May 01 2016

Ghostbusters 5E First Pass: Brains

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(Image created by @MajorSheep)

Honestly, I like Savage Worlds as a home for a Ghostbusters game, but the honest truth is that switching back and forth between systems gets tiresome and we keep forgetting the rules. ¬.¬ And besides, 5E is just awesome. So, it’s worth it.

Still, it’s no small task. I kinda have to reinvent most of d20 Modern along the way in order to make it work, and then tweak it to fit the weird flavor of Ghostbusters. Since I’m a lot less confident of my 5E mastery than I was of previous iterations, I’m gonna send up pieces of it as I go in case anyone has feedback or suggestions, starting today with the Brains class– after a few preliminary notes which are necessary to understand some of the class mechanics. (The other classes– Brawn, Guts, Moves, and Wits– will come in future posts.)

Preliminary: Hit Points or Death (Or Lack Thereof)

Ghostbusters is light-hearted comedy action fare, so characters almost never actually “die”. Thus, hit points explicitly do not represent physical wounds in Ghostbusters. When you lose hit points, you get banged up, scratched, frazzled and stressed out, maybe some wear and tear on your clothes, but you aren’t really hurt, at least until you run out. When characters get reduced to 0 hp, they are knocked out. After three failed “death saves,” characters don’t really die, but they are put “Down For the Count,” which sends them to the hospital. Genuine injuries, when they occur, are represented by conditions, particularly the poisoned or exhaustion conditions.

Also Preliminary: The Ghost Die

Previous versions of Ghostbusters (going all the way back to the original WEG game back in 1985) had the “Ghost Die,” which was a d6 in which the 6 was replaced by a Ghostbusters logo. This die acted as a kind of wild card– whenever the ghost showed up, some crazy bad thing happened. But after some years of playing that way… honestly? It’s not as fun as it sounds. It makes the players hate to roll the dice, which is something that in a tabletop RPG should just not happen. So in my 5E conversion, Ghost Dice are different.

When instructed by the GM, you roll the Ghost Die with the other dice and add it to the total, unless it comes up a 6. When you roll a 6 on the Ghost Die (also called “rolling a ghost”), the rest of the dice in the roll are considered to be the highest possible roll. For instance, if you add a Ghost Die to a d20 roll and roll a ghost, the d20 is considered to have rolled a 20, and the total of the roll is (20 + 6 =) 26. If you add a Ghost Die to a 2d8 roll and roll a ghost, each d8 is considered to have rolled an 8, and the total of the roll is (8 + 8 + 6 =) 22.

Some circumstances may give your character multiple Ghost Dice, which you may use on various things. You may also be instructed to roll a Ghost Die by the GM due to the actions of an NPC, creature, or other circumstance. However, you only roll one Ghost Die at a time, regardless of how many things may be happening to prompt the Ghost Die roll. You may roll any number of Ghost Dice called for on a turn, but only one at a time.

Brains Class (First Draft)

Hit Die: d6
Hit Points at 1st Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier
Saving Throws: Int, Wis
Proficiencies: Electronic Tools, Scientific Equipment, two additional languages or toolset of your choice
Skills: Choose four from Electronics, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Occult, Parapsychology, Religion, Science

Level Prof. Bonus Features
1 +2 Expertise, Know-It-All
2 +2 Plan (one use)
3 +2 Specialty
4 +2 Personal Development
5 +3 Retrograde Maneuvers, See It Coming (one use)
6 +3 Specialty
7 +3 Exploit Weakness
8 +3 Personal Development
9 +4 Plan (two uses)
10 +4 Specialty
11 +4 See It Coming (two uses)
12 +4 Personal Development
13 +5 The Horrible Truth
14 +5 Specialty
15 +5 Jinkies
16 +5 Personal Development
17 +6 Plan (three uses)
18 +6 Anticipation
19 +6 Personal Development
20 +6 Specialty

At 1st level, choose two of your skill proficiencies, or one skill proficiency and one tool proficiency. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of the chosen proficiencies.

Starting at 1st level, you can add half of your proficiency bonus (rounded down) to any Intelligence check you make that doesn’t already include your proficiency bonus.

