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I’ve always been interested in having a radio controlled helicopter and I distinctly remember seeing one when I was 11, in Toys R Us, but even then I realized it was ridiculously expensive and too much to ask for, but I still wanted it anyway. My father has gotten us many small RC helicopters over the years and it essentially became a recurring Christmas gift, though most of the time he would end up keeping them for himself. For Christmas last year, my brother got me a Hubsan X4 micro quadcopter. I was very excited about it since I had recently watched a TED Talk about the athletics of quadcopters. When I got it up an running I had a blast crashing that thing into the walls, floors, ceilings and dog. It required some maintenance, as the propellers broke easily and the motors all died eventually, but replacing them was a simple task. I was actually so excited I ended up kickstarting a bigger quadcopter, but I won’t receive that until next month at least.

There was a reddit post involving quadcopters and it sparked my interest again. Despite it being a DJI Phantom 2 that was flying, I’ve always been interested in first-person view (FPV) racing and the smaller, faster, more agile side of quadcopters.  Small quads can be extremely agile and ludicrously fast and thanks to a friendly redditor, I got started on the idea of building my own 250mm quadcopter.

Over the past week I’ve put together a quadcopter of my own. I was going to post about the process, but its been so long its gotten blurry.  Instead, from here out, I’ll assume you know whats going on and just give further updates. Though I may come back and add some details I feel are relevant.

Consolidation of House Rules

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Clearly when I am a mere player I don’t update regularly.  Anyway, I am considering starting my campaign up again and I’d like to get all my house rules together and organized.

  1. No Feat Tax: At level 5, all characters that do not benefit from a feat bonus to their attack rolls gain versatile expertise as a bonus feat.  At level 15, all characters that do not have feat bonus to any non-armor defense gain paragon defenses as a bonus feat.
  2. All V Races: Any playable race except humans and shifters that does not have a choice between two separate secondary ability adjustments will receive one.  For example, Tieflings now have +2 cha, +2 int or con.  This rule is pretty much obsolete.
  3. Aid Another:  A character can use aid another to allow the target to stand or shift 1 square.
  4. Superior Implement Training: Superior Implement Training functions as Superior Training in an Implement and not Training in a Superior Implement.  Functionally, it remains the same but this allows me to not have to consider what type of specific implement drops from creatures
  5. Grabbing Larger Creatures: If you are grabbing a creature your size or smaller it is immobilized.  If it is one size larger than you then its speed is reduced by 2. If the creature is larger than you and moves on its turn, you slide to the square it vacated. You cannot move a grabbed creature that is 2 sizes larger than you.  When you move a grabbed creature, it moves half your speed unless it is 2 or more sizes smaller than you, in which case you can move it your full speed.
  6. Divine Favors:  I’ll probably figure out a way to still use these.
  7. Wealth Tokens: This alternate currency system will still be used.  Wealth and Reputation are transferable between players, but Karma and Power are not.

I intend to go into more detail about the wealth system but for now, here is an updated chart and summary.Wealth Chart

Parsing Treasure Parcels

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Treasure parcels have been something that have confused me from the beginning of D&D.  I’ve always tried to give my players appropriate treasure and I’ve used this system, but I never really knew if I was giving them enough.  It was especially hard when they did things that wouldn’t award traditional goods:  Spending their time and energy helping the poor or killing beasts meant proper treasure is impossible.  I hate having to figure out how much items cost and what is appropriate to give creatures, so I am going to mostly do away with the treasure parcel system in my game and adopt a new system.

The base system was designed by bloggers at At-Will in their Penniless, but not Powerless series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, part 4) and it sounds great.  Here is the outline:

  • Money is Goods waiting to come into existence
  • Goods are just the ability to customize our characters and affect the game world
  • Money is the potential to change the game world and affect the players’ will upon it. Goods are the changes made.

Thus in our imaginary campaign here, we’re going to eliminate gp. Instead, throughout the course of a level we’re going to give out 20 Wealth tokens. Why 20? Dole out two tokens per 10 treasure parcels per level. It splits evenly into two sets of 10 – now the cost of a level-appropriate ‘permanent’ magic item – which then splits down further into five 2s, each of which is the cost of a level-appropriate consumable magic item or ritual. Mundane gear and items are considered to be level 3 and cost one token. If you’re buying or selling an item 2 or 3 levels higher than you, double the price but you can’t buy items higher than 3 levels above you. If it’s 2 or less levels, half the price (to ‘halve’ one token, roll a die and don’t pay on an even) but go no lower than that for simplicity’s sake and to prevent effectively infinite item gain. If you feel the need to put a cap on it, the party may never have more than 100 tokens. Done. It’s not a perfect matchup, but it’ll work and it’s way easier than treasure bundles or the new random roll tables.

