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Basic Essentials #1

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Our next mini pack is going to be aimed at filling up a DM’s roster of minis. We’re calling it “Basic Essentials,” and it’ll be the core monsters that are needed to flesh out the sort of stock medieval fantasy setting that most TTRPGs try to exist in – that weird gray space between the Brothers Grimm & JRR Tolkien.

We want the paper minis to look cartoony but able to be taken seriously; think of the way Dragon Prince or Kipo make their target audiences feel, and then imagine that Zach & I were trying to give you the tools to help create that feeling at your table.

That’s not to say these minis are going to look like those shows; I’m only talking about feeling. For instance, here’s a Hobgoblin.

Getting the “Serious Cartoon” look down right can be pretty difficult, and it’s a winding road full of dead ends. This is why we take so long between minis. The unified feeling across each mini is just as important to us as the mini being easily discerned in print at a table, as well as – you know – looking good. For example, here’s the wild journey we took on a Kobold design.

These experiments with shape, posture, and attitude led us to a Kobold that we didn’t actually like. That Kobold is dead to us. Mostly because we decided that it felt too much like a stock, standard goblin in lizard form.

Speaking of stock, standard goblins, no pack called Basic Essentials would be complete without at least one of those.

Again, this design is basically dead to us. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t unique. We’re aiming for helping a fantasy world feel unique. A good fantasy world has familiar tropes alongside of new ones. There’s nothing wrong with hordes of tiny, expendable, high-pitched monsters that all look the same – but we want our tiny, expendable, high-pitched monsters that all look the same to also look like they belong to a unique fantasy world.

And, naturally, I’m not going to includes a bunch of discarded designs without showing off they finally led to – a goblin & kobold that we’re proud of.

These cuties are definitely going into the Basic Essentials pack. Here’s a sneak peek of their final forms:

Goblin & Kobold Front Paper Mini Art – By Zach Stoppel

Lost Minis of Phandelver 2.0

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So, Zach and I are going to start back on making paper minis, but on a more relaxed schedule and with some more wiggle room about how we do it. Before we started in any public sort of way, however, we wanted to bring our most popular pack up-to-date. My previous blog post outlined how we’re doing this, but by the time you read this, the new version will be live and you’ll just be able to check out the new version yourself.

The long and short of the update is that it has:

  1. New hero skins
  2. New easy-to-cut layout
  3. New version of the file with high quality backgrounds
  4. New tokens for online play

On another kinda confusing note – without much warning at all, my store stopped working and I had to rebuild it. So those of you who bought this file on the old TC store won’t be able to go pick up the new version very easily. This is 100% not my intention. If you bought the old Minis and want the update, tweet me @yesthievescan and I’ll make sure you get the updates. I’m doing this on the honor system, so don’t worry about providing a proof-of-purchase. I’m not convinced the old system was actually giving those anyway.

The new store is going to be on Gumroad. We have to give them a small cut of each purchase (5%, which is WAY better than the DM guild, which keeps 50%) but I also never have to worry about whether or not the store will work.

The product should load immediately above this text. If it doesn’t, check this link: https://gumroad.com/l/oLAyj

Remaking the Lost Minis of Phandelver

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By far, the most popular thing we’ve made is a set of paper minis for the D&D 5e starter kit, which comes with the adventure “The Lost Mines of Phandelver.” I’ve learned a lot about papercraft since we made that pack, and I wanted to drag it into 2020.

For the most part, this update seeks to make the file easier to print and cut, correct a few errors in the old file, and to make the overall presentation of the product a touch more professional and polished.

The new update will have 4 versions of the file as well as tokens for online use. The three versions are:

Color Minis with a Background

These are ideal for people with cutting machines (I have a Cricut, so it’ll be designed with the Cricut in mind). The background brings the paper minis up to a quality on par with any expensive board-game you’ve seen in the past decade (provided you print them on a heavy, one-sided glossy cardstock.) Machines can cut them out very easily, and human hands with scissors can do the same, but slower. If you don’t have a steady hand, these will be very easy to assemble and will look great on the table.

Color Minis Without a Background

These are for people who enjoy hand-crafting a bit more and want game pieces to have a distinctive silhouette. I don’t recommend them for machine cutting (it’s possible but problematic). This has a subversion with cut-lines so that users can leave a white border around the art if they like that; the guidelines help keep that border an even size across the entire set of minis.

Version 2 Shown Here Are Not Final Designs

Black & White Minis

These are for people who want minis but for one reason or another don’t want to print in color. Perhaps you want to color them yourself; perhaps you don’t have access to a color printer; perhaps you’re putting a game together very, very quickly; perhaps you want to be able to swap out colored for uncolored depending on light levels. Whatever the case, these are here and they’re just as visually appealing as the colored minis.

