Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The New Eye-Pod

... and I think this one is worth posting as well.  I worked long and hard on it both yesterday and today.




Kicking Jimmy Awake

Detailing the Beholder's ability to put people to sleep, I felt a compulsion to reworking some rules. This makes some changes to notes found on the action points page.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

I Am So Sad

I have now made two attempts to watch the new Netflix show, the Defenders.  The first time I lasted until the credits.  The second time, 22 minutes in.

Oh, gawd, I have super-powers and I am just so sad and so miserable, I can hardly bother to stagger down this hallway to my office and act so bored in front of these strangers, I am dying and I am so miserable and there is nothing I can do, I'm blind and you're in a wheelchair and life is just so bad, so awful, and these dreams, these dreams of dead people, oh, oh, it is so awful and terrible and pointless and angst, oh so much angst, angst pouring over everything, tons of angst, because we are the writers and we have the shit pile right here, the feces have been delivered, and we have shovels, so here it is, let's just start shoveling, shoveling and shoveling, and oh, aren't you excited now to watch these four mediocre series come together for the triumph of angst we're promising in the first twenty minutes ...

No. No thank you.

For the Juvenis Boys

I thought the players in the Juvenis campaign might be interested in this entry.  It can be read in full on the wiki.  It might stir a few memories and explain some of the details the party never did fully interpret.


Working on the Bestiary


The usual classic issue.  I start working steadily on the wiki and not much gets written on the blog.  I suspect that many of you are not bothered, however, since as soon as I start posting there, the stats show an immediate interest:

Starting just before the 15th, I started cleaning up the Bestiary page on the wiki.  As the reader can see, the number of unique visitors, around 100, is steady up until that time, though it is only averaging about 2 pages per visitor.  As soon as I start working on the wiki, making edits, adding new pages, the number of visitors increases (that's from links on the blog) and the number of pages viewed jumps to 7 to 10 per visitor.

I am enormously proud of the wiki.  It has been a long time project, of the sort that many people start on the internet, work on for about 18 months and then abandon.  I can remember many such webpages that were very interesting, but after reading through about fifty to a hundred pages, I would run out of content and no new content would ever appear.

At present, Tao at Wikispaces has more than 1,200 pages and the process continues.  I will go for a month or two without adding anything, for various reasons, but I love that thing.  I love the flexibility, the opportunity to start fleshing out a set of rules or mass of data ... and most of all, I love that I can start a template, leave it, and then pick it again 10 months later without much trouble at all.

I want to make a shout out to Tim of the Great Code and Ozymandias of Crossing the Verse, both of whom have started helping me with the monster project.  Thanks to both of you!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Podcast: Ep. 55, Role-Playing and More


Here's a link to the podcast I recorded last week.  It is out today:

Point of Insanity Network

No embed code at this time, unfortunately.  But here's a graphic for what you'll see if you hit the link.


D&D WikiProject

This is new to me, and I'm sure will contain information that I mostly disagree with, but I respect wikipedia and I think it's worth the reader's attention.  Others will no doubt get a lot out of it.  It is called the WikiProject Dungeons & Dragons, with this explanation from the site:

"Some Wikipedians have formed a project to better organize information in articles related to the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. This page and its subpages contain their suggestions; it is hoped that this project will help to focus the efforts of other Wikipedians. If you would like to help, please inquire on the talk page and see the goals and tasks below.
"The scope of this project is to improve the coverage and quality of articles on the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game."

I will probably be plundering it for some things.

I hope it doesn't go the direction of the compendiums, which gave tons of super-specific and largely useless information, most often writing whole paragraphs to describe behaviour that could be said in a sentence or two.  I always felt that these were written with the idea that the party was going to spend five or six sessions dealing with this one specific monster, so we had to be sure we gave the whole biological construction for the thing.

Writing monster descriptions myself, I try to be as concise as possible.  I have many memories of being in the middle of a game and being faced with some ridiculously long description of a monster I didn't have time to read in depth.  It is very inconvenient when time is an element ~ and I think it has caused me, on many occasions, just to throw orcs or something else simple at the party because I didn't have time to figure out the fifty rules dealing with carnivorous plant culture (monstrous compendium vol. 2).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bestiary Page

My bestiary page on the wiki has been a disaster.  I've never properly and consistently put the right amount of work into the descriptions, it's a bit boring to be honest, and the pages have never looked very encouraging when I've completed an entry.

I hope to change that and to clean up the bestiary page as it stands.  I wouldn't bother going to the link just now: it has too many empty links, as I thought I was getting work ready and instead I was just wasting time before actually working. 

