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RPG observations, wisdom and tools from an early adopter

Ironscale – 5th Edition Monster

Arachnid-Concept-Art-11photo (2) For anyone that picked up the board game “Myth” recently, you will be familiar with these critters.  Called Arachnids in that game,I’ve opted for a new name since in my mind, they are not spider-like at all. I’m dubbing their D&D version, Ironscales.  The minis are too nice not to use in D&D so here’s what I’ll be inflicting on the PCs soon. There are 2 types of these creatures, one has poison sacs on the side of its head while the other does not and has slightly larger claws near its mandibles.

Ironscale, soldier
Medium beast, unaligned

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)

Hit Points 24 (4d8+4)

30 ft.

14 (+2) 14  (+2) 14  (+2) 2 (-4) 9 (-1) 4 (-3)

Senses Blindsight 10 ft., Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 9

Spider Climb. The ironscale can climb difficult surfaces, including ceilings without ability checks.

Vise Grip. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage and the ironscale attaches to the target. While attached, the ironscale doesn’t attack. Instead, at the start of each of its turns, the target loses 4(1d4+3) hit points due to the creature rending it with its mandibles. The ironscale can detach itself by spending 5 feet of its movement. A creature, including the target, can use its action to detach the ironscale


Ironscale, bombadier
Medium beast, unaligned

Armor Class 14 (natural armor)

Hit Points 18 (4d6+4)

40 ft.

10 (+0) 16  (+3) 12  (+1) 4 (-3) 9 (-1) 4 (-3)

Senses Blindsight 10 ft., Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 9

Spider Climb. The ironscale can climb difficult surfaces, including ceilings without ability checks.


Glob of Poison. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 30/60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+2) poison damage and the target must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw, taking 4 (1d6+2) poison damage on a failed save, or half on a successful save. If the poison reduces the target to 0 hit points, the target is stable but poisoned for 1 hour.


Crime & Punishment – D&D/13th Age

stocks In my first session DMing Encounters, I had a relatively new RPG player pick-pocket a major NPC.  The NPC was the mayor of a large town and as I prepared to deal with that resultant dice rolls, I found myself quickly wondering, “How am I going to punish this guy if he gets caught?!”  Committing a crime (and getting caught) is a situation that many a player will do with little thought to the repercussions.  Here’s a short guideline of how to handle your criminal PCs.

Crime Punishment
Arson Heavy Fine + Imprisonment, Hard Labor
Assault Imprisonment + Hard Labor
Breaking and Entering Imprisonment + Potential Flogging
Corruption Imprisonment + Hard Labor
Disturbing the Peace Minor Fine
Forgery Standard Fine + Potential Branding
Heresy Branding + Exile, Execution
Kidnapping Imprisonment + Hard Labor
Manslaugter Imprisonment
Murder Imprisonment – Potential Branding, Exile, Enslavement or Execution
Sedition Enslavement
Smuggling Value of Item x 5
Theft – Under 50 GP value Value of Item X 2
Theft – 50 – 500 GP Value Value of Item X 3 + Potential Flogging
Theft – Over 500 GP Value Value of Item X 5+ Potential Disfigurement, Branding, Flogging or Imprisonment


Branding The convicted is branded with a visible mark denoting his crime.
Disfigurement Removal of an appendage, eye or tongue, depending on the crime.
Enslavement You are sold into slavery.
Execution Death
Exile Forced to leave the city/society/region where the crime was commited. Usually for life.
Flogging Public whipping. Reduced to 1/4 of HPs and unable to buy or sell in this community for six months due to negative stigma.
Hard Labor For every 6 months of Hard Labor, your Constitution will permanently drop by 1 on an unsuccessful Constitution save of DC 10.
Heavy Fine  Typically 5x the value of the item/property in question.
Imprisonment Length of sentencing will vary between 1 month to life, depending on severity of the crime committed and other modifiers.
Minor Fine Typically no more than 50 gp.
Standard Fine Typically 3X the value of the item/property in question but never more than 500 gp.


Foreigner If you are not a local citizen,
Social Standing If you are of a lower social standing,
Language Barrier If you can’t speak the local language,  the severity of your punishment will increase.
Charisma If your Charisma is under 10,
Race If your race is not typical of this community/region/society,

Goblin Priest – D&D 5e

goblinpreist72dpi One feature of 4E that I did like quite a bit was the variations to choose from with creatures. 5E still hasn’t released its Monster Manual, so much as I did with 13th Age, I’ve begun creating my own creatures as the need arises.  This is a fairly simple one. The Goblin Priest.

