Archive for 2015

A 2015 Retrospective, And Where We're Headed In 2016

First off, we're currently running a kind of New Year sale, marking down all of our pdfs by 16%. We'll let it go until some time on the 2nd, whenever I wake up and remember to change it back.

2015 was a pretty busy year for Melissa, myself, and even the rest of our (very patient and awesome) gaming group, what with all the playtest campaigns going on. We also met a bunch of awesome people, which has opened up some new, exciting opportunities for us.

Over the course of the year, we not only published numerous classes for Dungeon World (more in just one year than most have over a much longer period, or even ever), we also helped others get their classes out there, providing not just feedback and advice, but even (inexpensive) art and (free) layout to give them some added flair.

There was our successful Kickstarter, which culminated in the release of A Sundered World. It's not only one of the largest Dungeon World books out there (weighing it at a higher page count than even the core book), but it's also in full-color, a rarity in the Dungeon World scene. Of course, buying the pdf gets you a black and white pdf as well, and you'll be able to get the physical book in black and white if you really want to (you can also just get the races and classes).

In between all of that, raising a couple kids, running 2-3 games a week, playing (and playtesting) other games on the side, blogging regularly, helping others with their own games, dealing with self-righteous social justice slacktavists, and more, I managed to design the most expansive, flexible Game Master screen for Dungeon World (without any budget), released most of our art for a very small fee, produced a few volumes of magic items (which includes tips on how to make your own), collaborated on a short A Sundered World comic, and wrote a few adventures (one for Mythoard).

Despite all of this, we've no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Our plans for next year (so far) include:
  • Dungeons & Delvers Core Rules (mostly needs art)
  • Some adventures for Dungeons & Delvers (we don't wanna just release it and then not support it)
  • A mostly complete, if not complete, version of FrankenFourth (though, feel free to get in touch if you wanna see what we have so far)
  • At least one more adventure for Dungeon World
  • Melissa's original pirate campaign setting for Dungeon World
  • A race-and-class supplement for A Sundered World
  • A Dungeon World setting for a miniatures line (can't say who...yet)
  • Another pair of Dungeon World magic item compilations
  • Lots of Dungeon World classes (with The Ghost nearing completion)

Whelp, I think that's everything. Thank you to everyone who has supported us thus far; we've got a bunch more in store.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

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

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

FrankenFourth: Non-Magical Potions

One of the design tenets for FrankenFourth (and our other game, Dungeons & Delvers) is that magic items are not assumed. Actually, even magic in general isn't an assumed part of the game, which means that you don't need a cleric to keep people propped up, not that clerics have built in healing anyway.

There is a magical healing potion, but unlike most games where they only heal a bit of damage and are generally widely available, in FrankenFourth (and, again, Dungeons & Delvers) a healing potion fixes everything: you regain all of your Wounds, and are cured of all diseases, broken bones, poisons, and so on.

You might find one while looting a wizard, witch, or some other spellcaster's lair, or be given one as a reward for helping priests that worship, say, a god of healing, but as with every other magic item that's entirely up to the GM.

One of the players in our FrankenFourth playtests, I think Adam or Chris, suggested adding non-magical, potion-like items to the game. Coincidentally I'd finally gotten around to playing Witcher 3 (some six months after purchasing it), which also has non-magical potions (you just brew them wherever from various materials like alcohol, herbs, and monster parts).

Early on there's a quest involving you hunting a griffin, during which you find out that a woman was mortally wounded by it. She's being treated by an herbalist, whose medicine is unfortunately insufficient to save her. As a witcher you have access to potions capable of fully healing her but, as Geralt warns her, "Witchers' potions aren't for humans".

(Spoiler: if you give the victim a healing potion her wounds are healed, but it melts her mind in the process.)

I like the idea of non-magical potions that can be produced by more or less mundane means. I also like the idea of giving them drawbacks, though not almost certainly fatal/character crippling ones. It's because of this that we've added an Alchemy skill to the game, which is used to make potions (among other things). Here's a few examples I, ahem, "cooked up":

Frenzy
For the next 1d6 rounds, you deal +1d4 damage. Until the potion wears off, at the start of each round you suffer 1 Wound and must attack, charge, or move towards the nearest enemy you can see. If you can't see an enemy, you instead attack the nearest creature.

(Note: Characters have a pool of Wound and Vitality points. The short of it is that Vitality points represent endurance, luck, morale, minor injuries, etc. They recover much more quickly than Wound points, which are more representative of "meat" points.)

Ghostbane
An ectoplasmic oil you wipe on a weapon. For the next hour, you can harm ghosts and ghost-like creatures normally, and against corporeal creatures you gain armor piercing 3 (since the weapon can mostly pass through armor). Until the effect wears off, if you roll a natural 1 the weapon breaks. Missile weapons always break after use.

(The reason for the break chance is that the weapon is more fragile due to it being psuedo-ghostly.)

Mend
Roll 1d8. You regain that many Wounds at a rate of one per round. For the next hour, your Constitution is reduced by 1.

(I could also see increasing the healing rate to 1 per minute, making it something you'd wanna use outside of combat. Since Wounds are based on Constitution, it means that you'll lose some of your maximum Wounds. Ideally you use this when the trade off is worth it, or expected to be worth it.)