New Hero Art

We’re generally not in the business of trying to keep up with the endless iterations possible for player-character art, but since the Starter Pack comes with premade heroes, we originally included artwork for them. But we also worked in a massive blind spot, and made all of them the same skin color – white. We’re working on adding POC heroes to the (somewhat limited) roster of the kit’s premade heroes.

Feed Drop

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Hey everyone,

This week, Thieves Can’t is doing a feed drop. Zach and I are retreating into our holes and working quietly – among other things.

The protests are ongoing and important – and are making important progress. Pressure that originated from these protests is already forcing city councils and other government institutions to make important concessions about how police forces are organized and managed in the US. It’s progress, but it’s not enough.

In solidarity with the ongoing protests, Thieves Can’t is dropping its feed to highlight the hard work of Black creators. We’ll see you next Monday with part 2 of Starfall. In the meantime, we’ll be showcasing some of our favorite Black artists from various genres & media.

Extra Attack Rules for Social Distancing D&D 5e

Extra Attack Rules for Social Distancing D&D 5e published on 6 Comments on Extra Attack Rules for Social Distancing D&D 5e

Extra Attack can be kind of a bummer for a table that doesn’t have blistering fast combat, especially over microphones as compared to a meatspace table. Here are some rules changes that bring martial classes’ action economy in-line with other classes (so that they don’t dominate the table during combat), while also not screwing them over.

This has always been a potential problem (listening to a fighter attack 3 times, Action Surge, and then use a bonus action can be excruciating for a wizard who is going to cast fire bolt, potentially miss, and be done for the round), but now that we’re all learning to play this game over microphones and headsets, it has become exacerbated. We don’t want our parenthetical wizard to retreat into Facebook during a D&D session, so we want to get to her turn quickly and keep everyone else’s turn to roughly the same action economy.

While there are spells that do the same thing, this article is going to focus on the Attack action, simply because that comes up far, far more often. If spells like Haste are causing problems at your table, feel free to use these rules as a baseline for adjustment. For example, Eldritch Blast can come up exactly as often as weapon attacks, so these rules can also be used to alter that spell.

Remember, we’re not balancing for power here, nor are we attempting to nerf martial classes – we’re balancing primarily for the attention spans of people who picked classes that don’t get the Extra Attack feature. The power dynamic of classes will change if you use this, and that’s not avoidable – but I’d rather have martial classes feel different than have someone drop out because they are incredibly bored. There is no reason to make social distancing and isolation worse than they already are.

Extra Attack Power Attack

Extra Attack has been replaced with the Power Attack feature. Power Attacks do the same amount of damage as hitting multiple times. If you could attack twice before, your weapon now rolls twice the attack dice. Putting this into the Rules Language of the game would look something like this:

Power Attack

Beginning at 5th Level, you can roll damage dice for your weapon attacks twice, instead of once, whenever you make a successful Weapon Attack. Multiply your damage modifier for this attack by 2.

The number of extra damage dice increases to 3 when you reach 11th level in this class, and to 4 when you reach 20th level in this class. You also multiply your damage modifier by 3 and 4, respectively.

Extra Attack Sweeping Attack

Martial classes shouldn’t lose their ability to spread their damage out, so let’s also give them a feature that lets them do damage automatically. Our goal is to keep them rolling dice a maximum of two times – one d20, and on a success, damage dice.

So let them apply their damage roll to multiple enemies instead of rolling double the dice. If they have one extra attack, they can damage one extra enemy in range, and so one.

Here’s what that might look like in game language.

Sweeping Attack

Beginning at 5th Level, instead of making a Power Attack, you can damage multiple enemies in range of your weapon. On a successful weapon attack, roll damage one time, and without multiplying your damage modifier. You can apply that same damage to another enemy in range.

The number extra enemies who take this damage increases to 3 when you reach 11th level in this class and to 4 when you reach 20th level in this class.

Rogues

Now that we’ve messed with fighters, though, they feel an awful lot like rogues. If you have a rogue at your table, and either the rogue or the fighter dislikes this, consider giving this feature to the rogue so that they feel different and have a fun button to press every so often.

Sneak Attack Points

Beginning at 1st level, you can use your sharp wits and quit reflexes to turn a bad situation to your favor.

You have Sneak Attack points equal to your Dexterity Modifier (or optionally, your Charisma for Swashbucklers, Intelligence for Masterminds, and Wisdom for Inquisitives). When you make a weapon attack with a Finesse Weapon or a Ranged Weapon, you can spend a Sneak Attack point to automatically score a critical hit. You can use a Sneak Attack point any time after you’ve rolled to make a Weapon Attack, but before you know the result of the roll.