  • Goblin Priest
  • Small humanoid (goblinoid), neutral evil
  • Armor Class 14 (leather armor)
  • Hit Points 9 (2d6+2)
  • Speed
    30 ft.
8  (-1) 12  (+1) 10  (+0) 10  (+0) 14 (+2) 12 (+1)
  • Skills Stealth +5, Medicine +2
  • Senses Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
  • Languages Common, Goblin
  • Nimble Escape. The goblin priest can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
  • Spellcasting. The Goblin Priest is a 1st level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The goblin priest has the following cleric spells prepared.
  • Cantrips (at will): light, sacred flame, thaumaturgy                                        1st level (3 slots): bane, bless, cure wounds
  • Club. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) bludgeoning damage.

D&D – First Days at School


It’s that time of year again here in New England. Back to School! Even I’m getting in on the fun as I ran 5th edition D&D on back-to-back nights at my local game store.

The first night was “Lost Mine of Phandelver” and 6 players. First impressions do mean a lot and D&D hit all the right buttons for me. The balance of power is back where it belongs, the DM’s chair.  4E left me feeling like more of a stewardess than a captain and that feeling was gone.  I opted for using a map, mainly because I have so many minis and I also have one player that has vocalized his preference for it.  It slowed down things slightly but all in all, I had no problem with it.  I issued a warning at the night’s beginning for both sessions about the fragility of the 1st level character and proceeded to ask each player to state their character’s name, race, class and a bit of background information about their character. Much like 13th Age’s “One True Thing”, I find the Traits, Ideals and Flaws for 5th edition characters to be a welcome addition to the game. I find that a solid half of RPG players are not comfortable with the Role-Playing aspect of these games and this really is an aid for helping that.

Combat.  Nasty, brutish and short.  That basically sums it up for you. At least at first level. After 3 combats, one pit trap, and two waves of water worth of pain and agony, the group nearly opted to retreat from the Cragmaw Goblin’s hideout.  The group had managed to rescue an NPC acquaintance of them and at his urging they continued on to finish the job and not give up the element of surprise.  Always a balancing act for players and DM, when to rest. A short rest had been used earlier in the session and all healing was used up. At-Will Cantrips however are perfect. You still feel like a caster, not a really lousy fighter.  The climactic battle with Klarg the Bugbear proved me right in how fragile 1st level characters are. The group were perfectly terrified of what he would be capable of after an evening of goblin assaults.  On the bugbear’s first attack I opted to roll out in the open as opposed to using the dice tower I had been all night. It was perfectly played as I tossed the d20 and wouldn’t you know it, it landed on a 20.  The ensuing damage vaporized the hapless PC’s fighter in one shot.  There was no getting around it, he was gone.

This player is a young guy mainly experienced with 13th Age’s system. It was his first character death and he handled it well but he was fairly shocked at the finality of it all. It was quite a moment.

The group laid into the bugbear and took him down after that and at the night’s end all rejoiced. A great first run.

Night two was the first “Encounters” session;.”Hoard of the Dragon Queen”. Three relatively inexperienced players and three cagey veterans made for a nail-biting night, especially until the 6th player (the cleric arrived late). It was good timing too as one of the PCs had been dropped by some kobolds and the party had no means of reviving him.  Players and DMs be warned, this is a really dangerous position to be in. Anyway, there was a good mix of sneaking around, bluffing and fighting for everyone. The last encounter with Langdredrosa the dragonborn warrior, before the keep was particularly fear-inducing. Thankfully, the player, while defeated and bleeding out, was rescued from his doom just in time.

My overall impression of the new system is positive. I handed out a total of 4 Inspiration tokens in two nights, so that didn’t feel too gimmicky. The halfling’s ability to rer-oll on natural 1s came into play about 3 times and it was the only feature that felt overpowered to me. I didn’t use a map the second night aside from one battle and that also allowed me to maintain pacing of the story.  In the end, I give 5th Edition a gold star.

Dungeon & Dragons Background – Zealot

It’s time for another background for 5th Edition D&D.  I give you, the Zealot.





There are believers and then there are zealots. Utterly devoted followers of their god, a zealot’s driving force is his belief in the rightness of his deity.

Skill Proficiency: Religion and Persuasion

Tool Proficiency: Choose one of Calligrapher’s supplies or one musical instrument.

Equipment: Common clothes, a vial of Holy water, 2 blocks of incense, book of your deity’s lore, holy symbol

Feature: Evangelist

Your aggressive approach to conversion can be a hindrance at times. Once you start spreading the word, if your audience is of other faiths, people disperse to avoid you. This can prove useful if your companions are seeking fewer eyewitnesses. Taverns empty, streets clear, crowds scatter, you’re your own worst enemy once you open your mouth. You can also expect to receive free healing and care from any established presence of your faith.


