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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 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 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

One of the worst D&D Players I have ever seen...

So yesterday I trekked all the way to Hamilton and back to Toronto so I could play in an Adventurers League game involving faction secret missions.

The DM in the game was fine. I have no problems with the DM.

He was actually planning to run two adventures, "Tyranny in Phlan" followed by "Black Heart of Vengeance", each of which should normally take roughly 4 hours to run. So it would and should have been a 8 hour session.

Instead we only got the first quest done and it is largely due to one player who was playing a crazy dwarf  named Hewitt who refused to wear armour, but insisted on charging into combat all the time.

Now he is not the worst player I have ever seen - I have seen worse. But he is definitely one of the worst.

  • He deliberately undermined the goals of the quest.
  • There was no point seeking to surprise the enemy.
  • If you wanted to stealth, you were better off doing it far away from the dwarf.
  • Constantly metagamed.
  • Argued with the DM.
  • Made up rules that did not exist.
  • Every time it was his turn he would try to do many multiple actions, before eventually deciding on one action.
  • Insisted on looking up rules in the PHB every chance he got to confirm the precise wording because he didn't trust the DM was telling the truth.
  • He invariably picked actions that made no logical sense in terms of tactics.
  • Chose actions which often slowed the combat down to a crawl.
  • When we finally got around to dividing up loot he made a big fuss about wanting all of the loot, claiming that he did all of the work.

Even his character design was flawed.

He was playing a dwarven fighter with lots of hit points, but basically charged into combat like he was a barbarian raging - in 5th Edition raging gives the barbarian resistance to combat damage from slashing, piercing and bludgeoning weapons... except he was not a barbarian, and he was not raging. And he didn't have any armour.

So basically he would run into combat and get hit constantly, and went unconscious so many times we should have just let him die.

The only reason he didn't die is because his character had a bandoleer full of healing potions. Now that part at least makes sense, but he eventually ran out of healing potions...

As combat evolved my ranger and someone else playing a halfling warlock/wizard named Pyrite basically had to change our tactics just to keep the stupid dwarf alive. We would basically shoot anything that was close to the dwarf so that we didn't have to waste any of our own healing on the stupid dwarf.

I flat out refused to give him any of my healing potions, or to heal his dumb dwarf. I also refused to use any of my ranger's Cure Wounds spells on him, because I knew he would just charge into combat again once I healed him.

The warlock/wizard PC did give him several healing potions, but ended up nearly dying themselves when they ran out.

Giving the dwarf healing potions was basically like saying "Here, go charge into combat again and get injured again."

At one point I offered to sell him a healing potion for 50 gp, but only if he agreed to wear armour that we had found. He refused. So I refused to sell him my potion.

The dwarf's proclivity for charging into combat did eventually become useful.

Closer to the end of the quest we have to rescue a military leader from a place that is being guarded by 26 guards. We needed a distraction in order for us to get in there...

The dwarf immediately volunteered and insisted on being the distraction.

A NPC and some knights also volunteered for this act of courage, but the crazy dwarf insisted he wanted to do it by himself.

So be it.

The dwarf distracted the guards, 18 of the guards chased after him... which means we had to fight the 8 remaining guards with the help of the NPC with the knights.

Later we are taking the military leader to the docks...

And we figure out there must be an ambush up ahead. So we do some scouting and...

The dwarf charges in.

And then the military commander guy charges in too!

What follows was a slaughter. The commander dies. We were supposed to keep him alive...

I shake my head in disgust.

The End Loot

After everything was finally done we had the following in loot to divide up.
  • Spellbook (not magical, but valuable to any spellcaster)
  • Scroll of Sending
  • Two Potions of Healing
  • Ioun Stone of Protection
The problem was Hewitt the Crazy Dwarf wanted BOTH the potions of healing and the Ioun Stone of Protection.

Which would have meant my ranger got nothing, since the scroll/spellbook was clearly something Pyrite the halfling Warlock/Wizard would want and nobody else wanted.

Also Pyrite and myself were equally interested in the Ioun Stone, however it was pretty obvious that the dwarf who refuses to wear armour clearly needs it.

Fortunately there is lovely thing called voting. So my ranger got the potions of healing, the dwarf got the ioun stone (so he would shut up about it), and the warlock/wizard got the spellbook and the scroll.

But do you think the guy playing the crazy dwarf would be satisfied with just the Ioun Stone (the only permanent magical item in the mix)?

Nope. He complained loudly and often. Claimed the system was rigged against him. (He reminded me of Donald Trump spouting conspiracy theories.)

And I am pretty sure he secretly wrote down the two healing potions anyway on his character record after much grumbling, even though that is technically cheating.

