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The mul & thri-kreen PC races for 5e D&D

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 07:41

I’ve been working on 5e monsters and races lately. Earlier this week I posted a Shardmind and a Loxo, and now here are two more races to add to your 5e options (assuming you like them and your DM approves!)

These two races come from the Dark Sun setting, the Mul and Thri-Kreen. The latter is in the game in the form of a monster, but the mul is not. I tried to stay as close to the “feel” of the races as I could. Here’s how:

The Mul, a half human, half dwarf is known for being a tough race. They don’t tire easily, are strong combatants, etc. They are usually found as slaves and gladiators toiling in the harsh world of Athas.  Here’s how I represented that for 5e with racial traits:

  • Tough as Nails. During a short rest you can reroll a Hit Dice roll and take the higher of the two rolls.
  • Resistant. Once a day, if you fail a Constitution saving throw you can choose to succeed instead.
  • Tireless. You only need to sleep 2 hours a night to gain the benefits of a long rest.
  • Mul Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the spear, whip, pike, handaxe and unarmed strikes.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.23.54 AM

I think I got the feel of the mul down. The re-roll hit dice thing to me is the highlight of the race.

The thri-kreen is an insectoid creature with six claws, also from the world of Athas. I found this one a bit more challenging to translate to a workable race, and it went through various versions. The thri-kreen has a lot of neat things it can do, and there’s a chance of making them a bit too overpowered when compared to other races. They can jump to great heights and lengths, they have psionics, they blend in with their surroundings. Lots of neat tricks, but it can get out of hand.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.33.24 AM

I think I finally cracked that nut after seeing how the Elemental Player’s Companion handled the Deep Gnome’s magic, via a feat, and the talons of the Aarakocra, via a simple proficiency.

Here’s what I gave  them:

  • Long Jumper. You do not need to move any number of feet to make a full long or high jump. Additionally, roll a 1d12 when you make a long or high jump. The result is an additional number of feet you can add to the total of your jump.
  •  Claws. You are proficient with your unarmed strikes, which deal 1d4 slashing damage on a hit. (EDIT: they were 1d8 but I changed to get out of the way of the monk)
  • Chameleon. You can change your color to match your surroundings. You have Advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made to hide in this manner.
  • Along with an optional feat (subject to DM approval):
    • Thri-Kreen Psionics

 

Prerequisite: Thri-Kreen

You have telepathy out to a range of 60 feet. Additionally, you have innate psionic spell-casting ability. This ability allows you to cast mage hand at will, without needing a material component. You can also cast each of the following spells once with this ability: blur, invisibility, and magic weapon. You regain the ability to cast these spells when you finish a long rest. Intelligence is your spell-casting ability for these spells, and you cast them at their lowest possible levels.

I am inclined to say that the race is fairly balanced versus other races. The first few versions were a bit overpowered. The claws did many attacks, it had innate casting without it being an optional feat.  I am happy with how it came out.

I’d love some feedback on these, either here or on twitter (@newbiedm).

Find the mul here.

FInd the thri-kreen here.

 

If you would like to support NewbieDM.com, perhaps you’d consider visiting Amazon.com for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

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Experiments in building a 5e D&D race: The Shardmind.

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 00:52

Shardmind

Here’s my 5e version of the Shardmind, a race introduced in the 4e PHB3. The Shardmind origin is described as the shattered pieces of a gate at the edge of the far realm. Or something to that effect. Honestly, I don’t know much about the mythology of 4e. So make the Shardmind’s  origin what you want I guess. I admit the fluff in this write-up was stolen from the PHB3. Just use the stats and invent an origin for your Shardmind.

This was an exercise in translating the stats and feel of the race to 5e. I think I came pretty close. Thoughts?

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B56oe0eWddruMUxoWUpabmotbEU/view?usp=sharing


Experiments in building a 5e D&D race: The Loxo

Sun, 04/26/2015 - 14:29

I’ve been making monsters for 5e here and there, trying my hand at some homebrew design work, so I decided to try and make a new race for the game.

I felt like going outside the box in my thinking so I went with one of the less popular races, the Loxo. The Loxo became a race through Spelljammer… it’s basically a nomadic bipedal elephant with a split trunk. They favor druid and ranger classes. Here’s the thing I learned about race design in 5e… It’s a little different from previous editions, there aren’t a WHOLE lot of moving parts. Races get a few things and that’s it.

loxo

In 3e’s The Shining South supplement for Forgotten Realms, (where I’m basing this guy from) the Loxo had quite a few things it could do. It could rage like a barbarian when it saw other Loxo getting attacked, it also had a trample attack it could use to run over enemies, and finally a trunk attack. Thing is that in 5e, races don’t really get all these things. The dwarf for example, get some skill proficiencies, advantage on saving throws, weapon training… there’s no offensive attacks or anything of the sort.

So what did I do to the Loxo? Instead of a damage causing trample attack, I made it so that he can walk on occupied spaces when there is a creature a smaller size than it and have it NOT be difficult terrain… Instead of a rage like a barbarian, I gave it Advantage on the first attack against an enemy attacking a Loxo (or a companion). And I did give it proficiency with natural weapon so he could use his trunk as a 1d8 bludgeoning damage weapon.

These are things that I ~think~ manage to keep the flavor of the Loxo’s abilities, without adding too many things outside the scope of 5e design. I also made him a +2 WIS creature, since that was missing from the player’s handbook and I thought it would be an interesting thing since they tend to favor druids.

Here’s what I came up with for my first attempt… let me know what you think.

http://bit.ly/1OqBXGj


5e Monsters: Korred and Froghemoth

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 07:42

Continuing my conversion of older D&D monsters to 5e, here are two interesting monsters for you to use in your 5th ed. game: the korred (for low level play), and the froghemoth (made for higher level parties to face).

The korred are forest fey, fond of singing, dancing and nature. Thematically, they are close to druids, and are described as being extremely hairy, reclusive and not fond of outsiders entering their forest regions.

The korred first appeared in the 1st Edition Monster Manual 2. It was also the subject of an “Ecology Of…” article in Dragon 119, written by Ed Greenwood, and subsequently it was updated for both 2nd and 3rd editions of the game.

korred

You can find my version of the 5e korred here. I made it a Challenge 1 creature.

Next is the huge tentacled walking frog known as the froghemoth. This massive swamp monster first appeared in the seminal adventure “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks”, and later would find its way to the Monster Manual 2 for 1st. Edition of AD&D. It has since been updated for 2nd Ed. and 3rd and in various third party products.

Incidentally, I only made it because Chris Perkins mentioned it on twitter and I decided to stat it up. Otherwise, it wasn’t really on my list of monsters to update to 5th, so thanks Chris!

Froghemoth

Get the froghemoth here. I made this one a Challenge 15 creature.

If you would like to support NewbieDM.com, perhaps you’d consider visiting Amazon.com for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

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Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame


5e Monsters: Dragonne and Dark Creeper

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 07:18

Here are two more monsters to add to your 5e D&D games.

First, the Dragonne, a sphynx like magical creature described as “cross between a brass dragon and a giant lion”. These creatures have their D&D beginnings way back in the 1ed. Monster Manual. Their defining traits across all editions were its roar and its desire for solitude, both which I attempted to capture with this 5e conversion, which made it a Challenge 6 monster.

Dragonne as seen in the 1st ed. Monster Manual

Dragonne as seen in the 1st ed. Monster Manual

Find the dragonne here. 

Next is the Dark Creeper (I had previously made this one available but I’ve tweaked it due to feedback and basically incorrect 5e monster design work on my part.) The Dark Creeper is a Challenge 2 creature with the power to see in magical darkness. They like to use poisons and have a sneak attack trait as part of their combat tactics. The 1e Fiend Folio described them as having a fondness for magical items and a spontaneous combustion upon death, both traits that I’ve tried to emulate with this conversion. The dark creeper has appeared in all editions of D&D, most recently in the 4th Ed. Monster Manual.

