#DnD #5e, or “How I stopped worrying and said, who really gives a shit, let’s play?” #DnDNext

•January 10, 2012 • 1 Comment

A LOT of hype and rumor and speculation is going around about the announcement of 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.  Wizards of the Coast presented their official statement yesterday in the Legends & Lore section of the D&D branch of their website.  The article exemplifies how they are looking forward to the future of gaming and are reaching out to the gaming community for inspiration and guidance for the evolution of “Dungeons and Dragons: Next”.

“We seek to build a foundation for the long-term health and growth of D&D, one rooted in the vital traits that make D&D unique and special. We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game.”

As far as I knew, the fundamental essence of D&D was “Here’s a decent outline of how to play this game and some rules we came up with and some monsters and stuff.  Have fun and make up your own games!”  That’s how I learned to play first edition, second edition, third and three-five.  Fourth edition threw me for a loop, but no more so than the change from first edition to third edition.  You pick up the game-play manual, you learn the basic rules, and you modify them to suit your own needs and desires.  Or maybe I’ve just been playing the wrong way for almost sixteen years.

The HUGE and absolutely obnoxious groaning that followed the release of 4th edition about how everyone HATED the new rules and how DUMB everything was and how GOD AWFUL the new class systems were, just pissed me off.  Are there really so few serious roleplayers that all of these asshats couldn’t sit down and say “You know what, I don’t really like this, let’s change it shall we?” and proceed to use the ONE THING that makes this game work: CREA-FUCKING-TIVITY.

THIS is why I’m dubious about the D&D:Next movement.  Not because it’s a new edition that will have new books and errata to spend my money on, not because it’s going to change my dear precious game, not because I’m a stubborn grognard, and not because WoTC and Hasbro have ‘Joined-Forces-To-Sodomize-D&D’ as a lot of people had adopted as their battlecry during the merger.  I’m dubious because so few people actually stood up when 4e came out and said “I didn’t like it, so I fixed it.”

SO many genres started as someone’s home game, Eberon, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Arcanis, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, hell even the storyline of World of Warcraft as we know it started as a tabletop game with a desolate high-gravity world that didn’t have elves.  The players and the DM are responsible for the game they play, not a set of crummy rules.  The book isn’t there to hold your hand and guide you to a magical land of wonder and awe.  Fuck no, that’s your job, It’s just a manual.  And for all of the rules monkeys out there who say we need to play the game as it is written, Gary Gygax himself said:

“The new D&D is too rule intensive. It’s relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. It’s done away with the archetypes, focused on nothing but combat and character power, lost the group cooperative aspect, bastardized the class-based system, and resembles a comic-book superheroes game more than a fantasy RPG where a player can play any alignment desired, not just lawful good. “

The idea that WoTC now wants us to help build the new system of D&D would be great if I felt I could trust my fellow gamers to come up with something actually  worth playing instead of winging about what they don’t like.  I’m joining the fight to make D&D what it can be by putting my two cents in to try to make the game better, not just bash what I don’t like and then sit back sucking on mountain dew and eating funyons and expect someone to come along and dance for my entertainment.

Instead I will be sucking on mountain dew and eating funyons while I show the gaming world that creativity is not dead.  I’d like for you to join me.

Peren and Pirate Sammy Join forces #dnd

•November 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So last night was my children’s first game of D&D together. We got set up and I finally found my Midnight Syndicate CD (yes!) so we had some fantasy jams pumping as we got into the actual game.  My son was already in a single-shot campaign and my daughter was playing free-form, so I melded them together in a way so they both could work towards the same goal.

My son’s elven wizard, Peren awoke after having been badly wounded last game to find that the NPC crew of companions I had lent him had gone ahead without him.  They left him some supplies and a map leading him to the city of Althera, the port town that Pirate Sam had visited.  He set out and found that he was but a few hours travel from the town by way of a well-traveled merchant road.  While traveling, he saw an old man stumble and fall, and as he helped him up, the man pressed a heavy card into his hand that showed a picture of a red and green splotched leaf.  He thought nothing of it, but when he looked again the old man was gone.

Pirate Sam however, was rowing her longboat through the mists and saw the port looming ahead, and after docking, realized that the mushrooms that had been overwhelmingly prevalent the night before were completely gone, as if they had been a dream.  The marketplace was alive and bustling once again, and there was no sign that any of the townsfolk had been infested by the mushrooms.  Sadly, however, Sam had neglected to bring along her pack when she sank the ship and had to buy more supplies.

