On Multiclassing in 5th Edition

Multi-classing hasn't worked in Dungeons and Dragons since the year 2000.

Thankfully, 5th edition did us the double favor of both making it function again and unnecessary.

A little skippable history: Non-human characters used to have the option of taking more than once class at a time, and splitting their experience between them. Humans had a special option called Dual Classing, where they stopped advancing in one class forever. This originates with +Ernie Gygax's character Erac's Cousin. Gygax recounts the story of how Erac was transported to The Land of Ugor where his magic didn't function in Dragon #319 in Up On A Soapbox.

In 3rd edition, characters could choose what class they gained when they leveled up. They also had the option of picking among thousands and thousands of prestige classes. This created several problems.

  • Classes were front loaded. There was no point in going past the first few levels of many classes like ranger. 
  • If you took spell-casting classes, you always were at a disadvantage multi-classing, unless the class had full spellcasting progression, due to the importance of spell level. A sixth level wizard who took a level in a prestige class wouldn't get fourth level spells until eighth level, causing him to be underpowered compared to level appropriate encounters. 
  • Characters could get ridiculously high saving throws.
  • Certain prestige classes made rule-exceptions that allowed classes to trade useless features (turn attempts per day) and turn them into ultra powerful abilities. 
  • Because you could do this, a lot of players spent time planning out which class they would take at which level to maximize certain values to unbalance their characters. 
5th edition solved all these problems super-elegantly
  • Spells are categorized by level, but most all spells can be improved by using a higher level spell slot. You don't need summon monster IX, you just can cast the Conjure Elemental spell at a higher level spell slot for a more powerful summon. When you multi-class, you gain addition slots, even if you don't gain higher level spells. 
    • This means even if you lose the raw power of higher level spells, you don't fall behind in general power level, because your spells increase in power either way.
  • There are no prestige classes. Each class has a prestige option that grants abilities at three different levels, meaning you don't have to leave the core class.
  • When multi-classing, you don't gain all the features of the class you change into—only a restricted list. 
  • Your total proficiency bonus is tied to your total level, rather than based off what the class gives you.
  • The ability of classes to specialize, removes a lot of the necessity of multi-classing, letting it represent a way to customize your character, rather than to try and generate a concept. 
In 5th edition, you multi-class in essentially the same way as third edition. You select which class you'd like to take when you level.

But what if you'd like to do traditional multi-classing or have gestalt characters in 5th edition? Having characters being able to take more than one class simultaneously and level up in both like in first edition games could provide the same experience.

It's possible, but not quite straightforward.

1st Edition Multi-classing in 5th Edition

There are a few problems to be aware of.
  1. Experience gain isn't quite as exponential as it was in 1st edition. 
  2. The classes are designed to be equal and don't require different experience point totals. 
So, our major concern here is that gestalt characters will always overshadow single class or 3rd edition style multi-class. Here are the changes necessary to make that work.

Two or Three classes are selected. Experience points are split evenly between these classes. No other classes can be taken. Once the classes reach the required experience point total, you level as normal. 
  • One class is the primary class, chosen by the player. The secondary (or tertiary) class only gets the core class proficiencies from the multi-classing table on page 164. 
    • EXCEPTING saving throws. If a class combination receives proficiency in the same save from both classes, they can select another saving throw to have proficiency in. 
  • The classes split experience points equally between the classes.
  • When gaining a level, the hit dice are rolled, added together, divided by 2 and rounded up. A barbarian/fighter would roll 1d12+1d10/2 for hit points and then add their Constitution bonus. 
    • Use the better hit die for hit point recovery.
  • The classes are not additive to determine the proficiency bonus! A Fighter/Wizard 4/4 would have a +2 proficiency bonus.
  • Spell slots and spells known are not additive. A Wizard/Warlock keeps track of his spells separately, ignoring the multi-classing table. He cannot use wizard slots for warlock spells and vice-versa.
  • Other, unmentioned class features stack according to the guidelines in the multi-classing section of the players handbook.
  • They must meet all the requirements of the multi-classing requirements in the book.
The new experience point table is as follows.

  • The experience point value for class level is listed as in the 5th Edition Players Handbook, page 15. 
  • The 2 Class Total XP indicates how much experience you would have to acquire split evenly between your classes to reach that level. 
  • The 2CEqL (2 class equivalent level) is what level a single-classed character would be with the total experience acquired by that point..
  • The 3 Class Total XP indicates how much experience you would have to acquire split evenly between your 3 classes to reach that level.
  • The 3CEqL (3 class equivalent level) is what a single-classed character would be with ith the total experience acquired by that point..
Experience Points Level 2 Class Total XP  2CEqL 3 Class XP total 3CEqL
0 1 0 1 0 1
300 2 600 2 900 3
900 3 1,800 3 2,700 4
2,700 4 5,400 4 8100 5
6,500 5 13,000 5 19,500 6
14,000 6 28,000 7 42,000 8
23,000 7 46,000 8 69,000 10
34,000 8 68,000 10 102,000 12
48,000 9 96,000 11 144.000 14
64,000 10 128,000 13 192,000 15
85,000 11 170,000 15 255,000 17
100,000 12 200,000 16 300,000 18
120,000 13 240,000 17 360,000 20
140,000 14 280,000 18 420,000 21
165,000 15 330,000 19 495,000 22
195,000 16 390,000 20 585,000 23
225,000 17 450,000 21 675,000 25
265,000 18 530,000 23 795,000 26
305,000 19 610,000 24 915,000 28
355,000 20 710,000 24+ 1,065,000 29

