Archive for September 2014

A Sundered World: Elves, Enthollows, and Bombards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trollfens: Food For Worms

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

Monster Groups
  • Bol'Goreth
  • Zombies
  • Plague Worms
  • Merrod (open group)

And the quest continues!

The objective of this quest is to rescue at least one passenger from a sinking carriage, and keep them alive until you kill all the monsters. Each turn the Overlord grabs a fatigue token, or two if anyone is standing on the carriage. Once there are nine it sinks, and everyone inside drowns. After the carriage sinks the plague worms spawn, and if the red one escapes the Overlord gets a free card added to his deck.

I started out by having Ol' Bol' hop on the carriage so I could start racking up a few extra fatigue tokens, and using the zombies and merrod to try and hedge the heroes in. This ended up working really well, as I was able to keep Ravaella pinned on the sunken statue tile, and start clobbering the shit out of Alys with both Bol' and the merrod due to their reach.

Eventually Melissa was able to take out a few zombies with Ravaella, and use Lindel to lock down the merrod with both weaken and immobilize. This gave her some much needed time to knock Bol' off the carriage using a Might check (fifth time's a charm, eh?), smash the lock, and fish out three of the passengers before it finally sank. By then the merrod was dead, so the passengers had a safe haven up by the pond.

With the worms popped I started tunneling for the exit. I briefly entertained the notion of going for the passengers, but Melissa had Lindel book it over and start sniping them with ranged attacks. I was able to drop him, in some part thanks to their burrow action and the fact that she had capped out his fatigue, but after a six-heart, 2-fatigue recovery roll figured I should count my losses and just get the red worm out of there (luckily I had a pair of dash cards).

In the end Melissa walked away with 150 gp (three passengers and all of the search cards), and since she already had the relic from the first quest got an extra XP for each of her characters. This means we'll be doing Source of Sickness no matter what, but at least I can still try to stop her from getting the Immunity Elixir when we play Three Heads, One Mind.

We really thought the heroes were going to lose this one, as Melissa kept failing Might checks despite the fact that both heroes trying to shake the carriage had a Might of 3, and one of them even rolled two grey dice for checks. What made things worse is that she fatigued Lindel onto the wagon, hoping that he could fatigue back off since his weapon lets him spend a surge to recover fatigue. Of course he ended up botching his attack roll, trapping him on the carriage and netting me another pair of fatigue tokens.

But then her luck changed, and she was able to smash the lock and pull out a third passenger just before it sank. Passengers act after heroes, so they were able to flee, and since there was nothing by the pond she just ran them that way, using Ravaella to take out the few zombies shambling after them and Alys to pulverize Bol' (after she got the last search token).

I think that what she did was the best way to handle this quest given my setup. If I were to run it again, I think I would use something besides a merrod. Maybe beastmen, because making two attacks is awesome, or harpies so I wouldn't get bogged down by the water. I'd also try to keep them near the pond, so that as passengers are being freed they don't have an immediately clear, safe way to go.

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A Sundered World: Cthon Sketches

As I mentioned a few days ago I've been talking with people about artists, and yesterday I reached out to a few of them, letting them know how many illustrations I was looking for, as well as the general content for each: landscapes, creatures, scenes, etc.

I'm still waiting on responses from a few of them, but I figured that as long as I'm waiting I should start sketching up a kind of "art bible" for the setting. This way I can just show them the look I am going for (or at least generally what things look like), and let them tweak it however they like.

Part one was island sketches, and part two is the cthon.

Back when I was running A Sundered World with 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, these guys would have just been genasi. I'm not sure if they're considered "intellectual property", but I really don't want to end up having to deal with any shit from WotC, so at some point I renamed them as the cthon, and then at another point I took it a step further and changed them into creatures that are universally made of stone, and imbued with various elemental forces.

Originally I envisioned them as looking like basically humans made of stone, maybe with the glowing lines or cracks showing off the elemental energy inside; again, genasi by another name. But after a while I started thinking that maybe that wasn't necessarily the case. These guys were made by the primordials, entities that not only pre-dated humans (or what amounts to a human in this setting), but have never (and will never) see one.

But, maybe the primordials look more or less like humans? After all I certainly don't describe them all in the setting, and if that's the case then they could just be modeling them after their own appearance, right? Fair enough, but even assuming their shape and appearance are identical to humans I still don't think that they would have gotten it right on the first try (or second, or third, etc), and that's not even counting any primordials that would tweak the form for...whatever reason.

Ultimately I don't care what your cthon looks like. You want to look like a human? That's totally fine, and I am sure many do. I mean, here's the cthon's Look section right out of the book:

I just don't want people to think that they're "officially" locked into that concept. Maybe the primordial that crafted you thought that more eyes would look neat. Maybe another was just experimenting and assembled you out of random blocks, making you look more like some kind of 50's sci-fi robot. Of course, you could go a bit more subtle: are your features perfect, or are your arms elongated? Is your face a, well, stony mask that never changes? Have you been eroded over time? Restored using different materials?

Want to go even further? Well, here are some sketches I whipped up after dinner last night:

You got one guy that's basically a cylinder with some arms and legs attached, wearing scrap armor, and bursting from the seams with crystallized essence, some kind of weird fish effigy-thing that I wasn't going to include (not happy with the design) but Melissa insisted, a fairly humanoid shape with normal looking limbs and all, and then something with more elongated features that are connected by ball joints.

Oh, and it's wearing it's head on a necklace, because these guys don't have organs.

So, lemme know what you think. Again, these aren't the only appearances, or even the standard ones, really; they're just some of the kinda stranger ones I cooked up.
September 25, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

The Trollfens: Ghost Town

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

Since it's just the two of us right now, we decided to give one of the The Trollfens mini-campaign from Descent a shot.

Initially she tried with just two heroes, but after a swift and crushing defeat Melissa added a third one, swapped another out for someone with more mobility (originally both had a Speed of 3), and gave it another go; the second time around she was able to just barely limp out the exit with the one hero that was still standing.

The point of this quest is to locate a surviving villager and carry him out before the monsters kill him. To do this you have to remove at least five of the eight objective tokens on the map, which represent dead bodies. The Overlord snags tokens by having the master fleshmoulder use an action next to one to drop a fatigue token on one, and then on the next turn can opt to turn any objectives with a fatigue token already one them into minion fleshmoulders.

The heroes on the other hand have to spend an action flip them, check the color, and depending on the color must make either a Knowledge or Awareness check. If you pass, you get the token, and if you fail you just have to try again.

After at least five tokens are removed, whoever has the most gets to choose one of two spots for the survivor to spawn (the Overlord decides on a tie, which is what I was gunning for initially). A hero next to the survivor can pick him up as an action and carry him about: you need to get off the entrance or exit tile to win.

Things looked somewhat grim early on: I had Alys locked on one of the center tiles and was beating the shit out of her with focused harpy, and Ravaella wasn't doing much better since I kept tearing apart her mirror images. About midway she was able to snag a couple tokens with Lindel, and eventually I decided to just spring the survivor by turning the tokens I had fatigued into fleshmoulders, confident that I could just annihilate him since I still had all the non-respawnable monsters, and a surplus of minion fleshmoulders.

After a lengthy string of misses—and no Overlord cards to reroll them—Melissa was able to get Ravaella over to the survivor, pick him up, and rush around the outside of the map almost all of the way to the exit before I finally took her down. Unfortunately—for me, anyway—Lindel was able to pick him up and fatigue rush out the door.

I think the best strategy for this one would be to run forward and try to slaughter the master fleshmoulder. Yeah, the Overlord can respawn him, but he's the only thing that can nab objective tokens, so as long as you keep taking him down and picking off other monsters the Overlord will eventually run out of critters to throw at you (he can only respawn a master fleshmoulder or harpy).

I'd definitely make you have one or more heroes with a really good Knowledge and/or Awareness (which is why Melissa chose Lindel and Ravaella). Just be aware that the Overlord doesn't have to turn a body into a fleshmoulder right away: I dropped a fatigue token on a few and popped them all at the same time. That's another reason I recommend rushing the master and taking him out as soon/often as you can.

Next up is Food for Worms. I'm hoping to get Bol'Goreth in mini form and paint him before we play it.

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A Sundered World: Island Sketches

Given that A Sundered World is the somewhat stabilized result of numerous collapsed planar realities and accompanying rules, the word island has changed to become a kind of catch-all term that includes—for starters—chunks of rock, metal, ice, or bone, a cluster of root-entangled trees or ships that have been tied together, a massive creature, the corpse of a massive creature or entity like a god, primordial, the burnt out husk of an aberrant star, or a combination of the above.

Similar to steadings, islands have tags that describe what they are, how big they are, what lives there, and what they have to offer. An islands tags can help inform you about the steadings, monsters, and dungeons that can be found on it.

A Sundered World, page 111

Back when I was originally planning and running A Sundered World using 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, I put up a few posts with some crude drawings of things I'd been thinking about, like Asmodeus, the corpse star Acamar, and Horizon, the city by the sun.

I've been talking to some people about artists and ways to handle the art, so rather than just try to explain things and hope they get what I'm talking about, I figured I should save everyone some time and hassle by scribbling up a kind of setting art-bible thing.

Today is islands:

Mostly not to scale, and I'm really trying to drive the point home about the subjective gravity thing.

You've got part of a corpse star shell (with some empty eye sockets and a temple), the wrist of a god (with godsteel sticking out), a small island with just a tree, an island with part of a mountain and some mining/docking stations on the bottom, some kind of root thing that I might have considered making into a tentacle thing at first, etc.

I think next up I should work on the races, specifically the really weird shit like cthon, devas, and kytherans.

Dungeon World: Soloing the Cinder Queen

  • Ivan (human invoker of some god of the ocean)
  • Brana (dwarf warrior hireling)
  • Clotilda (human protector hireling)

SPOILER WARNING: If you are going to be playing this adventure any time soon, I'd stop here.

I got my physical copy of Servants of the Cinder Queen a few days ago (a Kickstarter project on time? GASP!), and since Melissa and I still have no meaningful internet and haven't played a roleplaying proper game in over a month now, I figured I'd run her through it.

Dungeon World isn't exactly conducive to solo play, so I gave her a pair of hirelings that turned out to be a subservient harem willing to do "anything" for their pseudo-god, including following him into the next best (or would it be the worst?) thing to hell and back.

Well, assuming they survive, of course.

Since we wanted to get the ball rolling (and it was a solo game), I started with the general intro before shifting gears to the in media res intro, which in a nutshell is "you blunder into the catacombs section and are now trapped, someone is stuck in the rubble, and oh yeah there are flaming skeletons approaching".

She decided to have Brana be the one buried in the rubble, while Clotilda stood in front with her shield as a pair of burning skeletons hobbled over to them. Clotilda did her best to keep them at bay, suffering only severe burns as Ivan idly spent some mantra to aid Brana from a distance. When he was relatively certain that she was probably not crushed, he started blasting the skeletons from afar with jets of water, the steam doing little to alleviate Clotilda's burns.

Once Ivan vanquished the skeletons and Brana freed herself, they found that there were several paths to choose from, so picked one arbitrarily and started walking. They wandered through the catacombs for a time before coming across a large chamber with three sealed vaults. In each door was a peephole that allowed them to see inside: one room had wet walls, another somehow contained wind, and the last was completely silent.

Ivan spit water on the first one (which I figured would count), blew on the second one, and then eventually "solved" the third one through "action attrition". After the dust had settled he found himself the proud owner of a hammer, cloak, Not feeling the need to examine or test any of the objects, they were preparing to head through an opening in the northern wall when a pair of robed figures--disciples of the Cinder Queen--arrived, escorting a whatever you'd call a group of skeletons. A rattle? I'm going to go with a rattle.

Concerned about his (needless and frivolous) expenditure of mantra, Ivan waded into melee and smashed them apart fairly easily, while Brana and Clotilda took most of the, well, heat. As the last skeleton fell the disciples fled, but rather than pursue them Ivan meditated to regain a bit of mantra, spending a few points to heal his companions. Not because of their dutiful and thankless service, but because live servants make better walls than dead ones.

Brana of course led the way through the fissure, with Clotilda taking up the rear in case the disciples came back. On the other side they found a black disk of volcanic glass stamped with the symbol of a hammer, and when nothing attacked them they continued on, passing through a series of smooth volcanic tubes that eventually lead outside. Having not saved any villagers or vanquished any named evils, they backtracked to where the entrance had collapsed and went another way.

This time they found a room with more flaming skeletons and disciples, some villagers trapped in a pit, and a guy that was both obviously evil and a wizard, partially because he was wearing robes and wielding a flaming staff, but mostly because when he spotted them trying to sneak about, he pointed and commanded his minions to kill them in the name of his mistress, the eponymous Cinder Queen.

Ivan started blasting everyone with water, but when his mantra again ran low pulled out the hammer he had found and started clobbering everyone; to his delight it allowed him to easily smash through the skeletons and knock the only marginally more durable disciples about. Once most of them were dead the evil wizard stepped in, introduced himself as Thorde Skul (which was another indication that he was evil), and started blasting them with fire.

For some reason Ivan thought of the hourglass. He dropped it on the ground, and as the water started to flow down a cloud of mist surrounded them, shielding them somewhat from Thorde's magic. This gave Ivan enough time to gather up the last of his mantra and utterly pulverize Thorde Skul's skull. With Thorde defeated Ivan brought the villagers back to the entrance, had them clear the rubble out of the way, and returned to the village victorious.

Disclaimer/Note: We didn't have a lot of time to play this (and so didn't explore all of the areas), were playing with a largely untested class (invoker), it was just Melissa, and we were just kind of chilling on our bed, which is not exactly the most conducive environment for some "serious business" gaming.

Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I'm pretty pleased with this. Yeah, part of it is because this is basically the first Kickstarter that I've backed that not only delivered on time, but didn't make me feel like I wasted my money, but most of it is that it's a nice, tight package of interesting, thematic content.

I do have some nitpicks, however:

I do not like the, I guess cardstock cover. I'm not sure exactly what you'd call it, but it's very stiff, like a card, which makes it kind of a pain to flip through. Obviously if you only got the pdf version this isn't a problem.

I think the exploring the catacombs move could have been tweaked to give you a kind of progress currency, so that the longer you wander around the less likely you are to find a random catacomb location. Maybe even something like "take +1 if you mark your way with chalk/use string/draw a map/etc".

I don't think any of the monsters were built using the monster creation rules out of Dungeon World. Like, the burning skeletons have the Group tag, which means they should have 6 HP for the base. Now, maybe the 4 is to account for the fact that they're gradually burning to ashes, but they should have +4 for "being kept alive by something beyond simple biology".

There's also a flying imp thing that only has 4 HP (despite being Solitary), the disciples deal 1d4 damage (should have been d8, or even d6 if you take the option that reduces their damage), and Hvitr (the patriarch and judge of the gods) has 48 hit points. I mean, jesus, at that point why give him hit points at all?

I honestly don't think that Thorde Skul really works as a Danger. I get that the book says that the grim portents are intended to "work differently" here, but I just don't see the point: Thorde's plan is to have the flaming skeletons dig up the library so that he can get a book, take the book to the caldera (which is pretty close by), and using the book to break open the obsidian disk so that Gildarthe can get through.

All of this stuff can be wrapped in a single session. Plus, you only "need" 1-3 grim portents for an adventure front: it could have just read "Thorde discovers the book and breaks the seal". Even so I can see the grim portents list being useful as a kind of villainous checklist for the GM's side.

To end things on a positive note: 

I'm going to say that the puzzles are probably at the perfect level of difficulty: Melissa was able to technically bypass the first one pretty quickly, figured out the second one almost immediately, and was able to eventually solve the last one by just guessing actions until the door exploded.

I liked the random villager names: we didn't start in the village, but I could see it being useful there, as well as for the prisoners inside the catacombs. Same goes for the random catacomb locations: always nice to have these sorts of things handy when you don't want to/aren't supposed to map out the entire dungeon.

Again, I still enjoyed this adventure/don't feel like it was a waste of six bucks: I dug the adventure background (A god smashing a volcano? Awesome.), both gods, monsters, and magic items (lot of interesting stuff, there). Yeah it might need tweaking, but then I've paid over three times as much for "high-end" adventure modules that demanded more to make them palatable.

As for the invoker, I think it could use some tweaking. Melissa burned through all of her mantra by the time we were finished, but given that it was her pulling almost all of the weight I'm not too surprised. I think I should reduce the amount of time you need to mediate to gain mantra, and have it so that when you make camp you get it all back. I also think that it needs a self-healing move.

I didn't have Melissa roll+Loyalty on the henchmen because they were intended to replace other actual players. Instead I just had them add their bonuses, and when they got hurt I reduced their skills until they were healed. It was quick and dirty, but it got the job done.

It was running pretty late near the end, so I wrapped up the fight with a heavily wounded Thorde and his group of disciples using a single roll: Melissa got something like an 11, so I figured that she would cave his skull in pretty easily and they'd just mop up the rest since disciples are pretty shitty in actual combat.

Dungeon World: A Better Bard

You might have heard that outside of 4th Edition I'm not much of a bard fan.

I generally don't have much of a complaint when it comes to Dungeon World: I'm not a fan of the alignment or races being limited by class, but it did manage to improve on some stuff, like the wizard (it's much more Vancian).

Unfortunately other classes like the cleric and bard still suffer, but rather than just bitch about it I decided to make my own bard, with blackjack and hookers.

It draws a bit more from its historical roots (with the Patronage move), but what I really like about it is that you don't strum a lute in the heat of combat and sing wounds closed: I had a really hard time explaining it every time Melissa had Jaya use Arcane Art, which is fucking ironic in a game that purports to "put the fiction first".

This bard's music is primarily useful outside of combat, either in a social setting or when making camp. Of course if you don't think combat can be avoided, you can use Stirring Speech to give everyone some temporarily bonuses, and her d8 damage die makes her about as competent as a thief, though she can take a selection of moves (Graceful Swordsman and War Skald) that make her better suited for melee.

If you want to focus more on support, Cutting Jibe, Pep Talk and Inspiring Shout let you help everyone out from the sidelines, while Refreshing/Invigorating Song boost daily healing (or give them something extra if they don't want the added hit points).

You also don't have to pick a single area of knowledge, instead making a INT roll to ask the GM questions about whatever, and Putting the Pieces Together and Sudden Insight let you really use your head.

But, maybe you prefer the social elements of a bard. While you still can't just roll out an insanely high Diplomacy check to auto-succeed the talky bits, Storyteller lets you carouse any time you want, and both Befuddling Banter and Reading Between the Lines let you talk circles around others.

Along with a few other moves that let you further improve your melee capabilities, calm animals through your music (and even make them befriend you), and more, I've also whipped up a pair of magic items: the dancing sword and electric axe (no, it's not a guitar, but it's still pretty badass).
September 16, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Descent: Forgotten Souls Review

We were supposed to get our internet upgraded up this week (as well as many previous weeks), but apparently Outreach has a pretty lax attitude about doing things.

Of course when you're the only ISP that won't charge someone over $130 per month for a tenuous satellite signal with a monthly 20Gb download cap, you can get away with some pretty abysmal "customer" "service".

This is why you haven't seen a play report for a role-playing game (or any game, really) in over a month: our internet speed is so slow that it cannot support a Hangout game. So, being about an hour away from the closest approximation of civilization and itching to roll some dice (even "normal" six-siders), we decided to give Forgotten Souls a shot.

This is billed as a "fully cooperative expansion" for Descent, but it's not really an expansion so much as a single, massive quest with all the parts necessary to run it cooperatively (and only cooperatively): you get a deck of Exploration, Activation, and Peril cards, as well as a "track sheet" that is used to, well, track your Fate, Doom, and Loot.

To setup the quest you pull out the starting and three numbered main encounters from the Exploration deck, divide the rest of the deck into three smaller decks, shuffle one of the main encounters into each of them, then finally stack them so that each encounter will be drawn in order from one to three.

You then build the starting room with tiles, and—as with "normal" Descent—populate it with monsters and search tokens based on the number of players, and from there it's anyone's guess. Basically the goal is to clear the encounter, open the door, draw another Exploration card, build the room, clear the new encounter, and rinse and repeat until you either finish the third main encounter...or die trying.

Each Exploration card tells you what room you need to build, which like the starting room also determines what monsters and Search tokens are present, if any, based on the number of heroes present: since it was just the two of us, we basically only ever had to deal with two monsters at a time (a master and a minion).

There is also encounter text that tells you what has to be done to clear it—which can have both good and bad conditions—or the card might just keep smacking you with something bad until you clear it. Sometimes it'll be something simple like "kill all the monsters", and other times you'll have to catch a Search token before it gets to the exit of the room.

Once the encounter is cleared you can then head over and open the door (doors cannot be opened while the card is still in play), after which you draw a new Exploration card, build and populate the room, check the encounter text, etc. You gotta be quick, because if the Overlord phase starts and there is no active encounter, you get to draw a Peril card and advance the Fate token by one.

But wait, you're obviously thinking at this point in time (as opposed to what the hell are Peril cards, or Fate/Doom tokens): if there's no Overlord, why does he still get a phase? I'm glad/assuming you thought that: during the "Overlord" phase you check the encounter card, and run through all the things in the red section. Sometimes this is as simple as advancing the Doom or Fate token, or resolving a Peril card, and sometimes it has you roll a die to spawn more monsters.

Monster activation is also part of the Overlord phase: once you're done with the encounter text you draw an Activation card, find whatever monster is on the board, and run through the steps.

Obviously they aren't going to be tactical geniuses: generally they just move until they can hit a hero and then attack. Some will specify the most or least wounded hero, some will have the monster use a special attack. The rulebook pdf specifies how to spend surges so that they'll always do something (no spending a surge on Disease if you won't take any damage, for example).

Maybe to account for that, as well as the lack of an Overlord playing Overlord cards, a lot of the Activation cards give them bonuses. Sometimes it's something minor like +3 range or +1 wound per hit, but there's one that gives barghests +5 speed and another attack action. Oh, the encounters can also add bonuses, too: last night the encounter and Activation card combined to give the flesh moulders we ran into +6 range. Plus. Six. Yeah, they didn't need to spend surges to bump that.

The last thing I should cover is that whole Fate/Doom/Loot thing (band name?).

On the left side you have the Overlord track. You put a Hero token on both ends, with the number of heroes determining where the Doom token starts at (there are spots that indicate 2, 3, and 4 heroes). Some encounters will have you advance the Fate/Doom token if you take too long/fuck up too much, but if you do a good job the Fate token can be reset or moved back. The Doom token never goes back, and if both tokens end up on the same spot you immediately lose.

The loot track allows you to gain Act-whatever shop cards, which is good because you don't get a chance to stop and shop in this game. Whenever you kill a monster, you put a heart token on the loot track for each space it occupied, and once it hits the number of heroes you are running you draw a number of cards based on the location of a fatigue token next to it. The fatigue token starts at 1 card, but every time you kill a master monster you bump it up by one. So, the more master monsters you take down first, the more cards you get to draw.

So, did we like it? Well, yeah. It still plays and feels like Descent, just with some mechanics taken from (or that at least reminded us of) Castle Ravenloft/Wrath of Ashardalon, Mice & Mystics,  and Super Dungeon Explore (all other board games we own and enjoy): randomly created rooms, random game duration based on luck of the draw, monsters with programmed actions, treasure drops, killing things to bump up a loot track, etc.

You can also gain XP from some encounters that you can spend to buy more skills cards (which is good because the game transitions to Act II after the second main encounter).

The only downsides, for me, are that it's just one quest, the main encounters are always the same and encountered in the same order, and you only get to use four types of monsters throughout the entire thing. Also, the rules (which are also necessary to know what tiles and monsters are needed for each room) are only available online.

The upside is that thanks to all of the other exploration cards and shuffling it's unlikely to go down the same way twice. Plus the activation deck keeps you on your toes: unlike the Dungeons & Dragons board games or Zombicide!, you can't just learn what the monsters are going to do and exploit the pattern.

I think this is great if you don't have a lot of players, if one or more players are way more tactically adept than the others in your group (like mine), or if you're more of a fan of fully coop games. Here's hoping they keep making more quests like this. It would also be great if, down the line, you could combine various coop quests to really get crazy with it.

Actual Play Image Dump

September 12, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Super Dungeon Explore: Meet the Heroes, Part 2

It's been quite some time since I talked about (and unfortunately even played) Super Dungeon Explore, but I finally found and unpacked all of the board games at our new place, which means...

...we just have to wait for our internet service provider to actually get out here, and upgrade our internet to a speed that allows us to play Hangout games (or even do something as simple as watch a YouTube video without constant buffering).

So until that happens (supposed to be this week they swear, again), I figure I might as well talk about another set of heroes, this time the guys and gals from the expansions, plus Candy & Cola and Nyan Nyan because why the hell not?

Candy & Cola
I'm honestly not a huge fan of Candy & Cola (despite owning two of them), but I think that's because I usually play in 2-3 hero games and she seems like the kind of hero that is intended for a larger party (especially if you have someone making attacks with red dice, like the Claw Tribe Barbarian).

Her Attack sucks (2B), and while her Will is nice (2R) that's only really going to be useful if you don't already have a spellcaster on tap; in a small party you might not, but in a big party where she'd really shine you probably will.

The big thing she's got going on is Sugar Rush (costs three potions and gives whoever downs them all +2 action points), Soothing Soda (immune to all status effects), Cola (roll a blue die for potions), and Luck (turn any hearts she rolls into potions, assuming she even hurts what she's attacking).

As with other "supporting" heroes I'd pass on her in smaller games: in a big party where more potions are being rolled, she can dash around cracking chests (Luck also lets her draw two and choose which to keep), and dole out potions as they roll in. That's actually the best tactic I can think of for her, as by the time all the chests have been opened she'll hopefully be geared up enough to make her actually useful in a fight.

Celestial Herald
I love her sooo much more than the Glimmerdusk Ranger: her Missile range is a bit lower (6 instead of 8), but her Speed is the same and she has Fly, has immunity to Knockdown, her Will is a bit better (nice if you don't have any spellcasters to help out with initiative rolls), her potion is fucking awesome (area-effect armor buff), and Arrow Storm can hit nearly twice as many targets as Sparkle Burst can. Yeah, you have to get close, but again she can fly.

She's pretty straightforward (just hang back and shoot everything), but whenever possible try and keep lava, walls, difficult terrain, or other allies between you and the baddies.

Deeproot Scout
This Link clone has a Speed of 7, 1B1R for both Attack and Dexterity, and like the original character comes equipped with a variety of tools that make him fairly versatile: a Bow (missile attack), Acorn Grenades (area-effect ranged attack with Knockdown), a Boomerang (lets you snag treasure chests), and a potion that gives you +1 action point.

His Boomerang is a neat gimmick, but it's not seen much use in our games since he can usually just walk over to a chest and open it with 1 action point, instead of burning two of them for the same results.

I generally chug his potion before using Acorn Grenade against clumbs up mobs, especially if they are crowded around a spawn point. You might get lucky and roll another potion, which can potentially allow you to keep chaining grenades.

I've also had a good amount of success continuously throwing his potions at the Claw Tribe Barbarian (or anyone else that's rolling lots of red dice).

