Monday, October 21, 2013

Some Security Basics, aka "How To Fly A Computer"

This is adapted from a post I originally made on a Facebook group after two members started posting spam from their accounts.

Computer Security For Normal People:

1) Pick passwords with both letters and numbers. This is an easy way to protect yourself from bots that use simple automated attacks to guess your password. The first documented computer cracking case in 1986 involved a cracker who wrote a program that guessed passwords from a dictionary.

2) Make sure your email account's password is different. If someone can guess your password on your twitter account, he might try the same password on your bank account. Make sure your email password is different than every other password. It's not necessary to have a different password for every single website you use, but you should have more than one to protect yourself. For example, I have a "dumb" password for services that I don't plan on using more than once, a "secure" password for services where I care about privacy and people doing things with my name, and a "banking" password for services where getting the account cracked would be real-life inconvenient and require me to file paperwork.

3) Keep your computer's software up-to-date. If you're running Windows, then use Windows Update. Make sure you install all updates that are marked important, then change your Windows Update settings so that your computer automatically downloads your updates for you. If you're running a Mac, you should be fine unless you have trouble with #5.
Also make sure your web browser is always up-to-date. If you're using IE6 you're doing it wrong. Older versions of Flash and Java have security holes, make sure they are up-to-date too.

4) Use antivirus software. Microsoft distributes an excellent lightweight antivirus called Microsoft Security Essentials. Schedule your computer to scan itself monthly.

It's probably not the best idea to run two antiviruses on your computer. Use whatever one you have available. If your computer came with a trial version, it should be okay as long as the trial keeps its virus definitions up-to-date.
5) Don't run it if you don't know what it is. If your computer tells you it wants to run software and you don't know what it is, click No, click the X on the window, or press Escape. Do not download and run software from sources you do not trust or do not recognize.
If in doubt, Google things and do some research. Be wary of fake reviews, scammers are known to pay people to write tons of positive reviews to inflate their review scores and search rankings.
Look closely at the URLs of download links (right-click and copy the link into a new browser tab if you're not sure), it's common for scammers to register temporary short-URL sites on and similar sites. Only the last two parts of a domain count, "" is a bogus site.

 6) Check your plugins. One of the most common types of malware is web browser "toolbar" plugins. Check what plugins and extensions are installed on your web browser, and research any you don't recognize.
Facebook and Twitter now allow external apps which can get access to all of your personal information, and also can expose information about your friends. For Facebook, click Settings (the Gear icon in the upper-left)>Account Settings, then click the Apps tab on the left. For Twitter, click the Settings Icon (the gear)>Settings, then click the Apps tab on the left. If you see an app you don't recognize or don't use, it's probably best to remove it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why We Want Monsters In Fiction

Yhatzee Croshaw had a humorous insight in his most recen Zero Punctuation review:

"But surely the whole long history of human endeavor has been to find monsters. Because surely it justifies our existence to know that a monster considered our face worthwhile enough to peel from our skull. But we didn't find any monsters in the forests, or the oceans, or the skies. The moon was kind of a last hope, wasn't it? I'm not saying we wanted to see Niel Armstrong get blindsided by a hairy, giant moon spider while he was fiddling with the flag. It's just, you know, some of us would have gotten some sense of fulfillment from it."

I honestly can't think of a single fantasy or science fiction universe that lacks man-eating beasts. Even if those universes have a lot of deep thought behind their civilizations and politics (like Mass Effect), there's still something out there that attacks humans on sight. Sometimes it's a concession to gameplay, so that the player has something to put bullets into without feeling remorse, or something to slay so the player can gain XP before moving on to the next challenge. But thematically, monsters are usually just there to give the protagonist an opportunity to demonstrate his skills, no matter what role he plays.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

D20 Crash System

This is a custom free-form D20 system I made a few months ago. I based it around the concept of "wagers", where characters bet their hit points on attacks and all attacks are opposed checks.

I'm just distributing it for free for now, but I may come to revisit it at a later date.

If anyone wants to playtest it and give me feedback, that would be great.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Guilds In RPG Settings Part 2: The Fighter Guild

It's time for part 2 of these articles on guilds in RPG settings!

The purpose of this article is to lay out the concept that Fighter Guilds are interesting and greatly affect society. Since a Fighter Guild can be a lot of things, this article will break down the three general types of Fighter Guilds. I will analyze how they function financially, how they train their members, and what types of characters would be produced by Fighter Guilds.

