August 26, 2015

Run, Forrest . . . Run (D&D5)

In my article from the Violent Resolution series dealing with movement, I noted that in D&D, the standard 30' move (or even the 60' dash) is, all things considered, quite slow. It represents six seconds of movement, so is either 5' per second, or 10'.

That's 3.4 and 6.8mph, respectively. Or a decent walk and a moderate, but not fast, jog. Usain Bolt, my go-to reference for insane speed, can run 400m in just over 45 seconds. That's an average of 29 feet (one standard action) per second. So at the high end, in about 8 combat rounds, a PC can cover quite a bit of distance.

Note that's roughly 10s for a 300' dash, too - an average time for a 300' run is on the order of 12 to 15 seconds, or 2-3 combat rounds. So 100-150' per round (compared with Usain's insane 180' per round).

All in all, it should be possible to make four actions of this type per combat round, six if you're really good.

I was wondering how to represent this, and then I hit my old standby: HP can represent being weary as well as being hit by an axe.

What if you could burn HP to take extra move actions past the two you get by dashing?

The Dash Likes

So, here's the basic premise. If you want to move more than your allowed dash action, go ahead. Peak human speed is on the order of 25-30mph (again, Bolt hits nearly 28mph), which is about 40 feet per second, or 240 feet in a combat round.

That's a maximum of 8 move actions. 

How about a horse? Tops out at about 60-65 fps (44mph), which basically means six moves at 60'.

Not sure what a cheetah's base speed would be, but she maxes out at about 600' in a combat round (about 70mph)

Here's my concept, quickly. Want to make a movement action (call it a sprint) beyond your basic dash? Go ahead. Make a CON save, at a base DC 10, +3 for every extra move increment beyond the first. So 6 moves in one combat round is DC 19.

If you fail, you take damage. How much? Not sure. I'm thinking 1d4 or something. Enough to worry a mage, but not a fighter, and definitely not a barbarian. Critical fails on the CON save double damage to 2d4, and critical successes might even restore HP? Maybe you get the next interval of sprinting without rolling if you keep moving.

So not a lot, but then, running flat out for six second should not kill you. And you can recover with a short rest. That works well with the HP as exhaustion/using up your reserves concept.


% Success
Con Bonus
Sprint distance CON DC -1 0 1 2 3 4 5
90' 10 50% 55% 60% 65% 70% 75% 80%
120' 12 40% 45% 50% 55% 60% 65% 70%
150' 14 30% 35% 40% 45% 50% 55% 60%
180' 16 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% 50%
210' 18 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40%
240' 20 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30%

The red lines are not accessible without a special Feat. The sprint distance is for a human with a base rate of 30'. A horse with 60' base starts at a 180' move, and tops at 360' without a feat. 

An Easy Target

The premise of this one is that you're doing nothing else but running, lest it become much too powerful an option, especially for higher level characters for whom 1d4 HP is less than chicken feed. You only get to use sprinting if you've used all of your actions on movement (so you're dashing), so this precludes attacking.
Maybe we could work a cheesy attack in there as a bonus action or something. I dunno. I really think this should just be "Run, Forrest! Run!"

Attacks against anyone moving faster than their dash are advantaged. Sprinting past someone should definitely provoke an attack of opportunity (probably from friends, too. Kidding. Mostly.)

You also lose any DEX bonus to AC while sprinting. Running in a straight line full tilt is not conducive to a spry (dare I say it) savvy defense.

