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Advanced Mob Rules | New Rules and Mechanics for Fifth Edition

Mobs are fun. After all, every player with a high-level character imagines what it’d be like to run through a mob of a bunch of CR 1/8 weenies.

Logistically, though, it’s a pain, especially for the GM. For example, if you wanted to challenge a group of four 10th-level adventurers with kobolds (CR 1/8), you would have to toss 48 kobolds at them just for it to be a “Medium” level challenge. I promise you, there’s no DM on earth that wants to run that combat.

Now, the DMG gives some rules for running mobs, mostly in the amount of damage that they do. And that’s helpful. But it still doesn’t address the insane number of hit points a mob’s going to have, the fact that the characters can only attack so many at once, and other complicated issues that will bog down playtime considerably. A Medium-level encounter that’s destined to only hand out 300 XP per character at level 10 just isn’t worth the trouble.

What follows is my solution for this conundrum: advanced mob rules.

Treating Mobs like Complex Traps

The best way to deal with mobs is to treat them like a terrain hazard or a complex trap. XGtE has some great rules for complex traps. After all, when dealing with mobs, that’s exactly what you’re fighting: a complex trap. Therefore, all you really need to do is to tie the elements of the complex trap to a mob of monsters, and presto: it’s an easy-to-run encounter.

Let me break it down for you.

Initiative. The mob has its own turn in initiative order. Fast mobs (those with high Dexterity or alertness traits) attack on initiative count 20, whereas slow mobs attack on initiative count 10 (creatures such as zombies or oozes). Very fast mobs attack on initiative count 20 and 10 (creatures with extremely high Dexterity, legendary creatures, etc.)

Active Elements. Active elements likely include attack methods for the mob itself which it deals during its initiative.

Dynamic Elements. Like traps, a dynamic element is a threat that arises or evolves as the trap functions. Usually, these dynamic elements take effect at the end of each of the mob’s turns or in response to the characters’ actions.

Constant Elements. A mob poses threats even when it’s not taking its turn. The constant elements explain how these parts of the mob function. For example, when a mob surrounds a group, it’s likely that moving through the mob becomes difficult, creating difficult terrain or relying on Athletics or Acrobatics checks to move through them. It can also include extra attacks by the mob.

Countermeasures. Finally, the countermeasures for a mob usually involves attacking it but may include other means of destroying it (such as scaring off the mob, etc.)

Additional Items. Mobs of monsters are living things. As such, they have abilities, saving throws, and skills. In addition to the aforementioned elements, I’ve included a few features from monster stat blocks as well.

Running a Mob

A mob functions in play much like a legendary monster. When it begins its attack, the mob’s active elements act according to its initiative. On each of its initiative counts, after all creatures with the same initiative count have acted, the mob’s features activate. Apply the effects detailed in the mob’s description.

After resolving the effects of the mob’s active elements, check its dynamic elements to see if anything changes about the mob. Many mobs have effects that vary during an encounter. The creatures may work themselves into a frenzy, dealing more damage as it remains active, or call upon additional creatures to join the group.

The mob’s constant elements allow it to have effects when it isn’t the mob’s turn. At the end of each creature’s turn or when a creature takes an action or moves, look at the mob’s constant elements to see if any of their effects are triggered.

Mob Size and Space

Since mobs represent large groups of creatures, the typical creature size and space rules don’t apply to them. For example, fifty kobolds are going to fill way more space than that of a gargantuan creature (which would normally only fill 16 squares). The Mob Size and Space table below demonstrates how much space mobs fill.

To make things easier, for rooms that fit roughly the square or hex count listed on the Mob Size and Space table below, assume that the mob fills the entire room. For larger rooms or outside areas, you can use a single large miniature to represent the entire mob.

Mob Size and Space (Medium or Small Creatures)

Mob Size Creatures Space: Squares Space: Hexes
Standard 16-25 16 squares (4 by 4) 12 hexes
Massive 26-50 25 squares (5 by 5) 19 hexes
Gigantic 51-75 36 squares (6 by 6) 27 hexes
Enormous 76-100 49 squares (7 by 7) 37 hexes or more

Example Mob

The following mob can be used to challenge characters.

Kobold Mob

When pressed, kobolds team up in massive hordes, using their overwhelming numbers to take down even the most dangerous foes. These mobs can contain as few as 16 kobolds or as many as 100. The following description details a massive mob of 50 kobolds.

Kobold Mob

Massive mob of Small humanoids (kobold), lawful evil


Armor Class 12

Hit Points 250

Speed 30 ft.


Abilities. Str 7 (-2), Dex 15 (+2), Con 9 (-1), Int 8 (-1), Wis 7 (-2), Cha 8 (-1)


Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, prone, restrained, stunned

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 8

Languages Common, Draconic

Challenge 10 (5,900 XP)


Trigger. When the characters enter the room where the mob is hiding, the mob attacks.

Initiative. The mob acts on initiative count 20.

Active Elements. On its turn, the kobolds attack each hostile creature within 30 feet of them using their slings and daggers.

  • Attack (Initiative 20). The mob attacks each creature that it can see within 30 feet of its location. The mob’s attack bonus equals +4 plus +1 for every 25 hit points the mob has. On a hit, the mob deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage or piercing damage (GM’s discretion) plus an additional 1d4 bludgeoning or piercing damage for every 25 hit points the mob has.

Dynamic Elements. The mob becomes more dangerous the longer it remains active.

  • Reinforcements. The mob calls in additional assistance. At the end of the mob’s turn, it gains 25 temporary hit points. After the mob uses this dynamic element 5 times, the element ceases to function.

Constant Elements. The mob poses not only poses a threat to the characters’ health but also acts as difficult terrain.

  • Mob. The mob can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, and the mob can move through any opening large enough for a Small kobold. The mob has advantage on Strength and Dexterity ability checks and saving throws. Effects that use an area of effect deal double damage to the mob as long as the mob has half of its hit points or more.
  • Difficult Terrain. To move through the mob, a character can attempt to overrun the mob or tumble through it. To overrun, a character must use its action or bonus action to make a DC 13 Strength (Athletics) check. On a success, the character can move through the mob as if it were difficult terrain until the end of its current turn. Similarly, to tumble, a character must use its action or bonus action to make a DC 17 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.  On a success, the character can move through the mob as if it were difficult terrain until the end of its current turn.
  • Attacks. Any creature that ends its turn in the mob’s area or within 30 feet of the mob and the mob can see it, is targeted by an attack: the mob’s attack bonus equals +4 plus +1 for every 25 hit points the mob has. On a hit, the mob deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage or piercing damage (GM’s discretion) plus an additional 1d4 bludgeoning or piercing damage for every 25 hit points the mob has.
  • Pack Tactics. As long as the mob has 25 hit points or more, it has advantage on its attack rolls against creatures that share the same space as the mob or are within 5 feet of the mob.
  • Cowardly. If the mob starts its turn with 125 hit points or less, roll a d20. On a result of 12 or higher, the mob disperses, fleeing in multiple directions at once. At the GM’s discretion, 2d8 kobolds may remain in the area. These remaining kobolds will likely grovel and beg for their lives.

Countermeasures. As the mob loses hit points, it loses its ability to harm its targets.

  • Attack. A creature sharing the same space as the mob or within reach or range of the mob can attack the mob. Reducing the mob’s hit points reduces its attack bonus and damage (see the mob’s attacks, above).
  • Exposure to Sunlight. If the mob is exposed to sunlight, the mob has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

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Monster Hunting Squads | New Mechanics for Fifth Edition (BroadSword Preview)

This article is part of the Monster Hunters series that will appear in BroadSword Monthly. If you’d like a preview of additional content, be sure to check out the Monster Hunter material on my Patreon.

Two human brothers race their ax-beak-drawn chariot down the long, dark road, hot on the trail of a ghostly specter that’s killing the locals. Armed with weapons made of iron, they’re ready to send the undead creature back to its grave.

The elven ranger touches the footprints on the ground. Still warm. She knows by the shape and size exactly what it is. Impatiently, her party members wait for her analysis. “Owlbear,” she sighs. “It’s cave is somewhere in the area. And there’s more than one.”

When the half-orc barbarian arrives, the farm is still on fire. “We’re not safe here,” he tells the surviving homesteaders. Two-hundred yards from where he stands, a pair of yellow eyes stare back from the treeline. “This is a trap,” he growls, drawing his axe. Then, the dragon attacks.

Monster hunters are adventurers who focus specifically on hunting and killing certain types of monsters. Most monster hunters specialize, too, focusing on a specific type of monster to track and kill.

This section of BroadSword Monthly goes into details on how to run a monster hunter campaign in Fifth Edition. It includes information for players and GMs on running a monster hunting squad, as well as details for GMs on how to craft episodic Fifth Edition sessions that focus on tracking and killing epic level monsters.

Monster Hunting Squads

Characters participating in a monster hunter campaign typically organize into monster hunting squads. For the most part, a monster hunter squad operates the same way that an adventuring party does. The main difference, however, monster hunting requires incredible organizational skills and plenty of teamwork, especially when faced with challenges that are beyond-deadly. For this reason, many monster squads establish set roles for its members.

Monster Hunting Roles

Your monster-hunting role offers the overall direction of your character, but is, by no means, handcuffs for how you portray them. As you gain ranks in the squad, your role offers new abilities, magic items, and other benefits.

You choose your character’s role when the character first joins the monster hunting squad. Your character’s position rank is equal to your character’s tier. Starting from rank 1, you gain new proficiencies, special equipment, and your rank 1 position feature. Then, as you increase your character level tier (at level 5, 11, and 17), your rank increases with it, awarding you additional benefits.

When you choose a squad role for our character, that choice is independent of and in addition to your character’s background, class, and other options. While common sense may dictate that you choose a role that plays to your strengths, choose the position that is most interesting to you. In addition, roles are completely optional. You’re free to do as you wish or create roles of your own design (GM’s discretion, of course).

The most common monster-hunting roles are detailed below.

Administrator

“Just tell me what you need.”

Administrators act as property wranglers, treasurers, and financial whizzes for monster hunting squads. After all, a lot of monster hunting requests pay little-to-none. While a free meal or two and a bed in the barn might be offered to the team, it doesn’t cover the cost of silver weapons, spell scrolls, bribes, and other goods the squad needs to perform their job.

Your chief contribution to the monster hunter squad is to ensure that all the back end stuff is taken care of and that there is as little friction as possible.

Essential Functions: Handle squad funds, locate arms and equipment, keep principles and hirelings paid

Position Proficiency: In addition to the proficiencies noted below, you can add your proficiency bonus to any ability check to negotiate costs, read financial documents, and hire competent talent.

The Administrator

Character Rank Features
1st (Level 1 – 4)
Proficiencies and Starting Equipment, Deal Brokering
2nd (Level 5 – 10) “I Know a Guy,” Squad Ledger
3rd (Level 11 – 16) Interdimensional Bank, Find a Buyer
4th (Level 17 – 20) Cash-in, Coin Exchange

Proficiencies and Starting Equipment

As a rank 1 administrator, you gain proficiency with calligrapher’s supplies. In addition, you gain a set of calligrapher’s supplies, a merchant’s scale, and a ledger which you use to keep track of the squad’s finances and holdings.

Deal Brokering

Also at rank 1, while in a familiar urban setting, you can perform a 1-hour ritual to find and purchase one common, uncommon, or rare item of your choice. Make a DC 15 Charisma (Persuasion) check. With a successful check, you also negotiate a 50 percent discount on the item.

If you fail this check, you cannot use this feature again until you finish a long rest. When you use this feature successfully twice, you cannot use it again until you attain the next character tier.

“I Know a Guy”

Starting at rank 2, while in a familiar urban setting, you can perform a 1-hour ritual to locate someone that you know that could potentially help you and the monster squad. Make two checks with a DC of 13 + your character tier: Charisma (Persuasion) and Wisdom (Insight). Both checks gain a +1 bonus for every hour beyond the initial hour that is spent undertaking this activity. Each check also gains a +1 bonus for every 100 gp you spend. A maximum bonus of +10 can be applied to each check.

The total number of successes determines the outcome of the activity, as noted on the “I Know a Guy” table.

