Mechanic: Crafting pt 2, Consumables and Magical Items
In the first part of this post I expressed my frustration with how clunky crafting in d&d usually is and offered a few fixes. In this post I’ll continue by tackling consumable items like scrolls and potions, and how more modern notions of game design can remove burdensome inventory management and turn the process of alchemy into its own delightful minigame.
Here’s some points about consumables in no particular order:
No one likes how healing potions are implemented in 5e. They’re so necessary to the game that they’re one of the few magical items parties are allowed to buy, but no one enjoys having to scrounge around town looking for the merchant who sells them OR having to jump through so many hoops to make them. Players should be able to produce their own supply of healing potions, and that should be factored into the game.
There’s a natural instinct to horde consumable items in case they’re useful later, which invariably leads to them not being used/forgotten about. Healing potions are ALWAYS applicable given how much fighting a party is liable to do, but anything situational has a risk of being totally forgotten. See Skyrim, BotW, or any JRPG where the main character’s pockets get completely filled with useless basic healing items by the end of the game.
To counteract this bloat, lets look at things like decoctions from the witcher, or the estus flask from darksouls, which give the player a set resource at the start of each “deployment” and test their ability to ration or utilize these resources at their disgression. I’d much rather have a gameplay loop where a party starts in town all loaded up with potions and useful gadgets and slowly gets whittled down to nothing over time.
I’ve more than once said that a party’s equipment are like a second suite of class abilities that offer infinitely more customization. While obviously you don’t want to drown your party in powerful options, 5e’s move to restrict items cut off a lot of that customization which left a lot of characters in the lurch. Following on from that, letting the party replenish their consumable items lets them come to a better understanding of their mechanical toybox, and gives them more encouragement to seek out new items.
Consumable items that are NOT replaceable should generally be fairly powerful, so it’s actually worth the party doing the Risk V Reward calculations.
We need way more types of consumables than just potions and scrolls. sure alchemy items have been part of the game for a while, but what about whetstones/weapon oils? Great food to take on the road? Incense and candles? Clockwork wizbangs? Having these sorts of items only restockable in certain settlements/large enough markets encourages the party to revisit places they’ve previously passed through if it means topping up their gear.
So, without further ado, here’s how I’m running Consumable items from now on:
Rather than crafting an individual item ( check my original post or below the cut for a refresher on how I do crafting rules) Completing a consumable in crafting represents you completing/researching a formulae that will allow you to quickly produce the item in the future, requiring only a few uses of the relevant crafting kit and a number of work periods based on the rarity of the base item.
I’d also highly suggest using this brilliant system of “Depletion Dice” for potions rather than tracking individual uses. It takes a little while for players to wrap their heads around, but it grants a lot more utility to a crafter than single use items.
Also below the cut: Crafting magical items, the genius upgrade system that WOTC invented completely by accident.
Items have a quality rating that sync up with the rarities of magic items: Mundane, Common, Uncommon, Rare, Very rare, Legendary.
To craft an item, you (or an npc you’re working with) need proficiency in the right toolset and a proficiency bonus based on the Quality of the item you’re trying to make (+2 for common, +3 for uncommon, etc)
You’ll need a properly equipped workshop for the task at hand, and sufficient components for the project you’re attempting (more on this below the cut)
An item requires a number of “work sessions” per grade of quality, each amounting to eight hours out of a day, though these days need not be contiguous. Each session requires the crafter to make a skill check using the appropriate proficiency (or use my mini-game rules for extra special crafting projects) against a DC determined by the quality of the object: 10 for mundane, 15 for common, 20 for uncommon etc.
If half or more of the item’s work sessions are successful by the end of the run, the item is complete!
Spending an hour ( including a short rest) in a workshop related to your kit replenishes all charges. Generally you need to be friendly to this workshop, stealing from an unoccupied one, or pay for the privilege ( see below)
The herbalist’s kit and others that rely on natural ingredients can be replenished by spending an hour per use in an appropriate environment, possibly requiring a survival check to restock if the surroundings are harsh.
Visiting a market and paying 1/10th the value of the kit per charge. you may spend as much as you want this way, but in total the process only takes an hour.
Harvesting components from creatures relevant to your Kit’s specific trade, providing a number of charges equal to their CR.
Making magical items: There’s a tried and true questline that has the party hunting down some magical beast/rare material on behalf of a wizard looking to make some kind of critter. Plenty of players have internalized the idea that bits taken from monsters can be turned into magical items, so why not let them? It creates a delightful plothook where a party that wants an item needs to go find a crafter and a monster/ a party that’s just beaten a monster has to go find themselves a crafter and ends up discovering an item. You can also create the exact same sort of plothook with interesting elements/objects found in the monster’s lair, which can help with the more ephemeral creatures.
The trick is to find a magical item that overlaps the CR of the monster ( not a large problem with the surplus of 3rd party material out there) and fits with the general concept.
