Sunday, March 30, 2014

Improved Character Sheet v2.0

Hey everyone, I've got an even better version of this character sheet now! You can check it out here.

Or here's the download link:
d20 Despot Advanced Character Sheet v3.0

But, if you prefer version 1.0, read on.

It's been a year since I posted my original improved character sheet, and it has become the most viewed post on my blog (hey, last week we broke 5,000 total all-time blog views!).  So it's about time I updated it.

Here's the d20 Despot Improved Character Sheet v2.0.  <= Download it there, folks!

(Edit: Also, here's the first page with D&D 3.5 Edition skills: Download Here.  Sadly, in that version, the "Special Abilities" and "Conditional Skill Modifiers" sections have been sacrificed on the altar of 3.5's humongous skill list.  Fair warning: it still has the CMB and CMD stuff on it, but if you're playing 3.5 you'd damn well better be bringing those rules in instead of grappling with the grapple rules.)

Read on for more info about it and the changes/improvements I've made.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

3 Undead Monsters More Deserving of Cultural Ubiquity than Zombies and Vampires

The Walking Dead - AMC, via A Geek Saga; Twilight - Summit Entertainment, via twilightsaga.wikia 
Modern pop culture is obsessed with the undead.  People on the bus are reading books about zombies and vampires.  Cinemas are playing movies about zombies and vampires.  The video game market is flooded with... um... zombies and vampires.  You can see where this is going.  Looking at our pop-culture, you'd think that there were only two types of undead monsters: the shambling, mindless, brain-eating kind and the immortal, blood-sucking, inexplicably effeminate kind.

Don't get me wrong; zombies and vampires can be very cool if used correctly and in moderation.  But what we have in our culture right now is an oversaturation.  Zombies and vampires are getting played out, and I'm pretty tired of them.  This jumbled graph - which I painstakingly assembled with my own two hands, Wikipedia, and Microsoft Excel - shows that, while vampires and zombies still remain popular, they might be on the decline.  I think that the general public may be slowly growing tired of these undead as well.

I tried counting up all the vampire books, too, but soon realized that it would be an impossible task.
Damn Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer.  
So what undead horrors are worthy of stepping into the cultural spotlight and filling the gaps left by vamps and zombs?  I've got a few ideas:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Food and Drink: Never Adventure on an Empty Stomach

"I'm starving.  Let's break out some rations before we rest," Folg suggested, patting his rumbling dwarven stomach.

"There are no rations," Kyliss shot back. "Daldreth was carrying all our food."  She cast a deadly glare at the cleric, who was dusting himself off in the corner.  

"Hey, if you guys hadn't taken your sweet time getting me out of that gelatinous cube, maybe we'd still have some rations left!" he shot back defensively.  "Or if you guys carried some of the food, for a change..."

"We had a week's worth of rations.  Your saying all of it's gone?  What are we going to eat?"

Kyliss thought for a moment.  "Well, we killed all those dire rats a few rooms back."

Daldreth pulled a face, but Folg lit up.  "Now you're talking," the dwarf said.  "Fresh meat!  Daldreth, go get some of those! I'll break some of this furniture up and get a fire going; this is a vaulted ceiling, there should be enough space for the smoke to go without smothering us all."

Kyliss rubbed her hands together decisively.  "Right, I'll attach a rope to this bucket and draw some water from the well."

Daldreth turned.  "A dungeon well?  Do you want throat-leeches?  Because that's how you get throat-leeches!  No, I'll just cast create water."

"Into what?  That gross-ass old barrel?  It smells like someone stored jellied fish in it."

Kyliss sighed, walked over to the barrel, and cast prestidigitation.  With a flick of her hand, a cloud of dust and unidentifiable ancient muck shot up out of it and splattered against the wall.  "We're good."

Food and drink should be important considerations for any adventuring party, because you need that stuff to live.  But, like weight and encumbrance rules, such things are often neglected in favour of gameplay expediency.  A lot of gaming groups feel that keeping track of rations is too 'simulationist' and slows things down or distracts from the fun.  Well I'm here to champion the right of every PC to eat a square meal a day, and not just for the sake of realism.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Monster Monday: Honey Badger and Dire Honey Badger

In celebration of my 50th blogpost, today's Monster Monday is the honey badger, the fierce predator that just takes what it wants.  Honey badgers, also known as ratels, are quite distinct from actual badgers, and they deserve to be statted up separately.  They are known for their resistance to poison that lets them fight and eat cobras and bees, the loose skin on their neck that lets them keep attacking whoever tries to grab them, and the fact that when they attack they go straight for the nuts.

I am also including the Dire Honey Badger, also known as al-girta, a fierce, man-eating honey badger the size of a black bear.  Al-girta is the name for the honey badger in southern Iraq, where they made headlines in 2007 thanks to a rash of reported attacks in Basra by mysterious man-eating monsters that turned out to be regular, not-man-eating honey badgers.  The locals blamed occupying British forces for the animal attacks, leading to my favourite quote from the Iraq War: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area."

And of course, I've made it so that you can have a honey badger/al-girta as an animal companion.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is (C)2014 Jonah Bomgaars.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Speaking in Tongues: Using Languages in Your Campaign

The monk halts mid-step and tilts her head.  Yes, those are voices!  She silently drops down next to the sarcophagus and presses her ear to the granite floor.  There must be some sort of chamber below!

"Everything is falling into place," a sinister voice echoes from below.  "That earthquake will have awakened the Unconquered Bull."

"The people will also take it as a sign of divine disfavour.  Their faith in the Emperor will be shaken.  We need only push, and he will fall," a deeper voice responded.  

"Yes, soon the People of the Bull will topple this decadent society and usher in a reign of blood and fire!  We must return to the capital and complete the rituals."

"Indeed.  It is best we move as far from the coast as possible; the tidal wave will come shortly."

The monk sits up, puzzled.  She pulls out her Hyksaean-Zhengi phrasebook and flips through the pages with a practiced hand.  "I wish I knew what they were saying."

Language is key to how we interact with and interpret the world.  As such, it naturally comes up a lot while roleplaying as well.  The character from a distant land.  The ancient inscription above the doorway.  The conversation overheard between hobgoblin guards.  Yet the rules for learning, speaking, and reading languages are surprisingly slim in the d20 and PFRPG systems.

This sort of thing bugs me, so I came up with a new set of rules that govern how a character learns and uses languages.  It works fine if your approach to languages is as simple as "Common, Dwarven, Elvish, Orcish, etc." but it also includes optional rules for those GMs who want to lend some realism to their campaign settings by including regional languages and language families (Try going to Latvia and see how far speaking "Common" gets you).  So if you are looking for a more comprehensive rule set for languages in your campaign, look no further.  Actually, look a little further; the rules are below.

The following gold text and its associated tables are available as Open Game Content under the OGL.  Open Game Content is (C)2014 Jonah Bomgaars.