January 11, 2019

Sidekick Rules

The D&D team released sidekick rules that let you make NPC companions for your party using rules that are only a little simpler than regular player character creation rules.  They have classes, hit points, levels, skill lists, equipment, spell lists, spell slots, and other features that player characters track on a minute-by-minute basis in D&D.

You might like resource management so much that these new rules are really appealing to you.  Many people try more rules light games and give them up because they love more crunchy systems.  If that's you, you'll love Unearthed Arcana: Sidekicks.  But if D&D is already just crunchy enough for you, I have a better suggestion.

I made Companion rules that are faster, easier, and more fun.  Click here for my version.

These rules are inspired by Dungeon World's henchmen rules, old school D&D henchmen rules, and my experience running Out of the Abyss in 5th edition D&D - the module where you start off running a game for a handful of PCs and ten NPC companions. 

In my Out of the Abyss game, I reviewed other folks' custom companion rules, and ended up just asking my players to handle the stats for the ten NPCs.  I caused murder, mayhem, mystery, and party splitting to get rid of as many of the companions as I could, in part because of the table time that it took whenever someone would say "I want to give this surplus magic armor to this NPC" or "I want to buy this NPC a better weapon."  Or just the way it bogs down to have NPCs take their own turns in combat, make saving throws against effects that target everyone, and roll ability checks.

I made these companion rules treat companions more like magic items.  They provide some bonuses that you get to use, but they don't take a turn in combat. 

Take a look

PS:  I turned on document commenting, since this is just a draft I threw together in response to Unearthed Arcana: Sidekicks.  If you have constructive ideas for improving my work, please drop a comment in the document.


January 3, 2019

Dealing with Stun Lock

Dealing with "Stun Lock"

In game systems that use initiative, nothing is worse than having your character taken out of the action.  It's bad enough that your character is either dead, dying, paralyzed, or unconscious.  But on top of that, there's 20 minutes of combat left, and you don't get to do anything.

I loved 4e, but one of my biggest gripes about it is that as you gained levels, stun-lock became an increasingly powerful player tactic and an increasingly common monster power.  When the monster loses their turn, no big deal -- the DM has other monsters.  When the player loses their turn, they've just had 5-10 minutes go by without any input into the shared fiction.  And that sucks.

So what can you do?

The pain of "not getting a turn" is the pain of not getting to contribute to the shared fiction.  The solution is to give the player input into the fiction in ways that have meaning and impact.

If there are any NPC combatants on the PCs' side in the fight, let the player whose character is out of the action play an allied NPC. 

It's less obvious what you should do if there are no NPCs in the fight they can take over.

If the player's character is out of the whole fight, such as if they're in another scene that's not in initiative rounds, or if they've been killed, let them play one or more monsters.  Players will love this.  If you only have one monster left, work with them as a team.  "Who should we attack?  Really?  Isn't it better to take out that Rogue who keeps stabbing us first?"

If the player's character lost just one turn, or if they'll probably lose only one or two turns, ask for their input on things:  "Should the lich use Cone of Cold or Confusion?  Which do you think would be best?"  They're paralyzed.  It's not going to affect them in the short term.  They should be able to keep a clear head about it.