Skill Rulings

Somehow I managed to run my last D&D campaign very successfully without really paying much thought to skills. And I can’t even really remember any specific instances where I had the players make skill checks. Surely we can’t have been playing for five months without any skill checks coming up, but with the way things played out, there wasn’t much need for them. For most interactions, the outcome happened to be obvious without a die roll needed. But going forward, and aiming for adventures with more ruin exploration and investigation of strange phenomenons, I think it will be useful to properly look at the skill and come up with a general ruling on when and how they are used in my next campaign.

When to call for checks

As a general rule of thumb, I like to go with  the approach of “Assume Competence”. The PCs are adventurers, doing adventuring stuff for a living. They also are natives who have lived their entire lives in the setting of the campaign. If they encounter something that someone in their position would be likely to know, there’s no point in being shy about the information. Just tell the players what they are looking at, and the relevant context of what it means. Similarly, if an action is something that you wouldn’t think of being a problem, and the off chance of a possible failure wouldn’t carry big significant consequences, there is generally no point in calling for a check. As such, I think checks with a Difficulty Class of 10 (easy) are generally not worth rolling unless the PC in question has a really poor modifier, and DC 5 (very easy) checks only make any sense if the consequences of failure would be catastrophic. (I like making players deal with what fate has given them, and carry on forward in the face of defeat. Success in any venture is never guaranteed.)

How to roll checks

Another policy I’ve adopted in the past is that ability checks and skill checks are always called by the GM, never declared by the player (who then usually rolls a die without waiting for a response). I like to first talk through the whole situation and make sure the player has understood what’s going on, and I am clear on what the player is trying to accomplish. A die roll is almost always made to generate a randomized answer to a question. It’s important that we’re all on the same page what the question is first. And then, as the GM, it is me who decides which ability or skill applies to the attempted action. Something that I’ve not done yet, but absolutely plan to going forward, is to always declare the DC of the roll when calling for a check. This has three reasons.

The first thing is that it speeds up play a little bit. When a player shouts “I want to do X, and I’ve rolled a 16”, I need to take some time to think about what an 18 means in this situation. If a roll is a 2 or a 24, it’s obvious if that means success or failure. But a 13 or a 16? Deciding if the DC should be a 10 or a 15 retroactively after the player already announced the result is a situation I would refer to as sub-optimal. Now I’ve to make a judgement call I really don’t want to make in the first place. That puts me in a weird spot and takes time while the players wait for me to decide what to do. And with my ADD, I tend to get moments of brain lock in these situations and take even longer to sort out my thoughts what just happened and what I have to do now that the player announced a number.

The second reason is dramatic. If you declare the DC before the roll is made, all the player can stare at the dice to see how it lands, and if the player mentioned what the modifier is on the roll, they get the result immediately. The player does not have to tell me the result and I don’t need to come up with an eloquent way to describe the outcome. It’s already there for everyone to see.

And thirdly, it establishes that I as the GM am completely disinterested in the outcome of the skill check. The players propose an action, I tell them the DC. All the responsibility of what happens next lies exclusively with the players deciding to take the action and the roll of the dice. I am not influencing the outcome of their plan one way or another. (Though, of course, I still have a great degree of creative freedom of what a success or failure actually means specifically.) This is an essential component of actual open-ended sandbox play.

Specific Skills

Strength (Athletics) is very straightforward. Make a judgement call on whether a physical task is medium, hard, very hard, and call for a roll on the corresponding DC. Failure while climbing means the character makes no progress that round. Failing by 5 or more means the character falls at the halfway point of that round’s movement.