Parting Shot

The difference between the various CON scores just isn't that much, and so even CON 20 isn't going to be crazy abusable. In fact, it might be too harsh, since:

4 minute mile: 132' per combat round (40 rounds)
2.5-hour marathon: 92 feet per combat round (1500 rounds)

I'm tempted to make the damage even lower, perhaps only a point? Or maybe even

Feat: Sprinter

You are experienced and trained in making the most of a combat sprint. You gain the following benefits:

  • You have resistance against the damage inflicted by failing a CON save while sprinting
  • Out of combat, when not on difficult terrain, you roll every two minutes at 3x your normal interval, every minute at 4x, 30s (five rounds) at 5x, and every 15s (three rounds) at 6x and faster.
  • You may sprint up to 8x your base rate instead of up to 6x.
So there you go. You can now burn HP to run really fast. Fleeing has a cost, and fleeing and then turning around to fight will leave you in a worse place than standing and fighting, especially if you're low level (where 1d4 damage is a big deal). At high level, you can go for a while, fast, without burning too many resources. A fighter with 100 HP and CON 16 can run at 10mph (a 6min mile) and pass his CON check 60% of the time - he'll take 1-4 damage once every 2.5 rounds (15s). So he can run for about 1-4 miles at that pace. If he has the Sprinter feat, he'll go much farther than that. He's rolling every minute instead of every round, and taking half damage, so 20-80 miles! Very heroic - he's an ultramarathoner.

D&D isn't a reality simulator and I'm not trying to make it one. But humans can move a lot faster than D&D allows for if they don't have much else going on. A proper full-on system would account for encumbrance (add the armor AC bonus to the DC? Some fraction of carried weight? +1 to DC per STR lbs carried?) and other things.

But the concept of spending HP to move farther was too interesting for me to ignore.

August 24, 2015

Playing with DnD5 Characters - 6th Level Tiefling Draconic Sorcerer

Call him Mutt.

The Sorcerer is one of the spellcasting classes in D&D5 whose spell lists goes all the way up to 9th level. That is, they can be totally nasty with the right circumstances. And the spell lists are broad enough that you can specialize within types to make for a well thought out roleplaying or character schtick if you wish.

I'm actually going to take that route a bit, in that my particular choices of race and magical origin really point in a particular direction. Also, the point of this series is a bit of the munchkin "do lots of damage" quest, just to see what's possible. 

But even at 6th level, you have a lot to choose from, and could be a buff-monster, an illusionist/sneak, or a spellslinger that controls the battlefield environment rather than dishing out HP of damage.

Still: I'm going the damage route, with some very special extras.

Race and Class and Stats

Obviously going for Sorcerer here, and that means CHA as the spellcasting stat. I could easily pump this to 20 given my array of (16, 15, 14, 13, 13, 11), but I'm not going to. The d6 hit die for Sorcerers means that some care will be taken to not be a glass cannon, as well as keeping INT and WIS high for some decent but not great skill rolls. 

For Race, the CHA-boosting races are the Half-Elf and the Tiefling. Hmm. From a stats point of view, Half-Elf could eat the +2 and then hit up with a +1 in CON and something else. Maybe DEX for the AC bonus (and you'll need the help, since you're not proficient in any kind of armor to start with).

Tiefling, however. Hmm. Darkvision, which is nice. Hellish resistance gives half-damage to fire. Oooga-oooga. And I can cast Hellish Rebuke and Darkness once per day, each as a 2nd level spell. 

Perhaps it's just me, but half fire damage is appealing.

August 23, 2015

MAD about weapons

This isn't a rules suggestion - at least not yet. I was just thinking that with a focus on multiple attribute dependency, embracing the strategy that characters will need to have multiple high stats to get the most out of any particular role, you could provide some useful and fun differentiation in . . . well, lots of things.
Note that I've not canvassed even the DMG, and certainly not Sage Advice or any sort of alternate rules books for these. I'm just free-associating. So I may well be reinventing a bunch of wheels here.
Certain weapons could be more challenging to use than others, providing a DEX-based penalty to hit. This would be overcome by proficiency and stat bonuses.

Weapon size and reach could impact initiative. So smaller weapons would provide a boost to initiative, large ones a penalty, relative to STR. While it might be a bit odd, one could only use penalties to initiative, so that a guy of any STR who is punching or using a dagger just uses the system as written - DEX bonus and that's it. But if your STR was lower than the modifier for the weapon (so at low enough STR, even a human-sized dagger might be slow) you take a penalty.

