Saturday, March 17, 2018

D&D 5th Edition: Another Optional Initiative System

This is idea for an alternative initiative for 5th Edition and grew out of Mike Mearls' Greyhawk Initiative. For a previous attempt, see here.

Initiative goes from Highest to lowest roll and a d20 is replaced with the following system:

You roll initiative every round.

If you are casting a spell this round, roll a d6 + Dex Mod.

If you are making a weapon attack this round, roll 1d10 + Dex Mod.

If you have levels in the Fighter class roll 1d12 + Dex or Str Mod.

If you have levels in Rogue you add your Int Mod and your Dex Mod to the roll.

If you are making a ranged attack this round you have Advantage on Initiative, so you roll 2 of the appropriate dice and take the highest.

If you are moving this round you have Disadvantage on Initiative, so you roll 2 of the appropriate dice and take the lowest.

For simplicity, the DM can roll d8+ Number of enemies.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Counter Culture: Looking at the Pathfinder 2E Announcement

I've been working at my store for 19 years. I've been through the launches of DnD 3, 3.5, 4, 4 Essentials, 5 and Pathfinder.

This announcement for Pathfinder 2nd Edition, as a retailer, has been a bit odd for me.

First, there isn't any buzz in my store about it. There is amongst my group, as I ponder if I will try it (I pondered trying Starfinder but it was more system than I want right now).  Heck, there was more buzz about Starfinder, in fact. Now, that is completely shocking because Paizo has always cultivated a better direct to consumer program than any other RPG publisher. But that also meant, even at it's height of sales when Wizards of the Coast abandoned 4E and we were waiting for Next, it's sales were not anything significant for us, as DnD always had been. But it's also not as shocking because WotC wisely decided not to do a 5.5 and those unsure of it playing other games are now more willing to dive in. And new players are diving in every day, right now. Meanwhile, I'm lucky to turn (sell) a Pathfinder Pocket Core book every two months.

To complicate things, it seems that Erik Mona is bristling with comparisons to 5E, while he and his teams are making statements that remind me of 4E. If I were Erik, I'd look at the fact that their success is built upon WotC walking away from a customer base AND the fact that almost four years into it's life cycle the Player's Handbook is STILL #4 on Amazon. I would want to catch that lightning. That doesn't mean I would make 5.5, but I wouldn't necessarily distance myself either.

In fact, if I were in charge of Pathfinder, now would be the time I would take an older Adventure Path and convert it to 5E. Yes, WotC screwed them on the OGL portion of 4E and yes they were smart enough to capitalize on those who didn't want to leave 3.5 behind, but when Green Ronin is selling their Critical Role books like they are, why wouldn't you try a campaign out?

This is merely my gut feeling, but I think Paizo has as good a chance of having their 2nd Edition be received the way DnD 4E as they do of having a hit. Understand, at the retail level, Starfinder did great for everyone on it's first printing. But there is been very little momentum on additional supplements or it's second printing for my stores.

And please understand, I don't wish Paizo ill, I learned about eight years ago they wouldn't drive RPG sales for me the way WotC and DnD do. You see when DnD is successful, the whole industry is successful. Other systems and DnD "competitors" like Pathfinder or 13th Age NEED DnD to be huge, so that the iconoclasts and grognards out there have something to rebel against it. That's why the OSR was good for DnD.

I'm watching all of this and waiting to see how it turns out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

D&D 5th Edition: Cloudwrought

Cloudwrought is an elemental node aligned to air and earth and currently held by the Stonehand Clan of Gargoyles, led by a priest named Granite.

It was formed over 1000 years ago and is made up of petrified lightning. It's presence is believed to contribute to the constant presence of thunderstorms and why some of the locals out of nearby Stormhaven refer to it as "tornado alley" along the High Rode that runs through it.

Because of the node's potency, any spell cast within 2 miles of it requires a roll on the following table:

Roll a D10
1 The spell fails, but the spells slot is not lost.
2 - 4 The spell is cast normally.
5 If the spell does damage it is changed to lightning damage.
6 If the spell does damage it is changed to bludgeoning damage.
7 The caster gains a +1 bonus to AC for 1 minute.
8 The target(s) of the spell gain a +2 to their Saving Throw, if the spell has one.
9 The spell is cast normally, but the caster takes 1d8 thunder damage.
10 The spell is cast normally and the caster gains 10 temporary hit points.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Paizo Just Announced Pathfinder 2nd Edition

I can't say I'm shocked. I'm sure they tested some major ideas with Starfinder, and here it is, Pathfinder 2E is a thing.

I was never a big Pathfinder 1E fan, because I wasn't a big DnD 3.X fan. I preferred the OSR to DnD 3 or 4 and then 5E was pretty much what I would have designed in an edition.

