or is it eberron

Alternate Ways to End Combat in an RPG

Hello, readers! At the moment, I’m super busy prepping a Lovecraft Legacies LARP event, but I didn’t want to fail to offer some DMing advice this week. So I grabbed an old article I wrote for the website GeeksDreamGirl.com. I wrote it with 4E in mind, but it’s lessons translate to any game. Enjoy!

Combat is an integral part of many RPGs. In some, it’s a necessary evil. In others, like D&D, it’s an exciting part of the game. Sometimes, the PCs are facing truly evil and villainous foes that need to be wiped from the face of your campaign world. Sometimes, however, you want to have a battle end in something other than a complete massacre of one side or another. What if the PCs are facing honorable foes who’ve been duped into fighting them? Or what if they’re facing foes who vastly out-number or out-power them? Is a slaughter the only answer? Obviously, the
answer can and should be no.

Here then are five ways to end a fight before the battlefield is drenched in the blood of one side or another. You can use these ways to keep a battle short, or to offer an alternative to simple one-
sided destruction.

A Fight to First Blood

If the PCs are facing honorable foes, or are fighting in a tournament, they may choose to fight to “first blood”, and I’m not referencing any cheesy 80s action films. In 4E D&D, this is an easy
concept: have the players and NPCs agree to fight until someone hits their Bloodied value, and use this as the threshold of when someone finally draws blood on the other.

This has a lot of basis in reality. Knights at tournament wanted to show their prowess at real battle, and first blood was a way to show one’s skill, but to avoid seriously injuring one’s foe. Likewise, a duel that was serious but didn’t need to be to the death would sometimes be fought to first blood. This served as a grim reminder to the wounded – I bloodied you once. Next time might be more fatal.

Holding Out Like a Hero

This is a particular favorite of mine. In it, the PCs aren’t necessarily planning on winning a fight, but only of surviving and holding off foes until a set goal is reached. This is particularly effective for when the king can get to safety if his loyal knights can last ten rounds of combat, or if a wizard needs them to hold until he gets six successes on Arcana checks. Combined with Skill Challenges, this can make for a memorable sequence. Skeletons will keep pouring out of the crypt until the cleric successfully re-consecrates it as a skill challenge of minor actions, or the room will keep filling with water that’s inhabited with shrieking eels until the rogue resets the trap mechanism. It’s up to the party to hold off the skeletons, eels, or what have you.

You can use this device to simulate a scene like Helm’s Deep. The PCs have to hold out a certain number of rounds until the reinforcements arrive. Especially in combination with an ever-increasing number of minions, this can give the proper feeling of literally holding off an army.

Cutting Off the Head

The orcish army feels unbeatable until their leader, Gruzhgarn, is slain. When the necromancer is killed, the undead crumble back to lifeless husks. The wolves will flee in dismay if their alpha is killed. If you make one or more of the enemies the linchpin holding the rest of the monsters together, then you can give the PCs a goal other than simply slaying every monster on the battlefield. Once the leader-type monster goes down, the rest will surrender, flee, return to their home plane, etc. I especially like the feeling of “kill the wizard and his minions will return to the Elemental Plane.” It’s something that makes a logical sort of story sense, and it gives an out to the players.

A variation on this is “this monster is invulnerable until condition X is met.” In my current campaign, a great example was Auntie Mengybone, whom I’ve mentioned in other columns. She was harnessing the life-force of a captive Arch Fey to constantly heal herself, making her effectively invulnerable. Several of the PCs with Controller-type powers kept her busy and away from the other PCs who were freeing the Arch Fey through a skill challenge. Once the Arch Fey was released, she immediately went into retreat mode, leaving her minions to fight the PCs. She didn’t escape, but, if she had, she would’ve likely become a recurring villain in the campaign.

Live to Fight Another Day

There’s an adage that most PCs would rather have their character killed than have them captured. I’m not sure what the psychology around this is, but I agree that it’s true. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to have your monsters behave the same way.

I befuddled my players in my Eberron campaign by having the changeling villain they’d been fighting step back, go defensive, and offer to surrender, but only if the Lawful Good character
promised him mercy. The party was immediately suspicious, but they reluctantly agreed. This let me draw a fight that was already a foregone conclusion to a quick close and keep a valuable NPC
alive for a future sequence. And when the PCs found out later that he’d escaped the prisons of their patrons, they cursed his name – darned, tricksy changelings!

The other trick is to have monsters flee. They might be running for reinforcements, or they might be running for their lives, but sometimes monsters, especially intelligent ones, might choose to abandon a fight that they’re clearly losing. Earlier editions of D&D had complex Morale check systems to help a DM determine whether or not a monster would fight on or drop their weapons, but, nowadays, story is the arbiter of such a decision.

Stop. Just Stop.

I would never suggest that you should declare a fight against the PCs and tell them they’re all dead. But good news! Your monsters don’t have any ego beyond that which you invest in them.

