Archive for November, 2017

Dwarf as Class for 5E

Way back when, in the Golden Age of the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game, a dwarf was not just a race option for players. Dwarf was also a character class. It was a race-as-class. Someone else has undoubtedly already done this, but here’s my version of the Dwarf character class for 5E.

Dwarf Class Features

As a dwarf, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: d10 per dwarf level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per dwarf level after 1st


Armor: Light armor, medium armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, battleaxe, handaxe, light hammer, and warhammer
Tools: Choose one artisan’s tools from smith’s tools, brewer’s supplies, or mason’s tools

Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Choose two skills from Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, or Survival.


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

* (a) chain shirt or (b) studded leather armor, light crossbow, and 20 crossbow bolts
* (a) battle axe, handaxe, light hammer, or warhammer and a shield or (b) one simple melee weapon and one artisan’s tools
* (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack

Dwarven Nature

You have an assortment of inborn abilities.

Ability Score Increase

Your Constitution score increases by 2.


Dwarves mature at the same rate as humans, but they’re considered young until they reach the age of 50. On average, they live about 350 years.


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


Dwarves stand between 4 and 5 feet tall and average about 150 pounds. Your size is Medium.


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


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 gray.

Dwarven Resilience

You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage. At 9th level, you can reroll a saving throw you fail against magic. You must use the new roll, and you can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest.

You can use this latter feature twice between long rests at 13th level and three times between long rests starting at 17th level.


Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin of stonework, you are considered proficient in the History skill, and add double your proficiency bonus to the check instead of your normal proficiency bonus.


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

Dwarven Variety

You belong to one of the several dwarven subraces. Choose a subrace. Hill dwarf and mountain dwarf are detailed in the Player’s Handbook. Other subraces are detailed below.

Deep Dwarf

Deep dwarves live far under the earth, seldom having contact with races who live in the light of day.

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 1.

Improved Darkvision: You can see in dim light within 90 feet of you as it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Gray Dwarf

Also called duergar, these dwarves also live deep beneath the earth, driven their eons ago for worshipping evil gods.

Ability Score Increase: Your Intelligence score increases by 1.

Gray Dwarf Magic: You can cast enlarge (but not reduce and invisibility on yourself only, doing so once each with this ability. You regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest.

Gray Dwarf Stealth: You have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks when you are alone or accompanied by no one other than gray dwarves.

Sunlight Sensivity: 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.

Superior Darkvision: You can see in dim light within 120 feet of you as it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Fighting Style

You adopt a particular fighting style as your specialty. Choose one of the following options. You can’t take a Fighting Style option more than once even if you later get to choose again.


You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls you make with crossbows, and you ignore the loading properties of crossbows with which you are proficient.

Giant Fighter

When you are fighting a Large or larger creature, you gain a +1 bonus to AC and melee attack rolls.

Great Weapon Fighting

When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack you make with a melee weapon that you are wielding with two hands, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2. The weapon must have the two-handed or versatile property for you to gain this benefit.


When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. You must be wielding a shield.

Ancient Foe

You have significant experience studying, tracking, hunting, and even talking to giants, goblins, half-orcs, hobgoblins, or orcs. Choose one of these creatures. You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track them, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them. You learn one language of your choice that is spoken by this ancient enemy. At 6th and 14th levels, you choose another ancient enemy from the list and learn its language as well.

Foe Slayer

Starting at 2nd level, you can push yourself beyond your normal limits for a moment when fighting your ancient foe. On your turn, you can take one additional action on top of your regular action and a possible bonus action.

Once you use this feature, you must finish a short or long rest before you can use it again. Starting at 17th level, you can use it twice before a rest, but only once on the same turn.

Dwarven Archetype

At 3rd level, you choose an archetype that you strive to emulate in your life as a dwarf. The archetype you choose grants you features at 3rd level and again at 6th, 10th, and 14th level.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 6th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Extra Attack

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

Dwarven Archetypes

Dwarves manifest their fuller dwarven natures in different ways. The dwarven archetype you choose reflects the way your dwarf shows his fuller dwarven nature.


Battleragers are the most feared of dwarven warriors. In battle, the characteristic dwarven demeanor of calm, cool action crumbles, and the battlerager foams at the mouth, he screams imprecations, and even his body changes, growing in size and strength and speed. In the deepest of battlerages, the dwarf taps into the boundless fury of the dwarven god of war himself.


