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Oct 31, 2022

Austin's Routine 2022

It's been a while since I've done one of these, and they're always fun to look back on to see how different they each are. Now that I'm in a new house in a new state and I've been here for a year, here's what my days go like week to week.

Austin's Routine 2022

Though my phone alarm is set for 6:50 AM, I usually wake up at 6:15 or 6:30 to my youngest son screaming as my oldest son bugs him, the dog next door barking at nothing, or my daughter coming in and whispering "Griffin soaked through his diaper and it stinks really bad." So I get up and restore order, and usually come back to bed to spoon my wife until my alarm goes off. Then I snooze it until her alarm goes off, wait for her to snooze it once or twice, and then finally get up around 7:30 or 7:45. Man, I'm so lazy these days. My self ten years ago would be appalled. But then, my self ten years ago didn't have three kids.

If it's Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I try my best to motivate myself to put on my tennis shoes, take off my shirt, put in my one functioning Bluetooth earbud, and work out on my broken elliptical for 20 minutes. I usually listen to an audiobook on Graphic Audio or a podcast, but lately it's been hard to find something that keeps my attention for that long and makes the workout go by quickly. Afterward, I turn the shower on, then turn the master bathtub on full blast to make the water get hot more quickly. I don't know if it's because the water heater is on the opposite side of the house or what, but I've found if I don't turn on the tub as well, it takes literally like 2 or 3 minutes to warm up.

If it's Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, I usually just pour some water on my head and dry it off. A hairdresser once told me washing your hair every day makes it overly fluffy, and she was right.

I help with the kids until around 8:00 or 8:15, making sure to give my older son his daily dose of four squares of ExLax (he has bowel issues, but thank goodness this replaces having to do an enema every single day), and then I fill up my 32oz water bottle with water and ice and get ready for my Stand Up meeting at work. I'll be honest: I hate Agile work groups. Or maybe I'm just in the wrong company and position to benefit from it, because Stand Up just consists of me zoning out working on a personal project until someone passes it to me, giving a brief report about what I'm working on, and then zoning out and working on something else again while everyone else gives theirs.

After Stand Up, I start remote work for the day. This consists of periods of coding and chatting with my Polish and Uruguayan coworkers on Microsoft Teams, interspersed by periods of getting stuck and waiting to have questions answered while I work on my latest project (lately it's been Wormie v3) and playing whatever Assassin's Creed game I'm currently trying to beat (right now it's Odyssey).

At 11:00 AM, it's brunchtime. I've been intermittently fasting for a few months now, and it is just perfect for me. Eating breakfast and lunch made me gain weight, and usually I wasn't even in the mood for one of the two types of food. But with brunch to break my fast, I can have a meal that feels bigger but ultimately has less calories, and it can be either breakfast food like a stack of whole wheat waffles with chunky peanut butter, or a steak or leftover feijoada. The hunger gets pretty strong around 9:00 and doesn't go away till 11:00, but I enjoy it. The anticipation makes me appreciate my first of two meals of the day a lot more. I usually watch a show while eating. Recently it's been Season 12 of MasterChef on Hulu.

After brunch, it's usually about time for my lunch break. I spend my hour/hour and a half or so with heightened focus on my personal project of the week or Assassin's Creed game, depending on how deep I am in project mode.

At around 1:15 or 1:30, I put my youngest son down for his nap if my wife's too tired or busy to. I change his diaper, put him in his pack-n-play, and turn on his sound machine. He usually asks for the "Ducky Song," the "Daddy Song," the "Mommy Song," and sometimes the "Grandpa Song" before he'll go to sleep. I know he's satisfied and I'm dismissed when he blows me kisses.

Once I'm back to work, I try and render or upload my latest episode of DM Quest. This uses up my home PC so I'm not tempted to work or play on it instead of my coding on my work laptop. I usually ease into work reading a couple of daily webcomics, and then transcribe a page of the Book of Mormon as my personal scripture study. Then I work, taking breaks every once in a while to watch any new YouTube videos on my feed.

At 4:00, my kids get home from school and my youngest wakes up from his nap, which means there's not much productivity left to be had. And my Polish coworkers have been long done for the day by that point anyway, so I'm usually done for the day by that point. Besides, my older son always comes directly into my office and asks if he can play his screen time for the day. He plays Goat Simulator or some other fleeting game with next to no objective, which is disappointing to me. I wish he'd get into strategy games or RPGs like I did at his age. Meanwhile, my daughter usually asks if she can go play with her neighbor down the street.

If big boy's not in the mood to play screen time, or after he's done, usually all the kids who are at home like to go outside and ride their bikes around the driveway. I like to go out and watch them while sitting on a lawn chair and reading a book. Otherwise, I might watch an episode of "Trollhuntins" (Trollhunters of Arcadia or one of its series sequels) with my youngest son.

At around 5:00, it's time to start preparing dinner. I usually like to make something fancy and complex, because it's usually more delicious and satisfying. But I can also make spaghetti and meatballs as a deeply satisfying dish. It usually depends on what I'm craving for the day (maybe from a cooking video I watched), what meats we have in Chester (our chest freezer), and whether I've already cooked too much for the week and we have an excess of leftovers in the fridge.

We try to eat dinner around 6:00, and afterward sometimes we watch an episode of Phineas & Ferb or another cartoon as a family, or go on a family walk if the weather is nice. Time seems to go by really quickly in the afternoons, and before we know it, it's already around 7:00 and time to start the long process of getting the kids to bed. I make bedtime snacks for the kids, which is usually cheese-on-toast or a Hot Monkey (a banana with peanut butter and honey in a toasted hot dog bun), and then give the older kids a melatonin gummy.

Then, I either put the girl to bed or both of the boys to bed. I'm the less-preferred choice between their mom and me, but she can't do all three of them every night, as we explain to them. The youngest boy's routine is the same, but the older son likes to listen to/watch a Parry Gripp song on my iPhone before bed, which he can if he didn't give me too much trouble getting ready for bed. For my daughter, I try to read a chapter of a book before she goes to sleep. Currently it's been hard to find a book that she's interested in, but earlier this year we red The Ickabog, which was great.

After the kids are in bed, it's quiet time. If my wife just wants to vedge, I continue working on my project if I have enough energy, or play computer games. Otherwise, we watch two or three episodes of a TV show together (right now it's Breaking Bad). We try to be in bed by 11:30, but my wife takes an inordinate number of trips to the bathroom while getting ready for bed (I blame that she takes her phone in with her) and we usually fall asleep at midnight or soon after.

