Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pathfinder Bestiary: Lodestone Slime

Over at The Piazza, Angel Tarragon recently posted a link to this Bearded Science Guy video, with the quip, "Imagine the horror on your players' faces when you beset a magnetic slime against the party!" I took that as a challenge to design a monster based on this experiment.

Lodestone Slime

This grayish black, amorphous blob's quivering flesh has a damp, metallic sheen. 

XP 2,400
N Medium ooze (earth)
Init -5; Senses blindsight 60 ft., scent metals; Perception -5
Aura magnetism (20 ft.)
AC 14, touch 4, flat-footed 14 (-5 Dex, +10 natural, -1 size)
hp 76 (8d8+40)
Fort +7, Ref -3, Will -3
Defensive Abilities ooze traits; DR 5/magic; Immune blindness, fire, mind-affecting effects
Weaknesses ferrous
Speed 20 ft., burrow 10 ft.; metal walk
Melee slam +9 (1d8+6 plus 1d6 acid)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks acid
Str 18, Dex 1, Con 20, Int Wis 1, Cha 1
Base Atk +6; CMB +11 (+13 magnetism); CMD 16 (26 vs. bull rush with metal walk, can't be tripped)
SQ no breath, ooze traits
Environment any underground
Organization solitary
Treasure none
Special Abilities
Acid (Ex) A lodestone slime secretes a digestive acid that dissolves organic material and metal quickly, but does not affect stone. Each time a creature suffers damage from a lodestone slime's acid, its clothing and armor take the same amount of damage from the acid. A DC 19 Reflex save prevents damage to clothing and armor. A metal or wooden weapon that strikes a lodestone slime takes 1d6 acid damage unless the weapon's wielder succeeds on a DC 19 Reflex save. If a lodestone slime remains in contact with a wooden or metal object for 1 full round, it inflicts 10 points of acid damage (no save) to the object. The save DCs are Constitution-based.
Ferrous (Ex) A lodestone slime's body is largely composed of iron. It is affected by rust attacks, such as those of a rust monster or a rusting grasp spell.
Magnetic Grab (Ex) A lodestone slime's body exerts a powerful magnetic force, holding fast any metal creatures or items that strike it. A metal weapon that strikes a lodestone slime is stuck fast unless the wielder succeeds on a DC 18 Reflex save. A successful DC 18 Strength check is needed pry off a stuck weapon. The save DC is Strength-based.
Magnetism (Ex) Any metal object or creature that is brought within 20 ft. of a lodestone slime is pulled towards the ooze by an invisible force similar to a constant telekinesis effect. Magnetism affects any Large or smaller metal item or creature when it first enters the aura, and again on the ooze's turn each round. Unattended and unsecured objects are automatically pulled 5 feet closer to the ooze if Large or Medium, 10 feet if Small or Tiny, or 20 feet if Diminutive or smaller.
     For metal creatures, or metal objects held or worn by a creature, resolve the magnetism attack as a combat maneuver. The lodestone slime's Combat Maneuver Bonus for this effect is +13, which includes a +2 racial modifier. On a successful combat maneuver, the metal creature or the metal object's bearer is pulled toward the ooze as above. If the combat maneuver is successful against a held item (such as a metal weapon), treat the result as a successful disarm unless the wielder makes a successful DC 18 Strength check. On a successful check, the creature retains hold of the item, but is pulled toward the ooze (at a speed determined by the bearer's size rather than the object's size, unless the object is larger). The Strength check DC is Strength-based.
     Against unattended but secured objects (such as a chain fastened to a wall), make a combat maneuver check against the item's break DC. On a success, the object breaks or is otherwise pulled loose, and moves toward the lodestone slime as above.
Metal Walk (Ex) Due to its magnetic nature, a lodestone slime can cling to and move at its base speed across metal surfaces, even those that are perfectly smooth or inverted. When using metal walk, the ooze gains a +10 circumstance bonus to its Combat Maneuver Defense against bull rush, awesome blows, and other attacks and effects that attempt to physically move it from its location.
Scent Metals (Ex) This ability functions much the same as the scent ability, except that the range is 90 feet and the lodestone slime can only use it to sense metal objects (including creatures wearing or carrying metal items).

