Exploration Experience Model

I intend to introduce a different experience model in my D&D campaign.

To support the exploration theme of the campaign and to encourage non-combat solutions and a varied approach to encounters, I will grant experience using a variation from the standard monster awards. Awards for exploring will be the main source of xp, while surviving significant encounters – not defeating enemies – will be the secondary source.

Exploration Awards:

It should be important for the group to go out and explore and discover the world around them. Finding strange new magic, travelling across unknown lands, recovering rare magical items, discovering new places, ancient ruins and cultures and delving into the history, myth and legends of the unknown continent is a significant part of learning and personal growth. Therefore these types of discoveries are awarded with experience according to the XP Threshold by Character Level (DMG pg. 82). The

As my campaign takes place on a – for the characters – completely unknown continent, exploration is a key element.

significance of the discovery determines the difficulty and the character level is the average of the group. It will be a main source of experience for the characters.

The following types of discoveries results in experience awards. It is not a definitive list, but a guideline. It has the slight problem that finding the rarer magical items is easier in the later half of the campaign, which means they will higher experience awards when rare and very rare items are more accessible.

Easy: Discovering a minor unknown location, finding a minor or uncommon magic item, discovering minor historical information or finding one or more low level spells.

Medium: Finding a rare magical item, discovering a significant location, portal or dungeon, meeting important societal figures for the first time, uncovering important historical information, figuring out a plot or plan, finding valuable historical artifacts or medium level spells.

Hard: Encountering a new culture for the first time, discovering a major ruin or location, recovering a very rare or legendary magical item, discovering a nation threatening evil plot, finding a demi-plane or a new safe(ish) path through the Warrens, uncovering a major historical truth, fact or secret and finding high level spells.

Deadly: Being the first to make contact with a new nation or state, discovering a central ruin or location (such as a capital city, legendary dungeon or unknown plane of existence), learning a potentially world altering truth, a paradigm shifting fact or an ancient and dangerous secret or recovering an artifact.

Surviving Encounters:
Whenever the group survives a significant encounter the group is awarded

Sometimes running like hell should be considered.

experience worth around 25% of the standard approximate value. A series or easy combat encounters could result in an award as well, as the attrition is what makes encounters in D&D very dangerous. This method serves both a purpose for the fiction, the meta-game and for my preparation.
1) In the fiction, I would like the adventurers to not know what level of difficulty opponents that they are facing, and have them use whatever approach they see as optimal to resolve it, and get rewarded for it no matter how that turns out.

2) On a meta-level I would like to avoid the characters charging into every situation simply to earn experience. As when you use the standard system the defeat of the opposition is the only option.

3) On a preparation level, I would like to avoid going through all the calculations to find the encounter difficulty, or to find the monster experience level, when designing or re-working a creature. It is anyways quite inaccurate in my experience when have a large number of player characters.

Is 25% the right amount? Time will tell!

Participation Award:
I will award a medium difficulty award to everyone turning up for a 4 hour gaming session. It will ensure some advancement no matter what happens, and add to the overall speed of advancement, which I think will be somewhat slower using this model.

I intend to see how it goes and adjust accordingly. Any feedback or suggestions are also more than welcome!

Weapon materials in D&D 5ed

I am trying to avoid adding complexity and sub-systems to my game, but for my campaign world to be thematically coherent I did decide to make a system for weapon materials, so there is a difference between bronze and steel. As the group is in  a remote land, as part of the first settlement in this “undiscovered” realm, I try to enhance the need to be self-sufficient, add incentive to explore and find new things, and that when exploring you need to be selective in what you bring with you on your travels (I know, that consideration disappears when they get a big bag of holding…)

6-krigsscene-farve-stor (1)
Imagined scene from the early Iron Age, done in connection with the bog body of the Danish Tollund Man. Image by Niels Bach. Read more at: http://www.tollundman.dk

I’ve tried not to make it too punitive to the characters, but it should push them to carry alternate weapons, rest after encounters and take down-time to craft their own items and so on.

As magic weapons and armour slowly will become available, I don’t foresee this to still be a very relevant rule-set after level 10. But as mentioned, the rules are meant to create mood and atmosphere.

Weapon quality and material
As not all cultures have the same level of technology within manufacturing of arms and armour, different enemies will have weapons and armours made from various materials with various properties, strengths and weaknesses. As to not skew the combat rules overly, most of the materials have their most significant impact on weight, price and production time, which can be important far from civilization.

