THE COOKIE THIEF

A woman was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”

With each cookie she took, he took one too, when only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought … oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude!

She had never known when she had been so galled, and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologize, she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

By Valerie Cox in “A Matter of Perspective”

 

TPKO – THE NEW TPK

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Characters die in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. This isn’t Scooby Doo. Sometimes a knife in the dark, a well placed arrow, or the grinding teeth of a monster puts an end to the bold deeds of our mighty heroes and murder-hobos. Yet, the greatest risk is when a situation becomes so bleak that it escalates to the possibility of not one party member dying, but the entire adventuring party. This is the Total Party Kill or TPK.

The TPK is nothing new to players of role-playing games, especially those who play Dungeons & Dragons, any edition. There are plenty of reasons that a TPK may happen in a gaming session, however the most insidious and sometimes petty occurrence is when a Dungeon Master (DM) decides to do it just for bragging rights. This should never happen. A DM is a storyteller and arbitrator for the game. The goal of a good DM should never ever be to simply seek to kill playing characters.

As the DM, you have the most important role—facilitating the enjoyment of the game for the players. You provide the narrative and bring the words on these pages to life. You should always gauge the experience level of your players (not the characters), try to feel out (or ask) what they like in a game, and attempt to deliver the experience they’re after. Everyone’s character should have the opportunity to shine. Everyone should have fun.

I’m not saying that a TPK can’t be fun. Being a part of a TPK can be a great experience. As I have said many times before, I remember many of the characters who died during gaming sessions more often than those who survived. In fact, my very first character was a Ninja in AD&D Oriental Adventures who died by being stomped to death by an Ogre with Boots of Speed. The same Ogre hunted us all down and murdered us all. It was exciting, fun, and best of all: memorable. So the key is that a TPK should be fun and exciting. A good DM will make sure that a TPK serves a purpose in the storytelling aspect of the game and campaign.

ART OF THE TPK

Sometimes the TPK is planned and other times it just happens. But as the DM, you can choose to fudge or jut let things unfold. There will be times were a player’s character will die through no fault of his own. He or she will have done everything correctly, taken every reasonable precaution, but still the unpredictable roll of the dice will kill the character. Many times the DM should just allow this to happen because on the flip-side, the PCs will from time to time manage to defeat a monster or Big Bad through the same sort of freaky roll. But as the DM you do have the right to arbitrate the situation.

You can rule that the PC, instead of dying, suffers some sort of injury (minor or major) that may inflict more harm and annoyance in the long run than would a character’s death. The 5th edition Dungeons Master’s Guide (DMG) suggests possible “Lingering Injuries” on page 272. Alternatively, you could mix it up by using the Injury charts provided in Critical Hits Revisited or even spend less than a dollar for access to the Dynamic Critical Hit Table from the DM’s Guild. I’d also suggest using “The Critical Hit Table” or “Good Hits & Bad Misses” from Dragon magazine.

It is very demoralizing to the players to lose a cared-for-player character when they have played well. When they have done something
stupid or have not taken precautions, then let the dice fall where they may! Again, if you have available ample means of raising characters from the dead, even death is not too severe; but remember that the Resurrection Machine is a danger for any campaign.

TPKO, THE NEW TPK

I have been playing the 5th edition of D&D since it’s beginnings as D&D Next. I have found that the Total Party Knock Out is just as effective as the TPK during gameplay. The best part about it is that the characters are knocked unconscious instead of killed so there isn’t the difficulty of seeking resurrection or outright making a new character. Essentially, as written in the Basic Rules, When you drop to 0 hit points, you either die outright or fall unconscious.

Massive damage can kill you instantly. When damage reduces you to 0 hit points and there is damage remaining, you die if the remaining damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum.

For example, a cleric with a maximum of 12 hit points currently has 6 hit points. If she takes 18 damage from an attack, she is reduced to 0 hit points, but 12 damage remains. Because the remaining damage equals her hit point maximum, the cleric dies.

If damage reduces you to 0 hit points and fails to kill you, you fall unconscious. This unconsciousness ends if you regain any hit points.

Whenever you start your turn with 0 hit points, you must make a special saving throw, called a death saving throw, to determine whether you creep closer to death or hang onto life. Unlike other saving throws, this one isn’t tied to any ability score. You are in the hands of fate now, aided only by spells and features that improve your chances of succeeding on a saving throw.

Roll a d20. If the roll is 10 or higher, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. A success or failure has no effect by itself. On your third success, you become stable (see below). On your third failure, you die. The successes and failures don’t need to be consecutive; keep track of both until you collect three of a kind. The number of both is reset to zero when you regain any hit points or become stable.