Dark Creeper as seen in the 1st ed. Fiend Folio

Dark Creeper as seen in the 1st ed. Fiend Folio

Find the Dark Creeper here. 

If you would like to support NewbieDM.com, perhaps you’d consider visiting Amazon.com for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame


5e Monster: Living Wall

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 09:00

The Living Wall… one of those… weird monsters that D&D is sometimes famous for, this one appeared in the game through the Ravenloft campaign setting for 2nd ed. It’s a section of wall made up of the corpses of creatures (read adventurers) it has absorbed and taken up as part of its structure. Above all else Its ultimate desire is to kill the one that created it. Evil wizards usually create it to guard a location or object.

livingwall

I was asked to try to make one for 5e, but when I read the 2e description I thought that it wouldn’t translate well (it has as many attacks as creatures absorbed, so it could attack like 15 times if it absorbed 15 fighters), so I changed some things for 5e and took some liberties. I also changed the alignment, it just didn’t really read as a Chaotic Evil creature to me.

So here’s my version of it. A Challenge 6 critter that tries to absorb you into its structure. It has various weapon attacks and can cast spells (to represent other adventurers it has absorbed). It has magic resistance, an illusory appearance, and if it absorbs a character, it gains its hit points.

Check it out, tell me what you think. Where would you put one of these in an adventure?


Elder Brain for 5e

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 23:11

ElderBran2

Here’s my version of an Elder Brain… a mind flayer city’s god-like center of attention.
I made it a Challenge 22 legendary creature, with lair and regional effects. It spawns a brain golem, a challenge 5 creature with mind blasting powers as well as slam attacks. This can make for a dangerously nasty encounter.

Let me know what you think!

Find it here


5 Monsters for your 5e game

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 07:05
A bodak wonders the Abyss in search of victims...

A bodak wonders the Abyss in search of victims…

I’ve been converting old monsters from AD&D that haven’t seen the light of day as (official) 5e critters. My goal obviously was to get the core of what made these monsters unique to work within the 5e ruleset and monster design guidelines.

Here’s what I have for you with this post:

Dark Creeper (Challenge 1/2)
The Dark Creeper made its first D&D appearance in the Fiend Folio for 1e. They live underground, like to steal and explode in a flash when killed.

Blindheim (Challenge 2)
This bizarre frog man also first appeared in the Fiend Folio. It has what are basically high beam headlights for eyes, and blinds you before it eats you. Perhaps one of the silliest D&D monsters for any edition. Oh Fiend Folio, never change.

Crimson Death (Challenge 4)
This undead creature first saw the light of day in 1e’s Monster Manual 2. It lives in swamps and feeds off its victim’s blood. It uses a fear attack as an attempt to neutralize its enemies first.

Son of Kyuss (Challenge 4)
This undead, another Fiend Folio monster, is riddled with worms which it seeks to implant in its victim’s brains to turn them into another Son of Kyuss. It regenerates and causes fear. It is pretty nasty.

Bodak (Challenge 7)
The bodak is a creature who as a mortal died in the Abyss and now roams that plane killing everything in sight. It has a death gaze it uses to kill unsuspecting victims with. This creature first appeared in the classic 1e module “The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth” and later appeared in the 1e Monster Manual 2.

I wrote a post recently where I shared the first few monsters I converted, find that here.

I hope you enjoy using these in your game, let me know if you did and how it went. Keep in mind that I have not play tested these guys yet, so if you want to send along a report, all feedback is welcome!

If you would like to support NewbieDM.com, perhaps you’d consider visiting Amazon.com for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

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Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame


Couple of homebrew 5e monsters…

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 10:43

I went on a bit of a monster kick this weekend, only to see just how easy it was to take old AD&D monsters and turn them into 5e creatures. Here’s what I worked on…

First, the Yuan-Ti Histachii. My version of this creature (a 1/2 Challenge monster) comes from the one found in the 1993 2e Monstrous Compendium, although this creature first appeared in the Kara-Tur campaign setting, and was originally printed in that product’s Monstrous Comendium Appendix. The histachii is a former human, transformed into a reptilian humajoid by a foul yuan-ti mixture. They serve as slaves to the Yuan-Ti, guarding prisoners, hunting, and other tasks. Of course, they can also serve as cannon fodder.