Starting at 2nd level, you can take an action to formulate a plan. Choose up to six creatures (including yourself) who can hear and understand you to include in the plan. In the next minute, each creature who is part of the plan may choose to roll a Ghost Die with their choice of any one attack roll or ability check per turn (this does not effect any other Ghost Dice they may be rolling on their turn for other reasons). You must complete a short or long rest before you can use this ability again. At 9th and 17th level, you gain additional uses of this ability before must rest.

At 3rd level, you choose a specialty for character. The specialties for a “traditional” Ghosbusters campaign the specialties are Anatomist, Inventor, and Professor. However, for a “Gonzo Ghostbusters!” campaign (see Campaigns in the Ghostmastering section) you may also choose Arcanist or Psychic. You immediately gain the first benefit associated with that specialty, and gain another benefit at 6th, 10th, 14th, and 20th level.

Personal Development
Whenever this option comes up, you have your choice of one of the following options: increase one ability score of your choice by +2, increase two ability scores of your choice by +1 each, or gain a feat.

Retrograde Manuevers
Starting at 5th level, you may take the Disengage action as a bonus action.

See It Coming
Starting at 5th level, when you are instructed to make a saving throw, add a Ghost Die. You must have a short or long rest before you can use this ability again. You gain another use of this ability between rests at 11th level.

Exploit Weakness
Starting at 7th level, you can use a bonus action to assess a creature’s weakness. Add your Intelligence bonus to all attack rolls, damage rolls, and ability checks against that creature for one minute. You must complete a short or long rest before you can use this ability again.

The Horrible Truth
Starting at 13th level, you have learned so many strange and terrifying things in your studies that nothing phases you any more: you now have advantage on all Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma saving throws.

At 15th level, your ability to analyze information and make deductive leaps is honed to a razor’s edge. When investigating a situation, looking for evidence or clues, or attempting to solve a puzzle or confusing situation, you automatically find all relevant information. Alternatively, as a free action on your turn, you may ask the Ghostmaster to answer up to three questions, which must be answerable with: “Yes,” “No,” “Good,” “Bad,” “Yes and No,” “Good and Bad,” or “Indeterminate.” Alternatively, the GM may choose to provide you with hints or suggestions of their own devising, such as, “The emphasis on ‘Keymaster’ and ‘Gatekeeper’ suggests the opening of a portal.” You must take a short or long rest before using this ability again.

Starting at 18th level, if any d20 roll you make results in a failure (including ability checks, attack rolls, or saving throws), you may declare that you anticipated this event and planned for it. You may immediately make the roll again, and take the better of the two results. You must have a short or long rest before using this ability again.

First Aid: You are trained in the art healing. At 3rd level, you gain proficiency with Wisdom (Medicine) if you do not already have it. As an action, on your turn, you may attempt to heal an adjacent character (or yourself) who has taken damage in combat, restoring 1d8 hit points + your Intelligence bonus. You may do this a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier, but then must have a short or long rest before you can use this ability again. You must have a first aid kit or in your possession or be at some sort of medical facility to use this ability.

You may also use your knowledge to help revitalize your allies during a short rest. If you or any friendly creatures you can attend to regain hit points at the end of the short rest, each of those creatures regains an extra Ghost Die worth of hit points as well. You must have a first aid kit or in your possession or be at some sort of medical facility to use this ability.

Finally, your enhanced knowledge of anatomy enables you to hit ’em where it hurts. Whenever you make an attack roll against a humanoid, beast, or other creature with a discernible anatomy, you score a critical hit against that creature on a roll of 19 or 20. This does not apply to oozes, incorporeal undead, or most aberrations, but does apply to things like zombies, ghouls, vampires, and terror dogs.

A Real Doctor: Beginning at 6th level, when you use your ability to administer first aid, you roll 2d8 + your Intelligence bonus. Alternatively, you may use your healing ability to remove one disease or any one of the following conditions from the afflicted creature: blinded, deafened, paralyzed, or poisoned. (Similar to the lesser restoration spell.)

Also, your knowledge of anatomy increases your ability to land effective blows in combat. Whenever you score a hit in combat (critical or otherwise) against a humanoid, beast, or other creature with a discernible anatomy, you roll a Ghost Die of additional damage. This does not apply to oozes, incorporeal undead, or most aberrations, but does apply to things like zombies, ghouls, vampires, and terror dogs.

