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ALIGNMENT CHECK!

SIMIANS 
a race – with subraces – for D&D 5E

[In my previous post – back in the lost days of 2018, before the holidays – I posted the base race write-up for Simians, as well as the Ki-Pan subrace. This week, you get my other two subraces, the Tangu and the Illai!]

TANGU aka TREE SIMIAN 

Tangu are larger than their Ki-Pan counterparts, but not as big as the Illai. Tree simian society is a network of loosely-knit, mostly solitary individuals. They build their homes exclusively in the boughs of trees, and spend as little time on the ground as they can get away with.
Tangu skin normally ranges in color from pink to a deep reddish brown. Their bodies are mostly covered with hair that can range from blonde to orange to a dark reddish brown. Their eyes can be of any color.

Ability score increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 2.
Size. Mature tree simians can be from 4 to 6 feet in height. Your size is Medium.
Movement. Your base walking speed is 25 feet, but you must have one hand free when moving on the ground. Your climbing speed is 30, and climbing does not cost you extra movement. If you have objects to climb or from which to swing, you can jump using your arms as other races do using their legs. You can make a running long jump or a running high jump after moving only 5 feet.
Canopy Dweller. Because of the arboreal lifestyle of your people, you have proficiency with all Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks.
Solitary Mind. You have advantage on saving throws against being Charmed.
Natural Initiate. You know two cantrips from the class spell list of your choice. You also know one 1st level spell from that same list. You can cast this spell at its lowest level using this trait, and may do so again after a long rest. Your spellcasting ability for these spells is the same as for the class from whose spell list you have chosen.
Tools. You gain proficiency with one of the following: brewer’s supplies, calligrapher’s supplies, cook’s utensils, leatherworker’s tools, musical instrument, painter’s supplies, or woodcarver’s tools.

 

ILLAI aka MOUNTAIN SIMIAN

Illai are a large, heavily-built, intimidating race, but they are actually a sedate and even contemplative people. They can, however, be terrifying when angered.
Illai skin normally ranges in color from ruddy brown to black. Their bodies are mostly covered with hair that can range from dark brown to black. Their eyes are usually dark-colored.

Ability score increase. Your Strength score increases by 1 and your Constitution score increases by 1.
Size. Mature mountain simians range from 5 to 8 feet in height.  Your size is Medium.
Movement. Your base walking speed is 30.
Long-Limbed. Your size, long arms, and wild fighting style add 5 feet to your reach with all melee attacks, as well as when determining your reach for opportunity attacks.
Intimidating. Your size, bulk, and primal nature give you advantage on all Intimidation checks.
Sudden Charge.  When you use your action to dash you have an additional 10 feet of movement. If you end your dash with 10 feet of movement in a straight line, you may then choose one of two bonus actions: add a d10 to the damage roll of a melee attack, or attempt a shove attack to push the target up to 10 feet away from you.
Tools. You gain proficiency with one of the following: herbalism kit, musical instrument, or woodcarver’s tools.

[Next week: the Homonguli!]

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

SIMIANS 
a race – with subraces – for D&D 5E

[A new race this week, with one of its subraces! Sweet!]

Roots in the Past, Minds in the Present
Simians are one of the oldest races, their origins lost in the mists of time. Curious and adaptable, they can be found in any part of the world living among any of the other races. Simians have a powerful connection to the natural world, yet they excel at even the most technological pursuits. In fact, freedom and a can-do attitude are hallmarks of simian culture, and they tend to take claims that a thing cannot be done as a challenge.

At Home in the Wild
Simians are ape-like in appearance, with a thick coat of body hair, leathery skin, long arms, powerful hands, and feet capable of grasping. They usually run on all fours, and sometimes walk that way as well. With four prehensile limbs, they interact with the objects around them and their immediate physical environment differently than other races, and are effectively ambidextrous. For the most part, simians can climb as easily as they can walk, and can jump easily while climbing.

Bonds and Limitless Boundaries
Simians organize themselves in close-knit family groups who live communally in everything from small villages to vast cities sprawled among the canopies of a thousand trees. Social responsibility is a common virtue among simians, so those less able are well looked-after and for the most part resources are shared fairly.

Family tradition and filial loyalty are also powerful aspects of simian society, so elders are well-regarded and pride in one’s lineage is a nearly ubiquitous trait. However, simians are curious and roving by nature, so the often venture forth from their communities to explore and learn.

Simian names
Simians tend to name offspring after family ancestors and important figures from simian history, adding short prefixes or suffixes to identify gender, family, sibling order, community, social rank, avocation, and the like. As a result, many simians have similar names, which are often further tweaked to commemorate important life events, achievements, new social standing, etc. As a result, the older a simian gets the longer their name is likely to be, and the history and situation of another simian can be learned merely by hearing their name. Of course these nuances are usually lost on other races.

Examples of basic simian names: Albo, Dorgu, Fridi, Gurd, Guth, Hoolge, Ingu, Keti, Lulmi, Mander, Otho, Pribi, Rith, Torlak, Ulle, Walger.