Real-Life Inspirations

Even in relatively peaceful urban areas, martial traditions are still taught and practiced by people. Most do it for exercise, self-discipline, or a boost of confidence. However, the average person in real life doesn't have extensive combat training.

In a fantasy setting filled with night creatures, maurauding orcs, and bandits, there is a more pressing need for martial training. Every person knows that someday the time may come to raise one's sword in defense of one's family and property. Practice can keep a person in shape but can't compare to formal training. So, over the centuries, martial traditions are passed down from generation to generation and taught to anyone who finds a pressing need for it.

The traditional D&D setting has organizations or guilds based around each of the core classes. Wizards are trained by wizards who often form guilds, druids are trained by druids who often form circles, and rangers are trained by rangers who often work in groups to take down whatever dangers threaten civilization. Obviously a fighter is going to have a lot more training than an uncivilized barbarian, but in modern editions of D&D the fighter class has a lot of options. A fighter can focus solely on cutting through enemies with a two-handed sword, or use a shield and armor to build an impenetrable defense against his foes.

It doesn't make sense for there to be just one "Fighter's Guild". There are too many options for warriors for them all to be taught by the same organization. And honestly, it's just boring to have one martial organization in a fantasy setting. Fortunately, real life offers some great examples. These real-life organizations are great inspiration for Fighter Guilds:
  • Dojos that teach oriental martial arts like Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Jiu Jitsu.
  • Firing and archery ranges that maintain a safe environment for practice.
  • Government-hired security consultants like Blackwater or the Pinkertons.
  • Private security firms that maintain public buildings and transport valuables.
  • Modern military forces in their various branches.
  • Local militias and national guard in small rural towns.
  • Militias and paramilitary organizations in third-world countries.
  • Terrorist training camps (yes, you read that right. I'll get back to this topic in a minute.)

Ultimately, the definition of a Fighter's Guild is "anyplace where we teach people how to hit things until they stop moving." By this definition, I'll focus on three major types of organizations:

  • Academies where hitting things until they stop moving is taught as an honorable artform.
  • Mercenaries who get paid to hit things until they stop moving.
  • Subversive groups that teach people how to hit things until they stop moving in order to accomplish specific goals.


Academies are the most formal of the organizations we will inspect in this article. Well-defined martial arts like Tae Kwon Do or Bushido are typical of academies. Most fantasy settings have orders of knights, paladins, or slayers who teach reliable methods for slaying the undead and other night creatures that threaten society.

The most important feature of an academy is its formal curriculum, the set of refined techniques that have been passed down for generations from teacher to pupil. Students who come to the academy are ranked as novices. A student can only advance by merit, demonstrating to a teacher that the most recent techniques have been mastered. Because of this, all of the students of an academy tend to have the same skill set (though there may be secret techniques that are only taught to those who have proven themselves worthy.)

Students usually have to pay their master to receive training. Being a teacher is a full-time job, and it requires total mastery of the art being taught. Experienced students may be allowed to teach in exchange for reduced tuition, and a student who has demonstrated mastery of the martial art and learned the most secret techniques may be allowed to join the faculty and teach his or her own students.

This may not be the case for all academies. A military academy established by an empire to train new recruits and groom officers will often be government-funded and pay its students. However, most academies will want to remain politically neutral so that their business is not affected by outside affairs.

Because academies receive income from their students, it's unlikely to find one out in the middle of nowhere. A dojo in a city will get a lot more business than an ancient monastery in the mountains (but it's perfectly reasonable for both to exist in the same country.)

If multiple academies are in the same city, they may find that they have to compete for students. This conflict is most felt when both academies teach the same type of combat (for example, two dojos that teach slightly different martial arts.) This could lead to public displays to attract students and violent disputes as each academy strives to prove that its style is superior.

A warrior who has had formal training will have a very recognizeable combat style because every student is taught the same curriculum. Anyone who has studied martial arts can easily tell the difference between Tae Kwon Do and Tai Chi. A warrior who has trained under several different masters may simply switch between these styles rather than work on incorporating them into one.

Academically trained warriors tend to have good self-control because of the discipline required of them. A well-trained warrior will understand that he still has much to learn, and will seek out more experienced warriors to teach him. Warriors who come from academies often adhere to the creeds, political beliefs, and religion of their academy.

Mercenary Groups

A mercenary group is an organized band of warriors for hire. This is usually because working with a large organization is safer and easier than being a "free lance". Very large organizations will need auxiliary members who help repair equipment, forge needed gear, and make contacts on behalf of their mercenary group.

In real life, guilds are designed to help all of the members get work. Prominent examples can be found in Hollywood, where actors and writers guilds severely impact the economy.

