Trick-or-Treat: The Witching Hour(s)

Hopefully you've had your fill of The Ghoul, because now that it has slunk away it's The Witch's turn on our Trick-or-Treat sale!

Melissa ended up doing a lot of research on witches in order to get a list of moves. From there we parsed out the ones that we felt every witch should have (or I guess need to do witch-y things), used the best of the rest as advanced moves, and we think it does a great job of evoking a kind witch that is more inline with its mythological roots.

You can try to foretell the future in a variety of ways (there are a lot of types of divination out there), curse people 'til the sun comes up (though it might rebound on you or an ally, or you will have to give them an easy escape clause), create healing items, brew potions, create magic items, and with the right materials and preparation invoke powerful, longer-lasting spells.

The advanced moves let you help your allies recover faster, make healing items on the go, speak with the spirits of the dead, inflict more grievous harm on people using poppets (and even animate their corpses if you kill them), transform into an animal, gain a helpful familiar, get better results out of divination if you chop up an animal, stir up a storm, and more.

In addition there is some new equipment, twenty magic items (including a lot of stuff on flying brooms), and as with other playbooks there is a section in the back that elaborates on the fiction behind some of the moves (particularly the thaumaturgy move) and our design decisions.

As a sidenote, Drivethrurpg is running their own Halloween sale, so if The Witch doesn't spellbind you (or you already have it), there are some other goodies up for grabs!
October 29, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: A Vampire in Wolf's Clothing

Cast
  • Felicia (level 2 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 2 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 2 living star)
  • Mim (level 2 witch w/ familiar)

Summary
In the wake of their victory, Kyr and Mim discovered both that at some Rook had vanished without a trace, and Klaus had succumbed to his wounds. Well, with the source of the undead plague stopped he wouldn't be coming back.

Hopefully. At any rate, the church was a more fitting resting place than a street or someone else's house.

Kyr gathered up his weapons and armor; Klaus wasn't going to need them, and he could use them as a supply of nourishment or simply for backup. Once they'd searched the rooms for anything worthwhile, they opened the door and were relieved to see—in what meager sunlight that pierced the mist—the (un)lifeless corpses littered about the streets.

As they descended the church's front steps, Petru revealed himself from some nearby bushes. Wounded and thoroughly exhausted they asked him to take them to an inn. He objected, insisting that they had to get out of Barovia while the sun was up. They told him that they were going to stop Strahd one way or another, and that he was welcome to go his own way.

With no money, possessions, or capability to defend himself, Petru had no choice but to tag along. He lead them to the town square, only to find that the street leading there had been barricaded. They approached the barricade, and Kyr shouted out a greeting. A women responded, asking who they were, to which Kyr replied that they were the ones responsible for stopping the undead. She thanked them, but said that unfortunately they would have to make it over the barricade on their own.

Kyr picked up Mim and clumsily vaulted over, and when he landed saw the woman that had spoken: she was clad both in a layer of armor and filth, and a golden disk featuring a sunburst hung from her neck; one of her arms was wrapped in bandages that had been stained red and black; her shoulder-length blonde hair was filthy and disheveled; finally, aside from the dark circles under her eyes, her skin was an almost sickly pale.

She shook his hand with her one good arm, introduced herself as Ashlyn, and thanked them again. When Kyr asked if there was a place they could stay, she motioned at a tavern and said that whatever floor space they could find was the best hospitality they could offer.

Kyr told her of their intention to destroy Strahd, and asked her about the location of the castle. Ashlyn laughed humorlessly at this, and directed him to the road that would take them straight there; they simply had to take the left path when they arrived at a fork. When he asked if there was a way to sneak inside, she dourly told him that no one that has ventured into the castle has returned.

As Kyr turned to leave she bitterly told him that the vistani might be able to help, and that they were camped at the Tser Pool. All they had to do was follow the same road and take a right at the fork.

Kyr nodded, thanked her for her help, and with Mim close behind they entered the tavern. Inside they were overwhelmed by a smell that was only marginally more tolerable than the rotting corpses: there were a lot of people cooped up inside, a lot of people that had bodily needs to fulfill and a very small place to fulfill them in.

They were still scanning the place for an adequate place to sleep when an elf sprang from his seat to greet Mim. His name was Gamamyr, and he'd apparently first met Mim a long time ago when she had helped remove a fell presence that had been plaguing his village. He introduced them to his partner, a woman named Felicia; they had arrived a few days ago by ship, and were planning to infiltrate Strahd's castle in search of riches and ancient magic that they were certain could be found within.

At least their goals overlapped somewhat, and with the undead plague undone they could finally leave...as soon as Kyr and Mim got some much-deserved rest.

The following day Kyr and Mim returned to the entrance of the village, and were surprised to find that the horses they'd hitched to their wagon were still alive. Gamamyr wanted his own horse, so he charmed one of the few villagers that still had one, but when his magic wasn't sufficient also exchanged one of the silver maces Kyr and Mim brought back from the church. The man took it, told Gamamyr to make Strahd suffer, and went on his way.

Once Kyr and Mim restocked their food supplies they headed out, taking care to stay on the path as the mists were still quite thick: it would be easy to become lost, and who knew what lurked within it. They crossed a bridge shortly after leaving—which fortunately held their weight and harbored no monstrous creatures—and after about an hour arrived at the crossroads.

A wooden post was planted at the fork. A sign attached to it indicated that the right path lead to the Tser Pool, while part of the post—namely the part that would have featured another sign—looked to have been hacked at, possibly clawed. More ominous, to the right of the road was the ruined foundation of an old, overgrown building. A gallows was erected within the crumbling stone husk, from which hung numerous bodies.

Felicia, Gamamyr, and Kyr went to investigate the bodies, leaving Mim with the wagon. In the space it took Mim to glance their way and look back at the road, a large wolf had appeared. They stared at each other for a while, but when the wolf made no move she dared to turn and call out to her companions. When she looked back this time, a man stood there. The same man Kyr and she had encountered when they first arrived in Barovia.

He greeted Mim with the same sardonic tone as before, offering his condolences about her missing companions. Kyr and Felicia returned, while Gamamyr opted to stay hidden in the ruin. As they more or less exchanged words they learned that his name was Urik and little else. Mim became irritated by his evasive mannerisms, so tried afflicting him with a great illness in hopes of torturing information out of him.

Not only did it have no effect on him, but her magic reboundeded, causing her to vomit forth insects. Either he was somehow shielded from her magic, or he was not alive.

She managed to compose herself long enough to tell Kyr to get a piece of his clothing, which dead or alive would allow her to harm him with one of her poppets. Kyr brightly shone and blinded everyone but Gamamyr, who was mostly shielded by the ruin. He then sprang forward, and with one fluid motion slashed off a piece of Urik's clothes, snatched it up, and rushed it back to Mim.

Mim glared at Urik, trying to appear defiant despite the various insects that randomly emerged from her mouth, and noticed his eyes briefly dart to his left, almost as if he was signaling her. She turned her head slightly, not wanting to lose sight of him, and out of the corner of her eyes saw that the bodies had dropped to the ground and were silently stalking towards Gamamyr.

But she didn't say anything, and no one else seemed to notice them. Nor did they notice her drop the strip of Urik's clothing to the ground.

Behind the Scenes
The players playing Klaus and Rook just kinda dropped off. Not sure what happened, but fortunately we were able to pick up another pair pretty quickly. One is new, the other not so much, but were both patient and awesome (great for any game, but even better over a hangout). Really the only downside was that chargen and story-development ate up about an hour of time, but it's out of the way for next week.

The best line of the night went out to Melissa. She tried to hex Urik so that he'd barf up insects and rolled a 7. Normally this would be enough, but when nothing happened her eyes widened with realization as she said, "Oh shit...he's not alive, is he?" See, the witch's hex move explicitly specifies that the target must be alive (so that you cannot, for example, make an undead creature sick or transform a golem into a sheep), meaning that it did nothing at all to Urik.

Oh well, it was funny and she learned something.

We haven't had anyone play a wizard for an appreciate length of time (I'm really not a fan of it myself), so I am interested to see how it works out over an extended period of time. The only spell cast was when Gamamyr used charm person on one of the villagers. Now, it makes the target regard you as a friend, but I figured that no matter how close you are to someone, they probably aren't going to give you a horse that they desperately need, especially given that you probably aren't going to bring it back.

I did however allow him to take +1 forward with a Parley, which Mim supplemented with a 10+ aid move and a silver mace. In the end they got a horse at about half price, which is quite a bit better than them not being able to get one at all, or having to shell out many times it's worth.

I'd considered having something attacked them on the way (Barovia is a dangerous place after all), probably by werewolves, but it took a while to get the ball rolling and I had an encounter planned for the crossroads, so I figured I'd just wait until they got there.

Pretty glad I did, as it made for a perfect cliffhanger.

Various Sales Going On
There are a pair of sales going on: Melissa and I have been running a Trick-or-Treat sale, in which we randomly determine a class and discount, and Drivethrurpg is in general running a Halloween sale. So, if you're looking to pick up some of our Dungeon World products on the (even) cheap(er), get 'em while you can!
October 25, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Trick-or-Treat: The Ghoul

Whelp, The Pirate has come and gone, but The Ghoul is hot on her heels in our Trick-or-Treat sale!

It is largely based on the ghoul from Arabic mythology, with a dash of Dungeons & Dragons and Left 4 Dead (namely the hunter and boomer special infected): you can assume the appearance of someone that you kill, transform into a scavenging animal, deal bonus damage to living creatures (lots of bonus damage), slink away into the darkness, notice things hiding, and more.

All told there are twenty-three advanced moves to choose from.

It's main shtick are the Hunger and Frenzy mechanics. The longer you go without eating, the more Hunger you can get. When you get too much you go on a hunting/killing spree. When you are trying to chow down on something and miss, you gain Frenzy, which is a double-edged sword: you deal extra damage while you have it, but if you have some when the dust settles it gets moved over to Hunger.

So, be careful with that.

The only way to reduce Hunger is to gorge yourself on the corpses of the dead. It is not a guarantee since you roll+Corpses consumed each time, but the more you have on hand the better your odds of temporarily sating your hunger.
October 22, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Alien: Isolation Review

We'd actually purchased a PlayStation 4 several months ago, right before we moved. Given a lack of any games that we could give two fucks about, it's function beyond a very expensive brick didn't debut until a few weeks ago when I regrettably picked up Alien: Isolation.

The game takes place between the events of Alien and Aliens. You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, as she tries to figure out what the hell happened to her mom. Shit happens before you even get on the ship, and once you do it's a grueling crawl as you try to figure out what the hell is going on and survive.

One thing I love about the game, in theory anyway, is that unlike almost every other game based on the property you aren't running about with a pulse rifle and shooting up the place (even the one's based on Alien 3). No, you're on your own—for the most part—and though you get a pistol early on it's only really useful against people, maybe rogue androids, and fuck-all else.

The overall plot, controls, Last of Us crafing system, and graphics are fine, and the initial pacing is excellent. I love that you don't run into the alien right away. Even after it's first on-screen kill it only shows up in certain sections, though the game is more than happy to show you its victims and have it bang around in the vents above. These parts of the game were the best, because you had no clue if the game was just fucking with you, or if you actually had to be quiet to avoid taking a set of pharyngeal jaws to the brain.

It's when the alien rears it's phallic head and becomes a more prominent fixture that the fun-factor, tension, and sense of horror gets sucked out. Not right after it appears for the first time, where it slowly lowers itself from the ceiling, forcing you to hide beneath a table to evade it's notice. Not even when you have to cross a very lengthy room and hack through a door to escape. No, it's about halfway through Mission 5 that it just becomes so fucking tedious.

The motion sensor allows you to detect the direction and general location of everything moving about, which includes androids, the alien, and presumably humans (though I never found any after I'd gotten it). Given that the alien is invincible and pretty much kills you instantly if it spots you, this is an essential tool to have in the game. The problem is that when the alien is there, it's always there, lumbering about, making noise, and generally just acting like a drunk, abusive stepparent.

You'll go into a hallway, hear the motion sensor beep, check it, see the alien coming, duck back in a room and hide under a table. The alien will invariably come into your room, loudly saunter about, knock shit over, maybe growl, and then leave. After you're "sure" it's gone, you'll get back up, start to leave a—nooope, it's coming back! So you go back in, hunker underneath a table, and wait some more. On at least one occasion I had this happen three times in a row.

Even worse is that the alien will stick to whatever area you're at. It'll run around a specific region until you leave, then it just follows you to the new one as if it's trapped in your plot orbit. I don't feel relief after hacking through a door and getting to a new area, I just try and find the nearest save point.

Oh yeah, the game uses a manual save system, and from what I could tell it's possible to save when a bad guy is nearby. Haven't saved in over half an hour? Whelp, hopefully you don't get randomly killed. Mind you this doesn't add anything to the tension, but the frustrating tedium as you try to save after grabbing some plot key or reaching a certain point because good god you don't want to have to waste more time retreading your steps.

And so, after spending hours leapfrogging from room to locker to table hoping that I didn't just happen to blunder into it—or that it wouldn't just crack open the locker I was in and kill me anyway—and have to reload yet again, I just gave up.

This game would have been much, much better if the alien wasn't obnoxiously ever-present. If you could walk down a hallway for a meaningful length of time hoping that you didn't hear your motion sensor go off, instead of having it constantly nagging at you when the alien skirts the limits of it's range, or more often than not just happens to come barreling at you.

I want to be freaked the fuck out when that thing goes off, not sighing with frustration that I have to go waste more time under a table or in a locker.

Anywho, I picked up Shadows of Mordor a few days ago and am having much more fun with that. Kind of reminds me of Assassin's Creed, except that I'm not running around grabbing flags that some asshole dropped all over town.
October 21, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Trick-or-Treat: A Pirate's Class For You!

Though The Pirate was already an impressive haul, it's now been press-ganged into our Trick-or-Treat sale!

It comes with two pdf files:

The first is a digest-sized, 19 page book laid out like the Dungeon World rulebook. It contains the pirate, new equipment like the flintlock pistol and grenades, two compendium classes (dread pirate and sea-shackled), and a behind the scenes look at some of the fiction and other content.

The other is a 2-page, letter-sized character sheet with some custom graphics to add some pizzazz.

As with our previous Trick-or-Treat sales, the duration (and amount) has been randomized, so get it while you can!
October 18, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Extra Life

So Melissa and I—and probably Adam, and maybe one or two more peeps—are participating in Extra Life this year.

Though you're allowed to play any game you want (as well as divide up the time however you like), the focus of our gameplay is going to be with the whole Expedition to Castle Ravenloft with Dungeon World thing.

The initial goal is only a hundred bucks, but for each $25 we get—period, not above the goal—I'm going to give the players a kind of benefit that they can cash in during the game.

In other words you aren't just helping out some real-world children (with a tax deductible donation, I might add), you also have the added benefit of maybe saving some imaginary people fighting imaginary monsters!
October 16, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Dusk of the Dead

Cast
  • Klaus (level 1 human fighter)
  • Kyr (level 1 fallen star)
  • Mim (level 1 witch w/ familiar)
  • Rook (level 1 halfling thief)

Summary
Unsure where to go or what else to expect Mim chopped up one of the zombies, and from its organs divined that both the living and dead inhabited the village.

Hoping to find survivors, the group decided to backtrack and knock on each door as they passed, in hopes that anyone still alive would realize that they weren't zombies, but the only response they got—when they got one at all—was the ominous sound of things shuffling about within.

Assuming that the noise from the previous fight would attract more of the undead, Rook had kept watch while the others went about their task, but the mist somehow obscured an entire horde of zombies until they were almost on top of her.

Instead of fleeing, Rook rolled into their midst and plunged her rapier into one of them. The zombie didn't seem to notice, what with it not needing organs and all, and the zombies swarmed her. Klaus charged into the throng, wrenched Rook free and threw her to safety. If the zombies had been capable of emotions, they would have likely been delighted in the fact that their main course had been super-sized.

As Klaus struggled against his attackers Mim—astride Joffrey—plowed through them. The good news was that she trampled some of the zombies in the process. The bad news was that several managed to hitch a ride as she rode by. She tried ineffectually kicking one off, and the other two managed to get a bite in before she thought better of it and drew her wand. Furious, she planted it in the mouth of one of them and, with a bit of mental effort and a word of power, blew it's head off.

Rook decided to take a cue from Mim: she gathered up the horses, mounted her own, and lead them all through. Miraculously they succeeded in only crushing zombies; with their numbers substantially dwindled Klaus and Kyr were able to finish off the rest, while Rook helped Mim take out the pair that were trying to get their hands on a witch-wich.

Sensing a relationship between noise and zombie attraction, they picked a street and started moving, and after some time a man suddenly appeared from between a pair of houses. He motioned them off the streets, and after several minutes of hushed conversation they learned that anyone bitten by a zombie would rise as one—which was bad news for pretty much everyone in the party—and that the zombies had first risen from the church's graveyard yesterday evening.

Since they were now racing against the clock they implored the man to show them where the church was, with the promise that they could put a stop to whatever caused the dead to rise. He agreed, but since most of the zombies seemed to have congregated on the streets his path took them through the alleys whenever possible. This worked well for them until they were nearly at their destination: the streets were choked with them.

Not wanting to attract any more unwanted attention, Kyr flew onto the roof of a nearby house and threw a wooden board some ways away. It clattered loudly, and the zombies began shuffling towards the noise. When he turned to float back down, he heard something scratching on the roof with him. He remained still, and as the sound moved closer eventually noticed the vague shape of something humanoid crawling about.

He wasn't sure what it was, but it looked like it was prowling towards his friends, which meant it was probably bad. He closed the distance with a few quick steps, and with his fists wreathed in flame punched clear through it...and realized too late that he had mortally wounded a disheveled, but otherwise normal looking villager. The man tried to speak, but given a lack of lungs only managed to move his mouth noiselessly before falling to the ground below.

Panicked, Kyr climbed down to see if he could somehow help, but by the time he got to the ground the body was gone. Keeping his hand lit, he made his way back to his companions and explained what had happened. Not wanting to take the time to further investigate, and assuming it was probably some kind of monster anyway, they snuck across the street to the church.

The church's front door was barred from the inside, but Klaus easily forced his way through. They could hear that at least a few zombies were attracted by his efforts, but were able to duck inside and seal the door back up with time to spare.

Inside the church they saw a man kneeling before an alter, seemingly absorbed in prayer. He was dressed in black and silver robes, and had a thick, unkempt beard and sunken eyes. Behind him a wooden raven, wings spread, was affixed to the front of a bronze sunburst. People were seated on the pews, heads rested as if in prayer. Finally, there was a massive hole in the aisle leading up to the alter.

Mim warily looked about, carefully taking in the scenery: though the man was praying, something was echoing his prayer from within the pit; the people on the pews looked like they were sitting in prayer, but she was pretty sure they were dead; finally, more people—or at least things that were once people—moved about in the rooms on both sides of them.

As Mim quietly informed her companions the man stood and approached them. He opened his mouth to speak, but Mim pointed at him and with a quick motion his mouth snapped shut. He froze, obviously trying to open it and more than a little fearful, but when it was clear that he couldn't instead starting backing away.

Kyr, confident that there was nothing more to worry about, strode towards the pit to see what was in it, but the doors flanking him flung open and a pair of robed zombies wielding silver maces burst forth. Klaus tried to stop them, but another robed zombie exited a third room and leaped onto his back, and before Kyr could turn to face his attackers they crashed into him, sending the three of them into the pit.

Once Kyr collected himself he could see the source of the strange chanting: it looked like a corpulent mass of bodies had been randomly assembled into a more or less humanoid shape. Not a human-like creature assembled from parts of various remains, but something that looked to have been constructed using everything from numerous corpses: it had multiple arms, legs, even faces.

The only thing that looked remotely human was the face of a boy, perhaps in his late teens, nestled in the top-most part of the jumble. It bore a mournful expression, and while the rest of the mouths continued praying it only muttered "Father" over and over again. As it lumbered towards him, Kyr discharged a gust of wind that carried him back out.

The zombies were damaged from the fall, but still clung to Kyr. Luckily by the time he returned Klaus and Rook had already taken care of the zombie on Klaus's back, and together they made short work of the rest. This just left the priest, who was slowly backing towards one of the windows. Still unable to speak—and presumably evoke whatever fell magics were contained within the book—it was a simple matter for Kyr to subdue and restrain him.

Mim, looking quite the worse for wear, had ducked into a room to bandage her wounds. She had just started when a trapdoor she had not noticed burst open: apparently she had just so happened to choose the one room that lead to the basement, and the creature from below was trying to force it's way through.

She tried speaking to it, but its only response was to continue praying and grasp at her with its many arms. Unlike Joffrey she was able to evade most of them, but one of them managed to pluck her wand from her grasp as she escaped, leaving Joffrey to his fate.

Mim frantically scrambled past Klaus to what she hoped was an actually safe room, while he stood his ground and barred it's path. As he savagely hacked away at the monstrosity, Rook lobbed knives at what she believed to be it's main head. Mim had inadvertently torn off a piece of it's rotted flesh during her escape; she affixed it to a poppet, which enabled her to safely and easily hinder it's actions.