However, don’t make the mistake of trying to make items for every monster the party encounters (as I’ve done before), specifically wait for them to TELL YOU they’re looking to make monster loot, and plan accordingly.
Upgrading magical items: I know I’m in the minority in saying that I like the item rarity system 5e implemented. I find it way easier to say “alright, X items of rarity 1, Y of rarity 2, and a nice rarity 3 as a cherry on top” when making a horde than having to convert treasure values and budget portions for art objects. While some items DO need to be sorted better, I find it comfortingly light weight.
It ALSO allows for a neat bit of ability stacking if you consider each grade of rarity to be a tier of enchantment that can be layered on top of one another so long as the abilities remain consistent. For example, imagine I give the wizard in my party a pipe of smoke animals (common rarity) in an early session. WAAAAY later on they have an encounter with an iffrit who recognizes the wizard’s power and blesses the pipe with a bit of elemental ferocity, adding the “wand of fireballs” enchantment (rare rarity) to it. Now this has become a signature item for the wizard, who decides to meld it with his (uncommon) +1 focus, creating an iconic signature item.
Infusing enchantments like lets us navigate the old problem where a character finds an enchanted weapon during their travels, but is carrying another weapon with less power but more personal attachment.
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okay since folks really like my original cockroach party post i’m going to expand a bit and talk about how and why the mighty nein turned into a cockroach party.
but before we do that, i’m going to talk about mechanics on this post. warning: long post ahead.
first, let’s define terms. all adventuring parties find their own play style when it comes to combat. from my experience, these tend to fall into three broad categories that i am calling the glass cannon, the control, and the cockroach. to be clear, no one party style is better than another; the players and characters simply have different priorities and skill sets.
glass cannon: these parties are built for doing damage. that’s basically it. they do damage and hope that they kill their enemies before their enemies kill them. these parties tend to be low on support casters, healers, or both. round 4 is where things start to get really rough for these parties and chances are good that if the fight has gone on this long, someone’s at least unconscious.
control: these parties tend to go around obstacles and enemies. there are a million ways to do this; for example, these parties can regularly avoid conflicts all together via stealth or charisma or some other check. when forced into combat, they excel when they have plans or traps to spring on opponents. they struggle a bit but ultimately triumph because they have a myriad of ways to not get hit or they are able to escape and lose their pursuers.
cockroach: these parties don’t engage in combat, they endure it. their goal is to outlast their enemies via healing, support, and tanking. you hit them? joke’s on you, they don’t care. unlike their glass cannon counterparts, round 4 is where things turn around for the cockroach party. they’ve dug in and are starting to push back.
vox machina is a quintessential glass cannon party. part of that is simply down to player availability; ashley their cleric worked across the country so that made it tough for her to attend on the regular. but. the party technically still had a primary healer who could have stepped in and filled that role: keyleth. druids are pretty dang good healers and support casters, even moon druids. however. marisha and keyleth decided to instead take a dps and tank role similar to grog. this ain’t a diss either so don’t any of you all start anything, especially considering keyleth was often burning her higher slots just to get vm to different places. when keyleth was tanking in wild shape and focusing on dps, it meant that vox machina was reliant on: vex’s cure wounds (and with her being a half caster, you weren’t getting a lot of mileage of it), scanlan as the only support role, and later vax’s lay on hands for emergency healing. percy could heal himself a bit if things got really dicey, grog was taking half damage from most attacks, and the twins could hide as a bonus action or stay at range out of the way. in fact, most of vm had some method for staying at range and letting grog and keyleth tank. and this style worked for them for the most part. their biggest dangers were always the longer fights, with or without pike. longer fights meant more chances for these fragile kids to get hit and possibly drag out the fight even longer by trying to get someone up.
the ashholes from exandria unlimited is a great example of a control party. i count half of their encounters which they’ve been able to wriggle out of without killing their opponents. their liberal use of charm spells, high charisma, and just flat out out of the box thinking (they flipped a fucking crocodile!!) has saved their bacon so many times. during unavoidable combat, they have struggled a little bit, but they’re a low level party to begin with so struggle is expected. all the casters appear to be offensively geared with dariax and fearne having prepped utility on the side. even so, that control vibe still permeates the party; dorian’s most clutch move was that dissonant whispers on mister, which he cast not to harm mister but force him to move away from the rune that transformed and powered him, thus ending the combat.
and finally we have the mighty nein, the cockroach party. we’ll get into the hows and whys later, for now, cockroach parties are built on three major founding principles: action economy, mindset, and versatility. action economy is king in dnd. pcs get an action, bonus action, and reaction per turn. having turns each round is critical to a dnd party's ability to overcome the enemy and the more turns you have compared to your opponent, the better. for large parties, that is a sizable advantage over enemy monsters, which is why even low level monsters are packing multi-attacks, decent ac, and/or good solid hit points. more members means more attacks the creature(s) needs to take and focused fire adds up fast, even at low levels. for example, kylre had about 90 hp and was dead in three rounds, with fjord alone dealing 64 points of that damage. yeah. want to know why mid to high level monsters have legendary actions and resists? action economy. want to know why some silly min-max number crunchers think that cleric healing is severely under-powered? action economy. laura's assessment of healing, that it is better to damage the enemy and only heal to bring people up to make sure they get their turn, is a solid, reasonable assessment of the economy, especially when it comes to the cleric spell slot economy which I elaborated on here.
