Friday, June 25, 2021

Die On Your Feet

benoit godde

New Houserule: When you drop to 0 HP, you don’t fall unconscious. When you die, you do so on your feet.


  • Mitigates the death spiral; players don’t lose action economy until they start actually dying.

  • Mitigates the feelsbad of overtuned encounters by presenting an obvious opportunity to retreat. (In my experience, players refuse to retreat so long as they have HP left in the tank; “the next hit will kill you” should be an effective incentive to ditch combat.)

  • Mitigates “healbot whack-a-mole,” further reducing the need for a dedicated healer in the party.

  • Prevents situations where one player is stuck rolling death saves and nothing else for multiple rounds.

  • Allows players to act throughout the encounter, instead of KOing them right before the encounter’s climax.

  • Allows players to risk their lives heroically.

  • Allows players to risk their lives stupidly.

This rule isn’t about adding lethality or realism to the game. 5e isn’t a game about lethal risks; HP and death saves are purposefully forgiving gameplay systems. Subverting that design decision is a losing battle.

Instead, my intention is to give players the OPTION to kill their character dramatically where the rules-as-written won’t let them do so. If it happens to raise lethality, it’s the self-selecting type; players who want to die will die and players who want to live will live based on their decisions, not their rolls.

Also, bleeding to death unconscious is lame as fuck. Die like a warrior.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Caring for your Rat Bastards

from runescape
i am so enamored with this fat rat

“I prefer treasure that isn’t just treasure. So say I find a gold necklace; I can use it to choke someone out later. You can’t do that with gold coins.”

- My beloved girlfriend, murderhobo supreme*

Today’s wild conjecture is that everything found in a dungeon should have a rat bastard mode. This is because being a rat bastard is fun. If you can’t be a rat bastard with it, its taking up valuable thinky-space on your character sheet; space that could be dedicated to holding more caltrops.**

Being a rat bastard means being clever, devious, and quick-witted. It means thinking outside the box and on your feet. It means carrying a crowbar instead of a sword because you can hit a man with a crowbar but you can’t open a mausoleum gate with a sword. It’s very OSR, and something I believe should be a component of every game ever.

Some rat bastards are on the shyer side, or have yet to fully mature. To properly care for and support your own rat bastards, follow these simple steps:

  • “The necklace glitters with tiny rubies, a thick, sturdy cord underlying its delicate beauty.” ← Describing items like this plants the seed of rat bastardry; the idea that treasure isn’t just treasure, it’s a tool.
  • A sword is nice. A tree branch covered in sticky honey and caltrops is nicer. If you let creative combat options deal as much damage as traditional weapons, the rat bastards will come out to play.
  • Let physics play a role. Everyone understands that heavy things hurt when they fall on you, and that people fall down when they step on something slippery. Universal facts like this let everyone be a rat bastard.
  • Put extra junk in finished dungeons, just to get the wheels turning. "There’s a ladder leaning against the wall missing half its rungs." "There’s a bucket of water and a mop." "There’s an alligator skull on the headmaster’s desk." Eventually, someone’s gonna pick one up and get a rat bastard idea.

Not all of your players will be rat bastards, but some of them will, and they’ll take to it like stinky lil fish to water.

Feed those stinky fish.***

Joesky Tax

This is a newborn blade, supple and flimsy. It only ever deals 1 damage and slithers out of its scabbard with a viscous *SLORP*. After tasting the blood of an enemy battalion ten men strong, it reaches maturity (after a brief chrysalis stage). The mature blade fights as if it were ten swords held by ten men.

Once mature, the sword seeks a mate. If you cross blades with another magic sword three times, both will shatter into 1d4 swordeggs. These hatch into newborns when incubated in a mountain-top forge, and possess properties of both parents when mature.


*she isn’t actually a murderhobo, but she has the talent for it
**always weigh held items against the opportunity cost of carrying less caltrops
***this metaphor got away from me

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Epic Level Classes

theres like 1 million of these big-monster-human-facing-away paintings
william wu

Inspired by this.

