Friday, November 23, 2012

D&D Next: Seriously, F#$% Lance of Faith

No, really.  Lance of Faith can fuck right off. 

 Wipe the drool off your chins and remove the long-range direct damage spells from the cleric repertoire.  They add nothing to the game except to blur the lines between the spell-casting classes.  They are a brainless default "pew pew" bullshit addition.  Clerics "direct damage" is putting a mace inside your brain-pan.

I didn't hate laser clerics back in the 4e days.  I thought it was kinda nice for clerics to have a ranged attack option at the lower levels.  But listening to players in my test game say "oh, I wonder what I'll do.  Right - the same thing I do every time - cast lance of faith" made me burn with the white-hot rage of a thousand suns.

Lovely - a default spell, and worse yet, it's ranged damage, and worse yet for some clerics it's at-will, and  worse yet it has higher damage than magic missile (albeit with a to-hit-roll).

Let's examine the evidence.

Not-Cleric.  Or Wizard, as the are commonly known.

Fuck Lance of Faith.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Making a D&D Next Character

I made a D&D Next character today using the most recent playtest rules (from the set that includes the monk).

The last time I made a character was with the very first set of playtest rules, and quite a bit has changed since then.

We're doing an online playtest tonight, and the group needs a rogue.  Our experience in the Next game that I DM is that the rogue is pretty powerful, but apparently some smack has been talked about them, so I'm interested in creating one to see just what they can do under the newest rules.

So, race comes first.  Everyone plays a halfling thief, so I figure elf or human, or maaaaaybee dwarf if I come up with a good idea.  Perusing the races my latent min/maxer kicks in - I pick the wood elf for the +1 dex bonus, the automatic training in spot and listen and the enhanced ability to hide.  All good things for a rogue.

Stats come next, roll them up using 4d6 drop lowest - 12, 17, 12, 16, 10, 8.  Those are quite good, actually, especially when you realize that you get to add at least 2 point to those scores.

I'll take Str 10 cause I don't need it, Dex 17 of course, Con 12 for a slight HP edge, Int 16 for the skills, Wis 12 for skills and Cha 8.  Yaay for Charisma dump stat!  Add the +1 Dex for being an elf and I'm sitting pretty at 18 Dex.

I already picked the rogue class, so I get another +1 to add to Str, Dex or Int.  Dex it is for the 19 and the +5 bonus.  Finesse weapons here we COME.  And the damage dice increase on shortbows from being an elf don't hurt none either.

On to the Background, Specialty and Scheme.  So many choices here!  I don't like the Backgrounds and Schemes that I see, too much overlap and duplication of what I already have.  It seems like if you get training on a skill you already have you should get an extra +1 or +2 or something.  Is there a rule I missed?

Since I'm not happy with any of the ones I see here, I'll make up my own.  They thoughtfully give me rules to do that, and hellz, I'm a DM, I make up my own shit ALL THE TIME.

Brigand. You are a robber or forester who lives in the wilderness. You have excellent forestry skills, and excel at avoiding pursuit or detection.

Skills: Track, Survival, Search, Climb
Trait: Wanderer – excellent memory for maps and terrain, can find
food and water for up to 5 others each day.
Cool art from this blog.

Nightrunner. The Nightrunner is an elven assassin, spy and saboteur. They are trained in stealth, climbing and agility, as well as sneaky tricks.
Skills: Stealth, Balance, Disable Device, Tumble
Maneuvers: Danger Sense, Precise Shot, Sneak Attack, Spring Attack, Vault, Controlled Fall, Parry, Tumbling Dodge.

Woot - that means I have training in Listen, Spot, Track, Sneak, Survival, Search, Climb, Balance, Disable Device and Tumble.  Thiefy and scouty!  I get a skill mastery maneuver automatically that lets me add my expertise dice to a skill check, so that enhances all these skills.  Being a rogue also gives me thieves tools, proficiency in light armor and basic, finesse, simple and martial missile weapons for a reasonable weapon selection.

Picking a Specialty is actually pretty tough, as there are a lot of Specialties that fit with my character concept (elven Snake-eyes FTW!)  Eventually, I pick Ambush Specialist, getting the Improved Initiative feat.  +4 on initiative and a minimum of 10 on initiative rolls means that I CANNOT get less than 19 on an initiative roll.  Plus my danger sense maneuver lets me add my expertise dice to initiative.  Minimum 20, then, so I will be going first.  And that is good since I only have 7 HP and 16 AC.