But here's the update of the Alpaca page.  This is about how the page should look.


So, I'm going to be removing the dead links from the page and trying to add new, meaningful content.  It would be nice to add just one monster a day, but even that's impractical, as it takes time.  All together, I have over 700 monsters I could add, so this is an overwhelming, long term project.  At one monster a week, I'll have it all done by the time I'm 67.

Ah well.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dragons

It was pointed out to me that I have never actually written down any of my rules about dragons, how they attack or what form they take.  I was surprised, actually.  I thought I had done it by now.

But no, I hadn't.  So here is a go at the content, collected in the next three posts, which are all copied from the wikispaces entries that I wrote today.  The content in the first post describes the dragon's combat abilities, along with details that apply to all dragons.  The second post gives the eight dragon ages, with some of my own names replacing those in the old monster manual. Finally, the third post gives an example of a dragon entry.  I really ought to work more on my wikipedia bestiary.


Dragons come in many forms, but fundamentally there are certain biological characteristics that all dragons possess. Dragons are covered in thick, heavy scales that serve as a powerful armor. All dragons will have four limbs, the potential to claw their opponents, a devastating bite and a tail capable of whipping opponents. Some dragons may lack wings, particularly those that dwell in underwater environments. While all dragons will produce various gases or liquids from an alchemical gland that is found just below the base of the dragon's long neck, the nature of the 'breath weapon' that emerges from this gland will vary from dragon to dragon.

Dragons that have wings will be able to beat these wings with sufficient force to cause a strong, buffeting wind, capable of causing damage and therefore stunning opponents. Some dragons of remarkable intelligence will have the ability to produce the effects of spells ~ however, this is not a "casting" ability, as dragons do not need to memorize this magic. The ability is inherent and therefore a remarkable dragon can discharge a set number of spells at will, per day. This is further described in detail below.

There are a number of misleading myths and ideas about dragons that do not apply to dragons in my world. It is, for example, nearly impossible to encounter a dragon that is sleeping. Dragons are the most prescient and dangerous creatures in all the world, precisely because it is so difficult to catch them off guard ~ and so the wishful thought that a dragon could be caught sleeping is a fantasy tale that emerges as a metaphor for accomplishing the impossible. Furthermore, dragons cannot be "subdued" as some would believe, being fantastically intelligent, nimble and very large in size. They do not intimidate easily and are nearly impossible to contain. Since a dragon's body is also covered in spines and sharpened ridges, they cannot be grappled, even by giant creatures, without damage occurring from the dragon's writhing body, not to mention that it would be difficult to keep from being ripped to pieces by a dragon's claws. Finally, some believe that dragons are cowardly, egotistical or driven to foolish acts out of a greed for wealth; these notions, too, are tales told by those who have sought to make nonsensical stories about dragons seem more plausible for dramatic purpose. There are reasons for these tales, in that less powerful dragons may be quite young and inexperienced, and potentially at the mercy of flattery and other enticements ~ older, more powerful dragons, however, are enormously wise and well-versed of the ways of weaker creatures. It is best well to assume that a strange dragon will make poor decisions that can be exploited.


Hit Dice, Mass and Age


Dragons will typically have a range of hit dice rather than a specific number. For example, a green dragon has 7-9 hit dice, while a silver dragon will have 9-11. This range indicates whether or not a dragon is willowy, sturdy or robust, these descriptions corresponding to the lowest number in the range of hit dice, the middle number or the highest number. A robust green dragon would have 9 hit dice.

The number of hit points that a dragon has depends upon its mass; a dragon's mass depends upon its species and upon its age. Typically, all adult-sized dragons will weigh approximately 500 lbs. per hit die. The robust green dragon above would weigh about 4,500 lbs, while a willowy green dragon would weigh 3,500 lbs. When we compare these numbers to the number of hit points per hit die, we discover that a willowy green dragon would 3d4 hit points per hit die (a total of 21d4, an average of 52.5), while a robust green dragon would have a d6 plus a d8 per hit die (9d6 + 9d8, an average of 72).

These numbers apply to the adult form of the dragon. Throughout their lives, dragons pass through 8 stages of growth: hatchling, yeulding,young, near-grown, adult, old, very old and ancient. The first five of these, from hatchling to adult, indicate an increase in size. The latter three, from old to ancient, indicate an increase in experience. (see Dragon's Lifespan). As dragons mature, they will have less hit dice, less of their full-grown attributes and less power to cause damage or breathe their signature weapon. Therefore, the actual age of the dragon must be taken into account to determine their effectiveness.