After all of that the guy playing the dwarf was looking like he was going to ragequit because he didn't have any more healing potions (at least not any legitimate ones as the DM would have noticed if he suddenly got two new potions).

We could have started the 2nd adventure, but the DM and the rest of us were pretty tired. I wanted to go home and put this horrific event behind me.

In order to run the game we needed a minimum of 3 players plus a DM. So the basic consensus was "Hey, we should all go home. We don't have time to run the second quest today."

And I can guarantee I won't be trekking to Hamilton again to play with Hewitt the Crazy Dwarf.

So... if you run into a guy from Hamilton, Ontario playing a dwarf named Hewitt - run away. Do not waste your time playing with the prick. Just leave.

Faction Secret Missions for Adventurers League D&D

I am still going to Adventurers League events (and should update my Adventurers League Logbook on here sometime).

My character Wrathgar has reached the point where I am starting to look at the future regarding his Harpers Renown... and boosting him up in the ranks so he can get access to certain perks.

The trick to getting those perks is that you need to get renown and complete secret missions to reach certain ranks.

Faction Rank Requirements
  1. No requirements.
  2. 3 Renown
  3. 10 Renown, 5th level, 1 Secret Mission
  4. 25 Renown, 11th level, 3 Secret Missions
  5. 50 Renown, 17th level, 10 Secret Missions


Rank 2 isn't that big of a deal. Faction Tool Training really has limited usefulness.

Once you get to Rank 3 you are able to buy Faction magical items, which are typically +1 weapons or +1 shields, but each Faction also has special items that can be purchased - like a Cloak of Elvenkind for members of the Harpers.


So the real trick then is Secret Missions.

But how does your character go on secret missions???

The problem comes down to a very small number of D&D Adventurers League Quests that include secret missions. There are only twelve Tier 2 quests and three Tier 3 quests - and to be clear, most people do not play these quests. Which means you might have to request that a DM run one of these quests

List of Faction Missions for Forgotten Realms/Ravenloft

Faction Guide
  • Emerald Enclave = Ee
  • Harpers = Hp
  • Lord's Alliance = La
  • Order of the Gauntlet = Og
  • Zhentarim = Zh
  • All Factions = ~

Tier 2 - [Twelve Quests]
  • DDEX1-10 Tyranny in Phlan (Hp, La)
  • DDEX1-11 Dark Pyramid of Sorcerer's Isle (Zh)
  • DDEX1-12 Raiders of the Twilight Marsh (Ee, Og)
  • DDEX2-14 The Sword of Selfaril (Ee, Zh)
  • DDEX2-15 Black Heart of Vengeance (Hp, La, Og)
  • DDEX3-7 Herald of the Moon (Ee, Hp)
  • DDEX3-8 The Malady of Elventree (Zh)
  • DDEX3-9 The Waydown (La, Og)
  • DDEX3-15 Szith Morcane Unbound (Og)
  • DDAL4-14 The Darklord (~)
  • DDAL5-11 Forgotten Traditions (Ee, Zh)
  • DDAL5-13 Jarl Rising (Hp)

Tier 3 - [Three Quests]
  • DDEX3-16 Assault on Maermydra (~)
  • DDAL5-08 Durlag's Tower (La, Zh)
  • DDAL5-09 Durlag's Tomb (Ee)
Notice any problems with the lists and the above rules for Faction Ranks?

#1. It is impossible to get to Faction Rank 5.

To get to Rank 5, you need to complete 10 secret missions, which is impossible to do because there aren't that many Faction secret missions. While there are 15 different quests containing secret missions, there are only so many secret missions per faction.
  • Emerald Enclave - 7 secret missions.
  • Harpers - 6 secret missions.
  • Lord's Alliance - 6 secret missions.
  • Order of the Gauntlet - 6 secret missions.
  • Zhentarim - 7 secret missions.
So doing 10 secret missions for your Faction is clearly impossible.

Even to do all the missions available to you, you would also need to go to Ravenloft ("The Darklord") and escape Ravenloft (fortunately there are two ways to do that in "The Darklord", however one of them involves using downtime, so if a character who is low on downtime could theoretically end up being stuck in Ravenloft).

#2. It is possible to get to Rank 4, but why bother?

While it is nice to be able to Raise Dead on other faction members, this perk really only makes sense if you are playing a cleric. Otherwise it would be really expensive to be giving away your gold and downtime like that.

#3. It actually makes more sense to Switch Factions...

