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An OGL Warlock for Pathfinder 1e?

So, 4e had a really interesting class, the warlock. I played a few, and enjoyed them. I kinda wanted to make a pathfinder st ed version, but since nothing in 4e was covered by the Open Game License, I couldn’t.

Now 5e also has a warlock, and it IS covered by the OGL. That means I could legally take the OGL ideas fo the 5e warlock, and adapt them for any other OGL game. I might well do this for Pathfinder 2e or Starfinder at some point, but I am going to start by looking at a Pf1 version.

Let’s look at what the class table and proficiencies and such might look like.

Warlockess

(Art by Ratpack223)

Alignment: Though they are often seen as dire and untrustworthy, a warlock may be of any alignment.

Hit Die: d8

Starting Wealth: 4d6 × 10 gp (average 140 gp.) In addition, each character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gp or less.

Class Skills

The warlock’s class skills are Bluff (Cha), Diplomacy (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Knowledge (planes) (Int), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha)

Skill Ranks Per Level: 6 + Int modifier.

Table: The Warlock
                                             Base Atk                                   Spells       Spell     Max Spell    
Level  Class Features       Bonus  Fort    Ref  Will      Known     Slots     Level
1st       Cantrips, Patron      +0         +2       +0       +2         2                  1           1st
2nd     Invocation                +1         +3        +0      +3         3                  2          1st
3rd     Invocation                 +2         +3        +1      +3         4                  2           1st
4th     Pact Boon                   +3         +4        +1      +4         5                  2          1st
5th     Invocation                  +3        +4        +1      +4          6                 2          2nd
6th     Patron gift                  +4        +5        +2       +5         7                 2          2nd
7th     Invocation                  +5        +5        +2       +5         8                 2          2nd
8th     Patron gift                  +6        +6        +2       +6         9                  2         2nd
9th     Invocation                  +6        +6        +3       +6         10               2          3rd
10th   Patron gift                  +7        +7        +3       +7         10                2          3rd
11th   Invocation                  +8        +7        +3       +7         11               3          3rd
12th   Patron Gift                 +9        +8         +4       +8         11               3          3rd
13th   Invocation                  +9        +8        +4       +8          12              3          4th
14th   Patron Gift                  +10      +9        +4       +9         12               3          4th
15th   Invocation                  +11      +9         +5       +9         13               3          4th
16th   Patron Gift                  +12      +10      +5       +10       13               3          4th
17th   Invocation                  +12      +10      +5       +10        14               4          5th
18th   Patron Gift                  +13      +11      +6       +11       14               4          5th
19th   Invocation                   +14      +11      +6      +11        15               4          5th
20th   Eldritch Master          +15      +12      +6      +12        15               4          5th

Weapon and Armor Proficiency
A warlock is proficient with all simple weapons and light armor. She can cast warlock spells while wearing light armor without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. Like any other arcane spellcaster, a warlock wearing medium armor, heavy armor, or a shield incurs a chance of arcane spell failure if the spell in question has a somatic component. A multiclass warlock still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells received from other classes.

So, what do all those class features mean? And why is spell slots a single entry, rather than a whole table like most spellcasters?

Tune in tomorrow to find out!

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Alternatives to “All or Nothing” Options For Hampering Magic

In many rpgs, spellcasting is an extremely powerful option that is difficult to curtail without shutting it down entirely (or at least creating a risk of shutting it down entirely). While it’s often fairly straightforward to make life more difficult for weapon-users without making them entirely ineffective, that can be harder for spellcasters. Especially when spells are a very limited resource (such as using spell slots or prepared spells), even things that can be used to put a weapon-wielder at a  disadvantage (such as a penalty to attack rolls)

The following options are specifically designed for Pathfinder 1st ed, Pathfinder 2nd Ed, Starfinder, and 5e, but could certainly be expanded to a wider range of games by an experienced GM.

Ogre Caster
(Art by DM7)

Blackout Zones

You CAN use antimagic shells as minor hindrances if you make them very small, and spread them out. And don’t allow the main villain to just sit in one and be immune to all magic. A few small areas where magic works but spells cannot be cast (perhaps strange metoric iron disrupts the act of conjuring the power for a spell, but doesn’t negate magic in general) can become a form of battlefield terrain spellcasters just need to work around.

Extra Actions

Rather than make it impossible to cast spells or highly likely that efforts to do so will result in failure, you can make spellcasting take additional effort. In Pathfinder and Starfinder, casting times of 1 standard action become full rounds. In 5e, you cannot move or take a bonus action or reaction in a round you cast a spell with a casting time of 1 action. In Pathfinder 2e, add one action to any spell with a casting time listed in actions.

This option forces a spellcaster to make more tactical decisions, but doesn’t make it any more likely their precious resources are wasted if they take the needed extra time.

Feedback

Rather than make spellcasting more difficult, you can just slap some consequence on it that hinders or damages the caster for using spells. This can be as minor as one point of damage per level of spell cast, or a minor penalty to saving throws and attack rolls for 1-4 rounds after casting a spell (perhaps that stacks if you rapid-fire spells every round), to more major neative erffects depending on how harsh you want your penalties to be. You could also simply add a risk of penalties, such as forcing the caster to make a Constitution or Fortitude save every time they cast a spell or gain a level of fatigue.

Increased Spell Cost

A much more impactful options it to increase the cost of spellcasting. Perhaps casting a spell requires additional eldritch power, which must come from somewhere. A character could be required to use multiple spell slots, or sacrifice an additional prepared spell.

You could also require the expenditure of some additional resource beyond additional spells. For example in Starfinder you could require a Resolve Point be spend, or in 5e a Hit Die. Pathfinder 2nd edition could require a focus point (though not all characters have focus points). These are pretty steep costs, so it might be smart to have the additional cost only be needed once every 2d4 rounds or so, or even just once per ten minutes, as the spellcaster “attunes” themselves to some specific circumstance.

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Fallback Feats for 5e, PF1, PF2, and Starfinder

Tuesday’s Fallback feats were a bit hit. Sadly, circumstances prevented me from posting two new rules-elements worth of content Wednesday.

So, today not only am I giving your four new Fallback feats, they all work in four game systems — 5e, PF1, PF2, and Starfinder. Though these these feats are written using Pathfinder 1e/Starfinder terminology and formatting (I didn’t take the time to write 4 slightly different versions of each), the actual feats and rules themselves work in all 4 game systems.

These feats all fallow the normal Fallback Feat rules.

ELDRITCH BACKLASH [Fallback]
Your magic harms those that ignore it.
Benefit: When you cast a 1st level or higher spell that does not affect any creatures or significant objects you target or that are in the area, one target of your choice with an AC no greater than 15 + your caster level takes damage equal to one weapon in your possession with which you are proficient (without adding any bonus damage from ability scores, feats, or special abilities), or 5 HP per level of the spell, whichever is greater.

LEARN FROM FAILURE [Fallback]
You are constantly analyzing your efforts, and even when you do not succeed, you may learn something useful from your failure.
Benefit: When you fail at an attack roll or an ability check or skill check to identify, recall lore about, disarm, disable, or bypass a creature, trap, or hazard, or survive or get along in the wilderness, you may immediately make an appropriate ability or skill check to learn one new relevant fact about the creature, object, or region involved at the normal skill DC to learn information or recall knowledge. Multiple failed checks can reveal multiple new pieces of information without the DC increasing.

Fallback Entangled
(Art by GrandFailure)

SIMMERING RAGE [Fallback]
Even when a foe incapacitates you, your anger at being sidelined grows.
Benefit: When you are unwillingly bound, charmed, enchanted, entangled, grabbed, grappled, held, paralyzed, petrified, or magically slept by a foe (or foe’s trap or hazard) during a combat encounter in such a way that you cannot take any effective actions, you gain a +1 bonus to saving throws, rolls, or checks to end the situation incapacitating you (if any), which is cumulative if you are incapacitated for multiple rounds.
Additionally when you stop being incapacitating, you gain a +4 bonus to any attack roll or skill check you make in your first full around, and tot he save DC of any spell or ability you use that round.

