The Lost Marches – Downtime

5E has a built-in system for dealing with activities that the characters focus on between adventurers. While I agree with much of it, here are a few tweaks that I prefer (and will use as House Rules). This may be updated with more details, as there are a large number of downtime activities in the PHB, DMG and Xanathars guide.

Learning Languages or Tool Proficiencies

  • Normally this would take 250 days of effort, with a cost of 1GP per day (this is aside from your normal cost of living). – PHB pg 187
  • My take is that it is 120 days of effort (assuming a full day of focused work and suitable location), with a cost of 1GP per day, or half that cost if the instructor is another PC.
  • Looking to do it faster?
    • In the case of languages, if your instructor natively speaks the language and you are immersed in that culture (EG: Learning Elven from an Elf while living in an elven city, or Dwarven from a Dwarf while living in a Dwarven Fortress) without break the total number of days of effort is only 90.
    • In the case of Tool Proficiencies, if you immerse yourself in that trade (such as working in a Brewery every day for months without more than a one day break), you likewise reduce the total number of days of effort to 90.

Mystics in The Lost Marches

When I designed my Lost Marches game, I limited the races and classes present as character options. As the game unfolds further options may be presented, and one of these is the Mystic. Within our game, the characters found a Crystal on the body of a Psionically powered foe, thereby unlocking a form of Psionics for the characters.

Unlocked by attuning to the Crystal: the Mystic’s Order of the Awakened. Further, all Talents could be learnt and the following Disciplines could be learnt:

  • Precognition
  • Psychic Assault
  • Psychic Disruption
  • Psychic Inquisition
  • Psychic Phantoms
  • Telepathic Contact

For details on Mystics, you can check here:

5e Sages

In prior editions of D&D, visiting a Sage for information was an economical way to attain answers that the party needed. The other main option was to build a character who was focused on studying a given field and forfeiting their utility as an adventurer. Since that was a shitty choice, the local Sage usually saw a lot of the PCs.

5E has done a lot to empower the characters without sacrificing their ability to actually be adventurers! None the less, I’ve found a need to reintroduce the Sage as an NPC role.

Much of this is a direct translation into D&D 5E from the AD&D 2nd Edition Dungeon Masters Guide (1989). I’ve left the math a little complex, as these are not numbers that the PCs will be calculating or needing to worry about. This is purely a look behind the DM screen.

  • Question is:
    • General …..0 (0)
    • Specific ….. -2 (-2)
    • Exacting …..-2 and Requires a Library (-4)
  • Library is:
    • The Capital Library  …..Advantage (N/A)
    • Complete …..0 (0)
    • Partial …..Disadvantage (-2)
    • Non-existent …..-2 and Disadvantage (-4)
  • Rushed reduces the research time by one level  …..-4
  • Research Times
    • General …..1d6 hours
    • Specific  …..1d6 days
    • Exacting …..3d10 days
  • Cost (vary but as a guideline)
    • General ….10GP an hour
    • Specific …..100GP a day
    • Exacting …..250GP a day


A Lost Marches Teaser

I’m using the holiday break to make some headway into future sessions. Such as this little tidbit from a hoard:

You can clearly see, atop the pile of silver and gold coins, the following prominent items.

  • A pair of thick leather, high cuffed gauntlets, studded with well-worn bronze rivets.
  • Boots made of supple leather from a Stag. Each has been dyed differently in woodland tones.
  • A pile of armour pieces crafted from a dark grey metal. Beneath the scars of prior battles, you can see that each plate is embossed with a motif that causes some dread in you.
  • Two luminous crystal vials. The contents of each slowly pulse, casting the soft light of stars on a clear night, one red and one yellow.

Dark Sun Rules Update v.3

Updates on Feb 1st are noted by being bold and underlined in red.
Updates on Dec 21st are noted by being bold and underlined.
While this is mainly for the players of my upcoming Dark Sun game, a few of you may find a couple of tidbits in here.
As you know, the Dark Sun player’s book is subject to some revision (largely being based on the Unearthed Arcana rules). A final version of many of the subclasses was released yesterday in “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything”!
In addition, Matthew Mercer’s “Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting” came out a month or so ago, and I’ve pulled some content from it.
So consider this an update citizens of Athas!