so, in light of the action economy, let's talk about the cockroach mindset. the cockroach party doesn’t ask ‘how do we beat this opponent’, it asks ‘how do we outlast this opponent.’ it’s a subtle difference in combat focus but an important one. survival of the party is the cockroach’s top priority and all members go into the encounter with that priority in mind. the players aren’t focused on the survival of their character, however, they are focused on giving their party another round to act. they give themselves room to breathe. whether that is stunning the enemy completely, whether it's lowering the enemy's attacking ability, whether it's giving a party member an extra action, whether it’s bringing someone up from unconsciousness, those methods combine with damage generation to win an encounter. cockroach parties don't rely on damage output to keep themselves safe, they rely on their own ability to survive and support their team.
which brings us to versatility. cockroach parties tend to have a wide array of skills at their disposal and aren’t afraid to use them. while they have solid support roles, casters are not the only ones who can bring utility to a party. just ask beau. just ask yasha as she flew caleb out of danger in the first lucien fight. heck, just ask orym and his swip swap battle flop. or damian and the owlbear from the darrington brigade. cockroach parties, more than control and glass cannon parties, prefer to have a wide range of options available to them. the more tricks up your sleeve, the more likely you are to have something to deal with whatever the dm throws at you. marine layer, anyone? at the same time, the party also uses this wide array to have multiple ways to handle the same problem. jester is the backup stealth scout and teleporter. fjord is the emt, able to remove and heal injured party members if caduceus or jester cannot. caleb is the backup backup cleric with polymorph. veth can also stun/incapacitate enemies with her spells. caduceus is the backup backup tank and battlefield control via his shield of retribution and spirit guardians to beau and jester.
these three tricks combine into one inescapable reality: there is no one better or obvious target to take out. the entire party is one giant interlocking trap; break one and the others will reinforce the weak point and make you pay for the effort.
(incidentally, the cockroach approach is so ingrained in the cast that the vm side of the battle royale didn’t play with the urgency the vm playbook requires and that, more than anything, screwed them over. but that’s a different post.)
tune in next time for a break down of how, when, and why the nein went from glass cannon to cockroach because it is a fascinating ride.
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I wonder how many damage types you can deal with a single strike. Disallowing magic items for simplicity's sake, I know you can hit at least 7 with a Pact of the Blade Genie Warlock 5/Paladin 2
Bludgeoning, Piercing or Slashing from a weapon
Radiant from Divine Smite
Force from Eldritch Smite
Psychic from the Hex spell
Fire from Green-Flame Blade
Acid, Cold, Lightning, or Thunder from Absorb Elements cast on the previous turn
Bludgeoning, Thunder, or Cold from Genie's Wrath
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No one: Does math for fun in their free time
Absolutely no one: Calculates financial logistics in their free time
People who play DnD: Calculates the weight of gold pieces, how many fit in a chest and how many donkeys that would take to carry it and the efficiency of doing so versus using Tenser’s floating disk in spell slots for fun.
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Some warriors can gain new prosthesis limbs if they accidentally or purposefully lose a limb. Either the arms or legs can be replaced.
Prosthesis Material Price:
Wood: 5 gold coins| Benefits: +1 to Armour class
Steel: 500 gold coins| Benefits: +3 to Armour class
Magic: 500,000 gold coins: Benefits: +3 to magic proficiency +3 to Armour class
Arm Prosthesis types:
Melee weapon. Your arm can be infused with a weapon of your choice that you’re proficient with.
Blast: Your arm can fire a missile which deals 1d4 damage, adding 1d4 damage whenever you shoot the same target.
Rocket Arm: Your arm shoots of, extending your melee range to 15 ft
Shield: A shield pops out of your arms.
Leg Prosthesis types:
All terrain: Your leg allows you to move easily on all kinds of terrain.
Wheels: Your wheels allow you to increase your walking speed by 10 ft
Rocket Kick: Your unarmed strike increases by +3 and allows you to use your dexterity modifier.
Rocket Booster: You have a flying speed of 30 ft.
You can only have 2 of each prosthetic and it will cause you to lose your arms. Purposefully cutting your arms will have you deal 5 damage..
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D&D: Dimension Door and Glyph of Warding
What follows is a very serious argument I wrote in order to convince DM @wellbustmybuffers that I, our party’s friendly neighborhood bard, should be able to use the spell Dimension Door in combination with Glyph of Warding to teleport an NPC who definitely would NOT want to be teleported without having to get to where the NPC is. Argument presented as it was when I originally sent it to her.
The spell description for Dimension Door specifies that it teleports you and up to one other willing creature. This implies - but does not explicitly state - that the subject must be willing in order for them to be teleported. This creates a problem when the spell is cast using glyph of warding, since the spell description for Glyph of Warding specifies that, if the spell has a target, it targets the person that triggers the glyph.
How should we interpret this? The options seem to be:
The spell targets the caster, who is assumed willing because they cast the spell.
The spell targets the triggerer, who is assumed willing because they triggered the spell.
The spell targets the caster, but only if they are willing at time of triggering.
The spell targets the triggerer, but only if they are willing at time of triggering.
The spell only works if the caster is the one who triggers the spell, and they are considered willing in virtue of being the one who cast the spell.
My contention is that we should accept option (2.), not because it is entirely unproblematic, but because it is the best option in a context where all of the options are problematic. Argument follows below:
It doesn’t make sense that the spell would target the caster when they aren’t the one who triggers the spell. That would be in explicit violation of the spell description for dimension door, and raises a number of other interpretative problems, such as “what happens if the caster is more than 500ft away from the destination when the spell is triggered?”. This interpretation should therefore be eliminated, removing options (1.) and (3.).
Option (5.) is, admittedly, probably the interpretation that is least glitchy. It would clearly meet the descriptions for both spells, and so enjoys the most textual support. This option would, however, violate a much more fundamental rule of DnD: it prioritizes strict, technical adherence to the rules over creative and original engagement with the world the players are creating together. Dimension Door was probably never intended to be used in combination with Glyph of Warding, which means that most ways of interpreting how to do so will have strange and unusual implications. Option (5.) avoids those problems, but avoiding strange and unusual things is fundamentally contrary to the point of DnD. Exploring the strange implications of creative and original combinations is perfectly in line with the intention of the game as a whole, and thuse option (5.) should be eliminated in favor of an interpretation that is, admittedly, less obviously in line with the technical rules but significantly more fun and interesting.
Finally, there’s not a lot of reason to eliminate option (4.), but option (2.) is better for two reasons. First, because it is not actually specified that the primary target of Dimension Door must be willing; casting is taken to imply consent, and there is no mention of an exception when there are extenuating circumstances. Presumably, that means casting it implies consent even when there are extenuating circumstances. For example, if the caster is under the effect of Dominate Person, they could be made to cast Dimension Door (assuming they have the ability to cast the spell). The spell would still work because, as far as the spell is concerned, casting it implies consent without exception.
For the magical purposes of Dimesnion Door, then, casting is the indicator of consent. So what does this mean when it is cast using a spell glyph? I think there are two ways to interpret this, and that both have the same result. The first is that the original caster still counts as the caster for the purposes of consent, and since they did in fact cast the spell, the spells willingness requirement is met even when it takes effect on a triggerer who was not willing. This would be a glitchy result, but that glitch would be a result of the spell’s willingness sensor glitching as its effect is redirected from the caster to the triggerer by Glyph of Warding. The second would be that Dimension Door interprets the triggering event as the casting of the spell for the purposes of consent when it is cast in this way. This would mean that the spell interprets the triggering as implying the triggerer’s willingness to be teleported even when they trigger the spell unintentionally. In both cases, the spell would teleport the triggerer, whether they actually want to be teleported or not. Because the spell uses the casting event as an indicator of consent instead of determining consent directly, a false positive is produced in cases where the target of effect is, in fact, unwilling.
Suggestion for How to interpret Dimension Door Cast using a Spell Glyph:
The spell teleports the person who triggers it regardless of their willingness to be transported. Due to the manner in which the spell takes effect, the magic interprets the triggering event as implying consent to be transported in the same way it would normally interpret casting of the spell as consent to be teleported. This is obviously a glitch, but the whole concept of the combination is clearly a glitch, and this is the most straightforward and consistent way to interpret the target of effect here that doesn’t produce a total bummer of a result. It also makes sense in light of the following restrictions:
The destination location is chosen by the spell caster at the time of casting. This location must be within 500ft of the glyph’s location.
the spell can only be triggered by someone who is also within 500 ft of the destination set at the original time of casting: whether or not the caster means to include a range restriction in the trigger, “within 500ft of the chosen destination” is an automatic range restriction on the trigger whenever dimension door is cast in this way.
As a note, these restrictions do have the following weird result: the glyph can be up to 1000ft away from the target of the effect.
In the illustration, the glyph is at A, the destination at B, and the spell is triggered at C. The circles represent the 500ft range of the spell, so the destination is just within range of both the glyph and the triggerer. This result is funky, but should be accepted because the range requirement is being respected where it matters: at time of casting and at time of effect. As long as the range is respected at those two points, it does not matter what the distance is between the glyph and the triggerer.
One alternative would be that the glyph must be within 500ft of the destination, and the triggerer must be within 500ft of the glyph. On this interpretation, we would interpret A in the illustration above as the triggerer, B as the glyph, and C as the destination, which gives the result that the triggerer could be transported up to 1000 ft. That seems worse, since it increases the distance that a person can be teleported and thus affects the power of the spell.
