Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Castle Crashers

  • Felicia (level 4 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 5 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 5 living star)
  • Locum (level 5 slayer)
  • Mim (level 5 witch w/ familiar)

The last time they had visited the village, the townsfolk were still mostly gathered near the town square, so they weren't too surprised to find the edge dark and silent. They made their way to the center, but found it just as disquieting: had Urik betrayed them, or had they already left while they were away?

Locum tried the door to the inn. It was not only locked, but barred as well. He loudly knocked, and when there was no answer they began devising methods to gain access, most of which included Mim transforming into various animals and either scuttling under the door or flying through the chimney.

Before they could convince her the shutters from one of the windows above them creaked open, and a voice angrily hissed at them to be quiet. It was after all midnight, and the townsfolk had had a pretty rough week or so, what with them slaughtering their own loves ones as they struggled for survival, and then torching the remains out of fear that they'd rise again.

Given their persistence the man was forced to stagger downstairs, unbar the door, and inform the party that the inn was currently at capacity. Though to be fair, given that even the tables and floor space were also occupied it would have been more accurate to say that they were well beyond it's expected capacity.

After a heated exchange—mostly from Locum—and ultimately unfulfilled promises of food and comfort, the party decided to give the church a try. Unfortunately given that the townsfolk had not yet gotten around to disposing of the dead that were still littered about, it was also, well, "at capacity".

Gamamyr tried using his magic to burn it down, determining that even the building was beyond redemption. Someone else must have disagreed with him, as not only did his magic have no affect but his arm burst into flame. While the rest of the party helped put him out Locum gave a tried and true torch a try. Though it likewise failed to catch, he took some comfort in the fact that he also did not.

If they couldn't find sanctuary in the church, then they'd hopefully find luxury in the mayor's house. Or, rather, they might have if any of them actually knew where it was, and after a brush with a merchant's house in which Felicia briefly entertained the idea of her particular definition of "re-supplying", they eventually settled for a cozy, more importantly well-barricaded dwelling with only one way in.

The next day while Gamamyr and Felicia recovered the rest of the party made themselves useful: Kyr helped the blacksmith, Mim offered her services pro-bono as a healer and fortune teller, and Locum gathered both information about Strahd and materials that would be useful against him.

His tour took him by the mayor's house, which caught his attention for two reasons. The first was the look of it: not only did it easily dwarf every other building in the village, including the church, but it's demeanor contrasted greatly from the more rustic houses. The second was the door, which had been cleanly torn from the hinges and discarded nearby. He knew that this was not the work of zombies. Yes, they were strong, but they would have battered their way through it, leaving it in pieces.

Curious, he drew his kurki and slipped inside. Despite the mayor's obvious wealth nothing seemed to have been disturbed, and he couldn't find any signs of a conflict or struggle. He checked all the rooms on the ground floor before heading up stairs. Only one of the doors was locked, probably for a good reason, and figuring that the previous owner was dead or otherwise gone kicked it in.

The room was dark and thick with the stench of death, and when he lit a candle quickly discovered the source: a recently deceased corpse of a man was lying on the bed. He could have been mistaken for sleeping if it weren't for the fact that his throat was torn out. Given that the blankets still covered him and were relatively unstained by blood, he reasoned that whatever had done this had been swift and silent.

Locum checked the rest of the room and found that the window had been nailed shut, and given that the door was locked he concluded that the murderer was probably a vampire, or possibly a werewolf. Even if the door had been sealed after his death, a zombie wouldn't have been so precise (and wouldn't have possessed the mental faculties to lock the door), and a ghoul would have at least eaten part of the corpse.

He severed the head and bagged it: couldn't be too careful, especially when it came to the possibility of having another vampire lurking about. He continued exploring the house and discovered a basement level. There were numerous shelves, trunks, barrels, and even an impressively stocked wine rack. As with the rest of the house nothing seemed out of place, so he snagged four bottles of wine and headed back to their temporary residence.

When Kyr and Mim returned he told everyone what he had done and found. Gamamyr said that while he was out, he had overheard some of the townsfolk murmuring about the mayor's missing daughter. Locum surmised that she might have been part of the attack, and the next day they all decided to stop by and further investigate.

Mim consulted her bones and determined that while there were no hidden passages, there was something hidden on the premises. They again checked the basement, but when they found nothing consoled themselves by loading up Gamamyr's ghost bag with the rest of the wine.

Locum searched the grounds and came across a small tombstone, almost completely concealed by grass. It was plain, bearing only the name Galena. Mim had said that there was something hidden, and since their search inside the house had been fruitless grabbed a shovel and began digging. The casket was small, just large enough to hold a child, but when he opened it was somewhat relieved to find that it contained the skeletal remains of a cat.

A gem-encrusted collar was still wrapped around it's neck, and something was glinting inside it's skull: a silvery disk bearing a raven, with it's wings spread wide. He at the least knew that it was a holy symbol of the Silver Raven, the patron deity of the villagers. He showed it to Gamamyr who, with the help of his magic, was able to learn that it was a potent relic, capable of keeping undead at bay and grant healing powers to whoever wore it.

Convinced that they were still missing something, Locum staked out the house with Mim, but as far as they could tell the night passed uneventfully. Since they still for some reason had the mayor's head on tap, Gamamyr called forth his spirit and asked who had murdered him. Unsurprisingly he replied that Strahd was responsible, and since all of the other signs pointed to his castle they spent the last day preparing for the trek.

After the third day, with Felicia and Gamamyr fully recovered, they loaded up their newly bought wagon, hitched to their newly bought horses, and again left the village. The journey took them past the bases of squat mountains and around the edge of foreboding forests, and after a surprisingly and ominously uneventful hour they arrived at Castle Ravenloft. The drawbridge was lowered, and the doors of the gate were wide open.

It was almost as if they were both expected and invited.

Behind the Scenes
This was kind of a slow session. I honestly didn't think that the players would spend a lot of time exploring the mansion, but at least it wasn't all for naught. As with other parts of the adventure I've changed what the holy symbol does. Or maybe it's the icon? At any rate I wasn't sure they'd actually find the damned thing, not that it's pivotal to the adventure.

Icon of the Silver Raven worn, 0 weight
Anyone of a good alignment that wears the icon can use the cleric's Turn Undead move. They can also use the Cast a Spell move to cast cure light wounds.

There's also another ability, but you have to be a devout worshiper of the Silver Raven for it to kick in. I'm going to keep it a secret in case one of the players decides to actually convert. Currently Mim is using it since she is good and has a decent Wisdom, but given Adam's roleplaying I've allowed him to take paladin moves whenever he wants, so he'll probably end up with it at some point.

The highlight of the session was probably the part where Locum dug up the grave. I tried to play it up like he was digging up a child just to add to the tension, only to have him open it and find a cat's skeleton.

Something Felicia is doing is working with Locum to concoct some kind of substance that would perform a similar function as poison, but work on undead. I'm fine with this as poison can be a big deal for thieves, but most of the things they've fought in this campaign are undead. She just needs to hit 6th-level and snag Alchemist and they'll be good to go.

Finally, tomorrow's the big day: they'll actually be going into the castle. What awaits them, I'm not sure. I know where some things are (like Strahd, muwahahaha), but who knows where they'll go or what they'll do.
December 17, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Playtesting A Really Simple Dungeon Crawl

My oldest loves playing board games, from Super Dungeon Explore to Forbidden Desert to Carcassonne, and my youngest has taken a very keen interest in my minis, dice, and other gaming bits, and even occasionally fires up Chronicles of Mystara despite not having a grasp of the controls (or even the controller).

I figure it's only a matter of time before they want to try out a role-playing game proper, so I've been working on a kind of "really simple dungeon crawl" as sort of a transition game. Something that doesn't have a lot of "math", fiddly bits like feats, or lists of weapons or armor to choose from.

I've been looking to board games like Super Dungeon Explore and Descent, as well as more mechanically simplistic role-playing games like Gamma World and Fright Night for inspiration, and after a several nights of designing and writing we took it for a few playtesting spins.