Melee Attacks: Claw, Bite & Tail


Despite their size, dragons are tremendously sprightly, limber creatures that are able to spin their bodies with amazing quickness. Some mistake dragons for lumbering like elephants, but it is much more true to say that dragons attack with the speed and merciless agility of a leopard or a shark.

The head is tremendously large and sits atop a flexible neck that can stretch to attack a creature up to three combat hexes from the dragon's main body. This encourages defenders who would cast spells (which the dragon's intelligence would recognize as a danger to be stopped!) to keep well back. Moreover, since the dragon can twist in place, the head is able to attack in any direction during a given round (though the dragon must turn its body 60 degrees to attack someone directly behind).

The dragon's claws are designed to attack creatures directly in front; each claw can do an effective amount of damage, with larger dragons easily killing a 1st-level defender in one blow. The dragon will begin combat by attacking multiple people with its bite and claws, then concentrating all its attacks the following round on any creature that is hit without being stunned.

If an adult or older dragon strikes with both claws in a given round, whether at the same or different targets, a dragon will then rake with its back claws, effectively gaining two additional attacks.

The dragon's tail, usually enriched with spikes and ridges, can cause nearly as much damage as the bite. The dragon will usually use it to attack anything that is to its rear or flank. It will always turn and strike with its tail upon giving round. Because of the tail's momentum and size, any small or medium-sized creature that is stunned by the tail will be knocked two hexes from the place where it was hit.


Buffeting


Dragons that have reached the age of being nearly grown are able to buffet their wings. This is less about the size of their wings than it is about the speed with which the dragon can flex them, creating a strong wind that will cause real damage. The dragon will rear up, forego an attack with its claws (the head and tail may still attack) and rapidly beat its wings, affecting a 180-degree circle radiating outwards from the dragon's body.

Anyone within four combat hexes of the dragon (20 feet) may suffer damage from buffeting. The amount caused is 1 h.p. per HD of the dragon. Those affected may make save against magic, suffering only 2 damage if they succeed (regardless of the dragon's hit dice).

Creatures larger than 510 lbs. will not be forced back by the severe wind, but lighter characters must give ground. Those starting within 3 hexes of the dragon (15 feet) must fall back two hexes; those between 4 and 6 hexes away must fall back one hex. Creatures that weigh 80 lbs. or less must move back an additional hex, wherever they are standing when affected. All movement must be in a direction away from the center of the dragon's body.

Buffeting with put out torches and lanterns of all sorts (some of the effect is magical, so that the wind will insinuate itself into the cracks of a lantern), knock birds out of the air and force them to land, stir up dust and create obscurement for one round, and fan the flames of any fire that covers an area of more than one combat hex.

The dragon must have room to buffet. Buffeting can be done while the dragon hovers anywhere up to 10 feet above the ground. Typically, a dragon will buffet before escaping, or moving off to seek a better defending position. Buffeting can also be done simultaneously with a dragon's breath weapon.


Flying & Hovering


If there is room, dragons prefer to fly rather than fight from the ground. It's best tactic is to beat its wings sufficiently to bounce from the ground up to ten feet in the air, striking with its claws upon landing, with its bite and tail from actually being in the air and then timing its attack so that it is moving upwards to ten feet, then hovering a second or two before descending. This means that the players are unable to use short melee weapons, though pole-arms remain effective.

If the dragon then chooses not to attack another round, it can beat its wings and take for the air (or buffeting hard) before actually touching the ground again. The combination of these tactics make a dragon very hard to fight in the open air, so that a dragon would rather escape its cave to fight than to remain cornered. In the air, the dragon can raze the ground with its breath weapon, strike with tail and head while flying over the heads of its enemies and retreat to thirty or forty hexes away in just two or three rounds ~ where it can wait before moving in to strike again, or give more ground until it finds an advantage.


Breath Weapon


The dragon's breath weapon comes in all forms: fire, liquid acid, poisonous and sleeping gas, blasting ice, lightning and so on. Principally, it is an area of effect weapon that causes a tremendous amount of unavoidable damage that can be reduced by luck but not avoided. I like that dragons are powerful enough to have this effect.

Rules most commonly try to give the area of effect of a breath weapon according to the location of the mouth and the radiating cone or path, or the dimensions of the cloud being produced. These rules discount the possibility of the dragon swinging its head around in a circle or a straggling strafing path as the dragon flies over a crowd of enemies. Therefore the rules I will play by will measure the dragon's breath weapon by the number of combat hexes the dragon can effect at a time, so long as the hexes connect together and form an imaginable path. The specific number of hexes, and the effects of each dragon's breath weapon, will be discussed on pages describing specific dragons.