The higher your level, the less you should need to read the rules. This isn’t just a result of familiarization; rather, achieving certain levels of in-game power should trivialize the rules themselves.

If you know how to teleport, you don’t need to use the overland travel rules.

If you can breathe underwater, you don’t need to know how long you can hold your breath.
If you are fabulously wealthy, you don’t need to read mundane price tables.

With this in mind, here’s some epic level classes. You can start a campaign from these OR replace your existing class abilities piece by piece as you level up to 20. Feel free to make your own adjustments.

Here’s an Epic Wizard.

Most spells are as trivial to you as parlor tricks; treat them as cantrips.
You know three spells of great import. You may cast each once per day.

You know too many recipes, rituals, and sacred canticles to enumerate. You can always answer the following questions, as well as any number of useless riddles:

  • How do we summon this magic entity?
  • How do we prepare this magic recipe?
  • Where can we find the magic artifact?
  • Who would know the answer to this other question I have?

You can best any wizard in magical conflict, unless they are also a master. Master wizards recognize each other on sight.

And here’s an Epic Rogue.

When you attack an enemy, answer the following questions:

  • Are you hidden from sight?
  • Are they relaxed/very distracted?
  • Have you spent at least one day studying them closely?

If you answer yes to all three, they die. If you answer yes to only one or two, they half-die.

Ignore any obstacle that would prevent you from going where you please, including locked doors, moats, walls, handcuffs, forcefields, and being swallowed by a tarrasque. They can harm you, but they cannot stop you.

Choose three non-violent actions; these are your knacks. No matter what, you always succeed when performing your knacks.

If you wish, anyone who looks at you will underestimate you.

Aaaaaand an Epic Fighter.

Anyone who looks at you knows exactly how dangerous you are. This generally dissuades lesser foes from fucking with you.

When you attack a lesser foe, they are defeated instantaneously.
If you attack a battalion of lesser foes, half of them are defeated instantaneously.
If you strike a foe three times, and you give them a chance to rout or surrender between each strike, the third strike is invariably fatal.

Describe your nemesis in three words. You cannot be killed by anything except your nemesis. And poison. Poison always circumvents fate somehow.
If you would be killed by anything other than your nemesis, you instead gain a gruesome scar and are restored to fighting form.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Foolish, Fragile Humans

Lucas Graciano
"Man the mortal; master of horses..." what a crock
In RPGs where race/species is distinct from class, humans are sometimes given certain mechanical advantages, in order to balance them with respect to the more fantastical options available.

This is patently ridiculous.

- Elves are good at magic. That’s why human spell-books and prayers are written in elven.

- Dwarves are good at making stuff. That’s why human artifacts are dwarvencraft hand-me-downs.

- Orcs are good at fighting. That’s why most human wars are fought by orcish mercenaries.

Humans aren’t good at anything. We aren’t “good at endurance” or “versatile” or “plucky” or any of that horseshit. Humans are the weakest, shittiest fantasy race.

Let’s embrace that.

Human "Perks"

To clarify, we aren’t the MOST pathetic species to stand on two legs. We just don’t measure up to other fantasy races at all.

A large part of this is due to the fact that all of our unique strengths as a species (intelligence, language, social structure) are assumed to be the default for sentient fantasy races. If we took those traits away from elves or orcs, we wouldn’t recognize them as beings capable of interacting peacefully with human society.

That isn’t to say that being human is without upsides. Consider how most D&D campaigns take place in or adjacent to a mostly-human society; our home turf! The unique advantage of being human is that you are NOT another race—elf, dwarf, etc—in a cultural context where being “the other” can be dangerous.

This secret racial perk goes unexplored in most editions of D&D, perhaps because the casual ttrpg crowd doesn’t want to drag fantasy racism into their campaign. (Unless you choose to be a tiefling, half-orc, or similarly “dark” race.)

At the very least, it feels weird to write it out as a mechanical tradeoff: “okay, you can choose between darkvision and a cast-iron stomach, or immunity to racial discrimination”

So What?