Ogre's Blood
For the next hour your Strength is increased by 1, but your Dexterity is reduced by 2.

(This is based on a potion I designed for 10+ Treasures. There's actually a bunch of potions and oils scattered throughout the books that I'm going to convert.)

Stoneskin
Potion or oil. For the next hour your Armor increases by 2, but your Dexterity is reduced by 1.

Vigor
Regain 2d6 Vitality and suffer 1d4 Wounds.

Weaver
You suffer 1d4 Wounds, and after an agonizing number of minutes equal to the number of Wounds suffered, you vomit forth a 50-foot length of silk rope.

(Could increase the amount of rope, or maybe base it on Wounds suffered. Could also see you pooping it out.)

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

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

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

FrankenFourth: Martial Maneuvers

One of the complaints leveled against 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons had to do with abilities that were both non-magical, yet only usable x times per encounter or day. For example, a 1st-level fighter could choose an attack that let him deal damage and prone a target, but could only use it once per encounter, and another that inflicted triple damage, but was only usable once per day.

How they worked was easily explained: some went with narrative control, while others stated that unlike spells, the fighter wasn't necessarily actively intending to use the ability. If you the player used spinning sweep (damage + prone), it meant that while your fighter was trying to hack apart an opponent, he also happened to trip the target in the process.

The point is, it wasn't like your fighter is suddenly unable to trip anything because he ran out of auto-tripping exploits. It was just that if you wanted to trip an enemy it might not be as easy depending on how your DM ruled it (I'd prolly go Strength versus Fortitude or Reflex to prone, penalty if the target is larger than you), and you probably weren't going to get to tack on damage on top of it.

For some, including 5th Edition fans, this didn't suffice (not that any explanation really could have), which I find odd because 5th Edition fighters can also acquire maneuvers that can only be used x times per "short rest" with the Battle Master martial archetype. Battle Master can be chosen at 3rd-level, immediately locking in other class features down the line. It gives you four "superiority dice", which you spend to trigger various maneuvers, all of which are regained during a short rest.

The difference is that in 4th Edition you declare that you're using your tripping attack and then roll (which means the attempt can be wasted), while in 5th Edition you hit an enemy, then declare that you're tripping them: you spend a superiority die, they make a saving throw, and on a fail they get tripped (which means it could also get wasted, just requires two rolls instead of one to figure it out). The superiority die also tacks on bonus damage, which is a nice perk.

Really the only thing I like more about the 5th Edition model is that it provides more flexibility for the fighter, allowing you to mix up your maneuvers. You don't get two trips and one disarm and one distraction each short rest. No, like psionics and power points, you can trip four times, trip twice and disarm twice, disarm twice, trip once, and distract once, and so on. But, like 4th Edition, when you're out you can't use them anymore until you take a short rest.

Before we move on, I want to point out a number of other per-encounter, -short rest and -day abilities across various editions:

  • In Rules Cyclopedia there's a per-encounter despair ability. Fighters also received a number of special attacks at 9th-level.
  • Just skimming 3rd Edition's Player's Handbook I see that a barbarian can only rage a certain number of times per day, the rogue's Defensive Roll (as Special Ability class feature) can only be used once per day, and the Stunning Fist feat can be used a number of times per day based on your level. I'm sure there are more scattered about all the splatbooks.
  • In addition to fighter maneuvers, 5th Edition also has the dragonborn's breath weapon, the half-orc's relentless endurance, the barbarian's Rage, the bard's Bardic Inspiration, the fighter's Second Wind and Action Surge, the rogue's Stroke of Luck, and the Inspiring Leader feat.

So there's certainly a precedence for such abilities, though I think there's a better way of executing some of them that doesn't hinge on the encounter, day, short/long rest, or some sort of currency. Here's an example of our current, untested implementation of a maneuver/exploit from FrankenFourth:

DISARM
Exploit 18+
The target must make a Strength check (Difficulty 10+your Strength or Dexterity) or drop something it's holding.

Exploit 18+ means that for it to trigger, your total attack roll must meet-or-beat 18 (might change this to a "natural roll" and reduce the number). You don't declare that you're trying to disarm an enemy (there's a specific combat action if you want to actively try doing that). Instead, this represents that while you were hacking away at an enemy, there just happened to be an opening for you to exploit.

Something I should note is that most characters will have something like +1 to +3 to hit at the start of the game (though the war cleric in our Age of Worms playtest campaign has a Strength of 0), and characters only get attack bumps every 4-5 levels. Not sure if I wanna bring stat bumps into the mix, as most monsters only need a 9-12 to hit anyway.

There's no limit on how often these can be used, but you can only use one at a time; if you also have Cleave (attack another enemy within range on a total attack of 18+), if you roll an 18 or higher you'll have to choose whether to disarm your enemy or attack another. If you have multiple attacks (an automatic thing that some classes gain at certain levels), you can mix it up between attacks.

Fighters (and fighter-ish classes like barbarians, rangers, paladins, warlords, etc) don't automatically get maneuvers or exploits or whatever: if you want to have a fighter that focuses mostly on stabbing things, just pick talents that tack on static mods to your character and are largely forgotten about.

Unlike 5th Edition you don't have to make this choice early on, that needlessly locks in many other class features down the line: you can start out taking a few passive talents, choose an exploit talent, and then go right back to the passives. That's a key feature of FrankenFourth: more control over your character's complexity, which has the added bonus of allowing for more organic growth.

So, what do you think?

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

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

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

Dungeons & Delvers: A Crawl Through a City in the Shadow of Death, Part 2

Picking things up where we left off, the adventurers have explored most of the dungeon's 1st-level (though we won't have time to finish it until after Christmas due to everyone being sick). Here's the updated map:


They've skipped a few rooms, but still found a bunch of treasure (gotta think of things for adventurers to spend their cash on). They also had a few close calls: the barbarian got knocked out a couple times, the frog was left teetering at 1 Wound, and at one point while resting they were attacked before the barbarian was back on her feet (they decided it was better to risk getting attacked while resting, as opposed to trying to leave the dungeon and chance more random encounters).

We ended up stopping when they stumbled across another adventuring trio, also wounded and exhausted. Will they team up? Help them escape (or achieve some other goal)? Fight?

Behind the Scenes
Reducing the barbarian's starting Might to a d8 has made things go much more smoothly, for me anyway: she's not plowing through hordes of enemies and easily blocking most of their attacks right out of the gate (to put things in perspective, other adventurers can't get a stat up to d10 until 5th-level).

Also, the current rules for mob attacks aren't as good as I thought, as in too many instances a bunch of monsters would attack the barbarian and she'd just block them all (even after the Might nerf). The original idea was to make it so that, rather than have a bunch of monsters futilely beat on a character with a high Defense Pool, they could combine their efforts to essentially make a single big attack.

It worked out well enough in the Hemskil campaign, but in this combat-heavy stress test the adventurers were far more resilient than I'd like. I changed things mid-game, so that adventurers had to Defend against individual attacks, and now the barbarian is actually taking damage. No one's died, yet, but at least now they're gradually getting worn down the longer they explore.

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Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

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

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

Dungeon World: The Gunner

The Gunner is locked and loaded.

This flexible class not only lets you outfit a gunslinger-type character, but also lets you roll out something more akin to a gunner from Tera, or the heavy and sniper classes from Team Fortress 2. You choose how your gun was built (magic, flesh, or some sort of pseudo-science), how big it is (a pistol, rifle, or big-ass cannon, which you can change over time), and then let the bullets—or lightning, magic, or chitinous spikes—fly.

Though the class is initially intended as a ranged damage-dealer (a number of moves give you bonus damage, add or let you swap out tags, or let you blow your entire load in one big attack), plenty of moves let you bleed into more of a supporting role: you can give your allies bonus armor against ranged attacks, provide covering fire, lead the way on a perilous journey, keep watch while everyone else rests, and so on.

This product contains three files.

One is a letter-sized character sheet that uses our new character sheet layout (which allowed us to fit 31 of the 40ish advanced moves).

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

  • The gunner class (and its 31 advanced moves).
  • New ranged weapons—including a variety of guns and a repeating crossbow—and armor (including a gun-shield attachment for bigger guns).
  • A director's cut with questions to ask yourself, explanations for some of the moves, and nine advanced moves that we couldn't fit on the sheet.

NOTE: It has been added to the Adventuring Party and All of the Playbooks bundles, that latter of which is getting pretty hefty...gonna have to break it up into smaller bundles at some point.


$2.25

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Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

It's Okay to Just Say No

A mantra I've heard—mostly from the story gamers camp—is, when prompted by a player with a question or suggestion, to either "say yes" or "roll the dice" (I've also seen "say yes, and..."). Interpreted literally this means that, no matter what the player asks or suggests, the GM must always say yes or roll the dice.

Having pored through a few threads and posts on the subject, it's pretty clear that most don't interpret it that way (which leads me to wonder why it's phrased that way at all), and think it's perfectly fine for GMs to say no in various circumstances (which of course vary).

I only found one post that said to ask the player if they felt that their question, suggestion, or action was plausible; if they could figure something out to just give it to them, but if they can't roll anyway.


I still disagree with it (especially the "roll even if the player can't cook up a decent explanation"), but not because of improbable scenarios in which players will make ridiculous requests like asking for magic items, thereby forcing the GM to either comply or roll to see if they get what they want anyway. No, my problem is the notion of just giving players whatever they want, and/or letting them do whatever so long as there's "nothing at stake", it's "not a big deal anyway", and so on.

The way I run my games is, simply put, a player tells me what they want to, and I determine if it's a definite yes, definite no, or—most often—an "I dunno so lets roll the dice to figure it out". For example, a character tries to bribe a guard. I can decide that the guard is absolutely loyal, so no amount of money is going to work. I might also decide that, yeah, he can be bribed, but depending on how much money is offered will determine if they have to make a Diplomacy roll or not.

