Ability Score Feats

I’ve released my third product for the DM’s Guild, Ability Score Feats. By focusing on a small number of options, I’ve aimed to create feats that are well balances while still opening up interesting new avenues of play.

I actually started work on these feats before I began my second release, Feats for Ravnicans. I scrutinized these a little more closely, too, so they shouldn’t require a second revision. However, I’d be very interested to hear how well they work — or don’t — around your table!

Review by Rich da Lich

I was flattered and delighted over the weekend to see that prolific gamer and vlogger Rich da Lich reviewed Feats for Ravnicans over the weekend! It’s an incredibly thorough, thoughtful, and fair critique.

I’m currently working on layout and design of my next release, which should come out within the next week. My next priority after that will be releasing a revision of Feats for Ravnicans, which will address the issues Rich brings up in this video, as well as tidy up the layout a bit. In the meantime, check out this video to get a good idea of which feats are ready for prime time, and which still need a little finagling.

Subscribe to Rich’s channel while you’re at it! He’s putting out new videos six times a week, which is an impressive feat in its own right!

Feats for Ravnicans

Feats for Ravnicans is a collection of sixteen feats uniquely tailored to the denizens of the City of Guilds. Each of the ten guilds gets one feat associated with it, plus new racial feats and a special feat only available to those who don’t swear allegiance to any guild.

This is a title I’ll be happy to revisit in the future, incorporating feedback from those who use it around their tables. So your reviews will be especially helpful!

Download Feats for Ravnicans now as a pay-what-you-want title on the DM’s Guild.

In Praise Of 3d6

I’ve never been a min-maxer. There’s nothing wrong with that style of play, but personally, I find it inherently less interesting than playing “sub-optimal” characters. In fact, I’m such a big fan of low ability scores that I’ve ported over a score generation method from 2e: Rolling a flat 3d6 for each score.

Philosophy around ability scores seems to have really changed since the TSR days. The Second Edition PHB introduces the idea like so:

Suppose you decide to name your character “Rath” and you rolled the following ability scores for him:

Strength 8
Dexterity 14
Constitution 13
Intelligence 13
Wisdom 7
Charisma 6

Rath has strengths and weaknesses, but it is up to you to interpret what those numbers mean.

An 8, a 7, and a 6?! With nothing higher than a 14?! It’s hard to imagine a player being happy with that spread today.

But it’s also hard to imagine that even happening, it’s so statistically unlikely. By Third Edition, “Roll 4d6, drop the lowest” had become the standard method for generating ability scores. This method is most likely to produce scores of 12 and 13, with every character having a decent shot of rolling at least one 15 or 16. Scores lower than 8 are practically impossible.

But on top of this, your ability scores are only going to go up from here — some of them as soon as right now! Racial ability score penalties are no longer a thing (unless you’re the rare player creating a kobold character, or the like), and you get an ASI every four levels. Low ability scores are simply not a threat in D&D 5e.

So why does it matter? Well, the 2e PHB continues in that same chapter:

Obviously, Rath’s ability scores (often called “stats”) are not the greatest in the world. Yet it is possible to turn these “disappointing” stats into a character who is both interesting and fun to play.  Too often players become obsessed with “good” stats. These players immediately give up on a character if he doesn’t have a majority of above-average scores. There are even those who feel a character is hopeless if he does not have at least one ability score of 17 or higher! Needless to say, these players would never consider playing a character with an ability score of 6 or 7.

In truth, Rath’s survivability has a lot less to do with his ability scores than with your desire to role-play him. If you give up on him, of course he won’t survive!

This is every bit as true today as it was in 1983. It’s sort of the player’s corollary to Tucker’s Kobolds — if you play smart, you won’t be hampered by a few weaknesses.

Furthermore, as Zee Bashew points out in this great video, this game is a group activity! If your rogue has an Int score of 6, that gives your party’s wizard an opportunity to shine outside of merely casting fireball yet again.

I had my current group roll 3d6 for their ability scores when we started out. I lucked out, because they were all game for it without any convincing on my part. They’re currently around level 4, and you know what? There are already a couple characters whose primary stat has hit 18. But everyone also has an Achilles heel, and that’s allowed for some more fun moments than if every score were an 11. Facing off against aberrations, for instance, the characters who dumped their Wisdom score are more likely to be afflicted with fear, so the party’s druid really needs to step up his game.

If you want to get even more hardcore with it, I think it can be fun to insist that your first ability score roll is your Strength score, your second roll is Dex, etc. It’s a pretty fun way to organically see who your character will be, rather than arriving at Session Zero with a preconceived notion of who you’ll be playing. But hey, only one radically resurrected old-school idea for today.

Magical Mishaps: 100 New Wild Magic Surges

I’m very pleased to announce the release of my debut title on the DM’s Guild, Magical Mishaps: 100 New Wild Magic Surges, available now as a pay-what-you-want PDF.

Everyone makes mistakes, and when you’re playing with the very fabric of the universe, sometimes those mistakes have surprising, harmful, or spectacular consequences.

Tired of rolling on the same-old table of 50 magical effects from the Player’s Handbook? This table provides 100 brand-new effects that can be used as sorcerers’ wild magic surges, hazardous effects of casting in an area that crackles with magical energy, or any similarly appropriate situation. Cheat sheets for relevant spell effects and monsters are also included.

I hope you find this document useful and fun! I’d really appreciate it if you left a rating and/or review at the DM’s Guild, or leave a comment here — especially if you have any stories about how these consequences played out in your own game!

Roll For Initiative

The 1983 revision of the D&D Basic Rules Player’s Manual, featuring iconic artwork by Larry Elmore.

Welcome! I’m T. R. Appleton, and this is my blog dedicated to publishing original content for Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop role-playing games.

I’ve been playing these games ever since the early ’90s, when I found a copy of the now-classic D&D Basic Rulebook sandwiched in between well-worn copies of MAD Magazine in my older brother’s bedroom.

For the past several years, I’ve compiled a handful of resources that other players have found helpful, and now I’d like to start publishing my own material, primarily for distribution on the DM’s Guild. Since that storefront can be kind of dizzying to approach, this website will serve as my directory for whatever I wind up publishing there.

I don’t plan on publishing on any regular schedule, but I already have several items ready for publication, so check back soon.