A zealot is often so singularly focused on their faith that they often descend into madness. Roll on the following chart to determine your particular struggle if any.

  1. Doomed – Whenever you are reduced to half of your hit points you begin crying out of your impending demise.
  2. Messianic – You have delusions of grandeur and are convinced you have been sent here by your deity.
  3. Visions – You see things that others don’t and you know they are real.
  4. Paranoia – I know that secretly you are all against me.
  5. Anxiety – When you fail at anything you become anxious and stressed.
  6. No discernible madness, yet.

Suggested Characteristics

A zealot is the most dedicated of believers. Their life is shaped by their faith and they seek to share their belief with whomever they encounter. They also tend to be hostile or at the least hold in disdain, other gods and their followers.

d8 Personality 

  1. I trust no one that is not of my faith.
  2. I must be an example to others in the hopes of converting them to my god’s faith.
  3. I would martyr myself for my god if I felt it would win him more converts and greater glory.
  4. I have numerous rituals and prayers that I must adhere to on a daily basis.
  5. The needs of my fellow believers, even complete strangers, come first, even if that means ignoring my companions.
  6. I am an unworthy example of my faith and I constantly make known my failings and misdeeds to all who accompany me.
  7. I am humble to a fault.
  8. You are all witnesses of my righteousness and I let you know it.

d6 Ideal

  1. Tradition: The old ways are the only way to worship. I am a purist. (Lawful)
  2. Unpredictable: I can suddenly be overcome with visions or drop to my knees in prayer. (Chaos)
  3. Indifferent: If you’re not a fellow believer, I don’t truly care for your fate. (Neutral)
  4. Honesty: I have no secrets and tell no lies. (Any)
  5. Destiny: My faith is my focus. All worldly matters are secondary to my eternal standing. (Neutral)
  6. Power: Any perceived insult to my god must be met with swift retribution. (Evil)

d6 Bond

  1. I seek to ensure the growth of my god’s domain and influence.
  2. I am seeking riches for the preservation and improvement of locales sacred to my faith.
  3. I am documenting my travels and someday they will be a source of inspiration to those of my faith.
  4. A sacred relic exists that I hope to acquire someday and I seek information on it whenever possible.
  5. There is nothing I want more than gaining converts to my god.
  6. My companions are dear to me and it is my duty to shepherd them safely through our travels.

d6 Flaw

  1. You consider unbelievers to be beneath you and if forced to work with them, you will avoid fraternizing with them.
  2. I am dedicated to the acquisition of wealth for my god to an obsessive degree.
  3. I will only aid unbelievers if a tithe has been agreed upon prior to rendering assistance.
  4. I am blameless in all things and all success is due to my righteousness.
  5. I trust no one that is an unbeliever.
  6. To be a companion of mine is your privilege and my punishment.

Dungeons & Dragons Background – Slave


I’ll be running 5th edition for the first time in a little over a week, so it’s been crash course time lately.  One feature of the new system that intrigues me are Backgrounds.  I’m keenly interested in seeing how my players incorporate them into the game as well as how I’m going to keep track of them being used.  Here is one I’ve created. As always, feel free to offer suggestions/tweaks and criticisms.

You were sold into or perhaps raised in bondage.  Did you escape from slavery or earn your freedom through charity or other methods? Your life has been one of hard labor and little joy but the bonds that claim your body never claimed your spirit . You are well acquainted with suffering and hardship so you are more than ready for whatever travails your new profession can bring.
Skill Proficiency: Wisdom (Insight), Wisdom (Survival)
Languages: Pick any 1                                                                                Tool Proficiencies: Artisan’s tool-set (Pick one that reflects your life as a slave.)                                 Equipment: Traveler’s clothes, Quarterstaff, backpack


Blend In: You are marked with a brand that denotes you are/were property. Hard labor does not worry you in the least. You bear any burden of hardship with silent stoicism.  Other slaves will provide you reliable information on the nearby area and the locations of safe hiding places, sources of food and water and how to avoid the local authorities.

Suggested Characteristics

Former slaves tend to be uncomfortable around authority figures for fear that they will be dragged back to their former lives. Loyal to their friends without fail and more comfortable when unnoticed, slaves prefer to speak little of their former status and past unless pressed.

d8 Personality

  1. You don’t make eye-contact with anyone of higher social standing than you. You are shy.
  2. You are painfully naïve about many basic things in life. You are simple.
  3. You only speak when spoken to. You are submissive.
  4. I will make anyone of the race/people/family of my owner suffer whenever I can. You are vengeful.
  5. I was set free by my master for he saw greatness in me. I am aspirational.
  6. I have lost my family, my people and my purpose. I am burdened with grief.
  7. You are slow to trust and will die before you are ever put in bondage again.
  8. I seek power over others. I wish to be feared and respected.

d6 Ideal

  1. Freedom: I will live life to the fullest now after experiencing nothing but hunger and want. (Chaos)
  2. Wrath: I am without pity or empathy. I have been made numb to suffering. (Evil)
  3. Sympathetic: I cannot bear to witness the suffering of innocents. (Good)
  4. Jaded: The world is a hard, unfeeling place. Only the strong or the lucky survive. (Neutral)
  5. Justice: Slavery is a grievous injustice that I will not tolerate. (Lawful)
  6. Family: There is no bond greater than blood. (Any)

d6 Bond

  1. I have a family somewhere that is still enslaved.
  2. If I can only collect enough gold, I’ll be able to pay off my debts and be a free man (woman).
  3. I yearn for my homeland but can never return.
  4. I am forever indebted to the person that freed me and hope to repay that someday.
  5. I’ve lost my entire family and am just looking for a place I belong.
  6. My independence is the most important thing in my world.

d6 Flaw

  1. I am filled with hatred for the race/people that enslaved me, to a violent extreme.
  2. I’m hopelessly addicted to alcohol and seek it out on a daily basis.
  3. I tend to trust no one in authority.
  4. I am without empathy for others that are suffering.
  5. There are times when I forget what I’m supposed to be doing and will wander off.
  6. I’m selfish. After going without for so long, I want everything I can get.

Gencon 2014


Boy did I enjoy myself.  I wasn’t there long but not a moment was wasted. Demos? Yeah I got into a goodly number this time.  “Cthulhu Wars” was a highlight. It played smoothly and surprisingly fast.  “Emergence Event” didn’t play as fast, but I pre-ordered a copy based on the demo. Intriguing space, resource management kinda thing.  “Tomorrow”‘s premise is disturbing. You’re goal is to wipe out as much of the earth’s population as possible.  I hung in for 2 turns and decided against going further.  “Titan Tactics” I almost picked it up but opted to check out the Dice Tower review and held onto my cash.  “Marvel Dice Masters” left me thinking I should dump what I’ve picked up already. I would have bought “King of New York” but I had no room in my luggage after buying “Shadows of Malice”.  Pre-ordered Krosmaster Quest and determined that I’ll be backing “Folklore the Affliction”and “B-Sieged” once they launch on Kickstarter later in the year too.

On the RPG front, I played with Sly Flourish and the Newbie DM in a Fate version of Tomb of Horrors.  Highly enjoyable.  I bought the new PHB and Hoard of the Dragon Queen and the 13th Age book; 13 True Ways.  My experience with 5th edition was a let down.  I chose the wrong adventure, for my taste and what I wanted to get out of the session. I was hoping for a more combat oriented session to get a feel for the mechanics and instead I got stuck in a Scooby-Doo mystery. I despise mystery/investigation adventures. On top of that, it was late and I was beat.  I ended up bowing out after 2.5 hours and not a sniff of combat.  I don’t regret it for a minute because sleep is good.

What did I learn from attending a day and a half of Gencon? I learned that there is always something to be learnt when it comes to gaming.

My gaming life began as a child with my father happily playing board games with me ad nauseam.  It carried over into my teens when I discovered D&D in 1980 and beyond high school when I spent my lunch hours hanging out with a local game store owner for nearly a decade, playing euro games, CCGs and anything else that came into the shop.  After that, MMOs filled my gaming void right about the time I had kids and my social circle shrank away to nothing. Now I’m back to RPGing and board-gaming a few times a week and there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not reading, writing or thinking about gaming in some shape or form.  Some might call it an obsession, I call it it part of what makes me who I am.

2014 – Gaming Nirvana


Long time no post. My 13th Age mini-campaign fizzled out due to RPG and scheduling overload. It was a good run and while I would happily play the system again, the amount of work in converting a module to that system was ridiculous for a guy with a life outside of rolling dice.  My time has been spent mainly playing in a Pathfinder campaign and board games.

2014 is shaping up to be a high water mark for my personal gaming experience.  Let’s start with video/PC games.

XBox One – Titanfall – Played in the Beta last week and boy was that a blast.  I’m not a fanatical FPS player but I’m good for about one every couple years.  This is a great “casual” squad-based shooter with giant mechs. Lots of achievements to complete and the visuals are stunning.