STREAKBREAKER [Fallback]
Your bad luck doesn’t last forever.
Benefit: When you fail an attack roll or skill check roll (not including taking 10 or taking 20) and your d20 result for the check was 11 or worse, you gain a +1 luck bonus to all attack rolls and skill checks where you make a d20 roll until you succeed at one. If you already have a luck bonus active from this feat when you qualify for it again, you luck bonus increased by 1 until you succeed at a skill check or attack roll.

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Wrapping up the 5e Mascot Class, With Shtick

We spent last week presenting the base of the Mascot class for 5e. Tuesday we laid out the concept and framework for the Mascot class for 5e, Wednesday we presented the Domestic Companion option for that class, Thursday we presenting the Inspiring Failure class feature, and Friday we presented the Torchbearer option.

All that’s left is to create its selectable class feature, shtick.

SHTICK
You are often surprisingly effective in combat… just not in ways that traditional heroes are. Instead you have actions that,–backed by a combination of your moxie, some luck, and the total surprise you are engaging in adventuring at all–can alter the flow of combat in surprising ways. These sometimes-comical options are known as shtick. You gain your first shtick at 2nd level, and gain an additional shtick at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th level. You cannot select the same shtick more than once.
Some of your shtick abilities for a foe to make a saving throw. The DC of such saves is equal to 8 + you proficiency bonus + your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma bonus. You select which ability score applies to your shtick save is based on when you gain your first shtick, and once made this decision cannot be changed.

Mascot Cook
(Art by Lunstream)

Adorable Bravery
The very fact you place yourself in places of extreme risk without any apparent talents or powers to make such actions look like reasonable choices on your part can endear you to foes who see you as a cute little thing, rather than a threat.
Using your action you can stand defiantly in the face of a creature within 30 feet that has attacked and damaged you or an ally. The target must succeed at a Wisdom save or be charmed by you for 24 hours, or until you attack them. Once you have successfully affected a creature with adorable bravery, you cannot attempt it again until after you take a long rest.

Baffling Affront
Using your action you engage in behavior that is both confusing, and obviously out of place with no apparent explanation (and no visible reason for you to believe it will work). You might scold a giant for being a bully, act like a bull about to charge an enraged minotaur, or challenge a lich to a dance-off. The behavior is so unexpected and novel, the target is briefly taken aback. You select one creature within 60 feet that is able to see or hear you. The target must succeed at a Charisma save or be incapacitated for 1 round. Once you have successfully affected a creature with baffling affront, you cannot attempt it again until after you take a short rest.

Expertise
While your traveling companions have been learning new spells, mastering fighting techniques, and perfecting new forms of skulking, you’ve been picking up little tips and tricks from the cooks at inns, drovers of friendly caravans, and other behind-the-scenes folks. Much of this builds off a direction you might have taken in your career, but never mastered until now.
Select an additional background. You gain the benefits and items from this background.

Natter On
You are adept at the endless chatter common to some working-class folk, and can both use it to get the skinny in a new region, and to overload a creature with more words than they are used to processing. When you are in a settlement where you speak one of the common languages, each day you may make one Charisma check with proficiency to learn local gossip and rumors without anyone realizing you are gathering such information.
Additionally, using your action you can direct a stream of apparently endless but potentially important words at a creature within 30 feet able to hear you. You can maintain this for a duration of concentration (10 minute maximum). As long as the target can hear you, they are deafened to any other sound.