Once the creature was thoroughly decimated, the remains of the robed zombies stopped wriggling: apparently it, whatever it was, was the source of the zombie plague.

Behind the Scenes
What I loved most about this session was that Adam stated that he was "relieved" when they finally managed to stop the priest, destroy his son, and end the plague zombie plague. I liked that. It wasn't assumed that they would win, but they did, and I think the best victories are the ones that you earn through smart thinking, buckets of hit-point loss, and even some luck.

There were a looot of misses this session. Like, so much that during the end of session everyone had 9 or more XP. I started out putting the characters in a situation, then forcing the characters to make a hard choice, but as the misses kept rolling in just started dealing damage (or dealing damage plus something extra). This meant that a lot of characters started racking up plague.

The plague mechanic is similar to one that I used in Something Stirs in the Blackscale Brakes and If These Stones Could Scream: you have a counter of points, and when they equal a stat (in this case Constitution) you die and turn into a zombie. When you make camp, you make a CON roll to see if you lose or gain plague until you either run out or succumb to it.

Poor Joffrey. Kind of. Really the downer for me is that we bought and painted him specifically for this campaign, and I didn't think he'd die. Well, so soon at any rate. Oh well, maybe Mim can change another noble jackass into a, well, you know.

We talked with Adam about changing the living star's radiance mechanic to make it a roll-and-hold (like my wizard), but after tonight it seems to be perfectly fine as-is: Adam never spent more than 3 points at a time, and that was for something he really wanted to succeed at.

The one thing we are going to change is that, instead of being able to use your hands as weapons all the damned time, you will have the option of being able to spend radiance and roll+Radiance spent (which will also be abbreviated as RAD, per Chris S's request :-P). This means we'll be bumping up the plasma volley to an advanced move.

As I said last week, I am compiling conversion notes as I plan and play, which will be released as a free pdf once it's done, maybe a bit beforehand. Here is a sample of the InDesign doc:


Gonna add a Walking Dead compendium class for whoever gets bit and survives the ordeal.

Finally, The Spider is on sale over at Drivethrurpg for an undetermined length of time (after which we'll roll the dice to see what goes on sale next, for how much, and how long).

Image Dump
I really hate these zombies. Wish I would have snagged these, or even paid extra for these.
Next time I'll just break out my D&D pre-paints.
I didn't have anything immediately handy, so used our unpainted Skarn from Descent: Journey in the Dark. Really gotta get him done, as the newest set is on it's way...

Trick-or-Treat: A Not-So Itsy Bitsy Sale

For a random number of days this month, The Spider is on sale for nearly half off!

It does everything a spider can: spin webs of any size, crawl on walls, and even inject debilitating venom or digestive juices into creatures, so that you can slurp up their tasty, liquefied innards that you do so crave.

Of course the advanced moves open up a variety of other terrifying options, like dropping in on unsuspecting prey, blinding opponents with your bristles, causing your venom to inflict excruciating pain, or closing the gap between you and the poor bastard that assumed they could just outrun you.

Though Melissa and I have a strange tendency to write monstrous playbooks (I've got a vampire, rakshasa, and oni in the works), this one goes a step (or several) further and allows you to play something that's not even remotely humanoid in shape.

Size is another matter, because it's not like spiders are already horrific at their "normal" size: the default assumption is that you're somewhere between halfling and human-sized, plus you can talk, allowing you to whisper sinister nothings into the ear of a creature as it struggles to escape. I guess you also have more than enough legs to gently stroke its cheek, if that's your thing.

So, yeah, use it to threaten your GM with a new character, or to just keep the rest of the party from making camp. Unless you're one of "those" people that actually likes spiders, then have fun tormenting man and monster alike.
October 12, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: Weapons & Materials

In addition to the various regions, steadings, locations, races, classes, monsters, fronts, etc, A Sundered World also has a chapter on new weapons, armor, dungeon gear, ships, vehicles (like enthollows), services, magic items, and maybe some other stuff I'm forgetting.

This article is going to focus on the weapons, or rather since Dungeon World is pretty general when it comes to weapon—and armor—stats, what you can make a weapon out of and/or customize it with.

By default weapons are assumed to be made out of metal and/or wood, or out of similarly durable substances that don't affect the weapon's mechanics: when you buy a sword, it's going to do what you'd expect a sword to do.

But, if you've got the coin and connections, you can go with something a little more...exotic. To give you a good idea of what I mean, here's a shot of the weapon table in it's current state (because I keep adding stuff):


Want a cold iron longsword? Okay, pay an extra 100 coins, up the weight by 1, and add the cold iron tag. If you want an earth spirit, then you spend 100 coins and get the forceful tag. Maybe you want an ironwood spear with a wind spirit? In that case it's going to run you 200 coins, and weigh nothing at all (wind also adds the precise tag for melee weapons, or increases the range for ranged weapons).

Of course these new tags are all explained (cold iron means more than just "it's made of cold iron"), so it's not all left to you to sort it out. You also can't mix and match all the tags (astral is astral, and you can't go with both ironwood and cold iron), and some tags might have unexpected effects, like binding a spirit to a weapon made of madiron or sinsteel.

This also has the benefit of addressing an issue I have with the game: what to do with all the cash you amass over time. We ran into this problem in a previous campaign where I played Mouse: near the end I had over 6k in coins, but really nothing to spend it on. We didn't need anything at all, but I suppose I could have bought a couple of houses?