If it's a Wednesday, I have D&D with my DM Quest group from 8:00 to midnight. On Fridays, I play Valheim, Heroes of the Storm, or Sea of Thieves with my friends or brothers. On Saturdays when my wife works at Red Robin as a server, I skip the "preparing dinner" part and just cook a frozen pizza for the kids. We set out a blanket and watch a movie together while eating. Then, if I can get them to bed on time, I stream a retro video game (since that's all my computer can handle streaming) on my YouTube channel until I get tired of talking.

And that's my life in Oklahoma! It's not much, but it's relaxing and I enjoy it for the most part. Most days are pretty much the same now that I work remotely, but I do enjoy going on dinner or lunch dates with my wife when I can, or going to Braum's for ice cream if the kids have been good.

Oct 10, 2022

D&D Mechanics Inspired by Assassin's Creed: Origins

 


I'm back, and yes, I will continue these Assassin's Creed mechanics posts until I can't any longer! Assassin's Creed Origins took quite a change from the previous games in the series. The game plays much more like an RPG, with gear of different rarities, a complex talent tree, and leveling up. It also pairs the freedom to explore an open world with classic dungeon crawlers through Egyptian pyramids. These mechanics gave plenty of inspiration for ways to improve your D&D DMing.

Location-based Adventuring

I never really understood how West Marches-style D&D adventuring could work until I started exploring in Origins. Pretty much every previous AC game has things like regions, districts, or other demarcated areas, each with varying levels of difficulty, but Origins's simplicity of objectives and focus on exploration stands out. Scattered throughout Egypt, there are lots of locations you can visit, each with its own mini-objective that grants you some bonus experience if you complete it:
  • Garrisons (with three levels of difficulty), heavily guarded locations where you have to assassinate commanders and steal treasure, and sometimes free prisoners
  • Treasure locations, which are nice to look at and shrouded in mystery, and have a hidden treasure somewhere to find. They can be anything from an abandoned camp to a villa to a sunken trireme.
  • Viewpoints, trademark high-altitude locations that act as Fast Travel points after you synchronize with them.
  • Papyrus locations, religious areas that have a hidden papyrus. The papyri have riddles that lead you to valuable hidden treasures.
  • Beast lairs, where predatory beasts are gathered, led by an alpha beast that you have to kill
  • Tombs, mini-dungeon crawls that ends with a stone tablet that gives you an ability point
  • Stone circles, which unlock a unique item if you visit all of them.
  • Hermit locations, places to rest. (Honestly not very fleshed out)
This system of naming specific locations of interest within difficulty-based areas is a perfect way to make a West Marches-style D&D campaign, or at least an open-world one. Rather than letting your players wander around aimlessly, give them rumors about specific locations and what they might hold, hint at collections that can be gathered if a certain number of specific locations can be found, and give them variety of the types of enemies they can encounter. Having some set categories of location types in mind for your campaign can make it easier for you as the DM to plan them out, but you'll still be able to give them plenty of variety in terms of flavor. A "garrison" type location could indeed be a fort, or it could be a camp, a warship sailing along a river, or simply a building complex that is off-limits to everyone not belonging to the complex's faction.

I imagine this system would also make it easier to describe exploration as your players adventure. Rather than saying "you travel north for two days," you could describe them passing specific locations, tying them together like a flow chart. And I would certainly reward my players with bonus experience points for exploring locations like these to their fullest.

Quest Variety

One change in Origins I was really impressed with was the variety of quest types you are presented with. In previous games, it felt like quests were always "assassinate this person," "steal this item," "eavesdrop on this conversation," and, well, "assassinate this other person." While the objectives of the quests in Origins felt similar from time to time, it felt like every one of them was unique and explored different aspects of the good you were doing for quest givers. If nothing else, I encourage you to play Assassin's Creed Origins for new ideas for quest hooks that go beyond the norm. Some of my favorite side quests that stand out are:
  • A man is scammed by a woman who makes him drunk, marries him, and then demands a "virgin's tax."
  • Children in the city see you leap off of a tall building, and soon more children gather and follow to watch you jump off other high places.
  • Trinkets from your home town are being sold in another city, but the trinkets and souvenirs are clearly fakes.
  • Evil smells are issuing from tombs, and the culprit turns out to be the embalmers' suppliers who are diluting their natron with sand.
  • The sacred bull of the temple is sick, which is seen as a bad omen; but the truth is that a blackmailed servant is poisoning it.
  • Elite bounty hunters called phylakitai are hunting you down.
Many of these side quests had several layers to them, and it was a lot of fun to think how I could use some of their twists and hooks in my own games. And it wasn't just the side quests either. The main quest line has a unique way of organizing your targets, in that you begin by hunting down 5 bosses, then 4, then 2, then the final boss. It's a fun way of spacing out the difficulty of the targets, making it clear to the player what their objective is, adding variety to tracking down each one, and unfolding a layer of storyline with each assassination.

Boss Battles

The only boss battles that occurred in previous games (that I can remember) are the final encounters with the end villain who had gotten hold of a Piece of Eden, and possibly the elite ship battles on AC: Black Flag. But Origins introduces some honest-to-goodness boss battles in the form of giant avatars of the Egyptian gods Anubis, Sekhmet, and Sobek, as well as a couple of other battles with the chaos serpent Apep and four war elephant battles. Apep's battle is more of a test of your bow-aiming abilities and not really translatable to D&D, and the war elephant battles are mostly just really hard enemy fights, so I'll focus on the battles with the god avatars.

These battles are epic and yet beautiful in their simplicity. Each fight begins with a gargantuan animal-headed god rising out of the ground. The fight begins and cycles through a few simple stages before the god is destroyed. If you run, your progress on the fight resets. Otherwise, you win a legendary item. If you beat all three bosses, you get a legendary outfit as a trophy.

