Dungeon World: 10+ Treasures

My newest Dungeon World supplement, 10+ Treasures, is up for sale on Drivethrurpg.

I wrote this after helping some people over at the Dungeon World Tavern G+ community spruce up their magic item pitches. Apparently they liked what I did and asked if I was going to make a compilation, and here it is.

There are 32 magic items, but a lot of them have tweaks to make them better, modify what they can do, or even add drawbacks. Some also have notes, and ideas for using them or miss effects.

As an added bonus I also describe the process that I go through when creating and modifying magic items, as well as the kind of hoops I would make my own players go through in order to make their own.

Something Stirs in the Blackscale Brakes Now in Print
As a side note Something Stirs in the Blackscale Brakes is now also available in both print and a print/pdf bundle, so if you prefer books to pdfs (or like both), there ya go.

Here are some tantalizing pictures so that you might bask in its glory:



Super Dungeon Explore: Wipe in the Kobold Warrens

I am running a Super Dungeon Explore hangout game this Tuesday, but since Melissa wanted to get in a practice game we decided to run a small Dungeon Crawl using our newly-painted kobolds. Yeah, I know that they are one of the default group of minions, but we quickly got our hands on the Rocktop Gang and Fireflow Denizens, so they kind of fell by the wayside. For awhile. A long while.

Anyway, a Dungeon Crawl is the shortest game you can run: there are only two tiles, two spawning points, and you just have to kill a mini-boss to win. For Heroes she opted for the Deeproot Druid and Star Guild Sapper, a fairly durable dwarven duo.


She went first, as the Heroes are wont to do (given that they go first on a tie), but failed to hurt anything with the Deeproot Druid's Stranglethorn, which set the tone for the first part of the game.


She popped a treasure chest and drew a +1G Armor mithril rune, but gave it to the Deeproot Druid, and over the next few rounds I was able to gang up on the Star Guild Sapper and take him down with Mob bonuses and focused Flinger fire.


Eventually the mini-boss spawned, and this is where things took a turn. See, one of the Deeproot Druid's powers is called Briar Armor. Despite the name it gives you no actual Armor bonus, but does give you Backlash, which makes it so that any time you succeed on a defense roll whatever attacked you takes a wound.

Normally this would not be a problem, as the Deeproot Druid only has 1B 1R for armor. Good, but beatable, especially if pretty much everything at your disposable has Mob, which lets you stack on more Blue dice.

Except she also has a Green die, which will almost always roll stars.


I tried to play it very cheap, having Knuckleheads stand next the Deeproot Druid just so Rex could grab some more Blue dice to hopefully pound him into dwarf-debris, but on subsequent turns Melissa would have it roll out Stranglethorn, which thanks to some lucky loot drops gave her a bunch of Will bonuses.

This rapidly whittle away the bonuses, and ultimately it came down to one dwarf, and one kobold ogre.


And in the end Angry Bear won the day by one wound. This was a very close, very tense game, especially considering that Melissa had failed to destroy any spawning points and was drastically outnumbered by pretty much every kobold at my disposal when the mini-boss spawned.


The Forgotten King Kickstarter
One last thing I wanted to mention is that Soda Pop Miniatures is doing a Kickstarter for The Forgotten King. I playtested it back when I guess it was going to just be an expansion, but it is now going to be a fully stand-alone-yet-backwards-compatible-game that provides a fully cooperative mode of play (and thankfully cards that update every other model to the new stuff).

The Always Super pledge level is pretty steep at $100, but it comes with a bunch of extra heroes (nine in total before you count mini-bosses, but if it gets to $900k then there will be a tenth one added), some extra warbands, and other neat perks like physical heart and potion markers and cards that let you use mini-bosses as heroes.

If you have the extra cash to burn, you can also pick up more heroes, warbands, creeps, and tiles.

Anywho, I got in the game back when the core box was $90, so I figured that if anyone was looking to get in on it I would consider this: you will get a lot more for your money.

Dungeon World: Dinner with the Folks

Cast
  • Augustine (level 1 human paladin)
  • Jaya (level 1 human bard)
  • Mouse (level 1 gnome thief)

The dusky knocked another needle-like arrow in its tiny bow. If it were not for the fact that it had a very keen eye, the arrows were poisoned, and it was trying to kill them all Jaya would have probably proclaimed that it looked absolutely adorable.

Augustine was less distracted by its appearance, which was understandable given that it had almost blinded him, and the spider bites were not doing much to improve his mood. Enraged, he scooped it up and pointed it at the oncoming horde of spiders, demanding that it order them to stop or he would bash its head into the wall.

A sharp pain in his hand caused him to drop it: somehow it had managed to draw a dagger and stab him. In the brief moment it took him to check his wound, the dusky dashed into a nearby tunnel that Augustine was positive had not been there a moment ago. He watched it flee in frustration before remembering the more immediate threat of a big-ass swarm of spiders, but when he looked up all he saw was a...wall?

Well that was something to note, thought Mouse: apparently these wee bastards were both smaller and more devious than himself. No matter, if things got too hairy he could always...ah, the exit had also been replaced with a wall. This left them with two newly revealed, shrouded, equally unappealing passages. On the bright side at least there was nothing immediately (or obviously) trying to kill them. Uncertain where to go, and certain that the duskies would continue to befuddle them with shadows and illusions they left their decision to a coin toss, and left it was.

They crawled until their knees and backs were sore, and then crawled some more until they eventually came across a swiftly flowing underwater stream. They could not see the bottom, and their torch light did not extend far in either direction. Mouse "tested" the depth by tying a section of rope around himself, handing one end to Augustine, and jumping in. It took him a bit to reach the bottom, and they judged the water to be about a dozen or so feet deep.

They would not be able to stand, and none of them would be able to swim against the current for long, which meant that they would be entirely at the mercy of the water. Even so it sounded marginally better than getting gradually picked off in narrow tunnels, so they tied themselves together and hopped in. With no light they had no idea where they were going, how fast they traveled, or what dangers they might be speeding towards.

Like a waterfall.

They fell for just a moment before their rope caught on something. The cascading water prevented them from lighting a torch to get their bearings, so they had no idea how far they had fallen, how far they had to go, or if there were, say, sharp jagged rocks waiting for them. Left with no other choice than to leave his fate to chance, Mouse sliced his rope. Actually, since he was serving as a kind of counterweight for Augustine and Jaya, it was more accurate to say he was leaving all of their fates to chance.

Their fall was broken by a pool of water that fortunately lacked jagged rocks. Unfortunately Augustine sank like a paladin clad in metal armor, dragging down Jaya as he went. She struggled against his weight, which actually gave him the boost he needed to make it back to the surface just before she lost consciousness. He looked around and spotted a flickering light in the distance, and swam towards it: apparently Mouse had found land.

As he swam closer he realized that it was a platform made of black marble that had been eroded by the water over countless years. There were no noteworthy markings, just a square hallway that extended into darkness. While Jaya recovered Mouse carefully examined the door for any hazards. He found none, but could have sworn that he heard something...roaring. On one hand it sounded far away, but on the other hand it came from inside the structure, which was the only way to go.

Immediately inside they found a closed door. The wood had rotted and the metal rusted from the moisture, which at least meant that even if it were locked or jammed it would be a simple matter to break it down. Mouse wanted to see what was inside, but Augustine recommended exploring the rest of the hall to see what else they could find before they started branching off. Mouse had them wait while he scouted ahead, figuring that by himself it would be easier to avoid being detected by monsters, and harder for his companions to detect any treasure he might stumble upon.

He found the former.

He had pressed himself against one of the walls and slowly slid down its length, hoping to better conceal his silhouette from whatever might be lurking in the darkness. As his eyes better adjusted he saw that he was entering a large room with pillars, perfect for hiding, which was probably precisely what had crossed the mind of whatever was already there. He could not see it, but could both hear and feel its fetid breath. He froze, and it likewise remained still and continued to breath. After a few tense minutes, he learned several things.

The first was that it was quite tall, likely taller than Augustine. It also was fairly sure it could not see him, though Mouse was not sure if this was because it could not see in the dark or it was too careless to look down. Of course it might just be waiting for Mouse to flee before giving chase: you know, dinner and a show. The last was that it was not alone, because he could hear more things moving.

Towards Augustine and Jaya.