Before I get into the mechanics I want to go over what the characters look like, as it'll clarify what I'm talking about in terms of gameplay.

For starters you've got four stats (currently): Might, Agility, Intellect, and Willpower. I want to change Willpower to something more "cleric-y" (maybe Discipline?), since right now each stat is keyed to a "classic" archetype: fighters rely on Might, rogues Agility, and wizards use Intellect for their magic. They start at d4, d6, or d8, though maybe at some point I'll make a really focused class that starts with a d10.

Then you've got skills. I'm (also currently) mostly pulling from 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons for this, so you've got stuff like Arcana, Perception, Religion, and Thievery, but there's also Weapon (though I might break it up into Melee and Ranged). Like stats they're also represented by dice, starting at d4 (if you're untrained) or d6 (for default proficiency).

Finally at 1st-level, aside from your default stats and skills, you have one main thing that separates you from everyone else. For example fighters can choose to be way better at shrugging off blows or hacking monsters apart, clerics can choose from a variety of ways to buff others (though there is no healing), rogues are more mobile and have more skills, and wizards can do various things with their magic depending on which school(s) they have access to.

Initially I wanted the character sheet to take up at most a notecard's worth of space, but now I'm thinking of whipping up a kind of digest-sized, trifold layout. Something to give ample space to draw their character, as well as fit graphics of the dice and all of the talents. If there is multiclassing, it would also be nice to have blank space to write in other talents.

The core mechanic of the game is similar to d20 games in that you roll against a target number to see if you succeed or fail. One way it differs is that you don't roll a d20, but two or more dice, add them up, and see if you meet or beat the number. Another difference is that the players roll the dice regardless as to whether they are attacking or defending themselves, and typically are the only ones rolling the dice (though some monsters have random modifiers to their stats).

When you wanna do something you build a dice pool using the relevant stat and skill, so attacking a monster would be Might + Weapon or Agility + Weapon, forcing your way through a door would be Might + Athletics, and hiding would be Agility + Stealth. When it comes to defending your armor determines what die you add to your Might or Agility: no armor is a d4, light armor like leather is a d6, scale armor is a d8, and plate is a d10. Shields just add +1 to your roll.

Some race abilities and talents add more dice, but you always just take the two highest dice (well, I suppose you don't have to if you really don't want to).

Playtest Notes
During the first playtest I gave each monster an Attack and Defense pool of their own, so that you rolled against each other. Unfortunately this caused the first encounter, which only featured two lizardfolk, to drag on for a while. So in the second encounter I reduced their pool a bit, but while this made things go somewhat faster it still dragged for longer than we would have liked.

For the second playtest I gave each monster a static Attack and Defense value, which you rolled against when defending yourself and attacking it respectively. This sped up things quite a bit, and also allowed their party of three (Melissa was handling two characters at once with ease) to tackle nearly twice as many enemies in a much quicker time frame.

Right now monsters look like this:

Lizardfolk Warrior
Attack: 7
Defense: 5
Wounds: 2
Special: Lizardfolk attempting to hide in water add +1d4 to their Difficulty.

So, if you wanna hit him you gotta get a 5 or higher, and if you want to avoid getting hit you're going to need a 7 or higher. He's got two wounds, so it'll take two hits to take him out. The special line is a place to note any noteworthy abilities that the monster has. In this case when the GM determines how hard it is to spot the lizardfolk, it gets an extra tacked on to the 1d4 to the Difficulty.

Other stuff could include:
  • Gains +2 Defense against slashing and piercing weapons (for stuff like skeletons).
  • Takes -4 Defense against silver weapons (therianthropes).
  • Cannot be harmed by non-magical weapons.
  • An ally gains +1d6 to it's Attack.
  • Can make an attack against two adjacent characters.
  • If a character fails it's Defense roll by 2 or more, that character is grabbed until it escapes (Difficulty 9). Until the character escapes, each time the monster takes an action the character automatically suffers a wound.
  • Regains 1 Wound on it's turn.
  • When it inflicts a Wound, the target takes -1d6 to it's next Defense roll.

Just some basic things like that. Mostly I'd want to keep the rank-and-file monsters simple, while leaving more complex stuff to the champions/elites and "boss monsters", like dragons, warlords, sorcerers and the like.

Take the lizardfolk champion for example:

Lizardfolk Champion
Attack: 7
Defense: 7
Wounds: 3
Special: Lizardfolk attempting to hide in water add +1d4 to their Difficulty. When the champion attacks it adds +1d4 to it's Attack.

Better than the typical lizardfolk warrior, but still pretty simple and a bit unpredictable to boot.

Image Dump

December 16, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: Playbooks of the Dead in Print!

You can finally get Playbooks of the Dead in print!

(For those of your that already purchased the pdf and can be contacted via Drivethrurpg, check your email for a discount coupon.)

This is a compilation of the undead playbooks we've written over the course of this year: The Ghoul, The Mummy, The Skeleton, and The Vampire, all assembled and organized into one softcover book (which you still get in pdf format, along with all of the custom letter-sized character sheets).

To be clear, aside from a few pieces of art there's nothing in here that you won't find in the individual playbooks. I just know that many gamers prefer having the book in your hand, and while our playbooks are consistently large enough to qualify for printing we wanted to avoid charging people something like five bucks (plus shipping and handling) just to get one.

If there's enough interest in this, then I could see bundling up more playbooks into one book for printing purposes (so let us know if that's something you'd like to see). Anywho, here are some product images to tantalize you:

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Werewolves of Barovia

  • Felicia (level 4 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 4 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 4 living star)
  • Locum (level 4 slayer)
  • Mim (level 4 witch w/ familiar)

One fane down, two to go.

Since they were close to a forest they decided to tackle that one next. Mind you they weren't sure just how much forest covered Barovia (a lot), but they did pass by a bunch of trees on their way to the village, so they figured that they'd just head east and have Mim consult her bones until they gradually narrowed down it's location.

They slogged their way out of the swamp and into the forest, and after about an hour of meandering between the trees and hacking through through dense foliage they found something, or rather someone: it looked at least humanoid in shape, though it's features were concealed by a heavy fur cloak and wooden mask. It didn't speak or move, but when Gamamyr tried to cast a spell an arrow flew from somewhere within the woods and struck his arm, causing the magic to dissipate.

Kyr shifted his sight, and when he looked around saw that they were surrounded by about a dozen others. He couldn't tell what they were exactly, but they radiated heat so he at least knew they were alive, which thankfully ruled out zombies, ghouls, and vampires. When he relayed this information to everyone else Locum stepped forward. He explained their business, that they meant no one any harm, and asked them to stand aside.

The cloaked figure's only response was to draw a pair of swords.

Locum shook his head, shrugged, and rushed forward, dodging a hail of arrows as he went. He swiped at the masked warrior with his silver kukri, and to his surprise rather than parry his strike the warrior instead stumbled back several steps to avoid it. This told Locum that whatever he was, he was very much afraid of the kukri.

So, probably a werewolf.

Moments later wolves sprang out from the trees from every direction. Kyr began glowing, drawing most of them towards him and giving Gamamyr a convenient target for a fireball: he finished his spell as Kyr was pulled to the ground by them, and in the ensuring explosion of fire blackened, humanoid bones soared past him and clattered against the trees.

So, definitely werewolves.

Apparently they weren't expected this kind of resistance; the warrior froze long enough for Locum to lodge the kukri deep in his chest, killing him, and Gamamyr destroyed the rest of the werewolves as they tried to flee. While Mim helped Gamamyr patch up his arm, Locum claimed the stranger's fur cloak and handed them a black, velvet pouch filled with small rubies: maybe they'd be able to use their magic to make something out of them.

They continued on, and shortly afterwards exited the forest onto the road. Mim took a few minutes to confirm that they were heading in the right direction, and after several more hours of walking and Gamamyr listening for magical energies they came across a clearing. The mist prevented them from determining just how wide it was, but as the sun began to set they could see the silhouette of a great tree growing from a mound.

