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Author Topic: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes  (Read 707419 times)

scriver

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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9180 on: January 19, 2023, 02:59:48 am »

I believe LW probably didn't mean DLC per se but more games-as-service or whatever it's called.
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9181 on: February 03, 2023, 06:40:34 pm »

I've been running the same homebrew setting for a good number of years now (Since 2018, I think), and while I've learned a fair bit from it I think I'd like to make a new one. I've got the basic "Big historical thing that happened" idea down, but I'd like to crowdsource ideas and improvements.

Some two-and-a-half-ish centuries ago, all the various nations came together for a collaborative project - Constraining high level adventurers. A common pattern would occur before this: Adventurers go out, adventurers become powerful, adventurers carve out a new kingdom or overthrow one of them because they're powerful enough to do that. The rulers (Either descendents of old high level parties or high level parties themselves) eventually got wise and created a system together which consisted of two parts.

1) The nations would put high level adventurers into a pseudo-retirement. In reality they were being kept on a payroll with the ability to muck about a bit where they wanted so long as they kept out of inter and intranational politics and importantly, they could be called upon by the nation. This relegated them to a similar role as nuclear weapons in our world. Nobody would actually use them because as soon as one nation did, every other nation would set them loose and things would go insane pretty promptly.
2) Those unwilling to be retired would be forced into an NGO that would enforce neutrality in all political matters via use of other high level adventurers. This allowed governments to hire the adventurers for major threats like hobgoblin armies, dragons and such without risking their own strategic adventurers.

In reality the system was far from perfect. Political machinations would happen, occasionally an adventurer would get somewhere with their ambitions, but on the whole the system held for almost two centuries. The ever-fragmenting nation states started pulling themselves together into larger polities and there was a small golden age of relative peace and societal and technological advancement.

But nothing lasts forever. While some adventurers benefited from the arrangement, others chafed under it, and eventually a conspiracy was formed among them. Nobody's sure who started it, they worked to ensure their name would never see the light of day for fear of retaliation, but a huge number of adventurers engaged in a simultaneous strike across national lines almost two centuries after the inception of the treaties. The retired adventurers who weren't in on the conspiracy were ambushed and killed, and heads of state and major government officials were assassinated in a massive decapitation action. The neutral adventurers were left alone, for now.

The kingdoms and empires that had formed shattered completely and the conspirators picked on the remains. Masses of city states and micro-kingdoms sprung up everywhere. While ostensibly the conspirators were working together, in reality they descended back into the old squabbles and disputes. However, rather than a slow roiling boil of invasions and uprisings as it was in the old days, this was a whole two centuries of adventuring parties engaging in this simultaneously. On top of that, in the relative peace of that time trade had built up.

The known world descended into chaos. Famines and disease were rampant, wars were near-constant as the new power-hungry rulers fought to expand their states, and monsters and other horrors rapidly spread through the striken lands.

The adventurers who had remained neutral quickly found themselves being targeted too. They were faced with a choice: Join a side or be exterminated as a potential threat to the new kingdoms.

In the modern day, things haven't improved much. While the roaring flames of the overthrow have died, there's still plenty of embers smouldering away. Wars flare up on a frequent basis over relatively minor slights, alliances are born and die constantly, famine still frequently stalks the land, and vast swathes of previously-civilised territory has been lost to encroaching monsters, extraplanar entities, and other beasts, or lost through simple depopulation.
Adventurers are common due to the sheer amount of work available, though those that become strong enough are still faced with a sign-up-or-die choice sooner or later.



Since this is the setting I'd need to think of any actual campaigns to come up with, but any ideas or feedback would be welcome.
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9182 on: February 04, 2023, 05:52:56 am »

I always thought adventurers were the usual sources of troublemakers in history: well connected, ambitious young ones with lots of talent and a disregard for their own personal safety and comfort, give or take the exceptional wizened wizard or witch with no sense of right and wrong. What you're suggesting though does sound a lot like the classic Roman or Chinese problem of "ah fuck I have this really popular and talented commander and I don't want him to overthrow the government and start a new dynasty how the fuck do I make him retire" complete with the "I'm retired but not really lmao" conspiracy issue. All in all it depends on what kind of feel you want for your setting. Lawless feudal ones where adventurers just set up their own kingdoms and care more about who can stop them vs who will let them versus ones with a centralised imperial bureaucracy where your PCs will face problems which can't just be resolved by hitting it really hard with an axe, what kind of game are you trying to run with it?

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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9183 on: February 04, 2023, 07:08:01 am »

I'm working with the setting right now rather than a campaign, but the thing that comes to mind is the players probably starting off as a bog standard "go out kill bandits level up" style of thing, probably as members of an adventurer's guild, and then once they get powerful and connected enough, drive them to try and restore some semblance of peace. The situation's too big for one party to recreate a golden age, but ending the current situation of everything being absolute dogshit would help. Or at least successfully carving out a relatively stable realm if that proves too much. The basic idea of the setting is that polities are rising, falling, splitting, being subsumed and so on near-constantly because there's just too many high level adventurers out there trying to claw their ways to the top of the heap. In theory given a century or so the situation would return to being similar to the pre-golden age, albeit with far smaller populations and smaller pockets of civilisation, due to the adventurericide going on, but in the here and now everything's hellish for the common man.

And I'd agree that adventurers have been a pain for a lot of rulers in real life, the thing about D&D though is the ability for them to do more than just become popular or good political manoeuvrers. A high level party can wreak havoc without the support of an army or nation behind them.
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9184 on: February 04, 2023, 08:33:22 am »

Interesting... how are you you handling the mechanics interacting with the narrative in that way?

Or to put the question more clearly:

Having that many high level parties around makes a lot of sense, given D&D's system and how relatively easily groups of near nobody PCs can eventually become walking superweapons, but it's fairly unusual to explicitly acknowledge that in a D&D setting. It's usually one rule for the players and another for everyone else, so you can have a narrative about an important fellowship of six oddballs and outcasts saving the kingdom or similar.

How do you explain the weirdness of these high level adventurers frequently occurring? Are the characters going to be aware of the system, and literally talk about levels and quests and so forth? Are you going to just use the standard in-narrative logic D&D gives for increasing player power? Or is there going to be a particular narrative conceit (like great arcane spirits motivating particular individuals, gods playing dice with the world, w/e) that explains why individuals can get insanely powerful but you don't have armies of supersoldiers?
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9185 on: February 04, 2023, 11:06:03 am »

Not specifically levels. They'll be acknowledged as powerful adventurers/parties, but that terminology won't be used. Quest/mission/whatever is more of a specific type of job I guess, so that terminology can be used.

The armies-of-supersoldiers thing more boils down to adventuring being far from a job for everyone. There's plenty of people motivated enough to become adventurers, but not enough to be fielding whole armies. Dedicated soldiers will be pretty good combatants, but the majority of the armies will consist of peasant levies with a professional core and maybe some mid-high level adventuring parties either mixed in or working as a sort of medieval spec-ops. In all likelihood these adventurers would be mercenaries, in essence. Also adventuring has a fairly high attrition rate, especially before anyone in the party is trained enough to resurrect people, so even if there's a lot of adventurers out there the number of high level adventurers will be a good bit smaller than the number of low-level ones. And with the high level parties seeing other high level parties as threats, there's a fairly good chance of you being splattered once you're getting too powerful. The best place to be is probably around level 10. Powerful enough to survive lesser foes, not so powerful to attract the attention of those above your station.

The gods are basically sealed away. In essence they were the first heroes, tapped into a great cosmic power, and used it all up ascending to godhood. After the first act of deicide by an extraordinarily powerful and ambitious adventurer (mixed with a good chunk of complacency and arrogance on the behalf of the gods), they decided to separate themselves from the world almost entirely to prevent this fate happening to them too. Now they can't act on the material plane directly, instead relying on artefacts, religious institutions and their agents such as clerics. Occasionally someone or a party are commanded to create their own realms, but most of the time the gods are focused on maintaining and spreading their religions through other means so as to acquire even greater power from belief.
To boil it down, you've got the various gods and one Usurper-God. The gods, being derived from the mortal races, are still ultimately prone to the same problems any human, tiefling, dragonborn etc. is despite their expanded consciousnesses and incredible power.

On that note as well, the afterlife is a natural part of the world rather than the domain of any particular god.
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9186 on: February 11, 2023, 03:04:30 pm »

So... Under basic rules, food and water are kinda meaningless in 5e. Sure, there are some variant rules for actually tracking the stuff, but those rules are hamfisted at best and aggravating, inconsequential bookkeeping at worst. In all my experience barring one session of one campaign, food and drink have simply been ignored except for the occasional roleplaying purposes.

I've found myself wondering recently if there's potentially some merit to merging food and drink into the resting mechanics. A character needs to consume a pound/serving of food and a pint of water during a short rest in order to benefit from it, and double that for a long rest.

