Dungeons & Delvers: A Giant Playtest

Melissa wanted to try a higher-level Dungeons & Delvers playtest, so I bumped everyone up to 5th-level, gathered up just some of my giant minis (I left out fire and frost giants...for now), and ran them through something that might be kinda like Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (which I've kinda read but never played).

The party made it through a pair of ogres without much of a fuss, but during the fight against a quartet of stone giants--who were apparently playing smash the tables--the rogue went down, which will hopefully teach him not to rush ahead of everyone else (especially if the bad guys are going next). They pressed on, taking out yet another giant and his guard-dire-bear, before finally confronting and barely slaying the giant king.

Behind the Scenes
I honestly dunno why I hadn't both thought of and playtested this before, but we're going to try giving adventurers additional Wounds at various rates as they level up: fighters would get +1 every two levels, clerics and rogues every three, and wizards every four, mebbe five.

Might also stagger talents and skills, so you get a skill at 2nd-level, talent at 3rd, another skill at 4th, another talent at 5th, and so on. This will not only reduce the amount of dice everyone's rolling, but slow down dice scaling (currently 4th-level adventurers will have easily maxed out a key skill).

I've got a playtest adventure nearly ready to go: we'll try it with both tweaks and see how it goes.

Anywho, here's the hill giant stat block:

Hill Giant
Attack 11; 13 versus Might; Reach 2, Multiattack 2, Mighty Swing
Defense 9
Wounds 4
Speed 3/8
XP 10

Mighty Swing: If an adventurer's Defense roll fails by 2 or more points, they are knocked prone.
Multiattack 2: The hill giant can use its Action to make two attacks.

Image Dump








Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

FrankenFourth: Taking Hits

Though FrankenFourth is based on various parts of various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, when it comes to armor it uses a model similar to that of Dungeon World, Numenera, and I'm sure many other games: armor reduces the damage you take when an attack connects (while shields prevent you from getting hit at all).

Currently armor ratings range from 1 (leather) to 5 (plate), though we might end up reducing the range to 1-3, and go with a more abstract light, medium, and heavy categorization. As with older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, no class starts with chainmail or plate armor: it's something you save up to buy, or maybe loot.

I should note that, similar to how a creature in Dungeons & Dragons always inflicts at least one point of damage on a hit regardless of damage penalties, a successful attack always inflicts at least one point of damage regardless of armor. This way, you can't just slap on plate armor and heedlessly saunter through a gang of goblins.

Also, some attacks ignore a point or two of armor, while others ignore it completely (like fire and poisonous gases).

Armor Class gets dropped entirely in favor of a Reflex Defense (or just Reflex), which as with 4th Edition is 10 + your Dexterity or Intelligence, whichever is higher (though it might get changed to just be 10 + Dexterity, with some classes potentially allowing you to substitute other stats).

This means that most characters will have a Reflex of around 9-12, with more specialized characters having a starting Reflex of 13 and rarely 14. This may not seem like much, until you realize that most of the numbers are based almost entirely on ability scores, as opposed to ability scores plus Hit Dice or levels or whatever, so the typical monster only has a +2 to +4 to hit (with your typical dragon having a whopping +8 to hit).

Shields increase your Reflex by 1 point, while tower shields bump it up by 2 at the cost of reducing your Speed and maximum Dexterity/Intelligence bonus. Fighters and other melee types can choose a talent that negates Speed penalties for tower shields and armor, as well as further boosting their Reflex when they're packing a shield, which helps put them more on par with agile characters.

Most creatures have both Wound and Vitality Points (creatures like constructs and mindless undead will normally only have Wounds): Wound Points represent the meat-point part of the equation, while Vitality is the exertion, luck, minor scrapes, etc.

Wound Points replenish over the course of days: each time you take a long rest (6+ hours) you regain an amount equal to your Constitution, to a minimum of 1. This rate is affected by your environment (warm, comfy inns are better than cold, hard dungeon floors), supplies (like poultices and salves), and certain class talents (cleric's Healing Hymn and the fighter's Unbreakable). The game also has lingering injuries, which you likewise recover from sooner in the right conditions.

Vitality Points on the other hand replenish much more quickly. We're playtesting two models: the first is that they completely recover with a short rest (which requires 30 minutes), the other is that when you take a short rest you regain a random amount based on your class (think Hit Dice from older editions) and relevant talents.

Inside a dungeon, assuming you're using random encounters, this means every short rest is going to likely call for at least one random encounter check. So in this instance it becomes a gamble: you might regain some Vitality, only to lose it again (and possibly some Wounds) if another monster comes along while you're trying to rest.

Of course there are going to be situations where the characters really have nothing to worry about, and so can sit around as long as they want without fear of anything showing up to nom on them. This is why the Wound/Vitality split favors the former: most of your "hit points" are going to take one or more days to recover.

Even so this system makes characters a bit more durable, which is intentional due to the lack of prevalent magical healing: bards, clerics, druids, and paladins can't just throw around healing spells willy-nilly, and healing potions and wands aren't going to be looted in abundance (all of which is more inline with what you'd expect from the Appendix N library anyway).

