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What to do In Between Pokemon Go Events

By now many of us Pokemon Go players have figured out there are really two ways of playing Pokemon Go.
  1. The vanilla experience, the time period between events.
  2. The events experience, the times when there is a Pokemon Go event happening.
The recent Adventure Week rock event and the Grass Event before that got me thinking that about what players should be doing during the time periods that are in-between the events. Here is what I do:

#1. Fill in your Pokedex

I hunt specific Pokemon to fill out my Pokedex, usually by going to locations where specific kinds of Pokemon are more likely to appear. So for example if I am hunting water Pokemon, I am hanging around the lakeshore, ponds, rivers, etc. See Pokemon Go Spawn Locations in Toronto for more details.

So for example right now I am hunting Houndours, so I can evolve one and get the evolved version Houndoom. My Pokedex is currently at 222 and I would like to reach 235 before July 1st. To accomplish that I need to be finding spawn nests for certain types of Gen 2 Pokemon (I already have all of the Gen 1 Pokemon that are available in Toronto), and to find those 13 missing Pokemon I need to be spending the time during June to fine them.

#2. Hunt the Ten Biggest Pokemon

Or their lesser evolved counterparts. Your primary goal here is to get big Pokemon that make for good gym defenders. These includes hunting for:
  1. Larvitars (Tyranitar Rock/Dark, max CP 3670)
  2. Dratinis (Dragonite, Dragon/Flying, max CP 3581)
  3. Snorlax (Normal, max CP 3355)
  4. Rhydon (Ground/Rock, max CP 3300)
  5. Magikarp (Gyarados, Water/Flying, max CP 3281)
  6. Chansey (Blissey, Normal, max CP 3219)
  7. Eevees (Five different evolutions, Water, Dark, Electric, Fire or Psychic, max CP 3157)
  8. Phanpy (Donphan, Ground, max CP 3022)
  9. Heracross (Bug/Fighting, max CP 2938)
  10. Geodude (Golem, Rock/Ground, max CP 2916)
 Hunting the biggest pokemon are just straight up useful for protecting gyms, which brings me to my next topic.

#3. Hunt Pokemon that are Good Gym Attackers

Being big isn't necessarily good for taking down enemy gyms / bumping up your own gym. In those situations it is better to have several good pokemon of each the 18 types. Certain types are very good at taking down other types. Water beats fire, ice beats dragon, grass beats ground, steel beats rock, fairy beats dark, etc.

Thus since the biggest Pokemon out there are things like Tyranitar (rock/dark) it is useful to have some big fairies or big steel Pokemon to take down the Tyranitars. Fairy attacks are also good versus dragons, so they are also good versus Dragonites. Ice attacks are also great against Dragons, so the fairy/ice Pokemon Jynx is actually surprisingly good at defeating Dragonites. If you get a really good Jynx, you should definitely keep it for the purposes of defeating Dragonites.

Since Dragonites fly, electric Pokemon are also good against them and other types of flying Pokemon like Gyarados.

Fighting Pokemon are good for taking down Snorlaxes, so finding a big Heracross with fighting attacks should also be on your To Do List. While a Heracross does make a good defender, it is arguably best kept as an attacker instead.

#4. Attack Gyms and Defend Them - Get Coins!

Now that you hopefully have some good defenders and a variety of good attackers, you should spend your time taking down gyms and replacing them with your team. Or alternatively, boosting up your team's gyms to level 10 and then defending them.

Your end goal in attacking gyms is to gain coins, so I usually try to time when I go on a series of Gym Attacks so I can attack multiple gyms, place my defenders, and then collect my coins immediately. If I wait too long someone might come along and try to take down any gyms I captured and then I would need to repeat the process to get the amount of coins I was hoping for.

Once you have the coins they are best used to increase your inventory space / Pokemon storage. Otherwise I stockpile my coins until sales that are worthwhile. (The recent sale on Pokeballs was useless to me, as I don't believe on wasting coins or money on Pokeballs that can be gained for free just by walking.)

#5. Stock Up on Pokeballs

I frequently dump healing lesser healing potions, revives and nanab berries to make more room for Pokeballs. I will generally keep the hyper/max potions and the max revives, but even then I usually end up with lots of them.

Nanab berries are annoying to me. I rarely use them because I usually just time my throwing of the Pokeball in the first place. I only keep a few on me in case I run into a particularly annoying Pokemon who keeps dodging or headbutting the ball, but otherwise I routinely dump Nanabs whenever I have more than 10 of them. If I really want more space for Pokeballs I will sometimes reduce my Nanabs to 5 because I so rarely need them.

Pokeballs, Razz/Pinap berries are the truly valuable things to have as you NEED them to catch Pokemon, increase your chances of catching them, or double the candy you get when trying to catch a particularly rare Pokemon. eg. If I see a Larvitar, that is a good time to use an Ultra Ball and a Pinap so I get double the candy and improve my chances of catching it. Combined with a curve ball and excellent aim/timing, that Larvitar is usually as good as caught.

Evolution items are nice to have when it comes time to use them (preferably during a double XP event) but otherwise I don't worry about them. If they start taking up too much space eventually I might dump a few, but at present they have not become an inventory nuisance.

#6. Inventory Maintenance / Waiting for Next Event

Whether you are getting rid of Pokemon you don't need or making sure you keep a full inventory with lots of Pokeballs, you should try to do this regularly.

When doing this I also stockpile candy, stockpile Pokemon ready to be evolved, and get ready for the next double XP event - like the Easter Eggstravaganza event that was in April. I evolved almost 400 Pokemon during the Easter Eggstravaganza that I had been stockpiling, just so when I did evolve them I could use Lucky Eggs in combo with the Double XP to get 4 times the XP.

I also record how much candy I have stockpiled of the various types, and calculate how many Pokemon I will be able to evolve whenever the next event comes around - this way I know to keep big / good stats Pokemon around instead of dumping them, thus keeping the correct number I will need for whenever a double XP event finally happens.

I have a hunch there will be another double XP event sometime in June or July.

Events seem to be happening at a rate of 1 or 2 per month, with Big Events usually accompanied by bigger incentives to get out there and play, but that doesn't mean you should not be out there playing and accomplishing your goals within the game during the downtimes between events. The events add interest to the game and allow you to focus on catching specific types of Pokemon, to hatch more eggs, to get double XP, etc - but there are certain goals like gaining coins, filling in your Pokedex, etc that can be accomplished without any need for an event to currently be happening.

Happy Hunting!

Pokemon Go - Pet Peeves concerning Whiners and Cheaters

So I haven't posted about Pokemon Go for awhile, not since November (last post was about Pokemon Spawn Locations in Toronto, which keeps shifting every few weeks).

Above: Example of a map used for hacking the game.
#1. Map Cheaters

One of the things I have noticed (and has been annoying me for awhile) is people who complain and whine about the game, and the things that they complain about is how Niantic (the makers of Pokemon Go) keep cracking down on cheating.

A common way for cheaters to cheat is by using 3rd party GPS apps / websites to see where various rare Pokemon are located, how much time they will be there, etc.

Various in-game features made it easy for people to hack the game and cheat that way, so over time Niantic changed those features to make cheating less likely.

eg. A recent change in April 2017 is that Pokemon no longer have their stats predetermined when they appear, and instead now have random stats at the moment a player first clicks on them.

Thus 3rd party GPS apps can no longer tell what the particular stats of a particular Pokemon is until someone clicks on it. It is just random now. This hasn't stopped people from cheating however, as they continue to use the GPS apps to locate rare Pokemon.

Thus, the only people complaining about those changes are the people who are cheating in the first place.

Other less common ways of cheating include GPS location spoofing (so you don't have to walk, it just does it for you).

#2. Quitters and Whiners

Another thing that annoys me is the people who quit playing the game because they thought it was:
  • Too much exercise.
  • Too cold outside during the winter.
  • Events are too few and too far in-between.
  • Whining about how Legendaries still have not been released.
  • Not at popular as it once was.
  • General Whining, Etc.
At which point I should point out the following:
  1. Pokemon Go is effectively a competitive sport. You are SUPPOSED to exercise to play the game.
  2. I played outside during the Winter, I was simply smart about and wore thermal underwear and multiple layers.
  3. Events are supposed to rare and special. Duh.
  4. They will be released eventually, during an event.
  5. The people who quit playing are probably also the people who never spent a cent playing the actual game, so those quitters don't really effect Niantic's profits, do they?
  6. Sheesh, these people complain about everything. You cannot make them happy.
The #5 point is really important because I think these players who quit really just could not handle it. Many of them, this is just a hunch, probably could not stand all the walking that is involved - and thus quitters don't just quit for 1 reason, they quit for multiple reasons, of which #1 is probably a common complaint that many of these lazy quitters just don't want to admit to.

After all, nobody ever wants to admit that they are lazy.