Nyan Nyan
She is just a shitload of fun. Her stats are fine for a melee character: Speed 7, and base Attack and Armor are both 3B (not that her Armor matters since she has Dodge and a Dexterity of 2R), but none of that is why she's awesome.

Her main special (Teeth & Fur) let's her fly and make an attack with +1R and Knockdown. It costs two action points, but it is great for closing the distance and hitting hard. Hell, you can use it to do hit and run tactics, smashing into a mini-boss or boss and scampering away. If nothing else, the Knockdown will still shave off an action point.

Even if she can't get away she still has 9 Lives: when she dies, roll a red die and remove one wound for each star that pops up. There's no limit to how many times she can do this so long as she doesn't roll a blank or potion.

Purr is a Wave 1, Compel 2 (move 'em two spaces in any direction you want) that costs one action point and is a special ability, so there's no roll required. This is great for getting enemies off of her back, grouping them up for an impending area-effect, or even forcing them to take a dip in lava.

Finally, Catnip Bomb is an area-effect Pacify potion. No roll or action point cost required; just drop it on a group of enemies with annoying special attacks. You can also use Purr to group more things together before "setting them up the bomb".

Princess Ruby
I'm really not a fan of this one, less so than even Candy & Cola, which again might just be the fact that we tend to play Dungeon Delves and Crawls.

Her Will is okay and Dodge lets her rely on her 2B1R Dexterity, which means that as long as you keep her from getting hit with Slow, Immobile, or Knockdown she'll be passably durable (just hope that no one else wants Dex loot for fighting).

The only thing decent about her are the Magic attack and special actions, which let her hand out Attack and Will buffs, as well as heal someone for all of one heart if they're really close.

The problem is that in a smaller party her healing just can't keep pace with the punishment being dealt out: more than once I've seen Melissa waste turn after turn vainly trying to keep the other guy alive, only to finally succumb to a wave of monsters because the Princess isn't helping to stop the problem at the source.

Normally I'd recommend her for Dungeon Sieges, except...

Sister of Light
Why the hell would you want Princess Ruby when you can have the Sister? Her default attack has Cross and Push 1, meaning that she can hit up to four things at once, and you can push them into lava. Plus it only costs 1 action point, so there's really never a reason to not use it.

Even her heal ability is objectively better: it's Cross 2, so can feasibly hit multiple allies with minimal setup, and it even adds Remedy (ie, goodbye all status effects). Oh, did I mention it also costs only 1 action point?

While her potion doesn't let you redraw a loot or treasure card (yawn), it does cause an affected hero's normal attack to gain Cross 1, Holy, and Fire. Drop that on the Claw Tribe Barbarian and watch the fireworks.

Yeah, she lacks range but her Attack and Armor are better, so if you want healing support that can also lay down the hurt and just won't quit, go with her.

Star Guild Sapper
Another dwarf that, aside from being just a bit less durable than the Hearthsworn Fighter (1B1R Armor instead of 2R), is identical stat-wise. He does however have Reach 2, which can be handy, but his real strengths are Astral Hammer and POW!.

Astral Hammer has a Cross 2 area and adds Knockdown, which can make him better at dealing with crowds than the Hearthsworn Fighter since it hits more squares and it's not Dangerous. If you wanna really lay into just one target, POW! both adds +1R and has Massive Damage (and only costs 2 action points to boot).

Rounding him out is Star Shine, a special ability that makes him immune to all status effects, and Burning Bloom, a potion that gives you a ranged attack that adds Fire.

All in all he's a solid, versatile melee type if you're looking for something a bit different from the usual fare (or just want to bring another dwarf into the mix).

Von Wildling/Von Wilder
So...this guy is interesting. Probably not the one for you if you're looking for something straightforward and simple, but for a more tactical-minded player he's got a lot going on.

In his human form he has Reach 2, a special attack that adds +1B and Pacify (too bad it costs 2 action points), a special ability that is auto-Compel 2, and he can transform into Von Wilder (making him the only other hero with shapeshift).

What I like most about his human form are the potions: one lets you slam a bunch of enemies with Holy vulnerability, and the other is an attack potion that has both Holy and Fire. So, if you can get your hands on a pair of potion tokens you can use them both in sequence (each costs an action point to use), and light up a group of mobs.

His shapeshift form is easier to work with, and is honestly where I spend most of my time once I'm out of potions. The only downside is that it starts with Vulnerable: Magic. If the Consul isn't using anything with Magic or someone in your party can remove status effects, then you're set.

That said, this form has Tough (heal one wound each activation), and a 1 action point special attack that adds 1R and is Sweep 1, which means it can hit up to four mobs at a time. That's a good deal of crowd control, just watch out for your allies since it's Dangerous.

Final Verdict
Celestial Herald, Nyan Nyan, Sister of Light, Star Guild Sapper, and Von Wildling are great in a party of any size.
Deeproot Scout is decent enough, though I usually only pick him for a Dungeon Crawl or Siege. He is kind of flexible, but leans more towards wanting Attack since that's what Acorn Grenade relies on.
I'd only let Candy & Cola and Princess Ruby tag along for a Dungeon Siege. Well, not so much Princess Ruby; maybe if someone else took the Sister of Light and there wasn't already another spellcaster in the mix.
September 09, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: Nomad Preview

So, kept forgetting that this thing needed to get done (despite the fact that I mention nomads being useful for navigating the astral and getting away from corpse stars).

The high concept is that this is a space-folding psychic type, based in large part on the psychoportation discipline from from 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons (in fact, psions that specialized in this discipline were even called nomads).

Choose one for each from here or your race:
Distant Stare, Piercing Eyes, or Longing Eyes
Messy Hair, Close-Cropped Hair, or Wide-Brimmed Hat
Tightly-Bound Clothing, Constantly Shifting Articles, or Lots of Assorted Trinkets
Flawless Skin, Missing Finger, or Imperfect Form

(Since any race can be any class, you can opt to choose things from your race instead. Also, each race gets a move, or gets to choose one, and you can choose from your race when you level up.)

Your maximum HP is 6+Constitution.
Your base damage is d6.

  • What does it feel like to slip through the folds in space? 
  • What’s the strangest place you’ve been to?
  • Where do you hope to never return?
  • Who have you slighted during your travels?
  • What’s your most prized possession?

(This is a new feature of races and classes: they'll have some questions you can answer to help flesh them out.)

Starting Moves
Choose what event triggered your psionic powers:

You survived a teleporter or gate accident. Mostly. What did you lose? When you spend fold to defy danger against a nearby attacker, on a 12+ you also take something from them.

Lost in Astral Space
You were stranded in the depths of astral space, but were able to instinctively find your way back. When you use wrinkles in space, on a miss the next time you use it a miss counts as a 7-9.

You were utterly obliterated, but were able to reconstruct your body bit by bit. How were you destroyed? How long did it take you to return? When you teleport, regain 1d4 hit points.

You start with these moves:

Wrinkles in Space
When you examine the fabric of reality for cracks and folds, roll+INT. *On a 10+, hold 3 fold. *On a 7-9, hold 2 fold. *On a miss, hold 1 fold in addition to whatever else the GM tells you. Spend fold, 1 for 1, to do one of the following:
  • Teleport to a nearby location.
  • Act against a nearby creature or object, as if you were there.
  • Use INT to defy danger against an attack.

Memory Map
As long as you can recall a detail, you always unerringly know the exact distance and direction to any location you have been to before, no matter how big or small it is. If an external force is messing with the fabric of space, the GM will tell you.

Sensory Projection
With a few moments of concentration, you can extend one or more of your senses to a nearby point that you can see. You can see, hear, smell, taste, or touch as if you were standing in that spot. You cannot affect or be affected by anything in that location, though.

Spatial Ripples
When you discern realities, you can ask the GM what here has recently changed.

Use your powers with precision and timing.

Get someone where they need to go.

Don't remain in one place for too long.

Your Load is 9+STR. You start with a trinket that has some sort of sentimental value for you (0 weight), and dungeon rations (5 uses, 1 weight). Choose your defenses:
  • Rugged leathers (1 armor, 1 weight)
  • A sturdy shield (+1 armor, 2 weight)
Choose your weapon:
  • A short sword (close, 1 weight) and dagger (hand, 1 weight)
  • A longsword (close, +1 damage, 2 weight)
Choose one:
  • Adventuring gear (5 uses, 1 weight)
  • A bag of books that you’ve accumulated over time (5 uses, 2 weight)
  • 8 coins

Fill in the name of one of your companions in at least one:
I’ve traveled far and wide with ___________.
I don’t know what I’d do without ___________.
I like to keep my distance from ___________.

Advanced Moves
When you gain a level from 2-5, choose from these moves.

Along for the Ride
When you teleport, you can take someone within arm's reach with you.

Eye in the Sky
When you discern realities while your sight is extended high above, you can ask the GM one additional question, and on a miss you can still ask one.

Frequent Flier
When you teleport, take +1 forward to use wrinkles in space.

Friendly Fire, Isn't
When you spend fold to defy danger against an attack, on a 12+ you can redirect it into another nearby target.

Going the Distance
When you teleport, you can teleport to any location you can see.

Item Space
You can spend 1 fold to produce anything that you could from a bag of adventuring gear.

After you teleport, you can pull or push a creature within arm’s reach in, causing them to appear where you just were.

Warping Space
When you act as a trailblazer, you can roll+INT instead of +WIS, and a miss counts as a 7-9.

(Considering changing this so that you get an automatic 10+, similar to the ranger's Elf move.)
September 06, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: When You Want to Write a Class...

Melissa and I have a fair share of Dungeon World classes—or playbooks—under our belt, so in an effort to help other people see what goes into this kind of thing (and hopefully better make your own), I figured I'd write a post both detailing our creative process, as well as our own personal do's and dont's.

At the high-level view class creation can be summed up as a three step process: think of a concept, then think of a bunch of shit that it can do, and then build mechanics to properly convey them in the game. Note that this is not an absolute, scientific process: it's just what we (usually) do.

Step 1: The Concept
First things first, it is totally okay to re-visit a class that's already been done, "official" or otherwise. Just because someone was the first to try their hand at something does not mean they did it "the best", or even particularly well at all.

I mean, right now I'm working on a new bard that I feel actually makes sense from a narrative/fiction perspective, I've already made a new wizard for Sundered World, and plan on doing a fighter that is more about fighting styles than just having a nifty weapon.

I've seen a number of pretty poor quality classes, but even if the class is done well chances are it's not going to line up with what you want, especially if it's for a fairly generic concept like a warrior or wizard type.

On the subject of concepts, something else to consider is that while a lot of classes assume you're playing a living, breathing humanoid—like a human, elf, dwarf, etc—that doesn't have to be the case: we've written several undead classes, as well as a fucking giant spider. Of course this is not to say that any old monster is going to work (I haven't found one, yet, but I'm sure they are out there), and some (like The Skeleton) will take more...creative liberties than others.

Example: For this article I'm just going to go through how we handled The Witch as best I can remember it, which is to say not particularly well, but it's more conventional and recent than The Spider.

Step 2: Brainstorming
Once you have an idea, just start brainstorming shit that you think it can do and write it all down.

All of it.

Yes, even the stuff that you might not be sure what the fuck to do with. Actually, while you're at it try not to think of them in terms of rules, mechanics, or even really "balance" at this point: you'll get to that next. For now, just imagine what sort of shit it can do purely from a story perspective; think "it's flesh can harden into steel" without appending "you gain +1 armor". Yet, anyway.

The absolute minimum a class could get away with is 24 moves: 1 race move (barbarian), 3 starting moves (fighter), and 20 advanced moves (10 2-5's, and 10 6-10's). I say the more the merrier/it's better to be safe than sorry; since you will probably end up dropping, merging, and/or changing some, I think a safe minimum is 30 move ideas.

If your concept is based on a common archetype or monster, then do some research: you might be surprised what you discover, like that mythological ghouls are actually shapeshifting demons that can turn into animals, and also assume the appearance of the most recent person they ate. This gave me a whole new angle (two, really) to work with when I wrote The Ghoul.

Example: For The Witch, Melissa started out by mining Wikipedia and a handful of other (often unintentionally hilarious) sites for as much information as she could dig up—including various cultural depictions and abilities of witches—to figure out the sort of stuff that they were purportedly able to do: curse people (hex/evil eye), knowledge of plants, mess with the weather, use divination (which included chopping things up and scoping out the entrails), brew potions, make amulets, speak to the dead, change their shape, and so on.

In the end she had way more than 30 moves, which was good because some did indeed end up getting dropped (like one that added +1 armor and a few that let hex do some very specific things), or merged with others (like one that let you craft amulets).

If you run into a wall there are a couple of things you could try:

  • The first thing I'd do is show others what you've got going on so far; they might be able to suggest some more stuff, or give you some ideas on how you can tweak or chop other moves apart. Of course, they also might point out why some moves suck, leaving you "worse off" than you were before.
  • Do more research: maybe you missed something, or an idea that you didn't think you'd use or need might fill in the gap.
  • Consider expanding your concept. This might open up a whole new swath of ideas to incorporate and explore.
  • Look at moves that you can split into two or more other moves.
  • If all else fails, you can fallback to one or two multiclass moves to help round it out.

Keep in mind that not all concepts are necessarily going to work, though you might be surprised (again, giant spider). But, if after everything else you can't think of at least 25 things for it to do, then it's a good sign it's just not strong enough. Even so, if you end up with a good deal of content you could try building a compendium class or two out of your material.

Step 3: Make Your Move(s)
Now that you've got around 30, but preferably many more move ideas cooked up, here comes the hard part: dressing them up with mechanics. It might sound cliche, but this is really more of an art than a science (otherwise making classes would be easy and they'd all be awesome). Content-wise, the typical number of moves by category is:

  • 2-3 race moves (3 seems to be the standard)
  • 3-5 starting moves
  • 20 advanced moves (though I've seen some have 19, and written at least one with 21)

Before you get started there're some things you should keep in mind:

  • A move that gives you +1 when trying to do something is perfectly acceptable. Some people might tell you that they're objectively boring, and they're wrong. That being said it doesn't mean that they're necessarily the best way to convey whatever it is you're trying to do, which I'll get to in a bit.
  • Multiclassing moves are also perfectly fine as long as you don't have anything more interesting to add to the mix. The default version of the move lets you pick another move from any other class as if you were one level lower, but you can restrict it to one or more classes or even a kind of theme (like a move related to fighting). For example the druid has a pair of moves—Hunter's Brother and Stalker's Sister—that let you choose something from the ranger's list.
  • Not all moves require a roll. If your class is always supposed to be able to do something with a set return or effect, then likewise it should not have to make a roll: the Paladin's Human move lets her always know what is evil in an area, while the Thief's Shoot First advanced move prevents her from being ambushed. Just be careful about creating certain kinds of fictional absolutes.

So with that all out of the way, let's start with, well, starting moves.

You're going to want 3-5 of them, and whatever your concept is it should be fully realized with just the starting moves. Say you're working on a spellsword, a kind of fighter/wizard combination; it should be able to fight and cast spells competently enough without having to hit 2nd-level and pick the "right" advanced move.

Almost every starting move is it's own block of rules (which usually makes them individually harder to write), though some can improve and/or modify an existing move.

Think about the fiction you've written for your concept, and check out other classes (maybe even talk to other people) to best determine how it gets triggered (does the player need to declare it, or does something else trigger it, like an action or a condition), how you determine what the move does or can do (no roll, preset result, roll, hold and spend, make choices, etc), and finally what the move actually does.

Try not to fret about "balance" too much (though avoid making a class that can do everything another class can do and then some), instead relying on the fiction you've developed beforehand. This is, for example, why our mummy cannot die: fiction, yo.

Example: We knew the witch had to be able to curse people. I mean, that's just the standard witch-y thing to do. But, other common skills and abilities were cooking up potions, fortune-telling/divination, knowing a lot about plants (goes with the potion thing), crafting amulets, mucking up the weather, having familiars, flying brooms, and weaving other nasty forms of magic.

That's nine things right there: in the end we kept hex, plant-lore, and divination as their own thing, merged potion brewing, crafting amulets, miscellaneous magic, and even arguably weather effects into thaumaturgy (similar to the wizard's Ritual Magic), familiars became an advanced move (since not all witches have them), and flying brooms became a magic item.

This left us with four solid starting moves that we felt were absolutely core to the class's identity: Hex, Divination, Apothecary, and Thaumaturgy:

  • Hex is pretty flexible: you just impose a curse on someone until the sun rises. You still have to roll, though, with a 7-9 forcing you to choose how it can end sooner. This is because in the fiction curses are not always going to work as expected, and often there are ways to end them.
  • Divination has you ask the GM a question and then roll. If you get a 7+ you get an answer, and if you get a 10+ you can ask a followup question. Like cursing people, fortune-telling is not always going to tell you everything you want (sometimes the future is murky and unclear).
  • Apothecary requires no roll: if you have the time and materials you can just make a variety of healing items. We originally considered requiring a check to determine how many things you could make, but since the thief lets you whip up poisons figured we'd waive the roll and just have you pick what and how many.
  • Thaumaturgy has you tell the GM what you want to do, and the GM tells you what you have to do to make it work. Also no roll on this one, as we were basing it in part on the wizard's Ritual Magic move.

Once you got the starting moves out of the way, advanced moves are next. Well...not exactly, and not always. Sometimes you'll get a few starting moves done and then start working on advanced moves, and sometimes you'll shuffle starting and advanced moves about (this has happened with the bard already). Sometimes you'll do this several times, plus inventing new ones and ditching others. Did I mention this isn't a science, yet?

At any rate, while most are not going to be as complex as the basic or starting moves, they're probably going to take even longer to write and fine-tune just because you're making more of them. Like starting moves, advanced moves either improve and/or modify an existing move (whether a basic or starting move unique to the class), or give you something else to do (usually something related but not essential to the class's core concept).

Improving/being more reliable with an existing move can mean taking +1 when doing something specific, after doing something else, or if you meet other criteria, but as I mentioned above this may not be the best way to convey what you're actually trying to do. Yeah, taking +1 means that your overall odds improve, but you can still miss and can't do anything else with the move.

Here are some other ways you can emphasize that a class is better/more reliable at doing something:

  • Remove the roll. You either no longer need to roll when making a move, or you automatically get a preset result, like how the ranger's Elf move has you get a 10+ every time you are the trailblazer. As with no-roll moves, be careful about creating certain kinds of fictional absolutes, like "you never let go of something unless you want to".
  • You never miss. When trying to do something, a miss counts as a 7-9. Your odds of getting a 10+ are the same, but you aren't guaranteed to get the best possible outcome. Having a 9- count as a 10+ is basically the same thing as removing the roll, unless there is some kind of 12+ benefit to be had.
  • Hold or make choices, even on a miss. Defend and Discern Realities don't let you hold anything or ask any questions on a miss, but maybe even on a miss you can still get something out of it (see the paladin's Staunch Defender or the thief's Cautious). This can get rolled into...
  • Hold more or make more decisions. Staunch Defender and Cautious not only let you hold 1 on a miss, they let you hold +1. I've also seen moves that let you hold more than usual on a 12+. On that note...
  • On a 12+... The thief's Evasion kicks up defy danger a notch when you get a 12+. You not only avoid whatever the problem is, you transcend it. You could use this with hold/choice moves to boost what they do, too.

Example: Aurpsicina allows a witch to take +1 forward when using the starting move Divination, so long as you study the entrails of a recently slain creature. Blood Magic both lets you take +1 forward when using magic against a creature if you have their blood on hand, as well as make it easier to use Thaumaturgy if you wound yourself.

Modifying an existing move lets you use an existing move (whether a basic or starting move) in a new way, makes it do something else, or makes it do something else when you get a certain result. This is can be used in combination with improving an existing move. The bard's A Little Help From My Friends lets you take +1 forward after successfully aiding someone, Duelist's Parry has you take +1 armor forward after using Hack & Slash, and Bamboozle lets you take +1 forward when you parley and get a 7+.

Example: Formsculpting Hex lets a witch use Hex to turn someone into an animal, while Moment of Foresight lets a witch use discern realities to ask any question you want if you roll a 10+. A few of the other moves let her heal someone after making camp.

Giving you something entirely new to do is giving the class yet another move, similar to most starting moves (which might require a roll, or might just be automatic): the bard's Reputation, the ranger's Wild Empathy, and the thief's Escape Route are just a handful of examples of this.