If being human is an option in your games, don’t give them mechanical bonuses for being human. Use them for speedy character creation and nothing else.

If, as a player, you want a mechanical bonus for your species, then don’t be a human. (Their bonuses range from boring to min/max anyway. Might as well ignore them)

Better yet, no bonuses for race at all. Screw weapon proficiencies, darkvision, and the horse they rode in on; you’re just people on an adventure, some of whom happen to have bad accents. I feel like 5e is moving in this direction after Tasha’s (even if they wussed out of making it the default) and its a much more freeing space to play pretend in.

“But that’s unbalanced! Nobody will want to play as a human without incentive!”

Fine. Play an international coalition of fae pirates. Or assemble a gonzo fantasy Oceans 11. Or re-enact the Hobbit.

Or just play a human anyway, because you want to.

Everyone loves an underdog.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Random Advancement Templates (aka RATGLoG)

by Eksafael

Tired of prostrating yourself before the false idol of well-written, structured classes? Try RATGLoG: toss all your favorite templates into a random table, blend for 30sec, and watch your PCs grow into burly, pseudo-magical, mutant freaks! (Made with Spwack's generator generator, as always)

Whenever you advance, roll 3 options for your next template and pick one.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Prince of Cogs (GLOG Class)

Pascal Blanche
The universe is a great clockwork beast, a wound-up machine ticking towards its inevitable conclusion, and you are a humble Cog.

You get +1 to save for each Cog template you have.

The Pre(Cog)nitive
Sequence, Inscrutable Agenda
B: Subordinates

C: Calamity
D: Shared Fate
Δ: The Index, Buck the Reins, It is Written, The Stars Align

A: Sequence
At the start of the session, roll two d20s and note the results in sequence. Whenever you would roll a d20, use the result of the next number in sequence instead. Then, roll a d20 and add it to the end of the sequence.

The sequence must be visible at all times to all players. Remember, the DM decides whether an action is risky enough to necessitate a roll.

A: Inscrutable Agenda
You are burdened by the universe’s inscrutable agenda. Roll for a cryptic mission. Whenever you complete a cryptic mission, your sequence length increases by 1.

If you have no active missions, receive one the next time your mind wanders in a crowded place; it is delivered by one of the Subordinates (see below). You may also receive new missions in dreams at your DM’s discretion.

B: Subordinates
In the city, you have a chance of encountering Subordinates in a dark alleyway. They are (1d4) supplicatory; baboon-esque; baroque; all elbows. So long as they do not speak, no one pays them any heed.

They offer a gift of (1d4) strange black fruit; royal gossip; a severed finger; a silver gear. Whatever it is, it will be extremely useful within the next 24 hours, so long as you are in the right place at the right time.

C: Calamity
When you visit a location, you know the exact time of the next great calamity to befall that location. You have a vague sense of its magnitude, but not its nature. Anything more than a week away is vague.

D: Shared Fate
You may share your fate with another by sharing an embarrassing secret with them. Those who share your fate may use your sequence as you do, with your permission. They are not obligated to do so; only you are bound by fate.

Ben Sack

Δ: The Index
Prevent at least three others from cheating fate.
When you die, pass your fate on to whomever is emotionally closest to you. (A good friend, your kin, or the enemy who strikes you down.) They become a Cog and inherit your sequence.

Δ: Buck the Reins
Cheat fate at a critical juncture.
Once per day, you can reroll your sequence. Fate despises you; if a 1 leaves your sequence, add a 1 to your sequence instead of rolling for a new result.

Δ: It Is Written
Foresee a sequence of 7 or more dice.
You know your exact cause of death. Nothing else can kill you (except poison). 

Δ: The Stars Align
Foresee an ascending sequence of 13 dice, from lowest to highest.
Receive your final mission. It is time-sensitive.
If you fail, fate is cast into disarray. One fundamental rule of reality breaks forever.
If you succeed, you lose all your Cog templates, and your sequence disappears. You are free.

As per usual, generator made using Spwack's generator generator HERE.