Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Soldier Class (5E)

Here's a jotted-down Soldier class, made for jotting down Soldier characters to battle it out as action figures do.

Obviously, it's just a few steps away from being the standard 5E Fighter...while trying to simplify.  In a way.

Found here


HD: d10


Saving throws: Strength and [Dexterity or Constitution]

Armor: All armor, shields

Weapons: Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms, heavy weapons, super heavy weapons

Tools: Land vehicles

Skills:  Two chosen from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, Computers, Demolitions, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival


I'm looking to Dias Ex Machina's Ultramodern5 for guidance here in how to handle the proficiencies of modern warfare.  For one thing, I like the way they break down weapon and vehicle categories.  Also, while I was initially surprised at "all ground vehicles and aircraft" as tool proficiencies for the Grounder, Ultramodern5's Fighter/Soldier class, I eventually realized that it kind of made sense for G.I. Joe-style characters to be able to handle any sort of vehicle thrown at them.  After all, aren't there moments when we just acknowledge, "Oh, yeah, of course Snake Eyes can fly that random plane they found"?  Can't think of any specific moments off the top of my head, but...well, at any rate, I actually did eventually figure this should be dropped back to simply "land vehicles."  But I digress.


Infantry Training:  At 1st level, you treat the effects of exhaustion as one level lower than usual.

Specialty:  You have trained for one specific role above others.  This may be the use of a certain type of weapon or one of a variety of tasks necessary to the successful functioning of an army.  At 2nd level, choose a weapon type (simple, martial, handgun, two-handed small arms, heavy, super heavy) or one combat-related tool and a skill associated with that tool.  You gain those proficiencies.  If you are already proficient, you gain expertise (add twice your proficiency bonus to rolls).

Second Wind, Action Surge:  So, these are basic Fighter features that would seem to easily slot into a warrior type in a miniatures game.  They'll almost certainly be on the Soldier ladder, probably with one of them at 3rd level...but I'm not gonna fence myself in just yet.  Hopefully I'll make a Level 3+ Soldier before long and have to choose.

Found here

More to come soon!  (Note to self: Actually write more soon.)

Friday, February 17, 2023

Elite Athlete Background for 5E

Moving along in knocking out some basic rules that will eventually allow me to play with toy soldiers the way I imagine...

My take on 5E backgrounds, btw, isn't necessarily "by the book"...even though RAW allow for a lot of customization on this front anyway.  The 5E standard seems to be for a background to provide two skill proficiencies, two tool or language proficiencies, a package of starting gear, one bonus feature that enhances roleplay, and tables for generating one or more personality traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws.

I just want to generate backgrounds that are somewhat balanced with this but don't get bogged down in tiny details.  Now, I also understand that the tables for bonds, flaws, etc. are probably what many people like the most about 5E backgrounds - and they're certainly the part that takes the most work to create - but those are details that can easily be trimmed.  And while I LOVE that rules emphasizing roleplaying are so prominent in the 5E core, I have found that all of these character details are more than I actually feel like processing before playing a character for the first time.  Maybe if my group was a "one campaign for years" crew, I would appreciate taking the time to get to know each character using these tables.  However, we jump around enough that I prefer to just allow some character personality traits to emerge in gameplay.

Anyway, all of that is to's my really simple Elite Athlete background to use when playing with toy soldiers:

Elite Athlete

Sport:  ________

Skill Proficiencies:  Athletics + your choice of Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Insight, Perception, Deception, Intimidation, or Performance (based upon the specific sport and position)

Additional Proficiencies:  Weights, ________ Equipment

Feature:  Legend in This Town - You are well-known in the region(s) in which you regularly played while achieving the greatest successes of your sports career.  In this area (which can vary greatly in size depending upon the nature of the competition and the level of success), you are treated as a high-level celebrity, gaining access to anything available for a price to the general public and to many things unavailable even for money.  This includes entrance to clubs, invitations to major events, and the audience of the region's power brokers if you so desire.  Fans and admirers will often offer to buy you drinks in local establishments.  They will also request a lot of photos, autographs, and moments of your time to share their appreciation for you.


Sunday, February 12, 2023

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Wishing a great day to everyone on this most sacred of American holidays!

All this G.I. Joe talk has 80s nostalgia at a high here at Monstrous Matters, so I'm feeling the need to share this gem of Reagan-era Americana...

They're so bad, they know they're good.  With the perspective of almost 40 years both clouding and illuminating things, it seems hard to overstate just how popular that 1985 Chicago Bears team was. 

And of course, on the Joe front, 1986 brought us this unforgettable member of the team...

Images brazenly stolen from out this awesome resource sometime!  (Uh, and seriously, if this thievery is truly bad form, somebody just let me know and I'll adjust things...)

I never actually owned a Fridge figure. Now that I'm 45 and looking to play with a bunch of my 3 3/4" toys again, I wonder if I should correct that. Not sure what class to make him (maybe something that rewards campaign play by increasing the physical stats of other team members in between battles...?), but it shouldn't be too tough to find or quickly jot down a Professional/Elite Athlete background that could cover Joes like the Fridge, Captain Grid-Iron, and Big Lob. Hmm. Coming soon...

Now, Go Birds!

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Let's talk soldiers + expertise in 5E!

As I progress in what sort of feels like an overarching plan that's been in the works for a while...just needing the proper attention paid to it...I'm trying to make my way through these guys...

On the left is the most basic Cobra infantryman.  On the right is the most basic Cobra infantryman.

...along with some others from my childhood that I grabbed from my parents' house last summer. I'd like to have a nice little stock of figures/fodder to play out battles with, and it makes sense for me to start by fixing up some of my old guys.  With (I'm sure) a bit of a nod to the old OCD, I always took pretty good care of my toys as a kid, so while that means I don't have much in the way of stories about tying them to bottle rockets or YOLOing maximum fun out of them in any way, it also means that picking up a kit to replace their O-rings will go a long way toward setting me up with a nice bunch of gamepieces...

The cure

The happy patient

Old vs. new

As far as gaming goes, I'm looking at really streamlined 5E classes that make an action figure skirmish doable without going crazy from number-and-ability-overload.  Now obviously, for the universe of G.I. Joe, the most important class to have is Ninja.

For now, though...I just want a nice, basic Soldier class that can fit most infantrymen, both Cobra and Joe.  And it seems to me that one of the easiest ways to do that is to just make them experts at fighting, at least with certain weapons.  Like how Rogues can have Expertise in thiefy things, it'd be nice to give Soldiers expertise in fighty things.

I'm realizing, though, that there aren't many who seem to think that doubling a proficiency bonus on an attack roll is balanced.  I guess I figured this would be the case; while 5E's designers did an impressive job taking the unification of combat and skill/tool rolls to the next level with proficiency bonuses (and the elimination of basic attack bonuses and skill ranks), excessive combat bonuses can be a tough sell.  Even if they "make sense," it's often easier to avoid them, just in case.  It's just that...well, it kinda seems like the math for fighting and for using skills should work out about the same at this point.

So why is weapon "expertise" (as in double-proficiency) still seemingly off the table?  Is the bounded accuracy of 5E so precise that a few more points can really break it?  Are there just too many other ways to boost attacks that are unavailable for skills and tools?  Is it forbidden just in case?  And is it time we break this rule and finally grant full, proficiency-bonus-doubling expertise for every sort of proficiency?

Maybe not, but I'll probably try.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources

As the battlefield comes into focus, we see a large group of inexplicably colorful foot soldiers advancing on our heroes' headquarters.  Some of them have jetpacks.  Some have laser guns.  All share a rallying cry:





Whatever the specific pronunciation, it sounds maniacal, I can tell you that much.

So, as I'm hoping to get caught up on my own little Terror Drome this weekend, I find myself spending a fair amount of time thinking about an evil(?) organization that serves as a tribute to the "bad guys with fun names" found in countless IPs...but largely these guys...

I think I'm pretty settled on the naming of my take as the Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources.  Or...of course...BADGER.

Note:  There are actually a lot of organizations of this type in fiction, so if I happen to find out that this name is already taken by something prominent - and please feel free to let me know if I'm overlooking one(!) - I may need to switch it up.

Obviously, the most important characteristics of these groups are their iconic logos.  (Sarcasm?  Not sure...)

So, I headed over to to see if I could find something that might come close to fitting the bill.  Choosing hues that diverge from the big C's red and blue (although I really love those as Cobra's default colors), I worked with this awesome badger icon from Caro Asercion:

Adapted from Caro Asercion's original design, used under the CC BY 3.0 license.

Overall, I do kinda like it, although I think it's a little too...cutesy, I guess.

So how would it look on the genuine Cobra articles?  Let's look at one that is both natively violet and among the cooler looking troops in the organization, the good old Techno-Viper.  Applying my next-level Photoshop Paint and PowerPoint skills...

And adding it to the classic Crimson Guard...

Eh, still probably a little too cutesy.  Not sure though.  Any thoughts on adjusting this to suit its purpose, or the best way to start from scratch and generate what I'm looking for?


Oh yeah!  And speaking of huge evil organizations bent on global domination (HARHARHAR), Hasbro has doubled back in a pretty major way in this whole OGL fiasco, eh?  There's a part of me that thinks this series of events has been a real net positive for D&D players.  We got a gentle (less so if you thought your livelihood was going to be affected, but still lacking in conflict overall) reminder that there are limits to what we should expect from friendly agreements with big companies, AND a bunch of 5E rules officially became usable under a Creative Commons license.

And now we still get to watch as the apparent error by Wizards of the Coast inspires creative reactions from some of the best minds in the game.  So, with one big obligatory caveat (that I do recognize that the worries caused by WotC's bungling of this are still impacting many who make a living in RPGs)...that all actually sounds pretty cool to me!  

Monday, January 23, 2023

So how are your year and your dungeon and your open game license going?

Hello friends!  I hope your 2023 is going well!

What a crazy time to be an avid fan of D&D, eh?  (I'm assuming anyone reading this blog knows a thing or two about the recent saga of Hasbro/WotC's plans/attempts to alter the Open Game License, but if not, no worries...I'd recommend throwing some stuff like "new OGL" and "OGL 1.1" and "OGL debacle" into Google and reading a little bit about the storm that's been raging.  You can also check out this Ars Technica article which summarizes some of the details.)

And now, my long-awaited* response to the fiasco:

So, I get to say this from the privileged perspective of not having my livelihood rely upon the actions of a soulless corporation, but it's difficult to not be entertained by the magnitude of the misstep Hasbro has taken in this whole thing.  I mean...they were on top of the world with D&D.  Big industry leader again after the previous misstep that was Fourth Edition...recognizable and arguably "cool" in modern pop culture...big-$$$ movie on the way.  And then they drop a bomb that alienates a LOT of their biggest customers and supporters.  It's remarkable, really, and while I hate to just jump in the boat with folks who can't wait to say "the damage is done"...there probably is some amount of damage here that simply can't be recovered without some drastic steps (that WotC is unlikely to take).

I still love many aspects of the core D&D experience, Magic: The Gathering is still probably my favorite game ever, and I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about gaming with G.I. Joe Hasbro is almost sure to keep getting some portion of my disposable income.  BUT now we've seen that putting too much faith in the corporate overseers opens us up to having the rug pulled out when we aren't expecting it.  Even if WotC makes everything "right," what happens in another 20-something years when there are different head honchos making decisions, who want to revisit some legalese and see if they can squeeze a few more bucks out of the property?  We, as players, do own the D&D experience, but this was a nice reminder that we don't own Dungeons & Dragons the trademark.

And I guess that's okay.  I do hope that the publishers who have quite understandably depended upon the OGL are able to weather this, and who knows, maybe come out stronger on the other side.  One positive from my perspective: The shift to Creative Commons licensing for some of the core D&D rules seems like an "about time" sort of change, and while I understand that, legally, it may change nothing, it is a nice result of this.  I mean...I think.


So, how's your Dungeon23 going?  To the surprise of no one, I've already fallen behind on more than one occasion, but I do actually have something in the works!  Here's the first day, and then first full week (as laid out in the planner I'm using):

The plan is for this to be a headquarters for a Cobra-style organization that serves as the villain for a fantastical military setting.  I'm thinking maybe the Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources.  And this is their version of the Terror Drome.  Like I said, I've been thinking a LOT about gaming with G.I. Joe figures, and this is playing into that effort.  Hope to share more soon!  (That "more" will include subsequent weeks of my Dungeon23 work...once I finish some more...)

Until then...well, every time I think of the words "Terror Drome," I'm reminded of this fantastic Funny or Die video, which I first saw at my bachelor party at Con Nooga in 2011.  So well done...

Would love to converse regarding the OGL and your Dungeon23 project if you feel like it!  Talk to y'all soon!

* By my mother

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Happy 2023!!

Wishing the happiest of new years to all who come across my scribbles and thoughts.  May your goals be realized and...heck, why not have your dreams come true, as well?

Hoping to be a bit more active on here this year.  At the very least, perhaps that will be influenced by the fact that I'm IN on #Dungeon23...

DG baby...

My inspiration looks something like this:

From here...

Best of luck to all you fellow D23ers!  And Happy New Year to all!