“I Know a Guy”

Successes Benefit
0
The last time you interacted with your contact, they were not pleased with you. Seeing you again brings back bad memories. This contact might even be a rival, now.*
1
Your contact is willing to assist you. Choose one of the following benefits:
  • Your contact secures one item of your choice that costs no more than 1,500 gp. You must return the item to the contact once you are finished using it, typically within 1 week. If the item is damaged or lost, you are responsible for any costs to repair or replace the item.
  • Your contact gives you item of your choice from chapter 5 of the PHB, so long as the item costs no more than 75 gp. You are not required to return the item.
  • Your contact offers one piece of lore. You declare the focus of the lore–a specific person, place, or thing. The lore offered is the equivalent of one true statement about a person, place, or thing. The GM is the final arbitrator in what you learn.
2
The contact is happy to see you and looks forward to working with you once more. Choose one of the following benefits:
  • Your contact secures one item of your choice that costs no more than 3,000 gp. You must return the item to the contact once you are finished using it, typically within 2 weeks. If the item is damaged or lost, you are responsible for any costs to repair or replace the item.
  • Your contact gives you item of your choice from chapter 5 of the PHB, so long as the item costs no more than 150 gp. You are not required to return the item.
  • Your contact offers two pieces of lore. You declare the focus of each piece of lore–a specific person, place, or thing. Each piece of lore offered is the equivalent of one true statement about a person, place, or thing. The GM is the final arbitrator in what you learn.

*May involve a rival.

Once you use this feature, regardless of the outcome, you can’t use it again for 7 days.

Squad Ledger

At rank 2, your ledger becomes an uncommon magic item and its pages are enchanted with a potent illusion. To you and any creatures you designate, writing you place in the book appears normal, written in your hand, and conveys whatever meaning you intended. To all others, the writing appears as if it were written in an unknown or magical script that is unintelligible. Alternatively, the writing can appear invisible, or show up as a different message entirely.

In addition, any object owned by the squad that you record in the ledger is traceable with your ledger. As an action, you read aloud the name of a recorded item. You can then cast the locate object spell in order to locate the specified item. Once you use this property of your ledger, you can’t do so again until dawn the next day.

Interdimensional Bank

Starting at rank 3, as an action, you speak a command word while holding your ledger. When you do, you can instantly teleport any coins that you can see within 10 feet of you that aren’t being worn or carried by another creature into an extradimensional space. The space can only hold coins. Using another action, you can say a different command word and withdraw a number of coins of our choice. If another creature steals your ledger and knows the command words, it can steal your coins.

Find a Buyer

At rank 3, while in a familiar urban setting, you can perform a 1-hour ritual to find a quick buyer for a magic item in your possession. At the end of the hour, make a Charisma (Persuasion) check. You gain a +1 bonus to the check for every 100 gp spent to locate a buyer (to a maximum of +5). Reference the Find a Buyer table below to determine the DC for this check, as well as the sales price for the item. The DC increases by 10 if the item is illegal or stolen.

Find a Buyer

Item Rarity DC Sales Price
Common 5 50 gp
Uncommon 10 200 gp
Rare 15 2,000 gp
Very Rare 20 15,000 gp
Legendary 25 50,000 gp

Once you use this feature, regardless of the outcome, you can’t use it again for 7 days.

Cash-in

Beginning at 4th tier, when you use your “I Know a Guy” feature and your contact secures an item for you, you can “cash-in” on a favor. If you do, you do not have to return the item to the contact; it is yours. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again (but you can still use your “I Know a Guy” feature as normal.)

Coin Exchange

Also at tier 4, when you withdraw coins from your Interdimensional Bank, you can choose to withdraw the coins in any denomination of your choice. For example, if you have 2,000 gold in the bank, you can choose to withdraw the coins as 200,000 cp, 20,000 sp, 2,000 gp, or 200 pp.

. . .

Captain

“All right, team, listen up.”

Monster hunting might be a team effort, but the captain is ultimately the one in charge. Captains act as the strategists, decision-makers, and shot-caller for monster squads. After all, it’s their job to make sure that the job gets done right and no one gets hurt doing it.

Your contribution to the squad comes in the form of solid decision making and a cool demeanor. Good or bad, you’re responsible for everything that happens to the squad.

Essential Functions: Make decisions, manage the squad, keep everyone safe

Position Proficiency: In addition to the proficiencies noted below, you can add your proficiency bonus to an ability check to influence the decisions of a group or boost the group’s morale.

The Captain

Character Rank Features
1st (Levels 1 – 4)
Proficiencies and Starting Equipment, Assess the Situation
2nd (Levels 5 – 10) Hunter’s Kit, Words of Motivation
3rd (Levels 11 – 16)
The Right Tool for the Job, Voice of Reason
4th (Levels 17 – 20)
Arcane Aptitude, Weapon of Legacy

Proficiencies and Starting Equipment

As a rank 1 captain, you gain proficiency with the herbalism kit. You gain a herbalism kit and a hunter’s kit to keep all of your monster-hunting tools, potions, and other tools in.

Assess the Situation

Also at rank 1, you can attempt to determine the abilities of one creature you can see. As a bonus action, make a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check. If you have fought at least one round of combat with the creature, you make this check with advantage. On a success, you learn three details of your choice about the creature. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest. You can use this feature one once on any creature.

Hunter’s Kit

Starting at rank 2, your hunter’s kit becomes an uncommon magic item. It functions as a bag of holding.

Words of Motivation

At rank 2, if you spend 1 minute talking to someone that can understand you, the creature gains temporary hit points equal to your character level. The temporary hit points remain until the creature starts a short or long rest. Until the creature loses these temporary hit points, it is also immune to being frightened.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you complete a long rest.

The Right Tool for the Job

At rank 3, you can use a bonus action to reach into your hunter’s kit and make a DC 10 Intelligence check. On a success, you draw forth an item of your choice on the Adventuring Gear table in chapter 5 of the PHB. The item must be of a size that can’t fit into your hunter’s kit and be worth no more than 15 gp. Once you attempt to draw five items from your hunter’s kit, you cannot draw forth any more items until the next dawn.

Voice of Reason

Also at rank 3, you can cast calm emotions once with this feature and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

Arcane Aptitude

Starting at rank 4, you have learned the value inherent in magic. After you finish a short or long rest, you can attempt to prepare an abjuration or divination spell of your choice of 3rd level or lower. Make a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check. On a success, you have the ability to cast this spell once using this feature. You lose the ability to cast the spell after you complete another short or long rest. After successfully preparing a spell using this feature, you are not able to do so again until seven days later following another short or long rest. If you failed the check, this property can’t be used again until you finish a long rest.

Weapon of Legacy

At rank 4, when you succeed on a check to draw an item from our hunter’s kit while using your Right Tool for the Job feature, on a success, you can choose to draw forth a weapon of your choice from Weapons table in chapter 5 of the PHB. If the weapon is a ranged weapon, it comes with 10 pieces of ammunition.

The weapon is a magic weapon of the chosen type with a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. In addition, choose one of the following damage types when you retrieve the weapon: cold, fire, lightning, radiant, or necrotic. When you hit with the weapon, it deals an additional 2d6 damage of the chosen type. The weapon’s magical abilities fade after 1 hour or if you return the item to your hunter’s kit. Once used, this property of the kit can’t be used again until the next dawn. On subsequent uses, you are not required to choose the same weapon or damage type.

. . .

Face

“I know this is probably difficult for you, but I need you to tell me what happened to your brother…”

Bad situations bring out the worst in people, even the innocent. Fear, anger, or worse boils to the top, making information gathering initiatives difficult. Fortunately, the squad’s face acts as the party’s interviewer, interrogator, and negotiator. Faces can get what’s needed from witnesses, bribe their way into forbidden areas, and even talk their way out of jail time. As the face, your greatest contribution to the squad comes through social relationships and representation. More often than not, you’re the one that gets the group out of (and sometimes into) trouble.

Essential Functions: Interview witnesses, cooperate with local authorities, deal with potential publicity issues

Position Proficiency: In addition to the proficiencies noted below, you can add your proficiency bonus to any ability check to interview witnesses or interrogate suspects.

The Face

Character Rank Features
1st (Levels 1 – 4)
Proficiencies and Starting Equipment, Good Listener
2nd (Levels 5 – 10)
Subjective Credentials, Charming Personality
3rd (Levels 11 – 16) Credible Disguise, Detect Desires
4th (Levels 17 – 20)
Forgettable Face, Legendary Access

Proficiencies and Starting Equipment

As a rank 1 face, you gain proficiencies with a forgery kit. You start with one such kit that contains a variety of papers and parchments, pens and inks, duplicate or stolen seals and sealing wax of the most important organizations within the realm, and other supplies necessary to create convincing forgeries.

Also, you gain fake credentials to one important organization in the realm of your choice such as the badge of a member of authority, a cult’s tattoo, a lapel pin denoting a political position, etc. Work with your GM on potential candidates.

Good Listener

Also at rank 1, you can use your action to try to gain an uncanny insight about one humanoid you can see within 30 feet of you. Make a Wisdom (Insight) check contested by the target’s Charisma (Deception) check. If your check succeeds, you have advantage on Charisma (Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion) checks against the target until the end of your next turn.

Subjective Credentials

At rank 2, your credentials become a common magic item which can change its appearance based on who is observing it. As an action, you present your credentials to a humanoid of your choice. The target sees your credentials as those belonging to a member of authority whom the creature respects or fears. Creatures immune to charm automatically see through the illusion. At the GM’s discretion, if the creature is hostile towards you, it may become indifferent, and if it is already indifferent it may even become friendly.

To discern that the credentials are, in fact, false, a creature can use its action to inspect your credentials and must succeed on a DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check.

Charming Personality

Also at rank 2, if you spend 1 minute talking to someone that can understand what you say, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw with a DC of 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. If you or your companions are fighting the creature, your check automatically fails. On a failed saving throw, the target is charmed by you as long as it remains within 60 feet of you and for 1 minute thereafter.

Credible Disguises

Starting at rank 3, your credentials gain additional features and becomes an uncommon magic item. As an action, you can use your credentials to create an illusion that makes yourself and up to three other creatures of your choice appear as members of authority, making your clothing, armor, and other belongings look different for up to 1 hour. Your overall appearances and body types remain the same. The authority figures that you assume the appearance of can be ones of your choice or ones created by the credentials’ Subjective Credentials feature. The changes wrought by this magical effect fail to hold up to physical inspection. For example, if you use this effect to add a hat to your outfit, objects pass through the hat.

To discern that you are disguised, a creature can use its action to inspect your appearance and must succeed on a DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check. A creature that saw you before you changed your appearance makes this check with advantage.

Detect Desires

Also at rank 3, you can use your action to detect the innermost desires of a target that you can see within 10 feet of you. The target must succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed saving throw, you gain insight into something that the creature desires above all else. Pass or fail, the target is unaware that you are probing its mind.

Forgettable Face

At rank 4, your credentials gain an additional power and become a rare magic item. Any creature that fails its saving throw against your Subjective Credentials feature or witnesses your Credible Disguise has its memory affected after you leave its presence. It remembers you and any of your companions affected by the credentials’ magic but has difficulty recalling your name, face, anything you said or asked, or any other remarkable feature so long as you have not interacted with the creature for more than 10 minutes at a time within the last 24 hours. A creature that already knows you or is immune to charm is not affected.

Legendary Access

At rank 4, you advantage on Charisma (Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion) checks made to gain access into a high-clearance area or normally off-limits location.

. . .

Lorekeeper

“All right, folks. I’ve got bad news and I’ve got worse news.”

Lorekeepers are the occultists and monstrous scholars for monster squads. They learn everything they can about the squad’s targets in order to help the team better prepare for the coming encounter.

As a lorekeeper, you help contribute to the team’s overall knowledge, strategy, and tactics, ultimately ensuring the safety and success of the squad.

Essential Functions: Study and research potential threats, instruct the team on tactics and methods for fighting monsters, summon undead

Position Proficiency: In addition to the proficiencies noted below, you can add your proficiency bonus to any ability check to track a monstrous target that you are familiar with or examine the corpse of a creature killed by the monstrous target

The Lorekeeper

Character Rank Features
1st (Levels 1 – 4) Proficiencies and Starting Equipment, Creature Sense
2nd (Levels 5 – 10) Lore Journal, Tactical Advice
3rd (Levels 11 – 16) Journal Wards, Sèance
4th (Levels 17 – 20) Improved Creature Sense, Strategic Advice

Proficiencies and Starting Equipment

Starting at rank 1, you gain proficiency with one of the following of your choice: alchemist’s supplies, calligrapher’s supplies, or cartographer’s tools. You also gain the tool kit for your chosen proficiency, along with a pen, vial of ink, and a journal to keep your lore on monsters.

Creature Sense

Also at rank 1, you can perform a 10-minute ritual that allows you to detect the presence of creatures. Choose a creature type: aberrations, beasts, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities, oozes, plants, or undead. You can also select a race of humanoid (such as gnolls or orcs). At the end of the ritual, you can magically sense the presence of creatures of the chosen type within a range of 1 mile of you. You know the direction they are in but not their exact locations. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.

