These Are the End Times

The world has ended. The great kingdoms have fallen, and their cities lie in ruins. Far to the north the forces of Law clashed against the forces of Chaos, and were defeated. But in their moment of triumph the armies of the invading barbarian hordes overreached, and list control of the dark powers that had carried them to victory, unleashing a magical corruption that consumed them as well as their enemies. Now the pitiful remnants of the armies of Law straggle back to their homelands, through monster-haunted wilderness, past ruined and abandoned villages. The PCs are among them, searching for means to survive, whether that is wealth, power, or just a safe harbor.

This was more or less the intro I gave my group to our new D&D campaign. I wanted to really take the game back to its roots, 1974-style, but hopefully with the advantage of what I’ve learned since I was ten. We’re using Original Edition Delta, which is a set of house rules by Dan Collins that streamline and clarify the little tan books. Onto that I’m bolting a couple of rules from DCC that I think really fix problems that my players and I have with the  oldest version of the game (more on that later). I want to lean heavily into the insights of Wayne Rossi’s The Original OD&D Setting, namely that the wilderness rules and encounter charts are more in keeping with a post-apocalyptic setting than any sort of semi-realistic medieval or even pre-D&D fantasy fiction setting. The population densities and size of the marauding bandit bands and prevalence of horrible monsters don’t make sense in a well -settled area with stable government and regularly-traveled trade routes. But in a post-apocalyptic anarchy…

I also wanted to try a setting where the status quo was terrible, and there was nobody around to do anything about it except the PCs. Maybe they’d try and maybe they wouldn’t, and either way would be fine…but if they don’t, there is no king’s army or great wizard who’s going to clean it up instead. I have a strong tendency to run settings where the government is basically benevolent, and things are largely peaceful, so I wanted to try breaking sweat from that default, just to see how it goes. 

I’m really excited about where this could go. I’m using Delta’s rule for starting the PCs at third level to bypass some of the initial grind that my players have had enough of in our DCC funnels. Initial play is going to be dungeon-centric, because Dungeons & Dragons after all, but I’m hoping they’ll stick with it to name level and maybe try settling the wilderness and pushing back against the tide of Chaos with “domain game” play.

Bell Curve vs. Linear

Here’s a handy little chart showing the difference between a linear distribution like rolling a d20 and a bell curve distribution like 3d6 when it comes to rolling versus a target.  The first column is the d20 roll, the second is the approximate percent chance of rolling that or less on d20. That’s pretty obvious, but the next column is what the target number would be on 3d6 to have that chance to succeed (i.e. roll target or under).  So a 50% chance is right in the middle of the curve at 10… but by the time the target is 12 you’ve got a 75% chance of succeeding.  Next we have columns for a d20 skill roll/Basic Attack Bonus (as in 3e or 5e).  The final four columns show THAC0 (to hit AC 0) and what level you would have to be to have that chance of hitting an unarmored person, using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia as a reference point.  Hitting an unarmored person is the standard we’re using because that directly translates to scoring a hit in Heroes & Other Worlds/TFT (and similar games like Runequest) where armor reduces damage from a successful hit but does nothing to make success less likely.

From this you can see that, for instance, having a 13 DX in HOW is like being a 10th level Fighter, at least in terms of being able to land a blow.  (On the other hand, a 10th level Fighter in D&D can sustain multiple times the damage a HOW fighter could, so you can’t just translate back and forth quite that easily.) Another thing to pay attention to is the s20 skill column, where you can see that in terms of stat bonus, a D&D score of 18 is equivalent to DX 11 (if 18 is +3 as in original D&D), or maybe DX 12 (if 18 is +4 as in later editions).  Using the stat bonus in D&D is much more common than a straight roll-under against the stat.

Still, I find thinking of things this way as instructive.

