Showing posts with label 3.5. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 3.5. Show all posts

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Gaming the Game - Stolen Ideas

Duskruin is current Gemstone IV paid adventure

When I want to play an RPG style game but don't have players, I usually log into Gemstone IV. I've been playing it for decades. It's sort of build on Rolemaster, but went through a process to unlink itself from Iron Crown Enterprise's IP. That isn't terribly important to this post, but what is important is the ideas I've stolen from Gemstone IV and by extension, probably Rolemaster. 

One of the things I never liked about AD&D and D&D is the selection of monsters used to challenge the players. It works on the supposition of monsters are a unique challenge to the players. While that starts off being true, there comes a practical point where one or many lower level monsters are not a credible threat to the players. 

D&D 3.x fixes this with challenge ratings. It works pretty well, with the exception of creatures with special powers. They don't seem to have the appropriate CR assigned to them. 

Gemstone IV has a different method of ranking for creatures. Being a MMO, your character can literally walk up an incredibly high level creature and get turned to dust. That works for an MMO where you have the concept of "extra lives" but it doesn't really work on the tabletop. 

For more evenly matched creatures against the player, there is a sliding scale. A first level character against a 1st level creature is worth 100 experience. A second level character against a 1st level creature is only going to give the PC 90 experience. By 11th level, it's kind of pointless to fight 1st level kobolds and as a consequence, they don't give any experience any more. 

I like that. It creates a coherent world. At 10th level and beyond, fighting kobolds shouldn't be the point for AD&D and D&D characters. They are so past that. Kobolds don't stop existing, they merely cease being something the player should fear. While you can ramp up the numbers and abilities of kobolds, they still aren't intellectually challenging. A zillion of them merely represents a zillion chances to roll the dice. That stops being a story real quick. 

I tend to use the formula 10 equal level encounters should equal one level. A party of 4 characters fighting 40 equal level monsters should be one level of experience for each player character. What this does is enable me, the DM the ability to pace the party. Do I want 40 monsters all at once or 10 groups of four? Probably someplace in between. 

This builds a coherent world in my mind. On day one, a nasty encounter with a kobold patrol is fine. Six sessions into the campaign, sure, my players encounter that patrol of kobolds but they are super leary of mixing it up with the players. 10 sessions later and the party may be hiring them as man-at-arms, porters, etc. The kobolds didn't disappear, their role changed because they aren't a challenge. 

I kind of like that concept and generally use it over mathematical gyrations provided in the DMG. 

As a consequence, it does break the model of gold for experience, but I never liked that anyway. Fighters don't go to fighter school to level up. As they gain experience, they gain followers who make them explore the concept of their trade as they teach others. 

Having a simple rule of thumb allows me to plan more fully. Not just what sort of monsters the players will defeat, but also what sort of resources they players will encounter. If the party plows into a patrol of monsters, chases them home and has the tribe bribe them not to attack the village, that's a win. It is total defeat for the monsters, perhaps dozens of them because they offered surrender or capituation. 

This allows me to control what resources end up in the player's hands beyond having them scoop up piles of treasure and hoping for a random roll. I know what is on the table and can use the interactions between the party and the challengers to guide the party. Gold is gold, but this method leapfrogs the concept of magic swords and other nice prizes. A tribe of kobolds might offer up a nice +1 two handed sword to escape the party's wrath because it's a six foot long weapon for 4 foot tall creatures. It's not valuable to a kobold. Plus the kobolds can hint at it's power so as not to waste the party's time trying to identify every item that comes to them. 

It's a nice feature because it establishes a history of what happened. In the above example, the kobold tribe doesn't have to be obliterated to represent victory over 40 kobolds. They can come to an agreement with the party that in exchange for the sword and a promise not to raid the town anymore, they can live in (a fragile) peace. The party know they are there and can sometimes draw resources from them. A safe place to sleep, a good gossip starter or perhaps something else. 

Stolen ideas are good. Why don't you join me in the world of Gemstone IV by clicking the link below. GSIV has a nice F2P model that will give you a taste of an expansive world of magic. 





Thursday, January 2, 2020

Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

Title: Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
Author: Andy Collins, Bill Slavicsek, JD Wiker
Rule Set: d20
Year: 2000
Pages: 319
Number of players: 2 or more
Rating: ★★★★


For many years, Star Wars was in the stable of West End Games. Over the years, I accumulated many of their books, but never had a chance to play. In 2000, with The Phantom Menace coming to screens, Wizards of the Coast produced a gamebook for the series, which included everything you needed to play, including a set of rules to convert from WEG Star Wars to d20.

