Mage Core: Mage the Ascension in Fate Core

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I’ve seen plenty of discussion of how someone might adapt Mage the Ascension to Fate Core’s rules, but I didn’t find someone who had actually laid out how to handle the hack. I like the idea, and I wanted to present something that’s immediately usable. So, what follows is my own hack, which I think you could just take and run with if you wanted to.

First, changes to the baseline metaphysics. I’ve narrowed Mage down to seven spheres rather than nine. I dropped Entropy because I have always thought that it probably just reduced down to Time, and didn’t think that both were necessary. For a Fate Core adaptation of Mage, I decided to drop Prime, because the Quintessence/Paradox economy is doing to work differently in a Fate game than it does in Ascension. The Fate point economy mimics the Quintessence economy somewhat, and I decided to make Paradox into a stress/consequence track alongside the mental and physical tracks.

Aspects

A high concept Aspect, a trouble/Paradox Aspect, an Avatar Aspect, a Tradition/paradigm Aspect, and a mundane Aspect.

Starting with a high concept, of course, I like the idea that the trouble Aspect could be rooted in Paradox if that makes sense. If I was running Mage Core I would recommend that to players. Then there is the Avatar Aspect, which I think should be a source of plenty of compels during the course of a game as the Avatar pushes the Mage to grow and change. A Tradition or paradigm Aspect also makes sense as a way to further define the character. Last is the mundane Aspect, as I like the idea, especially early on, of reality-bending Mages trying to hold down jobs and raise families.

Custom Skill List

Awareness (includes Empathy and Notice)

Contacts (includes Rapport)

Drive

Expression (includes artistic Crafts)

Fight

Investigate

Lore

Manipulate (includes Deceive and Provoke)

Resources

Shoot

Stealth

Streetwise (includes Burglary)

Tech (includes technical Crafts)

Will

In Mage Core, the top of the Skill pyramid is +4. I noted what I changed, in terms of combining or splitting up Fate Core default Skills to help with finding Stunts.

Spheres as Extras

OK, so, here we go. As mentioned above, I’ve narrowed Mage down to seven Spheres: Correspondence, Forces, Life, Matter, Mind, Spirit and Time. Time absorbs Entropy and Prime fades away because it isn’t as necessary in Mage Core, as it is mostly a meta-Sphere in Mage itself.

I’m taking from Ryan Macklin, and setting difficulties for Sphere use at intervals of 2, for the same reasons he lists in his own post about “Mage the Coreing.”

Here’s what I have so far: each Sphere is an Extra, rated from +1 to +5. Basically the same scale as in the books. But the difficulty for various magical effects varies from +0 to +8. This is to help adapt to how Fate points change the math, and also to force situations where mages succeed but take Paradox. For effects that require two Spheres, base the difficulty on the highest Sphere and then increase it by 1 for each additional Sphere. A character begins with 6 Extras to spend on Spheres, just like the initial 6 dots in Ascension. Following are example effects for each level of each Sphere:

Correspondence

Use of a Sphere at a distance requires Correspondence

+0 Perfect spatial perceptions

+2 Clairvoyance/clairaudience into nearby space, create a ward, pull a small object through space

+4 Create a pocket of space, scry/search through space, teleport, quick/slow travel

+6 Create doors/portals between locations, colocate two places, create space from nothing, destroy space

+8 Perfect co-location, step outside of space, create a permanent portal

Forces

Forces effects deal +1 damage

+0 Sense energy

+2 Increase or decrease present forces

+4 Transform or destroy a force

+6 Change properties of force (so electricity grows and consumes like fire, fire is attracted to metal, light is smothering like pressure, etc.), create force from nothing

+8 Create new types of force, so you can make plasma that passes through all matter, drop a room to absolute zero, eliminate friction temporarily, cause fission or fusion reactions, make atomic bonds fall apart, or change Earth’s magnetic field.  Affect exotic types of forces, e.g. dark matter and dark energy, plasma, gravity

Life

+1 damage to living things

+0 Perceive living things, sense health

+2 Treat a mild physical consequence, speed or slow recovery, Skill bonus, clear physical stress, affect simple life like plants

+4 Treat a moderate physical consequence, increase physical stress boxes for a scene, deal damage to living things, augment a Skill for a scene

+6 Treat a severe physical consequence, transfer properties from one form of life to another, create life from nothing, shapeshift between plant and animal forms

+8 Complete transformation, imbue life with unique properties, transform into a mythological creature

Matter

+1 damage of objects

+0 Perceive matter, including composition, chemistry, etc.

+2 Change shape of matter, make it malleable

+4 Alter density, destroy matter, alter properties within constraints of the material

+6 A blade can be light as air, or a metal can be almost indestructible, or a shirt can be bullet-proof, create matter from nothing

+8 You can now give objects and substances unreasonable properties, allowing them to pass through walls, or have edges only a molecule wide, batteries that recharge themselves, or a body of liquid metal that can change forms and hunt down John Connor

Mind

+1 emotional stress when dealing damage

+0 Detect minds, read emotions

+2 Command, read surface thoughts, increase or decrease emotions

+4 Enter dreams, see Dreaming, read thoughts, destroy thoughts, change memories, bonus Skill for a scene, alter perceptions in target and create illusions

+6 Project into the Astral Plane, possession, create an illusion over an area, create a personality trait from nothing (with Prime), create a basic intelligence 

+8 Sever mind from body, open a portal to the Astral, create an illusory world and plunge someone into it, recreate personality (rewrite Aspects)

Spirit

+0 Spirit sense (Umbra, Dreaming, Shadowlands)

+2 Reach across the Gauntlet, affect spirits

+4 Step across the Gauntlet, strengthen or weaken the Gauntlet, bind a Wraith, heal/rend spirit-stuff, let a spirit manifest

+6 Open a portal in the Gauntlet, bring a spirit across into the material world, awaken the spirit of an object, open a portal from one spirit world to another, shapechange in the spirit world

+8 Awaken the spirit of a place, co-locate the spirit world and material world

Time

+0 See fate and probability, perfect time-sense

+2 Increase/decrease probability, augury – see into the past or the future

+4 Create/destroy probability, slow/speed time for one target, reach into an immediate past/future

+6 Determine fate, create a pocket of time, grant extra actions, hang an if-then effect, travel into a future or a past

+8 Change a timeline permanently, rewind or fast forward time for an area, create a portal in time, go outside of time

Paradox

Rather than impose Paradox for particular magical effects, I think it makes sense in Fate Core that Paradox is a way to succeed with a cost when using magic. You throw more hubris into the effect, draw on your resonance, try to force it, basically, and you still succeed but at the cost of Paradox.

In Mage Core, Paradox is a stress track, and also has it’s own dedicated consequence track, apart from the mental and physical. Paradox is its own thing in Mage, and Paradox consequences result in things like Quiet.

The Paradox track would start with two stress boxes, of course, and there isn’t currently an obvious choice of Skill to add additional boxes. That doesn’t seem like something a Skill should do, really. Maybe higher Sphere levels could add boxes – three boxes for a +3, four for a +4 and five for a +5 in your highest Sphere perhaps.

Rotes

I have a special rule that I’ve used with Fate Core in the past that I want to adapt to Mage Core. When a character makes use of a rote, and describes it, then the player can set aside one Fate die and set it to “+”. This is similar to a +1 to the roll, but also means that there will be less volatility in the result, which will now range from -2 to +4 instead of -4 to +4. This will, just as in Ascension, encourage players to come up with plenty of cool rotes and procedures for their characters. At least that’s the goal.

Traditions and Other Setting Stuff

I backed the 20th Anniversary Edition of Mage the Ascension, and it is superb. The work they did updating the setting and game assumptions for a 21st Century audience is good. The problem is, when I sit down and want to run a Mage game, especially with people who are not already used to OWoD, it’s daunting. WoD games made a lot of sense in college and after, when we all had way more time, no matter how busy we thought we were, to do things like soak damage and memorize magical effects and so on. I just find that I need a game that is faster and more loose, and I think that the fluidity and flexibility of Fate Core lends itself very well to Mage the Ascension.