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

Dungeons & Delvers: Meet the (Kobold) Cleric

It just so happens that the cleric art features another kobold, but since I already talked about kobolds here we can just skip straight to the cleric-y bits.

The high concept for a cleric is basically what you'd expect: they're servants of various gods that can channel various divine powers.

The difference is that they don't operate exactly like wizards, just with a different spellcasting stat and sometimes different spells (which I'll get to in a bit).

Stats
The key stat for clerics is Grace, which is used for most cleric talents (and all of the social skills). There are three stat arrays to choose from, depending on whether you want to also be strong, fast, or smart.

Skills
You start with Religion at d6, and get to pick three other skills. Though Religion is tied to Intellect, there's a sidebar that explains that for clerics, most Difficulties will be lower for them (especially when it pertains to their own god).

Gear
You begin with an adventuring kit, a holy symbol, and either medium armor and a melee weapon, or light armor and a ranged weapon (presumably you'll choose whatever best works with your stats and skills).

The holy symbol is similar to the wizard's magic focus: if you don't have it, when you use cleric talents that require dice rolls you have to discard your highest dice result.

Talents
At 1st-level you get to choose any one Domain talent, which helps establish what your god is about. As you level up you can choose other Domains to further flesh out your god (like a god of healing and fire, or a god of thunder and war), focus on the Domains you already have, or choose other various talents that require specific Domains (like Warpriest, which requires the War Domain).

The big cleric thing is Favor. Favor is a kind of point currency: your maximum Favor is equal to your level (or cleric level if you multiclass), and you regain them all when you spend a short rest praying to your god. Many talents require you to have at least one Favor left, or spend Favor to activate.

For example, the Healing Domain lets you spend 1 Favor to negate a Wound that an ally suffers (you can't use it after the fact, which means clerics can't spend a half hour full-healing the entire party), while the Fire Domain lets you spend 1 Favor to make a ranged attack that uses both Grace and Religion.

There are also Blessing/Rite talents, which are somewhat to rituals from 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. These let you do things like heal your allies, bless their weapons, protect them from fire, or bring them back from the dead. The catch is that they all require some time (usually 10 minutes or more) and a sacrifice of some sort.

Though they're basically useless once combat starts, the Divine Intervention talent lets you use a Blessing/Rite talent whenever you want, but you can't use it again until you pay the required sacrifice (and if you don't pay it off as soon as you can, then you can lose access to all of your cleric abilities until you do).

I should note that we're using all of these mechanics for clerics in FrankenFourth, which we think better evokes the idea/feel of a cleric (as opposed to giving them universal turn undead, and praying for specific spells with specific "slots" x times per day).

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 108

Cast
  • Adair (level 3 elf war cleric)
  • Humal (level 3 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 3 elf rogue)

Summary
After spending several days recuperating, the party returned to the Ebon Triad's temple.

To say that it was in disarray would have been a vast understatement: the elevator was destroyed, forcing them to climb down hundreds of feet of chain in order to make it to the main chamber, where they found countless dismembered bodies strewn about.

Apparently, the monstrous creature had thoroughly ransacked the place before seeking them out.

They set about exploring the other two wings of the temple. The first was dedicated to Morrigan, an old, somewhat obscure war god. They checked each room as they went, and the further they ventured the less destruction they observed. The very last room looked to be the perfectly intact bedchamber for this particular cult's high priest. He was dead, but his body was completely unharmed.

This lead Sumia to theorize that the creature had somehow stolen his soul, possibly in a similar fashion as the three-faced high priest they previously fought. Her hypothesis was confirmed when Filge tried communicating with his spirit, and his ritual failed to provide any results.

While they looted his room Humal found several scrolls. One of them seemed to contain nothing more than garbled characters, but when he referenced the cipher scroll they found in the three-faced priest's laboratory the message became clear: it mentioned a being called Kyuss, an "age of worms", and that they would need the "worms of Kyuss" in order to further their agenda.

Though it did not explain why, it also stated that what they sought could be found in the Mistmarsh, among the lizardmen tribes that dwelled there.

The third and final wing was little more than a cavernous series of tunnels. Bones were both placed in roughly hewn alcoves and scattered about. Corpses of slain cultists wore gruesome armor made of bones, and wielded heavy maces. Though none of the dead rose to trouble them, a pack of chokers were either dwelling there the entire time, or recently moved in while the party was recovering.

Fortunately, they only had to slay a few before the rest fled back into the shadows.

They scaled a cliff, crossed a rickety wooden bridge, and found several large chambers connected by narrow, winding passages. As with the previous wing, the furthest chamber contained the corpse of the cult's high priest, also without any visible wounds. It was slumped in a crudely carved stone chair, before which was a small pool of blood, a bowl of dried mushrooms, and numerous scraps of parchment.

Humal examined the parchment, and was able to puzzle out the rambling, disjointed notes. They spoke of a swarm of worms, the return of Kyuss, and the Age of Worms.

Design Notes
Going through The Three Faces of Evil, I noticed that there's a bunch of masterwork weapons and armor, which was a thing in 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons: masterwork weapons gave you a +1 bonus to hit, while masterwork armor reduced your armor check penalty by 1. For some bizarre reason, only masterwork weapons and armor could be magical.