The idea is to convert currency large “packets” of currency known as Wealth.  Over the course of each level a character earns 20 “wealth” through treasure.  An item of equal level costs 10 wealth while higher level items cost twice as much and lower level items cost half as much.  In the system presented the tokens you have either increase in value as you level up (so those 20 tokens you have at level 14 are now effectively worth 40 tokens at level 14) or you have to keep track of the level of each token (since level 14 wealth is worth half as much as level 15 wealth).  We’re going to use this system as our basis and clean it up.

First, let’s go over the original treasure parcel system.  If you want to avoid some complex math explanations go ahead and skip this section.  According to the Dungeon Master’s Guide and given the laws of averages the Rules Compendium, a party of 5 players should earn currency equal to two items of their level and a magic item of level X+1, X+2, X+3, and X+4.  We need to break this down into something quantifiable that can be easily compared.  First, we’ll take each item and give it the market value.

If we look closely, we notice that every 5 levels the difference between cost-per-level sky rockets.  while from 1-5 the difference is 160g per level, 6-10 is 800g, 11-15 is 4000g, etc.  It increases by a multiple of 5 each time.  We can express the value of each item as X + 32*5^CEILING(Level/5,1) where X is the previous item cost, or 200 for level 1.  In order to normalize this as much as we can, we’ll try to focus on level 1-5 or 6-10 blocks, or half tiers.  Over the course of a single level a group of 5 averages enough raw gold, if we convert items to gold at 100%, equal to 11.681 magic items of their level.  This value includes the fact that a player will get items from above their half-tier.   That is 2.34 magic items of equal level for each player each level.  We’ll round that down to 2 items per player per level to keep it simple and we’ll put that 0.34 per player per level in a safe deposit box to discuss later.

Next, we need to be able to compare value between levels.  The point of this is so we don’t have to worry about keeping track of the level of the currency at much.  Doing the math I discovered that on average each level rewards 142% of the value of the previous level.  The difference between tier crossing levels (5-6, 10-11, etc) reward 180% since the math changes at these levels, while the previous two levels reward (4-5, 9-10, etc) reward only 119%.  For the sake of simplicity we can normalize these to 150%

Now the question becomes do you want to award just gold and have characters lug around hundreds of pounds of currency to dump on a merchant’s counter, or do you want to simplify it?  Personally, I love the idea of simple, so lets look at the Wealth token idea.

We’ll assign an item of level X a wealth value of 10, meaning it costs 10 wealth tokens to purchase.  Following the 50% increase  each level means level X+1 is 15 tokens, X+2 is 22 tokens, X+3 is 35, and X+4 is 50.  Since characters can earn two items of their level during each level, we’ll award them twice that amount each level.  So level X is 20, X+1 is 30, X+2 is 44, X+3 is 70 and X+4 is 100.  The characters can use this wealth to purchase whatever they want within your limitations (I’d recommend limiting it to CurrentLevel+3).

In order to avoid obscene numbers (if X is level 1 and we award 20 wealth tokens at level 1, that means we’re awarding 66 thousand wealth by epic tier) we’ll cut it down into half tiers.  If you check the chart above, you’ll notice a 6 item is worth exactly 5 times as much as a level 1 item.  We’re only awarding one type of wealth per half-tier (for simplicity we’ll call them Wealth  +1, Wealth +2, Wealth +3, etc much like magic items) so a Wealth +2, a level 6 wealth, is worth 5 times as much as a Wealth +1.  If a level 14ish player wants to buy a level 17 item they can convert their wealth +3 into wealth +4 at a 5:1 ratio.  They can take 75 Wealth +3 to buy that Level 17 magic item. Buying downward is a 1:5 ratio.  again, both of these are only when changing half-tiers.


UPDATE: I didn’t properly account for the tier change in this chart.  Use 10:1 ratio when upgrading and 1:10 when downgrading.