It's still fairly inconsequential given how easy it is to come by food if you actually try to (unless you get into tweaking those sources as well, which might be a good idea honestly), but it does put just that little tax on resting so it becomes a bit more of an evaluation than the abstract "Will the DM let us". The total consumption is still laughably tiny compared to what a person should be consuming, but realism isn't what I'm shooting for here. It's gameplay.


There's definitely balance to be worked out, as far as food sources and amounts are concerned, but I feel like there's the glimmer of an idea here that could potentially add an extra layer of both RP and mechanics to resting without increasing bookkeeping as much as trying to keep track of a total daily intake. You have set, specific moments where you try to take a short or long rest; making it easier to remember to involve food and putting a minor restriction on it beyond just time/perceived DM allowance. And, in lean times, certain characters are better at skipping a rest (and thereby saving a meal) given their resource expenditure. This doesn't mean much beyond just tying in somewhat. I've gone through several short rests where I had nothing to do and nothing to gain from resting despite the rest of the party needing it, and the thought that I'm saving a portion of resting resources by not needing one would probably make me feel like I'm still contributing, sorta.

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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9187 on: February 11, 2023, 04:34:38 pm »

There is the Chef feat, which gives you and several other characters some extra hp during a short rest, and some treats that give a tiny amount of free temp hp; but other than that there isn't really any great benefit to eating, RAW. I find that odd, as The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings place frequent and heavy emphasis on eating and food; when the characters aren't eating, they're talking about food, how delicious it would be to have some taters, rejoicing when they get some rabbit to make stew, and one of the lowkey best items they get from Galadriel is some Elven lembas, which is delicious and filling and never goes bad. Gollum's inhuman nature is reinforced by the fact that he hand-catches and eats raw fish. The point is, DnD aped a lot from Tolkien, but not his love of frequent and delicious snack breaks; as is evident in the fact that apparently food is just a synonym for murdering-fuel, and isn't something for your characters to actually enjoy or look forward to.
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9188 on: February 11, 2023, 05:25:58 pm »

I think, though I'm not actually particularly familiar with the system, that that's actually kind of a thing in Spellbound Kingdoms... But primarily as part of a larger general focus on enjoyment and merrymaking having an effect on your character's performance. But yeah, in 5e there's really not much put into it unless the players and DM specifically set out to make a scene about it. But even then it's just background fluff, and mechanically there's no difference between a dry field ration and a fresh hot meal (aside from one day's ration weighing 2 pounds, when the game explicitly states that a character needs 1 pound of food a day... Hmmm)

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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9189 on: February 11, 2023, 05:51:02 pm »

What I was considering for making food important in 5E was using the rule variant where 8 hours is a short rest and 7 days is a long rest, which makes hit dice a more scarce and valuable resource. Then, eating better food will regain hit dice. Possibly other benefits as well for high quality food, letting you have more hit dice than your maximum or passive buffs and such.
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9190 on: February 11, 2023, 06:15:24 pm »

The furthest I've looked into food stuff was when I was considering running a game where food would be scarce. I didn't find any official rules on starvation, but I did find one that was, I think, you get CON modifier days for "free" (minimum of 1) before starvation sets in. Every two days you get a level of exhaustion that can only be removed by an equal number of days fully fed.

Otherwise I've basically ignored it. I did like Pathfinder 1e having the specialised rations that add extra bonuses after eating them for so long but they're more expensive in turn. Don't know if that's a feature from 3e they ported over or what.
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9191 on: February 12, 2023, 04:20:09 am »

The furthest I've looked into food stuff was when I was considering running a game where food would be scarce. I didn't find any official rules on starvation, but I did find one that was, I think, you get CON modifier days for "free" (minimum of 1) before starvation sets in. Every two days you get a level of exhaustion that can only be removed by an equal number of days fully fed.

Otherwise I've basically ignored it. I did like Pathfinder 1e having the specialised rations that add extra bonuses after eating them for so long but they're more expensive in turn. Don't know if that's a feature from 3e they ported over or what.

5e does have official starvation mechanics, they're just a bit... Silly. Very close to what you just described, except the PHB rules are:

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A character can go without food for a number of days equal to 3 + his or her Constitution modifier (minimum 1). At the end of each day beyond that limit, a charcter automatically suffers one level of exhaustion. A normal day of eating resets the count of days without food to zero.

You can also eat half rations, wherein each passing day only counts as 1/2 a day of starvation.