What did I miss? Anything you want to add? 

D&D Hack: A Scarlet Letter

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Previously I posted about adapting D&D so that combat is no longer fatal, which I have yet to test, but I thought of a deeper idea to add to that hack: a scarlet letter. Obviously I’m referring back to the Hawthorne novel, but in this case, a different letter with a different meaning.

First, start with D&D and the additional hack or house rule that combat is no longer fatal. When a character or monster is beaten down to 0 or negative hit points, what it represents is that they are defeated, but not necessarily dead. But in conversation with my friend and collaborator Aric, we thought that this house rule would make it more interesting when a foe or monster did want to fight to the death. It would be all the more threatening in a setting where the players had gotten used to these non-lethal combats as the norm.

Now, the addition. I thought it would be interesting if only monsters who could be killed were able to kill. And I thought it would be interesting if this was marked out on the character sheet somehow. So, for example, if a player wants their character to be able to kill a monster or another NPC, they just wrote “Monster” on the character sheet, or checked the Monster box or something. Then I thought it would be even more interesting if this mark was literal, in the game world itself. The character marks themselves with a red “M.” If a foe or monster is marked with a red “M” then you know ahead of time that this is a fight to the death. Only creatures with a “M” can kill. It’s definitely a meta-game element, something akin to a creature having a red outline in a video game, or some other visual marker that is obvious to the player but not literally part of the fictional world.

I thought this was really interesting. You have to take that step, identify yourself as a monster, in order to kill your enemies, but you are vulnerable to any creature with the ‘scarlet letter.’ Is this too heavy-handed? Maybe. It could be interesting for a convention game, maybe, or a game with kids. I like, as an experiment, that it is a visible distinction that you have to make. It’s a clear choice, and of course, there is probably no way to remove the “M” once it’s in place. (Maybe an atonement spell? That would give that spell a really cool purpose)

How to explain this mark? Maybe the PCs are part of a simulation, or an alien experiment on violent behavior, or inmates in a magical prison. Who knows? Maybe it’s just a weird thing about the world, like aboleths and Vancian magic. I mean, it’s not like D&D makes sense to start with. But I like how this plays with the old D&D trope of some intelligent creatures being “monsters” – having something intrinsic about them that makes them stand out as threats. I like applying this to the PCs and non-“monster” races. I do have to think more about how to implement it, though.

It makes me think of Mist-Robed Gate, an indie rpg by Shreyas Sampat with a mechanic whereby, if you want to try to kill another character, you literally stab their character sheet with a knife. There are other games I’ve read about where you point a knife at a character at the table if you are attacking them, or outwardly mark lethal intent in other ways, but I like the idea of an obvious move that opens up the possibility of lethality when that isn’t the norm. The ‘scarlet letter’ M is just another way to do that.

Image result for D&D tpk

Backgrounds as 0-Level Classes

Image result for zero level characters

Image credit: http://geekrampage.blogspot.com/

In AD&D 2nd edition as well as 3E, there were rules for characters who were lower than 1st level. These “0-level” characters were like pre-adventurers, meant to symbolize children or apprentices. I’ve played in a couple of games that began with us playing zero-level characters who would then develop into 1st level characters. For my taste, 1st level characters are already incredibly weak, famously vulnerable to the attack of a house cat in some editions.

But I was thinking of a way to address some of that vulnerability. In 5E, of course, every character chooses a background which grants them proficiencies, equipment, and often some kind of story-based ability. I realized that it would be a logical step to let the background also provide a hit die.

Most of the sample basic NPCs in the MM have two or three hit dice, making them slightly tougher than some first level player-characters. And the impression I’ve always had of D&D is that characters aren’t really adults until around 3rd level. This is reinforced by the fact that in 5E, you usually don’t choose an archetype until 3rd level.

One option here is to just let each background grant the d8 hit die that medium-sized creatures get, or a d6 in the case of a small-sized PC. I kind of like the idea that the d10 is reserved for mighty heroes, fighter-types, and that the d12 is the boss die. Possibly even bawss. But, if you don’t want to just use a d8, here are suggestions ranging from d4 to d8, based on how tough I think a given background would make you.

Acolyte: d4

Charlatan: d6

Criminal: d6

Entertainer: d4

Folk Hero: d8

Guild Artisan: d6

Hermit: d6

Noble: d4

Outlander: d8

Sage: d4

Sailor: d6

Soldier: d8

Urchin: d6

These hit dice, whether variable or d8s, should function the same way that normal hit dice do. As to whether you roll them, or take the average, or take the maximum, just do what you’d normally do. If you want PCs to have lots of hit points at the beginning, take the maximum. Otherwise, roll or average as usual.

A Simple Hack: Non-Lethal D&D

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I was recently listening to an episode of Saving the Game, in which they described an issue they had with their Pugmire play group. Normally in D&D, there is tons of violence and killing, and that is the norm. The majority of problems are solved with weapon attacks and abilities that deal damage, or make it easier for your allies to deal damage. D&D is designed to be played this way – and of course individual groups will have more or less violence in play, but you go down into Dungeons to fight monsters and you face Dragons to kill them and take their treasure. That’s the game, at its core, and always has been.

The issue in this case is that, in Pugmire, the protagonists and antagonists are mostly dogs and cats, and one player was really disturbed by dogs and cats, even anthropomorphic ones, being killed the way goblins and orcs tend to be in other D&D settings. It had increased emotional impact, the way that the death of a dog can be in a movie where there are innumerable human deaths (just ask John Wick).

Hit Points become Morale

I’d like to draw on an MMO I used to play regularly, Lord of the Rings Online, to recommend a simple hack of D&D that retains almost all of the mechanics but enables combat to be non-lethal a majority of the time, while still giving the lethal option if you want one. Basically, cross out “Hit Points” and write in “Morale.”

LOTRO uses morale as the hit-point system, and for an MMO set in Middle-Earth it was a very intelligent fix to the problem of handling the constant death and resurrection that is a mainstay of pretty much every MMO out there. There is no fictional support in Middle-Earth as a setting for a party going on a raid to attack a boss, getting killed, resurrecting themselves and jumping back in. As much as that is goofy and makes no sense, it is necessary to how MMOs are currently designed. In order to make this system make sense, hit points were changed to morale. This changes the fiction of what healing and resurrecting are, without changing the mechanics at all. In LOTRO, when you drop to 0 morale, your character flees the battle to a safe point nearby. Then, when she calms down, you can meet up with the rest of your group or run back into the dungeon or combat. Minstrels are healers in LOTRO, bolstering their comrades morale without having to supernaturally heal them, another element common to MMOs that would not make much sense in Middle-Earth.

So, back to D&D. If we change hit points to morale, and leave it at that, the game functions in a similar way. Healing spells become magical encouragement spells. Long rests where you recover all of your hit points make more sense, not less. Melee attacks beat down an opponent’s will to fight, and spells terrify and demoralize. All of these things can also injure your opponents, but the injuries are non-fatal. Bruises and fractures and cuts and burns, but nothing life-threatening.

With the classes as written, hit points can be morale. Fighting classes will have more morale, with the most going to the barbarian. This makes perfect sense – the barbarian is basically frothing at the mouth, full of rage, and really hard to bring down. In contrast, a wizard is more cool and collected, and probably easier to take out of a fight. They’d be less willing to risk losing a finger or an eye, or receiving a brain injury, than a fighter type. Again, it makes sense.