Peren’s companions were set for the Isla Fuerea in search of a scroll of sealing that would close a gate of darkness in this land and had chartered a ship to take them there.  However they had chartered this ship through an intermediary and didn’t have anything but the captain’s name and the name of his boat,  Saint “Salty” James and the Greldhorn.  His first stop is the ‘Swooping Swallow’ inn, a moderately furnished tavern near the waterfront.  He barely had a chance to sit down before Sam and her captain, John, entered.  Introductions were made and Peren made mention of the card he was given which bore an incredible resemblance to the one Sam carried.

After a brief explanation of their past adventures, John made mention that he was familiar with Saint James, and his old haunt, “The Bawdy Wench”.  He led our players down a seedy back alleyway through the slums of the harbor to a bedraggled tavern with a filthy, half broken sign depicting a barmaid lifting her skirt to her knees.  Once inside, the scene was bedlam, raucous fighting, laughing, yelling, and general carousing of unsavory characters filled the pub from wall to wall.  Forcing their way through the crowd, John found himself at a table with a lone, slender figure nursing a pint.  A good three feet around the table was unoccupied and the man sitting there seemed as dry and tough as thick jerky.  His knotted beard was white and tangled and his right eye was covered with a patch.

Through the noise, Sam and Peren couldn’t make out what John was saying to the grizzled old man, but in a blur of movement he stood and cracked the captain a solid blow across the jaw.  Peren rushed forward and asked the man what his problem was while Sam lingered back, commenting that she knew him from her youth and didn’t want to be recognized.  After a brief exchange they came to the agreement that while Peren’s companions did not show up Saint James would take them to the island.

As they were leaving the bar, my daughter’s active storytelling got them into trouble.  “One of the drunk guys grabs me and makes a mean sort of face at me.”  She says.

“Okay.”  I respond.  “What do you do?”

“I pull my pistol on him.”

“I hit him with my staff.” My son chimes in.

“Okay, roll to hit.”

“…I got a 2.”

“You hit the guy behind him, roll for initiative.”

So they started a small brawl, with three of the patrons joining in and my daughter intimidating the guy to let her go by offering to shoot him in the head if he wanted.  Being generous, I offered to let them deal subdual damage to these guys and just rough them up some.  “Do you want to kill these guys?”

“Yes…wait, will that make more people try to fight us?”  My daughter asks.

“It’s a yes or no question.  Are you trying to kill them?”

“Yes.”

So her first longsword hit knocks one of the brawlers down to less than half HP, making his ale-addled mind react and he loses his morale save, trying to book it out of the place.  “Now since he’s trying to push past you, you can make an AOO, kiddo.  You want to do it?”

“Oh yeah, I’m taking that.” She says.

Her AOO hits and she scores another 12 points of damage to him, all but gutting the poor fool in the doorway.  To this she yells “I LOVE this game!”

Not to be out-done, my son lays down a Shocking Sphere on the other two, scorching the hell out of them and leaving them with not much HP to spare.  They both score terribly on their morale and surrender immediately, scooping up their dying friend and hot-footing it out of the place.

Once the blood splatter was cleaned up and the patrons stopped being so interested in their drinks, our adventurers made their way to the docks and onto the Greldhorn where they set off for Isla Fuerea.  On the journey they learned of Saint James’s dark past with the island and how he lost fifteen men on an expedition to the accursed place.

He explained how a dark man had hired them as valets and guards for the trip and how his men began to disappear one by one from their campsite in the old ruins where they had been led.  Saint James got no straight answers from the dark man about the disappearances, but remained with dwindling patience until one night a terrible light and horrifying keening arose from the lower levels of the ruins where the dark man had set up his research, and he and the nine remaining members of their twenty man troupe ran through the woods, trying to escape whatever was coming up from that hellish place.

He saw two of their number fall to the jungles around them, and heard two more attacked by whatever horrible clicking monster it was that was bearing down on them.  He didn’t see it directly, only flashes of limbs and white through the leaves and shadows of the jungle.

As the hour began to grow late, he retired to his cabin and bid the others do the same, for they would need their strength to face the island.