Think about it.
  1. Get to Rank 3 by doing 1 secret mission and gaining 10 renown.
  2. Save up gold and downtime.
  3. Buy 2 or more magical items from that Faction.
  4. Switch Factions.
  5. Repeat actions 1 to 5.
After getting to Rank 3 of Harpers and getting all the magical items I want from that group, it makes good logical sense for Wrathgar to switch to one of the other factions (eg. Emerald Enclave).

And it makes even more sense to do, since Rank 4 is a waste of gold/downtime, and Rank 5 is impossible to get to.

#4. It is very tricky to find a DM who is running secret missions.

Not many DMs in Adventurer's League actually run secret missions. Because they are not part of the main quest lines, there is no need to run them. They are considered to be "extras" and most DMs don't even bother.

To get a DM to run one, you really need to request that your regular DM do one of the quests (which cost money to get a copy of the PDF...).

I have managed to find a DM who is running two of these quests, but it involves me getting on a train from Toronto and going to Hamilton to play an 8 hour session. The DM is planning to run two secret mission quests, back to back, "Tyranny of Phlan" and "Black Heart of Vengeance".

This would mean getting 2 secret missions done in one day. Which is awesome. But it does involve some effort and time on my part to trek to Hamilton for a really long session, but at least it will get this done.

Update, March 6th

  • Went to Hamilton.
  • Long grueling session.
  • No healer.
  • Crazy dwarf with no armour who kept charging into combat.
  • Many short rests.
  • We only managed to complete "Tyranny in Phlan". It was supposed to take 4 hours but took closer to 6.5 hours.
  • Didn't have enough time to do "Black Heart of Vengeance" too.
  • Came home early.

Well, at least that is done. Not doing that ever again. I blame the dwarf.

Random Sacrifices to the D&D Dark Gods

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

To determine what the locals sacrifice to their dark god, just roll on the tables below.

d10 Common Living Sacrifices
1 Animals typically common farm animals
2 Animals of prestige such as horse, ox or lion
3 Slaves
4 Criminals
5 Heretics or witches
6 Commoner selected by lottery
7 prisoners of war
8 Children
9 Virgins
10 Nobility or royal blood

d10 Common Valuable Sacrifices
1 Piles of mixed coins in pots, sacks or cauldrons
2 Collection of weapons
3 Brass and copper decorated urns, plates and arm rings
4 Works of art
5 Idols of gods, beasts or nobility
6 Tapestries and rugs
7 Carved ivory, tusk, horn and teeth
8 Gold neck and arm rings
9 Coffers of silver
10 Chest of gold coins

d10 Sacrificial Ritual
1 Gathering of robed clergy or cult by night
2 Folk festival with dancing, singing and feasting
3 Nobility and priesthood lead solemn procession of commoners
4 Priesthood with choir, musicians and initiates chanting
5 Actors performing mythological drama with sacrifice for finale
6 Crazed drunken mob in a naked frenzy, dangerous to outsiders
7 Warriors in battle dress drunkenly cheering and clashing weapons
8 Leaders and clergy directing mob to build or move a monumental object
9 Parade with nobles, clergy, guilds, floats, palanquins and idols
10 Wailing mourners with incense burners in a funeral like procession