There may be situations in which characters may be overshadowed or outclassed by multi-class characters. Is a single level 20 fighter superior to a Fighter/Magic-User/Thief 13/13/13? His proficiency bonus, hit points and class features make him more powerful, but the F/M-U/Thief is a lot more flexible.

For the first three levels when the disparity is lower, the multi-class characters will seem more powerful. But they will always be lagging behind, often getting their level right before the single-classed characters gain the level beyond that. . 

As a further control on these power levels, and to insure that multi-classing strengthens you game, rather than just becomes another powerful option, perhaps consider limiting multi-classing to certain approved combinations. For example, only allow Dwarves to be Fighter/Clerics, and restrict elves to Fighter/Magic Users. 


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On Hamlets, Sludgebridge

Do we like these? Is there a certain type or size of population center we need more of? I'm focusing on Hamlets, because those are probably the ones most likely to be squirreled away somewhere on a six mile hex. Has anyone used or planned to use these?

This is the hamlet of Sludgebridge. A small community near a bridge and a swamp. The towns foundation was unstable, and the elaborate three walls that once protected it are now fallen into semi-ruin. It has a series of fountains in the center of town built long ago when the hamlet was more prosperous. In spite of it's out of the way location, the bridge crossing a nearby river makes for a bustling local. There are usually swamp natives, lizard-men, or other denizens crossing near this hamlet.

Sludgebridge

Description

Chaotic Neutral, small swamp hamlet, known for protecting a bridge crossing.

"Nature, Progress, Trickery"

Demographics


Government: The town is ruled by a Awnalper Moorqray, a human tribal chieftan. He is a swamp native, now returned from wider travels. He takes the council of his immediate family regarding issues in the town.

Population: The town has a population of 57. This includes 2 extended human families (one of 18 members, the other having 7), 14 half-orcs, 12 lizardfolk, and 6 other creatures. There is a good deal of intermixing of family members. There is also some fair amount of traffic across the bridge from nearby denizens and local fauna. The two families in town are the Moorqray's and the Guilbert's

Languages Spoken: Common, Lizard-folk, Orcish, and a smattering of sylvan

Local Religions: Kralar a local swamp and nature deity is worshiped. She is believed to protect the town, and appears as a woman with sallow skin and a painted body, who wears a large straw hat that hides her face with silks that drape from it, obscuring her lithe form. Her skin is said to be covered in scales, and she can walk upon water as if it were dry land.

There are many small shrines around the hamlet devoted to her, and she is the centerpiece of the three fountains in the center of town.

Noteable NPC's:

  • Awnalper Moorqray, a human fighter 4 who is both head of his clan and the cities leader.
  • Zenusk Guilbert, a human druid 4 who is the head of the other clan in the hamlet.

Districts


Shops:

  • Cottage of the Traveler's Halberd: run by Ernest Guilbert (1/2O/M/Ex4). He is a winemaker and seller with a large common room, and often rents out a small cottage nearby to traveler's who need to stay the night.
  • The Butcher's: An unnamed "shop", this is Karsskt, a local lizardman (Lz/M/Ex2) who will butcher anything, but keeps and specializes in chicken.
  • Alain's Pastries: a shop run by Alain Grassleaf, (1/2/M/Ex4) a halfling pastry chef who attempts to bake decent bread products in the humid swampland.
  • Borsht's: This is a cobbler's shop run by Borsht, a half-orc (1/2O/M/Ex1). Although he specializes in shoes, it's also the only place to purchase supplies or other gear in limited numbers at exorbitant prices. He is in a relationship with Lisstz. (Lz/M/Com1)
Inns:

  • There are no inns, the town is too small to support them. There is a "common house" used as both a town hall and for worship that visitors can sleep in from the shelter of the elements. Sometimes Ernest Guilbert will rent out his cottage to travelers. 

Features:

  • The town is unsurprisingly somewhat insular and mildly hostile to outsiders. The people ask for top coin for services that they will give to locals for free. 
  • The Bellgroveridge Catacomb has been closed off for years. 
  • The town was once protected by a strong triple wall, but being built on the unstable swamp, the wall has shifted and is in partial collapse. It is not very high at this point, six feet at it's peak, but once it stood twice that high. There is more than one area where the wall is nothing more than a mound of rubble.
  • There are three fountains in the center of town. The middle one has a representation of Kralar, and she is said to bless all those who donate money to the god by throwing coins in the pond. These are collected by Awnalper's children at night under cover of darkness, and they bring the coins which mostly go to the hamlet's budget. 
  • Jackal Steps, a nearby tor has a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside.
  • The bridge over the river is wide, stable, and made of stone. It is titled the Stoic Stygian bridge, as noted by the brass plaque embedded in the stonework. Locals often congregate to fish off the bridge. 