Dropping to Zero

The big difference with this hack is what happens when a creature reaches 0 or fewer morale. Obviously, there are no death saves. What I imagine happening is the creature tries desperately to flee or, if that is impossible, collapses in exhaustion and surrenders. The defeat should be total – weapons thrown down, cowering, etc. In theory, the PC group now gets what they wanted – defeating their foes, or being able to take their treasure, or exacting an oath that they will never trouble these lands again. Whatever it is that the violence was supposed to solve. I’d also make sure that whatever happened leaves marks on your foes. They don’t come through this unscathed. They are physically and psychologically unable to fight – however that looks based on what has happened.

Coup de Grace

This hack still leaves the opening for the coup-de-grace, of course. Once you’ve beaten down your foe, you can still finish her off. I find this interesting because you are given a moment in between in which you can choose not to. In military terms, your opponent is a casualty but has not been killed, since a casualty is just a soldier who is taken out of a fight.

The Truly Monstrous

Some monsters are not intelligent, or cannot be negotiated with. There are implacable aberrations driven by hunger alone, or undead animated by necromancy, or constructs who follow their creator’s commands until destroyed. In these cases, I don’t see nearly as much of a problem with morale meaning something much more like hit points. But I think this is something that the DM and players can easily decide ahead of time, and it opens up new roleplaying possibilities.

The D&D Prisoner Problem

One significant problem I can see with this hack in a D&D game is the prisoner problem. When D&D characters take prisoners, at least in my observation and experience, there is always a big debate. The Paladin wants to chain them up and transport them to the nearest magistrate for a full trial. The Fighter wants to beat them up for information. The Rogue wants to slit their throats and take their gold. (Or however this plays out at your table) I think that to use this hack and make it work, you have to just agree on a meta-game level that when reduced to 0 or fewer morale, your foe is done. They aren’t going to lie to you and then go off and rejoin your enemies so you have to fight them again. They are terrified and beaten and at your mercy, and if you let them go they will limp away someplace else and try to take up a different life. If you meet them later, they will just run away or beg for mercy. I think that if this is understood as just how the game will work, most problems should be easy to solve.

Gaming with Kids

As we gamers get older and have little proto-gamers of our own, it can be hard to introduce D&D to them, at least for some of us, because it is such a bloodbath. But with this simple hack, you can still, I think, have all of the swashbuckling adventure without all of the killing.

Thoughts?

Share what you think of this hack. Add your own nuances or modifications. Have you tried anything like this in a D&D game? How did it go?

Fixing the Merit/Flaw Issue (Somewhat)

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I’ve been listening to a lot of the System Mastery podcast lately, and one thing those guys hate is merit/flaw systems. And they have a good point. It is something that Burning Wheel seeks to fix by simply charging you for flaws as well as merits.

The issue is that many flaws fall into one of two categories: 1. the flaw doesn’t really matter and is for min-maxing, and 2. the flaw is actually a merit because it means more screen-time or attention for the player during the game.

The Flaw Doesn’t Matter

GURPS is a major example of this problem, but any merit/flaw system that I’ve seen has it. There are always flaws (or Disadvantages in GURPS) that a player can take that the player doesn’t care about so that they can take some merits that they do want. For example, if your GM forgets to use reaction rolls then Disadvantages in GURPS that reduce your reaction rolls are basically free points. Another example would be in-game-only flaws, like the idea that this particular race has great stat bonuses but people in the world hate them. Supposedly this balances out, but in play it is just a benefit with a hand-wavy, occasional problem. But really, if your half-orc has their huge strength bonus and encounters hatred, judicious use of the strength bonus can address the intolerance pretty readily in most games.

The Flaw Is A Benefit

World of Darkness games are a major culprit here, and the two big examples of this problem are dark fate and enemies. A character’s dark fate is almost always something that will happen after the main campaign is over – it is a way of creating a big problem but putting it off so you can front-load your character with lots of juicy merits that’ll count for almost the entire game. The worst example of this would be a dark fate that affects the rest of the party, so you screw everyone and get points for it.

The other problem is with taking an enemy as a flaw. An enemy means more attention for your character – your agenda, your story, drives more than your share of the overall story. And 10 times out of 10, your friends will end up having to fight this enemy too, just like every enemy you face. And in exchange for this increased creative influence and attention, you get character points. It wasn’t long before every White Wolf player I gamed with realized that taking an enemy was the way to go, every time.

The Fix: Flaws Are Foes’ Merits

Taking an enemy as a flaw still exerts influence on the story, but in this reworked version of the flaw, what happens mechanically is the enemy has an advantage against the character who has taken the flaw. As a generic example, a PC has a 2pt flaw that gives them an enemy, so whenever they come up against this enemy, the enemy gets +2 dice against them (or +2 to rolls, or to damage, or whatever would hurt). This makes the enemy worse for the PC than for the rest of their party at the very least. The GM has to integrate the enemy into the storyline as before, but now when the enemy comes up, the PC pays for their extra points by getting their ass kicked. This one NPC just has their number, it seems.

This can be extrapolated out, and I like it being a general bonus. Maybe if you are a hated race or species, then all prices are doubled, and everyone does +1 damage to you in combat. Now that flaw has teeth that will matter in the two situations where most players care – combat and shopping. The important thing to think through is how to make this Flaw bad for the character in a way that isn’t bad for the whole party, and in a way that doesn’t just thrust the character into the spotlight.

D&D Hacks and House Rules

Here are some of the hacks and house rules I’m currently using, or would like to use, in the D&D games I run. Any of these can be tagged on to any version of D&D with only a tiny bit of tweaking, but the examples I discuss below are all for 5th Edition specifically. Not only do I describe the hack/house rule, but I also note where I am stealing it from (when applicable).

Reputation

I like for Charisma to be less of a dump-stat for characters who don’t use Charisma for spellcasting, and to get some extra story mileage from those social proficiencies. In order to make social dynamics matter a bit more, I added a reputation system to my Twilight of the Gods game. (This is also appropriate for any situation where the PCs start out as “murder hobos” or other kinds of rootless, opportunistic strangers)

PCs start the game with disadvantage on all social rolls – they are outsiders, oddballs, and so on. They will have difficulty convincing anyone to trust them, or making their threats stick, because they don’t have names and reputations to back them up. In order to remove this disadvantage with a particular group or in a particular place, they must win a reputation as a quest reward. For example: the PCs are hired to clear out a local ruin on behalf of the town council of Greensward. They do, and as a result, they earn “known in Greensward”, meaning they no longer have disadvantage. Now, say the PCs go on to rescue Greensward from a goblin attack. As a result, they are awarded the reputation “heroes of Greensward”, meaning they have advantage on all social rolls.

Of course, when they go to the big city, they’ll be unknown again, and once again will have the social disadvantage. But – if they find someone from Greensward in the big city, it’ll be a big relief, because they’ll have advantage on social rolls with this person or people. This not only encourages PCs to worry about what people think of them, but it also keeps them connected to where they have already been.

Debts (Urban Shadows)

Players keep track of non-monetary, social debts that they owe others and that are owed to them. If a character interacts with someone who owes them a debt, they have advantage on social rolls until that debt is paid. This encourages the PCs to be helpful, even if for selfish reasons. If they do a favor for the King’s Steward, the Steward now owes them a debt, even  if he or she cannot pay them in gold or items. That debt means they can bend the Steward’s ear whenever they choose, and that later they can call in that debt at an opportune time.

Initiative (Clockwork: Dominion)

I am the editor for Reliquary Game Studios’ Clockwork: Dominion RPG, and Clockwork has a fantastic initiative mechanic. Check it out – it’s honestly one of the best I’ve ever seen at a table. This initiative system requires a deck of cards – Clockwork uses a custom deck that provides exactly the proportions that they want for the game, but in this case you can use a regular poker deck, or a cool custom deck like Story Cards, as long as the cards are numerically set apart. (In this case, suit doesn’t matter)

Every player begins a round of combat with three cards dealt to them. The highest card goes first – ties are broken however you’d like to break them (by suit, coin toss, Dex mod, etc.). Acting normally costs 1 card; the player pushes the card forward, declares their action and movement, resolves them normally. Reactions do not cost a card; for example, casting shield or counterspell, since every character gets one reaction per round. Interrupting another’s action costs 2 cards; this is a cool option that is higher cost but some players will really want to do it. Let’s say an NPC declares an action. A PC can push two cards forward and act first, which can be an important way to deal with spellcasters or other sudden threats. On the other hand, that player has spent 2 cards, and the NPC might have 2 left to use later in the round.

Combat continues until all cards are used, at which point the round ends and new cards are dealt. If no one uses a reaction or an interrupt, then each character will act about 3 times in a given round, meaning more happens in that round than usual. Also, having the option to interrupt will keep players more engaged in all of the action in a round, rather than checking Twitter while they wait for their turn to come around again.

Players with high Dex modifiers start with higher cards automatically, and are then dealt 2 more cards randomly as usual. A character with a +5 modifier gets an Ace; +4 gets a King; +3 gets a Queen; +2 gets a Jack; +1 gets a 10. +0 and lower don’t get anything special. Now, obviously, a character might get their automatic Jack and then be dealt a higher card randomly – that’s fine. The point is that one’s base initiative modifier guarantees them at least one high card to use that round.

Trinkets

At character creation, ask the players to roll randomly on the trinket table on page 160-161 of the PHB. Note the trinket that their character gets, and make it important in some way if possible. Even if not, let the player solve a problem or open up a new part of the story by using the trinket later in the game. For example: a dwarf barbarian in my current Twilight of the Gods game has been carrying around an old bronze key for nine sessions. Faced with a locked door that the party couldn’t pick, the dwarf pulls out this key and tries it in the lock (they were in an abandoned dwarven settlement, so it made sense as a possibility). It fits, of course, and enables them to bypass a nasty trap.

Fellowship/Party Sheet (WFRPG, The One Ring)

For Twilight of the Gods, I had the players create a simple Fellowship (Felag) sheet to track their shared reputation and shared loot. I like the idea that they, as a group, might have distinct reputation. It is also convenient to have a place to list loot before it is spent, traded or distributed individually.

This is actually an idea that I would like to expand upon. I really like the party card in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Third Edition – that was probably my favorite part of that game (though I’ve only played it once at a convention). I also liked the fellowship mechanics in The One Ring, which I GMed for a short campaign. The party of PCs is a thing in the fiction and in the way that the game is played, and it should be a mechanical thing as well. For now, it’s just an entity that can have its own reputations and inventory.

The DM Love Letter

This is what the guys at Fear the Boot call the long, involved background that some players give to their DM at character creation. Some players will of course write almost nothing, and character creation using the personality traits and backgrounds in the PHB should get all players involved at least minimally in their character’s pre-adventure lives, but there are some who will write a love letter. Skim through the love letter and mark between one and three things in the letter – names, places, events, etc. Keep those one to three things as elements to use in the setting or to build plotlines or encounters.

Dragonlance: Draconians!

I finally finished a rough conversion of the draconians of Krynn to 5th Edition. The easy way would have been to just make them dragonborn, but I wanted to retain that AD&D flavor, ridiculous death effects (I’m looking at you, Auraks), and general feel. Comments are welcome, as always. I was a little hesitant to post these, as I don’t want to spoil the surprises in store for my players, but then I remembered: very few people read this blog, and I doubt that list includes my players.

I added a few things based on the color text in the Dragonlance Campaign Setting book put out for AD&D, like specific rules for the sivak’s tail sweep, and also removed some things like the aurak’s breath weapon, because…they’re already pretty ridiculous. I also took a shot at defining a challenge rating for each of them, but the aurak in particular was kind of hard, and really I just eyeballed them. Season to taste.