A second alternative would be to require the triggerer to be within 500ft of both the glyph and the destination in order for the spell to take effect.
This is shown in the second illustration, where A is the glyph, B is the destination, and the circles represent the 500ft range of the spell. On this interpretation, the only area in which the spell could be triggered is the shaded area of overlap for the two circles. This is worse than the first interpretation because it artificially limits the power of Dimension Door by restricting the range.
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So, if a person were to fall off a cliff and cast Feather Fall on themselves, they would fall at a rate of 60ft per round, or 10ft per second, and take no damage.
That means, after doing some calculations, that it D&D mechanics, the rate of a free fall (in order to take 1d6 damage for every 10 feet fallen) is 25fps.
So if through some magical means, you could make a character with base walking speed of 150ft...
Then you could just,,,, charge at people and deal the amount you moved divided by 10 d6s.
Up to 15d6 damage.
Or, if you could get to 200ft in one round, you could deal the maximum falling damage of 20d6.
You just have to be able to survive that much.
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The bandit lunged, slashing. She narrowly blocked the attack with the shaft of her spear, woodchips splintering from the impact as the blade slid off. Readjusting her spear, she stepped back, only for the bandit to take another swipe- despite the spear point at their chest
In 5e, when an opponent moves out of your attacking range, you get an opportunity attack. While this makes sense in some cases, there are a lot of faults with this, such as the above situation
If you want to alter opportunity attacks to be a bit more realistic, we can instead say that an opportunity attack comes when a creature moves so out of their own threat range against the attacker.
This alone clears up a lot of the weird problems with opportunity attacks, but if you want more realism I think we can go further. So in addition to that, let’s say that moving through a square that is threatened while you cannot attack the attacker triggers an opportunity attack. This makes it so that attackers with reach make it a lot harder to maneuver around them.
These changes clear up a lot of the problems, but if you want more tactical combat you could consider adding even more conditions like:
Dropping to prone triggers an OA
While using the dash action you do not threaten any squares around you (and will more easily trigger OAs)
Creatures can take multiple reactions, up to their proficiency modifier
Switching weapons triggers an opportunity attack
Creatures forcefully moved trigger OAs
Moving through a square threatened by multiple creatures triggers an OA, even if the attackers are in reach
Standing up from prone triggers an OA
Hopefully this gives you some ideas for your own games
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I’ve not said anything yet because I was worried it was my Wizard Player Bias showing, but I’d like to submit the fight last night as evidence in support of “AC is less important than HP at this level, and the Ring of Evasion is definitely more useful for Caleb than anyone else.”
The enemy rolls to hit last night? Mostly above 20. At this level and the kinds of creatures they’re fighting, most attacks will hit most of the characters (exception maybe Beau, with her 20 AC). A difference between, say, an AC 14 and an AC 16 doesn’t mean much at this level.
What does matter a lot more is having enough HP to stay up in the fight. Every other character has at least 20 more HP than Caleb. Yasha’s HP is almost double his (101 to his 57). Fjord got hit for more damage than Caleb last night and still ended the fight at barely below Caleb’s max.
I know Yasha’s AC is “super low” for this level, but honestly, her high HP and rage halving damage seems to be working out for her just fine. Yasha’s only been unconscious 2 times and the last time was in episode 19. That’s way back when they were level 4 y’all! And I know Ashley’s not been there, but it’s not like Travis was jagering her totally out of battle - she was in it!
Caleb, on the other hand? KO’d 13 times, just one away from the record for a PC in campaign one, and in half as many episodes. And Liam’s kept him far enough away from the thick of battle that it’s become a running joke (”Caleb distance”) so it’s not like he’s being reckless with the character.
Evasion helps with HP problems, not with AC. There’s a reason it’s an ability for classes who might be in the thick of things but have a relatively lower hit die (rogues, monks). The Ring also takes a Reaction to use, and would therefore be a steep price for a melee fighter who would probably rather use that Reaction for an Attack of Opportunity.
Like Laura said on Talks a few weeks ago, they like to give Liam a hard time, but insisting on this particular item is understandable. Especially since he nerfed himself attunement-wise and this takes up one of his limited 2 remaining slots.
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Technically the material component could be replaced with the arcane focus since it has no gold cost. But the material component is useful in a secondary manner involving this particular spell
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Penny, her friends, then there‘s Ruby-
RIP Miss Rose
also partially inspired by this old gold post
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Mechanic: Puzzles and Lockpicking
Yeknow what d&d needs?
More Minigames! While I adore the simplicity of d20/advantage, and I have no desire to return to the pre 3E days where everything had its own clunky rules, I think there's a missing gameplay opportunity in limiting everything to be resolved by just a single roll against a DC
Specificly, I'm looking to create a minigame that evokes a character skillfully overcoming a mechanism that doesn't require me to break out any props or handwave away hours of work with a single skillroll. I also want to involve a character's secondary skills as all too often a single ability or proficiency can become a character's entire toolbox.
