Grimdark: The Missing Material


Due to a busted laptop I wasn’t able to finish D&D Month last month, the theme of which was ‘Grimdark’. To make up for that I present the missing material to all and sundry, free of the Patreon ‘paywall’ I had put up. These entries are not adjusted for the proposed ‘Grimdark’ rules, so that they’re more immediately usable to people who play 5e D&D.

Rat_SwarmCarrion-Fat Rat Swarm

A squeaking, hissing tide of rats grown sleek and huge and fat on the flesh of the dead. They have a taste for it now, and scramble over each other in their eagerness to feast – on you.

Large Beast, Unaligned
Armour Class 12
Hit Points 63 (14d8)
Speed 40 ftStr 14 (+2), Dex 15 (+2), Con 11 (+0), Int 2 (-4), Wis 10 (+0), Cha 3 (-4)Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 10
Challenge 1/2 (100 xp)
Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, piercing, slashingCondition Immunities: Charmed, frightened, paralysed, petrified, prone, restrained, stunned
Keen Smell: The Rat Swarm has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Swarm: The swarm can occupy another creature’s space and vice versa, the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a Small creature. The swarm can’t regain hit-points or gain temporary hit points.
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 0 ft, targets in the swarm’s space take one attack each, Hit: 15 (2d8+6 piercing damage), or 11 (1d8+6) if at half hit-points or lower.

markus-neidel-rattenkonigRat King

A twisted little knot of seven rats, bound together by their knotted tail, a fierce and defiant intelligence radiating from their beady red eyes.

Small Beast, Unaligned
Armour Class 14
Hit Points 32 (7d6+7) When reduced to half their starting hit points, the Rat King dissolves and is replaced with three ordinary rats.Speed 20 ft
Str 5 (-3) Dex 14 (+2) Con 12 (+1) Int 5 (-3) Wis 13 (+1) Cha 7 (-2)
Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 11
Challenge 1 (200 xp)
Keen Smell: The Rat Swarm has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Telepathy: Rat Kings can communicate telepathically to any intelligent being within their line of sight without the need to share language. They can communicate with and observe other rats telepathically within a mile radius.
Intelligence: Rat Kings are about as intelligent as the moderately retarded. They have an IQ of 40-50, can understand language and perform tool-using and work tasks but struggle with more abstract or detailed thought.
Rat Control: The Rat King provides advantage to any and all rats within its line of sight during combat, including swarms. Rats and rat swarms are capable of (low level) human-intelligence actions and tool use when directed by the Rat King.
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft, Hit: 2 (1d6-3 piercing damage).
Psychic Attack: +3 1d10+1 damage, Wisdom Save vs DC 13 or stunned for one round. The Rat King can make one physical and one psychic attack each turn.


Hunter’s Mimic

Your arrow sings through the air and flies true. The elk lows, arrow crimson with blood, jutting from its neck. It topples and you approach, knife in hand to cut the arrow free. Then it erupts, a mass of tentacles, teeth, hooks and guts. A gibbering horror of gnashing ribs and palpitating organs, lashing itself to you and pulling you into its jaws.

Medium Monstrosity (shapechanger), neutral
Armour Class 10
Hit Points: 58 (9d8+18)
Speed: 40 ft in disguise, 0 ft when ’emerged’.
Str 17 (+3), Dex 12 (+1), Con 15 (+2), Int 5 (-3), Wis 13 (+1), Cha 8 (-1)
Skills: Stealth +5
Damage Immunities: Piercing
Condition Immunities: Prone
Senses: Blindsense 60 ft, Passive Perception 11
Challenge 2 (450 xp)
Shapechanger: The Hunter’s Mimic can use its action to transform its appearance into that of a deer or similar prey animal, or can freely assume its monstrous form without using an action. It reverts to its monstrous form if it dies.
Clutching: The Hunter’s Mimic clings on to anything that touches it with myriad tendrils and rasping teeth. A Huge or smaller creature clutched by the Hunter’s Mimic is also grappled by it (escape DC 13). Ability checks to escape this grapple have disadvantage.
False Appearance: While Hunter’s Mimic retains its animal form it is indistinguishable from that animal.
Grappler: The Hunter’s Mimic has advantage on attack rolls against any creature it has grappled.
So Many Teeth: Melee weapon attack, +5 to hit, reach 10 ft, one target, Hit: 8 (1d10+3 piercing damage, plus 4 (1d8) slashing damage.


Baseline Zombie

A shambling creature, raised by an unnatural plague to seek the flesh of the living.

Medium Undead, neutral
Armour Class 8
Hit Points 22 (3d8+9)
Speed 20 ft
Str 13 (+1), Dex 6 (-2), Con 16 (+3), Int 3 (-4), Wis 6 (-2), Cha 5 (-3)
Saving Throws: Wis +0
Damage Resistances: All damage types save those that specifically target undead.
Damage Immunities: Poison
Condition Immunities: Poisoned
Senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Passive Perception 8
Languages: –
Challenge ¼ (50 xp)
Headshot: A player can aim for the head, incurring a -5 penalty to their attack roll, but the damage is not reduced by the zombie’s damage resistance.
Grab: Melee Weapon attack, +3 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target, hit 1 bludgeoning damage and grappled (escape DC 14).
Bite: Melee weapon attack on grappled target with advanntage, +3 to hit, reach – grappled target, hit 2d6+1 slashing damage and a chance of infection, Constitution save DC 13.

Zombie Plague

When someone is bitten by an infectious zombie they must make a DC 13 Constitution save or contract the disease. The DC increases by +1 for each individual bite they take during an encounter – so keep track. Each hour the infected individual must make a DC 13 Constitution save (unmodified) or suffer a level of Exhaustion, starting from level 1 as the disease takes hold. Each failure advances the Exhaustion level by 1, each success reduces it by one. If it is reduced to zero then the disease is shaken off. If it gets to 6 then the infected person dies, and rises in 2d12 turns as a new zombie. If a character severs their bitten limb, the DC is reduced to 10.

The following are templates you can add to the zombies in order to customise them. Each one applied raises the Challenge level one level (¼ becomes ½, ½ becomes 1, 1 becomes 2 and so on). Every two increases, raise the zombies hit dice by 1.

Fast Zombie

Move +10 ft
AC +1

Attacks +1 to hit

Rotten Zombie

The zombie gains the following effect:
Squishy Guts: Each time the zombie is struck, anyone within 5 ft of it must make a Dexterity Save against a DC of 13 or suffer 1d4 acid damage and a chance of infection equal to a bite.

Dry Zombie

Increase the Zombie’s hit dice by one and its AC by 2.

Fungal Zombie

The zombie is symbiotically intermingled with a fungus or mould, its fruiting bodies erupting from the rotting flesh. Choose a fungus and give the zombie one of its special effects (EG Shriek, from Shrieker fungus).

If you cannot choose a generically mouldy corpse gains 1 hit dice and a secondary poison attack from its bites and grapples. DC 13 from a bite, 10 from a grapple, or suffer the poisoned condition – though this will pass with an hour or so’s rest.

Skeletal Zombie

+5 ft Move
+2 AC
+1 Attack

Fat Zombie

+1 Hit Dice and +4 HP per Hit Die (instead of +3).

Reduce all incoming damage by 1, after applying damage resistance.

Intelligent Zombie

Increase the Zombies Intelligence by +1. It can now use simple weapons in a haphazard fashion, instead of grappling – if it so chooses. Also increase the Zombie’s perception rolls by +1 – including Passive Perception.

Virulent Zombie

Increase the DC of the Zombie’s plague by +4

#RPGaDay2018 8. How can we get more people playing?


In creating this answer, I am going to piss people off. So I’m going to have to preface this with a disclaimer.

Stay with me.