SIMIAN TRAITS. Your simian character has a number of unusual abilities.
Ability score increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.
Age. Simians reach maturity by the age of 15, and can live to be 75 years old or more.
Alignment. Simians can be of any alignment.
Size. See subrace trait descriptions for average heights. Your size is Medium.
Speed. See subrace descriptions for base walking speed. If you have at least one hand free, you suffer no penalties to movement caused by difficult terrain.
Grappler. You have proficiency with attack rolls to grapple.
Natural Athlete. You have proficiency with all Strength (Athletics) checks.
Born to the Wild. Your people are at home in the outdoors. You have advantage on all Wisdom (Survival) checks.
Tools. You gain proficiency with one of the following: brewer’s supplies, herbalism kit, musical instrument, poisoner’s kit, or woodcarver’s tools.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Simian.
Subrace. You have three types of simians to choose from: the Ki-Pan, the Illai, and the Tangu.

KI-PAN
Ki-Pan – or Forest Simians – are accustomed to life in the trees, often building their settlements amid the boughs and canopies of the forest.

Ability score increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Size. Mature forest simians are 4  to 5½ feet in height. Your size is Medium.
Movement. Your base walking speed is 30, and climbing does not cost you extra movement. If you have objects to climb or from which to swing, you can jump using your arms as other races do using their legs. You can make a running long jump or a running high jump after moving only 5 feet.
Canopy Dweller. Because of the arboreal lifestyle of your people, you have proficiency with all Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks.
Brawler. When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike or an improvised weapon on your turn, you can use a bonus action to attempt to grapple the target.
Quick Study. Choose up to two skills, tools, or weapons you are not proficient in. Once you have trained for at least 30 minutes with someone proficient with these chosen skills, tools, or weapons, you can add half of your proficiency bonus (rounded down) to ability checks with those skills or tools, or attack rolls with those weapons. This bonus does not stack with proficiency bonuses from other traits, feats, or features.
Tools. You gain proficiency with one of the following: brewer’s supplies, carpenter’s tools, gaming set, herbalism kit, musical instrument, poisoner’s kit, thieve’s tools, or woodcarver’s tools.
Forest Simian Weapon Training. You are proficient with clubs, greatclubs, blowguns, and nets.

[Next week – no, wait…that’s Christmas – IN TWO WEEKS, I will post the write-ups for the remaining two subraces, the Illai and the Tangu.]

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

HALF-GIANTS
a race – with subraces – for D&D 5E

[My first post on half-giants set up the “base race” for Half-Giants, and included the Cloud Half-Giant and Fire Half-Giant subraces. Last week’s post added Frost and Hill Half-Giants. Today, you get my final two subraces: Stone Half-Giants and Storm Half-Giants! Woo!]


Stone Half-Giant
Like stone itself, your skin can be a wide variety of colors and patterns, and can have a gritty, smooth, or even glossy texture. You have only wisps of hair at most.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength increases by 1.
Alignment. Stone half-giants are usually of a neutral alignment.
Size. Stone half-giants range from about 7’ to 10’ tall. Your size is Medium. Your weight is 1.5 times that of a normal, flesh-and-blood creature with your height.
Natural Armor.  Because of your dense body, your AC when unarmored is equal to 12 + your Dexterity modifier.
Natural Weapon. Your rock-like hands add 1d4 to damage with unarmed strikes.
Immovable Object. You have advantage on checks against shoving attacks. You have disadvantage on all Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks.
Stone Camouflage: You have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks to hide in rocky terrain.
Stone-Faced. Other creatures have disadvantage on their Wisdom (Insight) checks against you. 
Stone Magic. You know either the Shillelagh or True Strike cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, choose one of the following spells: Alarm, Jump, or Shield. You can cast that spell once using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, choose one of the following spells: Aid, Alter Self (with only the Natural Weapons option available), or Warding Bond. You can cast that spell once using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is the spellcasting ability for these spells.

**********

Storm Half-Giant
You have a ruddy complexion and wavy or curly hair. Your dark eyes may light up when your emotions are stirred.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength increases by 1.
Alignment. Storm half-giants are usually of chaotic alignments.
Size. Frost half-giants range from about 7’ to 10’ tall. Your size is Medium.
Stand Amidst the Storm. You have advantage on saves against lightning and thunder, and resistance to both lightning damage and thunder damage.
Stormy. Often betrayed by your tempestuous nature, you have disadvantage on all Charisma (Deception) checks.
Weather Sense. You are proficient with Wisdom (Survival) checks to predict weather.
Storm Magic. You know one of the following cantrips: Shocking Grasp, Thunderclap, or Lightning Lure. When you reach 3rd level, choose one of the following spells: Guiding Bolt or Thunder Wave. You can cast that spell once using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, choose one of the following spells: Call Lightning or Shatter. You can cast that spell once using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Charisma is the spellcasting ability for these spells.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

HALF-GIANTS
a race – with subraces – for D&D 5E

[Please see my previous post, which sets up the “base race” for Half-Giants and includes the Cloud Half-Giant and Fire Half-Giant “sub-races”. Tune in next week for the final two subraces, Stone Half-Giants and Storm Half-Giants.]

Frost Half-Giant
Your skin is somewhat translucent and has a blueish tint to it. Frost Half-Giants tend to avoid hot beverages, fires, and other sources of heat.Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution increases by 1.