Baaz

baaz draconian old school

Baaz, lawful evil draconian
AC 16 (chainmail, shield, natural)
HP 12 (2d8 + 4)
Move 30’ or 40’ if on all fours with wings; can glide downward only
Str +2, Dex +1, Con +2, Int -1, Wis +1, Cha +0
Magic resistant; resistant to fire
Inspired by dragons: d4 when in the presence of dragons, similar to bard ability
Claw/claw +4 1d4 +2 (4) and AC 14 without shield, OR
Sword +4 1d8 +2 (6) with shield
Death effect: on death, they turn to stone, and if killed by a piercing or slashing weapon, the wielder must pass a DC 12 Dexterity save or have their weapon stuck for the 1d4 rounds it takes for the baaz body to crumble.
Challenge 1/2 or so?

Kapaks

kapak old school

Kapak, lawful evil medium draconian
AC 18 (leather, shield, natural)
HP 16 (3d8 +3)
Str +1, Dex +4, Con +1, Int +1, Wis +0, Cha -1
Magic resistant, resistant to acid, and immune to poison
Common, Draconic
Death effect: at death, a kapak immediately dissolves into a 10’ wide pool of acid that deals 1d8 damage per round. The acid evaporates after one round per HD the kapak had.
Kapak poison: kapaks have venomous saliva, and lick their weapons before battle. If they deal damage, their victim must make a DC 12 Con save or take 3d6 (10) additional poison damage. If they fail the save by 5 or more, they are paralyzed. Once poison damage is dealt, the victim is immune to further damage from kapak venom for 24 hours.
Shortsword +6 1d6 +4 (7) plus poison
Shortbow +6 1d6 +4 (7)
CR 1/2

Bozaks

bozak draconian old school

Bozak, neutral evil draconian
AC 15 (scale, natural)
HP 24 (4d8 +8)
Move 30’, 40’ on all fours; glide laterally with 10’ loss per round
Str +1, Dex +0, Con +2, Int +1, Wis -1, Cha +2
Magic resistant; resistant to lightening
Darkvision 60’
Inspired by dragons: d4, similar to bard ability
Claw/claw +3 1d4 +1 (3) OR
Sword +3 1d8 +1 (5)
Spell attack +4, spell save DC 12
1st: charm person, magic missile, shield
2nd: invisibility, mirror image
At death, bozaks’ bones explode in a 10’ radius dealing 1d10 damage, no saving throw
CR 1

Sivaks

sivak draconina

Sivak, neutral evil large draconian
AC 18 (splint, natural)
HP 45 (6d10 +12)
Str +3, Dex +1, Con +2, Int +2, Wis +1, Cha +0
Common, Draconic, Goblin
Magic resistance; resistant to cold
Death effect: A sivak can polymorph into the form of any humanoid it kills, and when killed, the sivak assumes the form of whomever killed it for 3 days, after which it decomposes into black soot. A sivak killed by something larger than itself bursts into flames, dealing 2d4 fire damage to everything in 10 feet for a round.
Multiattack x2
Two-handed sword +6 2d8 +3 (12)
1/short rest: tail sweep 1d8 +3 (7) and DC 13 Strength save or fall prone
CR 2

Auraks

aurak draconian

Aurak, medium draconian lawful evil
AC 16 (scale)
HP 44 (8d8 +8)
Str +1, Dex +1, Con +1, Int +3, Wis +2, Cha +2
Darkvision 60’, see invisible 10’, passive DC 15
Magic resistance, resistant to fire, immune to illusions
Multiattack x2
Energy blast +6 1d8 +3 (7)
Death effects: at 0 hit points, the aurak does not die but rather bursts into flames, dealing 1d6 fire damage to anyone who hits them in melee. At -20 hp it turns into a ball of lightening, dealing 2d6 lightening damage on a hit for 3 rounds, after which it explodes, dealing 3d6 fire damage to all within 10 feet and stunning them if they fail a DC 14 Con save.
Innate spells, DC 14 and +6 attack
3/day each: dimension door, polymorph self, invisibility, change self, suggestion
1/day: dominate
Auraks can cast 2 spells per day as a wizard from the following list:
enlarge, shocking grasp, detect thoughts, stinking cloud, blink, lightening bolt, fire shield, wall of fire.
CR 4