Initiative Or What? – Archives – Dec/2009

December 31, 2009 by deadorcs

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It’s A Trap! E.S.S. Trapbook, Level 9 Traps

Greetings, Kids! Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. The Thanksgiving holiday got away from me, and now I’m once again fighting off a nasty head cold. I’m not sure who decided to paint the “rhinovirus target” on me, but this is getting ridiculous.

Today’s post are the Level 9 traps from Epic Security System’s Trapbook. Enjoy!

Click HERE to download the entire traps document.

Loralye “Fergie” Ferguson Comments:

If I remember correctly, I spent nearly three years and 13,000 man hours mining the material for the Gravity Shaft. Fortunately, the node was in a relatively remote area of the Elemental Chaos. The trick was designing a ritual that neutralized the material while it was being mined and processed. By the way, a little of this stuff goes a long way. One of the work crews accidentally disturbed the magic circle a load of this ore was sitting in. Damned stuff wrecked the platform, the teleportation portal, and a hundred feet of the surrounding area. Father Magry was hard pressed to find anything left of the work crew to resurrect. Let’s just say that “jelly” doesn’t reconstitute that well.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

It’s A Trap! E.S.S. Trapbook, Level 10 Traps

Wow! So this one took awhile.

Today’s post wraps up a long series I’ve been running on Heroic level traps for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons®. I have to admit, this series has been fun to do. After trying to come up with so many different kinds of traps, I have a new found respect for the rpg writers out there that actually have to sit in a cube and crank this stuff out. While I haven’t received as much feedback on this series as I did for It’s A Dirty, Dirty World; I enjoyed the exercise. Finishing a project is always rewarding; and my payment is my sense of accomplishment.

What you’ll find below are the 10th level traps faithfully recorded in Epic Security System’s Trapbook.

Click HERE to download the entire traps document.

Killean Pinbottom Comments: I suppose it’s only fitting that at the end of this book I comment on one of the first traps I ever constructed. The ability to isolate an invading force and pin them down, is vital to the security of any stronghold. The moat and drawbridge and excellent examples of that concept. However, I wondered if there wasn’t a better way to execute this concept so that the interior of a building could be protected. That’s when the idea of the “Bridge to Nowhere” struck me. In it’s original form, the bridge was surrounded by balconies that overlooked the pivoting bridge. Well placed crossbowmen can rain down pure hell on anyone trapped on the bridge. Lord Cable’s barony lasted nearly 100 years before a magical assault finally defeated him. The bridge stands to this day.

In a few weeks (hopefully before the Christmas/New Years Holiday) I hope to have consolidated this series into a single .pdf document that will be easy to read and use. I’ll probably do some editing, but I’m looking forward to producing the final product.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bring Back the Talent: Craft and Perform Skills for 4e

As I’ve become more familiar with 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons® over the last couple of years, it’s become clear to me that the various powers and skills were meant to be utilized in a combat situation. I believe that emphasis on combat is what guided the “paring down” of the various skills available to players.

I’m not really seeing this as a bad thing; as I believe there are creative and role-playing opportunities to be had in trying to fit a skill to an important task. Need to lasso a torch sconce in order to swing across the room? Well, in previous additions, you’d use a “Use Rope” skill. Today, the DM might ask you to use an Acrobatic or even Dungeoneering skill to perform that task. The task can still be done, you now just have to use a different skill to accomplish it.

Unfortunately, there were two groups of skills that got left behind in this re-imaging: Crafting and Performing. Both of these skills were really only useful in a role-playing situations. Crafting allowed players to create items they might use later; or provided an ad-hoc solution to a problem during the adventure by creating an item to overcome the problem. In addition, Crafting could provide a character with a little coin in the form of goods they could make and then sell.

Even more than Crafting, Performing was a pure role-playing skill. Although frequently used only by Bards, Performing could also be used by anyone that wanted to be good with a specific talent like singing or playing a musical instrument. Performing enabled a character to “show off” in a non-violent matter and win hearts and minds. Performing could also “woo the ladies” and get you a couple of free drinks at the tavern.

Despite a shifting of emphasis in 4e, these skills still have a place. The latest edition of That Grand Game still utilizes role-playing; and Crafting and Performing can be retooled to fit into the spirit of the 4th Edition.

How you ask?

Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it. When considering these two skills, I needed to come up with some basic rules that wouldn’t impact the balance of the existing game. I wasn’t interested in adding to a character’s power, only to their role-playing potential. However, at the same time, I wanted to make the skills attractive, so that pure power gamers would have some interest in them. Here’s what I decided for my own campaign:

  • Any character can choose either a free Craft skill or a free Perform skill. The skill is available to anyone, and is automatically considered trained (granting that character the +5 bonus with that skill).
  • Each skill would come with a single enhancement bonus to another existing skill. I believe the 3.5 rules referred to this as “synergy”. I really liked that concept, so I brought it back. This synergy bonus would be a simple “+1”.
  • Crafting skills are based on Wisdom; Performing skills are based on Charisma. Bonuses granted by those ability scores apply to their respective skill.

Next, I had to come up with a list of specific skills:

  • Craft: Armor
  • Craft: Weaponry
  • Craft: Woodworking
  • Craft: Masonry
  • Craft: Tailoring/Weaving
  • Craft: Cooking
  • Craft: Writing
  • Craft: Leatherworking
  • Perform: Singing
  • Perform: Instrument (choose an instrument)
  • Perform: Dance
  • Perform: Oratory
  • Perform: Painting/Drawing
  • Perform: Ceremony

I don’t imagine this is a complete list. I’d love to see others, if you’re so inclined. In the next couple of posts, I’ll go into detail about each skill (I’ll tackle Crafting skills in one post, and Performing skills in another).

It’s time to let the PCs do something while they’re taking that Extended Rest. Give them a new skill to use!

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bring Back The Talent: Craft Skill Specifics