Members of a guild are all put on a waiting list. Whenever a client needs someone from the guild, they will present a list of criteria (so many years experience, female, at least five foot six, fluent in these languages, etc.) The guild will offer the job to everyone at the top of the list who meets the criteria. Those who accept the job are returned to the bottom of the list, while those who refuse it (because of pay, scheduling, or any other reason) stay at the top so that they can quickly get another offer.

We could easily demonstrate how this applies to a group of fierce mercenaries in a typical fantasy setting. When a merchant caravan wants ten strong men to escort it, the owner will send a request for ten mercenaries of the required skill levels and talents. If he wants everyone to be good with bows, he'll ask for bows. If he wants to require some feat of prowess to ensure they're skilled enough, he could tell the guild he wants them all to be able to perform some feat like splitting an arrow or meeting a specified spread (but it's more likely the guild will promote its own ranking system for that to save time.)

This system has some interesting implications for newbies. A new recruit would be hired less often, being passed over in favor of others who meet the clients' criteria. A recruit still needs to be on call and visit the guild hall frequently to see if any new offers have come in. Obviously, this gives the recruit a lot of free time to practice.

A new recruit in the guild hall will meet many other veterans of the guild. These experienced mercenaries will probably have nothing to do either, giving the new recruit the opportunity to learn from them. The recruit probably won't be interested in learning a martial art or having extensive combat practice. All the recruit needs is the skills to get a job more frequently.

The one thing a recruit needs to get ahead in the guild is the ability to meet the guild's criteria for experience. "I just need to hit two bulls-eyes in ten shots." "I just need to be able to disarm a three-year veteran once." "I just need a set of steel armor to show the client that I'm not a poor peasant." These criteria are either set by the guildmaster to grade recruits in different combat categories, or by the clients who are paying them.

High-ranking leaders of the guild are probably going to spend most of their time out of combat. Their job is to solicit clients, spread the guild's reputation, and find new work for the guild. The guild gets a cut of everyone's pay. Obviously they want to keep the business running smoothly. Leaders will also be in charge of reviewing new recruits. It's bad for the guild's reputation if teenagers with scarce equipment and no combat experience show up for a job.

A character who learned how to fight in a mercenary guild will often bear ugly scars from past mistakes. "Yeah, I was pretty inexperienced back then, I've never turned my back on my opponent after that one." Each mercenary's fighting style is unique because they learn their skills piecemeal from other guild members. Despite this, mercenaries will have to become extremely competent because that's what they're paid for. Even inexperienced mercenaries may know hundreds of stories about wilderness lore, monsters, and politics. And every story was heard from someone who experienced it first-hand.

Subversive Groups

A subversive group provides its members with the bare minimum of training before sending them on missions to further its own ends. This can include evil henchmen, terrorist training camps, and brainwashed cults. Members are recruited based on a number of criteria including mental illness, gullibility, and poor work history.

New recruits are immediately assigned roles and trainers. For the next few weeks they are taught to do everything they need to do, and they are taught to do it well. A subversive group usually wants to train as many operatives as possible as cheaply as possible because of scarce funding.

Subversive groups tend to be financially backed by large, wealthy organizations with specific motives. The backer's interests may not be exactly aligned with the subversive group's interest, but they are usually close enough that the backer thinks it's worth the investment. This setup allows shadowy organizations to accomplish things without leaving too much of a paper trail. A little research into the funding of modern terrorist groups would be good research for this topic. Members of these organizations will often need to supply their own equipment and receive no pay.

Subversive groups can have good intentions and goals. A band of freedom fighters striving to overthrow a corrupt government will have scarce resources and lots of civilians that need training. The organization will be the same, but the ideology will be much different. Robin Hood's band of Merry Men is a good example of this.

Even more interestingly, clerics and paladins could fall into this category.

Someone trained by a subversive group will have good practical skills from training, but otherwise be extremely uneducated. Subversive groups can produce bomb-makers who know how to make thirty kinds of useful alchemical substances without knowing how to read. Harsh training can also produce high-level fighters and rogues who are very good at combat, but otherwise peasants. These warriors will also adhere strongly to their group's ideology. On the other hand, someone who has escaped from a cult will be very suspicious of any ideology, religion, or large organization.

Pulling It Together

This leaves us with several things to consider. If a character is a warrior, what is his martial background? What background did his teachers have? It his fighting style recognizeable or piecemeal? What kinds of connections does he have with other warriors and organizations in the region?