D&D 5e did not have very memorable boss fights until they introduced the concept of Mythic creatures, which regain health and fight with new powers after they are defeated the first time. The key to the fun of these boss battles in AC Origins, as well as boss battles in D&D, is these different back-to-back stages. Here is a sample of the stages of the god Anubis in Origins. Each new stage begins when his health is reduced by about one-fifth:
  1. Anubis stands in the middle of a damaging aura of necrotic smoke, unreachable with melee attacks. Instead, you can only damage him by shooting at the glowing sphere of energy on his chest. In this stage, the god periodically sends flaming hyenas charging at you, which disappear if they take any damage, but damage you if they run into you. He alternates between sending these hyenas and creating an area of blinding sand that you have only a couple of seconds to avoid before it hits.
  2. The glowing sphere on Anubis's chest disappears and he is invulnerable for a time. During this stage, he creates five zombie anubite minions to attack you, and he is not attackable until these zombies are destroyed. To make these fights more difficult, he creates walls of fire and bones to surround you and stop you from fleeing. The bone walls can be broken with attacks.
  3. Anubis returns to Stage 1, but with a higher frequency of the attacks, making it harder to dodge the hyenas and sand explosions.
  4. He returns to Stage 2, but he also sends out the flaming hyenas to harass you as you're trying to defeat the minions. Sort of a combination of Stage 1 and 2.
  5. Stage 1 begins one final time, with the frequency and damage increased, and he also summons a pack of hyena minions to fight you. When his health is depleted, any remaining hyenas disappear and he dies in a dramatic flash of light.
I love the design in these battles and I'm anxious to try my hand at implementing stages to boss fights in my own games. I like the idea of having two battle types within the boss battle, cycling between them, but with each return to a cycle coming with a more difficult twist. Then at the end you can combine the two stages together for a truly epic finale. Stages is what makes Zelda boss battles so fun, after all. An easy way to do this with an existing monster in D&D would be stages like this:
  1. Confidence. The monster fights normally, without Legendary or Lair Actions. It doesn't fear the player characters at this point and feels mostly like it's toying with them.
  2. Annoyance. The monster hides, puts up a shield, withdraws, flees into a deeper chamber, or becomes otherwise inaccessible, and sends a wave of its minions to fight the player characters. It's annoyed at this point, and wants the player characters gone. If it loses a few of its smaller minions, oh well. That's what they're for anyway.
  3. Anger. The monster is angry now. All its minions have been destroyed! It gains legendary actions as it fights the players again.
  4. Fear. The monster is starting to realize what it's up against at this point, and starts pulling out stops. It withdraws and sends maybe a pair of higher-level minions, its elite guards, at the player characters, and Lair Actions begin.
  5. Madness. With all its minions destroyed and its lair at risk of being looted by these adventurers, the monster goes crazy. It attacks the players with increased fury, maybe gaining the Reckless ability as it attacks with Legendary (and maybe even Mythic) Actions and Lair Actions till its death.
The trick in D&D would be to make a fight feel deadlier and depleting their resources over time without making it impossible or exhausting. I think I would probably give bosses' hit point pools (I say pools plural, because let's be honest: for truly epic battles, players would have to kill a creature multiple times, and against single creatures at high levels, this isn't even a problem, especially if it isn't always using its Legendary Actions) a range instead of a specific value, so that I could gauge how determined my players were before I went on to the next stage. As far as XP rewarding would go, each stage would count as its own encounter without a rest in between, so it'd be easy to make it fun, rewarding, and epic.

Weapon Fighting Styles

There has been some talk about this online already, but the weapons in D&D 5e are boring. Bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage may as well be called "physical damage" for how often they are shamelessly grouped together, and the differences between the weapons that you can wield often come down to these damage types, damage dice, a handful of property options such as Reach and Heavy and Finesse, and gold price!

The weapons that Bayek in Assassin's Creed Origins can wield, from khopeshes and scepters to spears and heavy axes, each have their own unique tactics and combos, which is something I would really like to add to D&D. Here's a sample of their differences:
  • Swords. Balanced normal weapon.
  • Twin swords. Fast, but with a short reach and inability to wield a shield.
  • Sickle swords. Like swords, but they have a chance to spin enemies around and expose their defense.
  • Heavy blunts. Slow, but with a long reach and devastating damage when they hit. 
  • Heavy blades. Slower than swords, but balanced for reach weapons.
  • Spears. Very long range and combos damage multiple enemies around you, but lower damage.
  • Scepters. Medium range and good speed.
The weapons in the PHB compared with these are pathetic. You may as well just say you're wielding "a weapon" and just choose a damage type. I would really like to see some bonus properties to the weapons in D&D that would make one a better choice for a specific build, specific situations, or specific enemies. First off, here are some ideas for damage type changes that will make them at least somewhat important of a choice when choosing a weapon:
  • Bludgeoning Slam. When you score a critical hit with a bludgeoning weapon against a creature, that creature must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or fall prone and be pushed 5 feet horizontally to an unoccupied space of your choice. If this damage is done with a ranged attack, the target is instead pushed 5 feet directly away from you.
  • Piercing Wound. When you score a critical hit with a piercing weapon against a creature, if the creature has blood, it must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or gain a bleeding wound. It takes piercing damage equal to one roll of the weapon's damage die at the start of each of its turns until a creature uses its action to staunch the wound with a DC 12 Wisdom (Medicine) check, or until it receives magical healing. Wounds dealt in this way can stack.
  • Slashing Cleave. When you score a critical hit with a slashing weapon against a creature, up to two creatures of your choice within the range of the weapon must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take damage equal to one roll of the weapon's damage die. If this damage is done with a ranged attack, this extra damage is instead dealt to creatures within a line extending from you through the target.
With those changes in place, here are some ideas I have for changing the existing weapons in the PHB. Note that I've changed the simple/martial status of a couple of them:

Simple Weapons

  • (NEW) Brass knuckles. Changes unarmed strike damage to d6.
  • Blackjack. Club with the Finesse property.
  • Dagger. Advantage against grappled targets.
  • (NEW) Garrote. Two handed weapon, no damage. If the target remains grappled by a garrote for a number of rounds equal to its Constitution modifier, it drops to 0 hit points but is stable.
  • Quarterstaff. You have advantage on Shove attacks if you are holding the staff with both hands.
  • (SIMPLE) Shortsword. Piercing OR slashing damage.
  • Sickle. On a hit, you can attempt to Shove as a bonus action if the creature is your size or smaller.
  • Spear. Has the Reach property.
  • Dart. Can be poisoned as a bonus action instead of an action.
  • Sling. Assuming you are on land and rocks are present, you can reload a sling with a nearby stone as a bonus action.
  • Blowgun. When you make an attack with a blowgun while hidden, you remain hidden.

