5E the Deliverator Way

edited November 2018 in Make Stuff!
First, I'll talk about my actual house rules, the hard-coded changes to the rules-as-written that I've made. Later I'll talk about the "softer" or subtler methodological things I do to make 5E work for me.

The house rules have evolved over time, but the set I have now is definitely one I'd use in the future. There are four categories: (1) XP (2) Inspiration (3) Resting (4) Stat Generation. I'll detail them below.

(I also wrote an abstract wealth / Resources system à la Burning Wheel for that White Plume Mountain / Against the Giants game of 5E, but that was out of necessity to that particular set of adventures, and isn't something I feel the need to do all the time. Basically, what happened is that my players and I all agreed that we didn't want to have to deal with the huge amount of arithmetic involved in those particular adventures.)

(1) XP.

During sessions, gain 1 XP by:
Spending Inspiration
Failing A Roll
(Exception: characters with multiple attacks in a round only gain XP for their attacks if they miss with all of them)

At end of session, gain 1 XP by:
Resolving and changing a BIFT
Discovering an interesting new fact about the setting
Acquiring a significant treasure
Forming a significant alliance
Making a powerful enemy who remains at large

Special End of Session Award: If the party overcomes a significant combat challenge, put XP into the pool equal to the difference between the party’s level and the CR of the most powerful monster defeated, with a minimum of 1 XP earned.

Each end of session award can only be earned once per session (Exception: each PC may resolve and change a BIFT). All XP goes into a pool, and the group levels up together when they reach the needed threshold of experience points. The XP total then resets to 0, unless there is a surplus, in which case the remainder stays in the pool. The party may level up during a Rest of any duration. (See the Resting rules, below.)

The actual chart of XP requirements can be found on the Google Doc that this is all taken from. It's been carefully calibrated over time.

Comments

  • (2) Inspiration

    Handing out Inspiration is not solely the job of the GM. Players should award each other Inspiration based on noticing when someone is making a dramatic choice based on their BIFTs. No player may ask for Inspiration for their actions in the moment, though if someone feels their contributions aren’t being noticed, they are encouraged to bring it up at the end of the session or privately with the GM.

    Players can write a new BIFT for their character every time proficiency improves (so at 5th level, 9th level, etc.). This is not mandatory, and the new BIFT can be of any category. (To balance this out, it’s recommended to only start the game with one Trait per character, instead of two.)

    If someone would earn Inspiration, but already has it, they can choose another player to give the Inspiration to. (This is actually RAW, but rarely followed.)

    You can spend Inspiration to impose Disadvantage on any enemy’s d20 roll instead of granting Advantage to your own d20 roll. (5E has very few ways to "nerf" enemy saves, which can make spellcasters or other characters dependent on enemies failing saves easily feel useless, so I introduced this rule.)
  • (3) Resting.

    Short Rests: 5/30/60 minutes, max 3 in a 24-hour period, function as per RAW

    Medium Rests: 8 hours; recover 1 level of exhaustion, and either 1 Hit Die OR 1 spell slot of the highest level you can cast (you may split up this slot among multiple lower-level slots if desired, e.g., two 2nd-level slots are recovered on a Medium rest instead of a single 4th-level slot); otherwise functions as a Short Rest (but does not count against Short Rest limit)

    Long Rests: 24 hours; recover half your HD, rounded up, but no HP (but can spend HD at beginning or end of Long Rests as desired); otherwise function as per RAW
  • (4) Stat Generation

    Standard point buy, BUT everyone also gets two "floating" points to distribute at the end. The rule is that any one stat cannot receive more than two bonus points from either the character's species or these "floating" points.

    So, for example, a High Elf gets +2 Dex, +1 Int. A player could put one of their two floaters into Int, but would have to put the second one into Str, Con, Wis, or Cha. They cannot put any floaters into Dex, since it already receives a +2.

    Another example: a Mountain Dwarf gets +2 Str, +2 Con. Floaters have to go into other stats than those.

    The purpose of this rule is to solve the problem of "suboptimal" race / class combos. Paul might not like this one, as it actually encourages the party of Kenku Paladin + Tabaxi Wizard + Gnome Barbarian + Dragonborn Rogue sort of nonsense. :smiley: But personally I find it annoying that the game officially allows any race / class combo, while heavily punishing people who choose one of the many "wrong" ones. (Basically, the game's math assumes you will start with a +3 in your main stat, but if you do Point Buy without these floaters, and you take a race that doesn't get a bonus in your main stat, you get stuck at a +2. Not fatal, but annoying as hell.)
  • Methodology:

    -Make failure matter — since you're handing out XP for every failed roll, you'd better make sure that the dice rolls mean something

    -Play to find out what happens — this axiom is a cliché at this point, but it really matters. My players in my 5E games have genuinely surprised me in how they've chosen to approach certain NPCs, and many encounters have not gone the ways I would have guessed. It's especially important not to worry if they curbstomp some combats! That's the game working as intended! To allow for this style of play, without drowning in prep, it is necessary to...

    -Run pre-prepared dungeons and procedural wilderness sandboxes. Essentially, you have to get the players to buy into an adventure's premise, but as long as they're on that adventure, be open to whatever paths they want to take, either literally or figuratively.

    -Make your players write good BIFTs that are relevant to the adventure at hand (or tie them to the other party members), but don't worry too much about prepping towards them. In my WPM / AtG game, the only time I really put thought into making sure to "trigger" the PCs' BIFTs was during the interlude between the two published adventures.

    Actually, what I did during that interlude was pretty interesting. I asked my players if they wanted a procedural sandbox, a completely handwaved uninteresting journey, or a few setpiece encounters / adventures along the way, and they opted for the third one. So it was a teesny bit Participationist in the sense that they knew they'd only encounter a few interesting things along the way, and that it was their job to engage with those things, but none of them had only a single method of approach.
  • Cool! Thanks. I will swipe some of this for our current 5E game.
  • I might show my green-ness with this question, but what is a BIFT?
  • I might show my green-ness with this question, but what is a BIFT?
    I had to google it in the other 5E thread: Bonds, Ideals, Flaws, Traits.
  • I might show my green-ness with this question, but what is a BIFT?
    I had to google it in the other 5E thread: Bonds, Ideals, Flaws, Traits.
    Ah, thank you :)
  • It's my jokey / angry reference to Burning Wheel's BITs: Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits. That game very deliberately hangs the whole system around those character-defining matters. Whereas in 5E, the BI(F)Ts are there, but the system as written doesn't really tell you how to use them. They're kind of tacked on, and the examples given in the book for them are quite bland. I've made it my personal mission to evangelize better use of BIFTs in 5E.
  • I've made it my personal mission to evangelize better use of BIFTs in 5E.
    I think that's a great mission. I've only played one brief campaign of 5E. I never thought about BIFTs after character creation because we were doing Curse of Strahd and my relationship to my mentor back at the monastery had no bearing on the task at hand. I think building play around BIFTs is radically different 5E play than what I've seen/ participated in, but it sounds interesting (even if I'd rather play Burning Wheel).
  • To be clear, I'm not sure I really *am* "building playing around BIFTs" in a similar manner to BW being built around BITs. It's just that paying attention to them, both in writing them and in rewarding their use during play, makes the core 5E experience a heck of a lot more interesting—without, I'd argue, actually departing so far from the core 5E experience. My games have a ton of combat, for example. :smile:
  • (2) Inspiration

    Handing out Inspiration is not solely the job of the GM. Players should award each other Inspiration based on noticing when someone is making a dramatic choice based on their BIFTs. No player may ask for Inspiration for their actions in the moment, though if someone feels their contributions aren’t being noticed, they are encouraged to bring it up at the end of the session or privately with the GM.
    Can you write a little bit more about what a "dramatic choice based on BIFTs" means, or has turned out to mean, at your table?

    Experience for using inspiration is clever.
  • They can be pretty small, actually, relative to what many in this community are used to from the dramatic sweep in many story games proper. Something like recklessly chasing after a bad guy who's getting away, even though that's clearly a bad idea tactically, might be an example. In a non-combat scene, perhaps arguing strenuously for a particular course of action implied by one's moral code, rather than just tactics.
  • Did you ever try awarding experience for GIVING Inspiration to other players?
  • No, but I'm curious why you brought it up. It feels like an obviously bad idea, since it could incentivize people to give Insp for just, "whatever," but maybe there is something I'm missing.

    And, in fact, my entire methodology here does revolve around a certain sense of sportsmanship and aesthetic standards among the players. I actually get frustrated by the awarding of Inspiration (in 5E in general) for just, like, lines of dialogue that feel particularly in character.
  • Oh, is that something that happens in your game?

    (I wasn't suggesting that rule for you; just curious if it was something you had already tried and discarded. At some level Inspiration-awarding can be pretty self-limiting, since it doesn't "stack" or "build up".)

    This gives me another idea for structuring Inspiration awards:

    Each player gets a sheet with all the other PCs or players' names on it.

    There is a box next to each character.

    When you award Inspiration to a character, you check off their box.

    When you mark all the boxes, you get an XP award, and erase them all.

    It could quite naturally encourage some pretty constructive player chatter without any effort on the GM's part (starting with everyone suddenly really being curious about others' BIFTs if they happen to forget them!).
  • (I have lots of questions but keep running out of time... I'll be back!)
  • No, but I'm curious why you brought it up. It feels like an obviously bad idea, since it could incentivize people to give Insp for just, "whatever," but maybe there is something I'm missing.
    This feels like a nonissue to me; Just make it clear when it's not appropriate to award it ("C'mon, really? How does that have anything to do with his BIFTs?"), and people won't try to do that.

    And, in fact, my entire methodology here does revolve around a certain sense of sportsmanship and aesthetic standards among the players. I actually get frustrated by the awarding of Inspiration (in 5E in general) for just, like, lines of dialogue that feel particularly in character.
    So basically, you've already solved this problem. :)

    That said, I don't think there's really much to be gained by giving out XP for awarding inspiration anyway.
  • At some level Inspiration-awarding can be pretty self-limiting, since it doesn't "stack" or "build up".)
    Well, remember that by both RAW and my houserules, if you "try" to award Insp to someone who already has it, they then pass it on to someone who doesn't currently have it. Still...
    This gives me another idea for structuring Inspiration awards:

    Each player gets a sheet with all the other PCs or players' names on it.

    There is a box next to each character.

    When you award Inspiration to a character, you check off their box.

    When you mark all the boxes, you get an XP award, and erase them all.

    It could quite naturally encourage some pretty constructive player chatter without any effort on the GM's part (starting with everyone suddenly really being curious about others' BIFTs if they happen to forget them!).
    This I really like. It could help in a group where one or two people end up out of the spotlight frequently.
  • Well, it would help materialize feedback circuitry. But with a cost in manipulation. You end with marker, a flippable card, and a flux of tokens.
  • At some level Inspiration-awarding can be pretty self-limiting, since it doesn't "stack" or "build up".)
    Well, remember that by both RAW and my houserules, if you "try" to award Insp to someone who already has it, they then pass it on to someone who doesn't currently have it. Still...
    Yeah, good point. I'd forgotten about that!

    I really have to get back to this thread with my questions... at my next break, I will!
  • Okay, I look forward to them, Paul!

    Also, one thing I should mention, regarding players forgetting each other's BIFTs: one of my houserules, that's purely a visual design thing and not an actual mechanic (which is probably why I didn't write it down in my House Rules Google Doc, though I should!), is that everyone has a big index card or whatever in front of them with their BIFTs. They're usually a little hard to read across the table, but I think the visual reminder is very powerful nonetheless.
  • Yeah, I'm increasingly of the opinion that houseruling BIFTs is important to solid 5e play, one way or another - either make rules that ensure they are important, or simply do away with them entirely.
  • I'm still short on time, so I'll start questions one at a time!

    1. You mention that you give XP for failed rolls.

    This makes me wonder how much story game/conflict resolution technique you're bringing into the game.

    In most D&D games I've been involved in or seen online, it's normal to have a lot of rolls (I've seen a single scene/conversation involve over a dozen rolls, as one character hides in the corner, another casts a spell to Detect Magic just in case, the whole group makes Insight checks, Perception rolls, and a handful of Persuasion rolls).

    That seems like it would eclipse the other sources of XP pretty quickly.

    In addition, most typical D&D games also have a lot of rolls where the DC isn't known (like Perception checks), which could make awarding XP difficult (although I suppose the GM could write down the number of rolls failed per character... that sounds like a lot of work, though).

    So, what's your typical protocol for rolls, how explicit is it, do you tend to Let It Ride more than typical D&D GMs, and how do you handle, for example, group checks?

  • edited December 2018
    I'm still short on time, so I'll start questions one at a time!

    1. You mention that you give XP for failed rolls.

    This makes me wonder how much story game/conflict resolution technique you're bringing into the game.

    In most D&D games I've been involved in or seen online, it's normal to have a lot of rolls (I've seen a single scene/conversation involve over a dozen rolls, as one character hides in the corner, another casts a spell to Detect Magic just in case, the whole group makes Insight checks, Perception rolls, and a handful of Persuasion rolls).

    That seems like it would eclipse the other sources of XP pretty quickly.

    In addition, most typical D&D games also have a lot of rolls where the DC isn't known (like Perception checks), which could make awarding XP difficult (although I suppose the GM could write down the number of rolls failed per character... that sounds like a lot of work, though).

    So, what's your typical protocol for rolls, how explicit is it, do you tend to Let It Ride more than typical D&D GMs, and how do you handle, for example, group checks?

    Oh, yeah, I handle out of combat (I'll discuss combat in a moment) skill checks almost as if I were running Burning Wheel or AW. Only one person can roll (unless it's a group check, on which, more below), though if someone else can plausibly help, that grants Advantage (or cancels Disadvantage, obviously), and any failed roll has a definite consequence which leads to the next thing, etc.

    Now, here's the interesting thing: if you gave this rule to a GM used to calling for lots of rolls in each scene, they'd have to stop doing that or the PCs would level up too quickly. Obviously, I'd explain my reasoning / procedures, and not just expect someone to magically get it, but giving XP for a failed roll really is a great way to say, hey, you know, that failure has to actually mean something.