Men for Hire:

  • Morrakkim, a fat human clockmaker. He is a level 1 wizard and is brave.
  • Rothvorer, a corpulent level 1 half-orc cleric. She is coy and is very focused on money. She has some financial interest in the form of a loan, he's looking to recover.
  • Alexandre Moorquay, a grizzled mercenary fighter/mage who's willing to act as a swamp guide. He is proficient in no less than 3 instruments and desires mastery of the violin.
  • Filizz, A dwarf-sized bee person. She speaks common poorly and is a level 1 fighter who can fly for short periods. She is very depressed and seeks friendship, but is shy and introverted. 


Resources: Fishing (Fish), Geography (swamp/marsh), Hunting/Game (elk), Medicinal/Alchemical Plants/Herbs, River

Diversions


Obstacles: Harsh Conditions, Natural Disasters (flooding)

Adventure Seeds and Local News:

  • Serenia Guilbert has recently married Aaron Moorquay and everyone has an opinion about their union.
  • While they are in town, a large force of Bullywugs stage a raid
  • Jurzzzst, a lizard man is in the town square trying to sell a hydra egg.
  • Locals often take bets on contests at night in the Common House, on locals fighting wild swamp beasts

Names:

  • Lizard men: Blud, Kalard, Hee'la, Scarl, Sensiss
  • Men, Marcel, Abel, Hugues, Julien, Leon
  • Women, Lucille, Orianne, Ambre, Anais, Charlotte


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On a Useful Review of Rise of Tiamat

Spoilers, sweet goodness, spoilers.
My Thoughts, as I have them:

  • My daughter pointed at the cover and said "Daddy book! Dinosaur!" So that's a win. The white dragon head looks a lot like a dinosaur, more so than the others.
  • Disclaimer: Tiamat does not apologize for TPK's
  • Another if "important nonplayer characters. . . were killed or captured, simply replace them with new nonplayer characters here—or assume that they were resurrected between the previous adventure an this one"
    • Are these characters totally necessary? I don't know, but killing them should have some long term effect. I believe this type of advice is necessary for organized play, but for home play the players certainly should be able to screw up their plans.
  • Man, I'm reading the outline. I'm picturing a dog in a banana suit saying "It's evil dragon killing time, evil dragon killing with a baseball bat!" Don't click that link.
  • The bit about needing to ally with the Red Wizards against the exiles is really really good. Especially if you're combining this with Phandelver. 
  • It's explicitly called out as a open-framework adventure. "[N]ot all your game sessions need to stick to the main track of the adventure narrative". What's more is that it explicitly says in this adventure that it's big and complicated and doesn't hold the Dungeon Master's hand on purpose because it's expected that even though it's hard, that they expect you to be good at your job. I'm happy about this.
  • What's this NPC statblock?!
    • Name
    • Alignment/sex/race/class
    • Ideals:
    • Interaction traits:
    • Pledged Resources:
      • Apparently modern design visits Dungeons and Dragons! (Does something like this look familiar?)
  • For the Forgotten Realms fans, there's a description of nearly every leader or king who's a member of the Lord's Alliance. That's really cool.
  • Now that I've reached the first episode, I realize that not once have I run across anything that's raised any alarm bells. This is a player driven adventure with a time limit, objectives, and real consequences for failure. So far, this combined with the explicit statement about how this is a grown up adventure for Dungeon Master's with their big boy pants on means certainly sets it up among the better products that have been farmed out officially. Really, the "flaws" in Hoard of the Dragon Queen are that the Dungeon Master is expected to be good enough to handle the actions of the player characters, even when those actions are somewhat questionable. Should they rush into a town under attack by a blue dragon? Probably not, but most players will. Will they succeed, word is, a lot of people haven't done well. 
    • tl;dr: The presentation of this module makes me hold Hoard of the Dragon Queen in higher esteem.
  • Some people have complained that the adventure isn't laid out in a "linear" fashion. For instance, you go back to "chapter 1" several times. I have trouble understanding how anyone who makes that complaint isn't an ultramaroon. This is a sourcebook, not an adventure path. You use chapter one as the reference to run the adventure when they are in Waterdeep—it's where the waterdeep information is.
  • The Council Scorecard is awesome. But it needs to be bigger. You can really see how much they tried to get in here, when they take something like that and shrink it to half a page. 
  • The picture at the head of episode 2 is stiff and static, but expressionistic. There's an expressionistic quality to all the art that I really like. The paint has an impasto quality and is really interesting and unlike most art in gaming today. I'm a fan. 
  • The white dragon encounter is already entertaining. Having to find his moving iceberg lair? Brilliant.
  • This second tomb adventure is excellent also! The players follow in where the cultists have already gone. They see signs of where they have been and nearly every encounter has several outcomes. 
  • I still don't like boxed text, espcially boxed text that assumes player action. That is still present in this module. 
  • Goodness, adult green dragon in his lair is no pushover. This adventure is going crazy with possible total party kills. Surviving to the end of it legitimately, no matter what happens with tiamat is impressive.
  • Heh, Dragons become a regular part of the cultists strike force. Here's an example with where a ranger who has a favored enemy can make a bit situational difference. 
  • Oh, except here it notes that the character's will be raised by allies (perhaps) allowing them to continue with a possible advantage. Now that the cult thinks they are dead. . .
  • Holy crap, a boatload of good dragons. Realms fans rejoice!
    • The most frustrating thing about this adventure is that there are few encounters with good dragons—that more than anything else is what some of my players are looking forward too. I've fixed that problem in my own campaigns, but am a little sad they have to reach the Nether Mountains (and level 11+) before it occurs. I'm not saying it isn't realistic, but having the opportunity to at least see, encounter, or interact with good dragons would go a long way towards exciting players. Still, you can't have everything. And I am a skilled Dungeon Master. . .
  • What? A maze that's mythical and not tedious? The adventure encounters in the back end of the path are really good. A lot of people were hoping that this adventure would be comparable the legendary Masks of Nyarlathotep adventure for Call of Cthulhu (not to set your expectations too high). The Rise of Tiamat definitely moves towards that kind of gameplay.
  • The mission to Thay is excellent. Creepy, horrifying and overwhelming. It lives up to exactly what I think entering Thay would be like.
  • The module contains the heading "Ruthless play and high stakes" in bold. Warm feelings.
  • Oh, here's a giant super entertaining block of text about what happens when (well. . . if) Tiamat wins! Oh, man, it's awesome."[T]he age of mortals comes to an end, and the age of dragons begins." No kidding.
  • Even if you win it's a mess!
I'm excited. It's exciting. I don't think I'll need to make any changes or alterations in the second part of the module, running it as is with the background I'm building in Phandlever and Hoard is enough. Now that I know the endgame, I can start to foreshadow it in my weekly game. This is the campaign that involves Dragons and Tiamat. I'm sure Wizards of the Coast will go back to the well at some point, but this is the only time I'll be drinking from it. It will be a while (a long while) before it sees play, but I'm looking forward to it.