With your permission, allow me to indulge in a little fantasy stereotyping…
Imagine the dwarf warrior hunkered over the forge, reshaping the lost shield of her forefathers…
Imagine the elf ranger using an elaborate knife to carefully shape his rare wood bow…
Imagine the halfling cleric cooking an exquisite meal in order to aid his resting companions…
Now imagine all these characters doing this work in the framework of 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons®. What’s that? Crafting skills don’t exist in that version? Well, you’re right about that, they don’t. However, that hasn’t stopped me from creating some solid rules that allow you to incorporate what I feel is a missing attribute from the game: Craft Skills.
Craft skills are simply those skills that allow the character (or NPC) to create something of a fair or better quality. In my previous post, I listed the various skills that I felt were appropriate, and passed down some basic rules to utilize those skills. To keep everything in one place, I’ll repeat those rules, here:
  • Any character can choose either one free Craft skill or one free Perform skill. The Craft skills are available to any class, and are automatically considered trained (granting that character a +5 bonus with that skill).
  • Each skill comes with a single enhancement bonus to another existing skill. The specific enhancement bonus (which is always +1) is specified under the description of each skill.
  • Crafting skills are based on Wisdom and receive the applicable ability score bonus.
  • Crafting skills take time. For my own campaign, I use a simple 1 day per 1 pound of item ratio. For example, a 6 lb shield would take 6 days to complete. This time can be adjusted by the DM based on conditions and the amount of help the character receives.
Keeping those basics in mind, here are the descriptions for each of the Crafting skills in my campaign:
Craft: Armor
A character with the “Craft: Armor” skill has been trained in the art of making metallic armor and shields. To successfully create a suit of armor or a shield, roll a skill check against the level of the armor or shield you wish to create. The DM should adjudicate the difficulty of the task based on the availability of equipment and available materials. A character can only create an item of his tier or lower. If the skill check for creating the item fails, the DM can choose to declare that the item has a serious flaw; or the DM can determine that the creation time for the object takes twice as long as normal.
Crafting Armor is a skill that requires fair amount of strength. Any character with the Craft: Armor skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Athletics skill checks.
Craft: Cooking
A character with the Craft: Cooking skill has been trained in the art of preparing food. The character is qualified as a chef, and can earn income preparing meals for a tavern or similar establishment. The DM should adjudicate the difficulty of the cooking task based on available ingredients and the number of mouths to feed. A character that beats the established Craft: Cooking skill DC, can feed an additional person for each point that exceeds the skill roll. For example: Widget is cooking for 4 people, and the DM has established a DC of 17 for a successful meal. Widget rolls a 15, and with her bonuses, scores a 21. With this result, Widget has managed to prepare a meal for 4 more (21-17) people. Extra food prepared by a character with the Craft: Cooking skill can be saved and eaten on the next day. Cooking a meal requires anywhere from 2 to 8 hours based on the conditions set by the DM. If the skill check for cooking fails, the DM can determine the food to be inedible; or the DM can determine that the meal takes twice as much time to prepare.
Cooking a fine meal requires a careful knowledge of what comprises healthy and tasty food. Any character with the Craft: Cooking skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Heal skill checks.
Craft: Leatherworking
A character with the Craft: Leatherworking skill has been trained in the practice of handling animal hides and turning those hides into a number of useful items, including leather and hide armors. If a character wishes to create a suit of leather or hide armor, follow the rules as stated for Craft: Armor. If the character wishes to make an ordinary object like leather boots or a saddle; then the DM should adjudicate a skill check based on the equipment and materials on hand. If the skill check is 5 or more over the required DC for success, the item is considered finely crafted and worth double the normal amount given for such an item.
Leatherworking is a skill that is often utilized by varying members of the community. Any character with the Craft: Leatherworking skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Streetwise skill checks.
Craft: Masonry
A character with the Craft: Masonry skill has been trained in the art of working with stone and similar building materials. While dwarves are known to excel at this trade, nearly every civilized race has a few individuals who are adept at building with rock. A character with this skill is considered a Mason, and can be hired to supervise the construction of nearly any earthen or stone construction. A character that makes a successful skill check (as the DC is determined by the DM), can reduce the time of construction by half, and increase the quality of the construction by the same amount. If the skill check fails, the DM can determine that the construction has a fatal flaw (possibly causing a dangerous collapse); or that the construction time simply takes twice as long.
Masonry is a skill that often figures significantly in the construction of underground habitations. Any character with the Craft: Masonry skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Dungeoneering skill checks.
Craft: Metalworking
A character with Craft: Metalworking is skilled in the science of metallurgy and blacksmithing. Metal smiths can mint coinage, forge horseshoes, craft fittings, and create any number of other metallic items provided they are not specific to armor or weaponry. If a character wishes to construct a metallic item, the DM will determine the appropriate DC for success. If the character exceeds the skill check set by the DM, the item is enhanced in some fashion (stronger, more valuable, etc.). If the skill check fails, the item is flawed and does not function as intended.
The metallurgy component of Metalworking is closely associated with the science of alchemy.
Any character with Craft: Metalworking skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to skill checks involved in completing Alchemy recipes.
Craft: Tailoring/Weaving
A character with Craft: Tailoring/Weaving skill has talent in the construction and sewing of clothing and other cloth materials; including clothing intended for cloth armor. If the character wishes to use this skill in order to create cloth armor, use the rule listed under the Craft: Armor skill. If the character wishes to make an ordinary object like cloth sails or a fashionable dress; then the DM should adjudicate a skill check based on the equipment and materials on hand. If the skill check is 5 or more over the required DC for success, the item is considered finely crafted and worth double the normal amount given for such an item. If the skill check fails, the item is considered flawed in some fashion, or perhaps doesn’t fit properly (in the case of clothing).
Tailoring and weaving are often utilized by the clergy in order to make vestments, religious tapestries, and similar items made from cloth. Any character with the Craft: Tailoring/Weaving skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Religion skill checks.
Craft: Weaponry
A character with the Craft: Weaponry skill has been trained in the art and science of crafting all types of weaponry. This is a general crafting skill, encompassing all types of weapon craft; for example: bowyer, fletcher, swordsmith, or even pole-arm manufacture. Much like the crafting of armor, the crafting of a weapon requires that the creator be at least the same tier of the intended weapon or higher. For example: a Paragon level crafter can create Paragon or Heroic level weapons, but not Epic weapons. As with most of the other crafting skills, the DM should determine the appropriate DC of the skill check based on the equipment at hand and the availability of materials. A failed Craft: Weaponry skill indicates that the weapon is flawed. The DM can determine the meaning of this flaw. Anything from the weapon not granting a proficiency bonus to a proficient user, to breaking on a roll of 1 for an attack roll is possible.
Creating a useful weapon requires a fine eye for detail. Any character with the Craft: Weaponry skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Perception skill checks.
Craft: Woodworking
A character with the Craft: Woodworking skill has spent long hours learning to shape wood into useful implements. Wood is a common material, and this list of such objects is endless. A skilled woodworker can create not only wooden non-weapon objects; but can also create wooden shields. If a character with the Craft: Woodworking skill wishes to create a shield, follow the rules established by the Craft: Armor skill. If the character wishes to make an ordinary object like a boat or a wagon; then the DM should adjudicate a skill check based on the equipment and materials on hand. If the skill check is 5 or more over the required DC for success, the item is considered finely crafted and worth double the normal amount given for such an item. If the skill check fails, the item is considered flawed in some fashion, or perhaps doesn’t function properly when placed under stress.
Utilizing wood requires the woodworker to be in tune with his raw material, a natural substance. Any character with the Craft: Woodworking skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Nature skill checks.
Craft: Writing
A character with the Craft: Writing skill is a talented writer of stories and documents. Not everyone has the ability to more that simply “make their mark” on a document; and writers of all kinds are in demand in towns and cities where transactions are recorded. A character that wishes to create a document must roll a successful skill check based on a DC set by the DM. The DC can be set against a specific target (in the case of writing a story, for example); or the DC can be an opposed roll based on an NPC’s Insight skill check roll (in the case of a forged document, for example). A successful skill check indicates that the document gets its meaning across; or (in the case of a forged document) fools the NPC into thinking the document is legitimate. A failed skilled check indicates that a document fails to convey a clear meaning; or (again, in the case of a forged document) that the document is discovered to be a forgery.
Writing often requires a considerable knowledge of previous lore. Any character with Craft: Writing skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to History skill checks.
Well, that’s all I have for now. I’m sure that while reading this, other skills have come to mind. Also, since crafting often goes “hand-in-hand” with the creation of magic items, I’ll probably come up with a unifying set of rules for crafting magical items (as it relates to the skills presented here). For next time, though, I’ll be tackling the Perform skills. As always, I’d love to hear your comments. Let me know what you think!
Until next time…
Game excellently with one another.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bring Back The Talent: Perform Skill Specifics