Felicia decided to scout ahead, but she only made it about halfway across when she spotted two packs of wolves: one was heading directly for the rest of the party, and the other was circling around, presumably to catch them in a pincer attack. Unable to see the party she wouldn't be able to signal them, so she followed the second pack in the hopes that she could get the drop on them, or at least prevent them from getting the drop on everyone else.

The first pack stopped before the party, and the wolf leading the rest told them to leave. Gamamyr explained that they sought an item of power, which they intended to destroy and free them. Alpha Wolf replied that there was no such item, that Strahd drew his power from the land itself. He said that they had felt their work in the swamp, but that their actions had accomplished nothing aside from making Strahd aware of their presence.

Kyr interjected that Strahd was aware of them before that, having sent someone named Urik to try and claim a book they had found in the village. At his mention Alpha Wolf spat on the ground, before grimly stating that they were wasting their time. Locum sarcastically declared that maybe they should just give up to the darkness, but Alpha Wolf cut him off and clarified that they were wasting their time wandering about the wilderness, dabbling in things that they did not understand.

Gamamyr asked them what they should be doing, and if they could help. Alpha Wolf's head hung a bit lower, and after a short pause replied that they could not. Mim explained that it was possible the wolves were magically prevented from even speaking about certain things. She considered hexing them so that they could only speak the truth, but decided against it, as it was also possible that Strahd's curse was much more powerful, and that it would simply kill them.

It was then that they recalled Madam Eva's words: Strahd's book would instruct them not only how to deny him the land's strength, but possibly how to claim it for themselves.

Gamamyr thanked them for what help they were able to provide, and as they turned to leave dozens of wolves came rushing out of the trees and raced towards the mound. Alpha Wolf nodded to them, and watched them as they left.

Night fell well before they reached the edge of the forest. Despite ominous noises, strange sightings, and a lack of suitable ground they were considering making camp when they heard an all too familiar voice. It seemed to echo all about them, and chided them for not leaving back when they had the chance.


Kyr looked about and saw that they were surrounded by what Urik quickly clarified were werewolves, werewolves ready to strike at his command. Confused, Mim said that the werewolves had allowed them to leave unharmed, to which Urik replied that he had taken care of "that one", and punctuated his statement by dropping the head of a grey-haired man into their midst. Presumably it was the head of the one they had spoken to.

Urik then offered them a deal: the book that Gamamyr was carrying in exchange for their lives. This sparked a heated debate as to whether they should give it to him, destroy it, or flee with it. Kyr, Mim, and Gamamyr didn't want any more harm to befall anyone else, and Mim reasoned that they could always retrieve the book later. Locum and Felicia didn't trust him to keep his word, and figured that Strahd would just unleash another undead horde anyway.

Eventually Kyr angrily launched himself into the sky, glowing brightly as he went. He assumed Urik was above them, and intended to fight him while providing illumination for the rest of the party so that they would have a better chance of defending themselves. But, while everyone else watched him take off, Felicia took the opportunity to snatch up the book and flee, using Kyr's light to navigate as best she could between the trees, with the wolves close behind.

Locum pulled out a specially prepared "silver grenade", but as he threw it Gamamyr tackled him, not wanting to cause any undue harm to the werewolves. They both tumbled down a small hill until they collided with a large rock, unsure just how much damage the grenade caused, if any. Mim transformed into a bear and lumbered after the werewolves, but they were both much faster and used to their animal forms, and she was unable to even impede any of them.

Kyr searched the sky for Urik, challenging him to show himself and fight. Urik did appear, albeit behind him, and the force of his strike knocked Kyr back below the treeline. As he recovered he saw Felicia fleeing, but not nearly fast enough to escape the werewolves. Weaving between the trees he flew after her, picking her up and carrying her above the trees away from the werewolves and hopefully putting some distance between them and Urik.

They didn't.

Felicia climbed up and perched on his back, and as she looked about came eye-to-eye with Urik, who was effortlessly matching Kyr's speed while upside down. With some effort she managed to resist his mental commands to hand him the book and tear her gaze away. She shouted a warning to Kyr, but when she tried to pass the book to him Urik lunged at her, throwing her from Kyr's back into the forest far below.

Book in hand, Kyr was igniting his hands to burn it when Urik stopped him. He told him that if he did not relinquish the book, that he would not merely slaughter every man, woman, and child in the region. Instead he would grant them immortality and torture them for all eternity. But, if he did hand it over then no one aside from the party would be harmed.

Kyr contemplated tearing the pages out and scattering them about, if for no other reason than to spite him, but as soon as he started with the first page the book began to scream and bleed. Exhausted and more than a bit shaken he handed it to Urik, who thanked him earnestly and flew away.

The werewolves loped away wordlessly, and the party eventually regrouped. Nothing attacked them as they left the forest and began following the road back to the village, uncertain as to what, if anything, would await them there.

Behind the Scenes
I fucked up where the forest fane is. I was checking the map and saw a location in the woods, and figured that, whelp, that must be the forest fane. Apparently in the original adventure it's the lair of, and I'm not kidding, a "tainted raver nymph". I'm pretty sure tainted and raver are templates from Book of Vile Darkness, but it's been years since I played 3rd Edition so I have no idea anymore.

Side note: fuck 3rd Edition.

Anywho, it's now the spot of the forest fane, as opposed to right next to the vistani camp. Eh, makes more sense since it's out of the way, but I'll keep it in the "usual" spot in the Dungeon World conversion doc.

The Wolf-Mound scene was great: the players really didn't want to fight the werewolves (or even try magically forcing them to help). Luckily they kept talking and—once they realized that they needed Strahd's book in order to properly unchain the land from him—decided to leave and come back later.

It was also fucking awesome to see the very much party divided on what they wanted to do with the book they picked up at the start of the campaign: Locum and Felicia wanted to destroy it (or at least leave with it), while Kyr, Gamamyr, and Mim wanted to hand it over so that Urik would spare Barovia's inhabitants. I'm pretty sure it sparked a few new bonds.

Oh, and it bleeds now. And screams. I dunno why I thought of it, probably something to do with being made from human flesh and all that, but there ya go. I'm hoping to have it play a bigger part in this campaign than it does in the original adventure (which aside from the zombies is nothing, from what I recall).

In the end they did hand it over, but the question remains as to whether Urik will remain true to his word. This is why I called the session where I did, so they wouldn't know if Urik wiped out the village for an entire week. Muwahahahaha...

We're thinking of adding a bit of errata to the living star by reducing it's Radiance pool to 10 (it's normally equal to your Constitution). I'm not sure if Adam has just been playing it safe or they've been making camp too often, but tonight was the first time he actually ran out of Radiance, and he had to spend 6 points for that to happen. So, he wants to run it with a smaller amount to see if he actually has to cannibalize his body for more energy.

Dungeon World: When You Want to Make a Move...

Melissa and I have written quite a few playbookswe still have more in the works, there are six in A Sundered World (so far), I've also written a few adventures, Melissa and I are currently both in the process of writing another one, and we've played a shitload of Dungeon World.

In other words we've written a bunch of moves over the past year or so.

The intention of this post is to give you our move-making process (which overlaps somewhat with creating new classes). This way instead of having to, say, reference a big book of pre-fabbed (and sometimes duplicated) moves in the hopes that it has what you want, or settling for one that's "close enough", you can spend some time thinking and make a move that does precisely what you want.

In addition to essentially getting the move you want every time, the more time you spend actually doing this the faster and better you'll get: case in point The Vampire took a couple weeks from start to finish, and I cranked out a nearly polished psion build over night (so, expect that pretty soon).

Before we get started there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Not every move requires a roll. A lot do, or modify another move, but some just let you do something new without any dice involved.
  • Adding +1 is perfectly fine. No matter what some people will try to shout this down and tell you to do something else, but they're fucking idiots: sometimes just being plain better at doing something than everyone else makes the most sense.
  • Having a defined miss result is also perfectly fine. This is another one I've seen people complain about, but as with a +1 sometimes it just makes sense to have a preset miss result. If it makes you feel better, append "in addition to whatever else the GM says" to your miss result. Even if you don't want to include one, some possible examples for GMs to use can't hurt.
  • Opening up a 12+ option is also perfectly fine. Yet another thing I've seen a couple people whine about. This isn't Apocalypse World, but--for better or worse--a Dungeons & Dragons hack, so creating a few "crit" options is okay in my book (and the book creates a precedence).