Speaking for myself, I did not quit - I just kept playing despite the weather, whether there was an event on or no event, and I stockpiled my candy between events so that when the recent Easter Egg Event did happen, I used up a lot of my stockpiled candy to evolve approx. 400 Pokemon and gain approx. 800,000 XP from getting 2,000 XP per evolution.

So I am sitting happy with the results of my efforts and I am now stockpiling candy for the next event that involves Double XP, which according to rumour will be sometime during the summer and involve the release of Generation I Legendaries.

I have a hunch candies might be handy whenever they release Legendaries, so it is also good to start stockpiling for that purpose. If it turns out I am wrong, oh well, just use them during a double XP event instead.

#3. Unspoken Ceasefires

Often what happens with Pokegyms these days is that they will become a level 10 blue gym or level 10 red gym, and it will just stay there for weeks or even months, meanwhile other "enemy gyms" are set up only a short distance away and do the exact same thing.

I am personally okay with this ceasefire. I really don't mind logging in once every 21 hours and collecting my coins.

Some people however see this unspoken ceasefire as a problem, and go out of their way to disrupt the status quo. It takes about 30-40 minutes to solo take down a gym.

Thus when I look around my neighbourhood at the gyms, I really don't care about the status of those gyms as long as my gyms are well protected and I am continuously gaining coins from them every 21 hours. I am quite happy with ceasefires.

What annoys me is when my gyms (effectively "my territory") get taken down and I have to go recapture them and reclaim my position protecting them. However this rarely happens these days.

So What Am I Worried About?

Not a lot actually. Obviously I would still like to see the following:
  • Player Vs Player Combat (PVP) - just so I can play against family members/etc.
  • More Things To Do in the Game - like going on quests perhaps.
  • Tiered Gyms - so that less experienced players can still collect coins, as the more experienced players currently dominate the gyms and make that aspect of the game pointless for low level players.
  • Legendaries, eventually - I am in no rush to get this.
A few weeks ago I finally got all of the 1st Generation Pokemon (ignoring regionals, Dodrio was tricky to finally get) so my current goal is to finish getting all of the 2nd Generation. So getting the Legendaries in a hurry is not a big deal to me as I still haven't got all the 2nd Gens that are available.

Otherwise I am stockpiling candy for the next Double XP event, stockpiling coins (for the next sale) and leveling up my biggest Dragons and Tyrants. I am quite happy and content with the way things are going.

And I should note, I am not by any means a "pro player". I play less than an hour per day usually. Sometimes more if I am downtown or have spare time to go for a walk I might play for several hours, but most days it is a more of a "get a few pokestops, catch a few pokemon and then just go home" kind of day.

I currently have 4.33 million XP (level 33, 58.2% of the way to level 34) and have a long way to go to reach level 40 (20 million XP).

I have been playing for 9 months, so at the current rate of XP (481,000 per month) it would take me another 2 years and 8.5 months to reach level 40.

Reach means my son would be born, will two years old and will be celebrating his 3rd Christmas by then. And I can pretty much guarantee that I won't have as much time to play this game after he is born - so expect a delay on that ever happening.

It is after all, just a game. There are other things more precious in life.

Hit Point Creep in Dungeons and Dragons

Over the years a number of Dungeons and Dragons people who have spoken out on the issue of Level Creep (the gradual evolution of Dungeons and Dragons so that more and more levels were available).

Tim Kask speaks in the video below on the topic:



So in the video Tim Kask describes how in the early days of D&D the level cap was 10th level and when PCs got to that level they usually retired, built a keep and they made new characters.

When 1st Edition AD&D came along the upper level was considered to be 20, but in theory people could just keep going up levels.

In 2nd Edition AD&D, it was still 20, and again in theory PCs could go beyond that, but few did.

In 3rd Edition D&D, 4th Edition, 5th Edition, still 20...

Meanwhile other competing games, including online games, just went nuts with level creep.

eg. World of Warcraft started with a max of 60. The Burning Crusade raised the cap to 70, Wrath of the Lich King raised it to 80, Pandaria raised it to 90. Eventually it was raised to 100.

So while other games have gone nuts with level creep, D&D has stuck to the whole "level 20" is the normal maximum - possibly because of the role dice play in the game and the symbolism of d20 dice. 20 just seems like a nice perfect round number and it has become tradition to stick with that.

Thus level creep really isn't a problem for D&D. It has stayed at level 20 for decades and will likely continue to do so just for tradition and the symbolism of d20 dice.

So what about Hit Point Creep?

So this is a thing that as both a DM and as a player, well, it rather annoys me. I shall explain why later, but first let me illustrate what Hit Point Creep does.

Here is the average hit points for a wizard with a 14 Constitution in 1st/2nd Edition AD&D at levels 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20:

4, 16, 29, 34, 39.

Now here is the average hit points for a wizard with a 14 Constitution in 3rd/3.5 at the same levels:

6, 24, 47, 70, 93.

And finally, here is the average hit points for a wizard with a 14 Constitution in 5th Edition, same levels:

8, 32, 62, 92, 122.

Now I chose wizard and gave him/her a 14 Constitution for a reason, because it perfectly demonstrates the effects of Hit Point Creep while highlighting some of the fundamental changes in the rules in various editions with respect to hit points. Here are some observations:
  • Between 1st Edition and 5th Edition, the hit points at 1st level effectively doubled. This is due to the effect of 14 Constitution granting more hit points in 3rd/4th/5th editions, but also because wizards in 5th Edition get d6s instead of d4s for hit dice.
  • The hit point increase from 1st/2nd to 3rd/3.5 effectively increased by 50% at lower levels, but more than doubled at higher levels. This is because wizards now gained d4 HD plus their Con bonus at higher levels, whereas in 1st/2nd they only gained a single hit point when they went up a level - it was designed that way originally to keep wizards squishy even at higher levels.
  • The difference between 1st/2nd and 5th sees hit points doubled at the lower levels, and roughly tripled at the higher levels. Part of this is because in 5th Edition, so-called "average hit points" are rounded up and not a true average. On a d6, the true average is 3.5, but in 5th Edition that isn't normally rolled - you just take 4 instead.
So what effect does this have?

Well, wizards are supposed to be weaklings of the party. They are meant to be squishy and are supposed to:
  • Avoid direct combat / melee.
  • Be careful about traps and let others go first.
  • Play smart / carefully in order to stay alive.
 Having more hit points effectively does the following:
  • Allows wizards to go into melee, becoming more like fighters.
  • Charge through traps.
  • Can do lots of stupid things that would normally get a wizard killed.
 So what you end up with is players doing things with their wizard that makes them behave more like a fighter, like a careless barbarian, and various unrealistic things for a character that is meant to be squishy.

And this annoys me both as a player and as a DM, because I know wizards are meant to be played in a careful and cautious way. So seeing players having their wizard charge into danger, as a DM, I don't pull my punches like other DMs might do. Instead I just have them roll their saving throws as normal and they take damage as normal.

But inside my head I am thinking: "Ha! That will teach them!"

And as a player, when I am playing my necromancer Soljargon I play him properly. Like a wizard should be played. Smart. Carefully. With the expectation that he could get injured or die if he makes the wrong move.

And other old school players and DMs recognize that playing style - and new players presumably learn from example, learning how to play a wizard in a smart way.

Hit Point Creep doesn't just effect wizards however... It has effected all the classes, and monsters too.

Damage, in some cases, has also gone up over time too, with spells and weapons, so to some extent it is all relative. But in some cases damage has remained a constant, which is a problem by itself.

Lets take the classic Fireball spell for example.

1st Edition - Fireball was a 10' radius, 1d6 per level, with no maximum.

2nd Edition - Fireball was a 20' radius, 1d6 per level, to a maximum of 10d6.

3rd Edition - Fireball, as 2nd Edition, but with metamagic feats that allows wizards and sorceror's to increase the damage.

4th Edition - Is blasphemy. Lets not even discuss it.

5th Edition - Fireball deals 8d6 damage to a 20' radius, but the PC has the option to increase damage by using higher level spell slots to cast the spell.

So with Fireball, what you see here over time is that the spell has actually gone DOWN in damage, not up. In 1st Edition it was an awesome damage dealing spell, even though it had a small radius. In 2nd Edition it was made bigger in terms of area of effect, but they capped the damage at 10d6. 3rd and 5th Edition allow the possibility of increasing the damage, but ultimately by 5th Edition the standard spell has been reduced to 8d6 (normal cap) with the option to increase.

Now take the effect on enemy wizards... say a wizard duel between level 15 wizards.

In 1st Edition, the 15d6 Fireball deals an average of 52.5 points of fire damage. 26.25 on a successful saving throw. Based on the 34 hit points a Wizard with 14 Con would have, they would die if they failed their saving throw - and more than likely live if they succeeded. (Note - Wizards had very good saves vs spells in 1st/2nd Edition.)