My humble apologies readers, but between traveling to our holiday destination; (middle-of-nowhere-someplace-in-Iowa) and not immediately having access to the internet while here (fortunately, that changed), I have been delayed in continuing my posts regarding Craft and Perform skills.
Last time, I tackled Craft skills. This one is all about Perform skills.
Sometimes you want to be able to sing for your supper, even if you’re not a bard. Occasionally, a gnome or halfling might want to dance a little jig in order to distract the mayor from the sneaky rogue. Regardless of the occasion, a little performance now and then is a helpful diversion from the workaday world of dragon slaying and dungeon crawling.
Now imagine all these characters doing this work in the framework of 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons®. What’s that? Perform skills don’t exist in that version either? Well, you’re right about that, they don’t. However, that hasn’t stopped me from creating some solid rules that allow you to incorporate what I feel is a missing attribute from the game: Perform Skills.
Perform skills are simply those skills that allow the character (or NPC) to provide an artistic performance of a fair or better quality. In my previous post, I listed the various skills that I felt were appropriate, and passed down some basic rules to utilize those skills. To keep everything in one place, I’ll repeat those rules, here:
  • Any character can choose either one free Perform skill or one free Craft skill. The Perform skills are available to any class, and are automatically considered trained (granting that character a +5 bonus with that skill).
  • Each skill comes with a single enhancement bonus to another existing skill. The specific enhancement bonus (which is always +1) is specified under the description of each skill.
  • Performing skills are based on Charisma and receive the applicable ability score bonus.
  • Perform skills always provide a small boon. This boon does not appear if the Perform skill fails; but increases based on the DC required and the success of the skill roll.
Keeping those basics in mind, here are the descriptions for each of the Perform skills in my campaign:
Perform: Singing
A character with the “Perform: Singing” skill has been vocally trained for singing music. A character that exceeds the DC set by the DM to perform a specific song, can earn a small boon in the form of payment from the crowd or local establishment where the performance took place.
Singing often strikes the listener with heartfelt emotion. Any character with the Perform: Singing skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Insight skill checks.
Perform: Instrument
A character with the Perform: Instrument skill has been trained in using a specific musical instrument. When a character takes this skill, the character must choose the type of instrument the character is trained in. After that, the character is considered trained in the use of that instrument (+5 to skill check rolls). In addition, the character gains a +2 bonus to skill checks with any related instrument. For example: A character gains the Perform: Instrument skill and chooses the lute as her instrument. She gains a +5 bonus when using the lute. However, if that character picks up a mandolin (a related string instrument), she gets a +2 bonus when using that instrument. Like singing, a successful roll against a DC set by the DM can grant the character a small boon.
Like singing, playing a musical instrument often strikes the listener with heartfelt emotion. Any character with the Perform: Instrument skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Insight skill checks.
Perform: Dance
A character with the Perform: Dance skill has been trained in the art of movement and dance. A skilled dancer can distract and mesmerize an audience, perhaps causing a well timed distraction. A character that makes a successful skill check against the DC set by the DM, can gain a small boon from the audience or establishment where the performance occurred.
Dancing is a skill that requires a subtle grasp of bodily movement. Any character with the Perform: Dance skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Acrobatics skill checks.
Perform: Oratory
A character with the Perform: Oratory skill has been trained at giving powerful and inspiring speeches. The character excels at gathering a crowd around himself and causing even the lazy to pay attention. A character that makes a successful skill check against the DC set by the DM, can gain a small boon from the audience. Unfortunately, if the skill check fails, the audience can turn against the speaker, as the DM determines.
Oratory skills can often cowl an audience into inciting a mob reaction to the powerful words of the speaker. Any character with the Perform: Oratory skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Intimidate skill checks.
Perform: Painting/Drawing
A character with the Perform: Painting/Drawing skill has been trained or has a natural artistic ability with painting or drawing images. In addition to being able to paint exactly what he sees, the skill also gives the character the ability to render accurate maps; that is, as long as the artist has been there. The DC set by the DM for this skill check should be based on available materials and the time the artist has to render the image.
An artist’s painting can go a long way to encourage relations between nations, when such works are given as gifts. Any character with the Perform: Painting/Drawing skill gains a +1 untyped bonus to Diplomacy skill checks.
Perform: Ceremony
A character with the Perform: Ceremony skill has training in the various ceremonies surrounding royal, military, religious, or social occasions. A character with this skill almost never finds herself in an awkward social situation and knows the exact words or gestures to use when confronted by the demands of a ceremony. The DC set by the DM for this skill may often rely on a History check if the ceremony is rare or unusual. Failing a Perform: Ceremony skill check means that the character has committed a horrible faux pas to whatever penalty the DM indicates.
Those skilled in ceremony are almost always welcomed into a strange society first, paving the way for others. Any character with the Perform: Ceremony skill gains an +1 untyped bonus to either Diplomacy or Religion checks (when the character chooses this skill, he can choose which skill his +1 untyped bonus is assigned to based on his character background).
Well, there’s my take on Perform skills. Hopefully these, along with the Crafting skills mentioned in the previous post, can help you flesh out your characters and give them something to do between those dangerous mission and heroic campaigns.
Until next time…
Game excellently with one another.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bring Back The Talent: Knowledge Checks

I received several great comments and suggestions as a result of this series of posts about new Crafting and Performing skills for 4e Dungeons & Dragons. My fellow blogger ‘Wulf over at Greywulf’s Lair left a comment asking how I might handle or expand upon Knowledge skills for that game.
To answer that, let me provide you a small quote straight out of the Player’s Handbook®:
Some skills deal with knowledge about a particular topic: Arcana, Dungeoneering, History, Nature, and Religion. You can use such a skill to remember a useful bit of information in its field of knowledge or to recognize a clue related to it. You can also use such a skill to identify certain kinds of monsters, as noted in a skill’s description.
I guess what that means, is that the skills listed above: Arcana, Dungeoneering, History, Nature, and Religion can be classified as Knowledge skills when used in that fashion. They can do other things (Arcana can be used to disarm a magical trap, for example); but they’re basically Knowledge skills.
As I studied the skills list, I was surprised at just how encompassing those five skills are. It’s a big wide world, though; and there are a couple of subjects that could be added to the list. Here are two more I came up with:
Civilization: This skill gives one knowledge of the fundamentals of civilization: farming, husbandry, commerce, government, etc. A character with this skill has basic knowledge of all the features of a civilized society.
Engineering: This skill gives one knowledge of machines and devices. A character with this skill can figure out most machines and devices that do not rely on a magical component in order to function.
It’s possible you might find that a character has an interest in having a skill that’s more specific than the skills already given. For example: Nature is a pretty broad skill. However, Joe the Ranger has a background that indicates he knows a great deal about Forestry. In such cases, I present the following feat:
Skill Refinement
Prerequisite: Trained in one of the five “knowledge based” skills (Arcana, Dungeoneering, History, Nature, and Religion). Alternatively, you must be trained in a Craft or Perform skill.
Benefit: Choose your knowledge based, craft, or perform skill. You may now define a subset of that skill (for example: “Forestry” or “Cosmology” for “Nature”) and gain a +2 bonus on skill checks in that subject area. This bonus stacks with the “trained” bonus for the broader skill.
Note that this feat works with Crafting and Performing skills. A good use of this feat would be someone that takes the Craft: Cooking skill and chooses this feat to use Craft: Cooking (Elven Cuisine). When the character cooks Elven cuisine, the character gets the feat bonus to the skill.
Well, kids. That’s all I have on skills. In the near future I’ll post this info into a .pdf document on Scribd so that it will all be in one place.
Until next time…
Game excellently with one another.
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