Types of Moves
Here's a rundown of the various types of moves:

These moves have no roll, they just constantly do/enable something, or have an effect that takes place whenever the fictional criteria is met. Their "mechanical" effect or impact depends on how easy they are to trigger, if they even require a trigger at all; the fighter's Armored just lets you ignore the clumsy tag when wearing armor; the thief's Halfling move lets you deal +2 damage, but only with ranged weapons; and the paladin's Setup Strike grants a +1d4 damage bonus to an ally, but only after you hack and slash.

Other examples include Make Camp, almost every race move, the bard's A Port in the Storm, the paladin's Quest and Smite, the ranger's Wild Empathy, the thief's Flexible Morals, and the wizard's Ritual.

These modify an existing move, whether it's a Basic, Special, a Starting Move from their class, or an Advanced Move from their class. Generally they fictionally represent that you're more reliable or outright better at that sort of thing. There are several ways to represent this.

The first is to grant some kind of bonus when you do something specific or in certain situations: you could tack on a +1, have a miss count as a 7-9, a 7-9 count as a 10+, or even just make it so that you always get a 10+.

The fighter's Hafling move lets you take +1 when defying danger, but only when your size matters; the cleric's The Scales of Life and Death lets everyone near you take +1 when taking their last breath; and the ranger's Elf has you automatically succeed with a 10+ whenever you undertake a perilous journey through the wilderness.

The important thing is that the trigger is more specific, requires some sort of preceding event, or could affect something afterwards. Like, a move that gives you a +1 forward to hack and slash (Press the Attack), but only when you miss, or a move that lets your hack and slash be an automatic 10+ (Heedless Assault), but the next time you take damage you take +1d6.

Another way to handle it is to change what a 10+, 7-9, and miss means. For example, the paladin's Staunch Defender lets you hold +1 when you use defend, and on a miss you still get 1 (normally you get jack and shit). Similarly the thief's Extremely Cautious, among other things, lets you hold +1 when you use Trap Expert, even on a miss.

Finally, you can open up a 12+ option. These aren't too common, but again many of the classes have at least one so there's a precedent.

The cleric's Greater Empower let's you choose an empowering effect for free (normally it needs a 10+, and bumps it down to a 7-9), fighter's Superior Warrior lets you impress, dismay, or frighten an enemy when you hack and slash, the paladin's Impervious Defender makes it so that the nearest attacker gives you a clear advantage, the ranger's Hunter's Prey lets you ask a question about a monster, the thief's Evasion lets you transcend danger, and the wizard's Highly Logical lets you ask any three questions you want.

Something I've done, but that I don't see in Dungeon World, is opening up new options like allowing you to ask different questions with Discern Realities, spend hold from Defend to do something else, or add more effects to the bard's Arcane Art.

Probably for simplicity reasons these moves are more common than roll-and-hold, but less so than move-modifiers. Given that they are self-contained blocks of rules, they tend to be some of the most complex moves to design and deal with: you make a roll, usually add a stat (or at least some circumstantial modifiers), with a 10+, 7-9, and (sometimes) a miss giving you different results.

This can mean absolute effects, like dealing damage and having your opponent attack you (Hack and Slash), or have you make one or more choices from a list (Volley, the wizard's Cast a Spell, the thief's Backstab). Note that if a move does have you make choices, they can include both good and bad options (and often will), potentially forcing the player to choose what they have to deal with.

There are plenty of examples of this in the book: just crack open the Basic Moves, Special Moves, or flip to any class. If you want an example of a move that uses circumstantial modifiers, check out Recruit.

You make a roll, and hold a variable amount of points depending on how well you roll. Like a roll-and-result move these are self-contained blocks of rules, but where they fictionally differ from roll-and-hold is that the results don't just happen immediately: you instead gain a kind of currency that you can spend on various effects or abilities over a period of time.

From a fictional perspective imagine someone gathering strength or energy (the druid's Shapeshifter), preparing for something (the Bolster basic move), or doing/sustaining something over a period of time (Defend or the thief's Trap Expert).

From a mechanics perspective, roll-and-results do one thing per roll: you hit a monster and deal damage, you avoid an attack, you cast a spell and it does it's thing, or make a deal with someone and they give you or do what you want.

With a roll-and-hold you might be able to do several things per roll: conjure blades of force that you can use to stick someone that gets to close, notice folds in reality that allow you to instantly dart about to evade danger, gradually expel magical energy to create several effects, or wriggle your way into someone's mind, forcing them to obey you for a short period of time.

Make Your Move
So now that you know the types of moves and generally what they're for, it's time to think about your move without considering mechanics at all. Instead, start by imagining how it works from a purely fictional perspective, envisioning as many outcomes—the good and the bad—as you can.

Example: In Melissa's upcoming, as of yet unnamed adventure, she wants a move for when the characters travel through a forest filled with strange animals and fey creatures. The wood seems to twist and change as you walk, with the rare paths never winding the same way twice. Sibilant whispers and songs can be heard, and scintillating lights and dancing shadows can be seen between distant trees and at the edge of your vision.

Usually people eventually make it through the forest, though they don't seem to recall the entire journey, and the amount of time it takes always seems to change. Often fey creatures will play pranks on travelers, and while most are relatively harmless (physically, anyway), there are more malicious denizens that don't seem to understand—or care—about their victims.

There's already a move that tackles traveling through dangerous regions: Undertake a Perilous Journey. The trigger is when you travel through hostile territory, which seems to fit the forest perfectly. The problem is that this isn't just any forest: people rarely exit the same place twice, and the amount of time it can take is anyone's guess.

So right now we're looking at a move-modifier. A blanket -1 would reduce the overall chance of success across the board, which works, but the thing is that no one makes it out when or where they think they should. Plus, there's no shortage of creatures willing to disorient, harm, and hinder their progress. A simple way to emphasize that is to cap results at a 7-9, and with those two tweaks here's the final move:

When you undertake a perilous journey through the forest, take -1 and a 10+ counts as a 7-9.

Potential miss effects include having the characters lose their belongings (whether stolen, vandalized, or traded), have their food spoil, suffer from some kind of curse, owe someone a favor for guiding them out, have their hair shaved off, be addicted to strange mushrooms that they had to eat to survive, and so on.

For another example let's take a look at my Expedition to Castle Ravenloft conversion. Early on when you arrive in the village of Barovia (not sure if that's the name of the village, or if it's just "the village" in Barovia), you run into zombies. But these aren't just any zombies; no, they're plague zombies. Think typical zombie movies, where you get bit, eventually die, and later rise as another zombie.

Now I don't want the characters to slowly die because they get bit once, especially with my group, where miss XP accounts for like half of everything they get. I also don't want the characters to have to roll twice for certain attacks. Think about it: you roll to defy danger, get bit, and then have to make another roll to resist plague. Or you roll to hack and slash, get bit, then have to roll to resist. That's just gonna bog the game down.

Ideally I want something that doesn't need a roll, something that emphasizes that these guys are more dangerous than your average zombie, but without making them too lethal. This is what I came up with:

When you are bitten by a plague zombie, hold 1 plague. Reduce your maximum hit points by the amount of plague you hold.

I could have gone with gaining 1d4 plague, but since plague cannot be recovered by typical items I think that's just way too goddamn much, especially for the 1st-level crowd; 1 plague still adds something, and the more bites you rack up the lower your hit point ceiling gets. This is simple, easy to track, and better emphasizes the danger of these zombies. But, how do you get rid of plague? Whelp, that's where this move comes in:

When you make camp and have plague, roll+CON. ✴On a 10+, reduce your plague by 1d4. ✴On a 7-9, reduce your plague by 1. ✴On a miss, increase your plague by 1.

I kind of cribbed this from the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons disease mechanic, where you make an Endurance check after every long rest to see if you recover or get worse when you're sick. I've used it for fungus zombies in Something Stirs in the Blackscale Brakes, and suffering statues from If These Stones Could Scream to great effect.