d100 Sacrifices to Appease Gods
01 Huge Wicker man or animal stuffed with sacrificial beasts and people
02 A giant brazen bull with a furnace and sacrifice burned within
03 Chain victims and loot in a wild place as sacrifice
04 Sacrifices locked in boat and cast into sea currents at mercy of nature
05 Sacrifices hurled into a flaming pit of burning logs
06 Sacrifices impaled and arranged into a forest of wailing screaming victims
07 Sacrifices bled into a great cauldron as part of a ceremony
08 Sacrifices whipped to death by wild goat men then eaten
09 Hurled into seaside sinkhole to be eaten by the pit kraken
10 Sacrifices burned in a great pit with animals and goods
11 Sacrifices buried in tomb alive with some important person in a huge funeral
12 Sacrifices drowned and corpses hurled into a body of water
13 Dropped into a fearsome dungeon hidden beneath the earth
14 Sacrifices hurled of a cliff and dashed to pieces
15 Sacrifices hurled into arena with savage carnivorous creatures
16 A huge treasure and sacrifices poured down a sinkhole and sealed
17 Sacrifices buried under huge earthworks inside wooden building
18 Sacrifices ritually beheaded and innards read by by soothsayers
19 A ancient gate is activated by ritual, sacrifices hurled in never seen again
20 Mummified sacrifices alive and seal in coffins then stone sarcophagi in a tomb
21 Sacrifices cooked and ritually eaten by community
22 Sacrifices flayed and turned into craft items and artworks for shrine
23 Sacrifices hunted and torn apart by hysterical mob
24 Sacrifices chased by devout warriors and hunters over hunting ground
25 Sacrifices hunted by creatures across wilderness or ruins
26 Open cave has sacrifice victims sealed inside monsters stone labyrinth
27 A huge monument is built and many loyal workers accidently killed
28 A huge monument is built and many slaves are worked to death
29 A huge monument is built and sacrifices are required during construction
30 Ox wagons with goods are sent into the wilderness
31 Left in wooden cages on old pagan grounds just beyond civilized roads
32 Left on cliffs at low tide, high tide will cover sacrifices
33 Victims crushed by stone slabs
34 Victims crushed by statues of divinities
35 Statue with articulated arms holding weapons dismember sacrifices
36 Statue with axe or sword beheads victims
37 Statue with animated mouth chomps victims and blood runs down stairs
38 Victims cooked with huge lense that lights burning pit
39 Collection of human hearts left for creature
40 Victims with weighed legs hurled into flooded pit
41 Bloody skulls in heaps piled up as sacrifice
42 Acid dripped on sacrifice till dissolved
43 Victims and treasure hurled into acid pit
44 Victims and treasure hurled into volcano
45 Tied to wild beasts and sent into to forbidden land
46 Dropped down pit with giant snake or worm
47 Victims hurled to undead or lycanthropes to create more
48 Victims hurled into huge stone mill turned by chanting workers
49 Sacrifices frozen in blocks of ice then sawed up and/or set adrift in sea
50 Sacrificed weighted and hurled into sea or lake or well or rapid flowing river
51 Victims strangled and fed to animals
52 Virgins staked out with treasure for dragon
53 Attractive youths sealed in labyrinth with minotaur
54 Hurled from mountain top
55 Staked out for giant birds to carry away
56 Staked out for giant ape or kaiju to carry away
57 Sealed in vault with tentacled forgotten elder god
58 Hurled from boat into waiting arms of fish men
59 Demons called to carry sacrifice to nether realms
60 Sunk int a swamp, living sacrifices possibly strangled first
61 Sunk into septic pit of sewerage
62 Buried under foundations of temple
63 Fired into ravine or wall by trebuchet
64 Thrown into huge kiln or forge
65 Burned in huge wicker man figure in ritual
66 Thrown through entry to the underworld
67 Left in sacks by faerie circles or elf mound under full moon
68 Hurling sacrifice into lair of monster with petrifying or death gaze
69 Hurled into pit of hungry lions or bears or other monster
70 Local high wizard and apprentices destroy with fireballs or other spells
71 Hurled int spike filled pit
72 Hurled into pit of snakes or scorpions
73 Hurled into pit of giant spider webs
74 Slaughtered by soldiers on sacred field
75 Driven through gauntlet of holy men with flails
76 Forced to battle each other or gladiators in arena
77 Staked then fired at by archers or slingers or javelins or darts
78 Staked or buried up to neck then mob hurl stones at
79 Staked to iron pole or tree in lightning storm
80 Hurled into bottomless crack in the earth
81 Covered in honey and left out for bears or insects to eat
82 Hurled downs steep staircase and torn apart by mob at bottom
83 Servant of the gods in chariot comes from heavens to collect sacrifice
84 Destroyed by wizards summoning elementals
85 Lowered into cauldron of boiling metal
86 Sealed in trap filled complex
87 Hurled into green slime pit
88 Hurled into pit of rot grubs
89 Hauled int pit overcrowded with plague carriers
90 Hurled into septic pit with neo-otyugh
91 Hurled into subterranean ruined elder city roaming with shoggoths
92 Tied and hurled into carrion crawler pit and Implanted with eggs
93 Chained to rock exposed to sun to slowly die and desiccated
94 Hurled into magical hole nobody knows where it goes
95 Sealed in cave with living lake of protoplasm spawning monsters
96 Hurled in a pit, actually digestive tract of titanic slumbering beast
97 Sealed in ancient tomb full of mummies or a lich
98 Hurled though a hellgate to the nine hells
99 Hurled through gate to elemental plane (or quasi or demi or para plane)
100 Lashed together in cage filled with hundreds of stirges

House Rules for 5th Edition D&D Crossbows and Ballistas

As someone who has 3 crossbows (and 27 other bows - and I also makes bows and crossbows) I am ever appalled by the rules for crossbows and archery in 5th Edition D&D - and other editions for that matter.

My reasoning is because the rules don't reflect the time required to reload a crossbow, the sheer damage a crossbow does, their range, their ease of use, or their penetrating power. I am not alone in this either, crossbowmen around the world look at dismay in the way crossbows are being shown in D&D, movies, TV shows, and poorly researched fiction. (Don't even get me started with Daryl's use of the crossbow in The Walking Dead...)

The current rules are as follows:

Hand Crossbow
75 gp - 1d6 piercing - 3 lbs. -  Ammunition (range 25/100), light, loading.

Light Crossbow
25 gp - 1d8 piercing - 5 lbs. - Ammunition (range 80/320), loading, two-handed.

Heavy Crossbow
50 gp - 1d10 piercing - 18 lbs. - Ammunition (range 100/400), heavy, loading, two-handed.

The stats for the Hand Crossbow are reasonably accurate, they are fairly quick to reload. However the stats for Light Crossbow and Heavy Crossbow are woefully wrong. Not just "inaccurate", just plain wrong.

The problems are the damage (or lack thereof) and the "Loading". In the PHB:
"Loading. Because of the time required to load this weapon you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make."
While that is reasonable that they would be slower, it doesn't realistically reflect how much time it takes to stick your foot in the crossbow stirrup and load a crossbow bolt - or using the windlass crank method. Therefore I must assume that these are pretty weak crossbows that can be quickly loaded by hand, instead of using a foot stirrup or a windlass.

To fix this problem and make it more realistic I have introduced to my Monday 5th Edition game the following as House Rules:

Stirrup Light Crossbow
35 gp - 1d10 piercing - 6 lbs. - Ammunition (range 90/360), moderate loading, two-handed.

Stirrup Heavy Crossbow
60 gp - 2d6 piercing - 20 lbs. - Ammunition (range 125/500), heavy, moderate loading, two-handed.

Windlass Light Crossbow
50 gp - 2d8 piercing - 7 lbs. - Ammunition (range 100/400), long loading, two-handed.

Windlass Heavy Crossbow
100 gp - 2d10 piercing - 21 lbs. - Ammunition (range 150/600), heavy, long loading, two-handed.

Large Windlass Crossbow
You will notice I am not getting rid of the old weak crossbows. They are still there. In terms of DM description I will describe them as "an old crappy crossbow". I am simply adding new crossbows that are more realistic to reload and do realistic damage.

You will also notice I fixed the ranges so that they are more realistic. In real life crossbows have comparable ranges to English warbows (think of a longbow, but even more powerful).

Quick Loading - (This replaces the standard "Loading" from the PHB.) It takes a Bonus Action to reload this weapon because it is relatively easy to reload. Because of the time required to load this weapon you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

Moderate Loading - To reload this weapon a character must use an action or a move-equivalent action (forfeiting all movement for the round). They also cannot reload while on horseback or while being moved/jostled. Regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make, you cannot fire more than once per round (unless Hasted, in which case they can use the bonus action from being hasted to reload).

Long Loading - To reload this weapon a character must use a full round action, forfeiting all movement, actions, bonus actions and reactions. They also cannot reload while on horseback or while being moved/jostled. Regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make, you cannot fire more than once per round. (Even if hasted, they still cannot attack more than once per round.)

Lengthy Loading Speed - This weapon can only be fired once every few rounds because it takes multiple actions to load, aim and fire. This can vary on the weapon and will be listed in the weapon description. See Ballistas below as an example.

Ballistas, All Sizes Great and Small

The DMG only lists one kind of ballista, however there are many different sizes and types of ballistas. The standard DMG ballista is as follows:

Regular Ballista, Large Object
AC 15, Hit Points 50
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

A ballista is a massive crossbow that fires heavy bolts. Before it can be fired, it must be loaded and aimed. It takes one action to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it.
  • Ballista Bolt - Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 120/480 ft., one target. Hit: 3d10 piercing damage.
You will note that that the standard small Ballista requires 3 actions to load, aim and fire - so in theory 3 people working as a team could reload, aim and shoot a ballista in a single round. This logically means that this isn't a very big ballista. It is quite small by ballista standards. It is probably the size of a cart, has wheels on the sides like a cannon would, and could be pulled by a donkey or a horse.

Large Ballista, Large Object
AC 15, Hit Points 75
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

A large ballista is a massive crossbow that fires heavy bolts, slightly bigger than the regular large ballista. Before it can be fired, it must be loaded and aimed. It takes two actions to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it. In terms of size the large ballista is approx. the size of a large cart, but heavier. It requires a draft horse or an oxen to pull it.
  • Ballista Bolt - Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 4d10 piercing damage.

Huge Ballista, Huge Object (Variant A)
AC 15, Hit Points 100
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

A huge ballista is giant sized crossbow that fires very heavy bolts. Before it can be fired, it must be loaded and aimed. It takes three actions to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it. Due to its size this huge ballista fits on a structure the size of a large wagon and requires a team of four horses to pull it.
  • Ballista Bolt - Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 175/700 ft., one target. Hit: 5d10 piercing damage.

Huge Ballista, Huge Object (Variant B)
AC 15, Hit Points 125
Damage Immunities: Poison, Psychic

A huge ballista is giant sized crossbow that fires very heavy bolts. Before it can be fired, it must be loaded and aimed. It takes four actions to load the weapon, one action to aim it, and one action to fire it. Due to its size this huge ballista fits on a structure the size of a large wagon and requires a team of six horses to pull it.
  • Ballista Bolt - Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 200/800 ft., one target. Hit: 6d10 piercing damage.
And there are undoubtedly more variants DMs could make. I recommend sticking to the 1 action per 1d10 for the reloading/aiming/firing time. So for example if the PCs find a gigantic ballista, it might take 10 actions to reload, aim and shoot - and consequently does 10d10 piercing damage.

If the ballista is mobile, it should require an ever increasing number (or size) of beasts to pull it. A gigantic ballista for example might require a team of eight mammoths to pull it.

Alternative Ammo - Increasing Range / Forfeiting Damage

It is possible to increase the range of a crossbow bolt simply by making it lighter. The easiest way to do this are to:
  • Reduce weight of the broadhead by making it smaller.
  • Reduce the width of the shaft, and consequently the weight.
  • Make the crossbow bolt shorter lengthwise, which reduces the weight.
The reduced weight increases distance. While it is more complicated in real life to calculate how much difference this will make, in D&D terms we can simply increase the range while decreasing damage. Examples:
  • 100/400 increased to 110/440, and reducing damage from 1d10 to 1d10-1.
  • 100/400 increased to 120/480, and reducing damage from 1d10 to 1d8.
Alternative Ammo - Blunt Broadheads

Any bowhunter or crossbow hunter who likes hunting small game will know what this refers to: Blunt arrowheads, like the modern one shown in the photo on the right.

For hunting purposes blunt arrowheads (also sometimes called as bludgeoners) are used because the archer or crossbowman might hit the small game in the guts. If a sharp broadhead rips through the guts of a small animal, it will spill those guts into the quality meat - thus spoiling the meat.

Blunt arrowheads are also handy for harvesting fur, as they bludgeon the wee animal to death without damaging the fur or the meat. Since most bowhunters are using 40+ lbs bows, think of it like getting hit by 40+ lbs of force traveling at 200 fps (feet per second). The arrowhead doesn't need to be sharp to kill a wee critter with that much kinetic energy.

To put this in perspective, a 50 lb bow shooting at a deer with a sharp broadhead will sometimes see the arrow go right through the deer's ribcage and keep going. Perhaps hitting a tree behind the deer. The same bow and same broadhead against a rabbit? That would be really messy.

For Blunt Arrowheads I recommend the following change: Reduce the damage one size in die (eg. from 1d8 to 1d6), change the damage to Blunt instead of Piercing. Useful against Skeletons.

Alternative Ammo for "Stone Crossbows" and Ballistas

Windlass Stone Crossbow
Crossbows and ballistas don't actually have to use a crossbow bolts to shoot. The crossbow (or ballista) can also be designed to shoot a metal ball instead. For crossbows this would be equivalent in size to a sling bullet, for ballistas it would be sized similar to a small or large cannon ball (depending on the size of the ballista).

Historically the bullet shooting crossbow has been around for over 2100 years. It is sometimes called a "Stone Crossbow" because it shoots stones or metal balls instead of crossbow bolts. (The name will doubtlessly confuse players until they figure out what it uses for ammo.) Early versions of this weapon shot ceramic clay balls instead of metal, because they were cheap and light. Later versions used a half ounce lead ball.

So why shoot crossbow bullets or metal balls instead?

#1. Increased range. If a missile weighs less, it gains more speed and can travel further distances, but it comes at a cost of impact damage. (Some of the kinetic energy is used making the object travel faster, but this means when it finally hits the target that it deals less damage.
#2. Bludgeoning damage, combined with piercing damage if it actually does pierce the target.

I already explained blunt broadheads and increasing range/forfeiting damage further above. Using lead balls basically combines the two, dramatically reducing the weight and switching the damage from piercing to blunt.

Slingshot Stone Crossbow
To use this kind of ammo, a crossbow or ballista needs to be designed with a chute for the ball to travel through similar to a rifle barrel. Alternatives to this are using a device similar in shape to a slingshot - see photo on the right. It could also be designed with a funnel with more ammo in it for slightly faster reloading.

The big downside of crossbow bullets was that they dealt less damage. Historically stone crossbows were used for shooting birds and small game. They were very accurate at long distances, but did very little damage to the target.

For calculating the distance and damage of crossbow bullets, I recommend the following:
  • Reduce the damage approx. 25%. So 1d8 for example becomes 1d6. Or 1d6 becomes 1d4. Round up or down to the nearest logically die size.
  • Increase the range of the weapon by 25%. So for example a range of 100/400 becomes 125/500.
  • Piercing damage becomes Bludgeoning damage. Or depending on circumstances, both.

Higher Quality Weapons / Alternative Weapons

I am a fan of alternative designs for weapons, making them with extra features / modifications that other weapons do not have. Examples of such weapon modifications are:
  • Increasing / decreasing range.
  • Increasing / decreasing damage.
  • Changing the loading time requirements.
  • Increasing / decreasing weapon weight.
  • Increasing / decreasing weapon cost in gp.
  • +1 to hit / -1 to hit.
  • +1 to damage / -1 to damage.
Each time you modify a weapon, there should be a price exacted, usually in combination with the gold piece cost, weight, and the time required to make it. A prototype for example will likely take 3 or 5 times longer than a standard weapon to create as it will require experimentation.





The Top 50 D&D Modules of All Time

The following list, The Top 50 D&D Modules of All Time, was compiled using multiple sources that ranked the best D&D modules of all time. Some of the lists were top 10, top 20, top 25, top 30, etc. Some of the lists focused mostly on dungeon crawls. Others had a mix of dungeon crawls and alternative adventures. It should therefore then come as no surprise that the top two modules are TOEE and Ravenloft, a classic dungeon crawl, and a mixture of dungeon crawl/alternative adventure.

Some of the modules are old classics. Some of them are newer. They are all ranked here.

To rank the modules I awarded points to the order adventure models were listed in. Then I repeated this process for each list, and tallied up the points. In other words, the more modules an adventure was listed in, and the higher their ranking in those lists, determined how high they ranked here. I also had to adjust for how some lists only listed the top 10 or top 20, and thus had to make an effort to find lists that were longer and more inclusive.

Star rankings were then given to modules based on their overall rank, and ordered by their points within the individual sections below.

Five Star Modules
  1. Temple of Elemental Evil
  2. Ravenloft

4.75 Star Modules
  1. Tomb of Horrors
  2. Keep on the Borderlands
  3. Queen of the Spiders
  4. White Plume Mountain
  5. Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
Note - There will doubtlessly be people who complain and claim that one or more of the above 5 modules belong in the top two or three spots. You are entitled to your opinion. In which case I encourage you to post your alternative top list in the comments section at the bottom.


 4.5 Star Modules
  1. The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar
  2. Red Hand of Doom
  3. Desert of Desolation
  4. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
  5. Castle Amber
  6. Dragons of Despair (DL1)
  7. Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

4.25 Star Modules
  1. Against the Giants
  2. Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  3. Isle of Dread
  4. Lost City
  5. In Search of the Unknown

Four Star Modules
  1. Treasure Hunt
  2. Dragonlance (DL1 to DL12)
  3. Irilian (Parts 1 to 6)
  4. Feast of Goblyns
  5. Bloodstone Pass
  6. Dead Gods
  7. Mad Monkey vs the Dragon Claw
  8. Lich-Queen's Beloved
  9. Die Vecna Die!
  10. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil
  11. The Last Days of Constantinople
  12. Return to the Tomb of Horrors
  13. In Search of New Gods
  14. Whispering Cairn
  15. Gates of Firestorm Peak
  16. When A Star Falls
  17. Queen of the Demonweb Pits
  18. Forge of Fury
  19. Curse of the Azure Bonds
  20. Dwellers of the Forbidden City
  21. When Black Roses Bloom
  22. Dead Gods
  23. Revenge of the Giants
  24. The Lair of Maldred the Mighty
  25. Night Below
  26. The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga
  27. Ruins of Undermountain
  28. Red Arrow, Black Shield
  29. The Veiled Society
  30. King of the Trollhaunt Warrens
  31. Against the Cult of the Reptile God

Honourable Mentions
  1. Scourge of the Slave Lords
  2. Marauders of the Dune Sea
  3. Dark Tower
  4. Forgotten Temple of Tharzidun
  5. City of the Spider Queen
  6. City of Skulls
  7. The Assassin's Knot
  8. Ghost Tower of Inverness
  9. Palace of the Silver Princess
  10. Palace of the Vampire Queen
So yeah. Technically I went overboard and ranked 60 instead of 50. Hence the honourable mentions. Sue me.

The Beginning of the End for The Walking Dead

Spoiler Alert

Seasons 4, 5 and 6 were the best seasons of the hit TV show "The Walking Dead".

The problem however was that in season 6 they kept teasing the death of fan favourite, Glenn.

And then the season 6 finale in which it was clear someone had died, but we didn't know who.

Speaking for myself and my wife, we were really annoyed with the season 6 finale. It was super annoying.

So when the season 7 premiere aired on October 23rd we were basically just waiting to see who had died. In the comic books it was supposed to be Glenn. They had teased killing off Glenn during season 6.

The wife and I looked at the camera angle. There was no hair in the eyes of the person who died, and based on that combination of factors we determined it could be Glenn. Glenn was too far to the side and he had hair dangling down in his eyes. The only character that made sense was Abraham.

So when the season 7 premiere came our theory was vindicated. Abraham was killed off.

And then the baddie Negan killed Glenn too. You know, just for kicks. Two characters gone.

That was the last episode the wife and I watched together.

We stopped watching The Walking Dead, which had been our Sunday ritual. Some people go to church, we went to my mother-in-law's and watched The Walking Dead as a family.

We started watching West World and other TV shows instead. Or playing video games on the PS4. Watching movies. Waiting for Game of Thrones to be on, a show where we are okay with characters dying regularly, because sometimes they come back to life or are revealed to have never died at all.

For example, Stannis isn't dead. Brienne did swing a sword at him, but they never showed him dying. Stannis is now missing a leg, but he is still alive.

Anywho, back to the topic of The Walking Dead.

The viewership of The Walking Dead has dropped dramatically during season 7. The wife and I are not the only people who went cold turkey on watching the show.

During seasons 4, 5 and 6 the show had consistent double digit viewership in the millions.
  • Season 4 had viewership of 11.29 million to 16.11 million viewers in the USA.
  • Season 5 had viewership of 12.27 million to 17.29 million viewers in the USA.
  • Season 6 had viewership of 12.18 million to 14.63 million viewers in the USA.

The average viewership for episodes for those 3 seasons were typically 12, 13 or 14 million viewers.

And now season 7...

Season 7 opened strong with 17.03 million viewers, mostly because many people wanted to know who had died.

Episode 2 dropped to 12.46 million.
Episode 3 dropped to 11.72 million.

And a steady decline. The lowest being 10.40 million for episode 6. The first 6 episodes of season 7 only pulled in an average of 11.05 million viewers in the USA.

The mid-season finale only had 10.58 million viewers.

Last week's mid-season premiere on February 12th should have had good numbers, but instead only had 12.00 million viewers.

Now these are still technically good numbers compared to seasons 1 and 2, back when the show was barely talked about and only "zombie nerds" like myself were watching it. (Back when I hadn't even met my future wife and I was a lonely bachelor.)

Now I am not the only person to notice the loss of fans for The Walking Dead. The ratings for season 7 are also down.

Translation. Fans are pissed that they killed off Glenn.

HBO is publicly bragging about the 12 million viewers they had for the mid-season premiere last Sunday. However that is actually lower than the average season 4 episode, and is therefore nothing to be bragging about.

HBO knows that The Walking Dead is now on the downward slope of its popularity. They knew it when they saw the viewership for the first five episodes of season 7, as shown below.


And they know they made a mistake killing off Glenn as a character.

He had been there since episode 1, even if he was only the voice in the tank speaking to Rick on the radio.

But it is too late now. No backsies. This isn't Dallas where you can pretend an entire season of a TV show was just Pamela's bad dream.

Now the only thing they can do for the show to revive it is to start thinking radically.

Do they kill off more characters, especially the ones fan's don't like very much?

Do they bring in big name actors who will draw a crowd? Could you imagine if they got Tom Hanks or a similar brand name actor to do a season or half of a season on the show? Truly that would be a gamble.

Do they do something controversial that will get people talking about the show on social media?

Or should they just keep to what they were doing, knowing that they might be screwed anyway?

Perhaps it is time they start thinking about the end game? A cure for the disease. Or maybe they find someone who is immune to it.

Perhaps crossovers with Fear the Walking Dead (the spinoff show) might revitalize the franchise?

Can they win back the fans who left because they were pissed over Glenn's death? Maybe.

Or maybe this is truly the Beginning of the End for The Walking Dead. Maybe the show is dying and cannot be revived. Maybe it will limp downwards in viewership and ratings, but stay alive - just barely - and become undead.

At which point maybe it will be time to shoot it in the head and just end it.

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