In 2nd Edition, the 10d6 Fireball deals an average of 35.0 points of fire damage. 17.5 on a successful saving throw. The same wizard could survive a direct hit if the damage is below average, but would be burning to death if it is higher. On a successful saving throw they would be looking pretty good

In 3rd Edition, the 10d6 Fireball still only deals 35 / 17.5 fire damage, but the 15th level Wizard with 14 Con now has a pool of 70 hit points. They could get hit for max damage of 60 and still survive. With average damage they could take the hits twice, and still only be at exactly zero hit points. With successful saving throws they could possibly take 4 hits before they go down.

In 5th Edition, the 8d6 Fireball deals less damage, 28 on a failed save, 14 on a successful. The 15th level Wizard with 14 Con now has 92 hit points however. Three average hits still would not take them down, or it would take 7 Fireballs at half damage to take them down. Even if someone did up the damage using higher level Fireballs, the extra hit points basically guarantees that the wizard will be able to teleport out of danger before the final killing blow is made.

Understanding this, you might think "Oh, well, they have just made Fireball weaker over time." And while this is partially true, the biggest effect on this shift in power has been the increase in hit points.

During this time there has also been a big shift in the number of spells wizards get in general.

2nd Edition - At 15th level a Wizard gets 5 level three spells. The wizard gains that cap of 5 at level 13.

5th Edition - At 15th level a Wizard gets 3 level three spells. The wizard gains that cap of 3 at level 6 and it never increases beyond 3 level three spells.

So in the space of 4 editions, wizards went from being squishy with lots of spells (the way they are meant to be) to being either twice or thrice as tough, less spells, and their spells effectively do less damage.

Are you familiar with the term NERF?

It comes from a company named NERF that makes toys covered in foam so that little kids cannot hurt each other.

It basically sums up what has happened over time with D&D. Spells do less damage (relative to hit points), wizards (and other spellcasters) now get less spells, and hit points have increased so much that the spells are effectively NERFed.

Part of the problem I think is also resting.

In 1st/2nd Edition, characters didn't usually rest unless they actually needed to because they were really low on spells. In later editions, 3rd Edition to a lesser extent and significantly more so in 5th Edition, resting became more commonplace when PCs are down a few spells.

In 5th Edition there is now short rests and long rests, which have different effects. Both allow PCs to heal significantly, and may also allow them to get back spells / abilities during a short rest, and get back everything (all hit points, all abilities, all spells) during a long rest.

Resting therefore becomes problematic when it is used frequently, and in combination with the higher hit points and NERFed spells, it means PCs rarely get into a situation where things get tense, they are sitting on the edge of their seat because there is a real threat characters could die, etc. It happens so rarely, that as a DM it makes it difficult to make things interesting.

As a DM we can do some trickery (aka DM shenanigans) to whittle down the hit points of PCs, and if the game is balanced then it should not be too difficult to do that, in an effort to make battles more exciting.

These days when you whittle down hit points however you have to do it lots, and there is always the potential the party decides to take a short rest before fighting a big boss monster - which means all of your efforts to whittle them down were wasted.

DM Tip - Give them an opportunity to fight the boss monster solo, but with the party injured. If they wait too long however then add lots of mid-level minions (guards, mounts, extra monsters) to make the final fight more balanced and interesting. Done correctly, the PCs should take the risk of trying to take down the boss when they are injured, knowing that if they wait the boss might have allies later on. (Also, if they decided not to fight the boss and rested first instead, give the boss an escape route. Then when the fight is over and the party decides to rest, have the boss return (with full hit points) and attack them while they are resting. This way they hopefully learn their lesson, and when the next time they have an opportunity to fight a boss alone with no guards, they will take that option instead of having to go through all that nonsense.)

In my games (both my Monday Night 5th Edition game and my Friday Night 2nd Edition Game) I make an effort to keep stats balanced and lower, partially so that hit points don't become ridiculous. I have even recently given though to using the Adventurers League rules for stats, which is a relatively low point buy and I find it is very balanced. In the 2nd Edition game I find it is extremely balanced, but in 5th Edition I can definitely throw bigger traps / bigger monsters at the party and they do quite well against them.

What the 5th Edition players don't do well against is more old school traps where they don't seem to realize that it could be overcome using rope / 10 foot poles / chickens / etc. But they are learning, so that is a good sign.

eg. Last Monday one of the PCs picked up a coin. The coin burst into flames, igniting him on fire. I asked him if he lets go of the coin and he decided not to, so it burned a hole right through the palm of his hand and burnt a hole into the stone floor. His character now has a coin sized hole permanently drilled through the palm of his left hand.

So yeah. More Hit Points = Unbalancing the Game and NERFing it. But there is a solution. Just double the damage of traps at lower levels or triple the damage of traps at higher levels. ;)

When Goblins bring gifts...

I didn't write this. I found this on the blog: http://elfmaidsandoctopi.blogspot.com.

This is similar to last month's post, "When Elves bring gifts..."

Bonus - The goblin brings you a skull of one of its ancestors. It would be an insult not to accept it.

01 Dandelion wine
02 Gourd of honey
03 River stone beads on strings
04 Pointy mushroom like cap
05 Acorn bread loaf wrapped in oakleaves
06 Small pointy toed boots
07 Bushel of field mushrooms
08 Bushel or wild berries
09 Hag Spittle
10 Spiderweb shawl
11 Scream in a bottle
12 Small bottle holds d6 gallons of fresh rat milk
13 Sick with minor spirit bound inside
14 Gremlin in a bottle
15 Wand with 2d10 charges of a cantrip
16 Fetish idol with green eyes - all chaoic beings save or crave it
17 Turnip with carved face summons a scare crow
18 Purse with d600 copper coins but weighs as 10cp (holds copper only)
19 Outlandish coloured troll wig +1 CHA when worn
20 Terrorbird Egg
21 Arousing mushrooms d6 doses
22 Screaming baby mushroom in pot
23 Addictive spore dust 2d6 doses d6 hour high
24 Explosive toadstool d6 damage over 1 " square
25 Glowing mushroom as candle but lasts for years
26 Prophetic dream mushroom d6 hour trip one Y/N crisis
27 Magic mushroom allows user to commune with spirits d6 hours
28 Tiny adorable mushroom person fits in pocket
29 Sovereign mushrooms, 3d6 days food with no weight
30 Chaos Mushroom, eater gets a lesser mostly cosmetic mutation
31 Ball of lizard tails +d6 HP when carried
32 Lucky ogre tooth - +1 saving throws
33 Gold nose ring
34 Nose Bone - +2 poison save
35 Necklace of teeth 2d6 each summons a kobold who obeys for a turn
36 Dungeon Magic Pie
37 Healing Potion d6
38 Basket with live snake
39 Best quality licking toad or newt
40 Bag with pipe and quality swamp goblin tobacco
41 Obedient zombie rat in a box
42 Dire Wolf Pup
43 Large bejeweled beetle worth d6x10gp gems
44 Stirge in a box
45 Colourful magic fish in bucket with magical effect if eaten
46 Baby goblin wrapped in leaves or huge pea pod
47 Hand size rat eating spider
48 Baby vampire cave squid
49 Baby goblin riding bat
50 Footlong baby purple grub or carrion crawler
51 Dried Beans - cast Entangle d4 times
52 Wasp Hive - casts swarm once
53 Whistle - summons a wandering monster d6 times
54 Dried Beans - cause d6 months of flatulence if eaten, serve d3
55 Spider Web in bag allows one to cast web spell once
56 Bark Ointment casts bark skin d4 times
57 Bear Paw can cast strength spell d3 times
58 Set of goat or ram horns may attach to head, increases headbutt to d6
59 Goat Hoof Shoes fuse to feet permanently if worn +d6 MOV
60 Kelpie Membrane, stretch over face to cast water breathing d4 times
61 Tree Seed, acorn or pine cone grows adult tree over night d6 per set
62 Goblin Chewing Stick a potent drug, +d3 MOV +1 DEX lasts 1 hour, d6 doses
63 Wizard Hood, dried skin bag from newborn baby wizard face, +1 INT if carried
64 Goblin Shaman Chunder if eaten grants ability to cast a random cantrip daily
65 Goblin Priest Chunder if eaten will turn into a zombie on death
66 Goblin Goat Bagpipes can be used to attract goats, even better for bard
67 Bat riders Crop, +2 to ride bat ability and +2 to bat morale and understand bats
68 Wolfmasters Bow, compact composite shortbow with base damage of d8 per arrow
69 Goblin Arrows, warped willow shafts twist in the air ignore cover and range penalties
70 Goblin Lord Dagger, spider venom on first stab every day
71 Goblin Spider Fetish, atracts bugs and spideres that spread cobwebs everywhere
72 Goblin Worm Fetish, dig under it if left overnight find 1d6 meals worth of grubs
73 Goblin Fertility Fetish, any births in house get a goblin baby extra in any birth
74 Goblin Mushroom Fetish, attracts fungus to grow in 1" square area double speed
75 Goblin Goat Fetish makes goats produce a extra kid each birth if kept in stall
76 Goblin Love Fetish increases holders CHA +1 if held in both hands visible to all
77 Goblin Bug Fetish increases growth rate of arthropod and or shelled invertebrates
78 Goblin Plant Fetish makes garden in 1" square grows twice as fast
79 Goblin Demon Fetish allows demons to observe area through idols eyes
80 Goblin Ancestor Fetish allows user to cast speak with dead once per week
81 Cauldron cooks battlefield meat into spicy stew, can cast animate dead once a month
82 Sickle of silver if used to cut mushrooms preserves them fresh twice as long
83 Sword of Goblin Metal, shortsword, any wounds save or -1STR 1Turn, non cumulative
84 Goblin Javelin, bursts in air into a d4 separate javelins and roll each to hit, only once
85 Goblin Pot, can be used as a d6 club, a +1AC helmet and makes food taste better
86 Goblin Bong, ceramic water pipe, pack of goblin weed, +1 HP, -d3" MOV for an hour
87 Goblin Trap Tools includes quick snare trap, dose of poison, d3 rabbit rabbit traps
88 Goblin Inflatable Goat Boat, folds from a one man coracle to a 10lb pack
89 Goblin Scroll with a random wizard or priest spell with d3 Level power on leather
90 Goblin Tinderbox with a bottle of flammable oil, handful of gunpowder, d3 signal rockets
91 Goblin Potion makes drinker turn into a goblin
92 Smoked Goblin Ham +1 STR permanent if you can eat and keep down in one sitting
93 Holy Loaf has spores on wheat that causes eater of loaf to be able to see invisible spirits
94 Goblin Skin Ointment gives user rubbery flesh of a goblin +1AC permanently
95 Chaos Crystal if cracked raw ether inflicts a major mutation on whoever broke it
96 Goblin Scepter holder translates common into goblin speech and vice versa
97 Trained Wolf, can guard or track or attack, very loyal to good
98 Trained Giant Riding bat can carry a small humanoid or child
99 Four trained giant tracking rats, loyal to who feeds and cares for them
100 A highly trained Goblin Dancing Girl (also concubine, spy and assassin)