A lodestone slime's viscous body is heavily infused with ferrous minerals that emit a powerful magnetic field. Its bizarre metabolism requires it to consume copious amounts of both metal (in order to maintain its magnetic powers) and flesh (in order to heal and maintain its mobility). A lodestone slime completely deprived of all nourishment will eventually decay into a brittle mass of inert slag.

Rust monsters can scent the metallic body of a lodestone slime at twice their normal range, and will be irresistibly drawn to attack and devour these oozes. Gorging on the slime's rusted remains may have unusual effects on the rust monsters or their offspring, manifesting as the advanced or giant template, or some more bizarre mutation.

Design Notes

I borrowed pieces from several existing monsters in order to devise the lodestone slime's various abilities:
  • Scent metal is taken from the rust monster. 
  • Like the iron golem, the lodestone slime is a ferrous creature, so is affected by rust attacks.
  • Metal walk is modeled after the black pudding's suction ability.
  • The acid attack is based on the gray ooze (which is Large, has 6 HD, and affects flesh and metal).
  • Magnetic grab is modeled after the mimic's adhesive ability.
  • The idea for using combat maneuvers for the magnetism aura came from the telekinesis spell, which seemed to be the closest analogy in the Core Rulebook spell list.
And finally, this creature has not yet been playtested at all, so I'd appreciate any feedback that you may have about the build.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

D&D 5E with the Kids, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I posted about the start of my run of "Lost Mine of Phandelver" for my kids, a friend, and his kids. After some delays, we had our second session this past weekend.

(Obligatory spoiler warning for "Lost Mine of Phandelver")

Last time, the party had taken out some goblin sentries, but then withdrew to rest and heal. They returned to face two replacement guards, but took them down before any further alarm was raised.

This session started with them entering the cave that served as the goblins' hideout. Just inside the entrance was a chamber with two chained wolves, who the party treated with wary respect. The barbarian, who had been raised by wolves, couldn't bear to see these two in chains, so enlisted the cleric's help to calm the hostile animals, then feed and release them. The wolves were uncertain at first what to make of their freedom, but after a moment, left the cave to prowl around the woods outside.

Searching the wolf pen revealed a narrow chimney up to another chamber. The bard climbed up to investigate, and noticed a smoldering fire pit in the room. He moved forward to tie a rope to a nearby stalagmite, but was attacked by a wolf. The barbarian rushed up the wall to protect the bard, who retreated back down the chimney--but slipped and fell, knocking himself unconscious. The cleric promptly healed him, then suggested that the party rush up the main passage to join the fight from the other side, rather than risking their necks on a difficult climb.

The wolf's bugbear master bellowed orders to unseen minions in the next room, then hurled javelins at the intruder. The wolf's attacks were more effective than the bugbear, and only the barbarian's rage kept her standing for very long.

The rest of the party reached a room that was the source of the stream flowing down one side of the main tunnel: a waterfall entered a large chamber, where stone walls collected water in large pools. Here, three goblins were working to knock out one wall, in order to flood the entrance. The cleric and wizard took them out quickly, while the bard dodged past the fight to find the room that he had fallen from before. The wolf had just mauled the barbarian, rendering her unconscious, so the bard used his healing word spell to cure her from afar. The rogue rushed into that room and killed the wolf. The bugbear cursed at the loss of its pet, but missed the rogue with its morningstar. When it started to take damage from the heroes converging on the room, it fled to the chimney--but then repeated the bard's accident and knocked itself unconscious. The barbarian climbed down to make sure it was dead by beheading it.

Meanwhile, the wizard, seeing his companions handling the fighting quite well without him, explored the tunnel beyond a bridge to the far side of the stream. He stopped when he heard the sounds of goblins speaking in a room ahead, and reported back to the party.

The party took a short rest in the bugbear's room, while the cleric stood guard at the choke point at the bridge. As a dwarf, he easily understood the goblin's water trap, and proposed turning it on the goblins if they entered the main passage below. However, after some scouting by the bard, that plan was abandoned as too dangerous for the party. (Due to the steep slope of the most direct access to the remaining goblins, down near the wolf pen, they could not safely lure them out that way.)