Dexterity (Stealth) is checked once per “obstacle”. Any group of guards counts as a single obstacle, regardless of how many guards are in the group. Getting to the stairs while staying out of the lamp light is one obstacle, going up the creaking stairs without making noise is another obstacle, even through they could both be done in the same round. To hide in combat, the character first needs to break line of sight to any enemy you want to hide from (movement) and then conceal yourself in a hiding space while being observed (action). To attack from hiding, against an enemy who knows you’re somewhere nearby (because he just saw you run into the room or around the corner seconds ago) you need to be able to move from your hiding spot towards the enemy and make the attack in a single turn. Sneaking up on enemies who are currently in combat is impossible, unless you’re invisible or something close to it. Sneaking can be done as a group check. If at least half the members of the group get a Dexterity (Stealth) check that beats the Passive Perception of any guards or monsters, they are guiding the other characters with hand signals on when to move and where to step to also make it undetected successfully.

Intelligence (Arcana, History, Nature, and Religion) are usually passive skills. Assuming Competence, if something the players encounter would be known to all sufficiently educated people, they get the information for free as part of the initial description without specifically having to ask for it. The GM is the eyes and ears, and also setting knowledge of the PCs. These are things the players can’t really ask for unless they already know their significance. Skill checks can still be made in situation where players have a specific question about something they’ve been thinking of themselves.

Intelligence (Investigation) is always an active skill. An Intelligence (Investigation) check always serves to provide an answer to a question the player states to the GM. Figuratively speaking, a check is made when a player puts a magnifying glass to something the GM already described. The players still have to think by themselves to select an object for further investigation and ask a specific question about the object. “Can I find traces of poison?”, “Are there any signs of tempering on the metal?”, “Is it possible to estimate the person’s height based on the footprints?” Again, DC 5 and DC 10 checks are generally not worth making a roll and players get the answer simply for thinking to ask about it. Intelligence (Investigation) checks are made when only a trained expert could get an answer. The DC for the roll may be kept hidden from the players if it seems appropriate for the situation, but the check is still made openly. In that case, failure could mean either “it’s not there” or “you can’t see it”.

“I search the room.” It is possible for players to make an Intelligence (Investigation) check to search an area or a specific object, but only one check may be made for each area and object, and only a single discovery may be made that way. If the whole party searches together, it counts as Working Together, and a single check is made by the most skilled character at advantage. It’s best for players to first search an area “manually” by describing what they are looking for and where they are checking specifically, as they will automatically find anything that is hidden in a spot where they thought to look. An Intelligence (Investigation) check at the end of the search has the chance to reveal one more hidden object that their previous searching has missed. This is an application of the paradigm “You can not roll dice to avoid playing the game!” that still keeps the Investigation skill in the game and useful.

Wisdom (Insight) is used to judge an NPCs sincerity and earnestness. Players have to announce a suspicion and make an active skill check. The roll is made in the open by the player, but the DC is always hidden. Both a failed check and a genuinely sincere NPC result in the reply “You don’t sense any duplicity.”. A high roll gives greater confidence that the NPC is actually sincere, while a low roll means a great degree of uncertainty. It is up to the players to decide what to do with that information. Again, group checks can be made by all PCs present at the interaction. More than two people searching only decreases the amount of time it takes, but does not improve the odds of discovering something.

Wisdom (Perception) is usually done passive, but players can declare that they are actively scanning their surroundings for things that stand out or could be a threat. In situations where it matters, this counts as an action for each round. (While a single character making a Wisdom (Perception) check still has the same odds as Passive Perception, groups of characters all watching actively do improve their odds of one of them spotting something well hidden.)

Charisma (Deception) checks are called any time the GM thinks an NPC has reason to be suspicious and not take the PCs at their word immediately. The checks are made against an opposed Wisdom (Insight) check by the NPC.

Charisma (Persuasion) checks are made to win over NPCs who are hesitant about a course of action. It can not convince NPCs to do things that are directly against their own interest. If trying to convince someone of the truthfulness of your claim, the DC depends on how plausible your story is. If trying to persuade someone of a course of action that is in their interest, the DC depends on how great the price for the NPC will be. The NPCs Wisdom or Intelligence bonus might be added to the die roll if it seems appropriate, as smarter NPCs would be more likely to understand the necessity for certain decisions. For tricking NPCs into assuming an action is in their interest even though it is not, Charisma (Deception) checks are made.

That Cloak & Dagger Stuff

It’s fair to say that D&D 5th edition is not my personal dream game. But it’s a system that I feel confident I can work with and that has a lot of things going for it, and there are several reasons why I want to pick it up again after the fantastic campaign I ran a year ago. But one of the main areas where my feelings about it are the most ambivalent are the skills, particularly the skills typical for thieves. I already wrote a bit about opening locks and disarming traps in my last post, before I was so suddenly and rudely interrupted by getting a job offer, starting immediately.

Another skill that didn’t sit quite right with me the first time I worked myself through the rules was Stealth. Not because the rules seemed outright nonsensical, but because they contain some implications I found odd, and don’t elaborate any further on it. The main oddity is that using Stealth to hide is specifically given as one of the actions you can do on your turn in combat. Not taking an action to use a skill. Specifically hiding, and only hiding. What does that even mean to hide in combat, as your action for the round?

Even though I would personally make the rules of D&D quite different than they are in many places, I try to at least stick to the letters of the Player’s Handbook, to accomodate players coming to the campaign familiar with the rules. Especially when running open table campaigns where strangers are invited to join in without much required preparation. But even then, the “No Stupid” Rule takes precedent in my campaigns. Any application of the rules that would result in a clearly nonsensical outcome for the situation and context is invalid and gets overriden by common sense. And as GM, I’m gonna be the judge on what is reasonably fantastical or straight up nonsensical.

Using your Stealth skill do disappear from an enemy’s perception in the place where you stand would of course be nonsensical. Hiding behind the curtain while an enemy sees you getting behind the curtain would also be nonsensical. So would be running behind a stack of crates and enemies losing track of where you are. The rules spell out that you can’t hide from an enemy that can see you. This rules out the first example. But the other two examples both break line of sight, and so you’re no longer “seen” specifically. But if an enemy sees you move into your hiding place, and you’re stuck in the place where you were seen disappearing, getting the status of being hidden still seems nonsensical. And what are you actually doing with your action if moving to a position that breaks line of sight is already covered by your movement, which is separete from your action in each round?

Now after a long preamble, here’s my approach to how hiding in combat shpuld work: To hide from enemy combatants, you first need to break line of sight. All it takes for that is to move to a space where you can not be seen by the enemies. This can be running into another room, around a corner, or a large stack of crates, for example. At this point, you’re not being seen, but you’re not hidden. As soon as an enemy moves around the obstacle that breaks line of sight, you’re being seen again. But for the duration while you are not being seen, you can move into a specific hiding place and conceal yourself as an action. Pulling away a curtain and draping it over you could be an action. Crawling under a bad could be an action. Jumping into a pile of leaves and covering up your parts that stick out could be an action. That’s where you make your hiding check. Or your Dexterity (Stealth) check. If now an enemy comes into the room after seeing you run through the door, you are now hidden and the enemy has to start searching the room. And while the enemy is leaning down to check under the bed first, you can jump out from behind the curtain to strike.

Now what does that mean for combat? With this ruling, the tactic of disappearing every round by hiding and rejoining the fight with advantage and sneak attack damage simply does not work. Some players might expect it to, but that’s where I’d put my foot down as the GM and enforce No Stupid! Which in 5th edition isn’t even a big deal, as all you need to sneak attack is to target an enemy that is in combat with one of your allies. And how often is a PC fighting alone anyway. (Though admittedly, rogues are the most likely to end up in that situation.)

Which also brings up the question of how you can make a Sneak Attack from hiding if you can’t be hidden while you’re visible? As soon as you step out of your hiding place, you’re no longer hidden and don’t gain the advantage you need to Sneak Attack. Strictly speaking that limits the options to making ranged attacks while remaining concealed, but that seems to be quite unlikely to be the writers’ intention. My ruling on this would be that you gain the benefits from attacking from hiding for any attacks you make on the same turn as you come out of hiding. If you can close the distance between your hoding spot and your target and make an attack as part of the same turn, I count this as attacking from hiding. The target may see you as you make the attack, but it comes so suddenly that there’s no time to properly react to it before the target’s turn. (Unless the target has a special ability that grants it a reaction, like Parry.)