The system is a pretty close skin of D&D 3.0 or 3.5, with some great differences.

The system is a standardized d20 system. Standardization from the ground up is very good. One of the great advantages is it breaks every character down into a couple of stat blocks, which makes building a quality, unique character easy. Each character is made of 7 different categories of descriptions, all of which is uniform between classes. You start with ability scores, then everything changes. You select a species which is an approximation of race in D&D terms, a class, skills, feats, character descriptors like reputation, equipment and finally spells, if any. All characters have the same 6 items, unlike D&D where some characters get spells in addition to their other "stats".

So, what about The Force? Those aren't spells, they are tied into one Feat and several Skills for Force Sensitive people. Hit points are replaced with vitality and wound points. This changes the dynamics of how characters work. Vitality is how much energy and stamina you have, while wounds are actual chunks of flesh. Hike through a hellish landscape will reduce your vitality, but a blaster to the head is a wound. Wounds stick around or are fatal, while vitality tracks how much "give" you've got. Nice system, considering how dangerous a lightsabre is. Vitality returns with rest and wounds require healing. The reputation system is a replacement for alignment, which actually has some mechanical advantages or disadvantages, unlike the alignment system.

While this is a d20 system, there are several advantages to this rule set over a typical d20 RPG. First, your players will have a general idea of what they want to be if they have seen Star Wars. To this end, there are 25 character templates so you can play right away. The rules allow you to flavor these characters, so you are a cutout character, but perhaps not made of cardboard. Additionally, if you played WEG Star Wars, there is a set of conversion rules in the back. There is a section on Starships, Droids, and a Game Master Section, with a module included. Everything you need to play is right there.

4 of 5 stars.

You can pick it up on Amazon for less than $20.00. The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

3.5 Review - Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook

Title: Player's Handbook (3.5)
Code: N/A PHB 3.5, unofficially
Design Team: Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams
Rule Set: Dungeons and Dragons 3.5
Year: 2003
Pages: 320
Levels: Any
Rating: ★★★★

D&D 3.5 came out in June of 2003. It wasn't until 2007 that I even looked at it. I wasn't mentally prepared to make the huge jump from AD&D and Basic D&D to 3.5, but it turns out I was. This is "These Old Games", I'm not going to review a new game...

The difference between AD&D and 3.5 is huge. Where AD&D hosted all of your character's powers and abilities under the class description, D&D 3.5 gives a cursory example of powers under class then allows you to pick from a menu of abilities.

The system is a standardized d20 system. Standardization from the ground up is very good. One of the great advantages of 3.5 is it breaks every character down into a couple of stat blocks, which makes building a quality, unique character ease. Each character is made of 8 different categories of descriptions, all of which is uniform between classes. As per any type of D&D, you start with ability scores, then everything changes. You select a race, a class, skills, feats, character descriptors like alignment and religion, equipment and finally spells, if any. All characters have the first 7 items, while only spell casters have spells, obviously.

Races stayed basically the name, but the variety of non-human sub-races were put away, presumably so DM could style their own. Gone were most racial limitations, welcoming in an age of official Elven Paladins. Races have a preferred class rather than classes they cannot perform in.

The number of classes and their relationships have changed greatly. AD&D has 11, 12, or 15 character classes, 3.5 streamlined that down to 11. Magic user and thief were renamed to Wizard and Rogue. Bard are a real class which is welcome change. Assassin, Illusionist, Cavalier and Thief-acrobat were all gone, but not really. Also, multi-classing is normal and with few restrictions, while duo-classing is utterly gone. Few very class abilities appear in under character class, they are regulated to feats.

Every character has a set of skills based on their intelligence and class. Each skill is linked to an ability, so no more nerfed Charisma.

Feats are an incredible departure from AD&D. They are special abilities that are so varied that each class can be used to create a completely unique feel. They are wholly based on class and level, so you continue to grow after creation. You can use feats to bring back those lost classes: Assassin, Illusionist, Cavalier and Thief-acrobat.

One downside to the feats system is that it is unbalanced. Magic using players are going to want the ability to make magic items, so they will lose combative feats. Rogues will want observational powers, which in no way equates to magical or combat abilities. While some of the feats are chained together with prerequisite feats, sometimes you can get two things that pair in a very unbalanced way. Usually this comes into play when you get a bonus to initiative plus some other combat effective ability, so that character always goes first with a big hit.

Your character descriptors are pretty self-explanatory, what is your outlook, demeanor, etc. But 3.5 cranks up the effect of religion on your character. You are no longer a psuedo-Catholic priest, but a follower of something out of our world. Spontaneous casting should also falls under this category, but it is described with the classes. Basically, your character can cast whatever they feel like if they have this ability. Additionally, clerics can always cast healing spells if the need arises.

Equipment has been regulated to an abstract system, almost like a tool kit for the class. It reminds of Star Frontiers' Standard Equipment Pack. I find it odd and basically ignore it. Equipment lives in the half-world of wonderfully standardized rules vs. massively extensible character variety. The designers probably realized this and went with it to allow players to access equipment that is otherwise too expensive by the charts at first level. It's not that much of a problem, really because back in the days of AD&D, I, the DM, was forking out cool equipment on character generation day.

Spells have been completely revamped and tied back to the mechanical systems of the game. Additionally, they have been realigned with the various schools and those schools are often dedicated to specific classes. A 3rd level Wizard spell might be a 7th level Sorcerer spell. Also, being in tune with the mechanics of play, there are no oddball spells that work like nothing else in the game.

Back to the standardized rules. ALL information combat information appears in the Player's Handbook. Back in the 70s and 80s, you'd make a character then wonder what you were getting into. With this book, you know. There are a few things relegated to the DM Guide, but they aren't enough to slow you down. THAC0 and decending AC are gone. Your opponent's AC is your attack roll target number, which is reduced by your attack bonus. Combat is speedier, attacks come more often than AD&D. The rounds seem to take longer, but a heck of a lot can happen in a given round without reducing combat to "high roll wins all".

Saves have also been revamped to fortitude, reflex and willpower. It's a nice, easy system. I think it's far better than charts, even though I lament the loss of the marketing statement: "Includes 31 illustrations, maps and charts".

While I still prefer to play my mashup of Basic, Expert and Advance D&D, the benefits of 3.5 outweigh any negatives. If I were doing a one shot or something and didn't have anything in specific in mind, this would be my rule set.

4 of 5 stars.

You can grab a digital copy from DriveThruRPG for less than 10 bucks. Or head over to Amazon for a physical copy, I suggest you shop around for a good price over there. This one is too expensive. The link below is a paid ad and will take you to Amazon.com. 



It is also available at Alibris.com.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

RedBlade Character Generator Review

RedBlade is a super fast character generator for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. This tiny piece of software is lightning fast and full featured. Don’t let the price or size of the package fool you.
The Base screen is all business. Down the left side are buttons to guide you through the process. Select a name, class, multi-class, adjust hit points, etc.


As you select items, the graphical interface displays changes. Click the Abilities button to continue.

Rolling abilities couldn’t be easier. But what kind of player would you be if you didn’t reroll? The program orders the rolls high to low. Assign the highest first by clicking the ability button and proceed through the numbers sequentially. Should you wish to make changes ability assignment, use the arrow buttons on the right.


The Class button displays all the class skills and abilities available. Since I have selected a rather plain fighter, nothing is displayed.

Skill selection is a breeze. There is a drop down box for class and Class skills and Cross Class skills. The software tabulates points to Class and Cross Class skills. The initial selection occurs on the center screen and more ranks are added on the right with the arrow buttons.

The Feats screen is rather ingenious; not only are bonus feats displayed in their own area, feats with prerequisites are greyed out. Hovering on a feat displays a blurb about it in the bottom box.


Languages are a snap with this software. Class and race are used to create a list of languages, the number available is counted off on the top box.


Shopping for equipment is fun; this is my favorite part of character generation. RedBlade breaks equipment down in to a dozen or more types and will display standard magical versions. The only oddity of this screen is the fact that coins are optimized to the minimum quantity. Silver is automatically converted to gold while gold converts to platinum.

The software allows you to customize equipment in the form of masterwork creations or non-standard magical items. It is very comprehensive.


Through out the software, helpful pop ups will appear and describe issues. Each is very clear. To resolve the issue below, you may add more money or click the “Buy for free” check box.
Each screen feeds another, so selecting armor under shopping calculates information for both the “Equipped” screen and the actual armor class.

The Equip screen allows for multiple sets of armor and weapons. It is intelligent, allowing for two handed welt weapons. This screen will create a series of armor classes and to hit numbers on the final character sheet.


One set of equipment is labeled primary combat kit. Using the Dropbox allows for secondary kits such as bows.
The magic screen displays all things magical. Typical this is reserved for inherent abilities. Our fighter does not have any so the screen is blank.


The spells screen divides spells into level and class.  It will allow you to “cheat” and obtain more spells than normally possible. It will also calculate any bonus spells based on race, domain, class or ability points.  It will display both known spells and spells memorized. There is a row for spell DC which I find to be very handy.


The role play section is all free form. Basic information is entered on this page.


A separated area is available for history.


The last area is for goals. If an area is omitted, it does not appear on the character sheet. No need for clutter, eh?


“Finished” gives two options, character sheet and save. The sheet is saved as an HTML file and clicking the sheet button will display it in your favorite browser software.
Since RedBlade uses standard HTML portability is not a problem. Pages can be opened in Word or converted to pdf to fine tune printing.
All and all RedBlade is not the most comprehensive character generator, but if you want to quickly crank out characters, this is the tool for you.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

3.5 House Rules - Arrows

I don't like tracking arrows. Treasure Hunters HQ has posted on this very issue. Treasure Hunters HQ has a whole collection of posts to make your game more interesting and flow better than ever before. Everything from shields to magical unguents. Go ahead and follow them, the HQ is full of good ideas.

Ah... back to the point. Arrows. Tracking arrows on character sheets simply burns holes in the sheet. It is annoying and subject to abuse. Many years ago, I realized that player's will cheat on ammo more than any other thing. Why? Because, it is annoying. To avoid it, I tended to have the players encounter lots of arrows, either because the enemy had them, they were working from a fortification, or they had a natural pause to collect up their used arrows. Some players will want to roll a number to see if the arrow broke, but that is as exciting as my other pet peeve, save vs. drowning.

After a while, I decided to impose a rule that if a player rolled a 1 with ranged weapons, they fumbled the quiver and dropped all of their arrows on the ground. Picking one up, pulling one from a target or returning an arrow shot at the player takes time, a single action. If the character doesn't take any other action, they can refill a quiver in a single round. It seemed reasonable, since the standard has been changed from a quantity to have something or don't have something.

My primary issue with running out of arrows as a DM is, the rules don't take "out of ammo" into account. It is assumed the characters have a functional method of attack, and a certain quality of weapons. But if the requisite ammo is missing, they have neither. Suddenly striping the characters of missile weapons isn't really accounted for in the rules. While a good DM will give players and characters time to reprovision, the DM really can't account for 4 character's missile counts on the fly.

Friday, July 8, 2016

New NPC Character Sheets

I have been cranking out some characters for an upcoming campaign and decided to start with the villains and heroes around the PC's home base.

The Compass Rose Inn will allow the PC's easy access to a large town, a hunting lodge, a haunted mine and of course, the great outdoors.

The Compass Rose Inn is owned by Otto Lanskeep. He is rough and tumble former hunter, but is held on an even keel by his wife and daughters. Player characters will meet Otto's family, Hilda, Edwyna and Elma in addition to Otto's employees named William "Scribs" von Otto, Thomas and Delia.

A weekly patrol comes to the Inn to ensure the safe transport of goods and people to the border. William of Northmost (aka Scrubs), is the most frequently encountered guard and often spends the night at the Inn.

I will explain more about William aka Scribs and William aka Scrubs. William isn't such a strange name for two men to share, but Scribs and Scrubs comes from an adventure these two young men... survived.

I will be sharing their story and introducing the rest of the Lanskeep family and friends, in statistical form, in the very next post.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Google Docs Templates for D&D

Google Drive shared files and templates are a rich find for gamers of all types.
Under templates, you can find a ton of D&D resources.
My personal favorite is Benjamin Connell’s 3.5 Character Sheet. I plan on making the standard for my 3.5 campaigns.

As time permits, I will be loading pre-genned characters in the top bar. Right now, I have characters for D&D and AD&D. I also have a link to my own AD&D character sheet for Unearthed Arcana pictured on the right.

Additionally, if you like having secondary skills for PCs or stat'd up NPCs, try my book Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners.