Followers

2nd Edition Potionmaking Skill / NWP

So I recently did a post about a 2nd Edition Scrollmaking Skill / NWP, which is a homebrew skill which allows PCs and NPCs to make scrolls even if they are levels 2 to 8. Normally a mage needs to be level 9 to do either potion-making or scroll-making.

Having the skills however allows the character to do scroll-making and potion-making at lower levels when having such things are more beneficial. However that doesn't mean that the task isn't still difficult.

If you read my previous post about Scrollmaking then you know it is still a daunting task just to make a single scroll, and that you need a recipe to find the necessary ink, quill and special paper to make the scroll. It is still possible to make scrolls without following a recipe precisely, but the PC's chance of success drops considerably.

The same goes with my homebrew Potionmaking Skill.

The goal here is to allow PCs to still make potions if they want to, but they will need to either find a recipe - or they need to experiment.

Unlike Scrollmaking, which can still be successful using cheap materials, Potionmaking must have the materials required for the potion to work. However, without a recipe it is still possible to make a potion without actually following a recipe. The problem is that it is trial and error as to whether their experiment actually works, and if it fails then they wasted both their time and materials and money. In this respect, experimenting with potionmaking is a bit like Wild Magic. There is no guarantee it will work, there is no guarantee it will make something you want. eg. The person might make a Firebreathing potion instead of a Resist Fire potion.

As per the DMG (page 87) creating a potion costs between 200 to 1000 gp, and this cost is associated with the level of the spell the creator is trying to imbue the potion with.

Thus here are the creation costs and brewing times for various potions:
  • Potion of Climbing - 200 gp, 2 days
  • Potion of Healing* - 200 gp, 2 days
  • Potion of ESP - 300 gp, 3 days
  • Potion of Invisibility - 300 gp, 3 days
  • Potion of Levitation - 300 gp, 3 days
  • Potion of Clairaudience - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Clairvoyance - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Flying - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Speed - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Waterbreathing - 400 gp, 4 days
  • Potion of Extra Healing* - 600 gp, 6 days
  • Elixir of Health - 700 gp, 7 days
  • Elixir of Youth - 1000 gp, 10 days

* Remember only clerics or druids can make Potions of Healing, Elixirs of Health, Potions of Extra Healing*, etc. Likewise clerics and druids cannot create potions that only wizards can create, unless the potion is part of their domain. eg. A cleric who worships a fire god could still make potions of Firebreathing. Or likewise a priest who worships a water god could create a Waterbreathing potion.

The creation cost is based on the bare minimum needed to create an equivalent magic. eg. A mage needs to be at least 5th level to cast Haste, thus they also need to be 5th level to be able to create a Potion of Speed.

Notice also that this is only the base creation cost. This does not include the cost of any special ingredients or the cost of making a laboratory for wizards/druids (or an altar for priests).

The base cost of a laboratory is a minimum of 2000 gp, + 10% / 200 gp per month to replace broken items. This only covers the costs of furnishings and equipment. The Potionmaker still needs a place to store their smelly creation factory.

The base cost of a special altar (for priests) is similarly 2000 gp + 10% / 200 gp per month for new candle, new incense, repairs, holy water, etc. It doesn't smell so bad, but since some people might worship other deities and interrupt the process it is usually best to build this altar in a place where the priest will not be distracted and interrupted.

eg. Building it in a cave sounds like a great idea until a sleepy bear shows up and wants to claim the cave for its new den.

The Chance of Success

70% base chance
+1% for every 2 levels of the spellcaster
-1% for every 100 gp cost (or days)
+5% for every Special Ingredient collected
+5% for having the Potionmaking Skill

eg. Making an Elixir of Youth (which requires the caster to be able to cast 9th level spells) would have the following chance:

70% + 9% for a 18th level mage -10% for the 1000 gp / 10 days it takes to create = 69% chance of success.

Remember the DM should be rolling in secret for the PC and writing down the number. They could make a cursed potion by accident.

