Grimdark – The Witch

mikhail-palamarchuk-dark-8

Like the Ritualist, the Witch is a ‘secondary class’, one you multi-class into. The old ways have largely fallen beneath the crescent, cross and star but remnants remain in traditions, rhymes, spells and as echoes in the largely spurious grimoires, many of them made up by the deluded or the faithful. Walking that fine line between old religion, devilry and midwifery. One false step, one offhanded blasphemy, one dissatisfied lecher or ‘maid’ and its prison, the stake or the Tyburn Jig.

Both spellcasting sub-classes are placeholders and the same is true of the abilities of the Cleric. I would be likely to alter these and create new, more suitable magic for the setting.

Hit Points
6+Constitution Bonus
Heroism 1d8/Level

Proficiencies Gained
Light Armour, Simple Weapons.

Skills
Arcana, Medicine.

Equipment:
You must acquire the gear you need during play.

Level 1: Witch Magic, The Old Tongue, Aura
Level 2: Bonus Feat, Extra Cantrip
Level 3: –
Level 4: Bonus Feat, Ability Score Improvement
Level 5: – Aura…

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#RPG #DnD5e – Grimdark – The Paladin

pierre-raveneau-16601782-10154419138026378-29610573204484191-o.pngWhile fighters cover a huge range of different types of warrior, the Paladin is a very particular form of combatant in this case. Here we are talking about martial orders, warrior monks (of the non-Eastern variety). These are Templars,

Hospitallers, Knights of the Sepulchre, Knights of Lazarus or similar orders. They are empowered by their faith and their oaths of chastity, poverty, obedience and sometimes fourth, solemn vows of particular import to that individual.

Paladin’s in this write-up have ‘power’ as a result of their zealotry and religious faith, more than by magic or divinity per se, as with the cleric the truth of divinity is more of a question requiring faith.

Class Features:

  • Hit Points: 6+Con Bonus.
  • Heroism: 1d8/Level

Proficiencies:

  • All armour, shields.
  • Simple weapons, martial weapons.
  • Wisdom and Charisma saving throws.

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#RPG #DnD5e – Grimdark – The Bard (Cunning Man)

grace-liu-mora-01

Art by Grace Liu

Bard (Cunning)

In a low magic setting the magical side of a bard is not something we can really incorporate, but there is a tradition of ‘cunning men’ who were associated with magic but who were, in all likelihood, conmen, tricksters and people with secret or hidden knowledge – albeit of a different sort to that found amongst artisans and guildsmen.

As such we need to reinterpret the Bard into being something more about patter, confidence tricks, diplomacy, etiquette, storytelling and, yes, music. This kind of career would be one that would be suitable for nobility, scions of noble houses and – if the setting is as sexist as the times in which it mirrors – for women.

Some things we could keep, other things we would have to change – most notably the spellcasting.

Class Features:

Hit Points: 5+Con Bonus.
Heroism: 1d8/Level

Proficiencies:
Light Armour.
Simple Weapons, One-Handed Ranged, Longswords, Rapiers, Shortswords.
Saving Throws: Dexterity/Charisma
Skills: Any three.

Tools/Equipment:
Five of the following, multiples are permitted – Fine clothes, costume, musical instrument, writing gear (pen, ink, parchment or book), jewellery worth 50 gp, rapier, longsword, dagger, pistol, hand-crossbow, 10 shots for a weapon, diplomat’s pack, entertainer’s pack, leather armour…

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#RPG – Grimdark – Characters

maxime-defoulny-woundedknightmagiclake-copie11

Art by Maxime Defoulny

So these rules are really me brainstorming how I would need to change the rules of D&D to better fit the ‘grimdark’ setting I am intending to crowdfund in the near future.

D&D is great for all sorts of games, but as a ‘general’ rules set doesn’t particularly excel at being anything other then D&D. Lamentations of the Flame Princess and other, hardcore ‘old school’ games hark back to the extreme peril of playing low-level characters in Gygaxian misery-dungeons, and often have a grind-house/grind-core heavy metal aesthetic, veering more towards horror than fantasy.

That’s great and all, but I want to do something with 5e, to appeal to people on a basis of more than nostalgia and to provide a familiar, but different, experience for people who are new to role-playing and have entered through the popularity of 5th Edition.

There’s something of a fetish for super-difficult games in computing, from Darkest Dungeon, Salt and Bloodborne to the Infamous, Dark Souls. Tabletop games are different, you can’t learn or hone the skill of the game or learn the attack patterns of the monsters, character builds can be optimised, but that tends to diminish the role-play. Difficulty, then, has to come from the sense to play tactically, carefully, swing the advantage in your favour and to deal with difficult and horrifying roleplaying and decision making.

We need to take that, lustrous, heroic edge off 5th Edition’s default rules-set to amp up the difficulty and make people play more carefully, but without turning it into a total meatgrinder.

Let’s talk about characters then…

Species

In the setting I am envisioning you would only be able to play humans. So far as the types go otherwise, there isn’t really anything much else that needs to be done. As a default the human traits – especially the variant ones – go a long way to helping compensate for bad rolls at character creation, mixing self-determination and the ‘hardcore’ nature of the ‘straight roll’ character generation – which I would foresee being the standard rules…

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#DnD #RPG – Beware the Cakeholder

cJiCX1530197337The Cakeholder

There was a time when the noble houses of many cities would hire specialist chefs to prepare – or conjure – fantastical meals. These were the times of the pastamancer, the saucerer and the Clerical order of the Miracle Whip. None were so prized for their skills, however, as the great culinary wizard, Anton Burdo.

