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Tag Archives: D&D 5e

Dungeon Crawling: Clerics

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Lords, ladies, lads, and lassies, today I am here to talk to you about healers Clerics. I mean really, when most gamers think of clerics the first thought that comes into their minds is a healer, and they can be so much more than that. They are not the only class that has access to healing spells, nor do their subclasses have a monopoly on healing features. Just take a look at the Circle of Dreams Druid or the Celestial Patron Warlock.

Proficiency-wise, clerics don’t do too bad with all simple weapons, light and medium armor and shields. Certain Domains will give you access to Heavy armor as well, allowing you to wade into the thick of things cracking heads and getting hands on with your better healing spells.

Wisdom is the primary spellcasting ability for clerics, affecting everything from spell attacks to spell DCs, and even adding to the effectiveness of their healing spells. Combined with their clerical levels, wisdom also determines how many spells they can have prepared on any given day. Each of the chosen domains also gives the cleric access to certain spells that they automatically have prepared each day for free on top of the ones they choose. Ritual casting is in the arsenal for a cleric as well.

Channel Divinity. Every cleric gets it, and the common use for it is Turn Undead, or Destroy Undead at higher levels. Each of the domains also has a secondary use for it as well, adding to the clerics toolkit of abilities. Starting at 1st level you have roughly ten subclasses, or Domains, to choose from. I say roughly because the Death domain is secreted away within the covers of the Dungeon Masters Guide and is meant for villainous characters. Still, with seven to choose from in the Player’s Handbook and two more in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything a budding cleric has plenty of versatility laid out before them.

The Knowledge domain is all about divination, and borrowing proficiency in skills and tools using your Channel divinity. In addition you gain double proficiency in two skills of your choosing from Arcana, History, Nature or Religion making for an extremely talented learned scholar.

The Life domain is the quintessential healer. Most healing spells in the cleric list are not counted against their daily prepared spells. In addition, healing spells of 1st level or higher are more potent. They also gain access to Heavy armor so they can wade into the thick of battle. When push comes to shove their Channel Divinity can be used as a group heal spreading a scaling pool of healing among whomever they choose.

Light domain clerics are bright shiny beacons burning their foes with fiery spells. They can distract an enemy with a brilliant burst of divine light or use their Channel Divinity to set off a radiant area-of-effect attack.. At higher level they are capable of adding their Wisdom modifier to the damage they deal with any cleric Cantrip.

When you choose the Nature domain you gain proficiency in heavy armor, access to a druid Cantrip, and a skill chosen from Animal Handling, Nature, or Survival. Your Channel Divinity can also be used to charm animals and plants.

Now the Tempest domain is another full on battle cleric. They gain proficiency in heavy armor and martial weapons and specialize in using thunder and lightning spells. They can rebuke attackers with a lightning strike, and use their Channel Divinity to max out the damage on thunder and lighting attacks when they choose.

Trickery domain clerics are sneaky, giving a blessing of stealth to someone else or using their Channel Divinity to create an illusory duplicate of themselves creating confusion on the battlefield. At higher levels their Channel Divinity can also be used to turn invisible for a turn.

War is the last of the basic domains in the Player’s Handbook and not surprisingly another full on battle cleric. Like Tempest, War gains proficiency in heavy armor and all martial weapons. When they fight in battle they can make extra attacks as a bonus action, but this is limited to a number of times per long rest. Their accuracy however can be truly awesome. They can use their Channel Divinity to gain a +10 to hit after they make the roll.

The Death domain in the Dungeon Master’s Guide is the only villainous domain so far. Focusing on death and negative energy, they start with a free necromancy Cantrip that is expanded to hit two targets within 5 feet of each other. They also gain proficiency in all martial weapons. Their Channel Divinity can used as a necromantic smite doing extra damage on a melee hit.

Next we have the Forge domain. These clerics are walking magic item arsenals. Sort of. Once per long rest they can imbue a non-magical suit of armor or weapon with magic granting a +1 to AC or Hit and Damage. They are also capable of creating metal objects using an hour long ritual when they use a Channel Divinity.

