Tuesday, October 21, 2014

5e Character Sheet Update

I've uploaded updated versions of my 5e chracter sheet designs, now including a space for Death Saves. That's a bit of the sheet that's sure to get plenty of use.

Mark I: A4 double-sided

Mark II: A5 booklet fold

Monday, October 20, 2014

D&D 5e DM Screen — Progress

I've filled up three pages, which is sufficient to make the screen self-standing. It could include one more page, but any more than that and it would be getting unmanageably wide, so I'll try it out as it is for a while and see how it goes.

No doubt there will be more stuff I think will be vital to have at my finger-tips once the DMG comes out in December.

You can download the most recent version here — the PDF is about 195 KB.

Friday, October 17, 2014

D&D5e — DM Screen

I am working on a DM Screen for D&D 5e, and I've run into a bit of a blockage.

It really needs at least three panes to stand up by itself and to guard the flanks of my oh-so-secret DM dice rolling and note taking and crap like that. However, I'm struggling to fill even two panes. There's more equipment price lists I could throw in there, but that seems like rather a waste of space when all one really needs is where to find them without any extraneous page-turning.

I imagine there will be more stuff that might be useful when the DMG comes out, but I won't be getting mine until a couple of weeks after it's released, so about Xmas time.

If anyone is feeling of a mind to help, take a look at this WiP PDF, and feel free to make any suggestions for stuff you think would be useful to a struggling DM in the middle of a game.

The pages are each 180 x 297 mm (that's roughly 7" x 12"), which I find low enough to see over easily, but tall enough to keep my super-secret DM secrets secret.

Note: I'm not really all that concerned with the sanctity of DM secrets these days, and do most of my rolling and stuff out in the searing light of day, but it is useful to have handy information at one's fingertips to avoid constantly paging through manuals for stuff.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sound Effects

I've been taking a look at Syrinscape, a sound mixing/playback app aimed at the tabletop roleplaying market. The app is free, and there are some free soundscapes available with it, but for the most part the soundscapes cost about four bucks a pop (and there are some collections available which will get you a small price cut for buying a bunch of them at once).

It assumes, of course, that one has one's gaming area set up for sound, and that one is able to make use of a computer (or iOS/Android tablet) at the table. That's not a big ask these days I guess.

I like the way that it blends sounds together, and fades seamlessly from one to another. I've always fancied the idea of being able to have ambient sounds running during the game — things like wind noises, rain, thunder, crowd/street noises, all that sort of thing — to reinforce mood, and this app seems to be ideal for that.

Unfortunately my gaming area isn't set up to make best use of it right now. My computer is nearby, but I'd have to be getting up and down to activate the noises I want, which is far from ideal. However, I do have a little netbook that sits around mostly doing nothing, and I have a spare set of speakers, so I might just give it a try-out one of these days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

D&D5e Character Sheet

I put together this character sheet for D&D5e for a couple of reasons. It includes an arrangement of characteristics and their related skills and saves that I like, and it's rather less rigidly laid out and sterile than some. It could be more compact, but I wanted to leave plenty of room so that you don't have to cramp up your writing hand fitting in teensy-tiny pencil scrawls.

I've printed it with both pages on the same sheet too, and everything is still easily legible. That has the added advantage of giving you a whole extra side of the page to use as a jotter.

The link points to a PDF file, approximately 160 KB in size.


This version is laid out with both of the above pages on the same side of an A4 sheet, to be printed double-sided and folded down to an A5 tent-fold. The inner pages are lined and framed, but otherwise blank — write whatever you want in there.

This one is also about 160 KB.

GHQ Microarmour — SiG-33

I just received another order of early WWII German 1:285 scale microarmour from GHQ, amongst which are these — the SiG-33 self-propelled 150mm howitzer.

It's about as simple as self-propelled artillery gets, being nothing more than a gun plonked on top of a Panzer I tank chassis and a welded steel box shoved around it. They got more sophisticated as the war progressed, but even this initial stop-gap design was very successful.

