Archive for September, 2014

I have heard you. Last week I wrote a post about the way language would work in Exploration Age. To summarize, a huge part of Exploration Age is that inhabitants of two continents just became aware of one another and rather than deal with the tedium of having many different languages, I came up with a story solution of why humans on one continent would speak the same language as another. A lot of folks liked the idea, but others said, “James, you’re a wise and extremely good-looking DM, but in a campaign setting which revolves around exploration there needs to be a bunch of different languages. You have missed the mark, oh brilliant man. Please accept our humble and constructive criticism.” (That’s how I remember it anyway.)

I think the concerns raised are good ones. I raised them myself in the post when I wrote it. A lot of people even offered me their different ideas about how languages might work in the setting and for that I am grateful. Your feedback is always appreciated and in the spirit of the fifth edition playtest I am using it to help guide the creation of the setting. Since some people liked the last method and others didn’t, I decided to embrace the philosophy of fifth edition and playing the game you want to play. I’d like to show you all a rules module with variant add-ons I created for language in Exploration Age. This would allow anyone playing the game to add varying layers of complexity to the languages of Canus easily if they don’t like the default system I wrote about last week.

Module: Worlds Away

For your reference.

For your reference.

The Worlds Away language module for Exploration Age divides languages by hemisphere and introduces some new ones to the setting. West Canus languages are those spoken mainly in Parian and Findalay, while East Canus languages are spoken mainly in Verda. When creating a creature or PC from Verda, pay attention to the replacements listed below.

Note: For languages not listed here such as Gnoll or Bullywug, assume those creatures speak their native tongue since they are most-likely only found on one continent. If in your game they live in both East and West Canus, have an East version of the language, such as East Gnoll or East Bullwug.

West Canus Languages
  • Common
  • Druidic
  • Dwarvish
  • Elvish
  • Giant
  • Gnomish
  • Goblin
  • Halfling
  • Orc
  • Undercommon
East Canus Languages
  • East Druidic – Replaces Druidic
  • East Goblin – Replaces Goblin
  • East Giant – Replaces Giant
  • Githzerai – Spoken by githzerai and replaces bonus language for kalashtar
  • Thri-Kreen – Spoken by Thri-Kreen
  • Tribal – Replaces Common, except for tieflings
  • Vorcish – Replaces Orchish
Universal Languages

Universal languages are ones developed on other planes of existence and therefore may be spoken anywhere in the world. Draconic is the exception to this rule, but is spoken by dragons, who have been aware of the existence of multiple continents since the beginning (or so they claim).

  • Abyssal
  • Deep Speech
  • Draconic
  • Infernal
  • Primordial
  • Sylvan
New Starting Languages

Certain PC races in Exploration Age have different starting languages when using the Worlds Away module. Use the information below to determine a PC’s starting languages. These replace options already presented in other source books.

Githzerai – Githzerai and Tribal.

Half-Orc (from Verda) – Tribal and Vorcish.

Human (from Verda) – Tribal and one extra language of your choice.

Kalashtar – Githzerai and Tribal.

Thri-Kreen – Thri-Kreen and Tribal.

Tiefling – Infernal and Tribal.

Variant: No Common Languages

This variant to the Worlds Away module removes the Common  and Tribal tongues all together from the game. Languages are divided by hemisphere, as in the Worlds Away Module, but the Common and Tribal languages do not exist. It also adds two languages to West Canus’ list. Aeranorish and Parish. These languages are spoken by the people who live in Aeranore and Parian.

For monsters who might speak Common or Tribal, instead give then an extra bonus language of the DM’s choice.

Here are the start languages for PC races using the No Common Languages variant.

  • Aasimar – Celestial and one extra language of your choice.
  • Deva – Celestial and one extra language of your choice.
  • Dwarf – Dwarish and one extra language of your choice.
  • Elves – Elven and one extra language of your choice.
  • Githzerai – Githzerai and one extra language of your choice.
  • Gnomes – Aeranorish and Gnomish.
  • Half-Elf – Elvish, either Aeranorish (if from Findalay) or Parish (if from Parian), and one extra language of your choice.
  • Half-Orc (from Verda) – Vorcish and one extra language of your choice.
  • Halflings – Elven and Halfling.
  • Human (from Findalay) – Aeranorish and one extra language of your choice.
  • Human (from Parian) – Parish and one extra language of your choice.
  • Human (from Verda) – Two languages of your choice (most common choices would be those spoken of other racial tribes in the area.)
  • Kalashtar – Githzerai and one extra language of your choice.
  • Mul – Dwarven and either Aeranorish (if from Findalay) or Parish (if from Parian).
  • Shardmind – Draconic and one extra language of your choice.
  • Shifter – Elven and one extra language of your choice.
  • Thri-Kreen – Thri-Kreen and one extra language of your choice.
  • Tiefling – Infernal and one extra language of your choice.
  • Warforged – Dwarven and one extra language of your choice.

Variant: Strictly Worlds Away

This is a variant rule can be added to the Worlds Away module. When players select backgrounds during character creation, they must declare if their character is from East Canus or West Canus. If players choose races which gain extra languages of their choice, they may only select languages from the origin hemisphere they chose earlier.

It should be noted that in the unexplored gray areas of the map above, DMs could add any of their own languages. It’s a mystery in those areas so who knows what lurks there waiting to be uncovered?

In case you haven’t been following this blog from the beginning, it should be noted here that the story of all of the races of Exploration Age is different from the iconic or original story they may have in D&D. For instance many of you may be scratching your heads and saying, “Why would kalashtar speak Githzerai?” Well because in Exploration Age kalashtar are actually the children of a githzerai parent and a human parent. Similarly shardminds speak Draconic, because they were built by chromatic dragons and the ones who are still alive today are part of that original batch of humanoids the dragons cooked up.

So how did I do? Is this more pleasing or less so? Sound off and let me know what you think in the comments below. I’m definitely interested to read what you have to write. Thank you so much for all your helpful words!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.

I sit down with Alex Basso, Rudy Basso, and Topher Kohan to discuss the Neverwinter MMO and the recent Tyranny of Dragons update which ties into the tabletop game we all know and love. Then it’s an interview with Neverwinter Executive Producer Rob Overmeyer and he gives a behind the scenes look at the game. This podcast was recorded on September 1, 2014.

Topher’s Google+

And don’t forget thus Sunday is The Round Table’s Tarrasque Takedown! Be there and stay tuned to this blog for more updates!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcast Gamer to Gamer, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Hey all! I have a new podcast on The Tome Show called Gamer to Gamer. It’s an interview show in which pros in the tabletop gaming industry take me through their careers and the games they love to play. Check out the first episode.

I’m sitting down with Kobold in Chief of Kobold PressWolfgang Baur. We cover Wolfgang’s career, from his days at TSR to the creation and running of his own compay, and then get in-depth about the games Wolfgang loves to play. This podcast was recorded on August 29, 2014.

Links:

Kobold Press Twitter

Kobold Press Facebook

Kobold Press Google+

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Call of Cthulhu

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my other podcast The Round Table, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I have a bit of a problem. Some of my players have begun to look on dying as a minor inconvenience rather than the big deal it should be. You see, my players are seasoned, and know that when their PC dies, there’s always a raise dead or resurrection spell to be cast. For the most part, I’m ok with this. D&D is just a game after all, and as long as my players are having a blast, who cares if they’re coming back from the dead? But this has really begun to go too far…

When a character dies, he or she may spend a session or two playing another character while their original’s corpse spends its time gentle repose-d in a bag of holding, but eventually they find that diamond, or scroll, or rod and they’re able to bring the old character back to life. They have even begun to see the death of major NPCs as, “Oh well, we can just raise them later,” as opposed to the big story moments they should be.

The Current Penalties

Take a look at how the raise dead, resurrection, and true resurrection spells read from the Basic D&D Player PDF.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 3.14.12 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 3.44.39 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 3.45.01 PM

There are some good things going on here. There is no experience point loss, Constitution score loss, or level loss, as in first, second, and third editions. While I may be looking for some more serious consequences when it comes to dying, these permanent draining penalties are no fun. They just give you an underpowered character compared to the rest of the party (unless everyone in the party dies and is raised an equal number of times). Always being a level behind everyone else can be embarrassing for many, and having low Constitution makes it even easier and more likely for a character to die again. While a little shame for dying can be fun, having a constant reminder like that is simply not fun for many players (myself included) which makes folks less likely to take risks with their characters. I would rather see my fictional hero die in a blaze of glory than cower in the back because I don’t want to have to feel the shame associated with being second-rate compared to the rest of the party. These old school penalties are a bit of a pain in the butt as well, since backwards math can take some time to figure out and get used to.

So the fifth edition spells do not have some of the bad drawbacks I personally disliked in older editions. They have a few other drawbacks which make sense to me. Let’s break it down spell by spell.

Raise Dead Drawbacks
  • Price and gem rarity. 500 gp is typically in the reach of PCs within the first five levels, perhaps within the first few sessions if the party pools resources and the DM is a handsome and generous person like myself. But a diamond worth 500 gp is more difficult to find than a few (hundred) coins. Only the most successful big city jewelers, nobles, and royalty are likely to have something like that lying around waiting to be sold. Even then they may not wish to part with the item (or have the characters undertake a quest before they consider selling it to them). Making these diamonds hard to find is the first drawback and it goes hand in hand with the next.
  • Time limit. A person may only have died within the last 10 days for the spell to work. Now in most campaigns that’s a time crunch to find a 500 gp diamond if the party does not already have one, so it does put the pressure on a party find a gem more quickly, which is great fun.
  • Gotta have the body. This makes sense for a fifth level spell. You can be raised from the dead provided you haven’t lost your head or turned into a pile of ash. So if this is the only spell available and you just died via red dragon breath, you are SOL. Also lost limbs stay lost and all magical diseases, curses, etc. remain in effect. So it’s not a heal all spell (like resurrection and true resurrection).
  • Fifth level spell. A fifth level spell for bards, clerics, and druids means the caster must have at least nine levels in one of these classes. So if the party does not have a ninth level caster in one of said classes (or a 17th level Paladin), their options are somewhat limited. Either the party must have a magic item such as a scroll which casts the spell and someone capable of activating said item or be able to find a willing NPC to cast the spell. The rarity of both of these is, of course, up to the DM. Not a bad drawback, but at a certain point this isn’t a hurdle once the party has a caster who can cast the spell.
  • Temporary penalties. I like this one. Coming back from the dead and being dead should take more out of you than having the flu, but eventually you get back to your old self.
Resurrection Drawbacks
  • Price and gem rarity. Now you need a 1000 gp gem, so it has all the drawbacks of raise dead at seemingly double the price, right? Nope! This drawback barely matters because you have 100 years to find the thing if you don’t already have it.
  • Time limit. If we’re talking PCs, in most cases this isn’t an issue. Unless you’re playing a game with a party of elves which spans centuries (actually a pretty awesome idea… called it), if a party member dies this is nothing to worry about. It could come up in other ways in your story, but won’t matter much for dead PCs. However, a caster is taxed greatly if a creature dead for more than a year is brought back to life, which is a little more likely to happen to a PC (though still not very in most cases).
  • Caster taxed. If a creature has been dead more than a year, the caster pays a big price… for a day. This isn’t a huge sacrifice, unless the spell is cast in the middle of a dungeon, which it very well may be, but again, in most cases probably not.
  • Seventh level spell. The spell is seventh level which means, a caster must be a 13th or higher level caster to cast the spell, and in most cases a DM will rule it’s even harder to find a scroll or NPC caster than for raise dead.
  • Temporary penalties. I’m still loving it.
True resurrection penalties
  • Price and gem rarity. Dang! 25,000 gp is a pretty penny and it’s even harder to find in gem form. Even with 200 years, you’re going to have to go through heck to get a diamond of that worth.
  • Time limit. 200 years. Really not a worry for a PC. This is barely a drawback (as it should be for a ninth level spell).
  • Ninth level spell. Good luck finding a scroll or NPC caster in many settings. If you do, be prepared to make some big sacrifices or before you get your hands on an item or a favor granted.