I don't care if the player has a "totally cool idea", or if it's in the "best interest of the story". Those aren't part of the equation, because if you, the GM, make decisions based on "cool ideas" and "good story", then you're just creating the illusion of wit and success: the characters don't succeed due to the player being clever or resourceful, they "succeed" because the player was able to persuade the GM to give them what they wanted, or otherwise adjust the scenario in their favor.

This does not mean that I just deny everything players ask for. If they want a rock, and ask if there's a rock lying about, and I think that there would definitely be rocks lying about, then I say yeah, there's a rock. It's only when they want a rock of a very specific size and shape that I might say no, or roll if I think there's a chance but I dunno. Factors like time, the environment, the inhabitants, and so on influence my decision, not how badly you want it.

(Note that this also don't mean that I won't mine the players' theories and suggestions, and the characters' backgrounds for adventure material. It also doesn't mean that I'll never change my mind when provided with compelling evidence: it's entirely possible for me to change my "no" to a dice roll, or even to a yes. Just depends on the situation.)

Back when I ran the original A Sundered World campaign, the players tried all sorts of crazy things, like throwing a chest brimming with treasure at a red dragon to distract it long enough for them to escape. The warlord player had jumped into the campaign after 1st-level, so I ruled that he would have accumulated some wealth (in addition to his astral vessel), though I still required a roll to see if the dragon went for it (which, fortunately for them, it did).

What made those moments really awesome was the fact that the players knew I wasn't obligated to "say yes or roll the dice", or "say yes if they explain it well enough, and let them roll the dice even if they couldn't", or whatever. They knew I could say no, because I had said no before. If I said yes, it's because I genuinely thought that whatever they were asking for or trying to do was a certainty. If I told them to roll, it's because I genuinely felt that whatever they were asking or trying to do was possible, but I was uncertain.

I once had a player that was running a changeling something-or-other. Rogue, I think. The party was in a dungeon, and there were wraiths, and for some reason she wanted to use Bluff to convince the wraiths that she was also a wraith. Were I am adherent to "just say yes or roll the dice", then despite the fucking absurdity of her declaration, I would have had to choose one (obviously I'd go with rolling, because that would be the only chance I had of maintaining some semblance of reason in the campaign).

Thankfully I'm not: I told her that while she could change her skin black, she couldn't change her clothes, and also couldn't make herself partially transparent, so there was no fucking way it would work. It wasn't even a case where I pegged the DC so high she couldn't make it, or said that she could make it on a natural 20: it was just an outright no. She didn't like it, and that's fine: you don't always get what you want, not everything goes your way, etc.

The important thing was that, again, it reinforced the fact that when I tell a player you just do what you wanted to do, find what you wanted to find, or I dunno let's roll the dice, they know I'm not just pulling punches or playing nice, because I can and will just say no.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.
December 20, 2015
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeons & Delvers: The Core Mechanic

Despite being geared towards kids, Dungeons & Delvers uses all of the polyhedral dice besides a twenty-sider (currently, at any rate).

Each stat and skill is ranked by a die. A d4 is the worst, representing a "poor" stat or lack of proficiency in a skill. In the case of stats, d6 is the average, while in the case of skills means that you're "proficient" at a skill. Both stats and skills scale up to a d12.

Characters generally start with a d8 in their "best" stat, a d6 in two others, and a d4 in their "worst". Each class has three arrays to choose from to add variety. Every character also starts with a number of skills, most often at a d6 (the wizard's d8 in Arcana is the odd-skill-out).

When a character attempts to do something, the GM decides whether you automatically succeed, automatically fail (because it is okay to just say no), or—in most cases—if the outcome is uncertain. The player then builds a dice pool (or just pool), which always contains at least two dice, but depending on your race, class, and what you're trying to do, can include more.

(The "Average" Difficulty is 7, which means that starting characters have good odds at succeeding at the sort of things they're supposed to be doing.)

The catch is that no matter how many dice you roll, you only choose the two highest results. Often this means that extra dice will increase your average but not your maximum result.

For example, a fighter starts with Might d8 and Melee d6 (Melee is fixed, but you still get to choose other skills). If you try to stab a monster you roll 1d8 + 1d6, and try to meet or beat its Defense value. One of the talents that the fighter can choose from is Slayer, which gives you a bonus d6 when wielding a two-handed weapon.

So now the fighter is rolling 1d8+1d6+1d6 (or 1d8+2d6), but since you only choose the two highest results the best you can hope for is still 14, though your average went up by something like 1-2 points.

Other factors can add dice to your pool, like ducking behind cover, using pitons when climbing, drinking antitoxin or using medicinal herbs, and offering a hefty bribe.

Penalties work a bit differently, causing you to discard one or more of your highest dice results after you roll. For example, if you're poisoned you discard your highest dice result from every check you make until it wears off. If you're restrained your Speed is reduced to 0, and whenever you attack or defend yourself you discard your highest dice result.

These stack, so if you're both poisoned and restrained you discard your two highest results. Oh, if you end up discarding all of your dice you just automatically fail the check. Adventuring ain't easy.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

Dungeons & Delvers: A Crawl Through a City in the Shadow of Death

Previous sessions with our kids have been pretty simple, short crawls: they go into the dungeon, beat up everything, and then that's that. We got a bunch of new Dwarven Forge sets in the mail, so I wanted to go all out and see how they fared against something more long-term and unpredictable (which would be a good way to stress test character durability).

Here are the (current) rules:

  • Almost every room has something bad in it. The first time a door is opened, I roll on a table to see what's in there. Could be something simple, like a couple skeletons, could be a shitload of skeletons and skeleton warriors. In this way it's kind of like the Dungeon board game, which they've also played.
  • Once a room is cleared, if the characters return to it I roll a d6: on a 1 I roll on the encounter table again to see what wandered into the room while they were away.
  • If the characters rest inside the dungeon I roll a d6, and on a 1 they get hit with a random encounter. Also, as per the rules, resting in a dungeon reduces Wound Recovery by 1, to a minimum of 0. Base Recovery is determined by your Might score: d4 is 1, d6 is 2, and so on. Since the wizard's Might is d4, this means that she won't heal at all without healing items, which increase Wound Recovery.

I made it clear that they'd need to check for traps, consider when to retreat or risk camping in the dungeon, try legging it and nailing the doors shut, and so on to survive. I also explained that there's a staircase somewhere on the floor that leads to the next level, that other levels would be harder (but provide more treasure), and that there's a sort of boss monster on the 3rd-level that they'd need to defeat in order to "win".


Here's an overview of the first floor. As you can see we haven't painted all of the new pieces.


First room was an easy start: just a pair of skeleton warriors. They went down pretty quickly, and the adventurers even looted a ring off of one (25% chance of having some sort of jewelry).


Aaand things immediately get cranked up to 11. This fight dropped the barbarian all the way from 6 to 2 Wounds. Since they were so close to the entrance, they opted to just leave and risk the odds of passing through a single room. They were fine going back through the first chamber, but the next day...


...some zombies had taken up residence. Zombies are slow, but take several hits before going down. They also get a hefty bonus when they gang up on a single adventurer. Even so, the barbarian was able to chop them apart pretty easily: methinks I'll need to drop her starting Might down to d8.


The last encounter had them squaring off against a combination of skeletons and skeleton warriors. The barbarian was able to hold off the three skeleton warriors, while the frog and cat-caster took out the rest before helping her out.

They got their first magical item: a ghost sword (or, perhaps more accurately, the ghost/soul of an intelligent sword). Useless against mindless undead, but great against living creatures and ghosts. The frog took it, which means I need to update the frog picture!

Design Notes
I've got a kind of "intro" adventure for Dungeons & Delvers ready to go. It's intended to teach you how to play the game while you play it. If you want to check it out, and ideally run it (there are four pregen characters in the package), lemme know via a comment or private post/message/etc.

I mentioned above that I think I need to drop the barbarian's starting Might to a d8. As I explained in this post, classes currently start with a d8 in their "key" stat (ie, fighters start with a d8 in Might, clerics have a d8 in Grace, etc). I wanted to see how a character with a d10 would perform, and in most cases she was outclassing everyone else.

Since they're 2nd-level, they need 150 XP to level up (base 50, plus 50 per current level, including 1st-level). This might sound like a lot, but they racked up 48 points in this session. They'll probably level up again by the time they clean the floor out.

Treasure has been completely overhauled. It used to be based on the monster's Attack value and a few other factors, like whether it was encountered in a lair. This was inline with the latest Dungeons & Dragons editions and Dungeon World, where you get more treasure if the monster is harder to kill. But, since it doesn't make any goddamn sense, I'm going with the treasure types as found in a classic/easy-to-master/black box D&D set I picked up on eBay a while back.

Here, treasure is based more on what the monster is (and whether it knows what treasure is/has any use for it). So, for example, most animals won't have loot unless encountered in their lair, mindless undead may have incidental treasure (things that they might still be wearing), and creatures that have actual use for treasure will always have some.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Keep on the Shadowfell, Episodes 2 & 3

Cast
  • Belicose (2nd-level human wizard)
  • Emery (2nd-level hearth kobold cleric)
  • Murtaugh (2nd-level tarchon dragon sorcerer)
  • Rig (2nd-level human warlord)

(Abridged) Summary
The party staked out the cave, and after several hours a group of orcs came out, dragging a bound and bloodied tarchon with them. They were preparing to perform some profane ritual, which the party interrupted through copious murder.

Emery freed the tarchon, who used his magic to incinerate the remaining orcs. Afterwards he agreed to continue helping them. He hadn't seen much, but he did know that there were still villagers confined to a pit somewhere inside.

While they rested for the night more orcs emerged from the cave. To the party's dismay, they dragged the dead to the altar, somehow revived them, and returned to the cave.

The next day the party began exploring the cave. They slaughtered a few groups of orcs, an otyugh that the orcs had obviously been feeding, a small group of man-sized bats guarding a well-concealed shortcut, and wisely avoided several out-of-the-way insect nests, before finally discovering the orc's lair.

Design Notes
Otyughs are pretty burly in this game, weighing in at around 40 hp. Fortunately Rig saw it while it was trying to snag Emery: I ruled that since only its tentacle was visible and he dealt so much damage, that he'd just slice it off. This allowed it to only make a single tentacle attack, instead of two.