Damaging and breaking weapons and armour
Whenever a combatant rolls a natural 1 in combat with a weapon, not made from steel, he has to roll a DC 10 DEX ability check to avoid the weapon breaking. If he succeeds using the weapon still confers disadvantage until it has been serviced during a short rest.

Whenever a combatant is hit with a natural 20, his non-steel armour gets damaged and he loses 1 point of AC, until he spends a short rest mending the damage.

Steel can in the old world (almost) only be crafted by dwarves, who knows its secrets and can create the temperatures necessary to forge it. Their arms and armours are highly prized, also among its enemies, and can easily fetch several times the price of regular iron forged weapons.

Steel weapons don’t need to roll for damage or breakage, unless fighting against a foe with magical weapons or armour.
Medium and heavy steel armour weighs 10% less than iron armour, as it needs less material for the same level of protection.

Rapiers are a new type of weapon used by the wealthy in the City-States, and it can only be made from steel.
Steel weapons and armor costs around 5 times the listed price in the Player’s Handbook.

Half-Plate and Full Plate are always made from steel and cost the price listed in the PHB.

Bronze spear heads

Iron weapons are the default weapons in the Player’s Handbook. They comply with the breaking and damaging rules above.
Half-Plate and Full plates cannot be made from iron.

Copper & Bronze

Both materials are weaker than iron, and when fighting against steel weapons they automatically suffer the effects of damage on a roll of a natural 1 or natural 20 (for armor). If fighting against iron weapons the normal rules for breaking apply.

Stone & bone
Stone weapons suffer a -1 damage penalty against iron and steel armour. However, some cultures have processes that make the stone hard as iron or steel. The weight is still greater than comparable iron or steel weapons.

flint arrows

Bone breast plate: Made from mighty beasts, these breastplates function as regular breastplates, due to the high level of craftsmanship and density of the bone used. They would be highly prized in their culture.

Scale Armour: scale made from regular scales of beasts or from thick bone chips work as a hide armour, but scales or bones from truly dangerous beasts or magically treated can work as a scale mail or splint mail, depending on the construction. The scales of these beasts are equivalent of iron, but can be broken by steel.

Magical weapons:
Magical weapons or armour cannot be broken through regular combat. Special significant events have to occur to endanger them, such as Elder Dragon fire, volcanos and epic level magic.

Running War and Battles in roleplaying

As I decided to run a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying campaign 8 years ago centered around the Storm of Chaos (a great invasion into the lands of men), I naturally had to introduce war and battles as key elements of the fiction. I’ve describe 3 methods to include battles below.
Battles have since then worked as backdrop, motivation and important story and character development opportunities. Urs_Graf_Schrecken_des_Kriegs_1521

In general, in my roleplaying campaigns I do put a significant emphasis on the ‘game’ part of ‘roleplaying games’. We have to roll some dice, follow some rules and let part of the tension and drama emerge from the randomness of letting the dice fall where they may. Therefore it is important that we also have a ‘game’ around some of the battles and major skirmishes of the game, and that they outcome of each battle came into question. The characters influence on the outcome was in the beginning very limited, but as they grew in power, the influence has become more significant.

I thought my experience with it could be helpful to others who want to include that element in their campaign.

The Story mode:
When the characters were weak and socially and politically unimportant, I let the mood, action and drama evolve around the build-up, march to the battlefield and the aftermath of the battle. This includes solving supply problems, scouting, recovering lost messages, surviving assaults on their supply lines and so on. I used the pushing paper method (below) for a minor skirmish. The battle itself can be entirely narrated, particularly when they are very weak, or you can add an event element. In my first use of this method they lost, and the whole retreat (read, fleeing in panic), was a central element of the story, and the events around that gave a lot of mood and depth to the story, and both a feeling for the characters that they were unimportant, and at the same time had an impact by rescuing some and creating some order in the chaotic aftermath.

Pushing Paper:
To have a battle that involves dice, but without using 300 minis, I’ve used a Warhammer Fantasy Battle Light game using paper and card board. I make a map on our white board battle map, and create a card board counter for each unit. We roll D6 for their weapon skill (3+, 4+ etc. to hit), and D6 for armor saves, but I cut toughness rolls to reduce the number of dice rolls. Casualties were simply counted off the unit’s strength, either at a 1:1 ratio, or using whatever ratio that seemed appropriate for the size of the battle. I also have some rudimentary rules for movement, cover etc.