Alignment. Frost half-giants lean toward neutral alignments.
Size. Frost half-giants range from about 7’ to 9’ tall. Your size is Medium.
Cold Acclimated. You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks in cold climates.
Born of Ice. You have advantage on saves against cold, and have resistance to cold damage.
Grip of Winter. You know the Ray of Frost cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, choose one of the following spells: Entangle or Grease (with the spells’ effects caused by ice rather than plants or grease, respectively). You can cast that spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, choose one of the following spells: Hold (with Strength as the saving throw instead of Wisdom) or Ray of Enfeeblement. You can cast that spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is the spellcasting ability for these spells.
Fire Aversion: You are not able to cast spells with the ‘fire’ descriptor.

**********

Hill Half-Giant

You are thick, hulking, and beetle-browed. Your hair is wiry.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength increases by 1.
Alignment. Hill half-giants are usually of chaotic alignments.
Size. Hill half-giants are about 7 to 8 feet tall and weigh between 280 and 340 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Wild Fighter: You have proficiency with improvised weapons and unarmed strikes.
Bull-Headed. You have advantage on saves to resist the charmed and frightened conditions.
Battle-Hardened. You gain 2d10 temporary hit points. This states lasts for 1 minute, or if you are knocked unconscious, or if your turn ends without you having attacked a hostile creature since your last turn, or if you haven’t taken damage since your last turn. You can also end this state on your turn as a bonus action. You may use this ability again after a short rest.
Sweeping Attack. When you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, you choose another creature within 5 feet of the original target and within your reach. If the original attack roll would successfully hit the second creature, that creature takes half the damage of the original attack, of the same damage type dealt by the original attack. You can use this trait again after a short rest.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

HALF-GIANTS
a race – with subraces – for D&D 5E

[This race and it’s accompanying subraces stemmed from a desire on the part of one of my players wanting to play a half-giant in 5E. The closest 5E has is the goliath race in Volo’s Guide to Monsters (Wizards of the Coast, 2016), but I wanted my player to have more options than that.
I am including two subraces here in this post, and will post the remaining four in my next post or two.]

rackham giant
(The Giant Galligantua, by Arthur Rackham)

Giants for a New Age
Half-giants share ancestry with “true” giants: cloud giants, fire giants, frost giants, hill giants, stone giants, and storm giants. Ages ago, a group of giants – through the use of magic and possibly with the aid of certain other-planar beings – created a race like themselves but better suited to live among the other civilized races of the world.

Powerful Presence
Half-giants are, of course, known for their size and physical prowess, but they have lesser-known abilities as well, derived from the supernatural powers of their ancestors. In general, they look like large, powerfully-built humans, but also have some features of the giant races they are related to.

Large And…In Charge?
Descended from beings who would contend with the gods themselves, half-giants tend to view the world as laid before their feet and as theirs to claim, yet as somehow beyond their reach. Often shunned for these attitudes or just for their size, they often seek acceptance from true giants or from whatever races they find themselves living amongst.

Half-giants do not care for obfuscation and trickery, in themselves or others, preferring directness and plain-speaking. As a result, they sometimes have a reputation for dull-wittedness, but are actually no less intelligent than any race.

Half-Giant Names
Naming traditions vary widely from subrace to subrace.

All half-giants have the following abilities in common.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1, and your Constitution score increases by 1.
Age. Half-giants mature and age more slowly than humans, and can live up to 300 years or more.
Alignment. Please see each subrace description for alignment tendencies.
Size. Half-giants range from about 7’ to 10’ tall. Your size is Medium. Please see each subrace description for more specific height ranges.
Speed. Although tall, half-giants tend to be a bit lumbering. You have a base walking speed of 30 feet.
Long-Limbed. Your size and long arms add 5 feet to your reach with all melee attacks and opportunity attacks.
Hamhocks. Because of your large hands, you have disadvantage with any ability checks and attack rolls involving the careful or precise handling of objects designed for smaller races.
Powerful Build. You count as a Large creature for purposes of carrying capacity and how much you can push, pull, and lift.
Fearsome Mien: Your size and supernatural nature give you advantage on all Charisma (Intimidation) checks.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Giant.
Subraces. You are descended from ancient cloud giants, fire giants, frost giants, hill giants, stone giants, or storm giants. Select one of them as your subrace, below

SUBRACES:

Cloud Half-Giant
You have a fair complexion, and eyes whose color can change depending on your mood.

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom increases by 1.
Alignment. Cloud half-giants lean toward neutral alignments.
Size. Cloud half-giants range from about 8’ to 10’ tall. Your size is Medium.
Altitude Acclimated. You are naturally adapted to high elevations, even above 20,000 feet. You do not suffer the penalties most races experience at high altitudes.
Something in the Air.  You are proficient with Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell and hearing. You are also proficient with Wisdom (Survival) checks to predict weather.
Sky Magic. You know either the Message or Thaumaturgy cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, choose one of the following spells: Command, Fog Cloud, Feather Fall, or Heroism. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, choose one of the following spells: Gust of Wind or Levitate. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is the spellcasting ability for these spells.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write one additional language.