PC – Elder Scrolls Online – I have to admit, I wasn’t overly excited to try out this one but I got a Beta invite and gave it a whirl.  I’m hooked.  Character models have improved vastly over the previous incarnations of this franchise (always a weak point of theirs). The world is vast, and it’s not “dumbed down”.  I felt free to wander and discover at my own leisure and that gave me a sensation I haven’t had in an MMO since EQ, trepidation.  Looking forward to discovering more of this world once it launches.

PC – Wildstar – Another Beta experience.  I haven’t played an MMO with this degree of addiction in years! A compelling world that is humorous at times and also filled with wonder. Cartoony graphics are not my first choice in an MMO but it works here. I’m in.

Also worth mentioning, Warmachine Tactics, The Long Dark and I still hold out hope for EQ Next later in the year.

RPGs – Well D&D 5th edition of course. Having had my fill of 4th edition and finding Pathfinder a bit rules bloated, I’m hoping WotC can find the sweet spot for me with this iteration of my first love.  I’ll be at GENCON for the full marketing propoganda experience. Happy to see WotC back in the minis game too this year.  Here’s to hopefully running a Primeval Thule campaign later in this year too.


This is where I’m practically frothing at the mouth. Kickstarter is mainly to blame as I went wild with backing projects in 2013.  This year I reap the rewards! The top of the list has to go to…

Myth – A coop dungeon-crawl that looks to use a combat system quite like 4E to me.

Cthulhu Wars – Elder gods, eldritch madness, giant miniatures. Wow.

Shadows of Brimstone – A western sci-fi/horror co-op dungeon crawl kinda thing. Giddyup!

Golem Arcana – About as close to a miniature wargame as I may ever get, although I’m also looking to pick up the new version of Dust Tactics too.

Those are the highlights but Journey:Wrath of Demons, Septikon: Uranium Wars, Chaosmos, Nika, Ancient Terrible Things, Krosmaster Quest are also on tap for 2014. Good thing I just joined a board gaming group on Meetup. Nirvana.

Will-O’-Wisp – 13th Age



Will – 0’ – Wisp

5th level spoiler (Aberration)                                                          Initiative:+11                                                                                                 HP: 50  AC: 21 PD: 20 MD: 18                                                                                                                                                                                        Shocking touch +10 vs. PD – 14 lightning damage                                      Feed on your fear: The Will–0’–Wisp heals 5 HPs at the beginning of its turn for each nearby, staggered enemy.                                                 Flight: Will-O’-Wisp’s can fly.                                                                             Magic resistance: Will–0’–Wisp’s have a natural reisitance to magic (magic missile being the exception, it works normally).  Any spell cast on it must be a natural 16+ to affect it, if not, the caster loses the action and the spell is canceled.

13th Age – Second Darkness – Session 5

ImageWe’re already onto Book 3 in the Second Darkness Adventure Path.  The second book took up only a single session as the PCs managed to rip through the content in no time.  13th Age also plays much faster than Pathfinder so GMs, be prepared!

The PCs were subjected to a swarm of Akatas and Zombies along the beach which could have been much more difficult but I provided two NPCs to assist in the battle and also, paced out the appearance of the monsters.  The new ranger that replaced the slain rogue has given us a chance to enjoy having an effective pet.  I come from a 2nd edition background where pets were independent entities that didn’t cost the PC their actions each round as 4E does.  13th Age returns to a model closer to older editions of D&D and that in my opinion is a great thing.  The ranger’s wolf proved its worth in this battle, soaking up and dishing out a respectable amount of damage.

This session was easily the weakest run so far.  By weakest, I mean least compelling.  Distractions and joking ran rampant at the table and I had a hard time reining it in.  Every GM has to battle and balance this out.  We’re socializing and enjoying each other’s company and having some much needed laughs and if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be at the table in the first place.  On the other hand, many of us get one night a week to play for a few hours and we would like to devote that time to the game at hand.  GMs especially as they devote hours of prep-time to the game and then to not be able to have your PCs remember key points of plot or their purpose can suck the life out of you right quick.  This was one of those nights where I lost the table.  So while we got through the planned “content”, it felt tedious.  Some nights are going to roll like that.

Balancing each battle has been a big challenge for this conversion. This session’s battle felt easier overall.  I leveled the party to 4th halfway through the evening and right away, the damage output was noticeable.  I have to say, I’m excited to see how the higher levels feel.  The cleric managed to drop one monster with a 60 point strike and then in another fight, dropped two mooks that had 18 HPs each.

Next session will likely bring the PCs face to face with their first 13th Age dragon and my version of the Gray Render.  I expect some bruises will result.