Finally, something from There Was a Method to Her Madness. For a variety of reasons I wanted a move for when you encounter a lone prisoner and try to get them to help you out.

At a glance Parley seems like a good start, as leverage could mean simply not killing them, trying to get their sentence reduced later by speaking on their behalf, letting them go free, and/or just staying out of their way. The problem for me is that results just feel too "safe" for my taste: on a 10+ they'll do what you ask if you merely promise to do what they want you to, and on a 7-9 they'll do what you want if they get some concrete assurance.

I think Parley would work if you just want the prisoner to stand down or leave, but if you want them to help you out—or they just can't go anywhere else—then I think the player should be wondering if/when/how this guy is going to betray them. He is after all a criminal: Will he shank you and leave you to die, especially to save his own skin; If you run into other criminals will they be able to convince him that he should be on "their" side; Will he just abandon you when the going gets tough or you let your guard down?

Here's the roll-and-result I have so far:

When you try to convince a prisoner to listen to reason, roll+CHA. ✴On a 10+, choose 3. ✴On a 7-9, choose 2. ✴On a miss, choose 1 in addition to whatever else the GM tells you.
  • The prisoner helps you to the best of his ability.
  • The prisoner won't harm you when an opportunity presents itself.
  • The prisoner won't be swayed by his fellow inmates to abandon or betray you.
  • The prisoner won't flee.

I haven't had anyone take a look at this before, so maybe it could use a tweak or two (or three), or maybe someone has something that would work even better. This is why I also show my stuff to other people (which is always a good idea): to get other opinions and perspectives.

So, if you've got any suggestions or criticisms lemme know in the comments here, or hit me up on G+, Facebook, whatever works for you (they're all in the upper right-hand corner).
December 05, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: Into Halba's Bowels

  • Cheveyo (male scion storm shaman)
  • Devona (female deva infernal pact warlock)
  • Pan Votu (female deva invoker-by-birth)
  • Kresh (male scion dragon-tongue wizard)

We keep meaning to post podcasts of our games, but for some reason the mic only picks up Melissa and myself; everyone else, despite being clearly heard through the speakers, sounds mostly like faint static.

So we decided to try Hangouts on Air, but it didn't record (Melissa and I both checked our Youtube channels and got nothing). Unfortunately this means that you're only going to get...

A Very Abridged Summary
The party traveled to the remains of the ice primordial Halba in search of its heart (or, given its size, a piece of it). Using Devona's ship—which was made of bone and propelled with a hellfire engine, yet another thing I have to add to the book now—they surveyed the corpse for an easy way inside.

They settled on the mouth.

While exploring the interior they fought off a pack of frost wolves (not wolves that breathed ice: these were icy skeletons "clothed" in snow, and could fly about as a torrent of snow and bones), then a kind of Scylla-like amalgamation of great wolf heads and tentacles before having to abandon ship in order to travel deeper inside.

After spending the night near part of the tine of a bident that had impaled Halba (presumably killing it), they fought a piece of the heart (apparently whoever had slain Halba had really good aim), but when Kresh tried to obtain a piece it released a massive chimeric beast...that Cheveyo almost killed with one spirit-charged strike.

After failing to meaningfully harm anyone Kresh—I think, one of the players might correct me though) finished it off with a blast of magical fire, they picked up the heart fragment, and left.

Behind the Scenes
We tried running with the rules as-is again, just to make sure that any issues we previously encountered weren't merely flukes.

Melissa took the invoker for a spin, and while I think it is working as-written it could stand to have the mantra-pool tweaked (namely, have all mantra replenish after you make camp).

I haven't heard anyone complain about the The Skeleton's Bones and Living Star's Radiance mechanic yet (and both have stood the test of several game sessions), so at this point it really just needs to have it's advanced moves refined and it's done.

We want to add in a kind of personality flaw for the spirit ("Trigger" has been suggested), so that when the shaman gets a 7-9 or misses the GM can use it to inform stakes or consequences.

The other big question as to whether the Spirit Magic move should remain roll-and-hold boon, or get shifted to a kind of point pool. Similar to the wizard's Cast a Spell move, you roll+WIS, with 10+ granting you 3 hold, 7-9 granting you 2, and a miss only granting you 1 (in addition to whatever else the GM says). You spend these to gain various benefits, but then have to roll-and-hold again once you run out.

Chris has suggested that when you make camp (or right before, or right after), you perform a ceremony for your spirit that gives it a number of points. Could be a flat value (like 10), could be based on a stat (equal to your Constitution or Wisdom), or could be a combination of both (5+CON). You would still roll and hold, but your limit is based on this pool. So, if you have 10 points, and roll a 10+, you hold 3, reducing your Spirit to 7 until you perform the ceremony again.

Finally, the third option is to just make it a pool of points like the Invoker's Mantra, and have you spend points to do various things (possibly even rolling+points spent).

I like the first two options more, because I don't imagine spirits necessarily always getting along with their shaman, though I suppose a miss could still have it conflict even with the third option.

I haven't posted a preview of the warlock yet, so here we go...

The warlock starts with three moves: Eldritch Blast, What Is They Bidding, and Pact Magic.

Eldritch Blast allows you to unleash unshaped magical energy. It's basically a CHA-based ranged magic attack. Various warlock moves like Empowered Blast and Explosive Blast ups the damage and adds other tags like forceful.

What Is They Bidding lets you communicate with your patron in order to figure out what it wants from you, and while you are acting on it's behalf you gain various benefits (which can include a ship). It's similar to the paladin's Quest, but instead of you deciding, your patron makes you do something, and if you stop doing what it wants then you get penalized.

This works with the debt mechanic, which comes into play with Pact Magic.

Pact Magic currently is a roll-and-hold move, but you also gain a random amount of debt with each use: 1 for a 10+, 1d4 for a 7-9, and 1d6 for a miss. Once your debt equals your Charisma (the entire score, not just the mod), you reset your debt to 0, write a bond reflecting something your patron wants you to do, and take -1 ongoing to use Pact Magic until you resolve it (you also get XP).

It is otherwise similar to the wizard's Cast a Spell move: you spend hold to create a variety of effects like conjuring a minor magical effect (similar in potency to the wizard's cantrip spells), giving you or an ally +1 forward, conjuring magical barriers, or impeding someone.

As last time I'm leaning towards changing it so that you gain debt first, make a roll, and have one of the 7-9 results be that you can gain more debt. Maybe even having the move be a roll+CHA, with the option to gain debt in order to choose an effect from a list, or gaining debt and then rolling+debt gained.

Kresh passed out once, and that was after quite a few spells since fatigue goes away after a short period of time, so I think this could remain as a random number (which would help differentiate it from the warlock). Shane (the player of Kresh) is going to talk with me on Thursday before our Expedition to Castle Ravenloft game, so we'll see what he thought then.
December 02, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

When SJWs & RPGs Collide

Someone in my circles made a post yesterday asking whether anyone felt that what he had said in another post was "wrong". When he mentioned Dungeon World I had a pretty good idea where things were going, but as soon as he mentioned Tim and Tracy I not only knew exactly what was coming next, but also exactly who he was talking about.

Now unless you're on G+ and play Dungeon World you probably have no idea who the hell Tim is. Basically, he's a social justice warrior who has said some astoundingly stupid shit like "every gaming group needs at least one woman", and if you can't find a woman then someone has to play a female character.

Why? Because, and I'm paraphrasing here a bit, "you need to have a woman's perspective in order for the game/world feel truly alive and fun".

Tracy is...somewhat more infamous, but in case you don't know who she is, like Tim she's also a social justice warrior that gets outraged over bizarre shit like Aleena's attire, trying to stop an online woman's convention because they actually wanted to play games, and calling a pornstar a "fucksack".

The original post is made by Tim, which I've archived here. I did this partially because I wanted everyone to be able to easily see it, and partially because both Tracy and Fred Hicks both have me blocked (the SJW MO), so it was the only way to actually see their comments.

Basically, someone asks Tim's character why she's "not in the kitchen and caring for children", he overreacts, and amid all the pity and armchair-support Andrea drops in and, erroneously believing that when a SJW posts a bunch of whiny shit in a public space that it's an invitation to actually talk about it, says that if the character said that then why not run with it?

Mind you Andrea also said that if the player says something like that and actually believes it, that they're "100 years behind the world we are living in". He also admits to not knowing about the session and people, but that if the player's character makes a "misogynist" comment, that his character could take that as a challenge to prove him wrong.

How does Tim respond? He's part of the Manufactured Outrage Brigade, so of course he responds with a wall of text, all caps, so you know he's upset, and that's all that matters: if someone says something that upsets you, then they're in the wrong. Always. What they said, how they said it, context, and other factors? Fuck it: go whine on the internet instead of being an adult and either talking about it or simply shrugging it off.

The entire thread can be summed up as Tim (and most of the rest) wanting people to only act/play the way he wants, Andrea very calmly and politely trying to clarify that he is fine with a variety of playstyles, but thinks that groups should establish up front the general tone and style is ahead of time, Fred Hicks stating that Andrea is "repulsive, simply repulsive" (I know who I'm not supporting anymore), and Tracy Hurley both accusing Andrea of "mansplainin'", as well as things he never even said ("never leave the room").

Really, what Tim needs to do is just make it clear before joining a group is that he has incredibly thin skin, and that anything he perceives as sexist and misogynistic (which can be hard to predict since SJWs like to change up definitions) will make him run to G+ and bitch to the rest of the pseudo activists, eager for fuel to make them feel better about themselves without actually having to do anything.

Honestly? I'm curious what the group thought of him. Tim can be very...abrasive when he thinks you aren't playing the game "right" (i.e., the way he wants). I recall a post in the Dungeon World Tavern where someone was talking about a last breath 7-9 result that Tim didn't agree with: that went on for a while before Adam or Sage came in and said that the other guy wasn't doing anything wrong.

Anywho, Tim says this at some point in the thread:

"Okay people. It is already after 12pm here and as our playstyles don't seem to mix I think I will go now" 

then I was kicked out of the skype call. 
I was going to say "I hope you all have fun and raid the dungeon and stuff." but didn't get to. 

Well yeah...

Hrmm...maybe they were just tired of your shit? When someone says they need to leave and gets immediately booted, that sounds like the actions of someone that's just had enough of you. I know that you've got your little yes-person echo-chamber hug-box going on, eager to show you pictures of kittens and make you feel better after your oh-so traumatic experience, but that's still just one side of the story.

Maybe he expects everyone to just listen and believe?
November 30, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

SJWs & Meaningless Awards (And Games, And Titles)

Maybe it's just the people in my circles, maybe it's the people they have circled—probably a combination of both—but whining about "social justice" without actually doing anything seems to be a pretty popular trend on Google+ well, not nowadays, but for at least the past few months or so.

I've heard that it's even worse on Tumblr, but when I go to Twitter things drastically shift: contrary to the armchair-activist narrative of every single woman ever being oppressed by evil white men, there's no shortage of women, feminists, minorities, and sexualities that don't feel like they're victims in need of special privileges, play games, work on games, and/or support GamerGate.

Ironically, and perhaps hypocritically, I find that it's a handful of men—and sometimes women—telling everyone else what's globally best for women, minorities, and people of other sexualities and gender identities, while at the same time labeling any combination of the above that disagrees with them as deluded, misogynistic (internalized or otherwise), sexist, racist, idiotic, or whatever it takes to dismiss their argument because they have no way of refuting it.

Oh yeah: if you describe yourself as a feminist they'll just say that you aren't really a feminist (by their definition, anyway, which isn't surprising since they like to redefine words like sexism and misogyny as needed), and in some cases might go so far as to state that you don't even exist at all.

If there's anything positive about the pseudo-activist crowd it's that they're occasionally a source of hilarity, like when some of them were desperately trying to prove that half of all viking warriors were women despite the initial report not actually saying that.

These are the kind of "issues" that social justice whiners concoct in order to get their fingers riled up for a frenzy of clicking +1, Like, and Share, sometimes preceded by empty quotes like "This is important": apparently, regardless of the kind of professions and even games that men and women tend to enjoy, there must be an equal number across the board. Well, for the "good" jobs anyway: let the men get shot up over seas, and work in fast food and coal mines.

Less amusing is that this ideology is also infesting tabletop games. Case in point a while back I'd seen a blog post where a woman painted broad strokes about the alleged "barriers" that women face when trying to make it into the game industry, lamenting issues that ranged from having to deal with kids and not having money—because of course those are only problems for women—but also experience and confidence.

The article could be distilled down to a bunch of whining (along with a reference to the gender wage-gap myth and even "the movment that shall not be named"), with no proposed solution other than to pander to her so that she can get her name in a book with as little work as possible.

Unsurprisingly a few white knights jumped at the opportunity to help out this poor, oppressed, and most relevantly lazy woman: I'm sure there aren't other people out there that are much more passionate, qualified, and willing to work, but even if there are they're probably just men, and as we know all men always have it easier and better.

More recently saw a post on Google+, also by a woman, that won an award I've never heard of—and if you think most gamers have no clue what an ENnie is just imagine the fraction of a fraction that might have both heard and care about this one—for designing what I suppose amounts to a game that I'd also never heard of (I did eventually find it, and holy shit it's fucking horrible).

She starts out by gushing about her meaningless, participatory-grade award before going on to state that the reason she used to never think she could be a game designer, was because she didn't know any female game designers. I mean they obviously exist, and she even admits both near the beginning and end of her post that she is aware of that, but because she couldn't name any off the top of her head this somehow makes it is a problem to her.

The real problem is her claim, that representation matters, that if someone with matching genitals—and if not that, then skin color, sexual orientation, physical competence, finances, time, and so on would presumably be the next set of goalposts—hasn't already done what you want to do (or more accurately, if you can't name them off the top of your head), then what hope do you have? Frankly if that's the yardstick you use to determine whether you can do something, or should even try, then the real problems are merely your self-esteem and work ethic.

Unless all you care about is having your name in a book so you can feel good about yourself, the solution isn't to bitch and moan until some misguided individual that is marginally more successful than you throws you a bone, but rather actually put in some work and make something. Yes, it might suck, and it probably will the first few times, but so long as you can accept criticism, refine what you've created, and keep working then that's fine.

There likely are people like her that "write games", though they probably aren't well known because the games they make just aren't fun, or at least aren't as fun as other games out there that are about things like killing monsters and taking their shit. That's not a problem, but the business, which of course means that for her and the rest of the manufactured outrage brigade it is a problem: people outside of their ideological bubble don't like the things they want them to like.

Honestly no one is going to look at a game and write it off because a woman made it. Well, SJWs will if it doesn't match up with their criteria, which is essentially "being made by people they like".

Anywho, she eventually wraps things up by declaring herself a game designer by virtue of designing what I suppose technically counts as a game. Honestly, if this is how you have to appease your ego, to feel like you're pioneering something, then knock yourself out, but the reality is that the title is still meaningless, just like your game and award.

Not just for the majority of gamers, but even for you, as you yourself have fabricated just about the smallest possible hurdle to overcome in order to qualify for a title that you only care about because you consider it to be prestigious. It's like calling yourself a vet because you can identify why your pet is sick and you know how to treat it, or a Python programmer because you know how to write some basic code, or a mechanic because you can fix some issues with your car.
November 29, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: The First Fane

  • Felicia (level 4 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 4 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 4 living star)
  • Locum (level 4 slayer)
  • Mim (level 4 witch w/ familiar)

Gamamyr was bound to the alter by thick vines, and to make matters worse the hag that had abducted him was also holding a knife to his throat. Though she hadn't explicitly said so, it was a safe bet that if they approached she would surely kill him.

Kyr was considering whether his flight would be able close the distance before she could slit his throat, when Locum started muttering something under his breath. He'd only gotten a few words out when the hag's mouth opened, revealing a glowing, crimson eye at the back of her throat.

Locum coughed, fell to the ground, and began painfully retching up brackish water, rotted fish, and other filth. Satisfied that he was incapacitated, the hag motioned about her and asked what had brought them to her "illustrious home".