Doing this, your players should receive an appropriate amount of loot each level without you having to memorize all 30 levels of gold value and actually look up any items.

Sisters of the Oak

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Today we’ll be taking a basic woodland dryad and try to make it a bit more interesting.

The basic dryad  is very boring.  Besides being fast and capable of teleporting the dryad has nothing but a basic, low damage melee attack.  It is not a worthy threat and, in fact, not something I would bother throwing at my party.  They get a small damage bonus if they stay away from other enemies, but this dryad is about as threatening as a cat with its claws.

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Long Term Status Effects

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Saving throw? saving throw?  how about that saving throw?  SAVING THROW PLEASE!

Your party just fought a difficult monster.  It drained a good amount of their resources and they knew it was going to be a tough fight so they blew their daily powers.  They weren’t terribly worried, though, because they can just take an extended rest and eradicate any negative effect, entering the next battle completely renewed with all possible available resources.  Of course, this next encounter is against your Monster of the Week and it is designed to be difficult, but not impossible.  With all of their resources they’ll easily dispatch the villain that you’ve spent weeks crafting and preparing.

Of course, you can’t just prevent them from resting as that would be too obvious.  You could throw a random encounter at them to prevent them from resting, but that’s just going to make them want to rest more.  You could have put in some sort of time constraint but nope, you thought you had planned just the right amount of encounters right and didn’t do that ahead of time.

Maybe you aren’t just trying to protect your boss.  Maybe you want it to really stick that this guy is a badass and not to be trifled with.  Perhaps you want to send them fleeing, but not completely defeated.  Maybe you just want something detrimental that lasts longer than 5 minutes.  You need a long-term status effect.


Diseases are the baseline long-term status effects and they’re really, really … boring.  After the fight is over the character makes a saving throw (Author’s note: Why not an endurance check vs the DC?  Are we trying to make endurance completely worthless?) and if they fail they are infected.  At the end of each extended rest they make an endurance check (why now and not before?) against the DC of the disease.  If they pass, it improves and eventually goes away.  If they fail it either worsens or stays the same.  If anyone in the party has a heal skill that value completely obsoletes pretty much any reason to take endurance.

There isn’t really much to change about diseases besides making it an endurance check rather than a saving throw for infection.  The system is fine, even if the 40 listed diseases are mostly just overkill.  Most of them can kill with just two saving throws.  If you’re going to make some custom diseases I recommend a longer track and perhaps modifying the starting point.  A single day of rest should not cure something with a cool name like Chaos Phage.

Save Improves

I decide to take a bit of diseases when I was going over them to see if they were worthwhile.  Each day, the character makes a check against the disease but if they have worsened then it won’t go away in a day.  Why not do the same for certain worsening save effects?

A Save Improves effect can be applied to any Save Ends effect that worsens on a failed saving throw.  When a character has failed one saving throw against the effect their next successful saving throw improves the state of the effect by one tier.

Still waiting for that saving throw...

For example, a character gets bitten by a basilisk.  The venom is coursing through their veins and only hastened by the adrenaline.  They are slowed (save ends) as their body spreads the magical venom.  As the battle continues they attempt to fight off the effect, but it is taking hold.  Their skin begins become callous and their muscles tighten.  They can’t move their legs and they are immobilized.  The cleric rushes over to help knowing their ally’s fate is sealed should they fail to shake off the effects.  They call down divine magic, but luck is against our hero and even the divine blessing fails to aid him against the ailment.  But he will not give up.  He continues to fight and press on as his body fights against the deadly toxin.  As the battle wages on he feels the tide shift and his muscles loosen.  He still feels heavy, but his cleric ally is close at hand.  She prays to her god to help her friend shake this affliction and he does, feeling his strength return and his body feels lighter than ever having escaped the weight.

In this scenario are hero is bitten by a basilisk which causes him to be slowed (save ends).  He fails his first saving throw and becomes immobilized (save improves).  He is granted an out-of-turn saving throw and fails, but additional saves cannot worsen effects.  When his turn come around again he succeeds a saving throw and returns to being slowed (save ends) rather than having the effect completely removed.  He saves again and the effect is removed.

Want to spice it up a bit?  You can make the effect a little bit worse and change the (save ends) to (save improves).  For the basilisk venom shaking the effect can cause him to feel lighter than ever and grant +1 speed (save sustains).  As long as they sustain the effect it stays, but once they fail the entire effect ends.