Not all breath weapons cause damage. Those that do cause damage will also require that characters to make save for items in their possession. Any characters in an affected hex must make saving throw against breath weapon; the amount of damage is halved if the saving throw is made, or the effects of non-damage causing clouds is reduced or dispelled.


Additional Notes


I have suspended a number of rules that apply to dragons in old D&D's Monster Manual, such as the aura of fear surrounding dragons, ferocity bonuses associated with mated pairs fighting together, all rules associated with subduing dragons, the convoluted manner in which dragon saving throws are calculated (dragons save according to their hit dice or energy levels), calculations for dragon treasure and dragon alignments.

To my mind, all dragons have an intelligence that permits them to speak. Only old, very old or ancient dragons have magic use, as I have indicated on my Dragon's Lifespan page. Not all dragons are either metallic or colored, nor are dragons locked into a two-dimensional moralistic view of the world. Dragons are intelligent creatures, of all sorts, some bad, some good, some self-interested, some generous and so on. Not all dragons are solitary; I have two places in my world (so far) where dragons have actually formed a social structure and which are treated by outsiders as sovereign territories. The last thing I want in a game called Dungeons & Dragons is a narrow minded view of how dragon culture works.

For the time being, I will let these details stand as is, coming back another time to flesh out anything that seems needful. At this point, it would be best to start writing about the motivations behind individual species. I've played with the nomenclature a little, but after some though I must admit that I'm used to using the colors to describe them.


The other two posts, then follow after this one; I posted them in reverse order, so they could be read from front to back on the blog.

Dragon's Lifespan

Dragons are born from eggs laid by adult dragons. The gestation time of a dragon's egg is typically a period of one year. Dragon eggs are magical in construction and thus will be revealed by detect magic spells and devices. After birth, dragons pass through 8 stages of growth: hatchling, yeulding, young,near-grown, adult, old, very old and ancient. The first five of these, from hatchling to adult, indicate an increase in size. The latter three, from old to ancient, indicate an increase in experience. Dragons also occur in three forms: willowy, sturdy and robust. See Hit Dice, Mass & Age for descriptions of these.

As dragons grow, they gain in hit dice, hit points, ferocity and dangerous potential. Even the most immature of dragons make formidable opponents, while dragons of great experience are probably the most dangerous mortal beings in the world.



Hatchlings


At birth, a hatchling will be about 5% the full mass of an adult dragon. Thus, while a sturdy brass dragon would weigh about 3,500 lbs., a hatchling of the same species and form would weigh 175 lbs., or as big as a fully grown human. This calculation also gives the weight of the dragon's egg, not being something that can easily be moved. A hatchling is about 10% of a full-grown dragon's length.

A hatchling's hit dice will be only 1/4 that of an adult, always rounded down. The aforementioned brass dragon would have 7 hit dice as an adult, but only 1 hit die as a hatchling (and attack as such). Comparing hit points per die would show that the hatchling would have only 1d8 hit points.

Hatchlings will remain of this age for only a month after birth, before quickly morphing into yeuldings. They will emerge from the egg with claws and teeth, but with only bony stubs where their wings will someday be and only a short, not-yet-grown tail. The claws will cause 1-3 damage and the bite 1-6. The body of a hatchling is soft, so that this calculation should be used to determine its armor class: (x + 10)/2, where x is the armor class of an adult dragon, with all fractions rounded up. The brass dragon with an armor class of 2 would, as a hatchling, have an armor class of 6.

Hatchlings possess a breath weapon that will cause 1 hit point per hit die of their fully grown selves. The hatchling brass dragon in the example above will someday have 7 hit dice, so its breathweapon will cause 7 damage, 3 if a saving throw is made. The alchemical gland is immature, however, so that it will drain after only one use in 24 hours. As well, the effective range and volume is only one combat hex, or 5 feet.


Yeuldings


A month after emerging from the egg, a hatchling will molt its outer skin and grow in a few days to yeulding size. During this time the dragon will be vulnerable and unable to defend itself, but typically the dragon will bury itself in mud or sand up to ten feet deep, sometimes finding these conditions at the bottom of a pool or pond. The adult dragon will usually be nearby and protective of the yeulding. Dragons molt in this manner only once in their lives.