Your critical hits automatically deal your Sneak Attack damage dice, mentioned in your core class feature, which are doubled by the critical hit.

You regain your Sneak Attack points at the end of a Long Rest, or by spending inspiration to regain 1 Sneak Attack point.

Your Sneak Attack feature is otherwise unchanged.

Are rogues going to blow up dragons with this feature? Yes. But does it feel different from a fighter with a squished action economy? Also yes, and that’s all we’re adjusting for here.

Stay safe out there, friends. Keep calm, and do fuck all.

Ch-ch-changes (to how we write)

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Let me tell you about our normal writing process – how the pork intestines of D&D turns into the breakfast sausage of our comics.

Zach and I play separate games of D&D. He plays with his friends and I play with mine. Then we talk about D&D and what made it funny, and then one of us (usually me) distills that down into a rough script. We go back and forth on the script until we like it. Then Zach draws it, I letter it, and it’s done.

I want to step the writing quality up and that means a change in process. We are building a module out of which we will both play D&D and write our scripts, so that rather than an amalgamation of TTRPG experiences. We are taking a small hiatus to build up the world around our new space-fairing heroes and release it as both comics and as a playable adventure.

See you soon!

Patreon Changes

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We are shifting gears on Patreon again, as Masterwork comes closer to being a final product and after we saw the reception to our paper minis.

Free Splatbooks will still be a thing, but they’re going to be a community unlocked feature. I am still working on the mechanics of this, but essentially, our Patreon community will have the keys to making various splatbooks free for everyone else. The goal here is to avoid PWYW (because, ironically, it costs money to set up that way on my store, and the DM Guild / DriveThru RPG get half of everything if we use them) without gate-keeping all of our content. The hope is that it’ll feel more like our general readers are getting gifts from our supporters. The splatbooks are going to start featuring more maps and modules, too, with an emphasis on custom monsters and items. And while it’ll remain 5e focused, I am definitely going to experiment with making these things usable with, or at least friendly to Pathfinder 2E.

The big focus on Patreon though is going to be Paper Minis. It’ll be the ONLY place you can get the black & white versions, the source files, and community-created minis.

Speaking of Minis, the votes are in from our delightful crew, and we’re going to start making a gigantic pack of paper minis to go with The Dragon Heist module. Look for updates soon.

In the meantime, here are our new tiers:

Black & White Paper Minis. – $1
Discord, Splat Books, and a Voice in What We Do – $3
Color Paper Minis as we release them. – $5
Access to Source Files. – $10
A custom Paper Mini Every Month – $15

Masterwork Update

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Masterwork is with Lynn for editing, and with some testers for sanity checks. I’m pumped.

Let me tell you a bit about the system, which is the first part of my own RPG that is being sort of… grown out of 5e.

The 5e works right now, players pick their weapon from a list of somewhat limited options, and then usually stick with that weapon until such time as they find a magic version of it.

In Masterwork, there are three tiers of weapons, with each tier capable of dealing more damage and having various collected effects. The tiers should sound a bit familiar: simple, martial, and specialized. These represent how many properties (which we call Mechanics Tags) each weapon can have and the size of the damage die, with specialized weapons getting the best of both worlds.

Separate from Mechanics Tags are the weapon’s intrinsic Style Tag, which determines damage type and the stat used to attack and damage enemies. These most drastically affect gish classes, with kensai monks and hexblade warlocks getting the shorter end of the stick, so Masterwork is shipping with some special rules adjustments to help them out.

This tag system lets players and DMs build custom weapons that don’t exist in the PHB and that aren’t necessarily well-represented by the items that exist. It also allows players to create objectives for their equipment as a form of character progression, and gives them a way of quickly expressing their desires to crafter NPCs should they decide to commission a weapon.

This is necessarily a bit crunchier of a system for managing equipment than D&D 5e players are perhaps used to, so it’ll also come with some printable tools for helping players keep track of their equipment and what it does.

In the Darkness

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A figure is blinded by a bright light. The title reads: "The Arcana Check Presents: In The Darkness: Intuitive Vision Rules for D&D 5e."

Vision rules in 5e are often time-consuming to implement on the fly. Lights stretch out to x-number of feet in multiple states of brightness, and the areas revealed are changed as people move their characters. This is fantastic for a computer game – or as a feature of certain online tabletop environments – but in person, the distances that characters can see are often best-guessed, ignored completely, or worse, counted out one tile at a time during a disagreement about the rules.

This document tries to make the vision rules more intuitive by removing the need for distance calculations as well as seeking to be more inclusive by having the key-word for detecting creatures and objects being to sense.

Grab the PDF on the Thieves Can’t Patreon, or on the DM guild.