Lore Journal

At 2nd rank, your lore journal becomes an uncommon magic item. When you speak a creature’s name, the details and a rough sketch of the creature are magically stored within the book’s pages. The creature must be one that you are familiar with. You can access the details of any such stored information as a bonus action.

Tactical Advice

Also at 2nd rank, your lore journal provides tactical advice on any creature that you’ve stored in your lore journal. If you spend 1 minute studying the entry in your journal, you gain a special d10. Once within the next hour, you can add the d10 to any attack roll, saving throw, or ability check made by you or a creature that you can see so long as the roll is made against the creature whose details you studied. Once you use this property of your lore journal, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Journal Wards

Starting at rank 3, your lore journal evolves into a rare item. Whenever a creature other than you or one you permit opens your journal, the opening triggers an explosive rune. The creature that opened your journal must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, or take 3d8 radiant damage on a failed saving throw, or half as much damage on a successful one. The journal then teleports into an extradimensional space and remains there until you use your bonus action to speak a command word that returns the journal to you. Once the glyph is triggered it does not reset until dawn the next day.

Séance

At rank 3, you can cast the speak with dead spell, but only as a ritual. When you do so, an apparition of the deceased creature appears before you to convey the information you seek.

Improved Creature Sense

Starting at 4th rank, you can cast the locate creature spell but only as a ritual.

Strategic Advice

Also at rank 4, your lore journal provides you and your squad increased benefits against monsters. In addition the d10 you gain when you study the lore of a creature using your Tactical Advice feature, for 1 hour, you and each creature within 10 feet of you gain a +1 bonus to your AC against the creature whose details you studied.

. . .

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Wild Talents | New Rules for Fifth Edition

A wild talent is someone from any other character class who has natural, latent psionic
potential. This potential can be present in any character, regardless of class, alignment, or race. Wild talents can never approach psionicists in skill, but they do boast at least one psionic power-which is known as a “wild power” among psionicists.

Any character can test for wild powers. (The character should be forewarned: such efforts are not without risk, as explained below.) A character can test for wild powers only at specific times: when the character is first created; when the character’s Wisdom increases to a higher point than it has ever been; the first time the character goes to a psionicist who can perform psychic surgery on him or her; when psionics is first introduced to the campaign.

Every character (and NPC and monster, if the GM wishes) has a base chance of 1% to
possess wild powers. This is modified as shown on the Wild Talent Chance Modifiers table.

Wild Talent Chance Modifiers

Variable Modifier
Constitution Modifier +1% per modifier
Intelligence Modifier +1% per modifier
Wisdom Modifier +1% per modifier
Character Level 5-10 +1
Character Level 11-16 +2
Character Level 17+ +3
Cleric, Monk, or Wizard* x1/2

*For characters that have a level of cleric, monk, or wizard, multiply the final result by 1/2 (round up). Clerics, monks, and wizards tend to have full control of their mental faculties. Therefore, it’s rare that a wild talent emerges from these classes.

Once you’ve determined the character’s chance to be a wild talent, roll percentile dice.
If the result is less than or equal to the modified chance, the character has at least one wild power. If the result is 97 or higher, the character suffers dire consequences (see “The Risks” below).

For example, Jonbar is a 5th-level dwarven monk with 18 Wisdom, Intelligence 11, and Charisma 16. His chance to be a wild talent is 1% (base chance) + 1% (5th-level) + 4% (Wis 18) + 3% (Cha 16) x 1/2 (monk) = 5%. Jonbar’s player rolls a 6 on percentile dice. Jonbar is not a wild talent.

Determining Powers

If a character is a wild talent, the player should roll percentile dice again and consult the Random Powers table to determine exactly what the character’s psionic powers are. Most wild talents have only one power. A lucky few (those with high-rolling players) boast more than one. The powers are described in the Power Description section.

PSPs for Wild Talents

Wild talents do not have PSPs. Instead, they can use the powers that they know once each, and can’t do so again until they complete a short or long rest.

Random Power

d20 Power Known
1 Arms of Hadar
2 Biofeedback
3 Body Adjustment
4 Charm Person
5 Command
6 Control Light
7 Create Sound
8 Cure Wounds
9 Destiny Dissonance
10 Detect Evil and Good
11 Featherfall
12 Find Familiar
13 Inflict Pain
14 Shield
15 Spider Climb
16 Tenser’s Floating Disk
17 Thunderwave
18-20 Choose one power. Then roll again, ignoring duplicates and results of 18-20.

Risks

Characters who attempt to unlock their psionic potential are tampering with things they cannot begin to understand. If the dice roll is 97 or higher, the character must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the character’s physical and mental health take a considerable toll. Its Wisdom, Intelligence, and Constitution scores become 3. The character can’t cast spells, activate magic items, and can only understand very basic commands (like an animal). The character can still identify its friends, follow them, and even protect them.

At the end of every 30 days, the character can repeat its saving throw against this effect. If it succeeds on its saving throw, it regains 1d6 points in each of its three scores, not going above the original score.

This effect can be ended by greater restoration, heal, or wish.

Psychic Surgery

At the GM’s discretion, the Psychic Surgery power listed below can replace the greater restoration power.

 

Psychic Surgery

5th-level telepathy

Cost: 7 PSPs

Manifestation Time: 10 minutes

Range: Touch

Duration: Instantaneous

Psychic surgery allows a psionicist to repair psychic damage. The psionicist can even operate on his or herself if need be. Choose one of the following options when manifesting this power:

  • The power duplicate any of the effects of the greater restoration spell.
  • Using this power, the manifester can unlock the wild talent potential of a non-psionicist creature it is touching. The target makes a wild talents check. If the target rolls percentile dice and discovers that it has no talents, it can make a second roll to check for wild talents but must keep the second result even if it brings consequences.

 


More to Come

This is the theme of June’s book and also used for my upcoming Dark Sun conversion. Please feel free to use any of this you like in your campaigns.

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Creating a Dark Sun Character | Player Guide for Fifth Edition

To round out my series on Dark Sun, I figured I’d go back and give the actual rules for creating a Dark Sun character. Plus, this is as good as place as any to list the table of contents for my Dark Sun material here on the site which you can access below.

In order to provide a complete ruleset, I’ve made the details in this player guide as concise as possible. More often than not, if you have a question regarding the rules refer to the Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook for an answer.

How to Create a Character in Dark Sun

Creating a character in Dark Sun is very similar to the way it’s done in Fifth Edition. Here are the basic steps.

1 – Choose a Race

First, select a race. The races available in Athas are different than those normally available in Fifth Edition. They are dwarf, elf, half-elf, half-giant, halfling, human, mul, and thri-kreen.

Learn more about Athasian Races in the Dark Sun Race Guide

2 – Choose a Class

Dark Sun’s harsh arid setting has different rules that pertain to classes, too. Many remain the same. Others have some minor to major adjustments or limitations on their subclasses. And some classes–such as bards, monks, paladins, and warlocks–are completely removed from the setting.

Learn more about Athasian Classes in the Dark Sun Class Guide

3 – Determine Ability Scores

Athas is a cruel, mean world, punished from above by a hot sun and below from all manner of horrible creatures, some monstrous and alien but most humanoid and familiar. This world has bred tougher creatures; it’s survival of the fittest under the dark sun. As such, ability scores are determined differently.

Here are the methods for determining ability scores in a Dark Sun campaign setting:

  • Roll four 4-sided dice and add 4 to the result. Do this five more times, so that you have six numbers. Then arrange the numbers as desired for your six ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. This is the traditional method for Dark Sun character creation.
  • Roll five 4-sided dice. Do this five times, so that you have six numbers. Then arrange the numbers as desired like before. This method produces a little more variety in the range of your rolls and is recommended mostly for NPC creation.
  • Roll six 4-sided dice and record the highest five dice on a piece of scratch paper. Do this five more times, so that you have six numbers. Then arrange as desired. This method is similar to Fifth Edition’s current method.
  • Use the following standard array: 19, 18, 17, 16, 14, 12. Arrange as desired.
  • Point buy method. If you prefer to use the custom ability score method, you have 99 points to spend on your ability scores. The cost of each score is shown on the Dark Sun Ability Score Point Cost table below. Using this method, 19 is the highest ability score you can end up with, before applying racial increases and decreases. You can’t have a score lower than 8. This method of determining ability scores enables you to create a set of three high numbers and three low ones (19, 19, 19, 8, 8, 8), as set of numbers that are very high and nearly equal (17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 16), or any set of numbers between those extremes.Optional Rule: you will probably end up with leftover points using this method. You can use 7 points to purchase up to one Feat at 1st level.

Dark Sun Ability Score Point Cost

Score Cost Score Cost
8 0 14 7
9 1 15 9
10 2 16 13
11 3 17 17
12 4 18 25
13 5 19 33

The highest an ability score can be in Dark Sun is 22.

4 – Describe Your Character

Athasian characters have alignments, ideals, bonds, flaws, and backgrounds just like any other Fifth Edition character. In addition to the backgrounds, a player should also decide where their character comes from. Typically, there are seven origins in Athas: city-dweller, villager, herdsmen, raiding tribes, hunter-gatherers, hermits, and merchant caravan dynasties. Within these origins are the traditional Fifth Edition backgrounds identified in the Player’s Handbook.

Learn more about Athasian Backgrounds and Personalities in the Dark Sun Background Guide

5 – Choose Equipment

Athas is a metal-scarce world, so equipment works quite differently. For example, heavy, metal suits of armor are not only rare but not even worth wearing because they a) are very impractical in 120-degree+ weather and b) worth hundreds of thousands of gold. Replacement options for armor are given under the class details. Weapons can be made from bone, wood, obsidian, or stone, but have particular disadvantages. For example, it’s much more common to see a longsword made of wood than one made of steel.

Also, currency works differently on Athas. Ceramic pieces are the standard currency, working similar to copper pieces in normal Fifth Edition settings.

Learn more about Athasian Equipment in the Dark Sun Equipment and Currency Guide

6 – Come Together

Finally, what reasons for coming together do you and the other characters have? Were you all slaves together? Or perhaps you’re part of the same hunter-gatherer tribe? Or maybe each of you come from a very different background and were pulled together for a common goal. Dark Sun is harsh, but varied world, filled with plenty of opportunity for adventure.

Optional Rule: 3rd-Level Characters

Dark Sun is not for the faint of heart. Even with higher starting ability scores, the threats faced in the city-states, dunes and rocky barrens are tougher than average. It is recommended that characters start at the 3rd level to compensate.

3rd level characters start with normal starting equipment.

Index of Dark Sun Materials

Listed below are all of the details for players and GMs to run a Dark Sun campaign in Fifth Edition.

  1. How to Create a Dark Sun Character
  2. Races of Athas
  3. Classes of Athas
  4. Personalities and Backgrounds of Athas
  5. Equipment and Currency of Athas
  6. Spells and Magic Items of Athas

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Races of Athas (Dark Sun) | New Player Options for Fifth Edition

If you’ve been reading, then you probably know that my main Saturday group will be ending their current campaign probably by the end of the summer. This gives me the opportunity to run a whole new campaign. And while I’m not 100% set on anything yet, one of my players suggested we do a Dark Sun campaign.

If you aren’t familiar with Dark Sun, it’s a hardcore advanced setting set in a dying world named Athas that’s mostly desert. Magic destroys the environment, metal is rare, and water is more valuable than gold.

Many of the races that exist in traditional Fifth Edition settings are found in Athas. However, they have a few differences. This article goes over the major playable races of Athas and their characteristics and traits. Feel free to use them in your own Dark Sun campaign or a world of your own design.


Design Notes

Some of the races below are unusual in that they have a reduction to an ability score, and some are more or less powerful than the typical D&D races–additional reasons for these races to be used in a campaign with care.

Also, due to the rugged, harsh environment that is Dark Sun, you may notice that there is a distinct lack of races that favor Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. This is intentional. Athas is a brutal world. And while highly-intelligent beings exist, most of the survivors in this grim world are tough by necessity.

Finally, I’ve cribbed a lot of the text from the original 2nd edition Dark Sun boxed set. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Plus, I can’t sell this stuff anyways (not even on DMsguild… lame!), so might as well just quote the masters.

dark-sun-dwarf

Dwarves

A dwarf’s chief love is toil. A dwarf is never happier than when there is a cause to work or fight for, something he can approach with stoic singlemindedness for weeks, months, years, or even decades at a time. Once a dwarf’s mind is committed to a certain task, he’ll only set it aside after a great deal of grumbling and coercion. The fulfillment he achieves upon completion of a lengthy, difficult task is what he strives for.  Lives of hard work in the hot sun leave them with a rich tan and rugged, calloused hands and feet.

The task to which a dwarf is presently committed is referred to as his focus. A dwarf’s focus must be a feat requiring at least one week to complete. Shorter term goals cannot be considered a focus.

Actually, a dwarf’s commitment to his focus is based in his physiology—those who complete their lives before they complete their foci live out their afterlives as banshees in the wastes, haunting their unfinished works!

By nature, dwarves are nonmagical and never use arcane magic or spells. This restriction does not apply to cleric or paladin spells. An Athasian dwarf takes notice of other beings based upon his focus. If the other being is also actively committed to the dwarf’s focus, the dwarf will consider him a sensible and dependable companion. If, however, the other being is vehemently opposed to the dwarf’s focus, the two will be irrevocably at odds until one or the other is dead. There is very little room for compromise in the mind of a dwarf.

Athasian Dwarf Traits

Your dwarf character has an assortment of inborn abilities, part and parcel of Athasian dwarven nature.

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Strength score increases by 2.

Age. Dwarves mature at the same rate as humans, but they’re considered young until the reach of age of 50. On average, they live about 250 years.

Alignment. Most dwarves are lawful, believing firmly in the benefits of a well-ordered society. They tend toward good as well, with a strong sense of fair play and a belief that everyone deserves to share in the benefits of a just order.

Size. Dwarves are short but extremely powerful. Athasian dwarves average 4 1/2 to 5 feet in height and tend to have a very large muscle mass—a full-grown dwarf weighs in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet. Your speed is not reduced by wearing heavy armor.

Nonmagical. You cannot cast spells from the sorcerer, warlock, or wizard spell lists.

Dwarven Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

Tool Expertise. You gain proficiency with the artisan’s tools of your choice. You add double your proficiency bonus when you make checks using this proficiency.

Languages. You can speak Common and Dwarvish. Dwarvish is full of hard consonants and guttural sounds, and those characteristics spill over into whatever other languages a dwarf might speak.

 

dark-sun-elf

Elves

The dunes and steppes of Athas are home to thousands of tribes of nomadic elves. While each tribe is very different culturally, the elves within them remain a race of long-limbed sprinters given to theft, raiding, and warfare.

An Athasian elf stands between 6 1/2 and 7 1/2 feet tall. They are slender, lean, and generally in terrific physical condition. Their features are deeply etched into their weather-toughened faces, and their skin made rugged by the windblown sands and baking sun of the wilderness. Elves typically dress to survive in the desert environment. Even when at an oasis or in the cities, elves tend to prefer their native garb, designed to wrap the wearer against the brutality of the elements.

Elves are all brethren within their own tribe, but regard all outsiders as potential enemies. There is no racial unity among the elves—an elf from outside the tribe is just as much a foe as a human, halfling, or thri-kreen. Acceptance of an outsider by an individual elf can be achieved, but trust will only develop over time. Acceptance of an outsider by an entire tribe is also possible, but rare. It is usually only awarded after
some great sacrifice has been made on behalf of the tribe—many outsiders have been accepted posthumously into elven desert tribes.

Individually, tribal elves are swift, sure, and self-reliant in the extreme. An elf is conditioned to run quickly over sandy and rocky terrain, sometimes for days at a time—an elf warrior can cross better than 50 miles per day. An elven war party on the move is
a deadly force of endurance and maneuverability.

Elves use no beasts of burden for personal transportation, though they do sometimes engage kanks and similar creatures for baggage or raw materials transport. It is dishonorable among elves to ride on an animal unless wounded and near death—even pregnant women and old elves are expected to keep up with the tribe or be left behind. While most elven tribes make their living through herding, some have turned to commerce and others to raiding. Elven traders are rightly considered the most capable of Athas. Not only can they barter and deal with a variety of races, but they can also move and protect their goods across the vast wilderness.

Elven culture, while savage, is also very rich and diverse. Elves have no class restrictions. An elf can be from a wild, tribal background or from a city-state upbringing—there are many elves that have settled in the cities as bazaar vendors, and still, many more that have been dragged there in chains.

Athasian Elf Traits

Your elf character has a variety of natural abilities, the result of thousands of years of elven refinement.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Intelligence score increases by 1.

Age. Although elves reach physical maturity at about the same age as humans, the elven understanding of adulthood goes beyond physical growth to encompass worldly experience. An elf typically claims adulthood and an adult name around the age of 100 and can live to be 750 years old.

Alignment. Elves are often cruel, devious, and mischievous. They tend towards both chaos and evil, however, there are exceptions.

Size. An Athasian elf stands between 6 1/2 and 7 1/2 feet tall. They are slender, lean, and generally in terrific physical condition. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 35 feet.

Darkvision. Accustomed to traveling during the cool, night hours, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Keen Senses. You have proficiency in the Perception skill.

Elven Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.

Desert Ambusher. When you are in the desert or steppes of Athas, you gain a +2 bonus to your initiative checks and you can’t be surprised while you are conscious.

Fey Ancestry. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.

Trance. Elves don’t need to sleep. Instead, they meditate deeply remaining semiconscious for 4 hours a day. (The Common word for such meditation is “trance.”) While meditating, you can dream after a fashion; such dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

Languages. You can speak Common and Elvish.

 

darksun-half-elf

Half-Elves

Elves and humans travel many of the same roads on Athas—elven tribes have at times encountered human mercenaries, just as elven warriors have found gainful employment in the armies of the city-states. The merchant class, too, is overrun with traders of both races, so it is not at all unusual for children of mixed parentage to be born into the
world—the half-elves.

A half-elf is generally tall, between 6 and 6 1/2 feet tall, but meatier than his elven counterparts. His facial features are clearly more deeply defined than those of a human, but based solely on his countenance a half-elf can usually pass for either an elf or a human.

A half-elf’s life is typically hardened by the intolerance of others. Neither fully human nor fully elven, half-elves rarely find acceptance with either race. Elves are especially intolerant, at times driving mothers of half-elven infants from their camps into the desert. Humans are more apt to accept half-elves as allies or partners, but seldom accept them into their homes, clans, or families. Rarely do half-elves congregate in great enough numbers to form communities of their own, so they remain, outsiders, forever wandering from situation to situation without a people, land, or village to call home.

Intolerance, however, has given the half-elf his greatest attribute—self-reliance. As a loner, usually without a permanent residence, a half-elf survives the rigors of life in the wilderness completely on his own.

The skills involved in survival, such as locating food, water, and shelter, are only half of the challenge they face—half-elves must also learn to deal with the absence of companionship, the complete lack of conversation and basic friends kip.

Coincidentally, faced with intolerance from the races of their parentage, many turn to completely alien races for acceptance. Dwarves, halflings, and even thri-kreen have no basic dislike of half-elves—nor do they grant them any favor. At the very least a kalf-elf dealing with these races can expect no automatic prejudices. Also, some half-elves turn for companionship to the animal world, training beasts of the air and sands as servants and friends.

Athasian Half-Elf Traits

Your half-elf character has some qualities in common with elves and some that are unique to half-elves.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1, and two other ability scores of your choice increase by 1.

Age. Half-elves mature at the same rates humans do and reach adulthood around the age of 20. They live much longer than humans, however, often exceeding 180 years.

Alignment. A half-elf provides itself on its self-reliance, giving them a bent towards chaos. They chafe at rules, resent others’ demands, and sometimes prove unreliable, or at least unpredictable.

Size. Half-elves are about the same size as Athasian humans, ranging from 6 to 6 1/2 feet tall. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 35 feet.

Darkvision. Thanks to your elf blood, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

One with the Wild. You have proficiency in the Animal Handling and Survival skills.

Languages. You can speak Common, Elvish, and one other language of your choice.

 

dark-sun-half-giant

Half-Giants

Giants dominate many of the islands and coastal areas of the Silt Sea, wading across it to plunder the communities of smaller races where they find them. In some lost millennium, as a bizarre experiment or perhaps as some sort of curse, giants were magically crossbred with humans. Half-giants are now fairly common, especially to human controlled lands at the edge of the sea of dust.

Though no one knows for certain, half-giants seem to be a fairly young race, perhaps only a few tens of centuries old. There is no half-giant culture common to all of their kind. On the contrary, having insufficient history and overall intelligence to have their own culture, half-giants tend to readily adopt the cultures of other creatures they admire or associate with. Half-giants are very imitative creatures, eager to fit into new situations as they present themselves.

Half-giants sometimes collect into communities of their own, though they most often adopt the culture and customs of those creatures that are nearby. When near an elven nation, for instance, half-giants will form their own hunting and raiding parties, adopting the ways of the elven marauders. They won’t mix with the elves, neither will they fight with them. In most instances, imitative half-giant communities will compete directly with the race whom they are likening themselves to. It is their great size and combat prowess that keeps their competitors at a safe distance. Half-giants can switch their attitudes very quickly, taking on new values to fit new situations. A half-giant whose peaceful farming life is disrupted by marauders may soon adopt the morals of the very renegades who sacked his village.

Athasian Half-Giant Traits

Half-giant share a number of traits in common with giants, as well as having unique characteristics only they possess.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 4, your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Charisma score increases by 1.

Age. Half-giants have lifespans comparable to humans. They enter adulthood in their late teens and usually live a little more than a century.

Alignment. Half-giants are imitable but flexible. Typically, one aspect of their alignment remains fixed while the other stays neutral. For example, a “lawful” half-giant could be good one day or evil the next. While a “good” half-giant may conform to laws on one day, or break towards chaos on another.

Size. A half-giant is an enormous individual, standing between 10 and 12 feet tall, and weighing in the neighborhood of 1,600 pounds. Your size is Large.

As a Large creature, you gain the following benefits:

  • You can use Large weapons. A Large weapon deals double the listed damage dice on a hit and costs 4 times the normal price. You can wield Medium two-handed and versatile weapons in one hand.  You have disadvantage wielding a Medium or smaller weapon that does not have the two-handed or versatile weapon property. Medium weapons with the versatile property always deal the two-handed damage when wielded by you.
  • All clothing, armor, and other items that must be fitted to your build cost you 4 times as much as normal.
  • When you make an attack with a thrown or ranged weapon, your normal range is doubled and your long range is tripled.
  • When you make a melee attack on your turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Athletic. You have proficiency in the Athletics skill.

Languages. You can speak Common, Giant, and one other language of your choice.

Level Adjustment. Because of the benefits of being a large creature, half-giants count as two character levels higher when calculating class levels and experience.

 

dark-sun-halfling

Halflings

Beyond the Ringing Mountains are jungles that flourish in rains that never reach the Tablelands or the Sea of Silt. There, life is abundant, the foliage thick and untamed. The undisputed rulers of these jungles are the halflings.

A halfling is a very short humanoid, standing no more than 3 1/2 feet in height. They are muscled and proportioned like humans, but they have the faces of wise and beautiful children. Halflings live to be as much as 120 years old, but once they reach adulthood, their features never succumb to their years—it’s very difficult for an outsider to determine a given halfling’s age. A halfling weighs 50 to 60 pounds and is virtually always in peak physical condition.

Halflings possess a great deal of racial unity. Though divided politically into separate villages and communities, halflings have great respect for their race as a whole. Political differences between them are settled wherever possible peaceably, through ritual and custom, most often under the direction of their clerical leaders, the shaman witch doctors.

On a personal level, halflings relate very well to one another, well enough to have built a considerable culture rich in art, song, and other expressive communication. However, they tend to rely heavily on their culture for communication, a culture that both parties in a conversation are assumed to understand. It is difficult for a halfling to compensate in conversation for a listener who isn’t intimately familiar with halfling culture, and as such, they easily become frustrated with outsiders. Depending upon how “official” a meeting is, outsiders often have to take great pains to learn local customs merely to
communicate with the halflings in question. Of course, halflings who have traveled widely outside their traditional jungle home have a much greater tolerance of those with a “lack” of halfling culture; so much so that they can communicate easily and without frustration. Halfling culture is fabulously diverse, but difficult for other races to comprehend. A complete history of their culture, if such a thing existed, would speak
volume upon volume of complex social change, inspirational clerical leaders, and in-depth personal studies of the halfling and his duty to his jungle home. Conspicuous in their absence would be references to great wars of conquest or tremendous monetary wealth—the yardsticks by which other races measure cultural success. Halfling culture cares for the individual’s inward being, his identity and spiritual unity with his race and environment. Their culture does not provide for more traditional values, and vices such as greed and avarice are particularly discouraged.

Oddly, the richness of the land may be disturbed and examined, even used for a halfling’s own gain. However, those riches belong to the land and, in the mind of the halfling, should never be moved away. For instance, nature intended a spring to bring water only to a certain area. To move the water through irrigation to some other area is not what nature had in mind. Similarly, an archaeological find in the jungle that yields a great pile of gold and metals is an event that shouldn’t be tampered with—the gold
might be used to raise a spectacular series of clerical buildings on the spot, but it should not be carted off to some other location.

Athasian Halfling Traits

Your halfling character has a number of traits in common with all other halflings.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, your Wisdom score increases by 1, and your Strength score is reduced by 2.

Age. A halfling reaches adulthood at the end of 20 and generally lives in the middle of his or her second century.

Alignment. While halflings may be seen to outsiders as feral and chaotic, their villages are unified and structured; they tend towards lawful. They are also very orderly and traditional, leaning heavily on the support of their community and the comfort of their old ways.

Size. Halflings average about 3 feet tall and weigh about 50 pounds. Your size is Small.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.

Magic Resistance. You have advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Halfling Nimbleness. You can move through the space of any creature that is of a size larger than yours.

Halfling Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

Languages. You can speak Common and Halfling.

 

darksun-human

Human

Humans are the predominant race on Athas. Human characters are not restricted in either the classes they can choose or the levels they can attain. High-level humans can easily become the most powerful characters in the campaign.

An average human male stands between 6 and 6 1/2 feet tall and weighs 180 to 200 pounds. A human female is somewhat smaller, averaging between 5 1/2 and 6 feet in height and weighing between 100 and 140 pounds. The colors of skin, eyes, and hair
vary widely.

On Athas, centuries of abusive magic have not only scarred the landscape—they’ve twisted the essence of human appearance, as well. Many humans in Athas look “normal.” Others, however, have marked alterations to their appearance. Their facial features might be slightly bizarre; a large chin or nose, pointed ears, no facial hair, etc. Their coloration might be subtly different, such as coppery, golden brown, hues of grey, or patchy. The differences may be more physical, such as webbed toes or fingers,
longer or shorter limbs, etc.

Athasian Human Traits

Humans on Athas have the same diversity as humans anywhere else. Their traits are the same as the ones described in the PHB.

 

darksun-mul

Muls

A mul (pronounced: mul) is an incredibly tough crossbreed of a human and dwarf. They retain the height and cunning of their human parent, plus the durability and raw strength of their dwarven heritage. Muls are usually the products of the slave pits—owners recognize the muls’ assets as gladiators and laborers, and so order the births of as many muls as can be managed within the ranks of their slaves. Muls are born sterile—they cannot perpetuate their kind.

A full-grown mul stands 6 to 6 1/2 feet tall and weighs 240-300 pounds. They are fair skinned, sometimes tending toward a copperish coloration. Their dwarven ancestry gives them a well-muscled frame and an incredible constitution—mul laborers can
perform heavy work for days at a time without stopping. Muls have stern facial features. They are unmistakably human in appearance, though their ears are swept back and slightly pointed. Most muls, whether male or female, have no hair or beard.

Born as they are to lives of slave labor, with the taskmaster’s whip taking the place of parents and family, muls are given to a gruff personality and violent reactions. Understandably, many never seek friends or companionship but live out their lives in
servitude, driven by Katred and spite. Most, however, learn who to trust in the slave pits and who not to, gaining favor and reputation among the other slaves.

Many slave muls Kave either escaped or otherwise won their freedom and now live independent lives all over Athas. Of these, a large percentage have bartered their combat prowess, making their way as soldiers or guards. A few others, given to more cerebral pursuits, have turned to priestly devotions or the mental disciplines of psionics.

Athasian Mul Traits

Your mul character has certain traits deriving from your dwarven ancestry.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age. Muls mature at the same rate humans do, reaching adulthood at 20. They live a little longer than humans, typically to 120 years of age.

Alignment. Muls are taught from a young age their place in the world; its rare that one seeks freedom from its lot in life. For this reason, muls tend towards lawful alignments.

Size. Muls stand 6 to 6 1/2 in height and weight between 200 to 240 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Relentless Endurance. When you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest.

Savage Attacks. When you score a critical hit with a melee weapon attack, you can roll one of the weapon’s damage dice one additional time and add it to the extra damage of the critical hit.

Efficient Rest. Muls require less sleep than most other races. After resting for 6 hours, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

Languages. You can speak Common and Dwarven.

 

Thri-Kreen

Hulking insect-men standing as tall as 7 feet at the shoulder, the thri-kreen are the least “human” of the major Athasian races. Their survivability in the wilderness, combined with their cunning and intellect, have made the mantis warriors (as they are
known to some races) the undisputed masters across large tracts of the Athasian wastes.
The individual thri-kreen is a six-limbed creature with a tough, sandy-yellow exoskeleton. Its hind legs are the most powerful, used for walking, running, and leaping. The four forward limbs each have a hand with three fingers and an opposable thumb. A
thri-kreen’s exoskeleton is extremely hard.

A thri-kreen’s head has two large eyes, two antennae, and a small-but-powerful jaw. The jaws work from side to side and have several small extensions that grab and manipulate food while it is being eaten. The eyes are jet black and multi-faceted, separated to either side of the head. The antennae are all but vestigial, serving only to help maneuver
through brush and grasslands in the darkness.

Thri-kreen have no need for sleep. Thri-kreen characters can remain active through the day and night. Thri-kreen make and use a variety of weapons. Chief among them are the gythka, a polearm with wicked blades at either end and the chatkcha, a crystalline throwing wedge. They also fashion many forms of clothing but never wear armor.

The pack is the single unit of organization among the thri-kreen, generally having 2-24 individuals. The pack is always on the hunt, never idle—there are no permanent thri-kreen communities. The so-called thri-kreen nations are, in fact, not organized as such, nor are they thought of as nations by the mantis warriors. The nations are human conventions to delineate on maps where the thri-kreen thrive and dominate.

Thri-kreen are carnivores and the pack is constantly on the hunt for food. They consider the other Athasian races as potential food stock but only prey on other intelligent creatures in times of desperation. The mantis warriors have a well-known taste for elves, which keeps both races at an uneasy peace when they are forced to cooperate.

Athasian Thri-Kreen Traits

Your thri-kreen character has a variety of natural abilities.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, your Wisdom score increases by 1, and your Intelligence score is reduced by 1.

Age. Thri-kreen live short lives. They reach adulthood around the age of 10 years and typically live no longer than 30 years.

Size. Thri-kreen are much taller than humans, standing 7 to 7 1/2 feet tall. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 40 feet.

Darkvision. Your large eyes and antennae help you navigate the dark. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Claws. Your claws are natural weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with them, you deal slashing damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.

Four Arms. You have an extra pair of arms in the center of your chest. You can use these extra arms to lift items weighing no more than three times your Strength score.  You can use your arms to do the following simple tasks: lift, drop, hold, push, or pull an object or a creature; open or close a door or a container; grapple someone or make an unarmed strike. your GM might allow other simple tasks to be added to that list of options.

Your extra arms can’t hold shields or do anything that requires manual precision such as using tools or magic items or performing the somatic components of a spell.

When you reach 5th level, you can use your bonus action to make an attack with your extra arms. This extra attack can only be made using your claw attack, a simple weapon that does not have the heavy or two-handed properties, or a chatkcha.

Standing Leap. Your long jump is up to 30 feet and your high jump is up to 15 feet, with or without a running start.

Natural Armor. You have a thick carapace. When you aren’t wearing armor, your AC is 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armor to determine your AC if the armor you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield’s benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armor.

Sleepless. Thri-kreen do not require sleep. While resting, you remain alert and can perform light tasks. After resting this way for 4 hours, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

Languages. You can speak Thri-kreen. Because of your physiology, you can’t learn other languages. However, you have telepathy out to 60 feet which you can use to communicate with other creatures with which you are familiar. The target of your telepathy must be able to speak a language in order for you to communicate with it.


Optional Rule: Innate Psionics

Nearly all demihumans living on Athas possess some form of innate psionics, some more developed than others. At the GM’s discretion, each character can start with one psionic talent as described in the Unearthed Arcana Mystics article.


Optional Rule: Literacy

Reading and writing are generally outlawed in the city-states. Those caught reading and writing are either forced into slavery or executed by the Templars. However, any time a character is allowed to learn a new language, they can choose literacy instead, granting them the ability to read and write all of the languages that they know.


Next: Classes of Athas

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Skills Revisited | New Rules for Fifth Edition

There’s a lot of great stuff that came with the arrival of Fifth Edition. And there are also a few things that got the shaft. One of the biggest being skills. I believe part of the reason why Wizards of the Coast diminished the importance of skills in Fifth Edition was to put emphasis on the three pillars: roleplaying, combat, and exploration. With those three, there’s hardly room for cooking, smithing, and playing the flute.

In this article, I hope to expand upon skills a bit. The goal is to not only expand upon skills, but to also maintain the Fifth Edition “vibe.”

What skills are in Fifth Edition?

If you asked the average Fifth Edition player how many skills he or she thought there were, they’d probably answer 18 or so. And they’d be mostly right. Of course, it’s ignoring the “skills” that come with tools. Tools, like skills, have proficiencies, which means that they are more or less “skills” too, in a way. We could probably even go a step further and consider all arms and armor skills, too. After all, you’re either proficient or you’re not in those.

Here is the list of everything a character can become proficient with in Fifth Edition:

  • Arms and Armor. Light Armor, Heavy Armor, Improvised Weapons, Martial Melee Weapons, Martial Ranged Weapons, Medium Armor, Shields, Simple Melee Weapons, Simple Ranged Weapons
  • Skills. Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Arcana, Athletics, Deception, History, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Religion, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Survival
  • Tools. Artisan’s tools, Disguise kit, Forgery kit, Gaming set, Herbalism kit, Musical instruments, Navigator’s tools, Poisoner’s kit, Thieves’ tools, Vehicles

That’s quite the list! Now, of course, some may argue that arms and armor and tools aren’t really skills. But in previous editions (and plenty of video games) they were.

Skill Feats in Fifth Edition

What skill feats currently exist in Fifth Edition? Unfortunately, not a lot. Below, I’ve included the limited list of “skill feats” found in the Player’s Handbook. These are feats that specifically augment skills or tools.

  • Actor. This allows a character to pretend to be someone else. Not really a “skill feat” per se, but it does offer up addition abilities for characters who have high Charisma (Deception and Performance) modifiers.
  • Dungeon Delver. This allows for specialization with Wisdom (Perception) and Intelligence (Investigation) when searching for secret doors.
  • Healer. This one might be “cheating” a little, but it does improve the use of the healer’s kit. However, healer’s kit does not require proficiency to use.
  • Observant. This feat grants a +5 bonus to passive Wisdom (Perception) and passive Intelligence (Investigation) scores.
  • Skilled. Kind of a no brainer, this feat grants proficiency in any combination of three skills or tools of the player’s choice.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has two additional feats restricted by race.

  • Prodigy. This grants a skill proficiency and tool proficiency. Plus, it gives an expertise bonus to one of the characters’ skills. This is limited to half-elves, half-orcs, and humans.
  • Squat Nimbleness. Dwarves or small races have advantage on Strength (Athletics) and Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks made to escape from being grappled.

As you can see, it’s not a huge selection.

Note: I may have a missed a few others from various official expansions. Please feel free to let me know what I missed down in the comments below.

Unearthed Arcana Skill Expansions

In 2017, Wizards of the Coast released an Unearthed Arcana playtest supplement that included rules for expanding spells. Personally, I found the rules to be a little overpowered, and since the content was never released in an official capacity, I estimate that Wizards of the Coast discovered the same thing.

Regardless, here are those articles for your reference:

Skill Specializations – The Biggest Hurdle

The main issue with skill feats is that feats take up a lot of valuable real estate in Fifth Edition. In Third Edition, characters got feats at regular intervals in addition to Ability Score Improvements and Skill Ranks.

Now, in Fifth, if a DM decides to use the optional feats rule, a character can forgo taking their Ability Score Improvement and instead take a Feat.

Instead of having the benefits of all three at certain levels, players have to make tough choices. Is proficiency in three new skills better than a +2 increase in Dexterity? Should a character take improvements to passive observation skills, or get three luck points?

The majority of the character classes in Fifth edition offer only five such choices. Rogues get one additional, and fighters get two more. If the DM allows for the variant human, that’s another one.

Variant Race Rules

One fix to this is allowing for the Variant Races that I created here on the blog. Instead of taking a set racial “package”, a player can take the variant, choose a racial feat, then pick another feat.

Skill Expertise – Optional Rule

One of my favorite things to do in Fifth Edition is to use what exists and reverse engineer the mechanics involved in the construction. There are two feats that lend insight to how skills are officially “valued” in Fifth Edition. Skilled is the first and Prodigy is second (ignoring Xanathar’s “book creep”, of course).

For the cost of a single Ability Score Improvement, a character can take proficiency in a combination of three skill proficiencies or three tools thanks to the Skilled feat. Alternatively, a half-elf, half-orc, or human character can take Prodigy which offers one skill and one tool proficiency and then augments a skill with expertise (double proficiency) in addition to one language.

Therefore, we can estimate that three skill or three tool proficiencies equal one skill and one tool proficiency in addition to one skill expertise. Since the feat has the prerequisite of being human or half-human, to make the math easier I’ll just eliminate the language that comes with Prodigy.

What this allows is the ability for a character to choose expertise in a skill or tool over one of their normal skill choices. For example, a fighter is allowed to choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival. Using this optional rule, the fighter could select Athletics then take expertise in the skill.

For backgrounds, I wouldn’t allow this optional rule since the character probably needs both those skills in order to have the background in the first place, not to mention there is not a choice given there.

Skill Mastery – New Feat

Taking things a step further, we can create Mastery feats. But what does Mastery in a skill mean?

At 11th level, rogues gain the reliable talent feature. Whenever a rogue makes an ability check that lets it add its proficiency bonus, the rogue can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10. This is a pretty powerful little feature. But what is it worth in terms of feats? Hard to say–not only is it a feature, but it’s an 11th level feature which tends to be a bit more powerful than normal features.

Remember that a feat should be good enough that a player will want to select it over both other feats as well as an Ability Score Improvement. Just a single skill with the reliable talent feature probably isn’t good enough, but two might be worth it. Alternatively, I could offer a single point of Ability Score Improvement.


Skill Mastery

Choose one skill that you are proficient in. You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase the ability score related to the skill by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Whenever you make an ability check that uses that skill’s proficiency bonus, you can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10.

Skill Specialization – New Feats

Next, I wanted to create new feats centered around skill specializations themselves. A specialization is like a subsect of a skill. The Actor feat is a good example of this. And, like it or not, so are the tool and skill feats from Unearthed Arcana. In addition to those feats, the gnomes’ racial trait Artificer’s Lore works well as does the dwarves’ Stone Cunning (granted, these are just targeted expertise traits).

Using the model from Unearthed Arcana’s skills and tool feats, I think a “build your own specialization” could work. Here is how I see such a feat functioning:

  • Choose the skill.
  • The feat offers an ability score increase directly related to the skill. For example, Arcana would grant a +1 bonus to Intelligence.
  • If the character is not already proficient in the skill, the character gains proficiency.
  • The character chooses a narrow field in which to become a specialist. The specialization must be related to the chosen skill. When making an ability check that uses the skill proficiency, the character makes the check with advantage.

Examples of specializations include:

  • Animal Handling. Riding animals, specific animals, veterinarian medicine
  • Arcana. Magic items, planes of existence, schools of magic, spellcraft
  • Athletics. Climbing, running, swimming, wrestling
  • Acrobatics. Balancing, diving, stunts, tumbling
  • Deception. Gambling, long con, misdirection
  • History. Local, global, military, regional
  • Insight. Lie detection, psychology
  • Intimidation. Interrogation, threats
  • Investigation. Engineering, forensics, search
  • Medicine. Diseases, magical injuries, surgery
  • Nature. Animals, plants, terrain, weather
  • Perception. Hearing, sight, smell, taste
  • Performance. Acting, dance, storytelling
  • Persuasion. Etiquette, relationships, sales
  • Religion. Cults, religious texts, specific gods
  • Sleight of Hand. Concealment, picking pockets, nonmagical illusions
  • Survival. Foraging, terrain types, tracking
  • Stealth. Hiding, moving silently, making signals

Here are a few examples:


Climbing Specialist

You are an expert climber. You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Strength score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency in the Athletics skill unless you are already proficient in this skill.
  • When you make a Strength (Athletics) check to climb a difficult surface, you can make the check with advantage.

Transmutation Specialist

You have focused your arcane studies in the field of transmutation. You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Intelligence score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency in the Arcana skill unless you are already proficient in this skill.
  • When you make an Intelligence (Arcana) check to identify transmutation spells, writings, or effects, you can make your check with advantage.

More to Come

As I explore this topic, I’ll add a bit more. An array of specialization feats would be nice in a large reference book, but hopefully, the information offered here is enough to get you started.

Enjoy!

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Archers | Player Supplement for Fifth Edition (Part 3)

This article adds new rules, subclasses, prestige classes, magic items, and more for players interested in expanding archer characters in Fifth Edition.

Here is a summary of what’s included in this article:


Part 3: Optional Rules

The optional rules in this section pertain to using bows and arrows in your Fifth Edition game.

Special Shots

Sometimes, a character needs to use his or her bow and arrow to do more than just “stab a target that’s over there.” An arrow could be used to set a fire. The archer may wish to aim for a particular spot on a target such as the eye or their hand. Firing an arrow with a rope attached to it makes for a great zip line; a classic staple of great adventures.

The following rules options can be used by archers in your game.

Small and Large Targets

The Fifth Edition ruleset assumes that you will always be targeting a Medium or larger sized creature. However, if you’ve ever fired a ranged weapon of any sort you’ll know that the smaller the target is, the harder it is to hit. Inversely, large targets are a lot easier to hit.

As an optional rule, you can give an attacker disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks made against targets that are two or more size categories smaller than the attacker. And if the target is two or more size categories larger than the attacker, the attacker has advantage on ranged weapon attacks against the target.

arcane-archer
Art by Wizards of the Coast.

Firing at Narrow Openings

Sometimes, an archer needs to fire an arrow or other projectiles into a small opening such as a narrow window, a keyhole, or between the legs of an ogre. Normally, the opening itself would provide cover if the attacker was targeting a creature or object on the other side of the opening. However, if there is no specific target, the AC depends on the actual size of the opening. Refer to the Opening Armor Class table below to determine the roll needed to get your projectile through the opening.

Opening Armor Class

Size AC
Tiny (inside a bottle, keyhole) 20
Small (arrow slit, closing chest) 15
Medium (doorway, well opening) 10

Flaming Arrow

You can fire a flaming projectile at a target that you can see within range. The arrow (or other projectiles) must have some way of being set ablaze, such as coated in pitch, or wrapped in dry paper. You or another creature must use an action to light the fire. If the flaming arrow hits a flammable object such as a barrel of gunpowder or thatch roof, the object takes the weapon’s normal damage and ignites. If the arrow hits a creature, that creature takes weapon’s normal damage and must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the creature takes 1d10 fire damage and catches fire. Until someone takes an action to douse the fire, the creature takes 1d10 fire damage at the start of each of its turns.

Zip Line

You can attach a rope to your arrow with the intent of creating a zip line from it. Due to the weight and awkwardness of the attached rope, your ranged weapon attack rolls made with the arrow are made at disadvantage. You can then can fire the arrow at an object you can see within the weapon’s normal range. If the arrow hits, the arrow sticks and the rope is anchored in place. You and other creatures can then climb along the rope.

Called Shots

With this option, if you make a ranged weapon attack roll and score a critical hit, instead of dealing double damage, you may substitute one of the following options:

  • Your arrow pierces the creature’s hand. If the creature attempts to make an attack with a weapon using that only that hand, its attacks are made at disadvantage. If the creature receives magical healing, this effect ends for it.
  • Your arrow pierces the creature’s foot. The creature’s walking speed is halved. If the creature receives magical healing, this effect ends for it.
  • Your arrow pierces the creature’s eye. The creature has disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight and on ranged attack rolls. Magic such as the regenerate spell can restore the lost eye. If the creature has no eyes left after sustaining this injury, it is blinded.
  • Your arrow pierces the creature’s artery. Until the creature receives magical healing or a creature makes a success DC 10 Medicine check to staunch the bleeding, the creature takes damage equal to the weapon’s die roll at the end of each of its turns as it continues to bleed out.
  • Your arrow permanently scars the creature. It is disfigured to the extent that the wound can’t be easily concealed. It has disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks and advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks. Magical healing of 6th level or higher, such as heal and regenerate, removes the scar.

Threatening Shot

Sometimes, a well-fired arrow can do more than damage a target. It can help you change a foe’s attitude and demonstrate who is control. When you make a ranged attack roll at a target and hit, you can choose not to deal damage. Instead, the arrow lands within inches of the target, narrowly missing them. You can then immediately make a Charisma (Intimidation) check contested by the target’s Wisdom (Insight). With a successful check, the target’s attitude becomes indifferent towards you if it is hostile or friendly if it is indifferent. If the target is immune to being frightened, it automatically succeeds the contest.

merida
Art by Paizo Publishing.

Archery Competitions

During an archery competition, two or more archers test pit their archery skills against each other. Below are a few of the competitions that an archer may compete in.

Multiple Targets Competition

In this type of competition, small objects are placed just outside of a weapon’s normal range (for example, bottles are set atop a fence post 100 feet away from an archer wielding a short bow). The archer is allowed to make a number of shots equal to the number of targets present and must roll a 15 or higher to hit each target (or 20 if the targets are moving). Each target the archer hits is worth 5 points.

Shooting Target Competition

The archers fire at a shooting target placed 230 feet away. The archer then makes a ranged attack roll against the shooting target. There are two ways to determine the winner of a shooting target competition:

  1. Each archer compares the result of their attack rolls. The archer with the highest die roll is the winner. If an archer rolls a 20 or higher on his or her die roll, the arrow hits the bullseye. If two competitors roll the same result, the first archer to achieve the result is the winner. Any archer that rolls a 9 or less completely misses the shooting target and is disqualified.
  2. Each archer is allowed three shots at the shooting target and scores points for accuracy. Archers score points based on where their arrow lands. Refer to the Shooting Target Results table below for scoring.

Shooting Target Results

Result Points
9 or less -5
10-14 +5
15-19 +10
20+ +20

“William Tell” Competition

The third type of archery competition is a little more dangerous. A “volunteer” holds the object for the shooters to target. The target can be an apple placed atop the volunteer’s head, a balloon held in their mouth, or an item that they toss into the air. The archer makes a ranged weapon attack against the object and the object counts as having half cover provided by the creature. If the shooter misses the target but is still within the range that the creature’s half-cover provides, the shooter hits the creature instead and the creature takes damage.

Archer Feats

The archer feat options below are presented in alphabetical order.

Assault Archer

You are deadly with ranged weapons, especially at close range. You gain the following benefits:

  • Your ranged weapon attacks do not suffer disadvantage when targeting prone creatures.
  • Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.
  • When you score a critical hit with a ranged weapon attack while within 30 feet of the target, you can roll one of the weapon’s damage dice one additional time and add it to the extra damage of the critical hit.

Long-range Archer

Prerequisite: proficiency with longbows

You have perfected using a longbow at long range. You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Your range when using a longbow is 200/800.
  • Strong wind doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.

Shortbow Archer

Prerequisite: proficiency with shortbows

You are able to loose arrows at a dazzling speed. When you use the Attack action to make a ranged weapon attack with a shortbow, you can use a bonus action to make an additional attack with the same weapon.


Next: Part 4. New Magic Items

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Items of Legacy | New Player Option for Fifth Edition

“Weapon of legacy” describes all the items created using the rules in this article, even those that wouldn’t normally be described as weapons (such as rings or shields). Usually, this article uses the more general term “item of legacy” or “legacy item.”

An item of legacy has the capacity to grow in power as its wielder advances in level. In addition, it confers increasingly powerful special abilities on its wielder. That character might carry and treasure the same item over her entire career as a hero (or villain).

Why not? As her own talents and abilities progress, so too do those of the legacy item, assuming the wielder takes the time to learn its complete history and awaken its quiescent power with the appropriate rituals.

As a player character, you could discover or inherit an item of legacy. Initially, it might
seem like nothing more than a standard magic item. Only when you learn something of its past do you begin to understand that this object has untapped potential. By uncovering the item’s full history, you can discover the keys that unlock the item’s full power.

Every item of legacy is distinct from the next, and each has its own unique story. Unearthing that story (or creating it, when founding an item of legacy) allows you to gain the full benefits of the item. For example, the story of Caladbolg, which appears only
when a great hero has need of it, contrasts sharply with that of Stormchaser’s Cudgel, whose heritage involves the murder of the weapon’s original owner, Suldan Kabrel the giant slayer.

Why use Weapons of Legacy?

If you’re a DM, items of legacy provide exciting rewards for players whose characters are willing to devote time and energy to learning about your campaign world. To unlock the powers of a legacy item, a player character must learn fabled legends of ancient history and complete rituals of mythic significance. Not only does this require the player to study the “backstory” of your world but also provides any number of ready-made adventure hooks for the campaign.

If you’re a player, a legacy item presents a way of personalizing your character while simultaneously building up her might. By tying her development to one of the great tales of history, your character takes on heroic proportions. Who knows? She might even become more famous than the first owner of the legacy item, unlocking powers of even greater potential.

Reading Legacy Item Entries

Refer to this section if you have questions about a legacy item’s presentation.

Name and Description

The name of the legacy item is followed by a description of the item’s appearance and easily observed abilities. Unless you succeed on the DC 15 Intelligence (History) check concerning the item, its name isn’t automatically evident.

Nonlegacy Game Statistics

This entry contains information that can be gleaned by inspection and with an identify spell. The cost listed here is for a normal magic item of the legacy item’s kind, its true status remaining unknown. All legacy items require attunement.

Legacy items are priceless.

History

Every legacy item has a history, which is often obscured by a gulf of time. Learning a piece of an item’s past requires a character to spend downtime researching it (see page 132 in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything for details).

These research checks do not have to be made by the prospective wielder of the item. The information gained by the research must be accurately communicated to that person, however, because making the relevant Intelligence (History) check also uncovers the ritual associated with part of the item’s legacy. The pieces of lore and the ritual gleaned from a successful check appear parenthetically at the end of each relevant paragraph in an item’s history.

Legacy Rituals

Every legacy item has at least one ritual associated with it—a task that must be successfully completed in order to unlock a range of abilities for your use. A legacy item can have least, lesser, and greater rituals, which grant you access to least, lesser, and greater abilities, respectively, but only if you complete the required ritual.

Cost

A legacy ritual has an associated cost in gold pieces, which is listed here.

Feat Granted

Successful completion of a legacy ritual grants you the legacy feat listed here as a
bonus feat, assuming you meet its prerequisites. If you don’t have all the prerequisites, you still gain the feat but cannot benefit from it until the prerequisites are met.

Wielder Requirements

Legacy items have more requirements than simply gaining the associated legacy feats. Such requirements are listed here, much like the prerequisites for entering a prestige class.

These requirements do not affect your ability to use the nonlegacy abilities of the item.

Item Table

Every legacy item is described in terms of a table that lays out conferred abilities according to the following information.

Wielder Level

You must possess this character level to gain the legacy item abilities in the same row of
the table, assuming you meet any other requirements. Since a character below 5th level cannot gain access to legacy abilities, each table starts with that level. A wielder of 5th–10th level has access to least legacy abilities at those levels. A wielder of 11th–16th level can gain lesser legacy abilities at those levels, and a wielder of 17th level or
higher can use the item’s greater legacy abilities.

Legacy Item Abilities

The abilities conferred by a legacy item are explained here. In general, using legacy items’ abilities requires you to at least carry the item on your person. This default rule has some exceptions, which are clarified in the specific entries to which they apply.
Unless otherwise noted, activating a legacy ability costs an action. The save DC for any legacy ability is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. If the legacy item casts a spell, you can instead use your normal spellcasting ability modifier instead of your Charisma modifier if the result would be higher.

 

Legacy Feats

The feats described here are granted to a character who fulfills the rituals required to awaken the corresponding powers of an item of legacy.

Least Legacy

Prerequisite: character level 5th, learn and perform the associated least legacy ritual of an item

Choose one item of legacy. If you meet the other prerequisites for wielding that item, you can use any of its least legacy abilities that are available to a character of your level. Least legacy abilities are those granted between 5th and 10th level.

Lesser Legacy

Prerequisite: Least Legacy feat, character level 11th, learn and perform the associated lesser legacy ritual of an item

Choose one item of legacy. If you meet the other prerequisites for wielding that item, you can use any of its lesser legacy abilities that are available to a character of your level. Least legacy abilities are those granted between 11th and 16th level.

Greater Legacy

Prerequisite: Lesser Legacy feat, Least Legacy feat, character level 17th, learn and perform the associated lesser legacy ritual of an item

Choose one item of legacy. If you meet the other prerequisites for wielding that item, you can use any of its greater legacy abilities that are available to a character of your level. Greater legacy abilities are those granted between 11th and 16th level.

 

Sample Legacy Item

The following item is a legacy item for you to use in your campaign.

Spidersilk

Character Level Ability
5th +1 mithral chain shirt, Armor Proficiency
6th False Life
7th Spiderfriend
8th Summon Spiders (CR 1/2)
9th
10th Web
11th +2 mithral chain shirt, Summon Spiders (CR 1)
12th Spider Climb
13th Potent Concentration
14th
15th Maximized Spells
16th
17th +3 mithral chain shirt, Summon Spiders (CR 2)
18th Spell Storing
19th Command Spiders
20th Improved Maximized Spells

Spidersilk

Armor (mithral chain shirt), legacy (requires attunement)

Spidersilk is a mithral shirt of exceptionally fine texture and quality. Black threads of spider silk appear to have been woven in among the metal rings. At 5th level and before its true nature is discovered, it counts as a +1 mithril chain shirt. As you unlock its legacy abilities, its AC bonus increases by +1 at 11th level (+2), and again at 17th level (+3.

History

Spidersilk was originally the armor of the legendary drow wizard Valenet. About four hundred years ago, he received it as a gift from Dierdra, his house matriarch, for slaying a mind flayer that had held her in thrall. The matriarch lavished training and resources upon the young male drow, educating him in the care and riding of spiders as well as the wizardly arts. (First piece of lore; Knowledge of the Spider)

No other male was as pampered or as powerful as the matriarch’s young savior, and Valenet enjoyed his privileged status. But among the drow, jealousy is easily aroused and
quickly manifests in violence. After another drow nearly killed Valenet in a duel, Dierdra forbade anyone to challenge him. Valenet subsequently survived several assassination
attempts, thanks largely to Spidersilk. Eventually, however, he died from drinking a cup of wine poisoned with spider venom. Dierdra buried Valenet dressed in this armor. (Second piece of lore; Test of the Fang).

The odds that the grave of one so envied and hated by other drow would lie undisturbed were slenderer than the finest spider silk. In fact, grave robbers opened Valenet’s tomb and made off with Spidersilk mere hours after the stonemasons had sealed it. Many unverified accounts of the armor indicate a profusion of owners during the next three hundred years.

Legend holds that it was worn by surface dwellers such as Yew, a cleric of Obad-Hai, who was credited with ridding the Yellow Wood of spiders. Occasionally, however, it was
brought back to the Underdark and sold back to the drow as finely crafted armor. Most who wore the armor remained ignorant of its true capabilities. (Third piece of lore; The Still and Patient Spider)

Legacy Rituals

Three rituals are required to unlock all the abilities of Spidersilk.

Knowledge of the Spider. You must acquire proficiency in Intelligence (Nature). Cost: 1,500 gp; Feat Granted: Least Legacy (Spidersilk).

Test of the Fang. You must be bitten by a spider of at least Large size and survive the poison without recourse to magical assistance. Thus, a slow poison or neutralize poison spell would negate the test, but a nonmagical resource, such as a vial of antitoxin, is acceptable. Cost: 13,000 gp; Feat Granted: Lesser Legacy (Spidersilk).

The Still and Patient Spider. You must spend one day per character level in meditation with Spidersilk. At least 8 hours of each day must be spent meditating, and you cannot engage in any strenuous activity or spellcasting during this period. Cost: 40,000 gp; Feat Granted: Greater Legacy (Spidersilk).

Wielder Requirements

The optimal user of Spidersilk is an elf wizard, although any arcane spellcaster might use it. Bards, multiclass rogues, and other lightly armored spellcasters such as warlocks or sorcerers might also embrace Spidersilk as an opportunity to expand their repertoire of abilities.

Spidersilk Wielder Requirements

  • Wisdom saving throw proficiency
  • Ability to cast spells from the wizard spell list.

Legacy Item Abilities

All the following are legacy item abilities of Spidersilk.

Armor Proficiency. When you reach 5th level, you are considered proficient with Spidersilk even if you aren’t normally proficient with medium armor.

False Life. Beginning at 6th level, you can cast false life once with this ability and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest.

Spiderfriend. At 7th level, you are constantly protected from attacks against spider and spiderkin. Any spider or spiderkin (such as an ettercap or drider) who targets you with an attack or a harmful spell must first make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature must choose a new target or lose the attack or spell. This ability doesn’t protect the warded creature from area effects, such as the explosion of a fireball. If you attack an affected spider or spiderkin, the effect ends for that creature.

Summon Spiders. At 8th level, you can summon up to two spiders of CR 1/2 or less (but not swarms) which appear in unoccupied spaces that you can see within 60 feet of you. The summoned spiders are friendly to you and your companions. Roll initiative for the swarms as a group; the swarms act on their own turn. They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don’t issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise, take no actions. Once you use this ability you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Beginning at 11th level, the challenge rating for spiders that you can summon with this ability increases to CR 1 and you can summon swarms of insects (spiders). And at 17th level, the challenge rating for spiders that you can summon with you Summon Spiders ability increases to CR 2.

Web. Starting at 10th level, you can cast web. You can use this ability three times, and regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Spiderclimb. At 12th level, you permanently gain the benefits of the spider climb spell.

Potent Concentration. When you reach 13th level, you can add your Charisma modifier to Constitution saving throws to maintain your concentration when you take damage.

Maximized Spells. Starting at 15th level, you can increase the power of your simpler spells. When you cast a spell of 1st through 5th level that deals damage or heals hit points, you can deal maximum damage or heal maximum hit points with that spell. After you use this ability, you can’t cast spells other than cantrips until the end of your next turn.

You can only use this ability three times. You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Spell Storing. At 18th level, you can store up to three spells in Spidersilk as if it were a ring of spell storing.

Command Spiders. Starting at 19th level, you can cast mass suggestion but you can only target spiders and spiderkin (such as ettercaps and driders), and instead of twelve creatures, you can command up to 40 hit dice worth of spiders and spiderkin within range. Spiders with Intelligence scores of 3 or lower automatically fail their Wisdom saving throw against the spell, and spiders and spiderkin with an Intelligence score of 4 or higher make their Wisdom saving throws with disadvantage. You can use this ability three times, and regain all expended uses after you finish a long rest.

Improved Maximize Spells. Starting at 20th level, you gain one additional use of your Maximize Spell ability. In addition, you can expend one additional use of your Maximize Spell ability to maximize the damage or healing of a 6th level spell, two additional uses to maximize the damage or healing of a 7th level spell.

 

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If you haven’t already heard, go ahead and check it out now. This monthly magazine looks to capture the feel of the old Dungeon/Dragon magazines from the ’80s and ’90s. Old School Feel with New School (5e) rules.

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Awakened Dog | New Race for Fifth Edition

This is one I’ve been stewing on for a while mostly because I’m not totally sure how I wanted to do it. Everyone would love to play a dog, right? But obviously, they come with some interesting challenges.

The biggest challenge is that dogs can’t hold things. Which renders nearly every class useless other than spellcasting classes which don’t rely much on martial weapons, and monks, which use their natural attacks to deal damage. Of course, arcane spellcasting is just as difficult because becoming awakened raises a dog’s Intelligence from 3 to 10, clearly not high enough to really make a difference. Charisma-based casting wouldn’t be much better thanks to an unchanged 7 in Charisma. That leaves them with Wisdom.

Okay, long story short. I can’t turn an awakened dog into a traditional race. But I can turn it into a specialized class that plays up its base features, and then build in subclasses that optimize its skills. A bit much, but hey… this request is from a platinum patron, and I try to go all the way for them!

Monster Class

A monster class is for players who wish to play monsters that do not comfortably fit into the race-class mold of Fifth Edition, either because they possess too much power to maintain game balance or they have disabilities that would make it difficult or impossible for them to take a class.

How to Create a Monster Class

The following rules replace the normal rules for character creation in Fifth Edition.

  1. Choose a Monster Class. Instead of choosing a race and a class, you take a monster class option which works as both your race and class.
  2. Determine Ability Scores. Your ability scores are generated in the same way that they would normally be generated. Most monster classes (and sometimes penalties) have innate bonuses just like basic races.
  3. Describe Your Character. This is the same as the PHB.
  4. Choose Equipment. Your monster class will have starting equipment options just like a class. You are free to use those or spend gold pieces to make purchases.
  5. Come Together. Finally, explain how your monster came to know the party; or where they were just before meeting the party.

shutterstock_437252467

Awakened Dog

You were an ordinary dog that was given higher intelligence and the ability to speak thanks to a powerful spellcaster.