At 3rd level, when in battle, you surrender to the rage that burns in your heart. On your turn, you enter battlerage as a bonus action. Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if you neither attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or have taken damage since your last turn. You can also end your rage as a bonus action. While raging, you gain the following benefits:

* You have advantage on Dexterity checks and Dexterity saving throws.

* You gain temporary hit points equal to 1d10 + one-half your dwarf level.

* When you make a melee weapon attack using Strength, you add one-half your proficiency bonus to the damage roll. Against your ancient foes, you add your full proficiency bonus to the damage roll.

If you are able to cast spells, you can’t cast them or concentrate on them while battleraging. Once you have raged a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, you must finish a long rest before you can rage again.


Beginning at 6th level when you battlerage, you have advantage on saving throws against spells. You also have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.

War Frenzy

Beginning at 10th level when you battlerage, you can use a bonus action to tap deeper into your wellspring of rage. This counts as an additional use of your battlerage feature. Your muscles swell with unnatural power. Any of your ancient foes within 30 feet of you that see you must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficieny bonus + your Charisma modifier) or be frightened until the end of your next turn. For the duration of your battlerage, your melee weapon attacks deal 1d4 extra damage, and you have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.

War God’s Fury

Beginning at 14th level when you battlerage, your rage becomes a channel for the divine rage of the dwarven war god. You have four superiority dice, which are d8s. A superiority die is expended when you use it. You regain all of your superiority dice when you finish a long rest. Choose three maneuvers from the following list, which you can use when you battlerage: Evasive Footwork, Goading Attack, Lunging Attack, Menacing Attack (Wisdom saving throw DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier), Pushing Attack, or Sweeping Attack.

Craft Priest

Dwarves excel at crafting. They are master artisans, and perfecting their arts plays a vital role in dwarven society. Craft priests represent the highest expression of dwarven craftsmanship.

Practice, Practice, Practice

At 3rd level, you gain proficiency in any combination of three Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma skills or tools of your choice. If you choose the artisan tools that you chose as one of your starting proficiencies, you become a master in that craft. You roll with advantage with any ability checks you make using the tools of your mastercraft. For every day of downtime you spend crafting with any of your proficiencies, you can craft one or more times with a total market value not exceeding 10 gp (or 15 gp with a mastercraft). You must expend raw materials worth half the total market value (or one-third the total market value with a mastercraft). If you want to craft something that has a market value greater than 10 gp (15 gp with a mastercraft), you make progress every in day in 10- or 15-gp increments until you reach the item’s market value. While crafting, you can maintain a comfortable lifestyle without having to pay 2 gp per day, or a wealthy lifestyle at half normal cost.


Starting with 6th level, you can cast a number of cleric spells.

Cantrips: You learn three cantrips of your choice from the cleric spell list. You learn additional cleric cantrips of your choice at higher levels, as shown in the Cantrips Column of the Craft Priest table.

Preparing and Casting Spells: You prepare and cast spells as a cleric. When you choose your cleric spells that are available to cast, choose a number of cleric spells equal to your Wisdom modifier + five less than your dwarf level.

Spellcasting Ability: Just like a cleric, Wisdom is your spellcasting ability. Your spell save DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier. Your spell attack modifier equals your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier.

Spellcasting Focus: You can use a holy symbol or artisan tools for which your are proficient as your spellcasting focus.

Magic Craftsmanship

Starting at 10th level, you can cast identify a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (a minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest. At 12th level, you always have fabricate prepared as one of your 4th-level spells, and it doesn’t count against the number of spells you can prepare each day. At 14th level, you can always have creation prepared as one your 5th-level spells, and it doesn’t count against the number of spells you can prepare each day.

November 19th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Likes, Dislikes, and Craziness

So, my son Christopher is going to, for the first time, take the reins as DM for our twice-monthly Saturday game. He wants to run 5E. If he’d have said this a few months ago, I’d have probably balked, but entirely out of ignorance and a general distate for trying new things that aren’t edible or alcoholic.

In more recent months, however, I’ve had a chance to play 5E, first in Austin at Tribe Comics & Games. (More about this here.) My assessment of 5E after that one game was, “It’s not going to make me rush out and buy 5E books or find a local 5E game to play in. Not really my cup of tea any more.” True to my word, I did not rush out buy any 5E books. I did buy the Player’s Handbook shortly before my second foray into 5E.