    Another salutary side-effect: it doesn't break the game at all if the PCs are usually rolling with Advantage. (As long as you're hygienic about making the helper narrate something genuinely relevant.) After all, they may be more likely to succeed in the check... but then they're not getting that sweet, sweet hit of the XP juice. :smiley:


    Group checks
    Really no different than anything else. If 50% or more of the PCs make the check, then the roll is successful, and if less than 50% are successful, the check fails, and 1 XP is put in the pool. I don't make the consequences of failure on a group check especially worse than on "normal" skill checks, although sometimes those consequences will be organically a bit more problematic (the entire group gets spotted vs. just the scout, for example).


    Combat
    Note the exception for multiple attacks in a round. This was a small exception that I implemented as a result of playtesting; characters with multiple attacks were generating too much XP even on rounds when they were accomplishing something. This was both mathematically bad and went against the intent of the rule, which is that earning XP should be a consolation for something bad happening to your character / to the party.

    Now, it's true that I don't impose extra consequences for failing your attack(s); it's "just" a whiff. However, the action economy of 5E is sufficiently punishing that the XP is well-earned in those cases.

    And if a PC makes some other sort of roll during combat, such as a saving throw or, yes, even a skill check to get something done (usually takes their main action, unless the skill check is as part of movement), they certainly get an XP for failing.


    Hidden Rolls
    I pretty much just don't use them. Either I use the PCs' passive scores, or I just have the player with the best Perception or Insight roll, and rely on them to be fucking adults and understand the idea of dramatic irony.
  • Great answer, Matt.

    I think that changing the way skill checks and such work is probably one of the BIGGEST changes you can make to the game in order to change its feel and style. That has profound impact on the quality of play and the way the game goes.

    I've never seen someone do that consistently in a D&D game - don't the rules as written have a lot of cases which undermine that approach? Since I'm not a D&D5 scholar, I can only think of typical things like having the entire party roll individual Perception checks, combat maneuvers which require checks every step of the way (like the typical Thief character who makes Acrobatics and Hide checks almost every round if they're doing tricky stuff on the battlefield), and similar. I may be imagining detailed and ubiquitous "roll three skill checks to do this thing" procedures from 3E, perhaps.

    Applying just one XP award for a failed group check (and handling as many situations as possible as group checks) does address most of the possible issues with published adventures, as well.

    The next question is about BIFTs. You've already said that you don't interact with them much directly, in terms of your prep.

    What makes for good BIFTs, and how does one write good ones?

    What do the players do to get some "juice" out of them in play?

    Are they all about inter-PC interactions, for example, like DW Bonds?

    What's an example of a cool or fun thing that happens often in your game because of the BIFTs?
  • Great answer, Matt.

    I think that changing the way skill checks and such work is probably one of the BIGGEST changes you can make to the game in order to change its feel and style. That has profound impact on the quality of play and the way the game goes.

    I've never seen someone do that consistently in a D&D game - don't the rules as written have a lot of cases which undermine that approach? Since I'm not a D&D5 scholar, I can only think of typical things like having the entire party roll individual Perception checks, combat maneuvers which require checks every step of the way (like the typical Thief character who makes Acrobatics and Hide checks almost every round if they're doing tricky stuff on the battlefield), and similar. I may be imagining detailed and ubiquitous "roll three skill checks to do this thing" procedures from 3E, perhaps.
    I don't believe the 5E DMG supports constant skill check rolling, certainly not outside of combat. It's not terribly strong, but there is language in there about only rolling when dramatically appropriate.

    The exception is that having the entire party roll individual Perception / Insight checks is, unfortunately, very common, and it's mathematically idiotic, of course. If GMs really feel like everyone should have a chance to notice a bad guy sneaking up or whatever, then make it a group check, I say: then what we're measuring is the "observant-ness" of the party as a whole.
    The next question is about BIFTs. You've already said that you don't interact with them much directly, in terms of your prep.

    What makes for good BIFTs, and how does one write good ones?

    What do the players do to get some "juice" out of them in play?

    Are they all about inter-PC interactions, for example, like DW Bonds?

    What's an example of a cool or fun thing that happens often in your game because of the BIFTs?
    The Bond is generally to another PC, generating the kinds of intraparty drama / low-stakes conflict one would expect from, as you say, Dungeon World.

    The Flaw and the Ideal are, "ideally" (LOL), things that will lead the character to sometimes make suboptimal decisions. In the case of the Flaw, this will generally be things that are "just" bad, like drinking too much or leaping before looking. Whereas Ideals should prompt players towards voluntarily taking on burdens or risks to further their Ideals.

