PowerCards API Script on Roll20 and a YouTube Channel?

So I ran across a Roll20 API script called PowerCards, which lets you create nicely formatted output cards for abilities and attacks. Stuff like this:

I really like this kind of thing, as it add some flare to the game beyond the fairly simply built-in die rolls.

I wanted to add a few features to the script, and the author had long since stopped supporting and updating it, so I contacted him about taking it over. He was agreeable, and I’ve released two updates to the script so far (You can find the current thread at https://app.roll20.net/forum/post/6264588/script-powercards-3-thread-5). A couple of the changes involve a system that lets you specify video and audio effects based on character attributes instead of baking them into your PowerCard macros. That way you can use generic macros and still have customized effects.

This system is hard to describe in text, though, and one of the users in the tread above was looking for a better way to understand it.

So, armed with nothing except my headset and some free software I found online, I started up a youtube channel and recorded a demo. I don’t have a professional mike, and I’ve never done any video recording before, but I think it came out well enough to do the job. You can find my new channel here : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4-KDSu0CE_DRasvXqVKA9g

and the video itself (right now, it’s the only thing on the channel!) is here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwUkdO-F3LQ&t=134s

D&D 5E: Initiative Variation

I DM a bi-weekly D&D 5E game on Roll20.net, and while we are relatively new to the platform, I’ve been refining how I use it with each session. I’d like to do a series of posts about how I use macros and API scripts to run the game, but I need to iron out the kinks first.

In the mean time, I thought I’d talk about initiative. One of the things I like least about playing on a VTT is tracking initiative. Yes, there are tools built into Roll20 to help, but one of the issues I’ve had (both on a VTT and a “meat-space” game) is that usually the NPCs end up acting in a single (or a couple) of initiative points because it is just plain easier to run all of the enemy attacks at once than try to keep track of what could be upwards of 10-15 critters and when they act in the round.

I also feel like long delays can tune players out of the fight. Someone who rolls particularly poorly on their initiative roll might just decide to switch over to another tab and browse the web for a while waiting for their turn, etc. In browsing around, I stumbled across a variation on initiative (not specific to 5E) with a couple of different names, but most commonly called “popcorn initiative”. I really think “hot-potato initiative” might be a better name for it, but essentially it goes like this:

At the beginning of the fight, everyone rolls initiative, applies all of their modifiers, etc (this includes the monsters), but only the highest initiative result matter. Whomever has the highest initiative total takes control of the action. They can take their turn as normal (but they cannot hold their action – holding an action is the same as deciding to not take an action on their turn). When they are finished, they pass the initiative to anyone involved in the fight that hasn’t already taken an action during the round. That could be someone on their side of the fight or someone on the opposing side. After everyone has taken an action, the round ends and the last character to have taken their action decides who acts first in the next round – possibly even themselves.

I created a couple of simple macros using the token-mod API script to help (one marks selected tokens as having taken an action, one marks bonus actions, on marks reactions, and one clears all three of these markers for any selected tokens), and we tried it out in our last session. Overall, I think things went very well. I explained the basics of the system and that there couldn’t be a discussion about who to select next – the acting player needs to promptly pass the initiative. The players initially thought I was nuts.

When the fight started, one of the PCs won the initiative. He unleashed an eldritch blast at one of the enemies and passed the initiative to another player. They were all going to be able to act before the enemy got a chance to do anything! This was great! When the last PC acted, they wanted to pass the initiative back to the first PC. I reminded them that the enemy still needs to take their actions, so they reluctantly selected one of the enemies to act.

I ran through each enemy action, and finished off with a monster that was able to roll out use a special attack that grasped one of the PCs in necrotic vines, requiring a saving throw or inflicting both immobility and necrotic damage. Now that the PCs knew they had identified the most powerful member of their opposition, , they were eager to get back to their turns so they could unleash on it. Except that the apparition selected itself as the first person to act in the next round and attacked the same PC with its necrotic touch-  draining her strength and inflicting additional damage. It choose one of its allies to act next, and the same happened for that ally. When half of the enemy had acted, they choose the PC stuck in the necrotic grasp to act next.

This triggered the necrotic grasp’s effect again – allowing that PC to repeat the saving throw which she again failed, resulting additional necrotic damage. By this point, she was in some serious hit point trouble, was strength-drained, and in a bit of a quandary. If she attacked, she might be able to weaken the apparition – but if the priest didn’t heal her and she failed her next saving throw to escape the grasp, it was possible that the necrotic damage would incapacitate her. She ended up burning her own healing spell on herself – giving the monsters a round without her damage output.