Finally we have the Grave Domain. These clerics monitor the line between life and death. They can cast Spare the Dying as  bonus action and at range, and when they heal a target who is at 0 hit points the dice are considered to have rolled maximum for the spell. They are also able to detect undead a limited number of times per day. In combat though their Channel Divinity can be used to curse a foe so they are vulnerable to the damage from next attack that hits them from an ally or the cleric themselves.

So all clerics can heal, but all clerics are not strictly healers. Pick you god, choose a domain and kick evil ass.

Dungeon Crawling: Barbarians

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Lords, Ladies, lads, and lassies it is time to rage. Barbarians have always been the meat-shields that protect the squishies. They’re big, tough, and fuel their battlefield expertise with Rage. Often played as dumb for the sake of humor, most of us have a stereotype in mind when we hear someone at our table has brought a Barbarian. Within the books of 5th edition D&D, however, things are not so cut and dry.

In the beginning, you’re a low level beast. The main feature of the class is Rage. This ability grants you advantage on strength checks, a bonus to melee damage, and toughens you up with a resistance to the basic three types of physical damage. Add to this the ability to stack your constitution modifier on top of your dexterity for unarmored armor class, and you’ve got someone who’s meant to take hits on the chin and keep going.

As you level up, your combat prowess increases. You can attack recklessly, gaining advantage against your opponents while leaving yourself open. As the meat-shield, this is perfect for protecting the rest of the party. You also develop a danger sense helping you face traps and spells that rely on you moving out of the way. Further on down the line, you get another attack, faster movement, better initiative rolls, better critical hits, and eventually physical stats that surpass the norm.

That’s all gravy, though. The real meat of the class is within your chosen subclass. The Berserker and Totem Warrior are the two basic choices from The Player’s Handbook.  Battleragers are the dwarf-only option presented in The Sword Coast Adventurer Guide. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything gives us three more choices: Ancestral Guardian, Storm Herald, and Zealot.

Berserkers get an extra bonus attack when they enter a frenzy. They’re also able to shrug off charms and fear affects. Their intimidation presence is enough to frighten most foes, and anyone foolish enough to go toe-to-toe with them can face a retaliatory attack in response.

Totem Warriors are more versatile than their straight forward kin. At various stages of their development, they can choose which animal spirit to follow and will gain an aspect related to that. Whether it be the strength and toughness of the bear, the eyes and flight of the eagle, or the pack tactics of the wolf, Totem Warriors can mix and match animals to get just the right combo for their Barbarian.

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From The Player’s Handbook

Battleragers adorn themselves with spiked armor literally throwing themselves into battle. Their spiked armor may be used as a bonus weapon,  extra damage when they grapple a foe, or even as a retaliation in melee. Eventually they can bolster their health with temporary hit points granting them a little extra staying power while raging. They might also use a bonus action to Dash into melee range.

Ancestral Guardians have to be my favorite flavor-wise. When you rage you’re surrounded by spirit warriors that hinder your foes and protect your allies. In metagame terms, they make you sticky. The spirits grant resistance to your allies, and if your foe doesn’t attack you they have disadvantage. The spirits can also shield your allies directly by reducing the damage taken, and even reflecting it back as force damage. Your spirits can also be consulted and used for Augury or Clairvoyance spells, should the need arise.

Storm Heralds surround themselves with elemental storms. If you choose the desert you can deal fire damage to multiple foes, gain resistance to fire, or retaliate when struck with fire. If you choose the sea you can deal lightning damage to a single target, gain resistance to lightning, breathe underwater, gain a swim speed, and knock the target prone. Lastly if you choose tundra you grant multiple allies temporary hit points, gain resistance to cold, freeze water, and reduce a foes movement to zero.

Zealots are chosen by the divine. Each turn they can do extra damage with a weapon attack. This damage is either radiant or necrotic and is chosen when the path is taken. If they are restored to life by a spell there is no material cost. They can also reroll a failed save once per rage. Eventually, if they are raging death does not stop them. They will keep on fighting, even after failing three death saves. Even then if they are healed above zero hit points before the rage ends they will live.