As they started down the hall their silhouettes revealed that they were much, much larger than Augustine. Not only several feet taller, but also much broader. They were also hefting makeshift clubs that were probably made out of bits of debris they had managed to tie together. Crude, but still perfectly capable of caving a skull in.

Augustine and Jaya did not seem to notice their approach, probably due to a—fortunately for Mouse—woefully underdeveloped sense of paranoia. Not wanting to give away his position, Mouse tossed a coin into the back corner of the room. The two creatures stopped, and in their own way crept towards the source of the noise. He figured that once they started fumbling about he would make a break, warn his companions, and...well, he was not sure what then. The first step was surviving long enough to get to that point.

Mouse heard a faint grunt, followed by another grunt, and the all to familiar sound of a coin clattering to the ground. It seemed that they had found the coin, much, much faster than anticipated, which meant they could see in the dark. Right, new "plan".

Mouse stabbed the one next to him in what he assumed was its foot.

It howled in pain and fell back, and Mouse used this opportunity to make a break for it. It swung wildly, clipping him with its club, but he quickly recovered and was easily able to outpace them. Augustine and Jaya saw him bolting towards them, followed by the creatures. Before they could say anything he blurted out that there were four of them, but he had just killed one, wounded another, and they were after him.

Augustine checked the door. It was not locked, not that it would have mattered much in its current state, and they dashed inside...and found themselves in a small room. At one point it might have been a guard room or perhaps used for storage, but all that remained was rotting furnishings. Thinking quickly Mouse doused some of his food in goldenroot poison. When he could hear the creatures outside the door he opened it, tossed the food out, and closed it.

He waited a few moments before opening it again, and was dismayed for two reasons. The first was their appearance: now that they were in the light and he was not running from them he could see that they look like men, just bulkier, much hairier, and degenerate, as if their faces had been smashed ten too many times and jumbled about before healing. The other was that only one was noisily chewing. The other two turned to glare at Mouse, made all the worse due to their gruesome appearance, and at the same time tried to force their through the opening.

Mouse hopped back and Augustine stepped in, viciously slashing at one and severing its head almost completely. The other one howled with rage, surging into the room and attempting to crush Augustine with its club. While Mouse tried to find an opening, Jaya noticed that though the third had finished eating it continued to stand there, staring at her with a...strange expression. That would be Mouse's poison kicking in. She cried out for help, pointing at the other creature before pretending to faint.

At this it picked up its club and struck the other one in the back of the head, killing it instantly. It then glowered at Mouse and Augustine, who waited for it to make a move. However rather than attack them it seized Jaya roughly by the arm and dragged her off. Mouse looked to Augustine, then to Jaya, then back at Augustine, making a kind of half-shrug, half-stabbing motion, as if to say, "Well, do you want me to stop it or what?"

Jaya and Augustine both talked Mouse down, rationalizing that it might be able to lead them somewhere. Mouse could not think of a single thing that it could lead them to that would actually be of any use, and his assumptions were confirmed when it took Jaya up a flight of stairs, into a room packed with more of them, slamming and barring the door behind it: apparently he was taking Jaya to meet the "family", and look into maybe adding a much-needed branch to their tree.

It started whatever amounted to its courtship ritual by introducing her to its confused kin, and offering Jaya a bowl of fetid fish soup. The odors that saturated the room were thick enough for her to taste, yet somehow the fish managed to stand out among them all, and it was all she could do to choke back both the soup and vomiting whatever she had eaten earlier that day (which might have been an improvement).

Just when she thought things could not get any worse, a much larger creature rose from a pile of animal hides. It lurched towards her, dragging a massive hammer behind it. Judging by its size and the fact that the hammer looked like a hammer, she pegged it as their leader. She also assumed the hammer was for her, being an outsider and all, but it just smacked the bowl out of her hand, roughly jabbed her abductor in the face with the hammer, and then effortlessly hauled her towards the pile of skins it had just emerged from.

Meanwhile Augustine and Mouse stood outside the door, arguing intensely about what they should be doing. In a bizarre shift of personalities, Mouse actually wanted to go in blades-blazing while Augustine wanted to just wait and see what happened. It was not until they heard Jaya urgently state that one of them was starting to "get a bit too friendly" that they decided to act.

Mouse used his last dose of poison, hoping that the whole poisoned food bit would again work and better stack the odds. The big guy answered the door, but did not seem interested in his offer. As he tried to close the door Mouse resorted to "plan B", which was basically "throw the dark sphere he had lifted from Killian into the room without discussing with Augustine". He had no idea what it would do when it broke, but desperate times called for mysterious, dangerous magical grenades.

It shattered against the lip of the cauldron, instantly choking the entire room with webbing and entangling everything inside. Mouse watched them as they struggled against their bindings, and when he was confident that they were held fast carefully made his way through the room and slit their throats one by one before freeing Jaya. He then rummaged through the room, finding a cache of arguably edible food and several hundred coins. He also hauled out the hammer, since it still looked to be in remarkably good condition, which meant that there was a fair chance it was magical.

They went back downstairs to the storeroom, cleared out the bodies, and tried to get some sleep. Being trapped in a damp, noisy, dangerous underground ruin had a way of tiring you out.

Behind the Scenes
This campaign really took a turn. We went from dealing with duskies to trolling troglodytes (we learned later that the creatures were troglodytes, which are not much like Dungeons & Dragons troglodytes, which is not a bad thing). I also learned that goldenroot poison has to be ingested. Whoops. Oh well, I still got to use it creatively, though I am now fresh out. At least we will always have Killian.

Speaking of Killian and lessons learned, we also learned what the dark sphere that I found in the first session did: spider-web bomb. Better for Jaya than, say, an...acid bomb. That would have sucked. For her, anyway.

We finally leveled up, in no small part to our misses, making this the second non-playtest campaign where I managed to hit 2nd-level. I suppose I could have taken Brewer to make some more poison, but given we are deep underground and it has to be ingested, Shoot First seemed like it would be more useful. I also got to establish a bond with Melissa's character: Jaya could learn a thing or two from Mouse.

Ben took Setup Strike, which will give one of us bonus damage, and Melissa snagged Metal Hurlant, which will give her more damage-dealing capabilities.

Fright Night Playtest: Widow's Bluff

For about a month now Ben, Melissa, and I have been working on our own role-playing game that for now we are referring to as Fright Night. In a nutshell it is intended to let you play through most if not all horror movie experiences, and it has finally gotten to a point where we actually want to talk about it.

The core mechanic is pretty simple: you have stats like Brawn, Brains, and Looks, each rated from 1-3. When you need to make a check you roll six-siders equal to your stat, with each 5-6 counting as a success. If circumstances are favorable or you have some asset then you succeed on a 4-6, but if they are not then you need a 6, and we have been tinkering with a simple skill system to make it even more likely that characters will be able to do the kind of stuff that they are supposed to.

The game is broken up into scenes. The Director gives each Actor some screen time in turn, combining them when necessary (because sometimes the characters do stick together). The general outcome of each is determined by rolling on a couple of tables, which means that even the Director will not be fully aware of what is going to happen next (which we felt added to the tension): you might discover a recently butchered body, hear a scream, discover a strange object, get startled by a jump scare, or, if you are really unlucky, get ambushed by whatever monster the Director has cooked up.

After each player has a scene, the Director makes a "climax" roll to see if the monster finally goes all out in an effort to do whatever it is that it is trying to do.

To me the game feels like a blending of FiascoApocalypse World, Arkham Horror, and Mansions of Madness: there was a lot of collaboration between the Director and Actors to make sure a scene played out well (even if it meant willfully adhering to a horror flick trope, like investigating sounds in the dark), things got pretty lethal when a monster popped up, there is a sense of an uncertain time limit, and things are pretty random, but in a good way.

To give you a better idea of how the game plays, Ben whipped up a play report of our most recent game sessions, complete with the rolls he made for each scene. If this sounds like a game that interests you, let us know; we would love to have other people look over the rules once we get a working draft and give it a playtest.

Cast
  • Woody Harrelson (me!)
  • Joanne (Melissa)

Joanne (Object/NPC Attack)
Fade in on an overhead shot of a large house on the side of a cliff. The waves crash up against the rocks far below the estate known to the locals as Widow’s Bluff. A moving van pulls up, followed by a car from which a woman emerges. This is JOANNE, a single mother who is moving her family into the west wing. The door to the main house opens to reveal WOODY, the rich eccentric who owns the estate. Dressed in a bathrobe, he greets the new arrivals as the family dog RUSTY bounds out of the car followed by ten-year-old ZANE. Joanne pays her first month’s rent before collecting GRANDMA and four-year-old SUZIE and headed into her new home.