Level Proficiency Bonus Bite Damage Unarmored Movement Features
1 +2 1d6
Awakened Dog Traits, Unarmored Defense, Focus, Improved Bite
2 +2 1d6 +10 ft. Unarmored Movement
3 +2 1d6 +10 ft. Focus feature
4 +2 1d6 +10 ft. Ability Score Improvement
5 +3 1d8 +10 ft. Extra Attack

Awakened Dog Traits

Your awakened dog has a variety of natural abilities, some innate and others granted by magic.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, abd your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Age. As a dog, you mature very quickly, reaching adulthood around the age of 1. You live a much shorter lifespan than humans, typically living no more than 15-20 years.

Alignment. Awakened dogs often share the same morality and ethical traits of the one that awakened them.

Size. The average dog stands no more than 2 to 3 feet on all fours and weighs between 65 and 75 pounds. Your size is Small.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 40 feet.

Monster Class. You are only allowed to take levels in the awakened dog class.

Keen Hearing and Smelling. You have proficiency in the Perception skill. In addition, you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

Beast Nature. Your creature type is beast. You can be affected by game effects that affect beasts but ignore those that affect humanoids.

Paws. You do not have opposable thumbs, therefore you can’t hold objects or use objects that would require the use of hands. Furthermore, you make Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) checks at disadvantage. At your GM’s discretion, you can hold items in your mouth, but doing such would make it difficult for you to communicate.

Language. You can speak and read Common plus one other language of your choice. Due to your lack of humanoid hands, you can’t write.


Awakened Dog Features

As an awakened dog, you gain the following monster class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per awakened dog level

Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per awakened dog level after 1st


Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor

Weapons: None

Tools: None

Saving Throws: Strength, Dexterity

Skills: Choose two from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Stealth, and Survival.


Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) a burglar’s pack, (b) a dungeoneer’s pack, or (c) an explorer’s pack
  • 40 gp

Unarmored Defense

Beginning at 1st level, while you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Wisdom modifier.


Focus

At 1st level, you turn your attention to a specialized focus that influences your new life as an awakened dog: Mystical, Protection, or Stealth. Your focus grants you features at 1st level and again at 3rd level. (More to come.)


Improved Bite

At 1st level, your fanged maw is a natural weapon, which you can use to make unarmed strikes. If you hit with it, you deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike. This die changes as you gain awakened dog levels, as shown in the Bite Damage column of the Awakened Dog class.


Unarmored Movement

Starting at 2nd level, your speed increases by 10 feet while you are not wearing armor. This bonus increases when you reach certain awakened dog levels, as shown in the Awakened Dog table.


Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.


Extra Attack

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.

The number of attacks increases to three when you reach 11th level in this class and to four when you reach the 17th level in this class.


Awakened Dog Focuses

At 1st level, an awakened dog gains the Awakened Dog Focus feature. The following options are available to an awakened dog: Mystical, Protection, or Stealth.


Mystical

The magic that created your awakened nature left lingering effects. Those effects have given you inherent magical abilities which you can use to your advantage.

Spellcasting

When you take this focus at 1st level, you gain the ability to cast spells. See chapter 10 of the PHB for the general rules of spellcasting and chapter 11 for the druid spell list. (Your spell slots and cantrips are the same as a druid’s.)

Cantrips. At 1st level, you know two cantrips of your choice from the druid spell list. You learn additional druid cantrips of your choice at higher levels, as shown in the Cantrips column of the Mystical table (use the Druid table).

Preparing and Casting Spells. The Mystical table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these druid spells, you must expend a slot of the spell’s level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.

You prepare the list of druid spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the druid spell list. When you do so, choose a number of druid spells equal to your Wisdom modifier + your awakened dog level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

For example, if you are a 3rd-level awakened dog, you have four 1st-level and two 2nd-level spell slots. With a Wisdom of 16, your list of prepared spells can include six spells of 1st or 2nd level, in any combination. If you prepare the 1st-level spell cure wounds, you can cast it using a 1st-level or 2nd-level slot. Casting the spell doesn’t remove it from your list of prepared spells.

You can also change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of druid spells requires time spent in prayer and meditation: at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.

Spellcasting Ability. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for your druid spells since your magic draws upon your connection and devotion to the natural powers that awakened you. You use your Wisdom whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Wisdom modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a druid spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.

Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

Ritual Casting. You can cast a druid spell as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag and you have the spell prepared.

Spellcasting Focus. You can use a druidic focus (see chapter 5 of the PHB) as a spellcasting focus for your druid spells.

Somatic Components. You ignore the somatic components normally required for spells.

Mystic Bite

Starting at 3rd level, as a bonus action, you can infuse your bite attack with mystic energy for 1 minute. The first time you hit with your bite attack while the mystic energy remains, your bite deals an extra 2d6 radiant damage to the target. And if the target is undead or a fiend, it deals an additional 1d6 radiant damage on a hit. Your mystic bite’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 7th level (3d6), 11th level (4d6), and 17th level (5d6) in this class.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.


Protection

Awakened dogs who focus on protecting others are naturally tougher and deadlier than others of their ilk.

Bonus Proficiency

At 1st level, when you take this focus, you gain proficiency with the Intimidation skill.

Rage

Starting at 1st level when you take this focus, you can enter a rage as a bonus action.

While in the rage, you gain the following benefits if you aren’t wearing heavy armor:

  • You have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When you make a bite attack, you roll one additional damage die.
  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.

If you are able to cast spells, you can’t cast them or concentrate on them while in a frenzy.

Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven’t attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. You can also end your frenzy on your turn as a bonus action.

You can enter a rage a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus. You regain all expended uses of your rage after a long rest.

Fierce Bite

At 3rd level, while you raging and you hit a creature with your bite attack, you can impose one of the following effects on that target:

  • It must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
  • The target is grappled. While the target is grappled, you can’t use your bite attack on another creature and you can’t communicate. At the start of each of the target’s turns, while it is grappled by you, you automatically deal damage equal to your bite attack.
  • The target can’t take reactions until the end of your next turn.

Stealth

Awakened Dogs with the stealth focus are masters of espionage and ambush attacks.

Nimble Bite

Starting at 1st level when you take this focus, you can use Dexterity instead of Strength for the attack and damage rolls of your bite attack.

Stealth Expertise

At 1st level, you gain the Stealth proficiency if you don’t already have it. In addition, your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses Stealth.

Cunning Action

At 3rd level, you can take a bonus action on each of your turns in combat. This action can be used to only take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.

 

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It’s hard to believe that we were funded in less than five hours. Thanks so much to everyone’s that’s chipped in with their support.

If you haven’t already heard, go ahead and check it out now. This monthly magazine looks to capture the feel of the old Dungeon/Dragon magazines from the ’80s and ’90s. Old School Feel with New School (5e) rules.

Check out BroadSword Magazine on Kickstarter

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Zero Level Characters (Prototype) | New Rules for Fifth Edition

One big thing I see a lot of people talk about on Reddit, Instagram, and everywhere else RPGers lurk is how they want better stories on how characters meet. There’s also this idea of “0-level characters”, basically a Fifth Edition character before it gets all of its cool powers.

As part of BroadSword magazine’s adventure series, I wanted to create a “0-level character”… sort of a “pre-adventurer” if you will. The idea I had is that a character has 4 pre-levels before they reach 1st level. Each of those pre-levels works like Monster Challenge Ratings: CR 0, CR 1/8, CR 1/4, and CR 1/2. Then, presto, you’re level 1.

As a character gains levels, they work their way up to the proficiency bonuses, get their skills, etc.–everything that takes them from being a lowly commoner to the brave warrior/rogue/cleric/wizard they are destined to become.

Experience Points

There would need to be experience for it, too, almost a bit like “negative experience”, or at the very least experience that is erased once you reach “level 1.”

The math to figure out how much experience is needed is pretty simple.

At 1st level, characters need to get 300 experience. That’s roughly 6 combats with monsters of Challenge Rating 1. The math more or less follows

A monster with challenge rating 0 gives 10 experience or 2.5 experience per character in a party of four. Therefore, a character probably needs 15 experience to go from level 0 to level 1/8.

Incorporating this dynamic into the other levels, we can see that characters need about 35-40 experience to reach level 1/4, 75 to reach 1/2, and 150 to hit level 1. At that point, they become a full-blown adventurer.

Optional. To make the accounting easier, you may consider using milestone leveling in place of experience.

Proficiency Bonus

Proficiency bonuses would stay the same, just like the do for monsters. So characters would start with +2 and wouldn’t see a rise in proficiency until they hit 5th level.

Features

Depending on the classpath a character takes, they’ll earn features as they go. For example, a fighter character probably earns its Fighting Style early on, but then picks up Second Wind when it hits 1st level.

Hit Points

A character’s hit points stay flat through its “0-levels”. It won’t gain another hit die until it hits level 2.

Spells

Spellcasters learn spells as they rise through their zero-levels which culminates with a 1st-level spell at level 1.

Proficiencies

Similar to spells, characters with a lot of proficiencies learn those proficiencies as they climb through the levels. A martial character might learn simple weapons at first level, then pick up martial later. A rogue will learn many of its skills early on and pick up a fifth skill when it hits 1st level.

Putting it all together…

Now that I’ve got the basics mapped out, it’s just a matter of putting it all together in a cohesive set of rules.

Since Wizards are the focus of Evadimus’ School for Gifted Spellcasters, that’s where I’ll start. The “pre-Wizard” will be called an Apprentice.

The Apprentice

XP Level Prof. Bonus Features Cantrips Known
1st Level Spell Slots
0 0 +1 Spellcasting 1
10 1/8 +1 1 1
35 1/4 +1 Ranged Weapon Training 2 1
75 1/2 +1 Bonus Proficiency 2 2
150 1 +1 Wizardry 3 2

Class Features

As an apprentice, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d6

Hit Points at 0 Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher Levels: an apprentice does not gain additional hit points until it becomes a wizard and achieves 2nd level in that class

Proficiencies

Armor: None

Weapons: daggers, quarterstaffs

Tools: None

Saving Throws: Intelligence

Skills: Choose one from Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, and Religion

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) a quarterstaff or (b) a dagger
  • (a) a component pouch or (b) an arcane focus
  • (a) a scholar’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
  • A spellbook

Spellcasting

The apprentice’s spellcasting feature is the same as the one described in the PHB, with the following changes:

  • You only know one cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list. You learn an additional cantrip at level-1/4 and when you become a 1st-level wizard.
  • Before becoming a 1st-level wizard, the Apprentice table shows you how many spell slots you have to cast your spells of 1st level.
  • Until you become a 1st-level wizard, you can only prepare a number of wizard spells from your spellbook equal to your Intelligence modifier.
  • At 0-level, you have a spellbook but it does not contain any spells. At apprentice level-1/4, you learn one 1st-level wizard spell of your choice, and then another 1st-level wizard spell at apprentice level-1/8. You learn two more 1st-level spells at level-1/2 and then another two when you become a 1st-level wizard.

Ranged Weapon Training

At level-1/4, you gain proficiency with darts, slings, and light crossbows.

Bonus Proficiency

At level-1/2, you become proficient in one of the following skills of your choice: Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, or Religion.

Wizardry

At level 1, you become a wizard. As a wizard, you gain the following benefits:

  • You gain proficiency with Wisdom saving throws.
  • You gain the Arcane Recovery feature (as described in the PHB).
  • Your experience points reset to 0.

 

Encounter Difficulty

In addition to the actual rules for creating the characters themselves, GMs will need rules to help balance their encounters. Here is the supplemental Encounter Difficulty XP per Character table.

Encounter Difficulty XP per Character (Supplement)

Level Easy Medium Hard Deadly
0 0 5 10 15
1/8 5 10 15 20
1/4 10 15 20 30
1/2 15 25 40 50

Additionally, here is a supplement for the Adventuring Day XP.

Adventuring Day XP (Supplement)

Level
Adjusted XP per Day per Character
0 10
1/8 35
1/4 75
1/2 150

 

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BroadSword Magazine is now on Kickstarter!

It’s hard to believe that we were funded in less than five hours. Thanks so much to everyone’s that’s chipped in with their support.

If you haven’t already heard, go ahead and check it out now. This monthly magazine looks to capture the feel of the old Dungeon/Dragon magazines from the ’80s and ’80s. Old School Feel with New School (5e) rules.

Check out BroadSword Magazine on Kickstarter

Art by Shutterstock (used with permission).