all of life can be approached from a perspective of hop drink usage, but its a bit hard because it actually works like a horses shoe
I’m back, with more common magic items! These ones aren’t entirely the kind of thing players would want to have, but they make for fun tools in a DM’s arsenal. Obviously the chandelier could be pretty strong, but it’s intended to create a “no fighting” zone.
It might look a little weird (and it probably will, going forward), because I’m working from a new computer and don’t have my previous resources, so I’m using the homebrewery (with Firefox, which it isn’t built for). Thanks for being patient with it.
I made a D&D quiz to see what kind of player you are most like
You’re right, FIGHTER! It doesn’t make sense… So I fixed it
patreon | twitter
Them’s the Rules
If you read my last article on the Natural 20 then you might already know how this is going to go. I got asked to talk about Rules as Written, and Rules as Intended (RAW and RAI) and what I thought about it. I did some thinking about it and I came to realize that there’s no real reason to pit the two against each other. I ended up looking at some pretty common spells in 5th edition D&D and realizing that in a perfect world, these two would be pretty much the same.
But I think in the end, there’s one philosophy that I’m in favor of above the other, because in the end, it gives D&D the one thing that it needs more than anything else.
While banging pots and pans again you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Player’s Handbook and reading it front to back, even if you’re a player. Someone else will, no doubt, forget why wizards need spellbooks while clerics only need a spellcasting focus. What even Is a spellcasting focus? Why not use a component pouch? PHB baby. It’s all there.
And I think that we’ve got to talk about what the rules are for, before we talk about which philosophy I think is most important to follow. Because D&D is at its heart, collaborative storytelling which gets dangerously close to improv. But what sets it apart from pure improvisational acting is that there are rules (yeah I know there are “rules” in improv but whatever), without any kind of rules in the game nothing separates it from any other TTRPG.
So when we turn to the PHB we get a nice rule that came over from Magic: the Gathering (or at least that’s where I recognized it from) that rules that are General are beaten by rules that are specific.
What that means is that if rule 1. says: don’t do X, but later rule 2. says: Do X when Y, rule 2. will win out. The more specific a rule is, the greater power it has to break other rules. It helps to make games easy to learn and also easy to master (although a bit confusing the farther in the pool you decide to jump). It’s why so many people are able to make their own D&D materials without having to have played that long.
This rule, that general beats specific, means that rules as written gets more strength. Rules are not made to be broken unless we say so. What gets me hung up about rules as intended is that is is necessary to a game like D&D. D&D is by its own rules a very open ended game. There are no clear boundaries, no clear win condition, and no way to “start” the game. It can’t be played by itself (even theoretically). So D&D needs ambiguity to be playable, it is fueled by the unknown.
So it starts to seem that with all these unknowns, that the game gives us some very important “knowns”, key facts about the world that we’re playing in that gives some ground to work with. The more you look at the rules the more you realize it’s very generic, it tries to cover a lot of ground with very little. Yet there’s a persistence of very specific text, especially around combat and magic.
Because all of D&D on the super, microscopically, specific level is supposed to be handled by the players, day to day activities. The big stuff is handled by rules, and it’s supposed to be non-specific. The rules don’t dictate how the sword is swung, or where the enemy blocks, simply whether or not they get hit. The rules as intended and the rules as written are harmonious in their simplicity: get the job done, don’t get bogged down. This is the ideal state, there’s very little confusion about what is right and wrong.
Magic is where the biggest hiccup arrives and it’s unfortunately because of the language that is used to describe it. Spells like fireball aren’t mired down by the tedious questions of its execution, it’s a fireball. How the spellcaster summons the fire, or how they throw it (an arc, a straight line, can it bounce?) is inconsequential. It explodes, rolls lots of dice, is lots of fun. But a spell like Tenser’s Floating Disc is so legendary because the intent of the spell and its actual use are so diverged in the minds of the player. An indestructible floating disc that can move independently of its caster is a spell with infinite possibilities for the inventive mind.
So I think that when you’re looking at spells or other rules that seem a little shaky, you should follow this list:
1. Rules as Written:
Follow the rules to the letter, but try and define all of the moving parts. Make sure you know what an “object” defines, and look at the other specifics of the ruling. Also check to make sure that there aren’t any other conflicting, or superimposing rules. Any healing spell should be measured against another higher level healing spell (i.e. why can’t cure wounds or mending restore body parts?).
2. Rules as Intended
Follow the rules as they seem to point to. Check parts of the spell or rule that don’t serve any mechanical importance, like how the spell is cast, or what classes can cast it. Check other source books, or look at what the general consensus is within the community. This is also a time to see what kind of game is being run, a gruesome battle in castle Ravenloft is different than a fight to save the world from an invasion of killer rabbits.
The RAI are the bigger beast, it takes longer to argue and debate what purpose a spell has when there’s no arbiter to decide. But I think if you’re ever in a situation where the rules can be decided by the book, you should go with the book. I’m counting Unearthed Arcana, writers and directors tweets as well. The game is a living document and will constantly change to adjust to what’s wanted, needed, and necessary.
I don’t think that you should really dismiss one or the other, both rules as intended and rules as written should harmoniously exist together. But in the case where you have to decide between the two, I think it’s safer to back the books statements rather than jump to conclusions.
I think Jeremy Crawford puts it best in a 2015 article from WotC:
“The DM is key. Many unexpected things can happen in a D&D campaign, and no set of rules could reasonably account for every contingency. If the rules tried to do so, the game would become unplayable. An alternative would be for the rules to severely limit what characters can do, which would be counter to the open-endedness of D&D. The direction we chose for the current edition was to lay a foundation of rules that a DM could build on, and we embraced the DM’s role as the bridge between the things the rules address and the things they don’t.”
Carrying on the tradition, here are more cheesy D&D valentines!
The Tyrant 20
There’s no feeling that matches the exhilaration of that fabled glory; the return of the prodigal son. When you’ve rolled the dice so many times that statistics must render you your hard earned reward: the Nat 20. Stories are born from the 20 on that hallowed die, but how we treat this number can sometimes prove to be bane more often than boon.
I asked a good friend of mine @basalt-dnd what he felt were some touchy subjects in D&D. Of course I should have realized that the nat 20 (and how many people treat it) would come up. Because I’ve heard a different story from every Dungeon Master (Game Master if you want). I’ve also heard a story from Literally Everyone about a game where the nat 20 saved them from the surefire grasp of death, or helped them achieve an impossible feat; and I think it’s a hard topic to talk about because rolling a nat 20 has nothing to do with the player and everything to do with the Dungeon Master.
This is obviously an opinion piece, so I’ll be really quick about it in case you just want to know my opinion:
Natural 20s don’t help, and puts luck above consequences
I won’t hide the fact that I am a very staunch defender of the Player’s Handbook. Right out the gate I’m gonna tell you that I’m gonna quote the book, and if you think I’m already crazy- hold on for a minute.
The Player’s Handbook says that the only times when a natural twenty will do anything besides what the rules already dictate is when you’re attacking or making a death saving throw (check pages 194 and 197 if you don’t believe me). And those are already really tame additions, getting a 20 on your attack means that it automatically succeeds, but you only roll twice the damage dice, not double, just twice (statisticians, go wild). And death saving throws just get you back up to 1 hp on a 20, nothing game breaking there. So why do we give the natural 20 so much leeway? Short Answer: because it’s fun.
Allowing ability scores to automatically succeed on a natural 20 is really fun and it lets your players feel unstoppable. You feel that rush instantly when you get the nat 20. The part that worries me is that a lot of DMs just give in to the desire to let the dice make the game fun, instead of crafting the experience to be fun.
1st level rogues back-flipping into third story windows, strongmen grappling dragons, sorcerers surviving boiling lava, fighters ignoring a dragons fire breath; or even worse, tiny Halflings lifting horses, clumsy wizards juggling daggers, and weak stomached bards downing gallons of ale. I’m certain you’ve heard the stories. They’re all fun but only because of the irony.
When players make decisions they’re testing the waters of their abilities, D&D (or any other TTRPG) is a wide ocean with no clear edge. Players have no guidance for what’s real or not real until they push, and the world pushes back (there’s some law out there about that). And when the Nat 20 comes around, there’s no push back.
It’s fun, but there’s no build up to the stage where characters are able to perform these feats of power. The automatic success of the Nat 20 gives no tempering of expectations, and often it feels bad when your character juggles the daggers, and then immediately misses with their fireball. The reason is because we don’t need the Nat 20 anyway.
Nearly impossible Difficulty Checks are at 30, requiring a player to not only get the natural 20, but also have a +10 skill modifier to achieve it. At lower levels that’s physically impossible to achieve, at higher levels it’s possible (but unlikely), and at the highest levels your characters should be walking antique collectors with 3-4 magic items on them. The Nat 20 breaks this intended curve by allowing players to simply ignore that climb in the beginning. Again, no push back.
This is a minor grudge, because if we still follow the rules the Nat 20 still reigns supreme. Hard tasks have a DC of 20, meaning any character can still overcome a hard task if they roll the Nat 20 (unless they have a negative modifier, youch). Very Hard tasks have a DC of 25 meaning you can overcome it with a Nat 20 and a universal +5 modifier, which is easy to get even at lower levels. And going back to Nearly Impossible, a +10 bonus to an ability score is not difficult to achieve at higher levels, especially with rogues and bards. Following the rules, your character does these awesome acrobatic feats, or incredible tests of strength when they’ve built up to it; the climax of a story, instead of a funny power hiccup in the beginning.
All together, I think that the Nat 20 doesn’t need to be an automatic success no matter how much it might make sense to make it that way. Because achieving similar results is just as easy with your characters natural bonuses. The only difference is that automatic successes benefit characters where it doesn’t make sense.
Status Descriptions for when my players ask how the monster looks
It’s been a lot of work, but the Underwater Adventure PDF is finished! It includes five races, some magic items, a couple additional rules and variants, and reworks of underwater animals! This PDF was made as a ‘Thank you!’ for supporting my project to bring D&D to local libraries.
Download it, or use it online through Dropbox
Reblogs are greatly appreciated!
thee knoweth i hadst to doth t to those folk
Today we have another installment of hero tokens! You can custom-color them yourself in our Token Editor, and there’s a mobile-friendly version coming soon. :)
Read more: https://2minutetabletop.com/hero-character-tokens-3/
(Note - image above is The Road by skraww)
Reddit user totallynotabeholder compiled a list of 100 random encounters without a combat focus for players travelling on foot or horseback between cities, towns or villages.
I don’t want to steal his thunder, so I’ll list just 10 (of the 100) that I enjoyed.
A bard or minstrel, half dressed and looking over his shoulder
Limping bailiff and his badly beaten prisoner
Escaped prisoner, manacled and carrying a religious icon
Charismatic priest and retinue of apostles, who are mumbling to each other and won’t make eye contact
A starving beggar, willing to trade information for food
A deserting soldier carrying a memento of a fallen friend
A thrown rider, trying to catch his horse
Guarded and chained prisoners digging a ditch
A potion merchant, with a backpack full of ‘alternative’ potions
A backwoods moonshiner, offering free samples of his wares
Go check out the full list at the link above.
While you’re there, check out the subreddit r/d100 for other excellent contributions.
And check out Tabletop Gaming Resources for more art, tips and tools for your game!
they did what