On the Campaign Crash

How do you sustain an inherently unstable system?

A long running campaign is a desirable thing. Yet many (most) campaigns crash and burn before becoming memorable. Few get played very long.

For new players the average length of a campaign f is 8 sessions. This rises up to 12 sessions for people playing role-playing games for under 5 years. (source)

So that's what you can expect from a campaign. Two to three months of play. You roll up a character and get him to level 2 or 3 before the campaign explodes. If you're lucky, you might make it to level 5 before the game fizzles out. Real world spanning memorable play there.

And yet the average campaign length of my games is somewhere around 40 games more than double the average of someone of my gaming experience, usually comprising 2+ years of play.

Why is this?

Your game is going to crash.

What you should do is design the game to take advantage of those crash-only systems. For example, leadership positions can not be permanent, because people die. That system is going to crash. Creating a political structure that formalizes the transfer of power rather than just letting it go till it blows up into a war for power has stabilized an inherently unstable system.

This instead of being a negative thing is very very positive. The reason your games end and burn out is because they have accumulated detritus that accumulates through play that eventually becomes more of a burden then the fun that is had during play. This is why rolling up new characters is so enjoyable—they don't have to deal with the fallout from previous actions and choices. At some point this weight becomes overbearing and it drives the game to a crash.

I'm not just talking about choices in game. This is also the fabled Gamer Attention Deficit Syndrome I'm talking about. You are exposed to new ideas and they build up over time until the weight of all those new ideas conflicts with your current campaign. Then you nuke everything and begin again.

You don't have to.

The serial television show

Recently, gamings actor/philosopher in residence Justin Alexander recently talked about bloat in extended narratives—serial television shows. Serial television shows are very much like a gaming campaign. Characters are introduced, plots are driven forward, change occurs and stays. What eventually happens in many of those television shows is that the show gets bogged down in an ever increasing number of characters, side plots, and other events, until it feels like each single episode only contains about 4 minutes of content due to switching between the various storylines. 

He also notes some examples of how some shows avoided the problem. He says:
"One TV series that seemed to largely avoid this problem while also enjoying the benefits of arc-plotting was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The technique they used seems relatively straight-forward: They limited the number of arc-plots they introduced in each season and made sure that most or all of them were resolved by the end of the season. As a result, when they launched season 6, for example, they didn’t have any more balls in the air than they did when they were launching season 3."
And what he's talking about there is a scheduled crash.

The gaming life

I'm not talking about a single game.