I may have to buy some decals for the markings; my hands aren't as steady as they once were, and painting them in this tiny scale is becoming something of an ordeal.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Because you can never have too many worms...

...here's another one.

OK, I guess you can have too many worms, especially if those worms are parasitic and giving you some kind of disgusting tropical diseases.

This is a re-paint of one of Reaper's 77006: Great Worm plastics.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Unburied Treasure

I was fossicking around amongst some old storage boxes and found some things.

First up, some Magic - the Gathering cards.

I have no idea where these came from. I've never played Magic in my life, and I would certainly never pay actual money for the cards, so I can only assume they came free with a magazine or something. Probably a Dragon magazine, now that I come to think of it. Or Dungeon. I used to buy them both at one time, though not for years. I spent arseloads of money on D&D3e-related stuff before I finally got tired of it. So many arseloads.

Magic was huge when I was hanging out at the UCSA Lower Common Room back in the distant past, whenever the hell that was. There always seemed to be three or five games going on at any time. As I recall, the players tended to favour keeping their cards in little plastic bags, presumably so that they couldn't be identified by DNA traces left on them. Or something.

Also, I found a bunch of WotC pre-painted plastic Star Wars minis.

Including this particularly balletic rendition of that loveable old son of fun, Darth Vader.


They might come in handy if we ever get back to doing any more Traveller gaming or the like, so I'll transfer them into the general miniature stock and hopefully won't forget that they exist if and when we ever get around to needing them.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cyclops Skeleton and Pathfinder Goblin

This isn't a new figure. In fact I painted it about twenty-five years ago (bloody hell!), but I've left it since then gloss varnished and sans-base. I've finally got around to giving it something of a scenic base, and squirting it with matte varnish. Never let it be said that I rush things.

It's a Grenadier figure, I believe, and stands about 70mm tall from foot to crown. I've never actually used it in a game, and I really should remedy that.

This one is considerably newer. It's one of Reaper's Pathfinder goblins. The Pathfinder artistic style is pretty cartoonish, and that doesn't always work, but I quite like their version of goblins — they're like little bipedal piranha with an attention deficit disorder. Not stupid, exactly, but definitely with poor impulse control.

This little guy is about 18mm to the top of his little flat head, not counting the thickness of the base. I have a few more ( another seven, I think). I got them from Reaper's first Bones Kickstarter.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reaper Ettin

77103: Nor'Okk, Ettin - sculpted by Tre Manor
I've never been a big fan of the GW-style green-skinned humanoid trope, but I thought I might give it one go, and this is it. I'm still not wholly convinced, but it could have been worse I suppose.

As with almost all my miniatures these days, this is one of Reaper's Bones plastics, mounted on a big washer for stability.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

LMoP — players' map

I've been running our gaming group through the D&D5e Starter Set adventure, Lost Mine of Phandelver, which is set near the city of Neverwinter™ in the Forgotten Realms™ (which has taken over from Greyhawk™ as the official™ D&D®™ world™©).

I don't use the Forgotten Realms™ as my campaign world, but I've got plenty of empty space left on my maps to slot this bit in somewhere.

Anyway, there's an overland area map supplied with the adventure, which is a good and fine, but I prefer that my players not be able to count hexes to get an exact idea of how far away anything is from anything else, so instead of giving them access to that map, I've made this considerably cruder and less exact map for them to refer to, and to scribble on and abuse as they see fit.

I intended it to be a bit crappy, but I have to confess that it's even crappier than I intended. Never mind, it will do the trick.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bring wine! Wine for the Blood God!

Painting by Boris Vallejo. Perfect.
NOTE: This is not my idea. I'm stealing this idea from somebody else. Just so we're clear. I don't remember exactly when or where I saw it, alas.