STR already impact weapon damage straight-up, and under a MAD system this would not change, though it might be that large weapons, which already get boosts to raw dice of damage, require being over the STR rating to get damage bonuses. Not sure about this one, though. Each additional die rating (d6 to d8 to d10) is basically a +1 to damage anyway, so saying "sure, a greatsword is 1d12 or 2d6, but you can only wield it effectively if you're higher than STR [whatever]" would hit both damage output and weapon speed. Probably too much.

That being said, it's easier to say "hey, if you're not strong enough to draw back a bow, it's both slowr and double-dips for damage." That's actually not wrong, since half-drawing a bow quarters the energy in an arrow. Still, one mixes physics with D&D at great peril. It's not that kind of game (and that's OK).

I like the idea of bows having a STR rating, basically a draw weight. A very strong bow might be a STR 18 or even STR 20 bow, good for +4 or +5 to damage. But you couldn't use it at STR 16. or you could use it, but it makes you tired, or you take a penalty to your hit roll, reducing your odds of a successful damaging strike, or even just roll at disadvantage, which is much more in keeping with the "don't sweat the penalties" philosophy of 5e.

Parting  Shot

Anyway, a lot of this is probably "gah, not worth the effort," but MAD would allow differentiation of weapons and speed by more than one axis other than damage and the fairly underused damage type.

To do this right without it being a giant NERF ME button, it would have to be pretty much a top to bottom look, with eyes to more than just the fighting classes. If you need to have great STR, DEX, and CON to be a good warrior, with INT, WIS, and CHA also being useful, you're going to want to make sure that (for example) DEX, INT, and CON are important for spellcasters, with STR, WIS, and CHA also being useful. That sort of thing. Even beyond skills, every class needs to derive benefit in their primary roll from every stat in order for this to really work. 

Otherwise, nerf bat. Ooops.

August 22, 2015

Sample 5e Characters - Rogue (Assassin)

Here's the next mundane character in the line, this time the Rogue. The rogue's signature ability in combat, available to all rogues, is the sneak attack. Balanced against that is that the rogue will only get one attack in combat, ever (without multiclassing).

The rogue is fundamentally a skills expert, however. With many allowed skills and the "expertise" feature that gives double proficiency bonus, there will be a large swath of skills at which the rogue is simply amazing.


With the array rolled, and the focus on skills, the low skill goes into STR - this is, of course, a nod to the fact that many, if not most, of the rogues proficiencies can be with finesse weapons or ranged weapons that allow single-attribute focus on DEX. Naturally, we put the highest stat there. If creating a character that will stand and fight (likely a bad idea for a stealth-oriented character with one attack per round), one might put CON as a higher value than I did . . . but I'm deliberately sacrificing some f the HP ability to put higher stats in skill-driving abilities: CHA, WIS, and INT.

For race, I choose normal human. The thief uses too many different abilities to drive skill rolls to not grab the +1 boost to all stats, and the rolls I'm using here (16, 15, 14, 13, 13, 11) are very friendly to the +1 boost to hit the even-numbered values that drive attribute bonuses.


STR 12 (+1); DEX 18 (+4); CON 14 (+2); INT 14 (+2); WIS 16 (+3); CHA 16 (+3)

Easy to put the 14 in WIS or CHA instead of INT, but CHA hits up deception and performance, and WIS is perception and insight.


STR +1; DEX +7; CON +2; INT +5; WIS +3; CHA +3

It will be quite challenging to do full damage to our rogue with DEX-based spells. On the flip side, he's toast if you grapple him

August 21, 2015

It's a Mad, MAD world

I like it.

I like that you need to have lots of different skills and abilities to make a character work. I like that one rolled or chosen high score doesn't eliminate most of the challenges for a character. I like having to make choices as to what I'm good at (not that I mind it if I roll up a D&D character with few weaknesses, or get assigned 300-500 points in GURPS. Awesome can be rather fun.)