While putting away clothes in her walk-in closet, Joanne spots something up on a shelf. She strains to reach it, but the shelf tips up, spilling her onto the floor followed by a jewelry box. Her children come to investigate the noise. Suzie runs off with the box, but not before Joanne looks inside and extracts an old ring with a “To my love” inscription. Finished with unpacking for the day, Joanne starts work on dinner. Her son rushes in, asking if she’s seen Rusty. She tells him that after they eat they’ll go have a look.

Woody (Environment/Jump Scare)
Joanne decides to start their search by checking in with Woody. She walks in to find a trail of ominous red footprints. She follows them to find her host sipping a drink, covered in what looks to be blood and holding a long thin blade. She is startled, until she learns that her host practices what he calls Katanart (painting with his sword). He has not seen the dog, but suggests looking in the woods behind the property.

After quite a while of tramping through the thicket and calling for their pet, it begins to get dark and they reluctantly turn back. As they round a tree a hulking figure steps out and barks a gruff “Hey!” It’s JOB, the hermit who lives in a cabin in these woods. He introduces himself and tells the unhappy boy that he’ll keep a lookout for the animal.

Upon returning, in the dim light Woody senses something amiss at the cliff’s edge. He investigates and discovers that a section of his rather sturdy railing has broken off and fallen to the rocks below. He finds this odd, but merely files it away as something to tell JOSE, his gardener, to fix.

Climax Roll: 5

Joanne (Information/Actor Attack)
After tucking in the children, Joanne settles in on the couch with a book while Grandma knits in her favorite chair. As the night wears on, the clacking of needles slows, then stops as the old lady falls off to sleep. Joanne realizes then how quiet the place is at night.

No sooner has she had the thought than a creaking begins to emanate from the dining room. She gets up to investigate and finds that the chandelier is swinging back and forth. She stops it with a broom, but as she turns the light off the fixture begins swinging again, faster this time. She stops it once more and turns to leave as the crystal chandelier drops to the floor on the spot she had been standing just seconds before!

Shaken up, she cleans up the remains of the fixture before going around to check on everyone who was woken by the crash. She then decides that she is too on edge to concentrate on her book and heads off to bed. On the way she notices that the corridor upstairs is lined with old photos, and stops in front of a yellowed photograph of a man in captain’s uniform smiling next to a woman in a simple dress. They are standing before the very railing that is now in pieces…

Woody (Body/Actor Attack)
The next morning, Woody wakes and heads out back to where he has left a bowl of drugged chow to see if the dog is back. There’s no sign the food has been touched, but when he returns to his painting room, he finds the animal lying in the middle of the floor, his fur stained with red. He runs out and returns with his renter, and they examine the body. Unfortunately, this time the stain is not paint. Joanne takes the body out to bury it and Woody sets about cleaning the mess left behind.

As he works, behind him the handle on his large sink slowly turns, releasing a stream of water into the basin. He turns and shuts the stream off. This sets off a rattling of pipes, and as he throws himself backwards a guyser of scalding hot water launches from the drain, filling the room with steam and drenching his artwork. As he finishes cleaning, he realizes that no one checked the dog’s body for clues.

Climax Roll: 7

Joanne (Information/Jump Scare)
Woody rushes outside to where Joanne is packing down the last of the dirt, grabs the shovel and starts to dig. The surprised woman begins to protest, then to yell, then to accuse her host of foul play. As he digs, Woody appeals to her sense of logic. Why would he kill her pet in his own home, then bring her back to show it off? He pulls the dog from the ground and they examine it. There are no wounds!

They decide they need more information before making any wild conclusions. Woody sets off to question the hermit Job while Joanne seeks out Jose, who has arrived to work the grounds. The gardener tells her that he has indeed noticed strange things on the property, and his tools disappear, only to show up in the strangest places. He also mentions that people who move into this house don’t stay very long. He leaves, and when he returns, they too have disappeared. This is too much for Joanne, who decides to run some errands. And while she’s out, she might just swing by city hall to see if she can’t ferret out some of the strange estate’s history. She goes to collect the children.

As she opens the door, there is a blood-curdling scream from the living room. She rushes in to find Grandma glued to the television set, lamenting that her soap stars long-lost evil twin has returned. Joanne composes herself, shakes her head, and leaves.

Woody (Object/Monster Presence)
Woody, after getting thoroughly lost in the woods, finally stumbles on the hermit’s cabin. He knocks on the door and is ushered in, where he questions Job about the property. The large man confirms that there is definitely a presence in that house, and it’s most likely supernatural. Woody concludes that they may be dealing with a ghost, and Job reveals that the only way to get rid of a ghost is to destroy that which represents what the person most desired. Slightly puzzled, Woody thanks him and leaves.

As he approaches the house, Woody spots a rustling curtain and what appears to be a figure in one of the second story windows. He hurries to the front of the house, where he discovers Jose’s hatchet buried in the wood of the front door. He wrenches it free and heads in to investigate.

Climax Roll: 15

Joanne (Omen/Jump Scare)
Joanne enters city hall and approaches the young man at the desk. She asks for any information he might have about the property she recently moved into.

“Oh, the old Prattle place?” he queries.

He reveals that the house was built by Jeremiah Prattle for his young wife Melinda. This piques Joanne’s interest, and she is directed to the town’s newspaper archives. She scans her way through many months’ worth of microfilm before she finds mention of the couple in question. She reads of the wealthy man’s crew breaking ground, of the town coming out for the estate’s unveiling. And when the reader jolts to a halt, she finds herself staring at the very same picture that hangs in her hallway.

As she reads on, happy times turn to tragedy as she finds a death announcement for Jeremiah Prattle. It tells of a terrible crash on the rocks on his return voyage home, and laments that he is survived by his only living relative, his lovely wife Melinda. Then, a few weeks later, Melinda’s own obituary. The woman, distraught over her loss, threw herself from the bluff into the icy waters below.

Remembering her original mission, Joanne fast-forwards to more recent times, as a budding journalist questions what is going on at this estate. People go up to the house but don’t come back down. An elderly couple, a trio of young roommates, a businessman come to remodel and turn it for a profit. All inhabit Widow’s Bluff and are never seen again.

As a shiver runs down her spine, a hand clamps down on Joanne’s shoulder. She whirls to find the desk clerk, come to check on her progress. She shakily thanks him, gathers the children and runs to the car. She must uncover the secrets of their new home.

Woody (Body Found/Actor Attack)
Back at the house, Woody pinpoints the room where he may have seen a ghost. Inside he instead finds the body of poor Jose, covered in blood just like the dog. This body is cleaner than the first, however, so upon closer examination Woody discovers that this body too is wound-free, and that the blood instead appears to have seeped from the man’s eyes and mouth. Before he died, the gardener pulled down the ladder to the house’s attic. Woody climbs up for a look.

The attic is filled with old, old junk the man had never had the time nor the inclination to clear out. A wardrobe here, a crib there, a headless dress dummy, several dusty boxes… Clutching his hatchet for comfort, Woody calls out for the ghost to show itself. He is met with only silence. Until he hears his tenant calling for him as she crests the stairs. He directs her to the ladder, and she joins him in the attic. Together they start pouring through the boxes until Woody opens one and finds an old journal inscribed with the initials M.P. This sparks Joanne’s memory, and she fills him in on all that she’s learned. He does the same as she begins to read.

Early entries confirm what she’s already uncovered. Flowing paragraphs of young love, of building a new home. Joanne flips through the pages until she finds an entry about Jeremiah leaving on another voyage. Melinda records her heartache as her husband sails off, and her expectation for his return so they can finally begin a family together. Then tear-stained pages as she speaks of his death. And finally, one last entry.

“I cannot bear this any longer. I hope that, since he cannot give me any more in life, my Jeremiah will offer me comfort in death.”