    While I will sometimes deliberately put scenarios in play to give the players opportunities to pursue their Ideals, generally speaking my players are pretty good about looking for and seizing those chances themselves. The most prominent example of the former that I can think of was during the "interlude" portion of the White Plume Mountain / Against the Giants campaign this year. One of the adventures they had along the way was someone asking them to help save an ancient library from destruction.

    This was my attempt—successful as it turned out—to "ping" an Ideal the rogue/scholar Indiana Jones type guy had, about the importance of learning and research. The "smart" play would have just been to walk away entirely... but they obviously weren't going to do that. Partly because of the Ideal, but also because of the social contract we had about the way the Interlude would work.

    The Traits are the trickiest of the four to make "sing" consistently, I'll definitely admit that. It's sort of a catch-all category for anything else important about the character that the player wants to express, but that doesn't fit neatly into the other boxes.





  • Lovely!

    I think Traits are a bit of an issue, particularly since that's what D&D players tend to focus on (and I believe he rules implying they're the most important, as well, since you get two of those and only one of each of the others). (IIRC)

    A friend of mine I sent running a D&D campaign in this style and he has found that things like Ideals and Beliefs: if played honestly and directly, eventually cause the players to head in different directions (e.g. that one character trying to rescue the books/library will naturally be opposed by the rest of the group, and ESPECIALLY so if the group has contrary Ideals).

    It eventually hurt the game so much that they rewrote the BIFTs and the campaign Fronts to try to avoid this kind of trouble.

    It seems to me that (we've discussed this recently, in the 5E thread!) that this means a functional group needs to have some way to rotate leadership/spotlight or just get really smart about learning when to step away and ignore their BIFTs for a moment.

    However, I just realized that your game has some house rules which might be counteracting that:

    Since XP is pooled, instead of individual, every player has a stake in supporting other characters' BIFTs.

    Now that's interesting!

    I could even see coupling this with a different award for going against your BIFT when supporting another PC.

    The idea would be that, when a debate comes up, you know you don't lose your award by agreeing to go with the other PC.

    Pooling the XP might be doing some heavy lifting in your group, then, improving this dynamic quite a lot. Hmmm!

    About the skill checks:

    I've never seen a D&D group that doesn't roll for every little thing; and it's built into every module I've seen. (As an example, the last time I played D&D, there was a stretch of time where we were sneaking around, and the way we handled it was to have each player make three Stealth checks and three Perception checks to represent a several hour long period. That's thirty rolls in just a few minutes of gameplay!

    (I'm glad that you agree with me about the ridiculous ritual of making every player roll Perception or something similar that is ubiquitous in D&D play! The math on that is hilarious.)

    A few more questions for you on this subject:

    1. In combat, a lot more rolls are made. Does that mean that's each combat is effectively a large XP payout for the group?

    If so, do you feel that this replaces the standard encounter/combat XP, effectively?

    Is it roughly an equal incentive to fight (instead of avoiding combat)? What's a typical "payout" for getting into a fight?

    2. How do you deal with all the "do I know something" checks D&D typically has (e.g. Nature, Religion, History, Arcana)?

    Again, every D&D game I've seen so far features quite a few of these, and some character builds depend on them.

    2. On a related topic, do players ever ask to receive XP for failed passive checks (if they are important)?
  • I think the shared XP pool is absolutely crucial, for sure. Not sure any additional countervailing rewards are needed, at least in my experience so far.

    On to your questions...

    1) Remember that 5E combat often only lasts 2-3 rounds, so it's not as large an XP payout as you might think. Longer and thus more difficult combats generally do give out a modest amount of XP.

    I think combat, per se, is neither incentivized nor disincentivized in my system. It's fun, for sure, and there are often obstacles in the PCs' way that need to be punched in the face, but that's as it should be.

    2) Same way as any other skill check: sometimes just making "you don't know anything about this topic" the failure consequence is severe enough—and remember, Let It Ride applies, so they can't just keep rolling. Other times, I'll give them bad or incomplete information and expect them to act on it.

    3) Sure, if it ever came up I'd give it out. Hasn't ever happened.
  • Good answers, thanks!

    I don't feel total confidence in making this work on my own, but I feel maybe 80% of the way there, which is nice.

    One thing you haven't really talked about is:

    "Make your players write good BIFTs that are relevant to the adventure at hand (or tie them to the other party members)"

    How would you instruct a group unfamiliar with Keys, Aspects, and games that get some serious mileage out of them to do this?

    What are some examples of great BIFTs from your game, and what made them work so well?
  • So, first off, it's important to be a little transparent about the general sorts of things in any adventure module you're running. That helps the players write BIFTs that are theme- and plot-relevant. So, for WPM / AtG, BIFTs about recovering magical or giantish knowledge / secrets were some of the best. General lust for treasure was also effective—the Dwarf Samurai had that—since it led to some suboptimal decisions that were very in-character.

