Super Dungeon Explore: Arcade Mode Review

I got the first wave of The Forgotten King Kickstarter sometime last week. The game has two modes: Arcade, which is fully cooperative, and Classic, which is, well, the "classic" way to play. I've only delved into Arcade mode, so that's what I'm going to talk about in this post.

I'll get into the heroes some other time, because some of the originals got tweaked, I got another heap in the first wave (currently my hero roster is nearly at forty), and there's still more to come in the second wave. I will say that, so far, Brave-Mode Candy is fucking awesome.

If all you want to know is what I think, the short of it is that, quibbles about rules clarity aside, I really like Arcade mode. The game seems far less one-sided, plays faster due to the monster gang rules, and adds plenty of fun new bits, like new basic actions, exploration cards, and pets.

For us it seems a tad easy, what with princess coins, ease of treasure accumulation, and bosses not summoning hordes of monsters at the halfway mark. To be fair we've only played a couple times, and there are suggestions in the back for ramping up the difficulty. It might have also been because of our party composition: we're going to try out new heroes the next time and see how it goes.

So, that's my recommendation: if you like the original Super Dungeon Explore I think you're going to like this way more due to the tweaks and additions. If you didn't like Super Dungeon Explore because you prefer coop games, or were frustrated by how easy it is for the Consul to utterly dominate the game, then I'd definitely give this a chance.

The Heroes
Though the hero cards look pretty similar, there are some key mechanical additions and differences.

The middle of the card no longer says stuff like Magic, Missile, Reach, and such. Instead there are tiny icons by the stats, letting you know which can be used to attack (and the attack's range) or defend yourself. So if your STR has a little sword with a 1, you can use your STR to make a melee attack against something 1 space away. If your WILL has a wand with a 6, then you can make a magic attack against something up to 6 spaces away.

On the left-hand side is a picture of a crystal with one or two colors. This denotes the hero's crystal affinity. Crystal affinities, near as I can tell, only pertain to specific treasures. Like, one might give you +1 Red to your STR stat, but if your crystal affinity matches you instead get +1 Green to STR. Some monsters also have them, but I'm not sure what they do.

Some of the traits have been changed or removed. For example Dodge is no longer a thing: instead a hero that used to have Dodge can just use DEX to defend themselves (and, even better, still do so when suffering from the Slow or Knockdown status effects). Another example is Stealthy: instead of rolling DEX to reduce the range of an attack, it just gets reduced by 3 (to a minimum of 1).

Finally, potions. In Super Dungeon Explore you could use them pretty much whenever you wanted to, as often as you wanted to so long as you had them on tap. Hell, you could use a potion in anticipation of a hero with lots of red dice rolling another. We used to do this with the Claw Tribe Barbarian to give everyone +1 Blue to Armor and Backlash before the Consul went.

Now you can only use one (unless you have Alchemy, which lets you use two), you have to declare it during the hero's activation, and instead of an immediate effect it gives you a free, single-use action to use during your turn. The exception are emergency potions, which can be used during the Consul's turn.

In addition to special actions featured on the hero's card, you can also choose from a slew of new basic actions, including bandage (roll your WILL to remove a wound from a target), explore (draw an Exploration card), pick lock (roll your DEX to try and get two treasure cards from a chest), vigor (roll ARM to remove a Status Effect), and more.

There are still four item slots, but you don't gain loot the same way. Instead of having to rack up three wounds, you get one loot card per minion or elite monster you kill, up to three per turn. You also can't equip them right away: you have to wait for the power up phase (which at least happens after every hero and consul turn).

Treasure is not only gained in the usual manner, but you can easily gain way more than before. Partially this is because you can use dungeon keys or the pick lock basic action on a chest to draw two cards (and keep them both), Another key factor is that you get to place the treasure chests, meaning that you can plant them near tile entrances and even the starting token.

The Monsters
Monsters are way different, at least in Arcade mode, and I don't just mean how they try and stop the heroes.

First, they don't roll any dice. Instead they have static STR and ARM stats: if you want to avoid getting hit, your defense roll has to meet-or-beat the attacker's STR, and if you want to hit them you have to roll higher than its ARM (even if the attack tells you to use DEX or WILL or whatever). Effects that would have formerly added or removed dice just increase or reduce their stats.

Second, they come in three flavors: minion, elite, and solo.

Solo monsters are mini-bosses and bosses.

They do their own thing, and gain no inherent benefits from having other Monsters hanging around (though they can benefit from various support actions that other monsters use). Killing a mini-boss nets you a treasure card and dungeon key, but also makes minions and elites more powerful: their ARM and STR can both increase twice, and they can also gain add a random Status Effect to their attacks.

Something to note is that bosses no longer spawn hordes of monsters and teleport away with their timeout effect. Instead they add kicker effects to any minions and elites that are still alive.

By themselves minions don't do shit: the only Command they respond to is Move (I'll get to Commands in a bit), which causes them to follow an elite that they are bonded with (ie, within 2 spaces of), run towards the nearest elite that they can bond with if unbonded, or leg it to the nearest spawning point that can spawn an elite they can bond with, if there isn't an elite on the board.

Elites are the most common threat you'll deal with. They're similar to solos in that they actually attack the heroes, but they also gain bonuses when they are bonded with minions in groups that are called gangs. Here's an example of the Lil' Sprouts gang card (and minis):

See the two sets of stats in the upper right-hand corner? The set on the left is if the Sprout is all by his lonesome, while the set on the right is for when he as at least one Mook within 2 spaces: the Sprout not only attacks with a STR of 2, but his RNG is increased and he can attack three times.

The Sprout is the elite, with a Speed of 5, 2 Wounds, and an ARM of 3. He transforms into King Sprout when killed (Forced Shift and Shapeshift: King Sprout), and has the Virulent trait, which boosts his STR by 1 when attacking a hero with the Poison status effect.

The minions that he bonds with are the Mooks. They have the same Speed, but only 1 Wound and an ARM of 1. As I said above they don't attack, but if they are bonded with a Sprout they cause his attacks to gain Poison (which syncs with his Virulent trait), add the support action Rampant Growth to the Sprout's Commands (further boosting his STR, assuming the Command card has them use it), and let him use his "gang" stats.

You might be thinking, rather that hew through all of the minions, that you can just take out the elite and call it good. After all he only has two Wounds, and minions don't attack. Well, it's not that easy. When an elite is hit by a single-target attack, any Wounds get shifted to bonded minions until there aren't any left/within 2 spaces. So, you either have to use area-effect attacks, or use actions that push/pull monsters about to keep them separated.

The Setup
As before you lay out one dungeon tile per hero, each tile gets one spawning point and treasure chest, and the heroes put a starting token within four spaces of a tile door that isn't connected to another tile. Unlike before, spawning points are always placed in a specific spot, and treasure chests have to be placed within 5 spaces of the spawning point.

This means that you can drop the chest right next to a hero, and depending on the facing of tiles can put treasure chests by tile entrances, making it incredibly easy to get all of the treasure chests.

The loot deck is much as it was before, though the cards look different. The treasure deck is built using a default set of cards, which include six Boo Booties (two of which eats your gear). You are permitted to customize it with various other cards, though some cards feature hero or monster portraits: those can only be included if you are using said hero or monsters in the game.

Similarly, the exploration deck is built using a default set of cards, plus another set of cards related to whatever boss you're fighting.

Finally, all minion and elite monsters start in play. You have to put them within two spaces of the spawning point, and they can't be next to each other unless you have no other choice. My guess this is to avoid dropping an area attack on the entire batch right out of the gate, since the heroes always go first.

The Gameplay
The overall goal of the game is to defeat the boss. Since there's no Power Gauge, the boss spawns once all of the spawning points have been destroyed.

There's also no initiative roll: the heroes always go first (which I love, because it means you don't have to hoard WILL items whether or not it's a key stat for you). You activate any two you want, then the monsters go, then you activate two more heroes (starting with any that didn't go on the previous turn), then the monsters, and so on.

When you activate a hero, before you do anything else, there's an upkeep phase. During upkeep you end effects from the previous turn, like auras and potions, can spend princess coins (I'll get to those in a bit), apply healing effects (like from Tough), and apply Status Effects (like Fire and Poison). I like this, because it makes it explicitly clear that you heal first, then take damage.

Once the heroes are done it's the Consul's turn. Only monsters on the same tile as the heroes, and those directly connected do anything. Arcade monsters don't have a skull value, so every valid monster acts. The book actually states that for an easier crawl, arrange the dungeon tiles in a straight line. This will make it so that at the start of the game, only monsters on the starting tile and the next one over will do anything: the rest will just stay put until you advance to the second tile.

To determine what the monsters do, you draw a Command card. These usually have a set of Commands, like Move x 1, Unique x 1, and Fight x 1, though the Recover card removes all Status Effects and one Wound from the Monsters.

Monsters usually go after the Hero with the most Wrath (though the Griefer Command card makes them target the one with the lowest). Wrath is analogous to aggro in MMOs, and is gained each time you kill a monster, open a treasure chest, drink a potion, and use support actions.

The rules specify that they'll avoid harmful terrain effects if possible, so you can't run them through difficult terrain to slow them down (unless they have Surefoot, which let them ignore it), and/or brambles to hit them with the Poison status effect (unless, again, they are immune to Poison).

Something that the book wasn't clear on, but I was able to figure out online, is that monsters will move towards the hero with the most wrath, but will attack the hero with the most wrath that they can get to. So, you can't use one or more heroes to block entrances and passages, to prevent them from getting into a fight.

There's also a spawn command, but again since Arcade monsters don't have a skull value it causes every available monster to respawn. If you killed a couple Mooks, they respawn. If you wiped out the entire Lil' Sprouts gang, then all of them make a comeback. So, hopefully it comes in last on the list. On the upside, each time a spawning point spawns monsters it suffers a wound: at least that will make it easier to destroy.

Speaking of destroying spawning points, when one is destroyed you put a mini-boss and a princess coin in play. Princess coins can be used during upkeep to either fully heal or revive a dead hero (no more resurrection charms). When you finally kill a mini-boss you not only get a treasure card, but it also drops a dungeon key. Dungeon keys can be used to allow anyone to safely open a treasure chest and get two treasure cards.

The last major addition to the game are exploration cards. You draw one the first time a hero enters a new tile, and you can also use the explore basic action once per tile (meaning that, besides the starting tile, you can get up to two per tile).

They often cause creeps to spawn (the number in the mouth of the weird, purple face). creeps are obnoxious little shits—especially the rabid squirrels—that aren't worth any loot at all, and pretty much solely exist to harass you and make you waste your time.

Exploration cards can also introduce an effect (which can be good or bad, like netting you a princess coin or preventing you from using certain actions) or trigger a trap. Traps do something whenever a hero moves onto or next to a trap template, but affect both heroes and monsters. They can be disarmed using the disarm trap basic action (roll DEX against the trap's ARM).

Closing Words
As I said at the start, I fucking love Arcade mode. After the countless, regular total party wipes of Super Dungeon Explore, the only reason I'm even going to try Classic mode is to see if there were any meaningful changes made, in particular some that would prevent me from using my key strategies (and I'll be writing an article on Arcade strategies). 

With the new loot mechanics you're pretty much guaranteed to get three on every turn. I don't mind this, since it allows heroes to not have to focus entirely on slaughtering monsters, and can help both lessen the blow of playing with two heroes that use the same key stat, and losing it to monsters that destroy gear on a hit (like one type of Boo Booty and Trent).

I also like how you can regularly get access to more treasure cards. This is something I disliked from the original, where you'd maybe get 2-3 depending on treasure chest placement, and a lot of times it wouldn't even be useful. Even as a veteran player, when I played a hero it was difficult to get to the chest on the third tile, unless Melissa was deliberately merciful and placed it near the entrance.

Now you can easily get six or more per game: just have a high DEX character pick the lock of the first one for two, or just be patient, kill the mini-boss, and use a key to get three (since the mini-boss drops one, too). They still might not all be useful (in the last game we played as of writing this we discarded two), but your odds are certainly better.

Kinda related, I've been working on my own tabletop role-playing game. Not only are these minis perfect for it (ditto for the art style), but coincidentally the monsters use minimal stats that the characters roll against; Attack and Defense. I also mentioned during our last Hangout playtest that I'm changing it so that when defending against a horde of monsters, the Difficulty just goes up and you roll once.

Image Dump
Here are some random pics from our most recent game:

We've got a bunch of awesome stuff going on this month:

Today's the last day to sign up for this month's Mythoard, which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.
April 16, 2015
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: The Dwellers in Darkness

Nearly two years ago I wrote a draft on how I envisioned drow fitting into A Sundered World, and not much has changed since then. Actually the only thing that has really changed (aside from switching mechanics from d20 to Powered by the Apocalypse) is that I'm not referring to them as drow at all anymore, just dark elves.

This is partially because I've never really liked the Dungeons & Dragons portrayal of dark elves. Not because of any social justice bullshit about their skin color or whatever, but because they're still, even in 5th Edition, flat, uninteresting, and utterly nonsensical (so, par for the course when it comes to 5th Edition flavor).

The short version is that dark elves in A Sundered World serve the Weaver, a mighty spider spirit that helped them after the Sundering. They dwell in the darker regions of the world, venturing forth to hunt in swift, spinous ships made from chitin, bone, and sheets of webbing. Their warriors are similarly draped, wielding venomous weapons and often bearing a variety of mutations.

I realized that I haven't written up race moves for them, but the whole spider-mutation thing is going to be a compendium class. Here's a work-in-progress art preview for the Dwellers in Darkness monster setting (thinking of adding weapons, maybe a second set of arms):

Aaand here's a preview for some dark elf stat blocks:

The next preview will showcase some of the fauna that can be found throughout the Astral.

We've got a bunch of awesome stuff going on this month:

Finally, you can now sign up for this month's Mythoard (up until the 16th), which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.

Dungeons & Delvers: Into the Serpent's Coils

The last playtest went smashingly well, but we weren't sure if characters had enough Wounds to see them through a "normal" crawl, so this time we cut out the bullshit and just started at the foot of a crumbling lizardfolk ziggurat.

As before it was a trio of 1st-level characters, with Angus making another appearance, along with Finella (fae fighter) and Mae (fae wizard). After about a half-dozen encounters and two traps, the game ended with Angus down and out at zero Wounds, Finella at two, and Mae limping along with one.

The next step is a much lengthier crawl, something that might force them to leave the dungeon and get some rest. I got the first part of The Forgotten King kickstarter yesterday, so I'll probably do something plant related (and add plant-monsters to the bestiary).

Maybe this is a good time to dust off my 4th Edition campaign, Songs of Erui?

One thing I want to know is how fans of dungeon crawlers would like to see running out of Wounds handled (keeping in mind that this is somewhat intended for kids):

  • The current rule is that you're dropped at 0 Wounds, and outside of combat other characters can always revive you with 1 Wound. This essentially means that the only way you can "lose" the game is if everyone gets dropped in the same fight. Having grown up on 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, this seems a bit too "easy" for me, but editions 3rd and up effectively run this way.
  • You're dropped at 0 Wounds, and need a period of rest to get back on your feet. An Intellect + Medicine check could reduce recovery time.
  • You're dead at 0 Wounds. No check to avoid your fate, you're just dead: grab a new sheet.
  • When you're reduced to 0 Wounds, once combat is over other characters can attempt an Intellect + Medicine check to revive you. If they succeed, you get back up with 1 Wound. Otherwise you're dead. Tweak: Each time you're dropped before you have time to rest, the Difficulty increases by 1 or 2 points.
  • Something else entirely (lemme know in the comments).

I'm asking for feedback on this now, because whatever the majority wants I can just tweak starting Wounds to accommodate. Currently characters start with a base of 2-4, and can only gain more with race and class talents: levels don't inherently make you tougher, unless you opt to boost your Might stat.

Something else that's been kicked about is a kind of Reserve-Wounds mechanic, similar to 4th Edition's healing surges, which puts a cap on how much characters can heal in a given day. They were largely used outside of combat, but helped alleviate the necessity of a healing-class (whether magical or mundane).

How it would work in this game is that you'd have a set of Wounds and Reserves. When you're out of combat you can move Reserves to your Wounds, up to your maximum (and maybe in combat you can use an action, similar to 4th Edition's second wind, to move a Reserve to your Wounds).