From TSR's 1993 Monstrous Compendium

From TSR’s 1993 Monstrous Compendium

I wanted to make this creature available for 5e because the Yuan-Ti entry in the MM is missing (in my opinion) a suitable low challenge grunt for low level PCs. Sure, the Yuan-Ti Pureblood is there, but in my opinion it serves a different purpose.

My 5e Yuan-Ti Histachii

My 5e Yuan-Ti Histachii

You can find the Yuan-Ti Histachii here. 

The following monsters are a pair of undead, the Skeleton Warrior, and the Huecuva. The skeleton warrior was a nasty monster back in the AD&D days of yore. (It also made for a memorable character in a classic episode of the D&D cartoon). It first appeared in the Fiend Folio for 1e, then reappeared in the Dragonlance Monstrous Compendium appendix, and eventually ended its AD&D appearances in 1993’s 2e Monstrous Compendium. Almost a bit lich-like, the skeleton warrior has an interesting backstory… its soul was trapped long ago in a circlet by powerful demigod or an evil wizard. Their only raison d’etre is to search for and find the circlet containing their souls. The circlet can be used to fully control the skeleton warrior,  but if the circlet gets lost watch out… because the skeleton warrior will stop at nothing to kill its former controller.

From TSR's 1993 Monstrous Compendium

From TSR’s 1993 Monstrous Compendium

Granted, it’s a very situational type monster. But I thought it was a neat backstory. Neat enough that I wanted to see it in 5e. In 2e term, it was a 9+2 to 9+12 HD creature. In 5e I made it a Challenge 13 monster, since the guy is loaded with immunities and can’t even be turned. He’s a nasty critter. Now, one of the things not described in the AD&D version is the magic item which makes up this monster’s story. So I added it to my write up. It’s basically a golden circlet that grants a +1 to AC and saving throws, along with the skeleton controlling abilities.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.20.31 AM

Art shamelessly taken off google...

Art shamelessly taken off google…

Download the Skeleton Warrior here. 

The final monster is a neat one, and a bit of a D&D trivia oddity. The huecuva, or heucuva, depending what you’re reading. You see, it’s one of the few D&D monsters (maybe the only one) that managed to have an editorial error slip through the cracks and become canon. In the Fiend Folio, it was huecuva, and later it became a heucuva due to a typo. The rest is history ( and you can read more about this on page 6 of Dragon Magazine issue 168).

The huecuva (I went back to the original spelling) is a neat undead with a bit of a creepy backstory. It’s origins come from Chilean folklore, specifically the religion of the Mapuche people of south-central Chile. (Read about it here.)

In D&D terms, it’s described as an undead spirit similar in appearance to a skeleton. Legends tell that they are the restless spirits of monastic priests who were unfaithful to their vows and now face eternal punishment, roaming, killing, and making mockeries of their past lives.

It attacks with its claws, causing disease to the unlucky ones it manages to hit. In the Fiend Folio it actually caused terminal renal disease! They could also polymorph themselves into other types of creatures, and are resistant to mind controlling spells. And yes, I know there was a 4e template for this creature, but it seemed to ignore this whole aspect of the monster, so again, I’m working off the AD&D versions.

 

From TSR's 1993 Monstrous Compendium

From TSR’s 1993 Monstrous Compendium

 

In 2e it was a 2 HD creature, I made it a challenge 4 creature for 5e. A shape changing undead that can cause disease and has advantage resisting turning? I’ll take that!

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.38.28 AM

Grab the Huecuva here. 

These monsters haven’t been playtested yet. I created them using the guidelines in the DMG, and from reading their older stat blocks. Partly art… partly science. Let me know what you think!

 

If you would like to support NewbieDM.com, perhaps you’d consider visiting Amazon.com for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

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The 5e Overland Travel Montage

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 12:55

One of the things I’ve had to deal with in the 5e game that takes place in the 2nd Ed. era of the Forgotten Realms is overland travel. That map is huge! And there are quite a few empty spots along the way (one of the reasons why I’m switching to the 3e map actually, but I digress). Overland travel can be a tricky thing to navigate through when you’re a new DM, and the DMG sort of tells you to hand wave it and make it a quick, but evocative couple of lines and move on to the destination. Older version of the game asked for tons of random encounter rolls, something that can be interesting if used sporadically, but ultimately work as filler to do something while you travel. That’s to say, it’s not very rewarding, but it will give you necessary XP. That’s not to say that they all have to be this way, you can come up with a list of interesting and useful things the players learn or find in these random encounters, but that requires a bit more planning.

117024_CN_GL

I want to take a different approach. Page 106 of the 5e DMG talks about the Travel-Montage approach of exploring the wilderness, and basically it boils down to describing and hand-waving the trek quickly to get to the desired destination. The fantastic D&D variant 13th Age, takes this approach one step further in its organized play adventures, putting the task of narrating the montage in the hands of the players. I like that! i want to play with that and maybe add a bit of 5e mechanics along the way. Here’s what I’m thinking:

The way 13th Age does it (in a system devised by author Ash Law), the DM will describe the area the players are trekking through, and then ask a player to come up and narrate an obstacle that the party faced along the way. Then that player picks another player to determine how and what his or her character did to defeat the obstacle, and hopefully that player will make his or her character look like a complete badass in the process. It’s a neat reprieve from having to roll charts for wandering monsters and other random encounters, and allows players to get their creative juices flowing.

While I like the narrative approach, I want to add a bit of 5e’s new mechanics to it, namely Advantage/Disadvantage and Inspiration to give it just a bit of crunchiness to it. So it would go something like this:

GM: “Your journey across the barren, rocky wastelands of the Plain of Standing Stones in Anauroch will take you a few weeks,  The occasional vulture flies overhead, waiting for your demise, and it may just come, given how this land is frequented by hill giants, hobgoblins, and even the occasional blue dragon.  Ahkek, what obstacles did you and your companions come across the first few days of your journey?”

Ahkek: “Well, we’re in the desert, right? Rocky and barren? Lets tell the tale of how we fought that giant scorpion.”

GM: “Oh yeah? You mean the one that got a good couple of stings on you and your companions. Clarity how did you defeat this scorpion, what did you do?”

Clarity: “The giant scorpion had me locked in it’s claw, it was clamping down hard, stung me with the poison stinger. I prayed to Lothander, thinking I was slipping away, and from the heavens it rained down flames and killed the scorpion with my Flame Strike.”

GM: “Awesome. So it explodes in a flash of fire, with poison and scorpion flesh raining down on you, Now you all got hit with a nasty poisonous sting. Ahkek, give me a Constitution saving throw. You guys went head to head with a giant scorpion and got stung in the process while trekking through a harsh environment and I want to see what happens.”

Ahkek: “9. D’oh”

GM: So for three days you guys feel the effects of the poison. You’re sluggish, weak…..”

At this point the GM would ask another player to describe what other obstacle they faced along the way, and perhaps apply Disadvantage to the roll due to the lingering effects of the terrain and poisons…

By the end of the overland journey, each player would have narrated an obstacle, a way out of an obstacle, and the GM did minimal work in making the scenes come alive, as it would all be in the hands of the players.

If the situation warrants it, you can add Inspiration, you can take into account Bonds, Flaws, Ideals, etc, and apply Advantage or Disadvantage as you see fit. You can also award loot if it went well for them, so maybe had they faced bandits they could have found some coin, but if they would have failed the STR check to represent the fight, their weapons may have gotten damaged instead, or they might have lost some gold.

What do you think? You like?

If you would like to support NewbieDM.com, perhaps you’d consider visiting Amazon.com for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame


Rethinking Initiative

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 02:04

“You enter a room, the smell in here’s musky.  The ground is covered in a fine dust, and you can see footprints, along with a few drops of fresh blood.”

“The creatures must have come through here. I want to roll perception, maybe to see if I hear something… 15… Anything?”

“You do, you hear soft breathing noises from the shadows in the far northwest corner.”

“I tell my companions.”

“When you do, the creatures step out from the darkness, revealing themselves. Roll for initiative.”

Another player looks up from his phone… “Wait, what??”

A twitter conversation caught my eye the other day:

@skinnyghost I hate it and wanted to pull it from D&D. Such a drag. A dragon swoops in and… Let's do a bunch of bookkeeping.

— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) January 26, 2015

“A disruptive smash cut”, to use an film editing term, is a great way to describe the effect of calling for initiative. Usually, in my home game, the call for initiative wakes up one or two players from their cell phone induced trance. That’s a topic for another day, sure, but it ties into this. The initiative roll tells my players that story time is over, now we get into a fight. It’s attention grabbing, it makes people pick up their dice, it’s part of D&D, it’s a call to action. But I think i might get rid of it entirely. Precisely for those very same reasons. I want flow, I want focus, and I want smooth transitions, not smash cuts.

Here’s a thing… I thought about writing this article without having read the section on initiative variants in the DMG (which I picked up to read 5 minutes before writing this post at 1 AM).

I threw this on twitter today:

Wonder if dex score alone, favoring PCs, are a good enough way to determine init and getting rid if roll altogether….

— NewbieDM (@newbiedm) January 27, 2015

And I got a ton of responses. How would that play? Here’s what I’m hoping to get. I’ll use the same example from the top there…

“You enter a room, the smell in here’s musky.  The ground is covered in a fine dust, and you can see footprints, along with a few drops of fresh blood.”

“The creatures must have come through here. I want to roll perception, maybe to see if I hear something… 15… Anything?”

“You do, you hear soft breathing noises from the shadows in the far northwest corner.”

“I tell my companions.”

“When you do, the creatures step out from the darkness, revealing themselves. They are walking towards you, their claws pointed in your direction. They are coming closer, 15 feet, 10 feet, if you’re going to act, now would be a good time.”

“I’m rushing towards them, and slashing the leader with my sword. 15″

“Good, the sword strikes its side, the creature coils in pain, it’s going to attack you. The other two are going to move toward Larry…”

Not the most evocative description, fine, but you get the idea. Everything just kind of flowed. Page 270 of the 5e DMG has a section on initiative variants, and one calls for Passive Dexterity as the way to determine initiative order (10 + Dex Modifier). I was thinking more of Dexterity score as the way to determine initiative order, with ties with NPCs going to the PC’s, and allowing the PCs to determine who acts when in case of ties amongst themselves.

So if Jack, Jill and Larry are fighting a trio of Orcs (12 Dexterity). Their dexterities are Jack 16, Larry 15, Orcs 12, Jill 10, I can already have an order of how things should progress during the encounter, and I’ll give Jack a verbal cue that he can act first.

And how about adding the alternate plot point mechanic found in page 269 of the DMG to this? So Jack goes, but the DM wants to have his orcs jump ahead of Larry for tactical reasons… he rewards Larry with a plot point in exchange for taking over his initiative slot. Now Larry can alter the game a bit on his turn, maybe finding a weak spot on the orcs, or a vial of poison in his belt pouch…

I know for many of you I’m probably trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, but that smash cut analogy really resonated with me. Marvel Heroic and Dungeon World both have non-traditional initiative systems, with the former having a great system where players themselves pick who goes next. Read about it here.

I’m still formulating my thoughts about this, and perhaps this post isn’t very clear, but I think I want to move in this direction. Maybe just taking Marvel’s approach completely, (although it may may things wonky) or simply going with the one I describe above.

How about you guys? Anyone using alternate initiative systems in their 5e games? What? Is it working well? Let me know in the comments… and check out Ameron’s article about it over at Dungeon’s Master too. He was one of the people I was talking with this about on twitter…