Updated! I’m running a campaign of Alternity — TSR’s late, lamented science fiction game from the end of the 1990s — and so I whipped up a character sheet for the Star*Drive setting. You can download it, if you want:

Changelog

7 Nov 2501 2009: Newly updated to include better layout for skills, enough durability boxes for werens, the Stealth skill (which was accidentally left out), and a footer with the download URL.

10/25
2009

I keep thinking that my next 4e D&D game should allow only these classes:

  • Fighter
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Wizard
  • Rogue
  • Assassin
  • Monk
  • Bard (via multiclass feats only)

And these races:

  • Dwarf
  • Elf
  • Gnome
  • Half-Elf
  • Halfling
  • Half-Orc
  • Human

None of these “dragonborn” or “eladrin;” no “sorcerers” or “avengers!”

Of course, your race determines which classes are open to you:

  • Dwarf: Fighter, Rogue, Assassin
  • Elf: Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Assassin
  • Gnome: Fighter, Wizard (illusionist build only), Rogue, Assassin
  • Half-Elf: Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Ranger, Wizard, Rogue, Assassin
  • Halfling: Fighter, Rogue
  • Half-Orc: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Assassin
  • Human: Any single class

A few hybrid classes would be allowed — based on your race, of course:

  • Dwarf: Fighter|Rogue
  • Elf: Fighter|Wizard, Fighter|Rogue, Rogue|Wizard
  • Gnome: Fighter|Wizard (illusionist build only), Fighter|Rogue, Rogue|Wizard (illusionist build only)
  • Half-Elf: Cleric|Fighter, Cleric|Ranger, Cleric|Wizard, Fighter|Wizard, Fighter|Rogue, Rogue|Wizard
  • Halfling: Fighter|Rogue
  • Half-Orc: Cleric|Fighter, Cleric|Rogue, Cleric|Assassin, Fighter|Rogue, Fighter|Assassin
  • Human: no hybrid classes

…but maybe this is getting a little too silly.

(Oh, and also, I’d only use monsters that appear in the 1e Monster Manual.)

Last Friday, during the middle of RinCon, I got a great idea for a D&D one-shot that I wanted to run — “DragonSlayer”: a one-shot with Epic-tier, level 26 characters. Sadly, due to a lot of bad luck and an outbreak of serious depression, I never got to run the game, but I may do so sometime in the future; I still have the character sheets.

One thing I discovered was that level 26 characters don’t necessarily have that many more powers than other characters — sure, they’ve got 17 powers (roughly) compared the 4 at first level, but level 13 characters have 13 — but they’ve sure got a heck of a lot more things you’ve got to look for. Conditions that may or many not apply, powers or feats that trigger off of certain situations, times you need to check not what you are doing but what an enemy or ally does as well.

Even in the regular campaigns I play in or run, which are levels 2, 4, and 6, we’ve got multiple instances of players simply forgetting to use a power when they could have. Our bard in last night’s game did this quite spectacularly well, including forgetting to give us temporary hit points and bonus on healing surges spent during a short rest.

e at Geek’s Dream Girl describes a similar situation she had last weekend, playing level 27 characters:

Will it be hard to keep track of everything my character can do?

Short answer – yes.

Long answer – as a Leader, there were a lot of things I could do that added bonuses not only for myself, but for other members of the party. Some of these affected those next to me (for example, I bought an armor set), some affected those next to my battle standard (which I only used in one out of the three encounters, and not to any great effect), and others affected those next to my spirit companion. To top it off, I had one that affected me, but only for the first round of combat before I was attacked. What’s my AC? F- if I know!! Hahaha!

I think it would be much easier if I had “grown up” with BigByrde rather than trying to run her at 27th level. It’s easier to remember things when you’re only adding them a bit at a time.

And here I was expecting people to sit down at the convention table and run level 26 characters they’d never seen before and didn’t even create themselves? Madness!

So here’s what I did.

I went through each pre-gen character’s sheet, page by page, feat by feat, class ability by class ability, power by power, item by item — and I created a table in OpenOffice that listed each thing that each player had to keep track of in combat.

