Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weapons of A-Salt

Salt has an interestingly mundane place in Dungeons and Dragons. 3E doesn't make use of it too much, outside of a Wall spell, a Transmutation spell, and an equipment entry that says it is worth about 5gp per ounce. As far a I know, 4E doesn't mention salt at all, 

Here in the Philippines, though, salt is the bane of just about every mythological creature. Find the lower half of manananggal, spray salt onto the open wound, and either the manananggal cannot reform in the morning, or her lower half outright melts, depending on the story. Salt can be used to bind ghosts, sort of like a Magic Circle. Any food offering to the diwata (fey) would be offensive if it contained salt for flavoring. 

A friend of mine told me that salt is an aversion to Celtic fairies, as well. So why is salt such a non-item in D&D? We are probably biased by modern sensibilities: Salt is such an inconspicuous, everyday item these days that we forget how hard it used to be to procure. In some sense, 3E at least remembered this. Look at its price - in a system where commoners took home an average of 3gp/month, it's interesting to see salt at 5gp, which is the exact same price as silver of the same weight.

Ask Lot if salt is no big deal and he'll probably be pissed.

So, if we want to include some of the more mystical properties of salt in a game, how would we go about it? Here are a few quick ideas:
  • Salt can hurt someone's eyes, but throw a handful at a fey, outsider, or non-elemental spirits and it'd actually deal damage that overcomes material and magic-based damage reduction.
  • Alternatively, throw it at incorporeal undead and it'd become physical for a short amount of time.
  • Salt can be used as material components for magic circles. It can act as a grounding agent for magic, in that it can suppress some minor magical effects.
  • Salt, however, is mundane and will only inconvenience (won't completely stop) more powerful spirits. If you're binding a marilith, for example, using salt for your magic circle might turn out to be problematic. 
  • If you want to have a salt-like substance that packs more punch, take a page out of Trese's book and use ground-up mermaid bones. And you thought necromancer skills were only useful in graveyards. 
  • Fantasy salt is an element: It doesn't hurt elementals.
  • It might work on some shadow creatures. If you want to be sure, throw it at a manananggal and see what happens. ;)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Are Tikbalang Elves?

I was recently surprised (in a good way) to learn that Trese komiks had its own entry in TVtropes. The cases of the occult investigator Alexandra Trese is a window to Philippine folklore that is accessible to the general public and I highly recommend reading it if you can find a copy. But anyway, I was looking through some of the tropes that the komiks series embody, and was intrigued at one of them. Particularly, they listed the tikbalang under the trope "our elves are different."

Let's take a quick look at this comparison, shall we?

Art by James Macaspac

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

[5e Musings] 2nd Round Initial Thoughts

The second playtest packet is out, complete with character creation rules for characters of 1st-5th level as well as an updated bestiary! The whole thing caught me by surprise - I felt like the packet was coming soon, but I thought I would at least be able to finish the Caves of Chaos from the first playtest, first. I'm pretty sure that my players would prefer to try their hand at character creation, though, so I will be converting the upcoming Sunday game to a chargen session instead. 

I feel like I'm going into a more familiar zone, myself, as I feel like I thrive better as a DM when not following the general plot of a module. As the packet does not come with one (yet), I'll look into figuring out how encounter building works. I will also experiment with exploration and roleplay a little bit more.

One thing I will note is that I will likely deviate from the rules-as-written this time. I want to see how much I can bend the system with house rules without breaking it; over the course of the next few weeks, I will post things that I change in our gameplay. 

To motivate the creation of these house rules, I want to start with the things that I initially like and dislike about the second round.

Monday, July 23, 2012

[5E Musings] Update on Monster Design

In today's L&L article, Mr. Mearls revisits the Monster Design Process by looking at how the current, unplaytested minotaur has been envisioned. Check it out - it's an interesting read.

I already voiced out my thoughts on monster design in Power = f(level) and Monster Design, so I won't look too deeply into this one. I will just note some observations about this current iteration:
  • Power level is more-or-less one of the first concerns. As I mentioned before, I believe that figuring out how the monster stands in relation to the world is an important factor in designing it, though it should not be the only factor.
  • The ability scores themselves are freeform, ie, it's not too gamey, like 13+half level or something like that. Level still takes a role, but it is not the end-all-be-all. 
  • There is a clearer interaction between ability scores and the rest of the statblock. Str 18 is +4, and the attack bonus of the minotaur shows this. There are other issues like fluff training to raise the attack roll some more, but the stats play a significant role.
  • Lower hit points. YES! 132 was just too much. I can dig 57 hit points. Perhaps the equivalent caster, the dark Priest, will be pegged at somewhere between 40-50 hit points. That way their hp discrepancies are not too high.
  • They also mentioned something about lower damage across the board. The minotaur went from 1d12 + 4  to 2d12 + 4 damage between iterations. But that's the "larger creatures deal more damage" caveat in play. He also lost the bite attack (1d6 + 4) and had his attack bonus lowered, so the virtual "increase" is not as big as it first seems. I will probably run it through some maths later when I have time.
  • When 4E started, brute monsters had a lower attack bonus but dealt more damage. This turned out to be misleading - expected damage per attack not only hinges on average damage assuming a hit, but also on the probability that the hit occurs in the first place. The attack difference between brutes and soldiers turned out to be too high, which is why they standardized it from Monster Manual 3 onwards in my opinion. Now, with Next's bounded accuracy, will this reduction of accuracy be felt less? I am not totally convinced.
  • The mook-elite-solo correspondence with medium-large-huge creature sizes makes me raise an eyebrow. It works on a general case, but I think it should be noted that there are many exceptions to this rule.