +level
This simulates the +2 proficiency bonus you start with in 5e and increases every time you level, which can be nice (although of course you see they’re going completely the opposite way re: “bounded accuracy”—gonna get some big numbers here). Mathfinder.
Also trigger critical fails / fumbles if you exceed or miss AC/DC by 10+.
Pretty much the same as 5e here (with no-confirmation-necessary nat 20 crits, crits doing double damage, etc), but the +/- 10 thing is kinda nice I guess.
This counts for saves too. If you critically fail a save vs a spell, you’ll take double damage.
For pretty much every ability or skill, you have a defensive version of it that translates to a DC: 10 + the ability and training bonus.
Just like 5e, you’ve got a passive perception, a stealth DC, whatever. There aren’t opposed checks anymore.
By default, use Perception to roll init. If you were using another skill when init was called, use that one instead.
So if you’re stealthing around when combat starts, roll stealth for init. If you’re tracking something, roll survival. Not sure how much this adds, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Use a slot based bulk system that’s probably what Starfinder does.
I.e., you can carry significant items up to half strength score before becoming encumbered, and up to full strength score before becoming overburdened.
This is definitely better than the 5e system and is very similar to what a lot of OSR folks have been doing for some time now.
Some definite OSR influence here as well, with 5e clearly showing.
Items have tags that express special fx:
- agile: +1 when attacking multiple times in the same turn
- versatile: can be used to deliver multiple damage types (i.e., piercing/slashing)
- hardness #: the # of damage something can take before receiving a dent
Very similar to 5e here.
Gear can take dents. When an item receives more dents than it can take, it is destroyed. You can repair an item’s dents.
For instance, a shield might have hardness 9. If the shield takes 9+ damage, it takes a dent. If it can only take 3 dents, it’s destroyed on its 3rd dent. Reminds of OSR notch/dent systems.
Mundane gear comes in different qualities. The modifiers affect relevant checks: attack rolls for weapons, AC for armor.
- Poor: -1 (and perhaps worse, up to -3)
- Normal: 0
- Expert: +1
- Master: +2
- Legend: +3
Pretty neato for a low magic setting. I definitely like the idea of being excited to find your first +0 weapon.
Biggest change here is the action economy. I like it better for sure.
- There are no more action types.
- You get 3 actions per turn.
- Every action is an action, although some might cost 2 or 3.
- Most things are actions (open door, ready shield, pick up shiny)
Yes, so you can move 3x per turn if you want, or attack 3x, or cast 3 spells. But there are some caveats, below.
Go nuts, attack as much as you want, but:
- Your 2nd attack in a turn gets -5 penalty (or disadvantage)
- Your 3rd attack gets -10 penalty (or disadvantage x2)
- Also, touch attacks are a thing: no armor bonus to AC vs these
Agile-tagged weapons interface with this by making the penalty slightly less severe, being +1 in these situations after the penalty is assessed or -4 inclusive of the penalty, however you want to look at it.
You can cast away, but:
- A particular leveled spell (L1+) can’t be cast more than 1/turn
- each component (material, somatic, verbal) costs an action
- cantrips are only subject to component limitations; you can repeatedly cast the same cantrip in a turn, or mix a cantrip with a leveled spell
Dope. I love that the components each cost an action. Perhaps it will make people give more thought to the components. Overlooked flavor most of the time.
Clerics can channel divinity (“””””energy”””””) 5/day at first level IIRC. When they do so, the effect can differ depending on how many actions they spend when they do it. So, it uses up 1 channel div use each time, regardless of how many actions they use, but, if they manage their actions correctly, they can be more efficient. Frex:
You can move 3x if you want, but:
- jumping or climbing onto something is considered a separate action
- moving 5′ without provoking costs an action
- every other diag move costs 5′ more
You can still take your 5 foot step as an action to avoid the fighter’s oppatk.
(This is way less confusing than the disengage action, which applies a condition to your movement in general for the rest of your turn but does not itself constitute any movement, which is how 5e does it.)
- Reactions are the same as 5e now, in that you only get 1/round, but your class can give you special reactions (probably feats do this too).
- Only the fighter starts with opportunity attack.
OK. The rogue I saw does not have opportunity attack (because not a fighter) but does have a thing where he can spend his reaction to grant +2 bonus to self against melee attack targeting self. You can smell the feat-chains from here.
Rather than a single calculation, give every condition a number:
- not slowed (-10 speed), hampered #: -# speed (which gets removed when you heal the damage that caused the condition)
- slow 1/2: lose that many actions
- enfeebled #: minus that much to attacks, strength checks, and damage
- sick #: minus to your checks and DCs, can’t choose to eat/drink, can try to throw up as an action by making save
- not dying, dying 1 (and every time you fail a death save, increase by 1, until you’re dying 4 = 💀
- flanked or flat-footed: -2 to target’s AC
- prone: -2 to attacks
There are other pertinent changes, for which I refer you to the already linked document, but these are the highlights for me.
I’ll probably run my next 5e game with some of these changes and see how the players like it.
Of course, my ideal game is far less complex than any of these systems; but, to live in society, we must adapt.
These are all taken from my experience in running an OSR-style 5e sandbox for multiple sessions now. Items are in no particular order.