Mim started to explain that they'd come to destroy Strahd's sources of power, but the hag cut her off mid-sentence, stating that such places could not be destroyed, only...freed. Before Mim could ask her to elaborate Locum fired a crossbow bolt at her, striking the knife from her hand: he'd been aiming for her hand, but that also worked. She idly watched the knife as it went, landing several yards away, and when she turned back Kyr was already flying towards her.

He was almost at the altar when she suddenly leaped over it, at him, stone teeth bared. Her speed was...unexpected for someone that looked so old and frail, but he managed to twist about mid-flight and narrowly evade her. Though his burning hands made short work of the vines, once Gamamyr was freed the bones surrounding the altar clattered and rolled about, stacking upon themselves into a group of five skeletons.

Gamamyr tried rolling off of the altar, but was quickly overwhelmed by the skeletons. They tore at his clothing and flesh until Kyr, heedless of his own safety, managed to pull him free and fling him to safety. The skeletons didn't pursue him, instead focusing on tearing apart Kyr. The hag had stripped him of his possessions—which in all reality probably wouldn't have availed him much—but he still had his magic.

Including fireball.

With the hag's back turned Locum charged towards her, intending to quickly take her out while she was focused on Kyr. As he brought his sword down she whirled about to face him, and instead of moving to avoid the attack simply blocked it with her arm. It cut through her flesh but not the bone, and as the blade slid down the length of her arm there was a loud scratching noise. It sounded like metal and stone, and as the meaty flap of her forearm fell away he realized what it was.

Her bones were made of stone.

Both unconcerned and unhindered by her wound, the hag advanced menacingly towards Locum who, understandably more than a bit fearful of her capabilities at this point, backed away to keep his distance. For all the good it was doing him, at any rate. Mim uttered a curse that sewed her mouth shut; after all if she couldn't open her mouth, then she couldn't use her evil eye, which would give Locum a fighting chance.

The hag tore her lips off.

Mim gasped, Locum hesitated, and then she opened her mouth.

Pain raced through Locum's hand as branches and vines began to sprout from it, forcing it open so that he could no longer hold his sword. Biting back the pain he tried using his other hand to weave a spell, but it washed over her with no effect aside from a faint cloud of steam. Mim looked at him, eyes filled with fright, and fled.

And that was it. He had nothing left. Mim was gone, his sword was gone, not that he could even hold it, and Gamamyr and Kyr had their hands full. The hag loomed over him, mouth still gaping open, hellish eye still staring, and she told him that he would suffer greatly before she permitted him to die.

Then her chest exploded.

At first Locum thought that this might be intentional. After all she didn't seem to mind losing chunks of muscle or tearing her own face off, but then he looked through the hole and saw Mim holding his sword. The blade was still stained with the hag's black blood, he supposed, and one of her poppets was dangling near the tip.

When the hag looked down to inspect the wound, Locum drew his silver kukri and desperately drove it towards her head; she tilted it quickly, caught the blade with her teeth, swallowed it, and enraged turned towards Mim. Mim was in the process of yanking the poppet off so that she could stab it again when she fell to the ground, screaming and writhing in agony as black marks and veins covered her skin.

There were a pair of bright, blinding flashes near the altar, and smoking bones clattered about the hag. When she turned to see what had happened Kyr slammed into her and drove his fist into her mouth. The heat instantly vaporized the eye, and as both her clothes and—mercifully—flesh quickly blackened into ashes the silver kurki tumbled out. When Kyr was done, the only thing that remained was her skeleton.

After Gamamyr and Locum helped rid Mim of the hag's curse, they checked what was left of her remains and discovered that her canine teeth were magical: whoever, well, "wore" them could smile while gazing into reflections to try and glean information. The only problem was that you had to replace your own teeth with them in order to get them to work.

Mim happily volunteered, and after some impromptu surgery they settled in for the night, which aside from a few strange noises and ominous lights thankfully passed by uneventfully.

The following day Gamamyr attuned his sense of hearing to magical energies, again hoping that they were close enough to the Sunblade that he would be able to sense it. Initially there was nothing, but when he approached the ziggurat could hear a faint, sinister tone echoing from within. It sent a chill up his spine; though he wanted nothing more than to get away from it, they had yet to find the Sunblade and were not exactly sure what to do about the whole "place of power".

So, in they went.

The first thing they found didn't do much for their resolve: a pile of bones that had obviously been gnawed on. The heap was so great that they weren't sure if the passage beyond had collapsed, and the bones had just been piled onto the rubble, or if the hag had in fact consumed enough victims to fill up an entire hallway. They decided that the chances of possibly confirming the latter weren't worth it and continued on, but further in wasn't much better.

The chamber was circular and low, with much of the walls covered in roots and vines. A channel of water flowed into a pool that contained several blood-red orbs. They looked like fish eggs, but were the size of a man and inside they could clearly see tremor-worm larva wriggling about. Suspended from the ceiling were several bodies. Their throats had been slit so that their blood could be collected in a wide stone bowl.

Kyr incinerated the eggs, and at Gamamyr's suggestion Locum hacked apart some of the vines and roots that were covering a section of the wall, revealing a passage. They followed the passage, which quickly terminated at a round door made of concentric stone circles. It was covered in glyphs similar to those they had seen on the pillars outside, and there were pegs that allowed the different rings to be rotated.

Assuming it to be some kind of combination lock they tried numerous combinations, but after a lengthy period without success Mim returned to the previous room and gazed into a bowl of blood. She was aware of a presence gazing at her through the reflection as the solution was revealed to her: there was no combination, but a hidden latch in the center of the door.

She returned while everyone else was still busily rotating the door, grabbed part of the snake in the center, and pulled the latch. There was a loud grinding noise, and the door rolled aside to reveal a flight of stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs was another room. Along the edges stood three stone sarcophagi with lids that were carved into abstract representations of alligator, and the center of the room was dominated by a statue. The head was that of an alligator, but the rest looked more or less humanoid. The eyes were large rubies, and it appeared to be sitting on some kind of throne. There were more hanging bodies, but this time their blood was flowing through grooves in the floor that led towards the statue.

The moment Locum stepped into the room the sarcophagi cracked open, and a mummified humanoid stepped of each. Like the statue they had alligator heads—also mummified—but in addition to effortlessly bearing their sarcophagi lids before them as they walked, also wielded flat wooden clubs lined with obsidian blades.

They charged towards Locum, but before they could attack Kyr landed in front of them. The force of the winds that carried him bowled them over, and while they were recovering Gamamyr hurled a fireball at them. The fire incinerated them, but not before they were able to regain their feet and get in a few strikes on Kyr.

Figuring that the blood was somehow "feeding" the statue, and that this was ultimately a bad thing, Locum poured some oil into the grooves and lit it on fire. Once the fire consumed the blood, the statue's eyes flared brightly, it stood up, and the floor shook violently as it lumbered towards them.

Locum and Kyr tried to keep it away from Gamamyr and Mim, but it's sheer size made it difficult to get close, and the fact that it was made of stone allowed it to shrug off most of their attacks. It was also incredibly strong, able to effortlessly swat Locum across the room and pick up Kyr with one of it's hands.

Unable to escape from it's crushing grip, the statue brought Kyr close to it's face. The lower jaw slid open, and he could see that obsidian blades were embedded along the walls of its "throat". He heard the sound of stone grinding, and the blades began to spin. Gamamyr hurled the silver mace into it's mouth, figuring that it might jam up its inner workings. There was a cacophony of clanging metal and shattering glass before it shot back out, shattering against the wall.

Not only was the mace ruined, but the blades were still spinning.

He then tried a fireball, but if it did any damage there was no sign of it, and the statue bit down. Kyr pushed against the statue's mouth while Locum, who was now on top of it's head, pulled. Their combined strength enabled them to pry the jaw open enough for Kyr to escape. He tumbled out of it's mouth and hit the ground hard, but as the statue prepared to crush him underfoot the top part of it's head exploded, revealing a black orb.

