Announcing The Gods Have Spoken: Deities and Domains

Here at Dread Unicorn Games we love 5E. And we’re developing three new d20 pantheons as part of our Gods and Icons supplement for 13th Age.

The Gods Have Spoken PlaceholderWe thought, why not make a 5E supplement using those same wonderful gods? And thus it is happening.

The Gods Have Spoken: Deities and Domains will be available as an optional reward from the Gods and Icons Kickstarter, coming soon. There will be reward tiers that include both, or you may choose just the 13th Age supplement or just the 5E one. Choice is good!

So check out The Gods Have Spoken: Deities and Domains.

Adding the Challenge Without the Slow

This is about speeding combat in 13th Age, but the general advice works in any rpg. In fact the math works great in most d20 games, from 3.0 to 5E.
13thagecompatible250Here’s the problem. You want to increase the challenge, so you add difficulty, but now your combats go on and on and on. What happened to those 20 minute combats you loved when you first found 13th Age?

To start off, look at Building Battles, page 186 in the Core book. If you follow the advice there, most of your battles will be quick. Great! But once your players start to master their characters, you’ll find them too easy. Not great.

ZzzSo, you opt for a combat 1.5 times or 2 times as hard as a standard battle. That’s easy, just add more monsters! And now your battles are more challenging. And long. Too long.

13 True Ways to the rescue! Check out Leveling Up a “Book” Monster and Customizing a DIY Monster on page 159 of 13 True Ways. We’re going to combine these to up the challenge while making combats faster.

For each monster you add, you have to manage their position and tactics, roll to hit, track hit points, and so on. Players have yet another target to worry about.

So: Start with a balanced encounter, then up the Levels and apply the Offensive customization.

For example, let’s add one level to each monster, and max out the offensive customization. I like the offensive customization to speed up play, as the players miss less, making combat faster. However, the monster misses less, increasing the challenge for the players.

  • Attack Bonuses: +1 for level, +3 for offensive = +4! Yay monsters!
  • Defenses: +1 for level, -3 for offensive = -2. Yay PCs!
  • Hit Points: * 1.25. A bit of a buffer for all those extra hits the PCs will be doing.
  • Damage: * 1.25. More hitting AND more damage.
  • Specials: * 1.25. I apply this to initiative, since the PCs will hit more often, you don’t want the monsters to go down without getting their licks in! (Exception: I don’t do this for slow monsters, as being slow is part of their deal. So I might just skip this for the slowest monsters in the combat.)

So let’s apply this to a medium red dragon (is that a red dragon who tells fortunes?). They’re on p. 220 of the Core book.

Changes:

  • Level: 6th +1 = 7th level wrecker
  • Attack Bonuses: +11 +4 = +15 for both the Fangs, Claws, and Tail and the Fiery Breath attacks. No more missing!
  • Defenses: AC: 21 -2 = 19; PD: 20 -2 = 18; MD: 16 -2 = 14. 10% more hitable.
  • Hit Points: 90 * 1.25 = 113.
  • Damage: Fangs, claws & tail: 8 * 1.25 = 10 each; Fiery breath: 10 * 1.25 = 13 on 2d3 PCs.
  • Initiative: +11 * 1.25 = +14.
  • Resist Fire: 12+ * 1.25 = 15+

How’s that? The challenge is upped, because this dragon will go near the top of the initiative order, hardly ever miss, and will do more damage. But the lower defenses will mean the dragon goes down faster, ending the combat in fewer rounds.

You can do this for all, or just some of the monsters in an encounter. Leveling up by itself without the offensive customization will be faster than adding monsters.

By choosing a creature like a dragon who attacks multiple times each round, the downside of the “glass cannon” effect you can get with the offensive build is minimized. Even if the dragon only lasts a few rounds, it’s going to hit a lot of PCs for damage.

You can do with with the other creatures in the encounter. Perhaps your enhanced red dragon has some enhanced kobold dragon-souls (13th Age Bestiary, p. 125) as friends…

Fast AND Furious!

A Plague of Ones, Part II The Bad and the Ugly

Now it Gets Bad.

Now it Gets Ugly.
crapIn Numenera, The Strange, and all other Cypher System games, the rule is: roll a one, the GM gets a “free” GM Intrusion with no experience point award. Ones are supposed to happen. 5% of the time.

But if you game enough, you’ll be sure to run into the dreaded plague of ones. So many ones, what’s a GM to do? A lot depends on what’s going on in an encounter.

Last time we talked about the good side, when everyone is still having fun, despite the plague of ones. Now let’s look at the harder problem, where the ones are wrecking your game.

ZzzA Plague of Ones in an Encounter that is No Longer Interesting

Combat

The cypher system is made for fast, exciting combat. But if the PCs just keep missing and are running out of pool points, what do you do? (For a more general solution, see End With a Bang.)

Adding typical combat intrusions (creature/artifact/environment) will slow down combat. But there’s yet another one sitting there on the table, taunting you. We’re assuming the combat is not spiraling down the TPK drain (see below), so why not try a different kind of intrusion?

If the foes flee, combat ends, and you can move to a more interesting scene. Next time the NPCs will be better prepared for the PCs (+1 level for attacks? Return in greater numbers? Find a higher level friend?). An iron door or a force screen could stop the party from pursuing and prolonging the pain. The foes might jump through a secret door and lock it behind them. Perhaps the foes can wave some treasure, say a cypher or artifact, at the PCs as they vanish. So long, suckers!

Or, give a typical combat intrusion a silver lining that helps bring the dragging combat to a close. The artifact sword slipped out of the PC’s hand and flew across the room, but it also cleaved through a statue revealing hidden cyphers (that are perfect for ending the fight) within.  A creature careens into the PC, knocking them both across the floor, but put itself in a vulnerable position for a different PC. Thanks Nojo! And sorry about the concussion…

Environmental (climbing, crafting, and so on…)

It’s not any fun anymore, so end it. Maybe give some damage for doing something dangerous like climbing, then narrate how the rest of the party got the PC over the wall. The item in the workshop broke, the PC needs new parts, so try again another session. End it and jump to an exciting scene. The workshop’s doors fly off their hinges and in comes a hulking steam powered automaton!

Social

Same thing, wrap it up and move on. Give the PC one last insult, and show the party the door. If this is a critical plot point, an NPC can whisper to a different PC to arrange a private meeting later. “The king will never listen to you now, but the prisoners in the vineyards still need you. Meet me in the park at midnight…”


A Plague of Ones in an Encounter that Threatens to Ruin the Session

Oh noes. Too many sessions like this can kill a campaign. At least you can blame the dice.

Combat

tpkAll these ones are pointing in one direction: TPK. Move to capture or let the PCs retreat. An intrusion could set off a trap that imprisons the PC, followed by an ultimatum for a party surrender. The PC could be mind controlled. A larger trap is sprung, and the way out is blocked while more foes join in the battle. “Surrender!”

way outOr nudge the party into fleeing. Describe how the tide has turned against them, and the foes are trying to encircle the PCs. A friendly NPC could try and hold off the foes. “Fly, you fools!” Drop the PC down the damage track and just let them know “You still have time to flee.” 

Dropping a PC down the damage track encourages them to flee as it makes the player feel vulnerable.

Environmental (climbing, crafting, and so on…)

It’s hard to see how this kind of failure would kill a session, but if the players keep hitting their head on the wall, help them move on. Leave the scene and narrate to something fun. The wall collapsed, the workshop blew up, and a week later the party reaches the baron’s tower (or whatever the next fun scene is).

Social

It’s sad their social strategies have failed, but they did. So move on and narrate them to something exciting. If you succeed here at the tower, those back home might change their minds. But first things first. Like those giant clockwork worms heading your way. What do you do?


Move On

You see a common thread in all of these suggestions? If it’s not fun, cut the scene and move on. Sometimes groups will get stuck trying the same thing over and over again, waiting for the dice to save them. Help the players move on, and everyone will benefit.

It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. So when it’s not, move on.