DnDable Biblical Quotations

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.)

the_death_of_sisera_at_the_hands_of_jael_by_kevissimo-d5vcxkk
The Death of Sisera (by Kevissimo)

Dungeons & Treasure

Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed?

Micah 6.10 (ESV)

 

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Psalm 91.13 (ESV)

 

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:

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places

Isaiah 45:2-3a (KJV)

 

Plunder the silver,
plunder the gold!
There is no end of the treasure
or 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.

Isaiah 10.6b (ESV)

 

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.

Joshua 22.8b (KJV)

Hexcrawling

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.

Clerics

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Psalm 91.5-8 (KJV)

 

Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers?

Psalm 94.16 (ESV)

 

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.”

Psalm 10.7-11 (ESV)

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Evaluating the Ashen Ossuary

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.

Likes

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.

Goblins.

Sewers.

Goddess.

Ooze.

Centipedes.

Skeletons.

Holy water that gives you vision of future.

Stuff that happens (really good!) when you reconsecrate a holy place.

Locked doors, stuck doors.

It’s dark.

Dislikes

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.

Conclusion

PF2 seems far too fiddly for my tastes, but that’s really not a problem with the module.

 

Dungeon Stocking as Storytelling

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.

Prerequisite: Backstory

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.

List Your Propositions: Environmental Storytelling Table

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.

  1. It was called Amon-Sûl back in the day
  2. The Men of the North used it to keep an eye on The Baddies
  3. It got wrecked by The Baddies in some war
  4. Afterward, Rangers used it to leave messages for each other, like a really laggy Twitter
  5. There was a palantir here
  6. That scene from Fellowship where Strider drives off the black riders

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

  • Lore
  • Monsters
  • Treasures
  • Tricks
  • and Traps

… 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:

  • Lore: an engraving on a ruined pillar depicting Weathertop in its prime with a shining orb depicted above it
  • Monster: palantir-ghosts (this is probably not canon): pained and malevolent intelligences of people whose deaths were viewed by the palantir here and thus trapped
  • Treasure: a palantir, why not
  • Trick: a room where you’re surrounded with palantir-DVR-walls, possibly joyous recollections displayed, possibly disturbing, with appropriate mechanical FX
  • Trap: weaponized palantir magitek, like security cams mounted in the place that direct the palantir-ghosts to your location when they spot you

The Point: Reveal Story Nonlinearly Through Environment

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.

FarCry 5 in D&D

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:

  • There are three map regions
  • Each is run by a lieutenant of the BBEG
  • You can’t get at them to start with
  • You can access the map areas in any order
  • As you explore the map, you will encounter randomly spawned events and some static locations
  • Dealing with these to defeat and undermine the cult grants you resistance points (RP)
  • When you get enough RP in an area, you can find and challenge the lieutenant of that area
  • When you have beaten the lieutenants, I imagine you can take on the head of the cult

The application to tabletop seems straightforward:

  • Imagine a situation where the characters will want to eliminate the subordinates of a large threat (let’s say Tiamat and her five dragon lieutenants)
  • Divide a map accordingly
  • Create a list of activities that will hurt or undermine the baddies, set the points for it: could even tie this to XP
  • Convert this list into a random encounter table
  • Prep some static locations
  • Make sure that random encounters reveals the location of static locations so the players gradually know more of the area
  • In chargen, endure all PCs have a personal reason to be doing what they’re doing in this campaign.
  • Let the players wander, stumbling into random encs and static locs
  • They get RP, unlock confrontations with the baddies, etc

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.

Bringing Pathfinder 2 to D&D 5

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.

Pathfinder 2e logo???

They haven’t released a ton of information yet, but some folks have compiled a list of what we’ve heard so far. Additionally, there’s an actual play podcast you can check out.

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 Mathfinder Pathfinder.

(Combat is last; so skip there if you want. Big changes for sure.)

HP & Damage

Oooh baby, players gonna love you.

HP @ First Level

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).

  • For race hp: use your size: d8 for medium, up and down as appropriate.
  • For class hp: use the max result of the class HD (clerics d8, fighters d10, barbs d12).

HP @ Later Levels

Don’t roll; use your class’s max HD result.

Recovering HP

Long rests restore Con mod x level hp.

Falling Damage

Take damage 1:1 per feet fallen. 10 foot fall = 10 damage

Resistance & Weakness

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.

Leveling

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.

Proficiency & Crits & Checks

Neato alternatives here for a bit more crunch.

Proficiency / Training

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.

Crits

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.

Checks

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.

Initiative

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)_/¯.

Encumbrance

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.

Gear

Some definite OSR influence here as well, with 5e clearly showing.

Properties

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.

Dents

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.

Quality

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.

Combat

Biggest change here is the action economy. I like it better for sure.

Actions

  • 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.

Attacking

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.

Spellcasting

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:

  • 1 action: heal self
  • 2 actions: heal at range
  • 3 actions: heal burst and/or damage unholy

Movement

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

  • 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.

Conditions

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

Summary

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.

ENCOUNTER DIE: MAXIMUM OVERLOAD

I was thinking about the procedural generation of lairs. (When I say lairs I mean places in the wilderness that are mini dungeons stocked mostly with a single monster type.)


At the outset, you know: this is an X lair. Kobolds or whatever. And you know basically what terrain you’re working with. Generally a cave. 

But you don’t know what’s in there specifically, how big it is, or how it’s laid out. 

So here we go. What if we offload the generation of physical space and “objects of play” onto the encounter die as well?

My dungeon procedure goes like this:

  • Turn begins
  • Check for wandering monsters (the encounter die)
  • Ask the players what’s up and work the results of the encounter die into whatever they’re doing

Before we roll the encounter die, we as yet don’t have info about what will occur during the turn. It might as well be procedurally generated. So let’s. 

1 Monster

Normally this would be a wandering monster, and it still can be. But because we’re generating stuff, we instead interpret this to mean that the party has happened upon an area of the lair suitable for monster population. Not merely an encounter but an encounter area

We’re not going to use charts for this; your brain is the random generator. 

The encounter area should have something interesting about it. Visually memorable. Something that presents threat, opportunity, beauty, or revulsion

So not 2d8 kobolds in a 30′ chamber. Instead, 2d8 kobolds carving figures into a ring of stalagmites high up on a ledge to your left. Or 2d8 kobolds sleeping on one of a dozen sparkling folds in the earth that make the floor like a frozen wave of coal.  Or 2d8 kobolds excavating a 20′ diameter pit in the bottom of a bowl in the cavern floor, with a single one remaining topside with its back to you. 

If treasure is not immediately obvious in the room, and they search for it, it’ll be present 1/2 the time. How much? What kind? Either use whatever procedure you prefer, whatever pops into your head, or simply gems/coins piled up somewhere. It’s a wonderful default if your imagination fails you. For the amount to be awarded, some heuristic based on HD wouldn’t go amiss. For 5e, I’m using the XP value of each monster to determine how much treasure on average they’ll have. 

2+ Navigation or Problem

If you don’t get a monster result, you’re going to generate intervening space. The kind of space you generate should be determined by what feels right: navigation or problem

Navigation. If you’re in a proper dungeon, this could be something like “the hallway extends ahead as far as you can see, 10′, 20′, . . . “. 

The point is to imagine it as if you were yourself exploring from the POV of the adventurer. Say what comes to mind. 

If you’re in a cave, you’ve got crawls, squeezes, pitches, chimneys, shafts, tunnels, and small chambers. Evertying’s going to be irregularly shaped. Speak in spatial metaphors. The tunnel goes 15′ and opens to a strawberry shaped chamber that you can almost stand in. 

What you’re revealing is what their exploration is going to reveal this turn. You roll the encounter die, describe the navigation, and ask them if they want to do anything else within the turn. If they want to keep exporing, that’s the next turn, and we repreat the process. If they want to search the area, that’s the next turn, and we repeat the process. 

Problem. A problem is something like an encounter, but it doesn’t require a monster. You do the navigation bit as above (“the tunnel goes fifteen paces”), but you end with something different: the problem. 

The monster encounters we mentioned above are examples of problems. They are opportunities and/or threats. And ideally they should consistute or be placed in a visually memorable space, as discussed above. 

The default opportunity is treasure. Coins on the floor is an opportunity. Every player in your game wants treasure. But, depending on the fiction/mechanics of your game, other opportunities may be defaults: a statue which permits divine communion, an encounter with a recurring antagonist, a shortcut that may or may not be usable from this location in the dungeon, a bottomless pit in the middle of the room that’s a tactical resource. 

A piece of lore that may be used as a solution to a problem (whether you know the problem now or not) is an excellent opportunity: someone’s name, someone’s attributes (holds an orb and an arrow), a particular song, a particular dance. 

Opportunities are problems because, in the dungeon, nothing is safe. The players don’t know that this is a purely gravy opportunity, if indeed it is one. There can always be some trick or trap attached. I’d say about half the time there should be. 

A threat is pretty obvious: a dragon slumbering on the other side of a rope-bridged chasm, visible by the embers of his breath, a gauntlet of facing statues holding stone halberds aloft, etc. 

These are things that admit of multiple modes of interaction. These generally shouldn’t have one solution: you think of the problem but not how to solve it, then adjudicate when the players try things. 

There should generally be some treasure guarded by, exposed by, or following the problem: use the level of the dungeon as a guide for reward. In 5e, treat the level of the dungeon as the CR in order to get the XP value. So a level 1 dungeon treasure = 200 XP = 200 gp worth of stuff. Then adjust by multiples as you wish. 

After they deal with or react to the problem, that’s the end of the turn, and you’ll start the process over again. 

When to Stop

When you are happy with it. Go out on top. If you get bored of it, it’s gone on too long.