Friday, December 14, 2018

Firearm Rules

Guns! How to use em, abuse em, and die by them. Guns are rare, and those guns preserved approach roughly technology levels of the 1870’s. Attempting to design simple mechanics that can be applied to OSR with a few rule-specific changes.

3 types for our purposes: revolvers, rifles, and shotguns. All use exploding dice, don’t add ASI’s to damage, and you can use Dex or Str for attack rolls.

1d4 (exploding) piercing damage (max 1 dice explosion)
Ammo count: 6 before reload
Range: 50/100

2d4 (exploding) piercing damage (max 2 dice explosions)
Ammo count: 8 before reload
Range 130/260

Shotguns: 3d4 (exploding) piercing damage (max 3 dice explosions)
Ammo count: 2 before reload
Range: 30/60

Special gun rules:
When a gun or ammo is exposed to water, it’s soaked. A soaked gun or a gun using soaked ammo will only be able to fire one shot, after which the gun needs to be stripped and cleaned over a long rest. Soaked ammo can be dried off with a cloth or a spell.

When a loaded gun or ammo is exposed to fire, roll a dice. On an even number, the ammo cooks off dealing 1 piercing damage to the user for every round inside the gun or on the person. The gun itself is ruined unless repaired by a gunsmith. 

When a gun or ammo is exposed to acid, roll a dice. On an even number, the gun/ammo is corroded and won’t work unless repaired by a gunsmith. On an odd number, the gun has a 50% chance of jamming every time it’s fired/corroded ammo has a 50% chance of jamming every time it's used until cleaned over the course of a short rest.

Revolver rules: People proficient with revolvers can attack with them a number of times per round equal to half their proficiency bonus.  Revolvers don't have disadvantage on ranged attacks within 5 feet of a hostile, and they are light weapons. 

Rifle rules: Rifles have disadvantage on all attacks against a hostile creature within 5 feet. Additionally, a bayonet can be attached to the front of a rifle. A creature proficient with rifles may make a melee attack with an affixed bayonet as a bonus action, dealing 1d4 piercing damage.

Shotgun rules: Beyond 30 feet, a shotgun loses one damage dice every 10 feet. 2d4 at 40-50 feet and 1d4 at 50-60 feet. Shotguns don't have disadvantage on attack rolls within 5 feet of a hostile creature. 

Crit rules: When a nat 20 is rolled on an attack roll, add 1d4 to that attack’s damage. This d4 can only explode once.

Crit fail rules: When a nat 1 is rolled on an attack roll, the gun jams. Clearing a jammed gun is an action.

Backfiring: When a gun or its ammo is soaked or corroded, the gun backfires on a crit fail, dealing 2 piercing damage to the user for each round left in the gun and destroying the gun. 

New weapon proficiency: guns. Separate from all other weapon proficiencies.
New tool proficiency: gunsmith’s tools
New ammo types: pistol ammo, rifle ammo, and shotgun shells

Obviously, these will be retooled as time goes on. What I wanted to emphasize:

Revolvers are designed for medium range engagements. Their strength is multiple shots.
Rifles are long-range weapons. Arguably longer effective range but I'm not bumping their strength up just yet. Playtest first.
Shotguns are close quarter murder machines.

I'm going to develop specialized stats for guns to reflect arms races (1893 semi-auto pistol!) but guns will largely stay magic free. There will be different ammo types (including magical types) and magic guns.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Cleric of Xihuitl [2nd Draft]

Xihuitl Domain Spells:
1st level: touch of undeath*, create and destroy water
3rd level: flowsight**, geyser**
5th level: animate dead, wall of water
7th: control water, death ward
9th: red tide**, danse macabre

* my homebrew
** Walrock Homebrew’s Codex of Waves

Xihuitl’s Currents
Starting at 1st level, your mind taps into the dimensionality of Xihuitl’s rivers, and your powers follow its flow upstream and downstream. Your touch spells gain a range of 30 feet if you and your target are standing in the same body of water. In addition, any time you cast a healing spell on a target that’s partially submerged in water, you restore the maximum number of hit points possible to that target, and you gain a swimming speed equal to your walking speed.

Bonus Proficiency
When you choose this domain at 1st level, you gain proficiency with martial weapons.

Channel Divinity: Extract Waters
At 2nd level, you learn how to pull life out of other creatures. As an action, choose a creature within 30 feet with water in its body. That creature must make a Constitution saving throw. On a success, it takes 2d12 necrotic damage. On a failure, it becomes desperately thirsty, and seeks out the nearest drinkable fluid for the next minute.

