(This is in response to the #rpgaday list of questions)
I’m not entirely sure what “most intellectual” RPG I own even means. Clearly *Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth* is the most pretentious RPG ever published in English, but do I own that or was it Rob Barrett’s copy?
I think, though, that I’m going to go with a different take on “intellectual”, and make an argument that good old D&D white box is the most intellectual of the RPGs I own. I mean, besides the fact that even understanding how to play requires a bunch of analysis of cryptic text. Unlike most of the games that came after it, OD&D engages the GM and the players on a purely intellectual level. Not that you have to be smart to play it, but that there’s nothing to do, no way to resolve situations or move ahead in the game except by thinking, trying to understand the fictional world, and making decisions based on that. Any puzzles that are encountered have to be solved by the player. Anything the players attempt to do outside of a sparse set of tasks has to be adjudicated by the GM based on what seems reasonable: there isn’t even a hint of a mechanism along the lines of pick a difficulty and roll a die, or rules to mold outcomes according to aesthetic considerations or play that emphasizes non-thinky things like performance, empathy (especially empathic understanding of your own character), and so on. You could use OD&D as the basis for such play, and it wouldn’t get in the way…but that’s because it said nothing about it. Everything that’s actually on the page is about play as an intellectual task. OD&D doesn’t even use the term “role-playing” anywhere in its text: the only uses of the word role are in reference to the character’s *function*, e.g. “roll three six-sided dice in order to rate each as to various abilities, and thus aid them in selecting a role.” (in context fighting man, magic user, or cleric).
Since +Joshua Burnett and some folks on G+ were talking about statting up Minotaurs as a Large playable race, this is my take for a Template that could be applied to a creature to make a Large version of a creature. This is based on the Ogre from the Starter Set, since that’s the only example of a Large humanoid we’ve got so far.
Movement: +10 feet
Reach: +5 feet
Ability Scores: if you want to stick to the Basic pattern of playable races not having any penalties, I’d stick with the ranges of bonuses they have (+2 to +4, no more than +2 in any single ability); if you’re willing to impose penalties, then I’d suggest another up to +3 on STR or CON, with a matching penalty to DEX, for a maximum of +5 increase and a cap of 21. So a Minotaur might have straight +3 STR (within the “normal” increase range for a non-human, so no penalty, but all applied to the one stat), while an Ogre might be STR +4, CON +2, DEX -2 (another +2 above the normal, matched by a -2 penalty, and again with more in the one stat than “normal”).
Points to bear in Mind
While most rules and spells in Basic affect creatures up to Large the same way as Small and Medium, so there’s nothing special you have to do, there are a couple rules that are triggered by a creature being Large:
Maximum # of Large enemies that can surround a Medium creature: 5 (page 71)
Large creatures can’t squeeze through a space smaller than would fit a Medium creature, and treat spaces that are Medium size as difficult terrain. So, e.g. a 5′ wide corridor would be difficult terrain and take 2′ of movement for every 1′ of passage. This is really the same rule as for other creatures (Medium vs. Small), it’s just liable to come up much more often. (p.71)
Carrying/lifting/dragging capacity is doubled compared to a Medium creature of the same STR. (p. 60)
Armor should have to be custom made (p. 44 suggests armor size as an optional rule, but it probably ought to be mandatory for Large humanoids even if optional for Medium and Small).
Beast-kin have the appearance of bipedal beasts (cats, dogs, pigs, cows, etc). They usually wear clothes, and are roughly human-sized. They can also transform to full-on beast form, in which case they use that stats for that type of beast, as well as an almost completely human form. Beast-kin typically end their utterances with an sound appropriate to their nature. E.g. “What’ll you folks have for dinner, moo?” or “Catch them before they get away! Oink!”
In their hybrid form they can move around and breath on land as humans do even if their full beast form could not, but have the special abilities of their subrace according to the table below.
In their fully human-looking form they retain only slight traces of their beast ancestry (generally ears, tail, and eyes): this form grants an extra +2 Cha but lacks any of the special abilities of the hybrid form except Animal Senses.
In their fully beast form, they have the stats and abilities of their beast, though they are size Medium unless otherwise noted.