You should save (save improves) for particularly nasty attacks.  Increase the difficulty of recharging the power by at least 1 and consider making it less detrimental overall.

Skill Saves vs DC

Here is a way to make endurance more worthwhile.  Instead of an effect ending with just a saving throw require a skill check of an appropriate DC in the place of a saving throw.  This shows that certain characters might be able to shake off effects easier than others. Again, if you are using this you’ll likely want to keep the DC in the easy-moderate range and consider adjusting the frequency and strength.


Wounds are something I’ve been toying with but having figured out exactly how I want them to work.  The basic idea is that a wound is the opposite of a temporary hit point.  A wound decreases the characters maximum health value, but on the front end instead of the back-end.  Unlike temporary hit points, wounds would stack.

As an example, the defender conveniently has 100/100 hit points making his bloodied value 50 and healing surge 25.  He gets hit by an attack which wounds him for 10 health.  His health is now 90(-10)/100 meaning he cannot gain health above 90.  His healing surge value and bloodied value are unaffected by the wounds.

The duration of wounds is currently undetermined.  I haven’t instituted them at all yet, but I do think I want to.  I believe I will work off of milestones or extended rests and allow endurance checks to remove them (1 wound per 5 or 10?).  Of course heal would be able to help, but I don’t want it to obsolete the endurance check.  I want endurance to be worthwhile.

If you’re going to use this, use it sparingly.  Wounding attacks should probably be encounter only or require specific conditions to use.  A wounding can deal regular damage as well, but shouldn’t deal more than a few points of wounds, perhaps no more than 5 per tier.


I'll take that saving throw any time now.

Healing surges are a representation of your characters ability to get back up and get into the fray, not necessarily their ability to close wounds.  If your characters are traveling across a large desert or wasteland without proper provisions it isn’t appropriate for them to just rest for a few hours in order to recover themselves completely even if they are losing healing surges from the environment and have to sooner.  As they become more exhausted or suffer from heat stroke they’ll become fatigued much quicker than in ideal conditions.  If they are exhausted, their maximum healing surges are reduced.

Energy Drain

Perhaps the character is fighting a wight or powerful vampire.  Sure, losing a healing surge is going to make them want to rest sooner but it isn’t nearly as menacing as the classic level drain.  There are three choice for dealing energy drain.

  1. The character takes a -1 penalty to all d20 rolls.  save ends, ends with a rest, ends with a skill check, ends with a skill check at a rest, your choice.  This will add up quickly.
  2. The character loses access to an encounter power.  Perhaps for the remainder of the day or encounter or (save ends).  Maybe they cannot use any encounter powers until they save!  There are many possible variants
  3. The character’s healing surge value is decreased.  This won’t have much of an immediate impact, unless you do a heavy amount and give it a short duration, but the effects can be devastating.  With enough penalties to anything your players will likely rethink their strategies.


Monster of the Week: Crystal Fold Guardian

One of the things I enjoy the most about roleplaying games is creation aspect.  World building, character building, designing history for people, places and things.  In 4th Edition I can get this joy from creating monsters as well.  I could do the same in 3rd and 3.5e, but it was much more difficult to create a monster since there was no set way of doing it.  You never knew if the party was going to be utterly obliterated, but 4th edition gives a very nice yet flexible design route that is easily adaptable to your needs.

I spend a lot of time creating or modifying monsters to fit what I feel they should be able and how they can perform well as a group.  My normal update is every Monday, but I will now also post a new monster every Thursday as well.  Today I present to you the Crystal Fold Guardian.

This is the Arcane Guardian from WoW TCG, and how I imagine the Crystal Fold Guardian looks.

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Ring of Power

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Something I’ve noticed with my group is that each of my players looks to me to let them know when it is their turn to take actions in combat.  Since I use Masterplan for initiative it isn’t readily visible, but I do announce it whenever asked and I do have one player that writes it down for others.  Most of my players know who goes immediately before them while one just waits until he hears his name to pay attention.  I’ve also noticed that my players assume that the others know when their done and don’t regularly announce it.  To help with this I am introducing the Ring of Power.

