Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dragonborn for 0e

Though there is probably exceedingly little overlap between dragonborn enthusiasts and 0e players, this back-conversion is offered up to that small, select intersection of these two groups. The following text is Open Game Content.

Dragonborn

Dragonborn are rare, scaly humanoids descended from dragons. They approach nearly every undertaking with the utmost enthusiasm and intensity. Dragonborn may have once possessed a kingdom of their own, but now they are scattered across the world in small, tight-knit communities. They revere tradition and respect the bonds of their clan and family.

Young Dragonborn grow quickly. They walk hours after hatching, attain the size and development of a 10-year-old human child by the age of 3, and reach adulthood by 15. Adult Dragonborn are taller and heavier than humans, standing well over 6 feet tall and averaging almost 250 pounds. They live to be around 80.

Dragonborn as Player Characters

Draconic Ancestry: All Dragonborn have a breath weapon that can be used once per day. A Dragonborn’s ancestry determines the breath weapon.

Draconic Ancestry
Dragon Breath Weapon Effect
Black 30-foot line 2d6 acid damage, saving throw for half
Blue 30-foot line 2d6 lightning damage, saving throw for half
Brass 10-foot diameter cloud Sleep until the victim is physically awakened; a saving throw is required for anyone caught in the breath weapon, regardless of level
Bronze 30-foot line 2d6 lightning damage, saving throw for half
Copper 30-foot line 2d6 acid damage, saving throw for half
Gold 15-foot cone 2d6 fire damage, saving throw for half
Green 10-foot diameter cloud 2d6 poison gas, saving throw for half
Red 15-foot cone 2d6 fire damage, saving throw for half
Silver 15-foot cone 2d6 cold damage, saving throw for half
White 15-foot cone 2d6 cold damage, saving throw for half

Classes: Dragonborn player characters must be Fighters and may advance beyond 6th level only if the warrior has Strength of 17 (maximum 7th level) or 18 (maximum 8th level). Such a Fighter may also take advantage of any XP bonus due to a high Strength score to gain experience more quickly. Dragonborn that are not player-characters might have completely different limitations or abilities than player-character Dragonborn adventurers, as determined by the Referee.

Dragonborn as Monsters

This bipedal dragon stands well over six feet tall and is armed and armored like a warrior. Its fine scales are colored dark red.

Dragonborn CL 2 (30 XP)

A dragonborn has the breath weapon of its ancestor (see above). It can use its breath weapon once per day.

HD 1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (1d8); Move 9; Save 17; Al L; Special breath weapon.

OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc (“Wizards”). All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dragonborn for 3.5e

The dragonborn have a relatively short but tumultuous history in D&D. They first appeared as a weird template in a late 3.5e supplement, Races of the Dragon (2006) and didn’t seem to make much of a splash there. Which made it all the more surprising when dragonborn emerged as a core race in 4e—and in fact, might have been one of the signature elements of the new edition.

The addition of dragonborn . . . was not universally acclaimed. I wasn’t a huge fan myself; as an old school guy, I would have preferred to have seen the classic lizardfolk promoted as a PC race, as they have been around since Greyhawk (1975) and have always been a semi-popular variant for players. I would have also liked to have kept dragons a little more distant and special.

But that said, dragonborn had their fans and it was not surprising to see them brought forward into 5e. I had not originally planned to have them in the Great Dungeon of the North, but when I started running a new 5e campaign for some younger kids, two out of three players opted for dragonborn characters. I have come to believe, somewhat late in the game, that good DMs should always try to follow Tina Fey's first rule for improvisation: agree. And so the setting now has dragonborn, and I think it’s better for it—the kids certainly seem to enjoy playing them.

Like their great rivals the tieflings, the dragonborn are fairly new arrivals to the North, originating from the Southern Kingdoms. Still fairly rare, a handful of dragonborn have journeyed up the Gobbo River to explore the Great Dungeon, though they are almost always mistaken for lizardfolk.

Wizards generously released dragonborn in the 5e System Reference Document and so I developed the following 3.5e back-conversion from that source. By the time you get to 5th edition the dragonborn little resembles the template from Races of the Dragon. I also consulted Kobold Press’ excellent Advanced Races Compendium. The Compendium, written for Pathfinder, has its own dragonkin which are close cousins to the dragonborn, and served as a helpful reference. Developing balanced third edition player character races is always a fraught undertaking, but I think the final result is pretty close, if maybe a little underpowered compared to the core races.

The following text is Open Game Content.

Dragonborn

This bipedal dragon stands well over six feet tall and is armed and armored like a warrior. Its fine scales are colored dark red.

Descended from Dragons. Dragonborn are rare, scaly humanoids. They may have once possessed a kingdom of their own, but now they are scattered across the world in small, tight-knit communities. They revere tradition and respect the bonds of their clan and family.

A Tendency for Extremes. Dragonborn make a conscious choice for one side or the other in the cosmic war between good and evil. They approach nearly every undertaking with the utmost enthusiasm and intensity.

Formidable Foes. Most dragonborn are good, but those who side with evil can be terrible villains. Dragonborn tend to be relentless in their pursuits, and their enemies are no exception.

Dragonborn are taller and heavier than humans, standing well over 6 feet tall and averaging almost 250 pounds.

Young dragonborn grow quickly. They walk hours after hatching, attain the size and development of a 10-year-old human child by the age of 3, and reach adulthood by 15. They live to be around 80.

Most dragonborn encountered outside their home are warriors.

Dragonborn CR 1/2

Dragonborn warrior 1

Often LN Medium humanoid (dragonborn)

Init -2; Senses Listen +0, Spot +0

Languages Common, Draconic

Defense

AC 13, touch 8, flat-footed 13
(+4 armor, -2 Dex, +1 shield)

hp 7 (1d8+3 HD)

Fort +2, Ref -2, Will -1; +2 against fire effects

Offense

Spd 20 ft.

Melee longsword +3 (1d8+2/19–20)

Ranged javelin -1 (1d6+2)

Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.

Special Attacks breath weapon (15-ft. cone, 2d6 fire, Reflex DC 10 half, usable 1/day)

tactics

During Combat A dragonborn warrior usually wades directly into melee, using its breath weapon only when several opponents are within the area of effect.

Morale Dragonborn warriors will fight to the death unless ordered to retreat.

Statistics

Str 15, Dex 7, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 12

Base Atk +1; Grp +3

Feats Toughness

Skills Diplomacy +3, Intimidate +7, Listen +0, Spot +0

SQ fire acclimated

Gear scale mail, light steel shield, longsword, 2 javelins

Ecology

Environment any

Organization solitary, family (2–4), or enclave (5–12 plus plus 2 3rd-level sergeants and 1 leader of 4th–6th level)

Treasure standard

Advancement by character class; Favored Class fighter

Level Adjustment +0

Special Abilities

Breath Weapon (Su) A dragonborn warrior can breathe a 15-foot cone of fire once per day as a standard action. Creatures in the area of effect take 2d6 fire damage, with a DC 10 Reflex save for half. The save DC is Constitution-based.

Fire Acclimated (Ex) A dragonborn warrior has a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against all fire spells and effects.

Dragonborn as Characters

Many dragonborn leaders are fighters. Dragonborn clerics usually venerate one of two draconic deities. A cleric of the lawful good power (favored weapon: heavy pick) can choose any two of the following domains: Good, Law, Luck, and Protection. A cleric of the lawful evil power (favored weapon: heavy pick) can choose any two of the following domains: Destruction, Evil, Law, and Trickery.

Draconic Ancestry: A dragonborn's ancestry determines the breath weapon and energy acclimated ability (see below).

Draconic Ancestry
Dragon Breath Weapon Energy Acclimated
Black 30-foot line of acid Acid
Blue 30-foot line of electricity Electricity
Brass 30-foot line of fire Fire
Bronze 30-foot line of electricity Electricity
Copper 30-foot line of acid Acid
Gold 15-foot cone of fire Fire
Green 15-foot cone of corrosive (acid) gas Acid
Red 15-foot cone of fire Fire
Silver 15-foot cone of cold Cold
White 15-foot cone of cold Cold

Dragonborn characters possess the following racial traits.

  • +2 Strength or Charisma, -2 Dexterity.
  • Medium size.
  • A dragonborn’s base land speed is 30 feet.
  • Breath Weapon: A dragonborn has a breath weapon. The type and shape depend on the draconic ancestry. Using a breath weapon is a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. A dragonborn’s breath weapon deals 2d6 points of damage. A successful Reflex save (DC 10 + ½ dragonborn’s racial HD + dragonborn’s Con modifier) reduces damage by half. The damage increases to 3d6 at 6 HD, 4d6 at 11 HD and 5d6 at 16 HD. Regardless of its strength, the breath weapon can be used a number of times per day equal to the dragonborn’s Constitution modifier (minimum 1).
  • Acclimated: A dragonborn has a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against all spells and effects associated with the same energy type as the breath weapon.
  • +2 racial bonus on Intimidate and Diplomacy checks.
  • Automatic Languages: Common, Draconic. Bonus Languages: Abyssal, Aquan, Auran, Celestial, Ignan, Terran.
  • Favored Class: Fighter.

The dragonborn warrior presented here had a red dragon ancestor and the following ability scores before racial adjustments: Str 13, Dex 9, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 12.

Advanced Dragonborn

Dragonborn sergeants are the sworn defenders of their enclaves. The sergeant presented here had a white dragon ancestor and the following ability scores before racial adjustments: Str 13, Dex 9, Con 12, Int 11, Wis 8, Cha 10.

Dragonborn SergeantCR 2

Dragonborn warrior 3

Often LN Medium humanoid (dragonborn)

Init -2; Senses Listen +0, Spot +0

Languages Common, Draconic

Defense

AC 15, touch 8, flat-footed 15
(+7 armor, -2 Dex)

hp 16 (3d8+3 HD)

Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +0; +2 against cold effects

Offense

Spd 20 ft.

Melee mwk greatsword +7 (2d6+3/19–20)

Ranged mwk javelin +2 (1d6+2)

Special Attacks breath weapon (15-ft. cone, 2d6 cold, Reflex DC 10 half, usable 1/day)

Statistics

Str 15, Dex 7, Con 12, Int 11, Wis 8, Cha 10

Base Atk +3; Grp +5

Feats Lightning Reflexes, Weapon Focus (greatsword)

Skills Climb -3, Diplomacy +2, Intimidate +8, Listen +0, Spot +0

SQ cold acclimated

Combat Gear potion of heroism, Other Gear half-plate, masterwork greatsword, 2 masterwork javelins

Dragonborn clerics that follow evil are far fewer in number than those who choose good, and generally belong to a secretive cult that worships in hidden shrines. They are often driven by vengeful purposes. The dragonborn cultist presented below had a blue dragon ancestor and the following ability scores before racial adjustments: Str 14, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 15, Cha 13.

Dragonborn Cultist CR 3

Dragonborn cleric 3

Usually LE Medium humanoid (dragonborn)

Init +2; Senses Listen +2, Spot +2

Languages Common, Draconic

Defense

AC 14, touch 8, flat-footed 14
(+5 armor, -2 Dex, +1 shield)

hp 20 (3d8+3 HD)

Fort +4, Ref -1, Will +5; +2 against electricity effects

Offense

Spd 20 ft.

Melee mwk heavy pick +5 (1d6+2/x4)

Ranged javelin +0 (1d6+2)

Spells Prepared (CL 3rd)

2nd—death knell (DC 14), shatter D (DC 14), silence (DC 14)

1st—cause fear (DC 13), disguise self D, magic weapon, shield of faith

0—detect magic, guidance, inflict minor wounds (+4 melee touch, DC 12), resistance

D Domain spell; Domains destruction, trickery

Special Attacks breath weapon (30-ft. line, 2d6 electricity, Reflex DC 12 half, usable 1/day), rebuke undead 5/day (+2, 2d6+5 HD, 3rd), smite 1/day

Statistics

Str 14, Dex 6, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 15, Cha 15

Base Atk +2; Grp +4

Feats Combat Casting, Improved Initiative

Skills Bluff +7, Concentration +3 (+7 casting defensively), Diplomacy +7, Disguise +4 (+6 acting), Intimidate +6, Knowledge (arcana) +2

SQ aura (evil, lawful), electricity acclimated, spontaneous casting (inflict spells)

Combat Gear potion of heroism, potion of enlarge person; Other Gear +1 scale mail, light steel shield, masterwork heavy pick, 2 javelins

Special Abilities

Smite (Su) Once per day the dragonborn cultist can make a single melee attack with a +4 bonus on attack rolls and a +3 bonus on damage rolls if it hits. The cultist must declare the smite before making the attack.

With their draconic bloodline, dragonborn are natural sorcerers. The sorcerous dragonborn presented below had a copper dragon ancestor and the following ability scores before racial adjustments and Hit Dice ability score increases: Str 8, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 15.

Sorcerous Dragonborn CR 5

Dragonborn sorcerer 5

Often LN Medium humanoid (dragonborn)

Init +0; Senses Listen +1, Spot +1

Languages Common, Draconic

Defense

AC 12, touch 11, flat-footed 12
(+1 armor, +1 deflection)

hp 27 (5d4+13 HD)

Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +5; +2 against acid effects

Offense

Spd 20 ft.

Melee heavy mace +1 (1d8-1)

Ranged light crossbow +2 (1d8/19–20)

Spells Known (CL 5th)

2nd (5/day)—scorching ray (+2 ranged touch), web (DC 16)

1st (7/day)—magic missile, obscuring mist, shield, silent image (DC 15)

0 (6/day)—acid splash (+2 ranged touch), daze (DC 14), detect magic, flare (DC 14), light, mage hand

Special Attacks breath weapon (30-ft. line, 2d6 acid, Reflex DC 14 half, usable 2/day)

Statistics

Str 8, Dex 11, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 18

Base Atk +2; Grp +1

Feats Lightning Reflexes, Toughness

Skills Bluff +6, Concentration +10, Diplomacy +6, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (arcana) +3, Spellcraft +3

SQ acid acclimated, summon familiar

Combat Gear potion of barkskin +3, scroll of shout; Other Gear bracers of armor +1, ring of protection +1, heavy mace, light crossbow with 20 bolts

With an innate zeal for justice, many dragonborn are called to become paladins. The dragonborn champion presented below had a silver dragon ancestor and the following ability scores before racial adjustments, Hit Dice ability score increases, and equipment bonuses: Str 15, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 14.

Dragonborn Champion CR 7

Dragonborn paladin 7

Always LG Medium humanoid (dragonborn)

Init +2; Senses Listen +0, Spot +0

Languages Common, Draconic

Aura courage (10 ft.)

Defense

AC 18, touch 8, flat-footed 18
(+8 armor, -2 Dex, +2 shield)

hp 57 (7d10+14 HD)

Fort +9, Ref +2, Will +5; +2 against cold effects

Immune disease, fear

Offense

Spd 20 ft.

Melee +1 longsword +12/+7 (1d8+5/19–20)

Ranged javelin +5 (1d6+4)

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 3rd)

1/week—remove disease

At will—bless, divine favor

Spells Prepared (CL 7th)

1st—detect evil

Special Attacks breath weapon (15-ft. cone, 3d6 cold, Reflex DC 15 half, usable 2/day), smite evil 1/day, turn undead 5/day (+2, 2d6+6, 4th)

Statistics

Str 18, Dex 6, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 14

Base Atk +7; Grp +11

Feats Alertness, Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (longsword)

Skills Diplomacy +4, Handle Animal +7, Heal +6, Intimidate +4, Ride +3, Sense Motive +5

SQ aura (strong good), cold acclimated, divine grace, divine health, lay on hands (14 hp), special mount

Gear amulet of health +2, +1 half plate, heavy steel shield, +1 longsword, 2 javelins

Special Abilities

Aura of Courage (Su) Each ally within 10 feet of the dragonborn champion gains a +4 morale bonus on saving throws against fear effects.

Lay on Hands (Su) The dragonborn champion can heal up to 14 hp of wounds per day (its own or those of others) by touch as a standard action. A champion may choose to divide its healing among multiple recipients, and it doesn’t have to use it all at once. Alternatively, the champion can use any or all of this healing power to deal damage to undead creatures. Using lay on hands in this way requires a successful melee touch attack (at +11) and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. The champion decides how many of its daily allotment of points to use as damage after successfully touching an undead creature.

Smite Evil (Su) Twice per day, the dragonborn champion may attempt to smite evil with one normal melee attack. The champion has a +2 bonus to the attack roll and does +7 extra points of damage. If the champion accidentally smites a creature that is not evil, the smite has no effect, but the ability is still used up for that day.

OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc (“Wizards”). All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 24, 2017

What Every Elf Knows

  • Elvenkind once lived north of the Boundary Mountains, but were driven south almost 5,000 years ago by some tragedy known only as the Great Sorrow.
  • The elves brought their goblin and gnome servants with them south of the Boundary Mountains.
  • To this day elves are forbidden to venture north of the Mountains.
  • The new lands were largely wild, inhabited only by stone giants, lizardfolk, merfolk, and primitive humans led by the Druids, a caste of shape-changing priests.
  • The exiled elves founded the kingdom of Norumbega in these new lands.
  • The stone giants laid the foundations of the five great elf halls: Norumbega the Shining, Wintervale, Highfalls, Deepwood, and the Fair Spires.
  • The goblins mined and worked metals, while the gnomes mined for gems and worked with wood. Hobgoblins formed the core of the Elvish armies.
  • Nearly 1,600 years ago Norumbega reached the height of its power. The hobgoblin armies guarded the land from all trespassers.
  • The goblins and hobgoblins rose up in a bloody revolution against the elves some 500 years ago. Wintervale, Highfalls, and Deepwood were destroyed; Norumbega vanished from the earth.
  • Today the Fair Spires, ruled by the Elf Queen, is the last standing citadel from old Norumbega. The Spires are home to high elves, and located on a island in the Sundering Sea.
  • The survivors from Wintervale, Highfalls, and Deepwood are wood elves and have their own, much diminished kingdoms.
  • Most living elves were born after Southrons began pushing into the north, and many were born before the Southrons destroyed the hobgoblin empire.
  • The oldest elves in the North can remember Norumbega at its height. Most communities have at least one elf who remembers the goblin uprising.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dungeon Random Monster Level Determination

In OD&D and AD&D, wandering monsters could appear on both lower and higher levels of the dungeon than their “normal” level. So you could roll an ogre on the First Dungeon Level, or kobolds on the Sixteenth Dungeon Level.

Appendix C of the 1e Dungeon Master’s Guide has a detailed matrix to determine which “Monster Level” to use for each encounter. The DMG’s use of the term monster level is roughly equivalent to the 3e term “Encounter Level.” The various Monster Level tables in Appendix C (labeled I through X) group encounters, rather than monsters, of roughly similar difficulty, so the “Monster Level III” table has 1d6+1 bugbears, 1 ochre jelly, or 1d3 ogres.

Appendix C’s Dungeon Random Monster Level Determination table allows for a fairly wide spread of results, though most will fall within plus or minus three levels. This range is workable with 3e, but because of the steeper power curve it would be harder to go beyond that. You just couldn‘t add enough kobolds to ever make a real EL 16 encounter.

Random Encounter Level Matrix (d20)
Dungeon
Level
Encounter Level
12345678910
11–1516–1920
21–34–1415–1718–1920
31–23–56–1415–1718–1920
412–34–67–1415–1718–1920
512–34–67–1415–1718–1920
612–34–67–1415–1718–1920
712–34–67–1415–1718–20
812–34–67–1415–1920
912–34–67–1718–20
1012–67–20

AD&D adds an interesting twist: if your monster result is from a higher or lower table than the dungeon level, the DM is expected to adjust the number appearing to make a balanced encounter appropriate for the dungeon level. Under “Monster Encounter Adjustment for Relative Dungeon Level”:

Lesser monsters on lower levels have their numbers augmented by a like number of the same sort of creatures for each level of the dungeon beneath that of the assigned level of the monster type encountered. . . . Greater monsters on higher levels will have their numbers reduced by 1 for each level of the dungeon above their assigned level, subject to a minimum number of 1.

So the Monster Level III encounter table lists 1d3 ogres. If encountered of the Second Level of the dungeon, they appear as 1d2 ogres. If on the First, only a single ogre. Going the other way, on the Fourth Level you would encounter 2d3 ogres, and 4d3 on the Fifth. And so on. The math for 3e encounter levels is somewhat similar. Halving the number encountered results in an EL of -2; doubling the number encountered results in an EL of +2. The following table adjusts number encountered based on relative EL:

Numbers Encountered Adjustment for EL
Three ELs LowerTwo ELs LowerOne EL LowerOriginal Numbers AppearingOne EL HigherTwo ELs HigherThree ELs Higher
11111d21d31d4
1111d21d31d41d6
111d21d31d41d62d4
11d21d2+11d3+11d4+11d6+22d4+3
11d21d31d41d62d42d6
1d21d31d3+11d4+11d6+12d4+22d6+3
1d21d2+11d3+21d4+21d6+32d4+42d4+8
1d21d2+11d3+21d4+31d6+42d4+61d4+12
1d21d31d41d62d42d62d8
1d31d41d61d82d62d81d4+12
1d31d41d62d42d62d81d4+12

DMG‘s Appendix C clearly makes an effort to create encounter results that are of appropriate difficulty. Sometimes more recent editions of D&D get knocked for only providing “balanced” encounters to entitled PCs, but the truth is Challenge Rating or Encounter Level are not all that different from the guidelines in Appendix C.

The old Monsters & Treasures Assortment supplement (1977–1980) had an interesting bit of advice:

The assortments . . . have been randomly selected, but they are carefully balanced nonetheless. While it is possible to use high level monsters on the first level of a dungeon about to be entered by experienced players, it would be certain death to use even second level monsters against a party of first level players. In a similar vein, it is not good practice to assign higher level treasures to lower level monsters, as this will allow players to gain experience too rapidly.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Ferocious White Apes

The girallon is notable as a third edition monster that seems to have gained real traction in the evil hearts of DMs everywhere. No doubt part of its appeal is its classic lineage, being derived straight from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Great White Apes of Barsoom. With such a heritage, girallons deserve wider distribution.

The following text is Open Game Content.

Girallon

This four-armed, gorilla-like creature, covered with matted white fur, roars in rage as it rears up to its full, towering height.

Apelike Terrors. Girallons are enormous magical creatures covered in thick, pure white fur. An adult girallon is 8 feet tall, broad-chested, and weighs roughly 800 pounds. When moving on the ground, a girallon walks on its legs and lower arms.

Highly Territorial. Girallons are aggressive and carnivorous. They tend to attack intruders without warning, including strangers of their own kind.

Most Savage and Fearsome. Girallons possess great strength and ferocity, and use their four arms to tear opponents to bits.

0e

Girallon CL 9 (1,100 XP)

A girallon that hits an opponent with 2 or more claws in one round will rend the flesh for an additional 1d6 damage.

HD 7; AC 5 [14]; Atk 4 claws (1d6), 1 bite (1d8); Save 9; Move 15; Al N; Special rend.

3.5e

Girallon CR 6

Always N Large magical beast

Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Listen +1, Spot +6

Defense

AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 13
(+3 Dex, +4 natural, -1 size)

hp 58 (7d10+20 HD)

Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +5

Offense

Spd 40 ft., climb 40 ft.

Melee 4 claws +12 (1d4+6), bite +7 (1d8+3)

Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.

Special Attacks rend 2d4+9

Tactics

Before Combat A solitary girallon usually conceals itself in the branches of a tree or under a pile of leaves and brush, with only its nose showing. When it spots or scents prey, it charges to the attack.

During Combat A girallon picks up prey that is small enough to carry and withdraws, often vanishing into the trees before the victim’s companions can do anything to retaliate. Against larger foes, a girallon seeks to tear a single opponent to bits as quickly as it can.

Statistics

Str 22, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 7

Base Atk +7; Grp +17

Feats Iron Will, Toughness (2)

Skills Climb +14, Move Silently +8, Spot +6

Ecology

Environment warm forests

Organization solitary or company (5–8)

Treasure none

Advancement 8–10 HD (Large); 11–21 HD (Huge)

Special Abilities

Rend (Ex) A girallon that hits with two or more claw attacks latches onto the opponent's body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an extra 2d4+9 points of damage.

Skills A girallon has a +8 racial bonus on Climb checks and can always choose to take 10 on a Climb check, even if rushed or threatened.

Advanced Girallons

Fiendish girallons are chaotic evil horrors called forth by summon monster VII spell.

Fiendish Girallon CR 7

CE Large magical beast (extraplanar)

Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Listen +1, Spot +6

Languages Abyssal

Defense

AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 13
(+3 Dex, +4 natural, -1 size)

hp 58 (7 HD)

Fort +7, Ref +8, Will +5

Resist cold 5, fire 5; DR 5/magic; SR 12

Offense

Spd 40 ft., climb 40 ft.

Melee 4 claws +12 (1d4+6), bite +7 (1d8+3)

Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.

Special Attacks magic strike, rend 2d4+9, smite good 1/day (+7 damage)

Statistics

Str 22, Dex 17, Con 14, Int 3, Wis 12, Cha 7

Base Atk +7; Grp +17

Feats Iron Will, Toughness (2)

Skills Climb +14, Move Silently +8, Spot +6

Girallons can grow to truly enormous sizes, with some towering well over 20 feet or more.

King Girallon CR 10

Always N Huge magical beast

Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Listen +3, Spot +10

Defense

AC 19, touch 12, flat-footed 15
(+4 Dex, +7 natural, -2 size)

hp 152 (16 HD)

Fort +14, Ref +14, Will +8

Offense

Spd 40 ft., climb 40 ft.

Melee 4 claws +24 (1d8+10), bite +22 (2d6+5)

Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.

Special Attacks rend 2d6+15

Statistics

Str 30, Dex 18, Con 18, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 7

Base Atk +16; Grp +34

Feats Alertness, Improved Bull Rush, Iron Will, Improved Natural Weapon (claws), Multiattack, Power Attack

Skills Climb +24, Listen +3, Move Silently +10, Spot +10

5e

Girallon Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

Unaligned Large monstrosity

Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; passive Perception 11

Defense

Armor Class 15 (natural armor)

Hit Points 138 (12d10 + 60)

Offense

Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft.

Multiattack. A girallon attacks with 4 claws and a bite.

Claw. +8 melee weapon attack, 10 ft. reach, one target; Hit: 8 (1d6+5) slashing damage.

Bite. +8 melee weapon attack, 10 ft. reach, one target; Hit: 10 (1d10+5) piercing damage.

Statistics

Str 21 (+5), Dex 17 (+3), Con 20 (+5), Int 2 (-4), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 7 (-2)

Skills Athletics +8, Perception +4

OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc (“Wizards”). All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Maw and Environs

Here's teaser shot of a section of the Dungeon ready for this weekend's delving:

This is from the second level and encompasses four separate zones.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wandering Encounter Tables [Take I]

One of the first things I did in developing the Great Dungeon was to work out wandering monster charts for the first few levels. I wanted to begin with something immediately gameable that would also help flesh out what was going on with each level. Simply laying out typical encounters for each level began to suggest possible factions, and along with that potential alliances and rivalries in the Dungeon. It also began adding flavor to the levels and suggesting themes for new zones.

The resulting tables were intentionally generic: I wanted them to reflect typical representatives of various monster types; creatures that could be encountered almost anywhere in the Dungeon. So the “goblin” entry is just a vanilla 1st-level warrior goblin. Special areas or zones would get specialized encounter tables to match. So Dungmarket would have goblin guards with fighter levels, and the Statuary would have goblins with rogue levels.

Another goal was to have the average number appearing for each entry result in a 3.5e Encounter Level that matched the Dungeon Level. So 2d6+2 Tiny monstrous centipedes, Challenge Rating 1/8 each, results in an average of 9 CR 1/8 monsters, which is an EL 1 encounter. Suitable for the First Level.

Although the first iteration was built for 3.5, I looked to the Wandering Monster tables from Moldvay and Holmes, the Monster & Treasure Assortment, and Appendix C: Random Monster Encounters from the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. The composition of the upper levels, therefore, reflects Gygaxian Naturalism with plenty of mundane (but nonetheless dangerous) giant vermin. But it also reflects, as pointed out by Planet Algol, a surprisingly large number of human encounters.

Human NPC encounters immediately posed an interesting problem. Moldvay and the Monsters & Treasures Assortment have numerous encounters that consist of one or more NPCs of the same class and level. So you might run into “1 footpad” or “3 cutpurses.” This is easy to replicate in 3.5e and reflected in my tables.

The AD&D tables instead had NPC parties, that is to say mixed groups of different races and classes, along with their henchmen. In 3.5e, an NPC with levels in a PC class has a Challenge Rating equal to its character level. So a 1st-level fighter has a CR of 1. Two CR 1 monsters make for an EL 3 encounter; four make for an EL 5 encounter. Add in some henchmen with NPC classes, and a typical NPC party made up solely of 1st level characters is almost too tough to place on the First Level of the Dungeon. I do want NPC parties to represent some of the toughest encounters the PCs might face, but within reason.

Pathfinder lowers the CR of NPCs by 1, so an NPC with levels in PC classes has a CR of character level -1, while an NPC with levels in weaker NPC classes has a CR of character level -2. This is probably a more accurate rating; in 3.5e NPCs seem notoriously fragile compared with monsters of the same Challenge Rating. This helps the problem a little, but not much. My initial cut used 3.5e challenge ratings, so NPC parties didn’t appear until the Fifth Level. Subsequent playtesting has pushed them down.

In developing the monster tables, I used the Moldvay convention of applying specific species names for the various vermin and animals rather than bland descriptions. So we have “deathback spiders,” which I find more flavorful than “Tiny monstrous spider.”

As I went deeper, I first ran into the problem of having too many choices around Level Four or Five, but above Level Seven soon ran into the problem of not enough options. I initially planned to create a full 20 levels of encounter tables. But in the deeper levels most of the monsters are solitary, powerful individuals, with demons and devils being a notable exception. Maybe you could have a bunch of bone devils running around, but multiple pit fiends or balor demons? And it just seems crazy to have multiple liches on a wandering monster chart. So I ended up compressing the lowest levels to reflect a range of Challenge Ratings.

So the following illustrates one of my first attempts at developing encounter tables for the Great Dungeon of the North. In addition to the number and type of monster, I’ve also included the source. “TOH” is the great Tome of Horrors, one of my favorite 3.5e books and invaluable for developing old-school adventures.

The First Level is a largely played-out area overrun by goblins, humans, animals, and vermin. Although it is the most mundane level, it does see its share of inexplicable Dungeon weirdness.


EL 1 Encounters
Roll (%)EncounterSource
01–021 acolyte of chaoshuman cleric 1
03–041 apprentice magic-userhuman wizard 1
05–061 apprentice thiefhuman rogue 1
07–091d3 banditshuman expert 1
10–182d6+2 birdkiller centipedesSRD, Tiny monstrous centipede
19–211d3 brigandshuman warrior 1
22–301d4+1 catkiller centipedesSRD, Small monstrous centipede
31–391d4 cave cricketsToH
40–481d4+1 deathback spidersSRD, Tiny monstrous spider
49–521d4+3 dire ratsSRD
53–551d3 dwarvesSRD, dwarf warrior 1
56–651d4+1 giant fire beetlesSRD
66–691d4+2 goblinsSRD, goblin warrior 1
70–731d4+3 koboldsSRD, kobold warrior 1
74–751d4+3 mitesPGRD
76–791 mountain adderSRD, Medium viper snake
80–831d3 piercers [hazard]ToH
84–861d3 pledgedhuman adept 1
87–881 recruithuman fighter 1
89–911d4 skeletonsSRD, human warrior skeleton
92–951 swarm of blackfang spidersSRD, spider swarm
961d3 tieflingsSRD, tiefling warrior 1
971d4 vulchingsToH
98–1001d3 zombiesSRD, human commoner zombie

The Second Level is full of strife, as two separate orc tribes and the hobgoblins battle for control. Fewer humans are found here, but many horrid types of vermin and animals abound.

EL 2 Encounters
 Roll (%)EncounterSource
01–051 bat swarmSRD
06–071d2 berserkershuman barbarian 1
08–091 brown mold [hazard]SRD
101 cave pythonSRD, constrictor snake
111 chokerSRD
12–261d4+1 crab spidersSRD, Small monstrous spiders
271 dire weaselSRD
28–421d4+1 dogkiller centipedesSRD, Medium monstrous centipede
43–441 footpadhuman rogue 2
45–491d4+2 hobgoblinsSRD, hobgoblin warrior 1
501d3 lemure devilsSRD
511 living statueSRD, Medium animated object
52–531 mediumhuman wizard 2
54–551 mountain rattlerSRD, Large viper snake
56–571 novitiatehuman cleric 2
58–621d3+1 orcsSRD, orc warior 1
631 quasit demonSRD
64–681 rat swarmSRD
69–831d3 shriekersSRD
84–981d3+1 stirgesSRD
99–1001 veteranhuman fighter 2

The hobgoblins maintain a redoubt on the Third Level, which is also home to ghouls and gnolls. On this level the Dungeon weirdness really begins to ramp up, as the waking world begins to give way to the Mythic Underworld.

EL 3 Encounters
 Roll (%)EncounterSource
011 allipSRD
021 ethereal filcherSRD
031 ethereal marauderSRD
04–091 gelatinous cubeSRD
10–151d3+1 ghoulsSRD
16–211 giant cave rattlerSRD, Huge viper snake
221 giant living statueSRD, Large animated object
23–281d2 giant lizardsSRD, monitor lizard
29–341d3+1 giant ticksToH
35–491d4+1 giant trapdoor spidersSRD, Medium monstrous spider
50–551d4+1 giant worker antsSRD
56–611d4+1 gnollsSRD
621d2 imp devilsSRD
63–771d4+1 mulekiller centipedesSRD, Large monstrous centipede
781 phantom fungusSRD
79–801 robberhuman rogue 3
81–821 seerhuman wizard 3
83–841d6 skulksToH
85–861 slithering trackerToH
87–881 stunjellyToH
89–901 swordsmasterhuman fighter 3
91–961d4+1 troglodytesSRD
97–981 underpriest of chaoshuman cleric 3
99–1001d4 wolf skeletonsSRD

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Toad is So

Inexplicably, 3e neglected a monster utterly ubiquitous to early versions of D&D: the giant toad. As Zenopus Archives carefully detailed, there were no less than five or six different versions of these critters kicking around OD&D, Holmes, B/X, and AD&D.

The retro clones were careful to correct this omission. And happily 5e gave us an open version that could be ported back to 3.5e. I dropped the 5e poison attack, which does nothing more than damage, and reduced the size for the base creature to Medium—but included a Large advanced version to complete the set.

The following text is Open Game Content.

Monstrous Toad

This pale, warty amphibian is larger than a mastiff dog, with a stout body, stubby but powerful limbs, and an enormous, gaping mouth.

0e

Giant Toad CL 3 (60 XP)

Giant toads are predators, willing to attack creatures as large as men. Giant toads can attack at the end of a hop, which is in addition to the toad’s normal move.

HD 3; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 bite (1d8); Move 6 (hop 50 ft); Save 14; AL N; Special: Hop

3.5e

Monstrous Toad CR 1

Always N Medium animal (aquatic)

Init +1; Senses darkvision 30 ft., low-light vision; Listen +2, Spot +2

Defense

AC 13, touch 11, flat-footed 12
(+1 Dex, +2 natural)

hp 11 (2d8+2 HD)

Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +2

Offense

Speed 20 ft., swim 40 ft.

Melee bite +2 (1d8)

Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.

Special Attacks improved grab, swallow whole

Tactics

During Combat Monstrous toads are voracious and will leap toward the smallest creatures first, attempting to swallow them whole.

Morale Monstrous toads will leap away if reduced to half their normal hit points or less.

Statistics

Str 10, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 1, Wis 14, Cha 4

Base Atk +1; Grp +1

Feats Weapon Finesse

Skills Jump +8, Hide +8, Swim +8

SQ amphibious

Ecology

Environment temperate or warm aquatic, forests, marshes, and underground

Organization solitary, pair, or knot (3–12)

Treasure none

Advancement 3 HD (Medium), 4–6 HD (Large)

Special Abilities

Amphibious (Ex) Although monstrous toads are aquatic, they can survive indefinitely on land.

Improved Grab (Ex) To use this ability, a monstrous toad must hit with its bite attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. If it wins the grapple check, it establishes a hold and can try to swallow the foe in the following round.

Swallow Whole (Ex) A monstrous toad can try to swallow a grabbed opponent of up to one size smaller by making a successful grapple check. Once inside, the opponent takes 1d6 points of bludgeoning damage plus 1d4 points of acid damage per round from the monstrous toad’s digestive juices. A swallowed creature can cut its way out using a light slashing or piercing weapon by dealing 10 points of damage to the monstrous toad’s digestive tract (AC 11). Once the creature exits, muscular action closes the hole; another swallowed opponent must cut its own way out.

A Medium monstrous toad’s gullet can hold 2 Small, 8 Tiny, 32 Diminutive, or 128 Fine or smaller opponents.

Skills A monstrous toad’s coloration gives it a +4 racial bonus on Hide checks. A giant toad has a +12 racial bonus on Jump checks. A monstrous toad has a +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. It can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line.

Advanced Monstrous Toad

Giant Monstrous Toad CR 2

Always N Large animal (aquatic)

Init +0; Senses darkvision 30 ft., low-light vision; Listen +2, Spot +2

Defense

AC 13, touch 9, flat-footed 9
(+4 natural, -1 size)

hp 30 (4d8+12 HD)

Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +3

Offense

Speed 20 ft., swim 40 ft.

Melee bite +6 (2d8+6)

Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.

Special Attacks improved grab, swallow whole

Statistics

Str 18, Dex 11, Con 17, Int 1, Wis 14, Cha 4

Base Atk +3; Grp +11

Feats Improved Natural Attack (bite), Lightning Reflexes

Skills Jump +10, Hide +7, Swim +12

SQ amphibious

Special Abilities

Swallow Whole (Ex) A swallowed creature can cut its way out using a light slashing or piercing weapon by dealing 15 points of damage to the monstrous toad’s digestive tract (AC 12). A Large monstrous toad’s gullet can hold 2 Medium, 8 Small, 32 Tiny, 128 Diminutive, or 512 Fine or smaller opponents.

5e

Giant Toad Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Unaligned Large beast

Init +1; Senses darkvision 30 ft., passive Perception 10

Defense

Armor Class 11

Hit Points 39 (6d10 + 6)

Offense

Speed 20 ft., swim 40 ft.

Bite. +4 melee weapon attack, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10 + 2) piercing damage plus 5 (1d10) poison damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 13). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained, and the toad can’t bite another target.

Swallow. The toad makes one bite attack against a Medium or smaller target it is grappling. If the attack hits, the target is swallowed, and the grapple ends. The swallowed target is blinded and restrained, it has total cover against attacks and other effects outside the toad, and it takes 10 (3d6) acid damage at the start of each of the toad’s turns. The toad can have only one target swallowed at a time. If the toad dies, a swallowed creature is no longer restrained by it and can escape from the corpse using 5 feet of movement, exiting prone.

Statistics

Str 15 (+2), Dex 13 (+1), Con 13 (+1), Int 2 (-4), Wis 10 (+0), Cha 3 (-4)

Traits

Amphibious. The toad can breathe air and water.

Standing Leap. The toad’s long jump is up to 20 feet and its high jump is up to 10 feet, with or without a running start.

OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc (“Wizards”). All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Races of the Distant West

Beyond the Majestic Mountains are the Western Steppes, the Endless Desert, and the Great Inland Sea. Exotic kingdoms are said to ring the shores of the Sea. These lands boast some of the most ancient and wondrous human cities in the world. The people there worship strange gods and have mastered many secret lines of magic: elementalism, the binding of genies and demons, and necromancy. In the last couple of decades new trade routes across the Majestics have brought caravans bearing goods and marvels out of the West and into the North.

AMAZONS are female humans from the steppelands, fearsome warriors and renowned riders.

NOMADS are also humans, merchants and traffickers in genies. Their caravans crisscross the Distant West and occasionally reach the North in search of new trade goods. Among the nomads are the DERVISHES, fanatical worshippers of a Sun God.

GHOULS are intelligent, deathless creatures that worship some strange, dark god of the Distant West. The ghouls are almost never seen themselves, but they command many loyal servants who conduct trade far and wide in the name of their horrid masters.

CENTAURS live in various tribes throughout the Distant West, though occasional wanderers will travel to the North in search of adventure.

KOBOLDS are small creatures, though they claim to be descended from dragons. Kobolds live in their own warren-like cities in the Majestic Mountains and in strange enclaves in the human cities of the West. Insatiable traders, they have ventured across the North.

HAWKMEN are humans who hail from a fabled floating city, high in the Majestics. Fierce warriors, they wear beaked helmets and wondrous armor with wings allowing them to fly through the air.

GNOLLS are hyena-headed creatures, corrupt man-eaters and worshippers of demons. They are often found in service to the ghouls. Though rare in the North, they are greatly feared for their wanton love of destruction and abominable appetites.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dungeon Zones

As I began to lay out the Dungeon using the Traveller sector/subsector/world model, I made a rough 8 x 8 grid of the first few levels and starting locating some initial zones for development. Each cell represented a distinct zone or area. Here's an early snapshot of just one part of the First Level:

The Ever-Changing StairsThe Maw 
GoblintownDungmarketThe Mud Baths
Goblin SlumsHall of SpidersHalls of Pale Slime
StatuaryGobbo PromenadeThe Hole in the Wall

The top three levels are sometimes called the Goblin Halls, because the goblins and hobgoblins had been able to maintain control over large swathes until orcs and other humanoids broke their hegemony. While the goblins still contol a large amount of territory in the Dungeon, many areas have been abandoned or reclaimed by others. The Gobbo Promenade is the main entrance to the First Level, while Dungmarket is a fairly infamous area, the site of a weekly market run by the goblins. Imagine a ren faire “managed” by wicked, hyperactive, and pyromanical imps. The Maw is the primary entrance down to the Second Level.

I somewhat arbitrarily chose a standard size of 300 feet by 300 feet for zones. This ended up being a fairly fortuitous choice. At 1 square equals 10 feet, a zone fits pretty easily on a sheet of graph paper with plenty of room for notes. It's also fairly close to the square geomorphs used in the old TSR Dungeon Geomorph series. A typical dungeon design might have 20-30 rooms in such an area, and assuming 1/5 of these rooms are occupied, that gives something like 4-6 set encounters, plus wandering monsters. Third edition was built around the assumption of roughly four encounters every game day, and 4-6 encounters is also about what can be played through in a 3-5 hour game session. So this 30 x 30 grid ends up being a good standard size to work with

Using a standard zone size does have one significant disadvantage: it can become an unwelcome constraint on design, forcing zones to conform to square area. The Maze of the Blue Medusa is a great example of a megadungeon with a free-flowing layout where zones are much more organic in shape and form.