Tag Archives: Encounters

New D&D 5e Adventuring Gear

Despite its reputation, GURPS’ core is actually very minimalist and leaves the GM to make up a lot of stuff. One result is that after a decade of it being our go-to system, I have developed the habit of just making up any gear I or one of my players needs but the books don’t have. So it should be no surprise that in the course of making four characters for Adventurers’ League I created quite a few things for D&D 5e. After the list are specifics on how I came up with some of the items so you can see the logic behind the numbers. I’m happy to accept feedback on any of these, especially where you see question marks.

  • Backpack, wood-framed (4.8 gp, 8.75 lbs). Capacity 60 lbs or ?? cu ft.
  • Small, blank book (10 gp, 2 lbs)
  • Ball of twine (0 lbs, 1 cp). Possibly 2 cp?
  • Pocket mirror (.1 lbs, 1 gp; based on “Mirror, steel”: .5 lbs, 5 gp)
  • Camp hatchet (2 lb, 2 gp; useless as weapon due to balance)
  • Towel (1 lb, 2 sp; based on blanket: 3 lb, 5 sp)

Backpack, wood-framed: In the real world the oldest known wood-framed backpack is from more than 5 millennia ago, and are still in use today in many parts of the world, so they seem a reasonable addition to D&D. A properly trained porter can comfortably carry hundreds of pounds in one, but 60 lbs seems to be more common, so I went with that for the capacity, but I’m not sure what an appropriate volume would be.

For a starting place for cost and weight I looked at HackMaster 5e, because it already has two different backpacks: one holding 30 lbs, the other 50. Complicating things is that HM5e is intended to be as realistic as is possible in a sword and sorcery world and thus uses a silver-based economy and prices many things in copper, and its weights are drastically different from D&D’s, therefore a direct conversion isn’t possible. So it seems to me that the best idea is to simply apply the same ratios to D&D. The smaller HM5e pack weighs 2 lbs and costs 7 cp and 5 trade coins, while the larger one weighs 3.5 and costs 18 cp, so the ratios between them are 2.4 for cost, and 1.75 for weight. Thus the larger backpack ends up costing 2*2.4 gp and weighing 5*1.75 lbs.

Blank Book: Two of my AL characters are merchants by trade and need easily-portable ledgers, but the 25 gp, 5 lb book on the gear table is pre-filled (“poetry, historical accounts, information pertaining to a particular field of lore, diagrams and notes on gnomish contraptions, or just about anything else that can be represented using text or pictures”) and pretty big and heavy to be useful as a journal of any kind. This is our best guest at a smaller, lighter, blank book.

Pocket Mirror: The mirror in the book weighs half a pound so we assume it’s relatively large for traveling purposes (it weighs significantly more than my 5″x7″ glass camp mirror). In a typical D&D setting they are more likely to be thin highly-polished metal rather than the relatively thick glass we use today, so I assume they’d be even lighter than their modern counterparts. For this particular item I was thinking of something more along the lines of a makeup compact or signal mirror – something in the 2-3″ range. It’s useful to any adventurer as a signal mirror, but especially to Charisma-based characters for checking hair and such before manipulating someone. Creative players could come probably come up with any number of possible uses.

Camp axe: This one is mainly for the sake of sentimentality because I have fond memories of using my old boy scout hatchet when my family went camping every summer. The weight is a rough average of the weights of various camp axes available online, including the very one I still have in storage somewhere. I also based it on the Hammer (3 lb, 1 gp) on the adventuring gear table rather than any weapon, so I made it useless as a weapon since it costs less than half as much as a throwing axe. It’s really only necessary because realistically you would quickly ruin any sort of battle axe using it to chop wood or do other routine camping tasks. Then again, this is D&D so reality can take a flying leap.

Towel: Why is a towel so important, you may ask? Simple: no adventurer should ever be without one.


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)

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.

Preliminary D&D 5e Customizable Character Sheet

Every character sheet I’ve ever seen had one major flaw: it was never suitable for every character the game could make. Mages need spell space (or have lots of powers). Fighters have lots of weapons, gadgeteers have lots of gadgets, and so on. One enterprising HackMaster Basic player made customized character sheets for each of the four classes in that book simply to get around that problem.

That was the last straw for me, so I designed some character sheets for the games we play most with three major goals in mind:

  • Earth- and wallet-friendliness. In other words: cheap to print.
  • Only force the positioning of things that will be present on every character or are tedious to hand-write every time: stat blocks; name, race, age, etc.; skills; and so forth.
  • User-customizable depending on player taste and character class, if applicable. This includes having the lowest item on the front page of the D&D sheet be the column headings of the weapons table. That way it as long as needed, no more or less, yet still details out the math for new players and for ease of making changes as needed (leveling, new magic items, increases in skills, etc.).

With the release of D&D Basic, our Encounters group has decided to give 5e a try next season. I’ll be GMing again, but I decided to make a few characters to learn the system, and my wife will of course be playing, so I adapted my 4e character sheet for her. I have posted the result to scribd as usual, but expect it to change when the Player’s Handbook releases. Please let me know what you think, because I’m always looking to improve my game aids.

For the sake of spell-chuckers, I created a separate grimoire, adapted from the one I made for HackMaster 5e nearly two years ago. The only differences are that I removed the SP column since D&D doesn’t use Spell Points, and renamed the “Secs” column “Time” since casting times in HackMaster are always in seconds, but in D&D vary from Bonus Action to an hour or more. The space freed by the loss of the SP column was split between the Time and Effects columns.

As always, the links for both sheets are also available on my Downloads page.

Multi-level D&D 4e Character Sheet for Encounters

For the past several seasons of D&D Encounters, my wife and I have had all three levels for that season on the character sheet at the beginning, saving us having to write, erase, rewrite, re-erase all the time due to constantly going up and down levels. Up until now we were squeezing them onto my character sheets, but that was less than optimal – for one thing, it was impossible to get more than one level’s worth of HP onto the provided space.

We haven’t been able to play this season due to both being laid up by the same cold, but I took the time to finally adapt my sheet to multi-level characters. In addition to widening the HP space, the Init, Defenses, Skills, and a couple of others are also wider, allowing you to fit in at least three levels’ worth of each (HP, for instance, might be 30/35/40). To accommodate the wider HP and Surge boxes without using up the highly useful space beside them (where I keep resistances, situational bonuses, etc.), I moved the Wounds box beside the Surge checkboxes. The box is now much smaller, but in our Encounters games we have very rarely found it necessary to track HP between sessions as we are nearly always fully healed at the end of the session, so the existing box was way too big anyway. (During the session we track our HP using dry erase boards.)

As it is no longer necessary to track experience gains, since we now level up at story-appropriate times instead, I widened the top section and weapons table to fill in the space formerly left for EXP. I also removed some no longer needed bits of the top section (current EXP and amount needed to reach the next level) and re-spaced the remainders.