My Conflicting Feelings

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way these spells play out and their penalties. The pay off and penalties seem to scale well with spell level, but I do want something more. Here’s what I’m keeping in mind as I come up with some modules for death in Exploration Age.

  • It’s A Game. I want my players to have a shot at bringing their characters back from the dead if they truly love them. Characters returning from the dead is a hallmark of fantasy (Gandalf and Harry Potter did it) as well, so I’m cool with the fact that it doesn’t actually happen in the real world. At the same time, sometimes people lose games, so coming back from the dead shouldn’t be a gimme.
  • Death Should Be Scary. Death needs to have consequences beyond what the spells present, for my players have lost their fear of dying, a subject which should really be the main concern of players in most D&D campaigns.
  • Death Should Not Be A Straight Punishment. I want my players to take risks with their characters. Risks should be rewarded with great story, whether or not they pay off. A sweet, fiery death is a lot better than running around a few levels or Constitution points shy of the rest of the party.

With that in mind, check out these modules for death I’m offering in the Exploration Age Campaign Guide. The first makes PC death permanent… eventually. This seems fair as I have never had a PC die more than twice, but it could happen and would make death more meaningful. The second makes coming back a riskier proposition (though still fairly easy to accomplish), and was inspired by some first edition rules.

In an Exploration Age game, GMs can rule that character death has greater consequences than what is presented in the current Dungeons and Dragons rules. These variant rules are meant to make death a more serious threat.

Module: Three Strikes and You’re Out

Each time creatures are brought back to life via magic, a piece of their soul remains in the afterlife. They may only return from death twice, before their souls are permanently anchored in the afterlife. A third death is the absolute final for any creature, after that they may not be brought back to life by any means. In a sentence – every creature only gets three lives maximum.

Variant Module: Escalation Strikes

In this variant of the Three Strikes and You’re Out module, creatures may be brought back to life three times and a fourth death is the absolute final for any creature. In a sentence – every creature gets four lives. In this module a raise dead spell can no longer bring dead creatures who have died more than once back to life, and after their third death only a true resurrection spell may return a character to life.

Module: The Soul is Fragile

Outside of the body, a soul is fragile and can easily be destroyed. The process of bringing a person back to life is hard on the soul and there’s a chance a returning soul could be destroyed in the process. A caster must make a DC 15 ability check using their spellcasting ability modifier. If the check fails, the GM should roll on the appropriate table below for the result, based on the spell cast.

Raise Dead
d100 Effect
1 – 40 Spell works as normal.
41 – 60 Soul is not returned to the body, spell slot and diamond are expended, but soul is not destroyed.
61 – 99 The soul is destroyed.
100 Soul is not returned to the body, spell slot and diamond are expended, but soul is not destroyed. In addition, an outsider (such as a devil, demon, or angel) instead inhabits the body of the deceased. The inhabitant must be removed from the body before the original creature may be returned to life.
Resurrection
d100 Effect
1 – 50 Spell works as normal.
51 – 70 Soul is not returned to the body, spell slot and diamond are expended, but soul is not destroyed.
71 – 99 The soul is destroyed.
100 Soul is not returned to the body, spell slot and diamond are expended, but soul is not destroyed. In addition, an outsider (such as a devil, demon, or angel) instead inhabits the body of the deceased. The inhabitant must be removed from the body before the original creature may be returned to life.
True Resurrection
d100 Effect
1 – 60 Spell works as normal.
61 – 80 Soul is not returned to the body, spell slot and diamond are expended, but soul is not destroyed.
81 – 99 The soul is destroyed.
100 Soul is not returned to the body, spell slot and diamond are expended, but soul is not destroyed. In addition, an outsider (such as a devil, demon, or angel) instead inhabits the body of the deceased. The inhabitant must be removed from the body before the original creature may be returned to life.

Module: A Combination

You could combine the Three Strikes and You’re Out module and The Soul is Fragile module, by limiting creatures to only three lives and asking for a spellcasting ability check and rolling on the appropriate table anytime raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection is cast.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

What does the Draconic language sound like? In my mind it is an elegant romantic-esque language which is always intimidating, even when spoken softly. What is it in your mind? What about Elven? Dwarven? Halfling? Undercommon? Heck, even Common?

Language has been on my mind quite a bit lately. You see, I realize I’ve given myself a bit of a problem in Exploration Age…

Tower of Babble

For your reference.

For your reference.

As many of you know, Exploration Age is divided into several continents. Glacius and the Poles are barely inhabited, but Parian, Findalay, and Verda are teeming with civilized races who call Canus home. So far, so good. There’s just one language problem for the world of Exploration Age. While Parians and Findalayans have been aware of each other for years, these peoples only recently learned about the Verdans and their continent only a decade ago and vice versa. There’s no way they would share a common language like… well, Common. Or how might orcs speak Orc in Verda and in Findalay and Parian? Oof. It might be fun to have a language barrier in some games, but this would be a little out of hand. Two different types of Orc, Common, Goblin, Giant, Druidic, and more creates more than a few problems.

Exploration Age is all about covering ground and discovering new places. This could very well slow the process of adventuring to a halt. Every social encounter would become a tedious interaction of adventurers trying to exchange words in various languages with NPCs until someone hits on something that works for one PC and one NPC who then hold the conversation themselves or translate for their respective groups. Either that or be ready to cast comprehend languages constantly. This sort of encounter is fun once in a while, but not every time the party tries to have a conversation with a NPC.

I know. You’re saying, “But, James, that’s how it is in the real world and that’s how it was in the past.” I say to you, sir or madam, that I don’t play a game with wizards and a Tarrasque to relive the past. I play it to escape the real world, tell a story with friends, shoot some fireballs, and kick Tarrasque butt.

I digress. How could I justify in the story the existence of all these languages without my game turning into the Tower of Babble? There had to be another way. Perhaps I could have Common, simply be Common, but how would I do that…?

The Answer is Dragons

Dragons! If you’ve been following this blog for some time you know that chromatic dragons live in Parian and Findalay while metallic dragons make their home on Verda. The discovery of other continents and peoples existing on Canus was a shock to the humanoids of the world, but the dragons were unsurprised. The few humanoids lucky enough to have contact with one of these beasts at the time the news was spreading all have the same story – all dragons knew about the other lands, peoples, and the fact that there were both metallic and chromatic living dragons living in the world.

Now back to my original question. I have no idea what Draconic sounds like or even Common for that matter. I’m sure someone, somewhere is an authority on Dungeons and Dragons languages and how they might differ from Tolkien and other fantasy worlds, but in Exploration Age things are different. (What’s the point in being a power mad worldbuilding DM if you can’t make a sweeping declaration once in a while?) Also, while dragons might make the most sense, remember Exploration Age is all about mysteries and shades of gray, so I had to throw a few other rumors in there! Take a look at this excerpt from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide.

Language

Explorers from Findalay and Parian were shocked to discover Verdans speaking the same Common tongue as themselves, albeit with slightly different dialects and accents. After some brave scholars managed to speak and survive a few moments with dragons, who claim to have always known about the existence of all land masses and other dragons in Canus, the answer became clear. It was long theorized that the Common language, from which many other languages are derived, is itself derived from Draconic. Since dragons walked Canus and conquered the aberrants on all continents, they must have created a simplified form of their language for others to speak. From this Common tongue some races then created their own languages. That, at least, is the most popular theory.

Others believe that the ability of humanoids from across the globe to understand each other without ever having met before is actually the work of some chaotic demon prince or mischievous archfey. When the time is right, this being will cut off the magic that makes Verdans, Parians, and Findalayans understand one another and throw the world into a babbling chaos.

Other believe it is a sign of their gods’ power that all civilized humanoids can understand one another, while a smaller few whisper all in Verda have been infected by mystauk and so their enhanced intellect allows them to understand any language.

Believable?

So what do you think? Is this believable and interesting to you? For my money it injects and interesting story which allows for less tedium and more intrigue and mystery in the game, but maybe you think I’m wrong. Tell me! I’m not perfect. Maybe language differences and translation are one the factors that make a game centered around exploration fun. Let me know what you think, please! Sound off in the comments!

Survey

It’s been a while since I posted this survey and World Builder Blog has garnered a lot more readers in the past few months. I’m thinking about publishing this setting once Wizards of the Coast releases an OGL. What do you think?

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new double-sized episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s site.

I sits down with Joe LastowskiTopher KohanMike Shea, and Chris Dudley to dish on the Tarrasque preview and the first version of the  DM Basic Rules free pdf. This podcast was recorded on August 24, 2014. This is where the idea for The Round Table Presents The Round Table’s Tarrasque Takedown 2014: Mike Shea Out for Blood was born.

Time to take this guy on!

Links:

Topher’s Google+

actsofgeek.com

slyflourish.com

rulezeropodcast.com

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Do you want to fight the Tarrasque?

Rawr!

I definitely do and I’m gonna.

On next Monday’s Round Table podcast features Mike Shea, Topher Kohan, Joe Lastowski, Chris Dudley, and me talking about the Tarrasque preview tweeted out by Morrus of EN World (among other topics). During this podcast we realized that we don’t really know how high-level play works out in the brand spanking new fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, so we decided to do something about it.

On Sunday, September 21st at 7:30PM Eastern, Mike will run Topher, Joe, Chris, and me through a series of ridiculous high-level encounters. We’re going to live broadcast it on Google+ Hangouts and on YouTube, so check out those links if you want to watch. We’ve got Facebook and Google+ events set up as well. If you’re not around to watch us try to kick some major monster but, you can watch later on YouTube or look forward to the release of the audio in podcast format on The Tome Show’s website.

I promise we’ll be entertaining as we run through our first high-level fifth edition session together. Mike has promised to spill plenty of PC blood as we fight our way through epic beasts culminating in a battle with the Tarrasque itself! So come one, come all to The Tome Show Presents The Round Table’s Tarrasque Takedown. I can’t wait!

UPDATE: Check out the first session. Part II coming soon!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

Thank you. That is what I have to say first and foremost. In the past few months, World Builder Blog and The Round Table Podcast have grown steadily and surely. Your feedback, support, eyes, and ears are more appreciated than you know. So thank you all for making updating this blog and recording a weekly podcast worth it.

Fix it with a Submarine

All right, onto the goods. Last week I wrote about creating adventure sites in RPGs. Well take a quick look at this adventure site I’ve included in the Exploration Age Campaign Guide.

The Deepest Light. There is a deep ocean trench just off the coast of ReJong that sparkles with radiant light. Thousands of small, star-shaped crystals line the ocean floor which can only be reached by deep submersible. These star crystals explode when thrown, dealing 4d6 radiant damage to everyone in a 20 foot radius. A successful DC 14 dexterity saving throw means the target only takes half damage. Harvesting the crystals is dangerous work however, since a group of sahaugin call the canyon home and don’t take kindly to the invasion of others.

Not bad, I mean there’s danger, but also a good reason for venturing into the site, so the risk-reward balance is there. There’s just one little problem…

Eventually, I realized (and so have you, probably) that there was no convenient way for a few PCs to get to the bottom of the ocean, let alone a mining operation. My first reaction was to move the adventure site to deep in The Underdark or a volcano, but I already have a few adventure sites in those locations in Exploration Age and I wanted this to be a unique underwater experience.

Then I remember that Exploration Age is a world of mechs, firearms, airships, bombs, and more. Why not throw in a submarine? I know some of you are already rolling your eyes and I’m preparing to hear about it in the comments section from Joe Lastowski for a while (who is a great dude and who’s feedback I appreciate), but I gotta go with what my gut says is going to provide some awesome adventure – and that’s a submafrigginrine.

A submarine also allows for further exploration of the world of Canus, which is unsurprisingly a theme of Exploration Age. An underwater adventure into an uncharted area of the deep is my kind of adventure.

The Dragornborn Built It

I know, you want the submarine to be built by gnomes. Well, a gnomish submarine makes those of you old enough to remember Warcraft II think of this…

Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness Gnomish Submarine

While it wouldn’t be entirely out of the question for Canus’ gnomes to pull off a similar feat, in my mind it makes more sense in Canus for the dragonborn, who live on a collection of islands and love the water, to have created the submarine. Also, since it was invented primarily as a means of exploration and transportation and while it can defend itself, it does not shoot torpedoes (but it does shoot magic). How else is the dragonborn submarine different from it’s Warcraft counterpart? Take a look at the excerpt below from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide.

The Crustaceans

What began as a simple underwater mining and exploration vessel has change naval warfare on Canus. Dragonborn inventors were curious about what might lie in the depths of the ocean, and so they took years to create the world’s fist submersible vessel. Their discoveries were endless once they had their vehicle in the water – never before seen creatures and plant life. The most important of their discoveries were the gems in The Deepest Light.

Once the precious stones were discovered in the dangerous depths, the rush to mine them became tied to the purpose and spurred the invention of more submarines. The dragonborn outfitted the vessel with two arms to aid in the mining – one arm ending in a large drill, the other in a large two-pronged claw, thus giving the submersible its name, the Crab. Both drill and claw still exist on the vessel today and can be used in mining and combat.

As the Crab began to face dangers in the deep, its drill and claw proved to be ineffective against foes who might attack from a distance and so four pressurized spear guns and bulky armor were added to the vessel. These guns are placed on the fore, aft, starboard, and port sides of the submarine which required a larger body to make room for gunners. The submarine’s hull became larger in the models which have these spearguns and as such is known as the Lobster.

During The Fourth Great War, a final feature was added to some of the submersibles so they might be used in battle. An arcane cannon was affixed to the tops of these vessels and could be used only when the submarines surfaced. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it did allow Marrial to sneak up on their enemies. These War Lobsters were outfitted with even heavier armor and painted black so they were hard to find in the sea at night after they had surfaced. During the war some of Marrial’s inventors sold submarines to other nations, since Marrial’s lax laws did not require them to keep the submarines exclusive to Marrial’s navy.

There are rumors that some dragonborn inventors are currently working on a special arcane cannon that can fire force shot below the surface of the water, but these rumors have not been proven.

Submarine HP AC Speed Size Right Arm Left Arm Price Special Attacks
Crab 120 16 30 ft. Large Drill Claw 30,000 gp None
Lobster 200 18 40 ft. Huge Drill Claw 80,000 gp Spearguns
War Lobster 350 20 40 ft. Huge Claw Claw 150,000 gp Rend, Spearguns, Arcane Cannon

Sinking. Once a vessel is reduced to 0 Hit Points, it ceases to function and sinks at a rate of 30 feet per round until it reaches the sea floor.

Obliteration. If a submarine’s Hit Points are reduced to negative its max HP, the submarine is obliterated and crew and cargo find themselves in the deep.

Repairs. A damaged submarine cannot have its Hit Points restored the way a creature can, since it is an object. In general, ship repairs cost 10 gp per 1 HP restored and take a number of hours to complete equal to the number of Hit Points restored.

Crab. The smallest of the submersibles, the Crab is mainly a mining and research vessel. A creature proficient in vehicles (water) can pilot the submarine using its move to move the vessel. The pilot can also use its action to make one attack with the Crab’s claw or the drill. In addition to the pilot, the submarine can hold three other Medium or Small creatures.

  • Claw. Melee weapon attack. +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d8 + 3) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 13). The Crab can only grapple on creature at a time. While the Crab has a creature grappled, it may only use its claw attack against that creature as it continues to crush it.
  • Drill. Melee weapon attack. +5 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (3d8 + 3) piercing damage.

Lobster. The Lobster is a larger, better armored submersible. A creature proficient in vehicles (water) can pilot the submarine using its move to move the vessel. The pilot can also use its action to make one attack with the Lobster’s claw or the drill. Four other creatures can work the spearguns located on the fore, aft, starboard, and port sides of vessel. In addition to the pilot and four gunners, the submarine can hold four other Medium or Small creatures.

  • Claw. Melee weapon attack. +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 15 (2d10 + 4) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 14). The Lobster can only grapple on creature at a time. While the Lobster has a creature grappled, it may only use its claw attack against that creature as it continues to crush it.
  • Drill. Melee weapon attack. +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 20 (3d10 + 4) piercing damage.
  • Spearguns. Spearguns are attached to the vessel and can swivel. To attack, a creature must make a ranged attack roll and can add its proficiency bonus if it has proficiency with heavy crossbows. Spearguns deal 1d12 piercing damage, and have the ammunition (range 100/400), loading, and two-handed properties.

War Lobster. When it comes to dealing damage beneath the waves, nothing comes close to the heavy-armored War Lobster. It is designed strictly for battle and sports two over-sized claws. A creature proficient in vehicles (water) can pilot the submarine using its move to move the vessel. The pilot can also use its action to make one attack with one of the claws. Four other creatures can work the spear guns located on the fore, aft, starboard, and port sides of vessel. In addition to the pilot and four gunners, the submarine can hold four other Medium or Small creatures. While surfaced, a team can also work the arcane cannon atop the vessel.

  • Claw. Melee weapon attack. +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d10 + 5) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 15). The War Lobster may only grapple one creature at a time with each claw.
  • Rend. This attack requires the War Lobster to be grappling a creature with one claw and have no creature in the grip of its other. The War Lobster makes two attacks against the grappled creature with both claws.
  • Spearguns. Spearguns are attached to the vessel and can swivel. To attack, a creature must make a ranged attack roll and can add its proficiency bonus if it has proficiency with heavy crossbows. Spearguns deal 1d12 piercing damage, and have the ammunition (range 100/400), loading, and two-handed properties.
  • Arcane Cannon. While surfaced, the arcane cannon can be fired, per its mechanics.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

UPDATE: The partial backgrounds found in this article are a preview. They are fully available as a Pay What You Want product on the DMs Guild in a pretty PDF with art and 13 other ready to roll backgrounds.

They’re baaaaaaaack. I’ve already shown you the demolitions expert and harvester from the Exploration Age Campaign Guide. Now it’s time to show off a two more backgrounds I designed for my players to use at my table that will also be in the book – the farmer and the tinkerer.

Farmer

Bonus points if you can ID the mini of which this reminds me.

You have worked the land and hand-raised livestock from birth to feed the mouths of many. As a farmer, you woke up before the sun and came in from working the fields after it set. You have left behind a mundane life to seek adventure for thrill or fame or fortune. Work with your DM to determine the types of livestock and crops you had on your farm. It might have been pigs and corn, or perhaps you raised deep rothe and mushrooms in The Underdark.

Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Nature

Tool Proficiencies: Vehicles (land)

Languages: One of your choice

Equipment: A relative’s recipe for homemade stew, an iron pot, 50 feet of hempen rope, 2 gp worth of trade goods (your choice), a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch with 10 gp.

Tinkerer

I came to tink.

You have crafted mechanical marvels and improved existing technologies. You know that nothing in this world is perfect and everything could be improved. You’re often the one finding ways to improve them. You might have a workshop filled with categorically organized projects and plans, or just a crate filled with random, half-complete inventions you’ll get to someday. Whatever the case, you know the best way to make a mark is to leave a lot of physical things behind which others appreciate.

Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Investigation

Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisan’s tools, mechs

Equipment: A set of artisan’s tools (one of your choice), a bottle of black ink, a quill, a puzzle-box containing the plans to your next creation, parchment, a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

A new episode of my podcast, The Round Table, is up on The Tome Show’s website.

PARENTAL/TRIGGER WARNING: Just a quick heads up to our listeners, this podcast discusses topics of a sexual harassment, abuse of DM power, and other subjects of an adult nature and may not be appropriate for children.

I sit down with Tracy Hurley, Liz Larsen, and Barak Blackburn to discuss a recent Vice article and the history of sexual and gender harassment in tabletop RPGs. This podcast was recorded on August 6, 2014.

Links:

sarahdarkmagic.com

actsofgeek.com

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, tell your friends, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!