Russwater RPG Ruleset

A fluffier RPG with less crunch

This ruleset is a way to play a narrative, less constrained, Gonzo homebrew version of popular roleplaying games compatible with d20 TTRPGs including Dungeons & Dragons 5e, 3.5e and Pathfinder 1e / 2e.

The PDF of this ruleset is available at
https://jaryd.com/russwater-rpg-ruleset.pdf

 

System Summary

·       The players are telling a combined story about how their new adventurers from the Russwater Adventuring Academy collect capabilities as they grow in power. They are adventuring through randomized point crawl encounters in a setting described by the GM.

·       It is expected that the players will use characters based on D&D 5e, 3.5e or Pathfinder 1e / 2e. With assistance of the GM, players could also create or use their own variations on Ancestries, Backgrounds, Classes, or Archetypes.

·       The main mechanic is a d20 “roll over” check with advantage / disadvantage to meet either a difficulty check or a scaled outcome.

·       The six standard “D&D” ability scores also use advantage / disadvantage as the main modifier. Any of the ability scores can be used to attack or defend. There are both lethal and non-lethal forms of combat.

·       Hit Points are used both to measure short term health and can fuel actions and abilities.

·       PCs can progress from 1st level up to a maximum of 20th, leveling up at milestones determined by the GM.

·       The action economy is based on a number of actions that scales with level. Players usually go first. Turn order does not usually matter much because most combatants will be able to complete their actions within the round even if they are going to be incapacitated next round.

·       There is a standard d20 combat roll that combines to hit and damage into one roll and with natural 20 a critical success and natural 1 a critical failure.

·       Many of abilities cost hit points and require a roll to attempt.

·       All PCs have a healing ability.

·       While HP is the measure of short term stamina, PCs can suffer levels of exhaustion which can ultimately lead to death.

·       I have included a list of RPG resources at the end of the document. Many of them like the SRDs are free and can help you start playing for little to no cost.

 


 

Russwater RPG Ruleset

A fluffier RPG with less crunch

System Summary

Players Handbook

Character Sheet

Core Mechanics

D&D 5e, 3.5e, Pathfinder 1e / 2e Characters Welcome

Similar concepts, differences in execution

Core Roll Mechanic

2 Modifiers - Advantage / Disadvantage & Boon / Bane

Ability Scores - Advantage / Disadvantage

Hit Points and Levels of Exhaustion

Attacking and Defending with Ability Scores

Skills

Tools

Standard Equipment

Spells and Technique abilities commonly available

Common Spell Names

Concentration

Abilities - Rolling for success

Attempting a levelled spell or ability you do not know

The Action Economy

Combat

Movement

Saving Throws

The Help Action

Dodge, Shield and Resistance

Healing Ability

Healing magic, Healing potions and Healer’s kits

Levels of Exhaustion

Death

Lethal and Non-lethal Combat

Non-Lethal Damage

Manoeuvres

Creating a New Inscriptions

Game Masters Guide

Probabilities and Possibilities

Rule of Thirds

Randomising Resources

Other Common Styles of Checks and Challenges

Plots, Places and People in a point crawl world

Encounters

Common Encounters, Actions and Damage

Enemy Damage

Special Attacks / Conditions

Encounter Reactions

Encounter Strategies

Minions

Morale

Mass Combat Using Dice

Random encounter mini game

Large Army Combat

Compatible systems and campaign settings

System neutral resources and other cool systems

Russwater RPG Ruleset – OGL 1.0a


 

Players Handbook

Character Sheet


Player: 
Character Name: 
             
Class / Archetype:
Ancestry:                     
Background:   

Appearance:

STR: 
DEX:  
CON:   
INT:       
WIS:      
CHA: 
                   
LVL:
HP:                     
Exhaustion:        

Attack Styles:      

 

Abilities:

 

Equipment and Treasure:


 

Core Mechanics

D&D 5e, 3.5e, Pathfinder 1e / 2e Characters Welcome

It is expected that the players will use characters based from D&D 5e, 3.5e or Pathfinder 1e / 2e. We are not going to going adhere to their system mechanics, so we are happy to have a mix of system origins.

With assistance of the GM, players could also create or use their own variations on Ancestries, Backgrounds, Classes, or Archetypes.

 

Similar concepts, differences in execution

Because mechanics are similar to but not exactly the same as others that we borrow concepts or ideas from, the differences are on purpose and the world will be sometimes inconsistent and unpredictable. That is intended to be part of the fun.

  

Core Roll Mechanic

d20 roll over with advantage / disadvantage

The GM interprets the outcome of the roll in the current situation.

·       20 = Critical Success or Very Hard DC

·       16 - 19 = Success or Hard DC

·       12 - 15 = Success with complication or Easy DC

·       8 - 11 = Failure with upside or Very Easy DC

·       2 - 7 = Failure or Trivial DC

·       1 = Critical Failure

 

2 Modifiers - Advantage / Disadvantage & Boon / Bane

There are 2 main modifiers in the system:

Advantage / Disadvantage - rolling two dice and taking the higher or lower number. This is often done with a d20 but the same mechanic can be used with other die.

Boon / Bane - having expertise in a proficiency treats any DC as one level lower, reducing the DC by 4. You can also use a hinderance mechanic that situationally increases a DC by 4. Using both together they can work like a boon / bane mechanic.

Using both modifiers together on any type of check you can get a good spread of probability difficulties from extremes of rolling with disadvantage trying to hit a 16 DC with a hinderance raising it a 20, all the way through to rolling with advantage trying to hit a DC of 8 with some kind of boon reducing the target to a 4 and rolling with advantage.

 


 

Ability Scores - Advantage / Disadvantage

The six ability scores are Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Constitution (CON), Intelligence (INT), Wisdom (WIS) and Charisma (CHA).

A PC can have advantage / disadvantage in an ability score.

For the sake of rolls that require a PC to have an ability score, advantage is seen as a 16, a flat roll 12 and disadvantage is 8.

PCs choose 1 ability score to start with advantage 16. The rest are flat scores of 12. They can also have advantage in an ability score by choosing to have disadvantage on another.

 

Leveling

PCs level up in milestones determined by the GM but usually these coincide with the start of a session or after the completion of a quest or task. 20th level is the maximum level. 

PCs can gain advantage on one ability score at points that they would in 5e or PF have an Ability Score Increase, i.e. levels 4, 8, 12, 16 and 19 / 20.

If you made up your own Ancestries, Backgrounds, Classes, or Archetypes players would get one new ability per level.

 

Hit Points and Levels of Exhaustion

PCs get 10 Hit Points (HP) per level.

PCs can also get up to 10 levels of exhaustion before they die.

Hit points are viewed as a creature’s current stamina and levels of exhaustion measure of a creature’s physical health.

Besides absorbing damage, spending hit points is also the main resource to power spells and other spell like abilities and techniques in this ruleset rather than using other things like spell slots.

 

Resting

PCs regain 10 HP per hour when resting. PCs with advantage in Constitution regain 15 HP per hour. PCs with disadvantage in Constitution regain only 5 HP per hour.

Resting for 8 consecutive hours without interruption reduces 1 level of exhaustion.

 


 

Attacking and Defending with Ability Scores

There are 4 main styles of attack - Melee, Ranged, Psychological and Spells.

Melee weapons use Strength, ranged weapons use Dexterity, Psychological / Spells attacks use mental ability scores. Depending on how the attack is described it could attack a different ability score, i.e., an Intelligence attack could target an opponent’s Strength or Charisma etc. Thrown weapons could be an example of attacking with Strength targeting the Dexterity ability score. Finesse weapons could be an example of a Dexterity attack targeting Strength.

Having advantage in an ability score gives advantage on attacks using that ability score and also gives opponents disadvantage against you when defending using that ability score.

Players can use their actions to make attacks. PCs start with 2 actions per round. A standard attack takes 1 action.

In this combat model the standard “to hit” rolls and “damage” rolls are combined into a standard combat roll of a d20.

The roll could be made at advantage or disadvantage depending on the status of the ability score being used.

A standard combat roll on a d20 could have one of the follow outcomes:

·       20 = Critical success. On a critical success the d20 is rolled again, and the additional result also added. If the 2nd or subsequent rolls are also a critical success those values are added and there is no limit to this potential compounding of criticals besides luck. A critical success attack also breaks a targets concentration ending any spell or ability they are concentrating on.  

·       Equal or above target score = If the roll is equal to or above the target ability score, the attack does damage equal to the amount rolled. For instance, rolling 15 would do 15 HP of damage.

·       Below target score = If the roll is below the target ability score, the attack does half damage rounded down of the amount rolled. For instance, rolling 9 would do 4 HP of damage.

·       1 = Critical Failure. No damage is done, the PC loses an action next round and the PCs concentration is broken, ending any spell or ability being concentrated on.

 

Skills

PCs can choose to have expertise in a skill as an ability. For any attempt the PC treats any DC as one level lower reducing the DC by 4. For instance, a very hard DC is only a hard DC for that PC. Having advantage on the corresponding ability score will also give advantage on those skill checks.

You could also choose to have no skills or tools at all in your game only have the ability scores effect skill and tool checks.

If you choose to have skills as part of your game, you can use a list from a game system you like like 5e, Pathfinder, etc and their corresponding ability score.

D&D 5e SRD Skills, Pathfinder 1e SRD Skills

Tools

PCs can choose to have expertise in a tool as an ability. For any attempt the PC treats any DC as one level lower reducing the DC by 4. For instance, a very hard DC is only a hard DC for that. Having advantage on the corresponding ability score will also give advantage on those checks.

You can also choose to have no tools at all in your game and only have the ability scores effect checks.

If a creature is not expert in a tool, rolls are made at disadvantage. Acquiring a tool expertise means a PC gets the corresponding tool equipment.

Having advantage on the corresponding ability score will give advantage on the corresponding tool checks but the tool equipment will also need to be somehow acquired to complete the checks.

If you choose to have tool proficiencies as part of your game, you can use a list from a game system you like like 5e, Pathfinder, etc and their corresponding ability score.

D&D 5e SRD Tools

 

Stylish attacks and choosing a Signature Attack Style

When some players first learn the mechanics of the system, they will inevitably be quickly trying to find a way to gain expertise on standard attacks, so, there is a mechanic to deal with that.

If a PC has expertise in a particular skill or tool and they can narratively describe how using their skill or tool proficiency aids them in making their attacks, the GM may deem that they can add their expertise modifier to that roll.

If the player is regularly, repeatedly trying to make attacks in this way narratively then it can become their Signature Attack Style.

Their Signature Attack Style is specific to attacks made with one ability score against an opponent defending with one specific ability score using one skill / tool expertise or type of boon. This lowers the targets’ defending ability score DC by 4. For instance, a melee type of PC may choose to have their Signature Attack Style be Strength attacks made against Strength with some use of the athletics skill. (Or if they really want to choose a particular weapon or group of weapons as a tool proficiency then that will work too. Some players just want to be really good at hitting things really hard with a stick and that is ok…)

A PC can acquire their Signature Attack Style by regularly, repeatedly using that particular combination in play. The GM and Player discuss it and together decide whether this will be that PCs chosen Signature Attack Style. After that the player can just use their Signature Attack Style only narrating attacks using the combination when they find it fun to do so. The player can name their Signature Attack Style and it is effectively a form of shorthand to speed up play.

Generally, a Signature Attack Style would only be taken once or maybe twice for a character and becomes a defining aspect of that character.


 

Standard Equipment

PCs can start with any clothes, weapons, armor and equipment that suits their character. Here are links to common equipment tables:

D&D 5e SRD Equipment,

Pathfinder 1e SRD Equipment, Pathfinder 2e SRD Equipment

 

Weapons and Armor

In this system all weapons do a standard amount of damage, so choosing one(s) you like won’t affect damage output.

You can choose to wear armor but it is a cosmetic or narrative choice and does not affect combat mechanically because combat is controlled by the Ability Scores.  

 

Spells and Technique abilities commonly available

All PCs can learn spells or spell like abilities (called Techniques) so long as they can flavour it in a way to make it suitable for their chosen build. Some spells may require the PC to go on a quest to learn as part of gameplay.

PCs can swap their spells / technique abilities by undertaking study or training during downtime at the Academy preparing for whatever adventure awaits them next. The aim of this is to allow the players and GM to have fun trying new things they may not have been willing to attempt if their choices were more permanent or constrained.

All abilities / spells / techniques can be written down or remembered in some manner. These are called “Inscriptions” but could be referred to as things like scrolls, arcane spells, divine prayers, primal incantations, manuals, or treatise, etc.

These are usually recorded in some kind of book or device that could be found, purchased, stolen, examined, etc. Purchasing or acquiring an inscription usually has a common going rate of around 50gp multiplied by the abilities level squared, i.e. a 3rd level spell inscription could cost 50 x 3 x 3 = 450 gp to acquire. Like most things, selling an inscription might net the PC half its value in classic RPG style.  

Spells can be flavoured to be different or non-magical in nature to suit a PC or creature’s concept / theme. These abilities usually take 2 actions to cast.

Players and GMs can work together to create new abilities and inscriptions by going through a process described later in the document.

 

Popular Spell Lists

D&D 5e SRD Spell List, Pathfinder 1e SRD List, Pathfinder 2e SRD Spell List

 


 

Common Spell Names

Here is a list of common spell names and concepts from various versions of D&D over the decades. Exactly how these spells work at your table is up to you.

 

Cantrips Orisons (0 Level)

Acid Splash, Chill Touch, Dancing Lights, Detect Magic, Light, Mage Hand, Mending, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Produce Flame, Ray Of Frost, Shocking Grasp

1st Level

Air Bubble, Alarm, Bane, Bless, Burning Hands, Charm, Command, Comprehend Languages, Create Water, Fear, Feather Fall, Find Familiar, Grease, Identify, Illusory Disguise, Illusory Object, Illusory Script, Jump, Longstrider, Mage Armor, Pass without Trace, Pest Form, Purify Food and Drink, Sanctuary, Sleep, Summon Animal, Unseen Servant, Ventriloquism

2nd Level

Aid, Animal Form, Animal Messenger, Arcane Lock, Augury, Barkskin, Blur, Calm Emotions, Darkness, Darkvision, Dispel Magic, Entangle, Faerie Fire, Hideous Laughter, Humanoid Form, Illusory Creature, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Magic Mouth, Magic Weapon, Mirror Image, Misty Step, Obscuring Mist, Phantom Steed, Restoration, Shatter, Silence, Spider Climb, Spiritual Weapon, Suggestion, Warding Bond, Water Breathing, Water Walk, Web

3rd Level

Blindness, Earthbind, Fireball, Fly, Gaseous Form, Haste, Hypnotic Pattern, Illusory Scene, Lightning Bolt, Meld with Stone, Paralyse, Revivify, Send Message, Slow, Spirit Guardians, Tongues, Vampiric Touch, Wall of Wind, Zone of Truth

 

Concentration

Some spells or techniques require concentration. Rolling a critical failure natural 1 on a standard action or attack will break your concentration. Being attacked with a critical hit natural 20 also breaks concentration.

 


 

Abilities - Rolling for success

This system does not use spell slots.

Abilities cost hit points and require a DC roll to attempt.

The hit point cost of an ability is equal to the abilities level squared, i.e. a 3rd level spell would cost 3 x 3 = 9 hit points to cast.

A d20 ability score check is rolled to determine whether the attempt at using the spell or ability was successful. It is possible to fail, and the attempt have unforeseen outcomes or consequences especially when using magic. The more powerful the spell or ability the more drastic the unforeseen outcome could be. 

To successfully attempt a spell or ability, you need to roll above its level. For instance, to cast a 3rd level spell you need to roll above a 3 on a d20, above 9 for a 9th level spell.

The value also helps the GM determine how successfully the spell or ability was attempted and can also be used if the spell or ability requires a saving throw to be put against any target’s ability score values, or the GM could choose to determine the level of success based on the scaled outcomes of the core roll mechanic.

Rolling a natural 1 is always a critical failure. The spell / ability did not work as intended, having either no effect or an unintentional effect.

Something negative happens to the caster or someone / something near or dear to them. The GM chooses what occurs. This could be for example:

·       caster or someone “close” to them takes a level of Exhaustion or even up to the spell level;

·       caster takes a condition from the D&D 5e SRD Madness or PF2e Madness or another ttrpg.

·       caster takes an effect from one of the many random effect tables available on the internet or in other ttrpg systems to help determine the nature of what occurred like the Net Libram of Random Magical Effects version 2.00 By Orrex https://centralia.aquest.com/downloads/NLRMEv2.pdf

Rolling a natural 20 is a critical success and the GM may determine that the spell or ability includes an unforeseen beneficial effect or causes maximum damage.

PCs are going to need to work together protect and support each other when using their high power but high risk / high cost abilities.

 


 

Attempting a levelled spell or ability you do not know

You can attempt to cast a spell or attempt a levelled technique you don't know.

If you do not have the spell requirements and / or don’t know what you are doing, nothing happens.

If you have the spell requirements and have a rough idea of how the spell is cast and seen the spell successfully cast before, you can properly try.

You need to roll above 10 plus spell level. For instance to attempt a 9th level spell you need to roll above 10 + 9 = 19 so a 20 is required.

Learning a new spell or spell like ability and casting it for the first time can be a very dangerous pursuit, not to be done without preparation, precaution and assistance.

Attempts without the inscription

Without the inscription whether you succeed or fail, you will take levels of Exhaustion equal to the spell level.

If the attempt is unsuccessful any required material components are consumed / destroyed.

If you do not have the inscription, you will need to have 5 successful attempts of the spell by these new spell / ability rules before you can write your own inscription and start attempting the ability by the regular spell casting rules.

Learning a spell / ability with the inscription

If you have access to an ability or received the ability as part of a quest reward the GM can decide that the provider took the time to teach you the spell / ability properly including providing the inscription and necessary instruction, so you are able to safely attempt the ability. GM could choose to “montage” you’re learning or just have it happen not as part of gameplay.

If you have come across an inscription by other means and wish to attempt the ability with the inscription you found, you will take half the levels of exhaustion rounded up if you fail the roll, and no levels of exhaustion if you succeed. It is also a good idea to have assistance so you can try with advantage.

If you have the inscription and successfully cast the spell once by this method, you have successfully learnt the spell, and can now use the regular spell casting rules.

 

 

 


 

The Action Economy

All actions in a 6 second round are seen as taking place at the same time.

There is no initiative. Players usually go first in a round, then the enemies have their turn. A player can choose to have their turn after the enemies.

Most combatants are seen to be able finish their actions within the round regardless of their turn order or if actions occurring in the round mean they will become incapacitated next round. The idea of going first in a round meaning you will be able to drop an enemy instantly and stopping them from having their turn in the round is generally not true. This takes pressure off the turn order.

PCs get two actions per round at level one. They get an additional action per round at levels 5, 11 and 17.

With the number of actions scaling with level, you can see how PCs start simple and grow in power, initially with a mere 2 standard actions in a six second round and then up to 5 in a round at 20th level.

Common actions and activities can take one or more action to complete.

They can include:

·       Movement - you can move up to 30 feet in an action.

·       Attack – a standard attack takes one action. Examples of these are attacks that use the standard combat model like weapons, cantrips and natural attacks.

·       Ability – most levelled spells and abilities take two actions unless otherwise stated.

·       Reaction – reactions take 2 actions.

·       Free actions don’t require you to spend any of your actions.

PCs combine these types of actions in the order of their choice in a round.

Attack actions, Manoeuvres and Ability actions can include 5 feet of movement as part of their action.

If you are converting over 5e actions to the system, 5e Standard actions take two actions, Bonus actions take one action, 5e Reactions take two actions.

The GM and players describe what they plan to do first and then dice are rolled and then the GM describes how the action in the round played out.

Damage and healing is tallied at the end of the round and most actions performed in a round that effect other combatants only take effect in the next round.

Players can choose to use their actions to “react” to something occurring in this round, they choose to have their turn after the enemies.

Common examples of defensive actions like Dodge, Evasion, Shield and Resistance are combined into one mechanic giving disadvantage to incoming attacks / damage described later in the document.

 


 

Combat

Depending on the situation play could be either theatre of the mind or on 1-inch square grid paper with each square representing 5 feet depending on the situation at the time. The combatants represented as figurines on a square and wooden 1 inch blocks used to approximate terrain.

Attacks

PCs use the standard combat roll mechanic for their general attacks. Besides this they can use their other spells and abilities.

 

Movement

Using the movement action PCs can move up to 30 feet in an action. Depending on what level they are and how many actions they spend in a round on movement, a PC at 20th level could theoretically choose to move up 150 feet in a round by spending all 5 of their actions on movement.

Attack actions, Manoeuvres and Ability actions can include 5 feet of movement as part of their action.

There are 3 ranges:

·       Melee Range

·       Standard Ranged

·       Long Ranged

  

Melee Range

Melee range is an attack within 10ft.

Standard Ranged

Standard ranged attacks are made within the stated range of the weapon or spell.

This is usually up to 120 feet depending on the weapon / attack.

An attacker that does not move within the round gains advantage on their ranged attacks.

You cannot attack someone with a ranged attack when they are behind cover. Attacks where the target is partially covered, for instance there are other combatants in the way, are made with disadvantage.

Long Ranged

Long ranged attacks are made within the stated maximum range of a weapon or double the stated range of a spell.

This could be up to 600 feet depending on the weapon / attack.

Long ranged standard attacks are made by rolling a d20 with only a “20” hitting and anything else is a miss.

The idea behind this is to make these attacks like volley fire or long-ranged sniper attacks.

Out of Range

Out of range is deemed that the target is too far away for the attack type.

 

Attacks of Opportunity

Attacks of Opportunity do not give additional attacks not on your turn. It is more that because we consider all actions within a round to be occurring at the same time, if a creature was within range of your attacks at some point within the round and then move out of range, you can still attack them even if your turn is made later in the round because your attack is considered to be made while they were within range. Attacks of Opportunity are effectively normal attacks requiring an action.

 

Jump

PCs can normally jump 10ft as an action. Having advantage in either Strength or Dexterity ability scores increases jump by 5ft, disadvantage reduces by 5ft. Proficiency with Athletics or Acrobatics also increases jump by 5ft. This means a PC with all 4 advantages and proficiencies could jump 30ft.

 

Hide

When you take the Hide action, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check in an attempt to hide. If you succeed, you become Unseen.

 

Dodge, Shield, Resistance and Disengage

Common ways of reducing damage are a combined into one mechanic. The action is available to all creatures and takes 1 action. The PC / creature can use this action to fight defensively choosing to give disadvantage to all attack rolls and saving throws received in this round. The action can include up to 15 feet of movement.

 

Saving Throws

In this system saving throws are rolled by the attacker.

Same as combat rolls, saving throws target an ability score. The attacker tries to roll a d20 equal or higher than the defending ability score. If more than one creature is potentially affected by the attack, the roll is made once but applied to each creatures defending ability score.

So saving throws are effectively the same as the standard combat roll but usually only used for damage from abilities or from the environment.

 

The Help Action

A creature can lend aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When taking the Help action, the creature aided gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task helped with, provided it makes the check in the same round. 

 

Healing Ability

All PCs have the Healing Ability and can spend their own HP to heal others up to 30 ft away. The ability takes one action and heals 1 HP. The Healing Ability can be performed in or outside combat.

Healing another transfers HP from one healing creature to the creature being healed. No additional HP are created in the process and the healer must have HP to give to perform the Healing Ability.

The description of a PC using the Healing Ability can be altered to suit the characters theme. The mechanical benefits remain the same. 

 

Healing magic, Healing potions and Healer’s kits

Healing magic does not create additional hit points, it only allows a healer to transfer their HP to the creature(s) they are healing faster than the standard healing ability.

Healing potions, healing kits are used to restore 1 HP to a creature without requiring the HP to come from the person attempting to heal. Use of a Healing potion or a Healer’s kit requires an action and returns 1HP. You can only benefit from 1 Healing potion or application of a Healer’s kit per hour. 

 

Levels of Exhaustion

For each level of Exhaustion a minus 1 penalty is applied to all rolls.

The penalties stack on top of each other.

If you gain 10 levels of Exhaustion you are dead.

 

Resting for 8 consecutive hours reduces a level of exhaustion by 1. 

Death

When a creature sustains enough damage to end the round with a negative HP value equal to or bigger than their negative HP maximum value, they die instantly.

When a creature ends a round on between 0 HP and their negative HP maximum, they are deemed alive but take 1 level of exhaustion and the dying condition.

A creature on 0 hp with the dying condition can only take 1 action per round and each round the creature is dying on 0 hp they take one level of Exhaustion.

Without intervention or action in 10 rounds they will reach 10 levels of Exhaustion and die.

Any attack against a dying / incapacitated / unconscious creature, kills the creature outright.

A creature can choose to try and stabilise itself or another with a dc 16 medicine check. On a successful stabilising medicine check the creature is stabilised at 1 HP. 

Unconscious creatures remain on their current level of Exhaustion but are no longer dying.

Unless healed or killed in the meantime, unconscious creatures naturally regain consciousness in 1 hour at 1 HP.

Once a creature has been unconscious, they cannot re-join an ongoing combat.

If a creature is resurrected or revivified, they return with 5 levels of Exhaustion.

Killing dying / incapacitated / unconscious creatures

It is an active decision and an action to kill a dying / incapacitated / unconscious creature. You must decide to do so.

 

 


 

Lethal and Non-lethal Combat

The system has both lethal and non-lethal combat in the system.

Damage Types

Combat is based on attacking and damaging the opponents HP pool. It is a measure of their energy, their ability to act and defend rather than merely a physical measure of health. An opponent’s HP can be bought to 0 without them getting a scratch on them.

Damage types used could be Force, Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing, Fire, Cold (Heat), Radiant, Lightning, Psychic (non-lethal), Acid, Necrotic, Thunder, Poison or one of the players describing.

Players can have access to attacks from different damage types, applying conditions, so long as they can work them into their PCs overall theme. The aim is to keep their combat style iconic to them. They may learn new styles over time as part of their character arc. These growing capabilities would be part of the narrative of their campaign.

 

Non-Lethal Damage

Non-lethal damage can be chosen to be used at any time in lethal combat and can be very useful at potentially changing the outcome of a combat if used thoughtfully.

Non-lethal damage is calculated in the same way as lethal damage and goes against a creatures HP pool as per usual. The damage is done and the creatures current HP do go down, but no one will die as an outcome of the combat.

Psychic damage is the most common damage type for mental ability non-lethal attacks and is more common in this game than in other forms of Dungeons and Dragons.

For instance, a big, scary, intimidating creature with a strength of 16 can roar at a PC in combat and do non-lethal psychic damage targeting a creatures Wisdom. It won’t physically injure you, but it can reduce your HP meaning you are more vulnerable and less able to fight back.

Also, a sweet, little grandma could command creatures to “stop fighting this instant!” and do non-lethal psychic damage to all combatants in the room.

Many forms of non-lethal combat are common in the setting – for practice, fun and entertainment, settling scores, determining the fates of nations or mugging people.

Examples of non-lethal combat could include:

·       one ability score - Intelligence for puzzle solving

·       a set of scores – the 3 mental scores for polite dinner party conversation or the 3 physical scores for wrestling

·       all scores for a tavern brawl

 


 

In formal non-lethal combat:

·       Abilities may also be allowed if they are non-lethal and fit within the rules of that engagement.

·       You can call for parlay at any time.

·       Any incapacitated or unconscious creature is out of the game.

·       You cannot attack an incapacitated or unconscious creature.

·       You can withdraw from the combat at any time but once you are out, you are out.

·       You cannot re-enter combat once you withdraw, become incapacitated or unconscious.

  

Creatures who use non-lethal combat

There are many creatures that will choose to use non-lethal combat.

They may want to practice, take a foe alive, not risk repercussions of killing someone, lower their risk of death in a resolving conflict, etc.

Being successful at certain non-lethal combat pursuits can be very lucrative. There are many famous former adventurers in the setting that now make their income from “Sport” rather than potentially lethal quests, campaigns and treasure.  PCs could choose to specialise in attack styles and abilities that are non-lethal.

 

Using Lethal Force in non-lethal contests

Anyone found to use lethal force in a non-lethal pursuit are universally shunned by all, especially if they kill an opponent.

Marked as an outcast, they become Unwelcome. Depending on the situation others may feel honour bound to kill the offender on the spot and can legally do so without impunity.

If you do kill someone in non-lethal pursuits, common consequences include being killed yourself, imprisoned or enslaved, being bound by a life debt to resurrect the individual you killed, and or to pay compensation to their family or companions for their loss. 

 


 

Manoeuvres

Manoeuvres are tactical actions available to all adventurers at Adventuring Academy. Manoeuvres can take one or two actions.

The aim of manoeuvres is to have a way to apply short term temporarily conditions and effects that do not have a HP cost.

At the discretion of the GM players could make up new custom manoeuvres. 

Ambush – 1 action

If all of your party start an encounter hidden you can use this manoeuvre to give all party members advantage on their damage in the first round of combat.

Bait and Switch – 1 action

When you’re within 5 feet of a creature on your turn, you can switch places with that creature, provided the creature is willing and isn’t incapacitated.

Blinding Strike – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you temporarily blind the opponent giving them disadvantage on their attacks next round.

Charm – 1 action

On a successful Charisma saving throw you charm an opponent meaning they will not attack you next round.

Deafening Attack – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you temporarily deafen your opponent meaning they can’t hear and cannot participate in any action that requires hearing next round.

Demoralize – 1 action

On a successful Charisma saving throw you force an opponent to make a morale check and potentially leave the battlefield next round.

Disarming Attack – 2 actions

On a successful attack you force the target to drop one item of your choice that it’s holding. The object lands at its feet.

Distracting Strike – 2 actions

On a successful attack you distract the creature giving your allies an opening. All attacks against the target are at advantage next round. 

Feinting Attack – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you feint, and your opponent loses an action next round. 

Friendly Foe – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you flirt with your opponent temporarily charming them giving them disadvantage on their attacks against you next round.

Frighten – 1 action

On a successful Wisdom saving throw you frighten an opponent meaning they will not attack you next round.

Goading Attack – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you goad the target into focusing on you. The target has disadvantage on all attack rolls against targets other than you next round.

Grapple – 1 action

On a successful Strength saving throw you grapple the target giving them the restrained condition.

Improvised Strike – 1 action

You attack an opponent unarmed or with an improvised object from the environment for a melee or ranged thrown attack out to 20 feet.

Intimidate – 1 action

On a successful Strength saving throw you intimidate an opponent meaning they will not attack you next round.

Knock Prone – 1 action

If the target is Medium or smaller, on a successful Strength saving throw the target is knocked prone.

Their only Movement option in the next round is to crawl. The creature has disadvantage on Attack rolls.

Attack rolls against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the Attack roll has disadvantage.

Lunging Attack – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you can attack an opponent at an additional 5 feet of range.

Manoeuvring Attack – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you manoeuvre one of your comrades into a more advantageous position. You choose a friendly creature who can see or hear you. That creature can move to a position where they are protected from attacks by the target of your attack next round.

Menacing Attack – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you frighten the target for the next round.  

Parley – 1 action

On a successful Charisma saving throw you convince an opponent into talking with you next round. Next round you and your opponent will not attack the other and will use free actions to talk.

Poisoned Tip – 2 actions

On a successful attack against Constitution you poison your opponent giving them disadvantage on their attacks and ability checks next round.

Pounce – 2 actions

You jump and then make a melee attack. Your melee attack is made at advantage.

 

Precise Strike – 2 actions

You hold still and forgo movement this round. You focus on one attack of one opponent’s weakness. This attack has advantage and does triple damage to that opponent. All attacks against you this round are made with advantage.

Push - 1 action

You attempt to drive the target back. If the target is Medium or smaller, on a successful Strength saving throw you push the target up to 10 feet away from you.

Riposte – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack your opponent loses one action next round.

Repulse – 1 action

On a successful Constitution saving throw you repulse an opponent meaning they are unwilling to be within 5 feet of you next round.

Restrict Movement – 2 actions

On a successful melee attack you position yourself in a way that restricts your opponent’s movement. If your opponent is Medium or smaller, they are unable to move from their current position next round.

Sweeping Attack – 1 action

With a melee attack, you can attack multiple creatures that are adjacent to each other and within your reach. The creatures each take half the damage rounded down from your attack.

Trip Attack – 2 actions

If the target is Large or smaller, on a successful melee attack you trip your opponent, and the target is knocked prone next round.


 

Creating a New Inscriptions

Although Academy adventurers often use spells and abilities originally developed in other worlds, many prefer to create their own spells and abilities from scratch.

This can be done with the assistance and confirmation of the GM.

To create their own spell or ability the PC needs to identify the following details:

Spell / Ability name, Level, Ability Score, Disciple(s), Activation time, Range, Requirements, Duration and Description.

 

Creating a spell / ability in this way allows both the player and GM to have a reasonable understanding of how the new ability will work.

It also requires the PC to go through the learning a new spell / ability process explained elsewhere in the document until they have perfected it and can write down their own inscription.

Spell / Ability name

The PC can name the spell anything they want. Certain arrogant adventurers choose to include their own name…

Ability Score

The ability score you are using to activate the spell or ability.

Level

The power level of the ability is determined by the parameters. The larger, longer and more complex the effect, the higher the level.

Disciple

These could be related to an ability type, element, damage type, condition, creature type, plane, power source, vocation, school of magic, skills or something made up.

The more disciples required, the higher the level.

Examples could be:

Attack, Defend, Utility, Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Force, Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing, Heat, Cold, Radiant, Lightning, Psychic, Acid, Necrotic, Thunder, Poison, Blinded, Charmed, Deafened, Exhaustion, Frightened, Grappled, Incapacitated, Invisible, Paralysed, Petrified, Poisoned, Prone, Restrained, Stunned, Unconscious, Aberration, Beast, Celestial, Construct, Dragon, Elemental, Fey, Fiend, Giant, Humanoid, Monstrosity, Ooze, Plant, Undead, Material, Astral, Ethereal, Shadow, Academic, Alien, Martial, Mercantile, Political, Scientific, Social, Technological, Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation, Arcane, Divine, Primal, Occult, Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Deception, Endurance, History, Intimidation, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Persuasion, Performance, Religion, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Survival, Fabrication

Activation time

How long it takes to active the ability. Minimum would be one action and up to hours or repeated applications. 

Range

Examples would be - self, one creature, multiple creatures, melee, a range in feet, a shaped area of a stated size, a plane of existence.

Requirements

Is the activation or effect limited by using your verbal, sematic, a material component or circumstance? 

Duration

Is the effect brief / instantaneous, a period of time or indefinite?

The longer the effect, the higher the level.

 

Examples

Putting all these aspects we could create a cantrip or a high-level spell:

Bozo’s Fire Blast
Level: Cantrip 0
Ability Score: Intelligence
Discipline(s): Element, Attack
Activation: one action
Range: 120 feet
Requirements: verbal, sematic,
Duration: one action
Description: You attack an enemy with a blast of fire.

Resurrection of the Ancients
Level: 9
Ability Score: Wisdom
Discipline(s): Necromancy, Utility
Activation: one hour
Range: touch
Requirements: verbal, sematic, material (25,000 GP Diamond)
Duration: indefinite
Description: You perform a ritual to raise a being that has been dead for centuries.

 

 


 

Game Masters Guide

Probabilities and Possibilities

A core idea of this ruleset is to try and keep the estimating of desired difficulty or probability in any rolled outcome as simple as possible for the GM to calculate in gameplay.

GMs need to be able come up with difficulty / probability levels in rolls for a given scenario which serves the story and feel satisfying, appropriate to the players.  

By keeping modifiers to a minimum GMs have more chance of succeeding in being able to calculate the desired probability of outcome, provide character progression but avoid having to fight the math to do so.

It is never usually stated but in most RPGs with larger compounding modifiers, most progression is an illusion because the GM will be increasing the DCs of success to maintain their desired probabilities. This is the dirty little secret of RPG math.

Only roll if there is both a chance they might succeed or fail. If they cannot succeed or fail, don’t roll, just state that they succeed or fail.

It is the GMs job to interpret the outcome of the roll in the current situation.

Having potential complications and/or upsides in outcomes more than just succeed or fail help the players think about what they might do next.

 

Within the system the most modifiers are bounded from a flat roll to advantage on one side opposing disadvantage on the other, or advantage on a check lowered one step on the DC.

 

Here is a table showing how advantage / disadvantage effects probability and percentage outcome on a d20 roll.

Using just a d20 plus advantage / disadvantage we can get a useful array of percentile probability outcomes most people can understand without needing to make the number become unwieldy.

 

 

Rule of Thirds

People often feel something is possible and relatively achievable if they can reliably succeed more than two thirds or 66% of the time.

People start to feel something is difficult if they can only succeed less than one third or 33% of the time.

 

Randomising Resources

There are many great and inexpensive tools on the internet for assisting with randomised world building. Popular ones I like Stars Without Number, Questing Beast Knave, Index Card RPG, Deck Quest, Sly Flourish Lazy DM Companion, Tome of Adventure Design Revised, Arcane Library – Shadowdark RPG, Masks and Eureka: 1,000 NPCs and 501 Plots Bundle and randomised tables on DrivethruRPG.

 


 

Other Common Styles of Checks and Challenges

Rolling dice gives us an understanding of how random factors outside the players control and the PCs performance in the moment are affecting success in challenges players are trying to complete.

The player rolls dice, and the GM helps narrate the outcome.

Common types of rolls include:

Combat – the combat mechanics explained earlier.

Difficulty Class – Roll d20(s) for a value equal or higher to a number specified by the GM. Flat rolls DC 6+ (75%), 11 (50%), 15 (25%), 20 (5%), 15+/15+/15+ (2.7%), 18+/18+ (2.25%) 19+/19+ (1%) 19+/20 (0.5%) 20/20 (0.25%) are possible values required.

Ability Score Check – roll on a d20 equal or lower than your ability score to succeed.

Luck - This is a d20 roll where 20 is a success, 1 is a failure and depending on the purpose of the roll 2 – 19 can either be a success (for very easy), a fail (for very hard) or no outcome (for very unlikely).

Fail Forward - When the PCs have plenty of time, and can have repeat attempts at a challenge, they could reroll until they either roll equal to the DC or higher and succeed or roll a 1 and fail. The GM then narrates a montage of the PCs attempts to their eventual success or failure at the task.

Effort – There is an amount of points that need to be accumulated to complete this challenge. An ability score or scores are chosen to use. Each player rolls a d20 to contribute to the task. The roll is added if it is equal or below their ability score. Time could also be a factor depending on the task. A roll of providing effort could represent a round, minute, hour or day. The time limit might mean they only get one chance at the roll. This could be anything from a 1 round time limit where all need to work together at once to move a large rock, to building a house with a target meaning the players add to the total by rolling over a period of many sessions.

Pitching an Outcome – how do you want to do this?

When a player rolls a critical success or failure, the GM may give the player an opportunity to pitch an outcome as to what happened. If the player chooses to do so they say what they envision happening and the GM either agrees it to be so or may provide an altered version of events based on what the player described. The player does not get to argue or debate the result.


 

Plots, Places and People in a point crawl world

Plots

I create small, short scenarios that can be the basis of an adventure plot usually 1-2 hours long.

The idea for this could come from one of the many great TTRPG source books, or from a piece of fiction or real-life drama, but usually comes from looking at fantasy images.

I have a folder with thousands of fantasy images. I will choose 2 or 3 at random and see if I can make an idea that links them together.

Once I have the basis of the plot, I go searching the images for other ones that could either replace or add to those chosen to make the scenario better.

The plot may end up having roughly 3 to 7 images that could be revealed depending on how the scenario plays out. Sometimes new images are chosen from the image bank when needed in the moment of gameplay to help illustrate an unforeseen point.  

Places

We play in a point crawl manner. We end up with point places that the party moves between. Random things can happen when moving from point to point but usually this is not the case. Our places are usually based on somewhere locally in real life like a place in our local town or the big city / area nearby, or from famous fiction that I am familiar with. The main thing is trying to choose places I can describe in detail because I can picture them well in my head. Then alter it to suit our purposes. We also sometimes use small fantasy map resources bought on the internet. Encounters can be either theatre of the mind or on 1 inch grid paper depending on what best suits the scene. The players map out the relationships between the points as the story grows with new points getting added to their map.

People

Once I have chosen our main creatures / NPCs for the story, one of the things we often do is the players get to choose who the “actor” will be that is playing that NPC in the story. Mostly they are people we are familiar with like family, friends or a famous person. This is great to flavour the encounter in ways I did not initially imagine and make things more interesting. The PCs often get to name the NPC and we start badly impersonating the character based on the personality and mannerisms of the person we know. The players help adding nuance to flesh out the character. Part of the fun is not knowing who will turn up for a “guest appearance” from session to session. Some NPCs go on to become regulars. Another way things may occur is I as the GM might choose a famous scene and set of characters and describe it as best I can waiting for the players to work out who and where these people are from. An example of this could be using the Central Perk Café and the cast of Friends. The plot could be completely unrelated amd almost illogical for a normal Friends plot lines but that dissonance can often add to the fun.

    


 

Encounters

Common Encounters, Actions and Damage

I use an Excel spreadsheet of 800 Monsters Listed with Ability Scores found on the internet to randomize stats.

I have a list of conditions, encounter strategies, creature state and motivation which can see below.

I use a random number generator to combine a random image, stat block, condition, strategy, state and motivation to create an encounter the party would not have seen before.

Sometimes this is not balanced at all.

I have an opinion that unlike normal D&D one Level 1 PC with good preparation, tactics or luck should have a chance to survive or beat an encounter with a CR 1 monster.  

 

Enemy Damage

In general, the monsters will have more HP and outnumber the players but will not hit as hard. Minion creatures usually do low damage. The aim is to have combat last an average of 3 – 5 rounds.

Things are potentially deadly when the opponents have over an average of twice the parties total HP, doing a quarter of parties HP damage per round, or if they have the same amount of HP, damage and number of actions as the party.

Creatures do damage using various die - 1d4, 2d4, 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, 1d8, 2d8, 1d10, 2d10, 1d12, 2d12, 1d20 or 2d20.

Besides using different die, the combat model roll remains similar. Rolling equal or above the defending ability score does full damage rather than half, 1 is a critical failure and the maximum value on a die is a critical success compounding with potential additional rolls.

If all initial die values are maximum and are equal or above the defending ability score the attack also breaks a targets concentration ending any spell or ability they are concentrating on. Interestingly this means a single d8 or d10 critical success could break concentration on a caster with disadvantage on their casting stat or a d12 for someone without advantage, whereas a 2d6 would need a 6 on both die to have the same effect. If the caster had advantage (16) a critical success on a 2d8, 3d6 or a d20 would be required.

Using their choice or die combinations wisely a GM could alter variables like the curve of likely damage values and the potential for enemies to break the concentration of spell casters / users of techniques.


 

An example of an early CR 1 monster could be some kind of Ooze

·       Hit Points = 30 HP

·       Speed 20 ft.

·       Hit: 2d6 HP, bludgeoning damage.

·       Grappler: Tentacles, hooks, and grubby fingers. Uses STR to restrain.

·       Condition: Grappled (roll above STR 16 to escape)

·       Motivation: Feeding – initially feeding on something but you look tastier.

 

Special Attacks / Conditions

Some creatures can potentially use special attack mechanics that apply conditions in a similar way to players having spells and techniques.

Conditions are a d20 saving throw.

Conditions only last one round and common conditions applied instead of damage include: dazed, charm, fear, stun, blind, deafen, hypnotise, poisoned, restrained, prone, paralysed, petrified, bleeding, confusion, fatigued, nauseated, suffocating.

Explanations of conditions:

https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/Conditions

https://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/conditions/

 

Encounter Reactions

When the PCs encounter an creature whose reaction to the party is not obvious, the GM may roll 2d6 and consult the following table.

2

3-5

6-8

9-11

12

Hostile

Unfriendly

Unsure

Talkative

Helpful

 

 

 

 

 

Encounter Strategies

It is a good idea to consider where the encounter is taking place and how the terrain and other aspects of who and what is around the potential battlefield will affect how combat may progress.

Consider that the creatures encountered may have other goals besides beating the party in combat. Having something that puts additional pressures on the party or something that works as a time limit can raise the stakes of an encounter.

I use random number generators on the following tables to choose an option and enhance your encounter. The following tables are collated and altered based on ones found in other great ttrpgs. These include the wonderful Index Card RPG and Deck Quest.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/366519/Index-Card-RPG-Master-Edition

https://garagesofagames.com/deck-quest

Example Strategies 

1.          An Unlikely Foe: Consider making monsters that aren’t monsters. All kinds of weird objects, terrain, people, or magical entities can be foes to battle. Here’s a Brain in a Jar. What can it do? How is it dangerous? Why must it be defeated? As you answer questions, it takes form!

2.          Armored: It’s tough as iron! Ignores any damage below 5HP

3.          Banish Foes: With a spell, a monster can send an enemy to a mini dimension. There, the hero needs to do something to return to the fight.

4.          Behave In Cycles: When monsters do the same action combos, players can learn their pattern and exploit it.

5.          Bolster Defenses: If a monster is just ‘in the way,’ then making it resilient can be fun. With its defense up it has double HP, when down make attacks for extra damage.

6.          Charging: When it moves, anything in its path makes a DEX check or takes double damage.

7.          Confusing: Where’d it go? Attackers must roll WIS checks to spot its actual location.

8.          Control Them: There’s nothing worse than players killing players. A monster with mind control powers turns them against one another.

9.          Create Terrain: Creating barriers or obstacles can disrupt a battle or make the target hard to reach.

10.       Crusher: When it locks on, it crushes bones and steel alike. Damage goes up by 1HP per round until STR check

11.       Destroy Gear / Lose Powers: Wait, what? Give a monster the ability to destroy equipment, lose abilities and players will turn pale with fear. This effect is usually explained with corrosion, acid, or crushing jaws.

12.       Destroy Terrain: If a foe smashes a doorway, it can have more gravity than killing a hero! Use this destructive power to share or confine the heroes. How does making a hole or collapsing an exit change the fight?

13.       Devious Intelligence: We’re being watched. It will retreat, use line of sight, or utilize minions to win

14.       Devour: It ate Carl! If a hero takes 10+ damage, they are engulfed by the thing

15.       Fast: Look out! It moves at speed and can phase straight through you.

16.       Firestarter: Don’t stand in the fire! Monster leaves areas of flame behind wherever it attacks.

17.       Force Them To Move: Tank and spank monster fights can be very dull. Use jumping, flying, or must-flee effects like fire pits to keep battles moving.

18.       Fort: Shoot at that wall of junk! It will gather local materials to hide itself/deflect missiles.

19.       Frighten Them: Monsters are scary, but some are so scary, you just have to flee! Control the power by limiting how long the fear lasts - 1 round, until they save etc.

20.       Gigantic: It’s destroying the city! Monster cannot be damaged by human-sized creatures or conventional weapons.

21.       Go Enraged: At a certain threshold, maybe extremely low HP or having its eggs destroyed, enrage your monster. In this state it always does big attacks or has higher stats. Flee!

22.       Grappler: Tentacles, hooks, and grubby fingers. Victims use STR checks to avoid or break free

23.       Have Only 1 Weakness: A single weakness is not only great for making a fight perilous, but also fun for those players who track details about monsters. It makes all their work worth it, and they are considered ‘monster experts.’

24.       Hellion: Back to the pit! Monster always targets the holy or innocent. Variation: the monster that targets one player from some reason. What is the reason? Shiny armor? Magic use? Family history?

25.       Hit All Targets: Monsters that attack whole areas are brutal! Unleash it with an attack roll, or force players to roll for avoidance.

26.       Hit Points: This thing is beefy! Easy to hit but crazy high number of HP.

27.       Illusory: Which is the real one! Multiple opponents but most are not real.

28.       Immune To: Yetis don’t mind the cold. Be sure to make immunities sensible so players aren’t baffled why their sword doesn’t work.

29.       Legion: Gods! There are more! There are always more of them coming…

30.       Lots Of Actions: Giving a monster 2, 3, or more Actions will give it a boss-like quality. Be sure to have the variety to back it up.

31.       Magical Effect: Glowing with some arcane hex. Hits against the PC is at advantage

32.       Metagen: It just keeps healing. Recovers 4 HP per round

33.       Move Twice: Doubling the normal move rules can make your new monster very formidable, as players will waste time chasing rather than killing.

34.       Multiply: Any time a monster becomes 2, things get hairy. You can multiply by dividing it like a starfish or by spawning from a nearby source. When players figure out how to stop this process, the tide will turn in their favour.

35.       Negate Their Attacks: Any monster action that costs players an action is very powerful, but can be disheartening, so be judicious with such abilities.

36.       Nova: Take cover! Every 1D4 ROUNDS, it damages all within range, DEX or CON to avoid

37.       Paralyze: Paralyzed heroes aren’t totally useless, but they can be vulnerable. Use stinging barbs, poison, and the like, but always allow a CON check to break free.

38.       Part Human: Faces! Faces in the skin! Advantage when persuading or beseeching enemies

39.       Poison: Like fire, this kind of damage can keep hurting over time. For some monsters, even with a simple visual, poison feels like a perfect fit.

40.       Pursuit: Flee! If heroes flee, it will pursue to the death

41.       Regenerate: Either automatically or by an Action, the monster can regain a few HP, critical for climax monsters.

42.       Repel Them: Use magic or muscle to shove enemies away. This ability can be especially deadly if combined with a ranged barrage.

43.       Rider: Something is controlling it! Can only be defeated by killing the rider.

44.       Smart: It’s looking right at me! Creature makes EASY WIS checks to spot party weakness

45.       Special Weapon: Razor sharp, barbed, and toothy. Causes 1HP ongoing bleed damage per hit

46.       Stalker: They’re in the damn ceiling! It will wait patiently for an opportune moment to strike.

47.       Steal Their Gear / Powers: Destroying gear is hardcore. This version uses a roll to swipe stuff or a power, maybe use it against them, or maybe stash it to be searched for and found. Then it can be retrieved after combat and hugged.

48.       Tactical: How can it cut the power? It’s an animal! Create and/or destroy terrain, alter the battlefield, sight.

49.       Terrifying: What in blazes? Any hero at close range must check with CHA or flee for their turn

50.       Tough: Thud. Cannot be harmed with blunt weapons

51.       Toxic: Venomous. Injured heroes continue taking 1D4 each round until making a CON check

52.       Trap Them: The monster can grapple, immobilize, grab or incapacitate its foes. Usually countered with opposing STR rolls.

53.       Vanish/Reappear: When players pin a monster down, it has little chance. Give one the ability to move without moving, and suddenly, the tables are turned.

54.       Volatile: Don’t stab it! When killed, explodes, doing double damage to all within melee range.

55.       It’s EOAMOUR!!! Reduces maximum HP of all in the party each round. Starts at 1HP, 2HP, 3HP etc growing each round. Does nothing else but monologue. Can they last it out to defeat before their time runs out?

 


 

Encounter Situation / Motivation

1.          Angry: Creature(s) are obviously very angry for some reason.

2.          Attach: Creature(s) are parasitic whose only concern is latching on to victim(s) and doing whatever it does next.

3.          Altered / Augmented / Cybernetic / Mutated: Creature(s) have been altered or enhanced in some way with unusual, probably unnatural things about their body.

4.          Camouflage: Creature(s) are hard to see and have a way to blend in with the environment.

5.          Confused: Creature(s) are baffled, unsure about something or the situation.

6.          Construction: Creature(s) are building something.

7.          Crippled: Creature(s) are injured in some way. Is it recent and temporary or more permanent?

8.          Dividing: Creature(s) are dividing into multiple smaller entities.

9.          Dying: Creature(s) are barely alive but are resolutely trying to hang on.

10.       Elemental: Creature(s) are elemental in some way, effected by one of the elements in some way. Is it on purpose? How is it happening?

11.       Escape: Creature(s) are desperately trying to escape from somewhere or something.

12.       Feeding: Creature(s) are eating something. Are you next?

13.       Grow: Creature(s) are significantly increasing in size for some reason.

14.       Guard: Creature(s) are guarding somewhere or something and will stand their ground in one spot and never waiver.

15.       Heal: Creature(s) are being healed, healing, or looking for healing.

16.       Hibernation / Shelter: Creature(s) are tired, looking for or have found a private, quiet, safe place to rest.

17.       Hiding / Ambush: Creature(s) are hidden waiting to surprise someone.

18.       Hoard: Creature(s) have a lot of stuff or are here to collect a lot of stuff. Where is all the stuff?

19.       Hungry: Creature(s) are trying to find food.

20.       Imprisoned: Creature(s) are caged / restrained. But why and by whom?

21.       Imitate: Creature(s) can take the form of others and uses its form to separate the foolish.

22.       Intimidate: Creature(s) are bullies looking for someone to pick on to make them feel superior.

23.       Leroy Jenkins: Kerbloowie! Creature(s) explode into the scene breaking through the terrain, a gate, wall, or door.

24.       Kill: Creature(s) are here determined to kill a member of the party. Why?

25.       Metamorphosis: Creature(s) are turning from one state to another. Is it natural, evolution or for some other external reason?

26.       Nest: Creature(s) are creating or have created a home. Not sure how they feel about you being here.

27.       Patrolling: Creature(s) are protecting a space, keeping guard, looking for intruders.

28.       Performance: Creature(s) are involved in some kind of artistic, cultural or sporting event.

29.       Play Dead: Creature(s) are pretending to be dead.

30.       Prey: Creature(s) are bored looking for prey to play with for their amusement. Then maybe bite their head off and eat.

31.       Recon: Creature(s) are far from home on a mission to watch or listen for their masters.

32.       Reproduce: Creature(s) are very interested in making baby creatures.

33.       Ritual: Creature(s) are performing some kind of ritual.  

34.       Sacrifice: Creature(s) are looking for someone or something to sacrifice for some not doubt unpleasant reason.

35.       Searching: Creature(s) are looking for an object or maybe someone.

36.       Sleeping: Creature(s) are dormant. Can you go undetected.

37.       Study: Creature(s) are researching trying to learn about something here.

38.       Survive: Creature(s) seem to have many things trying to kill them, can they live another day.

39.       Swarming: Creatures are here in great number convulsing in a frenzy.

40.       Tattooed / Marked: Creature(s) are marked in someway but what do the symbols mean and what is their purpose.

41.       Tormented: Creature(s) are being experimented on or tortured for some awful purpose.

42.       Trade: Creature(s) are here to do business. To buy, sell, exchange.

43.       Transport: Creature(s) are moving something or someone from one place to another.

44.       Undead: Creature(s) are already dead but somehow they still live.

 


 

Minions

Often an encounter will have minions or the equivalent of “extras” in the scene besides the main NPC(s) or creature(s). These additional actors usually do have 1 action per round and very low HP, being downed within a hit or will flee after taking any damage. Often they are more set dressing than a true threat.

 

Morale

The GM can decide to do a Morale check for creatures at any time to determine how they view the combat they are participating. Morale rolls can be triggered by defeating half of an enemy group, defeating a group’s leader, or reducing a lone enemy to half HP. Other effects may trigger a morale roll at the GM’s discretion.

Hirelings also make morale rolls when they aren’t paid, their employer dies, or they face extraordinary danger. Morale may also be improved by paying hirelings more and treating them well. It is assumed that most creatures do not want to die and will try to avoid it.

There are many situations where creatures will choose to not to fight to the death. Some abilities may be designed to force a Morale check.  

Roll a 2d6 morale check:

·       12 = Rallies and attacks with advantage out of desperation

·       10-11 = continues to fight

·       8-9 = calls for aid and continues to fight

·       6-7 = tries to talk / parley / negotiate

·       4-5 = surrenders / plays dead / incapacitated

·       2-3 = run / flee


 

Mass Combat Using Dice

Dice Combat - Optional Rules

Here are a couple of ways to run simple combats using only dice.

Using these mechanics can be fun way to run a fun, fast random encounter or larger mass combat battles with lots of creatures.

 

Random encounter mini game

Combat is played on a 1-inch square grid.

Each square represents 5 feet.

The combatants are represented as die or dice on each square.

Most creatures can move 30 feet in a round.

Wooden 1 inch blocks can also be used to approximate terrain.

A player character is a d20 and has a hit point maximum of 20HP.

Other creatures might be represented by 1 or more dice in a stack on a 1-inch square.

For instance - 1d4, 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, 1d8, 2d8, 1d10, 2d10, 1d12, 2d12, 1d20 or 2d20.

Large creatures could be represented by dice over multiple 1-inch squares.

These dice values represent both a creatures their hit point maximum and also the number and damage of their attacks.

For instance a 1d20 player character has 20HP and attacks for 1d20 and a stack of 3d6 is a creature with a hit point maximum of 18HP and 3 attacks of d6 each.

Creatures can attack at range if they have a form of range attack.

Range attacks made with other creatures in the way are made at disadvantage.

 

Large Army Combat

This is combat system I use for large faction army battles.

It uses dice as the representation of units.

The units can be d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 or d20.

Each side in the battle are going to grab a handful of random dice approximately 20.

A d20 represents the commanders of each side on the battle field.

Convincing units to fight on your side

Each unit / die needs to be “convinced” to fight on your side.

Choose a die.

Roll your d20 and the die.

If your roll is higher than that rolled on the unit die, it is convinced to serve fighting in your army and joins your pool.

If you roll the same or lower than the unit die, the unit is not convinced and will not fight for you so it is discarded.

Both sides go through this process until they have a set of units / die to represent their army.

Parley before battle

The armies take the field ready to do battle.

Each die is placed with its highest number facing up. That is its HP value.

When the 2 armies meet on the battlefield they parley.

They assess who has the stronger army and the weaker side makes an offer to settle without combat. This might be a number approximately 30% to 40% of the total armies HP total multiplied by 100 gp. For instance an army of 60 HP in total may offer 2000 gp to walk away without combat.

If the offer is not accepted, it is time for battle.

Battle

The players go first.

On your turn roll a d20 - that is how much you hit for on your turn.

You capture and remove that amount of HP of dice from the other sides army.

If a dice is wounded but not killed outright it is changed to the number of HP it has remaining.

Each combatant takes turns attacking until one side has only the commander d20 remaining. The commander surrenders.

Reparations

Once combat is completed, the victor rolls the surrendered commander d20 dice and doubles its value. Then all the captured dice and adds up the combined number. Dice that roll above half their maximum value are said to have been wounded and those that roll half their maximum value or below are said to be dead.

The defeated army is expected to pay the total rolled number multiplied by 100 gp in reparations to the victor.

The victor looks at their defeated allies die and will “pay” each die half its maximum value for its valiant service. Dice that roll above half their maximum value are said to have been wounded and those that roll half their maximum value or below are said to be dead.

The remaining winnings is split between the units still alive including the commander dice.


 

Compatible systems and campaign settings

It will work with most d20 TTRPG resources.

·       D&D 5e SRD

·       D&D 3.5e SRD

·       Pathfinder 1e SRD

·       Pathfinder 2e SRD

·       Archive of Nethys – Pathfinder 1e, Pathfinder 2e, Starfinder

·       Level Up Advanced 5th Edition SRD

·       Stars Without Number, Worlds Without Number

·       Esper Genesis

·       Eberron

·       Numenera

·       Arcana of the Ancients

·       Planebreaker

·       Kobold Press - Midguard

·       Ghostfire Gaming - Grim Hollow, Fables, Youtube Kickstarters, etc

·       Critical Role – Tardorei

·       Drivethrurpg - 5e Compatible

 

System neutral resources and other cool systems

·       Amazing Tales RPG

·       Questing Beast Knave

·       Index Card RPG

·       Deck Quest

·       Cairn RPG

·       DM Scotty Runehammer EZd6

·       Professor Dungeon Master’s DeathBringer RPG

·       Nimble 5e

·       Sly Flourish Lazy DM Companion

·       Tome of Adventure Design Revised

·       Arcane Library – Shadowdark RPG

·       Masks and Eureka: 1,000 NPCs and 501 Plots Bundle

 


 

Russwater RPG Ruleset – OGL 1.0a

This ruleset is a way to play a less constrained, Gonzo homebrew version of popular roleplaying games compatible with d20 TTRPGs including Dungeons & Dragons 5e and Pathfinder 2e.

Published by: Jaryd Fletcher

Published on: 01/13/2023

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15.       COPYRIGHT NOTICE Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

System Reference Document Copyright 2000-2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich Baker, Andy Collins, David Noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, John D. Rateliff, Thomas Reid, James Wyatt, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Russwater RPG Ruleset @ 2023, Jaryd Fletcher; Author: Jaryd Fletcher. jaryd@fletcher.net  

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