Once the yeulding passes through this period of growth, it will be 20% the full mass of an adult dragon. While a sturdy brass dragon would weigh 3,500 lbs., a yeulding of the same species and form would weigh 700 lbs. A yeulding is about 30-40% of an adult dragon's length. It's hit dice will be 1/2 that of an adult, always rounded down. Thus, whereas a sturdy adult brass dragon has 7 hit dice, a similar yeulding has 3 hit dice. A brass dragon yeulding of this form would have 3d10 hit points.

Yeuldings will remain of this age for about four years, before experiencing a radical growth spurt. Yeuldings will have wings that have sprouted and their tails will lengthen; however, yeuldings cannot fly and the tail is not flexible enough to be used as a weapon. The scales of a yeulding's body will be as hard as that of an adult, so that they possess the same armor class as an adult dragon. The damage from a yeulding's bite and claws will be 1/2 that of an adult.

Yeuldings possess a breath weapon that will cause 2 hit points per hit die of their fully grown selves. The yeulding brass dragon in the example above will someday have 7 hit dice, so its breath weapon will cause 14 damage, 7 if a saving throw is made. The alchemical gland is yet immature, however, so that it will drain after only two uses in 24 hours. The effective range and volume is reduced also, to an area of 3combat hexes, straight out or sprayed in front of the dragon's mouth in a shortened cloud.


Young Dragons


The growth spurt of a yeulding to a young dragon is a dramatic shifting and adjusting of the dragon's outer appendages, happening over a period of 2-4 months. The limbs extend, the wings grow out and the tail becomes flexible and longer, while the dragon's neck lengthens, enabling it more control over the placement of its breath weapon. The bones of the dragon can be literally heard as they grow, a cracking, sometimes grinding sound. In overall mass, the dragon does not increase that much ~ only to 40% of the full mass of an adult dragon. Throughout the process, the dragon will be able to protect itself and should be considered to be no longer a yeulding once the process has passed the second month.

Young dragons are about 75% of an adult dragon's length. It will have the hit dice of a full-grown adult, less 2. A young, sturdy brass dragon would have 5 HD. At 40% of the adult dragon's mass, it would weigh about 1,400 lbs. and have 5d12 hit points. Young dragons will have the full use of their wings for flying and of their tails as weapons, but as they are quite clumsy they have not yet learned how to maintain a buffeting rhythm nor how to rake with their back claws. The damage from a young dragon's bite, claws and tail will be 3/4 that of an adult.

Young dragons will also have reached a weight and size where they cause incidental damage.

Young dragons possess a breath weapon that will cause 3 hit points per die of their fully grown selves. A young brass dragon of the example above would someday have 7 HD, so its breath weapon will cause 21 damage, 10 if a saving throw is made. The alchemical gland is yet immature, however, so that it will drain after only two uses in 24 hours. The effective range and volume is reduced also, to half the area of effect of an adult dragon.

Young dragons will not mature until they reach an age of 15-18 years.


Near-Grown Dragons


After 13 years of age, a young dragon's overall body and bulk will begin to mature, as the bones harden and gain weight, as the dragon's spines and ridges stiffen and increase the dragon's protection against hand-to-hand attack. Beginning at 15 years of age, some dragons must be considered nearly grown to adulthood; no dragon that is 18 years of age or older can be considered young.

Nearly grown dragons will have 80% of the full mass of an adult dragon and be equal in length. Thus, they are hard to distinguish from adults. Near-grown dragons will attack with the full hit dice of their adult dragon peers and cause damage with their bite, claws and tail that is equal to an adult dragon. They will be able to buffet with their wings (for 1-4 damage) but will, as yet, be unable to rake with their back claws.

Because of the spines and ridges on a near-grown dragon's body, the amount of incidental damage caused is double-normal, or potentially 1 damage per 500 lbs. of the dragon's weight.

Near-grown dragons possess a breath weapon that will cause 4 damage per hit die. A near-grown sturdy brass dragon's breath weapon would cause 28 damage, 14 if saving throw is made. The alchemical gland is still that of a young dragon, however, so that it will drain after only two uses in 24 hours. The effective range and volume is reduced also, to half the area of effect of an adult dragon.

A prime difference between near-grown dragons and adult dragons is that the former cannot mate or lay eggs. As such, being of full size but not yet with the responsibility of a family, near-grown dragons are the most likely to be encountered as solitary dragons in the wide world. Because they are only 15 to 40 years of age, it is the behaviour of near-grown dragons that has often created the myths and false beliefs about dragons.


Adult Dragons


Once maturing to adult, typically something that comes about gradually between the age of 35 and 40, a dragon has reached the pinnacle of its physical characteristics. It will weigh approximately 500 lbs. per hit die, attack ably with bite, claws (including the ability to rake with its back claws), tail and with buffeting wings. The amount of incidental damage caused by the dragon is double-normal, or potentially 1 damage per 500 lbs. of the dragon's weight (or coincidentally 1 h.p. per HD).

An adult's breath weapon will cause 5 damage per hit die. The alchemical gland that produces the substance of the dragon's breath will sustain three uses in 24 hours and will reach to the full range and area of effect of the dragon's power.

Adult dragons will mate for life. They will remain adults until reaching 80 to 100 years of age, and during that time will raise a brood every 12 years, typically in the late spring or at the start of the wet season, so that hatchlings will be able to molt into yeuldings when mud and wet sand is available. Dragons will fly up to 10,000 miles to isolated areas of mud and sand, often choosing the thickness of jungles, muskeg bogs, isolated island atolls or deep deserts (where some yeuldings will molt under sand dunes).

Broods will consist of 1 to 4 hatchlings, of which one in four will typically die during the molting stage for reasons that are generally unknown. Population growth can become unstable for a time, but typically dragons are removed from the prime material plane to the outer planes for a variety of reasons; typically, a pair of mated adults are chosen to breed elsewhere. This helps reduce the number of dragons being bred on Earth.


Old, Very Old and Ancient Dragons


Once reaching an age where dragon pairs become infertile, anywhere from 80 to 100 years of age, they will settle in a permanent lair where they may remain the rest of their lives. This will often not be the same location where they gave birth, as that was founded on the strange growth cycle of dragons and not necessarily with a desire to protect themselves. Old dragons will prefer deep caves inside mountains of every climate, large impassable swamp lands, the top ridge of ocean trenches or crevices of great size amidst glaciers, depending on the species of dragon.

While they do not become physically stronger or increase their hit dice, once old dragons settle they will being to accumulate energy levels, similar to the levels that characters gain as they accumulate experience. Dragons gain knowledge directly through the earth, through a meditation that is enabled by the magical design of their minds, enabling them to grow in power as clerics or mages, and most commonly as fighters. Typically, an old dragon will have gained their first level within 5 years of seclusion. Thereafter, they will gain a new level every 25-30 years, gaining hit points, spells, sage abilities and so on as they accumulate. These gains are indistinguishable from the levels a character will gain, except that dragons are able to discharge the spells they possess at will, without any requirement for the spells to be cast first.

Eventually, a dragon-fighter's skill will increase the number of attacks that a dragon will have each round, or increase the dragon's THAC0. In terms of sage abilities, old dragons tend to focus on general knowledge rather than applied abilities, since they expect to spend decades in contemplation, only occasionally rising to a discussion with other dragons of their age.

Old dragons, because of their experience and improved ability to target with their breath weapons, will cause 6 damage per hit die with their breath weapons. Very old dragons will cause 7 damage per hit die and ancient dragons will cause 8 damage. This is the primary physical difference, since the number of hit dice will not increase after the dragon becomes an adult, nor will the amount of damage the dragon is able to do with their physical bodies.

Typically, old dragons will become very old once they reach the 5th level of experience (between 160 and 195 total years of age). Very old dragons will become ancient once reaching the 9th level of experience (between 260 and 315 years of age). The maximum age of ancient dragons is unknown, but it is believed that they will pass away, if not discovered and killed, before they reach 600 years of age.

Dragonis Malignans

Also known as the "black dragon," generally perceived to be a vile-tempered flesh-eating creature prone to dwelling in remote swamps, bogs and extensive muskeg covered regions, particularly in northern temperate and sub-polar lands extending from Eastern Europe to Xachta. There are four known species of dragonis malignans, distinguished by the amount of grey, the pattern of horns crowning their skulls and their intelligence.

In the Pripyat marshes, where the dark grey variety (called wretched malignans among scholars) has been hunted almost to extinction, centuries of persecution have created a blood hatred between these dark grey dragons and most humanoids. The war against this species has created most legends about black dragons, that they are cruel, vicious and ruthless, with insatiable appetites and a special taste for children.

By comparison, the midnight-black variety that dwells throughout Magloshkagok, ostakis malignans, a close relative of the wretched variety, is virtually its opposite in nature and temperament. The ostakis is celebrated by the tribal goblins of the region, given ritual feasts during good seasons, treated well when encountered and are often sought out for council by elders. Ostakis dragons are also found in Bjarmaland, Samoyadia and to a lesser extent along the fringes of Nissi An.