Roll Under Rules Cyclopedia
d20 Approximate % 3d6 d20 skill/BaB THAC0 Fighter Cl/Th/D MU/Normal
0 0.00% 3,4 -11
1 5.00% 5 -10
2 10.00% 6 -9
3 15.00% 7 -8
4 20.00% -7
5 25.00% 8 -6
5 25.00% -5
6 30.00% -4
7 35.00% 9 -3
8 40.00% -2
9 45.00% -1
10 50.00% 10 0 10 1 1 1
11 55.00% 1 9
12 60.00% 11 2 8 4 5 6
13 65.00% 3 7
14 70.00% 4 6 7 9 11
15 75.00% 12 5 5
16 80.00% 13 6 4 10 13 16
17 85.00% 7 3
18 90.00% 14 8 2 13 17 21
19 95.00% 15 9 1
20 100.00% 16,17,18 10 0 16 21 26

Here’s an Anydice page with the 3d6 info, and just for the heck of it, the 1d20

Link to

Overland Travel Rates

The following are some hopefully useful templates (mostly based on Delta’s discussion of the rates in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1e Dungeon Master’s Guide).  They show the cost to enter1 a hex on the overland travel map, with a key to how many hexes a party can move in a day based on the degree of encumbrance (for travelling on foot) or type of mount.  The assumption (following the DMG) is that roads and trails do not speed your travel enough to track, but they do allow you to pass over worse terrain as if you were on clear terrain.  That doesn’t completely match up with the way, say, the Cook Basic D&D works, but it’s easy enough to increase the rates on roads if you’re really inclined.

If the cost of entering a hex is more than a single day’s allotment (e.g. on heavy horse in a swamp with no road), you can either say it’s impassible, switch to a smaller scale map and have the party slog through taking multiple days, or make the minimum rate of travel 1 hex per day or 1 hex every other day.

While these have been derived from D&D, they are non-system specific, and are released under a CC-BY license (that is you can use them any way you want, but you should credit me somewhere)/ Enjoy.

1milehexes

3mile_hexes

5mile_hexes

6mile_hexes


  1. This is by far my preferred approach, since it means no tracking of partial hexes. It also matches the way Outdoor Survival worked, which was the original source of the all the D&D movement rules…and by extension almost everything that came after. 

How To Hexcrawl

+Joe Johnston released How to Hexcrawl: a nice little pay-what-you-want primer on running a hex crawl in Labyrinth Lord, or any other D&D-like, gathering together the rules and charts you might use as well as some advice.

What I want to talk about, though is how to handle checking for encounters. Joe correctly points out (p 20) there’s a contradiction in the rules, or at least some confusion, about the step-by-step procedure of rolling once per day’s travel vs what happens when you travel over multiple terrain types and the admonition against checking more than 3-4 Times per day.  He suggests 3 possibilities: roll based on the start hex, the last hex, or each time the terrain changes. Unfortunately those all skew the encounters one way or another.

I’d like to offer a fourth option:

4) Secretly roll 1d12 for the hour and 1 die  of any type (or flip a coin) for day/night.  At the appointed hour in the game day, roll for an encounter based on the current hex’s chance of encounter.   This prorates the chances exactly.  The only minor drawback, if it is a drawback, is you do need to pay slightly closer attention to what the in-game time is, though that shouldn’t be at all difficult since you already are dealing with the travel speed to traverse the hex.

N.B. How to Hexcrawl doesn’t mention it, but the assumed overland travel rate for most D&D editions is about 3 m.p.h. for unencumbered travelers, with an 8-hour effective travel day, which gets you the list 24 miles/day.  With 6-mile hexes, each hex of travel is 2 hours.  If you get in the habit of announcing the time of day as the party enters the hex (“it’s about 10 am when you get to the mountains”) it’s dead easy to tell if it’s time to roll for an encounter, and helps give the players a better sense of the passage of time anyway.   This suggests a nice variation, if you want to roll for travel encounters and then separately for night encounters while camped: roll a d8 to see which hour of travel the encounter gets checked and then again at night based on the terrain where they are camped.  Ideally you want to have a separate table, or at least adjust the results, for night encounters, since a caravan or troop of men are not at all likely to be traipsing through the woods in the dark.

Trollsmyth’s Death & Dismemberment Table, revamped for 5e

I’ve long been a fan of Trollsmyth’s Death & Dismemberment table for D&D-like games… Arduin’s Critical Hits are more amusing, but quite a bit deadlier than I’m usually willing to play with (though I read somewhere recently that the way Dave Hargrave used them they were only 1 in 400 chance… a 20 followed by a 20 required a roll on the Crit Chart, rather than just a 20 the way we did back in High School.)  At any rate, one of the things that kind of bothers me about 5e Basic is that there’s not really any way to sustain a real injury. I’m OK with Hit Points representing pure Stamina, or at least I’m willing to give it a try and see how my players like it, but it kind of bugs me that except by GM fiat there really isn’t any way to suffer a broken bone or serious laceration.  Even if your HP go to 0 and you have to start making saves against Death, once you’ve stabilized a Long Rest will patch you right up.

So my current thought is to use a slightly modified version of Trollsmyth’s D&D chart to fix that.  We’ll ignore the time-to-death results from the original chart, and just use the 5e three success before three failure Death save to determine when and if you die.

If you get taken down to 0 HP, and every time you get hit when you’re at 0 HP, roll on the following table.  Apply a -1 modifier to the die roll for each time you’ve failed your Death save, a +1 for each success.

2 or lower Grievous wound: Increase Exhaustion Level by 5, if that would take you to 6 Instant Death (decapitation or the like).
3 Fatal wound (gutted, stabbed through lung, broken back, etc.); Increase Exhaustion Level by 4.
4 Severed limb (DM’s choice or roll randomly); Increase Exhaustion Level by 3.
5,6 Severe Wound. Needs surgery. Increase Exhaustion Level by 3.
7,8 Broken bone (DM’s choice or roll, randomly); Increase Exhaustion Level by 2. Requires 2d4+9 weeks to heal; can’t use the bone until that first 2d4 weeks have passed. After that are at a Disadvantage for checks that rely on it until it’s healed the rest of the way.
9 Moderate Wound.  It’s going to need stitches. Increase Exhaustion Level by 2.
10 Light wound: cut, gash, contusion in random place, and according to weapon type. Needs bandaging. Increase Exhaustion Level by 1.
11 Knocked out for 2d6 rounds, unless wearing a helm. With helm, only stunned for 1 round. Increase Exhaustion Level by 1.
12+ a surge of adrenaline returns 1d4 hit points per HD; these vanish at the end of combat & you gain 1 level of Exhaustion.

The upshot of using this table is pretty much anything that takes you to 0 HP will also give you at least one level of Exhaustion… I think that’s fair for an ever so slightly grittier take one what it means to be out of HP and dying.  If you want to stick to straight 5e for HP and conditions, you could just use the wounds as flavor text with no mechanical effect.

For an even grittier, though still not super-gritty, effect you can also use the table for critical hits in a variant on the Hargrave method: a crit is double damage, and 1/20 chance of having to roll on this or some other favorite critical hit table.

And as an added bonus, I’m reposting the Quick Hit Location Chart I posted on G+ a little while back, which lets you quickly determine a hit location without an extra die roll, and a relatively sensible weighting of heavier hits with more dangerous places:

Damage Chart

 

Goblins of Salmagundi

goblins

A new race for D&D 5e Goblins are evil, or at least mischievous, creatures, no two of whom are alike.  Skin, eye, and hair color vary as do number and arrangement of eyes, limbs, ears, mouths, etc.  Every goblin should roll on the Goblin Random Features chart (see bottom of post).  Goblins are often employed by evil wizards, because of their large numbers and lack of fear…but their equal lack of discipline makes them less than ideal as guards.

Stats: +2 Dex Size: Small (approx same as Halfling) Speed: 25 Age: Goblins reach maturity at age 3, and while max lifespan is 100+ years, average is closer to 20. Alignment: Chaotic

Foolhardy: Advantage on saves vs. Fear; Disadvantage on Wisdom checks related to prudence or patience (such as Perception checks on guard duty, but not while skulking around looking for a snack or treasure).

Goblin Nimbleness: Can move through the space of any creature at least 1 size larger

Darkvision: you can see in total darkness

Sneaky: can attempt to hide even when only obscured by a creature at least 1 size larger than you.

Languages: speak Goblin and Common.

Subraces

Gapmaw

It had better be food, ’cause I’m gonna eat it!timmymonster

Ability Score Increase: Str increases by 1.