Pewter Flask
Sometimes, you are saved by  the noncombat equipment you carry on you. This might be a spider’s fangs sinking into your cookbook, a giant crushing a loaf of bread thinking it was your head, or an arrow being stopped by hitting the pewter flash you have in your vest.
When you take damage or have a condition applied to you, as a reaction you can instead have one item in your possession be destroyed and not take the damage or condition. Once you have used this ability, you cannot do so again until after you have taken a long rest.

The Right Tool
You know that sometimes the important thing is not who tries something, but what they try to do it with. While mighty heroes are busy giving speeches and staring down the forces of evil, you’re keeping track of who is holding what, which item is in which belt pouch, and what is likely to be needed in the coming moments.
Using your action, you can change what items are ready for use for yourself and every willing adjacent ally. You can ready items from yourself or a willing ally for use by another ally. Only items that can be readied or put away in an action can be affected by this ability.

Shielded By Clutter
You have so much stuff that attacks are as likely to hit your cooking pot, tailoring cloth, or portable library as to damage you. As long as you have any equipment or gear, you are considered to have the benefits of a shield without needing to hold one in your hand. If you are adjacent to an ally and they are attacked, as a reaction you can cause them to benefit from having a shield (temporarily ending your shielded by clutter benefit). This lasts as long as the ally is adjacent to you, until the beginning of your next turn.

Spoon to the Knuckles
You may see yourself as a cook, or tutor, or dressmaker rather than a warrior, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t willing to treat a monster like an unruly child and rap their knuckles with a wooden spoon (or otherwise take them to task).
Make an ability check with advantage using a tool with which you are proficient. Your DC is equal to your target’s AC. If you succeed, you do a single hp of damage (though this does not trigger rules triggered by making an attack). Additionally, the target is so flabbergasted by your effrontery they have disadvantage on any attack thy make for 1 round.

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The Torchbearer Archetype for the 5e Mascot Class

Tuesday we laid out the concept and framework for the Mascot class for 5e, Wednesday we presented the Domestic Companion option for that class, and Thursday we presenting the Inspiring Failure class feature.

So, it’s time to present our other initial archetype, the Torchbearer.

Mascot Archetype
At 1st level, you choose an archetype that defines what kind of mascot you are, and gives you some idea how other PCs and NPCs are likely to see and treat your character. You can choose from the Domestic Creature or Torchbearer archetypes.

The archetype you choose grants you features at 1st level and again at 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level.

5e Torchbearer
(art by Zdenek Sasek)

Torchbearer
You are a dedicated assistant to adventurers and heroes. You may not actually carry a torch of course — you might be a young squire with a mace, a farmer with a pitchfork, or a hireling with more loyalty than your employers know. You don’t think of yourself as a hero, but you will aid them however you can. You spend a great deal of time carrying torches to light their way, bringing them lost weapons, and standing beside them in the darkest moments so they do not have to face such risks alone.

A Light In The Darkness
Beginning when you take this archetype at 1st level, your plucky courage and willingness to take the same risks as your allies moves them to be their very best. This ability, and all your other torchbearer abilities, only function after a round when you do not make an attack or cast a spell. If you take either of those actions, no torchbearer ability functions until after the beginning of your next turn.
When an ally within 30 feet makes an attack roll or saving throw, you may choose to roll 1d20 as well. If your result is better than the ally’s (or both of the ally’s, if they have advantage), they make take your d20 rather than use their own die results. Once an ally chooses to use your d20 result, you cannot use this ability again until after the end of your next turn.

How Dare!
You friends are offended when enemies harm you. At 7th level, if a foe successfully hits you with an attack, or forces you to make a saving throw you fail, one ally of your choice within 60 feet gains advantage on their next attack against that foe. Only one ally can have this benefit at a time, and it must be used within 2 rounds.

Over My Dead Body
At 10th level when you are adjacent to an ally, and an enemy targets that ally (with an attack or a spell or effect that selects targets rather than an area), you can use your reaction to cause the attack or effect to target you instead. The effect otherwise works normally (requiring attack rolls to hit or allowing saving throws as appropriate), just with you rather than your ally as the target.

It’s Good To Have Friends
Those who harm you find your allies wroth. At 15th level when an ally attacks a foe that has within the past day damaged you, or created an effect or cast a spell you failed a saving throw against, and the attack is a success you can use your reaction to make it a critical success instead.

Don’t Be Dead
So great is your grief at seeing the fall of the heroes you have spent your life helping, the universe itself responds by keeping them just at the brink of death’s door. As an action you can attend an adjacent ally who died within 1 minute as a result of massive damage or from failing a third death save. The ally turns out to have never quite died, regains a number of hit points equal to your level (or half it’s maximum, whichever is less), and becomes conscious. Once you use this ability, you cannot do so again until you take a long rest.

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Inspiring Failure for the 5e Mascot Class

Monday we laid out the concept and framework for the Mascot class for 5e, and Tuesday we presented the Domestic Companion option for the Mascot Archetype class feature. We’ll present the Torchbearer archetype later in the week, but today I actually want to define the Inspiring Failure class feature.

While a Mascot character is often out of their element and overmatched by the circumstances of adventuring, the very fact they keep trying can inspire their allies. When a mascot succeeds at a task everyone is delighted, even their failures can inspire the heroes around them to achieve greater success on the mascot’s behalf.

Mascot Maid
(art by Lunstream)

Inspiring Failure

You get one use of Inspiring Failure at 3rd level, and gain an additional use at 11th, 17th, and 20th level.

The first time each day you fail an attack roll, Ability/Skill check, or saving throw while you are in an encounter that can earn XP (as determined by the GM), you earn one inspiring failure point (IFP). When an ally within 60 feet who witnessed your failure fails an attack, ability/skill, or save, you may expend an IFP to grant them a special reroll. If the d20 on their reroll results in a 1-10, they gain a +10 bonus to their total.

Each additional use you gain of inspiring failure allows you to gain an IFP from an additional failed roll on your point. When you take a long rest, you lose all IFP.

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Mascot Class Archetypes, for 5e

Yesterday we laid out the concept and framework for the Mascot class for 5e, so now it’s time to begin deliver into some specifics.

At 1st level you choose a Mascot Archetype. This defines what KIND of mascot you are, and will impact your character’s options and play style as you gain more levels. In a full version of this class we’d likely want at least 3 Mascot Archetypes, but for blog posts I think we can just do two. (If there’s a huge demand for more, we can always circle back ‘around to it. 🙂 )

We’ll start with the Domestic Creature.

Mascot Chow Chow
(Art by Kajenna)

Mascot Archetype
At 1st level, you choose an archetype that defines what kind of mascot you are, and gives you some idea how other PCs and NPCs are likely to see and treat your character. You can choose from the Domestic Creature or Torchbearer archetypes.

The archetype you choose grants you features at 1st level and again at 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level.

Domestic Creature
Regardless of what species you choose (human, elf, dwarf, and so-on), you are actually a Small or Tiny creature that appears to be a pet or companion. You may be a common pert, such as a cat or dog, or may be a more supernatural kind of noncombat companion. You have lived with the species you took for your character enough that you count as them for purposes of spells and prerequisites (and get all the appropriate traits), but are truly some different kind of creature.

Beginning at first level when you take this archetype you are treated as one size smaller, can only express concepts as long as five words, look like a domestic pet of some kind, and can only use one hand worth of equipment (held in your mouth, or talons, or flippers as appropriate). A creature of your size or larger can carry you in 1 arm (if you are willing) without worrying about your weight. A creature at least 2 sizes larger than you can carry you in a pocket with ease.

You also gain two of the following of your choice, as part of your domestic creature nature — darkvision, a 20 foot fly speed (but you cannot carry anyone unless they are smaller than you), 1 30 foot fly speed, the ability to breath on land and in water, a finesse attack that does 1d4 + Strength damage and does bludgeoning,slashing, or peircing damage (your choice), advantage on one category of saves of your choice, advantage on one of the following skills of your choice — Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Perception, or Stealth.

Cat Witch

Domestic Creature Advances
At 7th level, and again at 10th, 15th, and 18th, you select one of the advances listed below. You cannot select a greater version of an advance until you have selected the standard version.

Cute Creature: As a bonus action when an ally adjacent to you makes a Charisma (Deception, Performance, or Persuasion) check, you grant them advantage.

Cute Creature, Greater: You can be so cute, creatures are stupified by how adorable you are. this acts as hypnotic pattern, but affects only one creature.

Distracting Creature: As an action you can make an attack or Charisma (Intimidate) check against a target within 30 feet. If successful rather than your normal effect, the target suffers disadvantage on all attacks for 1 round, and anyone that is forced to make a saving throw against your targets spells or effects during that round gain advantage on the save.

Distracting Creature, Greater: You can use distracting creature against all foes within a 10-foot cube at a range of 60 feet.

Guard Creature: You take no penalties to Perception when asleep, and if you successfully perceive a threat you can wake all allies within 60 feet as a bonus action. As a bonus action when an ally adjacent to you makes a Wisdom (Perception) check, you grant them advantage.

Guard Creature, Greater: As a bonus action when an ally adjacent to you is attacked, you give the attack disadvantage.

Support Creature: As a bonus action when an ally adjacent to you makes a Wisdom or Charisma saving throw, you give the save advantage.

Support Creature: You can cast calm emotions at will.

We’ll look at our other archetype, torchbearer, tomorrow!

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The Mascot Class, for 5e

There’s a character that shows up fairly often in fantasy fiction, that is rarely taken as a player concept in RPGs. This is the brave hireling who tries to defend you with a cooking pot, the gardener and family friend who carries you when your legs give out, the faithful tutor who takes an assassin’s dagger so you can defeat the villain.

They aren’t mages, or warriors, or treasure acquisition experts. They are commoners or civilians, who love the heroes enough to go with them, and are often described as the “heart” of the group… because “hanger-on and potential hostage” doesn’t sound as complimentary.

Basically, they are adventuring group mascots. They DO make appearances as NPCs in some games, and I have seen GMs do great jobs with them. But I also know a lot of players who would LOVE to roleplay the team mascot… as long as they could still DO something.

And I think it’s possible to build a class that gives a player game options that are fun, while still preserving the “civilian” nature of a mascot.

I think this idea works REALLY well for 5e, so I am using that for my framework. We’ll need to start with some basics.

ErgaTheMagnanimous-color-01
(Art by Jacob Blackmon)

Mascot Class Features
As a mascot, you gain the following class features. (Where the advancement chart shows a hyperlink, that feature is defined in another blog post you can reach from the link.)

Hit Points
Hit Dice: 1d6 per mascot level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 12 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d12 (or 8) + your Constitution modifier per mascot level after 1st

Proficiencies
Armor: Shields
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: Pick any four
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Constitution
Skills: Choose two skills from Animal Handling, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Perception, Survival, and Religion

Equipment
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
(a) a simple weapon and a shield or two simple weapons
(a) Two tools you are proficient with
(a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack

Table: The Mascot
Level Proficiency Bonus Bonus Features
1st +2 Mascot Archetype
2nd +2 Shtick
3rd +2 Inspiring failure (one use)
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement
5th +3 Shtick
6th +3 Ability Score Improvement
7th +3 Mascot Archetype feature
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement
9th +4 Shtick
10th +4 Mascot Archetype feature
11th +4 Inspiring failure (two uses)
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement
13th +5 Shtick
14th +5 Ability Score Improvement
15th +5 Mascot Archetype feature
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement
17th +6 Inspiring failure (three uses), shtick
18th +6 Mascot Archetype feature
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement
20th +6 Inspiring failure (four uses)

Okay with that we can begin to build out the game options. So, what are the mascot archetypes?! What shticks can you pick from?! How does FAILURE inspire?

Come back over the course of the week, and we’ll investigate these intriguing options. (Or, follow the links to those articles, no that they’ve been written and linked!)

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Social Distance Thoughts. GM-less 5e Gaming: Part One – Skills

Pandemic changes things. For everyone’s sake, we need to adapt. For our own sakes, we need to stay sane.

At least for the next few weeks, a lot of us aren’t going out and doing the things we normally do. That leaves us with only online options to interact with friends.

RPGs are a great way to spend time with friends. And if you are willing to go theater-of-the-mind, it works great just via chat or video conference.

But, no one may be in the mood to act as GM.

So, a group of 2-4 friends sure CAN run through a pre-generated adventure without a GM, or a map. Just treat it as a board game, deal with one encounter at a time, roll targets of attacks randomly, and don’t get too hung up on things like tactics or worrying about player knowledge. One Facilitator reads each encounter as you run into it (and maybe that role rotates), and players agree to deal with things cooperatively.

You can even use these ideas to run yourself through adventures on your own, a kind of Gaming Solitaire.

But… it might be nice to have some guidelines for things like skill checks interacting with encounters, when you don’t have a GM to make rulings. So:

GM-less 5e Skill Rules

This is just the beginning of a potential ruleset for playing through a published 5e module with friends, likely online and without a virtual tabletop, and without a GM. This is a first set of thoughts—the beginning of this idea, rather than the end.

Group Skill Decisions

When you want to try something the text doesn’t give you guidance on, the group needs to decide on a DC for the effort. The player proposing the action suggests an ability and related skill, and describes how the action would work. The group then sees if they can agree that the thing being proposed would be Very Easy to accomplish, Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard, or Nearly Impossible. The default DC of anything the group can’t decide on is 20 (Hard).

3d illustration of low poly mystical dungeon with a gate in the rock. Game locations with poisons. Above the stone gates is a dragon sculpture with glowing green eyes. Stylized art with bokeh effect.

Ability Checks Table: Typical Difficulty Classes

Task Difficulty   (DC)

Very Easy (5)

Easy (10)

Medium (15)

Hard (20)

Very Hard (25)

Nearly Impossible (30)

Each ability score lists the skills associated with it, along with typical results for success and failure of skill checks that aren’t specifically outlines in the adventure. Have fun with these checks. Describe the attempts, discuss how the story plays out. It’s a different kind of roleplaying, but no less fun or effective for being more cooperative.

For example, the adventure says there is a locked door. Kyla suggests her barbarian should be able to shoulder the door open with a Strength (Athletics) check. The group agrees that’s possible, but given it’s a sturdy, well-maintained door, it’ll be Hard. Kyla attempts a DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check. If she succeeded, she could bypass the obstacle (forcing the door open). As it happens she fails. The typical failure for Strength Athletics) is to take Damage equal to DC -20 -2d6. That’s a base of 10 (DC 20 -10) hp of damage. Kyla rolls 2d6, and gets a 7, which she also subtracts. She ends up taking 3 (10 -7) points of damage, and the door is not open.

Strength

(Athletics) – Success: Overcome one obstacle. Cause one monster to be unable to act for 1d4 rounds. Failure: Take damage equal to task DC -10 -2d6 (minimum 0).

Dexterity

(Acrobatics) – Success: Overcome one obstacle. Cause one monster to be unable to affect you for 1d3 rounds. Failure: Take damage equal to task DC -10 -3d6 (minimum 0).

(Sleight of Hand) – Success: Take one item of fist-size or less from the encounter. Cause one monster to be unable to use an item for 1 round. Failure: Disadvantage on defensive rolls for 1 round.

(Stealth) – Success: Escape an encounter. Examine an encounter without triggering it. Failure: Trigger an encounter, lose turn failing to escape the encounter.

Constitution

Endure a hazard or circumstance for 1d4 rounds without taking additional damage or penalties.

Intelligence

(Arcana) – Learn the details of one magic creature, effect, trap, curse, or similar item. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the magic examined.

(History) – Learn the details of one ruin or established settlement, or item pertaining to it. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the place or related item examined.

(Investigation) – Learn the details of one location you can examine unhindered. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the location or a related item examined.

(Nature) – Learn the details of one natural creature, effect, hazard, location, terrain, or similar item. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the natural creature or phenomenon examined.

(Religion) – Learn the details of one religion or a related creature, effect, trap, curse, or similar item. This specifically includes angels, demons, devils, and undead. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the religious subject examined.

Wisdom

(Animal Handling) – Success: Overcome one animal-based encounter that has not yet become a combat without it becoming one. Cause one animal to be unable to affect you for 1d3 rounds. Instruct a friendly animal to take a specific action. Failure: Bad interaction causes you to be at disadvantage with your next check with the relevant animal.

(Insight) – Success: Learn the true intentions of one intelligence creature. If the creature intends to attack you, you may take an action to begin the combat before the creature does. Failure: Bad conclusion causes you to be at disadvantage with your next check with the relevant creature.

(Medicine) – Success: Learn the nature of one disease or poison. Stabilize a dying creature. Prevent a disease, bleed, or poison from affecting its victim for 1 round. Failure: target takes 1 hp.

(Perception) – Success: Learn all elements of an encounter. Failure: No penalty.

(Survival) – Success: Live off the land without using up supplies for 1 day. Avoid one natural hazard. Locate a natural encounter and observe it without setting it off. Failure: One random party member takes 1 hp.

Charisma

(Deception) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Gain advantage on your next check with one creature in a combat encounter. Failure: You are at disadvantage on your next check with the creature you attempted to deceive.

(Intimidation) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Gain advantage on your next check with one creature in a combat encounter. Failure: Creature attacks you.

(Performance) – Success: Gain advantage for the next check a party member makes in a non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Failure: Suffer disadvantage for the next check a party member makes in a non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures.

(Persuasion) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with nonhostile intelligent creatures. Failure: No penalty.

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More 5e Familiars

I was having a conversation with Jacob Blackmon (by social-distancing-approved web interface), and he mentioned an idea of playing with how familiars and concentration spells in 5e interact. I found it interesting, and that developed into these Upgraded Familiars.

You gain an Upgraded Familiar with the find familiar spell, but must add additional material components as listed for each upgraded familiar below. Each uses the base stats of the listed normal familiar, but also has one of more special abilities.

Chameleon
Material: 50 gp worth of opal
Base stats: lizard
Special: A chameleon gives you access to the alter self spell, which you can cast using appropriate spell slots as if it was a spell you knew. The chameleon can take its action each turn to concentrate on an alter self spell you cast, which frees you from its limitations of a concentration spell.

Firefly, Giant
Material: 50 gp worth of amber
Base stats: owl
Special: A giant firefly can make as much light as a candle at will. It also gives you access to the dancing lights cantrip, which you can cast as if it was a cantrip you knew. The firefly can take its action each turn to concentrate on a dancing lights cantrip you cast, which frees you from its limitations of a concentration spell.

Mongoose
Material: 50 gp worth of pearl
Base stats: weasel
Special: A mongoose gives you access to the blur spell, which you can cast using appropriate spell slots as if it was a spell you knew. The mongoose can take its action each turn to concentrate on a blur spell you cast, which frees you from its limitations of a concentration spell.

Nightingale
Material: 50 gp worth of onyx
Base stats: bat
Special: A nightingale gives you access to the darkness spell, which you can cast using appropriate spell slots as if it was a spell you knew. The nightingale can take its action each turn to concentrate on a darkness spell you cast, which frees you from its limitations of a concentration spell.

Spider, Orb Weaver
Material: 50 gp worth of jade
Base stats: spider
Special: An orb weaver gives you access to the web spell, which you can cast using appropriate spell slots as if it was a spell you knew. The orb weaver can take its action each turn to concentrate on a web spell you cast, which frees you from its limitations of a concentration spell.

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