Back On Your Feet! At 10th level, you have become such an accomplished healer that you can revive an ally who has been Knocked Out or put Down For the Count within the past minute (10 rounds). The ally is fully conscious and stable at 1 hit point and may act again as soon as their turn comes up again on the initiative count. When you administer first aid, you roll 3d8 + your Intelligence bonus.

Also your delvings into the weird anatomies of eldritch and otherworldly beings are so advanced that your critical hit chances and extra damage apply to all creature types.

Tampering in God’s Domain
Beginning at 14th level, your advanced weird studies have begun to unlock the secrets of life and death. You may now reanimate dead tissues, creating effects equal to the animate dead spell as if cast at a level equal to your proficiency bonus. Alternatively, you may temporarily restore a semblance of life to a dead creature (or inert undead creature), creating effects equal to the speak with dead spell as if cast at a level equal to your proficiency bonus. Be warned that neither of these activities are likely to be met with a sympathetic public. You must complete a long rest before you can use this ability again.

When you administer first aid, you may choose to provide true healing: the patient regains 70 hit points, and all blindness, deafness, and diseases affecting the target are removed. You must have a long rest before using this ability again (but it only counts against one of your uses of first aid).
Also, your knowledge of anatomy is so advanced that when you successfully make a critical hit in combat, you may choose to force the target to make a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence bonus. On a failed save, the target takes 14d6 necrotic damage, or half as much damage on a successful save. The damage can’t reduce the target’s hit points below zero. You must have a long rest before using this ability again.

Beginning at 20th level, you have become a true reanimator. In addition to the abilities granted by your tampering in God’s domain, you may create effects equal to the create undead spell as if cast at a level equal to your proficiency bonus. You must have a long rest before using this ability again, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re destroyed by your own creations, you monster.
You also gain the ability to use your enhanced healing and combat damage abilities under the Tampering in God’s Domain abilities twice each before requiring a long rest.

Gadgets: At 3rd level, you learn how to build amazing gadgets. You may choose a number of Prodigy-level gadgets from the Gadget List equal to your intelligence bonus (or come up with your own using the Custom Gadget). These gadgets are persistent items which you may add to your inventory, loan to friends or allies, etc. You may also leave “gadget slots” open indefinitely until such time as you decide to build a new gadget. If you have filled all your gadget slots and decide you want to build another gadget, you must first break down an existing gadget for parts. You must have a gadget in your possession to break it down.

Some gadgets are modifiers, rather than stand-alone items. “Elemental Modulation” allows an existing weapon to change its damage type on the fly for example. In that case, the final gadget (an elementally-modulated energy ray) actually counts against two gadget slots.

Building a new gadget (including breaking down an existing gadget, if required) requires a workshop and applicable tools, and takes two hours per gadget slot modified. (For instance, to break down an elementally-modulated energy ray would take four hours; to then use those parts to build another gadget would take an additional two hours.) The time does not have to be spent consecutively, it can be broken up over the course of days or weeks as desired. Up to four hours of this time can be combined with a long rest without interfering with the rest.

Unless specified otherwise, activating a gadget requires an action. You are always considered proficient with your own gadgets; however, you may also decide what other proficiencies apply to a gadget, subject to common sense and Ghostmaster approval. For example, a modified proton pack probably works with the proton pack proficiency. Rocket skates, on the other hand, would probably require their own proficiency.

If a gadget is lost or destroyed, that gadget slot cannot be reclaimed until the end of your next long rest. Gadgets loaned to friends or allies are not considered “lost” unless that friend or ally is also somehow “lost” and cannot (or will not) return the item to you.

Genius: At 6th level, you have figured out how to build Genius-level gadgets. Also, the time required to modify Prodigy-level gadgets is halved (to one hour per gadget slot).

Perfected: At 10th level, you may choose three gadget slots’ worth of gadgets. You have perfected those designs and may fabricate those gadgets as needed, without expending gadget slots on them. It takes twelve hours per gadget slot to fabricate a perfected gadget.

Mastermind: At 14th level, you have figured out how to build Mastermind-level gadgets. Also, the time required to modify Genius-level gadgets is halved (to one hour per gadget slot) and the time required to modify Prodigy-level gadgets is quartered (to half an hour per gadget slot).