I might get around to this one day, might not. But I always thought it would be fun and good to take the basic 5e ruleset and see how much more MAD you can make it. I could start with S&W, and I'd likely be adding some sort of skill system to it in order to help spread the MAD around. 

Fifth Edition has actually done a nice step in this direction already, given the various attributes that skills are based off of. There's a good smattering of skills for everything but CON.

Where else might I look?

Well, you get your DEX bonus to hit, and STR bonus for damage. For both melee and ranged. DEX 20, STR 10? Great. You roll 1d20+5 to hit, and 1d8 damage for a longbow. Other way around? 1d20 to hit, 1d8+5 for damage.

More excuses and ways to use all attributes in combat. CHA-based Intimidation attacks. INT based ruses. WIS is already useful for Perception, but needing to make a roll (or likely just use the passive score, with an option to roll) in order to pay attention to multiple assailants. A CON roll to deal with fatigue either in or after a battle. 
Actually, that one gives me an idea. Hmm.
As I've been doing my "make a character" challenge, I note that usually there are three stats you need to mind. The primary stat for your class - STR for fighters, DEX for archers and thieves, WIS for priests, etc. There is often a "secondary" stat which isn't secondary at all - your power stat. CHA for Paladins, WIS for clerics and monks, INT for mages. 

And then there's CON. CON is HP, and HP are life. So everyone needs CON.

Fighters need DEX too, right? Not so much, though the boost to initiative matters. Mostly (but not always), I've seen fighters waive their DEX bonuses in exchange for heavy armor. You can get to AC 17 with Studded Leather and DEX 20, or the best medium armor and DEX 14. Beyond that, you need heavy or magic or both. And then you have disadvantage on stealth and no DEX bonus for armor anyway, so melee fighters can deprecate it. That gives them STR and CON.

My charcters tend to have high WIS, because I hate being the guy standing there not noticing a foe.

I'd obviously want/need to flesh this out more. The best place to start might be were I trying to use the 5e base (and a non-existent OGL) to create a 5e Modern game. Then I could tinker, playtest, revise, weep with frustration, revise again, playtest some more, give up, start over, and finally emerge triumphant. 
You know, the usual writing process.
For now, it's all in the "hmmm" stage. But I really do like rules where if you start with something like the standard array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) then there's no class and no stat for which you say "but of COURSE" I put my 8 there. That won't impair me at all.

August 19, 2015

Sample 5e Character - 6th Level Ranger (Hunter)

This one's a day late, because last night I got back to martial arts training for the first time in well over a year. Not a huge deal for anyone but me, but a big deal for me.

Anyway, for this guy, I decided to go the Variant Human route. I like this for archery-based characters because it makes the Sharpshooter feat available right out of the gate, and between the Archery fighting style, a high DEX, and the proficiency bonus, it makes it so that you can suck up that -5 to hit in exchange for +10 damage with roughly the same odds as the second-rank guys have for their main attacks.


So obviously I'm doing Ranger/Hunter, and I put the best scores in DEX, CON, and STR in that order, leaving the 11 for CHA. That allowed me to boost DEX to 17 at 1st level along with CON to 16 for the HP boost. For the 4th level attribute advancement, I push DEX to 18 and . . . hmm. I push WIS to 14 to get the bonus to Perception, which is something I habitually push higher if I can. 

STR 14 (+2); DEX 18 (+4); CON 16 (+3); INT 13 (+1); WIS 14 (+2); CHA 11 (+0)

Saving Throws: STR +5; DEX +7; CON +3; INT +1; +2; CHA +0


Six boosted skills due to being a variant human, plus background (Folk Hero). I boost Animal Handling (+5), Arcana (+4), Nature (+4), Perception (+5), Stealth (+7), and Survival (+5). 

DEX-based skills are "naturally" +4 without the proficiency bonus.