Plavatis malignans are very dark greenish-grey in color and dwell in the river systems of the Ob, Irtysh, Yenisey and Lena, most likely to be found where the water is deepest. They have abandoned the use of their wings (which now consist of boneless membranes that drag along the river surface as they swim) and remain in water throughout the year, hibernating beneath ice in estuaries or deep lakes during the winter. The plavitis are generally unfriendly and rarely speak without outsiders, unless compelled.

Finally, the lesista malignans are forest dwellers, most often sheltering in rocky outcrops and caves in muskeg-sodden areas, or in forested hill country surrounded by large swampy areas such as the Vasyugan or Nimdobayek swamps. They are few in number but likely the most friendly of black dragons. They will generally give birth in mid-spring, then migrate once their hatchlings have grown into yeuldings.

On the whole, black dragons are territorial and will only bring an attack against unrecognized creatures moving into their domain. Ostakis and Lesista species will often take a wait and see attitude. When attacking, however, dragonis malignans spew a black bile that acts as an magical-based acid. This quickly breaks down once it leaves the dragon's body, making it impossible to preserve without magical means. Black dragons like to reserve this fluidic "breath" weapon for attacks from the air, flying above the tree tops and using the foliage for cover. They like to target boats on the water, to break a group's will to move deeper into their marsh.

In combat, they will prefer to fight immersed in water, as it decreases the size of their apparent body and forces enemies to move into the water to engage in hand-to-hand. Black dragons are excellent swimmers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Designing a Player Character

I've stood by and watched a lot of characters get rolled.  I've watched the reaction to the dice and the process of settling where the ability scores get placed, what equipment gets chosen and the eternal questions of race, class, skills and so on get answered.  Even after all this time, I rather enjoy this part of the game, even though I haven't rolled up a character to play myself in, oh, about eight years.

My core method of starting a character hasn't changed much since the early 1980s.  I have the player roll four 6-sided dice, discarding the lowest die.  These are then placed according to the player's will under the six familiar stats (do I have to list them?).  The player does this while keeping the minimum requirements for classes in mind.  This used to be understood by everyone that played, but I suspect that's changed, and that 5e no longer requires minimum stats to be met in order to be a ranger, a paladin, a monk and so on.

I'll get into the question of why minimum stats are important (eventually), but let's start with why using a 4d6 and not 3d6 matters.  From the beginning, I bought into the argument that player characters ought to be "better" than ordinary people.  Not because they're heroes or because they uphold some great cause, but just because a better collection of stats ensures a recognizable edge on NPCs without those stats.  We can take a simple depiction to express the value in this: a player is running across a rooftop, being chased by an NPC.  The player has to make a leap from this rooftop to that; the distance is part of the calculation, but so is the player's strength or the player's dexterity (depending on whether we feel the ability to cross the distance is important or the ability to land well on the other side).  The player makes a roll and then the NPC makes a roll.

We would, I think, rather play in a world where the likelihood is that the player will make the jump and the NPC will fail. This fits with our dramatic instincts and with our self-image.  Whether or not we do good things, we are the good guys (we always think everyone else is the bad guys).  It just seems right that our chance of making that jump ought to be better than someone else's.  And when we make it, and they don't, the world seems to be operating in good order.

Of course, we could miss.  And of course, the NPC might also make it.  But the number of times this departure from our mental projection occurs matters to us.  Too many departures and we'll start to feel the game is rigged somehow, that there aren't enough chances for us to win.  Again, we're the good guys.  The DM's NPC doesn't really matter, right?

There are many who feel it's right if the players have exactly as much power to make that jump as NPCs ... but I can't agree.  As a DM, I don't have near as much invested in a NPC as the player has in their character.  It takes very little for me to produce another NPC as needed, as I don't need to spend a lot of time determining all their stats, their equipment or their particular details ~ certainly not for an NPC chasing the character across some rooftops.  The difference is considerable.  And since the game is about the player, I'm fine with the game interface being balanced for the player.

The 4d6 seems to make a good average improvement, without that improvement being excessive.  I've seen campaigns where it was 6d6 and drop the bottom three dice, or eighteen 3d6 rolls, or some other combination, most of which were named in the old, old DMG from 1979.  Other systems seem too balanced towards a superior player or they seem unnecessarily time-wasting.  4d6 less one die gives an average of 12-something instead of 10.5.  That is just enough to matter, without being enough to make the player feel safe. It fits with the amount of play I want the player to have within the game's structure.