Also, gotta mention the actually flat-math again: Murtaugh, the sorcerer, was able to deal the final blow with a melee attack.

The sorcerer is largely based on an early iteration of the 5th Edition playtest sorcerer, which had a mechanic that caused you to transform when you spent a magic point currency. I really dug the mechanic, and it's a shame they just tacked on a point subsystem to the standard pseudo-Vancian nonsense magic.

The sorcerer (and, currently, wizard) have a pool of magic points. When you cast a spell, you roll a die to determine how many points are lost, which makes magic unpredictable. Excess points are taken from your vitality, and then finally your actual wounds, meaning that it's possible to render yourself unconscious, or even die if you aren't careful.

Sorcerers differ from wizards in two ways.

The first is that their magic is more focused: wizards start out with novice talents in two magic schools, while sorcerers are locked into whatever bloodline you choose. For example, dragon sorcerers are largely about throwing and breathing fire, growing scales and wings, and tearing things apart with claws: you aren't going to be able to learn to teleport or summon demons.

The second is that when they run out of magic points, they gain a bonus, and when they have no vitality points they gain a second bonus. In the case of the dragon sorcerer, they first grow thick scales, giving them an armor bonus, and then they start bleeding fire, allowing them to deal damage to enemies that harm them.

I've been noodling on how to handle maneuvers for "martial" characters. Rules Cyclopedia had some mechanic that essentially gave fighters "encounter" powers, as did 3rd and even 5th Edition. So, despite what detractors say, there's certainly a precedence for it, but I'm thinking of changing it so that it's a bit more like 13th Age.

My current thought is, rather than have you declare that you're making a trip or disarming attack, that you make an attack as normal, and if you roll a natural 15 or higher, or maybe a modified 20 or higher, you get to trigger a kicker effect. I could also see linking them to different natural/modified results: trip could be a 15+, while disarm could be a 17+.

I could also make trip and disarm attacks things that anyone can do, and just have the talents let you attempt them for free when you make an attack roll that meets-or-beats a certain number.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 104

Cast
  • Adair (level 2 elf war cleric)
  • Hedris (level 2 gluttonous cambion warlord)
  • Humal (level 2 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 2 elf rogue)

Summary
The party continued investigating the observatory; four bedrooms, a handful of silver pieces, and an office later they found themselves in the dining hall.

A variety of appetizing food was heaped on the table, which was surrounded by numerous, well-dressed, awkwardly posed corpses. Sumia noticed that they twitched ever so slightly, but otherwise didn't react to the characters' presence, even after Adair swatted the head off one.

While they debated what to do with them, Sumia spotted a man's face peering at them from the staircase leading up to the second floor, but he vanished as soon as he realized that Sumia had seen him. Sumia and Humal gave chase, while Adair remained to behead the rest of the zombies. They cornered the stranger in the uppermost floor, which had been renovated into a kind of operating theater.

He gestured to four glass tanks, commanding whatever was inside to kill Sumia and Humal. The occupants, either well-preserved or recently animated zombies, smashed their way free and advanced upon them. Humal responded by holding up his hands, explaining that they just wanted to talk.

Surprisingly, the necromancer, who they soon learned was named Filge, ordered the zombies to stop. Humal tried to find some common ground with the fact that they were both wizards, and learned that Filge had been hired by Smenk to help take care of a problem.

A kind of tripartite cult had set up operations in the Dourstone mine. Initially Smenk had been helping them out with supplies, but recently had become worried by what he'd seen when he actually went into the mine. Smenk managed to steal a vial containing a strange green worm, which Filge learned was linked to an entity known as Kyuss, the Age of Worms, and "unkillable" zombies.

When the party voiced their intention to investigate the mine, Filge offered to tag along. They agreed to bring him, but first had to take care of the whole ghost-wanting-to-be-laid-to-rest-with-his-family thing.

After dropping off the bones, they swung by Allustan's house to let him know they were heading back to the Whispering Cairn. His presence was a mixed-blessing: he was able to explain what the glyphs meant, and that the "broken mirror frame" was actually a kind of portal, but ended up almost killing Sumia when they, at his suggestion, opened the sarcophagus in the lantern chamber.

It contained a rusted suit of animated armor that could fly and conjure swords, all of which turned to dust when it suffered enough punishment. Even worse, the sarcophagus was empty.

After resting, they returned to the ball pit and discovered that Alastor had indeed opened the door before vanishing. The chamber within was vast. The walls bore four bas-reliefs that depicted scenes of the war between the vaati and demons, which included seven named vaati, one of them apparently sacrificing himself to slay one of the demons, and a rod made of several irregular fragments.

A pillar of air rushed upward from a central platform, linked to the rest of the chamber by a pair of plain stone bridges (there were four, but two had collapsed). After examining the bas-reliefs, the party went to investigate the air pillar, but were stopped by another pair of floating suits of armor. Unlike the previous one, these looked to be in pristine condition.

They flew towards Sumia, almost slaying her immediately. Humal conjured an illusion of one of the named vaati, holding up his hand as if commanding them to stop. Both armor suits bowed, but after Adair struck one they resumed their attack. Sumia crawled away, keeping a safe distance while Adair and even Humal, supported by Allustan's semi-accurate lightning bolts, smashed the warriors to dust.

Design Notes
Given that the players have overlooked a good deal of treasure, I'm really glad that FrankenFourth doesn't have any kind of "expected wealth level", nor does it assume magic items of any sort (in fact, it's being designed so that you don't "need" them at all).

I didn't realize that, at Strength +1, Humal is the second strongest character in the party (I think Hedris is +2, maybe +3). I love it: Adair, a war cleric, has a Strength of 0, but he's still doing fine in combat, in some part thanks to the War Domain, which lets him re-roll attacks by spending Favor.

Since the game has almost no math, this means that Humal has decent odds of actually striking a monster. The difference is that fighters and other melee classes can stack on talents that let them deal more damage, make multiple attacks, and penetrate armor. Also, his wounds and vitality are lower, so it's not like you're going to see a wizard tanking anytime soon (or very long).

My checklist for next week's game includes statting out Allustan and Filge, and adding a "ghost sound" tree for illusionists. I didn't expect them to take Allustan with them into the cairn before clearing it out (or, for that matter, agree to take Filge with them), though I was able to quickly bullshit some stats together as making monsters is incredibly quick and easy.

+Christopher Lopez brought up a good point that some monsters--namely mindless undead and golems--will make more sense if they only have Wound Points. He also suggested making potion-like items that could restore vitality, making them useful in combat. I like the idea, though they wouldn't be magical, and I could see some having adverse side effects.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

A Sundered Fragment: More Character Stuff Preview 2

I mentioned in the first preview that one of the things we're adding to A Sundered World (and Dungeon World by association) are moves that require both a specific race and class combination. I initially came up with this concept during one of our A Sundered World playtests a while back, pitching a move that would allow a tarchon battlemind to have weapons they shape be red-hot or on fire.


Kobold nomads are another great example. One move lets you increase your bound ship's Speed by 1, making it easier to travel and maneuver about. It's a pretty big deal by itself since you can save on fuel, but it's required for another one that, if you're also a nomad, lets you take your ship with you whenever you teleport.

Even mine kobolds get some good synergy with the nomad: one move gives you a bonus when searching for cracks in space while underground, or in a mostly stone environment, and another lets you spend 1 fold to not only teleport into stone, but create a tunnel that leads to wherever you teleported to (so allies can come with).

Somewhat related, a third move lets mine kobolds collapse tunnels. No class required, but could be useful for mine kobold nomads that want to prevent enemies from following them.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

Dungeons & Delvers: Meet the (Dwarf) Fighter

I've made a few posts talking about what monsters look like and how they work in Dungeons & Delvers, but it's been nearly a year since I even touched on the character side of things, so I figure it's time to go into more detail.

Like most fantasy role-playing games, characters in Dungeons & Delvers are largely defined by your class, with some added bits from your race.

Flavor-wise, your race provides you with some questions to ask yourself to help flesh out your character. On the mechanics side of things they also give you a talent.

This lets you, for example, choose if your dwarf is tougher than everyone else, skilled with axes and hammers, or good at noticing things about stonework (such as traps and hazards).

As with races from A Sundered World, when you level up you can choose more options from your race instead of your class (and I could very easily see races-as-class in this game).

Like race, your class gives you one or more talents at the start of the game, and it also determines your starting stats, skills, and gear. Character generation is a breeze: you choose a stat array, a couple skills, a talent, a bit of gear, flesh out some character details (and maybe answer some questions), and you're on your way.

For this post, we're going to take a closer look at what the fighter brings to the table.

Stats
For the most part fighters are melee oriented, so two of their arrays give you Might at a d8 (which is a step above average). The third one has an Agility of 1d8 and a Might of 1d6, in case you want to be a more agile or ranged fighter. At 5 Wounds they're tougher than most other classes (currently the barbarian is the only other match).

Skills
You start with Melee and Athletics at 1d6, and you get to choose any other two skills you want. This is mostly on par with other classes, which have anywhere from 4-6 skills. Each time you level up you get to bump up a skill by one die, or choose a new skill to have at 1d6.

Gear
In addition to an adventuring kit (which everyone starts with), you also get medium armor (adds 1d8 to your Defense, which you describe as whatever you want within reason) and one of the following:
  • A one-handed weapon and a shield (for tanks)
  • Two one-handed weapons (for dual-wielders)
  • A two-handed weapon (for slayers)
  • A one-handed melee weapon, and either a one- or two-handed ranged weapon (for archer/ranged types)

Talents
Currently 1st-level fighters get to choose Defender (shields add 1d6 instead of 1d4), Slayer (two-handed weapons add 1d6 instead of 1d4), Two-Weapon Fighting (re-roll your Melee die once when using two melee weapons), or Archer (add 1d4 when using a ranged weapon if the target is 5 spaces or closer).

At Higher Levels
Fighter talents focus on making you better with other weapons, allow you to specialize in a particular weapon, deal additional damage if your Attack roll exceeds the enemy's Defense by a certain amount, make multiple attacks, ignore a Defense penalty when charging, make yourself resistant to or immune to certain conditions, use your Might for initiative, protect allies from harm (even take hits for them), and more.

Announcements
A Sundered World is out!

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

A Sundered Fragment: More Character Stuff Preview

About a day after A Sundered World was released (as well as a pdf that just has the race and class stuff for people that just want the race and class stuff), we'd already begun working on the first supplement (along with a bunch of other stuff, as usual).

Not sure what we're going to call it yet, but it's basically geared towards players, adding more races, race moves, class moves, advanced moves for races and classes (some of which require specific race and class combinations), maybe a new class, and gear (which includes rules for piloting enthollows and jotuncases).

Here's a B&W WIP of the ishim section:


This is what happens if you take the 6-10 advanced move Higher Calling: you ascend to the rank of cherubim, which is large, can fly (which lets you move through the astral much more quickly than normal), has a powerful claw attack, cannot be surprised, and can see through any lie.

I'll tease more as more art gets done, but if you have anything you'd like to see (or see expanded upon), lemme know!

Announcements
A Sundered World is out!

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Return to Epiro One-Shot

Cast
  • Ainslie (level 1 elf monk)
  • Liander (level 1 elf hireling)
  • Ruari (level 1 elf wizard)

Summary
The party arrived in the village of Sidon some three days after the murder of its previous ruler, Silas Kosta. His daugher Eleni had taken over, and put a bounty on the bandits responsible: five gold pieces per head brought to her.

The party were elves native to the Tunnelwood, and knew that the bandits were located somewhere along the Hydra River: they told Eleni that they would avenge her father's death for just one gold piece per head, if she also agreed to suspend logging operations at the Nasso Sawmill.

Eleni agreed, and the party returned to the forest. One day, ankheg, and bandit skirmish later they arrived at the bandit's camp. They had holed up in an ancient human fortress, long since forgotten in the forest and almost completely buried under a pile of dirt. Only a few crumbling towers jutting forth indicated that it was anything more than a great earthen hill.

There was no cover, but rather than wait for nightfall they charged across the clearing. A pair of guards spotted them, and as they made their way up the mound four more appeared. Two of them loosed arrows, while the rest moved to keep Ainslie and Liander at bay.

Once the party slew four of the bandits the other two surrendered. Ainslie and Ruari interrogated them, but they denied any involvement with the murder of Silas, claiming that they were hired to protect a group of scholars investigating the ruins. When Ainslie demanded to see their employers they bolted for an excavated door, but Ruari and Liander crippled them before they could escape.

Under torture one of them admitted to the crime, and said that their leader was in the keep. The party bound and gagged both men, but when Ainslie attempt to peek through the door another bandit opened it, muttering something about hearing noises outside.

Ainslie and Liander respectively punched and speared him in the face before charging into the room. Outnumbered, Ruari conjured an illusion of a gorgon. This caused two to flee and everyone else to temporarily avert their gazes, until one of them lashed out and inadvertently dispelled it. Ainslie tried taking out the leader, but one sword stroke later and she was sprawled out on the floor, quickly bleeding out.

At this Liander and Ruari focused their attention on the leader, and once he was slain the other bandits fled the keep. They bandaged Ainslie's wounds, argued over how much of the stolen loot to keep (in addition to their agreed pay, of course), and headed back to Sidon to deliver the bandit leader's head.

Design Notes
I originally ran the Epiro campaign back when 5th Edition was still in its "playtesting" phase. Eric Sheldahl wanted to give 4Ward/FrankenFourth a shot, so I think it was fitting to dust it off and run it using a game that is actually open to feedback and such.

The main point of contention is the wizard's illusionist talent. Currently it allows you to conjure a stationary illusion that can occupy up to a 5 x 5 x 5 space. You can't move it at all: you have to let it vanish and create a new one where you want it to be. If touched there is a visible distortion, revealing that it is fake.

This is because in our Age of Worms and Keep on the Shadowfell playtests, players have used it in some insanely, encounter-breaking ways, such as by making a bunch of wolves think there is a bear, causing some to flee or hesitate (effectively spending your turn to have 3-4 other creatures waste their turns).

The revamped talent still lets you create distractions (and illusionary walls, granting cover), but they're only likely to work for a bit, and against intelligent foes they're not likely to fall for it again. You also can't use it to make it seem like you have larger numbers than you do (at least, not at the start).

The problem I guess is that the talent doesn't make any of this explicitly clear, nor does it provide ways for the GM to rule as to whether it works or not (I've been having the wizard make an Intelligence attack against the target's Will defense, or let them use Intelligence with Bluff or Intimidate). So, that's something to add to a sidebar, or maybe the GMing section.

I think I should also make it clear what talents are primarily intended for: if you take illusionist and enchanter, you aren't going to be able to blow your enemies up. If you wanna do that, you'll need Evoker and other, similar talents, like Arcane Ordnance and Intense Evocation (or wait until you pick up Solid Illusion and Phantasmal Killer).

Announcements
A Sundered World is out!

The Fighter is geared up and ready to go! Unlike the default Dungeon World fighter, your skills matter more than your special "can sometimes be lost but not really" weapon. There are a variety of fighting styles to choose from, including the ability make a DEX-based fighter.

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

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

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