Anywho, let me know what you think about this, and I'll leave you with some more drawings of some weapons I did to try and pin down a common look (the ones in the bottom left are types of channeling rods).


October 09, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Welcome to Barovia

Cast
  • Klaus (level 1 human fighter)
  • Kyr (level 1 fallen star)
  • Mim (level 1 witch w/ familiar)
  • Rook (level 1 halfling thief)

Pre-Game
As before I skipped the part where some random guy walks up to the characters in a bar and just tosses them a letter, as if a group of strangers is going to go to a dangerous place to rescue them from an ambiguous threat, in exchange for an ambiguous reward.

Frankly as adventure hooks go, it goes so far beyond lazy that you would never have guessed that it was written by the actual D&D cr—

You know what, nevermind. (Also this, because har har.)

I decided to just have the players tell me why they were riding into Barovia, the dominion of an infamous vampire lord. Here is what I got:

  • Klaus is looking for a legendary sword, so that he can restore his own shattered blade to it's former glory (the player's plan is to use the Blacksmith move to do this).
  • Kyr seeks to destroy Strahd, as his malevolent presence is blotting out the sun and stars.
  • Mim wants some of Strahd's blood for probably nefarious reasons.
  • Rook knows that Strahd lives in an expansive castle, filled with the riches he has amassed over centuries. 

Much better than some guy dismissively kind-of sort-of wanting you to go help out some people that you don't know, and honestly have no reason to give a fuck about.

Session Summary
They rode down a dirt track flanked by tall, imposing trees that seemed to loom overhead. Eventually they came across an iron gate attached to some stonework depicting armored soldiers. Both had obviously been neglected for some time: they were covered in vines, and one was even missing it's head. As they lingered, deciding whether they should actually proceed, a thick mist began slithering forth from the trees, obscuring their vision.

Ominous, as was the rapidly dwindling sunlight and too-close wolf howl that soon followed. Rightfully assuming that it was dangerous to linger, they cautiously advanced through the gate. Mim had taken up the rear, and once she crossed the gate's threshold it loudly slammed shut. Mist, howls, encroaching nightfall, and independently moving gates; all part of the Horror Pyramid.

For some reason they decided to make camp.

As they began dismounting and finding places to tie their mounts off, a man riding atop a horse strode out of the mist. He drew his horse to a halt some distance from them, grinned, and told them with just a hint of derision that the road was not safe at night. Mim asked Sir Obvious if there was a town nearby, and he cheerfully told them to simply follow the road. Though he warned them not to stray from the path, Mim almost felt as if he was at the same time daring them to try.

They did as instructed, eventually leaving the confines of the forest. From there it was a relatively shorter trek across an open field until they arrived at the village.

The streets were dark and shrouded in a thick fog. They were also quiet. Too quiet. Dead quiet. Rook took the lead, while everyone else hung back twenty or so feet, giving her just the edge of their torchlight so she could see. They soon came across an intersection, and with no signs of life—or at the moment unlife—in any direction decided to continue straight across. It was not until the rest of the party walked by a house, that they heard a thumping noise coming from within.

Everyone froze, and while the sound continued nothing else seemed to happen: whatever was making the noise seemed to be fortunately trapped within.

For some reason they decided to investigate.

Klaus, Rook, and Kyr took positions by the front door, while Mim snuck around back, because everyone has to learn the hard way why you shouldn't split the party at some point. Klaus gave the door a kick, but it didn't give at all: it was apparently well-fortified from inside. Rook tried the windows, but found that they were also boarded up.

The back door on the other hand opened easily enough, and a few boards came tumbling out at Mim. This startled her, but not nearly as much as the trio of zombies that shambled out soon after. They didn't look like they had been dead for long, but were covered in open sores that oozed a black, viscous fluid, and whatever wounds they had weren't bleeding.

Mim turned to flee, but only after hesitating for a precious few moments as her mind took everything in, giving the zombies a chance to grab her. She managed to wrestle herself free, but lost some of her clothing and bag of rune stones in the process.

Kyr heard Mim's scream and rushed around the house towards the back. Klaus gave himself some distance before ramming the door with his entire body; this time he easily smashed his way through, just in time to see the last zombie filing out the back after Mim. He grabbed the closest thing he could find--a chair--and flung it, striking the zombie square in the head and knocking it to the ground.

Rook scampered past Klaus, rounding the corner and leaping at the nearest zombie. She drove her rapier through it's skull, and as it fell saw Kyr and Mim, well, "finishing" off the last one: Kyr had driven his blazing fist through its mouth and out the back of it's throat, and while it was chowing down on his arm Mim was furiously stabbing it with one of her pins.

Once they were sure that the zombies would stay down, Kyr asked Mim if his wound looked infected: apparently his knuckle sandwich wasn't more than it could chew, and it was able to get in a few deep bites before they destroyed it. The wound was still bleeding, and the edges were puckered and red. She wasn't sure what, if anything, would happen, so had her bat fly off in search of information.

Is anyone in the village still alive? Will Kyr turn into a zombie? Will David make a Walking Dead compendium class? Tune in next week—after David writes the play report—to find out the answers to maybe some of these questions!

