May 29, 2017


Notes from the Nails: happy #mermay, y'all!

Sailors were running about, jumpin’ overboard, and screamin' about folks underwater – not just folks: women. I thought it had to be scurvy, or maybe just the heat; we hadn't made landfall in weeks, and it was sure getting' to the men. But then I looked over the bow and saw them for a split second: a trio, a lad and two lasses.
     Their gorgeous, serene shapes glided underwater, a long fish's tail propellin' them forward. Beautiful, incandescent hues danced on their skin as they neared the surface.
     Then, just as suddenly as they arrived, they plunged back down into the depths, and out of sight. We had good tides and saw many other wondrous things on our voyage, but we never did see their like again.
- Zide, human sailor, on spotting merfolk

Merfolk are aquatic humanoids who can be found throughout the seas and oceans of the world. Possessing the upper body of a human (albeit with webbed fingers and fins instead of hair) and the lower body of a fish, they are at home in the water, able to swim faster than most humanoids can run and dive deep in search of food and treasure.

Scattered Tribes
The sea is a dangerous place, filled with predators and hostile peoples such as merrow and sahuagin. Moreover, the technological developments that have helped humans to conquer the lands are not available underwater. All of this means that merfolk society has remained tribal and undeveloped, in small, scattered communities.
     Although there are some merfolk cities, built into easily-defended mazes of rock and coral, there are relatively few locations in the world that are suitable for such development, and little incentive for merfolk to settle in one place. Generally, the tribes are at the mercy of the tides, forced to follow the schools of fish they hunt - or flee the monsters that prey on them.

Hunters and Herders
Merfolk eat fish, both by hunting them in the wild and by herding domesticated ones. Merfolk have selectively bred large, docile fish to use as sources of meat and leather, and the sharks, seals, octopi and seahorses they keep as pets are trained as well as any human's hunting dogs.

Divergent Evolution
One of the great strengths of the merfolk people is their adaptability. Their bodies quickly change in response to changes in their environment, and isolated pockets of merfolk can end up looking completely different from others of their race after just a few generations.

Merfolk Names
Merfolk names sound like waves, rolling off the tongue. Their tribe names, which are usually spoken before given names, generally refer to a great deed done by a historical figure, or else a location that is important or sacred to the tribe.
     Tribe Names. Darkfathom, Deepreach, Lightbringer, Stormbinder, Waveseeker
     Male Names. Allaton, Aniel, Genaho, Hodaton, Kyron, Luniho, Nitono, Tiliel
     Female Names. Anu, Asahi, Callani, Jimani, Kosurai, Oru, Thinahi, Uluyu

Merfolk Traits
Merfolk have the following racial traits:
     Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2.
     Age. Merfolk reach maturity at 16 and can expect to live for 80 or 90 years in optimal conditions.
     Alignment. Merfolk subscribe to a variety of alignments ad worldviews, and there is no universal merfolk culture. A good number tend towards neutrality, focusing only on the survival of themselves and their tribe.
     Size. A merfolk's body length is deceptive, since most of it is tail. On land, they are the same size as humans. Your size is Medium.
     Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet and your base swimming speed is 40 feet. Your tail transforms into a pair of legs while you are on dry land.
     Amphibious. You can breathe normally in either air or water.
     Watery Sanctuary. While you are swimming, you have advantage on saving throws against spells and magical effects.
     Darkvision. Your large eyes are well-adapted to dark and murky waters. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
     Languages. You can speak, read, and write Aquan and Common.
     Subrace. Many different subraces of merfolk exist. Choose either littoral, tropical or pelagic.

Littoral Merfolk
Littoral, or coastal, merfolk live and hunt in the shallow waters near the shores of oceans and seas. Though they rarely stay on dry land for long, these merfolk are the most likely to fraternize with surface-dwellers, bartering for useful tools with rare undersea treasures, like pearls and seashells.
     Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
     Shipwreck Scavenger. You are adept at making do with whatever flotsam and jetsam the tides deliver to you. As an action, you can assemble any simple weapon or piece of adventuring gear whose value is no more than 5 gp out of whatever random junk is lying around. The item falls apart after 1 minute.