Since most videogames have dedicated minigames for lockpicking, lets use it as an example of what I want to do.
First comes understanding the challenge: the player rolls an intelligence check vs the difficulty of the lock (adding whatever tool proficiencies they feel appropriate for the lock). Beating this roll lets them understand the mechanism: Getting a pool of d6s and one of a few “challenges” based off the DC of the lock in question.
DC 5 | 1 | roll a specific number
Dc 10 | 2 | get doubles of a specific number
Dc 15 | 3 | get triples / a run of three/
DC 20| 4 | quadruple / two pair/ all evens
DC 25| 5 | quintuple / full house/ all odds
DC 30| 6 | six of a kind/ two triples/ three pair
Once that Pool of dice is rolled out, the character then gets a number of rerolls based on their dexterity and proficiency in slight of hand, representing them actually using their fine motor skills to pick the lock. If they meet the challenge conditions before they’ve used their last reroll, then they’ve successfully picked the lock. If not, they can either wait for the end of their next short rest with a +5 to the initial DC, or wait until a long rest for that DC to reset.
And that’s it! A system that simulates fussing with something challenging while at the same time putting the player experience forward and not being too rules heavy.
Some considerations when using this system:
Most locks shouldn’t use this system, it’s there for the delicate, fiddley stuff that you DON’T want your players to open/bypass on the first try. This is a lock to the boss room when they can’t be bothered to search the rest of the dungeon for the key, this is the treasure chest containing secret information that you want them to open after an important plot beat has happened.
Different characters can understand the lock and do the actual picking, letting you do team ups between multiple characters or swapping off between them.
You can use this system to represent almost anything complex and skill related, provided you can figure out two ability/proficiency combinations appropriate to the task: picking out a hidden code from a letter and deciphering it, performing an exorcism, engaging in tourney combat before a crowd, solving a maze, willing yourself out of an illusion.
Two last things:
I previously covered a way to make treasure chests more mechanically interesting, and paring them with this sort of lock would be as memorable as any mimic encounter.
I was heavily inspired for the basis of this system by a youtuber creator called Zipperon Disney, he does amazing stuff, go check him out.
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*sing* it's been ~a while~
and i have been watching vm vs the nein a lot so let's talk about it. as always with me, this is a very long word vomit.
i said over on my mechanics post that the vm playbook requires urgency while the nein's playbook requires setup. here's what i mean. if the nein can make it to round 3-4 intact, that is if all of them are up, they are going to win. period. the nein simply have too many ways to steal turns from their enemies or to maximize their own effectiveness for things to go any other way.
if you want to see this in action even with a reduced roster, go watch the fire elemental fight in episode 129 and count the rounds. between caduceus' mass cure wounds and spirit guardians, caleb's slow, veth's sneak attacks, and jester's guiding bolts, the nein were able to scrape out a win thanks more to their bag of tricks than the damage output. veth only got sneak attack because of guiding bolt's secondary effects, slow kept veth safe from an opportunity attack and jester from a multi-attack, mass cure wounds gave caleb that round to cast slow, and the spirit guardians passively whittled down the enemies into KO range. the accumulated secondary effects were too much for the enemies to withstand and they fell hard. notice how everything built on one another here. that's what cockroach parties learn to do well. it was sloppier than a normal nein fight but they did it with a reduced roster AND with nearly all of their high level spell slots spent before the fight. yeah, they're fucking scary.
vm, however, is a whole different kind of scary. this team can put you down before you even know what's happening. it's harder to target the group's biggest damage dealers because you have a hulking barbarian and often an elemental up front locking down combatants. the dagger rogue can teleport and fly. oh, and give himself an extra action each round. the ranger and the gunslinger can stand back and just go to town. the freaking bear can maul you. the bard can make your life a living joke in your final moments. the cleric is a wildcard because the group is built to fight without her; if she's around, good luck because that's another round of attacks you have to take and an extra round vm can take. their DCs are ridiculous, as are their overall ACs.
but the thing to know about vm is that they have to put you down fast. they don't have the hit points for longer fights and they definitely don't have the utility for longer fights. their druid is offensively oriented, their cleric is often absent, and their bard is mostly support. he's often the only one running that bag of tricks. he can and will fuck up an opposing team given the chance and bolster his own, the problem is that he has almost no backup here. it's a giant hole that is begging to be exploited. it's an even bigger hole when that bard can only cast one spell per round.
so, going into the battle royale, the vm side had to down one member of the nein as fast as possible preferably in two rounds or fewer. it almost doesn't matter who, because if you down beau or fjord, that forces jester or fjord to spend their action or spell getting the downed member back up. if jester goes down, fjord has to do something about it. well, i say it almost doesn't matter but beau's deflect missiles makes her the worst target of the trio and yes, i'm including fjord's half-orc bounce back in that calculation. that gives you one round where the person healing isn't fucking up your team. vm's secondary objective was to monitor and control beau. her movement is nothing to compared to a hasted vax but her stunning strike is the most lethal weapon the nein brought into this fight. vm overall is not a melee group to begin with and their con saves are all garbage. vm has to find a way to keep her off their tails if they want a chance. we also know that vm's plan was to try to take out jester first so throw that objective into the mix as well.
all the nein have to do is survive the first couple rounds, monitor scanlan and pike, and get into position. that's basically it. the nein can absolutely withstand vax and percy's damage output for the first two rounds. pike and scanlan's damage output can be scary but pike in particular has to decide whether she wants to hold high level slots for healing. and she would need those higher level slots to get close to percy and vax's damage output. the nein know from experience that the support caster is where the real trouble will begin.
but before we kick things off, remember that matt specifically designed this battlefield to take turns away from the teams. the chests are an action to search and are located far out of the way in the field. the gem requires an action to activate, which basically means sacrificing your action for someone else's, and shifts between six designated points on the field. matt, who has a deep understanding of how both teams operate, decided to play on the nein's insecurities that they were at a severe item disadvantage and see if he could get them to bite. high risk, high reward. granted, this is me speculating but it does look like matt saw the fight very differently from the players and readjusted the field accordingly.
so we kick off and immediately scanlan proves why he is the top priority on the nein's list. he gets the gem, gets fjord prone on the ground, and comes within a hair's breadth of turning the fight into a five on two potential slaughter. travis brilliantly responds to these circumstances in the best of ways. see, fjord isn't the nein's utility magician for this fight; fjord's the bait. travis makes a very big spectacle of himself and fjord's predicament. and vm buys it hook, line, and sinker. ashley tries to continue with the original plan of gunning for jester only to discover that jester is who knows where.
vax, percy and scanlan? immediately take their shots at fjord. but fjord's on the ground which puts percy's awful misfire mechanic into reasonable play. so fjord gets lucky and doesn't take anywhere near the amount of damage he could have from percy. scanlan, after percy is removed from the field, decides he's better off trying to finish fjord but only hits a 3rd level thunder wave instead of a higher level one, which sam was probably saving for some counterspells or such. i don't think a higher level would have made that much of a difference but it is important to note.
more importantly, vax gets greedy. he got two good hits on fjord with his two actions, he could have left and hidden for the next turn. yes, vm has to down fjord as fast as possible. however that haste is going to be more effective over the long term if vax can keep it. but fjord's easy prey and he thinks vm can down him before jester can get over there to do anything about it. so he goes for the bonus action attack. pike eventually joins this mad dash scramble and like scanlan, she absolutely needed to throw something huge at fjord to get past his half-orc racial trait to have a prayer at downing him. but she did not because ashley seems to have been saving all her high levels for healing so fjord survives the round in honestly a very good position. vax can't target him from range with the cloud up, scanlan now has bigger problems than fjord with molly right up on him, and pike ran, taking damage and healing fjord in the process.
meanwhile, the nein's ladies are free to run and play the field as they see fit. jester has a big opening round flame strike. beau decides she can hold off on her round 2 blitz run to vm in favor of bringing molly onto the field. remember kids, never let a monk with 55ft of movement have the run of the place, it's bad for business. jester then makes a great play with her dispel magic at vax's haste. hashtag thanks, fjord. remember, kids, cockroach parties excel at taking turns and actions away from their opponents. in round 2 alone, the nein successfully remove percy from the field and remove vax's extra attack. that's both big damage dealers hobbled in one round. they also gave themselves an extra turn, adding molly onto the field. and oh boy, molly.
here we see the utility martial fighter molly could have been. sam's confused by the low damage that molly's doing his first round but the damage isn't really the point of the attacks. that brand of tethering is far more important, as are taliesin keeping an eye on which reactions will support the nein and molly's second attack wasting scanlan's reaction. counterspell is off the table for the back half of round 2-beginning of round 3, which is important if fjord wants to get the heck out of dodge.
in case it wasn't obvious earlier in the match that the nein are absolutely gunning for scanlan, round 3 begins with beau's blitz against scanlan. fjord's luck against the dominate person balances out with scanlan's save against the stun and beau missing one attack. here, vm starts to get distracted. they chose their focus fire target, fjord, but now do not, arguably cannot, follow through on it. we'll never know what could have happened had vm said to hell with beau and molly in our faces, we have to finish fjord.
vax tries to retaliate against beau but here's where the cockroach starts to come into play. molly blood curses vax, which saves beau a full sneak attack+ worth of damage. it also utterly wastes vax's turn. fjord manages to escape (and damage pike while he's at it) and regroup where it's safe. scanlan tries to dimension door but fails due to the brand. literally any other move scanlan could try on the pair of them had a better chance of success. instead, another vm turn is lost. taliesin recognizes the importance of getting beau advantage and supports her at the cost of two of his attacks missing, but not before scanlan is forced to cutting words one of them. another potential counterspell and cutting words lost. neither jester or pike contribute significantly to this round; the nein have done so much damage to pike in three rounds that she is forced to heal herself while jester chooses to dimension door herself to the gem and only a low damage roll lets it evade her.