Does this make rogues weaker than many players would expect? Probably. But it’s also not overriding any actual spelled out rule. It only fills in the gaps left by the rules with interpreatatons that prioritize common sense over tactical skirmish gaming.

Thieves’ Tools and Fast Hands

Fast Hands

Starting at 3rd level, you can use the bonus action granted by your Cunning Action to make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, use your thieves’ tools to disarm a trap or open a lock, or take the Use an Object action.

This main feature of the rogue class’ Thief specialization is frankly ridiculous. I’ve seen some good lockpickers open locks incredibly fast. Yes, it is possible to open a lock in one second. If it’s a modern lock with standardized parts and fixed tolerances, that has a certain design flaw, you already identified the lock as having that design flaw, and you are in position to start, with your tool in hand. Then it might work in a second on first try. Might also take a couple of tries. But in the middle of a chase or a fight? When you first have to get out your tools from your pack and take a moment to examine the lock that is custom made, one in a kind, prone to rusting and getting dirt in? Yeah, no. Not gonna happen.

However, Fast Hands is the main ability of the Thief, and simply scrapping half of its effects seems overly drastic. I think the idea to make a Slight of Hand skill check or the Use an Object action without stopping in what you’re currently doing is actually really cool. But not that lockpicking and trap disarming thing. That is just silly.

Here is my proposed fix for the campaign I am currently planning:

By default, using Thieves’ Tools to pick a lock or disarm a trap takes 1 minute. (Or one exploration turn, if you’re using the old B/X 10-minute turns to track time in dungeons, as I plan to.) The Fast Hand ability allows a thief to attempt the skill check as a regular action in one round, but that check is made at a disadvantage.

This should result in events that are much more sane. But it also makes this aspect of Fast Hand continue to be very useful and a big boost to thieves over other characters who are proficient with Thieves’ Tools. It makes retreating from a fight through a locked door, or getting a door open before an approaching patrol comes around the corner an option that the party otherwise would not have. (Other than just trying to smash the door.) And it also means that it can be preferable for the thief to make the attempt properly and not rushed if there are consequences for failure.

That’s a lot heavier than I thought…

A comment on yesterday’s post about my rules modifications ideas for 5th edition had me think about possible expenses for PCs other than the Upkeep cost for ongoing expenses. And as I have shown some years ago, in the B/X rules, the amount of gold that you need to transport from the wilderness back to town results in a huge logistical undertaking.

Now in 5th edition, the amount of XP that are required to reach higher level are much smaller. As an overall generalization, you only need about a tenth of the XP required in B/X, and accordingly the amount of treasure that you’ll have to transport. I was wondering if that might make that aspect of the XP for treasure system negligible, and as such negate the need for pack animals, servants to tend to the animals, and mercenaries to guard them. But a quick glance at the math proved that assumption wrong.

Let’s assume that a treasure worth 100 XP consists of 80 gold pieces and 200 silver pieces. That is close to 1 part gold and 2 parts silver for treasure in the form of coins, ingots, goblets, figures, and other precious metal objects. I think that strikes a good balance between gold being rare, special, and  exciting and actual economies running mostly on the much more practical silver, and not inflating the weight that needs to be hauled too much.

To get from 1st level to 2nd  every PC needs to make 300 XP. As I stated yesterday, I want to get things dialed in so that about 20% will come from hostile encounters, which leaves a rest of 240 XP to be made from treasure hauls. Applying the above split into gold and silver, that would be 192 gold pieces and 480 silver pieces, or 672 coins in total. Using the encumbrance value of 100 coins  counting as 1 item, that is 7 items worth of inventory space. Adventurers being above average, let’s assume an average Strength score of 12, which allows carrying 24 items encumbered and 36 items heavily encumbered. That seems quite doable, especially after the characters have gone through half of their supplies they brought on the adventure.