...which is pointless, because you'll still end up eating more food than if you just do the hip, trendy, intermittent fasting diet plan of only eating a pound of food once every fourth day.


Naturally, this is a wildly insufficient amount of food, even if you're eating the "full meal" of one pound every day. Hilariously, the recommendations for water are that a character needs to drink a gallon of water every day or risk/suffer exhaustion levels... Which is actually higher than the real-world recommendation for intake (for laymen, anyways. I think we can assume adventurers have slightly more athletic/demanding lifestyles, which of course just makes the food requirements seem even sillier).

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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9192 on: February 12, 2023, 06:31:56 am »

I find that odd, as The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings place frequent and heavy emphasis on eating and food; when the characters aren't eating, they're talking about food, how delicious it would be to have some taters, rejoicing when they get some rabbit to make stew, and one of the lowkey best items they get from Galadriel is some Elven lembas, which is delicious and filling and never goes bad.

People reach a lot trying to make LotR be about Tolkien's WW1 experience, but this is where the marks left by army life really shines through his writing
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9193 on: February 12, 2023, 07:19:28 am »

What I was considering for making food important in 5E was using the rule variant where 8 hours is a short rest and 7 days is a long rest, which makes hit dice a more scarce and valuable resource. Then, eating better food will regain hit dice. Possibly other benefits as well for high quality food, letting you have more hit dice than your maximum or passive buffs and such.
Perhaps you could wind it into a more general quality of rest sort of thing.
A low quality rest - squatting on a battlefield gnawing raw horsemeat - restores very little and only lets you spend one guy die or whatever.

A good quality short rest, with proper food in a place warm and dry and comfortable - does more.

You could have something similar with long rests, where being wined and dined in a luxury hotel serves better than a night in a ditch.
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Re: Dungeons & Dragons / PNP games thread: The Barren Snowflake Wastes
« Reply #9194 on: February 26, 2023, 05:55:30 pm »

Yeah, was thinking along those lines as well, but the issue there is that it quickly becomes a lot more complicated and bogged down in minutiae, in my opinion... While there is definitely a difference between "roughing it" and more luxurious accommodations, I feel like putting extra nitty gritty mechanics into defining different levels of rest quality could easily get hung up on the details and even be punishing for adventurers going out and, well, adventuring.

I absolutely maintain that there's always some roleplay value to finally getting a night in a posh tavern after weeks out in the wilds, and while it certainly would be cool to have some kind of extra bonus for doing that contra "getting by", I think rigid rules would end up getting more in the way there than with a more binary food/no food mechanic. Plus, for more comfortable (and likely expensive) conditions, you can probably just award inspiration as the cherry on top for kicking back.


In other news, more mechanical build nonsense: MotM Bugbear PCs have a Surprise Attack ability worded thusly:
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If you hit a creature with an attack roll, the creature takes an extra 2d6 damage if it hasnít taken a turn yet in the current combat.

Note the lack of specification on this needing to be a ranged or melee attack, or even a weapon attack... And also no qualifications for only using this once a turn/target.

This is going to be a variation of my "most annoying character to play next to" build, but this time it's actually a lot more capable of dealing some actual damage.


Bugbear Clockwork Sorcerer 15/Assassin 3/Fighter 2

Clockwork 14 gives the absolutely nonsense Trance of Order ability, which lets you use a bonus action to enter the trance for 1 minute, wherein all saves, skill checks and attack rolls will count die rolls of 9 or lower as a 10. Assassin give you advantage against anything that hasn't taken a turn yet in combat, while also autocritting if you manage to surprise something. Fighter does action surge stuff.

So we enter combat, bonus action trance, then spend our two highest spell slots on Scorching Ray by casting and then surging to cast again. With an 8th and 7th slot, that's 17 rays.

17 rays, each doing 2d6 damage, plus 2d6 more thanks to Surprise Attack RAW working on spell attacks too for some ridiculous reason. Minimum attack roll of 10+modifiers, which with 20 CHA and level 20 means a minimum total of 21, before taking into account other bonuses like enhanced spell focus items. Plus they've all got advantage, which means a better chance of critting for 8d6 damage. And, of course, if you somehow manage to surprise an enemy then every beam autocrits. For 8d6. 17 times.

Again, this all hinges on not coming in dead last in initiative with your wimpy nerdling DEX, and also not going up against something magic immune/invuln globed etc... But, really, this is still just a thought experiment for throwing an obscene amount of dice on the table at once.
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