When Elves bring gifts...

I didn't write this. I found this on the blog: http://elfmaidsandoctopi.blogspot.com.

When an elf brings a gift, roll a d100.

01 Leaf wrapped vegetarian Long Life Rations 2d6 days, no weight
02 Cloak of Elven kind helps wearer hide in forest or mountains or against unworked rock
03 Boots of Elven Kind helps wearer move silently when trying to sneak
04 Musical Instrument worth d6x100gp and +1 to any musical skills
05 Silver Dagger glows if goblinoids or orcs within 6"
06 Spear that changes length from dagger to spear to long spar or lance
07 Set of single edged silver shortswords with fine scabbards
08 Goodberries 2d4 in a bag heal a HP each or supplies a days food
09 Jaunty Elfish Hunting Cap +1 to spotting things rolls
10 Elfin silver sabre sword d8 damage
11 Pot of d10x100 gold pieces that melts outside elfland within 24 hours
12 Acorn if left in larder fills with 30 days of food by dawn
13 Bottle of addictive elf wetnurse milk incredibly delicious and equals a day of food
14 Lump of Coal that burns for a month
15 Glowing marsh melon makes light as a candle for month or 3"radius if burst for a hour
16 Jack O'Lantern if lit and placed near door will arise as scarecrow if strangers enter house
17 Honey Comb drizzles a spoon of honey a day or can use up by summoning a bear
18 Teabag that lasts a year with tasty refreshing herbal tea
19 Ground Roast Spiced Chicory Powder makes tasty warm drink, enough for 20 doses
20 Bottle of White Desert Wine excellent vintage worth 60gp
21 Magic Beans, if planted becomes a plant sprite overnight d4 in bag
22 Wolf Weed Seed, if planted grows into a loyal pet vegetal wolf beast
23 Acorns that grow a tree overnight as if 30 years had passed d6 in a bag
24 Acorns of healing cure d4 with d6 in bag
25 Flower Seeds each covers 1" square in thick pretty flowers in pack of d6
26 Goblin Seeds each grows a warrior goblin in 24 hours, pack of d6
27 Vine Belt can grow lengths of strong climbing and swinging vine, d6" per day
28 Hair Seeds make flowers grow in your air for a d6 months, d6 doses in pack
29 Fire Pinecone inflicts d4 in a 1" square
30 Berryseeds, a handful of seeds grow a 1" patch of fruiting berry bushes by dawn
31 Arrow that always points home
32 Quiver of 12 long range arrows that get no rage penalties
33 Quiver of 12 silver +1 arrows
34 Lycanthropy Arrow, most frequently inflicts victim with werewolf disease if they fail save
35 Charming Arrow hit as a charm person spell and causes no damage
36 Plague arrow, causes disease if target fails to save
37 Quiver of 20 silver arrows
38 Arrow of Healing cures 2d8+4 HP on struck target (causes no damage)
39 Iron Arrow is +5 and does 2d8 damage vs supernatural and magical creatures and races
40 Leafhead Arrows in quiver of 20 bump up bow damage to d8
41 Elf Cat loyal 20lb cat, expert at hiding and climbing HD 1+1 AC16 Dd6 MOVE 16"
42 Elf Hunting Hound with nice hair HD 1+1 AC14 Dd6 MOVE 24" Sprint
43 Elf Hunting Falcon, will catch rabbits and birds skillfully and warns of hazards ahead
44 Elf Magic Goat can translate many animal, human and Elf conversations and has milk
45 Elf Finch can carry whispered messages from person to person
46 Elf Work a small pocket size stinging snake that protects purses
47 Attractive but grumpy fairy in bottle who dances in hopes of being released or fed
48 Faerie trapped in amber looks shocked, if carefully removed is very grateful to rescuer
49 Elfin Peacock, decorative alarm, hates snakes and screams if strangers approach home
50 Pet Squirrel, gather and sort scattered items very quickly if commanded, adorable
51 Boar Tusk Comb, makes existing hair grow 20% faster if used daily to brush
52 Stag Helm, gives a antler headbutt attack extra for a d6 damage once a turn (10 min)
53 Owls Crown allows a human to see in the night like a owl, needs some light to see
54 Bull's Torc gives the wearer +1 CON if standing on unworked earth or stone or wood
55 Beavers Teeth, if implanted in holes left by teeth, gain ability to eat wood like a beaver
56 Weasel Claws are gloves that improve climbing abilities while worn, d3 unarmed attack
57 Badgers Claws are gloves for digging, move a foot of earth per round, d4 unarmed attack
58 Otters Gloves are for swimming add +4 to your MOV in water, very warm and dry
59 Bats Ears fuse with your ears providing sonar vision and perfect dark vision
60 Toad leather vest makes you toxic to eat while wearing, bite attacks save or avoid
61 Moss Potion covers d4 1" squares with rich thick soft moss, lichen and ferns
62 Moon Tree Potion grants permanent second sight near full moon for 3 days
63 Celestial Tear Potion allows drinker to levitate to the moon and back in a single night
64 Golden Orb Potion if used drinker glows 3" radius that undead find repulsive -2 to hit
65 Star Potion if drunk gives visions of dreamland suggesting a quest and travel there
66 Brazen Noon Potion makes the drinker immune to natural fire till next dawn
67 Blue Mushroom Potion makes drinker sense the nearest d3 gates within 12 hours march
68 Heavenly Lotus Potion makes drinker gain +1 Level for a d6 hours
69 Dragon Ambergris Potion, can vomit fire bolt 4" 3d8 damage once
70 Unicorn Horn Potion cures poisoned person or nuetralizes a poison in liguid
71 Name of fairy knight who will negotiate to fight once in return for a promise or pact
72 Name of a fairy lady who will attack a supernatural enemy for you once if called
73 Name of the Blue Lady who if called brings a letter from your fairy godmother once
74 Name of the faerie knight who will carry you and your servants as per teleport once
75 Name of a faerie princess who will conjure a mile long fog bank that lasts for a hour once
76 Names the king and queen of bright elves and dark elves, befriend faction of elves once
77 Names of the Harlequinade, calls a creepy elven carnival to a location for a single day
78 Name of the Tree Ancestor, if called will sprout a plant with d6 goblins in pods, once
79 Name of the Horned One , if called by night will send a servitor gargoyle for night, once
80 Name of the Wild Hunt can be called to set upon a villain or fugitive, once
81 Lesser demon bound in rock freed if broken might fight if freed as favour but don't trust it
82 Faerie Swarm Bottle acts as a insect swarm spell, an choose to take coins instead of HP
83 Pipes of the Satyr are able to play a single lascivious tune by anyone who plays it
84 Horn of the Banshee if used by night all within mile afraid to go out side, one use
85 A Hand Mirror with a pocket universe complete with cursed undying eccentric occupants
86 Ancestral bundle of human bones from the dawn age returned to your race after aeons
87 A grumpy argumentative faerie in a jar but a good scout and spotter glad for release
88 Moss of the Tree Men allows user to speak to plants for a hour d4 doses a bag
89 Wrist sundial, a time piece and navigational aid in a attractive bronze bracelet
90 Wolf Biscuits, if fed to a wolf it becomes friendly towards feeder, d6 per box
91 Holly Leaf Crown +1CON when worn on head
92 Silver Moon Bow makes every arrow fired act as if silver
93 Living Branch Bow grows d6 arrows from it each day as long as watered
94 Silver Torc gives wearer +1 DEX in night or darkness
95 Copper Ringlet allows you to speak to one common animal
96 Silken slippers make you immune to spider or magic webs and improve your dancing
97 Sprite Idol can be awoken as a sprite to serve for on hour once
98 Silver Ring can call for help from sylvan beings once for a rescue
99 Ivory Ring wearer can turn into wild boar under a full moon (three days per month)
100 Thorn Crown can cast Entangle three times a week

Henchmen stealing the Glory? Or just supporting cast?

