Fantastic Comedy

Since today is still April 1st (in GMT+1) , and I really dislike April’s Fools, I decided to make a serious post about comedy at a D&D-gaming table. Why only D&D? Because there are systems which are meant to be played in a comedic style (like Toons) or those who are so unbelievable in terms of character feats, that you transcend the grasp of realism (like Scion).

A normal D&D-campaign balances around realism and fantasy, in most cases it does so well, even though (in the typical American Fantasy Style) it’s always turning into an epic story with powerful characters which defies the laws of realism in one time while being very vulnerable to realism otherwise. For this, I point to the Tyranny of Dragons Story, which is good imho, but bringing Tiamat t the Forgotten Realms and fighting foes which can shape the realms to their whims, while there are a ton of situations, where you can easily die? It’s very over the top, which is not something all people enjoy.
But like I said, normally D&D balances the realism and the fantastic moments pretty well. So we have a sense of seriousness, coming from the realism, and a sense of freedom, from fantasy, which can turn into humor. Is it bad? Of course not, since everyone having fun is one of the main-goals of playing after all. Can it disturb? Definitely.
Now I simply write about my personal experiences of having comedy in D&D (with some insight in other campaigns).

Comedy-based campaigns

Maybe some of you experienced a comedy-based campaign already and in most of the times: It won’t last long, since the DM will run out of ideas (s)he wants to master. The problem is to find a balance between serious story-telling to get the characters to where the fun belongs and the jokes which are cracked to be cracked. In movies it works well, since the characters aren’t sentient beings, in P&P it’s problematic, since the players often don’t recognize when to stop.
If you give the players the whatever-bag (in: take out whatever you want), you can be sure, that they pull out a grenade launcher to bomb the villain you’re just introducing. But if you don’t give the whatever-bag, of course in the end they end up in only having the resources they have, without much spark of creativity. It’s basically only what they do in normal campaigns, except they’re more brave, like trying to make a Looney Tunes routine (“Duck-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Duck-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Rabbit-Hunt.” “Duck-Hunt!”)
How do you work with that? There are several ways. One of the easiest: Only one side is comedic. If the players like to play the fools, let them form a party which doesn’t take anything serious (like the old TMNT) and match them up with serious plots. Since only goofing around won’t stop the plot, they will somehow or another pull themselves together when needed and make it right through!
Or maybe the heroes are serious, while the villains and plots are somehow strange. Like a wizard, who tries to reshape the weave, so every spell will create cookies. Or another is just a maniac, who wants to break out the 4th wall, trying to convince everyone, that they’re nothing more than notes on a paper.
If only one side goofs around, it’s much easier to control the plot itself and make something like a story. With a real story, a DM is much better able to keep the campaign going, since one scenario will flow into the next and in the end it’s simply a direction to follow. Those who play regularly needs something like that, since simple and connectionless-episodic is very tiring when done repeatedly.
Another got rule in the DMG (p. 269) are: Plot points. This optional rule allows the players to shape the story to their own ideas and of course limiting the access of unbelievableness is another great way to make a comedy without playing randomly.
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Comedy as a supplement

Normally, I don’t play comedy-based campaigns, but I do add often some comedy as supplement. So when you (for example) play Tyranny of Dragons, you might think: Hey, this might work. Why don’t I add a bullywug, which is actually thinking, it’s a transformed princess. The bizarreness of the situation is something that might enhance the story in a funny way without breaking it. Just be sure, that the players can’t possibly think of it as a subquest or story-hook.
Funny things happens in real life and in Fantasy, you can make it more funny with just a bit of work. Like adding a fart-sound to the evil wizard’s Stinking Cloud or just a description, how a critical hit looks like on the enemy: “Your sword cuts deep into the body of your enemy and splashes hits the adjacent one, which complains: “Hey, look where you’re leaking!”

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In the end the most important thing is to determine how much comedy your gaming-group can process. If you’re joking as much out-of-game as playing serious, maybe you should consider to add some more comedy to the game itself as a DM or a player, to keep the rest more focused on the game. So maybe your character has the flaw, that he regularly messes up serious situations. Or maybe you add, as a DM, an additional condition to your lich, like that his phylactery can only be destroyed while he can see it, so you can deliver this line: “Erm, how do you… wait, I meant, what are you holding there? Seems like a very valuable treasure, so it might be better if you keep it somewhere safer than this battlefield. I know, I’m your enemy and trying to kill you, but I really had the urge to give you that piece of advice. Take it, seriously!”
And often the most memorable moments of a campaign are the most funniest. And that’s definitely better than the most annoying ones. -_-

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Buying and Selling Magical Items

Anyone who plays D&D in campaigns comes to the realization, that the characters will have more gear at some point than they need. Be it due the numbers of attuneable items (I love the attunement system for the limit, normally) or because they found simply better gear and the old one is not needed anymore. Or, of course, because you, the DM, gave all these enemies some cheap magical items, for whatever reasons.

Or maybe your players wants to buy some simpler magic gear, like a Battle Axe +1 without going through all the trouble of a great adventure.

The main question remains: How do you determine the price. Of course the DMG have a table, which shows the value of a magic item, but it’s always in a range.

  • Common: 50-100 gp
  • Uncommon: 101-500 gp
  • Rare: 501-5.000 gp
  • Very Rare: 5.001 – 50,000 gp
  • Legendary: 50,001+ gp

For my campaigns, I use simple pointers.

  • Potions are always the least possible price
  • Scrolls are twice as valuable as Potions, this is also the standard price for one-time consumables
  • for every further charge of non-rechargeable consumables add a potion
  • Weapons and Armor uses a special table, depending on their type (see below)
  • non-combat gear is 30% of the highest possible price, if you have to attune it and 60% if you don’t have to
  • 60% for attuneable combat gear and 90% for gear you don’t need to

This won’t be helpful for all items, but at least it covers a lot. For weapon and armors, I simply take the highest possible price for the rarity and takes a portion of it, depending on the type of item. Since I personally think, that a dagger is much easier to enchant than a greatsword (since it’s simply lesser you need to work on) and the power of a weapon or armor often synergies with its price.

Armor (Rare; x10 for very rare and x100 for legendary)

Here you have consider the fact, that there are some things to consider. First, the most powerful armor in each category have to be more expensive than a lesser armor of a category before, since they are less useful. And heavy armors in general are bad except the Plate Armor or if you have a sub-par Strength score. You always have disadvantage and only your STR determines the final outcome and most characters which uses heavy armor, should have STR 15 to see it through.

  • Padded 501 gp
  • Leather 550 gp
  • Studded leather 1100 gp
  • Hide 550
  • Chain shirt 1100
  • Scale mail 1100
  • Breastplate 3500
  • Half plate 4000
  • Ring mail 550
  • Chain mail 1500
  • Splint 3000
  • Plate 5000
  • Shield (Common 110gp, Uncommon 550 and then use the x10 formula)

Weapons (Uncommon, rare x5, very rare x50, legendary x500)

Since most weapons aren’t as pricey as armor and there are actually reasons to have a certain weapon within your proficiencies, these should be normally less valuable. But don’t hesitate to push up the value of certain weapons, like Flametongue, which seems to be too great of a weapon for the ‘over the thumb ruling’ I provide.

  • Club 101 gp
  • Dagger 110 gp
  • Greatclub 110 gp
  • Handaxe 120 gp
  • Javelin 120 gp
  • Light hammer 110 gp
  • Mace 120 gp
  • Quarterstaff 110 gp
  • Sickle 101 gp
  • Spear 101  gp
  • Crossbow, light 250 gp
  • Dart 120 gp
  • Shortbow 250 gp
  • Sling 101  gp
  • Battleaxe 150 gp
  • Flail 150 gp
  • Glaive 200 gp
  • Greataxe 300 gp
  • Greatsword 450 gp
  • Halberd 200 gp
  • Lance 150 gp
  • Longsword 175 gp
  • Maul 150 gp
  • Morningstar 175 gp
  • Pike 120 gp
  • Rapier 250 gp
  • Scimitar 250 gp
  • Shortsword 150 gp
  • Trident 120 gp
  • War pick 120 gp
  • Warhammer 175 gp
  • Whip 110 gp
  • Blowgun 150 gp
  • Crossbow, hand 500 gp
  • Crossbow, heavy 450 gp
  • Longbow 450 gp
  • Net 101 gp

Be beware

These are only quick and dirty rules for the value of items. If a player asks about a certain item, like: “How much would it be, if I want to acquire a Longsword +1?”, you can look this list up, to say: “At least 175gp, but be prepared to spend more.”

If the players asks about a “Manual of Bodily Health”, of course you’re supposed to answer in mean laughter. A permanent boost to an ability score is of course something, which isn’t measured in gold pieces, but in mercy.

Consider always the possibility to lower or raise the price, if you can or if the item is especially powerful or too specialized to be useful most of the time. You should even go over the normal limits of the category, if you think it’s doable.

And of course, it’s only the value. For selling, you should adjust it (normally half the value, but I often use reputation and such to raise or drop the selling price).

Update of the cleric’s and paladin’s overviews+BG-Campaign

Like the title says, I updated the cleric’s and paladin’s overviews. I replaced the Death Spoiler with the actual Death Domain in the DMG, which got some features changed (like no more ignoring necrotic immunity) and I added the Oathbreaker.

Seriously, the only reason I could understand why those weren’t included in the PHB would be, that they weren’t ready that time.

 

When writing the wizard’s overview, I will include the Artificer Arcane Tradition, of course. This turned out to be great, since I’m in love with resource management and this Arcane Tradition makes a lot of use of it.

 

btw, we had our first Baldur’s Gate Self-Made Campaign game session yesterday and it was great. Even though I realized, that you have to change some mechanism and events from the game (since you shouldn’t expect PCs running into someone’s else houses and asking them directly, if there is something wrong), I realized by playing it, that there are a lot of mechanism in 5e, which should be included, like cartography (and proficiency with its tools) or out of combat features, which can bypass some encounters entirely.

We got to level 3 and are currently in Beregost, even though it’s much more fast paced than the game in terms of level, it does feel right in terms of power so far. Next they want to hunt the gnolls at High Hedge, before going to Nashkel to investigate the iron shortage.

Why DMG? WHY?!!

I postpone the overview of the cleric another day, I’ll start today, but since it has too many domains to cover, I simply can’t do it in one day. Work, sleep and such. But to fill the day, I picked up a small issue I have. And that have to do with the DMG.

For those who didn’t knew, the official release pushed back to 9th December, which doesn’t bother me too much. Inconvenient, yes. But I’d rather have a overworked product. That so many optional rules are there, which could easily be introduced in the PHB? We got a bit closer. Here is a list, which got around some forums, no one knows how accurate it is. I marked those red which were in the playtest, orange for systems which reminds me of specific aspects of the playtest and green which have my personal interest:

highlights:

  • costs to construct building
  • costs for hirelings
  • downtime activites (most of which have a 20% chance of going to jail for 5d6 days)
  • domains (kingdom builder rules)
  • using miniatures!!!
  • travel hazards
  • diseases
  • poisons
  • madness
  • traps
  • puzzles
  • modifying races
  • creating new races
  • monsters as characters
  • modifying classes

optional rules:

  • training to level up
  • trading in magic items
  • flanking
  • attacking cover
  • morale
  • action points
  • called shots
  • alternate skill systems (13th age backgrounds are an option)
  • vitality
  • spell points
  • skill points
  • single strike (1 attack roll, cumulative damage)
  • second wind
  • rest variants
  • proficiency dice
  • massive damage
  • marking
  • facing
  • cleaving through the horde
  • automatic success
  • chases
  • cantrip slots
  • action points (again?)
  • group initiative
  • weapon speed
  • passive initiative
  • gestalt characters

There are some things which should interest me, but somehow don’t. Most likely since I’ll await something vague for these topics like the stuff they wrote about it in 3e and 4e. But even though I’m positive that I’ll never use some of these things (without knowing more than the name), I’m not displeased by it. But a little tiny fact is annoying me:

That at least 2 subclasses were transferred in the DMG!

On the cleric side the Death Domain and the paladin lost the Oathbreaker. Maybe even more. And the question remains: Why?

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Because these paths are so evil-natured that only NPCs should have access to it? Double Bullshit! First, if that’d be the case, why even develop those classes and taking the Necromancer into the PHB, which Animate Dead Feature is clearly suggesting the most evil thing about necromancy: The ability to create undead! And second, they already wrote that it might be possible to play a cleric with the Death Domain if your DM allows it. Generally most subclasses should stand over the alignment chart, even though some are more into specific alignments… OK, take paladins out of this, since the oath’s tenets are more or less binding you to a limited numbers of possible alignments (hard to play an evil character under the oath of devotion).

So either both subclasses weren’t finished yet (another reason to push back the release date maybe) or they were not as logical about it, as I would prefer. I know, that sometimes it’s just better to keep to a logic, which doesn’t make too much sense, since other things (like feeling, setting, etc.) are more important. But we’re talking about Player Class’ options. So I just hope that the priority if these subclasses weren’t high enough to be developed as fast as the others or to push back the release date of the PHB. Because if this weren’t the case, I’d get really angry about it!

Some other player’s are sharing my displeasure, but while it’s more of a logical question in my case and my aversion of (letting my players) cramming more rulebooks than needed, other have other issues, like the fascination of playing an evil character. Since evil is cool… I suppose. At least a lot of people like villains more than heroes, but playing an evil character would be pretty boring for me after a while… Unless the campaign is cleverly written, but even then I’d have more fun playing a good campaign than being an evil character…

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