Internalizing this crash process is important, because when you start a new campaign you never do so in a state where you have never ran a game before. You will always start with the experiences, successes and failures of your previous campaigns behind you.  There is no "new" campaign. Just the next one. And just like moving somewhere for a fresh start won't solve any of your problems with your life, neither will starting a new campaign solve any of the problems with your current game.

What is necessary to resolve this issue is some examination of your previous gaming experience. Why do your games end?

Do you have gamer attention deficit disorder? Have events in the campaign restructure the way things work drastically. Your players reluctant to engage in the tedium of a long quest? Resolve it in an unexpected way and have the campaign head off in a new direction. Want to try out a different style of gaming? Switch it up within the game itself. Getting burnt out on a setting or project? Restructure your time devoted to running the game, take turns, or have something new or different happen. Did the characters lose focus because there's too much for them to do?

There is no perfect game. They are all going to end, and like all crashed endings: divorces, marriages, new jobs, children, there's pain involved. Thinking that changing things will make it avoidable is a dream from a pipe. Directing your game towards that crash gives you some measure of control over the outcome.

Fly it right into the ground and come out the other side.

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On an Updated Rosetta Stone

There are a lot of OSR type games.

Each game features a unique variant of some basic math. Each has a few assumptions about how these numbers play and scale, and each edition carries its own variation affecting play. For the most part converting between systems is pretty trivial. However for some of the subsystems, such as converting 1st edition style non-weapon proficiencies to 3e skill DC's, or 5th edition skills back to 3rd edition skill DC's it can get a little more complicated. A few years ago, I wrote a tool that helped me convert Hackmaster to Rolemaster to D20 seamlessly, allowing me to more objectively use books and oddball skill systems with whatever I happened to be playing.

Now that ACKS and 5th edition is out, it seemed like it was time to update.

Without further ado, the updated OSR Rosetta Stone:

A + always means that the skill is easier. In roll under systems (D100/NWP) this means the modifier is applied to the target number.

20-ThAC0 = BAB
20-BAB = ThAC0

20-Descending AC = Ascending AC
20-Ascending AC = Descending AC

D20 (DC) 5th (DC)C&C (CC)ACKS throw D100 NWP ~% BSC D6Difficulty of Task
105 DC0 (-6)4+ +65% +490% 5 in 6Trivial-
1110 DC 0 (-5)5+ +60% +485% 5 in 6Easy
1210 DC 0 (-4) 6+ +55% +380% 5 in 6Easy
1310 DC 0 (-3)6+ +50% +375% 5 in 6Easy
1410 DC 0 (-2) 7+ +45% +270% 4 in 6Average
1515 DC 0 (-1)8+ +40% +265% 4 in 6Average
1615 DC 09+ +35% +160% 4 in 6Average
1715 DC 110+ +30% +155% 4 in 6 Average
1815 DC 211+ +25% 050% 3 in 6Average
1920 DC 312+ +20% -145% 3 in 6Difficult
2020 DC 413+ +15% -140% 3 in 6Difficult
2120 DC 514++10% -235% 2 in 6Difficult
2220 DC 615+ +5% -330% 2 in 6Difficult
2320 DC 715+ +0 -425% 2 in 6Difficult
2425 DC 816+ -5% -520% 1 in 6Very Difficult
2525 DC 916+ -10% -615% 1 in 6Very Difficult
2625 DC 1017+ -15% -710% 1 in 6Very Difficult
2725 DC 1117+ -20% -85% 1 in 6Very Difficult
2825 DC 12 18+-25% -90% 0 in 6Formidable
2925 DC 1319+ -30% -10-5% 0 in 6Formidable
3030 DC 14 20+-35% -11-10%  0 in 6Impossible+
3130 DC 1520+ -40% -11-15%  0 in 6Impossible+
3230 DC 1621+ -45% -12-20%  -1 in 6Impossible+
3330 DC 1721+ -50% -12-25%  -1 in 6Impossible+
34— DC 1822+ -55% -13-30%  -1 in 6Godlike+
35— DC 1922+ -60% -13-35%  -1 in 6Godlike+


Using this table

So you're reading a module and you come across a DC 22 perception check to locate a trap. This translates to a +5% on a Find Traps or Obeservation roll, or a 2 in 6 chance of locating the trap. Simple, eh?

Playing 2nd edition and want to know if your alchemist can produce alchemist fire? Use that Alchemy NWP at -1 to find out!