I have nothing against diversity in gaming, women in gaming or any of the other usual buzzwords, phrases and emotional shortcuts you’ll see bandied about. I’m all for it. I agree with the ends, it’s the means I take issue with – and the characterisations of the gaming community that go along with them. I’m not even going to say ‘however…’ or ‘but…’. What I am going to do is to examine the state of gaming and associated nerd media, and the effect that recent ‘modernisation’ efforts and the broadening of the gaming hobby/lifestyle have had.

Gaming has always been open. Perhaps too open. We have long been accepting and tolerant, providing a safe haven for people who are socially awkward, hygienically challenged, on the spectrum, disabled, infirm or marginalised in any other way. Gamers have always put ‘gamer’ ahead of all other identities and this served the industry extremely well. Gamers also – unfortunately – developed an understandable siege mentality in light of the Satanic and Vampire panics and the many slings and arrows flung at related hobbies and fandoms.

To see my beloved hobby, always more (genuinely) progressive and open than the culture around it become an intolerant, gate-kept, hate-filled arena of social acrimony, censorship and vicious accusations has hurt me an enormous amount; as both observer and victim. The particularly bitter irony is that all this hate and exclusion comes from people who style themselves as being ‘progressive’. Rather than adding diversity and variety to games, their strident demands force games into a more and more homogeneous pile of indistinct grey goo.

My co-host on Inappropriate Characters, The RPG Pundit, calls this RPG pablum ‘Cartoon Funtime Fantasy Seattle’. While we disagree on a great deal, and he has advocated gate-keeping in the past (for ‘Lawncrappers’) I believe he has a point. One of the great appeals of RPGs (and fiction as a whole) is the opportunity to inhabit other times and places, even ones that are horrific, historical or purely fantastical. If we whitewash everything, if we make everything into ‘Wizards and Wokeness’ we lose a huge amount of what makes RPGs appealing in the first place.

It seems paradoxical, it is paradoxical, but in seeking to erase the unfairness of history, to create safe and tolerant fantasy worlds, in trying to increase diverse representation the only diversity that matters – diversity of thought – is damaged. I want a world in which the RPG Pundits of this world can create their Old Skool fantasy RPGs AND the likes of Olivia (formerly David*) Hill can create their emotional, narrative story games. More is always better than less. There will always be some sort of struggle for the ‘soul’ of the few truly mainstream RPGs that exist, because of their influence, but otherwise I think people should be left the entire-and-actual-fuck-alone to make what they want.

Getting more and new people into hobbies is great, but not at the cost of the existing, main base; which leans white-male in gaming, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s down to societal factors beyond our control. The problem with the tactics of those who fancy themselves progressive is that they seek their goals by a process of forcing diversity, whitewashing (ironically) history to make it more ‘palatable’ and creating an incredibly intolerant and hateful atmosphere of judgement and fear.

By all accounts RPG games are enjoying a renaissance right now, but it’s hard to unpick the various factors at play. Certainly the rise of online play and streaming has played a role, 5th Edition actually being good compared to 4th Edition (and being more open) has helped. Media appearances of RPGing in cartoons, comedies and computer games also cannot have done any harm. Outreach to people considered ‘passed by’ may have played some role, but we have to be wary.

‘Get woke, go broke’ isn’t just a catchy meme, one need only look to the disastrous state of comics, the furore around the Hugo Awards, the acrimony over Gamergate, the bitter dismay of Star Wars fans, to see that. The wilful misrepresentation of the ‘honourable opposition’ in each case as ‘misogynistic’, ‘racist’ or other slurs doesn’t help either. So far gaming has proven more resilient, probably because it’s just as DIY as it ever was and the slant of official material has limited impact on play at the table. Still, we should be cautious.

Gaming evangelises itself, play to its strengths – friendship, imagination, scope, possibility, openness, sociability – and it’ll grow like it always has. Just don’t close it up like a clam-shell in pursuit of homogeneous ‘diversity’.

*I know ‘deadnaming’ is frowned upon, but since reading the story of ‘Doctor V and the Magic Putter’ I strongly believe that transition should not allow one to escape reputation and past actions.

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at, or Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!