Since then, I’ve played 5E a bit more, most recently at the Lone Star Game Expo up near Dallas. My appreciation for 5E has grown. I’m still not really sold on the organized play aspect of 5E, largely for the same reasons that I stopped bothering with Living City and RPGA before they both went belly up. Perhaps I’ll write about those reasons later.

As I just said, my appreciation for 5E has grown, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that I’d like better if they were done differently.

“Like what?” you ask.

Fair enough. How about this? 5E is a step back toward the old school, but it’s not a big enough step in some ways. I still don’t like the one-XP-table for all classes that was introduced with the d20 System. A thief, or rogue, should not require the same XP to advance in levels as does a magic-user, meaning a wizard.

I’m also not a super fan of d20 System multi-classing, where a magic-user/thief would pick which class to advance in each time he earned enough XP to go up a level. I like XP being divided evenly between the classes.

That said, there is one thing I do like about 5E XP advancement, and that is the idea that levels 1 and 2 are sort of like apprentice levels. It takes 300 XP to reach 2nd level, 900 to reach 3rd, and then a big jump to 2,700 XP to reach 4th.

What happens when I drive about 50 miles each day getting to and from work is I have time to think, or more accurately, time to let my mind wander. During one of my mental meanderings, I mused about combining 1E style level advancement (including multi-classing) with 5E. Let’s compare what the rogue and wizard would like using my crazy idea.

Notice that I kept the apprentice levels. Like I said, I like that idea. Then, for 3rd-level XP, I took the maximum XP for 1st-level from 1E, and added that value to 900. Thus, a 1E thief is 1st-level until he 1,250 XP, so 1,250 + 900 = 2,150 XP to reach 4th level. After that, I sort of followed the XP patter from 1E by doubling the previous level. I know the ratios don’t follow this pattern all the way up, but I didn’t feel like doing that much math today. Using this chart, a rogue advances in levels more quickly than a wizard, which I like (and, no, I don’t really care about balancing the classes so that their equal at every level because (A) that’s impossible and (B) that’s not old school).

Now imagine, if you will, an elf rogue/wizard. At 1st level, he’d have the abilities of both classes because he’d be an elf rogue 1/wizard 1. He’d roll HD and average the results to find hit points, be able to use rogue armor and weapons, cast spells, et cetera. He joins an adventuring group. 500 XP later, his single-classed comrades are comfortably 2nd level, but he’s still a rogue 1/wizard 1 because he has to split his XP evenly between his two classes. When he’s earned 5,000 XP in total, he’s a rogue 4/wizard 3 since each class has 2,500 XP applied to it. A single-classed wizard would be 4th-level, and a single-classed rogue would be 5th-level.

Crazy? Probably, but it’s a craziness that I liked in 1E.

November 16th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Thanksgiving Week Project?

Next week is Thanksgiving, and I’ve got the whole week off from work. I’m pushing hard to have all of my school work done this week so that I don’t have to take anything home with me over the holiday. No grading, no lesson planning, nothing. I’ve been wanting to spend some time not working so that, in part, I can get some writing done, but what to write?

I think I’ve made up my made. My all-time best seller is Making Craft Work. Back when I frequented the Paizo boards, I regularly came across people recommending MCW for other people’s games. It still sells a few units just about every month, and I released it way back in 2010.

So, here’s my idea: I want to add a system for on-the-fly magic item crafting to the rules. Just like I retooled the rules for the Craft skill so that it becomes something that might actually be useful during an adventure (instead of between adventures when characters are in a sort of Limbo-like state), I want to retool the item creation feats. I’ve got a few ideas about how this will work without having to change anything other than expanding how the item creations feats work. Just like the changes to the Craft skill, the changes to the item creation feats could be added to just about any existing Pathfinder campaign without having to change a single word on anyone’s character sheets.

I’m thinking this will about double the page count of MCW, which is a good thing, because next week I also want to figure out how DriveThruRPG’s print-on-demand function works. I’ve been wanting to move Spes Magna toward print-on-demand for at least a few products, but I have no real idea how to do this. I’m a hands-on kind of guy, and reading how-to guides makes my head hurt. I figure starting with something small and relatively simple is a good way to start.

With a little perseverance, I hope to have the new draft of MCW written and formatted for print-on-demand before I go back to work on 27 November.

Wish me luck.