Martial Weapons

  • (NEW) Bola. Thrown (range 20/60). A Large or smaller creature hit by a bola is grappled until it is freed, and it must immediately make a DC 10 Strength saving throw or fall prone.
  • (NEW) Billhook. Halberd base. On a hit, you can Shove that target as a bonus action.
  • (NEW) Chakram. Thrown (range 30/120), 1d6 slashing. On a miss with a thrown attack, make a second attack with disadvantage to see if it bounces and hits a different creature within the weapon's normal range.
  • (NEW) Estoc. Rapier with slashing damage.
  • Flail. On a hit, you can attempt to Shove as a bonus action if the creature is your size or smaller.
  • Glaive / Halberd. Piercing OR slashing damage.
  • Lance. Two-handed weapon that is one-handed when mounted. Advantage on the attack if you move at least 20 feet toward the target.
  • Maul. You have advantage on Shove attacks.
  • Morningstar. Bludgeoning OR piercing damage.
  • Pike. On a hit, you can attempt a Grapple as a bonus action if the target is your size or smaller.
  • (NEW) Repeating crossbow. Light crossbow without the Loading property.
  • Trident. When you throw this and hit a creature, the hit becomes a critical hit.
  • Whip. Slashing OR thunder damage. Has the Light property. On a hit, you can grapple the target instead of dealing damage. As a bonus action, you can pull them 5 feet toward you or make them drop one item they're holding.
  • Hand crossbow. Can load as a bonus action.
Also, I think there should be a Buckler, which acts as a shield that adds 1 to your AC, but you can use it while holding two-handed weapons (and versatile weapons wielded with two hands).

Sep 1, 2022

D&D Mechanics Inspired by Assassin's Creed: Syndicate

Let's keep this Assassin's Creed D&D-content train a-rollin'! (No pun intended, given the nature of the base in Assassin's Creed: Syndicate). I didn't think I'd enjoy Syndicate as much as the others, since for me, the less modern the genre, the better; however, I was pleasantly surprised with how fun it was to grappling-spring-hook my way across Victorian England, free children from child labor factories, and build up a fighting-for-freedom gang to help move along my objectives. And despite the combat being a little cartoony and the carriage chases being more comic relief than anything else, I enjoyed the storyline and, as you'll see below, got even more D&D ideas from playing it:

Meaningful Factions

Nothing helped me understand how important factions are for conflict in a setting like starting one and working on building its influence. The Rooks gang is a gang that Jacob Frye starts in London to battle the existing gang that has taken over London, the Blighters. Rooting out the Blighters, killing their leaders, destroying their sources of income, and taking over their territory makes the streets of London safer for you and gives you more resources when you're working on quests.

By this point in the franchise, Assassin's Creed games are starting to gain a ton of RP elements in them, so there is a skill tree that the assassins get; however, there's also a technology tree of sorts you use for the Rooks gang as well, which you upgrade through using money instead of experience: things like bribing arms dealers to favor your gang over the Blighters, hiring more Rooks to keep stage coaches on the streets in case you need a getaway car, and securing business contracts throughout the city that increase your income. I think there's a ton of potential here for D&D, both as a gold sink and as a way to help players get more invested in their factions.

Adding more concrete benefits to being in a faction could be great for a D&D campaign, especially one with a clear home base that the players would return to and gain those benefits from. These are directly inspired by the criminal syndicate in the game, but they could be tweaked to fit other factions too. Here are some examples I can think of:
  • With a high enough level of renown in a specific city, guards will turn the other way when crimes are committed, and you are much less likely to be mugged, pickpocketed, or assaulted in a shady alleyway. This could also apply to a bandit-infested road, or even an area with non-human enemies that the faction keeps in check.
  • Paying a one-time lump sum of gold could secure a discount on armor, weapons, spell components, lifestyle expenses, travel fees, potions, or anything else related to the guild, for the rest of the campaign. You could also unlock the easier purchase of harder-to-find items.
  • Sidekicks, hirelings, and helpful NPCs could be easily available for affordable hire, or could even just show up in random locations as they recognize your achievements in the same faction they belong to. Other favors, like causing a distraction or providing shortcuts to locations are also possibilities, and the CR of the NPCs could be upgraded as equipment was procured for them.
  • With enough influence and money, your faction could give you an advantage on your next quest: they could sabotage an enemy's guards, or steal maps and plans and blueprints.

NPC Loyalty-Focused Quests

I was immediately invested in the NPCs in Syndicate, and I think the main thing that helped that come about was the focus on the NPCs giving you particular types of quests based on their role. The more quests you complete, the higher your "loyalty" is with them, and raising this loyalty unlocks better and better rewards. You gain loyalty with Henry Green the more templars you kill and the more gang hideouts you clear out, and he rewards you with better weapons. Ned Wynert rewards you with crafting ingredients if you participate in boat raids, smuggling, and cargo hijacking. Loyalty with Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline, gained by arresting criminals, lands you new firearms and bullet magazines.

Having actual quests that the NPCs give you that are unique to the NPC's objectives and whose rewards make sense for them to give you is what made them so much more memorable than normal. I found myself more interested in the NPCs' backgrounds and why they wanted me to do these quests, and it was fun to try and hunt down every last templar and win each fight club match just to make sure and get every last reward out of them.

I love the idea of doing this, especially with NPCs that are in the same guild as the players or who are otherwise easily accessible. It would be fun to have an alchemist who asks you to collect rare herbs as you find them, and have a shelf full of interesting potions and formulas that he can show you. He may mention that he doesn't have time to figure out how to make these potions, but if you do the fieldwork for him in finding rare plants more quickly, he would be able to get around to them faster and offer the potions for cheap. Perhaps a cleric who rewards you the more undead you kill or the more chances you find to spread the word of his deity. This system could work very similar to the Piety system in Mythic Odysseys of Theros, but with loyalty or individual renown instead.

Non-Linear Quest Progression

The aforementioned NPC quests serve as the side quests of Syndicate, and they pair alongside the main storyline perfectly. Raising the NPCs' loyalty and gaining their rewards helps make the gameplay easier, but I love how there's always a choice of what to focus on next. I think DMs can learn from that when designing campaigns.

Even the main quest line has some variety to it and has multiple objectives woven together. Syndicate has two protagonists: twin siblings Evie and Jacob Frye. They each want the end boss, Starrick, dead, but they have their own agendas as well that are related to accomplishing this. Jacob wants to hunt down Starrick's main lieutenants and sabotage the templars, and Evie wants to find an artifact that Starrick is seeking out to gain power over London. The storyline staggers between these two viewpoints in the way the quests work, ultimately—as other Assassin's Creed games do—coming together at the end for a big finish.