Here’s the example for Nalla, the level 26 Goliath fighter pre-gen:

An enemy marked by you…
…shifts. Make a melee basic attack against the enemy, if adjacent to you. If you hit, you do an extra +6 damage. Combat Challenge (fighter), Potent Challenge (feat)
…makes an attack which doesn’t include you. Make a melee basic attack against the enemy, if adjacent to you. If you hit, you do an extra +6 damage. The marked enemy takes a -3 penalty on attacks against anyone except you. Combat Challenge (fighter), Potent Challenge (feat), Daunting Challenge (feat)
You attack with…
…an opportunity attack. +2 on the attack roll. If you hit, the target’s movement ends. You push the target 1 square, whether you hit or miss. Combat Superiority (fighter), Knock-Back Swing (feat)
You miss with…
…your hammer. You do 6 points of damage. Hammer Rhythm (feat)
…an opportunity attack. You push the target 1 square and do 6 points of damage. Knockback Swing (feat), Hammer Rhythm (feat)
You successfully hit with…

…a melee attack.

You can use the Encounter power on your Giantkind Gloves. You can use the Daily power of your Belt of Giant Strength. Giantkind Gloves (item), Belt of Giant Strength (item)

…a 19 or 20.

You score a critical hit. You do +5d6 damage. You make a saving throw against one effect that a save can end, with a +5 bonus. You can use the Daily power of your Legendary Craghammer. You can use the Encounter power of your Citrine Solitaire. Bludgeon Mastery (feat), Legendary Craghammer (item), Amulet of Double Fortune (item), Citrine Solitaire (item)

…an attack granted by Combat Challenge.

You do an extra +6 damage. Potent Challenge (feat)
…an attack that pushes or knocks the target prone. The target takes 6 damage. Trample the Fallen (Iron Vanguard)
…an attack that drops your foe to 0 hp. You regain 6 hp. Enduring Warrior (Iron Vanguard)
…an attack that adds a condition a save can end. Your enemy takes -2 on the saving throw. Thunder Hammer (feat)
You spend an action point…
…to take an extra action You gain +4 to your defenses until the start of your next turn. You regain the use of an Encounter power you have already expended. Ferocious Reaction (Iron Vanguard), Martial Mastery (feat)
An ally…
…is adjacent to you. The ally gets +1 on Armor Class. Phalanx Warrior (feat)
…rolls initiative, within 5 squares of you. The ally gets +2 item bonus on initiative checks. Helm of Battle (item)
You are…
…hit by an area or close attack. Immediate Interrupt: You can use the Daily power of your Dragondaunt Shield. Dragondaunt Shield (item)
…hit by a critical attack by a non-minion. Gain a +6 bonus to damage rolls against that enemy until the end of the encounter. Tattoo of Vengeance (item)
You…
…roll an Athletics check to jump or climb. Roll twice and use either result. Powerful Athlete (Goliath)
…make a saving throw. For the first saving throw in an encounter, roll twice. Markings of the Blessed (feat)
…drop to 0 hit points. You can spend an action point to take an action, and you gain +4 to your defenses until the start of your next turn. You can use your No Surrender daily power. You can use the Daily power of your Ring of Invigoration. Enduring Warrior (Iron Vanguard), No Surrender (Utility 10), Ring of Invigoration (item)
…make a Strength check or a Strength-based Skill Check. You can add +10 to the result, once per day. Unending Strength (Eternal Defender)
…use your Stone’s Endurance power. You gain 19 temporary hit points. Unyielding Stone (feat)
…spend a healing surge. You gain 6 temporary hit points. Grit (feat)

Nalla’s tracking table was the simplest; some, like the warlock’s, were pretty damn crazy when certain synergies started piling up on top of each other:

You successfully hit…
…with a roll of 20, a Large or larger dragon affected by your Warlock’s Curse with an attack while concealed due to Shadow Walk and you have combat advantage against that enemy, which is also the target of your your Immortal Curse:

You score a critical hit. You do an extra 13+5d12 damage. The target grants combat advantage to you and gains vulnerable 5 fire, until the end of your next turn. If you deal your Warlock’s Curse extra damage to the target, you do an extra 30 damage. You gain 1 action point that must be spent before the end of your next turn. You ignore any resistance to fire the target may have.

