Friday, September 26, 2014

Wounds in D&D 5th Edition

As I started discussing in my "Controlling Rest Cycles" I had originally framed this along with the that article, which focused more on allowing the party to push through difficult situations.  This article takes the other approach.  Where, in the sake of "realism", or attempting to model sprains, broken bones or more significant injuries than just a typical loss of hit points, their is a need to express the fact that one or more of the party members are significantly hurt.

The scenario where the party was significantly beat down and is out of healing spells, out of hit-dice, and very low on hit points, typically plays out as follows: the first long rest would consume all of the healers spells and all of the hit dice gained from the rest to the hit points to be such that they could handle a moderate battle, especially considering all of the other powers are restored, though they are still far from recovered.  The cleric (or other healer role) is likely very low on spells and no one in the party has any hit dice to use.  So, it will likely take a second long rest to allow the party to be close to full strength, as now they will have healing spells and some hit-dice in reserve, but technically they would not reach full strength until one more (a total of three long rests).

I think most people would be satisfied by this time scale...I'm currently close to being satisfied, but I'd like to suggest the following optional rules or ideas that could be expanded upon to create a more robust way to measure all for long term damage.

My initial idea is rather simple idea, which treats such that a Wound similar to an illness or disease that a hero might contract on an adventure.  Whenever a player takes a large amount of damage from a single attack the DM can request a CON Save.  The DC of this could vary based on the amount of damage that was done, for possibly for 25% of their maximum  hit-points the DC might be 10, whereas a wound dealing 50% of their maximum might be DC 15 or higher.  The idea hear is NOT for every attack that meet the damage percentage listed below to inflict these wounds for a typical D&D adventure, though this could be attempted in a lower combat campaign, where there is stress on how deadly battle can be.

In general I would limit these blows to thematic events (large falls), critical hits or botched rolls that might leave a character in a particularly prone/susceptible position.  When these occur, the result of this could be based on where the damage was dealt, or a table could be determined by the DM for such attacks, but it could be simply one of the follow examples:

Minor Wound
Onset: suffering at least 10% of their maximum health in a single attack
Difficult Check to Avoid: DC 10 Con Save
Failure Scenario: Loss of one Hit-Dice
Recovery Period: None
On Going Effect: None

Deep Wound
Onset: suffering at least 20% of their maximum health in a single attack
Difficult Check to Avoid: DC 13 Con Save
Failure Scenario: Loss of two Hit-Dice
Recovery Period: None
On Going Effect: None

Major Wound
Onset: suffering at least 30% of their maximum health in a single attack
Difficult Check to Avoid: DC 15 Con Save
Failure Scenario: Loss of four Hit-Dice
Recovery Period: After Long Rest may attempt a DC 10 Con Save to remove this condition

On Going Effect: While a character has this affliction they may not recover Hit Dice or spend Hit Dice to recover hit-points

Vile Wound
Onset: suffering at least 20% of their maximum health in a single necrotic attack
Difficult Check to Avoid: DC 13 Con Save
Failure Scenario: Loss of two Hit-Dice
Recovery Period: After Long Rest may attempt a DC 13 Con Save to lessen this condition, after three successful saves the condition is removed.  After each failed save the wounded character suffers an additional d6 necrotic damage.

On Going Effect: While a character has this affliction they may not recover Hit Dice or spend Hit Dice to recover hit-points

Broken limbs or other bones might be modeled as either Deep Wounds or Major Wounds, with pain penalties, such as half movement or disadvantage of skills/attacks that require the use of the wounded limb, possibly with a Con Save required to avoid additional damage or further loss of Hit-Dice.

Magical Healing

When magical healing is used to patch up a wound and it completely heals the individual's hit points to maximum, they may make an immediate Con save DC 10 with advantage, if successful they regain half the hit-dice loss from the wound.

Controlling Rest Cycles in 5E D&D

This article assumes that the No Free Healing variant is in place (see this link for my original thought before reading the rest of this article).

In my opinion, the recommended rest cycles in 5E D&D are much better that the times that were laid out in the fourth edition rules, though I find myself liking some of the older school rest ideas.  I know their are those that want to think of their characters more as "Superheroes" where they can be nearly totally spent on spells, special abilities and out of hit-points and after a nights rest they are all back up to full and ready to go (this was sort of the 4E model).

