Sunday, July 27, 2014

Monster Monday: Ichthyosaurs - Prehistoric Sea Monsters

"Two prehistoric sea monsters in a row?  What is your problem, d20 despot?" you might be asking.  To that I say "Shut up, sea monsters are awesome.  Especially when they're prehistoric.  It's not my fault you don't run more aquatic caveman campaigns."

"I'm sorry," you might reply, "I won't complain anymore that you are spending so much of your free time making awesome monsters and giving them to me for free."

Wow, what a great segue into some site business before we get started on today's Monster Monday.  Last week, I put d20 Despot on patreon and asked you to tell me what kind of rewards you would like to see for backers.  If I don't get any feedback by the end of the month, I'll default to the 'occasional gifts of random content' option, with a distinct probability of me adding more rewards tiers when I'm less busy/actually have backers.  So go on over and leave your feedback, or sign up to Patreon and become a backer of d20 Despot!

All self-promotion aside, today's Monster Monday is actually a 3-for-1 deal, because there is such a variety of Ichthyosaurs that I couldn't stat up just one.  So we've got your basic dolphin-sized Ichthyosaurus, your much larger, deep-diving, gigantic-eyes Ophthalmosaurus, and (as a variant option) your saw-nosed Eurhinosaurus.

Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) via Wikimedia
The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is (C)2014 Jonah Bomgaars.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

d20 Despot is Now on Patreon

I'm pleased to announce that d20 Despot is now on Patreon.  Mostly I'm pleased because that means you can give me money if you want.  'What is Patreon?' you may find yourself asking.  Patreon is a service that seeks to return to the days where artists were given patronage by great men and women who had a lot of money and enjoyed the finer things in life, only this time the artists are internet content creators and the patrons are their viewers (and you don't need to have a lot of money to do it).  It's sort of like an incremental, ongoing kickstarter.

"How does it work?"
If you aren't already on Patreon supporting all your favourite artists, go over and sign up!  Once you're signed up, head over to, determine how much you would be willing to donate to my cause, and click "Become a Patron"!

Sadly, I don't think their scripts can handle die rolls.
You can donate any amount you want (but I think any donation that adds up to less than 30 cents per month actually costs me money, so please don't do that).  In my case, you would be donating that amount per blogpost.  Don't worry: I won't start posting tons of new posts just to take all your money, and I won't count boring ol' newsposts like this one.  In fact, you can set an upper limit to your monthly donations just to be sure you won't go over budget.  And if you ever get tired of me, just cancel your patronage (note: please don't cancel your patronage).

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Yes, We're All Individuals!" - Reskinning and Reequipping Monsters So They Don't Get Boring

"Hey, remember that time we fought those skeletons?"
"Yeah, I almost died.  It was bloody ridiculous."
"No, you're thinking of the skeletons we fought back in Derdinn's Keep.  I'm talking about when we fought the skeletons in those crypts back when we were second level."
"You mean third level.  There were three skeletons and two zombies."
"No, second level.  The ones with rusty scimitars."
"They've all had rusty scimitars."
We can't all work our way though the Monster Manual from cover to cover; sometimes in our campaigns we have to throw the same kind of monsters at the party that they have already fought.  But that doesn't mean they have to feel the same.  Too often as GMs we become satisfied with presenting monsters just as they are presented to us in the Monster Manual or Bestiary.  But no matter how good a dish is, eating it over and over is going to get bland.

Take a look at these skeletons.  We've got your typical shambling skeleton in tattered scraps of armour:
Duty-Bound Dead, by Johannes Voss (c) Wizards of the Coast
A saintly skeleton decked out in the finest gilded plate:
St. Pancratius - Dr. Paul Koudounaris, via Cartwheel Art
And glowing-eyed skeletons (okay, probably liches) wielding staves and wearing crowns and mighty robes:
Keith Parkinson
In your game, if you pitted your party against any of these three types of skeletons - even if behind the screen they were all just your basic CR 1/3 skeletons - I guarantee they wouldn't remember it as just "that skeleton fight."

The two simplest and best ways to make your monsters unique are reskinning and reequipping.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

d20 Despot Reviews the 5th Edition D&D Basic Ruleset - My Initial Thoughts

Earlier this week, Wizards of the Coast released the Basic Ruleset (a free, watered-down version of the rules) for D&D Next, which they are now just calling D&D, and which I will be calling 5th Edition D&D because - unlike Wizards and Microsoft - I don't like confusing people.  So I have spent several hours badly neglecting my schooling in order to bring you folks my initial reactions to this new official ruleset.

You can download the rules for free here, at Wizards of the Coast's website.  
To make a long story short, it seems fine.  I really want to play it.  But I very much doubt that it will replace Pathfinder as my go-to fantasy RPG.  There are some things that they did really well, like the classes.  There are some things they did poorly too, but those are outnumbered by the things they did that confuse me.  It's a very decent ruleset with a lot of really great pieces in there, but it's not enough to make me abandon my current system yet.

I appreciate that they really tried to tone down the rampant bonus accumulation that plagues D&D/Pathfinder once players hit even moderate power levels; they really bring the focus back to die rolls more than bonus-stacking, which is great.  And they did a lot to simplify things, some of which worked and some of which didn't so much.

Alright, I'm done making long stories short.  Here's the long story, with my remarks presented in no particular order: