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!