All three of the groups outline in this article have the potential to be major political entities. Martial academies may receive requests from their government to train soldiers or operatives. The leaders of a mercenary group will always have political connections with people who need their services. Subversive groups, by their very nature, want to upset social order and change things (subjectively) for the better.

Very similar groups tend to have the most conflicts. Two academies will compete over students. Mercenary groups in the same region will have to compete for clients. Subversive groups will be drawing from the same population of recruits, and some subversive groups may be formed specifically to destroy other subversive groups.

If you are making your own campaign, you may want to ask your players about this topic. Players often will have their own ideas about these kinds of organizations and the NPCs that run them. Because fighter guilds are so numerous, it shouldn't be too hard to fit the players' ideas into your setting. If you're lucky, the players may even help you flesh out some of the more influential ones.

Plot Hooks
  • The rivalry between two competing dojos has boiled over and has practically become a war. The biggest problem is property damage and the worry that the participants may kill each other if it goes on any longer.
  • A yearly tournament is held in the capital to encourage all of the different martial organizations to show off their skills.
  • A friend of the PCs who is an ex-felon tells them about this great job he found from an employer who doesn't care about his bad work history. The next day he goes missing.
  • A client has asked a mercenary guild to supply two hundred men for a fairly dangerous job. The guild drastically lowers their hiring standards to meet the required number of mercenaries.
  • A man who claims to have studied under every martial teacher on the continent boldly challenges a member of the party to a duel.
  • A scroll describing a secret spear technique has been stolen from a monastery. The masters of the monastery will pay a handsome reward if it is returned quickly.
  • The party is blacklisted by the mercenary guild after one of their hirelings dies.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Guilds In RPG Settings Part 1: The Mage Guild

I'm disappointed in how "The Mage Guild" in most fantasy games is portrayed. It seems like it's merely a shop for spell scrolls so that wizards and adventurers can stock up and train. Or, for slightly more creative storytellers, they're large evil organizations full of powerful evil people with evil plans to take over the world. In some high fantasy settings, Mage Guilds are entirely absent for no good reason.

If a Mage Guild is composed of powerful, educated individuals, you would think it would be better-managed. What is the purpose of such a powerful organization? How does it stay funded when a small fraction of the population uses its prohibitively expensive services? Why hasn't it become more important than every other oganization in the world?

In this article, I will set forth some views on how a Mage Guild should be run in a fantasy setting by storytellers, GMs, and video game writers. I will also cover some important questions (like "why haven't wizards taken over the world?") and give suggestions on what makes sense when a Mage Guild is absent in a high fantasy setting.

Why A Guild Is Necessary

Magic (in most fantasy settings,) is generally hard to understand, difficult to control, and potentially dangerous to everyone around it. If magic is sentient, benevolent, and safe, then a Mage Guild is merely a type of college or university to teach people how to use magic. That's easy to do, most people know how a university works. But if magic is a wild, raw force, then the Mage's guild needs to be a very special, different organization to account for that.

Magic needs to be regulated because it is dangerous. People who can't really use magic could sell snake oil, claiming that their useless wares can cure diseases and solve peoples' problems. Careless or indifferent mages could level entire city blocks, or worse. Mages could use hexes and curses to manipulate and torture people in ways that are impossible for a normal person to trace. And, of course, a mage who gets delusions of grandeur could decide to try taking over the world.

The Mage Guild exists to handle all of those scenarios. It actually has to do so out of necessity. If the general populace is afraid of magic being used for harm, then an enterprising hedge wizard cannot sell his wares. In fact, he's likely to be burned at the stake. However, the existence of a Mage Guild to protect the public from dangerous magic keeps people feeling safe, and also keeps the wizards comfortable. The Mage Guild's first purpose is to maintain the reputation of practitioners in the public eye, and it does this by working to regulate dangerous magic-users.

With this purpose in mind, it is clear why the Mage Guild doesn't take over the government. It would be bad for the Guild's profits if they appear to be domineering politicians or conquerers. Mages make money by selling their services to people, placing them in the same category as modern wealthy businessmen. Rich people don't work in the government because there is no need for them to, they profit most from their business, and only care about government to the extent that it doesn't interfere with their business. (Bribes and lobbying notwithstanding.) In fact, mages don't compete with the government, they compete with other mages.

Mage Guild Influence

If a spellcaster of any type is reported to be committing crimes, the Mage Guild has to take care of the problem. If they don't, they risk the general population becoming suspicious of magic, which means less people will buy magic items and spellcasting services, and mages will be more likely to be prosecuted harshly by the government (read, "burned at the stake.")