Example: Weather-Worker let's a witch stir up a storm in just a few minutes. You hold storm, which you can spend to deal damage, negate ranged attacks, or hinder an enemy (spending storm represents it running out). Skinchanger lets you change your shape into an animal (and is required for Formsculpting Hex and has no roll). Necromancy lets you talk to the spirits of the dead and ask them questions.

I tend to do the race moves last, because often I have them work with a starting move or give you immediate access to an advanced move. Plus, when I am thinking of a concept race rarely enters the equation. Actually, I haven't used race in my classes because I dislike the idea of classes limiting what races can choose them.

I get why this is a thing: the game is deliberately trying to model "old-school" Dungeons & Dragons, back when classes often restricted races in some way. I also think it's a pointless, antiquated mechanic, and honestly for a lot of concepts it just won't work (a lot of people just create alternate race moves, anyway).

Instead, I opt for backgrounds. They're mechanically identical to races (they give you a move or modify another one), but instead of thinking of 2-3 races that arbitrarily fit the class, just think of 2-3 ways for you to get into the class or tweak the concept a bit.

Example: As a witch you could learn your magic by being a member of a coven (and go to them for aid or support), make a deal with the devil (which starts you off with the familiar move), or be taught by another witch one on one (which makes you better at identifying potions and plants).

Step 4: The Easy Part(s)
You'll probably get all of this done (or at least part of it) during the course of developing the rest of the class, but if not no biggie: it's really easy.

For the look I just envision three different appearances and chop them apart, sometimes changing one if something more interesting or compelling pops into my head (usually this happens while designing the moves).

Stats are even easier: find the closest class combat wise and go with it. You generally can't go wrong, here. The base hit points and damage die don't need to match up, either.

Alignments can be a bit trickier. I've seen some people try and replace this with Drives, but after hearing the explanation as to why it became apparent that it's entirely based on someone's very narrow interpretation of what Alignment can mean, so I just don't roll that way.

Just think of three general personalities or things that the class will often want to do, like free others from bondage, protect someone from harm, or forge a magic item, incite chaos, and then attach an alignment that best matches it.

Example: We figured that witches could be a kind and helpful (a white witch), cruel and wicked, or more..."playful", which resulted in Good, Evil, and Chaotic respectively.

Step 5+: Rinse, Refine, and Repeat
Once you think you're probably aren't.

Especially if you are planning to try and charge money for your work, show your class to at least a handful of people and listen to what they have to say. They may not be right, but be prepared to admit when they are, even if it means taking a hefty portion of it back to the drawing board. Having someone who thinks differently than you do might not only improve the class, but might give you an entirely new way of thinking and approaching their design (someone else pitched the idea of the unkillable mummy).

Also, if possible run it through at least a few sessions to see how it works in actual play, as that's a better barometer for determining what does and doesn't work. It might also give you ideas for other moves.

Keep doing this until no one has any real/major complaints, at which point it's probably decent.
September 05, 2014
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGADAY: Most Memorable Encounter

The most memorable campaign I ever ran was A Sundered World, which was also my last full-on 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign (though, I'd like to change that). Overall I'd say that the campaign had a lot of high points, but I managed to whittle them down to two choices. I'll let you be the judge.

The first encounter would be when the party actually fought Autocthon (what I have since renamed as Antikythera). The players had traveled to Moradin's Forge looking for a weapon to use against the fomorians on the Feywild, and ideally something that would help them fight off the clockwork horrors that were starting to pop up everywhere. 

Since their ship couldn't fly inside the dominion, they ended up climbing it on foot, dodged a dragon, and found both the Axe of the Dwarven Lords and something that I based on a slaughterstone behemoth from 3rd Edition: it basically had a cube form that it used when recharging it's internal battery, but could unfold into a quadruped, stone statue thing capable of ferrying the party around.

Everything was going fine until they tried to leave, which was when they saw Autocthon enter the dominion and begin floating towards the mountain. Once it noticed them, it started barfing out swarms of clockwork horrors. They tried to fight them off and escape but were quickly surrounded; before Autocthon could crush them the dragon showed up, blasted it with it's lightning breath, snatched up the characters, and flew away to the other side of the mountain to buy them some time.

They talked to the dragon until Autocthon vaporized the top part of the mountain with energy cannons built into its arms, after which the dragon threw them into it's mouth so that they could destroy it from inside while it went dragon-e-primordial. After all, it worked for the Autobots in the Transformers movie with Unicron (which was also noteworthy for having no product placement, dick jokes, or Shia LaBeouf).

Inside they ended up fighting off a bunch of clockwork horrors as they painstakingly make their way to what they assumed was it's heart, a process made more difficult by the fact that the dragon kept knocking Autocthon around, which meant that they and the horrors they were fighting were also getting thrown about. Eventually they destroyed the power core, leaped out of it's mouth, crashed in the ocean hundreds of feet below, and fought off what was left of Autocthon's upper half the next day when it crawled to shore.

As for the second encounter, this one was entirely about inadvertently perfectly timed character dialogue, as opposed to a highly dynamic fight-scape.

The party arriveed at Horizon, because the warlord claimed to know a guy that could help out in the fight against the clockwork horrors. When they got there they discovered that floating, eye-like spheres and clockwork horrors were already laying waste to the city. They helped out until a floating cathedral warped in via Angel Gate and destroyed them all, and then took the fight to the city streets to clean up the stragglers. Once the dust was more or less settled the shaman realized that he could feel a fragment of the World Serpent's spirit form nearby, and dashed off to look for it.

He entered a building, but when he tried to head underground was stopped by an angel. The angel apparently knew the warlord from before (do illegal things along the Golden Road, you're gonna run into angels at some point), and as they argued and eventually got into a fist fight the shaman slipped by. He ran through labyrinthine passages until he found a door covered in seals and wards. The angel couldn't find him because A) labyrinthine passages and B) the shaman was drawn to a specific place by the fragment.

This also gave the shaman ample time to open himself up to the spirit world so that he could communicate with the fragment. While the angel is continued to search for him, the warlord asked him what the place was for. The angel explained that it was used to contain evil artifacts deemed to dangerous to destroy. The warlord then angrily accused him (and other angels) of thinking they "always know what's best or right", and just how he "knows it's evil".

Now, over the course of the campaign the shaman had gathered up various "pieces" of the World Serpent, and I decided to give them personalities: he'd already found one that was wise and benevolent, as well as one that was a stalwart warrior. This one I figured would be all about destructive fury (and corrupted, either from nearby evil artifacts, or maybe aberrant forces), so unlike the other ones he'd have to actually fight it.

Knowing this, I had the angel just look at him and ask, "How do you know it's not?"

I then cut back to the shaman in the spirit world, with the World Serpent appearing as an oily black, serpent-like creature with horns and glowing red eyes. It thanked the shaman for bringing the other fragments, and explained that once it is whole it will be free to devour the rest of creation. Aaand that's where I stopped the session, figuring that I'd let them stew on that until the next week.
September 01, 2014
Posted by David Guyll


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