The person who originally came up with this noted that one fantasy trope, presented in oodles of films, comics and novels, is the recuperative power of wine. Any alcohol really. How many times have heroes staggered, bloodied, bruised and battered, up to the nearest bar, quaffed a mighty tankard of wine (or ale or brandy or whatever), slammed down the cup and returned to the fray, rejuvenated?

A LOT. That's how often.

So, I thought I would make it available to players in my campaign as a sort of el-cheapo substitute for healing potions:

  • If you heroically quaff a mighty quaff of wine/ale/brandy/whatever, you immediately recover 1d6 hit-points. Huzzah! (Note that this requires actual quaffing, none of this sissy sipping nonsense. Quaffing.)
  • The down-side is that you also temporarily lose one point each of  Dexterity, Wisdom and Charisma. Boooooo! Until you complete a Long Rest. Yaaaay!
  • If you're on zero hit-points, having a swig of brandy poured down your throat will stabilize you, and you will lose the DEX, WIS and CHA, but you won't actually recover any hit-points on that initial guzzle.

I realise the danger of this turning the party into a bunch of wildly violent and increasingly incoherent alcoholics reeling their way from one encounter to the drunken next, but I like the trope so much that I'm willing to accept that peril.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

D&D5e — Inspiration

Inspiration is the term used more or less for what in other games are called Fate Points — points players can use to improve their dice rolls and what-not.

In 5e, however, players can't amass Inspiration points; they either have it, or they don't. That means that no matter how consistently clever and excellent they may have been, if they use Inspiration at all, they then have to wait for the whimsical GM to arbitrarily decide that they're worthy of having it again.

I don't like that.

Instead, I will allow players to stockpile accrued Inspiration points, with the caveat that if one is used, the character needs to take a Short Rest (about an hour of restful down-time) before another can be used. This should prevent the situation where the party save up all their fate points for the final Boss Fight and then blow them all in the space of a few rounds in a GM-depressing holocaust of automatic hits and saves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

D&D5e — Recovery and Healing

Casualty. by Heather Nicholson
In general, I like the way that hit points in 5e are much more explicitly linked with luck and fatigue rather than with actual cuts, scrapes and bruises, and also the way that recovery of these points is so much quicker and easier. There's less need for parties to be constantly scurrying back to safety after ten minutes of dungeoneering to get themselves healed, and it also means that a party without a cleric (or a guaranteed cheap supply of healing potions) can actually be a viable adventuring party.

That's all very well and good, but what about situations where your character is actually folded, spindled, and/or mutilated? I guess the easiest thing to do would be to reflect that condition with Ability Damage. That has two advantages:
  1. It doesn't require the addition of a new damage mechanic to the rules, and
  2. Ability damage is scary and hard and expensive to fix, and it can give combat meaningful consequences (and thus a good reason to find ways to avoid it if possible).
A potential down-side is that it could easily lead to the 'death-spiral' effect, which may make sadistic GMs rub their hands together and go "Muahahahahaaaa!", but isn't actually all that much fun to experience in play. It would need to be applied with a bit of thought rather than willy-nilly — I'd probably use it only as a consequence of a critical hit, or of long, bone-breaking falls and the like.

Anyway, the actual focus of this rambling is that I think it is wise to distinguish from the outset between RECOVERY and HEALING.
  • Recovery is what your character does when resting, or when a fighter gets their second wind or what-not. If all you're doing is getting back hit-points, you're recovering, not healing.
  • Healing is what you have to do to cure Ability Damage (in which I include such conditions as deafness or blindness, or loss of mobility due to injury or disease or whatever).
Magical means of recovery are pretty straightforward to identify: low-level "cure" spells are about it, along with Cure Wounds potions and so forth.

Magical healing, in the sense I've been using it here, is less easily categorized, though it doesn't take a lot of thought on a case-by-case basis. Heal, Restoration and Regenerate are three spells that spring immediately to mind; I haven't looked thoroughly enough through the current spells lists to be definitive. Generally, I'd say that if the wording of a healing spell indicates other effects over and above simple hit-point recovery, it's probably appropriate.

Natural healing can be handled by the GM pretty much as a matter of common sense. Broken bones will take a month or two to heal, while blindness caused by having one's eyes gouged out probably isn't going to get better on its own. Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about gross stuff like secondary infections and gangrene and so forth; it's just not very heroic or mythic to succumb to septicaemia after weeks of lying in your own pus. However, your mileage may, as they say, vary.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

D&D5e — Find Familiar... not on my watch!

And so begins the tinkering.

The D&D5e version of the Find Familiar spell is one with which I have many issues. It not only drastically changes the way that the spell works from earlier editions, but it also messes with the nature of familiar spirits as represented in myth and legend.

It really should be renamed Summon Cheap Little Expendable Reconnaissance Robot. Here's the text of the spell as written on page 240 of the PHB, along with my comments.


1st-level conjuration (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: 10 feet
Components: V, S, M (10 gp worth of charcoal, incense, and herbs that must be consumed by fire in a brass brazier)
  • Waaaaaaay too cheap. 10gp? Pffft! 
Duration: Instantaneous
You gain the service of a familiar, a spirit that takes an animal form you choose: bat, cat, crab, frog (toad), hawk, lizard, octopus, owl, poisonous snake, fish (quipper), rat, raven, sea horse, spider, or weasel. Appearing in an unoccupied space within range, the familiar has the statistics of the chosen form, though it is a celestial, fey, or fiend (your choice) instead of a beast.
  • I can see why people would want to be able to choose the vessel for their familiar spirit, but one of the big things about the old version of the spell was the gamble. You got a toad? Suck it up! Also, I'm inclined to have the magic-user have to supply an appropriate vessel animal to be filled, if they want to be able to choose the form the familiar takes. 
Your familiar acts independently of you, but it always obeys your commands. In combat, it rolls its own initiative and acts on its own turn. A familiar can't attack, but it can take other actions as normal.
  • That's OK to a degree, but in my view while a familiar is incarnate, it will keep at least some sense of self-preservation. So if you order it to do something clearly dangerous, it may... be reluctant. 
When the familiar drops to 0 hit points, it disappears, leaving behind no physical form. It reappears after you cast this spell again
  • OK, I can live with his I guess, though unlike in the olden days, there's no real down-side to a magic-user losing a familiar, except that they've got to cast the spell again. Quelle horreur! I prefer the old way, in which the death of a familiar actually cost the magic-user a permanent loss of hit-points so that there's an incentive to keep it alive.
While your familiar is within 100 feet of you, you can communicate with it telepathically. Additionally, as an action, you can see through your familiar's eyes and hear what it hears until the start of your next turn, gaining the benefits of any special senses that the familiar has. During this time, you are deaf and blind with regard to your own senses.
  • I'd add a feedback penalty here: if the familiar is attacked and damaged while you're linked with it in this way, you take the damage as well due to psychic shock. 
As an action, you can temporarily dismiss your familiar. It disappears into a pocket dimension where it awaits your summons. Alternatively, you can dismiss it forever. As an action while it is temporarily dismissed, you can cause it to reappear in any unoccupied space within 30 feet of you.
  • HELL NO! If you don't want your familiar around, find somewhere to hide it. None of this blinking out conveniently bullshit. Also, this is just an excuse to give the thing a free short-range teleport ability.
You can't have more than one familiar at a time. If you cast this spell while you already have a familiar, you instead cause it to adopt a new form. Choose one of the forms from the above list. Your familiar transforms into the chosen creature.
  •  I think not. Once you've summoned a familiar, it stays in the vessel you summoned it into until it's released either voluntarily or through the death of the vessel.
Finally, when you cast a spell with a range of touch, your familiar can deliver the spell as if it had cast the !spell. Your familiar must be within 100 feet of you, and Tit must use its reaction to deliver the spell when you cast it. If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack modifier for the roll.
  •  Tchyeah, riiiiight...... by which I mean, of course, FUCK NO! This is a first level spell, for fuck's sake. This ability to redirect one's magic is way too powerful for a spell of that level.
There's so much wrongness here that I may as well just rewrite the whole bloody thing. I suspect that this won't be the only new spell definition I'll have problems with, but one step at a time.