I typically like a slower paced recovery, where the party must make hard choices of whether to push on or try to rest up.  In this regard I think 5E does a decent job out of the box of splitting the difference between the ultra fast model of 4E and the very slow old school model of recovery (1hp + Level + Con modifier, was the one I used to use).  I do think some modification can be made to the 5E rest model (see entry Wounds in D&D 5th Edition if making recovery a little more difficult), but for the most part it stands as a viable model.

That said, there are definitely times where you want a session to be more fast paced, possibly with a tight time constraint, such that the story doesn't seem to allow even a short rest to be had.  For these cases I created the following items and/or magical effects that can be found or encountered by the party in scenarios where the party might want to rest, but it is simply not a good location or the situation that they are in, makes actually taking a rest be problematic.

I'm currently thinking about a more energy based system for spells that is compatible with 5E, but without totally changing this or adding a spell level recovery system, the follow items grant a mechanism for players to sort of have an "Ace in the Hole", where they can regain spells much more quickly.

If you use the potion side-effect table, where consuming multiple potions in too short of a time must be rolled for on a table, possibly causing deadly side effects, may be enough of a deterrent stock piling a large store of these potions and then being able to replenish all of a characters spells and daily powers multiple times over in the course of short adventure.  Using this side-effect however may prevent the benefits of implementing this system in the first place.

It would be better to use these as environmental effects in many cases that will only alter the current situation and allowing expended powers to be recovered allowing the party to continue with more abilities and/or spells at their disposal.  Granting potions may cause players to attempt to hoard them, and possibly allowing them to become significantly more powerful in the future if they have many of these available.

Mana Potions

These potions are meant to help spell casters regain spell levels that are lost through casting.  Often casters will push the party to rest when they are out of everything except their minor cantrips, so having one of these on hand will make them feel better about continuing.

Mana Draught: the least powerful of the mana potions, this allows one 1 spell level to be regained.  Thus after quaffing this potion a wizard could cast a first level spell, consuming multiple can allow multiple 1st level spells to be cast, but does not allow a 2nd level spell level to be gained.

Mana Potion: Like a Mana Draught, but this grants two spell levels back, either in the form of two 1st level spells or one 2nd level spell.  To regain two 1st level spells the drinker simply consumes half of the potion, and then the other half.  If they only desire one 1st level spell regained, they may choose to drink half of the potion as save the other half for another time.

Mana Elixir: This is similar to a Mana Potion, but it contains four spell levels, which can be regained in any of the following ways: 1x4th, 1x3rd+1x1st, 2x2nd, 1x2nd+2x1st, or 4x1st.  Essentially this has 4 spell levels in it and can be consumed in quarters to regain any of the following combinations, even at separate times.  So 1/4th could be drank to gain a 1st level spell, then at so other time the rest can be consumed to regain a 3rd level spell.

Other Potions

Potion of Vigor: Consuming one of these potions allow the drinker to regain a Hit Dice, these may be spent in the normal means, but do require a short rest after drinking the potion to actually recover hit points.  Consuming a Potion of Vigor may not allow the drinker to exceed the maximum hit dice, determined by their level that they may have at one time.

Potion of Recovery: This grants most benefits of a short rest, thus powers that return after a short rest are regained, and hit dice may be spent provided the drinker of the potion has them to spend.  When hit dice are spent using this potion, they may only spend a maximum of three.

Elixir of Recovery: This grants most benefits of a long rest, the only exception is casters do not regain any spell levels back for consuming this potion, all other abilities that return over a long rest are regained, as well as the recover hit dice as if a long rest was taken.

Environment Effects

Enchanted Grove: Those is spells can feel something is special about this grove, and a feeling of peace can be felt upon entering the grove.  When the party rests in this area they gain all the benefits of an Elixir of Recovery upon taking a short rest.