Speed 35 feet
Stats +1Dex +1 Con
Animal senses: choose one since that acts as tool (grants proficiency in tasks that use it)
Languages: Common, specific species (e.g. Wolf-kin can talk to wolves)
Roll d20 (Type and Examples)
Bass, Clownﬁsh, Dolphin, Eel, Lionﬁsh, Marlin, Puffer, Shark
Crow, Dove, Egret, Hummingbird, Ostrich, Parrot, Raven, Robin
Ant, Bee, Beetle, Butterﬂy, Centipede, Cricket, Flea, Fly, Moth, Wasp
Mite, Scorpion, Spider, Tick
Bat, Capybara, Gopher, Mole Mouse, Rat, Squirrel
Dingo, Dog, Fox, Hyena, Jackal, Wolf
Cat, Cougar, Leopard, Lion, Lynx, Ocelot, Puma, Tiger
Antelope, Auroch, Bison, Bull, Buffalo, Gnu, Ox, Yak
Bandicoot, Kangaroo, Koala, Platypus, Possum, Tasmanian Devil
Elephant, Hippo, Rhino
Eagle, Falcon, Hawk, Owl, Osprey, Peregrine
Frog, Newt, Salamander, Toad, Turtle
- Aquatic Mammal
Beaver, Manatee, Orca, Otter, Porpoise, Whale
Alligator, Crocodile, Gecko, Gila Monster, Iguana, Komodo
Anaconda, Boa, Cobra, Coral Snake, Mamba, Viper
T Rex, Ankylosaur, Triceratops, Allosaur, Pteranodon, Velociraptor
- Extinct Giant Mammal
Giant Sloth, Mammoth, Mastodon, Saber-tooth Tiger
Ape, Baboon, Chimp, Gibbon, Gorilla, Lemur, Monkey, Orangutan
Camel, Deer, Donkey, Horse, Reindeer, Zebra
Jellyﬁsh, Octopus, Sea Anemone, Sea Urchin, Squid, Starﬁsh
Hybrid Special Abilities
The GM and players are strongly encouraged to tweak the special abilities to better fit the exact beast type since the listed special abilities are quite general.
Breath under water, +10′ movement in water
One of Camouflage (hide as bonus action in appropriate terrain), Natural attack 1d6 Bite, Natural Attack 2d4 Poison spines
Flight or +10′ running (for flightless).
Two of Proficiency: Singing; Absolute Direction Sense; Natural Attack 1d4 Peck or Scratch, Long-distance vision
Walk on walls and ceiling
One of Poison Bite/Sting (1d6), Fly +10′, Blood sucking (recover 1d4 HP on successful attack after grapple), Can eat anything organic
Walk on walls and ceiling.
One of Poison Bite/Sting (1d6), Web Spinning (cast Web spell once/short rest), Blood sucking (recover 1d4 HP on successful attack after grapple)
+1 Dex. Treat as 1 size smaller when moving through tight areas (so no penalty for small, tiny is difficult terrain). Low Light Vision. Proficiency: Climbing. +5 Move.
Proficiency: Tracking. Natural Attack 1d6 bite. Pack Tactics (gain advantage on foe if ally who isn’t incapacitated is within 5 feet of foe), Additional Keen sense.
+2 Dex. Low light vision. Proficiency: Jumping, Climbing. Natural Attack: 1d4 claws. +5 Move.
+2 STR, Double carrying capacity. +10 Move.
+2 Cha. Either Proficiency Climbing or Proficiency: Jumping.
+2 Str, +2 Con. Double carrying capacity. Either Trunk (extra limb), or Natural attack 1d6 (teeth/horn)
+1 Wis. Fly +10 Move, Long-distance vision, Natural Weapon 1d6 claw.
+1 Wis, +1 Con. Can breathe under water, Full movement under water, Camouflage (hide as bonus action in appropriate environment). One of climb walls/ceiling freely or Proficiency: Jump +10′ jump
+1 Dex, +2 Dex under water, +10 movement under water. Can hold breath for 10 minutes per +1 con bonus.
+2 AC. Additional Keen sense (one of heat detection, vibration detection, smell). Hard to Kill (advantage on Death saves)
+2 AC. Additional Keen sense (one of heat detection, vibration detection, smell). Hard to Kill (advantage on Death saves)
+2 AC, +2 STR, Natural Weapon 1d8 Bite. Note that Dino beast Kin are still Medium sized humanoids, and their beast forms are only Large, even if the natural form would be Huge or bigger
Extinct Giant Mammal
Size Large (+10 Move, 5 ft reach, double carrying capacity). +2 Con. Natural Weapon 1d6 Bite or claw or tusk. Advantage on saves vs. cold.
+2 Str. Proficiency: Climbing, Jumping. One of +1 Con; Size Small; Size Tiny + Prehensile Tail.
+10 Move, Double Carrying Capacity.
Advantage on saves vs. crushing; Damage Resistance vs. bludgeoning.
Suraimu are intelligent amorphous creatures, usually translucent although some are opaque or even metallic colored; a given Suraimu always stays the same color. Unlike oozes and jellies, Suraimu have visible and fixed eyes and mouths.
Stats: +2 Con
Speed: 25 ooze, on any solid surface. Despite lack of legs, Suraimu may jump. Age: Suraimu reach maturity at age 1 and never die of natural causes.
Alignment: Chaotic Languages: speak Suraimu and Common.
Weapons and Armor: Cannot use weapons or armor unless under the influence of a People Potion, but have a natural melee attack (1d6, Acid). They can extend pseudopods to manipulate other items, or even carry items.
Magic: Suraimu can use magic without material components it would ordinarily require or a spell focus (if the spell calls for a consumable material component like gold dust or a gem, the Suraimu must consume it first).
Dissolve: Can attack with 1d6 Acid as a Bonus action against any grappled foe.
Amorphous: Advantage on saves vs. crushing, Damage Resistance against Bludgeoning attacks. Any Slashing attack that does over half the Suraimu’s Max HP may split the Suraimu in two… Make a Death Save or become two creatures dividing the remaining HP between them. The twin Suraimu have the same personality and memories up to the point of splitting, but are distinct creatures after that. If they are ever rejoined the memories merge, and but the two personas must battle for dominance (Opposed Wis rolls)…the Suraimu has the levels, XP, proficiencies, etc. of the dominant persona.
Ooze: May pass through any opening large enough for one of the Suraimu’s eyes to fit; this counts as at least one foot of difficult terrain (2 feet of movement) regardless of how thin the barrier is. May not take carried items with them unless the items would also fit.
People Potions: Suraimu can consume People Potions (what other races call Healing Potions) and temporarily assume human form. A Healing Potion used on a Suraimu doesn’t heal any HP, but changes it into a human for a number of hours equal to the HP that would have been healed. Other sources of healing such as spells do not have this effect, and heal normally. People Potions may also be used to re-merge split Suraimu. Suraimu may decide such things as appearance and gender each time they consume a People Potion, though they will retain some of their natural coloring (typically the hair and eyes), and disguising themselves as a specific other person would be difficult (likely DC 25). A Resurrection Potion or Phoenix Down will allow a Suraimu to permanently gain the ability to assume human form (switching back is an action).
Nomaru Suraimu come in various colors, with abilities that vary by color.
Abilities are shown in ROYGBIV order (Violet may be Pink instead)
Ability Score Increase: +1 STR/+1 DEX/+1 CON/+1 INT/+1 WIS/ +1 CHA/+1 Random
Damage Resistance: Fire/Necrotic/Poison/Acid/Electricity/Ice/Random
Metaru Suraimu have shiny metallic coloring. Metaru Suraimu are unable to use People Potions.
Ability Score Increase: +1 Con
Toughness: +4 AC
Conductivity: Advantage on saves vs. Electricity, Damage Resistance vs. electrical attacks
Hearingu Suraimu have the appearance of floating jellyfish, with a gas-bag like head and dangling tentacles.
Ability Score Increase: +1 Wis
Float: unlike other Suraimu, Hearingu Suraimu float through the air at 25′ instead of oozing or jumping.
Heal: You have tentacles dangling beneath you that can heal creatures you touch. You can cast Spare the Dying as a cantrip, and can also cast Cure Wounds once for free (recharges with a Short Rest). If you know spells, you may additonallycast Cure Wounds with your Spell slots without having it prepared.
One of the relatively few things that bothers me a bit in D&D 5e Basic is the decision the player is presented with during a short rest of how many hit dice to recover as a result of the rest. As people who’ve been following along know, I really prefer “diegesis” in my game mechanics… that is things that present decisions and options from the character’s point of view*.