As she closes the book, Woody mentions destroying the symbol of the ghost’s desire. Her mind races to the ring she discovered. The widow awaited her husband’s return, the wedding ring must be what’s fueling her malevolent presence. They start toward the ladder, but without warning the dummy lunges out at Woody. Startled, he loses his balance and pitches through the hole and lands roughly onto the floor below. Joanne climbs down and picks him up and they race for the west wing.

As the pair rushes in, little Suzie thanks her mother for the jewelry box, wondering sweetly if it might belong to the woman she saw in Mommy’s room. She did seem nice. The adults look at each other, and double their pace for the bedroom. The ring is luckily still on Joanne’s nightstand, and they take it outside to the cliff. As they approach they spy something down on the rocks, lying on the remains of the railing. It is the battered body of Job. Without a second thought, Woody hurls the ring into the ocean. It arcs down, twisting and turning as it falls, and as it strikes the water the waves are momentarily still. Panting in relief, the two walk back to the house and cross the threshold of Woody’s home.

Joanne & Woody (Object/NPC Attack)
 …And the door slams shut behind them! Woody grabs his hatchet and begins to hack at the wood, but it seems impervious to blows. As do the windows, the two discover as they try any and all exits from the house. As Joanne tries a window on the side of the house, she gasps in horror. She watches as Suzie turns, holds her arms out as if reaching for something, or someone, and begins to slowly toddle toward the railing. 

She runs to Woody, and they head back to the attic as they realize that they might have missed something. Maybe the ring wasn’t the answer after all. Try as they might, though, they’re coming up with nothing. They tear the boxes apart again, looking for any clues, until Woody hacks the dummy apart in frustration. As he calms down, however, he begins to recall bits and pieces of what they had learned.

 “…survived only by his lovely wife…”
“…can’t wait to start our family…”
“…destroy that which represents what the ghost most desires…”

He looks around the room. His eyes settle on the one thing that doesn’t belong, and he pieces together why the widow Prattle is leading a little girl to her certain doom.

“The crib!” he shouts, and readies the hatchet. As the blade swings down and splinters the first bit of wood, an unearthly howl surrounds the pair and the bare light bulb shatters in a shower of sparks. But gallant Woody pays no heed, and soon the crib is nothing but splinters. The howl dies down, and once again all is silent.

Joanne nearly jumps down the hole and races down the stairs before throwing the front door open. She has never run as fast as she does this day, and scoops up her daughter just as she reaches the gap in the railing. 

The little girl smiles up at her. “I was following the nice lady, but she’s gone now.”

Mother showers daughter with kisses, and hoists her up to her chest as they begin the short walk back to what might turn out to be a very nice home after all.

FADE TO BLACK
April 11, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Requiem: Chords of Terra - Music of the Universe



This is the basic fluff for a campaign I am making. It is based on some texts I am reading on Musica Universalis which is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies—the Sun, Moon, and planets—as a form of music. This setting draws inspiration from numerous sources, one of them being Innistrad which is one of my favorite planes in the Magic: The Gathering multiverse.
I wanted to create a dark fantasy setting with an unique flavor, or at least interesting enough to want other people to use the setting for their own games. I am currently writing a wiki for my closets friends to read and comment as I develop the setting, but I wanted to share some of what I have written down so far.

No system selected yet for the setting. Let me know what you guys think.

Music of the Universe

The Music of the Universe (sometimes referred to as the Harmony of the Cosmos) is defined as the totality of existence. Within itself is contained the foundation of everything that is known; the sun, the moon, stars, planets, spirits, and every other aspect of life. Everything within the Music produces a melody that must always remain in harmony with the universe, otherwise everything would collapse leading to the extinction of the cosmos.


Within the Music resides Harmonia (often referred as The Harmony or just Harmony), an invisible entity responsible of incorporating, regulating, and balancing all aspects of the Music of the Universe.

The Struggle for Balance

Soon after the Music was in perfect harmony a strange force appeared which caused discord. Harmonia felt a change in the composition of the Music as this unknown, cacophonous being known as The Discordia, the raw representation of entropy, began to compose his own music.

The Creation of Spirits

The struggle between Harmonia and The Discordia distorted the very composition of reality and from their clash the world of Terra was created. Harmonia composed intangible beings who are known in the world of Terra as spirits. Their sole purpose was to weave the new elements into the Music while she continued to confront The Discordia.

Angels, Demons, and Men

Many beings came into existence since the struggle began, among them came the humans. Humans were beings composed of both law and entropy, order and chaos, light and darkness. They were the physical manifestation of choice and possibility, they could fully embrace or slowly become agents of order or of chaos.

A new conflict began as each force wanted to sway humans into either side; Harmonia to keep the balance, and The Discordia to decompose the Music and write it to its own accord. In response to this conflict spirits of light which could assume physical form came into existence, they were known as angels. Angels would embody the core virtues that would keep the world in order.

In return, The Discordia corrupted eight of the most powerful spirits which kept the music of the universe in perfect balance and descended to the world to oppose the angels. Those spirits became the first demons of the world, beings composed of pure entropy.

The Endless War

War raged in Terra between both angels and demons. During the war, angels were able to sway and inspire most humans to join their cause. Demons tried to do the same, however, they chose to corrupt humans to do their bidding or turn them into hideous creatures to aid them in battle. The battle continued for centuries as neither side yielded any ground and while those who fought were wounded, they would soon recover and rejoin the fight.

The archdemons saw no end to this war and together schemed to compose a composed a new theme that would end this war. Somnus, the archdemon of sloth, convoked a truce to distract the archangels while the other 6 archdemons weaved their new theme directly into the Music. By the time the archangels saw through the archdemons’ ploy, it was too late. The concept of death had been introduced into the Music. Humans were the first to experience the consequences of this new theme as they became completely mortal. While angels and demons were immortal they could still be slayed and upon their death their essence would return briefly to the Music before reappearing again into the world a few decades later.

Spirits of Death

Soon after the concept of death had been incorporated the first spirits of death appeared to integrate and regulate this new theme into the Music. To prevent The Discordia from corrupting these newborn spirits a powerful spirit came into existence to embody death and the concept of neutrality. This spirit was later known as Occasus, the angel of death. By the time Occasus claimed his dominion over death, The Discordia had already corrupted a powerful spirit of death. This spirit of death became the demon known as Murmuur.


The End of the War

Eventually the war ended and the angels won but  they did not know what to do with the captured archdemons. The angels knew that if they slayed them, the demons would eventually return and so they had no choice but to cast them down into the bowels of Terra and imprison them there.To make sure the demons would not be able to escape Terra and corrupt the Music again, the angels created the heavens high above the sky. The heavens engulfed all of Terra so that in the event that the demons managed to find a way to escape their underground prisons, they would never make it out of the world.


The angels ascended to the heavens and the demons remained deep underneath the earth, trapped in their hellish prisons. During this period of peace human kingdoms flourished and prosperity seemed like it would last forever, until the demon Miseria appeared. During the centuries of imprisonment, the wailing of the archdemon Guttur began to crack the foundations of its own prison and mass earthquakes plagued the human lands. From the cracks sipped Guttur’s essence along with its cries and from them, a new demon appeared. Guttur recognized her as his daughter and named her Miseria, the archdemon of sorrow, first of her kind.


Hell

Instructed by Guttur, Miseria tried to free the archdemons but only managed to weaken their prisons. Though still imprisoned, the archdemons were able to spawn lesser demons which spent decades carving lairs and tunnels before finding their way to the surface. Hell became a very literal thing: there are now actual cracks in the ground where demons dwell and from them they spring forward to menace mankind once again.


Decay of Balance

The increase of demonic presence in Terra tipped the balance towards The Discordia — something the archangels noticed too late and had no choice but to abandon tending to the needs of mankind and focus all their attention towards Harmonia.


The Silence of the Heavens

The archangels held an angelic conclave to explain to the other angels the dire situation in which they suddenly found themselves in. The archangels along other powerful angels - but of lesser rank - began to sing in order to provide strength to Harmonia and prevent the Music from collapsing. Seeing this, the remaining angels couldn’t help but wonder what had become of mankind now that the archangels were unable to brake song and descend to Terra to aid them.


Humans were fighting the demons as best as they could but without the help of the angels they would eventually succumb to the corruptive force of chaos. Angels could not descend to help them since the seven gates which led down to Terra had been permanently shut by the archangels.Metatron, an angel who served the archangelSanctus on The Fields of Caritas was the first to do what many angels believed would be sacrilege; He became a mortal by renouncing to his Immortality and giving back most of his angelic essence to the archangels. This sacrifice allowed Metatron to forcefully descend into Terra. Metatron’s actions inspired six  other angels who followed his steps and descended. Those who remained returned to their heavenly duties.


From Terra, those on ground saw what they believed were shooting stars. Mankind soon found out these ‘shooting stars’ were actually angels who had descended from the heavens in human form (from that point onward whenever humans saw a shooting star they would make a wish in the hopes that it was a descending angel and it would grant them their wish.)


The Mattara

Metatron called himself - and the host of fallen angels that came with him - Mattara, ‘Keepers of the Watch’. For centuries, the mattara helped mankind in their struggle against the demons. Though they were long lived, Metatron knew they would one day perish just like humans did, thus he established the Keepers of the Watch. The order would be led by the descendants of the Mattara until the demonic hordes were repelled back into the abyss.


Legacy of Metatron

By the time the first generation of mattaras perished only Metatron was still alive but had not been seen for decades. Sensing a shift in the Music, Metatron left the Keepers of the Watch to seek a way to ascend back to heaven and open the seven gates. After his century long absence, Metatron returned to reveal that although he failed on his mission, he had a vision in which he received a song composed by the archangels for mankind (mankind dubbed the song Musica Universalis).  Metatron instructed his people to spread this song to all the corners of Terra before balance was lost forever. After issuing his orders, Metatron resumed his quest to find a way to open the seven gates and disappeared once again.


In addition of delivering the song, Metatron also left a set of instructions for mankind to follow. Some of the most notorious mandates were:

Perform the songs thought by the Mattara each dawn.Be compassionate among one another. Be merciless against evil.Bury the dead at least 7 feet underneath the earth so may the earth spirits protect the soul before Occasus comes.Once buried, perform the Canticle of Peaceful Rest.Oppose slavery.Do not bargain with demons or mischievous spirits.Avoid the arcane arts for they are they tools of evil.

The Song

The song mentioned the strife between Harmonia and The Discordia and the current decay of balance. But not all was without hope, the song spoke of promises that earthly beings would be able to ascend to Heaven in the afterlife as long as they lived a harmonious life and/or fighting the evils that plagued Terra. Occasus and his servant spirits would come and take the souls of those worthy up to heaven. Those who ascended would patiently wait near the seven gates until the archangel themselves would open the gates for them.


Glimmer of Hope

The heroic deeds of Metatron and his Mattara inspired mankind to strive for survival and to oppose chaos at all costs. Now it is up to each man to provide balance to the Music or be accomplices of its destruction.
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What do you guys think?
April 06, 2014
Posted by ThePlaneswalker

Realm Works Review

Shyeah, I'll be the judge of that.
In my 20 years or so of gaming in addition to foregoing organization entirely I have also tried using tools like good old-fashion Word documents, even olderer-fashioned paper and pencil, Google Docs, personal wiki software like WikidPad, and Obsidian Portal (since the necessary features were free up to a point).

So how does Realm Works, a program that actually costs money, stack up against all the of free—or free enough—options out there?

Pretty well, actually.

When I first fired it up I was initially turned off by the loading time and kind of intimidated by, well, everything: it throws a lot of buttons, tabs, categories, sections, etc at you right away.


Once I stopped to actually read all of those handy tooltip windows that thankfully kept popping up and learned what it could do, the more I started to like it (alternatively I could have just watched some tutorials).

Everything you create is meticulously organized in categories, which are in turn sorted into the families on the left-hand side, and can also be tagged to boot. In other words, a village is not just a Place, it is a Community within Places, and if you want to find everything associated with a race or place as long as you tagged them then you are good to go. 

I felt that the categories and tags were pretty comprehensive (there is a category for Planet and Region: Celestial, as well as Genre tags), but if you think some are missing (like, say, Planar or Wereshark Erotica) you can just add them in.

There are a lot of pre-defined aspects that you can fill out for your content: obviously you have the name, but there is also a section for its Overview, Description, Profile, Story, Points of Interest, and so on. The only required part is the name, and you can add in more snippets in each section, so if you really wanted to you could feasibly just keep adding in text, tag and statblocks into the Overview section and call it good.

A feature that I really liked was the ability to toggle what players can and cannot see with a click, on a field-by-field basis, even within the same section. So, in Story you could put a text snippet about rumors that the characters know about, and then other rumors and quests in their own text snippets, and keep them hidden until the players discover them. I get that any GM can keep player secrets on another file, and pages on Obsidian Portal have a GM-only section, but this makes it a lot easier to reference and toggle with a click.

On a similar note is how it can handle maps. You can add a map to anything using a snippet (including a character), but you can also hide sections of the map (including the entire map with a click) and very easily reveal them as the characters explore using either a marquee select (for large areas) or a brush:


You can also place pins with information (like hidden passage, skeletons be here, etc), which of course can be hidden from the characters.

Some other stuff that I noticed but did not play around with too much was being able to have multiple tabs open, the Storyboard (which can have paths and points hidden from the players), User Notes, a Mechanics Reference (which is organized into Characters, Equipment, Abilities, etc), optional cloud storage, and integration with Hero Labs (which I have heard of but never used; I am sure people that do use it will like this feature).

I do not normally storyboard my games, but User Notes and Mechanics Reference would be something useful to have in say, our Dresden Files game, so we could put in a concise explanation of Thaumaturgy with an example or two and not have to mull through the entire section to probably still use it incorrectly. Again, as with GM-only information, I get that this is something that you can just do in a Google Doc, but it is nice to have everything in one spot.

In a lot of ways it feels similar to Obsidian Portal, it just makes it easier to create, organize, edit, and navigate though all of the content, it has some more robust features (love the maps), and can also be used offline (not really an issue for me or anyone I know, but I know people were upset when Wizards of the Coast made Character Builder and Adventure Tools online-only).

The only drawbacks are that the loading times are occasionally slow, it definitely has a higher learning curve (which I strongly feel pays off in the long run), and will likely seem intimidating until you get comfortable with it. I played with it for a few hours, and though I feel like there are features that I have not seen or fully explored, I already think it does enough better to make it worthwhile.

Yeah, yeah, you were right.
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: Dusk of the Duskies

Cast

  • Augustine (human paladin)
  • Jaya (bard)
  • Mouse (gnome thief)

Mouse's knife spun through the air, striking the spider between all eight of its eyes. As it crumpled to the ground its rider hopped off; it only had two eyes, both of which were glowing an intense green. Mouse did not know much about duskies, but this probably meant it was angry.

The spider had gotten in a few bites, but Augustine seemed no worse for wear. Really the cramped tunnel was giving him more trouble; he had little room to move or effectively bring his halberd to bear, even without Jaya nearby. To make matters worse the dusky had a bow that it was not only skilled at using, but judging from Jaya's increasingly sluggish movements the needle-like arrows were coated in poison.

Still, it was just one dusky. It was not like it could kill them all, Mouse thought, he would flee long before they got anywhere near him.

That was about when a swarm of spiders surged up over a ledge behind the dusky.

Mouse sighed. The things he did for lust and loot.

But mostly loot.

Mouse had encountered the woman during the previous night. The church had finished burning down, and the villagers decided to throw the trio a celebration. Not for the burning of the church, but because they had vanquished the only gang of bandits that seemed to be aware that Pinesdraw even existed and were desperate enough to stick around. On one hand they were nice enough to foot the bill, but on the other hand they had also footed the booze.

Fun-fact: Pinesdraw is not known for anything, not even its poverty.

Even so it eventually did the trick, and after a lengthy and hard night of "celebration" the trio woke in various locations and stages of undress.

Jaya never made it out of the Tipsy Gnome. In fact she never even made it from her table. She was woken by the owner as he went about preparing food and humming to himself, and as her mind cleared she realized that the owner was humming a tune that she had somehow cobbled together while drunk. Normally this would be good for a bard's reputation, except that this particular song pertained to the local baron and cast him in an...unfavorable light, to say the least.

It was about then that Mouse came through the door, looking fairly pleased with himself despite his disheveled appearance. She glumly asked what he was so happy about, and immediately regretted it when he recounted how he had not only met an indescribably beautiful woman during the party, but also spent the night with her beneath the stars.

Now, this was mostly true to varying interpretations.

Mouse did meet a woman, and she was indescribable insofar as he honestly could not provide a concrete description of her. In fact no one could: neither Jaya or the tavern owner recalled seeing anyone matching the albeit vague qualities he could remember.

He had also spent the night beneath the stars. At some point the pair had left the tavern and went into the woods, where she told Mouse that her child had been stolen by cruel fey creatures known as duskies. She asked him to retrieve the child, and in exchange she would give him anything.

Of course Mouse could barely remember a word of the conversation, and might have written the entire thing off as a dream if he had not woken to find a message carved into a tree, signed with a heart. His pants were also around his ankles, but that was probably just coincidental: it would not have been the first time.

Not that it would stop him from embellishing the encounter to Jaya, the details of which were mercifully cut short when Augustine arrived.

Jaya's hopes again flared. Augustine did not normally drink, and as the gaps in her memory continued to recover she remembered that he had not only been quite drunk, but also bragged about his skills with his lance that he could "sadly not demonstrate without a horse", which in retrospect might have been a disturbing double entendre.

In any case he had to have done something worthy of a song, and with her not being drunk it would surely be a snap to compose something catchier and far more humorous than what she came up with last night. She would work on it today, sing it later that night, and in no time everyone would quickly forget about last night's melodic mistake.

He had gotten a free horse, or rather a horse had "found" him.

No double entendre, just a horse that he called Whitestar, because aside from a spot of white on its forehead, it was completely black. He had apparently showed some people how to ride and taught them jousting techniques—again, nothing sexual—making him if anything the life of the party.

She groaned, and banged her head on the table.

Then Mouse started talking.

She banged her head harder.

He told Augustine about the women, child, and duskies, omitting only the undefined reward. The duskies were said to live in the mountains north of the village, and Augustine being Augustine could not stand by while a child was potentially in danger, which was what Mouse had banked on because honestly he had no idea if the woman was lying or not, a detail he also omitted.

Even though Augustine had a mount Jaya and Mouse would need transportation, so they pooled their money to rent a cart and donkey for the cost of owning and headed out. The journey was long but smooth up until they reached the foot of the mountains, which was less foothill and more labyrinthine badlands, and they were forced to abandon the wagon to continue. They did not wander long before encountering thick, ropy strands of webbing dangling from the walls. which became more abundant the further they want.

Where there were webs there were spiders, or some bizarre amalgamation of spider and other seemingly random creature. Whatever was responsible would also likely be quite large, so Mouse decided to convince Augustine to burn them. Not because he could not reach them, it would be a simple matter to toss a torch, but because this way he could blame it on him if whoever created the webs was intelligent enough to hold a grudge.

The opening of a cave was revealed as the burning webbing fell to the ground, and figuring that they had to start somewhere scaled the wall and climbed inside. The tunnel was cramped for everyone but Mouse, but thankfully they only had to crawl short distance before spotting glowing, purple light along the wall of a larger chamber. They could not see the source of the light, but could hear sibilant whispering.

So, probably duskies.

They argued about what to do until a small, dark-skinned creature riding on a spider scrabbled over the ledge leading into the larger chamber where they could see the light. Its eyes glowed a dim green, and it was carrying a bow with needle-like arrows.

Yep, duskies.

Behind the Scenes
Another really, really awesome session. So awesome in fact that we are going to start an hour early just to cram in more game time this Monday.

Melissa and I bombed our Carouse rolls; I chose to hear of an opportunity (meaning that I got entangled), while Melissa chose not to get entangled, but since things "got out of hand" she has to find a way to deal with the fact that her disparaging, very catchy song might eventually reach the baron's ears. Ben got a bit more lucky: he chose to befriend a useful NPC, which ended up being the horse Whitestar since he had trouble coming up with something.

Fitting for a paladin, though I am curious if/how his "entanglement" will manifest down the road.

We also rolled a lot of misses, which accounts for a good chunk of the XP Melissa and I have accrued so far. I figure by next session I'll break enough of my throwing knives to level. Not sure what I will take. There is no Multiclass move for the thief, which is a bummer because I think as a gnome it would make sense to snag a wizard move so I could cast invisibility and other illusions.
Posted by David Guyll

Crushing the Heroes: Getting a Solid Start

I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons and other table-top roleplaying games for damn near 20 years. Most of the time I play the Dungeon Master/Game Master/Storyteller/whatever, so I am used to having to juggle multiple characters, many of which are bad guys that ultimately the characters get to beat up and maybe rob depending on what we are playing.

I mean, I get it. It is not a competition. It is not like the players "defeated" me, because if I wanted to "win" I would by virtue of having control of most of the stuff that happens.

"Oh? You killed those three kobolds that ambushed you? Okay, now there are dracoliches."
Frankly I expect them to win and actually want to see them succeed, so that they can continue progressing through the story, see what happens, and hopefully reach a satisfactory conclusion before a scheduling conflict or boredom derails the entire campaign.

Board games are another story.

Honestly I prefer cooperative games like Wrath of AshardalonArkham Horror, and Forbidden Desert because everyone tends to succeed or fail together, but sometimes we play competitive ones like Carcasonne, City of Thieves, Mansions of Madness, and Super Dungeon Explore (which will have coop rules in The Forgotten King).

Super Dungeon Explore is basically a board game version of a beat-em-up dungeon crawler video game: you smack monsters, they drop hearts, potions and loot, crack open treasure chests (which might be monsters), and you try to kill the boss, mini or otherwise, or die trying. It is very simple, fast, colorful, cute, and a fucking blast.

I usually get tapped to play the Dark Consul, who is in charge of placing spawn points, treasure chests, which monsters appear, and what they do. It is pretty similar to being a Dungeon Master, with one key difference: this is a competition.

Unless you add in a bunch of houserules the events of the game never go beyond the scope of the session. If the heroes win? Great. Next time you can still fight the exact same shit, like a dungeon boss in a MMO. If they lose? Well, there are no NPCs or towns that suffer for your failure. What I am getting at is there is no incentive for keeping the heroes alive, no reason to pull your punches. There is no story, and aside from arranging the tiles and choosing monsters there is no prep work.

In other words I play to win, and that is what this post is about: telling you how I win.

Do be clear this is not an in-depth analysis of the heroes, monsters, and tiles. I will get into that in future posts, but this is a look at the general strategies I use to crush the heroes before me, and hear the lamentations of their players.

If you are new to the game or just have trouble succeeding as the Dark Consul, try these out and let me know how they work. If you are experienced with the game and/or disagree with these strategies, let me know what you would do differently so I can give it a shot.

One other thing, a lot of this stuff will probably make no sense if you are not familiar with the game. For that you can read the rulebook, or watch some other people play it.

Spawn Point Placement
Since the heroes go first on a tie, unless you have a monster with a really high Will (like a kobold wyrmpriest, or preferably a dust coven necromancer or a curse coven witch) it is pretty unlikely that at the start of the game you will be going first, and barring some extremely bad luck whichever spawn point happens to be on the starting tile is forfeit.

Yeah, there are a few tiles that can make it a bit more difficult for the Heroes to get to it, namely the cavern one with the bridge and the other cavern one with the four rooms, but there is basically no square on the first tile that most heroes cannot reach (unless they for some reason put the start token close to the door). If they have a ranged hero (ie, most) or the Riftling Rogue's teleport potion, then speed never even factors into the equation.

Really you just have to accept the fact that your first spawn point it is a lost cause, but there is a way you can use it to help setup future turns, namely making a kind of spawn point chain. This is something that I believe I started doing during the playtest for The Forgotten King, and it looks something like this:


Actual placement may vary, but the general idea is that you set it up that any heroes going after the first spawn point will easily be close enough for monsters at the second one. You are going to want to activate the monsters on the first tile as soon as possible so that they can get a few licks in, because unless the spawn point is somehow still intact at least some are probably going to die during the second hero's activation.

On a similar note the treasure chest on the first tile is virtually guaranteed to get opened, but I still like to keep it as far away as possible, amid difficult terrain or fire spaces if you can swing it. It probably will not have any impact, but if you can get a monster with some sort of forced movement, who knows; maybe you can hurt the hero and knock her into fire.