From the announcement, it seems to take quite a bit from DnD 5E, not that that is a bad thing.

3 Modes of Play.


Proficiency Bonus.

No mention of Bounded Accuracy.

I dug the idea of using different Skills for initiative, if nothing I else I might swipe it.

I do hope Monster Design is truly easier, because designing monsters in Pathfinder, was in my opinion, a mess.

The 3 action thing is interesting, I wonder if it will replace iterative attacks for Fighters and such?

My concern is that Pathfinder, like the foundation it was built upon will continue with multiple, fiddly modifiers. I've gotten pretty spoiled by Advantage/Disadvantage. And while I've looked through Starfinder, it didn't move that far from it's inspiration, in my opinion. And I can tell you at the store, it sold great right after Gen Con, but the second print run has not done anything since coming in. But that is just my two stores.

And then there is the Third Party Support, will this be a boon or a bane?

I worry that by moving away from their stated mission of bringing DnD 3.X back to the audience felt jilted by 4E that they are going to lose more players than transfer over or give it a try. DnD 5E is a juggernaut and this could be a bad move.

I also wonder if the Powers That Be at Paizo would look at converting an older Adventure Path to 5E and testing the waters?

I will download the playtest and probably give it a spin and I'll certainly stay informed. I'm not saying Pathfinder 2E couldn't beat out DnD 5E for me, but it's got a long mountain to climb.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

My Dad

It's been a long and busy few weeks.

On February 10, I moved my Mom and Dad into our house so Dad could enter Home Hospice.

On February 19th, at approximately 7pm, my Dad passed away.

I will cherish those nine days. He had told my Mom, two nights before he passed that he was ready to die. The pain was just too great.

I'm extremely blessed that I got 45 years with both of my parents and can't imagine how much harder this would have been if I were younger.

My Dad's name was Gary.  When I was younger, I would have told you we had nothing in common because I was blind to so many of the traits he gave me and the foundation he toiled to lay for me.

Now, I know that I get my love of history, politics, and cinema from him. And he loved cowboys as much I love DnD. 

More importantly, whatever success I have as a man, a husband, and as a father, I owe to the example he set in the 47 years he was married to my Mom.

I know things have been slow on here and I don't know exactly what my output will be, but Cross Planes won't end. Right now, there are still things to work out for my Mom and things for me to work through.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Counter Culture: Welcome to D&D

Something really cool happened this week at my store. Everyday, I had at least one person come in and tell me they were new to DnD and needed dice, books, miniatures, etc.

They would tell me how they had just played or were about to play in their first game and they were super excited.

I really can't contain my own excitement by this trend. And it's not merely because they are spending money with me, it's great to hear their excitement and to see their interest in my favorite hobby.

I don't know if anyone from Wizards of the Coast will read this, but good job, guys. You are getting it really right this time.

And I thank you as a gamer and a merchant.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

D&D 5th Edition: Aarakocra Windstalker

I've been taking a break from running our Thursday game, but our excellent DM couldn't make it. I didn't want to continue our Oakhurst game without him, so I ran the PCs from his game through a small adventure. The group came upon aarakocra and gargoyles battling and wrongly assumed the gargoyles were the bad guys. They eventually benefited from the kindness of a gargoyle, but fell to an aarkocra ambush.

The region around Stormhaven has become embroiled in open hostilities between Bluefeather's aarakocra tribe who worship Wendigo and Granite's gargoyle clan who worship Asintmah. They battle over the elemental node known as Cloudwrought, a powerful refuge of elemental power formed out of petrified lightning. Granite's clan currently holds Cloudwrought and seeks to keep it from Bluefeather's tribe. Wendigo, in the guise of the Windwalker, has promised the aaracokra chieftain the power to slaughter the gargoyles in his domain once Cloudwrought is secured. Granite, warned by the earth goddess, Asintmah, seeks to keep the node from falling into the hands of such a chaotic and destructive being.

The fate of Stormhaven, and all those traveling the trade routes to it, could be decided by war being waged by these winged rivals.

Aarakocra Windstalker
Medium humanoid, chaotic evil

Armor Class 13 
Hit Points 18 (4d8) 
Speed 20 ft.; fly 50 ft.
   Str            Dex         Con           Int         Wis         Cha
12 (+1)        16 (+3)        11 (+0)        10 (+0)      14 (+2)      10 (+0)

Skills Perception +6
Senses passive Perception 16
Languages Aarakocra, Auran
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)
Dive Attack. If the aarakocra is flying and dives at least 30 feet straight toward a target and then hits it with a melee weapon attack, the attack deals an extra 4 (1d8) damage to the target.


Talon. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. 
Hit: 5 (1d4 + 3) poison damage.

Boomerang. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 30/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) slashing damage.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

GameStorming: Xavier's Academy for the Talented

I'm playing a DnD 5E Mystic in a game and I'm enjoying it (though I think it might gain access to too many abilities at a lower level than your average class).

In many ways, I see a light super powers system within it, which got me to thinking about a DnD game where each character had at least 1 level in Mystic or Sorcerer. Obviously it's inspired heavily by the X-Men. 

Maybe the Brotherhood could be a band of Wizards?

The Hellfire Club could be Warlocks and Paladins. 

The Sentinel Program could be funded by the local Empire, maybe they are giants or titanic warforged?

I can see replacing the Shi'ar with Eladrin or Shadar-Kai.

Keep Cytorak and let him empower a dwarven Juggernaut.

Maybe I need to steel a Dungeon idea from Arcade?

I can even see taking ideas for races from the X-Men. Eladrin could look like Nightcrawler. Winged Elves like Angel.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Counter Culture: A Trend That Brings a Smile to My Face

I've been working at Comic Book World, Inc. since 1999. I've lived through the launches of DnD 3, 4, and 5. I've seen quite a few trends.

From my perspective, we are the point in DnD 5E's life cycle that we typically would have seen DnD 3.5 or DnD Essentials (4.5). But we haven't, we instead got the excellent Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

I'm so glad that Wizard of the Coast's marketing and release schedule, the excellent work they did in designing 5E, and the rise of Critical Role and all the other streamers and podcasters playing DnD, continue bringing people into the hobby and I don't have to bog them down with why 5.5 Edition is BETTER than 5th Edition. Casual players don't care, it confuses new players, and it makes it harder for families to play.

And that is the trend I'm enjoying. Getting to see Mom's and Dad's (or even both) bring their kids in and they all start playing DnD together. Sure, some of them move on to other games, but most are not gamers, they simply play DnD.

They come in two to three times a month to buy dice or spell cards or miniatures and it makes me happy because I realize that they are spending time together, time most likely away from a screen, and sharing adventures and quality time. They are reading and doing math and using their imagination. With their family.

Isn't that awesome?

And understand, I'm just as happy if they are playing board games or Magic: the Gathering or even reading comics. But DnD is so unique in how you have to interact. It's very...intellectual...I love my parents, but I can't imagine (sadly) playing DnD with them. It requires, in my opinion, a level of communication that I simply don't have with my parents. And that's as much on me as it is them.

I hope 5th Edition goes on another 10 years and I hope I keep seeing all of it's fans, especially the families playing it continue to grow and go on adventures together.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: Bruders

Art by Damon Hellandbrand

The strange entity know as Bruders came to the attention of the Keepers of the Cerulean Sign several years ago. Apparently it had cultivated several cults to serve it and spread it's alien corruption. Keepers were forced to put sword and flame to each of the villages that were exposed to it as it's taint was too thorough.

Large aberration, chaotic evil

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 97 (13d10 + 26) 
Speed 50 ft.
   Str            Dex         Con           Int         Wis         Cha
16 (+3)        13 (+1)        15 (+2)        13 (+1)      14 (+2)      13 (+1)

Skills Deception +4, Intimidation +4, Persuasion +4
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Common, Telepathy
Challenge 8 (3900 XP)

Lore of Madness. The Bruders constantly spout blasphemous and foul pronouncements that wreck the minds on any nearby creatures. Any creature that starts it's turn within 30 feet and can hear the Bruders' blasphemies has disadvantage on ability checks and their speed halved until the beginning of its next turn.


Multiattack. The Bruders makes four attacks.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. 
Hit: 8 (1d10 + 3) slashing damage.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Shadow of the Demon Lord: Gryckle

The cult of Baphomet has become plagued Ironstar and it's denizens for the last decade. A gryckle is a cultist who has willing engaged in sexual intercourse with Baphomet itself. The willing victim hen enters into special coccoon created by other cultists out of their own hair, excrements, menstrual blood, teeth, snot, and nails for nine weeks until they are reborn as hunter killers devoted totally to their demonic master.

Art by rhyshaug

Size 1 frightening monster
Perception 10 (+0); darksight
Defense 13; Health 30
Strength 12 (+2)   Agility 13 (+3)   Intellect 7 (-3)   Will 10 (+0)
Speed 12; climber
Immune gaining insanity; fatigued

Bite (melee) +3 with 1 boon (2d6 plus Tackle on attack roll 
Tackle The target is immoblilzed.

Skitter The gryckle moves up to it's full speed..

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: Colors of Magic: the Gathering

In this month's Plane Shift featuring Magic: the Gathering's plane of Ixalan, James Wyatt discusses a how the colors of M:tG could interact with DnD, but without rules.