So while I don’t particularly object to the notion that the characters can get a substantial part of the HP back after a “Short Rest” of an hour or more, I have a bit of trouble picturing what it is the character is deciding when recovering 1 vs. 2 vs. 3 Hit Dice. It’s not the end of the world, but it could be cleaner.
So, let’s fix it up:
After a Short Rest, a character regains 1 Hit Die (assuming there are any left… ) In order to regain more than a single HD, the character has to take extra steps to make the rest more comfortable and complete. Each extra step is one more HD recovered. A non-exhaustive list of extra steps might be:
- Take off armor,
- bandage and clean scrapes and cuts,
- drink something,
- drink something alcoholic,
- eat some food,
- drink a hot beverage,
- eat some hot food,
- take a cat-nap,
- sit around and chew the fat with another PC or NPC (must be roleplayed, and should be idle chatter about backgrounds and such, rather than tense planning about next steps and tactics),
- play a musical instrument or sing,
- huddle around a fire,
- clean weapons and maintain tools,
- take off boots,
- take a hot bath,
- smoke something,
- write a letter to someone left behind
In other words, just about anything that might be depicted in a story showing the characters in their down-time. (Things like drinking a hot beverage are intended to be allowed to stack with drinking something; this is deliberate to allow recovery of bigger chunks of HD for higher level characters without making them list a dozen things they’re doing.) The characters can thus have a reasonable proxy for the decision of how many of their HD they recover by deciding just how relaxed and unready for action they’re willing to become to knit body and soul back together. In addition this will hopefully lead to slightly more vivid descriptions of what the characters are doing during their Short Rest.
This doesn’t really change any of the game mechanics of Short Rests at all, it’s just a way of tying it more tightly into the fictional world.
* It’s my usual complaint about Fate or Luck points: is it something the character knows about in the game world? If not, then it can get in the way of my thinking about what the character would do. As the player, I might know that since I have a Fate point to spend, the character will absolutely be able to hit the fleeing villain with a shot without endangering the hostage; the character, though, probably ought to view it as a real risk. Whether to take the risk ought, imo, to depend on my take on how bold or desperate the character is and not whether I’ve got or can scrounge some meta-game resources to reduce the risk.
A new D&D 5e PC race.
Naiads are spirits of the waters. In their natural form they actually appear made of water, though they feel like flesh to the touch. They are fully capable of operating normally on land, though few choose to do so; they are at a Disadvantage when making survival rolls in Desert conditions.
Stats: +2 Dex Size: Medium
Speed: 30 swim/30 walk Age: Naiads reach maturity at age 14 and can live many centuries. The oldest may be as old as the world itself.
Alignment: Chaotic Good.Languages: speak Naiad, Fish, and Common.
Weapon Training: proficient with spear, trident, and net.
Low-light Vision: Naiads can see normally underwater and in low-light conditions with no penalty.
Water breathing: Naiads can breathe underwater regardless of form; they can only breath in the air if they are not in fish form.
Form Change: as an Action Naiads may change form into fish, half-humanoid/half-fish, or fully humanoid. In their fully humanoid form they can pass for human or elf; in their fully fish form they can pass for an ordinary fish (albeit Medium sized). A given Naiad has one specific appearance in each form.
Liquefy: Naiads may become fully liquid as a Reaction; this will generally let weapons and objects pass harmlessly through them (Successful Dex save for no damage from ordinary weapons, fail and take half damage. Magical weapons and spells still harm them). Re-solidifying takes an Action. If they become fully liquid on land, their movement rate drops to 0, and they cannot speak or take any Actions until they solidify. In water they may move freely, speak, and take actions that don’t involve physically interacting with objects (which means they can cast spells that require no material components).
Siren’s Call: May cast Charm Person once per day. If you are a spell-caster it doesn’t count against your prepared spells, but you may still spend slots to cast it additional times per day.
Oceanids are the Naiads of the ocean. They are fiercer and wilder than their cousins, the Neriads.
Ability Score Increase: +1 Con
Wild Form: an Oceanid’s fish form may include sea creatures such as sharks, octopuses, porpoises, manta rays and the like, and may be size Large although their normal form remains size Medium. The Wild Form has the movement, attack, and other attributes of a natural creature of its type.
One with the Seas: you are never lost as long as you are in the ocean or within sight, sound, or smell of the shore.