With such a mediocre chance of success (and failure means a Cursed Elixir of Youth which ages the imbiber), the mage should really want to boost their chances by collecting as many Special Ingredients as they can, which is why it would be handy to find a Recipe of Elixir of Youth before attempting this process.

And having the Potionmaking Skill / NWP would also be handy, as it would also provide an extra 5% chance.

Potionmaking
Ability: Intelligence
Check Modifier: 0
Prerequisites: Must be at least level 2 spellcaster, Mages/Bards must have Herbalism or Alchemy*, Druids must have Healing or Herbalism, whereas Clerics must have either Religion, Herbalism, Astrology or Healing.

* Alchemy isn't listed in the PHB, but there are other sources. Some DMs may allow Alchemy as a skill by itself, which is useful for making acid, glue, alchemist's fire, and various other alchemical creations.

Note - Unlike Scrollmaking, being literate isn't necessary. Although being able to read/write is handy if the Potionmaker finds a recipe and needs to be able to read it.

Benefits
  • The potionmaker can make potions, philters, oils and elixirs starting at level 2 instead of the normal level 9 requirement. (They may want to leave a skill slot empty so they can take this skill at level 2, otherwise they may need to wait until level 3.)
  • The potionmaker gains +5% to their potionmaking check for each proficiency slot spent on their Potionmaking skill.
  • At levels 2, 4, 6 and every 2 levels afterwards the potionmaker chooses 1 new spell for which they have learned a new recipe for creating potions.
  • The potionmaker can find recipes for how to make scrolls at the DM's discretion. Libraries, sages, seers may be able to provide recipes, at the DM's discretion.
  • By sniffing a potion or daubing a tiny sample of it on their skin, the potionmaker can attempt to identify an unknown potion by making an Potionmaking check. If successful, they have guessed its usage. (Potions of Delusion and similar cursed potions may still confuse them however.)
  • The potionmaker can attempt an experiment to create a potion recipe using rare ingredients. Their base chance to succeed is 5% at level 2, which improves to 10% level 3, and improves 5% at each level thereafter. eg. A level 11 mage would have a 50% chance of discovering a new recipe. They still pay all the costs associated and the number of days conducting the experiment is still spent, regardless of whether they fail or succeed.
  • Even if their experiment failed, there is a 5% chance (96 to 100 on percentile dice) of creating something potentially useful. eg. A Firebreathing potion if they were trying to make a Resist Fire potion. Or perhaps they invented a new kind of poison.
  • Potion Recipes can only improve the potionmaker's chances by a combined maximum of 15% if they manage to collect all the ingredients (usually there is 3 or 4 ingredients).
  • Making a successful Potionmaking skill check can allow the potionmaker some useful knowledge when dealing with certain creatures. eg. They might remember that Su-Monster meat is mildly poisonous, and thus useful for making ingested poisons.

Sample Potion Recipes

Philter of Love Recipe
  1. Nymphs Tears*
  2. Sweat from a Noble Lamia
  3. Essence of a Blue Mountain Rose
  4. Potionmaker must have Charm Monster in their spellbook and be able to cast it.
* Page 270 of the Monster Manual, under Nymph Ecology "The tears of a nymph can be used to as an ingredient in a Philter of Love.


Paralyzing Poison Recipe
  1. The proboscis of a jungle stirge
  2. Ground wolfsbane or monkshood
  3. The poison glands of a desert heway
  4. Potionmaker must be at least level 7.
Note - All 3 of these things are already paralytic poisons, but combining all 3 together successfully will make a poison that has a -4 saving throw, and thus is more potent and useful. Furthermore it will have a better shelf-life than normal poisons which lose their potency over time. As a magical potion, this will never lose its potency.


Potion of ESP
  • The ground brain of a mindflayer
  • Boiled slime from a gray ooze
  • Two eyes from an elven cat
Note - Some PCs may object to taking the eyes of an elven cat, so remember they don't always have to follow the recipe completely. Having all 3 ingredients gives a +15% to the chance of successfully making the potion, but having only 2 ingredients will still provide a +10% chance of success.




