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Author: Jeremiah McCoy

Setting Project: The People of Ballad

Now that I have described humans on Ballad, I think I will tackle the other races. The people of Ballad are pretty diverse. The longer lived races tend to have a large on the 1000 kingdoms. Monarchs who rule for a thousand years with no succession wars just tend to be more of a stabilizing influence. 

That said, the shorter lived races tend to be more numerous and their societies tend to be more dynamic. When you don’t personally remember when the traditions and rules were made, it is sometimes easier to see why you should change them. 

Let’s dig in.

Monsterous Ecologist: The History of the Tarrasque.

I have done intermittent segments for The Tome Show, a long-running D&D podcast. The segments are called the Monsterous Ecologist. I took on the persona of the titled ecologist and I would give a history of the monsters from D&D. I would explore the history of the real world legendary monsters and fiction that inspired the monsters in D&D. I also would track the changes the monsters went through in D&D through the editions.

I had a computer failure which has complicated my further recordings, but I do intend to return to this. If you want to help that project I won’t turn down any contributions.

That said, I did have a friend (C. J. Hunter aka Commander Pulsar) make a suggestion that made a lot of sense. Turn the research I did for these podcasts into blog content as well. I will do that. It gives me a chance to revisit these creatures I like so much.

With that in mind, I present..

Setting Project: Redefining Humanity for Ballad.

This is my second article exploring the world Ballad. I am going to dig into the thing that started me thinking about the setting in the first place. I started with the notion of a setting where humans were rare and treated with distrust. This would not be unlike how Drow or Tieflings were treated in other settings. What would that kind of setting look like? A thread started by my friend Rabbit over on Twitter certainly contributed to that line of thought. 

Before I dig too far in, let me address the history here. 

Setting Project: The world of Ballad

So, I have had a stressful life of late. I distracted myself by coming up with a new campaign world. Some people drink, I apparently come up with fictional worlds. 

Ballad is a high fantasy setting. It is leaning into a lot of mysterious magic rather than the notion of magic like technology that you find in Eberron or Ravnica for instance. I also started with the premise that humans were rare. The assumption in most settings is that humans are the “us” stand-in and not innately magical. They are the neutral default and all other races are alterations on the human base. This is problematic and should be discussed, but I will save that for a different post.

I started thinking about a world where that was not the case. Where all the sentient races were actually magical and the humans were the distrusted rare species. Sort of like how Tieflings and Drow are presented in several other settings.

Once I had that decided, I chose to go ahead and write some world rules. This would help me come up with a vision of what the world would look like. I had a vague notion but I need to define the edges of it.   

Talking about high level play and reasons why it isn’t happening.

So, this was the subject of conversation. Why are people not playing high-level D&D? This was prompted by this post on ENWorld, which was based on stats found on D&D Beyond drawn from users making characters using their tools.

The short version of the analysis is that after 10th level, the number of characters drops off dramatically. The majority of the characters are between 3rd and 6th levels.

This has prompted a bunch of people to put forth their own ideas as to why. Far be it for me to buck a good gaming trend. Here is my list of reasons why people are not making characters for higher-level play.

Removing Monks 2 The Paladin option

So, I am trying this again. Another part of my series of blog posts explaining how you might remove the Monk from D&D and keep some of the playstyle intact. The last post caused a good deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who objected to even the suggestion that there might be a problem with Monks, on a cultural level. I will leave that aside for the moment. I can recognize there are issues with Monks and still love them. I have played them and I have written subclasses for them. I will do so again.

I will instead focus on the purpose of these blog posts. It is a mental exercise. “How do I do a thing?” is reason enough to take on a writing project. In this case, how do I make a version of D&D without Monks, but keeping some of the cooler aspects of monks?

As an additional benefit, all of the subclasses I am writing for this project and other things I am coming up with work just fine in ordinary 5e. Here is my latest entry. Enjoy!

Edit: I am updating the class based on som solid feedback I have received.

Removing Monks

I have written previously about the problems embedded with Monks in D&D. I say that as a guy who has always loved the class. Despite my love, there are some deeply problematic cultural stereotyping embedded in the class. The fact is, they default fiction of the class is a western misunderstanding of East Asian cultures and deeply lacking knowledge of the rich tapestry of martial arts that are found in the world.

I don’t think those original designs, or designers, were coming from a place of hate, maliciousness, or even knowing it was a problem. I think they even meant well. Awareness over the years has improved and now we can recognize the issues. 5th edition D&D did a lot of work to bring a lot of the classic D&D feel into it and the Monk class came along.

So, how do you fix it? could try and rework the theming and naming to make the class a little more culturally neutral. Another option, and one I am going to explore, is just removing the class altogether.

Warlock Patron: Animal Spirits

Warlocks are not evil. This is something that should be said up front. It is tempting to think of them, if not evil, as shady. They make deals. They have pacts which provide them with power. Their patrons are dangerous. Infernal beings are either dangerously chaotic or just trying to gain power at the cost of your soul. Elder horrors from time and space bring only destruction and madness when they enter the world. The Fairy lords are unpredictable and alien enough to think little of the discomfort of mortals. 

It is understandable to think that only evil comes from such deals, but recent additions have helped expand our definitions a bit. Are there some dark elements implied by the naming and themes? Yes.  But they are not required to be. 

I only write that as preamble because people may question the patron I am presenting today. The Animal Spirits are not friendly spirits, of course.  They are the spirits of wild things and care very little for people, but they have no implied moral qualities. When writing this up I was thinking about the stories where witches cut deals where they can become different animals. I was also thinking of Shamans in Shadowrun who often chanel animal spirits to define their magic. It was a soup of ideas that this was born from.  I hope you will find it useful. 

I should also put a John Maynard Keynes joke here…

Warlock Patron: Animal Spirits