August 4, 2015

Playing with DnD5 Characters - 6th level Cleric

Oh, yes. I'm gonna make me some Durkon Thundershield. Well, a 5th Edition Cleric of the Tempest, anyway. But that's basically what I'm going for here. Well, he's human. But still . . . Durkon Lankyshield!

As the author notes in his wonderful document, nobody gets +2 to Wisdom, so the you have to choose among three races with a +1 to Wisdom:

  • Human: +1 to everything
  • Hill Dwarf: +2 to CON, +1 to WIS. Plus racial stuff.
  • Wood Elf: +2 to DEX, +1 to WIS, racial stuff.

I'm going with Human, because the ideal cleric as I've seen them played (and would tend to play them myself) is a first or second rank combatant. They don't have to be played this way, but I'm going for a general theme of "somewhere between useful and badass in combat" in my musings here, so there we go. If there were a race with +2 STR and +1 WIS, I'd go with that.

The Tempest domain has some really good stuff in it for laying waste to foes, so again, we go with that.

That gives a surprisingly effective combination, as will soon be seen. 

August 3, 2015

Why the five games chosen for Violent Resolution?

Over on the GURPS Forums, someone wondered why I'd chosen the games I chose. Why those in particular?

Well . . .

If you're doing gaming you HAVE to do D&D. Whether it's D&D5 or Pathfinder is your call, but that was the first big popular system and more or less remains so. D&D is an outgrowth of the CHAINMAIL wargame, and the influence still shows in that it's a tactical system based on HP ablation. D&D in various forms probably accounts for 8-9 out of 10 bucks of RPG sales.

And for me personally, choosing D&D5 was good because it helped me learn the rules.

So that's one.

For other tactical systems, I chose GURPS because. I couldn't not. But it would make a fine choice no matter what. It's got the finest turn resolution and the least abstract rules equivalency in combat - a blow really IS a blow, facing really DOES matter, and if you get injured a few times, you go down. It's a blatantly tactical game at the core, though of course you don't have to play it that way. Again, it shows the ancestry to Man-to-Man and The Fantasy Trip.

That's two.

Savage Worlds had been held up as "the system people are leaving GURPS to go play" in some prior discussions I'd had. I frankly wanted to see if the system was "all that." It too was wargame-derived, I later found out. Deadlands, then something about a Train, and Savage Worlds came out of a simplification of the mass battle system. Anyway, so again, tactical combat. A system I'd never played, too. It also has the unusual mechanic of exploding polyhedral dice. I've seen "big dice are better!" before, but I wanted to see how much better.

That was three tactical systems, and I wanted to include a pair of narrative ones. The GUMSHOE system is the classic narrative system by design. Heck, the entire purpose of the system is to avoid rolling, in a way. I'd played Trail of Cthulhu and did NOT like its combat or general skills resolution system. Then Ken Hite graciously took me to school in my interview with him about the metagame currency of screen time, and that changed my perspective on how things play. It's also crazy low-resolution - roll 1d6 for everything. The die is only there for the seeming of variability to force different uses of the screen time mechanic. And yet NBA has some very specific rules for chases, for martial arts, for explosives. It's the latest in the GUMSHOE evolution, and had years of suggested improvements and tweaks. It's also a great read, with a lot of advice for how to write a camaign. And I love Ken and his work. So that made four.

Finally, Fate Core, which is another narrative game, but a very, very crunchy one, in a way. Again, the metagame currency of screen time via a limited number of action points (Fate Points), but this one you have some basic skill levels. The low resolution (though higher than NBA) combat mechanics (Attack, Defend, Create an Advantage being the most frequently used) were interesting, and the probabilities of victory surprisingly stark (4dF-4dF doesn't have that much spread).

I considered more, but as it turned out, five was more than enough to nearly overwhelm me. Other options might make an interesting follow-up, but I'm liking the "write what strikes my fancy" phase I'm in now.