Prolific Fabricator: At 20th level, you are no longer restricted by gadget slots. You may simply fabricate as many gadgets as you need (although the time required to create the gadgets is unchanged).

[Gadget List not included in post. Just assume that it’s full of awesome gadgety goodness.]

Specialized Knowledge: At 3rd level, choose two new proficiencies, whether skills, tool proficiencies, or languages. Also, choose two more skills for which you gain the benefits of Expertise. Also, when making a Wisdom (Insight), Intelligence (Investigation), or Wisdom (Perception) check, you may roll a Ghost Die and add it to the results of that check.

Cunning Action: At 6th level, you may use the Dash, Disengage, or Hide actions as a bonus action on your turn in combat.

Correlating Contents: At 10th level, your investigations and breakthroughs have enabled you to form a network of like-minded contacts throughout the world, putting vast stores of knowledge at your disposal. By taking half an hour to research a topic and “consult your brain trust,” you may unerringly: translate a passage of text or speech in any terrestrial language; decipher a code; discover hidden links in seemingly-unrelated data points (if any); discover the last known location of an item, piece of experimental equipment, or artifact; find all available information on the background of a person, location, or thing; discover official documents related to a person, location, or thing (including building blueprints, tracking vehicle license plates, etc.); or gather the complete text of any book or other literary work, including different editions or draft variations. This activity may be combined with a short rest. This ability can only retrieve information that actually exists: if a string of text is just nonsense letters for instance, no amount of “deciphering the code” will resolve it into meaningful data.

Font of Knowledge: Starting at 14th level, you studies have led you to memorize vast amounts of information and you can quickly recall and apply it. You can make Wisdom (Insight), Intelligence (Investigation), or Wisdom (Perception) checks as a bonus action, and you do not need any reference materials or other implements for any Intelligence check.

Superior Anticipation: At 20th level, whenever one or more of your class abilities are expended until taking a rest, you regain one use of one such ability of your choice when you roll initiative. (For instance, if you have used your Exploit Weakness ability already, you could choose to regain the use of this ability.)

Next time: The Brawn class.

-The Gneech

Apr 11 2016

Zootopia and 7-Point Structure

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So sometime last week Matt Trepal (creator of Fight Cast or Evade) pointed me at a writing technique called “7-Point Structure.” It’s not that far removed from the Snowflake Method/Five Act Structure I’ve already been using, but it is different enough that it can give you new insights on a story.

The best breakdown of it I’ve found comes from the person who first popularized it, Dan Wells, and you can see that here:

In order to sort of teach myself the ins and outs of it, I decided to make a 7-point breakdown of Zootopia, as that’s fresh in my mind and a remarkably-tight story considering the “toss everything out and start again” way it came together. I mentioned it on Twitter and had several folks express interest, so I’ve decided to post it here, because I love you.


This discussion assumes you already have the gist of 7-point structure. If not, go watch those videos and come back. 😉 Also, Zootopia (in italics) refers to the story/movie, while Zootopia (not in italics) refers to the city itself.

As John Lasseter so aptly put it, Zootopia‘s real subject is bias, both how it effects people and how they deal with it. As I started dissecting Zootopia I rapidly came to the conclusion that it has three major arcs, to wit Judy Hopps’ arc, Nick Wilde’s arc, and an overall Zootopia’s Promise arc. They are all connected by bias: Judy’s having to cope with bias against the idea of a bunny cop as well as her own bias on the subject of foxes, Nick having internalized the bias against foxes as well as his own bias on the subject of Zootopia’s failure to live up to its own ideals, and all of Zootopia’s struggle with the messy intersection of its stated ideals and the reality of life.

In light of that, the true plot points of Zootopia aren’t necessarily a simple list of “A happened, then B happened, then C happened” but of the characters’ progression. Zootopia is a character-based story, not an event-based one. And here’s how it falls out:

Starting Point Hopps: Hopps is discounted as a police officer (by Bogo and Nick)
Nick: Nick is convinced there’s no point to being anything but “a shifty fox”
Zootopia: Zootopia claims to be “where anybody can be anything” but is far from that in reality


Plot Turn 1 Hopps and Nick: Hopps recruits Nick to help her search for Emmet
Zootopia: 14 animals are missing


Pinch 1 Hopps and Nick: Captured by Mr. Big
Zootopia: Manches goes savage


Midpoint Hopps: Nick stands up to Bogo for Hopps
Nick: Hopps saves Nick’s life during the Manches chase and shows him respect and compassion
Zootopia: Lionheart is arrested, revealing that all the missing animals are predators turned savage


Pinch 2 Hopps: Hopps resigns from ZPD in despair
Nick: Nick feels betrayed and breaks off his friendship w/ Hopps
Zootopia: Zootopia is violent and full of prejudice


Plot Turn 2 Hopps: Hopps figures out the mystery
Nick: Nick realizes Hopps truly values his friendship and forgives her
Zootopia: Bellweather’s plot is revealed


Resolution Hopps and Nick: They become respected police and equal partners
Zootopia: Zootopia lives up to its promise, even though “life is messy”

The way the 7-point structure works is that you start with your desired end state and from there you make the start the opposite of that. Thus, if the end state is “Judy and Nick are partners and Zootopia is making progress on its ideals” then the beginning has to be “Judy and Nick are enemies and Zootopia is failing or actively working against its ideals.” In this particular case, it’s Bellweather who’s actively working against Zootopia’s ideals, but she wouldn’t be able to succeed if the rest of the city didn’t already have the underlying tensions that she exploits.

Each plot turn or pinch, therefore, is a stepping stone from the starting point to the resolution. An interesting thing to note is that a lot of scenes or moments that stand out about Zootopia do not actually register in terms of plot: the character of Flash for instance, while an awesome piece of set dressing, doesn’t really impact the story at all except as a plot device to burn up some of Judy’s timer and add dramatic tension to the “Nick stands up to Bogo” moment. The character of Gazelle, despite her incredibly catchy song, is not important to the plot at all except as a sort of mouthpiece for the ideals that Zootopia is failing to live up to.

This kind of analysis can show you hidden things about your story, such as empowerment issues. For instance, if you have a story full of “strong women,” but all of the plot points are driven by male characters, guess what? You still have a patriarchal story. (Not a problem in the case of Zootopia, but one I did find in another piece I applied this method to.) It can also help you boil down your story to the most essential elements, and show you where things need to be stronger.

For instance, if your resolution is “Luke becomes a fully trained Jedi” and your starting point is “Luke is a mostly-trained Jedi,” this is gonna be a pretty weaksauce arc. On the other hand, if your resolution is “Luke becomes a fully trained Jedi” and your starting point is “Luke is a powerless nobody in the middle of nowhere,” you’ve got a lot more to work with!

In the case of Zootopia, they did a really good job intertwining the characters’ arcs with the thematic (“Zootopia’s Promise”) arc. Judy and Nick have to be friends and equals at the end: therefore they have to be enemies and socially-disparate at the beginning. But the reason they are enemies is because Zootopia isn’t living up to its ideals.

Dude. That’s some tight plotting.

This, more than any adorable furry critters or catchy songs, is why Zootopia works. It’s just damn well written!

-The Gneech

Mar 16 2016

Writing Sample: HTML Training 2010

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Text: HTML_Training_101

Workbook: HTML_Training_Exercises

This was the curriculum for an in-house training in HTML I gave at Circle Solutions in 2010. I wrote it in a deliberately “breezy” style in order to keep the course engaging and entertaining.

-The Gneech

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Mar 16 2016

Worldbuilding Wednesday: Jeeves and Wooster for 5E

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Bertram Wilberforce “Bertie” Wooster

Medium humanoid (human), neutral good
Armor Class 12
Hit Points 9 (2d8)
Speed 30′
Str 10/+0; Dex 14/+2; Con 10/+0; Int 14/+2; Wis 7/-2; Cha 15/+2
Skills Athletics +2, History +4, Performance +4, Persuasion +4, Religion +4
Proficiencies Automobile, Banjolele, Golf Clubs, Piano, Playing Cards, Trombone
Senses passive Perception 8
Languages English, French, Latin
Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)
Noblesse Oblige. Bertie has high social status and a substantial fortune inherited from his Uncle George.
Prompt Action Through Proper Channels. Bertie has advantage on ability checks and saving throws made to avoid or escape grapples.
Shimmy. Bertie has advantage on Athletics checks made to climb up or down drainpipes, knotted sheets, or other improvised climbing tools, or up onto furniture.
The Work of a Moment. Bertie may act on his initiative even when surprised, but only to move and take Dash or Disengage actions.


Distraction. Bertie attempts to befuddle a creature within 15′ that can comprehend a language he speaks. The creature must make a DC 14 Intelligence save. Success: The creature is unaffected. Failure: The creature becomes Stunned until the beginning of its next turn.


Reginald Jeeves

Medium humanoid (human), lawful good
Armor Class 10
Hit Points 28 (5d8+5)
Speed 30′
Str 12/+1; Dex 10/+0; Con 12/+1; Int 18/+4; Wis 16/+3; Cha 10/+0
Skills Deception +4, History +8, Insight +7, Intimidation +4, Investigation +8, Perception +7, Sleight of Hand +4, Stealth +4
Proficiencies Automobile, Darts, Fishing Tackle, Serving Tray, Sewing Tools
Senses passive Perception 17
Languages English, French, Latin
Challenge 1 (200 XP)
Concoction. Jeeves can brew up to three potions of vitality at will. Jeeves must have a long rest before he can use this ability again.
Discretion. Jeeves can escape notice at will. He may use the Hide action even when in plain sight as long as there is some form of distraction, and has advantage on Sleight of Hand or Stealth checks against members of the upper classes.
The Psychology of the Individual. Jeeves has advantage on a Deception, Insight, or Intimidation check made against a creature who is not a stranger to him. Jeeves must have a long rest before he can use this ability again.
Tact and Resource. By spending 10 minutes to study a problem, Jeeves gains advantage on an Insight, Investigation, or Perception check regarding it. Jeeves must have a long rest before he can use this ability again.


Kosh. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5′, one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4+1) damage, +18 (5d6) sneak attack damage if applicable, and the target must make a Constitution save with a DC equal to the damage dealt. Failure: The target is Stunned until the end of its next turn. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points by the attack, they are knocked unconscious, rather than killed.
Baffling Snare. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5′, one creature. Hit: The creature is blinded by being wrapped in a coat or other object around its head until the beginning of its next turn and must make a DC 12 Dexterity save. Failure: The creature is blinded and restrained until it succeeds at this saving throw. It can make a new attempt at the end of each of its turns.

-The Gneech

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Jul 22 2015

Worldbuilding Wednesday: Baselines

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Sometime a while back I happened upon some articles about worldbuilding with the Monster Manual, and I’ve been doing some thinking about it on my own since then, particularly in regards to the “normal people” of a D&D world.

Somewhere lost in the dim mists of the edition wars, there was an interesting article about the balance of 3.x, and how DCs, skill ranks, and ability scores all worked perfectly to simulate a realistic setting if you assumed that almost every person in the average D&D world is an NPC classed character of level 1-5 or so with ability scores ranging from 8-12. Even the paltry 1d4 damage of a dagger is deadly if you only have 4 hit points, and on that scale is the 5d6 damage of a fireball any more dangerous than the 2d6+3 battleaxe of an orc? Not really. To a low-level 3.x NPC, anything that has a positive attack bonus is likely to kill them with one or two shots.

With that discussion in mind, I started looking at the NPC stat blocks in the 5E Monster Manual to see what I could deduce about the “normal” population. Here’s what I found.