We called the game there, since it was closing in on 10:30pm and way past my youngest bed time.  We face the island tonight and shall see how our adventurers fare against the terrors ahead!

…And then there was One

•November 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

After 19 years of hellion-hood, we laid to rest our old family cat, Binky, ne’ Samoas, Parten.  She had a hell of a run, and while she was a crotchety old bitch she was our crotchety old bitch.  I’ll miss watching that five and a half pound ball of tabby terror back a 6’0″ 195lb man into a corner for fear of having his ankles flayed.

I don’t think I could have put it better than my sister did so I’ll link you to her blog for today.

…And then there was One.

Goodbye, Binks.  I’ll miss you.

My daughter’s first game of #dnd

•November 20, 2011 • 6 Comments

So as a kind of tradition I teach my children how to play dungeons and dragons on their 11th birthday; the age I was when I discovered the magic of D&D.

This last Friday it was my daughter’s turn.  We took a trip to Dr. No’s for her first set of dice and her own miniature.  She picked out a pistol wielding piratess.  When we got home after her birthday dinner we got right to work building her character. 

After about an hour of the basics of statistics, classes, races and skills, we wound up with an eladrin ranger built to be a pirate.  So Sammy began her first adventure, traveling on her ship under the command of Captain John (she picked his name as part of her backstory).

I was working off the cuff on this with only about 45 minutes of bainstorming to make a couple hours of gameplay but I managed to have five basic story arcs that she would pick from.  Her ship pulled into port to unload “liberated” goods and Captain John gave her some gold and a note to deliver to an old friend of his. 

She wandered the marketplace and bought a candied rubarb stick before stumbling across a strange tent of dark red fabric.  The odd thing was if you looked at it from a different angle the cloth looked bluish (protip: this is a sledgehammer clue).

She avoided the tent but stumbled into Captain John’s friend and exchanged the note for an elaborate and ancient key.  She immediately took this to her ship only to find that Cpt. John was nowhere to be found.  She asked around town about him but to no avail.

This is where my dear girl threw me for a loop.  She took over the story!  She said she searched around and found Cpt. John’s bootprints in the mud leading towards the odd tent.  I accepted that and told her that as she neared the tent everything grew quiet, as if listening through thick wool.

This was because everyone was stopping and staring at her, she said.  I told her the flap of the tent was open, but she couldn’t see more than a couple of feet within. 

It was an illusionary door according to her, and an unseen servant opened it.

Inside, the tent was a riot of color, the muted outside hiding the spectacular array of vibrancy within. 

She said that the same illusionary door acted as a prism from within, making the colors dance from any light outside.

An old man was seated at a low table behind a curtain of gausy material and bid her take one of the cards he presented her.  Reversed, they showed a skull, a leaf, a crystal, a mushroom and a snake.  She chose the mushroom.  The old man faded away, leaving her alone in the tent.  She also noticed that all the noise from outside was gone.

This was the second time she blew my story out of the water: the noise was gone because when she walked outside, the market was empty, and mushrooms were growing from every surface.  She narrated how she tiptoed through the mushrooms and found Cpt. John near the boat.  Together they boarded the ship and found the crew in the brig.

Working with what she gave me, this went a little darker than I wanted.  Some of the crew had eaten the mushrooms and were becoming ill.  She retired to her quarters and while pondering the meaning of her card, fell asleep.  Sammy awoke several hours later with a feeling of unease.  Something wasn’t right, the ship was too quiet.

She went to her door and almost opened it when she heard an eerie susseration in the hall outside.  Pulling the door open a crack, she saw that only a handfull of the lanterns were lit, and a vague shape was shuffling around in the hold at the end of the hallway.  As she watched it, another figure moved in front of the door, one of the ill crew members.  His skin had a chalky sort of pall to it and he had odd protrusions on his arms. 

I proceeded to describe how her fellow crew members were slowly turning into mushroom men (myconids for you grognards), and were propogating the same mushroom she saw on her card.

She said she closed the door and held the card in front of her and said the first word that came to her mind.  It was a magic word that made the old man appear.  He told her that the card was evil and bad luck.

I agreed and explained that the mushrooms were a powerful reagent that she needed for the times ahead, and that she should not trust Cpt. John with the key (PT: that’s called foreshadowing). 

She said that the old man disappeared and his assistant showed up to help her with the mushroom men.