Friday, September 12, 2014


I have come to realise that one of the main reasons I prefer to DM dungeon-crawl type games is because I am really, really bad at adjudicating and presenting NPC interactions on the fly. Just terrible. I would be the worlds most pitiful improv actor ever.

Dungeon crawling means that I can focus on describing environments, present problems to be overcome, and (for the most part) avoid all that troublesome social and psychological stuff.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Speed Painting

This guy is an experiment in speed-painting using Vallejo inks over a sprayed, graduated undercoat. Everything except the metallics, the torch flame and the base is painted in the inks, without any additional shading or highlighting.

They're very useful for getting instant shading, and because they're both transparent and fairly intensely coloured, they don't fill in detail as thinned paints do. The range of colours is fairly limited, but all the basics are covered.

The figure is Reaper's Bones 77140: Townsfolk: Village Rioter, who will, no doubt, do sterling service as a lowly-paid torch-bearer. Because I wanted to see just how quickly I could knock him out to a decent tabletop gaming-piece standard, I haven't done anything about the mould-lines, nor the way he's toppling over backwards.

For dungeoneering service, he could probably do with having the top half of his pitchfork replaced with a ten foot pole.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Innkeeper - Reprise

Here's another version of Reaper 77084:Townsfolk: Innkeeper. This time there's less dirt, but a lot more blood. He could be the town butcher, or doctor, or torturer — the possibilities aren't endless!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

TPK Averted By DM Incompetence! Pictures at 11!

Session #2 of our introduction to D&D5e, via the Lost Mine of Phandelver, was saved from a TPK* only because I skipped over the monster description for the Bugbear and failed to read a crucial point.

I'll know better in future.

*TPK = Total Party Kill

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Yowzah! It's New! It's Shiny!

I now own my very own copy of the 5e PHB. I am more excited by this than may be properly appropriate for a Gentleman Of A Certain Age.

I have to say, even on a very brief acquaintance, I can see that it contains a hell of a lot of fluff that I would have ruthlessly edited out, had it been up to me. But it wasn't.... those FOOLS!

It's got lots of good, useful stuff in it too, so that's all right.

I see a few areas where I want to make some changes, though they're pretty minor really.

  1. I'll be changing the time scale for ritual spell casting. The rules as written say a ritual spell takes ten minutes longer than normal to cast, but my view of rituals is that they're the sort of things that take a lot longer than that — hours, possibly days.
  2. I'm not 100% sure about this, but I think I may equate one feat with one point of characteristic increase, with the rider that the character can take no more than one feat at a time. So, when the character gets a chance to increase a stat, they can either take two points of increase, or take one feat and one point on a stat. I do like the feats as presented — I like them much, much better than the system used in D&D3.x
  3. I think I may institute STR reductions for halflings, gnomes and elves. The idea of a three foot tall hobbit with a strength of 18 just offends me. I know that this is not a game of realism, but tough.
Done — from now on, elves will get -1 STR, gnomes get -2 STR, and halflings get -3 STR. That still means a halfling could conceivably start with 15 strength and thus be stronger than a burly six-foot human blacksmith, but c'est la vie. The alternative to that is to also institute STR Maxima, which I am loath to do.

I've started playing around with the character creation rules, recreating my favourite old character, Prince Fnord the Pretty Neat and Well Beloved at 13th level. It gratified me to see how compact his basic character description could be in 5e at this relatively high level; the great bulk of his character sheet would be taken up with equipment and magical doo-dads. The hardest part about the conversion was thinking about just how to define his personality traits along the lines of the samples given. However, considering how long Fnord's been around, I don't really think it's really all that necessary; his character has long been established, so I don't really need any set written guide as to how to roleplay his reactions.