D&D (or Any Other Level-based game) Session Experience Calculator

Had a great family vacation, and got a 93 in my online Java class, but now I’m back to focusing on writing and game design. For example:

To compensate for my memory issues and to save a lot of work for non-mathophile GMs, I created a spreadsheet that will calculate how much experience I need to award each player at the end of each session of D&D Encounters.

Using it couldn’t be easier. Type the number of players into the appropriate box at the top of the sheet. Below that you will a list of all of the non-unique monsters that appear in the Tyranny of Dragons season of D&D Encounters. Each row below that is a separate encounter. Simply type in the number of each monster you used in the encounter, and the spreadsheet will do the rest.

It looks up the appropriate amount of experience points (XP) for that monster using the table on the “Data” tab (you can easily add your own, as long as the list doesn’t exceed 50 in all), then uses that to add up the total experience for the encounter. The XP totals for each encounter are added together, then divided by the number of players.

Since quest XP rewards are specified per player rather than as an amount to be subdivided, I have provided a space especially for those. Next to the blue box that tells you how much XP to give each player you’ll see a long red box. Put each quest reward in its own cell within that box, and the spreadsheet will add their sum to the amount in the blue box.

If you understand lookup tables, it is trivially easy to use more than 50 entries in the data table, but I was required to set a limit. I tried to allow more than 15 monsters on the table, but i kept getting an error telling me my formula was longer than OpenOffice could handle. If you know a way around the problem, I’d be happy to hear it.

Naturally, this can be used for any level-based game (as I will for for my HackMaster 5e campaign); it’s just pre-filled out with the monsters for DnD Encounters: Tyranny of Dragons.

D&D 5e Character Sheets Aplenty

In the course of making several characters and actually getting to play a session, I modified my original character sheet and made a couple of adaptations for specific purposes. As always, these can all be downloaded from my Scribd library, from the links below or on my Downloads page.

For the original I adjusted the placement and spacing of the top matter. My writing is fairly small, yet I still had trouble squeezing a few things into the space available. I also put the associated attributes and a space for the total modifier beside each skill. We use the first public playtest’s idea of disconnecting attributes and skills, but since most people play by RAW (Rules As Written), it occurred to me that I should include those.


The first adaptation I made is customized for spellcasters. I moved the skill list to the former Character Notes section of the front page. Then I replaced the now-empty back page with my grimoire. That way the various spellcasting classes don’t need two sheets of paper until relatively high levels. You could also print page 1 on both sides of a sheet of paper, and thus get two characters per page; useful if, like us, you tend to make multiple characters for D&D Encounters.

DnD5.CharSheet (mage)

Speaking of the grimoire, I made two fairly minor changes to it. After realizing that not every spell needs the full space I provided, I halved the row height and then lightened the lines between ever other row. The result is that spells that need the full space still have it, but if some of your spells don’t need that much space you can fit more of them to a page.


The final version is specifically designed for pre-generated characters. For it I simply copied the top section of the first page of the mage sheet halfway down the page, then filled the back page with just the guidelines. I did that so we could fit a character onto half a sheet of paper, partly to save paper and ink, but mostly because that’s all the space a pre-gen really needs.

DnD5.CharSheet (half-sheet)

File Sizes in Free Word Processors

From my lovely and intelligent wife I just learned that there is a significant difference in the resulting file sizes when using OpenOffice and LibreOffice, so I decided to test it myself since I currently have the newest version of both installed while I decide which to use in the future. I also tested Free Editor, which can open a ton of different formats just as OO and LO can.

I should mention that I have been using OpenOffice since it was called StarOffice, so I have a great deal of brand loyalty, but I did not let that affect my evaluation – LibreOffice was actually winning until she told me that an hour ago.

The test was simple: I loaded up Manny’s origin story that I posted last week, and pasted it into a fresh document in each OpenOffice variant, but since Free Editor can only edit documents, not create new ones, I simply loaded the original in it and then saved it to a new file. Here are the results:

Libre Office 112 kb, OpenOffice 29 kb, Free Editor 4 kb

As you can see, OpenOffice wins out easily over LibreOffice, but LO runs much faster on my laptop, so there are distinct advantages to both. Free Editor tops them both, but as it lacks the ability to use Styles, it is useless to me for all but the simplest documents.

Since we’re discussing drive space, I thought I’d also compare how much space each program takes up in the Program Files folder, excluding my user files in hopes of getting a fair comparison since these are not virgin installations. Free Editor I have only recently installed, and my wife has just finished installing it on her netbook, so that one is pristine. Not surprisingly, Free Editor is fairly tiny at 74.7 MiB, while OpenOffice weighs in at 376 MiB, and LibreOffice a slightly heftier 401 MiB.

As I said before, on my computer LibreOffice is far faster, so I spend less time waiting on the software itself, so it lets me get on with my writing or designing. On the other hand, because so much of what I make gets uploaded to my Scribd library, and because I use a free DropBox (af) account to keep everything backed up, and especially because my hard drive is nearly full, file size is also important.

Granted, my OpenOffice installation is highly modified, and LibreOffice is to some extent, so clean installs are likely smaller. Those modifications may also affect memory usage, which I also compared while each program was running a single instance with no files open. Free Editor wins again at 7.8 KiB. OpenOffice uses 36.3, and LibreOffice 58.3; only three processes currently running on my laptop are using more than LibreOffice*.

Further muddying the waters are that both ‘Offices have quirks that annoy me and unique features I love, so what it boils down do is: use whichever one suits your needs.

If you have a netbook or other low-powered computer, and don’t need extensive Styles support, then Free Editor may be for you. For high-powered machines, try both ‘Offices and use whichever one you prefer – unless you do a lot of sharing of files. In that case, If LO is your choice, then I’d recommend keeping a copy of OpenOffice or Free Editor (depending on the complexity of the document) around and use it to re-save the document into a smaller file.

For those of us closer to the middle of the the power scale, you may need to consider whether you can more afford the additional memory or drive space. If neither is an issue, then, again, try both and use the one you prefer.

* Except when World Community Grid detects that I have enough idle resources to help with some charity distributed computing, since the whole point of it is to use as much of my computer’s idle time as it can. If you ever, as I do, have significant chunks of time where your computer is on but not doing much (for me it’s whenever I’m writing), then why not donate those resources to a good cause by visiting the link above. The client itself takes almost no system resources while monitoring them, so even a relatively low-powered computer should be able to run it with no performance loss.

To date I have helped find new ways to provide water for third-world countries, and was part of simulations that tested new drugs to cure both AIDS and cancer.

Rebirth of a Monster

Here, at long last, is the flash fiction version of the origin of probably the most beloved of all of my recurring NPCs, Manny the ogre chef. In the present day he’s a pacifistic tavern-keeper who is well-renowned for his kitchen prowess. But he wasn’t always so friendly…

As the sun rises over the Mountains of Ayel, the remains of the village of Woodston continue to smolder. Among the ruins, five ogres feast upon the villagers they roasted in the flames of their own homes. As one of them raises a leg to his slathering jaws, liquid fat dripping from the leg to the ground and tusks ready to tear off a mouthful, he is suddenly overcome with revulsion and nausea.

Lowering the now revolting hunk of meat from his mouth, Manny looks around, confused, yet clear-headed for the first time in his life. “Why you not eat?” asks one of his warband, using his tusks to rip a large chunk of meat from a child’s charred torso. Then he adds, spraying bits of manflesh through the intervening space, “this meat good.”

After taking a moment to spit out some errant bits of flesh that were caught in his teeth, Manny finally replies: “The smell makes me sick.”

His companions’ faces cycle through expressions of confusion, shock, disbelief, and finally horror. “We help!” one yells as he pounces. They grab Manny, pin his arms and legs to the ground, and attempt to beat out of him whatever evil spirit has possessed him. Since nothing like this has ever happened in all of ogre history, their simple minds cannot fathom any other possible explanation for Manny’s behavior.