Pelagic Merfolk
Often called deep merfolk, the pelagic live in the depths of the ocean, and rarely approach the surface. Their dim scales and large eyes have adapted to the scare sunlight, making them excellent hunters in the dark.
     Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.
     Bioluminescence. You are able to produce a small amount of light using photophores in your skin. As a bonus action, you can activate this ability in order to shed dim light in a 10-foot radius. You can deactivate this ability with a further bonus action.
     Superior Darkvision. Your darkvision has a radius of 120 feet.
     Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

Tropical Merfolk
Making their homes in the warm water around the equator, tropical merfolk are often more lighthearted and colorful (often literally) than their follow merfolk. Their bright, colorful scales serve as a defense mechanism, warning predators that their bodies are poisonous.
     Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 1.
     Venomous Secretions. Your body produces exotic chemicals that help you to survive amongst the vicious predators found in tropical waters. Whenever a creature hits you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction to deal poison damage equal to your Constitution modifier to that creature. If you are swimming, this ability does not cost a reaction.

May 26, 2017

Thought Thief

Roguish Archetype
Comments from the Finger: Found the seed of this gem on my todo list. I do love writing weird rogues.

Thought Thief

Safecrackers can smash padlocks and cave in metal walls, and cat-burglars can make off with jewels by moonlight, without so much as sounding an alarm. But as many a thieves' guild has learned: knowledge is power, and no ordinary thief can steal that directly. Sure, they can plunder papers and scrolls, but many secrets are never written down, locked away within the walls of the mind. A new type of thief is needed for that type of job.
     The archetypal thought thief trains in psychic arts, skills borrowed from mystics and psionic monks, to become deadly psychic assassins, to plumb the minds of others, and, indeed, to steal thoughts. They are an odd bunch, equipping themselves with crystal trinkets, in addition to daggers and thieves' tools. But for the right job, there is no substitute to a skilled thought thief.

May 24, 2017

What Type of DM Are You?

Rocks Fall is back after a brief hiatus with probably our best episode yet. We dig into some common DMing styles and talk a little about the pros and cons of each.

Drop a like, subscribe, and let us know what type of DM you are in the comments!

May 22, 2017

Lady Luck

Otherworldly Patron
Notes from the Nails: how have we not written this already? I bet the dice gods are furious with us...

Lady Luck

Almost every culture in history has believed in the existence of some supernatural force that could influence random events. Whether they represent this as a god, trickster spirit, or innate property of each individual, there has always been a sense of something out there influencing our fates. Sometimes, a gambler with an exceptionally powerful will might come into direct contact with this force, and surrender their soul in exchange for a lifetime of impossibly good luck.

May 19, 2017


Monastic Tradition
Comments from the Finger: Until now, there wasn't a good way of doing Los Tiburon in 5e. (Seriously, this is required reading for all D&D fans.) So, here's some masked wrestler stuff!

Way of the Mask

When you put on your mask, you're not an ordinary, if impossibly handsome, commoner anymore; you're the greatest wrestler the world has ever known. You'll wrestle anyone -- or anything -- that comes within arm's reach. Sometimes you wrestle inanimate objects, just to prove that you can. That one time you wrestled an owlbear? Totally happened. For real.
     People come from all around to get a shot against you, to unmask you and take your championship belt. Women want you, and men want to be you. But above all, everyone wants to beat the champ; too bad no one ever will.

May 17, 2017

Feats for the Incompetent

Notes from the Nails: this one just came to me out of the blue, when one of my players was really hamming up their character's low intelligence score. Hope you like them!

Feats for the Incompetent

As a DM, I feel that a lot of players are missing an opportunity by always relying on their strengths and avoiding their weaknesses: things are often a lot more fun when characters venture out of their comfort zones! So, I thought, why not incentivise players to keep their dump stats low and actually get into situations where they might need to use them?
     Thus, these feats are designed for characters with ability scores below a certain threshold. With all of these feats, if a character temporarily raises an ability score, such as by wearing a Headband of Intellect or drinking a Potion of Giant Strength, the feat ceases to function for the duration, and if the character permanently raises their ability score using an Ability Score Improvement or an item like the Manual of Quickness of Action, they must replace the feat with another that they qualify for.