beau takes molly's setup and gets the critical scanlan stun. he loses his full round. fjord takes the opportunity molly provided him to polymorph into a t-rex, bringing him fully back into the fight. vm is really going to have a time and a half trying to finish him now unless they can put up a big single damage attack. jester builds on beau's setup by casting flame strike, whose dex save scanlan automatically fails. he goes down. if you're the nein, this is exactly where you want pike focused, on her team and not on yours. she has access to most of the same spells that jester has and the more you pressure her to focus on her team, the better. it's not wasting her turn, precisely, but it is controlling what she can reasonably do with it.
now we come to percy versus beau. i don't want to diminish the insane good luck beau had to take only 26 points of damage from six shots because what matters here is that percy absolutely could not down beau. period. her hit points were too high and after she took almost nothing from the first two shots, it should have been clear that she was going to get her turn and she would absolutely attempt to stun and down pike and scanlan. i'm not going to monday morning quarterback this fight but i will point out that the more rolls travis has to make to maintain concentration, the greater the chance he fails and you get to hit fjord's actual hit point pool and trade fjord for scanlan. and if you can get him before he can get back into the fray, even better.
beau stuns the gnomes and drops scanlan again. her inner cockroach rears its head once more as she negates more than half the damage on vax's critical hit sneak attack. fjord-rex downs scanlan and grapples pike. the stun on pike here really helps negate that high AC of hers. after scanlan's death, it's a long slow death spiral. vax abandons the fight in the next critical round in favor of keeping the gem instead of targeting fjord. percy attacks beau once more instead of fjord due to fjord dangling pike over lava. he starts to focus on fjord only to get distracted by jester. pike goes down but vax gets caught by beau before he can get her back up. and so it goes with vm losing turn after turn after turn until finally the nein poof percy out of existence and bring molly back. a fitting end for the team who started their final boss fight with eight and came out nine.
bottom line here, the vm team played like they had way more time than they actually did. they had to commit to a target and see it dead as fast as possible. they had to control the battlefield quickly and keep it. they didn't so they couldn't. aside from building on damage dealt, they couldn't create advantages or opportunities for each other nearly as effectively as nein did. all of these factors meant that the nein did what they always do: grind their enemies under heel.
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okay uh! i've noticed a lot more tma fans wanting to get into the mechs once tma is over, which is cool! join us in thinking constantly about these gay little space pirates!
just remember that this is not just jonny's band. there are actually nine main mechanisms, and even more if you count people like the unconfirmed mechs! so to credit all the writing to jonny, or focus solely on the band members who also va'd for magnus archives, is doing the rest of the band members a pretty big disservice tbh.
not to mention that jonny didn't even start the mechs, maki yamazaki ( carmilla's actor ) did. and to erase the work a disabled trans woman of color did to put more focus on a white cis guy is, yknow, Not Great!
so it's completely fine if you got into the mechs through tma, or college band aus, or whatever ( hell, so did i, so it'd be pretty hypocritical if i said it wasn't okay lol ) but remember that the mechanisms are their own thing that was only partially done by jonny. it was a collaborative effort. & tbh it was a lot easier for me to enjoy and understand the mechs after i stopped going 'hey that's jon archivist' whenever i heard jonny's voice.
( also while i have your attention please stop tagging 'the mechs were jon's college band' aus with the mechanisms tag i am Begging you )
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A badass thing you can do when fighting against somebody with Mirror Image
If you’re a PC fighting against something that has Mirror Image, or a DM controlling a monster/bad guy with relatively high intelligence, here’s a thing you can do that will look badass if it works...
Close your eyes and just hit the bitch with disadvantage. Odds are, it’s a squishy spellcaster with low enough armor that you still have decent a chance to hit it. The Mirror Image spell says:
“A creature is unaffected by this spell if it can’t see, if it relies on senses other than sight, such as blindsight, or if it can perceive illusions as false, as with truesight.”
Think of how cool you’ll look as you go up against this dude with shifting illusory forms around it, and you just take a second to close your eyes, center yourself, and go full blindfolded Luke Skywalker on their ass.
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Have Some Mechs : 《D
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Well Someone had to draw a Yasha hug after my last art.
| Ko-Fi |
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Sometimes it’s super apparent that the most irritating Rules Lawyers in the CR Twitch chat don’t actually know the rules that well.
The number of people yelling at Matt (and Liam, for apparently rolling wrong??) for having a Teleport mishap during that part was embarrassing. Like...if you’re gonna yell about the rules, please know what you’re talking about.
Also 20 Force damage aside, that’s probably the best way they could have rolled. Any number between 44 and 73 would have sent them to another volcano somewhere else, or somewhere nearby. That final roll of 92 was clutch.
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