His assistant was a shadow, who told her how to fight them and provided her with a bag of spores that would counteract the mushrooms natural pheremones that caused people to want to eat them so they would be safe to carry.

She exited her room, expertly dashed the mushroom men’s perception checks and snuck her way up on deck, only to find it completely deserted.

Her response was that there were longboats on the side of the ship and she took one, leaving the ship to row back to the mainland. Also, there was a hole in the boat.

I had to stop here. “Wait…the pirate ship is sinking?”

“Yeah, we put a bunch of bombs in the bottom of it.  SILENT bombs, but they worked too.”

I figured what the hell, lets run wih it.  So she’s rowing away, and as the ship is sinking, a figure climbs the mast and leaps into the water. 

“Is it swimming towards me?”

“Yes.”

“I keep rowing.”

“It can’t catch you if you keep rowing.”

“Oh, then I wait for a minute.”

I describe that she can’t quite make out the figure, but it’s certainly swimming towards her.

She says that it’s Cpt. John, and he’s growing mushrooms too, and they’re getting bigger as she’s watching.  She waits till he’s almost at the boat and throws some of the powder on him, because the powder can also get rid of the mushrooms if she really really wants the person infested with them to get better. 

We ended the session with her and Cpt. John rowing towards civilization.

Now!  Dillema: I want my daughter to enjoy D&D as much as possible, but I also want her to stretch herself when faced with a challenge, not just change the story.  Should I let her co-storytell or enforce my right as DM and call her on her Deus Ex Machina of the story?  I’m figuring somewhere in between, but i’d love some advice from you, my handful of readers.

Thirteen Ways to Skin a Monster… #DnD

•November 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Okay, last time we talked about re-skinning powers and keep them balanced.  But what are you going to use those fancy new powers on?

Monsters.

BUT! Those regular old MM1-MM3 monsters won’t cut it for your campaign, and with these new powers they wouldn’t last a second anyways, so let’s beef them up a little bit, shall we?

1. Always Boost Your Damage This makes for a more hard-hitting, scene stealing sort of monster.  Even if it doesn’t hit often, a good solid hit makes your players realize this isn’t an average beastie.  This is also a great way to mod your current monsters on the fly.  Add another die worth of damage before you hit the battle and that 15 minute easy brute battle is suddenly a fight for your life, knock down drag out brawl.

2. Resistances add Character Adding a resistance or a weakness to a monster can change it’s entire nature.  Take away a salamander’s fire resistance and add an acid resistance, and suddenly you have a new race of swamp creatures to populate that living swamp we talked about a few posts back.  Remember, creatures adapt to their environments, so wherever your monster is from, it’s going to be able to live there happily, make their physiology resemble that.

3. Give them some fancy new powers too Your players have new toys, why not your monsters?  In addition to making your monsters have class levels, give them something cool to play with.  Take a good look at what you want them to do.  If you want a really nasty ground-based creature that you’re re-skinning, instead of making it be able to burrow, let it ground-shift, allowing it to dive into the ground and re-appear at a desired place a certain distance away.  This would add some drama and suspense to your game, allowing for serious surprise attacks and ambushes, especially if these beasts can carry a rider or two.

4. Crossbreeding isn’t just for dogs Open your Monster Manual.  Open another book of beasties.  Flip to a random page in each and close your eyes, touching both pages.  Open your eyes.  Make these monsters breed.  It’s how most of the monsters came about in these books anyways.  That or wizards.  You’d be surprised what can happen when you take a pair of random creatures and combine them into one.  Shadow golems, displacer oozes, fungi-infected goblin sappers. The possibilities are nearly endless.

5. Forced Monsters Hypnosis, disease, mind control, implants, hallucinogenics, evil curses.  These can take an ordinary village of peasants or a city full of dwarves and turn them into an overthrowing, hell-bent mass of destructive soldiers.  Worse yet, most true heroes dare not attack the innocent, so you now have a moral dilemma on your hands.   If you don’t want to make your players choose to kill or be killed by tiny people, you can always have the influence change them physically with growths, shadows and other changes.

6. Dr. Frankenstein’s Laboratory Where all those wizards failed and created awful monstrosities to unleash on the world, you shall succeed….In making WORSE monstrosities to unleash on the world.  Think of the best aspects of your favorite monsters and pick and choose.  If you like natural armor, give something bony plates or thick skin.  Fire breath?  Work into its physiology a methane gas pocket and draconic thimble in its throat.  Great bounding leaps?  Make it have big muscular legs.  The MM’s are just a big grocery store of different parts for your monsters.

Now for the fun stuff:  Make your own

7. Start with  a classification Undead, aberration, humanoid, draconic, construct, whatever.  Figure out what base traits you want your monster to have.  If you can’t decide on just one, monsterous is your friend.  A creature of monsterous nature doesn’t specifically HAVE to fall into any one category.  It can combine the traits of an undead and a tanarii, but not enough to be classified as one or the other.  As always, just have fun with it.

A quick chart for random Classifications:

1

Aberration

2

Animal

3

Construct

4

Dragon

5

Elemental

6

Fey

7

Giant

8

Humanoid

9

Magical Beast

10

Monstrous Humanoid

11

Ooze

12

Outsider

13

Plant

14

Undead

15

Vermin

16

Roll twice

17

Roll on Subtype Chart

18-20

Roll again

1

Air

2

Angel

3

Aquatic

4

Archon

5

Augmented

6

Chaotic

7

Cold

8

Earth

9

Evil

10

Fire

11

Goblinoid

12

Good

13

Incorporial

14

Lawful

15

Native

16

Reptilian

17

Shape-changer

18

Swarm

19

Water

20

Roll twice

8. Motive What drives your monster?  Is it a hell-born killing machine that adorns its lair with the bones and skin of its fallen as it drinks their blood?  Or is it a peaceful defender of its territory, only attacking when it feels threatened?  Drive and motive have a LOT of impact on the game, and your players will appreciate (hopefully) the depth it brings to your creatures.

9. Organization Is your creature one of a kind or are there hundreds of them?  Do they have a hierarchy?  A tribe-based, nomadic lifestyle with a rich history and their own creation story? Or is this monster a lone wanderer, the malformed and unwanted composite of a twisted mind and unskilled hand?  Will your players be facing a handful of these beasties or hordes of them? These are very serious questions and also can add a lot of breadth to your monster’s reactions, alignment, and can even open up story lines if you develop it correctly.

10. Appearance Again, this is crucial for your monster’s role in your game.  Is this beast a lumbering hulk or a diminutive spriteling? Scaled, furred, multi-armed, snake bodied?  Is is a taur-like half beast or an airy djinn-breed? The only thing holding you back here is your own imagination.  Likely you’ve thought up a look for your monster before you even got so far as a name, but I’ll lend you a hand with this as well.

1

Colossal

2

Huge

3

Large

4

Medium

5

Small

6

Tiny

7

Diminutive

8

Roll Again

Change up the…

1

Teeth

2

Arms

3

Legs

4

Skin

5

Eyes

6

Torso

7

Hands

8

Feet

9

Add extra (roll again)

10

Take away (roll again)

11. My mom says I’m Special So what sets this creature apart from every other Joe-gnoll down the street?  Does it read minds or project illusions?  Does it particularly like the taste of toes or does it hate the taste of flesh and just enjoy the chaos of visceral carnage?  Try to make your creation stand out as much as possible, even if it’s a new kind of shadowfiend that the players can’t see, make it special for your game.

12. Make it Fit A Great DM tip is to make sure that every encounter moves the plot forward.  While random encounters are part of D&D history and canon, meaningless battles bog down the story and make it take even longer for your dear players to get where they’re going.  Save that awesome new monster you have for a climactic battle over the last piece of the ancient keystone they’re building.  It’ll make the victory even sweeter.


13. Bring it to life
Don’t just have your beastie sit stagnant and doe standard attacks for five rounds before it dies, USE YOUR TACTICS.  Make it think, make it breathe, make it fight for it’s gods damned life! You spent time on this, make it last to the very end.

 

Next time? New Races…

DM tricks….PART II:Revenge of the DM #dnd

•October 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So, a few weeks back I posted a list of DM tricks and tips to help keep things fresh in your game and make things run smoothly.  Now lets see what we can do to help improve your games:

1.Make up a list of random encounters: We’ve all seen the percentile charts for random encounters for terrain before.  It’s nothing new.  But you know all those ideas you have for cool battles and little side-quests that you never got around to putting into a campaign?  Write those bastards down on a list and put them into a chart.  Next time your party is traveling from one town to the next, roll up one of those little side quests like the missing child or cursed gemstone or even that pitfall trap into an ancient ruin could come into play.  Quick, fairly easy quests are great ways to fill time while you’re waiting for the next plot point to click into place.

2. Keep a list of NPC’s and their biographies: A well-built NPC is more like another player when you get them into the game.  Plot hooks, quest information, even sometimes an extra sword-hand for the party, an NPC can be all of these and more.  Always have a notebook with pre-made NPCs on hand so you can drop an interesting character into almost any situation.  Maybe they’re a treasure hunter wounded in that dungeon, with tales of the horrors on the floor below, or a seedy character in the alleyway selling information and green gold.  Think up some lively, interesting characters and give them a story.  Hell, write a short story about them and their life, maybe a couple hundred words about them.  You’ll wind up with some deep, rich characters to put into your world.

3.Props, motherfucker: Even if it’s just a printed map you burned with a lighter, a prop can make a good game GREAT.  When you’re planning a campaign, or even just a little fun scenario, drop by your local thrift or flea market and take a look around.  You can find some really great, wacky stuff for cheap that can take your game to the next level.  If you’re the crafty type, there are literally HUNDREDS of videos, blogs, pamphlets, books and instructables for building scenery and miniature landscapes.  Even easier, blow up your maps, use some glue or spray adhesive and tack them onto cardboard and cut it out into manageable pieces.  In an hour you can have your own set of custom dungeon tiles and your players will be totally wowed by your skill and dedication.

4.Music: A carefully thought out sound track and specifically selected battle or roleplay music can bring your game to life in a way you can’t imagine.  Use an acoustic power-ballad for that dragon fight, celtic bells and nature sounds for the elven forest and Thriller for the approaching zombie horde!  Even just some background music is nice to have while your game is going, be it classical, pop or death-metal depending on your tastes.

5.Monsters with Class Levels:  This is a BIG mistake a lot of first-time DMs make.  When that gnoll general you’re fighting throws down Warlord powers on you to heal and rebuff his troops your players eyes will pop.  That dragon just cast a 7th level Wizard power? Hells yes he did.  Giving your monsters class levels takes them from being just mean and nasty to being deadly and vicious.  A CR 5 monster with three levels as a Fighter is now a CR9 or 10 creature if you play them right.  This means less work for you and more gripping battles for your players.

6.Stick to your guns: Your party just took a wrong turn and are now sliding one by one into a spike-lined, razor edged pit that ends in a sphere of annihilation.  Don’t try to save them from stupidity, even if you really like their characters.  You told them not to go that way, and they did anyways.  Time to roll up new characters and maybe they’ll put their good scores into Intelligence and Wisdom this time.

Reskins made easy Part 1 #dnd

•October 18, 2011 • 5 Comments

Recently I spoke with someone who had a very interesting situation come up in a game; a shield fighter that needed a ranged weapon.  Their DM was kind enough to allow them a throwing shield, and even allowed them to change one of their powers to focus on said throwing shield.  This brought up an interesting question.  Why doesn’t 4th Edition really go too much into the creation of new powers and general game modification?

Perhaps it was assumed that most people picking up the game for the first time either A: would be happy with the product that they had already or B: were old gamers who already knew the ins and outs of making up your own rules.  Now that just doesn’t seem to fit with the general tradition.  Every incarnation of D&D to date has had some form of walkthrough, however basic, that shows you how to make up new stuff.  Traps, spells, monsters, feats, hell even classes and races are laid out fairly simply in the books.  Change a skin tone, add some talons, a few modifier changes and a racial power?  Bam, new PC race.

Now I’ll relent and say that yes, a lot of gamers are new to D&D with 4th Edition, so it’s not exactly their fault that they don’t know how to make up new stuff.  Rules are rules and some people don’t like to break them.  The problem is, you don’t have to break the rules, only bend them till they fit the shape you want them to.  Remember, the core books are only  a guideline.  They aren’t the end-all-be-all, just a jumping point for your world.

So, for your consideration, I’ve worked up a few templates to help you get started:

At Will: These are your every-day, all the time spam button powers.  Make them quick, dirty and devious.  These can be used for simple attack, defense, tactical positioning, you name it.  Much like prestidigitation, the at will power is your ‘anything-you-can-think-of’ power.