But to get from 2nd level to 3rd, you need double the amount, which means 1344 coins, or 14 items of inventory space. This starts to be a problem if you want to do it in a single haul. To get from 3rd to 4th level, you need double that again. 2688 coins, or 27 items of inventory space. You’re not going to move that in one go without a full bagage train.

And as I mentioned before, it’s not just the pack animals you need, but also animal handlers, plus guards to defend them while the PCs go inside dungeon. And they will want all of their supplies for two or more weeks to be carried by the animals as well, which increases capacity demands even further. As you get to higher levels, you can have the players find more jewels and other stuff with much higher value per weight than gold, to keep things from going too out of hand. But if you continue the above treasure composition, getting from 9th to 10th level would take 360 items of inventory space. Ten maximum loads for a Strength 12 character. High level treasure hunting will become a major opperation quite different from four dudes tracking through the forest. With considerable costs involved.

This should be fun. And since it will be an issue that gradually grows on the PCs as they go through 2nd and into 3rd level, I think this is something that the player’s don’t need a special reminder of at the start of the campaign. :P

Shattered Empire D&D 5th edition modifications (untested)

Taking my lessons from the Inixon campaign a year ago, I’ve put together a list of all the changes that I want to make to the default D&D 5th edition rules. I thought this was a pretty extensive rebuild of the system, but apparently having less than a page in total is really rather modest.

Character Rules
  • Ability scores are 4d6, keep best three, arrange in any order.
  • Character races are limited to human, high elf, half-elf, goliath, and tabaxi.
  • Character classes are limited to barbarian, bard, druid, fighter, monk, rogue, and warlock.
  • Only PHB class specializations, excluding moon druid, eldritch knight, shadow monk, four elements monk, and arcane trickster.
    • Druids’ circle of the land is defined by their homeland; one type of terrain for each of the Six Lands.
    • Rogues have access to the scout specialization.
  • Hard level cap for PCs and NPCs is 10th level. Spells of 6th level or higher do not exist in the setting.
  • Short rest is one night. Long rest is “a few days” in a town, castle, or other secured and hospitable place.
  • Exhaustion is reduced by 1 level every short rest instead of every long rest.
  • Cantrips use level-0 spell slots equal to the number of known cantrips, which are fully recovered on a short rest.
  • Warlocks can use either Intelligence or Charisma as their spellcasting attribute. (Intelligence default for the setting, but players’ choice.)
  • Encumbrance is tracked by items instead of weight:
    • Unencumbered: Items up to the character’s Strength score.
    • Encumbered: Items up to two times the character’s Strength score.
    • Heavily Encumbered: Items up to three times the character’s Strength score.
    • Goliath characters add their Strength bonus to their Strength score for encumbrance levels instead of having double the normal carrying capacity.
    • Items below 1 pound are not counted towards encumbrance. Items above 10 pounds count as multiple items. (Weight divided by 10, round up.)
    • Coins count as 1 item for every 100 coins (round up).
  • Food and water will be tracked.
  • Ammunition and light sources will be tracked.
  • Upkeep costs are used to cover common expenses.
  • Reduced weapons and armor lists to reflect the technology of the setting.
Adventure Rules
  • Encounter XP are reduced to 10% their default value.
  • Milestone XP are awarded for returning from the wilderness with treasure. The XP amount is equal to the gp value of the treasure. (Expect 1/5 of total XP to be from encounters, and 4/5 from treasure.)
  • Wandering Monster checks are made in the wilderness four times per day. Three during the day and one during the night. By default, the chance is 1 in 6. (That means on average 2 encounters for every 3 days.) Players make the roll to eliminate GM bias.
  • Wandering Monster encounters make a 2d6 reaction roll, unless the context of the encounter makes the reaction obvious:
    • 2: attack at first opportunity
    • 3-5: threaten the party to leave their turf
    • 6-8: observe the party, repeat roll with advantage or disadvantage depending on the party’s behavior
    • 9-11: retreat from confrontation, but might talk if able to speak
    • 12: friendly, offering aid and cooperation
  • All PCs and enemy factions act as groups on the same initiative count. Turns get resolved in order of players being ready to take their actions. Other players can continue to consider their turn at the same time as other characters resolve their actions, significantly speeding up encounters.
  • Morale Wisdom save are always made for opponents and hired mercenaries when applicable.
  • All effects with a duration of 1 minute or 10 minutes become “1 turn”, a time tracking unit of roughly 10 minutes on average, and equating “one scene” or “one area” in practice.
  • Searching a room takes 1 turn. Searching as a group counts as working together, and the character with the highest Intelligence (Investigation) modifier makes the check with advantage. Only one check can be made per area and it can only produce one discovery. The roll is best made after the players exhausted their ideas for what they want to look at specifically, wich doesn’t require any checks.
  • Lockpicking and disarming traps takes is 1 turn by default. Thieves’ Fast Hands ability allows doing it as a main action with disadvantage.
  • Wilderness travel is tracked in 6 mile hexes. Travel speed per day depends on both encumbrance and terrain:
    • Unencumbered: 6 hexes (normal) / 3 hexes (difficult)
    • Encumbered: 4 hexes (normal) / 2 hexes (difficult)
    • Heavily Encumbered: 2 hexes (normal) / 1 hex (difficult)
    • Cautious Pace: -1 hex per day, Stealthy movement.
    • Hurried  Pace: +1 hex per day, -5 to passive Perception