Table Key

D20: This is the D20/3.5/Pathfinder Skill system. It assumes constantly scaling bonuses and difficulties.
5th (DC): This is the 5th edition "bounded accuracy" system. It assumes a maximum proficiency bonus of +6, a maximum statistic bonus of +5, giving your average 20th level character a +11 on rolls. Expertise can double the proficiency bonus and magic can add up to +3, making the maximum value a character can achieve +20 on a roll.
C&C: This is the challenge class rating for Castles & Crusades. The odds are calculated assuming primes. If not prime, simply subtract 6 to get the same chance for a non-prime. A prime stat has a challenge value of 12 for checks, a non prime 18. Challenge class is added to the base (prime/non-prime) difficulty. Statistic bonuses range from -4 to +3, your level is added if applicable to the check.
ACKS Throw: This is the player facing value the roller must succeed against in the Adventurer Conqueror King system. Modifiers are applied to the die roll. You may alternately align these numbers with the Base Success Chance value, but the proficiencies make it clear that average tasks succeed on a 11+, where as formidable tasks (using healing to cure disease for example) still have a chance of success.
D100: This refers to the modifier applied to the target number on any system using a roll under % system for skills, such as Hackmaster 4th edition. For open ended percentile systems like Rollmaster, these can modify the percentile result (but if they modify the result over 95% or under 5%, they will not cause the roll to become open ended.)
NWP: This is the modifier applied to Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition Non-Weapon Proficiency system. These modifiers are applied to the target number. Modifiers for NWP rise slower because it is much more costly to become more effective at those skills (+5% every 3-4 levels). This makes the Approximate success chance for NWP inaccurate, but does keep it in line with the difficulty of the task. NWP modifiers should probably cap out around -8.
BSC: This is the base success chance. It is simply a representation of the percentage chance of success at any task in the abstract. Consider this the baseline of the table for comparison.
D6: Using a system like Skills: The Middle Road or Lamentations of the Flame Princess? This is a d6 representation of core chances for success.
Difficulty of Task: This is a word description of the difficulty of the task being accomplished, like the base chance of success, intended to act as a baseline.

Monster Conversions

This process is somewhat complicated and also very forgiving. When converting monsters between systems, it's important to remember the following:
Original Dungeons and Dragons: Monsters all use D6 for hit dice.
Basic Dungeons and Dragons: Monsters use D8 for hit dice, but weapon damage and player hit point totals remain at OD&D levels, making monsters much more deadly.
1st/2nd Edition: Monsters use D8's for hit dice, but player hit point totals are higher.
All the above versions of D&D use a +X modifier following monster hit points to indicate that the monster hits "above it's class" gaining a bonus to ThAC0.
3rd Edition: Monster hit points vary by monster type and have Constitution bonuses applied. When converting back to earlier editions, eliminate the Constitution bonus and roll the appropriate die for hit dice. When converting forward use the appropriate die type for the monster type and consider increasing hit points based on hit die due to increased player damage output. Armor classes must also be capped if converting backwards, eliminating dexterity bonuses and adjusting for scaling increases.
Hackmaster 4e: This is functionally equivalent to 1st edition if the hit point kicker is removed.
ACKS monsters are equivalent to B/X monsters.
C&C monsters are close to 1st edition style monsters, requiring only armor class conversion.

5th Edition Conversion notes:
5th edition monsters are the most difficult to convert. The difficulty comes in having to deal with needing to inflate the hit point totals and deal with bounded accuracy. +Surf Archer has a detailed breakdown of 5th edition monster design if you're looking to accurately transfer or design monsters. Here are some guidelines for on the fly conversion.

On the fly quick and dirty conversion from d20/PF to 5th edition:

  • Ability Scores—Use 1/2 Fortitude, Reflex and Will saves for ability bonuses. 
    • Alternately the bonus is +1/2 CR. 
  • Proficiency bonus is as Character level to Hit Dice, i.e. 1-4 Hit die is +2, 5-9 Hit die is +3.
  • To hit bonus—is 1/2 CR + Proficiency Bonus.
    • no penalties for multi-attack
    • damage should remain the same
  • Skills—Use 1/2 appropriate save bonus + proficiency bonus. Double this bonus if trained.
  • Armor Class—It bounded. Use AC 10-12 for lightly armored, AC 13-15 for medium armor, and AC 16-19 for heavy armor.
  • Hit points—CRx10+20. If not, adjust up only.
  • Abilities—keep and use the rules for 5th edition, i.e. Magic Resistance gives advantage on saves.

Baseline Assumptions

Approximate % chance of success is for a 1st level character who has the skill in question. For each system this assumes different baselines.
  • D20 is 1 rank + 3 class skills + 4 bonus in stat = +8
  • C&C assumes 1 level +1 bonus from stat = +2
  • D100 assumes 25% mastery at 1st level
  • NWP assumes a base stat of 14 in the NWP
  • 5th assumes a +2 proficiency and +3 statistic bonus = +5
I selected these values because they are average baseline character creation values for core stats for each system in question (stat of 18 for point buy d20, stat of 14 for roll 3d6 in order drop lowest, and 25% for taking a skill multiple times in a system like Hackmaster 4th edition).

Any comments or suggestions or additions to the table are appreciated.

Hack & Slash 
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On Adventures in Phlan, Public Play

I've never been to a public play event before.

Probably for the same reason a lot of you haven't. I'm an introvert. People who go to public play are probably those types of people who aren't welcome in groups. You'll be playing in front of people you don't know.

But the combination of 5th edition and a return to my Pool of Radiance roots by jamming around Phlan, and a gaming store run by a good friend, and another friend (Raphael!) being at the game were enough to draw me out.