By now, the players realized that, by stacking all of their actions at the beginning of the round, they had potentially allowed each enemy to take two actions before any of the PCs got their second action. I’ve got some fairly sharp players, so right away they understood that they needed to try to ensure that they ended up with one of them going last in each round so they would control the start of the following round. (Obviously incidental chatter isn’t going to be preventable, and really that was one of the points I wanted them to realize anyway). Just as reasonably, they came to a fairly organic conclusion that the healing-domain priest should probably be really close to the end of the round so that she could provide aid if needed (perhaps to two different PCs if the round had been particularly damaging by selecting herself to act first in the following round).

After that, the choices became interesting. If a character was knocked unconscious, was it better to pass the initiative to the healer (or an off-healer) to get them back up, possibly costing the PCs the coveted end-of-the-round spot? How about passing the initiative to an out-of-position player so they can move into a flaking position and gain advantage not only for themselves, but for one of their allies that may have acted before them under the standard initiative system?

We’ve only played with this system once so far, but I really like it. Everyone was focused because you never knew when your turn might come up, and there were actually advantages to being late in the initiative order. I can think of lots of interesting ways to use this system to the advantage of one side or the other (if the players can set up combo attacks, the enemy can too!) I thought there was a LOT less bookkeeping required with this system as well.


Below are the macros I’m currently using to run this system. They require the tokenmod API script – and hence a paid subscription to Roll20:

!token-mod --set statusmarkers|stopwatch

This places the stopwatch marker on the token to indicate they have acted in the round. At the end of the round, all active tokens will have a stopwatch – and of course anyone with a stopwatch can’t be selected as the next to act.

I have two similar macros for bonus actions:

!token-mod --set statusmarkers|fist

and for reactions:

!token-mod --set statusmarkers|screaming

When a round has been completed, I highlight all of the tokens on the board and use:

!token-mod --set statusmarkers|-stopwatch
!token-mod --set statusmarkers|-screaming
!token-mod --set statusmarkers|-fist

To clear these indicators.

I need to make a few refinements – I’m updating my NPC/Monster actions to include setting the “stopwatch” marker after running – why do that as two separate actions. I also need to consider how to handle things that are in effect “until the beginning of your next action” – right now they just aren’t marked and we are mentally tracking them.

Updated Form-Fillable Character Sheets

AD&D 2E Fillable Character SheetI’ve had the opportunity to convert both of my character sheets (AD&D 2E and D&D 5E) to be form-fillable. The AD&D 2E sheet even fills in the various attribute-related columns for you based on attribute scores (It knows if you are using Skills & Powers too!)

The existing versions of the sheets are still available on the RPG Resources page, and here are direct links to download the new fillable versions:


D&D 5E Fillable Character Sheet

Download Old School AD&D 2E Character Sheet - Fillable Version

Download D&D 5E Character Sheet - Form Fillable Version



Old School AD&D 2E Character Sheet

After a (very) short stint with Deadlands, my group decided to go retro and start up a new AD&D 2nd Edition campaign. Of all of the revisions to D&D, 2E is probably my favorite. Sure, it is a little wonky as far as the details are concerned, but everyone in the group is familiar with it. Having just about every supplement ever made for it helps too 🙂

I went digging through some of my old files and located a text file I had created in a DOS text editor about 25 years ago with what I considered to be a nice character sheet for 2E. I used the old DOS line-drawing characters (we didn’t have fancy things like multiple fonts back then!) At some point I had updated it to include the Skills & Powers attributes, though it still works equally well without S&P (which we aren’t using).


I opened the file in Word 2016 and it happily converted it and kept the whole layout. I made a few minor changes to fill the page width and saved it out as a PDF so I could use it for our new game. Also, if I upload it here, I’ll be able to find it again later! 🙂

You can download the PDF here:

Old School AD&D 2E Character Sheet

Cool Kickstarter Projects : Askrias Cube

While browsing through the current gaming-related Kickstarter projects, I came across the Askrias Cube. This is a customizable 6-sided die, that can be used either for rolling random effects or for keeping track of status effects, counters, etc in a game like Magic: The Gathering.


The cube itself is made of two pieces of plastic that snap together, and each face holds an insertable plastic tile. Each tile can be customized with a sticker to represent whatever you wish. The basic pledge comes with two cubes, twenty plastic face inserts, and forty face stickers, available in several different themes.

The project is based in New Zealand, and the $12 NZ pledge works out to about $8 US. Add-ons are available for extra sets, cubes, frames, and sticker sets.


d6xd6rpgBack in July, I posted about an active Kickstarter project by game designer Lester Smith called d6xd6 CORE RPG. The “expected delivery” date on the Kickstarter was December 2014, and on Monday night, Lester delivered on the base version of the game.