I've enjoyed the series from Wizards of the Coast and have been thinking about some simple ways for Colored Mana to influence a spellcaster.

The first step is to move away from spellcasters "tapping" lands for a specific Mana. Instead, the environment has areas where the Mana is a certain color. Perhaps if you are in a mountain stronhold, the Mana is Red, at sea on a galleon it is Blue, etc.

As in the article you have decide at character creation what Mana you are aligned with with it's Blue, Black, White, Red, or Green is up to your character. During play, this can change based on the story and the DM's approval.

When you are in an area that aligns with your Color of Mana, there are several possible benefits the DM can decide upon, based on how potent that Color is.

• Your spell attack rolls and/or your spell save DC increases by +1 to +3.

• Any creature making a saving throw against a spell that is considered in your Color has disadvantage on the save.

• When you cast a spell that is consider in your Color, roll a d6, on a 5-6 the spell slot is not lost.

Other ideas can be improvised or planned out.

The idea is to build certain situational benefits to spellcasters based on the Color of Mana they align with. It's important, however, to not overuse their benefits or underuse them. And don't forget that NPCs gain the same benefit.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: Zyklon

Magic weapon (flail), rare (requries attunement)

• You gain a +2 on attack and damage rolls with this weapon.

• If your d20 roll for an attack hits and is even, the flail deals an additional 1d8 damage.

• If your d20 roll for an attack hits and is 16 or higher, the flail deals an additional 1d8 damage.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: Helmet of Nabu

Wondrous item, legendary (Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard)

• You gain a +3 on spell attack and damage rolls with the helmet.

• You gain advantage on a saving throw against magic. You may not use this ability again until you finish a short or long rest.

• As a reaction, you may recover an expended spell slot, but you take damage equal to the level of the spell slot recovered. You may not use this ability again until you finish a short or long rest.

• When you roll damage for a spell, you can reroll a number of the damage dice up to your Spellcasting modifier (minimum of one). You must use the new rolls. You may not use this ability again until you finish a short or long rest.

• When you cast a spell that has a casting time of 1 action, you can change the casting time to 1 bonus action for this casting. 
You may not use this ability again until you finish a short or long rest.

• When you cast a spell that forces other creatures to make a saving throw, you can protect some of those creatures from the spell’s full force. Choose a number of those creatures up to your Spellcasting modifier (minimum of one creature). A chosen creature automatically succeeds on its saving throw against the spell. You may not use this ability again until you finish a short or long rest.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: Bogkeeper

Bogkeepers quietly and vigilantly protect their territory. They will often spend several hours observing newcomers to determine if they are are a threat to their hunting grounds and if they decide a threat is imminent they will swiftly attack the opposition.

Medium elemental, neutral

Armor Class 14 (natural armor)
Hit Points 93 (11d10 + 33) 
Speed 30 ft., swim 20 ft.
   Str            Dex         Con           Int         Wis         Cha
14 (+2)        15 (+2)        13 (+1)        9 (-1)      16 (+3)      9 (-1)

Saving Throws CON +3, WIS +5
Damage Resistances Necrotic; Poison
Condition Immunities Poisoned
Senses truesight 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages Common, Terran
Challenge 2 (450 XP)

Magic Resistance. The elemental has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.


Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. 
Hit: 15 (3d8 + 2) bludgeoning damage.

Spit. Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 30/60 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d10 + 2) poison damage. If the target is hit they must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or have disadvantage on any saving throw they make until the end of their next round.

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Heading into 2018

Today was a good day. Last night I got to end 2017 playing board games with friends and family, I hope 2018 ends that way.

As I begin this year, I'm not as clear on my goals as I have been in the past.

I'm not sure what I wan to achieve with the blog, but I do know I'd like to publish one or two things.

I do want to reward my Patrons more than I have, that is for sure.

I'm running a DnD 5E game set in my own world that began using the Sunless Citadel as has become focused on the Blood War. I'm anxious to see where that leads as I really strive to let the player's drive the story. 

I'm playing in a DnD 5E game that is a spiritual sequel to a Tomb of Annihilation campaign I ran. It's set in the Forgotten Realms 1,000 years in the future where Thay has usurped Faerun. My character is a champion of Kord and a grown-up version of Bobby the Barbarian from the DnD Cartoon.

I would like to run some Shadow of the Demon Lord this year. We'll see if I find time for that.

I would also like to do something with Villains and Vigilantes: Mighty Protectors.

Who know where we'll end up, but I'm hopeful for this new year.

D&D 5th Edition: Another Optional Initiative System

This is idea for an alternative initiative for 5th Edition and grew out of Mike Mearls' Greyhawk Initiative . For a previous attempt...