Tree-Lair of the Drop Bears
March 7th, 2020

I’ve been running a heavily modified version of the 1st Edition AD&D module The Forbidden City for our group. There is a tribe of bugbears — which our group has renamed “drop bears” because of the bugbears’ preferred tactics and the Australian urban legend — who live on a series of platforms built high in the branches of the giant trees in the city, so I had to make a battlemap for this location because it is just a wild and crazy environment to have a battle in! (And those make the best battlemaps.)

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Completely Exhausted!
February 26th, 2020

Apparently there is this mechanic in 5e called “exhaustion” that takes effect when…reasons. I don’t really know beyond “falling unconscious” triggers the effect. I’m only aware of the mechanic because I read a play report regarding a desert chase scene an adventuring group undertook while in bad, bad shape, which exhaustion only made worse (slower movement, inability to spend or regain HD, etc). The idea intrigued me, as it seemed to add a level of tension to play that simple hit point loss does not.

My understanding is that there are levels of exhaustion, from one to five. The first level of exhaustion doesn’t seem to have a huge effect, but level five means you can’t move, defend yourself, cast spells, use HD, or regain hp, or pretty much act in any way until you bring down your exhaustion level with a full night of rest (healing spells don’t help).

My inclination is not to add this as a constant mechanic to the game, but to add it as a sparingly utilized mechanic for tense, long-term situations — wilderness treks, pursuits, moving through extreme environments, failure to take regular long rests, severe injury and unconsciousness, and so on — and to have only three levels of exhaustion, from “tired, but fully capable” to “halved movement, penalty to all actions” to “completely incapable”.[1]

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Adventure Design in Short
February 14th, 2020

One of the methods I use to design and run adventures is by using organic situational development based on a pre-existing bare-bones infrastructure, fleshed out in play by both player character actions and by the addition of customized random event lists. Which totally sounds like some kind of crazy corporate jargon — localized variegated synergyzms?

But here is what that actually means and how one would, themselves, go about doing so.

The short version, anyways.

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Oh My Modifiers!
December 28th, 2019

Which is faster, a cheetah or a jaguar?
Which is stronger?

The answers to these questions generally seem obvious, as they note basic biological differences across (even related) species. However, there has been an argument that race-based attribute modifiers in RPGs should be removed for a variety of reasons: they are “unrealistic”, they are “conceptually limiting”, or even that they perpetuate racism. I find none of these positions particularly convincing enough to remove modifiers, but if you do, there may be different ways to approach the issue while hopefully avoiding the perceived pitfalls of the above.

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DC Without a Tire Fire
December 11th, 2019

In our D&D hack, there are no specific skills, no skill points to distribute, and so on. To attempt to use “skills”, players instead roll Attribute checks based on the most logical Attribute involved in what their character is attempting, and receive a bonus to that roll if their Profession or Background applies and/or if they have the appropriate tools or toolkit for the job.

In most games, the success of such skill checks is based on a sliding scale of difficulty–represented by a difficulty class (DC)–that attempts to account for all sorts of various calculated factors. I’ve found setting the difficulty for skill checks in this way, and doing so with consistent fairness, can sometimes be challenging and can simply bog-down play. This was something I felt needed to be simplified, and as such ruled that any difficult task a character attempts requires the a player’s modified roll to reach or exceed a result of 12. So when a player asks what they need to roll when attempting a skill-related task, the response is easy: 12. To the point they no longer need to ask: they already know what succeeds.

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