Kickstarter backers were sent a link containing a 66-page PDF file of the game rules and the four included sample settings. One of the cool things about d6xd6 RPG (which has since dropped “CORE” from the name) is that it was designed to be easily adaptable to any type of genre and settings.

The full rules for the game are available on the d6xd6.com website, minus the formatting of the PDF book, so go check it out.

I’ve backed several Kickstarter projects, and I’ve got to say that Lester’s was one of the most communicative I’ve been involved in. Every few days there was a new update on progress, and the game is pretty much on schedule (there is an “extended” version of the game still in the works that includes a pile of additional settings based on, and written by, a wide range of authors including Douglas Niles, Andrea K. Höst, and many others.)

I’m looking forward to running this game for a few folks in the near future, as the rules are simple enough to be a good introduction to table-top RPGs.

5E Character Sheet v1.1 Update

We have now had the opportunity to get in a couple of sessions of 5th Edition, and based on those sessions, I have made a few updates to my 5th Edition D&D character sheet, bringing the version number to 1.1. Here are the changes:

  • Rearranged the top-most information box (with class, level, etc) to provide a spot for the archetype your character chooses at 3rd Level
  • Added an area for Inspiration by shrinking the Max Hitpoints field
  • Collapsed the Magical Items table (back page) to a smaller size
  • Added an Attunable Items table (back page) with descriptive text about attunement

This won’t be the final version, of course – especially since the DMG isn’t even out yet! 🙂

The sheet can be found on the RPG Resources page or downloaded directly via this button:

Download D&D 5E Character Sheet

New Section, and D&D 5E Character Sheet PDF

I have a new page in the navigation menu  at the top of the site for RPG-Related resources, and the first of those resources is now available for download.

I have just finished putting together the first version of my own D&D 5E character sheet. This sheet, based loosely on the official Fifth Edition sheet from WoTC, includes a focus on spellcasting, including a paper-clip based spell tracking system borrowed from the original character sheets for the Deadlands RPG.

5E Character Sheet ThumbnailOur 5th Edition game actually starts this weekend, so I will probably end up making a few changes after we get rolling and see how the sheets work out. I’m also open to suggestions from anyone using the sheets as well!


Cool Kickstarter Projects – d6xd6 CORE RPG


I was browsing through the Kickstarter games section last night and stumbled across an interesting little project by Lester Smith. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Smith, he was the co-author of the Planes of Chaos boxed set for TSR’s Planescape setting, and the editor of Gary Gygax’s Dangerous Journeys RPG (and the supporting magazine) – Gygax’s creation after leaving TSR. Mr. Smith has also been involved in TravellerSovereign StoneDeadlands, and a number of other RPG-related projects.

Currently, he is the president of Popcorn Press, producing eBooks and card games. His latest project is a new lite-on-rules RPG called d6xd6 CORE, which is currently in the middle of its Kickstarter campaign.

The character sheet for the CORE RPG fits on a single business card (and in fact, backers of the project at the $9 level and above are receiving a sample as one of the completed stretch goals, and more can be printed on business card paper or ordered as Kickstarter addons). The game adopts a single stat : Focus. The more diversified a character’s skills are, the lower his Focus. The lower a character’s Focus, the harder it is for him to be particularly good at any single thing.

The really interesting thing about the project is that the CORE RPG rules are meant to be easily incorporated into pretty much any setting, and Mr. Smith has worked with a number of authors of popular fiction novels and series to incorporate their settings into the CORE RPG book that will result from the Kickstarter campaign.

As of this  writing, eight settings have been “unlocked” via stretch goals, including the Watershed setting by Douglas Niles (really good books if you  haven’t read them, by the way!) The funding is approaching the unlock point for four more settings, these all being Sci-Fi themed (though all pretty varied under that heading).

Beyond that,  an additional 12 settings are lined up as stretch goals at higher levels, including a 4-setting Horror pack, an urban fantasy pack, and a “laugh pack” consisting of four humorous settings. Additional “secret” packs are also in the works beyond the currently defined stretch goals.

I’m in for the print version 🙂 Hop on over to the Kickstarter campaign and help unlock the additional settings so I can have ’em!

Dungeons and Dragons 5E Rules Released as Free PDF

D&D 5E Logo

The fifth edition of the Dungeons and Dragons rules (sometimes known as D&D Next) have been in development for couple of years now, with a wide-spread “playtest” taking place beginning in May of 2012.

Today saw the official release of those rules, and better still they have been released as free PDF files for everyone to download and enjoy.

The free PDFs, labeled as the D&D Basic Rules, represent the essentials for playing the 5th Edition game. Included are four classes (Cleric, Fighter, Wizard, and Rogue) and four races (Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling). Each of the classes details a single archetype, or subclass, though the introductory text for these sections indicates that there will be a number of these types of archetypes to choose from for each class.

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