I still need to work out how to generalize this solution and come up with some sort of form, chart, reminder tool, or other physical artifact to create something like this that doesn’t involve just opening a word processor — but for now, this is an approach I’m probably going to use on my own characters in the future so that I actually can keep track of what I can and can’t do in any particular situation.

10/13
2009

Here’s the Obsidian Portal page for Qi, my hybrid (rogue|sorcerer) changeling in Jeremy’s Wednesday night Eberron game.

She’s kind of … crazy. She has this annoying tendency to believe her own lies, like some sort of method actress gone horribly wrong.

So far she’s convinced herself that she’s a drug addict, a college student, and a gnoll.

For those of you who are interested, here’s the campaign background information on the countries in my current D&D campaign, The Tide of Summer. We game weekly at my place in Tucson.

The backstory that isn’t in this document: About 17 years ago, there was a world-wide event known as the Feystorm, in which the Feywild and the Natural world basically crashed into each other. The fey (eladrin, gnomes, elves, and others) are the bad guys of this campaign [1], and are part of Summer Queen Tiandra’s army, the Tide of Summer.

[1] or at least, so they appear to the player characters

10/13
2009

Target is knocked…what now?

Last night in my D&D game, the party fought a green dragon. I used the base stats from the D&D Adventure Tools monster builder, which is pretty good. (Added a few abilities to make it a fey green dragon.)

Here’s the stats for a green dragon, as per the Adventure Tools:

greendragonknockedpron

As we discovered last night, there seems to be a typo in the young green dragon stats. Specifically, this:

tailsweepknockedpron

Group consensus was that the party’s fighter, who got tailswept on the first round because he didn’t move, clearly was knocked to his hands and knees, facing away from the dragon, ass in the air and with a sultry, come-amd-get-it look in his eyes as he looked back at the dragon over his shoulder.

10/13
2009

Pork is a nice sweet meat

So, Berin Kinsman declared this dude the Best. D&D. Mini. EVAR.:

Farmer mini

As it turns out, I know this mini quite well! One of my friends uses this as his character miniature in every game, no matter what he’s playing. It’s been a dwarf, a human, a genasi, a half-orc; a swordmage, a warden, a fighter, a barbarian.

Just in case you get an inkling to use this miniature, here’s what you need: stats for a 1st level beastmaster ranger with a pet pig and a meatcleaver on his belt:

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
William Hoggett, level 1
Human, Ranger
Build: Beastmaster Ranger
Fighting Style: Beast Mastery
Beast Companion Type: Boar
Background: Occupation – Farmer (+2 to Nature)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 16, Con 11, Dex 10, Int 8, Wis 18, Cha 10.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 14, Con 11, Dex 10, Int 8, Wis 18, Cha 10.

AC: 13 Fort: 15 Reflex: 12 Will: 15
HP: 23 Surges: 6 Surge Value: 5

TRAINED SKILLS
Dungeoneering +9, Nature +11, Athletics +7, Endurance +4, Heal +9, Perception +9

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics -1, Arcana -1, Bluff, Diplomacy, History -1, Insight +4, Intimidate, Religion -1, Stealth -1, Streetwise, Thievery -1

FEATS
Human: Beast Protector
Level 1: Vengeful Beast

POWERS
Bonus At-Will Power: Circling Strike
Ranger at-will 1: Predator Strike
Ranger at-will 1: Hunter’s Teamwork
Ranger encounter 1: Synchronized Strike
Ranger daily 1: Driving the Quarry

ITEMS
Halberd, Hide Armor, Handaxe
RITUALS
Raise Beast Companion
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

I named his boar “Babe the sheep-pig” and described it as “little pink pig who misses his ma.” The character’s first name comes from my friend William, and his last name is, of course, another reference to one of my favorite movies.