    Also those about intercultural conflict, especially for the later part of the campaign: one character had something about Dwarfish superiority, and another was just generally condescending to non-Elves. AtG involved not only Giant culture—the snooty Elf was a grad student who was trying to collect as much Giantish macramé as possible—but also Dwarvish, Elvish, and some local human nations as well. (The nice thing about Greyhawk as a setting is that it is far less gonzo than kitchen-sink / modern / Forgotten Realms D&D. If a player desperately wanted to play, say, a Tabaxi, I might let them if they had a good reason or character concept, but there isn't suddenly going to be a nation of cat people.)

    The great thing about BIFTs that make your character kind of a jerk is that you can break them and evolve them, and still earn XP for doing so. That's a major way to avoid the "party breaks apart if we play hard to our BIFTs" problem: the players have to all be committed to making the party as a unit function well, even if their characters aren't. The fact that BIFTs can change over time is one of those things that's obvious to Story Gamers, and isn't *prohibited* by the 5E text, but also isn't supported or mentioned at all. But it's absolutely necessary to avoid character stagnation.

    Here are some specific BIFTs from roughly the midpoint of the campaign before AtG / WPM, when I ran Night's Dark Terror:

    Khosef, Human Male Ranger

    Bond
    Can I prove my worth to the people of Sukiskyn?
    Ideal
    The people, united, will never be defeated!
    Flaw
    Act first; deal with the consequences later.
    Trait1
    I’d rather make friends than enemies.
    Trait2
    Can’t resist a good mystery.

    Tamara, Elven Female Warlock

    Bond
    When the chips are down, will I side with the Elves or the Fey?
    Ideal
    The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
    Flaw
    I’d rather eat my wand than admit when I’m wrong.
    Trait1
    I’m full of inspiring and cautionary tales relevant to almost any combat situation.
    Trait2
    The military lets me deal with my anger issues, but sometimes a gentler approach is needed.

    Vladimir, Human Male Shaman (3rd party product)

    Bond
    Can Golthar be trusted?

    Ideal
    Never start a fight, but always finish one.

    Flaw
    I can’t resist a sarcastic quip.

    T1
    I talk about people, not to them.

    T2
    I cannot stifle laughter.
  • edited December 2018
    It's interesting! Some part of me is inwardly cringing at someone who's NOT using some of the juicier BIFTs on that list to create some GM material (or some Bangs). Do you ever feel that temptation?

    I also love the phrasing of some of those as questions - that opens up some new ways of using BIFTs and getting some variability out of them.

    What criteria does your table use for Insp. rewards? For example, "I can't resist a sarcastic quip"... knowing you, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't enjoy an approach to play where the character makes a sarcastic quip occasionally and scores Inspiration.

    Do you use an unwritten rule or criteria like, perhaps (the good old "best practice" for rules like these)...

    * When a BIFT leads you into trouble or causes problems for the group, score Inspiration.

    Yes? Or something else?

    Also, a quick question about group checks: does it ever bother anyone that having more or fewer people doesn't affect the odds? For instance, you'd think a whole bunch of people pulling together on something would be better than one person doing it alone (and vice-versa for, say, sneaking around)?

    Meanwhile, I'm looking at your XP chart, and, again, knowing you, I'm sure that it's accurate and well-calibrate - you're good with numbers and diligent with such details.

    What do you do when the number of players changes from session to session, or over the course of the campaign?

    Second, I'm still surprised that you don't really consider combat XP in your estimates (which, otherwise, look very good to me). I was curious myself, so I turned to Critical Role this afternoon - I bet a lot of people use it as a model, and it's a good opportunity to be able to check on both the frequency of rolling and statistics on, e.g. the duration of combat.

    Now, I already know that you almost certainly don't roll as often as they do (often up to a dozen rolls are made in a single social interaction!).

    I found a combat sequence. Unfortunately, it wasn't very long, but I managed to write down how many rolls were made.

    Here's the sequence:

    * Perception rolls to spot the enemy in time (4 rolls, one per player) - (4)
    * The rogue hides (1)
    * Initiative for everyone (not going to count, since presumably there's no "fail" here)
    * Every character has to make a save against the creature's fear effect (4)
    * One character attacks, making multiple attacks - that's (1), by your rules, and unlikely to fail
    * The creature attacks, using an area effect. All must save. (4 rolls, one PC fails.)
    * The PC's turn is next, so he makes a death save. (1)
    * Another PC casts a targeted spell (1) and then uses some kind of healing as a bonus action (no possibility of failure, fortunately).
    * The last PC makes a handful of attacks. (1)

    That's the first round. Remarkably, only two rolls miss, so that would net 2 XP, right?

    However, it's 17 rolls. I'd expect it to be more like 4-8 misses typically, right? (Against stiff opposition... this creature isn't terribly dangerous, it turns out. In the second round there are only 4 more rolls before a powerful spell destroys it. There might have been another miss in there, on a less lucky day, I'd imagine.)

    But, in the Critical Role stats (see that thread if you're curious) I see that the average fight lasts 4 or 5 rounds. Even if there was only one failure in the whole group by round, that would be as much XP as any given player generates through the whole session, wouldn't it? And there is always the possibility for multiple rolls per turn due to status effects, attacks of opportunity, or even asking to roll Arcana to figure out what the enemy is doing.

    I would generally expect at least 1 or 2 rolls per round per PC, so a 4-player, 4-round combat would mean 16-32 rolls, wouldn't it?

    This is admittedly just curiosity on my part, though - not as important as the BIFTs stuff, and other larger-scale concerns. I'm just thinking out loud, because I've been thinking about D&D a bunch over the last week!

    I don't doubt your conclusion - you're very diligent with this stuff - but I'm trying to figure out how we 'get there', so to speak.


  • Oh, I absolutely will throw something into my prep that "pings" off a BIFT if I have a clear idea how to. I just don't feel obligated to, so long as there's a module to run.

    Yes, the general aesthetic standard is that you can't earn Inspiration for "just talking." A sarcastic quip that derailed a tense negotiation, however... or even one that earned the amusement of a bandit king or something, that would be worth Insp. (It's important to me that people not earn Inspiration only for doing dumb / bad / disruptive things; BIFTs should also inspire heroism and innovation that would not otherwise have occurred.)

    Combat XP is factored into my XP table. I just double checked it. The number of failed rolls per session incorporates how often people fail rolls in combat, in my estimation, though as I also note, my estimates are deliberately low.

    But here's the more interesting thing: yes, overall, combat is a good source of XP relative to just running around making skill checks. However, PCs in my games really can't survive constant combat, because I've actually got the resource management / resting stuff working to put pressure on them. And specifically, if you do get in a combat, you really don't want to get XP from it, since that means you're probably taking a lot of damage! And remember, any combat that goes longer than 3 rounds is likely super-serious and involves quite dangerous enemies. So, I've never had players get too trigger-happy.

    Also, note the way the end-of-session award for combat works. I decided to depart a bit from Dungeon World here, and award more than 1 XP if the PCs take down a particularly terrible foe. But the important thing is that it's for the toughest single foe defeated. So if a 5th-level party defeats a CR10 creature, they get 5 XP at end-of-session. Now, 5th-level characters taking down a CR10 creature is not impossible... if they can get it alone. Whereas if it has 2 or 3 lower-CR minions with it, suddenly that fight is very deadly indeed. Bam. Now, suddenly, the PCs have a good reason to use clever tactics and isolate big baddies. Hasn't happened a ton, but once or twice it's made a difference.

    I did deal with the loss of a player most of the way through Night's Dark Terror. The XP chart was less sensitive, then, and it was obvious how to deal with the problem, but worked less well. In other words, the threshold to level up was simply some multiple of the number of players, but I noticed that the system wasn't really accounting for the greater spotlight-per-person in smaller groups, which is why I changed it to its current form.

    Nowadays, I think we'd just look at what fraction of the way to the next level they were, and then switch to the appropriate column of the chart with that many XP. So, let's say a party of 4 PCs is halfway between levels 7 and 8 when a 5th player joins. Instead of being at 27 out of 54 XP needed, they're now at 29 out of 58 XP, and then we just proceed from there.
  • Good answers, Matt! Groovy. Very interesting!

    Higher lethality and danger level is a good way to counterbalance potential XP gain.

    How do you choose modules for this game? (I would imagine that most published modules, for specific character levels, are pretty survivable - although I'm just guessing here.)
  • *shrug* I've just run a few modules that looked interesting to me.

    Night's Dark Terror I got interested in because it's a classic and because it's specifically non-gonzo, actually.

    White Plume Mountain and Against the Giants are both in the same collection of 5e-ified modules (Tales From the Yawning Portal), and work well together.

    There are a few other things I'd like to try. Updating NDT to 5E myself was not that hard, but I'd prefer, in general, to run things already written for 5E.
  • This has been a great thread, Matt.

    If I play or run D&D at some point, I will definitely be using at least some (and maybe all) of this. (Although I also keep thinking about Adam Dray's "lose XP for a milestone when you take a long rest" as an alternative to messing around with the resting rules.)

    I'm curious, now, how you run these modules!

    You don't seem like the type to enjoy typical linear modules, so I wonder if you're doing something clever in terms of using that material in play, or not?

    How do you place them in the campaign, and how do you and the players interact with them? How often do you modify them to interact with BIFTs and such, for instance?

    Reminds me of this fun thread we had a while back, which I should review:

    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/21572/trad-rr-a-way-to-salvage-linear-modules
  • The reason my "advancement" system works is because it is interstitial. It fits into the existing system without changing much of it at all.