 

Fire Half-Giant
Your skin and eyes are of warm, reddish hues, and your eyes sometimes light up as though with an inner fire. Fire half-giants tend to dislike cold beverages, cold food, and cold weather.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity increases by 1.
Alignment. Fire half-giants have no alignment predispositions.
Size. Fire half-giants range from about 7’ to 9’ tall. Your size is Medium.
Heat Acclimated. You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks in hot climates.
Born of Fire. You have advantage on saves against fire, and have resistance to fire damage.
Master of the Flame. You know the Produce Flames cantrip. When you reach 3rd level you can cast the Burning Hands spell. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, choose one of the following spells: Flame Sphere, Scorching Ray, or Heat Metal. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is the spellcasting ability for these spells.
Cold Aversion: You are not able to cast spells with the “cold” descriptor. You also have vulneraility to attacks and spells with the “cold” descriptor.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

PALE ELF
a sub-race for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition


[I’ll be honest – this elven subrace was inspired initially by the image below, “Brown Silence”, by Anry Nemo. The image also made me think of Michael Moorcock’s famous albino antihero, Elric. Then some thoughts I’ve had on variant elven races and subraces worked their way in, and voila!]

brown_silence_by_anry_d2fzrz-pre

PALE ELF

The product of a schism among elves in ancient times, pale elves are descended from those who sought to explore the potential for unusual mental abilities in the elven people. Their keen interest in the nature of thought, will, and dreams is often seen as dangerous and even nefarious. As a result, they have had to violently defend these pursuits and thus their very way of life. Pale elves often live in remote regions, away from the fears and prejudices of others.

As a pale elf, your solemn tenacity betrays deep convictions and the violent history of your people. You have a lean build and very light-colored skin, hair, and eyes.

Ability score increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Disciplined Mind. You have advantage with saves against Psychic effects, and resistance to Psychic damage.

Pale Magic. You know either the Friends, Minor Illusion, True Strike, or Vicious Mockery cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, choose one of the following spells: Cause Fear, Charm Person, Command, Compelled Duel, or Comprehend Languages. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, choose one of the following spells: Blur, Calm Emotions, Detect Thoughts, Mind Spike, Suggestion, or Zone of Truth. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is the spellcasting ability for these spells.

Elf Weapon Training. You are proficient with longswords, daggers, spears, and longbows.

Tool Proficiencies. You are proficient with one of the following: alchemist’s supplies, brewer’s supplies, cook’s utensils, herbalism kit, poisoner’s kit.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

SHADE – a race for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition


[Shades have  a long history in D&D, having first appeared in 1983’s D&D Monster Manual II. They have since been developed in various ways, as a type of monster, as an NPC race, and as a playable race for players. This alternate shade write-up is based on my decades-old first impression of the illustration below, which accompanied the shade entry in the aforementioned MMII. To the best of my knowledge, this illustration was done by Harry Quinn.]

D&DShade


Born to the Darkness

Shades are descended from one of the earliest deities who loved the darkness of the primordial cosmos. When light was cast upon the worlds, this god fled to explore the darkest reaches of the planes.

Infused with the very nature of shadows, Shade culture is full of mythology, mysteries, and whispers. Often secretive and suspicious, when Shades form personal bonds they are tested and true.

The Stuff of Shadows

Shades are humanoid in size and shape, but their bodies are made partly from the essence of darkness itself. They weigh somewhat less than normal creatures their size, and their skin and all their features are a barely reflective black. Any items they wear or carry soon take on the same appearance. The longer an item has been in close contact with a Shade’s body, the longer it will take to regain its normal color when removed from their presence.

Shades have little sense of taste or smell, and as a result they have developed a fiery and pungent cuisine. Members of other races often find shade food and drink noxious, and in turn the fare of other races can seem incredibly bland to shades.

Attuned to the gloom of the shadow realms, shades are effectively color-blind, however their sight can penetrate even supernatural darkness.

Wisdom of Eternal Night

Because they are at home in the dark, shades accept the unknown as part of the natural order. While some Shades seek to explore and understand, others see the pervasiveness of the dark as proof that existence is inherently meaningless. Still others see darkness as the truest state of being and may worship those who would rule it or may seek to rule it themselves. Regardless, the pervasive and eternal darkness of the cosmos is part and parcel of shade philosophy.

Most Shades see death not as an ending or as a passage to reward or punishment, but as simply rejoining the essence from which their people were born. Shade religion and culture are rife with stories about the pursuit of mysteries and exposing what is hidden. Knowledge and insight are highly valued.

The Night Holds No New Terrors

The challenges of life in the darkest realms of the cosmos range from seemingly endless drudgery to the mad aspirations of dark lords. Although these regions can breed apathy and hopelessness, there are those who work to keep these domains of dread from spreading, or to keep the extremes of other realms from encroaching. They avoid bright light and broad daylight, and are especially uncomfortable under a noon-day sun.

Shade society values caution, preparedness and courage in the face of harsh unknowns. They tend to respect those who hail from subterranean realms, such as dwarves and drow elves, and any who show bravery even in the face of hopelessness. Relations tend to be poor with high elves, Eladrin, Aasimar, and any who shun the darkness or are suspicious of those who call it home.

Shadows In The Light

Shades are comfortable in the darkest realms and recesses of the worlds, with their inhabitants, and with all secrets mundane and arcane. They venture forth with curiosity, fascination, sometimes foolhardiness, and even single-minded obsession. Acknowledging the dark side within all people, shades can be unusually forgiving of failures of character if such deeds are followed with self-reflection. When they form social bonds, it is with an acceptance of the shadows we all cast.

Shade names

Shades use names common to wherever they are living at the time, but they also have a shade name which is a closely guarded secret. Shade outcasts are formally stripped of their shade name and all shades are then forbidden to use that name.