I read the Ampersand column today where martial practices are previewed — rituals, but using martial power and not magic. Okay, cool concept.

But the examples given utterly fail to convince me, because they’re not martial. They’re just…skills. Martial means used in war, not “disguises” or “non-verbal communication” or “forgery.”

I can’t figure out why forging a document would cost you a healing surge, honestly. Or why only martial characters can learn how to communicate without words. (Take that, bards, and your arcane power source!)

When I was reading through the description, before I got to the examples, I thought of martial “rituals” more like this:

Let Me Show You How To Hold That

Your buddy may be good with spells, but he’s got a lot to learn about weaponry.

Component Cost: 1 healing surge and 25 gp

Time: 1 hour

Duration: 24 hours

Skill: Athletics (no check)

Choose one simple or military weapon with which you are proficient. A willing ally (who must be present for the entire practice) also spends a healing surge, and gains proficiency with that weapon for the duration of the effect.

 

Ah, A Chance To Use This Freshly Sharpened Blade

It’s important to take good care of your weapons before an important battle.

Component Cost: 1 healing surge and 50 gp

Time: 10 minutes

Duration: 1 hour

Skill: Thievery (no check)

Choose one of your weapons. On the next critical hit you roll using an attack with that weapon, add an additional 1d6 damage.

 

No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy

You’ve got it all planned out in your head before the fight even starts.

Component Cost: 1 healing surge and 100 gp

Time: 1 hour

Duration: Special

Skill: History (no check)

You and all allies within 10 squares receive a +2 bonus on initiative checks. On the first round of combat, you and your allies can shift one square as a minor action. These effects last until you take a short or extended rest.

 

 

10/13
2009

Broken Backgrounds are Broken

I’m tired of so many backgrounds, like those found in Forgotten Realms (where all divine folks come from Impiltur and all wizards/swordmages from Thay), Scales of War, Eberron, and so on. Many of these are backdoor “feats” which are unbalanced and campaign-distorting.

In my campaign (which isn’t set in any published world), I’m just going to stick with the first three options for backgrounds (and call these the “standard benefits”):

  • Gain a +2 bonus with an associated skill, OR
  • Add an associated skill to your list of class skills, OR
  • Learn one associated language.

Any backgrounds which don’t meet that will not be available to players for free. If they want a specific non-standard benefit, they’re welcome to use a feat slot to get it:

Advantageous Background

Heroic Tier Feat

Benefit: Choose one of your backgrounds. You gain the non-standard benefit listed for that background, or your choice of one of the standard benefits.

You can take this feat only once.

Note: This actually allows someone to gain benefits from two backgrounds. That’s okay, I don’t mind that — for the cost of a feat.

Otherwise, I fear out-of-control background creep. It already seems to be happening, and that’s not cool by me. This way I don’t have to check over each background individually as written and approve or disapprove it arbitrarily; it’s just a set template. Does it fit the above list of standard benefits? Then take it. If not, then don’t.

10/13
2009

@gamefiend asked me to try setting up one of his skill challenges with the tiles.

Here’s what I’ve got — sorry about the crappy picture.

skillchallenge-demo-08

A few things to note:

  • I don’t have enough tiles printed up — only one set — which means that I wasn’t able to fully model the skill challenge. The black tokens mark the tiles which have the wrong difficulty level, and which would be replaced with the correct tiles if I ran off another sheet of them.
  • The white tokens to the left of some of the tiles indicate “assassin caught.”
  • The little stacks of 2 green tokens are supposed to show “this counts as 2 successes” but in retrospect, that would have been better represented by a die on each, turned to the “2″ value.

It seems the tiles sorta work for this, and would have gotten a lot closer if I’d printed and cut out more sets. It does come out to be a pretty complex arrangement of tiles — but comparable to some of the more elaborate layouts of dungeon tiles I’ve seen or used as well.