Advanced Alchemy and Advanced Herbalism

At the DMs option they may also allow PCs to create specific alchemical recipes or herbalism recipes.

Example:

The players find both Belladonna flowers and Xarsian Red Turnips, both of which are poisonous when eaten. By mixing them however and making a Herbalism check they might be able to make an ingested poison with a -2 saving throw which has a combined dire effect and a better shelf life than other poisons (although not a permanent shelf life like a magical poison would have).

Likewise, an alchemist could find some magnesium, naphtha, tar and other chemicals which they can use for making alchemist's fire (Greek Fire was a closely guarded secret recipe). If they combine the ingredients using an Alchemy skill check they manage to make a jar of the stuff which can be thrown at enemies.



2nd Edition Scrollmaking Skill / NWP

Okay so in 2nd Edition AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) there are already rules for scroll-making (and potion-making) outlined in the DMG on pages 85 to 87.

However in my Friday 2nd Edition AD&D game I have decided to introduce a new non-weapon proficiency (NWP) skill to be known simply as "Scrollmaking".

As per the normal rules all mages gain the ability to make potions and scrolls at level 9. Plus the ability to make other magical items when they gain the spell "Enchant an Item" when they reach level 12.

Having the following skill however boosts their ability with scrollmaking by 5%, and furthermore allows them to make scrolls at lower levels.

Also, the skill isn't limited to mages. Clerics, druids, bards, rangers and other spellcasters can also gain this proficiency, which means they can likewise follow the same rules for scrollmaking.

Note - I also made a separate post for the Potionmaking Skill.

So here we go...

Everything below here is at the DM's Option for whether they want this in their game.

Scrollmaking
Ability: Intelligence.
Check Modifier: 0.
Prerequisites: Reading/Writing*, and must be a minimum level 2 spellcaster**.

* Unlike most skills, Scrollmaking requires that the person is literate and knows how to read/write. Duh.
** Yep, I am still imposing that they must be at least a level 2 spellcaster. Which means many spellcasters cannot gain this proficiency until level 3 unless they deliberately leave a skill slot empty at level 1.

Benefits:
  • The scrollmaker can make scrolls using the following rules (further below);
  • The scrollmaker gains a +5% bonus to their Scrollmaking check for each proficiency slot they use on their Scrollmaking skill.
  • At levels 2, 4, 6 and every 2 levels afterwards the Scrollmaker chooses 1 spell in their spellbook and gains knowledge of 1 recipe for making a scroll of that particular spell.
  • The scrollmaker can find recipes for how to make scrolls at the DM's discretion. Libraries, sages, seers may be able to provide recipes, at the DM's discretion.
  • The Scrollmaker no longer needs to cast Read Magic when reading a scroll which was made by a different spellcaster, instead they can simply roll a 1d20 to do a Scrollmaking check. If they succeed, they can read the scroll without needing to cast Read Magic.
  • At level 9, the Scrollmaker now has a base 40% chance of guessing how to make a particular scroll. This chance improves 5% per spellcaster level. (Note that the DM does not have to tell the PC whether their guess is accurate. A bad guess results in a -10 to -60% chance to successfully making the scroll. Roll 1d6 to determine how bad the guess is.)


Making Scrolls

Base chance to succeed: 80%.

Level of Scroll: -1% for each level of the scroll.

Level of Spellcaster: +1% for each caster level of the PC.

Other Bonuses: If the PC has Artistic Ability (Calligraphy) they gain +5%. If the scroll is on a stone tablet, Artistic Ability (Stonecarving) would provide a +5%.

Quill or Brush or Chisel
  • Quill/Brush/Chisel made from exotic and relevant magical creature: +5%.
  • Quill/Brush/Chisel made from a magical creature: +0%.
  • Quill/Brush/Chisel made from a non-magical creature or material: -5%.
Scroll
  • Exotic Paper: +10%. (Exotic paper can only be made use magical plant fibres. eg. Paper made from treant pulp.)
  • Paper: +5%.
  • Exotic Parchment: +5%.
  • Parchment: +0%.
  • Exotic Papyrus: +0%.
  • Exotic Stone Tablet: +0%.
  • Papyrus: -5%.
  • Stone Tablet: -5%.
Ink
  • Super Exotic Ink: +5%.
  • Exotic Ink: +0%.
  • Lesser Quality Ink: -20%.
Other Factors

Not following a recipe correctly results in a -10% to -60% chance. You can skip 1 or 2 ingredients and substitute things that are similar (a quill made from salamander bone instead of red dragon bone), but completely ignoring the recipe really hurts the Scrollmaker's chances.

Thus if the Scrollmaker is level 5, and they are making a Magic Missile Scroll using an exotic quill, exotic paper, and super exotic ink their chance would be:

80% +5% -1% +5% (Scrollmaking NWP bonus) +5% +10% +5% = 109% chance of success.

The same Scrollmaker making a Fireball scroll using a non-magical quill, papyrus, cheap ink and is clearly not following a recipe would have the following chance:

80% +5% -3% +5% -5% -5% -20% -10 to 60% = 0% to 47% chance of success. On average they would have a 22% chance of success. Thus there would be an average 78% that the scroll is cursed.


Other Notes:

If you are familiar with the existing scrollmaking rules in the DMG, then you know this skill is really just expanding upon the rules already set in the DMG.

The scrollmaking process takes 1 day for each level of the spell.

If the Scrollmaker is interrupted during the process of making their scroll, their attempt is automatically ruined by spilling ink on the scroll, accidentally ripping the scroll, etc.

Rolling 96 to 100 ALWAYS FAILS.

The DM makes the scrollmaking roll in secret and writes down the number.

If they fail in the roll the scroll is cursed. See DMG, page 86.

A Remove Curse spell turns any cursed scroll into dust. Don't remind the PC however.

All the ink and the quill/brush/chisel are used during the creation of a single scroll.

DM's Notes

A Scrollmaker doesn't have to get the skill to use this skill. A mage would still gain this ability at level 9 regardless, in which case the DM needs a way to handle scrollmaking. Thus recipes are still handy from a DMing perspective, as it both limits the players ability to say "I want to spend 150 days making 50 Fireball scrolls!" because A) They don't have the recipe, and B) They have not spent time gathering the materials.

As a DM I like a "Carrot and Whip" approach to dealing with players who make such demands.

I give them a carrot:

"You find a recipe for how to make a Scroll of Strength."

And then they read the recipe (the whip) and learn what it entails.


Strength Scroll Recipe
  1. Hill Giant Bone Chisel.
  2. Stone Tablet made from a slain rock elemental or stone golem. (A clay tablet made from the dirt of a slain earth elemental will also suffice.)
  3. Ink brewed from the tears of a Roc mixed with dragon dung.
At which point the PC learns that it will take some effort to do all of this. Like how the heck do you get a Roc to shed tears?


More Recipes

Magic Missile Recipe
  1. Quill made from leg bone of an elf.
  2. Parchment from the skin of a green hag.
  3. Ink brewed from eye juice of a beholder.

Fireball Recipe
  1. Quill made from the bone of a red dragon.
  2. Parchment made from fire snakeskin.
  3. Ink brewed from the ashes of a slain pyromancer.
So just to make a Fireball scroll, they need to kill a red dragon, a fire snake, and a pyromancer.

Suddenly that player who wants to make 50 Fireball scrolls needs 50 red dragon bones, 50 dead fire snakes, and the ashes from 50 pyromancers.

Good luck with that.

Again, the PC doesn't have to follow the recipe perfectly. If they killed several pyromancers and fire snakes, they could skip the red dragon and use quills made from salamander bone instead. Their chance of success is 5% lower since it isn't exotic, but they are still following most of the recipe.

Thus the PC still gets to make some scrolls, but they realize there is limitations to how many they can make.

Likewise the DM now has opportunities to offer quests to the players from people making scrolls (and/or potions) who are looking for specific magical ingredients.

"Go bring me back the skins of 10 firesnakes and I will pay you 20 gp per skin, and reward you with a recipe for how to make Fireball scrolls."


D&D Miniatures, why are they so expensive?

Okay so I was browsing Amazon earlier today looking at D&D minis and I saw that the small box sets of random miniatures were typically $25 to $40 CDN each.

Now keep in mind, these small sets only contain 5 random miniatures.

So that is roughly $5 to $8 CDN per mini.

Years ago (not that long ago either) I remember a time when you could buy a random box of 5 minis for $15 (or less). So clearly the prices have gone up dramatically in recent years.



I also messed around on HeroForge for a bit, designing a custom minotaur mini. The end product would have cost me $19.99 to $29.99 USD depending on what kind of plastic you want it made out of.

Shipping the mini to Canada is an extra $15 USD by the way... So you are looking at $35 to $45 for a single custom mini.

Then I went on Etsy to see what other custom minis were going for...

Oh boy.

The following wolf mini was $41 CDN for the basic model. But if you wanted the "ultra detailing" it was $68.29 CDN for 1 mini.


Now I get it. It is hand painted by a professional artist. It makes sense that it should cost a lot more than standard minis.

Also on Etsy...

$205 CDN for a Spirit of the Forest.

$191 CDN for a fire giant.

$164 CDN for a set of 8 painted goblins.

And so forth.

And those all make sense.

The cost of the mini plus the cost of getting a custom paint job by a professional.

People have to eat. They have rent to pay. They are tired of living in their parents' basement while painting miniatures for a living.

So it makes sense that custom one-of-a-kind minis would be $80 each.

The wolf mini for only $41 is cheaper because it can be mass produced and isn't "custom" so much as it is hand painted.

Years ago I got a custom mini for Wrathgar from HeroForge, and then - being skilled with a brush - I painted it myself. Was still about $35-$40 at the time for the mini, and I have since used Wrathgar many times in D&D games - including a multitude of Adventurers League games.

So in that respect, getting Wrathgar as a custom mini was definitely worth it. I have been able to enjoy using the mini ever since.

Previous to that I had been using the Athasian Half-Giant for Wrathgar, which worked well enough. It was okay. But it was missing Wrathgar's iconic helmet.

Back in Summer 2018 I also had a custom digital portrait done for Wrathgar by an artist, Edgar Lopez, who can be found on Facebook. Cost for this digital colour sketch? A mere $20 USD.

Wrathgar Portrait by Edgar Lopez

Which was extremely reasonable.

For a sketch it was very well done. Makes me wonder what I would have got if I had gone for the detailed colour portrait for $55.


Anyway, I am way off topic.

Back to miniatures.

The skyrocketing price of miniatures should actually be going down thanks to the market being flooded years ago back around 1999-2004, back when minis were reasonably priced.

But instead the buying and selling of miniatures has caused speculation and a boom in miniature prices. Sort of like the real estate market bubble, the buying and selling of miniatures for a profit has created this artificial bubble.

And thus when a new company wants to make and sell miniatures, they are automatically insulated in that they can charge way more for their miniatures and make a bigger profit.

And to top it off, the demand for custom miniatures has never been higher.

Thus it has become a players market. The minis that are available are priced for players who only need to buy the one mini for their character... and players like myself are willing to pay extra for that 1 special custom mini.

In contrast however, this squeezes DMs out of the market.

DMs need to be able to buy large amounts of monster and NPC miniatures. The details on them don't really matter so much, they just need the minis in order to run battles and scenes.

But if the boxes of minis are costing $35 to $40 each, getting 100 minis so that the DM can run a variety of adventures is an expensive task - about $700 to $800 CDN, plus 13% HST.

And that price is frankly ridiculous.

The alternative for DMs is that they have to rethink how they get D&D miniatures...

  1. Make your own minis out of wood, clay, wire, glue, paint, etc.
  2. 3D print minis. (Helps if you already have a 3D printer.)
  3. Buy cheap minis like goblins because that is all you can afford for now.
  4. Make minis out of Lego.
  5. Make 2D paper minis on plastic stands, because you are too cheap.
  6. Use other toys for minis, from the Dollar Store and similar stores that sell cheap minis for kids.*

 * When you see how much the minis for kids cost, the level of quality and such, you have to wonder why D&D minis are so dang expensive. For example you can typically get a pretty nice dragon miniature at a toy store for $4 to $8, whereas a similarly sized D&D dragon miniature will cost you about $20 to $40.

Clearly what these companies should be doing is mass producing for kids to buy them, but also selling to adults.

Now speaking for myself, I already have lots of minis.

A whole display case full of them.

But what I need right now is more horses and griffons.

So I am also browsing websites like www.trollandtoad.com that buy and sell miniatures.

Horse miniatures are expensive BTW. A decent one costs $10 to $11 USD.

Griffons meanwhile are oddly only $4, $6 or $13.

Plus $3 for shipping. Probably more to ship to Canada.

And I wasn't happy with their horses. Seriously. They were sold out of draft horses, and I wasn't willing to spend $10 on a riding horse when I can probably get the same thing at a local gaming shop for $4 to $8.

Which for me means I need to take a trip to Hairy Tarantula in North York.

Hairy Tarantula Gaming Store
3456 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4N 2N4
Open 12 to 10 PM weekdays, 11 to 10 Saturday, 11 to 7 Sunday.

Oh and yes, I did check Etsy. Horses on there cost $25 to $41 CDN, and are usually unicorns. The only warhorse on there was $27 and looked remarkably similar to a Dollar Store mini I bought years ago, put on a 1-inch base, and painted it myself... So if I had to, I could do that again.

So why do I need horses?

Because I am currently running a D&D game Fridays which has progressed to the point where there will be a heavier emphasis on horses and mounted combat. And I have been wanting to run a campaign with lots of horse combat for years, so now is my chance.

So if I cannot find what I need at Hairy T's, then perhaps I shall have to custom make my own horse minis using cheap minis from the Dollar Store.

Because Troll and Toad has limited options and is sold out of things.

Because Etsy is ridiculously over priced and only the warhorse is literally a Dollar Store horse.

Because Amazon comes up with lots of pink ponies and similar items when you search for D&D horse miniature, because it apparently thinks I am looking for 3D glass miniatures - the type people collect because they are cute and never play with.

And eBay???

eBay has lots of horse miniatures... often made of pewter... and the shipping is an extra $15 or $20. So yes, eBay has about 102 different horses for sale, about 98 are made of pewter, and those which are not are still overpriced and come with an added $15 to $20 just for the shipping.

So again, visiting my local Hairy Tarantula gaming store is still my best option.

Heck, I could go to other gaming stores and it would still be better than Etsy, eBay, Amazon, etc... but I wouldn't be guaranteed that their selection of minis is any good.

Which is disappointing because I was thinking of also ordering some xmas gifts off Amazon today, but maybe I will wait instead.

Conclusions

Clearly there is a market out there now for someone to be mass producing mid-range D&D miniatures which are affordable and could also be marketed at children in toy stores. The speculative market has driven prices online to ridiculousness.

The custom mini market won't be going away, but there has to be a middle ground for DMs to be able to buy monster minis.

Saturday Morning Writing Time, Part 1

By Charles Moffat.

So today was my last day going to a local writers group at my library here in Toronto. I am leaving the writers group because of the following reasons:

  1. The librarian who was responsible for running the writers group is leaving that library and switching to a different library in North York.
  2. The person replacing her is a cranky old lady named Marilynn who apparently hates me, is unnecessarily critical, and she has got upset because I brought my son to two of the meetings (my son is 16 months old, and I admit he can be a bit loud sometimes). While the librarian doesn't have a problem with me (or me sometimes bringing my son to meetings), it is pretty clear Marilynn doesn't want me there at all.
  3. If I was to show to future meetings I might get tempted to be overly critical Marilynn's poetry, which would combative and annoying, but frankly why bother? It just isn't worth it. I am not getting that much out of this group.
  4. To be honest, most of the time spent at these writing group meetings are used listening to other people's writing, doing writing exercises, and if I am lucky I might get 20 minutes to read something I wrote and get feedback on it. So there has to be a better way to get feedback on my writing.
  5. The group is somewhat crowded. On average about 10 people are there, but group size can vary from 8 to about 15 people depending on the day, time of year, weather conditions outside, whether it is a holiday, etc. This crowding puts the squeeze on time constraints at the meeting is only supposed to be 90 minutes, and often goes to 2 hours, at which point hungry people start leaving.
  6. You really do have to be early to get your work photocopied to be handed out and beat other people. Arriving late today I didn't even have a chance to submit my work to be photocopied.
  7. Listening to the drama and moanings of older women (most of them are between 40 to 80 years old) and the kind of writing they write gets rather boring after awhile. There are a few of them that can write things that are interesting and/or funny, but overall I cannot help but feel I am wasting two hours listening to the poetry and drama writing of middle-aged to elderly women as it rare there is another man present, and even more rare that there is someone under the age of 40 present.
  8. The group meets every two weeks on Saturdays, often on Saturdays when I am not available because I am working that day. So when I do get to go to these meetings, it can be rather discouraging if I don't get to go for awhile and then when I finally get to go I don't even get to read something I was hoping to share. It can be rather disappointing and frustrating.

So really what I need is something different...

A smaller writing group, perhaps 3 or 4 people, who preferably write fantasy, less formal, and the focus is on reading works and we can skip the whole writing exercises which to me feels like a waste of time.

Hence why I am proposing the following:

"Saturday Morning Writing Time"

I might change the name later. "The Fantasy, Fables and Poetry Writing Group"? I dunno. I need more time to work on a snappy title.

To take place at the local Starbucks on Bayview Avenue, north of Millwood Road.  Meetings start at 10:30 AM. Having them there at that time means people have had their breakfast, but if they get hungry they can still get food or drinks if they need to. It is a Starbucks after all.

Having only 3 to 4 people means everyone gets to share their work and get feedback on it.

Ideally I would like to find other people who are interested in fantasy, science fiction, fables, horror - shall we say the more nerdy side of writing. But that isn't to say I would be opposed to other topics.

What I did like about the writers group was that it forced me regularly to work with a deadline, to get pieces done that were a certain length, hence why I tended to write them in the form of fables, short stories and even poetry - and sometimes poetic fables. Sometimes I would write a single chapter from a longer work and present that. Having that deadline however helps to keep me productive, to get the writing done on time.

So to anyone in Toronto interested in joining, please contact me via charlesmoffat{atsymbol}charlesmoffat.com with the subject "Writers Group".

During meetings you will be asked to bring 4 copies of your work so you can share it with the other writers present, so they can write down edits, notes, feedback on your work and give it back to you.

I am going to ask my friend Meggles who went to university with me if she is interested in joining. She also writes more nerdy kind of works, including spy thrillers. Ooooo!

So if Meggles is available Saturday mornings and agrees then we only need 1 or 2 more people to turn this into a regular meeting.

I am hoping to have the first meeting in December 2018. To be determined.

The Art of Making D&D Character Sheets

The Art of Making D&D Character Sheets (and some DMing Notes)

#1. While it is nice to have fancy character sheets, and I hope to someday supply my players with custom character sheets, the hard and fast rule is that they don't have to be fancy. Graphics are completely unnecessary, although if you have the time and energy to do so, why not?




#2. Because my campaign started when the characters were children, they have their "Childhood Nickname" on the character sheet. Often the PCs still refer to each other using that nickname. This encourages more roleplaying as most of the characters have known each other since childhood and can tell stories of the things they did "years ago", even though in reality it was only 20+ sessions ago and they are all now teenagers.

#3. Having eye/hair colour on the character sheet encourages the player to think more about description of their character. Perhaps in the future I will also include a "physical description" section that asks the shape of their nose, the disposition of their face/demeanor, etc.

#4. Phobias - I encourage players to play PCs with flaws, and having phobias is a fun way to do that.

#5. Heroic Dream - This is what the PC wanted to be when they were a kid. Similar to the Childhood Nickname, this is essentially to encourage a backstory about what the character wants to do with their life.

#6. Deity and Piety - All characters can worship a god of their choosing (or choose not to) and gain Piety Points, which shows their devotion to that god. PCs are awarded Piety Points by donating to the church, doing good deeds that help the church, building shrines/temples, etc. There is an old Dragon Magazine which has an article on this topic. Gaining lots of piety provides boons to the character based upon how pious they are. The DM (me) can also take away piety if the PC harms the church / god in some manner. eg. Murdering the high priest would be bad.

Note - Yes, I totally included Comeliness even though we are playing 2nd Edition AD&D. Oh well. Sue me.

#7. Primary Skills vs Bonus Skills - So on the 2nd page I have a section for "Bonus Skills". The primary skills are the NWP gained as per standard 2nd Edition rules. The bonus skills is an extra system I developed which rewards players for attempting skills they are not proficient in, and they gain the use of the skill but with a -4 to -1 modifier to the skill. Under my house rules if the player attempts to use a skill they are not proficient in they suffer a -5 to the attempt. However if they succeed their skill goes up to -4 and they gain it is a bonus skill. Doing this only works during a time of crisis when the situation is dire in some way. Thus a fighter for example during combat could attempt a Spellcraft check at -5 to recognize a fireball being cast, and if successful they gain the bonus skill at -4. Using the skill when there is no danger does not improve it. There is also a limit of how often they can gain bonus skills, so they cannot abuse the system.

#8. Thief Skills - Thieves, bards, etc get the most points for this section, but other characters detecting noise, climbing walls and doing other skills can also gain an extra point here and there as a bonus each time they succeed during a dire situation. It might only make a difference of a few points gained over the course of many sessions, and like Bonus Skills this can only be rewarded when there is danger, only when they are successful, and there is a limit of how often they can gain this benefit.

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#9. Belongings, Weight and Stored Where? - Often players forget what items weigh and how much weight they are carrying. Having this on the character sheet encourages them to look up the weight in the PHB, mark it down, and keep track of their encumbrance. Knowing where it is stored is likewise handy (both for pickpockets, but also to prevent pickpockets). It is up to the player to be proactive about marking down the location of valuable items.

#10. Languages - Honestly, the issue of languages comes up so rarely that this really is a Page 2 topic. It doesn't need to be on the 1st page. Also I include the Modifier for the language because like any other NWP, the character is not perfect at it. They are not necessarily a native speaker and completely fluent in every word. So sometimes they might have to roll to see if they understand what they heard or read.

#11. Parents, Siblings - Since the PCs started as children, they also started with family members. This helps to fill out their backstory and encourages roleplaying when they talk to the villagers they grew up knowing.

#12. Friends, Allies - So far in the game the PCs have made a number of friends and allies, ranging from the undertaker, the apothecary, Neddirk the Honest Fence (where they sell stolen goods), and during the last session they made a new ally - an aboleth with a split personality disorder who is lonely (or hungry to eat them). Ahem... See the Puffin Forest video... which is totally the inspiration for why the players encountered the aboleth in an abandoned fortress.



#13. Notes, Spells - Just empty lines for players to write notes on it, whether it is about spells, items, the names of baddies, etc. Lots of these.

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#14. Spell List, Extended - This is for the true spellcasters who have lots of spells. Included on this sheet are sections for Range, Components, Duration, Casting Time, AoE, Saving Throw and Notes. This way they don't always have to look up certain things in the book. I also encourage players to make up words for their verbal components that they can use repeatedly whenever using specific spells.

eg. If they are casting Entangle often, perhaps "Tanglitis Restrictio" or some other similar words is appropriate for them to be using.

At the top of page 3 is a note that "or if you are not a spellcaster, just use this page for extra notes". Thus the page still gets used regardless.

All else fails, I can always print more since I saved the file.

Based on player feedback I can also redesign the character sheets in the future and make new versions to make them better for the players, and possibly more pleasing to the eye.

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