Iron Stomach: Advantage on Poison Saves and Resistance to poison.

Devour: During a grapple, you may attempt to use a Shove attack to shove the grappled creature in your mouth. Creatures so grappled may attempt to escape as usual, but the Grappled condition does not end automatically when you are incapacitated (though the next attempt to escape the grapple will succeed since you can no longer resist it), and things that move you (such as a Thunderwave spell) will move both of you instead of disrupting the grapple.

Nobonz

Sticks and stones? It is to laugh.cousinit

Ability Score Increase: Con increases by 1

Boyoyoing: Advantage on saves vs. falling and crushing.  Resistance to Bludgeoning damage.

Squeeze Through: You can move through openings as small as a key-hole.  This takes your full move (so you start and stop on either side of the opening), and the distance you can traverse while squeezing yourself through a narrow opening can be no greater than the length of one of your limbs (you have to be able to shove one of your body parts through before the rest can follow…)

Hathedz

cheech Ability Score Increase: Cha +1

Behatted: you can (and usually do) fit your entire body except your feet into a Medium-sized creature’s hat. Any Prodigious physical features also stick out (see chart). You may also fit as much gear as you can carry unencumbered…any gear over that has to be carried outside the hat.  You may use gear and wield weapons normally, by extending your hands and arms outside while you’re using them.  The hat does not interfere with your perception.

Poker Face: you gain Advantage when trying to brazen things out (resisting Insight), but not on your own attempts to persuade.

Sneakz

Ability Score Increase: Wis +1stealthygoblin

Nimble Escape: may take the Disengage or Hide actions as bonus actions in any turn.

Full of Attitude

Elves “If they had those sticks any farther up their butts, they’d be dryads”

Dwarves “If rocks could make beer, Dwarves would never get invited to another party.”

Halflings “Come the Revolution, they’ll be first up against the wall!”

Humans “OK, I guess.  Really, really touchy about sharing their children.  You’d think they can’t just make more.”

Goblin Personality Traits

You may roll on this instead of, or in addition to, the Personality Traits associated with your Background

  1. What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine!
  2. That looks edible/drinkable/humpable!
  3. Boom!  Hahahaha!
  4. Pull my finger!
  5. I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him and call him George!
  6. Gee, it never hurts to help!
  7. What’s the matter?  You wanna live forever?
  8. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Goblin Random Features

Roll d20

  1. Scaly skin (roll d8 randomly for ROYGBIV, reroll twice and you’re spotted/checked/striped/plaid)
  2. Prodigous feature (counts as Tool):
    1. Ears
    2. Eyes
    3. Nose
    4. Lips
    5. Hands
    6. Arms (extremely long and bendy, not beefy)
    7. Legs (extremely long and froglike)
    8. Feet
    9. Hair
    10. Tail
    11. Gut
    12. Genitals
  3. Hairy to the point no other features visible
  4. 1d4 extra (on a 4 re-roll and add), arranged (1-3 Symmetrically, 4-Asymmetrically):
    1. Eyes
    2. Ears
    3. Noses
    4. Arms
    5. Legs
    6. Mouths
  5. Tiny fanged mouth on the tip of a serpentine tongue.
  6. Big sad puppy eyes.
  7. Webbed fingers and toes. And arms. And legs.
  8. Sloughing leprous skin.
  9. Second Head
  10. Part creature:
    1. spider
    2. bird
    3. shark
    4. bear
    5. monkey
    6. bat
    7. wolf
    8. horse
    9. goat
    10. choose
  11. Part random element
    1. fire
    2. water
    3. ice
    4. air
    5. dark
    6. Earth
  12. Fur (random ROYGBIV)
  13. Can climb walls like a gecko or spider
  14. Antennae
  15. Big butterfly wings
  16. Blind, uses sonar to identify targets.
  17. Two hearts (gets an extra save vs. Dying before expiring at 0 HP)
  18. Is much larger than the average goblin (counts as Medium instead of Small)
  19. Is much smaller than the average goblin (counts as Very Small)
  20. Has styled its hair
    1. dreads,
    2. mohawk,
    3. “horns”,
    4. greaser pomp,
    5. slickback,
    6. “the Bieber”.