Behind the Scenes
We had three players new to Dungeon World, in real-time anyway: Adam has apparently been playing via play-by-post, and has also read up on a lot of it beforehand. The other two were completely new, so the start was a bit rocky, namely with creating bonds and cooking up reasons to go into a vampire's dominion.

Once we got past that, it was pretty easy to explain the flow of the game and how moves worked (though I really need to make a GM screen for the game). All in all I'd say it was way more successful than back when I ran it the first time.

The Witch is a class that Melissa largely designed on her own (I mostly helped polish it near the end). If you're interested you can check it out here, along with a preview. The Living Star is her next release, which Adam was more than happy to take for a spin to see if it's radiance mechanic is too potent.

One last thing that I thought was pretty funny: before we started I told everyone that they could start with a horse. Melissa suggested a mule at some point, and I told her she could have one, but she had to tell me who it used to be before she transformed it. She decided on the cruel Baron Joffery, who dared to turn her away from his door some time ago.

I'm compiling my notes as we play this, and once we're done am going to be releasing a free pdf for running Expedition to Castle Ravenloft using Dungeon World. It'll be similar to my Keep on the Shadowfell conversion (fronts, steadings, dungeons, monsters, etc), just larger, cleaner, and better organized.

Fiiinally, you might have seen that we're running a Trick-or-Treat sale throughout the month of October. Basically, it's a random playbook, on sale for a random discount, for a random number of days. It was previously The Skeleton, but has since shifted to The Mummy (which is now a Best Copper Seller to boot!). We're marking them off as they come up, so the same playbook won't be available twice.

The gang, because yeah we used minis at some point.
October 07, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: 10+ Treasures, Volume II

10+ Treasures, Volume II, our second volume of 10+ Treasures, is now for sale on Drivethrurpg!

If you liked the first one, I think you're going to like this one even better. Not only because I upped the production value a bit, added a table of contents, and categorized things, but I brought an even weirder selection of magic items to the table:

  • A polearm that seeks out justice
  • The soul of an intelligent sword
  • A shield that can spawn zombies
  • A living ring that turns your body into a verminous nest
  • Another ring that makes you virtually unkillable...until you take it off
  • An all-terrain raft

All told there're 31 completely new magic items, as well as one reprint from the first volume (I copied the Making Magic section, since I figured people might not own it, which also goes through the motions of making the blackstar blade).

So take a look at the previews, and give it a buy if you like what you see. If you do buy it, a review is always appreciated, though even a simple star-rating is very nice in letting others and myself know what you thought (and it less of a hassle than a review).

Of course if you have neither, you can get both as part of a bundle.
October 06, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

The Trollfens: Source of Sickness

Heroes
  • Alys Raine (Marshall, Manor of Ravens)
  • Lindel (Stalker, Crown of Destiny)
  • Ravaella Lightfoot (Conjurer, Shadow of Nerekhall)

Monster Groups
  • Bol'Goreth
  • Plague worms
  • Chaos beasts (open group)
  • Ironbound (open group)

Summary
This is it: the final showdown.

I lost.

Again.

The objective of this quest is that the Overlord needs to accumulate ten fatigue tokens. There are a number of casks (represented by objective tokens) and infested villagers on the map scattered about the map. In addition, one of the search tokens is a Mending Talisman that the heroes can use to cure infested villagers.

Bol'Goreth and any master monster can carry a cask or villager, while Bol'Goreth can flip search tokens, though he only gets to take the Mending Talisman. You have to carry them to a spot on the map and chuck them out the door: you get one fatigue token for each cask collected, two for each infested villager, and three if you manage to dump the Mending Talisman. You can also get a fatigue token by having a plague worm crawl off the map.

The heroes want to find the Mending Talisman and leave or, along with smashing casks, use it to cure enough villagers so that the Overlord can't even get ten fatigue tokens.

Melissa, through a very risky gambit, started off by having Lindel dash all the way to the plague worms and hit them with a trap that caused them to become poisoned. The poisoned condition causes you to take a wound with each activation, which you can only shake off with a successful Might check. Since only lieutenants can even make attribute checks, they were all basically on borrowed time at that point.

She then went about trying to score the Mending Talisman with Alys and Ravaella, but as luck would have it I managed both to find it first and ditch it before she could kill Bol'. I did lose all of my worms and chaos beasts while trying to drag some villagers to the dropoff point, but since Bol' couldn't be permanently killed and Melissa couldn't do anything with the villagers, it meant that I technically couldn't lose at this point.

However, to avoid a lengthy game in which I envisioned would boil down to the heroes stomping Bol' into the ground, only to have him spend his turn getting up and get stomped down again, I figured I'd make things interesting: I snagged a villager, got as close as I could to the exit, played whatever card has you make two attacks then die (Blood Frenzy, I think), and then on my following turn spawned a minion worm.

I was able to get it right next to the exit, which meant that Melissa had one turn to revive her heroes and try to beat it down: she missed once, but was able to fatigue Alys close enough to make two attacks, flattening it in the process. Without any way to get that last fatigue token (she had smashed all the casks before then), it meant that I lost.

I now regret taking the ironbound. Yeah, it had 12 wounds, a defense of 1 grey and 1 black, and was immune to all conditions, but it's speed was only two. I would definitely swap it out for a flock of harpies, as they could fly over the water and are over twice as fast.

Another factor was that my card draws were almost entirely shit. At one point I had three cards that all required a search, which would have been nice if I had gotten them before Melissa snagged all the search tokens. Oh, I did get a dash card...after my worms and beasts were already dead.