Tile Quarantine
Again, do not try to defend the first spawn point and keep it intact, because you frankly cannot. Instead focus your efforts on keeping the heroes on the first tile: block the door with a big mob (blazing beetles and crushers work great for this), or spread your mobs out in order to force them to choose between hunting them down or dealing with the harassment later. Even a single turn gives you time to spawn more stuff and mobilize them.

Also try to keep your monsters alive: the more stuff that is on the board, the more likely it is that the heroes will try to deal with them, and the more opportunities you will have to hurt them. Remember that you can break up your movement between actions, so abuse it whenever you can: move, attack, then run away. This is particularly useful for ranged monsters, who are often pretty fragile. Do not keep your monsters close together unless there is some benefit, like the ironscale's shieldwall aura and/or they have the mob trait.

Here is an example initial setup using lava whirls, an ember hound, a blazing beetle, and a pair of burning gels:


As with spawn points, actual positioning may vary. The blazing beetle can block the door (and has an armor boosting ability), while the burning gels can hang back and bombard the heroes from a distance (and have an awesome area-effect attack). The ember hound is the only 1 skull option for this crew, but has an annoying choke area-effect and moves pretty fast, making it useful for dashing in and out and preventing them from using potions.

Synergized Strategy
I will go into much more detail on this in a future post, but in the interest of using effective tactics just try to be aware of what your monsters can do, and what the conditions mean.

A lot of monsters have special traits that let them add conditions or make them immune to them. For example wyrmlings cause knockdown with their attacks. Knockdown by itself is pretty good: you have to spend an action point to stand up, and you have to stand up before you can do anything else. Even better, their swarm attack allows them to add +1R to attack against anyone affected by knockdown.

So you can have them make a standard attack and followup with swarm, or have one use dive bomb (which also adds pacify) and then a second one use swarm twice. You can also gang up on a hero with a pair of whelps first, since they also add knockdown with their attacks. If you have an excess of wyrmlings and all the heroes have already activated, you can knock one over and really chow down.

Another one is like, all of the goddamned kobolds (including the wyrmpriest and Rex) and the mob ability. Mob lets the attacker add +1B for each other adjacent creature that also has mob, up to +3B. Pretty hefty, but you do not want to have a bunch of monsters lumped in one spot, whether or not the heroes have an area attack in their arsenal; camp two cheap monsters nearby (like gougers or knuckleheads), then have the more valuable ones run in, attack, and run away.

Breaking the Weakest Links
One last thing is to gang up on the weakest hero you can, because no matter what a dead hero is at least three actions that cannot be spent murderizing your monsters. Even severely wounding a hero or slapping them with a nasty condition (or two, or three) can force them to discard a useful loot card in order to keep her alive.

Your go to condition here is fire, which is easy to come by and deals an automatic wound at activation. Fragile is nice for making it easier to hurt them, weak makes it harder for them to hurt you, and poison and knockdown are great for doubling-down on action loss. Unfortunately these are much harder to come by in the core game.
April 03, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Legends & Lore: Fighter Maneuvers

I uh, I am not entirely sure if this is an April Fool's joke, and not just because it actually mentions something approaching a mechanic.

I want to say that it is nice how Mike credits 4th Edition as the first edition to give the fighter a truly unique mechanic, but that is not entirely accurate. It was certainly the first edition to make them viable across the level spread, but their marking mechanic was not only shared at least in part by the paladin, but also by every defender that followed.

Yeah, unlike the paladin they could mark multiple targets and could deal more damage (though they had to make an attack roll), but it still followed the general concept of punishing monsters that ignored you in the form of an attack penalty and potential out-of-turn-damage.

He does not credit 4th Edition further down, where he talks about how the class design philosophy of 5th Edition is to make sure that the basic functionality needed to make your character work takes up few, if any choices. That was also a 4th Edition thing, where unless you were deliberately trying to make a broken character you could basically choose any race, class, powers feats, skills, etc you wanted and end up with a perfectly functional character.

It just had the added benefit of allowing you to make choices.

Additionally, 3rd Edition did not "create lots of options for the fighter that were available to other classes as well". 3rd Edition had feats, and fighters just got bonus feats as a class feature, which allowed them to pick from specific types of feats. In reality that fighter had exclusive access to like, three, though other books (namely Player's Handbook 2) provided more fighter-only options for end-game play. The problem was that none of them were anywhere near on par with what even mid-level spellcasters could do.

Hell, none of them even scaled: you had to keep burning more feats to get minor incremental bonuses.

For example, Weapon Focus gives you +1 to hit with all of one individual weapon, and any anyone with a Base Attack Bonus of at least +1 can take it. If you are a fighter? Eventually, at 8th-level, you can burn another feat on Greater Weapon Focus, which gives you another +1 to attack rolls with that exact same weapon. If you manage to hold out until 21st-level and are using Epic Level Handbook, you can take Epic Weapon Focus, which bucks the trend by giving you all of a plus +2 with the exact same weapon.

Spellcasters on the other hand did not have to spend feats: their magic not only automatically scaled, it scaled at a much, much faster and more frequent rate. They did not have to take Improved Fireball to increase its damage by 1d6 (which would still be better than Weapon Specialization), it got another 1d6 every time they leveled up. Yeah it capped out at 10d6 damage, but there were other, higher level spells to take its place, or rather the wizard got on top of everything else.

Plus there is the fact that the adventuring day was basically fueled by spell slots.

Anywho, I guess now you can opt for a Battle Master archetype...which gets maneuvers and superiority dice...which already exist in the Weaponmaster path. I am not sure why he is presenting this as if it was anything new, instead of just indicating how existing mechanics have changed.

In a nutshell the dice start out bigger (d8 instead of d6) and there are more options: he mentions a set of swashbuckler and warlord maneuvers, unfortunately none of which sound like they offer healing. Really the only possible highlight is that it kind of maybe sounds like you can actually pick your own maneuvers (as opposed to unnecessarily locking in your options early on), and that they apparently can "build more encounter-based abilities into the core game".

Choices (maybe)? Encounter powers? Could it be that more 4th Edition-isms are creeping back in?

Eh, maybe it is just an April Fool's joke.

Dungeon World: Sir Augustine's Second Stand

Cast
  • Augustine (human paladin)
  • Jaya (human bard)
  • Mouse (halfling gnome thief)

Jaya was accustomed to drawing a crowd at the Tipsy Gnome, what with her being a rare form of entertainment in the backwater village of Pinestraw.

Another, more common form was getting drunk. Pinestraw was a small village, and it was rare that anyone got violently drunk. At least in public. She had just finished a song about how a warrior named Augustine had valiantly defended the village of Pinestraw from a gang of bandits. The men that had approached her looked objectionable, and had objected to her portrayal of the bandits which, when combined with their demands for her flute, made it easy to guess their particular field of expertise.

To their surprise she drew a rapier and sliced one of them across the arm. She had hoped that they were not used to resistance, and combined with a tavern full of townsfolk would back down, but their expressions of shock quickly turned to rage, and they drew daggers.

A man stood up. He was clad in a suit of polished scale armor, and a halberd was resting against his table. He met each of their eyes in turn before simply stating that he had quite enjoyed her performance. The men exchanged uncertain looks: they only just outnumbered the pair, but one was considerably better equipped and looked more than capable. The one Jaya had wounded spat at her feet, then craned his head towards the door. As they left, grumbling threats and curses under their breath, the patrons cheered and shouted for an encore, which Jaya was only too happy to oblige.

Meanwhile Mouse was ferreting around the church. He had it on good authority, or at least good enough to spur him into action, that there was a gem-encrusted cross made of solid gold buried somewhere in the church. A growing pile of flagstones attested to his fruitless endeavor, but since everyone was at the Tipsy Gnome for a night of drink and song he figured he had plenty of time to try and find it.

Until he heard someone was approaching, which he only heard thanks to the unmistakable clank of armor. Armor was a rare commodity in these parts, specifically something that only Augustine owned, meaning that Augustine had probably left the party early, meaning Mouse would have to slink out and make up a story about robbers in Augustine asked about all the missing flagstones.

"This is the place" said a gruff voice from just outside the front door.

That...was not Augustine. Fortunately Mouse had locked the door. Unfortunately whoever was out there had started to go to work on the lock.

Well, maybe the story would not need much "concocting" after all. Okay, time for plan B. He went to a window that he had tampered with before, so that it could be easily opened at his leisure: he would just slip out and go get Augustine. Not too quickly, of course: they were probably here to find the cross themselves, and if he gave them a headstart it would increase that odds that he would know where it was, so he could come back later.

Someone was trying to open the window.

Okay, time for plan C. He darted back into the chapel, grabbed a brazier, and lobbed it through a stained glass window. Noisy, but efficient. He managed to leap through just as the door was opening, and as he fled heard someone give an order to torch the place.

Jaya was in the middle of another song when Mouse burst through the door. His clothing had been intentionally torn in a few choice places, all the better to support his story that he had been attacked while investigating some questionable men snooping about the church. He told Augustine that he tried to hold them off, but there were too many and they were going to burn it, probably to find the golden cross that certainly existed beneath the foundation.

Mouse had hoped that Augustine would confirm the rumor, but he just thanked him, asked Mouse to join him, snagged his halberd, and bolted out the door, followed by Jaya. Mouse followed with a sigh: the things he did for gem-encrusted gold crosses.

As they headed for the church, Mouse slipped away into the woods surrounding it, as he was much more useful when he could get the drop on someone. Plus, he was hoping he could pick off stragglers without having to share any loot.

There were four bandits waiting for them at the entrance. Three were armed with clubs, while the fourth had a bow. As Augustine charged them he loosed a few arrows, but they were harmlessly deflected by his armor. Jaya used her magic to bolster Augustine's attacks, which combined with the reach from his halberd made it easy to cut them down while keeping them at bay.

Mouse could hear someone barking orders from inside the church. He peered through the window he had broken earlier, and saw their leader, who he recognized as Killian the Red thanks to the red armor. They were occupied by the sounds of combat coming from the front, and he had not only sent out most of his men, but his back was turned, too.

Mouse took out a throwing knife, coated it with some goldenroot, and gave it a toss. It cut Killian across the arm, and he hissed in pained and turned around to find the knife's source. Since goldenroot only worked on the first person seen, Mouse made every effort to ensure that he could be seen. Mouse hopped into the church, introducing himself and warning Killian about his traitorous men.

The two bandits fled out the front door, only to be cut down by Augustine and Jaya. While Killian was understandably occupied, Mouse stabbed him in the back. Heavily wounded, he tried to flee, but did not even make it out the window before Mouse finished him off with a well-placed throwing knife.

With the bandits defeated they were able to turn their attention to the burning church. Unfortunately it had already spread too far, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. Augustine wept as his home went up in flames, while Mouse wept at the fact that he might not be able to find the cross.

Behind the Scenes
Holy shit this session was a blast: Dan did an excellent job, even when you do not factor in an entirely new group and no prep.

It was Ben's first time, and I think he really dug the amount of player input the game demands. I firmly believe that roleplaying games greatly benefit when the players are required to help build the world and story, as it invests them in more than just their own character. It is a practice that I have taken into my Dungeons & Dragons games, and if I ever make my own clone it is going to be a cornerstone of a new campaign.

Yeah, Melissa recycled the name for the Tipsy Gnome from our Dresden Files game.

I was initially going to go with a halfling fighter, which was my first Dungeon World character and oddly functional despite the game drawing a lot of inspiration from previous editions (namely 2nd, what with the whole paladins-can-only-be-human  bit). However, Ben wanted to make a paladin, and I figured I could break out of my comfort zone and make something more iconic like a halfling thief.

Then someone mentioned Celtic influences, at which point I changed my race to gnome, which better fits my playstyle of doing impulsive things when the group takes a long time trying to, for example, figure out which door to open. I was fine with keeping the halfling move, though in hindsight I would have pitched this: When you try to hide in natural terrain, take +1 forward. Simple and flavorful.

One of Mouse's bonds with Augustine was that "Augustine always has his back". Since Mouse is not the kind of person that Augustine would likely associate with and I took goldenroot poison, I decided that at some point in the past Mouse had poisoned him.
March 25, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Legends & Lore: Dropping the Shop

So in other, more concise words, gear "packages" derived from your background and class are the norm, while buying with a budget is optional.

Not that I see anything particularly wrong with this—3rd and 4th Edition both had packages, after all—but does purchasing gear really take that long? I guess it might take awhile for new players, but after a few characters if you actually paid attention you should have a good idea of what stuff you need and tend to use.

Plus, it is not like every game session starts with character generation, but even if it does then you should have no problem memorizing most of it.

I guess I see no reason for the flip: in 4th Edition if I want to get the game going quickly, I could just have the players pick the packages. They would still need to actually read the book to figure out what everything does, and since character generation is not the normal pre-game activity it does not sound like it is going to save a meaningful amount of time. But you know me: it took them this long to arrive at this conclusion, it is funny how the default removes choices, doing basically what was done before, blah blah blah.

In 3rd Edition this standard would have been more beneficial, as it had a lengthy equipment list that included lots of useless—or at best highly situational—stuff like sticks of chalk (I eagerly await comments on how you use chalk sticks all the time, and they are pivotal to success), a sewing needle (but strangely no thread), a bell, fishhook, and an iron pot, but 4th Edition's was actually pretty concise: it took up less than half a page, had a pre-bundled adventurer's kit, and stuck to tools that adventurers would likely need to bother with.

Even when Mordenkainen's Magical Emporium introduced more adventuring gear, like ball bearings and iron shavings, it still provided a mechanical punch, and most of it was thematically bundled.

As nice as 4th Edition is, I personally prefer how Dungeon World handles adventuring gear: your pack has x "uses" (five is the default, but presumably you could have more bags of gear), and each time you pull something out of your bag that reasonably could have been in it, you spend a use. That is it. No having to note many pitons, coils of rope, lamp oil, etc are stored inside; you just declare you are pulling something out, and mark off a use. It is basically a quantum sack that makes it very easy to deal with all the crap you are lugging around without getting bogged down in all the minutiae.

Now if they really wanted to streamline character generation while still allowing at least descriptive flexibility, they could take a page from Gamma World, where the efficacy of weapons and armor is based on a category (light, heavy, one-handed, two-handed), 13th Age, where the damage and AC bonus is based on a combination of class and type (ie, fighters deal more damage and benefit more from heavy armor than, say, wizards do), or Dungeon World, where damage is based on class and there are only three types of armor.

Oddly in their quest for making character generation as fast as possible, they are introducing a table of "random, weird trinkets" for you to roll on. It reminds me of Numenera's oddities, just maybe less...incohesive? If you never played Numenera, oddities are basically random trinkets that you can find that do not inherently convey any mechanical benefits. Though you might find a creative use for some of it, or even be able to trade/sell them later on, a lot of them are just kind of...there, like the crystal that shatters and repairs itself: how much mileage are you really going to get out of that?

Personally my group never cared about oddities. In most cases if the characters found one, I described it, and then they either did not bother to pick it up, or did and promptly forgot about it because they were busy finding objects that actually did something. A mirrored cube or goggles that tint everything green? Why the hell would I care about any of that when I have a laser or a device that can create force fields? You might find a use for a pen that writes in invisible ink, which only appears at a low temperature, but I challenge you to find a meaningful use for a two-headed cat fetus in a jar (or, to cite an example from the article, a candle that cannot be lit).

The last part, about setup times, is a bit confusing. I agree that a board game with a fast setup time is more likely to be played: I find myself wanting to get my ass handed to me in Mansions of Madness, but it can take awhile prepping the board and seeding cards. What I do not get is the comparison. Well, okay, I get why he makes the comparison: he is trying to justify why they stripped out almost all of the meaningful decisions, it just does not make sense because board games and role-playing games are two different things, and people expect different things from them.

Maybe my perception is skewed from playing games like Rifts, Shadowrun, and Mage: The Ascension, but Dungeons & Dragons has never really had "long, intricate, character creation sessions", unless 10-20 minutes is considered long and intricate, or I try to do some collaborative world/party-building with the players. As I have said plenty of times before it is nice and all that they are trying to create a version of Dungeons & Dragons that is easy to pick up and play, but there are ways to do it while still allowing the players to make decisions.

For example they could have taken a page from their somewhat different approach to your starting gear by giving each class one or more builds, which they also did in both 3rd and 4th Edition: groups who want to start playing quickly can pick one, write everything down, and start playing. Over time they can read the books and inject more customization, like you could in 4th Edition. Or they could just build characters before the game starts. In other words the game could have very easily supported fast character generation and actual customization.

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