In a battle where the characters were leading their town militia and a contingent of knights, the characters were their own unit, and I reverted to regular role-playing rules, when they entered into combat with the opposing champion.

This worked quite well for large skirmishes and minor battles. It has gotten the characters really involved, it is a fun break away from the regular roleplaying combat, and it creates its own narratives about the heroic squires who routed a group of beastmen taking only one casualty and so on. It also has the group invested in getting more troops to defend their town, as it has an actual game impact.

Event-based battle:
I’ve run two versions of these types of battles:

Type 1:Alexanderschlacht_(Soldaten)
You can have a battle where the characters have no impact on the outcome of the battle, but each experience events during the battle. This could be individual opportunities for heroics, or the opposite – to skulk away or flee a challenge. The key element in my view is that there are significant choices to be made. In one instance, as they were part of a company, they had the chance to rescue or help other members of the company before they got killed or maimed (or not). I also enjoy keeping the events partly random, as it adds to the ‘game’ element and prevents me from designing challenges that were specific meant to be just the right difficulty for any character.

Type 2:
A second type is a battle where the characters are powerful and can, as a team, significantly influence the final outcome. I introduced a victory point system for this type of battle. In essence, each event can lead to various numbers of victory points, and the battle will have different outcomes depending on how many victory points they score. The victory conditions obviously have to be predetermined. Again I think a key point is having hard choices for them to make, as the Warhammer universe is very grim. Thus sacrifice and bitter choices are central parts of the game. For example, they had to indirectly select which commander they wanted to lead the human forces. There were three choices, and all three had benefits and drawbacks, but they couldn’t get an “optimal” commander.

By introducing victory points I also force the direction of the campaign into the hands of the characters, and prevent myself from fudging it into the result I prefer. I think it is very satisfying to play, and reinforces that we are playing a game.

All in all, I find the battles to be very fun and dramatic elements in the campaign, and as a theme for a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign, it has worked extremely well.

One a side note, the format was initially inspired by Bernard Cornwell’s excellent Sharpe series of novels, about an English soldier fighting all the way through the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic War.

Mortal Wounds in D&D

I received the comment from one of my players that he in D&D would miss the worn and battered look of PCs after years of adventuring that is the natural outcome in a game like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I agree with him, and I do think that the consequences of falling in battle in D&D can seem a bit trivial. Therefore I made a simple Mortal Wounds system, which is a merger between a regular critical hit table and the Lingering Injuries presented as an option in the Dungeon Masters Guide.

There are a couple of purposes:
– Having a consequence of dropping to 0 hit points for the individual (it is dangerous!)
– Giving characters marks of leading a rough and dangerous life
– Draining additional attention and resources during combat

I’ve already tested it in my 1st and 2nd level group playing Temple of Elemental Evil. During the first session, when I hadn’t introduced it yet, the Paladin dropped to 0 hit points three times (!). It is not that uncommon at low levels, so I introduced a Constitution save to mitigate the risk somewhat among the front-line types.
During the second session, the paladin dropped twice and the monk once. Both failed one saving throw, and the paladin lost 3 teeth and the monk bled badly. My conclusion is that from my limited experience it seems to be working. Both examples added drama and fun.

I have both a table for physical and energy attacks. The rule and physical table looks as follows:

Mortal Wounds:

Whenever a creature drops below 0 hit points, and thus receives a potentially mortal wound, there is a risk that the being will suffer some kind of permanent injury, or a more long lasting injury that requires special care or treatment. The player rolls a Constitution Save DC 8 + damage exceeding 0. If he fails the adventurer or creature rolls on the mortal wound table.

Physical Attacks:

Roll: 2d10 Effect:
2 The blow knocks you into a coma. You will not awake for 2d6 days unless a greater restoration is cast.
3 A rib is broken and causes internal bleeding. You receive disadvantage on stabilization rolls.
4 Your kidney is bruised, and you subsequently frequently piss blood, and have to go several times per night to piss.
5 You are hit on the head and receive a concussion. After stabilizing you will need 3 days of full rest. Until the rest has been completed you receive disadvantage on all saving throws, and cannot gain benefits from short rests.
6 A kneecap is hit, shattering it. The leg is useless until 10 points of magical healing is administered, and you are in incredible pain until it is done, screaming as loud as you can unless succeeding in a DC wisdom save.
7 The blow destroys a tendon in one of the legs, and you cannot walk without support until you have fully restored your hit points. You receive a limp on either left or right leg.
8 The blow damages either a non-magical weapon or shield held, armour worn or backpack. Roll randomly between them. You have to have the item repaired by a professional before it is usable again.
9 One of your limbs is broken (roll 1d4). Until at least 10 points of magical healing has been received the limb is useless.
10 A major vein is hit and you are bleeding heavily. Disadvantage on stabilization roll.
11 1d3 teeth are shattered or knocked out.
12 The hit will leave a large scar on a random body part 1: head 2: left arm, 3: right arm, 4: body, 5: left leg, 6: right leg
13 Your nose is broken and bleeds heavily. The nose has to be set or become misaligned.
14 The blow crushes or slices of a finger. Roll 1d8 to determine which digit.
15 The blow shatters the bones in one of your arms (roll random), damaging the nerves. Anything held is dropped, and you have disadvantage on any attack rolls using the hand, until restored to full hit points and having a restoration spell administered. You will retain a slight shake in the hand, which can only be removed by a regenerate.
16 You are hit heavily on the jaw dislocating it (which makes you unable to speak clearly) until magical healing has been administered.
17 One of your ears is mangled or sliced off by the blow. Roll randomly which. It can be restored if you receive at least 10 points of magical healing within 3 rounds.
18 Several bones in your face are crushed misaligning your face. You lose 1 point of Charisma, unless a cure spell is administered every day for the next three days to restore it. Regenerate or heal will also remove the damage.
19 One of your hands is destroyed. Unless magical healing is applied within 3 rounds, the hand is useless or severed.
20 An eye is destroyed. You receive -2 on ranged attacks. Regenerate can restore the eye.

Warhammer über-talents

In my 6-year long Warhammer 2nd edition campaign, I ran into the problem that some of the characters were running out of meaningful career exits and basically had nothing left to spend their experience on. At first I made a ‘Badass List’, which was simply a selection of skills and talents they could buy, even if they weren’t part of their career, simply because they were so experienced adventurers (such as Intimidate, Hardy and Seasoned Traveller).

When that wasn’t enough, I decided to make a second tier of talents: the Ultra-badass list. We’ve been using it for several sessions now, and a lot of them are actually playing out quite well. It is quite an epic campaign at this stage, so another 5 in strength or an extra parry does not break the feel of the campaign, but clearly puts them into a very special category among the heroes of the empire. And a trait like Fearless for the extremely experienced and not very bright Kislevite warrior makes so much sense – it seems silly to roll fear checks that could incapacitate him over a vampire or a couple of skeletons, when he has met and seen dozens of them, and other, worse, things.

I’ve also tried to keep the Faustian elements for the magical talents, and last session it worked really well. The bright wizard (Stefan Zauber) used his Blazing Furnace talent several times, and despite having 82 in Willpower, he began gaining insanity points and it pushed him close to the edge.

Warhammer is all about personal sacrifice against the forces of evil and the slow but inevitable descent into darkness. Having a Wizard Lord tethering on the edge of insanity in his attempts to save the empire is perfect for the mood and theme.


The Ultra-badass list:

Deadly Charge
Prerequisite: 3 Attacks
Description: When making the charge attack action, the character can attack twice instead of once.
Xp Cost: 200

Hitting the weak spots
Prerequisite: Sure Shot, BS 60
Description: When using a missile weapon, the weapon also counts as having the Armour Piercing Quality and the range of your missile weapons are increased by 50%.
Xp Cost: 200

Go for the Eyes!
Prerequisite: Sure shot
Description: You ignore an additional point of amour when using the aim action.
Xp Cost: 300

Heroic Strength
Prerequisite: Very Strong
Description: Add an additional 5% to your strength profile.
Xp Cost: 300

Heroic Toughness
Prerequisite: Very Resilient
Description: Add an additional 5% to your Toughness profile
Xp Cost: 300

Heroic Skill with Arms
Prerequisite: Warrior Born
Description: Add an additional 5% to your WS profile.
Xp Cost: 300