As blow after blow rains down upon him, Manny revels in the pain as a respite from the nauseating smell of roast villager that permeates the air. Finally, just before he surrenders to welcome oblivion, the blows stop as one of the ogres picks up the discarded leg and offers it to Manny with a grunt. He turns up his generous nose at the proffered morsel, and with a final punch to the nose, embraces blessed unconsciousness.

When he finally regains consciousness, night has fallen, the embers are cold, and he is all alone – except for the squad of rangers stealthily emerging from the woods on southern edge of town, their bows drawn, and their steps silent. As he sits up, head spinning and stomach churning, Manny’s brain is so rattled that he doesn’t notice the silent approach of impending death. His nose eventually draws his attention downward, where he sees the fateful roast leg of hapless villager. Sneering at it in disgust, he flings it away, then lumbers to his feet. Seeing this, the astonished rangers melt back into the woods and vanish.

Creative Commons License
Rebirth of a Monster by Frank Wilcox, Jr (fewilcox) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

D&D Basic Character #2: Human Fighter

In case you haven’t seen it, Wizards of the Coast has followed Kenzer & Co’s lead and released a bare-bones version of the new edition for free. Since we have decided to use it for the next season of D&D Encounters, I decided to make a few characters with it even though I’m planning to GM next season.

Alden is the other main character in my book, and eventually marries Brianna, the first character I make in every new class-based system I try. He’s the youngest son of a merchant family (my wife’s book dynasty). (They are also the parents of Reine, who pays for Farga’s schooling in alternate universes where dwarves exist.)

While the family was moderately successful, there wouldn’t have been enough inheritance to go around, so Alden disinherited himself and went out into the world to make his own fortune. All he took with him when he left home were his dad’s old armor and sword, a backpack full of provisions, and barrels of charm (or so he thinks). The main ways he earns a living at the beginning of his career were gambling (and cheating) and womanizing. This is years before he finally meets Brianna.

Mechanically he’s a sword and board fighter with a high Charisma, and therefore as easy to make in D&D 5e as Farga was.

Alden Fairhame

Level 1 Human Fighter

Str 15 +2
Dex 12 +1
Con 14 +2
Int 11
Wis 14 +2
Cha 14 +2

HP 12
AC: 19 (Chain armor + Shield + Fighting Style)

Initiative: +1
30′ move.
Languages: Common, Goblin
Saving Throw Proficiencies: Str, Con
Second Wind
Fighting Style: Defense (+1 AC in hvy armor)
Skills: Insight, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Persuasion
Tool Profs: Herbalism Kit, Playing Cards
Background: Voluntarily-disinherited son of merchant family.
* Feature: (I’m stumped. Any ideas?)

Gear (84 lb)
Chain armor (10 lb) (Disadvantage on Stealth checks)
Shield (+2 AC) 10 g, 6 lb
Longsword (15 gp, 3 lb) +4/1d8+2 slash (V 1d10+2)
2x handaxes (2 lb ea) +4/1d6+2 slash LT
Traveler’s clothes (2 g, 4 lb)
Healer’s kit (5 gp, 3 lb)
Ink, 1 oz bottle (10 g, – lb)
Pen (2 cp, – lb)
10x Sheets of parchment for letters home (1 sp, – lb ea)
Whetstone (1 cp, 1 lb)
Playing Cards (– lb)
3x Belt pouch (5 sp, 1 lb ea)
Explorer’s pack (10 g) (50 lb total)
* Backpack (5 lb)
* bedroll (7 lb)
* mess kit (1 lb)
* tinderbox (1 lb)
* 10 torches (1 lb)
* 10 days’ rations (20 lb)
* waterskin (5 lb) * 50′ hemp rope (10 lb)

As usual, none of the sample backgrounds fit, so I’m made up my own, but this time I can’t think of a good Background Feature.