When you make a death saving throw and roll a 1 on the d20, it counts as two failures. If you roll a 20 on the d20, you regain 1 hit point. If you take any damage while you have 0 hit points, you suffer a death saving throw failure. If the damage is from a critical hit, you suffer two failures instead. If the damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum, you suffer instant death.

The best way to save a creature with 0 hit points is to heal it. If healing is unavailable, the creature can at least be stabilized so that it isn’t killed by a failed death saving throw. You can use your action to administer first aid to an unconscious creature and attempt to stabilize it, which requires a successful DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) check.

stable creature doesn’t make death saving throws, even though it has 0 hit points, but it does remain unconscious. The creature stops being stable, and must start making death saving throws again, if it takes any damage. A stable creature that isn’t healed regains 1 hit point after 1d4 hours.

GO FORTH AND MULTIPLY

So now you just have to give it a try. Understand that players who come to believe their characters are invincible and unstoppable because of very low risk of character death begin to play D&D vastly differently than those who believe that in any encounter their character might be outright murdered. Your players should know that within your game death is possible and they should fear it. If your players don’t fear death for their characters there is no adrenaline rush when they’re in knee deep in crap during a big battle. That rush is something you can’t replace. Your players WILL catch on to you going easy on them. SO DON’T. Challenge them. And if the TPKO happens, so be it. If it turns into a TPK … that’s the life of an adventurer. If there wasn’t danger involved then every buck-toothed farm boy would be wading into the dungeons, right?

 

Salves, Ointments and Balms

 

Playing characters guzzle potions, snatch up magical swords, collect rings, and use magical scrolls with regular frequency during their adventures. However, every once in awhile, the playing characters may encounter some strange liquids, pastes, and lotions that are completely out of the norm. Just be careful what you start smearing on your skin, I mean who wants to use a lich’s hand lotion, anyway?

KEOGHTOM’S OINTMENT

This glass jar, 3 inches in diameter, contains 1d4 + 1 doses of a thick mixture that smells faintly of aloe. The jar and its contents weigh 1/2 pound. As an action, one dose of the ointment can be swallowed or applied to the skin. The creature that receives it regains 2d8 + 2 hit points, ceases to be poisoned, and is cured of any disease.

HORRIFIC LINIMENT

This glass jar looks just like Keoghtom’s Ointment, however it smells like garlic rather than aloe. As an action, one dose of the liniment can be splattered on a victim with a successful melee attack. The target is immediately inflicted with the effects of the following spell effects: Contagion, and Slow. Also the victim acquires the Poisoned Condition.

MARVELOUS PIGMENTS

Typically found in 1d4 pots inside a fine wooden box with a brush (weighing 1 pound in total), these pigments allow you to create three-dimensional objects by painting them in two dimensions. The paint flows from the brush to form the desired object as you concentrate on its image.

Each pot of paint is sufficient to cover 1,000 square feet of a surface, which lets you create inanimate objects or terrain features—such as a door, a pit, flowers, trees, cells, rooms, or weapons—that are up to 10,000 cubic feet. It takes 10 minutes to cover 100 square feet.

When you complete the painting, the object or terrain feature depicted becomes a real, nonmagical object. Thus, painting a door on a wall creates an actual door that can be opened to whatever is beyond. Painting a pit on a floor creates a real pit, and its depth counts against the total area of objects you create.

Nothing created by the pigments can have a value greater than 25 gp. If you paint an object of greater value (such as a diamond or a pile of gold), the object looks authentic, but close inspection reveals it is made from paste, bone, or some other worthless material.

If you paint a form of energy such as fire or lightning, the energy appears but dissipates as soon as you complete the painting, doing no harm to anything.

STANLEY’S CURE-ALL OIL

This small brown bottle contains one dose of 3 ounces of oil that contains a mixture of: mineral oil, beef fat, red pepper, turpentine, and camphor. When the oil is consumed, the drinker immediately becomes sick to the stomach, takes 1d4+4 damage, and becomes impaired by the Paralyzed condition. This item is based on the traditional folk remedy called “Rattlesnake Oil” or simply “Snake Oil.”

 DDlastpotion

UNDERDARK STONE

“The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.”

The Underdark is a cruel, strange, and mysterious place. Many parts of the Underdark of Faerûn are suffused with a magical radiation that the drow call faerzress. A remnant of the mighty forces that originally shaped the terrain of the Underdark, faerzress distorts and interferes with certain types of magic. It also changes things, mutating them into the odd and wonderous. Below are a few examples of materials within the Underdark that have been altered due to their fusion with faerzress.