After all, I've killed Tyranthraxus. I'd like to see what Phlan looked like in person after I saved it.

So into the building I go. It's smoke-free and packed with people. I don't see anyone I recognize anywhere. There's lots of tables laden with Pathfinder volumes. I walk around on automatic, trying simultaneously not to be seen and find the table for my game. I'm early, right? No one will be here yet.

Olivia sees me, she's my friend who owns the store. She points me in the right direction. I see that I'm the last player to arrive, besides the Dungeon Master. Yet isn't early enough, everyone is here. I see a plush chair sitting empty and wonder who's it reserved for. All others are sitting in metal folding chairs. Is this a trick?

Of course it's a trick. The chair is empty because it has no wheels and is unstable. I sit and wobble wildly, across from the stark orange wall. I keep the chair.

My character is finished. I am one of a few that have complete characters. Another player, Rob informs me with a sly smile, that his barbarian is prepared. It's not really a barbarian thoughit's a D&D basic fighter with the outlander background skinned as a barbarian. This makes me happy.

Other players are furiously scribbling. I'm introduced to a bunch of people. I remember no ones name moments after being told them, but I'm writing them down.  Raphel my friend is busy finishing his illusionist, Nerbler Fundangler. Everything about this screams risk. An Illusionist with an unknown Dungeon Master? Naming your character Nerbler Fundangler? I look at the name on my character sheet. Vengance Godmourner the Zhentarim Paladin of Lathander. I keep my thoughts to myself.

Another player walks up to the table. It's someone I know! What's he doing at a public play event? What am I doing at a public play event? I ask about his group. He broke up with them. He is seeing other games. He says he's a D&D slut, doesn't want to settle down, he's been with the same group too long. I tell him I can't invite him to my already too full Sunday group. It's a good thing for him, considering how many people caught the stomach bug when I got sick while running the game this week. A player later texted me after the game in response to my query, "You sick?"

.o(Yes)
.o(But d&d was worth it)

We talk about our kids. Because we love our kids. I'll spare you the agony. The Dungeon Master arrives: chops, hipster glasses, carrying a case full of gaming supplies, doesn't look like a jerk. Explains that we'll be going on five missions, taking an hour each. There's five hours scheduled for these missions. We complete only four.

He checks each persons character sheet, making notes and asking questions. Group has two paladins, two barbarians (one faux), a ranger, a rogue, and an illusionist. I'm simultaneously smiling and shaking my head. I'm already entertained. Tomas, the player of the actual barbarian says his character is now a doctor and doesn't like to rage or get angry. The character's name? Killdrac.

Chris the Dungeon Master is great. I wouldn't even bother critiquing him if he didn't do such a good job running the game. It's not like I'm running events for seven strangers one or more times a week. The Dungeon Master (and several of the other players) are part of a local gaming organization. Raphael my friend has been telling me for weeks that they are insular and don't like outsiders. I'm at this table for about five minutes before I realize that was sarcasm. I had a great time and Chris is a good Dungeon Master.

There's a teahouse of adventure. Madam Freona has five daughters, one for each adventure. The first mission is a barnburner, literally. Is there ever a barn that encounters an adventuring party that doesn't get set on fire? The answer is yes, the ones that get knocked down first. 

We get fake diamonds to trade for a fake dragon egg. We don't know the egg is fake, and really we're not convinced that the fake diamonds will do the job. The Dungeon Master lets us know they will, all we need to do is plant a pin on the person selling the egg so the Harpers can scry on them later. I think encounters encourages using a lot of Quantum Ogre advice for simple expedience reasons. Necessity is the mother I guess.

We head to the exchange. It goes without trouble, but after the buyers leave the thieves guild shows up and wants the egg. Again, we don't know the egg is fake, so to hell with the thieves. We draw steel. Some of the members of the party are outside the barn. I'm confused because in the five rounds of combat everyone makes it inside except for the Wood Elf Birdle run by Rebecca. I don't recall her mentioning that she was hiding outside on the moon. We start killing people. There's people on the loft. The ground floor is clear and the stairs are blocked. It's actually a ladder, but we continue to call them stairs, long after the illusionist sets them on fire. It's 10 feet up to the loft. I say I jump up there. The Dungeon Master gives me the eyeball.

"What?" I say. "I've got a strength of 16!"
He says "What armor are you wearing?"
I narrow my eyes at him. "Chain."
"I'm trying to decide between that being a DC 15 or DC 20 task"
I hold my tongue. I can jump up to a 10 foot platform. It's a matter of technique. If you can grab it with your hands, and do a pull-up, it's trivial to do, even if you're carrying fifty or sixty pounds. I know from experience.
He says "DC 15."
I think pass. Although I still am wondering where the wood elf is.

My father calls, I mute the call with a text that says "Playing organized play at gaming store."

He asks if I get paid for doing it. Only by proxy.

The second mission is invading and killing some goblins that inhabit an abandoned dragon's lair. Lucky for us goblins are Birdle's favored enemy. We track them quickly and overhear a conversation with a magically disappearing non-player character.