This is the current state of affairs. I might be updating it in the future as I run into more things that I feel need adjusting.

Fool me once…

As it turns out, I’ll be returning to work from hibernation this year in February and not in March, as I had expected. And I’ll not be moving into a new place until early March at the earliest, quite possibly in April. So the next two months aren’t going to be quite as chill as expected and I’ll won’t be settled in until we’ll be full deep into the planting season. This means my original plan to get a new campaign started and established after Christmas will have to be pushed back to probably somewhere in May, as I don’t want to start a  campaign for four weeks and then potentially disappear from the face of the Earth for a couple of months. (Once the plants arrive in the stores, our work for the year is mostly done, so off-season starts for us in May.)

This also means that I can spend the whole of this month on further elaborate campaign prep, and expand on it in whatever idle time I’ll be finding in spring. And one thing that has been on my mind recently is that despite my previous experiences in the campaign from one year ago, Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition might not be all that bad.

At the end of the Inixon campaign, I talked with the players, who mostly were GMs themselves with much more experience with the system than me, and while they mostly agreed with the issues I had spotted in the rules, their opinion was that these things are fixable without too much trouble by picking a few of the variant rules and changing the approach to handling certain things. I had similar conversations again twice last months about where I had been dissatisfied with how the game handled, and again the responses I got was generally that my observations are correct, but that the game doesn’t have to be run that way and play quite differently if you don’t.

The main issue I had with the system was that PCs have a lot of fancy toys to play with quite early on. Many of these cool powers are related to combat, and seeing how excited the players were about getting them, I wanted to give them opportunities to actually get some use out of them. Unfortunately, these fights made them advance to new levels and get new shinier toys before they really got much chance to play with their old ones in interesting and creative ways. I really didn’t want the players to sit on the cool new powers they were clearly excited about and not being able to use them, and as a result things somewhat escalated into a series of battles with little inbetween. Eventually I decided that there was a good point in the story to wrap up the campaign around the time the PCs would have reached 6th level, instead of continuing into a fully open-world exploration of the Isle of Dread.