Female Shade names often end with -el, -em, -en, -eth, and -ith,: Gillel, Kivem, Velen, Seseth, Lillith.
Male Shade names tend to end in -ef, -ek, -en, -eng, -ev, and -ik: Gillef, Kivek, Velen, Seseng, Lillev, Villik.

Shade traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Shades mature slowly, reaching maturity by 30 years of age and living for hundreds of years
Alignment. Shades lean toward neutral alignments.
Size. Other than their coloration and despite their lesser weight, Shades are built much like elves, humans, and the like. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Shadowsight. You can see normally in dim light and even total darkness, both normal and magical.
At Home in the Shadows. You have proficiency with all Stealth checks made to hide in shadows.
Deadened. Because Shades hail from a dark realm of hopelessness and apathy, you have advantage on saves against fear effects.
Shade Trance. Shades engage in a waking sleep, during which they retain their passive perception, but gain the same benefit that a human does from the same amount of time spent in normal sleep.
Shadow Magic. You know one of the following cantrips: Chill Touch, Message, or True Strike. When you reach 3rd level, choose one of the following spells: Arms of Hadar, False Life, Inflict Wounds, or Sleep. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, choose one of the following spells: Blindness, Darkness, Darkvision, Misty Step, or Shadow Blade. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is the spellcasting ability for these spells.
Light Aversion. You are not able to cast spells with the ‘radiant’ descriptor, and have disadvantage on saves against spells with the ‘radiant’ descriptor.
Languages. You can read, write, and speak Common, Shadic, and Undercommon.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

KOBOLD – a race for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

 

[This alternate kobold write-up is based on Germanic kobold folklore, not so much on previous iterations of D&D kobolds.]

Origins Both Fae and Domestic

    Descended from capricious local fairy folk, kobolds are treated with wary suspicion by some and with deep respect by others. Small and cunning, they are nevertheless well-regarded for their dedication, workmanship, and for their loyal service – to those they deem worthy of it.

Survival of the Ficklest

    Because of the Fae nature of their ancient forebears, kobolds have a wider range of appearance than any other race. Their features depend on both who their ancient ancestors lived among and the type of environment in which they lived. As a result, kobolds can resemble anything from a child or small elderly person to mammalian, reptilian, or even amphibious humanoids. Depending on their subrace, they can be fair-skinned or black as pitch, hairless or thickly furred, have rugged crocodilian hides, the smooth skin of aquatic mammals, or the scales of fish.

    Regardless, all kobolds are very small, with adults ranging from two to three-and-a-half feet in height. Their nimble fingers – sometimes ending in claws – and agile frames aid them in many pursuits. They are extreme omnivores, able to subsist on anything their sharp teeth and determined jaws can chew.

Hard Workers, Harsh Masters

    Kobolds take great pride in their work and judge the labors of others with scrutiny. They can be harsh critics and teachers, but will gush with pride over the accomplishments of their friends and family. They respect motivation in others, and vigorously encourage intrepid pursuits.

    Fastidious by nature, kobolds keep themselves well-groomed and their possessions and abodes neatly organized. Between that and their penchant for crafting, they are usually well-outfitted for any endeavor if they have time to prepare.

    They are short-lived compared to other races – unless they find a place to settle down, whereupon they might live on for hundreds of years. As a result, most kobolds are driven to find their calling in life, be it loyal service, family life, membership in a reputed organization, or developing sought-after craftsmanship or expertise.

An Eye For An Eye

    Kobolds believe in repaying kindness with kindness, and insult with insult. They can become fiercely loyal to those they consider trustworthy, and bent on revenge against those who have treated them poorly. They are often impish, loving jests and a good-natured prank – or a cruel one if deserved. They do not like to be tricked themselves, however, and are prone to hold grudges against such behavior.

    Kobold culture places a high value on efficiency, hard work, and single-minded industriousness. They are uncomfortable with idleness, despise sloth, and fear a lack of purpose. They can be creatures of habit, strictly adhering to duties, rituals, superstitions, and daily affairs.

The Quest for a Calling

    Driven to discover their place in the world, many kobolds go adventuring to find a purpose: a cause to champion, a master to serve and learn from, or a group to belong and contribute to. They are restless until they find that role, and will consider any pursuit or course of action that might lead to new opportunities to find their calling.

Subraces
Their are three kobold subraces: the Hinzi, or house kobold; the Blekni, or mine kobold, and the Klavoti, or ship kobold.

Relations with other races

    Kobolds may revere or even fear elves, for being greater fae than themselves, or may dislike or even despise them for what kobolds perceive as elves’ “holier than thou” attitude.

    Except for the blekni subrace, kobolds find dwarves no more or less agreeable than other races. As miners and delvers themselves, the attitude of blekni toward dwarves can range from cooperation and camaraderie to jealousy, rivalry, animosity, and open hostility. Territorial disputes and allegations of wrong-doing can be all too common, and relations among dwarves and blekni can change as quickly as the weather and will make little sense to outsiders. In general, though, kobolds and dwarves respect each others’ handiwork and diligence, even if the work of kobolds often seems trivial to dwarves, and the labors of dwarves impractical to kobolds.

The unpredictable ingenuity and variety of humans sparks a keen interest in kobolds as they seek their own destinies. Humans often value hard work, simple lives, and close relations, which are also very attractive to kobolds looking to settle down. For their part, humans appreciate the devotion and craft of kobolds, and appreciate their magical abilities as well.

Kobolds feel a close affinity to the halfling love of hearth and home, and to their distant fae origins.

Kobold Names

The ancient ancestors of kobolds were local spirits in homes, mines, ships, trees, hills, and other locations. As a hold-over from those times, their names are usually a colloquial term, nickname, or place-name in a language spoken of their ancestors’ home. Aber, Balete, Bodkin, Feldi, Heppin, Lobb, Lodewin, Luffer, Nan, Scupp, Snoose, and Sond.

KOBOLD TRAITS. Your kobold character has a range of unique qualities.

Ability score increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
Age. Kobolds reach maturity by the age of ten, and if they find a place to settle down they can live for hundreds of years.
Alignment. Kobolds can be of any alignment other than neutral.
Size. Kobolds stand between about 2 and 3 feet in height. Your size is Small.
Speed. Though quick on your feet, you are still quite small. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Wink of an Eye. Because of your diminutive size and fae nature, you may Hide as a bonus action and you have advantage with the (Dexterity) Stealth check made to do so. You may use this ability again after a long rest.
Nimbleness: You can move through the space of any creature that is of medium size or larger.
Night Tinker: Kobolds like to keep busy at night, and get their sleep during short ‘catnaps” throughout the day. Instead of sleeping, you slip into a trance-like state during which you can perform simple tasks and use skills or tools with which you are proficient. When in this state, you suffer no penalties to passive perception, but your movement is halved. After resting in this way for 8 hours, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Kobold.
Subrace. There are three different types of kobolds to choose from.

Willy Pogány (1882-1955)
(detail from “A little white feather danced above their heads” by Willy Pogany (1882-1955))

HINZI KOBOLD (aka House Kobold)

The Hinzi are descended from house kobolds, and so have a knack for domestic concerns. Their appearance can include features of mammals, children, and wizened old folk.
Ability score increase. Your Charisma score increases by 1.
Master of the House. You know one of the following cantrips: Dancing Lights, Light, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Vicious Mockery. When you reach 3rd level, you may pick one of the following spells: Alarm, Bane, Bless, Purify Food and Drink, or Sleep. You can cast that spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, you may pick one of the following spells: Arcane Lock, Calm Emotions, Enhance Ability, Knock, or Gentle Repose. You can cast that spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for all spells cast using this trait.
Tools. You gain proficiency with one of the following: brewer’s supplies, carpenter’s tools, cobbler’s tools, cook’s utensils, herbalism kit, leatherworker’s tools, potter’s tools, weaver’s tools.

Olaus-Magnus-1555-Kobold-mining-while-other-devils-assist-witches-in-various-ways
(detail from a work by Olaus Magnus, 1555)

BLEKNI KOBOLD (aka Mine Kobold, aka Cave Kobold)
The Blekni are descended from mining kobolds, and so are quite at home underground. Their appearance  can include features of reptiles, small mammals, and old wizened miners, but always with dark or even black skin.
Ability score increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.
Darkvision. Accustomed to life underground, 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 grey.
At Home Underground. You have proficiency with Intelligence (Nature) and Wisdom (Survival) checks involving caves, tunnels, stone, and ore. Also, you always know what direction you are headed and never get lost while underground or in similar environments.
Toxic Vein. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.
Light Sensitivity: You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.
Master of the Mine. You know one of the following cantrips: Mage Hand, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Vicious Mockery. When you reach 3rd level, you may pick one of the following spells: Alarm, Bane, Bless, Sleep, or Unseen Servant. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, you may pick one of the following spells: Find Traps, Knock, Levitate, Locate Object, or Silence. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for all spells cast using this trait.
Tools. You gain proficiency in one of the following: alchemist’s supplies, cartographer’s tools, cobbler’s tools, leatherworker’s tools, mason’s tools, potter’s tools, smith’s tools, tinker’s tools.
Languages. You can communicate through solid objects with other blekni kobolds via a code of taps or knocks.

Henk Verlaganstalt_Klabautermann_on_ship
(detail from an illustration in Book of The Sea, from Henk Verlagsanstalt and Printers, 1885)

KLAVOTI
KOBOLD (aka Ship Kobold)

The Klavoti are descended from kobolds who inhabited boats, ships, and ocean-going vessels. Their appearance can include features of sea creatures, children, and wizened old sailors, usually with aquatic or wood-like complexions.
Ability score increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
One With The Ship. You have proficiency with Intelligence (Nature) and Wisdom (Survival) checks involving seas, lakes, and rivers, and involving the materials used in boat- and ship-building.
Master of the Ship. You know one of the following cantrips: Dancing Lights, Druidcraft, Light, Mending, Prestidigitation, Vicious Mockery. When you reach 3rd level, you may pick one of the following spells: Bane, Bless, Goodberry, or Locate Object. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. When you reach 5th level, you may pick one of the following spells: Arcane Lock, Enhance Ability, Knock, or Gust of Wind. You can cast this spell once per day using this trait, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for all spells cast using this trait.
Tools. You gain proficiency in one of the following: calligrapher’s supplies, carpentry tools, cartographer’s tools, cook’s utensils, gaming set, navigator’s tools, water vehicles, woodcarver’s tools.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

RPG Blog Carnival, March 2017:

THINGS IN THE DARK

 

rpg-blog-carnival

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is “Things in the Dark”. Much like MoebiusAdventures, the host of this month’s theme, I’m going to focus my post on a creature – actually, a race* of creatures.

This was really my first thought as I read the theme description for this month’s Carnival, because I’ve been working on a race of literally dark beings for a Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition game I’m currently running. So, I’d like to thank MoebiusAdventure for showing that was an acceptable approach; otherwise, I might have thought it was too far afield.

So, ever since the I first saw the entry for “Shade” in TSR’s Monster Manual II for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons edition waaaaaay back in 1983, I’ve been kind of fascinated with them, and really it was this image that captured my young imagination:

D&DShade


SpooOOOooky, huh?

Basically, by the book, Shades are a not-quite-a-race of beings that other races can be transformed into under the right – or wrong, depending on how you look at it – circumstances. But for me, my first impression from that image was of Shades as a race unto themselves, with a powerful connection to some primordial essence of darkness or shadow. Young me thought that was pretty cool.

So, yeah – that stuck in my head…for about 30 years!

I started actually developed my version of them for a 13th Age game I ran a few years ago. Races are really easy to write up in 13th Age, so I was able to create a basic representation of my idea. In the fantasy cosmology of that homebrew setting, they were one of the very first races, one that existed even before light illuminated the world.

But for the game I am currently running we’re using the Celtic mythos and cosmology as a basis for the setting, and so I fit the origin of the Shade into that. In a common Celtic creation myth the mother and father of the gods, Danu and Donn, are formed out of a cosmic chaos, love each other, and become inseparable. They have children who eventually become some of the bigger names of Celtic mythology – but these children cannot truly grow without first escaping the womb-like embrace of their parents. They do so by running Donn through with a sword and sundering him into bits that form the Earth.

In that womb-like darkness I saw a perfect place for the origin of the Shade. In this version, there was disagreement among these First Children about how to break out or whether to do it at all, at the risk of killing one of their parents. Among the dissenters was Scaedh (skage). Scaedh saw value in the dark, and sought to further explore its reaches untainted by the light of what would come should one or both of their parents be destroyed. In the end, Donn was slain and the world was made. Scaedh fled to the darkest reaches of this new world, high and low, and from Scaedh sprang a race of shadow-people.

Culled from various versions of the Shades for various editions of D&D, here’s my write-up as it stands now, for the purposes of our current game. There are a lot of darkness-related abilities I could give them, but I’m trying to strike a balance of benefits and restrictions that matches the overall power-level of the core races in the D&D 5E Players Handbook. This is my first try at this, so it could easily have many issues. I haven’t introduced Shades as a racial option for characters yet, and since I’m basing a lot of the setting on choices the players make I don’t have any solid ideas regarding Shade culture and history.


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Shade

Shades are descended from Scaedh, one of the First Children – the original offspring of Donn and Danu.  Scaedh preferred the original darkness of the inseparable Donn and Danu to the harsh light of the world that was made when Scaedh’s siblings slew Donn to gain their freedom from that dark womb-like existence.

Shades are human in size and shape, but their skin and features are all a barely-reflective black. Even the clothing they wear and items they carry take on a similar shadowy appearance. The longer an item has been in close contact with a Shade’s body, the longer it will take to regain its normal appearance when removed from their presence.

A Shade’s body is made partly from the essence of shadow and darkness. They weigh less than what a normal creature their size might weigh and produce less body heat. They require little food or drink, and in fact have little sense of taste or smell with which to enjoy such things.

Shade Names

Shades use names common to wherever they are living at the time. They also have a Shade name which is a treasured and closely-guarded secret. Shade outcasts are formally stripped of their Shade name and all Shades are thenceforth forbidden to use it in any way.
Female Shade Names often end with -el, -em, -en, -eth, and -ith,: Gilel, Kivem, Velen, Seseth, Nilith.
Male Shade Names tend to end in -ef, -ek, -en, -eng, -ev, and -ik: Vekef, Velek, Ekden, Geneng, Grenev, Villik.

Shade Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Shades mature very slowly compared to humans, reaching maturity by 100 years of age, and can live as long as 1000 years or more.
Alignment. Although leaning toward chaotic alignments, Shades find distinctions between good and evil and law and chaos rather small-minded.
Size. Shades are generally between 5′ 6” and 6′ 1 “. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 35 feet, 45 feet when in shadows or darkness.
Shadowsight. You can see normally in dim light and even total darkness, both magical and non-magical.
Light Aversion: You have disadvantage on any Concentration checks when you are in brightly-lit environments. You are not able to cast spells with the ‘fire’ or ‘light’ descriptors.
Darkling Form. You have resistance to poison and cold, but vulnerability to radiant damage. You only need  4 hours of sleep per day, but you cannot regain hit dice or hit points in brightly-lit environments.
Shadow Step. When you are in shadow or darkness, as a bonus action you can teleport up to 60 feet to an unoccupied space that you can see that is also in shadow or darkness. You then have advantage on the first melee attack you make that turn.
Whispers in the Dark. As an action when in shadow or darkness, you can whisper a message to a single creature within 120 feet who is also in shadow or darkness. The target hears the message and can reply in a whisper, that only you can hear. The whisper can pass through solid objects if you are familiar with the target and know it is beyond the object(s). This ability is subject to magical silence spells and their effects.
The Stuff of Shadows. You have advantage in stealth checks made to hide in shadows.
Proficiencies: Arcana, Intimidate, Stealth
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Shadic, Common, Undercommon, and Primordial.
Shades are classified as the humanoid creature type.