I am a bold Paladin of Vengance. I loudly announce that they should lay down their arms and face the light. Two bolts from arrow slits drop my Paladin. Killdrac true to his description stabilizes me. Both the illusionist and the rogue attempt illusions to block the arrow slits.

Why should illusionists get to have fun? The goblins ignore the illusion without it even requiring an action. My first level abjurer with thunderwave can do 70 damage in a round. The bard in my game can set of 10 foot radius shatterballs doing 3d8 damage time and time again. But an illusionist wants to create a static image blocking vision? way OP.

Always a bad idea to take an illusionist to an event with an unknown Dungeon Master. We brought up the whole "It takes an action to interact with an illusion." Well, apparently goblins can take this action and still fire their bows. This is not the problem it appears to be, because when the illusionist runs forward, he is killed because rocks fall. Or maybe it was after that with arrows. Whatever, Raphael died a lot. Once he's dead, who really cares about illusion rules? Well, probably the rogue headed arcane trickster, but it'll be a while before he as to worry about that. It was customer appreciation day and I was eating some of the offered food while my character rested as his group killed the bugbear. 

It looked bad, but the rest of the group pulled it out in the end. Back at town, we short-rested it up. A new character was created. This time a bard. The table behind us yelled. Someone built their Mathfinder character correctly, loudly announcing that they had one-shot the boss of the module. Jubilation and applause from everyone rang out. 

Back at the teahouse we were conscripted to head off to a crypt. There was the possibility a lady who was long dead might have been a dragon and there was a risk someone might be trying to raise her as a dracolich. Another daughter, another time of day, things certainly designed to help us distinguish one adventure from another, but the noise and chaos caused them all to blend together. 

A small crypt, a small puzzle with a hit point tax, a strange cauldron with instructions on a mystic formula. Of course it said, "do not drink". A few minutes later after drinking, the bard was rolling up a new bard. 

There were some zombies to kill. We began to function better as a team. The Dungeon Master used an interesting variation of Over/Under initiative, except in this case, play moved clockwise from the high roll. Sadly, all the high dexterity players were to my left. What's odd is that one of them moved places to the right of the Dungeon Master, clearly aware of this rule. Were they intentionally anti-metagaming? Was their a social subtext I was missing?

There's always a social subtext I'm missing. 

We took a break, before our fourth and final mission, and I leveled Vengeance Godmourner to level 2. Several other players also leveled their characters. We were conscripted again to rescue a girl from the clutches of some evil cult. There was a fair amount of realms flavor by this point. Another daughter, descriptions of food, feathers in a hat. People more knowledgeable about the realms than I explained it as it happened. 

The final confrontation was with a grick. I used one of these last week. I couldn't help relaying the very crucial information that they are resistant to all weapons. Was that a terrible thing? Being the player that says the monster statistics out loud at the table? It is, I'm afraid. I'm that player. I may be good at running games, but I'm the worst at playing them.

Weapons were all we had. Six of us fought the grick. When I say fought, I mean I charged in the room and the grick dropped me. The barbarian seeing that we had the situation not at all in hand, singlehandedly held off four thugs and a wolf at the doorway all by himself for five rounds. He almost didn't survive. Killdrac was MVP for sure. 

The grick eventually fell. I had a chance for a mighty smite—advantage from inspiration, 2d6 for weapon, 2d8 for smite, 1d4 for searing. I roll a 1 and a 4 on my attack roll. Sometimes the bear gets you. The rogue took it down the very next action. 

I would say there are a lot of convenient circumstances of people teleporting away and treasures disintegrating. I might think this might cause problems when players begin to have options to deal with those things. But organized play seems to want to hand out about one hundred experience or so an hour. At those rates, it's a grind. Sure a fifth or sixth level character might have some options. I think you'd have to play five times a month for six to eight months to reach that.

I got to go to the realms. It was a good time, friendly and welcoming, like a party where everyone happens to be role-playing. I didn't hear any negative banter, there were children and a solid mix of people. One Pathfinder table was being run by someone in high school. Gamers to be sure, but more variety then you might expect. There were adventures, danger, laughs, and heroics. If this is the public play experience, then the support Wizards of the Coast is giving game stores is doing them a favor. 

Hack & Slash 
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On Hack & Slash TV

So, another episode of Hack & Slash TV is up. It's been edited down to all the high points.


  • Thread of the week!
  • Talk about a great new artist doing OSR work!
  • A study of a classic D&D art piece
  • Comments from my wife
  • Discussion about 5e and Phandelver
  • and Boxed Text Boos!


If you've got about 30 minutes, take a look! Play it in the background while you work on something! Let me know what you think!


If you want to see the whole uncut exchange it's available to my Patreons!

UPDATE: Apparently someone clicked the wrong thing somewhere recently and the audio is messed up. An edit is in progress and it should be fixed shortly.

UPDATE AGAIN: And the sound issue seems to be resolved!


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