Samurai Stormtroopers (5e Stats)

Samurai Storm Trooper by Clinton Felker. His blog is here. Deviant Art here.

I love this samurai stormtrooper concept art and I wanted to make some for my players to fight.

Let’s assume a couple of things
In our fantasy world, cloning isn't an option. Hence, stormtroopers are drawn from the normal folk, and their ability scores would be based on a 3d6 roll. That would make their average score 63 ability points. Since they are supposedly elite soldiers, let’s assume they are in the top 10% of individual total scores of possible results. This creates an ability score total of 72 (ish). This just happens to be the standard array. CR 2 is probably a good range. The veteran and knight are CR 3, and I am not sure that the stormtroopers are to that level yet. They are still soldiering.

Making each one different
Let’s also make them variant humans to emphasize the difference between combat roles such as your standard stormtrooper and scout trooper. To make things interesting, the Martial Adept feat would be a great choice for the standard trooper. Remember, despite the body count in the movies, these are elite soldiers. They know things.

 For the scout trooper, we will go with Sharpshooter.

Making it simple
Don't tell my players this, but I forget to use monster powers on a regular basis. I am a sucker for simple monsters, so we will simplify the feats to make them more palatable to DM’s like me. We will take the Marital Adept feat, make it once per turn, and select 3 maneuvers can all be done on the stormtrooper’s turn. Although, Reposte is amazing for a player, it requires too much additional tracking for me. Also, striping down the feat to once a turn means we don’t have to track martial dice.

For the Sharpshooter feat, I took the cover and long shot buffs, and then just added sneak attack damage. Kinda lame, but it fills the scout trooper’s intended purpose as sniper and scout.

I didn’t give the stormtrooper a shield because I imagine that they carry two swords. They are offensive. This can open up a can of technical rules, so just gave them two attacks. There is no substantial difference in the damage if the stormtroopers have two swords and thus attack with one in each hand, or if they do two attacks with a longsword held with two hands. DM's choice.

Not all parties are on the run from the (galactic?) Empire. Accordingly, these soldiers can be reskinned to serve as elite troops for any well financed group. Maybe they are top tier caravan guards or wardens that protect the northern settlements against encroaching elves. Regardless, they could be found in any organization with the patience to recruit, train, and equip an army.

You can download a PDF of them here. Let me know what you think.

Pay What You Want Results for A Little Bit of Thievery

Back in February 2015, I released a 1st-level 5e adventure called Little Bit of Thievery as Pay What you Want. I made that choice for the following reasons:

  • I have no idea how to value the work, whether or not it's "good", or what I am doing.
  • If people like it, it’s going to get pirated anyway. 
  • I believe people who would download it for free, wouldn’t have bought it
  • I have zero name/brand recognition, so I feel like I have to compete on price
  • I honestly and truly want PWYW models to work. Yes, I am a sap that pays for NPR. If you like content, you should support it.

I am releasing these results to guide people when pricing their work and developing a model that works for them. I hope this data helps.

What is the product that was sold?
A Little Bit of Thievery is “an unconventional freeform adventure for level 1 characters.” It is a single 3-hour module with some additional notes and ideas for future entanglements. It’s narrative heavy, and not filled with a lot of combat. After 14 reviews, it is rated a 4.7 out of 5. It's 10 pages and 4,707 words, if you are keeping track.

The product was a team effort between an editor/graphic designer, artist, and me. We decided we would split the profits 20/40/40 (which in retrospect is unfair to the editor, sometimes you miss the obvious).

By the way, my understanding is that offering percentages of an unproven product is not a great system for hiring other creatives. It doesn't respect their time. If you hire other creatives to for work, you need to offer to pay them a reasonable rate up front. That's what I do now.

Here is the Data:

I guessed that module is worth $3 and that is what was listed as the suggested price. I used that number as a way of approximating the number of “paid” copies that were purchased. This means that approximately 14% of the 1,184 downloads are “paid” copies, and 86% of my customer base is free riding. This is fine for me, honestly. I’ve RPG’ed on a budget, and I would rather have people play the module and enjoy it, then never get to play it. Plus, I believe that most of the free riders wouldn’t have bought the module anyway.

My cut of the whole take is currently $140.82. If I spent 20 hours on the module, I made about $7.00 an hour or just a smidge below minimum wage. I honestly didn’t keep track of the time I spent, it could have been up to 40 hours or more.

LBoT was released before the OGL and SRD for 5e. That may heavily influence the data. I also spent some time advertising by putting links on reddit, twitter, this blog, and tumblr. Any success of the module might be attributed to the market (less competition before the OGL) and “advertising”. Past performance does not guarantee future returns.

Worth my Time?
I made $7 to $3.50 an hour for my work. Is it worth my time? Maybe. The module still generates revenues, so my royalties will slowly creep up until I die. However, my main motivations for selling the module are nonpecuniary. It’s the same reason I practice guitar, grow a garden, craft beer, and bike long distances.

  • It shows mastery
  • I have autonomy in how I choose to go about it
  • I get to learn a lot
  • I enjoy sharing it
  • I think it’s cool and I enjoyed writing it

Is that fair to people who do this full time? I don't know, actually. That's a good question. That being said, manufacturing of modules takes a back seat to my real job. There is no wonder why I haven’t released a product over a year.

Additional Reading
If you are interested in this topic, here are additional articles that talk about other people's experiences with publishing 5e adventures. I found the other links in Alphastream's article.
What is an Adventure Worth, by Alphastream (Teos Abadia)
Dungeon Master's Guild Part Two - Money by Draco Roboticus (Derick)
Pay What you Want Isn't (Really) About Sales by Fred Hicks

Bond with a Stat Increase (5e)

"Bonds" section in the Player's Handbook with red dice and a classy filter.

"Bonds" section in the Player's Handbook with red dice and a classy filter.

I like the idea of bonds that specifically tie adventurers together, not just the generic options that are provided in the Player’s Handbook. This allows the characters to act on something beyond basic self-preservation and self-enrichment and also gives the DM a reason to award inspiration. 

Process is simple, each player rolls a d6 and the resulting stat is boosted on their character. I generally use the same order that is on the character sheet (1 increases strength, 2 increases dexterity, et cetera). The players then have to make up a short, heroic back-story about something that their characters did together to warrant such stat increases. The players should also indicate whether their characters are friends, enemies, or somewhere in between.

For example, Tim and Eric decide that their characters were friends in the village. Tim rolls a 4, which increases his character’s intelligence, while Eric rolls a 1 which increases his character’s strength. They make up a quick story where Tim’s character, Ario, figured out a plan to scare off an orc patrol, and Eric’s character, Lara, led the charge to successfully scare them away. The bond should be written down on the character sheet. 

Take notes, it’s a wealth of hooks
The DM should listen to the player's story and then ask pointed, leading questions. What clan were the orcs from? Who got hurt during the plan's execution, and now resents Ario and Lara? The DM should make quick notes for later story hooks. Those orcs are clearly coming back...

Living together
The presupposition in doing a bonding stat is that the characters already know each other. They either grew up together in the same village, or at least have been in contact for some time. Most of the time, this can easily be worked into the story. Is the game starting in a prison? Perhaps the characters have been in lockup together for several weeks, what explains those stat increases? Maybe Tim’s intelligence and Eric’s strength was used to scare of a gang of rival prisoners as opposed to orcs.

An option for the standard array?
A point and a half of ability score is what separate the two standard methods of character generation: the standard array produces 72 ability points and 4d6 drop the lowest on average produces 73.5. Adding an additional “bond stat” for the standard array brings the methods closer together and a bit of randomness to an otherwise static character.

Orc Skullsplitter (5e Stats)

Orc by Saad Irfan. 

Orc by Saad Irfan

Orcs have a limited useful life in in a campaign. Once the heroes get to a high enough level, your basic orc is no longer a threat. The skullsplitter makes orcs relevant again, at least for a few more levels.

Skullsplitters are cruel and cunning creatures. They defy standard orc dogma, choosing to wield slightly smaller weapons, so they can effectively employ shields. They make up this offensive deficiency through training and pure fury. It is common to find skullsplitters taking on multiple opponents and winning.

Thier signature maneuver is to headbutt their enemies, often crushing helmets and the poor creatures within. Most skullsplitter's faces show scars of this nasty habit.

Skullsplitters realize the value of trickery, and often ambush their opponents with a cadre of choice stealthy orcs (Standard orc stats, +3 to stealth, no change in CR). If the skullsplitter has only brutes at its disposal, it will hide and wait until the enemy is engaged before entering combat. They prefer soft, easy targets, and will attempt to crush or disable those pesky wizards first.

Several skullsplitters operating together can keep your party in stunlock and will result in a player flipping over a table. You should combine them with a mix of other creatures.

Design feedback by Steve (@thedicenerd). Who started this whole process by asking "Why do you have a campaign about orcs ending with a hobgoblin warlord?"

Offensive CR is 8 while Defensive CR is 4

Download the PDF here.