Back in 2016 I wrote a post titled The Rarely Used Henchman in Dungeons and Dragons, during which I went through 25 different "rules" for how to use henchmen, and today I want to revisit that topic.

One of the problems that concerns both players and DMs is if a henchman ever steals the glory by doing something amazing, whether it be getting the finishing blow on a villain, doing something completely awesome and unexpected, or something equally glorious.

Essentially "Henchman Steals Glory" violates two of the rules I speak of in the previous post, namely:

#10. A Henchman could be higher level, but should still be weaker than the PC.

#11. Henchmen should never be center stage.

If a henchman is constantly stealing the glory then there is a problem. It makes the henchman look way more powerful than the PCs are, and the henchman should never be more powerful. There should be chronically at the back of the party, holding a torch for others to see, only lob a missile into combat and rarely use their special abilities...

However there is an exception to this.

I am less worried about henchmen getting the killing blow as long as it is players who are playing the henchmen when it happens.

eg. In a large fight 4 players might end up running 4 henchmen (so 2 characters per person), so ultimately it is still the players sharing the glory. In a huge fight, having all the PCs and henchmen on deck is very handy to be able to do.

Plus possibly players getting to play a character class they are not used to playing, such as someone accustomed to playing a warrior getting to play a wizard for the first time. They might decide they like that class and it sparks the imagination for something new in the future.

And I am all in favour of allowing players to explore new possibilities for roleplaying things that they have never done before.

Regularly allowing the players to play henchmen utilizes Rule #21.

#21. Who plays the Henchmen, Players or the DM. Hmm.

While it makes sense that most of the time the henchmen are played by the DM and occupies a "supporting cast role", it also makes sense that players should be given the option to play the henchmen in the following scenarios:
  • Whenever there is a large scale combat and the group needs more help.
  • Whenever their own character is dead, knocked out, Held, trapped, asleep.
  • Whenever their own character isn't there (eg. the party got split up).
  • Whenever a player is still designing their character but still wants to play something during the game while they finish designing their character, and they don't want to slow down the party.
  • Any scenario in which a player doesn't have a character to play.
In the example of the large combat scenario you might only have 1 or a few henchmen to go around, in which case you can also do the following:
  • Roll dice and randomly determine which player controls the henchmen.
  • Assign a henchman to one player during one combat and to another player during the next combat. That way each player gets a turn.
  • Pass to the left each round. So each player gets a turn in theory, depending on the length of the combat.
  • Ask for volunteers. "Who wants to play Estrel?"
  • Hand the henchman's character sheet to the person who has never played that class before so they can get a feel for it.
  • If the character is complicated you might decide to hand the henchman's character sheet to a more experienced player since they are likely more familiar with the rules / spells / etc.
Which way you do this might depend on the DM's whim, the circumstances, the players, etc, but generally there will be some logic behind the reasoning of how the role of playing the henchmen is divided amongst players.

Ultimately the goal here should never be "the DM plays the henchman and steals all the glory".

The goal should always be "the henchman gets played by the players regularly, and it is the players who share the glory if the henchman ever manages to do something awesome".

And never forget Rule #8...

#8. Henchmen sometimes die.

 If a henchman ever becomes too powerful, for whatever reason, they should leave the party, retire, go off on their own - or even just plain die.

Hopefully the henchman dying should fulfill a narrative plot point, possibly motivating the party to do good deeds.

Other times you might determine a henchman is simply redundant and not needed. In which case killing them off with a random beholder death ray is also acceptable. No need to have a narrative sometimes if you feel the henchman isn't really needed.

In which case, if you kill off one henchman you might decide to replace them fairly soon with a new henchman who is lower level / less powerful / etc, just to fulfill a gap in the roster. Or maybe not. If the character was redundant, then having them killed off randomly would be okay.

Oh look Tasha Yar is dead. Oh well, she was redundant anyway. Hey Worf, guess who is getting a promotion? (Even Denise Crosby realized her character was redundant and chose to leave the show, hence why her Star Trek TNG character was killed off by a random blob monster.)


The Final Hurdle of The Bibliophile: The Puppetmasters

During my Monday Night Modules games I recently (last night) finished running The Bibliophile.

The Bibliophile is a set of 4 quests from the D&D module book "Four From Cormyr", published in 1997. The book contains 4 modules set in the kingdom of Cormyr. While the original module is designed for 2nd edition, I have converted it to 5th edition for my Monday Night Modules games here in Toronto.

When converting modules I try to stay true to the original module as much as possible, but have determined that 5th Edition abilities allow lower level characters to compete with higher level 2nd edition equivalents. The Bibliophile in Four From Cormyr is meant for level 9 characters, but I ran the adventure with levels 2 to 4 characters and made only minor adjustments to the challenge ratings of monsters. eg. At one point I changed a stone golem to a lesser stone golem.

I have also generally speaking kept the loot "as is", with the only adjustments being for items that don't convert well to 5th edition. In the adventure below this means that the party gained a ridiculous amount of gold and didn't know how to carry it all, and this becomes an important piece of the last part of the adventure - The Final Hurdle.

SPOILERS AHEAD - Session XIV

The Bibliophile starts off simple. An old dead man in an alleyway, with a map and a letter on him. According to the letter, addressed to his daughter, the old man has found a great treasure and he is looking for honourable warriors to help him to fetch the treasure.

Unfortunately it appears he ran into the dishonourable kind. The party witnesses the old man being murdered in an alleyway and the murderers get away.

The party reports the incident to the city guards, the guards believe the letter and map are suspicious but allow the party to keep the two items.

The party then presumably travels to the location.

In the module there is supposed to be random encounters, but I replaced this with an encounter with a dwarf prospector who is being chased by orcs at a ford.

The dwarf is trying to get his wagon and draft horse across the river when the orcs, led by an orc chieftain. The party helps fight off the orcs and the dwarf rewards them with a few old pickaxes and shovels, because he is poor and has little else to give.

The pickaxes and shovels turn out to be handy later in the quest.

When the party arrives at Barrenstone it is literally just a huge flat rock - the result of a wizard casting Rock to Mud on the dirt and then casting Mud to Rock again, creating a nice flat rock surface.

The party then proceeded to look for a hollow point in the rock but hitting it and listening to see if it sounded hollow. They eventually do find it, right in the very middle of the rock.

They then dig into the rock using pickaxes (how convenient) and shovels and find a spiral staircase going down.

After briefly exploring the dungeon that was the end of Session XIV. We resume below with Session XV.

I shall spare the details of all the monsters in the quest. Done in the correct order, what is encountered within the dungeon is fairly easy. The pickaxes and shovels are useful again for removing some rubble in a hallway and the party is eventually rewarded with a large sum of gold, platinum, diamonds and magical items by the undead librarian who rules the place.

After the librarian leaves, the party is left with:

100 small diamonds (valued at 100 gp each)
2,000 platinum pieces
24,000 gold pieces
+ Various magical items found

And a problem. How do they carry over 2610 lbs of loot back to the city of Arabel?

And that was how Session XVI of my Forgotten Realms game ended. At the time the party thought they were done, but I had to point out that they faced more problems. #1 being how to get all that gold back to Arabel.

Session XVI Synopsis + Session Post Script

Reinforcements from Arabel arrive, but the party faces a logistical problem: How to carry over 2600 lbs of gold, platinum and diamonds back to Arabel. Even with the reinforcements, each person would be trying to carry over 200 lbs of loot.

The party decides to leave behind 3 Henchmen (Hughbear, Estrel and Miior) and party members who are not present (Fargrim and others) to guard half the treasure. The party will take half the treasure back to Arabel, buy horses and a wagon, etc and return for the rest of the party in 4 days.

