Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour, Part 2: Psionics!

Mike Mearls 
(by Tim Emrick)
Back in May, I did a review of the first dozen episodes of The Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour, in which one of the co-creators of Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition shows his process for designing new material for the game. That introduction covered January through most of April 2018; this installment will take a look at episodes from April to early July.

4/24/18: Mearls' discussion of the Disaster Barbarian continues, sketching out the remainder of its subclass abilities. After covering so many subclasses, he feels it's time to take the next step of designing a new class, and wishes to tackle psionics. However, as an exercise in the limited time he has left in this episode, he first tries to create a Psion subclass for the wizard. He uses this as an example of a concept that really needs to be designed as a full new class, because it's too hard to pin down the feel within the limits of a subclass.

The Warlord, which he did back in March, was complicated in execution, but that concept fit better as a fighter subclass than as a new class of its own. (Among other things, the warlord concept didn't seem robust enough to support multiple subclasses over years of play.) Here, the Psion clearly needs a better way to distinguish itself from other spellcasters than cherry-picking psychic-flavored spells from the wizard list.

5/1/18: After further exploration of the Psion/Mind Mage wizard, Mearls feels that it actually fills a niche for DMs who want some of the flavor of psionics in their game without needing to learn the rules for an entirely new class. This basically gives three possible settings for psionics in D&D games:
  1. Strictly by the Player's Handbook: No psionic classes or subclasses. The only psionic creatures are rare monsters with psionic spellcasting.
  2. The mystic: A new psionic class that requires DMs and players to learn a lot of new rules and options, roughly as extensive as a new spell list.
  3. Psionic subclasses that largely use existing spells and class abilities to provide psychic flavor.

5/8/18: Mearls develops a Psychic Warrior subclass for the fighter, using the Eldritch Knight subclass as a starting point for spellcasting. As with the Psion, the spells that seem most appropriate for the class don't fit neatly into a couple of schools (as they do for the Eldritch Knight), so this subclass will probably require a bespoke spell list.

(5/15/2018: No episode due to illness.)

5/22/18: Next up is the Soulknife as a subclass for monk, which is a class that Mearls has not addressed up to this point in the show. The Soulknife is an interesting choice, because it has no spellcasting powers, only its signature weapon.

5/29/18: Mearls reviews more polished versions of the Psychic Warrior and Soulknife. He suggests two possible ways that psionic classes or subclasses might eventually enter the game: either as a chapter in the setting book for Dark Sun (a classic setting that showcased psionics) or as part of a second Xanathar's-style book. Neither is happening right away, but I expect that feedback on his show and on the Unearthed Arcana articles that come out of it will help shape that decision. In fact, he does mention that a new satisfaction survey about 5E as a whole is in the works, and that definitely will influence future design on the game.

6/5/18, 6/12/18: Mearls takes a look at the Mystic class as it last appeared in Unearthed Arcana. That version was not completely satisfactory because it was trying to do too much. However, the past few weeks' work on psionic subclasses have moved enough archetypes to other classes that the Mystic--renamed the Psion--now has a much more obvious focus. In the second of these two episodes, Mearls ruthlessly prunes away at the Mystic class and its orders (subclasses) in order to determine which abilities should reside in the core Psion class, which in the subclasses, which should be made into spells, and which should be dropped entirely.

Mearls' new design makes psionic powers work like spells, using spell slots, despite previous editions giving psionic characters power points to fuel their abilities. The 5E Dungeon Master's Guide has optional rules for running magic with spell points, so that option is available for psionics, if the GM allows.

6/19/18: Mearls delves into the design of new psionic cantrips to support his current ideas for the Psion class, focusing primarily on the teleportation-based Nomad subclass.

6/26/18: This episode is largely devoted to a tangent suggested by someone in the show's chat channel: How to design spells that make minor time travel effects easy to implement during combat.

7/3/18: Mearls works on one more Psion subclass, the Shaper, which is defined by its at-will summoning power. Most of the rest of this subclass, and the Psion class as a whole, will occur off-camera, then Mearls will come back in a few months to present a more fully-fleshed out class--perhaps in the form of an Unearthed Arcana article.

The Happy Fun Hour has exclusively covered classes and subclasses up to now, so Mearls has decided that the next several weeks will involve designing new monsters for the Nentir Vale campaign he's running.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"They Never Did Catch That Rhino"

One of my gaming buddies recently acquired the Black Panther LEGO set 76099 Rhino Face-Off by the Mine, which prompted a discussion about the armored rhino model's size category and possible Pathfinder stats. Last month, I received the same set as a birthday present from my family, which has convinced me that I need to complete and share stats for using this model as a Pathfinder miniature.

The base creature is obviously a rhinoceros, but both the normal and woolly varieties are merely Large size. This model is 18 studs long (12 studs for just the torso), so is at least Gargantuan (Space 20 ft. = 4" on the battle map), if not Colossal (Space 30 ft.+ = 6"+).

The Pathfinder rules provide multiple ways to increase a creature's size. The simplest is to apply the Giant Creature simple template, which increases size by one category, and raises CR by +1. You can also increase the creature's Hit Dice. The Bestiary states that, "As a general rule, creatures whose Hit Dice increase by 50% or more should also increase in size, but GMs should feel free to ignore this rule if warranted by the individual creature or situation."

Outside the core rules, Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary includes a Gigantean template, which increases a creature's size by a whopping four size categories. This is obviously meant for producing immense kaiju-like monsters. A gigantean rhino would be one step beyond Colossal--still Colossal, but twice as large as a standard Colossal monster. That's dramatically bigger than this model can justify!

Combining the size increase for added HD plus the giant creature simple template would give us a Gargantuan rhino:
XP 3,200
N Gargantuan animal
Init -1; Senses scent; Perception +15
AC 19, touch 5, flat-footed 19 (-1 Dex, +14 natural, –4 size)
hp 108 (8d8+72)
Fort +14, Ref +5, Will +3
Speed 40 ft.
Melee gore +14 (4d6+18)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks powerful charge (gore, 8d6+36)
Str 34, Dex 8, Con 27, Int 2, Wis 13, Cha 5
Base Atk +6; CMB +22; CMD 31 (35 vs. trip)
Feats Endurance, Great Fortitude, Skill Focus (Perception), Toughness
Skills Perception +15
The next step is to account for the rhino's armor. In the movie, the armor is clearly just that, but the LEGO model looks like it might be a cyborg. There is an Augmented Creature template in the Advanced Bestiary that can be used to build a fantasy cyborg, but that template requires more work because it requries Augmentation Points to be spent for new special abilities.

When I mentioned the Metal-Clad template to my friend, he asked, "So what are the stats for vibranium?" Perhaps that question can be answered using some of the starmetals from high-tech supplements for Pathfinder, but as written, the metal-clad template lacks any metals that exotic. However, it does include adamantine and mithral. Adamantine would reduce a Gargantuan rhino's Dexterity to 2, so I chose mithral instead. This gives us the following stat block--which you definitely don't want to see charging you on the battlefield!
XP 19,200
N Gargantuan animal
Init -1; Senses scent; Perception +15
AC 27, touch 5, flat-footed 27 (-1 Dex, +22 natural, –4 size)
hp 116 (8d8+80)
Fort +15, Ref +5, Will +3
Defensive Abilities heavy fortification; Resist fire 15
Weaknesses vulnerability to electricity
Speed 40 ft.
Melee gore +16 (4d6+21)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks powerful charge (gore, 8d6+42)
Str 38, Dex 8, Con 29, Int 2, Wis 13, Cha 5
Base Atk +6; CMB +24; CMD 33 (37 vs. trip)
Feats Endurance, Great Fortitude, Skill Focus (Perception), Toughness
Skills Perception +15, Swim +10
SQ mithral limbs

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Building the Bestiary #18: Aberrations

Froghemoth, rust monster, cloaker, and chuul.

Between a change of jobs and a hefty amount of gaming, it's been over six months since my last "Building the Bestiary" column. I've given a great deal of thought to what to cover in this next installment, and settled on aberrations. In D&D 3E and Pathfinder lore, aberrations are unnatural creatures, often with alien origins connected to the Far Realms (3E) or the Dark Tapestry (PF). Many aberrations have alien anatomy such as tentacles, or the wrong number of eyes or mouths, but not all can be identified in this way.

My past columns in this series have featured a number of aberrations, which I won't be covering in this installment as a result:
However, this still leaves an even dozen of Things That Should Not Be.

Starting Small

The simplest aberrations are also the smallest. A will-o'-wisp can be represented by a crystal ball or other transparent brick, by a skull-faced minifigure head "floating" on a clear brick, or even by an unusual color of flame.

A choker is a short black-skinned humanoid with unnaturally long arms. You can represent these long arms by attaching a lever to each of the minifigure's hands, or by attaching 1x2 plates with clips on the end (which become the claws). For the latter, attach the hand to the post inside the bottom of the plate; this gives better "clutch" than simply inserting the stud-sized hand into the end of a 1xN plate.

An intellect devourer looks like a giant brain on legs. so showing or suggesting the brain is the key element. The photo shows a couple of examples of brainy bodies: a clear minifigure head printed with a brain (a classic brain in a jar) and the brainy "headpiece" from the Alien Conquest theme's Alien Empress. The plate that forms the legs of the latter is inverted, so the head/brain is attached with a Technic half-pin. In the absence of special pieces like these models use, a 2x2 domed brick placed on four legs would be a good approximation.

A gibbering mouther is a mass of protoplasm covered in eyes and mouths. Rendering this as a Medium-sized mini is a bit challenging, but still possible using the smallest SNOT bricks, toothed plates, horns (for tongues), and eye tiles.

Building a mimic depends on the form it has taken to disguise itself. The classic example is a chest which sprouts a toothy maw and pseudopods when it attacks. To build one, simply attach bricks with clips to the handles of a LEGO treasure chest. A tongue can be made with a small Castle cape attached to a few bricks that sit inside the chest.

To create other disguises for a mimic, take an existing part or assembly (such as a sarcophagus or door) and find ways to attach a mouth and attacking limbs to existing LEGO models. If those parts can be quickly added to the base item when combat begins, even better.

Rust monsters resemble giant beetles more than anything else, so can easily be built with some of the techniques from my column on Vermin. The two models shown here are built from a variety of small plates and bricks. The one on the left uses two 1x2 plates with bars to attach the front legs (to the lower plate) and head and antennae (upper plate).

The rust monster on the right is built around a base of three 1x1 SNOT ("studs not on top") bricks. The middle one has studs on four sides; the other two each have studs on two sides, and are attached sideways to the center brick. 1x1 plates with top-clips are used for the beak and to attach the tail. The faucets forming the upper legs are inserted into holes in the side-studs.

Larger Horrors

SNOT bricks are also used heavily in the bodies of my otyugh models, in order to attach their three legs, two tentacles, and a decorated plate for the mouth. The eyestalk (featuring a headlight brick) is centered on the body using a 2x2 jumper plate.

A roper can be built using gray bricks in a vaguely conical shape, with an eye and a mouth added. Include some rock-textured bricks if you have them. The photo shows a couple of examples, as well as a stalagmite model that can be used for a camouflaged roper. (This idea works best if you already build parts of your dungeon scenery in bricks.) A roper's tendrils can be created with the same smooth, curved parts as the otyugh's tentacles (above), minifigure whips (as shown here), or fully jointed subassemblies (like the snakes in my Serpentine Creatures column).

Cloakers resemble giant bats or manta rays. The old LEGO manta ray (see Aquatic Animals) is a little oversized for a Large creature, but would still do nicely if given an appropriate base and a couple clear bricks to make it fly.

I have presented two brick-built models here to demonstrate different approaches to crafting a giant ray- or bat-like monster. The first one combines a hinged wing technique (see For the Birds) with a hinged tail (see Serpentine Creatures). A couple of jumper plates on the base plate allow it to stand upright in an attack posture.

The other model is based on the giant vampire bat from the LEGO Games HEROICA set Ilrion. The base of this model--a special SNOT brick with bat/dragon wings attached using 1x1 clip plates--is very versatile, and has been used in other official sets such as the microscale Minecraft Ender Dragon (see How to Cheat (at Building) a Dragon). A couple of toothed plates provide ears or horns, and a printed 1x1 tile suggests the gaping mouth. The same model can be used for a dire bat or mobat, and a rider can be added by using a microfigure (or by using the anti-studs in the legs of a seated minifigure, though the result will be a little off-center).

A chuul is a large lobster-like monster with a mass of tentacles around its mouth. For my model, I've built the body and limbs out of a variety of hinges and ball-and-joint connectors. The tentacles are a couple of seaweed bricks attached to the head with clips. This miniature is a little bit oversized for a Large creature, but it was a challenge to fit the amount of articulation I wanted into this size. (As it was, I kept the front pair of walking legs straight and rigid to help the model's overall stability.)

Massive Abominations

The first Pathfinder RPG Bestiary includes two Huge aberrations: the aboleth and froghemoth. My models for these two monsters are actually older than most of the others in this column--I built them for fun some years ago, and have made minimal changes to them for this column. (The aboleth has seen play since then, in my last Freeport campaign.)

An aboleth has a vaguely fish-shaped body, with three eyes arranged one above the other, and four long tentacles. I used plates to built the outline of the body, with a few hinges to allow the tail to bend. The tentacles are whips attached to 1x1 plates with bar-sized hoops.

The froghemoth is a giant alien amphibian that first appeared in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Due to my interest in that module, I've followed Erol Otus's original design rather than the more recent art used in Pathfinder and D&D 5E. (The snorkel-like nostrils, built with faucet bricks, are one of these original details that I kept.) The body is built out of sloped bricks to create a hulking frog shape, with lighter colored bricks on the belly. The model is mounted on a 8x8 plate to mark the Huge space it occupies; I chose a transparent blue plate because of its watery home.

The four tentacles are attached to 1x1 cones and then to SNOT bricks; mini-slopes beside their bases help bulk up the "shoulders" a little.

The eyestalk is attached to a hinge mounted on jumper plates. (If the GM desires, this subassembly could be removed and placed on a smaller base, for when the froghemoth hides underwater with only its periscope-like eyestalk showing.)

The mouth's upper jaw is built as an extension of the main body piece, but the lower jaw is mounted on a 1x2 hinge brick so that it can open wide enough for the tongue (built from a 2x2 round plate and an orange vine piece) to shoot out to menace the froghemoth's prey.

Appendix: Past "Building the Bestiary" Columns

[#0]: How to Cheat (at Building) a Dragon
#1: Humanoids
#2: Underwater Races
#3: Giants
#4: Undead
#5: Tiny Creatures
#6: Four-Legged Friends
#7: Oozes
#8: Spell Effects
#9: Elementals
#10: Devils
#11: Aquatic Animals
#12: Vermin
#13: Non-OGL Monsters
#14: Plants
#15: For the Birds
#16: Serpentine Creatures
#17: Demons

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Phryx and the Queen of Winter

"Ice Woman," by Tim Emrick, Copyright 1992
The realm of Faerie is found partly in the Ethereal Plane, in areas co-existent with natural forests and plains in the Material Plane, and partly in the plane of Espral (Elysium, CG). Portals between these planes are numerous, but most are known only to the fey and the azata. The elves and gnomes were once natives of this highly magical realm, but they lost the means of returning after settling in Udara (the Material Plane) for too long.

The Seelie Court is composed of good-aligned creatures (mainly fey, but including many other magical beings) who serve the Summer King, Vanatar, a massive divine unicorn. Opposing this very loose alliance is the Unseelie Court, ruled by Maridor, the Winter Queen; many of the Unseelie are openly monstrous beings, and all are evil. (See the Seelie Creature and Unseelie Creature templates in Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary.)

Maridor herself is the oldest and most powerful of a family of winter spirits known as phryxes. The Winter Queen resembles a majestic elf woman shaped out of living ice or snow. When she chooses to wear clothing, it is made of white fur, crystal the color of ice, or black leaves. She tempted the first fey to evil, creating the cursed Unseelie, who cannot return to the realm of Faerie. Maridor can still do so herself, but prefers to wander the forsaken wastes of the Material Plane. Her children, the phryxes, have inherited both her aloof, perfect beauty and her icy, pitiless heart.


This unearthly beautiful creature looks like an elf with snow-white skin, long white hair, and piercing ice-blue eyes. In spite of its gossamer garments, it does not appear to feel the wind or the cold.


XP 2,400
CE Medium fey (cold)
Init +5; Senses low-light vision; Perception +14
AC 20, touch 16, flat-footed 14 (+5 Dex, +1 dodge, +4 natural)
hp 44 (8d6+16)
Fort +4, Ref +11, Will +9
DR 10/cold iron; Immune cold
Weakness vulnerability to fire
Speed 30 ft.; icewalking
Melee freezing touch +9 (1d6 cold) or sickle +9 (1d6+1) or unarmed strike +9 (1d3+1 plus 1d6 cold)
Ranged mwk composite longbow +10 (1d8+1/x3)
Special Attacks freezing touch
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th; concentration +13)
At will--gaseous form, obscuring mist
3/day--charm monster (DC 19), chill metal (DC 17), gust of wind (DC 17), sleet storm (DC 18)
1/day--ice storm (DC 19)
Str 12, Dex 20, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 17, Cha 20
Base Atk +4; CMB +5; CMD 20
Feats Dodge, Improved Unarmed Strike, Persuasive, Weapon Finesse
Skills Bluff +16, Diplomacy +18, Intimidate +15, Knowledge (nature) +13, Perception +14, Stealth +16 (+20 in ice and snow), Survival +11, Swim +12; Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth in ice or snow
Languages Common, Giant, Sylvan
SQ wild empathy
Environment cold forest, hills, or mountains
Organization solitary, pair, hunting party (3-6), or family (5-8 plus leader of 3rd-6th level; 10% chance of 1 noncombatant)
Treasure standard (sickle, mwk composite longbow [+1 Str] with 20 arrows, other treasure)
Special Abilities
Freezing Touch (Su) A phryx's body continually radiates cold. It can inflict 1d6 cold damage with a melee touch attack, or as bonus damage on an unarmed strike or grapple. Any creature that strikes the phryx with a natural weapon takes 1d6 points of cold damage, or 1d6 per round if grappling.
Icewalking (Su) A phryx can move at normal speed over snow and ice as if using a water walking spell, and never leaves tracks on ice or snow. It cannot, however, walk over the other terrain types that spell normally allows.
Wild Empathy (Su) This works like the druid's wild empathy class feature, except that the phryx has a +4 racial bonus on the check. Phryxes with druid or ranger levels add this racial modifier to their wild empathy checks.

A phryx is almost indistinguishable from an elf except for its snow-white coloring and the look of fey wildness in its expression. These creatures are the embodiment of winter's freezing cold, potent blizzards, and bitter famine into a deceptively attractive form. These fey are distantly related to dryads and nymphs, but unlike those two races, may be either male or female. A phryx is the same height and weight as an elf of its gender, and like many fey, look youthful and beautiful throughout their entire lives.

Phryxes live in cold climates, typically in forests or mountains, but may also be encountered in hills or plains that provide substantial cover. They are omnivores, but mostly subsist on the meat of animals and humanoids who are too weak to escape their hunting parties. (These cruel creatures consider the flesh of a good-aligned fey to be a delicacy.) They are unrepentantly evil, and seek to destroy or enslave nearly every other creature that they meet.

Most phryxes are nomadic, as they continually need to find new places to hunt when game grows scarce. They often travel in extended family groups. Phryx births are widely spaced over the mother's lifetime, and offspring mature to adulthood in the space of a single winter, so juveniles are very rarely encountered (10% chance for one noncombatant in any family). The more ambitious and daring leaders might ally their family with a frost giant tribe, but such agreements rarely last long due to both races' treacherous natures. Similarly, an experienced phryx might acquire a young white dragon as a cohort.

Phryxes commonly use gaseous form and obscuring mist to ambush prey and to escape battles that turn against them. They prefer to fight most battles from a distance, using their bows and spell-like abilities. If forced into melee, a phryx fights with its freezing touch attack or a weapon. When encountered in groups, phryxes make intelligent use of their numbers and supernatural powers, often using multiple charm monster spells at once to nullify opposition prior to combat.

Elder Phryx

A phryx advances by gaining levels in a character class. Leaders are almost always bards, rangers, or sorcerers, and the majority are female. Clerics worship Maridor, the Winter Queen, and may choose from the Animal, Death, Madness, Plant, and Water domains (and the Decay, Fur, Ice, Murder, Nightmare, and Undead subdomains).


XP 6,400
Phryx bard 7
CE Medium fey (cold)
Init +6; Senses low-light vision; Perception +21
AC 29, touch 18, flat-footed 22 (+7 armor, +1 deflection, +6 Dex, +1 dodge, +4 natural)
hp 103 (15 HD; 8d6+7d8+45)
Fort +7, Ref +17, Will +14; +4 vs. bardic performance, language-dependent, and sonic
Defensive Abilities gloves of arrow snaring; Immune cold
Weakness vulnerability to fire
Speed 40 ft. (base 30 ft.); icewalking
Melee +1 keen shortsword +14/+9 (1d6+3/17-20), or +1 defending sickle +16/+11 (1d6+3), or freezing touch +15/+10 (1d6 cold), or unarmed strike +15/+10 (1d3+2 plus 1d6 cold)
Ranged +1 frost composite longbow +16/+11 (1d8+3/x3 plus 1d6 cold)
Special Attacks bardic performance 23 rounds/day (countersong, distraction, fascinate [DC 20], inspire competence +3, inspire courage +2, suggestion [DC 20]), freezing touch
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 15th; concentration +22 [+26 casting defensively])
At will--gaseous form, obscuring mist
3/day--charm monster (DC 21), chill metal (DC 19), gust of wind (DC 19), sleet storm (DC 20)
1/day--ice storm (DC 21)
Bard Spells Known (CL 7th; concentration +14 [+18 casting defensively])
3rd (3/day)--confusion (DC 21), haste
2nd (5/day)--cure moderate wounds, detect thoughts (DC 19), enthrall (DC 20), hold person (DC 20)
1st (6/day)--comprehend languages, disguise self, grease (DC 18), identify, ventriloquism (DC 18)
0 (at will)--detect magic, lullaby (DC 18), mage hand, message, prestidigitation, read magic
Str 14, Dex 23, Con 16, Int 17, Wis 16, Cha 24
Base Atk +9; CMB +11; CMD 27
Feats Combat Casting, Dodge, Improved Unarmed Strike, Persuasive, Point-Blank Shot, Skill Focus (Perform [sing]), Spell Focus (enchantment), Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +17, Bluff +28, Diplomacy +27, Fly +17, Intimidate +28, Knowledge (arcana) +19, Knowledge (nature) +19, Knowledge (other) +6, Perception +21, Perform (dance) +17, Perform (sing) +28, Sense Motive +28, Spellcraft +16, Stealth +21 (+25 in ice and snow), Swim +18; Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth in ice or snow
Languages Abyssal, Common, Giant, Sylvan
SQ lore master 1/day, versatile performance (dance, sing), wild empathy
Combat Gear potion of jump; Other Gear +2 elven chain, ring of protection +1, +1 keen shortsword, +1 defending sickle, +1 frost composite longbow (+2 Str), 20 arrows, 3 adamantine arrows, 17 silver arrows, boots of striding and springing, efficient quiver, feather token (swan boat), gloves of arrow snaring, silver holy symbol (Maridor), traveler's outfit, 234 gp in coins and jewelry

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Heroes of Freeport: Bloody Lucille

The "Heroes of Freeport" series on the Green Ronin News blog has not yet addressed the iconic freebooter depicted on the covers of Freeport: The City of Adventure (FCA) and the Freeport Bestiary. The class's flavor quote (FCA 365) indicates that her name is Bloody Lucille. Freebooters are so central to the Freeport setting that I have decided to not wait any longer to work up her stat block. If Green Ronin does someday release a new "Heroes of Freeport" column about Lucille, then I will adjust her stats to match.

Just as I did for Janica Flamefist, I have attempted to produce a stat block for Bloody Lucille suitable for use with 1st-level Pathfinder adventures such as "The Ironjack Legacy" (in FCA) or Return to Freeport Part One: Curse of the Brine Witch. Design notes follow the stat block.


XP 200
Female human freebooter 1 (FCA 364)
CN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +3; Senses Perception +3
AC 15, touch 14, flat-footed 11 (+1 armor, +3 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 12 (1d10+2)
Fort +3, Ref +5, Will -1; +1 vs. disease, poison, and mind-affecting effects
Speed 30 ft.
Melee gladius +3 (1d6+1/19-20) or two gladii +1 (1d6+1/19-20 and 1d6/19-20)
Ranged light crossbow +3 (1d8/19-20)
Special Attacks dirty fighting +1d4
Str 12, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 14
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 16
Feats Dodge, Two-Weapon Fighting[B], Weapon Finesse[B]
Skills Acrobatics +7, Climb +5, Perception +3, Profession (sailor) +3, Swim +5
Languages Common
Traits blood of pirates (FCA 424), fencer (Advanced Player's Guide 328)
Gear haramaki (Ultimate Combat 128), gladius (2) (Ultimate Combat 144), light crossbow and 10 bolts, backpack, bedroll, belt pouch, flint and steel, waterskin, whetstone, basic pirate clothes (Pirates of the Inner Sea 20), 74 gp, 8 sp, 8 cp


When building Lucille, I tried to embody her race and class as best I could. As with Janica, I used the elite array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) for her stats for simplicity's sake.

Lucille wears little or no armor. For the purposes of this stat block, I have treated her leather vest and her multiple layers of belts and sashes as a haramaki (see Ultimate Combat or Ultimate Equipment). Alternately, her vest, gauntlets, and high boots could be treated as piecemeal leather armor (also a +1 armor bonus; see Ultimate Combat).

The cover of FCA (see above) shows Bloody Lucille wielding two short-bladed swords. The basket hilt suggests a cutlass, but the blade is not curved like one. The optimum interpretation of this weapon is to treat it as a gladius, which is a light weapon (minimizing two-weapon penalties) and can do either piercing or slashing damage (unlike the P-only shortsword).

A 1st level character cannot afford firearms, so I have given her a crossbow instead. By 4th-5th level, she should have plenty of wealth to replace it with a brace of pistols (1,000 gp each, plus the cost of shot, powder, and a gunsmith's kit) and find a way to gain training for Exotic Weapon Proficiency (firearms) and Craft (gunsmith).

At 2nd level, Lucille will gain Flashy Defense. As she advances, her freebooter talents and bonus feats should be chosen to improve her skills with swords and guns, as well as her defenses and maneuverability. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Return to the Barrier Peaks: Prep Work, Part 1

[This blog post is based on a lengthy post I made to the LEGO Dungeons & Dragons Facebook group in February 2018.]

I've always wanted to try running the classic AD&D Dungeon Module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks again. As I posted here a while back, I started running it back in the 2nd Edition era, but we only got through one or two sessions before the game and the group fell apart.

SPOILER ALERT: Friends who might ever want to play this adventure with me should turn back now.

Converting the adventure to D&D v.3.5 or Pathfinder would require more extensive rules for tech and creatures, and thus quickly bog down the game in too much crunch for my taste. So I plan to use D&D 5E, which is relatively rules-light and captures the feel of earlier editions well. I've found a couple of 5E conversion guides on DM's Guild, which will help with the mechanics. (Those links are gathered at the end of this post.) And I will definitely use LEGO to build minis for it, and share them here! I've built several of the creatures in the past, just for fun, so I can refine those models rather than start completely from scratch.

However, the maps are going to be a royal pain to render into battle maps as we play, even if I just draw them on an easel pad like I do for my other games. It's a huge dungeon (6 levels, with each one a 540 ft. diameter circle), so the original maps use 10-foot squares. I'm working on copying them to 5-foot squares on graph paper so that I don't have to convert distances as I'm running it. (On a 1/5" grid, this takes six 8.5" x 11" sheets per level!) There is also a lot of empty space on the maps, so I will almost certainly draw the map for them on graph paper as the PCs explore, and only draw rooms at miniatures scale when they find something to fight.

The original maps, at 1 square = 10 feet
Levels I-III rendered into 1 square = 5 feet.

Levels IV-VI rendered into 1 square = 5 feet

There are a couple areas that I might render in LEGO at a 1 stud = 5 feet scale, like the huge, open habitat level (which would be 2.5 feet across even at that scale).

Level IV: the habitat level
This is a long-term project, because I want to finish running Tales from the Yawning Portal first, which will help my family improve our mastery of the 5E rules. But I'll be tinkering with it until then, and will post updates here from time to time.

Related Links

Dungeon Masters Guild now offers Expedition to the Barrier Peaks in PDF form, as well as two products that provide D&D Fifth Edition conversion notes for it:
The Daemons & Death Rays blog (by Brian Rubenfeld) has numerous articles converting monsters and other mechanics from the adventure to 5E.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Visitors from the Clockwork Realm

The Clockwork Realm is a plane of true Law, composed of gigantic clockwork gears and other machinery. It is primarily inhabited by animated clockwork creatures. Some of these are mindless automatons that are programmed to maintain or defend the great machine's many cogs, while others are sentient beings who build and direct lesser constructs.

Experts in planar lore fiercely debate whether this plane is the domain of any gods. No artisan gods have claimed responsibility for its construction, and the clockwork inhabitants do not seem to serve any god. Even the inevitables who operate here are driven by a cosmic law separate from any code established by the gods of mortal creatures. Some scholars suggest that the infinitely complex machinery that fills the plane might itself qualify as a god of some kind.

Regardless of the presence of any actual divinities, a small cult has sprung up among some mortals who have encountered visitors from the Clockwork Realm. Members revere the intrinsic perfection of these clockwork beings, and strive to acquire greater knowledge of the magics that animate them.

One such point of contact is in the mountain dwarves' kingdom of Haraldan. Weird clockwork merchants have established trade with outposts of that nation--typically small, portable mechanical devices in exchange for the most flawless gems mined by the dwarves. Access to these exotic devices has allowed the dwarves to improve their own engineering skills to the point of creating clockwork constructs, as well as designing and operating vehicles such as the thaneguards (see Green Ronin's Hammer & Helm) and airships.

A typical Clockwork Realm caravan visiting the material plane will be led by one or more clockwork mercanes, who handle the trade negotations, and one or more clockwork witchwyrds, who monitor the company's defenses. (See below for stat blocks.) Porters and guards may include clockwork servants (Bestiary 3 16), clockwork soldiers (Bestiary 3 57), and/or clockwork steeds (Bestiary 4 33). If the caravan is transporting bulkier goods than will fit into the mercanes' chests, then they may employ massive pack hulks (clockwork gray renders); these creatures are dangerous if provoked, but normally too unintelligent to serve as guardians. If the caravan's masters foresee great danger to an expedition, then they might requisition a war hulk (war machine gray render) to guard their personnel and trade goods.

XP 2,400
Clockwork mercane (Bestiary 2 188, Advanced Bestiary 55)
LN Large construct (clockwork)
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +10
AC 23, touch 16, flat-footed 16 (+4 Dex, +3 dodge, +7 natural, -1 size)
hp 63 (6d10+30)
Fort +2, Ref +8, Will +4
DR 10/adamantine; Immune construct traits; Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10, sonic 10; SR 20
Weaknesses metal body, vulnerability to electricity
Speed 30 ft.
Melee masterwork falchion +10/+5 (2d6+6/18-20) or slam +9/+4 (1d6+6)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft. 
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 9th; concentration +8)
3/day--dimension door, invisibility (self only)
1/day--plane shift (DC 14)
Str 19, Dex 18, Con --, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 9
Base Atk +6; CMB +11; CMD 25
Feats Alertness, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Dodge[B], Improved Initiative[B], Lightning Reflexes[B]
Skills Appraise +8, Craft (clockwork) +7, Diplomacy +5, Disable Device +9, Knowledge (arcana, planes) +8, Perception +10, Profession (merchant) +8, Sense Motive +10, Spellcraft +8, Stealth -5; Racial Modifiers +5 Craft (clockwork), +5 Disable Device, -5 Stealth
Languages Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Infernal; telepathy 100 ft.
SQ created mind, creator bond, difficult to create, secret chest, swift reactions, winding
Environment any
Organization solitary [or company (1-4 and 3-12 bodyguards of various races)]
Treasure incidental [double (masterwork Large falchion, other treasure)]
Special Abilities
Created Mind (Ex) See clockwork template
Creator Bond (Ex) See clockwork template
Difficult to Create (Ex) See clockwork subtype
Secret Chest (Sp) A mercane can retrieve or hide an extradimensional storage chest, as the secret chest spell (caster level 5th). The mercane does not need an expensive replica chest to use this ability; any chest will do. It can only use this ability on one chest at a time.
Swift Reactions (Ex) See clockwork subtype
Winding (Ex) See clockwork subtype

XP 3,200
Clockwork witchwyrd (Bestiary 2 285, Advanced Bestiary 55)
LN Medium construct (clockwork)
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft., detect magic, low-light vision; Perception +8
AC 28, touch 17, flat-footed 21 (+4 armor, +4 Dex, +3 dodge, +7 natural)
hp 64 (8d10+20)
Fort +4, Ref +8, Will +4
Defensive Abilities absorb force; DR 10/adamantine or 5/magic; Immune construct traits; Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10, sonic 10
Weaknesses metal body, vulnerability to electricity
Speed 30 ft.
Melee ranseur +13/+8 (2d4+7/x3), 2 slams +7 (1d4+8 plus grab) or
4 slams +13 (1d4+8 plus grab)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft. (10 ft. with ranseur)
Special Attacks force bolt
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th; concentration +10)
Constant--detect magic, floating disk, mage armor, resist energy (one at a time), unseen servant
3/day--dispel magic, displacement, suggestion (DC 15)
1/day--dimension door, resilient sphere (DC 16)
Str 20, Dex 19, Con --, Int 12, Wis 11, Cha 14
Base Atk +8; CMB +13 (+17 grapple); CMD 27
Feats Alertness, Deflect Arrows[B], Dodge[B], Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative[B], Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes[B], Persuasive
Skills Bluff +8, Craft (clockwork) +6, Diplomacy +8, Disable Device +9, Knowledge (arcana, planes) +7, Knowledge (geography) +5, Perception +8, Sense Motive +6, Stealth -1, Use Magic Device +8; Racial Modifiers +5 Craft (clockwork), +5 Disable Device, -5 Stealth
Languages Common, Draconic, one or more planar languages; tongues
SQ created mind, creator bond, difficult to create
Environment any
Organization solitary[, entourage (1 witchwyrd and 2-5 humanoid guards), or enclave (2-5 witchwyrds and 11-20 humanoid guards)]
Treasure incidental [double]
Special Abilities
Absorb Force (Su) Once per round, a witchwyrd can use a free hand to “catch” a magic missile fired at it. This absorbs the missile and manifests as a glowing nimbus around that hand (which is no longer considered free). The energy lasts 6 rounds or until it is used to create a force bolt. To use this ability, the witchwyrd must be aware of the incoming magic missile and cannot be flat-footed.
Created Mind (Ex) See clockwork template
Creator Bond (Ex) See clockwork template
Difficult to Create (Ex) See clockwork subtype
Force Bolt (Su) A witchwyrd can “throw” a magic missile (1d4+1 damage) from each free hand as a free action (maximum of two per round). If it has absorbed a magic missile, it can throw an additional force bolt that round, expending the absorbed energy (maximum of two additional bolts per round).
Swift Reactions (Ex) See clockwork subtype
Winding (Ex) See clockwork subtype

XP 6,400
Clockwork gray render (Bestiary 140, Advanced Bestiary 55)
N Large construct (clockwork)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +5
AC 30, touch 15, flat-footed 24 (+3 Dex, +3 dodge, +15 natural, -1 size)
hp 74 (8d10+30)
Fort +2, Ref +7, Will +3
DR 10/adamantine; Immune construct traits; Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10, sonic 10
Weaknesses metal body, vulnerability to electricity
Speed 30 ft.
Melee bite +16 (2d6+9), 2 claws +17 (1d8+9 plus grab)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks rend (2 claws, 1d8+13)
Str 29, Dex 17, Con --, Int --, Wis 12, Cha 2
Base Atk +8; CMB +18 (+22 grapple); CMD 31
Feats Dodge[B], Improved Initiative[B], Lightning Reflexes[B]
Skills Craft (clockwork) +5, Disable Device +8, Perception +6, Stealth -6; Racial Modifiers +5 Craft (clockwork), +5 Disable Device, +4 Perception, -5 Stealth
Languages Giant
SQ double damage against objects
Environment any
Organization solitary
Treasure incidental
Special Abilities
Created Mind (Ex) See clockwork template
Creator Bond (Ex) See clockwork template
Difficult to Create (Ex) See clockwork subtype
Double Damage to Objects (Ex) A clockwork gray render that makes a full attack against an object or structure deals double damage.
Swift Reactions (Ex) See clockwork subtype
Winding (Ex) See clockwork subtype

XP 12,800
War machine gray render (Bestiary 140, Advanced Bestiary 295)
N Large construct
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +14
AC 29, touch 13, flat-footed 25 (+4 Dex, +16 natural, -1 size)
hp 74 (8d10+30)
Fort +6, Ref +9, Will +6
DR 10/--; Immune electricity, construct traits; Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10
Weaknesses metal body
Speed 60 ft.; sprint
Melee bite +17 (4d6+10), 2 claws +17 (2d8+10 plus grab)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks body blades (1d8), rend (2 claws, 2d8+15)
Str 31, Dex 19, Con --, Int --, Wis 18, Cha 4
Base Atk +8; CMB +19 (+23 grapple); CMD 33
Skills Acrobatics +14 (+20 jumps), Climb +20, Perception +14; Racial Modifiers +10 Acrobatics, +10 Climb, +10 Perception
Languages Giant
SQ double damage against objects, war mount
Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or squad (3-6)
Treasure none
Special Abilities
Body Blades (Ex) See war machine template
Double Damage to Objects (Ex) A war machine gray render that makes a full attack against an object or structure deals double damage.
Sprint (Ex) See war machine template
War Mount (Ex) See war machine template