 

 

SICKSTONE

Originally discovered by the ancient sage James Jacobs, sickstone is found deep within the tunnels and caverns of the Underdark. The radiation of the faerzress has permeated the stone itself, sickening it on a primeval level. Sickstone is found in large deposits and veins, easily identifiable by its glimmering silvery-green color. The illumination provided by sickstone radiates to a distance of 40 feet, and those within its glow feel a sense of dread and unease. If a living being remains within the glow of sickstone for more than one minute, saving throws are required. A living creature must succeed at Constitution Saving Throw (DC:13) or become affected by the Poisoned condition. A poisoned creature has disadvantage on Attack rolls and Ability Checks. Every hour that the creature remains within the illumination provided by sickstone after becoming Poisoned, the creature temporarily loses 1d2 Constitution points as its health, stamina, and vital force are sapped. Creatures that are immune to disease are immune to the debilitating effects of sickstone. Apart from its glow and sickening aura, sickstone should be treated as normal stone, with the exception that natural sunlight causes it to crumble to chalky, inert powder in a matter of seconds.

SOURSTONE

Sourstone is identified by its color and smell. A being coming into contact with sourstone will notice that it glows with a faintly lavender hue and smells of soured milk. It has a bitter taste and is unpleasant to consume. As with sickstone, the illumination of sourstone is debilitating. Remaining within 10 feet of sourstone’s glow causes a living creature to slowly become exhausted. After being within 10 feet of sourstone for a full hour living creatures must succeed at a Constitution Saving Throw (DC: 15) for become affected by the Exhaustion condition, level 1.  Every additional hour of exposure threatens to increase this condition to a deeper level, ending in death at level 6. Every hour after the creature becomes Exhausted due to sourstone, the creature must make another Constituion Saving Throw (DC:15) with a -1 to the roll. Each additional hour adds another -1. Failure adds another level of Exhaustion. The effect of this condition cannot be ended without leaving the area of sourstone.

Exhaustion Effects
Level Effect
1 Disadvantage on Ability Checks
2 Speed halved
3 Disadvantage on Attack rolls and saving throws
4 Hit point maximum halved
5 Speed reduced to 0
6 Death

BUNKER STORAGE ROOM

A bunker is a defensive military fortification designed to protect people or valued materials from falling bombs or other attacks. Bunkers are mostly underground, compared to blockhouses which are mostly above ground. They were used extensively in World War I, World War II, and the Cold War for weapons facilities, command and control centers, and storage facilities (for example, in the event of nuclear war). Bunkers can also be used as protection from tornadoes.

Trench bunkers are small concrete structures, partly dug into the ground. Many artillery installations, especially for coastal artillery, have historically been protected by extensive bunker systems. Typical industrial bunkers include mining sites, food storage areas, dumps for materials, data storage, and sometimes living quarters. When a house is purpose-built with a bunker, the normal location is a reinforced below-ground bathroom with fibre-reinforced plastic shells. Bunkers deflect the blast wave from nearby explosions to prevent ear and internal injuries to people sheltering in the bunker. Nuclear bunkers must also cope with the underpressure that lasts for several seconds after the shock wave passes, and block radiation.

A bunker’s door must be at least as strong as the walls. In bunkers inhabited for prolonged periods, large amounts of ventilation or air conditioning must be provided. Bunkers can be destroyed with powerful explosives and bunker-busting warheads.

FIFTH EDITION AND GAME BLOAT

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Wizards of the Coast has had a lot of surveys, and the one thing I always make sure to address in my comments is … GAME BLOAT!

Back in 2000, Wizards of the Coast released the Third Edition of Dungeons & Dragons … and it was a good thing! They also released an Open Content third party rule system called “The D20 System.”  This was a new an exciting way to allow other publishers to make “official” D&D Third edition sourcebooks and material. It made sense, because back in the days of AD&D there were always some companies making AD&D books that were “unofficial” supplements to the game. For example, Role-Aids jumps to mind with their yellow corner shouting that it is compatiable with AD&D.

angry-wizard-fez-iii-720-add-role-aids

So anyway, the D20 license comes out and suddenly all these Third Party companies are making books for D&D Third Edition. At first it seemed great! It was a unprecedented phenomenon. Suddenly the market was flooded with all kinds of adventures and sourcebooks for use with D&D Third. We had companies like Necromancer Games, Malhavoc Press, Green Ronin, Goodman Games, and Mystic Eye pumping out all kinds of (usually affordable) books that flooded the market.

… FLOODED THE MARKET AND BLOATED THE GAME …

And FEATS were the worst part of it as far as I am concerned. There were a gazillion books that added a gamillion feats and they were usually absolutely terrible and annoying. It made the job of a Dungeon Master more difficult because players wanted to use all these KEWL POWERS that made the game unbalanced and less fun.

I remember sitting down with a player who wanted to make an Eldritch Knight. When we got together to create the character, he slapped down ive different Third Party books along with the Player’s Handbook. By the end of the session, I wanted to strangle him. It was horrible.