As they are leaving however the party is attacked by the Puppetmasters - 5 miscreants who duped the party into visiting the haunted library at Barrenstone in the first place. The Puppetmasters staged the whole murder in the alleyway using a Feign Death spell. The letter was fake, but the map was real. They wanted a different party to do the hard work of clearing the dungeon for them and then they could kill the survivors who are hopefully injured.

Note - In the original module from 1997 it gives the stats and everything for the Puppetmasters, including their arsenal of really nice magical items. However I have determined by this point that the party has already received a ridiculous amount of loot from this module and now is their chance to really earn it. So I had to strip them down to the bare necessities, and gave them 1 scroll of Wall of Fire and 2 healing potions. But on the plus side, they gained 5th edition class abilities and feats. I also gave Brenna a warhorse, a lance and the Mounted Combatant feat. The various Puppetmasters got suitable abilities.

The Puppetmasters led by Brenna on horseback demand the party throw down all their loot. The party refuses. Firewall. Fighting ensues. Darkness spell. Bruk the evoker runs off, as does the creepy puppeteer Dorenn. Brenna on horseback gets dismounted and her horse dies. Golias and Brenna fight to the death. Party captures the half-elf cleric Zeran.

On Brenna the party finds a letter from Ruathgrym (the villain from the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar):
Greetings old friend!

    A band of adventurers should be arriving in Arabel shortly or may have already arrived. Please get rid of them. They have inadvertently interfered with our plans for Tilverton. Kill them in whatever manner you deem suitable, but make sure none survive. The leader is a dwarven paladin named Fargrim. He will be accompanied by a human archer named Wrathgar and two women spellslingers named, Miior and Estrel. We do not know the names of the others in their band. After you kill them meet us in the caves near Tilverton. Don't forget to bring the book from Irongard.
- Ruathgrym

The party then treks back to Arabel for two days, still following the original plan.

After the party returns to Arabel the Captain of the City Guard hunts down the party and has several questions about the old man's body missing from the guard tower.

Wrathgar explains that the party was duped with the letter and map found on the body, which the Captain at the time had believed to be fakes, into investigating the place known as Barrenstone. After defeating the undead within the old library, and gathering up all the treasure that had been hoarded by the ancient librarian, the party was just leaving Barrenstone when they were waylaid by bandits known as the Puppetmasters (Wrathgar shows their Adventuring Charter as evidence).

Two of the Puppetmasters ran off during the fight, two were slain, and the 5th (Zeran the Half-Elf Cleric of Leira) was captured. Wrathgar hands over Zeran as a captured bandit, who immediately tries to lie her way out of this predicament but when that fails she uses her Cloak of Shadows ability to turn invisible and tries to escape...

Fortunately the party manacled Zeran and she doesn't get far before the guards recapture her. Once recaptured, she confesses to the crime of banditry and she laughs about how easily the Puppetmasters had tricked these fools into clearing out the haunted library for them.

Wrathgar also shows the captain of the guard the letter from Ruathgrym - a man who is wanted by the Purple Dragon Knights. The letter upsets the Captain of the Guard who writes down a copy of the letter and then leaves to go speak to the Purple Dragon Knights.

The party sells their loot from the Puppetmasters, buys horses and a wagon. They trek back to Barrenstone for two days to get the rest of the party and loot, then Trek back to Arabel for two more days.

The party then has a long rest for 3 days, during which Taurus levels up to 3rd level.

By the time we resume for the next session 9 days have gone by, everyone is fully healed and well rested.

The Loot from Session XVI

Puppetmaster Items and Values

Rusty Human Splintmail 50 gp
Rusty Dwarf Splintmail 50 gp
Chain Shirt 25 gp
Shield x3 15 gp
Longsword 7.5 gp
Lance 5 gp
Shortbow 12.5 gp
Mace 2.5 gp
Dwarven Warhammer 7.5 gp
Throwing Hammers x2 2 gp

Total Sale Value 177 gp

The 24 arrows are kept to replenish the party's arrow supply (mostly to Wrathgar and Kilo).

The party buys two draft horses (50 gp each) and 1 wagon for 35 gp. 2 Bits and bridles + feed for 10 days = 10 gp.

Total Expenditures 145 gp

32 gold left over. Each party member gets 3 gold and 2 silver.

Taurus and Donally donate 2000 gp each of their earnings (6750 gp) to the 4 new party members for their help in taking the loot back to Arabel, so that those 4 party members (Trev, Kilo, Carric and Sparklegem) also get another 1000 gp.

The next session is on March 27th.

5th Edition Stats for the Puppetmasters

My version of the Puppetmasters is that they are quite poor and down on their luck. They rely on tricking other parties to do their dirty work and then rob/kill the foolish parties who fall for their trickery.

An important part of the Puppetmasters is that each one has special rules for when they will flee combat. Brenna and Golias will fight to the death. Dorenn and Zeran will flee if half injured or if two party members are killed. Bruk will flee if he is injured even a little tiny bit.

These conditions for when they flee helps to balance the encounter and made things interesting. The Puppetmasters aren't just down on their luck, over half of them are also cowards. By the end of the fight the PCs had some genuine respect for Brenna and Golias for refusing to quit, even though the odds were against them with the other 3 party members fled or captured. (Bruk ran away in the 2nd round of combat. Dorenn later followed. Zeran was captured.)

Brenna
Human female        7 Fighter        67 hp        AC 19
Str 17, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 16, Chr 11.
  • Leader, no sense of humour.
  • Rusty Splintmail, Shield, Longsword, Lance, Shortbow, 24 arrows, Warhorse.
  • Longsword, +6, 1d8+5.
  • Lance, +6, 1d12+5, reach.
  • Warhorse Trample, +4, 2d6+4.
Abilities: Extra Attack, Dueling Fighting Style, Second Wind (bonus action to regain 1d10+7 hp), Action Surge (extra action + bonus action), Battle Master (5 Maneuvers, 5d8 Superiority Dice, Save DC 14), Know Your Enemy (guesses the relative strength of enemy's stats in 1 minute), Mounted Combatant (advantage vs critters smaller than mount, mount is effectively AC 19, mount has evasion).
Maneuvers:
  • Commander's Strike - Spends 1 attack plus bonus action to give ally an extra attack. Add 1d8 to damage.
  • Evasive Footwork - Adds 1d8 to AC while moving.
  • Lunging Attack - Adds 5 feet to weapon reach. Add 1d8 to damage.
  • Precision Attack - Add 1d8 to the attack roll (declared before or after the roll).
  • Trip Attack - After hitting a target, add 1d8 to damage and Str saving throw DC 14 or knocked prone.
Perception 16, Stealth +5 (Disadvantage).
Saves: Str 6, Dex 2, Con 6, Int 1, Wis 3, Chr 0.
Refuses to Give Up.

Dorenn
Human male        6 Thief            45 hp (+ Uncanny Dodge)    AC 17
Str 12, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 17, Chr 9.
  • Taunting, Lecherous - attacks the person with the lowest initiative.
  • Shortsword w Paladin Puppet, Poisoned Dagger w Tanar'ri Puppet, Throwing Daggers x3, Studded Leather Armour, 15 Thief Picks, Purple Mushroom Poison (6 doses).
  • Shortsword, +7, 1d6+4.
  • Poisoned Dagger, +7, 1d4 + Con save vs poison (1 damage + Poisoned).
  • Throwing Daggers, +7, 1d6+4.
Abilities: Expertise (Acrobatics/Deception/Performance/Stealth), Sneak Attack (+3d6 once/round), Cunning Action (bonus action to Dash, Hide or Disengage), *Uncanny Dodge (half damage reaction to any attack seen), Assassinate (advantage on anyone who has a lower initiative than himself), Dual Wielder (+1 AC, can draw 2 weapons simultaneously, may use larger weapons).
Perception 16, Stealth +10.
Saves: Str 1, Dex 7, Con 2, Int 4, Wis 3, Chr -1.
Flees if two allies are killed. Or if half injured. Uses Cunning Action to Disengage/Dash/Hide + Uncanny Dodge to reduce damage.

Zeran
Half-elf female        6  Cleric            45 hp        AC 17
Str 14, Dex 17, Con 15, Int 12, Wis 18, Chr 15.
  • Mysterious Priestess of Leira, Goddess of Illusions
  • Holy Symbol of Leira (cloudy grey triangle), Mace, Tabard of Leira, Chain Shirt, Shield, Potions of Healing x2.
  • Spells: 4 cantrips, 4 / 3 / 3 + Domain Spells
  • Cantrips - Guidance, Light, Mending, Resistance
  • 1st - Bane, Bless, Detect Magic, Cure Wounds, Charm Person, Disguise Self
  • 2nd - Hold Person, Silence x2, Mirror Image, Pass without Trace
  • 3rd - Feign Death, Glyph of Warding, Mass Healing Word, Blink, Dispel Magic
Abilities: Divine Domain Trickery, Blessing of the Trickster (ally gains adv on Stealth for 1 hour), Invoke Duplicity (Channel Divinity to create illusion of self [Project Image, spellcasting/etc], max 120 ft away), Cloak of Shadows (Channel Divinity to become invisible, 2/day).
Perception 17, Stealth +6.
Saves: Str 2, Dex 3, Con 2, Int 1, Wis 7, Chr 5.
Flees if two allies are killed. Or if half injured. Uses Cloak of Shadows and then sneaks off.