Between stats and skills, targeting the Feat means I am looking at no (yet) spectacular stats/skills. Picking one of the elvish races (+2 to DEX) and pushing DEX again with the level boost would be a way to get to DEX 20 right out of the gate, but I'm playing a bit of "good at a bunch of things, spectacular at archery," so he can be out there as a scout, on point - a role he'll be able to excel at given his Stealth bonus. 


Rangers are tough, since you want them mobile and sneaky. This tends to push AC down, since you'll either be in Studded Leather (base AC 12 +4 for the DEX) or a breastplate, which is 14, max DEX boost of +2. In either case he's "only" AC 16, so he's not going to stand on the front line if he can help it. Magical help will be required to boost his natural AC, be it magical items or handy buffing spells.

The Hunter's focus is Archery, and with two attacks and the Archery Fighting style, our Ranger is rocking out at 1d20+9 for 1d8+4 piercing each one. With sharpshooter, the option of 1d20+4 for 1d8+14 exists as well. That's a 25% reduction in hit rate for a 117% increase in damage, so that's likely an option that you'll take a lot.

Oh, and of course we throw down with Hunter's Mark and Colossus Slayer. That second one is huge, and a good reason to make your first arrow attack at max chance to hit. Because the second one gets an extra 1d8. So that means your first arrow is 1d8+4, but your second can be 2d8+14, for an average of 23 points per hit. Sharpshooter after that is 1d8+14 and 2d8+14. 31-52 points if you can successfully hit twice. That even beats out a Champion dual-weapon fighter.

Toss in Hunter's Mark for 1d6 for each one, and you're boosting those totals by 7 per two attacks. 

This guy is a serious player, though again, you're rolling at 1d20+4 to do that much damage output, so mostly useful on low-AC foes, where as the Champion is rolling at 1d20+8 and has double the chance of a critical hit.

With melee weapons, you're "meh." 1d20+5 to hit, but 1d10+2 with a longsword, since you'll use it in two hands if you use it at all. 


Rangers use WIS for spellcasting, and that calls into question the direction I took the character, which was to focus on bow damage. This character has four spells, 2 at 1st level and 2 at 2nd level. One of these just has to be Hunter's Mark. The other three are Alarm (because warnings can be good), Spike Growth, and Cordon of Arrows.

The Full Monte

Some of the Race

RACE: Variant Human
• Two different ability scores of your choice increase by 1
• Gain proficiency in one skill of your choice
• Gain one feat of your choice
• Size: Medium
• Speed: 30ft
• Languages: Common, one additional language

• Feature: Rustic Hospitality Since you come from the ranks of the common folk, you fit in among them with ease.
• Defining Event: Recruited into a lord’s army, I rose to leadership and was commended for my heroism.
• Skills: Animal Handling, Survival
• Tools: One type of artisan’s tools, vehicles (land)
• Languages: none

CLASS: Ranger
• Armor: Light & medium armor, shields
• Weapons: Simple and martial weapons
• Tools: none
• Saves: Strength, Dexterity
• Skills: Choose 3 from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival
• Favored Enemy Enemies: fey, monstrosities Advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track favored enemy and Intelligence checks to recall information about them
• Natural Explorer Favored Terrain: Grassland, Underdark When making an Intelligence or Wisdom check related to favored terrain, your proficiency bonus is doubled if you are using a skill that you’re proficient in. While traveling for an hour or more in favored terrain, gain the following benefits:
   - Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel 
   - Your group can’t become lost except by magical means 
   - Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling, 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 learn their exact number, sizes and how long ago they passed through the area
• Spellcasting When gaining a level in this class, you can choose one of the ranger spells you know and replace it with another spell from the ranger spell list, which must be of a level for which you have spell slots
• Fighting Style (Archery) Gain +2 bonus to attack rolls made with ranged weapons
• Primeval Awareness As an action expend one ranger spell slot to focus your awareness on the region around you. For 1 min per level of the spell slot expended, sense whether creatures (aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead) are present within 1 mile (or 6 miles in favored terrain). This feature doesn’t reveal the creatures’ location or number
• Ranger Archetype (Hunter)
• Ranger Archetype Feature (Hunter's Prey/Colossus Slayer) When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, it takes an extra 1d8 damage if it’s below its hit point maximum. You can deal this extra damage only once per turn
• Ability Score Improvement / Feat: Level 4
Extra Attack

• Sharpshooter - Human - Level 1 
    - Attacking at long range doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged weapon attack rolls
    - Your ranged weapon attacks ignore half cover and three-quarters cover 
    - Before making an attack with a ranged weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, add +10 to the attack’s damage

• Ability Score Improvement x 2 - Level 4, - Increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or increase two ability scores of your choice by 1

Parting Shot

A quality scout and an ability to turn a foe into a pincushion at range up to 200 yards, twice per turn. If you can catch regular humans or humanoids in the open at 600', you will have 10 turns (assuming they dash at 60') to more or less strike with impunity, which happens to be the length of Hunter's Mark. Even forgoing the damage boost you can opt into for Sharpshooter, he will hit AC 14 (Studded leather and +2 from DEX) 80% of the time, for 12 points per hit. For low-level guys, that's in the one hit, one kill range. So alone, he can handle something like a band of 16 mookish foes.

If he can catch them from a distance. 

Even in a closer-range battle, this guy will lay down some serious hurt. +Daniel McEntee's Ranger, Keyar, is one of the more consistent threats in our Majestic Wilderlands campaign, and can be counted on to either really whittle down on a large foe, or act as crowd control on smaller ones.

As a point-man and scout par excellence, he can't be beat. Not-awful HP either - a fighter's 58 HP for that level with CON 16. 

Wood Elf Option

If you can live without Sharpshooter (the 120' usual range for a longbow is nothing to sneeze at anyway), you can throw down with a Wood Elf instead, and work with 

STR 13 (+1); DEX 20 (+5); CON 14 (+2); INT 13 (+1); WIS 16 (+3); CHA 11 (+0)

Saving Throws: STR +4; DEX +8; CON +2; INT +1; +2; CHA +0

HP drop to 52 from 58. Hit rolls go to 1d20+10, damage to 1d8+5, Initiative to +5, Stealth to +8 and Perception, Survival, and Animal Handling to +6

This makes for a better guide and scout, and the loss of the +10 damage makes him less of a bruiser in a pinch, but a bit more likely to recon a target. 

In either case, the high DEX save means that ranged combat spells will be at half-damage a reasonable amount of the time (more than half the time, in all likelihood).

The Sharpshooter Ranger/Hunter is a pretty brutal potential damage machine. His high-end capability is on the order of 58 HP per two hits, but against AC 16 (decent AC for an above-average foe), the 1d20+4 die roll hurts, succeeding only 45% of the time. Our Champion is succeeding 65% of the time, and can max out at about 40 (52 with an action surge), meaning he's about the same without the surge, and with it he's still better off.

Of course, our Ranger can do this from 600'. So his goal is to stay fray-adjacent or more or less "in the next county over" if he can do it. And if he can, he's the equivalent of a machine-gun nest. The other characters can count on a significant reduction in the odds against them each turn they can bring the Ranger's arrows to bear.

August 17, 2015

Combat Maneuvers - Anything can be attempted (DnD5)

We didn't have enough people to run Majestic Wilderlands today, so we yakked a bit about magic items and game design. 

One thing that came up was a rules variant, based on the "you got your GURPS in my D&D" concept. But not even really that. The basic philosophy was that of the OSR and the games run before rules were fully codified:

Anything can be attempted.

This is something that GURPS does well with the current combat system, and since +Rob Conley+Daniel McEntee, and I were all quite familiar with the system, it was natural to make analogies. 

Edit: And Rob amplified on his on takeaways from the discussion in a post on Combat Stunts for S&W over on his blog.

But simply: anyone should be able to (for example) trip anyone else. Battle Masters (a Fighter archetype) should be better at it than anyone else. But anyone should be able to try.

I more or less have a theory about combat mechanics. Use what's there.