Base Raiders

TL;DR

Base Raiders is a Superhero RPG that I liked and created some resources for, including a fillable Google Docs-based character sheet.

But what if you wanted more words unnecessarily?

Well, allow me to appease your thirst for words.

It’s hard to talk about anyone recording their tabletop gameplay these days without the context of Critical Role. But back in 2011/2012, before Critical Role had started Campaign 1, I was listening to Actual Play podcasts on Roleplay Public Radio. I guess that makes me a bit of a hipster when it comes to watching people play D&D.

Roleplay Public Radio had already been doing Actual Play podcasts for years at that point, and I don’t remember how I found them, but the format really appealed to me. The sessions felt completely casual, not performative. They played what they wanted to play – not just D&D and certainly not what was popular. While I’m sure there was some consideration to the fact that there was an audience, it always felt authentic in a way that recent popular streams just don’t, for me at least. An audio-only podcast with middling recording quality and players that aren’t professionally qualified actors or writers or producers wouldn’t be considered a viable product in a Post-Critical Role world.

But it was 2011 and I didn’t know this was going to be the next big thing, it was just a thing I enjoyed and kind of needed. I was working graveyards on an inconsistent schedule and I had moved a few times in the previous 5 years. As a result, I was pretty withdrawn socially. I wasn’t really still connected to anyone from highschool or college, but I hadn’t developed a social network anywhere else. I had a desire to get back into tabletop RPGs but I didn’t have the group to play with, or the tools to put one together.

The RPPR games connected because they were kind of aspirational. They represented the kind of games, and kind of group, I wanted but couldn’t have. I spent dozens of hours listening to the Wild Talents system, Superhero-themed campaign, “Heroes of New Arcadia“. I could gush at length about it, but suffice to say it’s funny and dramatic and engaging and really, more than any other game I’ve watched or participated in, it is the game I most aspire to as a Game Master.

When the GM of Heroes of New Arcadia, Ross Payton, launched a Kickstarter for Base Raiders, a new system based on the Heroes of New Arcadia campaign, I backed it immediately. I pitched in at the PDF level thinking I’d never get the chance to play it, but I’ve already got my money’s worth just on the entertainment I had listening to the podcast itself. I don’t know if I even read the rules in detail until years later.

Suddenly, it’s years later. It’s 2017 and, in part due to RPPR reinvigorating my interest in tabletop gaming, I’ve been running games with a reliable group for a year, and we’ve just completed a major D&D adventure. I just think fuck it, now’s my chance and I pitch a Superhero game. The group agrees, I buy the hard copy off Amazon, and we go.

The setting described in the book is fantastic and, I think, more or less worth the cover price. The history of the 20th century is peak superhero-kitchen-sink. “The Ideal” is the Justice-League analogue and have basically become the world police of super-powers. Power sources exist that are Alien, Extra-Dimensional, Magic, Technological… you name it, it’s all there, and it’s all tightly controlled to keep the world from spiraling out of control. Then, there is a cataclysmic event, Ragnorok, where all the superpowered beings disappear.

In the wake of Ragnorok all the bases that these legendary heroes and villains used to train, research, surveil and keep their weapons, inventions, and artifacts safe are unattended. They potentially pose an imminent threat, but also promise a significant reward to anybody able to, you know, raid the base. The book outlines a rich history full of alien attacks and communist death-avatars that comes together post-Ragorok to a thematically rich setting that both has a huge number of ideas to mine for content, but also will fit almost any character you want to insert into it. The premise of Base Raiding is also just fun, and a perfect way to blend the dungeon crawl expectations of a tabletop RPG with a Superhero setting that normally wouldn’t lend itself to that type of gameplay.

In Base Raiders, loot is intrinsically tied to advancement and this creates a weird dynamic of risk and reward. Character advancement is the most impactful if you jack your character up with unpredictable, often dangerous power sources that you find in bases and black markets. I love this mechanic. The idea of finding an ancient possessed sword or a random syringe of gene-rewriting goop is just sounds fun, no two ways about it. But in practice this was particularly difficult for players accustomed to D&D to reconcile because D&D:

  1. rewards risk-aversion and
  2. rewards carefully planning your character’s advancement in, well, advance.

Base Raiders was asking the opposite.

Base Raiders is built on the Fate system, a much less rules-literal, more narrative game than D&D. When compared to Fate, you can definitely tell that D&D has it’s roots in tactical war-gaming. D&D rewards deliberate tactical thinking. The Fate system rewards narrative, out-of-the-box thinking, and go-with-the-flow mentality. It literally rewards you for letting the GM do dramatic, bad things to your characters on purpose.

Unfortunately, Base Raiders was frustratingly non-deliberate in it’s implementation. Rules are scattered and downright hidden in the book. If you are looking for the method of obtaining new skills for your character, would you look under the heading “Loot”? I certainly didn’t! Certain terms remain undefined or at least not defined to the satisfaction of the players. Because the game is not very well known, you can’t Google an answer to anything. The character creation, although I got the hang of it, was mind-boggling for every single player.

There were rules for Social and Mental damage – and Social and Mental initiative. You could make these attacks in an otherwise Physical conflict – so does the character making Mental attacks use Mental initiative? What if they are doing Mental and Physical damage interchangeably? Do you define the scope of the conflict at the start and everyone use the same initiative? Do any of these words make sense? I think I ran 8 sessions with a player character that specialized in Mental attacks and I was never able to find out how they were intended to work.

Don’t get me started on Aspect Maneuvers.

Because of the loose nature of play, the game seemed to become all edge-cases and I felt like I was constantly winging it when it came to rules, which is not satisfying for me or my players. The whole rules-section of the book just has an overall feeling of suffering from both one too many and one too few edits. It is janky, disorganized, and incomplete-feeling.