The menu of meat-shields is vast, the choices vary, and if you want to play a Barbarian…then rage on.

 

 

 

 

Dungeon Crawling: Bards

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Lords, Ladies, Lads, and Lasses, today I present my take on Bards.

A class I have never played.

You may ask, “How the heck can you have an opinion on Bards if you’ve never played one?!” Easy, I’ve played along side them, and I’ve DM’d for them.

The Bard class is a charisma based spell caster, a jack-of-all-trades, and mainly considered to be a support class. Their sub-classes are broken up into Colleges, with two in the Player’s Handbook, and three more waiting within the pages of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. 

The basic class uses Charisma as their casting stat, can use a musical instrument as their spell focus, and is also a ritual caster. They are performers, and if you have a problem being the “face” of the group, coming up with witty one-liners for your Vicious Mockery cantrip, or can’t parse together a quick ditty to sing inspiration for your fellow party members, then you’re playing the wrong class.

They have access to all skills from the get go, and those they don’t choose they can add half of their proficiency to any way at 2nd level. At 3rd level they can choose two that they are proficient in to gain double proficiency in as well.

And 3rd level is when you choose your Bardic College. This choice will slightly alter how you use your Bardic inspiration. Lore bards can distract with their words, protecting their allies in combat. Their foe’s attacks will strike with less impact, or sometimes even miss altogether.  Valor bards on the other hand can help add to their allies damage, or their AC. Those bards who enter the College of Glamour from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything can grant a group of people temporary hit points, and a free move. Sword college bards are master of the flourish, their bardic inspiration helps them dance around their foes, pushing them about, striking a second enemy, or even simply boosting their own AC. Those bards that join the College of Whispers can literally strike terror into the minds of their foes. Their Bardic Inspiration dice can be used to do psychic damage along with their melee attacks when they so choose.

Each of the five current official colleges only expand upon their themes as you level. Lore bards gain greater expertise with their skills, add spells from other classes to their repertoire. Valor bards gain training in medium armor, shields, martial weapons, and an extra attack. Eventually they can even cast a spell while making an attack with their weapon. Glamour bards gain power over the crowds, charming the masses, enthralling them, and dissuading them wanting to harm the bard in the first place.  Sword college bards gain extra attacks, medium armor training, and proficiency with the scimitar. Eventually they can use a free d6 for their flourishes instead of using up the finite resource of their Bardic Inspiration. Finally the College of Whispers allows it’s bards to steal the visage of the recently deceased, gaining the general knowledge and memories they would share freely with a casual acquaintance, and allowing the bard to pass themselves off as the deceased with greater ease. Eventually they can convince a target that they know a deep secret and charm them for an extended period for fear of revealing said secret.

So if you wish to sing, and cast spells whilst playing at being a Skill Puppy, a Duelist, The Center of Attention, a Dervish, or an Assassin they maybe, just perhaps, the Bard is the class for you.

 

Dungeon Crawling: My First Hero

…Or Dungeons and Dragons for Beginners.

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So you want to play Dungeons and Dragons, but you don’t know where to begin. There are so many books, so many rules, and so many choices that the options can be a bit overwhelming. Fear not for I shall simplify it for you.

Before you worry about what books to get, and what rules to learn, you need to find a Dungeon Master. They’re the arbitrator of the rules, the referee if you will. They are also in charge of all the monsters and characters not in control by a player. The will have a story in mind (also called a campaign). You need to check with them to see if there are any classes or races they don’t want you to choose from when creating your hero. Most likely, they will also have all the books you’ll need to make your hero.

So now you know what you can’t choose for a race, or a class, if there are any restrictions at all. This means you still have quite a few choices to make, and even though you’ve seen Lord of the Rings, you’re still not sure how to narrow it down. D&D is a game of “let’s pretend…with rules” as such most it is left up to your imagination. There is a mental exercise called The One Room Dungeon.