In fact, at one point there was an entire marketing campaign by D20 Monkey to create a Character Builder that allowed you to make a character for D&D Third using all the Core and Third Party publishers. It literally took a computer program to sort through all the nonsense a make a single character. By the time a player had a character built, and a DM could actually run  a game it was obvious that there would be no killing that character within the storyline. I mean, who wanted to kill a character off and have to go through all the trouble of making another FREAKING character with that Character Builder program??! It suddenly made sense why Marcie was so upset. She didn’t want to have to use the D20 Character Builder to remake Black Leaf.

If your players are going to react like this person did in the Chick Tract called "Dark Dungeons" then you have so many other peoples going on other than how to midigate Death in a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Seek professional help, seriously.
If your players are going to react like this person did in the Chick Tract called “Dark Dungeons” then you have so many other peoples going on other than how to midigate Death in a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Seek professional help, seriously.

After a few years the D20 System wasn’t that awesome anymore. It actually started to become associated with licensed garbage.  If you saw the pretty like white and red D20 symbol the first thing that came to mind was “yuck.” Most of the products being released were half-assed and absolutely horrible. “Oh look,” I’d think to myself. “The D20 Book of Half-Gnomes. Just what I wanted to go with the D20 Book of Erotica and the D20 Ultimate Guide to Treasure #5.” These low quality products filled the marketplace with junk and annoying material, including rules that were poorly tested and not thought out for game balance. All it was for these companies was a money grab with twenty sides.

dndalmightyd20

Don’t get me wrong, some of the D20 products were great. I loved just aout everything that was put out by Necromancer Games, Swords & Sorcery, and Malhavoc Press.  Rappan Athuk, Iron Heroes, and Blackmoor are some of my favorite D20 books. I also was happy to see D20 versions of Call of Cthuhlu and Star Wars but only so I could loot the contents and add things to my games of Dungeons & Dragons. If I wanted to play either of those games, I’d be playing the Classic version. For example, there is no better game of Star Wars – in my opinon – than the classic d6 system games! And I really enjoyed games lke D20 Modern and Dark*Matter. But the low quality of these other Third Party companies gave the impression that the D20 product line was garbage.

I’d like to point out books like “Good” and “Evil” by Alderac Entertainment Group. I admit that I did buy their “Dungeons” book but it was regretful to be honest. They literally just released a series of ONE WORD BOOKS with mostly fluff material and some half-hearted artwork.

As a Dungeon Master, I was happy to see that there were a lot of adventurers hitting the scene with the D20 System. There were awesome ones like the Rappan Athuk series.

But in the end there was just too much crap out there and the game suffered for it.

dndsnippingdice

I’m glad to see that for the past few years, Wizards has introduced a good amount of material for D&D 5th edition without creating BLOAT. I like the idea that Wizards is working hand in hand with companies like Kobold, Sasquatch, and Green Ronin to produce materials. I’m happy that they made the DM’s Guild to allow folks to create materials under a license that it’s like the D20 license. And I’m really glad that Wizards is being smart in playtesting additions to their game through the use of articles and surveys.

Hopefully in 2017 the game continues to expand without BLOAT.

Happy New Year!

PRE-GENERATED CHARACTERS

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TWENTY ALTARS FOR YOUR CAMPAIGN

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An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices and worship are made for religious purposes. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship.

Here are some suggestions for adding a little flair to an altar based on the type of deity worshipped.

1d20

  1. God of Time /Age: Clockwork Device or Sundial
  2. God of Fire: A large fire pit or smithy anvil
  3. God of Air: A large open rooftop marked with runes
  4. God of Water: A deep well filled with murky liquid
  5. God of Earth: A huge cave filled with heaping mounds of soil
  6. God of Fortune/Fate: A gambling den where the occupants are the sacrifice
  7. God of Death/Undead: The polished skull of a huge monster carved with runes
  8. God of Night/Heavens: A large telescope made of solid bronze
  9. God of Justice: A long thick length of chain wrapped around a cinder block
  10. God of Travel/Food/Drink: A table made of solid silver marked with tiny engraved runes
  11. God of Love/Sex: A huge plush bed
  12. God of Madness: A mirror that has been broken
  13. God of Pain: A huge torture wrack smeared with dried blood
  14. God of Protection: A fist-sized pendant featuring a pentangle
  15. God of Hunting: A pile of animal skulls
  16. God of Vice/Pleasure: The naked body of a man or woman loyal to the god
  17. God of War: A heap of corpses freshly taken from a battlefield
  18. God of Thieves: The withered hand of a deceased master thief
  19. God of Wisdom: A huge book that must be held by another priest
  20. God of Seas/Fish: A large ruined boat or ship covered with seaweed

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JUST BEAT THE DEVIL OUT OF IT

How to wash your brush by Bob Ross.

NEW CIRCLE WARBEAST?

I doubt it. But if those things on the front were POW 21 cannons with a 6″ spray, I would totally buy it.