  • Still sucks to be the 99%. Commoners (CR 0) have 10s across the board, 4 hit points, and a +2 proficiency bonus (but no proficiencies). Racial bonuses and any training you wish to give them will make the biggest difference– a racial stat bump and proficiency in a given skill will get them all the way up to the dizzying heights of +3 at something.
  • Constabulary/soldiery quality varies widely. A Guard (CR 1/8) is almost three times as durable as a commoner, with 11 hit points and of course armor that makes them very difficult for the unwashed rabble to hit in the first place– but they are positively outclassed by the Thug (CR 1/2), whose 32 hit points and multiattack with their mace put the guard in big danger if the thug manages to win initiative. The guard still outclasses the Tribal Warrior (CR 1/8) by virtue solely of their better gear, but all three of them look like amateurs compared to the Veteran (CR 3) or the Knight (CR 3). The Gladiator (CR 5) is probably the scariest “normal” opponent, with a sturdy AC 16, 112(!) hit points, and three attacks.
  • As I am a gentleman, sirrah, I beg of you, “Not to the face.” The Noble (CR 1/8) is fragile, with a mere 9 hp and only his parry to protect him. Even surrounded by guards a noble is well-advised to surrender to the Bandit Captain (CR 2) solo, with his three attacks and 65 hit points, much less one who’s surrounded by, y’know, his Bandits (CR 1/8), who are akin to tribal warriors in ferocity. Knights by comparison are much more fearsome, being well protected (AC 18), durable (hp 52), and can probably take the Bandit Captain one-on-one plus is a better leader.
  • No, Mr. Bond, you are only CR 1. The Spy (CR 1) is roughly on par with a 2nd or 3rd level rogue, quite dangerous even to the Thug if they can get in a sneak attack or two, but not much danger to the Veteran in a straight-up fight. The Scout (CR 1/2) is tougher than a Guard or a Bandit but not by much.
  • Using magic is cheating! Spellcasters weird the CR system. The Mage (CR 6) is a 9th level wizard, with 12 AC, 40 hit points, and one cone of cold, making it a glass cannon. The Priest (CL 2) is a 5th level cleric, and the Druid (CR 2) is a 4th level druid. 5E calculates CR almost entirely as a factor of hit points and damage output assuming a solo encounter, so the fragile mage and the not-really-a-combat-specialist priest end up being fairly low on the CR totem pole for the amount of impact they can have as part of a well-crafted team. But then we look at the Archmage (CR 12), who is an 18th level wizard. These crazy-powerful reshapers-of-the-universe who can stop time or grant a wish still don’t rate as powerful as a single storm giant because they “only” have 99 hit points and can only fire off cone of cold three times.

So when you look at these figures for the “baseline” populace, you start to see some trends. First off, hit points are all over the map. An assassin going after the king might have to be able to kill someone with 9 hit points, 52 hit points, or more depending on if that king is a mighty warrior or a feeble aristocrat. Still, it would appear that most members of the “normal” populace have about 5-30 hit points, which means that they’d fare wildly differently against a goblin’s knife but roast equally in the breath weapon of an adult dragon. It’s only when you get to the most battle-hardened NPCs (the Bandit Captain, the Gladiator, the Knight, the Veteran) that facing that kind of threat becomes even feasible, much less having any chance of success.

It also means that an NPC “adventuring party” consisting of a Veteran (fighter), Spy (rogue), Mage (wizard), and Priest (cleric) would be a “hard” encounter for a party of four 8th level PCs and “deadly” for anything lower. If we assume “hard” to be roughly where groups come into parity, that puts a generic group of adventurers solidly in the “heroes of the realm” tier.

If you look at skill levels as measured by proficiency, most skilled experts have about a +3 to +5 with their most tricked-out ability, and somewhere around +1 with everything else due to their ability scores. Few NPCs have saving throws to speak of, maybe a +2 or +3 with their best ability. A few outliers buck these trends, having +6 or up to +10 with one or two things.

Thus, an “average” person in 5E has something like AC 13, 20 hp, +5 with their best skill and +1 with any others, +3 to their best saving throw and +1 with the rest, and can do somewhere around 10 points of damage in a round of combat with their primary attack. In an average-person-vs-average-person fight, whichever one wins initiative and makes better use of situational advantages will probably defeat the other in 2-4 rounds, probably getting fairly beat up themselves in the process.

It also means that player characters start outclassing “average” people somewhere around 3rd level probably… which is just about right.

-The Gneech

Filed under : Dungeons & Dragons, Worldbuilding Wednesday | Comments Off on Worldbuilding Wednesday: Baselines
Jun 23 2015

Come Find Me at AnthroCon!

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Gneech and SirFox at table N14

AC 2015 is just a few weeks away! As usual, I’ll be sharing a table with my old pal Sirfox. And, as usual, I’ll be doing clean, family-friendly fare, and he’ll be smutting it up. 😉

As always, I’ll be doing badges, sketchbooks, and so forth, as well as premiering issue three of “Suburban Jungle: Rough Housing.” So come on over! Buy my stuff, I’ll be your friend!

-The Gneech

Filed under : Artwork | 1 Comment »