Bruk
Human male        7 Invoker        51 hp        AC 15 + Blur
Str 7, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 18, Wis 14, Chr 12. (82)
  • Brilliant but Cowardly Zhentil wizard.
  • Staff, Robes. Scroll of Wall of Fire.
  • Spells: 4 cantrips, 4 / 3 / 3 / 1
  • Cantrips - Acid Splash*, Friends, Poison Spray*, Ray of Frost.
  • 1st - Burning Hands, Expeditious Retreat, Grease, Mage Armour.
  • 2nd - Blur, Darkness, Melf's Acid Arrow.
  • 3rd - Fireball x 2, Lightning Bolt.
  • 4th - Dimension Door + Scroll of Wall of Fire.
Abilities: Arcane Recovery 4, Sculpt Spells (1 + spell level Allies unaffected by evocation spells), Potent Cantrips (enemies saving vs damaging cantrips take 1/2 damage instead of no damage).
Perception 15, Stealth +5.
Saves: Str -2, Dex 2, Con 3, Int 7, Wis 5, Chr 1.
Flees if injured even a little bit, using Dimension Door and Expeditious Retreat.

Golias
Hill dwarf male        6 Fighter        70 hp (DR3)    AC 20
Str 18, Dex 10, Con 18, Int 9, Wis 12, Chr 8.
  • Stubborn, unyielding.
  • Dwarven-made Warhammer, Throwing Hammers, Rusty Dwarf-sized Splintmail, Shield.
  • Warhammer, +7, 1d8+4.
  • Shield, +7 athletics vs athletics/acrobatics, to knock prone or shove 5 feet.
  • Throwing Hammers, +3, 1d4+4, 20/60.
Abilities: Extra Attack, Defense Fighting Style, Second Wind (bonus action to regain 1d10+6 hp), Action Surge (extra action + bonus action), Improved Critical 19, Extra Attack, Heavy Armour Master (DR3/magical), Shield Master (bonus shield shove, shield bonus on Dex saves, no damage on successful Dex saving throws).
Perception 14, Stealth +3 (Disadvantage), Athletics +7.
Saves: Str 7, Dex (2), Con 7, Int -1, Wis 1, Chr -1.
No Retreat, No Surrender.


In the module only Bruk is allied with the Zhentarim, but I have expanded that to Brenna since she was the leader and made her the one who was in contact with Ruathgrym. Because Bruk and Dorenn got away they might see these two again in the future in the company of other Zhentarim.

Also since Zeran is alive and can turn invisible/project image on a regular basis, she might eventually escape prison.

So that is three of the Puppetmasters who the party might get to see again - and see them run away again since their rules for when they flee remain unchanged.

Future Quests

The obvious one is the dungeon mentioned in the letter from Ruathgrym: Irongard, a module from Dungeon Magazine #18 and written by Ed Greenwood.

Normally Irongard has a different quest hook, but I find the whole magic disease / elderly wizard concept to be a little lame. Sorry Ed Greenwood, but it is. I am not using that quest hook.

But getting the party to go there to fetch a strange book and prevent Ruathgrym from getting his hands on it (or perhaps accidentally delivering it to him) makes for a much more interesting plot because it follows the kind of trickery that the Puppetmasters were known for. Getting other people to do their work for them.

Perhaps when the party leaves Irongard the Puppetmasters will be waiting for them again, with more warriors this time. Or not. I might end up using them elsewhere in the future. They are essentially a poor trickster group and I could use them again to steal items from the party and reduce how much stuff they are carrying. The party would then feel motivated to try and kill the thieves that have annoyed them so much in the past.

Oh, what if the Puppetmasters tricked a 2nd group of NPCs to do their dirty work, and it is those NPCs who are waiting for the party outside of Irongard. Yep. That could work. So many options...

Advantage vs Disadvantage in 5th Edition Dungeon and Dragons

When the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released in 2014 they introduced a very important new part of the game: Advantage and Disadvantage, which replaced bonuses/minuses to hit / to succeed in various situations, which depends on the circumstances.

Advantage - The player rolls two d20 dice, and must use the better roll of the two.

Disadvantage - The player rolls two d20 dice, and must use the worst roll of the two.

However a lingering question remained, how much of an equivalent bonus or negative to hit / succeed is Advantage and Disadvantage?

To find out we need to do some fancy math involving odds, possibilities and calculate the correct average bonus/negative. And to make it easier for people to understand we have broken it down below, showing what you need to roll to get the points in difference, and the % chance of actually rolling that.

19 points difference (20/1), only 1 way to roll it. 0.48%
18 points difference (20/2, 19/1), only 2 ways to roll it. 0.95%
17 points difference (20/3, 19/2, 18/1), only 3 ways to roll it. 1.43%
16 points difference (20/4, 19/3, 18/2, 17/1), only 4 ways to roll it. 1.90%
15 points difference (20/5, 19/4, 18/3, 17/2, 16/1), only 5 ways to roll it. 2.38%
14 points difference (20/6, 19/5, 18/4, 17/3, 16/2, 15/1), only 6 ways to roll it. 2.86%
13 points difference (20/7, 19/6, 18/5, 17/4, 16/3, 15/2, 14/1), only 7 ways to roll it. 3.33%
12 points difference (20/8, 19/7, 18/6, 17/5, 16/4, 15/3, 14/2, 13/1), only 8 ways to roll it. 3.81%
11 points difference (20/9, 19/8, 18/7, 17/6, 16/5, 15/4, 14/3, 13/2, 12/1), only 9 ways to roll it. 4.29%
10 points difference (20/10, 19/9, 18/8, etc etc etc etc etc... 12/2, 11/1), only 10 ways to roll it. 4.76%
9 points difference (20/11, 19/10, 18/9, etc etc etc etc etc... 11/2, 10/1), only 11 ways to roll it. 5.24%
8 points difference (20/12, 19/11, 18/10, etc etc etc etc etc... 10/2, 9/1), only 12 ways to roll it. 5.71%
7 points difference (20/13, 19/12, 18/11, etc etc etc etc etc... 9/2, 8/1), only 13 ways to roll it. 6.19%
6 points difference (20/14, 19/13, 18/12, etc etc etc etc etc... 8/2, 7/1), only 14 ways to roll it. 6.67%
5 points difference (20/15, 19/14, 18/13, etc etc etc etc etc... 7/2, 6/1), only 15 ways to roll it. 7.14%
4 points difference (20/16, 19/15, 18/14, etc etc etc etc etc... 6/2, 5/1), only 16 ways to roll it. 7.62%
3 points difference (20/17, 19/16, 18/15, etc etc etc etc etc... 5/2, 4/1), only 17 ways to roll it. 8.10%
2 points difference (20/18, 19/17, 18/16, etc etc etc etc etc... 4/2, 3/1), only 18 ways to roll it. 8.57%
1 points difference (20/19, 19/18, 18/17, etc etc etc etc etc... 3/2, 2/1), only 19 ways to roll it. 9.05%
0 points difference (20/20, 19/19, 18/18, etc etc etc etc etc... 2/2, 1/1) , only 20 ways to roll it. 9.52%

If you add them up there are 210 possible different combos.

The % chance is calculated by dividing the number of possible rolls by 210, and converted to percentage, and rounded up/down to the nearest 0.00%. If you care to add up all the percentages, they add up to 100.00%.

Looking at the above chart what you realize is that the odds of you rolling a large difference like 18 points or 19 points is pretty rare, whereas rolling point differences that are between 0 and 6 are in comparison, quite common (there is a 56.67% chance of rolling a difference between 0 and 6).

So what is Advantage and Disadvantage on average?

Well the point differences are added up and the divided by the number of combos...

19 + 36 + 51 + 64 + 75 + 84 + 91 + 96 + 99 + 100 + 99 + 96 + 91 + 84 + 75 + 64 + 51 + 36 + 19 + 0 = 1330 points.

So 1330 points divided by the 210 combos = 6.333~

So Advantage is on average equal to +6.333. It improves your odds of success on a d20 by 31.667%.

And Disadvantage is on average equal to -6.333. It increases your odds of failure by 31.667%.

The results of the final number used by the player is also dramatically skewed. The chances of rolling a 15 or higher when you have Advantage is dramatically improved. And the reverse for Disadvantage.

Visit http://andrewgelman.com/2014/07/12/dnd-5e-advantage-disadvantage-probability/ to learn more.