Way Point of Recovery: This is basically taking a page out of modern video games, where in locations where it is particularly dangerous to linger, travelers were required to forced-march through the territory until the advent of these arcane platforms.  Travelers simply need the activation ingredients (or maybe there are ingredients on hand, or the Way Point simply recharges every few days).
     Upon activation, all those that at within the area of the effect (typically 20 foot radius of monolith or all those on the platform) are recovered as if a Long Rest was taken.  In very dangerous areas these my be located 20 to thirty miles apart, with the occasional way-point having been destroyed or may be non-functional.

Magical Fruits/Fountain: These may have any of the same potion-like effects, but the magic quickly deteriorates if the item is not used in a relatively soon fashion, waters from a fountain might lose their benefits after as little as an hour, where as fruits may retain their magic for a few days.


When adventure scenarios are imagined sometimes they just don't "fit" into a particular game system's mechanics, so as a DM, you can either alter the scenario, which may or may not work...or you can alter the mechanics.  This just briefly touches on some of the easy things that can be done to subtlety alter the game mechanics to allow your party to be "push through" even when it seems they are all tapped out.

As a player these items are very attractive, because knowing you can reactive a power once it is used, if the situations arise then it would allow me to be "less stingy" if I see a situation where that power seems like it could be used for a heroic action, as if an even better situation comes up or it's required that I have the same ability to overcome an obstacle, then no longer do I have to rest (possibly 8 hours), I can simply quaff a potion and reuse it.  Sure, I'm out of the potion, but that's sort of the definition of where it's meant to be used.

As a DM, I like the idea of giving the players items such as this, especially in the Magical Fruit/Fountain variety, as those that don't take advantage of this simply lose the regain ability when the item expires, but those that do have the chance for especially heroic moments.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bag Mechanics

After being a little unprepared for the first official session of D&D 5th edition, I was asked by one of my players, "If I was ever going to award any of them 'Inspiration'?".  I had definitely seen this written a few times, but never had given it much thought, beyond thinking "I need to look that up sometime".

Well, I admitted to them that I didn't read what that meant, so the players happily explained it to me, which I then award them all "One Inspiration" right there on the spot, for me being so negligent during the first half of the session.

I'd wished I'd brought my poker chips as a means for tracking Inspiration, being it was easy enough just marking it down, and crossing it off once it was spent by the players, which really didn't take all that long.

One of the players really wasn't paying attention when the "Inspiration" was awarded, then he failed his attack roll, and I allowed him to use it anyway, which made me think that "It'd be nice to have more types of Inspiration to grant."  This thought came at a particularly profound moment, as four of the five party members were making Death Saves.

Luckily for most of the party they managed to stabilize themselves, though one member was killed in the battle.  Which was tragic, but this was Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and everyone knew it was a dangerous adventure...and not much one can do about things at first level, this near TPK was the end of the evening of gaming anyway, so we packed up and I  left for home.

The next day I was thinking about the"Inspiration Award", and was thinking of using Token's to track these for next time, thinking about maybe granting different colored tokens for different levels of Inspiration.  This, and having recently played Dead-Lands and Sixcess at GenCon, I was thinking about other token based systems, and how much my players liked the mechanics of those games and the mechanics of the game Yggdrasil, where you can add or remove Vikings (good) and Fire-Giants (bad) from a bag that you randomly draw from at various time for bonuses.

This caused me to think that I could improve on the mechanics of Inspiration, but filling a bag with tokens and when the DM (myself) grants a character Inspiration, the player then would get to blindly draw from the Inspiration Bag, which would have various colors poker chips in to grant differing odds for each type of token.

The Inspiration Bag

When a campaign starts the bag might be filled as follows:

White (x9) = Standard Inspiration, this must be declared before a roll is made by the player and allows the roll to be made with Advantage (roll twice keeping the highest).

Green (x3) = Great Inspiration, this grants a additional dice to be rolled when a player is unhappy with the original die rolled.  This effectively is allowing advantage, but may be declared after the result on the first die is rolled.

Red (x1) = Heroic Inspiration, this grants Standard Inspiration, with the addition of granting temporary hit-points of d6 per level, up to a maximum of 3d6.  The temp Hps are awarded when the inspiration, advantage, is used on a die roll.  The Hps are lost if the damage taken in an encounter exceeds this amount, or after a short rest is taken.