D&D Basic Character #2: Dwarf Fighter

In case you haven’t seen it, Wizards of the Coast has followed Kenzer & Co’s lead and released a bare-bones version of the new edition for free. Since we have decided to use it for the next season of D&D Encounters, I decided to make a few characters with it even though I’m planning to run next season. If I wasn’t GMing, this is the character I would probably play:

Farga is one of the characters I adapted into pre-gens for use by new players at Encounters, so you can read his background there, but just as for Brianna, I’ll give you a brief summary here: Farga’s fighter school tuition was paid for by a young half-elf traveling merchant (Brianna’s youngest daughter, in fact) in exchange for serving as her bodyguard for two years upon graduation. During their travels they slowly became friends, so much so that he continued with her for several more years, and he eventually learned a great deal from her about how to effectively manipulate customers, despite lacking her… “equipment”.

Just like Brianna, he started life in a video game and made his tabletop debut in a HackMaster 4e campaign. He was learning a fighting style called “Axe Storm”, which featured dual throwing axes, so tempest fighter was an obvious choice when I made him in D&D 4e, and he was not surprisingly quite easy to create in 5e:

Farga Kneecleaver
Level 1 Hill Dwarf Fighter

Str 15 +2
Dex 10
Con 14 +2
Int 10
Wis 12 +1
Cha 14 +2

HP 13
AC: 16 (Chain armor)

Initiative: +0
25′ move.
Languages: Common, Dwarf, Elf
Advantage on saves vs Poison. Poison resistance (1/2 damage).
Tool proficiency of choice: smith
Double proficiency bonus for History checks related to stonework.
Saving Throw Proficiencies: Str, Con
Second Wind
Fighting Style: Two-weapon fighting (Add ability modifier to off-hand attacks)
Skills: Athletics, Insight, Perception, Persuasion
Tool Profs: Smith, Herbalism Kit, Cart
Background: Retired bodyguard/apprentice of not-always-honest merchant.
* Feature: Reputation

Gear (98+ lb)
Chain armor (10 lb) (Disadvantage on Stealth checks)
4x handaxes (2 lb ea) +4/1d6+4 slash LT
Abacus (2 g, 2 lb)
Traveler’s clothes (2 g, 4 lb)
Healer’s kit (5 gp, 3 lb)
Ink, 1 oz bottle (10 g, –  lb)
Pen (2 cp, –  lbs)
Book (ledger) 25 g, 5 lb
3x Belt pouch (5 sp, 1 lb ea)
2x Sacks (1 cp, .5 lb ea)
?x Bottles of wine “blessed by Bahamut” (2 lb ea)
5x flasks of “Holy Water of Bahamut” (1 lb ea)
Smith’s Tools (20 g, 8 lb)
Whetstone (1 cp, 1 lb)
Explorer’s pack (10 g) (50 lb total)
* Backpack (5 lb)
* bedroll (7 lb)
* mess kit (1 lb)
* tinderbox (1 lb)
* 10 torches (1 lb)
* 10 days’ rations (20 lb)
* waterskin (5 lb)
* 50′ hemp rope (10 lb)

Thanks to once again making up my own Background, he has learned Elven and herb lore from Reine, so he can make and sell healing potions even when he can’t lay his hands on other merchandise. The stuff that is “blessed by Bahamut” is from the sadly-aborted campaign in which I played him for a few months.

The party ended up in a lost temple of Bahamut, so Farga helped himself to several bottles of wine he found there and later sold two of them to the tavern keeper back in town as “blessed by Bahamut”, so he made a sizable profit. The “holy water” is simply river water he scooped up to sell alongside the very dusty bottles of wine. Once he runs out of wine, that scam will probably no longer work. The “?” in place of the number of bottles is because I have misplaced him at the moment and I don’t remember how many bottles I had left.

Needless to say, he’s incredibly fun to roleplay. His combat style may actually be more fun in D&D 5e than it was in either HackMaster 4e or D&D 4e simply because of the more free-form combat. I can describe his various throws, slashes, and charges in a variety of ways, rather than being limited by the style-specific maneuvers in HackMaster or powers in D&D.