The next question, then, is why let the character select where the rolls go?  There is a top-to-bottom philosophy that insists the die roll order fits the order of stats.  I think I understand: DMs felt the players shouldn't be allowed to consistently run the same class of characters all the time.  "Why does Glenn always have to play a fighter?" goes the logic.  Yet I think this is a DM's problem.  If it were Glenn's problem, Glenn would stop playing a fighter.  I think we should stay away from one person imposing their problem on another person's contentment.  I don't think there's a strong argument to be made for such things.

I like that the player gets some control over what they have to run for what I expect to be a long time.  I don't start games that are meant to stop soon and I haven't found many players whining about having to play a cleric or a mage because that's what they chose two years ago in real time.  That may be mitigated by my henchman rule, but I don't remember it being a problem before.  If it is a good game, and if all the player classes can prove themselves to be relevant in tackling the game's interface, then I think players just like the fact that they're stronger and tougher and have more resources at their disposal, whatever their class is.  The problem arises, I think, when the character improves in level but no real change results as to what the character can do.  The fighter was always an issue here: more hit points and a better combat table, even more attacks, does not make for a dynamic, growing character.  Thankfully, I've solved that problem too.

The player, then, reorders the numbers around the character class requirements and around what obstacles the player intends for the character to overcome.  When considering the number under a given stat, the player thinks in advance, I'm going to be solving a lot of problems that need an effective intelligence or constitution or charisma.  I should then start building my character's goals around my strongest stats.

Hm?  No?  Don't look at it that way?  Well, you're not alone.  No one looks at it that way.  They think, a high stat under charisma will make people like me, a high stat under strength will mean I do a lot of damage, etcetera.  They don't build characters ~ or agendas ~ around their stats.  But they ought to.

Consider.  I start with six rolls (and I'll roll these out).  I have a 14, a 15, a 10, an 18, a 13 and a 9.  Swear to gawd, I just rolled an 18.

Could be a fighter, but there's only a little Con and not much of anything else; I'd rather try a cleric.  It works better for this example, anyway.  I won't get a wisdom bonus in spells for ages but I'll put the 18 under wisdom and the 15 under constitution.  I feel I'm going to want to run a congregation someday so I'll shift the 14 under charisma and I'll take the 13 under strength so I'm able to carry armor and weapons without getting slowed down much.  That's a 10 for intelligence, but I plan to be a bullheaded cleric anyway, and a 9 for dexterity.  I doubt I'm going to run over many rooftops.  I'm far too wise to get into that sort of situation.

I'm running with a DM that is very much like me, so as often as I can I'll try to build up a store of knowledge that will allow me to make a wisdom check when the situation seems unclear.  My DM feels that someone with a high wisdom ought to have a good sense about the motivations of NPCs or the best way to go about getting help from people and organizations.  Past that, my high constitution will mean I'm not afraid to enter into hard, difficult to survive places.  I won't be foolish about preparing for icy or sweltering climes (and my wisdom will give me checks there) and my constitution will give me a good, tough ability to hunker down when the weather and the terrain turns sour.

I'm not planning on influencing a lot of people with my charisma, at least not until I'm in a position of power, because I don't feel I want to lie much with this saintly man of the cloth; but I do want to be left alone.  A high charisma will tend to be treated among the better citizens and as I intend to keep myself clean and well-groomed, the charisma ought to help me if the rest of the party (or strangers in the area) start acting like a bunch of louts.  My strength is at least still above average ~ but not too much.  I'm going to be getting into the fight until I amass enough spells to be an effective caster, so I'll need good armor.  I guess I can take on a fair burden, too, since I'm going to be human.  That makes me a big, burly member of the party among these elves and half-elves, but I don't mind carrying a good, solid load.  If I move at a rate of 3 hexes per round, I should do all right.  Not a chaser, but good enough to stand in front of a mage.

Now, that intelligence.  My DM usually does intelligence checks when players take an action that is flat out stupid; I think with my experience at the game that I'll take my chances.  'Course, I'm won't be the brightest penny in the box where it comes to tactical games or giving orders; guess I'll let some other lead the army we accumulate someday, else I'll walk them straight into a rout.  And with my dexterity, I should be fairly deliberate about keeping my feet on firm ground, walking on the side away from the cliff and vying for knowledge that doesn't require much hand-to-eye coordination.

That, finally, gets us around to why minimum stats for classes are a good idea.  But, this post is already pretty long.  I guess I can manage that for another day.