The rogue scouted out the barracks room, then attempted to sneak attack the nearest goblin, but missed. The two nearest goblins closed with her, while three others started shooting at her, but noen could hit her. The other PCs moved into the room to start attacking goblins. The goblin leader, who was on a higher ledge in the back of the room, moved to a bound prisoner kept there, and pulled him toward the edge. However, before he could threaten to kill the prisoner, the dragonborn barbarian breathed acid on him, and the wizard cast sleep on the surviving goblins. With two goblins down and the leader wounded, the wizard's good roll with his spell was just barely enough to knock out the rest. The party then dispatched their sleeping foes, and freed the prisoner. (One goblin woke after being hit too weakly to kill it outright. It fled, but was chased down by the cleric and rogue.)

The captive turned out to be Sildar Hallwinter, the warrior who was escorting the party's employer, Gundren Rockseeker. He and the dwarf had been ambushed on the road to Phandalin, and brought here. Someone known only as the Black Spider had ordered the goblins to bring the dwarf to him, and Sildar knew no more about Gundren's whereabouts. He explained the reason behind the Rockseeker brothers' expedition: to find and reopen Wave Echo Cave, a famous mine and site of magical power, the location of which had been lost when orcs overran it centuries ago.

The party will rest here and heal, then escort Sildar (and Gundren's supply wagon) to Phandalin. This is the end of Part One of "Lost Mine," and the party has reached 2nd level, so we took care of that before wrapping the session.

Level advancement in much less complicated in 5th Edition than it was in 3rd or 4th. For most of the party, they added a class feature or two, rolled hit points, and were finished. Two players--the barbarian and the wizard--were very unlucky and rolled 1's for hp, which prompted the bard's player (who went last) to choose average hp instead of rolling! The bard and wizard also had to choose new spells known, and the wizard chose the School of Conjuration as his arcane tradition. (The cleric already chose a domain at 1st level, and the bard, barbarian, and rogue have to wait until 3rd level to select their archetypes.)

This session demonstrated the odd blend of fragility and resiliency that low-level characters have in this edition--they can be reduced to 0 hp very easily, but then have the buffer of making death saving throws before they actually die. Two PCs were reduced to 0 hp this session, but only one was down long enough to have to make any death saves (and succeeded on that one). I forgot the rule about massive damage instantly killing characters (if leftover damage exceeds maximum hp), which might have been bad news for the bard, who had just 1 hp when he fell down the chimney. I'll need to point out that rule to them for future reference, because there are some monsters later in this adventure who can dish out enough damage to threaten that kind of swift death, even after the party gains a few levels.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Building the Bestiary #1: Humanoids

This column will be the first in an irregular series of articles in which I will give examples of how I've approached building LEGO models of various creatures for use as RPG miniatures. My earlier article, "How to Cheat (at Building) a Dragon," could be considered part of this series as well. You will probably also want to check out the following older posts, which review various products for the usefulness of their minifigures:
For this first installment, we'll start simple, with humanoids. A wide variety of humanoid species can be created by equiping basic minifigures with various accessories. The collectible Minifigures series are a great source for nonhuman characters and parts, as are several other LEGO themes: Castle/Kingdom, Star Wars, Legends of Chima, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit. and others.

The pregenerated PCs from Death in Freeport (L-R):
Malevir (half-elf) sorcerer, Rollo (gnome fighter), Alaina (human rogue), Thorgrim (dwarf cleric).
First, let's look at the classic player character races, from the D&D Player's Handbook and Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

Dwarves: The Castle and LOTR/Hobbit themes have included a number of fine dwarf minifigures. Lacking those parts, a dwarf can be easily built by adding a beard to a minifigure and replacing the legs with shorter legs--the dwarf/child short leg pieces, a pair of 1x1 bricks or cylinders, or a 1x2 bamboo brick.

Elves: There was a single medieval fantasy elf (Minifigures Series 3) released before the LOTR theme, and a Holiday Elf produced since then (Series 11). The new LEGO Elves theme provides minidoll elves, whose pointy-eared hair pieces can also be worn by minifigures. Apart from those characters, I have used Castle forestmen for elves, and other figures with green and brown garments are useful, too. Ethnic faces such as those from Old West tribemen or the original Ninja theme are good for giving your elves an exotic look. (I used the latter for the half-elf Malevir, pictured above.)

Gnomes: Gnomes can be built much like dwarves or halflings. Pathfinder gnomes may have unusually-colored hair and skin, so if you have appropriate parts, use them to help distinguish your gnomes from the other short races.

Half-Elves: Decide which parent the half-elf favors, and build accordingly.

Half-Orcs: Some years before the LOTR orcs and Hobbit goblins were released, the Castle/Kingdoms line included some sets with "trolls," which were basically green-faced orcs with tusk-like fangs. Other green-skinned minifigures (such as Green Goblin and the Wicked Witch) may prove useful, as will various near-human Star Wars aliens. For less bestial half-orcs, look for savage-looking characters such as the uglier Castle bandits, and Darth Vader's scarred, gray face.

Halflings: Use hobbit minifigures, or put shorter legs on human bodies (see Dwarves, above). D&D and Pathfinder halfling men tend to have pronounced sideburns, so look for faces to match. If you want your halflings to look like true half-pints, try using Heroica microfigures--but note that those characters can't be customized easily.

Kodath (half-orc) samurai and wu jen, from True20 Freeport: The Lost Island.
A couple of subraces deserve comment because of their distinctive appearances:

Drow (dark elves) have black skin and white hair, though brown skin and light gray or tan hair would work just as well. Marvel's Storm is an ideal choice here--she even has the white eyes seen in many drow portraits. A small number of other brown heads are available, scattered across a few different themes. Darth Maul and Ninjago's Lord Garmadon and Stone Army provide black heads; their bizarre markings might be appropriate for certain individual drow. Finally, the Spider Lady's outfit (Minifigures Series 14) makes perfect vestments for a priestess of Lolth.

(I'll address aquatic elves in a future column, when I talk about underwater races.)

Svirfneblin (deep gnomes) have gray skin and hair (though males are bald). Peeves (Harry Potter), Darth Vader, the gargoyle (Minifigures Series 14), and some statues have gray heads. Alternately, use the plain gray "statue" microfigures that appear in some LOTR and Heroica sets, or the Golems from Caverns of Nathuz.

Now we'll look at the most common savage humanoid races from the D&D Monster Manual and Pathfinder Bestiary.

Orcs: See Half-Orcs, above.

Goblinoids (bugbears, goblins, hobgoblins): Use green-skinned orc/goblin/troll minifigures for goblins (see Half-Orcs, above), but with shorter legs. Other varieties of goblins have appeared in the Harry Potter theme and Minifigures Series 13; Dobby and Yoda also make serviceable goblins. Alternately, use Heroica goblin microfigures (from Draida Bay and Castle Fortaan). One advantage of these smaller figures is that when you need a wolf-rider, the microfigure can be snapped onto the back-stud of a LEGO dog.

D&D hobgoblins have orange or red-orange skin, so use orange-, red-, and tan-skinned goblin/orc minifigures (or the red-skinned villains in the new Nexo Knights series). In Pathfinder and some D&D worlds, hobgoblins are members of the "green races," just like goblins and orcs. In that case, you'll need to differentiate them in some other way, such as the Asian-influenced arms and armor they were depicted using in 1st Edition.

Bugbears are larger (though still Medium), and hairier, so use Wookiees (or Ewoks given normal-length legs), Yeti or Squarefoot (from Series 11 and 14), or the human-headed type of Wolfmen.  If you have any Harry Potter sets, a Hagrid figure with a more monstrous head works well to convey a bugbear's relative size to smaller goblinoids.

For a serpent person, add a
clip-plate for a forked tongue. 
Reptilian Humanoids (kobolds, lizardfolk, troglodytes): A variety of reptile-headed minifigures have been released in the past--Greedo, Lizard Suit Guy (Series 5), the Serpentine of Ninjago, and the Crocodile tribe of Legends of Chima--any of which would be suitable for lizardfolk or troglodytes. Kobolds can be created by giving those same creatures shorter legs.

If you have no suitable heads, try a 1x2 brick with a hole in the center. Stick the neck post into one half of the brick, and place 1x2 round tiles in the holes for eyes. This makes a simple, forward-thrust animal head.

Gnolls: For the hyena-headed gnolls, use werewolves (Series 14, Monster Fighters, or the much older LEGO Studios theme), Anubis warriors (Pharoah's Quest), or Wolf Tribe characters (Legends of Chima).

[This article was edited 3/17/2016 to add LEGO Elves. Thanks to Donald Eric Kesler for reminding me of that theme!]

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport

One of the regular features at the D&D website is a monthly column entitled "Unearthed Arcana," in which the R&D group offers some new RPG material in draft form for players to experiment with in their own games. When I started putting more time into learning the Fifth Edition rules recently, I read through these articles to see what I might find useful for my own future games. The "Waterborne Adventures" installment in particular set me thinking again about using 5E with Freeport. So, with that in mind, here are some suggestions for using "Unearthed Arcana" material in that setting. 

Eberron (2/2/2015): The changling race would make an excellent starting point for allowing civilized serpent people as a player character race: simply add Darkvision, and change Languages to Common and Valossan (with no third language).

The Artificer arcane tradition would also be a good fit for Freeport, both for members of the Wizard's Guild and independent enchanters. (My 3E Freeport games included one cleric/wizard PC who opened a magic shop when the campaign ended. She would translate beautifully to an artificer!)

This article also contains information on the shifter and warforged races, Action Points, and Dragonmark feats, which could be included in a Freeport game if the DM allows. For example, a warforged character's origin might tie into the background for "The Ironjack Legacy."

When Armies Clash (3/2/2015): Mass combat rules are unlikely to see much use in Freeport except in naval battles (which these rules do not cover), the occasional riot or gang war, or the sort of invasion scenario seen in Black Sails Over Freeport.

Modifying Classes (4/6/2015): This column expands on the brief guidelines on modifying classes and creating new classes that appear in the Dungeon Master's Guide. It provides two worked examples: a ranger variant with no spells, and the favored soul (converted from the 3E book Complete Divine) as a sorcerous origin. Either would be acceptable in Freeport.

Waterborne Adventures (5/4/2015): This article is full of material wonderfully suited to Freeport: the Mariner fighting style, the Swashbuckler archetype for rogues, and the Storm sorcerous origin. In addition, Freeport sees enough strange ships and crews pass through its waters that the minotaur race would not be out of place there. (After all, a minotaur captain does appear in one adventure, Dark Deeds in Freeport.)

The recent Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide includes an official Swashbuckler archetype, but I don't own that book to compare them. Likewise, I don't know how much other material from "Unearthed Arcana" (if any) that book contains  (If any of my readers own it, please enlighten me in the comments!)

Variant Rules (6/8/2015): None of these rules is specific to any setting.

Awakened Mystic (7/6/2015): This psionic class has been updated and expanded to 10th level in "Psionics and the Mystic, Take 2," below (2/1/2016).

Modern Magic (8/3/2015): This installment deals exclusively with modern-day magic, so is not appropriate to Freeport.

Ranger (9/9/2015): A variant on the ranger class, which can be used instead of or alongside the Player's Handbook version. (See also "Modifying Classes," above [4/6/2015].)

Prestige Classes and Rune Magic (10/5/2015): Freeport attracts practitioners of all kinds of weird magical traditions, so rune magic would fit in just fine--particularly in the Wizards' Guild.

Light, Dark, Underdark! (11/2/2015): This article was designed as support for the Underdark-based Rage of Demons storyline, but all of it could be useful in (or below) Freeport: two new fighting styles (Close Quarters Shooter and Tunnel Fighter), the Deep Stalker ranger archetype, the Shadow sorcerous origin, and the Undying Light otherworldly patron.

That Old Black Magic (12/7/2015): Fiendish cults are a recurring problem in Freeport's history, so these conjuration spells are perfect for spellcasting villains. The Abyssal tiefling variant also fits in well.

Kits of Old (1/4/2016): The two new bard colleges (Swords and Satire) and the Scout fighter archetype are all suitable for Freeport. Mounted combatants are rare in Freeport, but fighters with the Cavalier archetype can be found here, too.

Psionics and the Mystic, Take 2 (2/1/2016): Psionics are quite rare in Freeport, but they are part of the distinctive flavor of the continent of Naranjan (detailed in Mindshadows), which is part of the greater World of Freeport. The Order of the Awakened can be used to convert 3E psions who specialized in powers based on mental ability scores. Use the Order of the Immortal for physical-oriented psions, as well as psychic warriors and soulknives. (Progression beyond 10th level will have to wait for a future "Unearthed Arcana" column, or an official psionics sourcebook.)

March 2016 Review (3/7/2016): This latest column reviews some of the best material being produced through Dungeon Master's Guild (the 5E version of the OGL), rather than offering new material itself.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

D&D 5E with the Kids, Part 1

I recently acquired a copy of the D&D 5E Starter Set, which includes the introductory adventure "Lost Mine of Phandelver." My friend Tim "the Younger" ran this adventure for our regular gaming group, and it seems like a great introduction to the new edition for my kids (ages 10 and almost 12). They have played a few sessions each of D&D v.3.5, Pathfinder, and Earthdawn, but D&D 5E is somewhat less complicated than any of those systems, so seems like a better match for them at this point in their gaming careers. I invited Jeff, a friend who was not part of the previous run, and his two sons (ages 12 and 16) to join us, and they eagerly accepted.

(By the way, I won't be giving the kids' names here, since they're minors. I'll use their character names or race/class instead.)

We met last month to create characters. The party consists of five 1st-level adventurers:
  • Sothleene, Human Rogue (Charlatan)
  • Starfright. Dragonborn Barbarian (Outlander)
  • Bahli Kegstander, Hill Dwarf Cleric of Moradin (War Domain, Guild Artisan)
  • Gybrush Threepwood, Human Wizard (Sage)
  • Caboose, Forest Gnome Bard (Entertainer)
(L-R): Sothleene, Starfright, Caboose, Bahli, Gybrush
We had our first session of actual play this past weekend. All of my players are new to 5E, and I'm new to DMing it, so most of this session was devoted to making sure everyone understood the rules as they came up in play--attacks, skills, saves, spellcasting, healing, short and long rests, (dis)advantage, etc. 

Here's where you need to stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled for "Lost Mine of Phandelver."

The adventure starts with the party being hired to take a wagon load of supplies to the village of Phandelin, while their employer and his escort ride ahead to take care of other business. The first encounter was an ambush by a handful of goblins. This scene has a pretty simple set-up, being specifically designed to teach the basics of combat. Despite a couple characters taking some arrow hits, the party (mostly the barbarian and cleric) took out the goblins pretty quickly. The cleric's War Priest feature gives him a bonus melee attack, and both front-line characters could easily take out a goblin with a good damage roll. 

Searching the area let the party know that their employer and his escort were captured here and dragged down a trail away from the road. The players spent some time debating what to do next, and eventually decided to hide the wagon in the woods and follow the trail, taking the oxen with them to keep them from being stolen. The big challenge here, for me as DM and for both Jeff and me as parents, was to have the patience to let the kids work all that out for themselves, with minimal nudging from us adults. Jeff very pointedly did not want to have his cleric end up as party leader just because he was the adult and the experienced gamer. 

Once the party settled on their plan, they followed the trail, and narrowly avoided a couple of traps along the way. They found the goblin cave, and were surprised by two sentries hiding in a thicket beside the entrance. After the goblins shot a couple PCs, the party rushed their position. The wizard's sleep spell took out the goblins, allowing his allies to kill them quickly. Between the two fights, the party had used up most of their 1st-level spells and Hit Dice, so decided they needed to retreat, camp, and rest before entering the goblin cave. This meant the goblins would almost certainly be on the alert when they returned, but the players didn't like their chances without recovering first.

The night passed uneventfully, and they returned to the cave to fight a new pair of sentries. They took these out more efficiently--in large part because the rogue successfully used Stealth to get close enough to sneak attack them (and her critical hit was pure overkill).

We stopped there because the kids were getting tired and restless. Also, the rest of this location will likely require a couple more hours to play out, with far less convenient stopping points. Overall, the session was a success, and everyone is looking forward to our next session, later this month.

[Edited 12/8/2016 to add photo of PCs' miniatures.]