For example, lets say a fighter has 4 Wounds and 4 Reserves. She gets into a fight and loses 2 Wounds. When the dust settles she moves she takes a few minutes to rest and bandage herself up, moving two of her Reserves to her Wounds, topping them off at 4 and reducing the Reserves to 2.

Not sure how quickly I want characters to heal, but for now I'm saying that when you rest you get all of your Wounds back. If we went with Reserves, you'd get all them back, too.

One thing to keep in mind, is that there is not going to be easy access, if any, to magical healing (including *gasp* potions). This is something I really dislike from Dungeons & Dragons, as I can't think of any stories where a priest runs around and constantly pokes the other characters to keep them propped up, and/or the characters are constantly knocking back healing potions.

So, rather than just tow the line and do what every dungeon crawler out there is doing, I'm trying to develop the game so that it's not needed, to better represent the stories I grew up on. There is a cleric class, but the closest thing it gets to a healing ability, assuming you choose a specific talent, is the ability to negate one Wound in a fight.

Otherwise the game's still running as expected (even the random treasure table, the results of which I largely pulled out of my ass), though I think I need to bump up some of the monster's Defenses by a point or two. One of the players from the previous playtest mentioned changing the skills (not how they work, but the skill list).

Anywho, here's a preview for some of the lizardfolk stat blocks (and some art that I don't think I've posted, yet):

We've got a bunch of awesome stuff going on this month:

Finally, you can now sign up for this month's Mythoard (up until the 16th), which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.

Mythic Mortals First Impressions

Disclosure: I drew the cover for this game and am acquainted with the author. I also provided some criticism and feedback during the game's development, and am planning a supplement. I haven't actually played the game: this is more of an overall first impression.

Mythic Mortals is a short (weighing in at just over 20 pages), easy to learn, quick to play, action-oriented role-playing game from the mind of David Schirduan. It's also currently Pay What You Want, so really your only risk to giving it a shot is time.

The Concept
The game's backstory is that a long time ago, countless gods, spirits, and other powerful entities collectively referred to as the Ancients were weakening and dying. In order to prevent their deaths, they planted the seeds of their power in humanity and slept for thousands of years, giving time for mankind to multiply across the world.

They eventually awaken on modern day Earth so that they can reap what they have sown, and it's up to you, one of the few mortals with the ability to tap into this reservoir of god-like power, to stop them.

The Mechanics
While your ability to harness the power of the Ancients allows you to fight back, you don't have full control over it. How this works is you randomly draw cards from a standard deck of cards, and assign them to four different stats: Accuracy, Damage, Mythos, and Defense. The higher the number the better, and in the case of the numberless face cards the game assigns them values.

Usually when you want to do something (the sneak's Mythos tricks always hit), you roll 2d6 and try to roll under a card's number: if you want to attack, you have to roll under your Accuracy, and if you want to dodge you have to roll under your Defense.

The only difference is the Accuracy card: if you roll the exact number, you get a critical hit. Rolling a nat 12 is a critical failure, which means that there's a good chance your odds of a critical hit are going to be much better than a critical failure, but given you're playing with (godly) power I'm guessing that's by design.

In addition to the number the card's suit also matters. Not just the stat you assign it to, but your archetype as well. For example, sticking a card with the club suit into a brute's Defense allows you to grab, throw, or grapple anything slightly larger than a school bus, while putting a club card into a hunter's Defense grants you exploding ammunition.

When you take damage you discard cards from your deck, and if you don't have enough cards to fill in all the slots on your mat, you're out of the game unless someone revives you. To do this they spend 1 card from their deck to add three cards to yours.

Finally, don't get comfortable with your cards, because one way or another they're going to change: each time you do something the Stability Track progresses, and when it hits Overload (every four actions/reactions) you discard all of your cards, draw four new ones, and assign them on the spot.

Alternatively you can Vent. It eats up your turn, but two of the cards on your mat go back into your deck, so it can help save some cards.

The Characters
By default the game assumes you are playing yourself. I remember trying to do this with older role-playing games, which invariably resulted in players arguing about their stats, class, skills, and so on. Fortunately that won't be a problem in this game, because there are no stats and skills, and the abilities are randomly attained.

Obviously if you don't want to play yourself with god-like power there's nothing stopping you, and you don't have to change anything about the game to do so. Character creation is as easy as grabbing one of the playmats, assigning your cards, and playing.

There are currently four archetypes: the brute, hunter, brewer, and sneak. Each of them eats up a single side of a single page, and there are no levels or new abilities to buy. I think this is fine given that your abilities will constantly fluctuate throughout the game (see the bit above about Overloading and Venting), and each archetype has twelve abilities (your Damage slot instead gives you one of four Flaws).

There is a page on running an extended campaign, which includes a bit on dealing with non-combat obstacles, and a form of character advancement involving starting with a smaller deck, and gaining more cards over time. I think the ability to boost what the card suits do, and/or the ability to mitigate/remove flaws, would also be an interesting way to go.

The Bad
I like to end things on a high note, so lemme get the bad stuff out of the way (keeping in mind that I have no played the game, so what I'm about to say may not be a problem at all).

I'd like to see more headers and sidebars to help you navigate chunks of rules. There are some, but not enough for me. Terms are bolded, which helps, but I would have liked to have seen, for example, a header for Overload and Venting, movement and ranges, a sidebar for the rule on rounding numbers up, and so on.

In addition to a table of contents, I also think some of the mechanics could be organized and presented in a clearer, cleaner manner. Currently the rules start out by telling you to draw four cards and place one in your Accuracy stat, after which it tells you that you want to roll under the card's value. It then proceeds in this manner for the rest of the stats.

I think explaining the core mechanic, then the stats, then character generation would be a more intuitive way of going about it.

To be fair this is really only going to be an issue for first timers: once you've read and played the game, the next time you'll have a better handle on it. As it stands my recommendation is for the GM to read the full book, and then explain stats and the core mechanic to the players before they place any cards.

There are a couple parts where it says to fudge things in favor of the players (especially if you are just starting out an extended campaign). I think people will have a problem with this, especially if they are more of the "let the dice fall where they may" mentality.

Personally, I like to earn my victories: if I die, I die, and that makes the times that I do win all the more meaningful. That said, I think this would be an excellent area for people to playtest and provide feedback on: if the characters routinely require DM fudging to survive against mooks then, in a game where characters are mortals with god-like power, I don't think it's working as intended.

The Good
This game has a strong focus on combat, which isn't a bad thing. I love a game that knows what it wants to be and embraces it, instead of trying to please everyone, provide rules for social role-playing because that's the "right" way to play, or stretch in directions that it shouldn't bother with (like Dungeons & Dragons and, say, horror).

I also like that it uses its own, unique system. I know that having to learn a new system, however simple, will potentially turn people off, especially when it comes to system diehards. There seems to be an abundance of clones and hacks of existing games and systems (of, well, dubious quality), so it's refreshing to see someone take the time to develop mechanics that they need, instead of settling on what's popular.

Most monsters are insanely simple, having only three stats (Base Damage, Mythos, and HP) and a short list of moves (like unleash a foul, sticky liquid on the player, taking them out of the fight for a round). This is good, because you're usually going to throw a lot of them at the players. I think, as a simple tweak, I would consider "mob" rules, so that instead of having to roll to Defend numerous times, you can just roll once.

"Boss" monsters are a bit more complex, having multiple "phases". This is something I first saw in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, mostly with solo monsters, but frankly it wasn't utilized enough (and in many cases well enough). I think this is a great idea for keeping the players on their toes, because you can't just fight it, learn what it can do, and reliably go through the motions until you win.

Take the shell dragon: it starts out dealing decent damage (8), acts three times per round, and has a pretty beefy 20 hit points. Once you beat it down, it grows wings and tries to escape. In this phase its damage is reduced (only 5), it doesn't act as often, and has less hit points. Once you knock it out of the sky shit hits the fan: 10 damage, three actions (again, though one of its actions allows it to hit 2-3 characters at once), and a whopping thirty hit points.

There's a bunch of advice on running a game, from rethinking combat, giving the characters something to fight for, creating powerful and changing enemies, creating your own adventures, and so on. Some of it you might agree with, some of it you won't, but it all boils down to how you like to play/run your games and doesn't really change the mechanics.

Finally, there are several example adventures, making it incredibly quick to make a character and just get playing. With the minimal rules and setup time, I think this would make for an excellent convention game, maybe even something you could run during a lunch break (Mythic Meal Time?).

If you like action-oriented games, I'd take advantage of its Pay What You Want status to take it for a spin, and then let David know what you like and hate about it. It's clear this wasn't crapped out as a cash grab, or so that he could label himself a game designer.

So let him know what works and what doesn't. Be constructive. If you like it, tell him why. If you don't, tell him why. Don't just say, "I hate it", and definitely don't just look at it and conclude that it sucks: give it a legitimate shot.

Oh, and if you enjoy the game don't forget to go back and throw some cash his way (Drivethru allows you to do that, even if you initially pay nothing).

Also, David encourages anyone and everyone to make their own content, so long as you merely credit him (hence the Atlantis supplement that I'll be working on). No bullshit licenses or anything else like that. Some things that I'd like to see are rules for essentially carving out, managing, and protecting your own dominion from the Ancients.

I'd also like to see an implied setting, set many years in the future, in which humanity desperately tries to keep the minions of the Ancients in check. Maybe something like Rifts, just without the horrible, often contradictory mechanics and hundreds of races, classes, and books packed with guns and armor.

A Sundered World: The Antiquities of Antikythera

Back when I originally ran A Sundered World (using 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons of course), the first thing the characters encountered was a lone copper clockwork horror. Clockwork horrors were originally featured in 3rd Edition's Monster Manual II, though there were only electrum, gold, platinum, and adamantine.

I'd never used them before, had long since stop playing and sold all my 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons books, and though I'd made conversions of various 3rd Edition monsters they weren't among them, so I have no idea why I decided to throw one at the characters.

The weakest clockwork horrors (electrum) were pegged at a Challenge Rating of 4, which allegedly meant they were a suitable challenge for a party of 4th-level characters. By comparison this one was far more powerful than you would have expected: it blew off half of the shaman's hit points with one ranged attack, and the party was forced to flee.

They eventually escaped, only to run into them time and time again throughout the course of the campaign. We never did finish it, so who knows if they would have been able to stop the legionnaires as they slowly spread throughout the world, wiping out islands and breaking them down for resources.

For the Dungeon World version of A Sundered World, I decided to rename, remake, and include them as their own monster setting and danger: Antikythera's Legion and Antikythera's Armory, respectively.

Here's a work-in-progress of a comparatively "normal" looking kytheran shaman, complete with snake spirit and claw bracer (though I'm going to swap it out for something else). 

Kytherans were the first things made by Antikythera, and were long ago discarded in favor of the Legionnaires. They're one of the first races to have been created, and one of the few to survive the Sundering. They exist in scattered units throughout the Remnants, either pillaging raw materials or setting up fortresses near islands or vortices rich with metal ore, so that they can repair, upgrade, and construct more.

Unlike some other races, like devas and kobolds, all kytheran characters start with the following race move:

Made, Not Born
You do not need to eat, sleep, or breathe, and are immune to poisons, disease, and similar afflictions. When a move tells you to mark off a ration, ignore it. You do not heal naturally, and are unaffected by healing magic or items like healing potions. When you make camp, if you have the necessary tools and parts you regain one-half of your maximum hit points.

(There're items that allow you to spend time and perform quick repairs. Not just a reskin of bandages and poultices and herbs, but something that can be used to fix you, ships, etc.)

Kytheran advanced moves allow you to gain more armor (if you want to be super durable), deal damage when you defy danger against nearby enemies, use your own hands as fearsome weapons, attach extra sets of arms, and more.

Here's another work-in-progress, this time of an iron soldier, one of the weakest of the Legion (weighing in just above copper drones).

Heavily armed and armored, playtesting has shown them to be tougher than what you'd probably expect from a group monster (10 HP and a whopping 4 Armor), but hey, I just build 'em by the book.

We've got a bunch of awesome stuff going on this month:

Finally, you can now sign up for this month's Mythoard, which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.

In addition for every 50 subscribers I'm going to add a discount link for one of our products. So far The Witch is being included (and will become free at 200 subscribers), and when I asked about it yesterday there were over 70. The cutoff date is the 10th, at which point I'll have to send the files out for printing, so spread the word!

Dungeon World: Vancomancer Overhaul

It took waaay longer than I expected, but The Vancomancer (which is now a Best Silver Seller) has finally been updated (so if you already own it, check your Drivethru RPG library).

In addition to boasting a new cover (colored by Melissa), here's a list of other changes/additions:

  • Two digest-sized pdfs. One lacks a background texture, so if you want to print it that'll save you on ink.
  • It uses our new character sheet layout.
  • One new bit of dungeon gear.
  • Four new magic items.
  • The director's cut has been expanded to talk about other moves that people were unclear about.
  • Several moves have been tweaked or completely overhauled.

In addition to The Vancomancer's overhaul, we've got a bunch of other awesome stuff going on this month:

Finally, you can now sign up for this month's Mythoard, which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.

In addition for every 50 subscribers I'm going to add a discount link for one of our products. So far The Witch is being included (and will become free at 200 subscribers), and when I asked about it yesterday there were over 70. The cutoff date is the 10th, at which point I'll have to send the files out for printing, so spread the word!

Dungeon World: Classy Questions

Something that I've done in both A Sundered World and Dungeons & Delvers—that the playtesters have really enjoyed—is include a series of race and class questions for the players to answer, in order to help flesh out both their characters and the world.

Here are some from the shaman's list:

  • What is your spirit’s name? Where did you find it? How do you both get along?
  • Is this your first spirit? If not, what happened to the other?
  • What function do you serve for your tribe?
  • What other noteworthy spirits do you know?

And here are some from the kobold:

  • Where do you live? Are you bound to someone’s home? A ship? Do you have your own shrine?
  • What spirit are you on good terms with? What about bad terms?
  • What is the most precious offering you've received? Who gave it to you?

Though I don't like many of the "official" Dungeon World classes (certainly not substantial portions of them), I figured I could at least compile a (non exhaustive) list of questions to give GMs and players something to work with (if you think of more, lemme know in the comments). Obviously you don't have to answer them all, at least not right away (some can wait until a character uses or gains a move), and some answers might in turn lead to other questions.

If people like this sort of thing, I'll start including them in our playbooks (and go back and add them into previously published ones).

  • Arcane Art: How did you learn to weave song and dance into magic? How does your art manifest? For the other questions, how does it feel to be empowered by the bard's art?
  • Bardic Lore: How did you learn what you know?
  • A Port in the Storm: Whence have you traveled? You can further flesh this out by asking the bard what he saw or encountered during his travels.

Another somewhat interesting bit about the bard are the instruments, in that unlike most starting gear they each come with the hint of a story hook: you can ask them about the noble that gave them their lute, who they stole their horn from, and so on.

The Deity move doesn't go into a lot of detail, but depending on your campaign this may be all that's needed. In case it matters you can figure out other details, like what your god looks like, religious holidays, sacred animals/plants/weapons, and so on. You can also flesh out whatever church you came from, where it's located, and members of the clergy.

  • Divine Guidance: How does your deity convey this information to you? Does it just appear in your mind? Do you hallucinate? Do you hear whispers on the wind? A vision in the reflection of your blade? Does your deity (or other divine servant) take over your body and speak?
  • Turn Undead: What does this look like? What happens to the undead?
  • Commune: What does it feel like to commune with your deity and gain new spells?
  • Cast a Spell: What does your magic look like?

  • Born of the Soil: Where is your land (assuming you don't start the game there)? What important features and creatures can be found within it? 
  • By Nature Sustained: How does the druid sustain him/herself? Do you just draw on sunlight? Do you hunt, or do animals willingly sacrifice themselves to you? Do plants just grow from the ground (or from your flesh)?
  • Shapeshifter: What does it look like when you transform? How does it feel?
  • Related to both Born of the Soil and Shapeshifter: What sort of animals do you commonly transform into?
  • Gear: Was the token given to the druid? Was it claimed as a trophy from some strange beast? Was it discovered in a mysterious cave?

Something else you can establish is whether you are part of a tribe or clan, or if you are a lone warden of your land.

The fighter has the strange distinction of being the only class whose most meaningful move is a weapon. Even so, there are a number of non-weapon questions you can ask.

  • Signature Weapon: How did you acquire your weapon? What does it look like? 
  • How did you learn to fight?
  • Why did you take up the sword (or axe, or spear, etc)?
  • What is the most powerful monster you've ever slain?
  • What fight(s) have you fled from?
  • What do you fear?

The paladin is a bit contradictory: it mentions the "sweet killing blow of the gods, you are", and your gear includes a "mark of faith", but only if you take the Divine Favor advanced move does it tell you to dedicate yourself to a deity.

Personally I prefer Dungeons & Dragons's (4th Edition, of course) cavalier subclass, which champions a virtue (with the examples being valor and sacrifice), as that helps conceptually differentiate it from the cleric. I take this to mean that you don't need to be devoted to any particular god, but if you go that route just refer to the cleric's Deity move above for questions.

  • How did you "become" a paladin? 
  • Human: When you discover evil, how do you know? Is the source surrounded by an aura? Do you feel nausea or agony? 
  • Lay on Hands: What does it feel like to heal someone? What does it feel like to take their wounds and debilities?
  • Quest: What sort of rituals do you go through when you dedicate yourself? Are their any signs or changes (which could be based on whatever boons you choose)?

The main thing about the ranger is the animal companion, though you can also ask occupation-related questions.

  • Why did you become a ranger? Was it by choice or necessity?
  • How did you learn to survive in the wilderness?
  • Which environments are you familiar with? Which are you ignorant of?
  • Animal Companion: How did you meet your animal companion? What is its name? How do you get along? You could expand this to ask how it gets along with the rest of the party.

If another player is playing the druid, maybe they both know each other. If the adventure takes place in familiar territory, you can ask the ranger questions about it: what lives and/or can be found there (whether he has encountered it, or has only heard of it in legends)?

Everything about the thief's moves can be summed up with: how and why did you learn your skills? Were you part of a thieves' guild, did you learn it all on your own, were you taught by a mentor, or was it a mix of all the above? Here are a few more questions:

  • What's the most valuable thing you've stolen?
  • Who have you abandoned or sacrificed to make a clean escape?
  • Would you betray your companions? What would it take?

Depending on what the campaign is about, you can flesh out a thieves' guild, one or more members of a watch that the character has a "history" with, rivals, an ill family member that the thief has to take care of, a treasure that the thief really wants to get her hands on, and the like.

  • How and why did you learn your magic? Were you self taught, were you instructed by a mentor (if so, who was he, how did he treat you, what happened to him, etc), or did you attend a magic academy?
  • Spellbook: What is it made of? How big is it? What language are your spells written in?
  • Prepare Spells: As with the cleric, how does it feel to prepare new spells?
  • Cast a Spell: Also as with the cleric, how does it feel when you cast spells? What do they look like?
  • Spell Defense: What does this look like (it could vary by the ongoing spell you end)?

You can also ask the wizard about any magical mishaps they've witnessed and/or caused, spells and magic items they hope to find, a magic item they want to create, etc.
We've got a bunch of awesome stuff going on this month:

Finally, you can now sign up for this month's Mythoard, which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.

In addition for every 50 subscribers I'm going to add a discount link for one of our products. So far The Witch is being included (and will become free at 200 subscribers), and when I asked about it yesterday there were over 70. The cutoff date is the 10th, at which point I'll have to send the files out for printing, so spread the word!

A Sundered World: Devils & Spirits

Now that The Oni, art commissions for Mythic Mortals and an upcoming OSR adventure, and a semi-exclusive Dungeon World adventure are done, I've been able to get back to doing art for A Sundered World.

List time I posted art it was for a couple of new monster settings (ie, a thematic grouping of monsters): The Voices of the Stars and Celestial Host. This time I've got a few more: Those That Have Fallen and Spirits of a Sundered Land.

Gotta make the feathers of this wrathful seraphim more jagged and sword-like, and also add some blackened, smoking skeletons.

Some spirits are ghostly, others look more or less like normal animals, and others still—like this stag spirit—can assemble physical forms out of the environment.

God of Social Justice War

Though God of War is billed as a "third person action-adventure game", it can be better described as a culturally appropriated, misogynistic toxic male power fantasy: Kratos, a very muscular, very abled, whiter-than-white man slaughters hordes of monsters in hopes of being able to just write off the unforgivable crime of killing his own wife.

The start of the game has Kratos fighting across numerous wrecked ships, and right off the bat the game shows its true colors in a not-so-subtle way. Ships are often referred to as she, so by depicting all of the ships damaged beyond repair the game's creator is trying to reinforce the notion that women are damaged and useless.

Unfortunately, and predictably, it doesn't stop there.

The "ships" (i.e. women) are under attack by a hydra (i.e. a phallus), which is symbolic of how all women everywhere are constantly under attack and oppressed by The Patriarchy. The many "heads" of the hydra continually penetrate the hulls of these "ships" in order to devour the white men inside. While killing men isn't, never has been, and never will be an issue, because as we all know that when men die it's the women that suffer the most.

No, it's the symbolism that's problematic, as the game is subconsciously trying to illustrate that it's "okay" to tear unborn fetuses from pregnant women and devour them. Mind you some of this happens in the background while you are completely safe from harm, which also means that the game is inviting you to watch.

Eventually Kratos makes it to the end of the level, where he must fight several hydra heads bursting from yet another derelict ship. Unlike before, the combination of the feminine ship with the masculine hydra is in fact symbolizing this particular ship as a transperson. So, it's no surprise that Kratos must penetrate (i.e. rape) and destroy each of the hydra heads in order to progress.

Upon completion of this level the game fast forwards to show Kratos surrounded by nude, inebriated women. It's no stretch of the imagination that he's had his way with them while they were under the influence, which means that they were unable to provide continuous, enthusiastic consent, showcasing yet another example of rape culture and women as objects in media.

Kratos angrily storms to the deck of the ship, where Athena uses a statue to communicate with him. As a goddess Athena could have appeared to Kratos in person, but that would both give her agency and not objectify her, and we just can't have that. Kratos wants the memory of him brutally murdering his wife removed from his mind, because to him--and by extension, the game's creator--women are again merely objects to be used and discarded when convenient for a white, straight man.

Athena, despite being a female goddess, actually agrees to this, so long as Kratos defeats Ares for her. Ares is currently destroying her city, and while she claims that she could handle him on her own (after all women are exactly as physically capable as men, having made up at least half of all viking warriors), Zeus has removed her agency (surprise surprise), forcing her to rely on a mere mortal man to do a goddess's work.

Kratos accepts, and sets out yet another path of wanton destruction and slaughter so that he, an entitled, privileged, straight white man can selfishly write off his cruel misdeeds. Along the way he deals with generic undead and minotaurs, and a host of clearly feminine monsters like harpies, gorgons, and sirens, all of which he dispatches in a needlessly brutal fashion.

Misogyny and oppression at the press of a button!
While there are countless instances of misogyny, sexism, racism, female objectification, oppression, and victimization, for the sake of brevity, and both your physical and mental well-being, I'm only going to highlight a tiny fraction of them.

The first occurs early on, where Kratos is forced by Aphrodite to fight Medusa. You can't avoid Medusa, as Aphrodite erects a magical barrier that prevents you from continuing until you rip off her head, which is intended to reinforce a common misconception that women plot and backstab each other. Once you finally claim her head, you not only carry it around for the rest of the game, but certain sections will require you to use it as if it were just any other item.

To repeat: you are carrying a woman's head around and using it like an item, something you would never see happen with a man's head.

I guess I'm surprised and relieved this is the only thing he uses it for.
In another part of the game a group of sirens prevent you from locating a horn that summons a temple bound to the back of a male titan, who is forced to bear it for all eternity. Obviously since it's a male titan this wouldn't normally be an issue, but titans are few in number, making them a minority: do I even have to make the comparison between oppressed minorities and slavery?

Near the end of the game, after crawling out of Tarterus (which you accomplish by, in an act of toxic masculinity, kicking a poor male soul) you confront Ares. To beat him you end up harnessing the power of Pandora's box. For those not in the know, Pandora's box is a blatantly sexist and misogynistic Greek legend in which a woman named Pandora opens a box containing all the ills that plague the world, after being explicitly told not to.

Of course when Kratos opens it nothing bad happens: instead he gains additional power that allows him to grow in size and overcome Ares.

We get it: women can't do anything right.
Finally, after defeating Ares, Kratos discovers that Athena isn't going erase his memories, though she still graciously forgives his sins. But, as a straight, white, entitled man this predictably doesn't satisfy him, and he tries to kill himself. Yep, it's more toxic masculinity: instead of talking about his problems, Kratos is opting to take the easy way out, without considering how his death will affect the women around him.

But, in yet more acts of kindness, Athena both spares him from death and elevates him to godhood, which of fucking course Kratos still refuses to be thankful for, leading to sequels and prequels that only serve to repeat and reinforce the countless social justice issues that plagued this game.

And Now For Something Completely Different
For the handful that haven't figured it out by now, this article is entirely satire. I in no way believe any of the above: God of War was a fucking awesome, incredible game, and I recommend it to anyone that's a fan of the action-adventure genre (enjoying Greek mythology is merely an added perk).

I've thoroughly enjoyed almost all of them, though Ascension gave me some mixed feelings, and I missed one of the PSP ones (but the one I did play on the PSP holds the record of being the only PSP game I've ever completed).

Those of you that have actually played the game will notice that I've over-analyzed and/or misrepresented parts of the game, like how Kratos is tricked by Ares into killing his wife and son (an act with obviously torments him), in God of War III you rip off and cart around Helios's head and use it as a magical lantern, and Athena essentially deceives you into doing her dirty work for her, knowing full well what Kratos really wants, and that she isn't going to give it to him.

I wrote this article to highlight and mock social justice "warriors" (which isn't the first time). If you don't know what a social justice warrior--also known as a social justice weasel or whiner, armchair activist or slacktavist, professional victim, manufactured outrage brigadier, con artist, etc--is, whether you've never heard of it before, heard it only in passing, or are someone who mistakenly thinks that it's a good thing, this article does an excellent job of summing up what they are (and are not) about.

Unfortunately you can't reason with them: they delete your comments, block you, or have a bunch of other equally pathetic, miserable wretches try and shout you down with hypocritical nonsense. Fortunately aside from cowering in their echo-chambers and hugboxes, safe from criticism, there are numerous people that do an excellent job of pointing out the bullshit that to them qualifies as logic:

If I had to thank SJWs for anything (thankfully I don't), it would be that this rise of lazy, unimaginative, unskilled, untalented, sycophantic hacks has introduced me to plenty of the opposite, which yes, includes even women and minorities.

The problem is you aren't going to find them on sites and twitter feeds dedicated to/written by third-wave feminists, professional victims, and/or self-hating white knights, where lazy, the talentless men and women without drive or purpose whine and misrepresent non-issues that basically translate as them not being given unfair treatment, and/or having to overcome alleged "barriers" that equally affect men.


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