This sort of nonlinear progressive approach to advancing the plot of a campaign could work really well for DMs who want to get their players more involved in the storyline. With some planning, the story could focus on each player's goals in succession, with each path ending with a lock to that path's progression and a key to starting the next player's path. Thus, each player would get some time to get closer to their own resolution, no one player would steal all the limelight, and a player who just finished their arc can have time to ponder the implications of the discoveries they just made and look forward to getting them resolved when it's their turn next. For D&D groups in particular (especially large ones), it could be a good idea to make paths overlap so that multiple players feel like their goals are progressing at the same time.

And eventually, all the paths would converge on the climax of the campaign in the end, with all of the players invested in their own ways, each having contributed to the progress of the group in their own unique ways.

Cathartic and Risky Mini-Games

There's one particularly unique NPC you can gain loyalty with in the game named Robert Topping. Rather than having some kind of agenda to help the people or keep the templars in line, Topping simply wants to organize underground fight clubs and street carriage races. This is a welcome diversion to the heavier underlying storyline full of corrupt politicians and child labor, and it's another source of rewards.

Other Assassin's Creed games have similar opportunities for games like board games you can gamble on, which could be fun in D&D as well (that proficiency with dragon chess should come into use somehow!), but Syndicate's fight club system seems particularly suited to D&D's combat system. You begin by discarding your weapons and armor and fighting two or three low-level thugs. In each succeeding round, the power and number of the thugs increases, as does the reward money. Your health does not regenerate between rounds and you cannot use healing items until the match as a whole is over, but after each round, you can choose to keep fighting or to bow out and keep the money you have. If ever you're knocked unconscious, you lose all the money in the pot and have to start over.

This is a simple system, but I think it could work excellently in D&D, both as a group activity or as a one-on-many fight while the other player characters watch and cheer them on. There could be generic thugs (you could even use the thug stat block) that attack as a group, solitary named NPCs, and combinations of the two depending on the power level, possibly culminating in a champion. The key to the fun of these matches for me was the lack of a rest. Managing your health and Action Surge as a resource and having to gauge whether or not you can survive another round to double your winnings could be exciting, especially if the DM carefully designs the encounters to test the limits of their endurance.

The carriage races aren't as fun in Syndicate, mainly because they're prohibitively difficult (think MarioKart but without any items to get ahead if someone pulls in front of you), but I do like the idea of having one in D&D someday (that proficiency with land vehicles should come into use somehow!). It could be done with a set of ability checks, the total of which could add up to a target number to reach the finish line; or it could be an elaborate Chase, which I still need to figure out how to run sometime.

Long-Term Collections

This has been a staple in all of the Assassin's Creed games that I've played so far: finding a vault that can only be opened by collecting all of the keys to it, which are scattered across the playable game area. I haven't tried anything like this yet for fear of it being too video-gamey, but I wonder if it would be a fun aspect of a D&D campaign to have a chest that required several keys to unlock, with the reward being a magic item of high rarity within it.

I think the key to making it feel more realistic and less like a video game is giving the players clues or other means to find the keys, and make their acquisition based more on skill—nothing would ruin this faster than having the keys pop up in random, unrelated places that just happen to be wherever they're going along on the main questline; it would only make them constantly check every corner of every area they come upon. No, a system like this would need to be an actual, defined set of quests. But if done right, I think this could be a fun way to incentivize the players to branch off the main questline and take some risks in hopes of unlocking something really worthwhile. It could also be the source of some great adventure seeds; for example, if the villain stole one of the keys before they could get to it, or if a friendly NPC has the key but doesn't want to give it up. And of course, care would have to be taken to make sure that the final reward, whatever it was, was worth the long wait to obtain.

Aug 9, 2022

D&D Mechanics Inspired by Assassin's Creed: Unity

I am loving this Assassin's Creed train! Every game is different in fun new ways, and it's so fun to know there's a lot more games to play after my current one! Assassin's Creed: Rogue was okay, but it was similar to Black Flag and not as interesting with not a very likeable protagonist, so I ended up rushing through the storyline. Unity has a fresh new approach to combat and mechanics, and some of them are improved versions of new ones Rogue came up with, so it works well to talk about them here. 

Urban Settings

Unity is the first Assassin's Creed game I've played that basically (with little exception) takes place in one city. Unlike Edward Kenway and Shay, who sail all over the Caribbean and the North Atlantic seas, Arno spends his time running around the gigantic city of Paris. I guess this isn't really a mechanic adaptable to D&D, per se, but it did help me fathom the scope of how big cities like Waterdeep and Baldur's Gate can be. There are people in every street, doing everything from carrying things in the marketplace to conversing in small groups, from rioting against the government to dancing with their friends. In an urban setting (or at least in a dense one), it should be easy to fade into a crowd or run down an alleyway out of sight of the guards, and only truly noteworthy acts of violence or crime (or levels of fame or conspicuousness) could spark a manhunt. I might be a little easier on my players for the choices they make, depending on the population of the area they're in at the time. What they do in one district of a metropolis probably wouldn't even be known in the next district over.

Lockpicks!

This is such a simple concept that's common in other games as well, so I don't know why I never thought about it before. Instead of "a set of thieves' tools"—or rather, in addition to it since you can use those for things like disabling traps—I think players should have to purchase lockpicks in order to open locks. Picking locks has always been one of the most common ability checks that has kind of a stupid failure result: the ability to just try it again. Sure, you can say "you fail to pick the lock, and further attempts will take longer," but time is rarely an issue in games like this. I've also in the past just said "You jam the lock and it can no longer be picked," but then they just try breaking it with a Strength check, and if that fails, they damage it with their weapons or something.

I think it'd be much simpler to just require lockpicks, and if you fail, snap. The lockpick breaks and you lose it. I think charging something like 5 gp per lockpick, only purchasable from shady folks who know Thieves' cant, is reasonable; and carrying more than, say, 5 or 10 of them at once makes it so that creatures with a passive Perception of 12 notice that you're packing them and are more likely to view you as an untrustworthy crook. I still might raise the DC of the lock each time you fail as well, so that you might just need to end up taking the lockbox home and disassembling it in a workshop over the course of a few hours, but I think this offers a great miniature gold sink for criminals and a way to measure success with locks much more easily.

Satisfying Chases

I've been a player in a chase done by the rules in the 5e Dungeon Master's Guide only once, and it was not a fun experience. I don't like how the rules basically just force you to Dash over and over until you stop from exhaustion, or make Stealth checks in a nebulous environment to escape. The chases in the Assassin's Creed games, and especially Unity, are exciting events that always end up either super satisfying as you tackle your quarry, or heart-poundingly intense as you try to find a corner to round and get out of sight of your pursuers until they give up the search.