Consider how the game system you're using affects the tactics used. For example, in Dungeons & Dragons, a dozen apprentices with wands of dispel magic and scrolls of summon monster have even odds of taking down a 10th-level wizard. The same group with a few experienced wizards as backup is almost certain to succeed. In fact, only an madman would want to fight against such odds. The majority of rogue mages would rather flee than fight a proper inquisition.

This can lead to some very exciting, dramatic criminal investigation. However, that's not the primary influence of the Mage Guild. The guild is composed of educated people who sell very expensive services. If the Mage Guild requires just a small percent of their profit as guild dues, it will have a huge income to work with. Of course, the income is used primarily to fund expensive inquisitions to hunt down rogue mages, but it starts to become obvious that any good Mage Guild is a powerful economic organization, and it wields great influence over spellcasters in a region.

The Mage Guild has to keep itself in a strong position politically, or else most wizards will just refuse to join and pay dues. There are several ways the Guild could do this. The easiest is branding, making a "Guild Seal of Approval" that only members of the guild are allowed to put on their products and places of business. With good standards, the Guild can develop a reputation for quality, and a garauntee that you're not being sold snake oil or untested magic. Any fortune teller, potion brewer, charm maker, or crafter operating without the seal would be extremely suspect.

The more sinister side of guild approval isn't pretty. A malicious Mage Guild could refuse to license mages who set competitive prices, or require a very high percentage of the profits. The Guild could even lobby a local government to make any unlicensed magic illegal, to "protect the public," of course. A Mage Guild could easily create a monopoly, and anyone trying to operate outside of the Guild will have a very hard time.

A malicious guild could also cause trouble for adventurers. Any non-Guild magic items entering a city might require "inspection" and "certification" to make sure they are safe, which would have to be paid at the owner's expense.

However, whether a Mage Guild is good or evil (or anywhere in between) is up to the GM. This should be carefully considered, and any player who might be affected by it should be informed beforehand.

What Needs To Happen When There Is No Guild

I'm going to take a moment to go the other way on this topic. If there are not enough mages in an area to form a guild, then what happens?

Small towns in the wilderness are usually terrorized by dangerous monsters, savage orc and goblin tribes, and the usual assortment of things that go bump in the night. Evil witches and sorcerers are just one more thing on the list, and they are especially dangerous. Usually adventurers handle this sort of thing, but adventurers can be hard to find. Other organizations will have to step in and regulate magic.

There are two organizations that have the power to fill the regulatory role of the Mage Guild: local governments, and local religious organizations. The archetype of a vampire hunter comes to mind, but such hunters often have to deal with mortals who use arcane power too. Hunters will have to be brutal to survive long against mages. Being sympathetic or waiting to check for hostile intent can be lethal when dealing with a rogue mage.

Without a Mage Guild to regulate magic, organizations will either have extremely strict punishment for witchcraft, or make arcana prohibitively restricted. If you run a campaign where these organizations are prominent, you should let players know about it before they decide what characters they are making.

If a player's character is going to be a mage, let him know what the laws regarding magic are, and you may want to avoid making magic illegal outright because that can be perceived as punishing players for something they haven't done. "As a mage, you can be burned at the stake if you commit a crime with magic," is much more acceptable to players than, "as a mage, you will be burned at the stake if anyone finds out that you can use magic". Also, make sure you consider the difference between "white magic" and "black magic". The Dungeons & Dragons system, for example, only makes a distinction between divine and arcane magic, but they are NOT black and white. Both of them have equal potential for evil, and it doesn't make sense for a government to outlaw arcane magic when divine magic is perfectly capable of laying hexes and raising the dead.

"The Mage Guild" Is An Uninspired Name

Seriously. Nobody is going to call it that in a conversation. It demonstrates a supreme lack of preparation and thought on the matter, magic is supposed to be important in high fantasy. They may refer to it as "The Guild" if it's obvious in context, but otherwise, a Mage Guild should really have a proper name.

Here is a quick list of possible names that could be used in any setting:
  • The Red Cloister
  • Students of Perfection
  • The Mighty Oak
  • Neus's Academy
  • Disciples of Fach

Plot Hooks
  • The party comes into a small village that is currently under investigation because of several murders performed with magic (the bodies were stabbed with icicles in the middle of summer.) The only suspect is a local apothecary, who wants to hire the PCs to prove his innocence before the Guild takes action and arrests him.
  • A seller of magical wares has continued using the Guild's seal without paying dues. In retaliation, members of the Guild have been putting illusory graffiti on his storefront. The city watch refuses to get involved in the matter, so he hires the PCs to protect his shop from fantastic vandalism.
  • A wealthy town has outlawed magic within its boundaries, driving the Mage Guild out. The Guild decides that the best course of action is to "prove their worth", so they decide to hire a competent mage to cause some property damage for a few days. The Guild will then approach the town, offer to "arrest" the Mage, thereby convince the town to allow the Guild to operate there.
  • One of the party's valuable items is confiscated during an inspection because it was registered and commissioned by a noble. The noble was murdered under suspicious circumstances, and the PCs are tasked with proving their own innocence by backtracking and figuring out how the item came to them.
  • A newly founded Guild is trying to compete with a well-established one in a large city. After a horrific incident where a rogue mage lets hundreds of undead monsters loose in the streets, the larger Guild decides to withdraw and let the new one deal with it. The new Guild doesn't have the resources to deal with the problem, and starts hiring adventurers to help it enforce order and track down the necromancer responsible.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Variant Rule: Healing Surges

Healing surges are a concept that was introduced in Star Wars d20 and used in 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. The basic concept is that heroes have a limited ability to replenish their hit points, usually a certain number of times per day. This allows parties to go through dungeon crawls at a reasonable pace without a cleric or other healer. This also can help when clerics and druids don't fit in well with the campaign setting.

This variant rule is intended for use in campaigns where healing magic is rare and costly, but player characters are still meant to be strong and powerful heroes who can survive serious wounds. This variant is especially useful whenever a party doesn't have a cleric or other healer to rely on.

The 3.5 edition Dungeons & Dragons rules expect every party to have at least one healer. This variant takes the burden off of the party's healer so that he can contribute to combat more often. Giving every character healing ability would help parties with no healer to keep the pace, but it also would make parties with a healer very powerful. To compensate, use this rule:

  • All spells, class features, and items that heal damage do not heal lethal and nonlethal damage. Instead, they heal no nonlethal damage, and convert the rolled amount of lethal damage into nonlethal damage.
  • Healing nonlethal damage still stabilizes dying characters.

This severely reduces the short-term effects of healing spells. It also means that characters will tend to be knocked unconscious instead of left bleeding and dying. However, characters heal nonlethal damage at a rate of 1 hit point per hour per character level.

Healing surges can be spent to make healing magic more powerful, or heal damage without magic.

  • Every character has 1 daily healing surge, plus an additional healing surge per 5 levels.
  • Characters with 3/4 base attack bonus (like rogues and clerics) have 1 additional healing surge.
  • Characters with full base attack bonus (like fighters and rangers) have 2 additional healing surges.
  • Characters regain their daily healing surges after 8 hours of rest.

You may spend one healing surge to do any of the following:

  • Spend 5 minutes and make a DC 15 Heal check to treat your wounds and heal an amount of lethal damage equal to two times your level. You do not lose the healing surge if you fail the check. You may also do this if someone else makes the Heal check to treat your wounds. You can take 10 or take 20 on this Heal check.
  • As a free action, make a healing spell or effect targeting yourself heal your lethal and nonlethal damage normally (instead of converting lethal damage to nonlethal.)
  • Immediately stabilize instead of failing a stabilization check.

Characters also have access to the following feats that use healing surges:

Critical Deflection [General]
Long hours of combat training have taught you to protect your vitals and roll with serious blows.
Prereq: Dex 13, base Reflex bonus +2 (from classes)
Benefit: Whenever you take hit point damage from a melee attack, ranged attack, spell, or ability, you may spend two healing surges to convert half the damage from the attack (rounded down) into nonlethal damage as an immediate action.
You gain one additional healing surge.

Healing Power [General]
Magical study or divine gifts make your healing magic or ki more effective when used on yourself.
Prereq: Wis 13, base Will bonus +2 (from classes)
Benefit: Whenever you cast a healing spell or use a healing class feature on yourself, you heal lethal and nonlethal damage normally as though you had spent a healing surge.

Expert Healer [General]
You served as a battlefield medic at one time, your first aid skills are top notch.
Prereq: 4 ranks in Heal
Benefit: When you use the Heal skill in conjunction with a healing surge, you may make a DC 25 Heal check to heal four times your level. You may also use this ability on other characters.

Extra Healing Surges [General]
Prereq: None
Benefit: You gain two additional healing surges.

Iron Constitution [General]
Prereq: Con 13, base Fortitude bonus +2 (from classes)
Benefit: You may spend two healing surges to reroll a Fortitude saving throw as an immediate action. You must use the second result, even if it is worse.
You gain one additional healing surge.

Second Wind [General]
You fight well in spite of blood loss and severe injury.
Prereq: Con 13
Benefit: As a swift action, you may spend two healing surges to heal an amount of lethal damage equal to your level. You may only use this ability while you're conscious.
You gain one additional healing surge.


If you're not worried about healing surges unbalancing your campaign, you might consider using this variant without any changes to healing magic. You could also tweak the number of healing surges characters get, or make them heal more or less damage with the normal Heal check. You may want to give Paladins and Monks the Healing Power feat for free, or give all divine casters the Healing Power feat so that they can keep themselves fit and ready to protect the rest of the party.

An extra daily healing surge could be a reward to the players who properly fill out PC background information.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

3.5 D&D Equipment Kits

Something that has always bothered me about 3.5 edition Dungeons and Dragons is the a la carte equipment at character creation. The starting characters have some suggested equipment sets, but very few of the very useful tools are on those lists, and having to go dig out a dozen pieces of equipment with their weight and costs is tedious.

So, to spare the tedium, here are some kits for characters of all levels, using collections of stuff from the Equipment chapter of the Player's Handbook. Magical equipment hasn't been included here. I know that this has been done before, but I also included mount packages (with barding and the like.)

Each item in a kit has its total weight and cost, so that you can quickly add or remove more items and keep track of what needs to be replaced.

It's recommended that you pick one of the Essentials kits, and then one or two of the other kits on the list. (Only the Essentials kits and the mount gear come with a bag to put everything in.)

Deluxe Essentials Kit

  • backpack 2 gp 2 lbs*
  • bedroll 1 sp 5 lbs*
  • 1-pint flask 3 cp 1.5 lbs
  • 7 days' trail rations 3.5 gp 7 lbs*
  • healer's kit 50 gp 1 lb
Total Cost: 55.63 gp
Weight: 16.5 lbs (6 lbs Small)

Full Essentials Kit
  • backpack 2 gp 2 lbs*
  • bedroll 1 sp 5 lbs*
  • 1-pint flask 3 cp 1.5 lbs
  • 7 days' trail rations 3.5 gp 7 lbs*
Total Cost: 5.63 gp
Weight: 15.5 lbs (5 lbs Small)

Basic Essentials Kit
  • backpack 2 gp 2 lbs*
  • bedroll 1 sp 5 lbs*
  • 1-pint flask 3 cp 1.5 lbs
  • 3 days' trail rations 1.5 gp 3 lbs*
Total Cost: 3.63 gp
Weight: 11.5 lbs (4 lbs Small)

Deluxe Wilderness Kit
  • hunting knife 2 gp 1 lb
  • whestone 2 cp 1 lb
  • bucket 5 sp 2 lbs
  • shovel 2 gp 8 lb
  • hammer 5 sp 2 lbs
  • 2 square yards canvas 2 sp 2 lbs
  • fishing line and hook 1 sp
  • flint and steel 1 gp
  • iron pot 5 sp 10 lbs
  • signal whistle 8 sp
  • tent 10 gp 20 lbs*
  • waterskin 1 gp 4 lbs*
  • 2 vials antitoxin 100 gp
  • climber's kit 80 gp 5 lbs*
Total Cost: 198.62 gp
Weight: 55 lbs (33.25 lbs Small)

Full Wilderness Kit
  • hunting knife 2 gp 1 lb
  • whestone 2 cp 1 lb
  • shovel 2 gp 8 lb
  • hammer 5 sp 2 lbs
  • 2 square yards canvas 2 sp 2 lbs
  • fishing line and hook 1 sp
  • flint and steel 1 gp
  • iron pot 5 sp 10 lbs
  • tent 10 gp 20 lbs*
  • waterskin 1 gp 4 lbs*
Total Cost: 17.32 gp
Weight: 48 lbs (30 Small)

Basic Wilderness Kit
  • hunting knife 2 gp 1 lb
  • fishing line and hook 1 sp
  • flint and steel 1 gp
  • tent 10 gp 20 lbs*
  • waterskin 1 gp 4 lbs*
Total Cost: 14.10 gp
Weight: 25 lbs (7 Small)

Cold Weather Kit
  • cold weather outfit 8 gp 7 lbs*
  • winter blanket 5 sp 3 lbs*
  • firewood 1 cp 20 lbs
Total Cost: 8.51
Weight: 23 lbs (20.75 lbs Small)
(weight here assumes that your cold weather outfit is your only set of clothing)