Races and Classes

No Changes from version 2.5 of the Dark Sun Players Guide

New Feats

  •  Dwarven Fortitude (XGtE pg 74)
    • Prerequisite: Dwarf, Mul or Half-giant
    • You have the blood of heroes flowing through your veins. You gain the following benefits:
      • Increase your Constitution score by l, to a maximum of 20.
      • Whenever you take the Dodge action in combat, you can spend one Hit Die to heal yourself. Roll the die, add your Constitution modifier, and regain a number of hit points equal to the total (minimum of 1).
  • Prodigy (XGtE pg 75)
    • Prerequisite: Half-elf or Human
    • You have a knack for learning new things. You gain the following benefits:
      • You gain one skill proficiency of your choice, one tool proficiency of your choice, and fluency in one language of your choice.
      • Choose one skill in which you have proficiency. You gain expertise with that skill, which means your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make with it. The skill you choose must be one that isn’t already benefiting from a feature, such as Expertise, that doubles your proficiency bonus.
  • Dual-focused (TDCS pg 108)
    • Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell Countless hours have been spent training your mind to maintain focus on concurrent incantations, taxing as the process may be.
      • If you attempt to cast a spell that requires concentration while already concentrating on an existing spell, you can maintain concentration on both spells simultaneously. You must spend a standard action each subsequent round on maintaining this concentration or lose concentration for both spells.
      • At the end of each turn where you have two spells you are concentrating on, you must make a Constitution saving throw (DC equals 10 + the number of complete rounds you’ve been concentrating on two spells). On a failure, you lose concentration for both spells. You can drop concentration on one of your spells during your turn as a free action to avoid this saving throw.
        • Any time you would be forced to make a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration due to taking damage, the DC equals 10 + both spells’ levels combined, or half the damage you take,  whichever number is higher. On a failure, you lose concentration on both spells.
  • Spelldriver (TDCS pg 109)
    • Prerequisite: Character level 8th or higher
      • Through intense focus, training, and dedication, you’ve harnessed the techniques of rapid spellcasting. You are no longer limited to only one non-cantrip spell per turn. However, should you cast two or more spells in a single turn, only one of them can be of 3rd level or higher.
  • Thrown Arms Master (TDCS pg 109)
    • You’ve honed your ability to lob weaponry into the fray, including weapons not meant for ranged combat. You gain the following benefits:
      • Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
      • Simple and martial melee weapons without the thrown property can be treated as if they have the thrown property. One-handed weapons have a range of 20/60, while two-handed weapons have a range of 15/30.
      • Weapons that naturally have the thrown property increase their range by +20/+40.
      • When you miss with a thrown weapon attack using a light weapon, the weapon immediately boomerangs back into your grasp.

Rules Clarifications

These clarifications will apply to the Dark Sun game only.

  • Characters begin at 2nd level with Maximum Hit Dice.
  • Each player builds a Character Tree composed of three characters.
    • Every time the active character goes up a level of experience, the player may also advance one of his inactive characters one level. The inactive character chosen must be of a lower level than the active character. Adjust the experience point total on that inactive characters sheet to the minimum number for the new level attained.
    • Replacement characters must be a different class and race than the lost character. They also start one level below the lowest level character that you have, at the time of the character death, but never weaker than 3rd level. Replacement characters do not roll for hit points, they receive maximum hit dice. 
    • Items and equipment cannot be freely traded between characters in your tree, nor does a replacement character ‘inherit’ a dead character’s gear. 
  • Attack rolls need to equal or exceed the AC in order to hit. Ties do not go to the defender.
  • If math/calculation results in a fraction, always round down.
  • A character can’t spend any Hit Dice after finishing a short or long rest until someone expends one use of a healer’s kit to bandage and treat the character’s wounds.
  • When you finish a long rest during which you slept in medium or heavy armour, you regain only one-quarter of your spent Hit Dice (minimum of one die). If you have any levels of exhaustion, the rest doesn’t reduce your
    exhaustion level.
  • Temporary hit points aren’t cumulative. If you have temporary hit points and receive more of them, you don’t add them together, unless a game feature says you can. Instead, you decide which temporary hit points to keep.
  • Drinking a Potion is now a bonus action.
  • Administering a Potion to a downed character is an action.
  • The spell Revivify is removed from Dark Sun.
  • Dropping to zero hit points applies one level of cumulative exhaustion to your character. 
  • Flanking grants a +2 to the attack roll instead of Advantage.
  • The spell Vigor is added to Dark Sun.
  • Vigor
    • 1st-level Necromancy
    • Classes: Cleric, Druid
    • Casting time: 1 action
    • Concentration: Yes
    • Range: Touch
    • Duration: Up to 1 minute
    • Target: one person
    • A creature of your choice that you can see within range regains hit points equal to 1 + your spellcasting ability modifier each round. This spell has no effect on Undead or constructs.
    • At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the Healing increases by 1 for each slot level above 1st.

It’s over?

“It’s over?”

“That’s it, we killed him?”

“This is bullshit”

“Where’s the accomplishment?”

These were some of the comments from the last hour of our final session of the Curse of Strahd, last night.

With overwhelming firepower, every artefact that they could find, and a judicious use of rest/recovery, the PCs took down Strahd quickly and efficiently. This isn’t to say that the fight was textbook, but it was close to it. The Ranger was in top game, taking down summoned creatures in a single round (before they could build up). The Wizard had prepared Sunbeam, and otherwise focused on counterspelling Strahd, nullifying much of his power. The Priestess chose to use the less impressive, but ultimately more deadly of the options to her (Holding the Dread Lord in place), so that the heavy hitting Fighter could stack on more Magic weapon damage than Strahd could regenerate.

Had any one of the four players chosen to work less as a team, and more for personal glory, the whole thing might have fallen in upon itself.

From my end, it was difficult to stay in check. Here is the titular Villian of the adventure, being laid low in a record time. In the lead up to this fight, the Characters had done everything ‘right’, which made it so much easier for them. So much easier, that they were worthy of the kill.

Therein lies one of the beauties in Strahd, he was always willing to be overthrown/replaced (and ultimately released through death), IF his killer was both Intelligent and Vicious enough. In point of fact, through defeat, Strahd was winning in his own way, and casting a taint upon the ‘victors’. Moments after his destruction, a once closely knit party began to break up and ceased to trust one another.

Strahd was defeated, but a new Dread Lord assumed control of Barovia, the Wizard Gardain.

Our epilogue covered a little bit of what happened next. The main points being, Gardain parted the mists of Barovia and allowed Ristol and Nongrock to return home, while Drana stayed in an effort to keep a watchful eye upon the new Dread Lord, and to help restore faith to Barovia. What the future holds, none are sure.

Did good win, or did evil triumph?