A Look Behind The DM’s Screen

First off, thank you to every one of you who has emailed me or posted kind words in the forum. The response from this update has been huge and I’m blown away by the giant smiles that my inbox keeps giving me. I’m just sorry that I can’t answer everyone back personally.

So just for the hell of it, let’s take a look at what the inner Dungeon Master in me is saying when I write a scene like this…

Okay, Thaco and Goblinslayer are fighting in the sewers. Goblinslayer originally had a -4 due to the darkness created from Thaco’s plan, but he cast a minor spell on his sword (which counts a natural weapon) and the glow from that helps somewhat. He’s still fighting with a -1 when within five feet of the glowing blade since it doesn’t create a huge amount of light and it’s still pretty dark. By the way, that penalty gets worse, the further he gets from the glowing blade-stick.

Aside from the darkness, the enviroment creates some difficulties of its own.

1) Medium creatures like Goblinslayer, suffer a small movement penalty due to the water (-5 ft/round) while small creatures like Thaco have a 50% movement reduction.

2) Due to the filthy state of the water, humans will have to make a Fortitude save at DR 12 for every 10% hit point loss they take during this battle. If Goblinslayer takes 43% hit point loss (I’m not saying that’s how much damage he took, just using that as an example), he’s going to have to roll four Fort saves the next morning. Since in my world, goblins are more resistent to diseases than humans (they have to be to eat the stuff that they do), Thaco’s Fort saves are at a DR 6. These saves are done all at once after the character’s next sleep and failing just one save is enough to make the character sick. A failed roll means he has caught a fever and suffers a -4 to Con, Cha and Str everyday until the fever clears. Every morning, the character rerolls his Fort save once. A successful roll means that he’s feeling better. In other words, the more you muck about in the sewers with open wounds, the higher the chance that you’re going to get sick.

3) Those rusty pipes that are poking up everywhere (and yes, there are panels establishing that there are a lot of them, not just the one that Goblinslayer fell on, as some folks think) are a hazzard too. Everytime a character takes damage while standing in the water, he must make a Balance save at DR 5+1/each point of damage taken. A failed save means that he’s slipped and fallen. If the character falls, he must roll d6+1/every point he failed his Balance save by. This roll represents how many feet he falls away from his current, standing position. A roll of 5 feet or less means that he’s basically fallen straight down, taking no additional damage, but counting as flat footed until spending an action getting up again (this is what happened to Thaco when he got an arrow in the back). A roll of 5 or more feet, means that he’s slipped into the next square over, in the direction away from his attacker. If the next square over contains a rusty, jagged pipe, an additional roll to hit is made against the falling character as though he is flat footed. If the pipe hits, the attacker adds another 2d6+8 to his damage roll (this is what happened to Goblinslayer). Once the character has taken pipe damage, there is a 10%+1%/every point of damage that the pipe has done to him that he will become stuck on the pipe and (assuming he’s still alive and not suffering trauma effects) need a successful Str check to pull himself free.

4) Also, if a character is climbing the walls in this area, a failed Climb check means similar “fall on a pipe” roles must be made.

So there you have it. Some of these rules don’t actually have anything to do with the story in the comic, but regardless, these are the sorts of numbers that dance around in my brain when I’m writing a scene, climbing a tree, wrestling with my cat or standing in line at the bank. I think a lot of experienced DMs live in a similar brain space.

This is why some folks might be scratching their heads saying “wait a minute, why does Thaco have Knock Back?”. He doesn’t.

As always, thanks for reading.