There's got to be a better way to do this in 5e. I tried to throw a basic one together myself, but it was too messy, and I need to actually do some in-depth testing of it to find out what's actually fun to do, so I'll have to make a separate post about this later when I figure it out. Some ideas I have for it, though, are:
  • Speed modifiers, such as a +1 bonus for every 10 feet above 30 feet a creature can move
  • Creatures who can Dash as a bonus action, such as rogues and monks, should be rewarded for this ability, not ignored like they are in the DMG chase rules
  • Maybe contested Athletics checks each turn, under the assumption that everyone is Dashing already?
  • Automatic levels of exhaustion when 1 + their Constitution modifier is used up?
  • Maybe a limited number of rounds, with a result determined by the number of successes on both sides, or a tiebreaker?

Strongholds Done Right

In Unity, the assassins use a café called the Café Théâtre as a front for their guild. Based on just how I felt as a player in renovating this café, using it as a base of operations, and investing money in it, I think I've finally figured out how to make strongholds a worthwhile investment and a good resource in D&D games. Here are some principles that I think apply:
  • Strongholds should level up. Like characters looking forward to the next ability they get when they get a few more experience points, a stronghold should have a list of preset perks set up that the players can look forward to unlocking with gold pieces. Characters in 5e tend to get more gold than they know what to do with, so why not have a living, evolving stronghold that "levels up" the more you invest in it? Depending on what the stronghold is, whether that be a ship like the Jackdaw or the homestead in Assassin's Creed III, the perks could vary, and there could certainly be lots of options for branching outward that the players could choose together. I also like the idea of a stronghold's lifestyle cost getting bumped up one level each time it upgrades, making it more costly to maintain to match the growing wealth of the adventurers and their growing reputation.
  • Strongholds should give concrete perks and adventure hooks. One of the main benefits of the Café Théâtre in Unity is that it's a source of constant income. The more cafés in Paris you renovate, the higher this income cap is, and you make money just as time goes by. These renovations also unlock new areas to "fast travel" to, as well as new NPCs that offer quest hooks. I love the idea of a stronghold that, when properly outfitted, makes things like finding costly spell components easier, offers a once-per-visit benefit similar to a spell charm, offers discounts on supplies like healing potions; or grants the favor of NPCs who can offer useful information, lend you magic items, or bust you out of jail if you find yourself in trouble. And of course, there should be new options for side quests to gain even better perks that you wouldn't have been able to access otherwise.
  • Strongholds should be aside from the main adventure. Though expanding on the Café Théâtre helped me out in the game financially and made gameplay more convenient, ultimately it was not necessary to win the game, and it wasn't even attached to the main quest line. I think what this translates to best in D&D is downtime and side quests. Each expansion of the stronghold could unlock a new type of downtime activity, or make a type of downtime activity much easier to accomplish; for example, a library could be constructed that offers research opportunities, or a lounge where wealthy NPCs can come to offer useful information or make deals. And speaking of deals, just like on Unity, a stronghold could double as a business for the players, rewarding them with a steady flow of income aside from their adventuring, or additional costs they have to make up.
Ultimately, a stronghold should feel like it belongs to the players, that it depends on them, and that they can get more the more they put into it. They should feel excited and satisfied to drop 25,000 gp on a new expansion for the stronghold that will make their adventuring easier afterward, after having scrimped and saved to earn that amount. It will make them more motivated to seek out treasure and lucrative quests, and more invested in the stronghold should enemies threaten it, or should they find out that a hidden traitor lives among its staff. The possibilities for perks and expansions for a stronghold are endless, and I can't wait to try this out in a future game.

May 14, 2022

D&D Mechanics Inspired by Assassin's Creed: Black Flag

I'm about 9 years late to the party, but I am absolutely loving Assassin's Creed: Black Flag. I've realized in the past couple years that pirates is one of my all-time favorite genres, and this game doesn't disappoint in the least. Aside from the epic ship battles and the stealth mechanics, I've noticed that some of the controls and mechanics in the game are really inspiring for use in making certain aspects of Dungeons & Dragons more effective and manageable for DMs and players alike.

Open World Exploration

Black Flag absolutely nails the feeling of exploring the seven seas on a ship. The Caribbean is obviously smaller than in real life, and rarely are there completely blank horizons, but there is enough space and variety in the different areas of the map that it's always fun to go exploring into the unknown, and fast traveling to places you've spent time at before. The game follows a good method of revealing areas: if you "synchronize" at certain areas on islands, you gain knowledge of the surrounding areas, which are revealed. Similarly, if you conquer a sea fort, that region of the sea is revealed, and the fort becomes a base of operations for you and your fellow pirates. There is a main quest line in Black Flag, but there's plenty of side things to do when you just want to make money to upgrade your assets and just explore.

Exploration is one of the "three pillars" of D&D, but it's kind of hard to make it work in a world that everyone is only seeing inside their own head. It's also hard to avoid "railroading" the players too much or too little. I think I need to do more analysis of exactly what makes Black Flag so fun to explore, but it definitely has to do with leading the players through quest lines to interesting areas that have a lot to do beyond just that one quest. It also always pays to know what motivates the players. If it's wealth, drop a rumor, map, or discovery of a cache of riches in an interesting location, like Black Flag does in underwater shipwrecks, smuggler's caves, or jungle temples. It's just as easy to offer rewards like lore, power, and roleplaying opportunities with that same sort of luring technique.

Black Flag also makes sure that there's always plenty to do. You can do the next step of the main questline, or you can work on upgrading one of your many assets, reveal areas you haven't explored yet, or just go pirating because it's fun and rewarding. And along the way, there are random events that can grab your attention for a little more risk and reward, like pirate hostages who need freed, an abandoned ship full of goods that might sink at any moment, or a courier carrying valuable equipment who realizes who you are and runs away screaming. Oh yeah, and there are the four "legendary ships," which drop a ton of loot but are extremely difficult to beat. They're never going to wander into your path, since they're only at the four farthest corners of the world map—You have to seek them out yourself, if you dare to risk it.

It might be hard to give the same level of scope and exploration as Black Flag does with showing sprawling vistas whenever you synchronize atop a giant tower, but with some practice in the above techniques and a focus on interesting area descriptions, I think this could be a valuable skill to learn for keeping players engaged.