Blue (x1) = Restful Inspiration, this grants Standard Inspiration and acts as if a Short Rest was taken before the Inspiration is rolled, this allows up to three Hit-Dice to be spent and recharges powers as if a short rest was taken.

Black (x1) = Enemy Inspiration, this is kept by the player and is spent only when the DM chooses to attack their character with advantage, as if the attacker has Inspiration on the character.  Optionally, the DM can optionally spend this token on the character by having some unfortunate event happen to the character, usually this is something minor.

Reward Bag

Another idea that came to me about the same time, at first I'd mixed the Inspiration Bag and reward bag together, but after thinking about it I think it's best to keep these separate.  The reward bag with a way to grant treasure to the players with a mechanism that they may feel they have a little more control over.

Basically, its a random item bag, where the items can be all tokens with sticker labels on them designating what the item is, or the bag may be filled with actual items, game pieces, token coins, small vials, small gems and chits of card stock.

Typically their will be various of each type of item in the bag, and normally at least one false item of each type, for game pieces this may just be an item of a certain color signifies the "false-magic" one, or even "cursed" item, for the coins the one that designates copper would be the undesirable one, where silver or gold would be a more significant reward.  For the vials, their may be one that is infact poison, or simply empty, where other colors may be different types of potions, for gems one color may signify glass or false gems, where emeralds, sapphires and rubies would be gems of greater value, and the chits can be anything from magic scrolls, to treasure maps to journals that provide clues or other random things, or they may even be cursed.

The benefit with the reward bag it that the players choosing the reward will actually get to choose the category of item that they wish to gain, but the actual value of the item drawn is up to whatever the player randomly pulls from the bag.  The DM can stock the reward bag differently for each reward, or keep it weighted a given direction, so the players "think" they drew randomly, but it was pre-planned, at least by item type.

When to draw from the Reward bag is again left up to the DM, likely it won't be every encounter that gains a draw...unless the bag is poorly stocked, but more so reserved for the more difficult encounters to be defeated.

Fate Bag

This bag can be to randomly give the party perception that they have control over their fate, whether or not the DM has actually spiked the bag is up to them, but some of my more common uses of this item, where I really do leave it in the hands of the players are things like:

The party has tracked an NPC bandit into a box canyon with 8 caves in it.  The last night had torrential rains, so the actual trail has been lost, but the bandit is in one of these caves, two of the other have very unfriendly beasts and the rest are simply empty...So one Black token (for the bandit), one Red (for the deadlier of the two beasts), one blue (for the other beast) and five white (empty caves) go into the back and I let the players choose their fate when they start walking up to a given cave, by simply having them pull a token from the bag.

Another "Group Test" inspired use of the Fate Bag is in situations where the party in attempting to be stealthy to avoid attracting enemy encounters.  For this type of Fate Draw, I first assign a difficult of the Stealth Check, based on environmental considerations and distance to the creatures, then I seed the bag with the likelihood of something bad, good or neutral happening.

     Typically Red for bad, Green for good and White for neutral.  For a fairly density populated area, I may assign 4 Red, 3 White and 1 Geen to the initial bag.  Then, I typically use one the following mechanics.

Mechanic I (Luck by distance traveled)

  • For each player that beats the assigned DC by 5 or more, add one Green and one White to the bag.
  • For every player that beats the assigned DC, add one White to the bag.
  • For every player that fails the assigned DC, add one Red to the bag.
After this Draw once for every X distance traveled through the dangerous area.

Mechanic II (Luck based on failed rolls)

  • For each player that beats the assigned DC by 5 or more, add one White to the bag.
  • For every player that beats the assigned DC, do nothing
  • For every player that fails the assigned DC, draw a token from the bag.
If they draw the Green, they are lucky and no one after them has to draw.  Drawing a White also means they were unseen, or more likely no one wandering into their area, however if some has drawn a Red token not only do they have an encounter, but for each Red that they have the difficulty of the encounter increases.  Additionally, before the players draw there my be a set number of tokens that the DM draws first.

There are obvious variation on the above methods, such as altering the initial contents of the bag, the DC of the initial check, how often the bags reset back to their initial state, and the frequency that items are drawn before the bag resets.