Anywho, that's it for The Trollfens. Since my board game gang is now going to be doing Dungeon World via hangouts (starting tomorrow), the next time we do Descent will probably still be just Melissa and me. This means another mini-campaign is probably in order: I just got Manor of Ravens, but I have a freshly-painted Valyndra, so maybe we'll do Lair of the Wyrm.

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The Trollfens: Three Heads, One Mind

Heroes
  • Alys Raine (Marshall, Manor of Ravens)
  • Lindel (Stalker, Crown of Destiny)
  • Ravaella Lightfoot (Conjurer, Shadow of Nerekhall)

Monster Groups
  • Harpies (Chi'kree, named master harpy)
  • Ettin (Grug'nik, named master ettin)
  • Giants (open group)

Summary
Like the previous quest, this is also a race against the clock. There are two named monsters, which are basically souped of versions of a standard monster (+2 wounds per hero). Both of them have an objective token; one is a decoy, and the other is a rusky key, which is necessary to open the locked door. The objective is to get the rusty key and get at least one hero off the board by the ninth turn.

Chi'kree starts off the map, and only lands when the Overlord makes her, or when the heroes pick up one of the objective tokens (which represent trinket stashes) lying on the ground. This means that they have to set themselves up, because if they snag all the trinket stashes and she survives, there is no other way to get at her. I only got to choose one open group, so I went with a giant because of the narrow paths, 12 health, black armor die, and ability to clobber everything within 2 squares.

Melissa started out making a beeline for Grug'nik, and ended up chasing him counter clockwise around the map, gradually whittling him down. This was fine, because my goal was to kite her to the far side of the map and then switch tokens at the last moment with Chi'kree, in the hopes that by the time she killed her she would be too far to make it to the exit. Unfortunately she managed to lock him down with Lindel, so I had to bring Chi'kree in early for the swap.

I managed to get her out of there with only a few wound tokens in tow, but Melissa regrouped her heroes by one of the very nearby trinket stashes, snatched it, and then utterly crushed her using some very potent team synergy with a few rounds to spare (Ravaella did a thing that moved her, triggering a trap, which let Lindel do an out of turn thing...it was a whole mess of dice, fatigue tokens, card exhaustion, and tears).

I already knew that we were going to have to do Source of Sickness, but I was hoping to at least stop her from getting the Immunity Elixir relic (+2 wounds, cannot be diseased). To make matters worse she killed both named monsters, which were worth an extra 50 gp a pop (just enough to buy a boomerang from the Act II shop deck).

This is another one where I think my plan was sound, but I think I would use razorwings next time so that most of my monsters could just avoid dealing with the water. That, and getting cards that didn't mostly trigger on search tokens and doors would also be great. Oh well, I've still got one chance left: she may have won all of the battles, but she hasn't won the war.

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Trick-or-Treat: The Skeleton

Throughout the month of October, Melissa and I will be putting up a random playbook on sale, for a random amount and length of time.

This is similar to the Daily d100 Sale we ran during GenCon, where I'd randomly pick something and then randomly determine the sale percentage, but this time the sales will probably last longer than a day.

Anywho, first up is the The Skeleton!

This is the second playbook I wrote. It started as a joke, but then snowballed into a complete class thanks to Melissa bouncing weird ideas off of me while we were watching or playing something.

Since then I've gotten a much better handle on InDesign, so I figured that I should update it to be more inline with the rest of our playbooks (ie, two documents, one digest and the other letter-sized).

So, if you already bought it check it again. If not, give it a look: could be a fun next step after a botched last breath roll.

A Sundered World: Elves, Enthollows, and Bombards

I had planned on posting some elf drawings today, but ran into a problem concerning the look of them, namely that I'm not sure what they are "supposed" to look like: do they look like people with pointed ears (like you'd expect from D&D/Tolkien), or are they more animal and/or plant-like?

If I hit up elf on Wikipedia, the only picture is a bunch of people wearing white robes dancing about. Is that it? I don't get anything really different when I look up light and dark elves from Norse mythology (though I guess the latter might just be dwarves).

In The Dresden Files they are described as being about three feet tall, so initially I figured that they could replace halflings as a "small race", along with the kobold. But, since most of the art I find depicts them as almost identical to humans in size and appearance, I'm thinking that maybe I should just change the race entry to Faerie (or Fae), and use the Look to determine your size and appearance.

What do you think? Stick with the "traditional" elf, make them halfling-sized, give them some animal/plant features, let you mix and match your size and appearance, or do something else entirely?

Anyway, to at least showcase some art today, here is a sketch of an enthollow:


Grown, not made, and the size of ogres, these help elite elven soldiers deal with the fomorians. Not only are they stronger, more durable, and much larger than a normal elf, they can also safely wield massive cold-iron swords (since they aren't actually fey). Some contain dryad pilots, but otherwise an elf (or whoever is piloting it) has to have a thoughtroot implant, which is a plant-like symbiote that integrates into the spine to transmit your thoughts.

And for something simpler, here's one design of an elemental bombard:


They are basically big-ass wands that draw on elemental cores for energy. You slot in a core--usually fire, lightning, or stone--and with a command word it unleashes a corresponding blast of energy or matter.

Bombards can be made of anything that a wand or staff could be: stone, metal, crystal, ice, bone, wood, light, godsteel, etc. Similarly, wizards can also use them without a core, but they take a lot of fatigue in doing so.

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