The character sheet represented a microcosm of the issues with the book at large. It was poorly organized, amateur-looking, and hard to use. It didn’t even have places to write all of the information you cover in character creation or general play. At least I was able to fix that. I created a form-fillable character sheet in Google Docs and it actually worked really well.  And I guess that’s the point of this whole exercise, I’m just…sharing it. I don’t begrudge anyone who likes Base Raiders – there’s a lot I love about it, I wish I did love it. I just wish it was easier to run, and this might help someone else running it have an easier time.

If I run another Superhero game I won’t be using Base Raiders. Maybe with enough time, or players seasoned enough with different types of RPGs, I could get it to work. But I want my games to work for me and not the other way around.

However, if I run another Superhero game, I probably will use the Base Raiders setting again. It’s just SO GOOD. There is so much I want to explore with the themes the settings raises, and it really is the perfect place to insert any of the wild Superhero ideas I want without worrying about contradictions or pre-existing lore. It’s absolutely outstanding and I shouldn’t be surprised. I was attracted to the Heroes of New Arcadia because of it’s ideas, not it’s rules.

Ranger Danger

The single character that ran level 1-18, session 1 to campaign conclusion, in my most recent 5e game was the Ranger, Althea.

Ranger is problematic in 5e.

This was evident to me before we even started, which is why I suggested that the player use the Revised Ranger (which she did). And while the Revised Ranger was a solution to some of the problems inherent with the class, namely making it more competitive in terms of power level, we still had frustrations.

Favoured Enemy is still dependent on DM Fiat or Metagaming but somehow ironically worse now, your DPS depends on it. The out of combat applications of Natural Explorer basically remove the exploration pillar of play. Primeval Awareness sounds cool but is straight up goofy in actual play, especially when the Ranger chooses Beasts as their favourite enemies.

“Yes, Althea, you sense the presence of millions of earthworms below you. There are 14 deer and three black bears in the forest. 4 Miles to the east, you sense saltwater fish… 

Player and DM, we still weren’t happy with the Ranger. So after some prodding, around level 8 or 9, I put together a Re-Revised Ranger addressing the problems that I had with the class.

Since then, an Unearthed Arcana, has been released that addresses some of the issues quite nicely actually, and I think if that gets tuned and released in an official capacity, it might be the best iteration of ranger so far. But until then, and for posterity, here is how I fixed the Ranger.


The Re-Revised Ranger


Abstract: Why Revise the Ranger… Again? 

The Ranger, as it appears in the Player’s Handbook, has received a lot of criticism for being under-tuned and more importantly, not particularly fun to play. 

The popular “Revised Ranger” Unearthed Arcana did a lot to address the complaints about the power level and combat utility of the class, particularly with the complete overhaul of the Beast Master archetype. However, it did little to address the holes in the overall design of the class that lead to an unsatisfying play experience. These unsolved problems, as I see it, are the following: 

  • The Ranger fills an ill-defined combat role, being neither as mobile as a rogue, nor as powerful as a fighter, and lacking the burst damage of the Paladin or the sustain of the Barbarian, they lack the means to stand out relative to other martial and “half-caster” classes. 
  • When compared to the other “half-caster”, the Paladin, the Ranger is outclassed in tanking potential (Heavy Armor Proficiency), burst damage (Divine Smite), burst healing (Lay on Hands), spell selection (with Paladins preparing spells from their full list, and access to Oath spells), party support abilities (Aura)… In a direct comparison the Ranger falls short in almost everything aside from actually trekking through the wilderness.
  • Long-distance travel, the one niche where Rangers truly stand out, is rarely relevant. Starving or getting lost in the woods shouldn’t pose a dire threat beyond the first few levels of play, even for parties lacking a ranger, and urban campaigns never benefit from many of these abilities. 
  • Favored Enemy, the signature ability of the ranger, is a holdover from previous editions that is among the most poorly designed class features in the core game. The Revised version, while improved by the addition of some combat utility, still doesn’t address the core failing of the ability. Favored Enemy benefits a Ranger most in campaigns that lack a diversity of foes. Rangers must choose one of a few viable, common creature types (Monstrosity, Humanoid, etc.) or risk infrequently benefitting from the ability (Oozes and Plants).
  • Too many passive abilities limit the tactical choices and agency of Ranger players. Players like to use abilities, make choices, and roll dice. Class features like the inability to get lost while travelling do not offer a sense of satisfaction for the player, and instead only serve to reduce the opportunities for the DM to create tension or drama. 

In contrast, this redesign of the Ranger should: 

  • Fill a unique roll, mechanically and in class flavor. The new Ranger will focus on preparation, planning, awareness and support. 
  • Feel useful and have tactically-relevant abilities at all levels when compared to other classes, particularly the other half-caster Paladin. 
  • Have versatility that does not rely on encountering certain enemies, certain terrains, or performing overland travel. 
  • Use Favored Enemy frequently, as the signature ability of the class. 
  • Make more choices, roll more dice and use less passive abilities overall. 

I think my redesign of the class is a success in these regards. When paired with any archetype except Beast Master it stacks up against any other class in the game, in a way that Ranger did not before. 


Class Details 

Hit Dice: 1d10 per ranger level 

Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier 

Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per ranger level after 1st 

Armor: Light Armor, Medium Armor, Shields 

Weapons: Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons 

Tools: none 

Skills: Choose three from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival 
(Note, the above features are unchanged from the PHB Ranger. Spellcasting and Starting Equipment are likewise unchanged.)

1st+2Favored Enemy, Natural Explorer
2nd+2Fighting Style, Spellcasting
3rd+2Ranger Conclave, Live off the Land
4th+2Ability Score Improvement, Favored Enemy Improvement
5th+3Extra Attack
6th+3Hide in Plain Sight
7th+3Ranger Conclave feature
8th+3Ability Score Improvement, Land’s Stride
9th+4
10th+4Favored Enemy Improvement, One Eye Open
11th+4Ranger Conclave feature
12th+4
13th+5Ability Score Improvement
14th+5Vanish, Favored Enemy Improvement
15th+5Ranger Conclave feature
16th+5Ability Score Improvement
17th+6
18th+6Feral Senses
19th+6Ability Score Improvement
20th+6Foe Slayer

Favored Enemy 

Beginning at 1st level, you have experience studying, tracking, and hunting creatures of various types. With adequate time to prepare yourself, you can steel yourself against a certain type of foe, adapting your equipment and conditioning your mind to exploit their weaknesses. Whenever you complete a long rest, you may choose Beasts, Plants, or Humanoids to be your Favored Enemy. When selecting Humanoids, you must choose a specific sub-type, such as Gnolls, Goblinoids, or Elves, to apply this feature to. You gain +1 to AC against attacks made by creatures of this type, and you cannot be surprised by your Favored Enemy.

Beginning at 4th level, you have become an experienced leader and trainer, able to prepare small groups for combat. When you choose a Favored Enemy, you may target a number of friendly creatures equal to 1 + your Wisdom Modifier (minimum 1) that you can see. These creatures gain a +1 AC against attacks made by your Favored Enemy until they complete another long rest. Additionally, the list of creature types you may choose from expands to include Oozes, Undead, and Monstrosities. 

Beginning at 10th level, you gain advantage on saving throws caused by your favored enemies abilities, other than spells. The list of creature types expands to include Fey, Giants, Aberrations, and Elementals. Additionally, you can select now 2 creature types to be your Favored Enemy when completing a long rest. 

Beginning at 14th level, the list of creature types expands to include Celestials, Constructs, Dragons, and Fiends. In addition, the bonus granted to targeted friendly creatures gives advantage on any saving throws caused by your favoured enemies abilities, other than spells.

Natural Explorer 

You are a master of navigating the natural world and you act with swift and decisive action when attacked. This grants you the following benefits: 

  • You have advantage on initiative rolls. 
  • On the first turn during combat, you have advantage on attack rolls against creatures that have not yet acted. 

In addition, you are a seasoned guide, skilled at navigating the wilderness. You gain the following benefits when traveling for an hour or more: 

  • Difficult terrain does not slow your group’s travel. 
  • You have advantage on Survival checks to avoid becoming lost, to forage food, or to find fresh water. 
  • You may engage in another activity while traveling (foraging, navigating, tracking) while remaining alert to danger. 
  •  If you are traveling alone, you may move stealthily at a normal pace. 

Fighting Style 

Choose one:

  • Archery: You gain a +2 bonus to Attack rolls you make with Ranged Weapons. 
  • Defense: While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC. 
  • Dueling: When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other Weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to Damage Rolls with that weapon. 
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second Attack. 

Live off the Land 

You gain proficiency with two of the following tools: Carpenter’s tools, Cartographer’s tools, Cook’s utensils, Herbalism kit, Leatherworker’s tools, or Woodcarver’s tools.  

Extra Attack 

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn. 

Hide in Plain Sight 

Starting at 6th level, you can spend 1 minute creating camouflage for yourself. You must have access to fresh mud, dirt, plants, soot, and other naturally occurring materials with which to create your camouflage. 

Once you are camouflaged in this way, you can try to hide by pressing yourself up against a solid surface, such as a tree or wall, that is at least as tall and wide as you are. You gain a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks as long as you remain there without moving or taking actions. Once you move or take an action or a reaction, you must camouflage yourself again to gain this benefit. 

Land’s Stride 

Starting at 8th level, moving through nonmagical difficult terrain costs you no extra Movement. You can also pass through nonmagical Plants without being slowed by them and without taking damage from them if they have thorns, spines, or a similar hazard. 

In addition, you have advantage on saving throws against Plants that are magically created or manipulated to impede Movement, such those created by the Entangle spell. 

One Eye Open  

You are a master of resting in adverse or dangerous conditions. Starting at 10th level, you still benefit from your full passive perception score when sleeping or meditating, and you are aware of anything that moves through your line of sight during that time.  

Vanish  

Starting at 14th level, you can use the Hide action as a Bonus Action on Your Turn. Also, you can’t be tracked by nonmagical means, unless you choose to leave a trail.

Feral Senses 

At 18th level, you gain preternatural senses that help you locate creatures. You gain Blindsight of 30 ft. This feature does not work if you are Deafened. 

You also have advantage on any Intelligence (Investigation) check to discern illusions. 

Foe Slayer 

At 20th level, you become an unparalleled hunter of your enemies. Once on each of your turns, you can add your Wisdom modifier to the Attack roll or the damage roll of an Attack you make against one of your Favored Enemies. You can choose to use this feature before or after the roll, but before any effects of the roll are applied. If it is reduced to 0 hit points by this attack, all hostile creatures within 60 feet of you and who are able to see the target must make a Wisdom save against your spell save DC or become Frightened of you for 1 minute. They may repeat this save at the end of each of their turns. 


Notes on Changes Made: 

1: Overall, level 1 is mainly a less front-loaded version of the Revised Ranger’s first level.  

The new Favored Enemy, grants a defense boost. 

Originally, as in the Revised Ranger, it added a damage boost. However, this falls off in utility in high level play, and with the ability to grant a similar effect to your team later on, it became a nuisance to track. AC, because it is relevant outside of your turn, proves easier to remember. It’s a buff, but still nothing crazy.

The targeted creature type can be changed on a long rest, which is a considerable buff that is only particularly useful once the ranger advances to higher levels. At level 1 ability the ability is heavily restricted by creature types available. The 1st-level options will rarely be relevant outside low level encounters, but the available options increase as the ranger increases in level.  

Favored Terrain has been removed, as in the Revised Ranger, due to its over-specificity. Instead, Natural Explorer is not limited by terrain type, but its passive abilities have been nerfed slightly. They now grant advantage to more rolls, rather than providing automatic success to certain activities, giving a more active feel to using the ability. Natural Explorer’s combat bonuses from the Revised Ranger have been retained, granting an interesting first-level combat advantage that does not lose its utility as the ranger advances in level. 

2: No change made. 

3: Primeval Awareness received a major overhaul in the Revised Ranger, but in neither version was it particularly useful, nor did the quasi-magical super-sense  match the flavor of the class. It also proved problematic in play, scanning a radius of many miles which could include thousands or more of a certain creature type. It is almost impossible to practically convey anything that is both valuable and realistic using that information in play. Particularly this becomes an issue with the Revised Ranger’s version, with the “Beast” or “Humanoid” favoured enemy. 

Instead, the ranger gets a ribbon ability “Live off the Land” which opens up a little roleplay by allow the ranger to fill a couple under-utilized out-of-combat niches. Since players are also choosing a Conclave at this level, a minor side upgrade is fine. 

4: A boost to Favored Enemy is provided in addition to the regular Ability Score Improvement for this level. It provides a minor boost to the party’s overall defense and gives access to more useful creature types. 

5: Unchanged, level 5 provides a major power spike for the Ranger. 

6: As Natural Explorer and Favored Enemy improvements no longer occur on this level, Hide in Plain Sight has been moved from Level 10 to Level 6. This is a “slow” level following the fast growth and powerful abilities granted in levels 3, 4, and 5. Hide in Plain Sight is a specialized and generally underwhelming ability, so granting access to it earlier does not provide extra power ramp.  

7: Conclave Features are currently unchanged. 

8: Lands Stride is another somewhat weak ability, but falling on the same level as an ASI, I see no need for changes. 

9: Unchanged. The Spell Level and Proficiency Boost on their own is sufficient and in line with other classes. 

10: The ranger no longer receives a new Favored Terrain (removed) or Hide in Plain Sight (moved to level 6). Instead the Ranger gains an improvement to their Favored Enemy, granting more options, a defense boost to non-spell abilities (emphasizing their role as a monster hunter), and the ability to designate 2 Favored Enemies per rest, for a major boost. They also receive a new ability, One Eye Open, which like Hide in Plain Sight is situational but flavorful, and benefits the ranger’s role as guide and lookout.  

11-20: The first 10 levels have been adjusted to scale better into higher level play, so only small adjustments were made to later levels.  

Rather than an additional favored enemy at 14, the ranger now has access to all creature types and provides their saving throw buff to other party members.  

Feral Senses was a fundamentally situational ability that was nowhere close in utility or power to what other classes receive at this level. It now grants full Blindsight for 30 feet, conditional on being able to hear, and Advantage in discerning the nature of illusions.  

Foe Slayer has been buffed with a powerful Fear ability  to make it a more fitting capstone ability.

The Big Table of Magic Weapon Creation

Getting a Holy Avenger is cool not just because it’s powerful, but in part because of its name and history within D&D. Sometimes though, it’s just as cool to get a weapon completely unique to the world and, by extension, the character.

Making boutique magic items for every occasion is time consuming. So, over time, I punched entries into a list of stuff I might want a magic weapon to do and, eventually, I had enough that a d100 generator was easily in reach. Now, whenever I need to pull a random magical weapon out of nowhere, I can roll a couple dice and generate something unique without pawing through the DMG for an item of a suitable power level and type.

If you want to get spicy, you can give the PCs a blacksmith’s hammer blessed by the God of craft, which can imbue a weapon with one of the blessings on the table (should they find a master blacksmith to use it). Getting a player to roll a D100 with results ranging from “this weapon sings” to “this weapon can cast wish” is an exciting roll to be sure.

The table is fairly simple, generally high numbers = stronger, or sometimes rarer, when there is a such a distinction to be made.

Are some of the higher results overpowered? Well yeah, that’s part of the fun. But, aside from the 100, nothing should break games.

How to Use

If you would like a random base weapon type (for dungeon loot or merchants), roll on the Weapon Type table. Otherwise, simply choose a weapon type.

Roll a D100 on the Weapon Enchantment table to imbue the weapon with a random weapon enchantment. The number you roll will add an effect, modify the name of the weapon, and indicate whether or not the weapon now needs to be attuned.

The Tier of the weapon determines the bonus it grants as follows:

  • Tier 0-3: +1 Weapon
  • Tier 4-5: +2 Weapon
  • Tier 6+: +3 Weapon

Multiple enchantments can be placed on a single weapon. When doing so, add the Tiers of the enchantments together to get the Tier and Bonus of the weapon as a whole.

If you have a particularly neat or powerful weapon, roll on the Optional Properties table.


Weapon Enchantment Table

D100TierNameEffectAttunement
10SingingWhen this weapon is used, a beautiful song can be heard.N
20BeaconThe bearer can use a bonus action and speak a command word to cause this weapon to shed bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet.N
30MalleableThe bearer can alter the apparent color, material, and design of the weapon as a bonus action – this does not affect the weapon’s type, stats or abilities.N
40GuardianThe weapon whispers warnings, giving +2 bonus to initiative.N
50WaterborneThis weapon floats on water and other liquids. Its bearer has advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks to swim.N
60DelvingWhile underground , the bearer of this item always knows the item’s depth below the surface and the direction to the nearest staircase, ramp, or other path leading upward.N
70ImperiousThe bearer of this item knows the Thaumaturgy cantrip.N
80WeightlessThis weapon falls slowly, like a feather. It is treated as having no weight for the purposes of encumbrance.N
90AdhesiveThe bearer cannot be disarmed of this weapon.N
100WieldyThe bearer may attack as though they are proficient with this weapon, even if they are not.N
111PryingThe bearer has advantage on Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks to break free of grapples.N
121FleetThe owner’s base speed is increased by 5 ft.Y
131Of StridingThe bearer is unaffected by difficult terrain.N
141Of SwimmingThe bearer gains a swim speed equal to its walking speed.N
151Of ClimbingThe bearer gains a climb speed equal to its walking speed.N
161Of Safe LandingThe bearer never takes damage from falling, although they fall at normal speed.N
171Of JumpingThe bearer may cast the spell Jump as a bonus action, targeting themselves, at will.Y
181ShacklingA creature dealt a non-lethal blow by this weapon is restrained by ethereal shackles. They may make a DC 25 Strength (Athletics) check every hour to escape, once they regain consciousness. The owner of this weapon may dispel this effect by speaking a command word.Y
191Of StabilityThe bearer gains advantage on all saving throws to avoid being knocked prone or moved against their will.N
201ThrowingThis weapon has the thrown property with a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet. If the weapon already has the throwing property, the normal range and long range of the weapon are both doubled.N
211WakefulThe owner requires half the normal amount of sleep or meditation to gain the effects of a long rest, or avoid the effects of exhaustion.Y
221InvigoratingWhen a 20 is rolled on an attack roll with this weapon, the bearer gains 3d4 temporary HP.N
231Of DetectionThe bearer may cast the spell Detect Magic as an action at will.Y
241Of ScanningThe bearer may cast the spell Detect Evil and Good as an action at will.Y
251Of CommuneThe bearer may cast the spell Animal Friendship, targeting themselves, as an action at will.Y
261QuickThe bearer may take a Dash action which does not expend their regular action for the turn. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
271BraveThe bearer has advantage on saving throws against Fear.N
281ResoluteThe bearer has advantage on saving throws against magical Charm effects.N
291MindfulThe owner receives a +3 bonus to their Passive Perception and Passive Investigation scores.Y
301EmbiggenedThe bearer may cast Enlarge targeting themselves. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
311Of DarksightThe bearer has darkvision with a range of 60 ft. If you already have darkvision, the range increases to 120 ft.Y
321Of ShieldingThe bearer may cast the spell Shield. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
331[Damage Type] ShiftedBy speaking a command word, the bearer can change the damage type dealt by this weapon to [Damage Type] until the end of turn. (Roll on the Damage Type table to determine the damage type.)N
341Of AdmonishmentWhen you hit with an opportunity attack, weapon deals an additional +1d8 Thunder damage and hurls an insult.N
351[Damage Type] TingedThis weapon deals an additional +1d4 [Damage Type]  damage. (Roll on the Damage Type table to determine the damage type.)N
362Of Water BreathingThe owner can breathe underwaterY
372ShroudedWhen this weapon is stowed, the owner may speak a command word to make the weapon invisible. A creature attempting to discover the hidden weapon must pass a Intelligence (Investigation) check with a DC 16.Y
382Of InvisibilityThe bearer may cast Invisibility targeting themselves, using the weapon as their focus. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
392LuckyYou may reroll a single attack roll with this weapon. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
402RevealingThe bearer can use a bonus action and speak a command word to cause this weapon to shed bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet. Invisible creatures are visible as long as they are in the light cast by this weapon.N
412RestorativeThe bearer may cast Cure Wounds as a first level spell, using Wisdom as their spellcasting ability and the weapon as their focus. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
422VitalThe bearer has advantage on all Constitution saving throws against Poison and Disease.N
432RestlessThe owner does not need to sleep or meditate during a long rest, and is immune to negative effects, including exhaustion, due to lack of sleep.Y
442ShiningAs a bonus action, the bearer may speak a command word, causing the weapon to erupt in illusory flames that shed bright light in a 40 foot radius and dim light in an additional 40 ft.N
452BleedingWhen a 20 is rolled on an attack roll with this weapon, the critical hit infers a “Bleed” condition, dealing 1d4 damage at the start of the targets next 3 turns.N
462ViciousWhen a 20 is rolled on an attack roll with this weapon, its critical hit deals an extra 2d6 damage of the weapon’s type.N
472PoisonousYou can spend an action to coat the weapon in magical poison. The poison remains for 1 minute or until an attack using this weapon hits a creature. When an attack with this weapon deals damage, the creature must succeed a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or take 2d6 poison damage and be poisoned until the end of their next turn.N
482EagerThe owner gains a +5 bonus to initiative.N
492RelentlessWhen the bearer is reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, they may drop to 1 hit point instead. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
502Of Water WalkingThe bearer may stand on and move across any liquid surface as if it were solid ground.N
512MarkingWhen a creature is struck by this weapon, the next attack made by an ally against it gains Advantage. This effect does not stack.N
522Mind-ShieldingThe bearer is immune to magic that allows other creatures to read their thoughts, determine whether they are lying, know their alignment, or know their creature type. Creatures can telepathically communicate with the bearer only if they allow it.Y
532BlinkingWhen the bearer is struck by a critical hit, they may choose to use their reaction to cast the Blink spell, targeting themselves. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
542ChillingThis weapon deals an additional +1d4 cold damage. On a hit, the target has all movement speeds reduced by 5 until the end of it’s next turn. N
552[Damage Type] ChargedThis weapon deals an additional +1d6 damage. Roll on the Damage Type table to determine the damage type.N
563Of ResistanceThe bearer has resistance to one type of damage. Roll on Damage Type table to determine the damage type.Y
573Of DeflectionThe bearer gains +2 bonus to AC against ranged attacks.N
583FloatingThe bearer gains a fly speed of 10 ft.Y
593SustenanceThe owner does not need to eat or drink.Y
603FilteringThe bearer can breathe and speak normally in any environment (including liquids and vacuums), and has advantage on saving throws made to resist harmful gases and vapors.Y
613VenomousYou can use an action to coat the weapon in magical poison. The poison remains for 1 minute or until an attack using this weapon hits a creature. That creature must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 2d10 poison damage and become poisoned for 1 minute. Any creature that fails their save can repeat their saving throw at the end of each turn. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
623FrightfulWhen a 20 is rolled on an attack roll with this weapon, the target and all other creatures within 10 ft must succeed a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw become effected by fear for one minute. Any creature that fails their save can repeat their saving throw at the end of each turn.N
633TransmogrifyingThe bearer may transform into one type of animal, as though using the Druid class feature Wild Shape. This effect lasts 1 hour, and has one charge which it regains at dawn. Roll on the Transmogrification Table to determine the type of animal.Y
643Of WarningThe owner gains advantage on initiative rolls. The owner and any allies within 30 ft can’t be surprised, except when incapacitated by something other than non-magical sleep. The weapon magically awakens the owner and companions within range if any are sleeping naturally when combat begins.Y
653ResilientThe bearer gains proficiency in an additional saving throw. Roll on the Ability Score Table to determine which saving throw the proficiency is gained in.Y
663DisorientingWhen a creature is struck by this weapon, the first attack it takes on it’s following turn is taken with disadvantage. This effect does not stack.N
673Of Non-DetectionThe owner is hidden from divination magic and can’t be targeted by such magic or perceived through magical scrying sensors.Y
683Of Lesser Spell-StoringAny creature can Cast a Spell of 1st through 3th level into the weapon by touching the weapon as the spell is cast. This weapon can store up to 3 levels worth of Spells at a time. The bearer can cast any spell stored into this weapon without using components. The spell uses the slot level, spell save DC, spell Attack bonus, and spellcasting ability of the original caster, but is otherwise treated as if you cast the spell. The spell cast from the weapon is no longer stored in it, freeing up space.Y
693[Damage Type] AspectedThis weapon deals an additional +1d8 damage. Roll on the Damage Type table to determine the damage type.N
703[Damage Type] LadenThis weapon deals an additional +1d10 damage. Roll on the Damage Type table to determine the damage type.N
714Of [Ability Score]The owner gains +2 to a single ability score. Roll on the Ability Score table to determine which score receives the bonus.Y
724SoaringThe bearer gains a fly speed equal to its walking speed.Y
734Dragon SlayerWhen hit, dragons take an extra 3d6 damage of this weapon’s type.N
744ReturningThis weapon has the thrown property with a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet. If the weapon already has the throwing property, the normal range and long range of the weapon are both doubled. At any time, a bonus action may be used to return the weapon to its owner’s handY
754Of RegenerationThe bearer regains 1 hit point every 5 minutes provided that the bearer has at least 1 hit point.Y
764[Damage Type] BlastWhen a 20 is rolled on an attack roll with this weapon, its critical hit deals an extra 4d6 damage. Roll on the Damage Type table to determine the damage type.N
774WoundingWhen a 20 is rolled on an attack roll with this weapon, its critical hit infers a “Wound” condition, dealing 2d4 damage at the start of the targets next 5 turns.N
784OpportunisticWhen the bearer makes their first opportunity attack per round, it does not consume a reaction.N
794TransformativeThe bearer may transform into a single type of animal, as though using the Druid class feature Wild Shape. This effect lasts 1 hour, and has one charge which it regains at dawn. Roll on the Transformation Table to determine the type of animal.Y
804CurativeThe bearer may cast Cure Wounds as a fifth level spell, using Wisdom as their spellcasting ability and the weapon as their focus. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
814Of SpeedThe bearer can make one attack with this weapon as a bonus action on each of their turns.Y
824Well-RoundedThe bearer gains a +1 bonus to all saving throws.Y
834AdamantThis weapon negates all critical hits against the bearer.Y
844Of Spell-StoringAny creature can Cast a Spell of 1st through 5th level into the weapon by touching the weapon as the spell is cast. This weapon can store up to 5 levels worth of Spells at a time. The bearer can cast any spell stored into this weapon without using components. The spell uses the slot level, spell save DC, spell Attack bonus, and spellcasting ability of the original caster, but is otherwise treated as if you cast the spell.The spell cast from the weapon is no longer stored in it, freeing up space.Y
854[Damage Type]-EnergyThis weapon deals an additional +2d6 damage. Roll on the Damage Type table to determine the damage type.N
865Of [Damage Type] ImmunityThe bearer has immunity to one type of damage. Roll on Damage Type table to determine the damage type.Y
875Mage HunterThe bearer has resistance to all damage dealt by spells.Y
885Of ProtectionThe bearer gains a +1 bonus to AC.Y
895Of MasteryThe bearer’s proficiency bonus increases by +1.Y
905KeenThe critical hit range for this weapon is increased by one.N
915Of FinalityHit points lost to this weapon’s damage can be regained only through a short or long rest, rather than by regeneration, magic, or any other means. Creatures killed by this weapon can only be brought back to life by a True Resurrection or Wish spell.N
925Of Greater Spell-StoringAny creature can Cast a Spell of 1st through 7th level into the weapon by touching the weapon as the spell is cast. This weapon can store up to 7 levels worth of Spells at a time. The bearer can cast any spell stored into this weapon without using components. The spell uses the slot level, spell save DC, spell Attack bonus, and spellcasting ability of the original caster, but is otherwise treated as if you cast the spell. The spell cast from the weapon is no longer stored in it, freeing up space.Y
935EtherealThe bearer may speak a command word as an action to gain the effect of the Etherealness spell, which last for 10 minutes or until the weapon is dropped or stowed. This effect has one charge which it regains at dawn.Y
945VorpalThe weapon ignores resistance to the weapon’s damage type. When a 20 is rolled on an attack roll with this weapon, if the target is a creature with at least one head, you remove one of the creature’s heads. The creature dies if it can’t survive without the lost head. Otherwise, the attack deals an additional extra 6d8 damage of the weapons type.Y
955[Damage Type] FuryThis weapon deals an additional +2d10 damage. Roll on the Damage Type table to determine the damage type.N
966Of Greater [Ability Score]The owner has a single ability score raised to 19 if it is below 19. Roll on the Ability Score table to determine which score receives the bonus.Y
976SpellguardThe bearer receives advantage on saving throws against Spells and other magical effects, and spell attacks have disadvantage against you.Y
986Of Wondrous ProtectionThe bearer gains a +2 bonus to AC.Y
996OmniscientThe bearer has truesight with a radius of 30 ft.Y
1006Of WishingThe bearer may cast the spell Wish. This effect has one charge which it regains after one century has passed.Y

Weapon Types Table

1d100Weapon Type
1-5Dagger
6-10Shortsword
11-15Longsword
16-20Greatsword
21-25Battleaxe
26-30Greataxe
31-35Quarterstaff
36-40Spear
41-45Warhammer
46-50Shortbow
51-55Longbow
56-58Handaxe
59-61Mace
62-64Flail
65-67Rapier
67-69Scimitar
70-72Trident
73-75Halberd
76-78Crossbow, heavy
79-81Crossbow, light
82-84Sling
85Club
86Greatclub
87Morningstar
88Light Hammer
89War Pick
90Maul
91Javelin
92Glaive
93Pike
94Lance
95Sickle
96Whip
97Dart
98Crossbow, Hand
99Net
100Blowgun

Damage Types Table

d100Damage Type
1-15Slashing, or the Weapon’s base damage type (Attack)
16-30Fire
31-40Cold
41-50Lightning
51-60Poison
61-70Acid
71-78Thunder
79-86Necrotic
87-94Radiant
95-97Psychic
98-100Force

Transformation & Transmogrification Table

1d4TransmogrificationTransformation
1FrogBoar
2RatElk
3LizardWolf
4BatPanther

Ability Score Table

1d6Ability Score
1Strength
2Dexterity
3Constitution
4Intelligence
5Wisdom
6Charisma

Optional Properties

d10Effect
1Named Weapon – The weapon is uniquely named. It may whisper this name when held, or be engraved with it.
2Fame or Infamy – The weapon is well known for its relationship to a particular historical figure or event.
3Odd Noise – The material of the weapon vibrates faintly to emit a particular hum, drone, buzz or squeal.
4Odd Smell – The material of the weapon emits an odd smell, which can’t be masked. May be pleasant or unpleasant.
5Odd Shape – The weapon is particularly long, stout, broad, slim, or otherwise identifiably unorthodoxly shaped. Were it not magical, it would be impractical to use.
6Odd Colour – The materials of the weapon are uncommon colours, or change colours under certain conditions.
7Faint Aura – The material of the weapon emits a faint, coloured glow. It may leave tracers, flicker, appear as a flame or float upwards.
8Gemstones – The weapon is inset with a particularly large gemstone, or a variety of smaller gemstones.
9Detailing – The weapon is gilded, engraved, sculpted, or otherwise decorated in a fantastic way.
10Aspected – The weapon amplifies a quality of the bearer’s personality, such as bravery, piousness, or jealousy.

The Campaign Doc

I didn’t drop a big pile of campaign lore on the players at the beginning. My first handout was less than 500 words – probably should have been less than 200 to be honest. It was about 15 sessions in, I think, when I realized the setting was going to have legs and I should probably have a little bit more comprehensive information for the players and, to a certain extent, myself.

They virtually never used it.

The Beginning of the Campaign and Roleplay Encounters

The party started out in a Tavern in the middle of nowhere on purpose. If they were out in the frontier, on the edges of civilization, the politics and beliefs of the world at large wouldn’t matter much. I just wanted to roll some dice. I also thought, as many new DMs do, that I could bypass the issues inherent behind the common words of advice, “Don’t just start in a Tavern.”

It’s D&D and I want to start in a Tavern, OK?

So there they started, in the village of Broken Gate, a trading center in a small colony of civilization on a largely untamed continent. A half-orc mercenary gets drunk and loudly engages the party.

“My spirit is light, but my pocket is heavy with coin! A round for everyone! Toast me – tonight we drink, for tomorrow we may die!

The half-orc introduces himself as Solomon, and he confides after many rounds that his fortune has been so good lately that he had to turn down a cushy job from the local Captain of the Guard. Turns out the Captain was offering gold in the hundreds for a simple job, simply hunting down an escaped prisoner that had run away into the wilderness. The nearby wilderness was sub-arctic, and winter was coming. The job, in truth, was likely nothing more than picking up a frozen body.

he half-orc introduces himself as Solomon, and he confides after many rounds that his fortune has been so good lately that he had to turn down a cushy job from the local Captain of the Guard. Turns out the Captain was offering gold in the hundreds for a simple job, simply hunting down an escaped prisoner that had run away into the wilderness. The nearby wilderness was sub-arctic, and winter was coming. The job, in truth, was likely nothing more than picking up a frozen body.

I should have just set all this up in a handout or a monologue but, me being me, I instead decided to insist on playing it out, every last inch of cringey roleplay at a time. Some of the players were inexperienced, they all didn’t know their characters yet. They couldn’t just slip into their shoes, and that’s fine.

Open-ended roleplay shouldn’t be thrust upon a new group, really, and especially not to open up session one. Focused roleplay, though, that worked, but we didn’t get there until the end.

The characters, of course, followed the hook. They got the job, from the Captain, who was a bit of a dick, and it was exactly as described. Bring him back either way, but a bonus if he’s alive so they can “make an example of him”. It’s the frontier after all, and order has a price. They scare off some other upstart adventurers from the job and went to investigate the Prison.

It turns out, a prison guard had helped the prisoner, Quindwin Davish, escape. The party tried to interrogate her, and she was uncooperative, opening up the first actual substantive roleplay question: What are we willing to do to get this information? The guard, Laria, was already wounded and hadn’t budged under physical interrogation, and although torture was briefly on the table, they ended up getting a few high enough rolls, a Cure Wounds, and some pointed questions in to determine the direction that Quindwin had run off in. I don’t know if they picked up on the romantic connection between the two NPCs, but if they did they certainly didn’t mention it.

Ranger rolls some dice, they travel. They track the prisoner to a freezing river, and then they reach the top of a waterfall. Below them, it lands in a half-frozen basin beside which lies two bloody bodies – one human, one animal. The ranger Althea, with her Elven eyes, see’s that it’s still breathing, but raggedly. Not for long probably. They try to quickly descend the cliff, they fasten a rope to climb down and, even with advantage, the Warlock rolls a 4 and falls. He lands with 1 HP, the Cleric and Rogue follow and help him up. The Wizard and Ranger stay atop on the cliff and see, from the treeline below, a pack of wolves attracted by the scent of blood.

This twist landed well. The party expected to track down the prisoner and have to fight him – I mean obviously, right? But they find him and it’s just a kid who was downed fighting a badger, and they find themselves needing to protect him to collect the full reward.

They kill the wolves, tie up their captive, and everyone makes camp. In the morning they decide to interrogate Quindwin – their “escaped prisoner” was a skinny red-haired kid, maybe 17 years old.

Sorry for the long intro, but this is what this little essay is actually about.

Quindwin tells the party, truthfully, that he was a guard before he was thrown in jail for refusing what he thought to be an unethical order, to beat up a gnome physician. The prison guard, Laria, freed him because they were in love. If he is returned to the village, they will both be killed.

Now, the party knows that the Guard Captain uses physical interrogation, having observed it on the other captive. The party also knows the Captain is kind of a dick and believes in using violence to enforce order.

Everything about Quindwin’s story tracks, and to anyone who believes he did the right thing by refusing an unethical order, by extension believe that he should not be imprisoned in the first place, let alone executed.

However, they also know that by willfully aiding or releasing their captive, they would be not only breaking their word but alienating the Captain – functionally the law of the land, as well as giving up their reward.

This is what I’ve started calling a Roleplay Encounter, and I’m really happy to have included it in my first adventure. This type of challenge encourages what I think is the best kind of roleplay. I’m not forcing the players to talk in-character or engage in any sort of theatrics, but instead making them engage with a problem the way their character would. I’ve given the players an ethical problem to which there is no Correct, or even Lawful Good solution, that their characters need to solve as a group.

The primary options presented to them are:

  1. Let their captive Quindwin go, and do something to save Laria, the captive prison guard, betraying their word and alienating the local authority. Chaotic Good.
  2. Keep their word, return their captive, and collect their prize. Lawful Neutral at best.

These options, and everything in between, were discussed by the players in character in what was actually a somewhat tense negotiation. In every way the social RP in the tavern failed, this succeeded. The players were forced to make a judgement based on what their characters value. Is it money? Trust and honor? Authority? Personal morality? Freedom? These all factor into the decision of what to do with the boy.

This is my first truly great D&D memory, and the moment where I thought I could actually be a decent DM if I kept at it. It all came together.

Althea, the Ranger, had an arrow pointed at the boy’s head. She was bringing something back, even if it was a corpse.

Gladomain, the Rogue, likewise wanted to tie him up and get on with the job.

Adrick, the Cleric, was advocating to let the boy go and negotiate a reduced punishment for the other prisoner. He would not condemn a good man to death.

They could agree that they didn’t want the prisoners to die, but they also didn’t want abandon a reward, or worse, become labelled criminals themselves.

Aemon, the Warlock, approached Quindwin from behind.

The other thing to take out of this anecdote, is that when I say that I gave the players a problem with no correct solution, I meant it. I, as a DM, had no idea what they were going to do in this instance. I had planned for them to go with Quin, to the east, I had planned a jailbreak of his sweetheart, I had planned for the party to cash in the reward and pick up another job. This simple cliffhanger, which I subjected myself to, was the start of my addiction to uncertainty.

The key to a good Roleplay Encounter is to present a problem where any solution you can think of has very real negative consequences. A choice between right and wrong is easy. A kobayashi maru is where the fun happens.

Aemon pulled out his dagger and slid it along the kid’s face. Quindwin cried out, “My ear!”

“Here, we’ll use this,” says Aemon, not a little smugly.

They had chosen the third option that I should have, but didn’t, consider: Lie and cheat until you make everyone happy. Chaotic Neutral.

“We’ll just tell the captain that he fell off this waterfall and wolves ate him. Perfectly plausible given the circumstances we found him in. The Captain must have an Arcanist or someone who can confirm this is actually Quin’s ear.”

Quindwin is openly sobbing now. The cleric heals him and the party shrugs and sends him on his way. “There’s a Druid circle nearby, they’ll give you sanctuary. Just follow my directions and you’ll find them.”

Time to head home and lie their pants off for gold.

The resolution was, although unexpected, fantastic. As dramatic as any outcome, and a brilliant display of player agency. More importantly, though, the players knew a little more about their characters and how they view the world than when they started the adventure.

What dis

Hey, my name is Frank.

I just finished DMing a D&D 5e campaign on roll20 last night.

It lasted approximately 80 sessions, 3 years (hiatuses included), each session taking around 3.5-4 hours. We started with 5 level 1 characters hunting an escaped criminal across a tundra. We ended with 6 level 18 PCs kicking down an Archdevil’s door.

I might pick it up one last time to take it to Level 20 one day. There are still things sleeping in The Ice.

I’ve run and played a few other systems, including 3e, Call of Cthulhu, Base Raiders… but this campaign was my thing for many years of my life. I have a bunch of resources I created, a bunch of thoughts, and probably some advice, and I’ll be posting all that here.

I’m sure some of it will be useful to someone.

I’m also just a creatively-minded individual and I like running RPGs – I’ll continue to run games and build words and create resources, I just need a little break to collect my thoughts.