For weapons, being an elf gives me enhanced damage dice on the shortbow, that will be a no-brainer.  I also take a katana (SNAKE-EYES!  SHUT UP!) for the higher damage since I can't use a shield anyways, daggers for thematic effect and throwing and a spiked chain (kusari) because it's cool and I could see it coming in handy.  Indiana Jones always found a use for the whip, so a weighted chain should be useful.

Because of the high Dex and the +2 rogue attack bonus, I have +7 to hit with all my weapons, and most of them get a +5 damage adjustment.  I may not be durable, but I'm pointy.

Leather armor is obvious since my Dex is so high.  I'll also take a raft of sneaky gear:  backpack, climbers kit, 2 grappling hooks, caltrops, oil, ball bearings, pitons, tinderbox, waterskin, chalk, thieves tools, a steel mirror and the obligatory black cloak.  That leaves me enough money for all my weapons and about 20 GP left over, as you are allowed to spend 175 GP if you don't take the standard gear recommendations.

Finalized sheet is here:  Cerdwin

I did have the +1 rogue bonus added to STR instead of DEX on this character sheet, but I'll fix that up shortly.

Some thoughts:

It's a bit fiddly if you care about duplicating skills.

Improved Initiative will be nerfed shortly.

Between Class, Race, Scheme, Specialty and Background there is a LOT to choose from.  Maybe too much for a newbie.  Definitely harder than the first couple of rounds of playtest.

It's really easy to customize character creation, which is great.  Min/maxing is there but less of an issue than 4e and you don't seem to need a doctorate in systems design to plan a character like you did in 3e.

These characters remind me a bit of Palladium system characters.  Many of the basic bonuses and skills are set on creation and the characters don't change THAT much as you level.  Sure you get better, but the basics are all the same.

This rogue is going to be nasty if I don't die immediately.

I could easily die immediately.

It's a bit weird having katanas and things in the equipment lists, but I rationalize by saying that they are just elven-style weapons analogous to katanas and kusari and other ninja/oriental stuff.

You could still do old-school characters very easily on this system by removing Scheme, Specialty and optionally background.  The system would still work at least as well as 1e.  Keeping background and Scheme would mean you basically have 2e.

The feats are simple and the Specialties work more like Vampire Disciplines now - neat new powers every few levels.  I like that.

This is flexible and interesting enough that I like creating characters.  Probably the most interesting character creation in D&D since 2e.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Scale and Fantasy Maps

I've been working on a hexcrawl, and one of the things my research is making me notice is how totally messed up the scale on many fantasy maps is.

Case in point is this:

The map of Narsaria pictured here has a little scale in the lower-left.  If that is to be believed, Narsaria is about 1200 miles by 900 miles.  Or about 1.08 million square miles.  Just for reference, the continental US is about 3.75 million square miles.  This "nation" is more than 1/4 the size of the United States.  It's as big as modern Egypt.

The Roman Empire at it's height was 2.5 million square miles.  So this nation of traders is about 1/2 the size of one of the largest empires in antiquity.  See this handy tool for more comparison.

It sure it a nice-looking map, though.  Too bad the scale is utterly buggered.

I decided to go small with the initial nations encountered in the D&D Next Hexcrawl I'm working on.  They run between 3 and 12 90-square mile hexes each.  I started them using the Abulafia random fantasy region generator, then placed them on the hexmap, then worked up their stats using Medieval Demographics.  I was relieved to generally find that my instincts were close to correct about town sizes and proximity.

I'm also adding Dwarven Holds, Elf tribal areas and general regions of humanoid activity, as well as setting up a regional key that I can use to determine random tables and hexstocking activity.

West Pass is a ruined principality near a great river.
The weather there is usually lightly windy and warm out.
It is ruled by a genius.
This domain gives a strong sense of being very ancient.
This domain is famous because its impregnable defences.
The laws of this domain are very strict. Punishments for misdeeds tend to fit the crime.
Recently, the land has been threatened by vicious gangs of bandits.

West Pass covers 1800 square km (8 hexes) and has 1000 square km in arable land.  The total population is  about 76000 population, spread among 151 villages of about 700 people which are an average of 4 km apart.  There are 2 towns, 30 km apart, one of 2000 people, the other, the capital of about 5000, both towns are fortified.

The hand of the ruler rests firmly but not excessively on the people, and the Towns have about 30 soldiers each. The villages have 5 soldiers each.  The total muster of the principality is about 800 soldiers.  In an emergency, about 1500 more armed farmers can be raised as well. The population is primarily Humans with a considerable number of Dwarves and Gnomes and some Elves and Halflings.  Humanoid races are not welcome in West Pass.

Skull Cove is a desperate nation in a grassy plain.
The weather there is usually foggy and warm out
It is ruled by a wealthy merchant.
The people of this domain are fond of good food, drink, and merrymaking.
This domain is famous because of the horrible monsters that inhabit the countryside.
The laws of this domain are almost nonexistent. Punishments for misdeeds tend to be fatal.
Recently, the land has experienced the surrender of their great admiral after an overwhelming naval defeat.

Skull Cove covers about 500 square km, of which 200 square km is arable, accessible land.  The total population is 14,000 people, dwelling in 31 villages, 1 small town, about 5 km apart. There are about 4 soldiers per village, with a total muster of 150, plus ship crews. The population is mostly Humans and Selkies, with a considerable number of Wolfen, Orcs, Goblins.

The Owl Barony is a wealthy kingdom in the high mountains.
The weather there is usually fairly rainy and cool out
It is ruled by a youthful leader.
This domain gives a strong sense of being a place of deep mystery.
This domain is famous because it is very ancient, and has many ruins from a lost civilization.
The laws of this domain are just and fair. Punishments for misdeeds tend to be conducted behind closed doors, so no one is sure what happens - except that the survivors emerge changed and broken.
Recently, the land has been threatened by a jeweled dagger which excites the greed of all who behold it.

Owl Barony covers about 1500 square kilometers of land, of which 410 square km is arable.  The total population is about 28000, dwelling in 57 villages, each about 6 km apart. 2600 live in the main town, which is fortified and close to the Owl Castle.  There are 50 soldiers in town and about 7 soldiers in each village. The full muster is about 500 trained troops, and the population is mainly Humans and Dwarves, with some Wolfen and Bearfolk down from the Drowned Moors.

Ebony Summit is a thriving nation near a great river.
The weather there is usually powerful winds and cold.
It is ruled by a spirit.
This domain gives a strong sense of being gray and gloomy.
This domain is famous because Cursed Students of Heirophant Provosts are based here.
The laws of this domain are favorable to one class of citizens over another. Punishments for misdeeds tend to involve loss of property.
Recently, the land has experienced the capture of a bandit carrying ancient treasures looted from a previously unknown tomb.

Ebony Summit covers about 2750 square kilometers, of which 1700 square kilometers are arable land.  The total population  is about 117,000.  There is 1 city of about 8000, 2 towns 30 km apart of about 2000 each, and 200 villages 3 km apart.  There are 2 castles and 1 ruined and abandoned castle in the south.  Ebony Summit is tyrannically ruled - the city has 200 soldiers, towns have 100, village have 14. Total muster is over 3000 soldiers.  The population is mostly Humans and Halflings with many Wolfen and Orcish slaves.

Nitherfell is a large city-state in an archipelago.
The weather there is usually very rainy and temperate
It is ruled by the aristocracy.
The people of this domain are unusually short.
This domain is famous because it is very ancient, and has many ruins from a lost civilization.
The laws of this domain are nonsensical. Punishments for misdeeds tend to be banishment.
Recently, the land has been threatened by Bercimemnon Rowaric, the Leader of the Way ,.

Nitherfell covers about 4500 square km, of which 1900 square km is arable land.  The total population is about 135,000, mainly living in 267 villages 4 km apart, each with a population of about 700.  There are 3 towns, the capital has a population of about 8000, the others, about 1500 each.  There are 3 standing and 1 ruined castles, and zealous law enforcement. Villages about 7 guards each, the smaller towns have 20 guards and the capital has 80 guards. The total muster is around 2000 soldiers.  The population is mainly Humans, with a few Selkies, Dwarves and Gnomes.