I use to love this show

The idea is simple and one that many people probably use for a similar purpose.  Take any reasonably visible item, in my case an old 12″ circular fluorescent light, and give it to the person whose turn is active.  Let each player know who will be giving them the Ring and to whom they should give the ring when they are done.  This provides several immediate benefits:

  1. Each player will know the initiative of two other creatures or players
  2. Any player has a clear visual cue as to who is current active,  allowing them to quickly ascertain where the initiative is without interrupting the current flow
  3. Receiving the ring reminds the character to take beginning-of-turn effects while handing it off reminds them of end-of-turn effects.
  4. The exchange between players is streamlined.  Rather than a player telling the DM they have completed their turn and then the DM telling the next player it is their turn, one player hands directly hands off to the next.

I like the idea of delegating tasks to my players since it allows me to focus on the scene and this is a method of providing a lot of information to each player.  It is designed to be used along side informing your players of the initiative order, not as a substitute.  Its effectiveness diminishes with more creatures in combat.  For instance, if each player just has to hands the ring back to you then it serves no purpose.  Of course, cooperation is required:  If a player has no interest in paying attention to the ring, for example taking it from a player before their turn or not handing it off to the next player, the entire process becomes useless.

Grabbing Larger Creatures

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Here is a small change to the grab rules I am making for my home game.  Essentially if you grab a creature one size larger than you it is slowed and you move with it.  If you grab a creature 2 or more sizes larger with you then you move with it.  The purpose of this change is to accommodate rules where a creature of insignificant size grabs onto a larger creature.  Last I checked I was still able to keep moving with a 4-year-old latched to my back so I am confident that I could with a halfling in the same position. This also allows for some rather epic scenes in which a character grabs onto a dragon that is attempting to escape only to climb onto their back and bring them down.  Perhaps several creatures grab hold of the dragon, maybe using harpoons, and bring it to the ground.

Changes are highlighted in red.

Being grabbed by a creature one size smaller than you means your speed is reduced by 2.  If you are grabbed by a creature your size or larger you are immobilized. Maintaining this condition on the creature occupies whatever appendage, object, or effect the grabber used to initiate the grab. This condition ends immediately on the creature if the grabber is subjected to an effect that prevents it from taking actions, or if the creature ends up outside the range of the grabbing power or effect.
You seize a creature bodily and keep it from moving. The creature you grab can attempt to escape on its turn (see “Escape”).GRAB: STANDARD ACTION

Target: You can attempt to grab a creature that is smaller than you, the same size category as you, or one category larger than you. The creature must be within your melee reach (don’t count extra reach from a weapon).

Strength Attack: Make a Strength attack vs. Reflex. Do not add any weapon modifiers. You must have at least one hand free to make a grab attempt.
Hit: The enemy is grabbed until it escapes or you end the grab. If you are grabbing a creature your size or smaller it is immobilized.  If it is one size larger than you then its speed is reduced by 2. If the creature is larger than you and moves on its turn, you slide to the square it vacated. Your enemy can attempt to escape on its turn.

Sustaining a Grab: You sustain a grab as a minor action. You can end a grab as a free action.

Effects that End a Grab: If you are affected by a condition that prevents you from taking opportunity actions (such as dazed, stunned, surprised, or unconscious), you immediately let go of a grabbed enemy. If you move away from the creature you’re grabbing, you let go and the grab ends. If a pull, a push, or a slide moves you or the creature you’re grabbing the grab ends.

Moving a grabbed target
To move a grabbed target, you must succeed on a Strength attack. However, helpless allies are treated as objects; you just pick them up and move them.MOVE A GRABBED TARGET: STANDARD ACTION

Target: Any creature grabbed that is not more than one size category larger than you.
Strength Attack: Make a Strength attack vs. Fortitude. Do not add any weapon modifiers.
Hit: Move up to half your speed and pull the grabbed target with you, or your full speed if the creature is two size categories smaller than you.

Opportunity Attacks: If you pull the target, you and the target do not provoke opportunity attacks from each other, and the target doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from adjacent enemies. However, if you leave a square adjacent to an enemy, that enemy can make an opportunity attack against you.


You attempt to escape from an enemy who has grabbed you (see “Grab”). Other immobilizing effects might let you make escape attempts.ESCAPE: MOVE ACTION

Acrobatics or Athletics: Make an Acrobatics check vs. Reflex or an Athletics check vs. Fortitude against the creature grabbing you or the effect that immobilized you.

Check: Resolve your check.
Success: You end the grab and can shift as part of this move action.
Failure: You’re still grabbed.