Encounter: Your strong powers, something you can do regularly but need a bit of a breather in between.  These are more significant than your at-will abilities and can be some of your more iconic things like fireballs, thrown hammers and tangling vines.  Think of it this way, if it will take your character more than a few seconds to do it, it’s probably an Encounter power.

Daily: These are your big bad mean motherfucker powers.  Calling down fire from the heavens, summoning a legion of skeletons to fight for you, sending out a wave of energy that heals your allies and hurts your enemies: Dailies.  Remember that when you make a daily power it won’t get used very often, since your players always want to save it till they need it, so make it worth using.

Basic creation runs as such:

Power type[Ranged/Melee/Touch/Self]
Action type[Standard/Move/Minor/Free/Opportunity*]
Power Range[Close/Burst/Line/Cone]
Target[Enemy(s)/Self]
Attack[Base attack/Primary Statistic VS Defense**]
Hit[Damage+bonuses (if applicable)/Secondary Effect]
Effect[Whatever you really want to happen]

*Opportunity attacks are great for interrupts and counter attacks
** Defense depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.  AC and Fortitude are more for physical strikes while Will and Reflex are more focused on spells and area affects

Okay, that’s a little rough, but more or less that’s what you start out with when you’re building a power from scratch.  As for damage and effect, of course you’re the one who finally decides how to run those numbers, but to keep it more or less on the level, stick to this chart for damage vs level and class category:

Striker powers:
At Will: 1-5; 1-2W, 5-10; 2-3W, 10-15; 3-4W, 15-20; 4-5W
Encounter: 1-5; 2-4W, 5-10; 3-5W, 10-15; 5-7W, 15-20; 7-9W
Daily: 1-5; 3-4W+effect, 5-10; 5-6W+effect/healing, 10-15; 7-8W+effect(s)/area, 15-20; 9-11W+effect(s)/negative status

Controller powers:
At Will: 1-5; 1W+effect, 5-10; 2W+effect, 10-15; 3W+effect(s), 15-20; 4W+effect(s)
Encounter: 1-5; 2-3W+effect, 5-10; 3-4W+effect(s), 10-15; 5-6W+effect(s), 15-20; 7-8W+effect(s)
Daily: 1-5; 4W+effect/Area, 5-10; 6-8W+effect(s)/area status, 10-15; 8W+effect(s)/area status/negatives, 15-20; 9-12W+effect(s)/negative status

Leader powers:
At Will: 1-5; 1-2W+effect, 5-10; 2-3W+healing, 10-15; 3-4W+effect(s), 15-20; 4W+effect(s)/healing
Encounter: 1-5; 2-4W+effect/tactics, 5-10; 3-4W+effect(s), 10-15; 5-6W+effect(s)/healing, 15-20; 7-9W+effect(s)/healing
Daily: 1-5; 3-4W+boon/effect, 5-10; 5-6W+effect/healing, 10-15; 7-8W+effect(s)/area/healing, 15-20; 8-10W+effect(s)/negative status

Defender powers:
At Will: 1-5; 1-2W+healing, 5-10; 1-3W+healing, 10-15; 2-4W+effect(s)/healing, 15-20; 3-5W+effect(s)/healing
Encounter: 1-5; 2-3W+effect/healing, 5-10; 2-4W+effect(s)/boon, 10-15; 4-5W+effect(s)/healing, 15-20; 6-9W+effect(s)/healing
Daily: 1-5; 2-4W+healing/boon, 5-10; 3-5W+effect/healing, 10-15; 4-7W+effect(s)/area/healing/boon, 15-20; 6-10W+healing/status/effect(s)

Again, kind of rough but it gives a good idea of progression through the levels.  After level 20 things get pretty nuts, so I’ll leave that open for you to decide what fits your campaign and your party.  Play around with making new things up!  You can’t break the game, and you’ll find what you’re good at and what you aren’t good at.  Stretch yourself a bit and see what happens, you might be surprised.

ALSO if you are a player, bring this kind of thing up with your DM, they’re there to make the game fun for everyone.  Sit down and talk about what you want to do and be creative about it.  As a DM myself I love this kind of player driven change to the game and I don’t think any DM I know doesn’t.  Give it a try, you never know when a little change to the game could make it awesome for everyone.

Next time, we skin monsters.