If you’re down to two half-dead orcs, everything else is dead, and the PCs are still in excellent shape, you can call that fight. Sure, the orcs might do a little more damage, but is it really necessary to eke every hit point from the player characters that you can? I think not.

Some DMs, and some players, don’t like this approach. They want to know exactly who did what, who killed whom, and noodle the fight down to each hit point. That’s not my style of game play. If it’s getting late, and I have an important plot point to make before game ends, and this fight is slowing me down, I’ll sometimes call a fight once it’s clear how unlikely it is that the PCs will lose. “Well, the ogre has 15 hit points, and you’re all going to get to attack before he does. Unless you really want to know who kills the ogre specifically, let’s call it. Someone describe for me how the ogre dies.” My players were baffled the first time I did this, but they’ve
come to appreciate it.

In Closing

Not every fight has to be fought to the last HP. Sometimes, there are reasons why a fight should end early, and sometimes it’s just more convenient to move things along rather than dither down to the bitter end. Using this tool, you can make battles more about the story and excitement and less about drudging down to the last hit point.

Needed to let myself do something simple, and I’d been wanting to do this for a while - my Artificer’s Thunder Cannon design.

She was a researcher trapped within an oppressive mindflayer regime. She joined the Resistance because she needed to get out and go home, and when the party met her, she had just invented the Thunder Cannon prototype to aid in the liberation cause. She called it Deliverance. By the end of the uprising, after surviving the mindflayer’s crushing efforts to stop the insurgency, she was the only one of the Resistance left.

Industrial Might and Magic Part 4: Random Inspirations

Since Industrial Might and Magic is a hodgepodge of influences from other stuff I might as well go ahead and list some of my main sources of inspiration:

Xcrawl, a D&D 3e sourcebook based around the idea of dungeon-crawling as a spectator sport and dungeoneers as essentially celebrities. What I’ve heard of the setting is very mixed though, so mostly I’ve just borrowed the idea of copyrighted spells, but since the idea of dungeon-crawling as sport is so cool I might integrate that as well.

Secret of Zir'An and Eberron; the former specifically for the magical coin that makes it easier to carry around magic, both for the general idea of a setting where magic is effectively an industry. Also I really want to have Warforged in there cause Warforged own.

Dark Sun, but for one very specific thing: I want there to be Defiler mages who power their magic through literally sucking the life out of the planet, so we can get some big industry magic vs. environmentalist Druids, Elves and Rangers.

Urban Arcana for d20 Modern: while mostly just D&D set in the modern world it had some genuinely good ideas, like spells you could send as email attachments. It’s cool.

If anyone knows of an RPG or setting I should check out and add to my reading list, let me know!

(We play in Eberron 3.5 and our party encountered a fire giant in a volcanic cave. No surprise there. But I tend to ask the weird questions.)

Me (tiefling cleric) can we drag the giant over and use him as a bridge over the lava? They’re still fire proof after death, right?

Dm *gives me questioning look*

Barbarian- how tall are fire giants?

Dm- about 18 feet. It’s more than 18 feet to the tower.

Barbarian - can we use him as a boat?

Me- is a fire giant fire proof on the inside?

(It just went downhill after that and the dm told us that we couldn’t float the dead giant nor use him as a bridge)

theres nothing in eberron that says nonliving creatures cant use symbionts so what im saying is that you can canonically play a reverse cyborg who attaches alien flesh to their body in order to gain cool new powers. other robots attach giant mechanical claws to boost their fighting powers and thats cool but your giant claw is made out of chitin and moves of its own free will

Taliesin Jaffe playing a bard
  • Taliesin, describing his lute: It's been a great source of inspiration. I've had a couple of other instruments that I work with, but this one has held up really well to me hitting people over the head with it, repeatedly. It actually, possibly, sounds better and more well-tuned when I beat people upside their dumb faces.
  • Satine: I'm concerned.

New D&D kid! Eberron changeling druid/mystic Brin. They’re a traveling fortune teller/junk peddler/snake oil salesperson who may or may not use shapeshifting to skip town when people start leaving bad Yelp reviews.

They grew up around fey druids and generally understand The Natural World as something that also involves intersecting systems outside of the usual ecological ones (planes, dreams, fate, etc.) Looting and junk peddling is a PASSION as well as a solid postwar income stream. They’ve got some latent psychic feelings about objects and see them as a potential medium for connections between people and these natural systems.

Endgame goal is to have Brin understand objects as catalysts for fate/prophecy, and see their own place as someone who’d help invent and maintain these narratives a steward of The Natural World.

They’re gonna be the witchy liminal merchant that imparts Plot Items at the beginning of stories only to MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEAR when people come back with questions. :^)

The costume design goal here is to have loose, simple, layered pieces that benefit someone that’d change their height/weight randomly and also be rearrangeable to look roughly like different outfits as a disguise. (At the same time the examples still have obvious thematic/visual consistency because outside of w.e narrative purpose this has, I want some way to recognize Brin if I’m drawing ‘em as different people all the time, and because totally nondescript people are less fun.) Colors on the top are NOT canon but are just there to visually link different pieces and illustrate how they’re being used in each example.

