DnD5e XP option

If you understood the code in that title, you’re a nerd.  And that’s okay, nerds are “in” these days.  No more hiding in our parents’ basements (at least not for most of us…)

Anyway, thought I’d post my latest take on dishing out experience for player characters in the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, “the world’s greatest role playing game.”

(BTW, if you want to see more of this stuff, check out my Fifth Edition Creative Companion on the DM’s Guild — it’s pay what you want, so if you want to pay zero, you can.)

female elf with a bow in the forest

EXPERIENCE POINTS AND LEVELING

This is the biggest change I’ve brought to my personal house rules for Fifth Edition D&D.

I’ve always had issues with the traditional Experience Point (XP) system.  It seems to me that it’s pretty much kill-monster-based and collect-gold-based.  If these are the only factors that matter in gaining levels, then they become the only things that matter to the characters.  Any other storytelling or character interaction is irrelevant.  Why bother with that crap when it doesn’t do anything to help me become a greater hero?

I do like that this Fifth Edition emphasizes three aspects of game play: not just combat (which we all enjoy), but also character interaction and exploration.  If there are three aspects to our fantasy adventures, then all three should count toward advancing our heroes through their careers.

Now, there is a way to figure out non-combat XPs in Fifth Edition by calculating encounter difficulty along with the angle of moonlight and alignment of the North Star, etc.  I’m being a tad sarcastic, obviously.  The way they’ve outlined it isn’t a terrible system, but it’s pretty tedious and math-heavy.  More so than I care to deal with.  I want less math and more story.  So here’s what I’ve come up with.

XP is measured in Blocks, acquired by completing Story Objectives. 

If one of your story objectives is to defeat the band of hobgoblin bandits that have been robbing caravans passing through this area, then yes, you get an XP Block by killing all the hobgoblins.  Or at least beating them down and chasing them off, never to return (hopefully).

But your Story Objectives might also include finding a missing person, discovering the identity of a killer, brokering peace between two political factions in a war-torn city, or bringing home a specific item from the long lost ruins of an ancient king’s hidden treasure hold.  These move the story along through use of exploration and character interaction, as well as potentially using the more exciting dice-rolling action of combat.  And they advance your characters and shape your unique world.

Story Objectives might be accomplished each gaming session, or they might take several.  Conversely, you might achieve more than one in a single session, even a single encounter.  Maybe discovering the killer’s identity and bringing him (or her) to justice are two separate objectives laid out by the DM, and after two sessions of tracking and investigation, you pull off both in the evening’s climax encounter.  In that case, BAM! you get two blocks in one fell swoop.

Subplots could also contribute as a character-driven experience.  Let’s say you own a tavern and it mysteriously burns to the ground.  Rather than continue on the main course set up by the DM last adventure, you decide to investigate the fire further.  Instead of chasing the next planned adventure, you go off on a tangent important to your characters.  This is a story in and of itself, and certainly worth some XP.

Other subplots could include investigating the murder of a PC’s parents, suddenly noticing the significance of a trinket, or pursuing a love interest or political office.  All of these character-based story lines can become adventures in and of themselves.

So what is an XP Block?

I call them XP Blocks because the easiest way to track them and chart out level advancement is with our old friend Mr. Graph Paper.  I have come up with two simple formulas for Level Advancement, but I’m only going to talk about one in this blog post, which I recently developed after using the first for a while.

(You can see the other one in my Fifth Edition Creative Companion if you really want to know, but I think this one is the better of the two.)

Leveling Up: The Proficiency Method

Each level is accomplished by achieving a certain number of XP Blocks, just like it is with normal XPs.

The requisite number of Blocks to advance to the next level is equal to your current Proficiency Bonus.

Therefore:

Levels XP Blocks to Level Up
1-4 2
5-8 3
9-12 4
13-16 5
17-20 6

Mr. Graph Paper’s (or Mr. Excel’s) XP Tracking Chart, then, might look like this:

XP TRACKER 1   2   3   4   5     6     7    
Bobfreid the Druid

So the further up you go, the longer it takes to advance, but not so much that you never get to level up.  DMs can regulate the rate by either being stingy or generous with XP Blocks and what constitutes a Story Objective.

Play Tested, Mother Approved

In actual game play, this new XP system has been working out great.  The PCs are advancing at a steady pace but not too fast.  They level up regularly but not every session.  They have to earn those levels.  And, as the DM, I only have to keep track of what is important: milestones in the story.  After all, counting dead monsters and dividing them up is accounting work that I don’t need in life.

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New Fifth Edition Monk and Artificer on Dungeon Masters Guild

Hey there, fellow nerdlings.

A quick update on my Dungeon Masters Guild titles.

I just adjusted everything to “Pay What You Want,” which means you can either take it for free or, if you’re feeling generous, you can flip me a silver dollar or two for my trouble.

I also just added a few new things to my 5th Edition Creative Companion.  Here’s the description:

female elf with a bow in the forestEdition 3.0 has more XP system options, new Monk and Ranger class modifications, and an Artificer archetype for Wizrads!

Contained herein are 50 pages featuring customized game rules, a new story-based experience system, and 17 powerful feats for players.  But that’s not all. 

Presented for your inspiration are 10 complete characters created from new takes on existing classes, all forged via enhanced creation rules that favor player characters.  Each hero features stats, background stories, and character-building decisions spelled out to give you new ideas for your PCs and NPCs.  Examples include an archetype-defying Cthulhu warlock, steampunk mage, Shinto samurai, rogue spymaster, and Thor, godling of thunder.

SF/Fantasy author J. D. Brink has been playing Dungeons & Dragons for thirty years.  Finally, with the advent of the Dungeon Masters’ Guild, he can share some of his own ideas and game innovations with fellow players of the world’s greatest roleplaying game.  The 5eCC works in conjunction with your own imagination to develop exciting new worlds and the heroes needed to save them!

So how do you get that?  Just click here:  5eCC, baby!

Dark ritualAnd while you’re at it, check out my sleepy occult village adventure Dark Gods of the Jersey Shore.  It’s as creepy (and silly) as it sounds!

I also modified my new XP system to make advancement go more smoothly and quickly without all the math.  You’ll find that in the 5eCC as well.

Hope you enjoy them.

Now, on to bigger and better things!

 

5th Edition D&D: New Monk Archetype

monk

For those D&D gaming nerds out there, I have a customization I’d like to share.

This is not actually a new archetype for Monks, just a modification to the Way of the Open Hand.

It seems to me it’s kind of flimsy when compared to some other 3rd-level career paths in terms of abilities gained.  So, for your consideration, I suggest a small adjustment.

In addition to the current Open Hand ki abilities that you can add to your Flurry of Blows, you also gain at 3rd level the Feat “Martial Adept” just as it appears under Feats.

This grants you one superiority die (D6) and two maneuvers under the Fighter’s Battle Master archetype.  If you already have this feat (or are already a Battle Master Fighter as well as a monk) then you gain +1 superiority die and +1 maneuver.

You also gain +1 die to your pool and +1 maneuver mastery at monk levels 6, 11, and 17.  If you have a maneuver you don’t care much for, you can also trade it out for a different one any time you level up.

In addition, you can generate superiority dice by expending ki.  One ki point equals one die.

Maneuvers I recommend for a monk of the Way of the Open Hand would be trip, disarm, feint, and sweep attack, though you can pick whatever seems right for you.

Also as an experiment (and it may be too much), I thought to add some very specific monk weapons, the very design of which are helpful with performing these special manuvers.  A monk of the Open Hand who is thus armed can reroll the result on superiority dice (but must accept the second roll no matter what).

* Nunchaku (1d6 bludgeon damage)

* Sai (1d4 bludgeon damage) (sai are not actually pointed or sharp, by the way)

* Spiked or Bladed Chain (10ft reach, 1d6 damage of bludgeon, piercing, or slashing type, depending on how you use it—you pick)

I think this makes the Way of the Open Hand more kung-fu badass and more worthwhile in game play.

I intend to refine this and add it to a revised 5th Edition Creative Companion sometime soon.

(Monk image from D&D 3rd edition, btw.)

Cthulhu Warlock for D&D 5th Edition

This is reposted from my old website (thus the “classic” tag), where it was by far the most popular blog post.  Apparently there’s a lot of D&D gamers looking for a good warlock build, most likely of the dark and mysterious Cthulhu variety.

blackeye_cvr-miniYou can find Jansen here, as well as within the virtual pages of a free sample book on the Dungeon Masters Guild website called The Eye in the Shadow (just click here).  He’s one of three characters profiled there.

You can also find him with 9 other characters, 16 feats, and lot whole lot more in my new Fifth Edition Creative Companion,  available from theDungeon Masters Guild right now for only $0.99.  You can find it by clicking here.  

female elf with a bow in the forestThe 5eCC is a 45 page PDF.  Here’s the description:

Fantasy author J. D. Brink first discovered Dungeons & Dragons more thirty years ago.  Finally, with the advent of the Dungeon Masters’ Guild, he can now share some of his own game innovations with fellow players of the world’s greatest roleplaying game.  

Contained herein are more than 40 pages featuring custom game rules, a new experience point system, and 16 new feats for players.  But that’s not all. 

A Cthulhu warlock, steampunk mage, Shinto samurai, and rogue spymaster: these are just 4 of 10 characters created from new takes on existing classes, complete with detailed backstories and decision descriptions.  Ten characters meant to provide players and DMs with new inspiration for developing their own worlds and the heroes to save them.    

*****

JANSEN, THE EYE IN THE SHADOW

“Kinda a funny looking feller, eh?  Don’t look dangerous, but something ‘bout him makes me skin crawl.  Better keep a distance.” – Constable’s Deputy, Dunwich

Warlock (3)

Alignment: CN

STR 8 -1
INT 14 +2
WIS 14 +2
DEX 11 0
CON 10 0
CHAR 16 +3

HP:  24

AC:  12

PROF:  +2

SAVES:  WIS (+4) CHAR (+5)

INIT:  +2

RACE:  Human

BACKGROUND:  Noble

* Dragon chess gaming proficiency

* Life of Privilege

* Languages: Common, Elven

WARLOCK: 

* Otherworldly Patron: Great Old One

* Awakened Mind

Pact Boon: Book of Shadows

Eldritch Invocations:

— Beguiling Influence

— Mask of Many Faces

SPELLS:

* Spell DC (13)  Spell Attack Mod (+5)

* Warlock: 2 Cantrips, 4 Known Spells, 2 Spell Slots at 2nd Level

— Cantrips: Eldritch Blast, Prestidigitation

— 1st Level: Hex, Arms of Hadar

— 2nd Level: Suggestion, Crown of Madness

Eldritch Invocation: Disguise Self at will

Books of Shadows: Druid (WIS)

— Cantrips: Shillelagh, Produce Flame, Resistance

* Magic Initiate Feat: Bard (CHAR)

— Cantrips: Mage Hand, Minor Illusion

— Once per long rest: Dissonant Whispers

* Ritual Caster: Wizard (INT)

— 1st Level: Find Familiar, Unseen Servant

FAMILIAR:  Lovecraft, the ferret (fiend)

SKILLS:

* Intimidation (+5)

* Arcana (+4)

* Investigation (+4)

* History (+4)

* Insight (+4)

* Deception (+5)

* Persuasion (+5)

* Bonus Languages: Primordial, Abyssal

FEATS:

* Magic Initiate

* Ritual Caster

BASIC GEAR:

* Ornate cane (club), 2 daggers

* Studded leather armor

* Fine clothes, Scholar’s pack, scroll of pedigree, 2 signet rings – one of Fellcorr family, one unknown (arcane focus)

* His uncle’s estate in Dunwich

STORY NOTES:

Jansen Fellcorr came from a family of minor nobility and had lived most of his life in abject boredom.  The life of privilege didn’t disagree with him, per say, but there was very little about that easy, controlled life that held his interest.  He made study and observation (“people watching”) his hobbies, sometimes following strangers all day, even back to their homes, to discover the secrets of their lives.  Jansen was an intelligent, polite, and rather creepy young man.

The death of Hadspen Fellcorr–Jansen’s uncle–went largely unnoticed, as Hadspen had been the strange and estranged black sheep of the family.  Jansen, at twenty-six years of age, barely even remembered his uncle Hadspen.  But when he heard of the man’s passing and saw how the rest of his noble family chose to ignore the black sheep’s death from their flock, Jansen made it his business to find out more.  (He had nothing better to do, after all.)  It took him a week to travel to the city of Dunwich, where his uncle had lived and died.  The Dunwich mortician and Hadspen’s landlord were only too happy to turn over the odd nobleman’s personal effects and quarters to the nephew who had come to claim them.  Though he had lived there for years, no one in town seemed to know Hadspen very well, nor did they want to.  It was rumored that he dabbled in dark magic and secrets best left undiscovered.

It was in his dead uncle’s home that Jansen uncovered new mysteries and a new purpose in life.  Hadspen’s quarters were filled with books and rarities: drawings and journals, maps and star charts, ancient artifacts and dusty grimoires.  Jansen dove in eagerly and lived in Dunwich through the summer,  fall, and into winter.  And it was on the bitter cold evening of the winter solstice that he finally unlocked the same key that his uncle had years before.  It was on this cold, snowy night that he finally met Hadspen Fellcorr’s other-worldly benefactor.

Jansen has taken his uncle’s place as the servant and apprentice of a strange, extra-planar power.  He has, in fact, surpassed his uncle and become an actively mobile agent, taking on the title of Eye in the Shadow.  The motives of his patron are unclear, even to him, but he serves it with no less devotion.  Be it good or evil, Jansen’s benefactor seems to be an entity of shadow, deception, knowledge, and madness.  Though his master speaks to him only rarely, Jansen continues to follow wherever his destiny seems to be leading.

As an adventurer, Jansen carries the same cane that his uncle had used in life.  This is a very ornate walking stick carved to resemble an alien tower on another plane of existence.  It is patterned after the very structure that is benefactor inhabits, be it a palace or a prison.  His loyal companion and familiar, Lovecraft the ferret, acts as his eyes and ears, sticky fingers, and only true friend.  Jansen wears two signet rings: the Fellcorr crest on his right hand, and, on his left, a ring bearing a symbol unknown to any court in this reality.  Jansen uses his family pedigree only when needed to infiltrate or influence others along his course, preferring to forget the worthless life of nobility he’d lived before.

GAME NOTES: 

I actually did quite a bit of dark research myself to see what options and spells I wanted to take with this character.  Warlocks have three paths they can follow, called Eldritch Invocations, and in a way I have managed to take all three here rather than settling for just one!

I wanted to favor spellcraft with this guy, partially because Warlocks have such a weird and limited magic-user mechanic.  (Though I do like that they work in a different way than the rest.)  I took the Book of Shadows, which lets me pick 3 cantrips from any class list.  I chose Druids and Shillelagh, a spell that lets me turn Jansen’s fancy cane (club) into a magical weapon of moderate power.  Therefore, I kind of get the bonded weapon invocation.  I also tend to make human characters, so I started with two Feats.  For both I took more spells, which gave me access to Find Familiar, thus effectively giving me the Chain invocation too.

BAM!  All three Warlock paths in one character!  And I have an amazing number of spells for a 3rd level character, especially a warlock!

And while he is magicked up pretty darn well, he’s not going to dodge or take a hit very well.  But not all characters need to be combat powerhouses!  I like how Fifth Edition clearly states the three main aspects of game play: not just combat, but also exploration and social interaction.  Jansen is a brainy magic user who will excel at the second and third aspects far more that the first one.  As a player and DM—as I’ve said before—I like to make sure skills and non-combat spells are valuable in the game too.  This character will put his best ability score—Charisma—to good use, along with useful INT- and WIS-based skills.

