The Ranger, Revived!

So, a couple years ago, I took it upon myself to revise the ranger class, as I wasn’t satisfied with the way it was presented in the Player’s Handbook. Mike Mearls and the D&D team felt the same, and have taken a couple stabs at revising the class on their own. In fact, all over the blogosphere, writers and designers were tackling the ranger.

My first attempt was…less than successful. It was strange, had multiple mechanics that didn’t quite jive with each other, and just didn’t quite match the concept that I wanted to convey. I tried again, but only provided six levels of class and never updated that version.

And then, not too long ago, I got a message from a reader who wanted to know if I’ve done any updates since posting version 2.2 of the class.

Well, the version I present to you today is version 5.2.

There have been a lot of changes. I think that they’ve been for the better, and hopefully you’ll agree.

So, without further ado, I present The Ranger.

PDF Link: The Ranger, v5.2 Continue reading “The Ranger, Revived!”

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Confessions of a GM – Finding Motivation

Header Image by Tonton Revolver.

Ready for a confession?

I’m running a pretty crappy campaign, right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m trying to keep everything interesting and fun on a moment-to-moment basis, and I think I’ve mostly succeeded in that. But it’s not up to the standards I set for myself. There’s next-to-no narrative cohesion from one adventure to the next, I didn’t come up with a primary antagonist until the PCs were level 7, character motivations are going almost-entirely unaddressed, and every time I revisit my notes for the campaign’s future, I keep drawing that finish line closer and closer. Continue reading “Confessions of a GM – Finding Motivation”

Ranger Subclass – Crimson Arrow

I’ve been inspired to make something themed around Horizon: Zero Dawn for a long time. It might just be my personal Game of the Year, and the new Frozen Wilds expansion got my gears turning once more. Aloy’s ability in the game to forage for parts and enter battle with a variety of interesting options is something I’ve wanted to see in D&D for a long time.

In addition to Horizon, I got a comment on my last post, Where I Designed a New 20-level Ranger, that claimed that the subclasses on offer were too melee-focused. I disagree, but do understand that sometimes people want an option that’s a little more specialized. And since the ranger is, after all a RANGEr, I decided to oblige.

Thus, I present the Crimson Arrow. It’s a scavenger/tinker/archer, and I think it’s pretty darn cool.

PDF: The Crimson Arrow v1.1

Header Image by Luc De Haan Continue reading “Ranger Subclass – Crimson Arrow”

Unearthed Arcana Review – Elf Subraces

Unearthed Arcana is back with a few more subraces. And this one’s for the elves. Specifically, we’re looking at the Avariel, the Grugach, Sea Elves, and the Shadar-Kai.

Special note, I’m not really going to talk about the racial features of each subrace presented here. They’re fine, for the most part. What I’m interested in is the roleplaying and worldbuilding potential of each of these subraces. If you’re looking for more of a statistical analysis, then I’d suggest Brandes Stoddard’s Take on Tribality, or The Kind GM’s Take on their blog.

So, understanding that, let’s dive in!

Download it here: Unearthed Arcana: Elf Subraces Continue reading “Unearthed Arcana Review – Elf Subraces”

Player-Facing Design

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something I call Player-Facing Design. I’m sure I didn’t come up with this concept. I bet it’s not even an old one. But it’s something I don’t see people talking about too much, so I’m going to talk about it.

The idea comes from consumer-facing initiatives in business. You want the customer to have everything they need so that their experience is as easy and pleasant as possible. The same goes for game design. You want things to be as simple and forward-facing as possible so that the players (and the GM) have an easy time grasping and playing the game. It’s the design-concept that brought us things like Beginner Boxes and Quick-Startup Guides. The problem is, of course, that it can get a little…sticky. Continue reading “Player-Facing Design”

The Art of Starting a Fight: Narrative Initiative in D&D

Everyone seems to be talking about Initiative, lately. Mike Mearls proposed his Greyhawk Initiative system and now everywhere I look around the blogosphere, people are either critiquing that system or proposing their own. Even Matthew Colville, who rarely speaks on mechanical issues decided to talk about initiative in the wave of this new system.

And I think there’s a reason for all of this Initiative has always been a bit of a bother in RPGs. Combat in real life doesn’t happen in “turns,” but it’s really the only way to simulate it at a table. Therefore, people have been trying for AGES to find a system that both flows well and gets as close to a real simulationist experience as possible.

I’ve got my own idea on how this can be achieved, but first let’s look at a few of the more popular options.

Continue reading “The Art of Starting a Fight: Narrative Initiative in D&D”

LIFE, Hopelessness, and Overpowered Villains

This is not gaming-related. Call it an experiment in other topics.

If you were REALLY looking forward to seeing the movie LIFE, or if you’re just particularly spoiler-wary, then I encourage you to do so before reading this. Because I am about to spoil the shit out of LIFE.

This feels kind of weird because, on paper, LIFE doesn’t have that many problems. It’s a pretty film, it’s well-acted, it’s got decent monster design (as far as gray tentacle blobs go), and it sufficiently raises stakes and builds tension. It’s even got a fun (if predictable) twist at the end.

So why was I so bored by it? Continue reading “LIFE, Hopelessness, and Overpowered Villains”

Owlboy, Maturity, and Failure


This article’s going to be a little different than my normal fair. Hope you still enjoy.

Recently, I purchased a new video game: Owlboy. On the surface, it’s a cute little platformer about an animated owl-boy named Otus and the friends he meets along the way. However, play for more than ten minutes and you’ll realize that this cute little platformer actually deals with some pretty heavy themes. Themes of death and loss; mourning and revenge. Most of all, though, Owlboy is a game about failure.

And the way Owlboy handles these themes got me thinking, as most things in this vein do, about D&D. How do we handle these sorts of dark topics and themes in D&D. How do we handle death or violence? How do we handle failure or loss? Continue reading “Owlboy, Maturity, and Failure”

The Legendary Elephant in the Room

Legendary Elephant (CR 14). Size: Huge; AC 18; HP 260; Speed 40 ft.; Gore +8 (20 piercing), Stomp +8 (32 Bludgeoning); Trampling Charge: If it moves 20 feet and hits with Gore, DC 18 Str save or knocked prone. If prone, free Stomp as bonus action. Frightening Trumpet: Action. All within 60 ft. make DC 18 Wis save or become frightened for 1 minute. Save at end of turn to negate. Success makes immune for 24 hours.; Legendary: 3 actions. Gore (1), Charge (2): Move 20 feet and Gore.

Okay, now that THAT joke is out of the way…

Let’s talk about legendary creatures, shall we? Continue reading “The Legendary Elephant in the Room”

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