Top pics outfits & some shifted forms, bottom is True Form changeling self.

anonymous asked:

I have a question? So, in DnD, what's the history on dragons? And how is it that all the dragons aren't extinct or killed all the other smaller races? Where do they live and how is it that they aren't literally everywhere?

What is the history of Dragons in D&D?

This really depends on your setting, in The Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms settings the dragons exist as presented in the Monster Manual, split into chromatic and metallic types and further divided by color and metal (no sign of the Gem dragons yet) with draconic gods being worshipped by humanoids. The Greyhawk setting has fog, mist, shadow and “Greyhawk” (steel) dragons and was home to Ashardalon. Dark Sun doesn’t have traditional dragons, defiler/psionicists of the setting may through a magical process transform into a “dragon” becoming ageless and powerful. Eberron has three dragon gods, Siberys, Khyber and Eberron and dragons in the Eberron setting are not so tied to the usual alignment of their types.

How is it they still exist?

Dragons are some of the most powerful creatures in most settings, at their most ancient they are gargantuan flying lizards with devastating breath weapons, they can strike debilitating fear into any who look upon them, many know magic and have a hoard of wealth and magical items at their disposal. Some cultivate agents and worshippers, are able to hide amongst humanoids and are incredibly strong and tough. Some are born smarter than most humans and grow craftier with age.

In my campaign, players will be dealing with a cunning green wyrm whose lair is within the boundaries of the neighboring kingdom but preys almost exclusively across the border in the PC’s home kingdom. The dragon knows that her victims cannot strike back at her without crossing the border and risking war. The neighboring kingdom isn’t bothered by the green dragon and will try to profit from this leverage should the PCs negotiate permission to enter the realm and slay it.

Where do they live?

Dragons tend to find lairs in their preferred terrain, white dragons love snowy peaks and glaciers, blues prefer stormy coastlines, green dragons love being surrounded by vegetation, black dragons dwell in swamps and bogs while reds lair in warm mountain regions. Each chooses their lair with an eye towards security for their hoard and multiple escape routes. The area around a dragons lair is warped by its presence, the lairs of chromatic dragons become inhospitable and difficult to navigate, with various other effects depending on the color of its owner while areas around a metallics lair tend not to gain lethal effects but strange and wondrous changes.

How aren’t they everywhere?

Usually the enemies of dragons are giants and other dragons, aside from the enmity between metallic and chromatic dragons, chromatic dragons hate each other and see even members of their own sub types as rivals. Metallic dragons can usually be motivated to challenge or help adventurers against chromatic dragons that are becoming a menace, though use this carefully if you choose to, the pc’s shouldn’t be bystanders to such an awesome fight, they should be part of them. Any dragon who lives to become an ancient will have had to defend its hoard and lair many times.

Further Reading

The 3.5 Draconomicon

The 4e Draconomicon on Chromatic Dragons

The 4e Draconomicon on Metallic Dragons

The 2E Draconomicon

The 2e Council of Wyrms Campaign Setting

Dragons of Krynn

Dragons of Faerun

The Wyrms of the North article archive - the list scrolls down but that isn’t obvious if you are on mobile.

I hope this helps!

DnD Homebrew Ideas

Doing some research because why do something productive with my life, but here’s a list of 7 canonical DnD Races from previous editions and monster manuals to inspire some fresh Player-Character ideas:

Abeil: Basically bee-people. Lore of them are sparse, so it can be fun to craft some for yourself. There are different “castes” (Vassals, Soldiers, or Queens), but all three can fly with their wings (but can’t wear armor because of them), and can also use the wings to create a droning noise that works like a sleep spell. For additional ideas/inspiration, I suggest Pathfinder’s very similar Thriae race.

Alaghi: quiet, peaceful, furry omnivores similar to yeti, but live in small nomadic families in mountains and forests. They are big and muscular (6ft, 300+lbs) but prefer to avoid violence, and are adept at sneaking through their woodland homes. Always in harmony with nature, and the more thoughtful but reclusive Alaghi become druids or clerics. 

Chitine: Four-armed spider-folk created by the drow, who then rebelled and made their own civilization. Consider themselves Lolth’s “true” children. They specialize in ambushing, sneaking, and setting traps with their webs. Any build should include the spiderclimb and web spells in some way. 

Nycter: one of my favorite discoveries- batfolk!  “Nycters prefer peace over war. If they encounter other creatures without being noticed in turn, they often choose to avoid them altogether. If confronted, they parlay and seek harmonious solutions. However, they fight fiercely to defend themselves or their territory.” Lots of possibilities- they can fly, but are slower on the ground (20ft!), are adept at listening checks (perception), darkvision, and special abilities involving their echolocation. Would take some tweaking, but I’d be excited to try one. 

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