Heroic Aim
Prerequisite: Marksman
Description: Add an additional 5% to your BS profile.
Xp Cost: 300

Heroic Reflexes
Prerequisite: Lightning Reflexes
Description: Add an additional 5% to your Agility profile.
Xp Cost: 300

Heroic Intellect
Prerequisite: Savy
Description: Add an additional 5% to your intelligence profile.
Xp Cost: 300

Heroic Force of Will
Prerequisite: Cool-headed
Description: Add an additional 5% to your willpower profile.
Xp Cost: 300

Heroic Charisma
Prerequisite: Suave
Description: Add an additional 5% to your Fellowship profile.
Xp Cost: 300

Never say die!
Prerequisite: Hardy
Description: You add 1 additional wound, and all crits made against you are reduced by 1 in severity, to a minimum of 1.
Xp Cost: 200 xp

The Aethyr is in my Blood
Prerequisite: Expert Aehtyric Attunement, any Arcane Lore
Description: When casting a spell, you can elect to add one to your casting roll for each of the magic dice you roll, at the cost of 1 wound for each bonus.
Xp Cost: 200

Deadly Missiles
Prerequisite: Mighty Missiles
Description: Your magical missiles are now exceptionally potent. You add 2 to each damage roll instead of 1.
Xp Cost: 200

Faster than the eye
Prerequisite: Master Dodge Blow
Description: You are now able to dodge missile attacks than you can see are directed against you, and you get +10 to pure Ag checks to avoid area attacks such as bombs, breath weapons and spells.
Xp Cost: 200

Wall of Steel
Prerequisite: Lightning Parry
Description: You can now sacrifice an attack to get an additional parry with your shield, in addition to the free parry, for a total of 2 parrys and 1 dodge per round.
Xp Cost: 300

Cat-like reflexes
Prerequisite: Sixth Sense or Master Perception
Description: You gain +10 to initiative
Xp Cost: 200

Prerequisite: Stout-hearted
Description: You are immune to fear and treat terror as fear.
Xp Cost: 200

Morr and I are old friends
Prerequisite: Fearless
Description: You are immune to fear and terror
Xp Cost: 200

Feel the might of my god!
Prerequisite: Strike Mighty Blow, Any Divine Lore
Description: As a full attack you can strike a blow, and whisper a prayer to your god, and roll a WP check, to receive +1 damage for each casting dice, on a successful hit. The dice are still rolled to check for Wrath of the Gods.
Xp Cost: 200

Nimble Feet
Prerequisite: Swashbuckler or Fleet Footed
Description: You can move up to 10 feet in addition to a full attack action (you still draw attacks of opportunity).
Xp Cost: 200

Charmed fate
Prerequisite: Luck
Description: You receive an additional luck dice per day.
Xp Cost: 300

Hammer of the Gods
Prerequisite: Strike Mighty Blow, Heroic Strength
Description: Your melee attacks now count as having the Armour Piercing quality.
Xp Cost: 200

Fountain of knowledge
Prerequisite: Seasoned Traveller
Description: You now count as having all Common Knowledge skills
Xp Cost: 200

Lethal hits
Prerequisite: Strike to Injure
Description: The critical value of any critical hits you inflict are increased by an additional 1.
Xp Cost: 200

Close Quarter Battle Master
Prerequisite: Sharp Shooter, Strike to Injure
Description: You no longer take a penalty when firing into melee.
Xp Cost: 200

Armour Expert
Prerequisite: Strength 50, Toughness 50 or Sturdy
Description: You no longer take a penalty to Ag from wearing medium armour, or a penalty to movement from wearing heavy armour.
Xp Cost: 300

Blazing Furnace
Prerequisite: Aehtyric Attunement, Master Channeling , The Aethyr is in my Blood, Any Arcane Lore
Description: All spell’s area of effect are increased by 50%. Up to your magic characteristic number of damage rolls have the impact quality. For each damage roll with the impact quality roll WP or gain an insanity point.
Xp Cost: 200

Eagle Eye
Prerequisite: Sharp Shooter, BS 60, Hitting the Weak Spots
Description: Extreme Range hits are now made with only -10 penalty, and long range suffers no penalty.
Xp Cost: 200

Fly on the Wall
Prerequisite: Master Scale sheer surface
Description: You may use your agility in place of strength when climbing.
Xp Cost: 300