Different DMs vs the Rules as Written (RAW)

In the rules there are various situations described when a character would get advantage or disadvantage. However DMs are also at their leisure to adjudicate various situations where they feel PCs / monsters also get advantage or disadvantage.

Because I like to make my own games fun and exciting I tend to be very liberal with advantage / disadvantage and when to apply either of them.

I also like to look at things logically. For example missile fire vs prone targets at medium to long distances, it does make sense that they should be at Disadvantage.

However if they are within point blank range (30 feet), I would argue they should actually have Advantage vs a prone target. And for those with the Sharpshooter feat, I would double the Point Blank distance to 60 feet. I base this on 28 years of archery experience and being a professional archery instructor. Why? Because I am a firm believer in adding more realism to combat.


As a DM, another thing I allow for is issues like higher ground, being on horseback, flanking, charging, etc. They sometimes get advantage, depending on the circumstances. In other circumstances I might only give a bonus to hit instead of Advantage... or I might give both if there is a combination of factors. Or the player might have a bonus to hit + Disadvantage, or worst of all - a negative and Disadvantage.

But I also like adding more obstacles, difficult terrain, slippery areas, flooded areas, caltrops, traps, mud, quicksand, collapsing ceiling, etc.

So it all balances out, but makes for exciting combat.

How does Advantage / Disadvantage compare to other Editions of Dungeons & Dragons?

Defender Sleeping or Held, Automatic Hit (and possibly Automatic Critical)
Defender Prone or Stunned, +4 to Hit
Charging, +2 to Hit
Flanking, +2 to Hit
Defender Off Balance, +2 to Hit
Defender is Surprised, +1 to Hit
Attacker on Horseback, +1 to Hit
Attacker on Higher Ground, +1 to Hit
Defender on Higher Ground, -1 to Hit
Defender on Horseback, -1 to Hit
Defender Invisible, -4 to Hit + 50% chance of a complete miss.

So having advantage or disadvantage is a big deal in 5th Edition. It is bigger than any other bonuses a person might have got from previous editions. Someone on horseback (+1) charging a person (+2) they are flanking (+2) only gives a total bonus of +5, and how often does that happen?

To get a +6 bonus to hit you would need to charge at someone who is prone. Again, very rare.

This emphasis on advantage / disadvantage is compound by the fact that characters don't get many bonuses to hit in 5th Edition.

In 3rd edition a 15th level fighter got +15 to hit (+1 per level of the fighter class).

In 2nd edition a 15th level fighter had a Thac0 that was 14 points lower (basically the equivalent of having +14 to hit).

But in 5th edition, a 15th level fighter gets a paltry +5 to hit from their proficiency bonus. That is it.

In 5th edition: Magical items are also maxed out at +3; Bonuses to Hit don't Stack, very few things provide a bonus to hit.

This is then offset by lower armour class ratings for both monsters and armour types, and even spells that provide an AC bonus have been reduced (eg. Mage Armour is AC 13 in 5th Edition, instead of 14 in 3rd Edition).

Thus having Advantage and trying to prevent yourself from having Disadvantage is extremely important in 5th Edition.

Advantage / Disadvantage and 5th Edition Feats

This means that certain combat oriented Feats are likewise important:
  • Alert - For defense against hidden attackers
  • Crossbow Expert - No disadvantage if using a crossbow against attackers who are 5 feet away.
  • Grappler - Advantage on all attack rolls against creatures you are grappling.
  • Lucky - 3 times per long rest, you can turn any roll, including Disadvantage rolls, into "Super Advantage" rolls where you choose which roll to use. So for example if you have Disadvantage because the target is long range, you spend a Luck point and instead of rolling twice and taking the worst roll, you roll 3 times and take the best roll. Hence why it is sometimes called "Super Advantage".
  • Mounted Combatant - When mounted you gain Advantage on rolls against non-mounted enemies. (I give this to all characters routinely, provided if they are effectively on higher ground.)
  • Sharpshooter - You don't get disadvantage vs targets at long range or targets with 50 to 75% cover. (The meme further above references 90% cover, which must be a house rule they are using.)
  • Spell Sniper - Similar to Sharpshooter, but for spells. Range attack spells ignore 50 to 75% cover.
This doesn't mean that there are not other Feats worth taking, but the above ones certainly are important within the context of 5th Edition's emphasis on Advantage / Disadvantage.

Advantage / Disadvantage and Different Classes

Various class skills can also provide Advantage on a regular basis, with Stealth being one of the easiest ways to gain Advantage.

Rogues for example can gain Advantage quite often since they can use Cunning Action to use Stealth as a bonus action. A rogue with a good Dexterity, a good Stealth, and Sharpshooter could get Advantage on a regular basis, and thus get Sneak Attack on a regular basis. Each round they could shoot their arrow and then use a Cunning Action to re-Stealth, potentially getting Stealth and Advantage almost every round. This is sometimes known as Cunning Stealth.

It makes me wish I had decided to play a Rogue instead of a Ranger for Adventurers' League. I might end up doing so yet, if I decide to later multi-class my ranger.

Clerics with the Divine Domain Trickery can also use Stealth regularly using Blessing of the Trickster (which gives Advantage on Stealth checks). The problem however is that they have to use an action to do it, because unlike Rogues, they cannot do it as a bonus action. A Cleric/Rogue thus makes a bit of sense, so that they can get both Blessing of the Trickster and Cunning Stealth.

Clerics using Bless and Bane can flip the favour of combat for most of the combat, giving allies +1d4 to hit and enemies -1d4. This then offsets or bolsters Advantage/Disadvantage.

Rangers can choose to get the spell "Pass without Trace" at 5th level, which provides +10 to Stealth checks to both them and nearby allies. Thus a Ranger/Rogue or even a Cleric/Ranger/Rogue holds potential to be an amazingly Stealthy killing machine.

Melee Fighters would be well advised to take up Tripping their opponents, as once tripped the fighter gains advantage on all attack rolls until their opponent stands back up. Using a Net is also handy to restrain enemies / give the fighter advantage temporarily. The Battle Master maneuver Trip Attack is a good way to accomplish this. (Please note that tripping deals both damage, and knocks the enemy prone, and once the enemy is prone other allies also gain Advantage.)

Ranged Fighters should try to bolster their Stealth, similar to rangers. Eldritch Knights for example have access to spells that would help accomplish this.

Spellslingers such as wizards and sorcerer's usually don't need to worry about Advantage or Disadvantage. One good Fireball usually does the trick.

Thus Advantage / Disadvantage is mostly a combat issue. While it is obviously handy to have for skill checks and saving throws, it happens less often and is usually less important.

Ranma 1/2

Ranma 1/2 is a Japanese Anime show which ran from 1989 to 1992, for seven seasons and 143 episodes.

It was later dubbed into English (a really high quality dub too) and is now considered to be a classic by North American anime fans. The same animation company later produced the very popular Inuyasha series.

Both Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha were manga comic books written by Rumiko Takahashi. The manga stories becoming the basis for the animation series, which is typical for many Japanese anime to follow in the wake of a successful manga run.

They also produced 3 films for the Ranma 1/2 series, 11 original OVA/OAV episodes between 1993 and 1996.

A 12th OVA was produced in 2010 called "Nightmare! Incense of Deep Sleep", as a commemorative story celebrating many of the characters from original series. It used to be available on YouTube, but is not any more.

In 2011, there was also a "Ranma 1/2 Live-action Special"... and no comment on that. As we have not seen it yet. Only seen the trailer, which appears to be live action remake of the first 3 episodes.

Easy Bread Dough for Nerdy Creations

The Garlic Awakens
Below is a super easy and basic bread recipe that can be used for a variety of different Nerdy creations. The recipe below is enough to make two loaves of bread.

May the loaf be with you.

Ingredients
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 2-1/4 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6-1/4 to 6-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Make sure you have all ingredients and tools needed to make the bread. Recommend you read ALL of the instructions first.
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the sugar, salt, oil and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to form a soft dough.
  3. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours.
  4. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide dough in half. Shape each into a loaf. Place in two greased 9x5-in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Bake at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each). 

Basic loaf pans are easy.

The tricky part is when you want to make something more creative and trying to figure out how much time it needs to bake for with unusual shapes.

And getting the desired shape correct.

Like the Klingon symbol on the right, which while edible doesn't look quite perfect.

When in doubt, start with a shorter period of time and then test your creation every 3 to 5 minutes with a toothpick. (Depending on the shape of your creation you may need to bake parts of it separately, or test the parts separately to make sure they are all done.)

You can also add things to the recipe and experiment a bit.

If you accidentally burn bread, oh well. Take a walk to the park and feed the local ducks.

Cute Ducks

Hungry Bread

Bread Heads

Durpy Turtles

Chocolate Centipede

Princess Leia Buns

Millennium Falcon Buns

Stormtrooper Buns

BB8 Buns

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