Grimdark – Magic Items & Treasure

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In a low magic setting, actual magic items should be exceedingly rare and relatively powerful. Scrolls are going to be essentially non-existent. Potions are going to be rare and of very limited effect – almost as likely to be poison as they are to be anything else. When it comes to weapons and armour, about the best you can probably hope for is that you have something that has been blessed. There may, also, be dark gifts from the demonic realms – black iron daggers, talismans and so forth, but all fairly low key in effect. There may also be leftover pagan artefacts, such as the great Celtic legendary items (Spear of the Sun, Sword of the Moon, Cauldron of Plenty, Stone of the Earth) or things like elf-shot or swords like Excalibur. There may also be a very rare handful of genuine saintly artefacts, even a splinter from the ‘true cross’ which might have genuine supernatural power.

For the most part though, the majority of supposedly magical artefacts are going to turn out to be nonsense, their legends brought about by charlatans and exploited as a means to part pilgrims from their money or to encourage them to visit a particular Church or Cathedral…

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#RPG #DND Grimdark – Monsters

miss-swarm-hobgoblinMonsters would need to be handled a little differently in the game skeleton and modifications that I have laid out. They need to mirror what we’ve done to player characters in that they need to be more fragile in terms of hit points but still need to have the capacity to do greater harm and to be minor and even major villains – rather than simple ‘mooks’ – without just becoming massive hit-point sinks.

If we look at a standard monster stat sheet, we can see that we don’t really need to change that much. The only real problems that we have exist around Hit Points and Challenge Rating, but this isn’t insoluable.

For Hit Points we can do what we do for player characters, a basis of Hit Die type + Constitution Bonus, with Heroism (Morale) going up by level. However, given that players encounter lots of monsters, the CR determines how many – total – Heroism points they contribute, and their maximum spend. This going into a pool used by the Games Master – with a maximum spend equal to the highest CR in an encounter. This also does a nice job of modelling the role and value of leadership – and of taking out enemy leaders…

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Grimdark – Religion

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There isn’t a great deal of mileage in beating about the bush when it comes to religion in a quasi-historical game. If you’re using an analogy to Christianity and everyone knows that it’s Christianity, you may as well not bother calling the pope the hierophant or talking about how your society worships Jeebus. The only reason anyone really draws a veil over the actual state of medieval religion is to spare people’s feelings and to rewrite history in a more tolerant manner.

For once, fuck that.

The advantage of using authentic religions is that everyone has – at least – some idea what they believe, how they venerate, what their prayers and churches are like, what their religious laws are like and so on. Since we’re not using domains, there’s little mechanical need to quantify anything and given – in the real world – how we can see people can twist religion to support all sorts of viewpoints, alignment isn’t terribly relevant either…

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Grimdark – Reinterpreting Divine Magic

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Sorcery is likely to become more complex with examination and reinterpretation to a more ritualistic version. Divine magic, however, is likely to become simpler with an appropriate reinterpretation.

In approaching this we want divine magic to be questionable, to require faith, for it to – mostly – allow for things that aren’t immediately and obviously magic.

Traditionally, divine magic is primarily about healing, with a secondary benefit of blessings, curses and then – finally – any other effects. Religion played an important role in a great many local myths legends and priests were often seen as a bulwark against the unnatural and against witches and other magic. Healing is more to do with knowledge and practice, than magic (though amongst the faithful, prayer might help psychosomatically).

What do we need Clerics and Paladins to be able to do with their divine mandate?

  1. Renew or grant Heroism (Morale).

  2. Counter or dispel magic.

  3. Bless or curse people.

  4. Strike or turn undead.

Convert Spell slots to ‘dice’ (D6s). Boosted by Wisdom bonus (Cleric) or Charisma (Paladin)…

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Grimdark – Spellcasting

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The magic rules ideas that I presented earlier are a botch-job, trying to merely adapt the existing rules to suit a lower-magic setting. If I proceed to making a bespoke magic interpretation for a Grimdark setting/system I need to go further than that in a number of different ways.

Divine Magic needs to be approached from the most different position. I want the existence of spirits or deities to be more vague, a matter of interpretation and faith, rather than – so explicitly – being a matte of truth. As such, divine magic needs to change the most. A much more restricted approach centred on the psychology of faith makes more sense, with the miraculous being suitably rare – limited to high level persons of faith who are, in essence, saints…

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Grimdark – Feats & Wounds

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Feats are both more wide and more powerful in 5th Edition. In order to compete with Ability increases, they’d have to be. Taking ‘Observant’ as an example, to compare with its 3rd Edition equivalent – which (Alert) gave you a +2 bonus to Perception checks. By comparison, Observant in fifth edition gives +1 Wisdom or Intelligence, the ability to lip read and a +5 bonus to passive Perception and Investigation rolls. That’s – approximately – three times as powerful as the old feats and something to keep in mind when doing conversions, perhaps by grouping several old-style Feats together.

Given the emphasis on personal skill rather than supernatural capabilities, Feats would have to be heartily extended in any Grimdark setting.

Example: Undead Slayer

  • When an undead creature enters a 5′ zone aound you, you may immediately make a melee attack against that creature. You are limited to one of these free attacks per turn.
  • You have advantage on Saving Throws against Undead powers, diseases and attacks that require one.
  • You do an addition 1d6 damage to Undead enemies.

Death and dying has been simplified in the new edition, and that’s fine as it…

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#RPG – A Thank You to my Fans

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The recent nonsense directed at White Wolf/Onyx Path and the new edition of Vampire has made me step back a little and think about the situation this hobby, and I, find myself in. It’s my hope that the sheer ludicrousness of what’s been done to them, and especially the absurd accusations levelled at Mark Rein•Hagen, will wake a few people up. He’s a sweet, nice guy who – while a little naive – is the very opposite of what they accuse him of being.

I look back at everything that’s happened to me since 2010, but especially since 2012, even more so during Gamergate, and it seems incredible; beyond parody. There’s been a slow slide into insanity and while I noticed it creeping into my political and artistic home on the left first, the insanity is now on all sides.

Finding any kind of peace or comfort, creating anything in this kind of atmosphere, is difficult. It’s difficult, even without the other struggles and issues I’ve faced in that time and, thankfully, overcome.

Now I find myself at a bit of a loose end, not quite sure what I want to do with myself creatively – and how or why to go about doing it. Completing the Gor project was exhausting, not just in terms of the work and the (anticipated) negativity, but because I was acutely aware of how late it was every single day, and did everything I could to get it out sooner.

Now I’m aware that I have a rod I have made for my own back, the necessity of supporting a successful game, acclaimed by fans of the series, but knowing it’ll never get any recognition outside of that, not that I particularly seek it. Finding the energy to start or complete another project is also tough, and my hard drive is littered with drafts of short stories, another novel and a half dozen abortive game projects.

On the one hand, it’s heartening, in a way, to see that nobody is safe from these spurious accusations. On the other, it’s depressing to exist in such a stifling, judgemental, censorious and puritanical atmosphere, let alone to create anything in it. I find myself self-censoring (believe it or not) and hating myself for it. After all, if anything you do is going to be considered problematic (or degenerate) then what is the point of holding back? Yet still that pressure is there, and I hate it.

I value, more than I adequately have words to express, the people who have stuck with me throughout this journey. Professional and personal friends, customers, players, artists, writers. Your support and appreciation mean the world to me, and I’m sure it has been a crazy ride this past half-decade for you too.

I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know – for the first time in a long time – what I actually want to do next. I don’t know where to go next, whether we’ll ever get back to just having fun, sharing stories and creating worlds in our imaginations. I do know that wherever I end up going, whatever I end up doing, there are good people out there still, who appreciate the principle, honesty and integrity I try to bring to my work. Even, even especially, when it costs me.

Love to you all.

G

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