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That’s it! Like I said, this is my first try at this, so please comment below with any thoughts or suggestions.

*For those unfamiliar with the usage, the term “race” in fantasy roleplaying games is used to distinguish elves from humans, hobbits from dwarves, etc., rather than in the modern, very unscientific usage which seeks to distinguish one ancestry of homo sapiens from another.

ALIGNMENT CHECK!

STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE 

An evolving review, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the game
Part 4

FFG-SW-covers

In my past 3 posts on the subject of Fantasy Flight GamesStar Wars: Edge of the Empire role-playing game, I discussed the rules’ unique and dynamic dice mechanic. I haven’t mentioned FFG’s other products in that line, Star Wars: Age of Rebellion and Star wars: Force and Destiny, or the Beginner Game boxed versions of each of those three titles because I have no experience with them. However, all their Star Wars rpg products use the same system, so my thoughts about EotE would apply to the entire line.

This post will focus on ways I would simplify the rules by focusing on the most compelling aspect of the game’s dice mechanic, regardless of whether one is using the game’s dice mechanic as-is or some alternative

As-is, the system uses three kinds of dice with positive results on them, and three kinds with negative results on them. The most commonly-rolled dice have the most common results on them (Success and Failure), the less-often rolled dice have a mix of those most-common and some less-common results (Advantage and Threat), and the rarest dice have more of the least common results (Triumph and Despair).

I think the three-tiered scale of outcome severity is a sweet-spot for a game trying to emulate the pulp drama sensibilities of the Star Wars movies and animated series.

My basic proposal is to use that scale for everything. I’ve discussed my frustrations with the system’s existing dice pool system, and how it seems like a barrier to new, casual, and less mechanically-minded players, but here I’m going to focus on this three-tiered idea.

As far as I can see, the possible results of an attack on a character in the Star Wars movies and tv series are as follows:

  1. Miss; no damage.
  2. Grazed; superficial damage; no real damage,  but a point has been made: things just got real!
  3. Stunned, dazed, or otherwise temporarily debilitated but still basically functional.
  4. Unconscious or otherwise taken out of action.
  5. Dead. Possibly cut in half.

Setting aside “miss” and “dead”, we have three common possible negative results.

Looking at SW:EOTE’s three tiers, though, there’s actually six possible outcomes (three pairs), so what if we add three possible positive outcomes of being attacked?

  1. Alerted: this offers the attacked character a free use of an appropriate skill to assess the situation.
  2. Some kind of advantage.
  3. Turning the tables.

I admit that those last two examples are pretty vague. I don’t know how exactly to implement that, and the system as-is already includes possible negative outcomes for the attacker other than just failure. I think what I’m imagining is a system where each roll represents an exchange of attacks and defenses, rather than each roll representing each attack or action. I think that’s pulpier and more Star Wars-y, but I’ll have to think on that some more.

Let’s look at ranged attacks. In something as pulpy as Star Wars, the range of a target is one of the following:

  1. Zero: punching, kicking, lifting people up off the floor by their throats.
  2. Nearby: hurling grappling hook swinglines, throwing someone a weapon.
  3. Shooting: blasters, bowcasters. (Hey, that could be a game: Blasters & Bowcasters!)
  4. Long-range shooting: specialized and/or large ranged weapons, like sniper rifles and mounted weapons.
  5. Out of range.

So, again, dropping “zero” and “out of range”, we have three levels.

You would need a separate scale for space ship combat, when it comes to range as well as damage.

Where I’d really like to infuse the system with this concept is to rate all weapons, armor, and equipment in either the number of extra dice that the item grants you, or in a number of one or more of the six possible dice results you would add to a roll involving that item. For instance, a blaster pistol might give you an extra one of the lowest level of positive dice,  a blaster rifle gives you an extra two of those, and a mounted blaster gives you those two as well but also a mid-level positive die. Or you could have a blaster give you one extra Success, a blaster rifle gives you two extra Successes, and a mounted blaster gives you two Successes and an Advantage. Again, I’m just spit-balling here.

Armor would be rated in the number of Successes it negates, or the number of negative dice it adds to the attacker’s roll.

By putting everything on the same scale and relating everything to those six possible outcomes, you eliminate the bigger numbers the system has for various damage thresholds and other stats for weapons, armor, and other equipment.

Come to think of it, let’s take a step back, actually, and look at the Characteristics that are one of the primary ways SW:EOTE characters are defined: Brawn, Agility, Intellect, Cunning, Willpower, and Presence. Conveniently, that’s six, but I’m tempted to cut it to three. You would lose some of the distinctions between characters, but it might be best to express that through SW:EOTE’s Skills and Talents anyway. So, for now I’ll go with Body, Mind, and Spirit.

To express further distinctions through Skills, I wouldn’t attach each Skill to a specific Characteristic the way the game does as is, but allow a system where a Skill can be connected to whatever Characteristic seems appropriate for the situation. So, for instance, you could connect a “Guns” skill to Body for shooting, but to Mind for attempts at repair or assessing the market value of a weapon.

That’s about all I have on that for now.

Next: probably my last post on SW:EotE for the time being. I’ll be discussing Obligation, Motivation, and designing games based on well-known, highly popular, mass media properties.

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