So We Beat On
Starting at 6th level, all your summoned undead gain a swimming speed and a climbing speed equal to their walking speed. If undead under your control are in a body of water, you can cast healing spells on them and the range of your mental commands includes the range of that body of water.
In addition, you no longer have to concentrate on wall of water.

Beginning at 8th level, the attacks of your undead become dangerously desiccating. As a reaction, after an undead controlled by you hits a target that has water in its body with a melee attack, you can force the target to make a Constitution saving throw or gain one level of exhaustion as your undead sucks moisture out of their body. Creatures composed of water-based liquid have disadvantage on this saving throw.
You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier per long rest.

Waters of Life
At 17th level, you learn how to share the water that lets you live with others. As an action, you can roll any number of your hit dice and heal a creature you touch by that amount. You can even expend hit dice that you’ve already used during a short rest, but for each already used hit dice you expend, you take 2d8 necrotic damage.

New Spells:

Touch of Undeath
1st level necromancy

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V,S
Duration: Concentration, special

You touch the corpse or skeleton of a Small or Medium humanoid, raising it as a zombie or skeleton under your control for a number of rounds equal to 1 + your spellcasting modifier. On your turns, as long is it’s within 60 feet, you can mentally direct it as a bonus action. If not given any orders, it defends itself against hostile creatures. The undead follows one order until given another.
At the end of this spell, the zombie or skeleton collapses back into a corpse or skeleton unless you use a bonus action to touch it and expend another 1st level spell slot to cast this spell again.

At higher levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the duration of this spell triples.
When you cast this spell at 3rd level, 5th level, 7th level, or 9th level, you can summon an additional undead from a suitable corpse or skeleton within 30 feet.

It's really remarkable how one minor change can transform a subclass from situationally useful to pretty decent. I don't think taking away concentration from wall of water breaks the game too much, and it opens up a lot of fun options for this subclass.

I do have issues with necromancy. I think that necromancy is weak, especially at higher levels, even if you're playing the necromancer subclass, which get buffs to his creatures that make them viable as low level minions. I think these buffs should already be included in necromancy spells to give them greater utility against other powerful spells that compete for slots at 3rd level and 5th level. 

To be fair to WotC, balancing summons is a tricky tricky business, and I vastly prefer underpowered summons to overpowered summons. Brandes Stoddard has a nice article which addresses some of my necromancy concerns.

Anyhoo, this subclass probably isn't finished yet. The 8th level feature is a marked break from standard 5e design, and might be overpowered given how good exhaustion is.

I think the most worrisome feature of this subclass is the 6th level ability, specifically healing summons in water. That alone might make for a good 8th level feature. Playtesting will tell.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cleric of Xihuitl

A paladin left the party and deprived them of healing. My players asked for healing. So Galen, the NPC caravan leader, stepped up to the plate. After discovering a holy symbol of Xihuitl, he spent a day or so deciding whether or not he wanted the responsibility. My players were very understanding, and gave him the time and space he needed to make his choice.

The dawn after unearthing a turquoise mask, he donned it, and accepted the responsibilities of becoming a cleric.

Of unknown Mesoamerican origin.
Oh, holy symbols - masks - of Xihuitl are made from the front top skull of a former priest after they die. A pecked cross inlaid with greenstone adorns the forehead. 

Below is my first tentative draft. 

Xihuitl, in my campaign, is the main god of the underworld and agriculture. 

Xihuitl Domain Spells:
1st level: animal friendship, inflict wounds
3rd level: pass without trace, geyser*
5th level: life transference**, wall of water
7th: control water, dominate beast
9th: revivify (raise dead), danse macabre**

Circle of Mortality:
At 1st level, you gain the ability to manipulate the line between life and death. When you would normally roll one or more dice to restore hit points with a spell to a creature at 0 hit points, you instead use the highest number possible for each die.
In addition, you learn the spare the dying cantrip, which doesn’t count against the number of cleric cantrips you know. For you, it has a range of 30 feet, and you can cast it as a bonus action.

Channel Divinity: Stand with the Ancestral Dead
Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity to heal undead.
As an action, choose one undead you can see within 30 feet. The next time that undead takes necrotic damage, it instead regains the damage dealt as hit points.

Comfort in Death
Beginning at 6th level, you can walk among undead. As an action, you may make a Persuasion check against any number of undead you can see. On a success, they become at least neutral to your presence and your companions presence, if you have any companions. You make this check with advantage if the undead are allied with Xihuitl or raised by worshippers of Xihuitl.

Divine Strike
Starting at 8th level, you gain the ability to channel death through your weapon strikes. Once on each of your turns, when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 necrotic damage to the target. When you reach 14th level, this extra damage increases to 2d8.

Channel to the Underworld
Starting at 17th level, you can convey creatures to a watery grave. As an action, target a creature within 60 feet touching a body of water. That creature must make a Constitution saving throw or be dragged underneath the water and take 2d8 necrotic damage on a failure, and half damage on a success. Every time the creature fails its Con save, it loses a minute of air. The creature may repeat the Con save at the beginning of its turns, exiting the water to the closest body of land on a success.

*Spells from Walrock Homebrew's excellent Codex of Waves.

**Spells from Xanathar's Guide to Everything

So, at first glance this feels like a hardcore necromancy cleric. It....isn't intended to be, but there're some ancestral undead I want to bring into play later. The main features are centered around supporting undead with some limited mob control via geyser, wall of water, and control water

One weird thing about the spell list is that revivify is listed as a 5th level spell. This is intentional - coming back from the dead is much harder in my world. Raise dead is a 7th level spell. The other thing I'd like to note is that any clerics taking this domain should scoop up raise undead when they hit 5th level. What's the utility of raise undead compared to danse macabre? Well, duration, but there's a magic item that's supposed to sync with raise undead

The 1st level feature is explicitly ripped off from the Grave Domain cleric and is pretty damn powerful. Life Domain wishes it was this good.  

The 6th level feature is not concrete in its wording because there should be leeway for roleplay and multiple results. I considered making it a "charm undead" feature but then dismissed that idea. This cleric isn't supposed to dominate the dead, it's supposed to cooperate with them. 

In keeping with the standard practice of either boosting cantrip damage or boosting melee damage at 8th level, I've opted for the latter. This cleric isn't a real tanky cleric but should have some combat prowness. When I rewrite this in the future, I think I'll add an 8th level feature that gives this subclass more flavor. +damage is stifling. 

The capstone, I hope, is on the low side of the balance scale for now. Drowning and the like with no concentration is good, even if there's a lot of Con saves allowed before the drowning begins. 

Magic Item: Death Mask (rare)

This basalt mask inlaid with turquoise depicts a serene, resting, androgynous face with its eyes and mouth closed. 
If placed on the face of a corpse that has been consecrated to Xihuitl, it can be used as the material component for raise undead or danse macabre. Regardless of the type of undead that would normally be created, a ghoul is created instead. This ghoul retains most memories of its past life, is free willed, and does not expire after the duration of the spell used to raise it lapses. 
If used by a cleric of Xihuitl as a holy symbol, the cleric's save DC increases by 1.

So this plays right into the hands of create undead and danse macabre. Masked ghouls and ancestor ghouls can often be found guarding a temple, running a temple, or waiting until needed. 

One of my players wants to make a "totally Jesus loving Mormon as hell cleric in the middle of the jungle". Well, I guess that means Mormon Jesus in Mesoamerica: the subclass is a-coming. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Environmental Obstacles in OSR and 5e Rangers

In the OSR, there's a lot of emphasis placed on exploration. The main obstacles of exploration are resource management. Some OSR blogs have a take on how to manage inventory, storage, and environment as a challenge; which is awesome. I want to compare the OSR and 5e.

There are mechanics that appear in exploration in both systems. Management of light, management of food/water, management of ammunition (spells and arrows alike). 5e has a less technically complex approach that requires more bookkeeping: each item has weight, and each player has a maximum amount of weight they can carry. While this is simple, it doesn't create any need to track inventory, which means less players look at inventory, which means most players are less aware of the tools they have. There are penalties in 5e and in the OSR for carrying more than you can handle.

When running a gritty (OSRish) 5e game, 5e inventory becomes very important. Heroic fantasy - not so much. The overall approach for inventory remains the same, though: 5e and the OSR offer ways to keep track of items and hard limits to how much a given player can carry. 

Environment and related obstacles, though, are treated very differently from other ways of overcoming challenges.

For example, during combat, there's a different set of obstacles. AC, HP, conditions, damage, healing - all of these impede success/survival, the "goal" of combat. Players work through multiple steps to overcome the obstacles of combat.

In environmental exploration in the OSR, there's a lot of thought given to obstacles. A good obstacle should be something that is impeding progress, but can be overcome. There is no one "right" solution to any given obstacle, merely degrees of success (there are wrong solutions) because some solutions are better than others. Some obstacles will be more difficult to clear than others, but obstacle difficulty changes with the situation. Given the right tools and people (lockpicking rogue) a locked door becomes a delay. It's not a given that the rogue can pick the lock, but now the party doesn't have to try to bang the door down or search for another way around, or, or, or....

It's also important to note that dungeons have an environment all their own. I will be talking about environment very generally in some points covering both dungeon and natural and even city environments, (my 3 different environments) but I recognize each of those environments is fundamentally different.

What changes between environments is the toolkit game systems give you to address their challenges. There's a decent amount of mechanics in the OSR and 5e for dungeon environments. Some of these dungeon env. tools can also be applied to situations in the city.

Back to my earlier thought: the way 5e handles natural env. challenges is too reductionist.

In combat, obstacles are overcome gradually. This necessitates the most complex ruleset of any part of the 5e game. With 5e obstacles, almost all solutions are: roll 1d20+proficiency bonus+related ability score+other situational bonuses (advantage, spells, etc.) and compare the total to a DC. One and done. I don't have an issue with using dice to solve some challenges, BUT:

when players (especially new ones) learn they can solve obstacles quickly with dice rolls, they can get used to quick solutions for obstacles/get tired of obstacles that feel like arbitrary dice rolling.

 when players depend on dice rolls to solve problems, sometimes the only "good" obstacles can't be solved with a dice roll.

one dice roll (usually) doesn't change the course of a single battle. Why should one dice roll determine either success or failure (with no in-between) for other obstacles that should require time to work around or are ongoing?

I know there're some parts of 5e with contested checks or "best out of 3" to resolve obstacles. The norm, however, is one and done.

I have butthurt with the ranger class too. The original ranger completely takes the tension out of a number of compelling environmental challenges.

In my current campaign, the party's traveling with pack animals on a road through a jungle. NPC's have told them they're being chased by a group of demons. If they travel at the maximum pace that their mounts can travel, they'll probably make it to relative safety and elude the pursuit. If they lose even an hour (we did the math), the chances of being caught will rise. Last session, my players were attacked by demons, interrupting some of their long rests. Because my players and the caravan they're traveling with don't want to stop, they're marching on at daybreak, but some PC's are finishing their long rests later. If there's an encounter during the day, and these unrested PC's have to fight, they lose the resources of HP, hit dice, and spells.

Goblin Slayer probably has some advice for you, buddy

With the original/revised ranger's Natural Explorer, after traveling in Favored Terrain/any terrain, the ranger gains:

 - Difficult terrain doesn't slow your group's travel.
 - Your group can't be lost except by magical means.
 - Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger.
-  If you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace.
- When you forage, you find twice as much food as you normally would.
- While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.

Both rangers would vastly simplify environmental exploration for my party and take away the tension that comes with resource management.

I don't like the fact that the ranger outright solves many resource management obstacles and other literal obstacles, such as difficult terrain, outright. Overcoming obstacles should be a process. I think the ranger should have tools to solve obstacles rather than just ignoring obstacles outright.

I recognize that combat is the strongest emphasis of 5e, but I think a well balanced game needs more than just combat rules. An Unearthed Arcana post detailed three pillars of experience points: exploration, combat, and roleplaying. There are systems in place for combat, not so much for roleplaying, and exploration is neglected. If a 5e game wants to grapple with resource management, there isn't any systematic approach that creates tension but encourages problem solving like in combat. In short, if you want people to be able to engage with and enjoy all sides of an RPG, you must design mechanics that allow them to approach a side with tools and hindrances. D&D 5e does this with combat and spells, but nothing else. (I recognize that it's also possible to approach an obstacle in theater of the mind with no rolls at all, but I can't render a scenario well enough to create that without lots of preparation.)

As a quick aside, I also dislike immunity to damage/conditions in class design for the same reasons. Damage/conditions should remain relevant, and special abilities that overcome immunity simply reinforce the ridiculousness of immunity for me.

How to resolve this issue for natural environments?

Well, I want people to be able to play Ranger at my table. So I have to fix Ranger. Let's revise Natural Explorer, point by point, trying to strike a balance between 5e checks and the OSR. For those of you unfamiliar with OSR design philosophy, it goes like this: less is more, and make it intuitive. (Dear god, I'll try.)

I'm going to summarize the 5e travel rules below because some mechanics will refer to them.