His role as the Eye in the Shadow makes him a spy and a manipulator.  I chose many of his spells to specifically fit his shadowy and Cthulhu-like nature.  I also considered an owl and raven for his familiar, both of which seem very Cthulhu to me, but the ferret just seemed to fit more comfortably somehow.

I actually really like this character concept.  He’s just begging to be in a story/novel someday!

LAST CHANCE for Big Savings on Fantasy Ebooks

In addition to the massive saving on all my books at Smashwords right now, my 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons ebooks are also now available on the Dungeons Masters Guild at “Pay What You Want” for a limited time.

I still think my D&D PDFs are a steal at $1.99 for the amount of work I put into them.  But I also thought a summer time price option might coincide well with the big Summer/Winter Sale that thousands of Smashwords books are enjoying right now.

(That sale, by the way, ends on July 31stClick here to check out the skinny on my What’s New page, or click here to go straight to my Smashwords profile, where you can find all my books listed at the bottom.  You can also navigate from there to browse literally thousands of other ebooks by thousands of other authors, all on sale for up to 100% off through the end of the month.)

Now, exactly what’s the deal on the D&D books I’m talking about?  Glad you asked…

One is a “creative companion” with optional rules, new feats, and 10 pre-made characters to give you new ideas.  The other is a complete adventure of cultists, dark magic, and other obscenities.  The third (free) book is basically an excerpt from the first.

(I really should get around to unifying the look of the three different covers someday too.  But today isn’t the day.)


female elf with a bow in the forestContained herein are more than 40 pages featuring customized game rules, a new, story-based experience system that does away with tracking math, and 17 powerful feats for players.  But that’s not all.

Presented for your inspiration are 10 complete characters created from new takes on existing classes, all forged via enhanced creation rules that favor player characters.  Each hero features stats, background stories, and character-building decisions spelled out to give you new ideas for your PCs and NPCs.  Examples include an archetype-defying Cthulhu warlock, steampunk mage, Shinto samurai, rogue spymaster, and Thor, godling of thunder.

Fantasy author J. D. Brink first discovered Dungeons & Dragons more thirty years ago.  Finally, with the advent of the Dungeon Masters’ Guild, he can now share some of his own ideas and game innovations with fellow players of the world’s greatest roleplaying game.  The 5eCC works in conjunction with your own imagination to develop exciting new worlds and the heroes needed to save them!

 A cup of coffee costs four bucks.  Endless possibilities for your games: half as much.

Find it only at the Dungeon Masters Guild.


The simple townsfolk of Jersey Shore generally keep to themselves.  Neighbors might describe them as quiet cow herders, able fishermen, and pious church-goers.  If they had neighbors.  In fact, no one who visits Jersey Shore ever has anything to say.  Because visitors never leave.

This adventure is for early level player characters (levels 2-4), and will require one or two play sessions to complete.  Slip it into your campaign as an unfortunate pit stop in any D&D realm and enjoy an evening chock full of action, monsters, mystery, and humor.

Fantasy/SF writer J. D. Brink ran this adventure with his own D&D players based on just a few scribbled notes.  Now after weeks of further development, it’s ready for your team of D&D heroes.  Are they up to the challenge?

A cup of coffee costs four bucks.  An evening full of adventure: half as much.

Find it only at the Dungeon Masters Guild.


blackeye_cvr-miniJansen is an intelligent, quiet young man.  A bit of an odd duck, especially in a noble family.  Quite like his uncle Hadspen.  When Hadspen mysteriously passes away in far-away Dunwich, Jansen makes it his business to find out more.  What he discovers there is a treasure-trove of strange artifacts, an other-worldly patron, and new destiny of darkness and adventure.

Three inspirational player characters to give new perspective on existing character classes:

– a mysterious Cthulhu warlock

– a gifted Tielfing knight

– a crafty steampunk mage

Each features an extensive backstory and commentary on how they were built.

The Player Characters are the heroes of your story.  Each should have their own backstory and stand out as unique in the Realms.  This free DMG title is a sample taken from the Fifth Edition Creative Companion and is intended to encourage players and DMs to take the road less traveled to enhance their tales of adventure.

Find it only at the Dungeon Masters Guild.