Simple Crafting

From the moment I hunted my first iguana and ocelot in Black Flag, my mind was opened to how fun crafting can be if you set aside some realism and find the happy medium between overly complex and overly abstract. From the very beginning of the game, you have a list of items you can craft to upgrade your character, along with the resources needed to craft them. The reagents are all items taken from wild animals you can hunt and sea creatures you can harpoon on a whaling boat. Bigger upgrades require reagents from more dangerous areas of the world. Each item only takes two or three reagents, and very few of the craftables have any crossover between the reagents. I like this concept, because it gives you an idea of what to be on the lookout for in order to craft what you want, and only requiring two of the same reagent makes crafting an item doable without being too easy. And you can buy ingredients if you don't want to find them (though they are pricey). The ship in the game, the Jackdaw, can be upgraded as well, and the highest upgrades to each component have "plans" that need to be found first, whether in sunken shipwrecks or at the end of treasure maps, before they can be purchased.

Crafting has been a complex issue in D&D, one I've looked at in previous posts. The rules-as-written way has some inconsistencies in it that make crafting not really worth the trouble, and 5e's streamlined style demands a fine line between a system that is just not fun or just not viable. I'm really tempted to try out Black Flag's crafting system in my next homebrew campaign, at least for non-consumable items—the players could have a somewhat common knowledge of simple magic items (such as +1 and +2 weapons, adamantine and mithril armor, and gauntlets of ogre power), along with the reagents required to craft them. I like the idea of requiring exactly two of them, so that have the option of having a mix of hunting, pillaging, trading, and purchasing in order to get the ones you want and need; and so that you may stumble on a reagent without realizing what it was for, and saving it for others later once it was identified. I also like the idea of upgrading an existing magic item with reagents.

Rarer and more complex items could just be drops found in dungeons, or they could require formulas in order to craft. Finding a formula could be a really fun adventure in itself, following a treasure map purchased from a pawn shop, seeking out the formula in a scroll case in a dragon's hoard, or learning the formula from an ancient wise man.

Fun Ship Battles

There is nothing more fun in Black Flag than chasing down a ship, slowing it with chain shots, blasting it with heavy shot from your broadside, lighting up its weak points with swivels, and then throwing grappling hooks onto the ship and boarding it until all its officers are destroyed and the crew surrenders. It never gets old, and the exciting explosions, the cheers of the crew, and the awesome soundtrack all contribute to that. But what makes it the most fun is the amount of choices there are. You can ram a ship if you don't mind taking some damage yourself. You can drop fire barrels behind your ship if there's an enemy tailing you. You can use your limited ammunition mortars and heavy shot, or you can stick to your weaker broadside cannons that have no limit. It's a great addition to the game and really evokes the fun and excitement of a real pirate battle.

Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a fun addition to the D&D sourcebook collection, but the action economy for ship vehicles is somewhat lacking. I don't want to go over the mechanics here, but they have a basic "crew morale" or "quality" bonus to certain actions, actions that the officers like the bosun and carpenter and cook can do, and some basic pre-pirate age weaponry like ballistas and mangonels. But it's just kind of boring. If you're going to have a ship that fights another ship while the players are still available to use their own actions, why does it have to be so boring? Descent into Avernus hit a little closer to the mark with their Infernal War Machines, but the lack of a crew made for some weird decisions and a lack of focus on some of the participating players.

Black Flag inspired me to make this stat block for ships. I haven't tested it yet, but the idea of having multiple options for attacking and a simple, abstract "crew" resource that you had to manage, theoretically would make ship battles more interesting, and shift tactics in certain ways that just sitting on two adjacent islands wouldn't. Black Flag literally uses crew members as a resource. You can hire crew mates at taverns, or find shipwreck survivors as commonly as floating flotsam. With the demands of running separate creatures in combat that D&D has, having a crew "stat" would theoretically accomplish the same thing to great effect.

If I end up testing this system and it is as fun as it sounds, I'll make more stat blocks for the other vehicle types, from a whaling boat (rowboat) to a gunboat (keelboat) to a man o'war (war galley). But we'll see.


Apr 27, 2022

Artifacts of Argaenothruzil 5e

There aren't a lot of magic items established in Argaenothruzil lore, unfortunately, but these are the ones I gleaned from the existing publications I still have access to.

The Amber Hand
Wondrous item, legendary (requires attunement)

This block of amber has been chiseled into the shape of a right human hand. The Amber Hand has 6 charges and regains 1d4+2 charges daily at dawn. While holding the Hand, you have a +2 bonus to saving throws, and you can use the following properties:
  • You can cast the prestidigitation cantrip.
  • You can expend 1 charge to cast dimension door, but you must target a space that you have already been in the past 24 hours.
  • You can expend 5 charges to cast word of recall.
  • Choose a creature you have seen in the past 24 hours. You can use your action to expend 2 charges to summon the creature and everything it is holding and wearing to an unoccupied space within 10 feet of you. A creature knows who is summoning it and where it is being summoned to. An unwilling creature can avoid being summoned by succeeding on a DC 15 Charisma saving throw. You can't use the Hand to do this again until the next dawn.
  • If a creature within 60 feet of you attempts to teleport, you can use your reaction to expend 3 charges and force the creature to make a DC 15 Charisma saving throw. On a failure, the creature teleports to an unoccupied space of your choice within 60 feet of you, provided the space is on the ground or on a floor, instead of its intended destination.
  • You can expend 6 charges to cast time stop. After using this property, the Amber Hand stops regaining charges until 1 year has passed.


Orb of Castigation
Wondrous item, very rare

These orbs of volcanic glass are used by demons of the Dungeon Realm to control their inferiors. An orb can be held in one hand and weighs 3 pounds. While holding it, you can cast hold monster with a DC of 16, but you can only target fiends and creatures of an evil alignment with it. You do not have to maintain concentration on the spell. Instead, while you maintain the spell, your movement is 0 feet, and at the start of each of your turns, you take 1d8 fire damage as the orb sears your flesh from its emanating power. You can drop the orb on your turn (no action required) to end the effect early.

If the orb of castigation is used again, the damage dealt to you is triple the amount done the previous time it was used; for example, 3d8 the second time and 9d8 the third time. The damage reverts back to 1d8 nightly at dusk.