The obvious answer to this issue is of course to just give the players fewer XP. But I think in hindsight the issue wasn’t so much the specific XP awards, but that throughout my now 20 years of running D&D, a pace of having characters gain a new level about every 4 game sessions or so had always worked very well in 3rd edition, Pathfinder, and oldschool games. And that’s just the pace that I had kept with the Inixon campaign. Not sure if that’s really the case or a change in my perception as I change my style as GM, but to me it really feels like characters in 5th edition get a lot more new powers with each new level than I was used to. And certainly as compared to B/X, of course. It also was the first time I really wanted to use the approach to not have the players wait until higher levels to get cool magic items with interesting powers, and be more generous with magic treasure that has minor and situational powers. It doesn’t increase the power level of the party that much, but it absolutely adds to the amount of cool toys that the players have at their disposal and are eager to try out. With all that in mind, aiming to let PCs level up about every 4 game sessions really seems to fast. Better seems to aim for 6, or maybe even 8 game sessions on average. I think that should be a good start to address my main dissatisfaction I had with the game.

Somewhat related to that was another issue I had with dungeons. The campaign had started with Against the Cult of the Reptile God, which really does provide a solid reference for why this dungeon exists and what the inhabitants want with it. That went really well. This was followed by a fantastic unstructured stay in a pirate town, in which the one part I wasn’t happy with was the dungeon from Escape from Meenlock Prison. It was okay, but I felt it turned into kind of a slog. Eventually we got to Dwellers of the Forbidden City, and I really had no clue what to do with it but to put some ruined mansions down and fill them with hostile monsters. The game kind of implies it wants me to do dungeons with cool encounters, but it also isn’t letting me know how to actually do that, and I just got frustrated with it and decided not to go into The Isle of Dread after that. I felt that I just don’t get the whole point about dungeons other than being series of monster fights. However, in the past year after that, I learned a huge deal about classic dungeon crawling and what that is all about. The Basic/Expert exploration system is a fantastic campaign structure with an actual solid 30-minute-gameplay-loop, that 5th edition (and really all D&D starting with 2nd edition) seriously lacks.

And there’s a couple of things about 5th edition that I really like. I’m a big warlock fanboy, especially after having two of them in the Inixon campaign, and I am seeing so much worldbuilding potential with this class as the supernatural and weird is concerned, and for all the adventures that can come out of it. I also think that the druid circles of the land are quite a nice element that I’d love to play with. I had pondered the idea of a setting in which warlock magic is the only way mortals can access supernatural powers, which seems really fun, though probably doesn’t get too much cheer from players. But considering my previous ideas for the Shattered Empire, a campaign with only warlocks, druids, and bards as spellcasters sounds like something that could be really cool for a very-early Medieval campaign drawing on central-eastern Europe as reference.

So I am willing to give the system another try, with the following adjustments:

  • Characters gain XP by milestones, with the default type of milestone being the return of a treasure back to civilization. The amount of XP depending on the value of the treasure, and the obstacles standing in the way being appropriately difficult. My aim is to provide treasures that let characters gain a level every 6 to 8 game sessions or so.
  • A short rest takes a full night of rest, and a long rest requires taking a week off in a town, castle, or similarly secured and hospitable place. In practice this means going without a long rest for each whole adventure. This means druid spells that provide food, water, and similar ways to make wilderness travel easier for each day won’t be able to cover the whole trip. Similarly healing spells have to be rationed for the whole adventure. Having friendly sanctuaries in the wilderness will be a huge benefit, which is one of the really cool concepts I’ve encountered in The One Ring.
  • Encumbrance is done by inventory slots and not by weight, which makes it trivial to track instead of a big nuisance.
  • The Encounter syste, from B/X gets imported just as it is, with wandering monster checks, reaction rolls, morale, and all of that.
  • Initiative is done by sides instead of initiative counts, which is always a huge reduction in my personal mental workload and speeds up play considerably as it cuts down greatly on players taking time to consider their next move at the start of their turn.

I am still somewhat cautious about the idea, but I think it can only turn out better then the Inixon campaign. And that one was by far the best one I’ve ever run.