Fast pace: 400 feet/minute, 3 miles/hour, 30 miles/day. Effects: -5 to passive Perception scores.
Normal pace: 300 feet/minute, 2 miles/hour, 24 miles/day
Slow pace: 200 feet/minute, 1 mile/hour, 18 miles/day

- Difficult terrain doesn't slow your group's travel.

You can travel with groups through difficult terrain in their favored environment at a slow pace. If you wish to travel at a slow pace in a group outside your favorite environment, you may make a Survival check with a -1 penalty for every group member in the party not proficient in Survival. If you fail, you may not attempt again until after their next long rest. You may not travel at a slow pace through difficult terrain with a mount in the party.

It's fine if ranger has some helpful bonuses, but nothing that completely negates the challenge of surviving. Also, I referenced favored terrain, something that isn't in the Revised Ranger. I like favored terrain cause it helps ground a character. Any version of this that's less wordy would be good.

- Your group can't be lost except by magical means

You have advantage on checks to follow a heading you determine while in a natural environment. Additionally, you have advantage on saves to avoid getting lost through magical means in your favored environment.

I like the idea of giving rangers little things that make existing in their favored environment easier. Rangers should have an advantage if they're traveling through familiar terrain.

- Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger.

Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking) in your favored environment, you remain alert to danger.

Honestly, this is fine as long as it's in your favored environment. Otherwise, it negates surprise for the ranger across the board after an hour of travel (per the Revised Ranger), which lessens the impact of ambushes.

If you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace. 

If you are traveling alone, you can use Stealth while moving at a normal pace through any environment.

Good! No changes. This is something ranger should have access to after all that traveling outdoors.

- When you forage, you find twice as much food as you normally would.

Oh boy! I'd like to introduce a new mechanic thingy for foraging that tries to reflect resource depletion.

So, there are lots of different environs in D&D that're possible to travel through. I'll cover 3: desert, plains, and jungle.

So, natural environs have a Resource number: 20. Natural environs also have Depletion Dice: how much the surrounding area is depleted every time a group (not one person) forages for food. "Area" is a pretty broad term here. For my purposes, an area is the amount of ground covered by a day of travel. Referring to the travel table above for a normal pace, the area covered by a forager traveling at a normal pace is 24 miles/day. So, for a party traveling at a normal pace:

Desert: Every time a group successfully forages, roll 3d6 depletion dice. Average roll is about 10.5, so 2-3 days of foraging in the same desert place sounds reasonable to me.
Plains: Every time a group successfully forages, roll 2d6 depletion dice.
Jungle: Every time a group successfully forages, roll 1d6 depletion dice.

I'm pulling these numbers out of thin air, but it seems reasonable to me that deserts have less resources than plains which have less resource numbers than forests.

Also, "successful" foraging is passing the check to forage. Failure means you find half the food/water you/the group needs and the depletion dice are still rolled. Depleting Resource to 0 means that you can't find enough food to sustain the group unless you move on. Resource regenerates at a rate of 1/day.

So, with these new mechanics in mind:

- When you forage, you find twice as much food as you normally would.

When you forage in your favored terrain, you roll one less depletion dice, or halve the dice roll if you would roll less than one dice. When you roll to forage, add +1 to your roll for every other group member proficient in Survival.

This is an extremely untested mechanic because my group hasn't gotten to the point where they actually have to worry about food...yet. Heheheh. Additionally: as long as you pass your check, it won't be hard to find food if you're constantly on the move. If you are forced to stick around one place and run out of rations, or can't move to another area to forage, though, you just might run into some serious trouble unless you have a cleric/paladin/bard who can cast Create Food and Water which makes all this irrelevant AAAAAAAAAAAGH

- While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.

When you track other creatures, you can make a Survival check to learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passes through the area. You make this check with advantage if you're in your favored terrain.

If you like this for OSR, replace the Survival checks with whatever you have your rangers or nature-oriented classes do. There's a great article about the weaknesses of the 5e barbarian, and one of the points it brings up is that there isn't much for barbs to do outside of combat. As a a stereotypical nature-centric class, there should probably be a barbarian subclass that overlaps with ranger a bit.

Another way to come at natural environments are some really, really good random encounter tables. Those are hard to write.

What I'm trying to keep in mind is that I'm not writing a game in which the players slowly die because they depleted the natural resources and can't move quickly enough to find more because of exhaustion. That's horrifying. I'm trying to write something that creates pressure and a chance at failure and success. Whether or not this'll work....we'll see!