August 2, 2015

Achievement Unlocked! 600 posts

The final column of Violent Resolution marked the 600th post on Gaming Ballistic. So, what's been accomplished here, if anything?

Unique Content

There have been some particularly strong sections on GB, even if I do say so.

The Firing Squad - these interviews, 20 in number thus far, are something that are somewhat unique. There are other blogs that do podcasts, and certainly I'm not the only guy that does interviews. Still, I think that those I've done have been fairly good. I've obviously hit a lot of SJG staff, including Steve himself. The fact that they're available in multiple formats pleases me. You can watch them, listen to them, or read them, and that transcription is one of the things that sets them apart. Spendy, though, as we say here in Minnesota. I've also managed to talk to nearly every VTT creator, including Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, as well as ConTessa founder Stacey Dellorfano and prolific OSR blogger Erik Tenkar - and those two interviews haven't even deleted each other yet.

Violent Resolution - this exercise in comparative game design was a lot of work. Nearly 4-5,000 words per week, for several months. That's more or less the entire content section of Pyramid Magazine, by myself, for three or four months. That's not bad. The series was fun, but I'm not sure it really did what I wanted it to do.

The Grappling Mat - I don't think you'll find a wider selection of discussion and advice on grappling anywhere. It's got a lot of GURPS in it (no surprise), but it touches on OSR and generic issues with grappling rules as well.

Melee Academy and GURPS 101 - There are some damn fine posts in this series, by a whole bunch of GURPS content creators. Peter Dell'Orto and Christopher Rice as many-times published creators, and others as well. I'd always hoped that the Melee Academy concept would catch on beyond GURPS, so that grognards and rules experts on many different systems would chime in on various subjects. Hasn't happened yet, but no telling what might happen in the future.

A Survey of Past Posts

Let's take a look back at some of my favorite posts over the last few years.

August 1, 2015

Violent Resolution - The End of the Revolution

This marks the end of the Violent Resolution blog series here on Castalia House. I'd like to thank Jeffro for recommending me, and Castalia House for giving me a shot at publishing this series on the different facets of combat mechanics in my chosen systems.

What did I take away from it all?

July 31, 2015

Playing with DnD5 Characters - 6th level Bard

Once again, I'll be using the same stat rolls - good ones, but not the six 18s that my old friend Carl swears he rolled.

For a Bard, the obvious choice is the Half-Elf. He's got the CHA. He's got the pretty. He's got that artsy angst that makes the girls swoon. And the guys. Half-elf, ya know.

Half-Elf Entertainer Bard

I chose DEX and INT for the extra racial bonuses, in addition to the mighty +2 to CHA.

STR 14 (+2); DEX 16 (+3); CON 14 (+2); INT 12 (+1); WIS 13 (+2); CHA 18 (+4)

Saves:
STR +2; DEX +6; CON +2; INT +1; WIS +1; CHA +7

AC 18; Hit Points: 45

Key Skills:
Acrobatics +6; Arcana +7; Deception +7; History +4; Intimidation +5 (due to CHA; he's not even particularly invested in it); Medicine +4; Performance +10; Persuasion +5; Sleight of Hand +6; Stealth +4.

So in his element, he's quite the stud, with sky-high performance skill and decent levels at stealth, lying (hey, he's a performer), medicine, and figuring out what that magic item we just looted might be.

Fighting:
Rapier for 1d20+6 to hit and 1d8+3 piercing damage; ranged weapons include Longbow, also at 1d20+6 to hit and 1d8+3 piercing. Goodly long range, too . . . up to 600 feet.

Here's the full skinny

July 30, 2015

Playing with DnD5 Characters - 6th level Barbarian Pirate

Playing around with the Forged Anvil character generator. I'm using a good array of dice rolls (rolled on Roll20) and trying to find synergies as I explore character concepts. The dice rolls were 16, 15, 14, 13, 13, 11 using 4d6 drop lowest. So, yeah - above average. 

Mountain Dwarf Barbarian Pirate

The racial adds and the one attribute boost I took make his final stats quite nice:

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

Saves:
STR +7; DEX +2; CON +7; INT +1; WIS +2; CHA +0

AC 18; Hit Points: 71

Animal Handling +5; Athletics +7; Perception +5; Survival +5

Battleaxe: 1d20+7; Damage 1d8+4; 1d8+6 while raging
Armor: none; Shield: Yes.

Attacks: 2; 3 with Frenzy (lasts 10 rounds/1 minute)


 RACE: Mountain Dwarf
• +2 Constitution, +2 Strength
• Size: Medium
• Speed: 25ft, speed not reduced when wearing heavy armor
• Darkvision 60ft
• Dwarven Resilience: advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance against poison damage
• Dwarven Combat Training: proficient with battleaxe, handaxe, light hammer and warhammer
• Tool Proficiency: gain proficiency with either smith's tools, brewer's supplies or mason's tools
• Stonecunning: add double proficiency bonus to Intelligence (History) check on any stonework.
• Dwarven Armor Training: proficient with light and medium armor
• Languages: Common, Dwarvish

BACKGROUND: Pirate
• Feature: Bad Reputation No matter where you go, people are afraid of you due to your reputation. When you are in a civilized settlement, you can get away with minor criminal offenses, such as refusing to pay for food at a tavern or breaking down doors at a local shop, since most people will not report you to the authorities.
• Skills: Athletics, Perception
• Tools: Navigator’s tools, vehicles (water)
• Languages: none

CLASS: Barbarian
• Armor: Light & medium armor, shields
• Weapons: Simple & martial weapons
• Tools: none
• Saves: Strength, Constitution
• Skills: Choose 2 from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival
• Rage (4 times) Enter a rage as a bonus action gaining the following benefits if you are not wearing heavy armor: - Advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws - When making a melee weapon attack using Strength, gain a +2 bonus to the damage roll - Resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage Rage ends early if knocked unconscious or your turn ends and you haven't attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. You can end your rage on your turn as a bonus action
• Unarmoured Defense (AC 14)
• Reckless Attack When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly gaining advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during that turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.
• Danger Sense Advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that you can see
• Primal Path (Beserker)
• Primal Path Feature (Frenzy) For the duration of rage, make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action on each turn after this one. When your rage ends, you suffer one level of exhaustion
• Ability Score Improvement / Feat: Level 4
• Extra Attack, Fast Movement (+10ft)
• Primal Path Feature (Mindless Rage) Immune to charm and fear effects while raging. If charmed or frightened when entering rage, the effect is suspended

Parting Shot

Not bad. The rage thing and ridiculous HP (even with an average roll of 7 every time, he's got a lot of HP) make him quite nasty. He'll average two or three hits at 1d8+6 each, for 21-42 points per round under Frenzy not including criticals. For most mundane damage, he also effectively has the equivalent of 140 HP due to his resistance to pretty much all damage types dealt by dudes with hand weapons.

His armor class is respectable at AC 18 thanks to Unarmored Defense, a high CON, and a shield. With the right choices (an extra +2 to STR and CON to hit 20 in each is reasonable at higher levels) or some magical help (a ring of protection or something like it) AC 20 isn't crazy-talk. Heck, magical shield.

The thing that's interesting about this is that all of his powers can pretty much be on all the time. "When raging" isn't exactly a limit, and he can range 4 times per long rest (basically per day). 

Since rage lasts for 10 rounds, at 6th level that's up to 40 points of extra damage per rage, and he could, theoretically, do that four times in a row in a particularly desperate fight. 60 points more if he goes Frenzy (but he'll be courting massive exhaustion there). Contrast with the paladin, who can expend (at 6th level) a spell slot to do +1d4 per attack, 20 attacks worth (20-80 extra damage, average 50). In a short fight there's another 12d8 (12-96, average 54) to be had by expending spell slots.

So Bless is as good as Rage, really - a bit better - from a damage perspective at 6th level. The paladin's Armor Class will likely be higher than the Barbarian's. The Barbarian, owing to a predisposition to higher CON and a bit higher HP per roll, will have inherently more staying power in a fight, and while raging will be very hard to drop with weapons (even a magical sword does slashing damage, so your 1d8+6 just became a max of 7 HP instead of 7 HP minimum!).

If the barbarian elects to go all-offense, with a great axe (2d6) and goes STR 20 right away (or with just a darn good roll), even at 6th level that's 2d6+7, three times per round with Frenzy. That's 27-57 without a critical hit, and if you get lucky (punk), 4d6+7 per blow ain't nothing to sneeze at, 11-31 HP. That means that Marcus, for example, can expect to go down in 3-5 hits, even accounting for 30HP of Lay on Hands.

Feels like the staying power of the Barbarian is what makes him dangerous, plus the extra attack while Frenzy is active. 

Of course, spending Bless on the Barbarian just seems like the right kind of overkill.

Finally, they'd be even more dangerous if they could trade HP for damage, as I suggested in my post on playing Marcus the Paladin. I'll just repeat it here:


Toe to toe with a melee expert should be a bad idea
This is really what I'm getting at here, and something +Peter V. Dell'Orto has remarked on before. Going face-to-face with Sir Cuisinart should really be scary. Granted, with plate and a shield, AC 20 (more with magic) is nothing to sneeze at, so they're harder to hit. But the per-turn damage ability of fighters is really second to a lot of characters that are second-rankers. 
I was thinking that it might be interesting to allow something like a fighter to spend his own actual Hit Points for more damage. Say, 2d4 to a blow for every 5 HP you spend. You probably don't have to limit it other than not being able to spend below 10 HP plus your CON bonus times your level - those are mostly physical toughness, not skill or grit or honed combat instinct. So Marcus could exchange HP for extra damage dice as long as he's above 28 HP (3 for CON x 6th level + 10 HP). 
If you did want to limit it, perhaps you can only do it a number of times equal to, say, half your level plus some attribute score. Not STR, because that double-dips. CON might work, but that seems odd since those are physical HP, and this bonus damage is from skill. DEX might be fun, since honestly for heavy fighters there's not much reason to do DEX. Well, unless you're an archer. WIS might be a good one, as it's the ability to notice an opening (tied to Perception). CHA makes no sense, nor does INT. Half level plus WIS? That would allow Marcus to do this five times, trading 25 HP for 10d4 damage to his foes.
I'd make you select whether or not to spend HP before you roll to hit, because I would double these damage dice on a critical hit (if you miss you don't lose the HP, I'd think?). So Marcus might announce that he's spending 5 HP. On a hit he would do 1d8+2d4 + 5 (8-21 HP), but on a critical hit the dice would double: 2d8+4d4+5, for 11-37 HP range. 
This would leverage a fighter's higher HP for something other than a damage sink and pincushion, and make it quite risky to stand face-to-face with a fighter type. For that reason (and since Hunter's Mark and Colossus Slayer stack already for archers, and give plenty of extra damage from a distance where the archer can't get hit back) I'd make it melee only. 
Hrm. That might be a good Feat, actually. Or even a Fighting Style? Class feature for combatives, and Feat for those that might want it. 


July 29, 2015

Majestic Wilderlands - We Shot the Sheriff, and should have paid the price

I could be wrong about this one. But I have a slight feeling, playing with the ForgedAnvil character generator, that our old fight against the Sheriff of Tain should have gone a lot worse for us . . . and had things gone a slight bit differently, might have been a TPK.

Remember the situation - a level 15 sheriff pulled from, Rob says, the gladiator template n the Monster Manual or DMG. He had 110-115HP or so, and three attacks. He routinely seemed to hit us for 35-50 HP per turn (10-17 HP per attack) with a sword. He was not wearing his battle armor, but instead only mail.

After a hard-fought battle, we won.

Should we have?