November 14th, 2017  in Product Development, RPG No Comments »

Rogue Comet’s Malloy’s Almanac: A Short Review

The weekend of 27-29 October, my son Christopher and I journeyed to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to attend the first ever Lone Star Game Expo. We had fun gaming all day Saturday, playing 5E D&D with our brand new characters in two different adventures and capping the day off with Savage Worlds Deadlands adventure. Good times.

During the day Saturday, I had a chance to talk for a bit with Stan Shinn of Rogue Comet. I like Stan. He’s a nice guy. He gave me a book. That’s me and the book in the picture. Aren’t we handsome?

But I digress.

I am interested in Rogue Comet’s Dungeonesque line of products, so much so that I plan on buying the little brown boxed set and running a demo of it at OwlCon here in Houston in early 2018. Stan gave me a copy of The Chronicles RPG Kit: Malloy’s Almanac, Volume I.

According to the sales text at the aforelinked site, Malloy’s Almanac lets me “Run fantasy roleplaying games on the fly!” This is because the book “is a system-neutral, old-school 5.5×8.5” booklet with tools to help you run well organized, dynamic RPG games”. If I’m interested in a detailed, accurate calendar for my fantasy game (I’m not, but let’s pretend), then Malloy’s Almanac “features a fantasy calendar with information on sunrise and sunsets, moon phases, tides, and weather”. The “real core of the book is its 20 random encounter tools.” These tables “have separate dice roll methods which let you choose encounters for either low-magic or high-magic settings” (more on this later). What’s more, the “final section is composed of tables of characters by race (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Orcs), with checkboxes next to each name to note when you’ve used them”.

Let’s take a closer look at that core of twenty random encounter tables. Each table covers a different topic, such as Travelers or Landmarks or Taverns. These topics are numbered one to 20, and are unevenly divided into Traveling, In Town, Loot, Verse (meaning Riddles), and Random NPCs categories.

On the tables themselves, “the first 12 entries are low-magic events” suitable for pretty much any fantasy campaign since a high-magic game would presumably also include low-magic. “The next 8 entries are specifically for high-magic settings”, and so when I use any random encounter table, I can roll either 1d12 or 1d20, the former for low-magic, the latter for high-magic. I suppose I could also roll 1d8+12 for nothing but high-magic encounters.

Now, let’s roll some dice and see what happens. First, I roll 5d20 to see what tables I’m going to use. I get 10, 8, 12, 14, and 9. The table of contents tells me I need to look at the Dreadlands, Campsites, Omens, Shops, and Relics tables.

For Dreadlands and Campsites, I’ll roll 1d12 for nothing but low-magic. For Towns and Shops, I’ll roll 1d20 for the possibility of high-magic. For Relics, I’ll roll 1d8+12 for high-magic only. When I do so, I get these results (which I’m retyping word-for-word to include editing errors, et cetera):

* Dreadlands Encounter 7: “At the top of perilous cliff, you spot a single cairn, its headstone engraved with the words, I couldn’t save her. Several corpses are strewn across the crags below, battered from the deadly fall. Standing next to the cairn, you feel compelled to leap to your doom as well.”

* Campsites Encounter 8: “A stone hut with a moss-covered roof is built into the side of a hill. An axe is buried deep in the wooden doorframe. Signs inside indicate a struggle. There is a locked cage in the corner with the skeletal remains of a large dog with a fine leather collar bearing the name ‘Brutus’.”

* Omens Encounter 16: “A boy mumbling of revenge prowls about a desecrated graveyard. He promise hidden gold if you avenge the desecration of his ancestors’ burial grounds.”

* Shops Encounter 5: “The Bosun’s Blessing. A small storefront where a former naval officer keeps his tools and accepts contracts. After retiring from his service as a seafaring soldier, the owner decided to put his experience to use by taking up the craft of repairing damaged vessels and assessing their seaworthiness.”

* Relics Encounter 16: “A crystal-clear, perfectly spherical glass orb. In its center, a vortex of whipping wind is constantly rotating, shooting out twister-shaped flares in every direction. The flares scrape the orb’s inner surface, begging to be unleashed.”

Those are some interesting encounters. Any of them could serve as a hook into a side quest or a main adventure with a bit of thought. At first glance, the $14.95 US price tag for Malloy’s Almanac seems a tad high. To be honest, if Stan hadn’t given the book to me, I doubt I’d have bought it. I think that would have been a shame. Twenty tables with 20 encounters each is a lot of content to cram into a 47-page book.

The interior layout isn’t anything fancy, and that’s fine with me. It’s mostly two-columns throughout with minimal black-and-white artwork. As can be seen from the Dreadlands and Omens entries reproduced above, there are some minor textual errors that escaped the editing process, but that’s hardly unusual even for much larger publishers than Rogue Comet.

All in all, Malloy’s Almanac is a welcome addition my collection of gaming resources.

Thanks, Stan!

November 11th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Remember The Four Color Hack?

About two months ago, Max Traver e-mailed me and asked some great questions about The Four Color Hack. Then, life happened, and I never got around to answering any of those questions. So, here goes.

I may have asked this before, but the instructions for rolling a D16 seem off to me. As it stands, if the D6 comes up 4, 5, or 6, we are to add 4 to the result of the D8. However, if I roll an 8, then a 6, add 4 to the 8, wouldn’t the result be 18? Shouldn’t we add 2 to the D8, not 4?

Somehow somewhere something crucial got lost in translation. Rolling a d8 and a d6 to simulate a d16 is Official Old School. It hearkens way back to when I first started gaming and d20s weren’t numbered 1 through 20, but were numbered 0 through 9 twice. So, in order to generate 1 to 20, the d6 determined whether you added 10. The d8-and-d6 trick follows the same concept. I roll both. If the d6 equals 4-6, then I add 8 to the d8. For example:

* Roll 1: d8 = 4; d6 = 2. Result = 4.
* Roll 2: d8 = 4; d6 = 5. Result = 12, because I added 8 to the 4.
* Roll 3: d8 = 8; d6 = 1. Result = 8.
* Roll 4: d8 = 8; d6 = 6. Result = 16, because I added 8 to the 8.

Vigor is described as “working like hit points,” but then Vigor is also described as allowing a Hero to “ignore this much damage from an attack.” It is also mentioned that Vigor “recovers faster than hit points.” Overall, I’ve come away just a bit confused about how Vigor works in general.

This is just sloppy writing on my part. Vigor represents a number of bonus hit points that heroes recover much quickly than normal hit points. I need to clean up the verbiage in the rules. Mea culpa maxima.

“Body” is still used in place of “Hit Points” on pages 15 and 23.

More sloppiness, but this time with the editing. Mea culpa maxima.

How does this game handle Powers as the acting/resisting ability? Say, using Wind Control against Telekinesis to keep a car from being pushed off a bridge?

The short answer is that the hero makes a Stat check as normal. This might be modified by the Wind Controller’s level. Other factors may indicate that the hero rolls with Advantage or Disadvantage. If the hero succeeds, the car doesn’t get pushed off. If the hero fails, the car goes flying, and then hero gets a chance to catch it before it hits the icy river below.

How are binding powers (like Spidey’s webs, Wonder Woman’s lasso, etc) handled?

A binding power is used to create a lasting effect. Let’s say Wonder Woman has Golden Lasso d12. She can split that into Golden Lasso d10/d10. She could then bind Ares with one d10, and still have Golden Lasso d10 available for other purposes.

Are there rules for stunning effects?

A stunning effect could be simulated using the same lasting effect rules briefly described above.

Using Elements as Villains: other than “giving the Element a Level,” how does that work?

Assign the Element whatever abilities seem most appropriate, and then slot the Element into the initiative order. In short, the Element itself gets treated like a villain or a minion.

Do Villains ever downgrade their Power Dice, the way Heroes have to downgrade their Hero Dice?

This is one area that I neglected. Not sure how. In short, Villains can use their Power Dice for automatic successes, et cetera, just like a Hero can. In those instances, the Power Dice would downgrade. Villains can also split their Power Dice to create lasting effects, et cetera.

And finally: How Brutacles D10 for his Powers broken down? Specifically, how did his Ball and Chain end up with a 2D6 + 1D8 rating?

I broke Brutacles’s d10 into 2d8, and then broke 1d8 into 2d6, giving him 1d8 and 2d6. A d6 got used for Ball-and-Chain, and another d6 got used for Brutal Armor. The d8 went for Mutagenic Steroids. Brutacles’s Ball-and-Chain damage is d6 (base damage), d6 Power Die, and d8 Mutagenic Steroids due to his enhanced strength and aggression. When facing Brutacles, it behooves Heroes to disarm him and/or put him into situations where his Mutagenic Steroids enhancements cannot be brought to bear.

November 7th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »