The Ranger Class: Alpha Playtest

Well, here it is! It took me a month, but I finally built my ranger! After four weeks of teasing and taunting and over-long articles about class design, it’s finally here. And not only am I presenting it to you all, but I’m actually also going to talk about the design of the class. What abilities I chose, which ones I didn’t, and why.

Before any of that, though, I have a couple of notes.

Regarding Playtesting

When I said that it took me a month to build this class, I wasn’t lying. I went through several variations on class abilities and builds before I finally came to a configuration with which I was comfortable. And I’m still not 100% on the thing. You will see more versions arrive as I playtest and observe where the class exceeds and wanes.

In addition to my own playtesting, I would love to see the community participate. Share this document everywhere you can. Convince your DMs to let you try it out. DMs, let your players take it for a test drive. I know it might be imbalanced, but this is how the classes in the Player’s Handbook got to where they are: RIGOROUS PLAYTESTING. And please, if you do playtest it, send me your feedback. You can click the About/Contact Me tab at the top of this page to send me a message, and here, I’ll even Provide you with a link.

Regarding Legality

I want to make something entirely clear. I have no idea whether or not my version of the ranger is legal. This is free, which I figure counts in my favor, but I still wanted to cover my bases (unknowable as they are). I am using the 3rd edition OGL here, as I don’t think I’ve used any copyright terminology in this class. I did my level-best not to re-print any features word-for-word from the Player’s Handbook. I specifically used different names for similar features, and changed up the function of some of them. Most of this is due to the different direction of my ranger, but some of it is admittedly to prevent copyright infringement. I also made the conscious decision to NOT print features that saw no change from one version to the other. If you don’t own a Player’s Handbook and you’re looking for a free look at the ranger, then you have come to the wrong place.

With those out of the way, let’s get to it, shall we? Hold onto your butts, because this is gonna be a long one. Continue reading

Free Halloween Adventure: Night of Samhain

So…uh…surprise! I guess…

I wrote an adventure! For Halloween! And, uh, here it is! Seriously, wow. I had the plan to do this at the start of October, and didn’t know if I’d be able to bust it out. But I did. It’s Tuesday night, and I did it! I finally finished the adventure! So, if you’re wondering why this is such a surprise, and why I didn’t talk about it earlier…it’s basically because I didn’t have any idea whether or not I’d actually finish the damn thing in time. If I didn’t I was going to post it next week, since I’m running it for my group this weekend. As it stands, I’m still going to do a post-mortem, but now I can actually present it to all of you!

And it’s pretty impressive! For me, anyway. It comes with 3 custom monsters (one of which is brand new to this blog!), two new magic items, and a fun mystery to solve! I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you have a lot of fun playing it.

The title of the adventure is Night of Samhain. For those of you who aren’t up on their wiccan, or those of you who learned the word from that one really terrible episode of Supernatural, that’s pronounced “SAH-win,” not “Sam-HANE.”

Which…actually brings me to the very first topic I wanted to bring up. I want to apologize up front to any and all of my wiccan readers. Because this is a spooky mystery adventure with a villain who is named after a cherished holiday in your tradition. It features zombies, vampires, a demon, and a Frankenstein, and overall does not paint your holiday in a fair light. My only hope is that you can find the spirit and the fun of the season in my adventure and embrace some of the silliness of Halloween. If you cannot, then please send me hate mail. I probably deserve it.

A Short Description

The small town of Owen’s Mire has existed in peace for hundreds of years, but someone has opened the old crypt outside of town. Undead prowl the streets, and a deadly secret is keeping Mayor Ethan Burke up at night. Can you stop the undead rising from their graves? Can you solve the mystery of the Blood Guard’s crypt? Can you save these people, before they are consumed by the Blood Moon? Take on the challenge and face your fears in Night of Samhain.
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Monstrous Monday: New Zombies

And now we come to the final Monstrous Monday of October. Part of me feels like I’m ending on a whimper, rather than a bang. However, another part of me feels just the opposite.

Why? Because this week, I’m taking on zombies! And, as I said when I posted my very first monster, one of the things I wanted to do with these Monstrous Mondays was explore new and interesting ideas. And while zombies are…let’s face it, a bit played out, I think there’s still a lot of room to mechanically explore the idea.

And that’s why I bring you two new zombies today. I could have gone the easy route and just made zombies out of monsters in the Monster Manual. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to bring in a whole new idea of HOW to use zombies in your games. New strategies you can play with to bring some life to what is probably the most standard low-level monster in the game other than the goblin.

Therefore, I present the Tortured Soul and the Necro-Tank… Continue reading

A Memorandum on Class Design: Milestones, Thematics, and Details

Go read part 1 HERE.

All right, let’s review.

We now know the excitement curve—that’s what I’m calling it. A class builds in excitement, with a couple of dips, toward level 11, at which point there is a deep and immediate drop. Thereafter, there’s a slow, ten-level climb up to level 20. And this is intentional. The post-eleven levels are, in terms of experience points, designed to move by more quickly than the first 10. They’re about reveling in your skill and power, whereas the first 10 are about achieving mastery over your skillset. By level 11, you should have every core feature that a class offers. Any new features that come after that point should just be whipped cream and a cherry.

We also learned that 5e class design is very milestone-based, your primary milestones being level 3, 5, 11, and 20. Level 3 is the moment where you become a real member of your class, leaving that training period of levels 1 and 2 behind. Level 5 is where you really hit your stride. 3rd level spells, Extra Attack, and other important features arrive at this level. Level 11 is the climax of the whole class. It’s also where you prove your dedication to your class, as multiclassing to the same point in another class becomes impossible. Then, finally, we have level 20, where you gain your “capstone.” It’s not the be-all, end-all of the class, but it’s definitely a milestone in the class’s progression.

And now that we know the foundation of class design in 5e, it’s time to talk about the real meat of the issue. The brick-and-mortar stuff. How, in fact, does one design a class? Continue reading

Re-Post: Dragons in the Age of Heroes: The Dragon Gods

And now we come to our third re-post from the old site. This time, It’s about the dragons and the planar arrangement of my previous homebrew world. The idea of dragon gods has always appealed to me, yet Bahamut and Tiamat never have. This version of the dragon gods pays homage to the original two, but they are essentially the absentee parents of the current dragon gods.

Hopefully, you enjoy and get a bit of inspiration for your own games. Continue reading

Monstrous Monday: New Vampire Spawn

I love vampires. I love werewolves more, but I simply adore vampires. The problem is that vampires are a high-level threat. I mean…they don’t have to be, but they totally are.

And that’s what vampire spawn are for, right? Sure, they’re the vampire’s minions and guardians. They act as mooks and fodder as you move toward the ultimate vampire threat. But they’re also perfect low-level vampire threats. For a group of level 4 PCs, a vampire spawn is a big deal. In a horror game, it’s a perfect taste of what’s to come in the second leg of your journey.

That said, vampire spawn have a problem. Continue reading

A Memorandum on Class Design: Peaks and Valleys

You know, it took me a long time to figure out how to write this article. I actually wrote it once, already, and then realized that I was going about it the wrong way. See, the first time I wrote this article, I wrote about how I’m building my ranger class. Well…that’s not exactly right. It’s less that I talked about how I was building it, and instead just built it in front of an audience. And while that can be fine and dandy, I realized something after I had finished. I hadn’t really conveyed what I meant to convey with that article.

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