Still lying on the ground, Kyr looked up to see Mim angrily stomping on the head of her last poppet, a fragment of stone wedged into its body.

Fortunately it seemed to need its "eyes" head to see, and Locum was able to easily scramble up one of its arms and onto its pulverized head. Up close he could see ghostly faces swirling about within the orb, and figured that it was powering the statue. When he grabbed it he felt agonizing, icy tendrils course through his body, but was able to maintain his grip long enough to wrench it free and throw it to the ground.

Sure enough the statue immediately stopped moving, and when nothing else appeared or animated they examined the room. The "throne" that the statue was sitting on was actually a rune stone that was focusing the energies of the swamp: one of the places of power. Unsure what they were supposed to do they destroyed it: there was no explosion or flash of light, but the glowing runes on it faded, which was hopefully a good sign.

They found some square, golden coins in the sarcophagi, and one of the statue's ruby eyes was still intact. While Locum pried it free, Gamamyr realized that his hearing was still attuned to magic; he could hear what sounded like an out of tune harp faintly strumming from within the statue. Given that no one wanted to crawl into its mouth Mim pulled the poppet in half, and the statue likewise broke apart.

Something glimmered amid the congealed blood, putrified flesh, and shattered bones that poured out: a sword hilt, and only the hilt. The cross-guard was stylized after a raven with it's wings spread, the grip looked to have been wrapped in golden leather, and the pommel was a disk that looked like a sunburst, with a diamond set in the middle.

It was safe to assume that this was the Sunblade, or rather part of it. They wondered where the rest was, if there was more to it, and recalled Eva's words: the sword slept, and it could only be awoken within the bowels of Strahd's castle.

Behind the Scenes
Real quick: The Living Star, the class that Adam has been play(test)ing for the past month or so, is available over on Drivethrurpg now! There are also a few new bundles, including one that contains every single playbook we've ever written.

I'm very proud to say that everything in this session was created on the fly—except for the witch's teeth: I dreamt of them the night before—but it was also very, very tense: on more than one occasion the players didn't think they were going to make it. This was entertaining for me because I could see the monster's hit points, and knew full well that they only needed another hit or two to succeed.

I feel bad for Melissa because she has a history of missing out on cool parts when she leaves the table, usually because I take over for her character. Case in point, the part where she stabs the poppet with Locum's sword: I had her defy danger to avoid the hag (thankfully she rolled a 10+), grab the sword, wipe the poppet across the blade, and then stab it.

(In case you don't have The Witch, poppets are an item that they can use to deal automatic damage. The drawback is that it's a one-use thing and you have to have something belonging to the target. This ended up being so useful that Melissa took Poppet Master as her new move: now when she deals damage with one, she deals more!)

Gamamyr created a bond to learn magic from Mim: once he's resolved it I'm going to just let him take moves from The Witch freely, because the multiclass moves from Dungeon World are stupid. I figure if the players can justify it, just let them take moves from whatever. I let Kyr pick up the fighter's Armored move so that he could wear scale armor, and things are still going juuust fine.

Here's the stats for the fane guardians and the big-ass statue:

Fane Guardians Group, Terrifying
Alligator club (d8 + 2 damage, 1 piercing) 10 HP 3 Armor
Close, Forceful, Messy
Special Qualities: Vulnerable to fire, cursed touch

Bloody Relic Solitary, Large, Construct
Crushing fists (b[2d10] + 3 damage) 20 HP 3 Armor
Reach, Forceful
Special Qualities: Made of stone

  • Shrug off on attack
  • Grab a creature 
  • Devour a grabbed creature
  • Restore itself by drinking blood

Just gotta work on a description, instinct, and moves.

Similarly, here's the start of the hag's teeth:

The Hag's Teeth hand, precise, 2 piercing, implanted, 0 weight

I didn't bother thinking of a move, because honestly I knew they were going to give them to Mim, and since she has a divination move I made it so that if she uses them in a reflecting surface she takes +1 to use Divination. The normal move would probably do something similar to the cleric's Divine Guidance move.

Earlier in the campaign Shane wanted to make a bag that would let Gamamyr hold more stuff. An obvious go-to for this is the bag of holding (Dungeon World, page 333), but I figured that if he wants to make one it should involve some extra-dimensional mojo. Now that they're at a font of power and he has a nifty soul gem, I let him go for something with a similar effect (but different drawbacks):

Ghost Bag haunted, 0 weight
The bag is less of a bag, and more an opening into the land of the dead. Objects placed inside appear within a random crypt or grave somewhere. When you reach across the threshold to find something you stored, roll+WIS. *On a 10+, you find it. *On a 7-9, you retrieve the item but choose 1:
  • A brush with a ghostly spirit drains you: you take -1 forward.
  • Something bit you! Take 1d6 damage.

Melissa wants to make something with the witch's skeleton, namely armor and perhaps a weapon so that she's better at hitting things. We're thinking of having the ribcage be armor that gives her 1 Armor, and something extra against magic, and turning her skull and leg bones into a weapon (the Witch Hammer?) that lets her auto-hex when she hack and slashes with it and gets a 10+.

Image Dump

November 24, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: The Living Star and Various Bundles

We've got several new products today! Well, technically there's one new product plus a few new bundles, but Drivethru still counts them as individual products.

The first is that The Living Star is now on sale (and I'm really fucking proud of this cover). This is yet another strange concept from Melissa that we've been playtesting for about a month now.

She got the idea from a quote by Carl Sagan, that we're all made of star stuff, and just went with it: you're a human (or humanoid, we don't care if you're a dwarf or halfling) that is somehow able to manifest various "star" themed powers, like glowing brightly, superheating your hands so that you can rend metal apart, and fly through the air on solar winds.

The advanced moves let you hurl plasma, zip about at light speed, manipulate metal, and more: all told there are twenty-one of them, with a couple extra that we couldn't fit on the character sheet.

This playbook is a bit cheaper than other stuff we've made because it doesn't have magic items and/or compendium classes, but if you want to pick it up even cheaper we've got a few options for that with a pair of new bundles!

The Awfully Big Playbook II bundle has all of the playbooks we made after the first playbook bundle we made; The Bard, The Living Star, The Spider, and The Vampire.

If you want to get everything, then just snag All of the Playbooks: this has every playbook we've written, plus Playbooks of the Dead since it includes all of our undead books.

If you've got any questions, complaints, suggestions, etc, you can hit me up using those nifty social network icons in the upper right-hand corner.
November 21, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: Class Overhaul

First things first, here are links to the current-enough versions of most of the classes from A Sundered World:

I mentioned at the ass-end of this post that since they're all based around roll-and-hold moves, I was considering changing some of them. Partially because I'd like to see more variety in how they operate, but mostly because I think that there might be better ways to mechanically express what the class does.

I think the battlemind and nomad seem to be fine as is: they both saw some action in the session, and from what I could tell the battlemind was tearing through baddies and soaking damage, while the nomad was zipping about and auto-damaging from a distance.

Adam has mentioned some possible tweaks, like adding a tear currency or something along those lines for teleporting and making attacks: when he shows me his idea, I'll post that and see what people think.

With the shaman I was considering adding a point pool (Spirit?), as I envision the shaman gradually exhausting her spirit as she calls upon it for power. Both Dan and Chris have played this class, and the only complain was how you could get nothing when you called upon it and missed (this has been changed so that you hold 1).

I dunno, maybe the "take -1" option is good enough? If you think the Spirit pool is better suited, should it be based on Wisdom, Constitution, a flat value, or something else?

As for the wizard (and warlock) I was thinking that instead of rolling to hold magic, when you wanna use magic you gain fatigue (or debt in the case of the warlock), roll+INT, and then pick something from a list (similar as to what you do now, you just get the one thing, though).

If I did this I would make a rotes move that lets you perform minor magical feats without gaining fatigue, and just fold evocation and thaumaturgy into one thing, maybe even change moves so that you can gain more fatigue to deal more damage and/or add tags.

Anyway, what do you guys think? Do these sound like better/more fictionally appropriate mechanics for making the classes do what they are supposed to? Do you prefer to roll-and-hold? Do you have something else in mind entirely?


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