Ormerod
Weapon (special), uncommon (requires attunement)

This object resembles a cylindrical rod of crystal about a foot long, and it weighs 1 pound. Ormerods are specialty weapons used by spellswords. As a bonus action or action, you can cause beams of green energy to form a weapon around the ormerod, with the crystal rod itself acting as the hilt. For example, energy could form a shaft and an axe head extending from the top of the ormerod to form a battleaxe, or a blade to form from the bottom, becoming a dagger. The ormerod can effectively become any one-handed or Versatile melee weapon (or a shortbow or longbow) in this manner, gaining that weapon's properties, damage dice, and damage type, though the damage is magical. The ormerod's weight does not change, The energy forming the weapon disappears if you stow or let go of the ormerod, change it to a different weapon type using another bonus action or action on your turn, dismiss it (no action required), or roll a 1 on an attack roll made with it.

If you have a second ormerod, you can attune to it as part of this same attunement, and holding both ormerods together, you can use a bonus action or action on your turn to form two-handed weapons such as polearms, greataxes, or greatswords. Such weapons created in this way do not have the Heavy property, and disappear if you let go of either ormerod.

You may also form other tools and implements that have handles, such as shovels or pitchforks, at the DM's discretion.

Apr 26, 2022

Devils of Argaenothruzil (Gods part 3)

 

Rauroth

God of Vengeance

Rauroth the Burning One is the god of revenge, fury, lust, and fire. The sun is often called Rauroth's Eye when it is shining particularly hot in the summer or in deserts. He is the patron god of gogs who embrace their fiendish parentage. Rauroth's name is most often invoked as an expletive when in rage, and to lose one's own mind to strong emotions and passions is to worship the Burning One. 

Rauroth is depicted as a red-eyed man engulfed in flames.

Rauroth's Champions

Alignment: Often chaotic, usually evil
Suggested Classes: Barbarian, fighter, monk, sorcerer, warlock
Suggested Cleric Domains: Light, War
Suggested Backgrounds: Charlatan, criminal, soldier, urchin

You earn piety from Rauroth through acts of cruelty, lust, and other crimes sparked through strong emotions. Fanatical worshipers of Rauroth go through rituals to completely give their minds up to Rauroth's will, going on violent rampages in his name.

Rauroth's Devotee
Piety 3+ Rauroth trait

You can call on Rauroth's favor and cast searing smite with this trait. Rauroth's blessing manifests as blood-red flames around your weapon, causing it to shed dim light in a 5-foot radius until the spell ends. You can cast the spell in this way a number of times equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest. Constitution is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

Rauroth's Votary
Piety 10+ Rauroth trait

You can cast branding smite with this trait. Once you cast the spell in this way, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest. Constitution is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

Rauroth's Disciple
Piety 25+ Bezzoan trait

You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened.

Champion of Vengeance
Piety 50+ Bezzoan trait

You can increase your Strength or Constitution score by 2 and also increase your maximum for that score by 2.

Khlamul

God of Power

Khlamul Storm-Bringer is the god of lightning, the violent tempest, and forbidden secrets and knowledge. He often passes himself off as the least evil as the Other Three, offering useful and even benevolent information to those who seek it from him. While it may be true that Khlamul is true to his word, his deals often come with strings attached that ultimately corrupt his signatories or leave them enslaved to a debt of evil. He is the patron god of magic elves, whom he often uses to both improve his image and drag others to his will. He is also the inventor of Sorcery, a more unstable form of the Arcane magic that he and Henaeros revealed long ago.

Khlamul is depicted as a bald man with white eyes that crackle with lightning.

Khlamul's Champions

Alignment: Usually evil, often lawful
Suggested Classes: Bard, cleric, paladin, rogue, sorcerer, warlock, wizard
Suggested Cleric Domains: Arcana, Knowledge, Tempest
Suggested Backgrounds: Acolyte, hermit, sage, soldier, urchin

You earn piety from Khlamul by revealing secrets, seeking knowledge, and growing in arcane power.

Khlamul's Devotee
Piety 3+ Khlamul trait

Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a spell attack, you can deal an extra 1d6 lightning damage to the target. You can use this trait a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Khlamul's Votary
Piety 10+ Khlamul trait

You can cast detect thoughts with this trait, requiring no material components. Once you cast the spell in this way, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

In addition, you have advantage on saving throws and ability checks made to detect illusions.

Khlamul's Disciple
Piety 25+ Khlamul trait

When a soul leaves its body through death, you can steal its last measure of energy and make use of it. When a creature dies within 10 feet of you, you can use your reaction to gain a number of temporary hit points equal to your level.

Champion of Power
Piety 50+ Khlamul trait

You can increase your Intelligence or Wisdom score by 2 and also increase your maximum for that score by 2.

D'nethrokash

God of Chaos

D'nethrokash the Corrupter is less a god and more a force of pure destructive ruin. Bitterness from the division of the Intelligences eons ago has led D'nethrokash to want nothing more than the absolute destruction and decomposition of all matter and life on Argaenothruzil. But he is not an angry god like Rauroth; he seeks this goal with uttermost patience, content to slowly corrupt and deceive mortals into becoming part of his destructive plans. He sees no reason not to promote creation if it will lead to utter destruction in the long-term. D'nethrokash is also the creator of the vile necromantic magic known as Hothmancy.

Most people are too afraid of D'nethrokash to conceive of a consistent depiction of his form. Most are content to show him as an abstract horned cloud of smoke with violet eyes.

D'nethrokash's Champions

Alignment: Always evil, usually chaotic
Suggested Classes: Barbarian, bard, cleric, fighter, rogue, warlock
Suggested Cleric Domains: Death, Grave, Twilight
Suggested Backgrounds: Charlatan, criminal, entertainer, hermit, noble

You can earn piety from D'nethrokash through slaughter of life and destruction of property, corruption of others' morals, and the practice of Hothmancy.

D'nethrokash's Devotee
Piety 3+ D'nethrokash trait

You can call on D'nethrokash's favor to cast bane with this trait, requiring no material components, a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

D'nethrokash's Votary
Piety 10+ D'nethrokash trait

You can cast vampiric touch with this trait. Once you cast the spell in this way, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

D'nethrokash's Disciple
Piety 25+ D'nethrokash trait

You have immunity to necrotic damage and poison, and you regain 1 lost hit point at the end of each minute, as long as you have at least 1 hit point. However, magical healing no longer restores hit points, instead dealing radiant damage equal to the hit points it would have recovered.

Champion of Chaos
Piety 50+ D'nethrokash trait

You can increase any two scores by 2 and also increase your maximum for those scores by 2; however, you must choose a different score to reduce by 4 (minimum 4).