Neriads are Naiads of brooks, streams, fountains, and lakes.
Ability Score Increase: +2 Cha
Watery Embrace: You have Advantage when trying to Grapple while standing in water.
Gift of Breath: while you hold another creature with at least one of your hands, you may permit it to breath normally under water.
Elves: “Cousins but not for the kissing.”
Dwarves: “Dwarves sink like stones sink like Dwarves.”
Humans: “Fun right up until the drowning part. And sometimes a little after.”
Halflings: “Some were took but some fewer were taken.”
Naiad Personality Traits
Roll in addition to or instead of Personality traits associated with your background.
- Everything’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me!
- Full fathom five thy father lies, and of his bones are coral made…
- I want to be where the people are…I want to see them dancing.
- I’ll destroy any man who dares abuse my trust!
- Wey, hey, blow the man down!
- She pushed her in to the river to drown, Oh the wind and the rain
and watched her as she floated down, oh, the dreadful wind and rain
- I’m marching inland from the shore, over m’ shoulder I’m carrying an oar,
When someone asks me: “What – is that funny thing you’ve got?”
Then I know I’ll never go to sea no more, no more
- ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
I’ve long been a fan of Trollsmyth’s Death & Dismemberment table for D&D-like games… Arduin’s Critical Hits are more amusing, but quite a bit deadlier than I’m usually willing to play with (though I read somewhere recently that the way Dave Hargrave used them they were only 1 in 400 chance… a 20 followed by a 20 required a roll on the Crit Chart, rather than just a 20 the way we did back in High School.) At any rate, one of the things that kind of bothers me about 5e Basic is that there’s not really any way to sustain a real injury. I’m OK with Hit Points representing pure Stamina, or at least I’m willing to give it a try and see how my players like it, but it kind of bugs me that except by GM fiat there really isn’t any way to suffer a broken bone or serious laceration. Even if your HP go to 0 and you have to start making saves against Death, once you’ve stabilized a Long Rest will patch you right up.
So my current thought is to use a slightly modified version of Trollsmyth’s D&D chart to fix that. We’ll ignore the time-to-death results from the original chart, and just use the 5e three success before three failure Death save to determine when and if you die.
If you get taken down to 0 HP, and every time you get hit when you’re at 0 HP, roll on the following table. Apply a -1 modifier to the die roll for each time you’ve failed your Death save, a +1 for each success.
|2 or lower||Grievous wound: Increase Exhaustion Level by 5, if that would take you to 6 Instant Death (decapitation or the like).|
|3||Fatal wound (gutted, stabbed through lung, broken back, etc.); Increase Exhaustion Level by 4.|
|4||Severed limb (DM’s choice or roll randomly); Increase Exhaustion Level by 3.|
|5,6||Severe Wound. Needs surgery. Increase Exhaustion Level by 3.|
|7,8||Broken bone (DM’s choice or roll, randomly); Increase Exhaustion Level by 2. Requires 2d4+9 weeks to heal; can’t use the bone until that first 2d4 weeks have passed. After that are at a Disadvantage for checks that rely on it until it’s healed the rest of the way.|
|9||Moderate Wound. It’s going to need stitches. Increase Exhaustion Level by 2.|
|10||Light wound: cut, gash, contusion in random place, and according to weapon type. Needs bandaging. Increase Exhaustion Level by 1.|
|11||Knocked out for 2d6 rounds, unless wearing a helm. With helm, only stunned for 1 round. Increase Exhaustion Level by 1.|
|12+||a surge of adrenaline returns 1d4 hit points per HD; these vanish at the end of combat & you gain 1 level of Exhaustion.|
The upshot of using this table is pretty much anything that takes you to 0 HP will also give you at least one level of Exhaustion… I think that’s fair for an ever so slightly grittier take one what it means to be out of HP and dying. If you want to stick to straight 5e for HP and conditions, you could just use the wounds as flavor text with no mechanical effect.
For an even grittier, though still not super-gritty, effect you can also use the table for critical hits in a variant on the Hargrave method: a crit is double damage, and 1/20 chance of having to roll on this or some other favorite critical hit table.
And as an added bonus, I’m reposting the Quick Hit Location Chart I posted on G+ a little while back, which lets you quickly determine a hit location without an extra die roll, and a relatively sensible weighting of heavier hits with more dangerous places: