An Essential Sandbox: Session 4 Play Report

D&D: Frankenstein's Monster Edition
  • Embra (3rd-level dwarf evocation mage)
  • Livina (3rd-level dragonborn inspiring warlord)
  • Paion (3rd-level human sun warpriest)
  • Thirur (3rd-level dwarf axe slayer)

The party arrived at Gillmore Estate. They knew that it had been overtaken by a group of bandits, but had no idea how many, nor their capabilities. They scouted the exterior from a distance, but didn't see anything: it had taken them a day or so to make the trip, so maybe they'd already left?

They carefully approached the front, but rather than try the door Thirur and Livina scaled the balcony. Once they were about halfway up, a pair of archers appear and began loosing arrows. Embra used her magic to provide suppressing fire, while Paion mounted the horse that had been left outside and literally kicked in the front door.

After Thirur and Livina made it up, it was a simple matter to take out the archers: one was slain, but they managed to capture and interrogate the other. They learned that there were about two dozen other bandits, and that they had trained wolves, including a dire wolf. Satisfied that he was telling the truth, they tied him up and left him in the wagon.

The party explored the manor, incinerating a large group in the dining hall, before confronting their leader. He initially hung back, assuming that his lackeys and wolves could handle the party, but after a few were slaughtered and Embra dropped a cyclone of fire on him entered the fray. The narrow hall and their smaller numbers proved advantageous, preventing them from being overwhelmed and keeping Embra safe from harm.

After the leader fell, they gathered up the corpses to show proof of their deed once they returned to Black Hollow, and went about looting the house: they discovered the butchered remains of the previous owners in the basement, which meant that they wouldn't miss anything.

Behind the Scenes
This ended up being a short session, and didn't have the social roleplaying that Melissa had initially hoped for. We normally try and keep the adventures simple, giving the kids very clear choices, but over the past few sessions we've tried to see if they've learned to check for traps, listen at doors, talk to the bad guys, etc.

But, we ended up starting late and it went on longer than expected, so we had to kind of rush through it.

Next session I'm going to implement even more houserules, to the point where it might as well be a new game. It is because of this I'm going to run another session to illustrate the changes to Melissa, who was just starting to get the handle on 4th Edition's rules.

We've already removed feats, and I took to upgrading the wizard's existing spells instead of giving her more (which would be more annoying to track). I figured that I could give her new spells whenever she'd get a new daily, though honestly I was considering making all spells usable by the encounter (which is more inline with actually Vancian magic).

I'd initially intended to take things incrementally, modding the system step by step over the course of play. Instead we're going to make a number of sweeping changes, based on what Melissa and I want in a system. Here are a few:

  • Hit points are getting split into two pools: one will replenish quickly, and represent exhaustion, minor wounds, and the like, while the other will recover much more slowly, and represent physical damage.
  • Ability scores aren't going to be a number and a modifier (ie, 12 means +1, 14 means +2, etc). Instead they're just a modifier.
  • No feats.
  • Skill proficiency start out at +1, and when you level up you can boost one skill by +1, up to +5 (though I'm considering forcing you to choose between a skill bump, or give you a skill bump every 2 levels). You add these to an ability score to determine your total bonus when attempting a task.
  • Tasks won't scale by level: as with 3E and 5E, there's going to be one chart to determine general difficulty.
  • Little-to-no automatically scaling math. Instead of 4E's +1 per two levels, or 13th Age's +1 every level, or even 5E's +2 at the start, then +1 now and then, most things are going to be based off your raw stats. Some classes will get bonuses here and there, like a fighter and weapon attacks, but monster defenses won't get super high anyway.
  • Races will usually give you passive mods that are folded into your other stats, giving you little to bother keeping track of. When you level up you can choose race talents, allowing you to better control how much race impacts your character.
  • Classes will normally start with a couple things, and then each level you choose something. Some class features will be simple, like a damage bonus, others will be more complicated, but the ultimate goal is to let you you better decide how much complex shit you wanna track.
  • XP is getting drastically reduced. Instead of tracking individual XP from monsters, I'm going to do something more inline with Numenera and Dungeon World: overcoming a meaningful challenge is worth 1, discovering a magic item, looting noteworthy treasure, and the like is worth 1 XP, each time. Not sure how much XP will be necessary to level up, but later editions of Dungeons & Dragons tend to assume 10 encounters per level, but since this will give you XP for finding loot and such, I'll probably make it something like 15 XP per level, or 15+level.

Here's the current, barebones stat block for a typical bandit:

Level 1 Medium Humanoid (Human)

Ability Scores 
STR +1 DEX +1 WIS 0
CON +1 INT 0 CHA 0

Intimidate +1, Stealth +2

Fort 11 Ref 11 Will 10
Armor 1 (leather)
Wounds 5 Vitality 4

Longsword +1 to hit; 1d8+1 damage

Since characters can feasibly get a decent amount of Armor (biggest thing is plate, which is worth 6 or 7), I'm considering using and modding the mob attack rules from Dungeons & Delvers (which I kind of cribbed from Super Dungeon Explore), so that enemies can essentially do a single, combined attack that gets +1 to hit and deals +1 damage per additional attacker.

So instead of, say, six goblins rolling something like +1 to hit and 1d6 damage (assuming no Strength bonus and a short sword), there would be one attack roll that would have +6 to hit and deal 1d6+5 damage if it hits. That way, when you get plate you don't just become immune to certain attacks.

Image Dump

After only a couple hours of design and writing, The Swordmage is good to go. If you want a solid fighter/wizard hybrid with twenty-five advanced moves to choose from (in addition to some other extras), pick it up.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out!

Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance!

Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.


  1. I see you're making a Frankenstein D&D too. I tried to "rebuild" 5E to my liking and here's what I got:
    Hopefully you see some things you like and can incorporate in your monster of a game. Have fun modding.

    Btw, I am 100% with you on removing feats and going for a different XP scale.

    1. @Unknown: Have you used that stuff in actual play? I want to add in "encounter" abilities, but I'm not sure what the reception will be. I know 5E has encounter stuff, they just call it something different.

      For the XP scale, my current thought is something like 10-15 (maybe plus level). You get 1 XP each time you overcome a noteworthy challenge/obstacle (combat, social, puzzle, trap, etc), loot noteworthy treasure, find a magic item, learn/discover something noteworthy, and complete a quest.


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