Something we've been kicking around is whether Craft (and, I suppose, Profession) skills should be included in FrankenFourth. My reasoning against it them is, despite what 4th Edition detractors have said, that Craft (and Profession) rarely come up in actual play: I played 3rd Edition for nearly a decade, and the only Craft skill I ever used with any frequency was Craft (alchemy).

After reading the Weapon Mastery section in Rules Cyclopedia, I like the idea of making Craft skills something you can learn at any time, so long as you put in the necessary amount of time (which could be reduced if you study under someone more skilled than you).

This way, you don't have to invest actual points or slots in a very specific skill with nebulous applications, and characters can't run around adventuring, yet still quickly and easily eclipse the skill of craftsmen that dedicate their entire lives to doing that one thing.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

Dungeon World: The Ghost

The Ghost has manifested (and has been added to our All of the Playbooks, Bundle of the Dead, and Monster Mash bundles).

This class is good as a starting character, or as a way to keep a slain character in the game. Depending on your campaign this could be permanent, just until they complete some task and move on, or even until they get brought back from the dead.

In latter circumstances you could treat is as a kind of compendium class, allowing players to mix and match ghost moves with moves from their original class (or, if the character started as a ghost, let them more freely multiclass into another class).

This product contains three files.

One is a letter-sized character sheet that uses our new character sheet layout (which still only allowed us to fit 30 of the 32 advanced moves).

The other two are digest-sized books, one in color, the other in black and white (to make it easier to print at home if you want). They both contain:

  • The ghost class (which, again, has 30 default advanced moves).
  • A director's cut with questions to ask yourself, explanations for some of the moves, and a pair of advanced moves that we couldn't fit on the character sheet.

You can see a preview of it over on DriveThruRPG.

Note: If you purchase using the PayPal Buy Now button, we will also send you a complimentary copy through DriveThruRPG. Please allow up to 24 hours for delivery, though it usually ends up being at most eight (depends on if you buy it after we've gone to bed).

$2.00

$2.25


Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Keep on the Shadowfell, Episodes 4 & 5

Cast
  • Emery (3rd-level hearth kobold cleric)
  • Murtaugh (3rd-level tarchon dragon sorcerer)
  • Rig (3rd-level human warlord)

(Abridged) Summary
Over the course of a couple days, the party finished clearing out the orc nest. In the process they rescued about a dozen villagers, discovered a stone portal to the Abyss, and fled from a demon that emerged from said portal (luckily it was too big to pursue them through an underwater passage).

For their efforts, Lord Padraig awarded them a handful of gold pieces (and since FrankenFourth uses a silver standard it was a bigger deal than you might expect). There was still the matter of Shadowfell Keep, so they stocked up on some additional supplies (including several potions), learned what they could from the sage Valthrun, recruited a few able-bodied men, and ventured north.

While exploring the castle grounds, they exterminated a nest of giant centipedes (yeah, I'm mostly going off my 5th Edition conversion notes), smashed a few skeletons, and beat up a small group of cultists that arrived to investigate all the noise.

The surviving cultist tried to claim that they were merely travelers, but he didn't know that the others had summoned skeletons after he got knocked out. So, under threat of Murtaugh devouring him, he told them about a portal in the catacombs, and that they were close to opening it. When the party asked how to get into the catacombs he pointed them toward the stables, which they didn't realize was filled with animated horse skeletons until well after the soldiers had escorted him back to Winterhaven.

The party destroyed the horse skeletons, albeit barely, and when they didn't find any sort of entrance continued exploring the ruins. They found a few buildings that the cultists were obviously squatting in, a barracks filled with more skeletons, and a surprisingly intact chapel. In the chapel they ran into a skeleton that was not only far better equipped than the others, but could speak. They learned that he had been trying to wipe out the cult, but they had placed necromantic wards to imprison him.

Unfortunately he could not rest until his task was complete, and when the party explained that that's also why they had come, he bequeathed to them his holy blade, Aecris, and revealed to them a hidden staircase that lead into the catacombs. He also permitted them to rest in the chapel if need be, vowing to watch over and keep them safe from harm.

Design Notes
After three levels the party has finally discovered their first magic item! Aecris is basically a holy sword that can deal normal damage to demons and undead. Maybe it's all the magic items I've written for Dungeon World, but I hadn't thought about making it a +1 sword. Of course given FrankenFourth's flat math I don't think static bonuses to weapons or armor will be necessary, but we'll see how it goes.

Almost done with Keep on the Shadowfell for like the billionth time, and then I'll finally get a chance to run my heavily modded version of Thunderspire Labyrinth. Depending on how that goes, I'll either get to work on modding Pyramid of Shadows, or maybe start up a new campaign with Epiro, or my setting in which the husks of ancient Cthulhu gods orbit the world, perpetually raining their spawn down upon it.

Adam thinks that the Slayer tree is too good, something I'm inclined to agree with. Previously it granted a +1 damage bonus when making melee attacks, +2 with two-handed weapons, while rank 2 doubled both values. As per Dungeons & Delvers, I'm changing it back to +1 and +2 damage, but only when wielding a two-handed weapons (which provides another incentive to use a two-hander, as opposed to a shield).

Adam also wants to essentially multiclass into paladin. Even though the Essentials cavalier is fucking awesome, I'm still gonna dig through various editions for some more ideas. I suppose if all else fails I could mod the cleric's Favor mechanic (though I'd like to avoid it being a fighter/cleric combo by another name).

Despite only having 18 Wound Points and 0 Armor, skeletal horses are pretty badass.

I'm considering changing short rests yet again. In the Age of Worms campaign they're only 10 minutes, but I'm thinking of increasing it so that you need to spend 30 minutes, which means in a typical dungeon the GM would check for random encounters 2-3 times, making it riskier.

I'm also considering having them restore a random amount of Vitality each time, further increasing the risk factor (yet still being a bit easier than other editions). Classes would have something like a recovery die in line with Hit Dice from prior editions (d4 for wizards, d8 for clerics, d10 for fighters, etc), possibly with a bonus based on Constitution or other talents (so classes like fighters and barbarians could regain a bunch).

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

A Sundered Fragment: Art Pack

This is our third and largest art pack, in part made possible by the backers for A Sundered World (Melissa and I started doing art well before the Kickstarter campaign started, as a way to show people what we could do, but the campaign allowed us to focus on it more and get it done sooner).

As with our previous two art packs, you can use the art in this pack in anything but another stock art collection (at least, not without asking us first), you can use it as much as you want, and you can edit it however you want to make it work. The only condition is that you need to credit us.

You can see a preview of every illustration in the pack over on DriveThruRPG, using either of the preview links.

Another Note: If you purchase using the PayPal Buy Now button, we will also send you a complimentary copy through DriveThruRPG. Please allow up to 24 hours for delivery, though it usually ends up taking maybe a half hour, and at the most eight (depends on if you buy it after we've gone to bed).

$7.99

$9.99


Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

Dungeons & Delvers: Bandit Keep Stress Test

We ran a couple Dungeons & Delvers combat stress tests a few days ago, using some of my D&D minis so that the kids could fight something besides undead for a change (I have the Rock Top Gang for Super Dungeon Explore, but I'm saving that for a very Mario-themed adventure I'm working on).

During the necropolis-death-crawl they seemed to have an easy time cleaning house, so the first time I ran this I upped all the monster Attack and Defense scores by 1-2 points...which resulted in a near party wipe in the first encounter against four bandits (though, to be fair, they were using ranged weapons and a table for cover).

So, we rebuilt the dungeon (didn't want anyone to know what to expect), went back to the original stats, and tried again. This time it went much smoother, though the party still got beat up pretty badly (which is fine because they're only 1st-level).


Stop me if you've heard this one: three dwarves walk into a dungeon...


Our daughter loves Adventure Time, and was pretty excited to see the "jelly cube" make an appearance, despite the fact that it almost ate her.


The bandits were happy that the adventurers were able to take out the pesky jelly cube. They were also happy that the adventurers were weakened by the encounter, even though they still ended up getting defeated in the end.


Dwarf fighter, packing a big-ass hammer, shield, and clad in heavy armor still manages to leap away just in time to avoid falling into a pit trap.


Taking the jelly cube hall allowed the adventurers to skip some of the encounters, and they quickly found the bandit king's chamber. Wolves get a variable Attack bonus when teaming up on someone, and the bandit king makes multiple attacks when he's teaming up, making them a pretty nasty combination all around.

Once the players realized this they focused on taking the wolves out (they were easier to hit and had fewer Wounds), and then the bandit king (who was much easier when he was only making one attack). The dwarf fighter got taken out of the fight, but they still managed to defeat them and snag his a key to the treasure vault.


The fighter isn't Scrooge McDucking the treasure: the other adventurers just plopped her there while they took a long rest in the vault.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 107

Cast
  • Adair (level 3 elf war cleric)
  • Hedris (level 3 greedy cambion warlord)
  • Humal (level 3 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 3 elf rogue)

Summary
With who they assumed was the cult leader slain (and his soul dragged off), the characters looted his laboratory and continued to explore the labyrinth, if for no other reason than to try and discover what happened to Filge.

Eventually they came across another unmarked stone door. Sumia checked it for traps, and when she didn't find any Adair opened it to find a pair of hostile, ogre-sized chickens inside. After killing one, Sumia and Adair declared that they wanted to keep the other as a pet, and after a combination of cooing, petting, high Wisdom checks, and Humal's magic they were able to calm it down enough for Adair to ride around on.

Further examination of the room revealed—in addition to several sizable mounds of chicken feces—a cage that contained a bound-and-gagged Filge. They freed him, and he explained that he had been abducted during their first encounter with the cultists, but they fled shortly after the temple began to shake.

Humal, Sumia, and Adair wanted to return to town so that they could rest, do more research and resupply, but they also wanted to keep the giant chicken. So, they had Filge animate the dead one as a skeleton and command it to race through the mines, which sufficiently distracted the miners and guards long enough for them to escape mostly undetected.

After they fled a considerable distance, they circled about and made their way back to Filge's observatory; it it was on the outskirts of Diamond Lake, and really the only place they could safely and reasonably shelter a giant chicken. There, they debated whether they should return to the mines or—what with their newfound wealth—head somewhere else.

Filge reiterated that Smenk had hired him to deal with the worms and cult problem, so he'd have to go back regardless. Humal wanted to try getting on Smenk's payroll, and eventually managed to convince Filge to go and speak with Smenk on their behalf.

Once Filge had left, Humal went about poring through his books and notes, while Adair slept and Sumia studied some of the books on animals they'd recovered from the cult leader's library. About an hour had passed, when Humal heard the sounds of scratching and wood cracking outside a window. He feared that it was Filge, or maybe one of Smenk's agents sent to spy or assassinate them, but when he went to investigate immediately realized it was much, much worse.

A monstrous creature, only slightly reminiscent of the guardian, was scaling the wall towards him. The whole thing was roughly centaur-like in shape, with the lower half a combination of wolf and raven, while the rest was that of a three-headed, four-armed man. Two arms wielded a massive sword and mace, and the body was partially covered in metal plates and mail that disappeared under its flesh.

Humal raced downstairs to warn the rest of the party, who were able to wake and prepare themselves just in time for the creature's arrival. Hedris charged into melee, but the creature pinned him underneath one of its paws and tried hacking him apart with its sword. Before it could deliver a fatal strike, Sumia and Adair drew its attention with a combination of arrows and lobbing hammers made of divine energy, allowing Hedris to free himself and continue fighting, while Humal conjured illusionary barriers to conceal their location.

Once the creature fell, its corpse and all of its possessions dissolved into a puddle of black sludge, which then quickly evaporated, leaving only a greasy stain on the floor. Filge returned soon after and relayed to them Smenk's proposal: if they went back into the temple and cleaned it out, they could keep both what they found and their hands. Otherwise, well, they could expect a visit from some of Smenk's "colleagues".

Design Notes
Back when I ran this in 3rd Edition, and even 4th Edition, the players actually went through all of the temples in a more-or-less timely manner (I think they ended up having to rest once), culminating in a fight against the Ebon Aspect while they were still down there (which I guess is what's "supposed" to happen).

This time they only killed one cultist leader before leaving, and arguably the most important one at that, so I figured that the Ebon Aspect would rouse itself in a half-formed state, and then go about absorbing the other cult leaders before hunting the characters down (which seems inline with other possible outcomes in the adventure).

At 65 hit points, 3 armor, a Strength of +5, and the ability to make multiple attacks (one of which can pin if it rolls high enough, similar to a fighter exploit), it's the toughest thing they've fought so far. But, hey, that just means there's one less thing for them to worry about when they go back. Of course, who's to say the survivors won't take what they can carry and get the hell out of there?

We'll just have to see what happens next week. Until then, here's a dire chicken stat block:

DIRE CHICKEN
Level 2 Large Beast

Ability Scores
STR +1 DEX +2 WIS +1
CON 0 INT -4 CHA 0

Defense
Initiative +2
Speed 15 feet/40 feet
Fort 11 Ref 12 Will 11
Armor 0
Wounds 12 Vitality 12 Total 24

Offense
Beak +2 to hit; 1d8+2 damage

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Sunken Treasures has been dredged up from the depths!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

Dungeon World: Sunken Treasures

Sunken Treasures has been dredged from the depths (and added to our 10+ Treasure Trove Bundle)!

Our fifth entry in the 10+ Treasures line features 28 aquatic magic items, including a gun that shoots never-ending blasts of water, suddenly expansive armor (mind the pointy bits), a ring that will keep you alive if you're lost at sea (though you probably won't enjoy the experience), a potion that lets you breathe water (and only water), a cloak made of tentacles, and a legendary submersible (including stats for using it with A Sundered World's more in-depth ship rules).

There's also extensive notes on how we go about creating magic items (which we've included with all of our 10+ Treasures collections).

This product contains two files. Both are digest-sized pdfs: one in color, the other in black and white, to make it easier/cheaper on you if you want to print it out at home.

You can see a preview of it over on DriveThruRPG.

Another Note: If you purchase using the PayPal Buy Now button, we will also send you a complimentary copy through DriveThruRPG. Please allow up to 24 hours for delivery, though it usually ends up being at most eight (depends on if you buy it after we've gone to bed).

$2.25

$2.50


Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

FrankenFourth: Go Full-Vancian Or Go Home(brew)?

I wrote an article over a year ago about various problems with magic in Dungeons & Dragons, that even to this day still receives the occasional comment from someone that somehow manages to miss the point/fails to address my criticisms. I won't repeat them here, but they have informed how we're handling magic in FrankenFourth.

We've overhauled cleric and sorcerer magic, each with their own unique system that feels more evocative of the flavor behind each class (instead of just making one system and shoehorning everything else in), and begun to think of ways to handle bard and druid magic (likely using something similar to our upgraded bard and druid classes for Dungeon World).

But, this post isn't about them; it's about the wizard class.

Before I get into it, I want to point out that there are rituals in the game (and currently they're one of the big reasons for a wizard to even have a spellbook): anyone can use them (even fighters), they just take time and materials, and characters trained in stuff like Arcana and Religion will be able to get more out of them/use them more quickly/reliably.

Talents
The current model in FrankfenFourth is that a wizard chooses from a number of talents at 1st-level (plus Detect Magic), which reflect what you know and can do. They're based on the usual Dungeons & Dragons schools of magic, so you've got Abjurer, Evocation, Illusion, Transmutation, and so on. As you level up you can either build upon what you know, or branch out into new areas.

For example, Illusionist lets you conjure static images: you need Animated Illusion for them to move, Solid Illusion to make them, well, solid, Ghost Sound for them to make noise, and Phantasmal Killer for them to deal Wound damage. You can keep ranking up the core Illusionist talent to expand on the size of your illusions, Ghost Sound to make the noises louder (and have multiple noises at once), Phantasmal Killer to deal more damage, etc.

Now, each time you use a magical talent you suffer a random amount of fatigue (similar to how wizards work in A Sundered World), and the more talents you utilize at the same time, the more fatigue you suffer. For example, the Evoker talent lets you make a ranged Intelligence attack, but you suffer 1d4 fatigue each time (the upside is that misses still inflict half damage). If you use Arcane Ordnance it becomes an area attack, but costs you an extra 1d6 fatigue.

So, using Evoker by itself will cause 1-4 fatigue, while using both will run you anywhere from 2-10.

Fatigue starts out by draining your "mana" (term subject to change), then your Vitality, and finally your Wounds. Mana and Vitality are replenished during a short rest (which is currently 30 minutes long, and might end up restoring a random amount with each rest), while Wounds require you to rest for several hours, and even then are only replenished incrementally (based on your Constitution and environmental factors).

This makes magic flexible, but also unpredictable and dangerous (even before you factor in the dangers of using them in combat): do you play it safe and just zap enemies with the basic Evoker talent, knowing that you've got enough mana and Vitality, or do you ramp it up and risk suffering up to 10 fatigue, which is enough to almost kill a 1st-level wizard?

Of course this isn't what people expect from a D&D-esque game, which is why I've also been kicking around...

"True" Vancian
With this system spells are individual things, ala Dungeons & Dragons, and are more or less treated as "encounter" abilities (or, in the needlessly verbose words of 5th Edition, "you must finish a short or long rest before you can use it again"). There would be no at-will or daily spells: you load a spell into your head, a process that takes about 10-30 minutes (maybe for all of your spells, maybe for each spell), and it stays in there until you release it.

(You could also cast them right out of the book, it would just take the same amount of time as readying it.)

The number of spells a wizard can have loaded at a time would be much lower than what you're probably used to seeing: I'm thinking one at 1st-level, plus another every 2-4 levels. Depends on how potent spells end up being. I'm not just talking stuff like damage, but whether they have automatic effects or require some sort of roll.

Spells might have something like levels (The Dying Earth role-playing game had simple and complex spells), but your mind-space wouldn't be strangely compartmentalized into leveled slots, which is one of the big reasons why the default D&D's pseudo-Vancian nonsense falls apart. Instead, you might have 4 slots of space, which you can fill with up to 4 levels of spells, which is more like how it works in Dungeon World.

Wizards wouldn't gain as many talents, instead being able to ready more spells, and they would focus on other areas, such as establishing a magical stronghold, being able to cast spells out of your book faster, ready spells faster, growing creatures in flesh vats, being more resilient to magic, making at least temporary magic items more quickly and easily, brewing potions faster, researching your own spells, and so on.

The upside to this is that wizards would have an added incentive to go after other wizards: snagging their spellbooks. As it stands, they're mostly used for containing notes, alchemical/magic item formulas, and rituals. Nothing to sneeze at, but I think players would be more excited to get almost immediate access to new spells (just gotta take the time to load them).

So, what do you think? Do you prefer one, or would you wanna see both, either as separate classes, like a wizard and "vancomancer", or possible options for one class? Any suggestions or criticisms?

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 106

Cast
  • Adair (level 3 elf war cleric)
  • Humal (level 3 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Kuhnja'bi (level 3 human w/ Devil in the Details fighter)
  • Sumia (level 3 elf rogue)

Summary
The narrow hall beyond the door was made entirely from a highly polished, grey stone. Initially there weren't any features of note, not even cracks or seams, but they didn't venture far before discovering countless hand prints scattered across the walls and floor.

Ominous, even before they realized that they had been made with blood.

Humal shifted his sight and detected traces of magic coursing through the walls. He hoped that the handprints were the source, but upon close examination determined that small sections of the wall were the product of an illusionist. Fabricating a wall was simple enough, but once he tried moving through the wall he realized they were dealing with a skilled wizard: despite knowing that the walls were false, it was still difficult to pass through them.

Just beyond the first illusionary wall was a short passage, with another illusionary wall at the other end; once they were all crammed inside four cultists attacked, two at each end. They wore black hooded cloaks and slashed at the party with claw bracers, and it was clear that the walls did not impede their sight or movement. Despite these advantages, the party was able to eventually slay three and render the fourth unconscious.

It was then that a man approached them from the darkness, who unlike the cultists was clad in heavy armor and carried a longsword.

He explained that he had been captured while trying to locate and assassinate the cult's leader, but managed to escape when his captor vomited forth a raven, whispered something about "needing the guardian" to it, and fled the room he was detained in. The party welcomed him, but as they introduced each other they noticed Filge was missing; whether he had been abducted during the fight, fled, or slipped away to betray them was anyone's guess.

They continued to wander the halls until the cultist regained consciousness, but before Adair could get any useful information out of him, a grating caw echoed through the darkened halls. The cultist began to cackle maniacally as what they could only assume was "the guardian" emerged into Sumia's torchlight.

It looked like a wolf that was far too long and tall, all covered in oily black feathers. It's head was that of a raven, which was in turn surrounded by numerous, half-formed humanoid faces that wept and drooled blood. Countless long, human-like arms dangled from its body: some pawed at the walls, which explained the hand prints, while others helped balance and propel it about.

Adair pushed the cultist before them, and the beast snatched it up with its beak. The cultist screamed as the beast gorged itself, its humanoid limbs shoveling whatever chunks of viscera that accidentally spilled forth back into its maw. Once it was more or less done, Kuhnja'bi and Adair charged, slashing and smashing at it, while Sumia loosed arrows and Humal conjured illusionary boxes around its faces to try and obscure its sight.

It grabbed Adair with its beak, but mostly succeeded in damaging his armor before it was slain. While Sumia gathered feathers for "personal" reasons, Humal discovered yet another section of illusionary wall. On the other side was a door, the only door they'd seen in the labyrinth; it wasn't an illusion or trapped, and as far as they were concerned that merited investigation.

Beyond the door was a storeroom. Sumia rifled through various boxes for some rope and a torch, and once she was done they continued through another door. This one led to a small living quarters, which was in turn connected to a long, wide hallway. The walls of the hall were lined with glowing green pillars that contained ghostly figures. At the nearest end was an altar, where a pair of cultists busied themselves peeling the face off of a humanoid corpse tied to it.

Kuhnja'bi charged into the room, but before he could close the distance they released a raven. It flew at him and plunged its beak through his skull. It didn't cause any physical harm: its beak just seemed to phase right through. Kuhnja'bi froze, bleeding from his eyes, nose, and ears, while the cultists raked at his exposed flesh with their claws.

Sumia loosed an arrow at the raven, dislodging it from Khunja'bi's head and killing it. Once again in control of his body, Khunja'bi savagely dismembered the cultists. As far as they could tell there wasn't anything useful in the room, so keeping their distance from the green pillars they exited through the only other door they could find.

It led to a small laboratory, which contained a pair of long tables covered in scraps of paper, books, and a few gemstones. A skeleton stood in a corner, filled with pulsing organs, and a bookshelf sagged from the weight of various tomes, jars, scrolls, stones, and other arcane accoutrements. A robed-and-masked figure was hunched over one of the tables: he didn't notice the party, until Khunja'bi tried unsuccessfully to sneak up on him.

Once the man realized that they weren't fellow cultists, he leaped to his feet, drawing a long, metal rod from underneath his robes and casting a black stone at the ground. The stone exploded into a cloud of smoke, from which emerged a shadowy, wolf-like creature. It lunged at the party, while the man blasted them with bolts of lightning.

Kuhnja'bi hacked away at the man, and after Adair crushed the shadow-wolf the man conjured several illusionary copies of himself. Though they were successful at briefly diverting Sumia's attention, Adair guessed the correct one: he struck him in his head, sending his mask flying as his body lifelessly crumpled to the floor. It was then that they saw his face, or rather faces: there were three of them, merged more or less together, into one horrendous visage.

Moments later, what they could only assume was the many-faced man's ghost emerged from his body. The faces sneered at them in unison, as spectral chains erupted from one of the walls, enwrapping and promptly dragging him away. Once he vanished the ground shuddered. Though the tremors didn't last long enough cause any structural damage, they party couldn't help but regard it as an ill omen.

Design Notes
Whelp, we finally got to see a heavy-hitter fighter in action, and it did not disappoint: Strength +4, longsword (actual longsword, not "D&D" longsword), the cambion's wrath sin, and both the Slayer and Mighty Slayer talents gave Maria's character a whopping 2d6+9 damage per hit.

I wanted to provide a sufficient incentive for players to choose a two-handed weapon over a shield, as unlike armor shields make you harder to hit. Originally two-handed weapons dealt 1d10 or 1d12 damage, but compared to an arming sword's 1d8 that's only an average difference of 1-2 points, which I didn't think was quite worth upping your Reflex Defense.

I changed it to 2d6, upping the average again, albeit slightly, along with the minimum damage by a point. I still wasn't sure if this was enough, so I also changed the Slayer tree so that your bonus damage when wielding a two-hander is doubled: Slayer gives you +2 damage instead of +1, and Mighty Slayer gives you +4 instead of +2.

Though none of the playtesters complained, not even the war cleric with his Strength of 0, I'm concerned that this is "too much" damage. I'm also not sure if characters are in general too durable, but rather than rely on a bunch of theory crafting I'm just going to run Melissa through a fairly combat intensive solo campaign, using (at her request) a Lovecraftian-heavy setting I'd touched on quite some time ago.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

Alpha Blue Bargain

The number 111 is an important one for +Venger Satanis. I'm not sure why, but he's mentioned it a few times on his Alpha Blue Kickstarter (which I've talked about before) as a sort of lucky number.

What with today being 1/11 and all, he tapped me to do an art piece based on Galaxina to promote both Alpha Blue and a sale he's got going on: for today only you can pick it up at 50% off (and even pick up dead-tree copies on the cheap).

So, if you're one of those people that complained about the price as a barrier before, now's your chance!


Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 105

Cast
  • Adair (level 3 elf war cleric)
  • Filge (level 5 human necromancer)
  • Humal (level 3 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 3 elf rogue)

Summary
With the guardians destroyed, the party rode the wind column up through the ceiling. It deposited them in a square chamber, considerably smaller and less adorned than the one below: the only features of note were a single, colorful bas-relief carved into one of the walls, before which lay a marble sarcophagus.

The bas-relief depicted a bald warrior confronting a partially cloaked demonic creature, with two long, red horns curling from its head. Near as they could tell, the warrior and demon fought, but the demon used a hoop-like device to direct a black sphere at the warrior, consuming all but the diadem he was wearing.

The sarcophagus was virtually identical to the one they originally discovered in the lantern chamber, though it seemed to be formed from a single piece of marble. Humal examined it, and discovered a series of glyphs on the back. They were similar to other glyphs they had found scattered throughout the tomb, but when Humal studied his series of charcoal sketches realized that only one was a perfect match.

He touched it, and the billowing wind briefly ceased, before suddenly resuming with increased intensity. Allustan—being versed in various  languages of the denizens of the plane of air—realized that it wasn't merely wind, but a voice that demanded them to speak "His" name, presumably the name of the one entombed.

Humal shouted Zosciel: the wind subsided, and a seam appeared on the sarcophagus. Adair pushed the newly formed lid back. He had expected another trap, and was both surprised and relieved to find that its contents were merely a long metal box, a pair of curled, crimson horns, and a silver diadem.

Sumia briefly inspected the diadem before donning it, while Humal pondered possible uses for the horns. Adair noticed that the box was made from two pieces of metal that were poorly melted together, so he smashed it open. Inside was a dark, metallic device that looked like a hoop attached to a handle, virtually identical to the one on the bas-relief.

Seeing this, Humal promptly discarded the horns—to Sumia's delight—and eagerly snatched up the device. He knew that it could be used to control the destructive black spheres, of which he possessed a basic understanding, now all he had to do was find one.

Leaving Allustan to investigate the rest of the tomb, the party returned to Diamond Lake, purchased some supplies, and rested for the night. The next day they met up with Filge so that they could plan their way into the cult, eventually settling on buying some crappy clothes and pretending to be workers (which came so very close to including the murder of random people, just so Filge could animate them as zombies).

They made it into the mine without incident, and after twenty or so minutes of wandering around the mine looking for something, came across a wooden barrier with the words KEEP OUT scrawled on it in several languages. Instead of smashing it apart with his hammer, Adair carefully pried the boards apart so that he could reassemble it once they'd passed through.

Beyond the barrier was a kind of elevator, that operated using a hand crank attached to lengthy spool of chain. Humal—oddly the the strongest member of the group despite his profession—operated it, gradually lowering them hundreds of feet underground. They eventually emerged into a very large, mostly rectangular chamber.

A pair of guards greeted them, wearing chainmail and mail masks. Humal managed to convince them into thinking they were members of the cult, summoned to expand part of the temple, but wasn't sure which section they were supposed to work on. Obviously the guards weren't either—since there were in fact no such orders—so they left the party to their own devices to figure it out.

That left them with three choices, specifically three short passages that each ended in a marble door. One was flanked by banners depicting ravens, one was marked with the symbol of a bearded man, while the other was completely blank. Not wanting to potentially blow their cover by asking more questions—such as what the symbols on the doors meant—they chose the door with the bearded face.

Design Notes
Since the players are working with Filge, it meant that they didn't have to run into Smenk just so he could force them to do his dirty work (or else).

In the original adventure the diadem was a periapt of Wisdom +2 (one of 3rd Edition's many mandatory stat-boosting trinkets), but that doesn't scream wind-elemental-thing to me. Since it's a diadem, I'm thinking of making it so that the wearer can command creatures native to the plane of air, though maybe I'll just do a limited weather/wind control so it's a bit more immediately useful.

Since we're not playing in Greyhawk, I've changed up the gods that the Ebon Triad worships and is trying to mash together. Waaay back when I was planning/running a kind of celtic campaign for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, I came across The Morrigan, a (sometimes?) "triple god" made up of an inconsistent trinity.

I'm not planning on sticking too close to the actual mythology in this case (it's not important to the plot or development of FrankenFourth): I just like the idea, it makes sense with the Ebon Triad's original goal (merge three gods into a single "overgod"), and I've also come up with some weird shit while incorporating various elements of it into the adventure (which I won't reveal now).

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

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