    1. Give players a small perk for free: Gain an advancement at certain XP intervals.
    2. Take away that perk if they take a long rest before you want them to.
    3. The small perk is part of the normal level advancement anyway, so the perk essentially is absorbed by leveling up and everything evens out. I haven't broken "game balance" or whatever.
  • Yeah, it's very slick. The advantages of the "perks" probably balance out nicely with the incentive not to be fully rested all the time. I love it!
  • edited December 2018
    My tack is going to be to, uh, tack on an increasing multiplier to XP for every fight without a long rest (1st fight is normal XP, 2nd is +10%, 3rd is +20%, 4th is +30%, and so on - a short rest keeps the multiplier where it is for the next battle, not resting at all increases it, a long rest resets to zero). If the players get a hunch that a big/important/tough battle is coming up, they can either decide to rest to get all their abilities back, or really take advantage of the multiplier, since a big battle is going to have more base XP than other battles.

    When I ran 5e, I found that I had to give more than simply combat XP or advancement was too slow. But I want to run 5e with only combat XP. This solves the problem while giving the players the carrot rather than the stick.

    If you don't want to only run combat XP, then it's probably not a good solution.
  • That's super-cool, Hans, and if I were doing combat-only XP for some reason, I'd probably steal that. (If I were to do that, I'd tie in the BIFTs & Inspiration in some other way.)

    Paul, as to your question: what makes you think these modules are linear? All three that I've run in 5E (Night's Dark Terror, White Plume Mountain, and Against the Giants) are pre-DragonLance. (Oh, I also ran part of a 5E-ified 3E module, Sunless Citadel, and found it perfectly sandboxy... though I also created a small sandbox in the area around the Sunless Citadel itself.) I wouldn't attempt to run DragonLance in 5E. (I did successfully run DL1 using Dungeon World in 2012, but looked at the other modules and realized they would be much harder to make non-railroady.)

    Funny story: I saw some of my players from the WPM/AtG game on Saturday at my birthday luncheon. One guy said his favorite part of the game was actually the interlude between the two dungeons, even though he liked all of it. I found that so fascinating because that was the most railroaded part: I simply created three "waypoints" along their route between the two dungeons, that would present them with a challenge they needed to handle. It wasn't a total railroad, in the sense that they had genuine freedom of choice in how to handle those waypoints, and the choices they made in the first one impacted the later ones, etc. Still, it was a surprising comment.

    However, come to think of it, I've used that "waypoint" structure in other adventure designs. For instance, there's a Burning Wheel con scenario I wrote and only ran once, entitled "The Three Trials of the Seven Pilgrims." It was actually a spinoff to a home campaign—the six PCs were all junior clerics, and their guide, who was an NPC in this scenario, was one of the PCs in my home game, a fearsome inquisitor / holy knight type. The title basically says it all: along the way to the holy place they were trying to get to, they encountered three things, and had to figure out how to deal with them. The choices they made impacted their relationships with one another, how they each felt individually about their faith, etc. So it was a great game, and had lots of unexpected twists and turns, but not in terms of "where do we go now?" type questions.
  • @Deliverator 's XP table and clarification of BIFTs are working pretty great at the table. Everyone crafted their BIFTs together. We followed the PCs around for a day. After that we sorted out what was worth chasing down of all the stuff going on in Sigil. Then we tightened up the BIFTs.

    Everyone had a copy of the XP table and I (as GM) was constantly point to the BIFT tents asking questions and reminding folks about hitting those to get Inspiration and spending Inspiration.

    I did roll in the Skill Challenge system (which gets and off-hand mention in the DMG) and used the Planescape CCG cards to build out the R-map.
  • <3

    So glad to hear it!!! Keep us posted on how the game goes!
  • @akooser,

    I'd love to hear about "following the PCs around for a day" and what kinds of BIFTs are working well at your table.

    My impression of Deliverator's game is that the BIFTs primarily work as a way to a) justify in-character "suboptimal" choices, and b) to highlight inter-character drama or interactions (as a contrast to the action). (Does that seem about right, Matt?)

    Thinking of D&D as modeling a "superhero" genre clarified some things for me. In superhero fiction, there is a mismatched team of heroes, who balance each other out and contrast each other. They have some interesting dynamics and minor conflicts, but ultimately always stay "on the same team" (with rare and dramatic exceptions). Using that as a model, I can see how BIFTs can be set up to play into that quite nicely.
  • @Paul_T Will do. I'll start a new thread.
  • That's a good summary of the way they function, Paul, but as usual with flagging, the real goal is simply getting everyone to pay attention to the details of the personalities and values of each other's characters.

    I look forward to the other thread.
  • I hope you don't mind if I link to your updated house rules .doc here, to keep it all easy to follow for readers:

    http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/21956/update-to-my-5e-house-rules
  • No, not at all.
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