Deluxe Dungeoneering Kit
  • everburning torch 110 gp 1 lb
  • crowbar 2 gp 5 lbs
  • 5 pitons 5 sp 2.5 lbs
  • grappling hook 1 gp 4 lbs
  • 50-foot silk rope 10 gp 5 lbs
  • 3x chalk 3 cp
  • 10-foot pole 2 sp 8 lbs
  • caltrops 1 gp 2 lbs
  • acid 10 gp 1 lb
  • alchemist's fire 20 gp 1 lb
Total Cost: 154.73 gp
Weight: 29.5 lb

Full Dungeoneering Kit
  • hooded lantern 7 gp 2 lb
  • 4 pints of oil 4 sp 4 lbs
  • crowbar 2 gp 5 lbs
  • 5 pitons 5 sp 2.5 lbs
  • grappling hook 1 gp 4 lbs
  • 50-foot hemp rope 1 gp 10 lbs
  • 3x chalk 3 cp
  • 10-foot pole 2 sp 8 lbs
  • caltrops 1 gp 2 lbs
Total Cost: 13.13 gp
Weight: 37.5 lb

Basic Dungeoneering Kit
  • 10 torches 1 sp 10 lbs
  • 5 pitons 5 sp 2.5 lbs
  • 50-foot hemp rope 1 gp 10 lbs
  • 3x chalk 3 cp
  • 10-foot pole 2 sp 8 lbs
Total Cost: 1.83 gp
Weight: 30.5 lb

Deluxe Scholar's Kit
  • 5x candles 5 cp
  • 5x tindertwigs 5 gp
  • black, red, and blue ink 40 gp
  • pen 1 sp
  • 100 sheets of parchment 20 gp
  • sealing wax 1 gp 1 lb
  • signet ring 5 gp
  • soap 5 sp 1 lb
  • steel mirror 10 gp .5 lbs
  • magnifying glass 100 gp
  • bell 1 gp
  • hourglass 25 gp 1 lb
  • merchant's scale 2 gp 1 lb
  • 2 flasks holy water 50 gp 2 lbs
  • sunrod 2 gp 1 lb
  • wooden holy symbol 1 gp
Total Cost: 262.65 gp
Weight: 7.5 lb

Full Scholar's Kit
  • 5x candles 5 cp
  • 5x tindertwigs 5 gp
  • ink 8 gp
  • pen 1 sp
  • 50 sheets of parchment 10 gp
  • sealing wax 1 gp 1 lb
  • signet ring 5 gp
  • soap 5 sp 1 lb
  • steel mirror 10 gp .5 lbs
  • bell 1 gp
  • 1 flask holy water 25 gp 1 lbs
  • sunrod 2 gp 1 lb
  • wooden holy symbol 1 gp
Total Cost: 68.65 gp
Weight: 5.5 lb

Basic Scholar's Kit
  • 3x candles 3 cp
  • 1x tindertwig 1 gp
  • ink 8 gp
  • pen 1 sp
  • 10 sheets of parchment 1 gp
  • soap 5 sp 1 lb
  • steel mirror 10 gp .5 lbs
  • sunrod 2 gp 1 lb
  • wooden holy symbol 1 gp
Total Cost: 23.63 gp
Weight: 3.5 lb

Deluxe Mount Gear
  • light warhorse or riding dog 150 gp
  • chain shirt barding 400 gp 50 lbs or Small 200 gp 25 lbs
  • bit and bridle 2 gp 1 lb
  • military saddle 20 gp 30 lbs
  • saddlebags 4 gp 8 lbs
  • 7 days' feed 3.5 sp 70 lbs
Total Cost: 576.35 gp (376.35 gp Small)
Mount's Load: 159 lbs (124 lbs Small)

Full Mount Gear
  • light warhorse or riding dog 150 gp
  • leather barding 20 gp 30 lbs or Small 10 gp 15 lbs
  • bit and bridle 2 gp 1 lb
  • military saddle 20 gp 30 lbs
  • saddlebags 4 gp 8 lbs
  • 7 days' feed 3.5 sp 70 lbs
Total Cost: 196.35 gp (186.35 gp Small)
Mount's Load: 139 lbs (114 lbs Small)

Basic Mount Gear
  • light horse 75 gp (or pony 30 gp)
  • bit and bridle 2 gp 1 lb
  • riding saddle 10 gp 25 lbs
  • saddlebags 4 gp 8 lbs
  • 7 days' feed 3.5 sp 70 lbs
Total Cost: 91.35 gp (46.35 gp Small)
Mount's Load: 104 lbs (94 lbs Small)

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