Before you stands a long corridor. Torches light the way every ten feet, and somewhere in the distance you hear the constant drip of condensation on the flagstones. At the end of the hall stands a solid oak door. It is closed, but flickering lamplight can be seen shining from the crack beneath it. There is a treasure chest behind the door, but also an Orc Warrior guarding it. How do you approach the door? Do you use stealth to sneak up? Do you stride confidently down the hall, clad in your heavy metal armor? Do you cast a spell that silences your footsteps? Once you open the door, do you sneak attack the orc, face him head on with a deadly weapon, or blast him with arcane spells? Which of these choices excite you the most? Are you feeling like a rogue, a warrior, or a spellcaster? Maybe you’re a combination of two or three. When you can imagine how you deal with the orc and gain the treasure, you should begin to have an idea of what class you want to play.

So you’re beginning to have an idea in you head of what your hero is. Great! Borrow the Player’s Handbook from your DM. Flip through the races and see if any jump out at you. There are quite a few to choose from, and you should be familiar with the basic idea of them if you’re into the fantasy genre at all. D&D tries to balance them all out, but if looking over their mechanical benefits helps you decide, then by all means do it.

Next you’ll want to narrow down your class. There’s more than three in the PHB, so the choices you made in The One Room Dungeon are just the tip of the iceberg. Did you choose stealth, using your skills to overcome the orc? There’s a Rogue, a Monk, and a Bard to choose from. Maybe weapons were your go to solution. Fighters, Barbarians, Rangers, and Paladins await you. Or if spell-casting was your thing there are Wizards, Warlocks, Sorcerers, Clerics, and Druids waiting to be called upon. There is no wrong class, race or combination of the two. Sure, you’re choice might not seem optimal mechanically, but if you have fun that is what matters.

The final choice is your Background. What’s your story? Who were you before you took to the life of adventuring? Were you a sailor making a life on the open seas? Did you grow up in the posh life of a Noble house? Were you a criminal thumbing your nose at authority?

Between your race, your class, and your background you have you’re starting equipment and skills. You’re almost ready to play.

You need to generate your ability scores. Ask your DM what method they want you to use. Are you going to roll six-sided dice, spend an allotment of points, or place a static array of numbers? Your class choice will determine what score is important for its features.  Do your weapon skills rely on Strength or Dexterity? Is Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma your spell-casting stat? Perhaps you just want to have a high Constitution and be healthy as an ox.

All those choices made during creation and you’re finally ready to play. “How do I play?” you ask. Improvisation. The Dungeon Master will describe a scene and ask you what your hero wants to do. You can respond descriptively or in character. “My rogue sneaks up to the door and attempts to pick the lock.” or “I’ve seen harder locks in my mom’s cupboard” and I take out my lock-picks. Whether or not you do it is another story.

Anytime there is a chance of success or failure you’re going to roll a twenty-sided die and add a number to it. The higher you roll, the better the outcome. What numbers you add to it depend on the task being attempted. If it was an attack or a spell you’ll need to roll another smaller die to determine how much damage you did. Don’t worry about rolling the wrong one, or forgetting which one is an eight-sider and which is the ten-sider. We all had those same stumbling blocks when we first started.

Mistakes will be made. Heroes will fall. New ones will rise in their place. It is a game. Have fun, and make their tales legendary.

 

Adventure Framework Part 2: Forget What I said, Do what I say! Conceptualizing Your Endgame.

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At the end of my last article (Adventure Framework Part 1: Start at the beginning) I said “You need to set a proper foundation, both for your players and yourself. From this, you set your pillars. The pillars are the stories you will tell. In part two we I’ll delve into the pillar of your adventures and how you should prepare each one.” I was wrong. I skipped a step: The Roof. For those of you that don’t know much about construction the roof is typically added last. You build from the ground up. You start with your foundation making sure it’s strong and level. From there you add your supports; pillars in our case. Then the roof.

Although we have created our adventure foundation, we don’t have enough information to build our pillars. We need more. What is our end game. What kind of materials will we use on top? Is it stone? Would you use the same pillars to hold up a straw roof as you would a stone roof? No. You wouldn’t. A straw hut has a very different foundation, most likely dirt. Though a straw hut and stone building are different in many ways their conceptualization is the same. They have a structure they follow.

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