Burdo’s foods were a spellbinding delight, sugarplum fairies that flew into your mouth, fountains of chocolate and his turducken one-upped the owlbear by combining three creatures into one, raised purely for the eating. His garlic-chilli dire-chicken was to die for, and many did die in battle with dire chickens to ensure a steady supply for the high tables.

Then it all went wrong.

The wastage from uneaten food and continuous kitchen-spellcasting began to have side effects, trolls in the pantry, mutations in the wait-staff and then – most spectacularly – the emergence of an entirely new breed of beholder in the sewers beneath the kitchens.

Burdo quit in disgrace and fled to the south in a personal quest to explore as many dungeons and drive-ins, and dragons and dives as he could, providing the spoils to the people as an apology. His lost spellbook is said to be in the hands of a cakeholder and to contain a wealth of lost magic. These apocryphally include:

Splashback, Onion Ward, Chilli Touch, Pilot Light, Condiment Spray, Ray of Frosting, Disguise Food, Expeditious Service, Protection from Haute Cuisine, Food Coma, Unseen Sous-Chef, Enlarge/Shrink Portion, Melf’s Acid Reflux, Animate Food, Barbecue Ball, Leomund’s Tiny Kitchen, Appetising Cloud, Banish Calories, Control Lard, Leomund’s Secret Pantry, Wall of Cake, Create Omnomculous, Otto’s Irresistable Cookies, Finger of Fudge, Ramsey’s Harsh Power Word and Profiterole Swarm.

As to the cakeholders themselves, they continue to proliferate, a strange being made of your actual cake, layer upon layer of sponge, chocolate, jam, cream and berries, brought to some unholy life. An unsavoury beast, in every meaning of the word.

(Not to be confused with other sub-species such as the cupholder or the cuckolder)

Cakeholder
Large Aberration, lawful-delicious or delicious-evil
Armour Class: 16 (Natural Armour)
Hit Points: 180 (19d10+76)
Speed: 0 ft, fly 20 ft (hover)

Strength 10 (+0)
Dex 12 (+1)
Con 18 (+4)
Int 16 (+3)
Wis 15 (+2)
Cha 20 (+5)

Saving Throws: Int +8, Wis +7, Cha +10
Skills: Perception +7, Deception +10

Condition Immunities: Prone
Damage Resistances: Slashing, Piercing, Cold
Damage Vulnerabilities: Bite attacks and bludgeoning.

Senses: Darkvision 120 ft, Passive Perception 17 (Cakeholder’s cast dim light from their candles in a 10 ft radius)

Cakeholders have low-level telekinesis, enough to use kitchen equipment.

Language: Deep Speech, Undercommon, Baker’s Tongue

Challenge 13 (10,000 xp)

Ice Cream Cone: The cakeholder’s central eye creates an area of rich, creamy coolness in a 150 ft cone. At the start of each turn, any character within that cone must make a Constitution Save against a DC of 17 or suffer an ice cream headache (so long as they remain within the area). They are considered to be three levels of exhausted, and this adds on to any existing levels of exhaustion.

Actions
Bite: Despite rampant tooth decay, the cakeholder is still a formidable biter, their remaining teeth honed to razor edges on day-old bran muffins. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, Reach 5 ft, one target. Hit: 11 (3d6) piercing damage.

Eye/Stalk Rays: The cakeholder shoots three of the following magical rays at random (reroll duplicates) choosing one to three targets it can see within 150 feet of it. Roll a d8

  1. Ray of Frosting: A character struck by the Ray of Frosting (DC 13 Dexterity Save to avoid) is covered in a delicious sugary coating. Any character or enemy in a neighbouring space must make a Will Save DC 13 or only be able to grapple and/or lick the afflicted character for their action. The frosting effect remains until a whole turn is spent cleaning it off, or the Dungeon Master rules it has been removed by some other means (or excessive licking).

  2. Ray of Deliciousness: A character struck by the Ray of Deliciousness (DC 13 Dexterity Save to avoid) is made magically delicious. Any character or enemy who has them in their field of view must make a Will Save DC 13 or try to move in and bite them – and only bite them, no other attacks are allowed. The effect lasts for ten turns.

  3. Flesh to Cake Ray: The target of the ray must make a DC 12 Constitution Save or start to turn into cake, appropriate type to be determined by the Games Master. On a failed save they are Restrained and must make additional Constitution Saves on the following two turns. If they fail all three times they are turned into (immobile) cake. While in cake form they have the same weaknesses and immunities as the cakeholder.

  4. Candle Flare: The candles atop the cakeholder flare into brilliant light, lighting everything for 50 ft as bright as day, and sending out a blast of harmful radiance. This harmful blast has an area of 15 ft centred on the cakeholder and creatures within that area must make a Dexterity Saving Throw or take 3d6 radiant damage on a failed save or half as much if they succeed.

  5. Ray of Obesity: A target struck with the Ray of Obesity must make a Strength Save against a DC of 12 or start to become fat. Each time they are struck they gain a level of obesity from ‘A’ through ‘F’. While many halflings and dwarves are healthy at any size, this ray causes unhealthy obesity. Removing this obesity take a month of harsh diet and exercise per level.

    A: Buxom – You have disadvantage on Strength checks.
    B: Plump – You have disadvantage on Strength and Constitution checks.
    C: Rubenesque – You have disadvantage on all physical ability checks.
    D: Big Boned – You have disadvantage on all physical ability checks and move at half speed.
    E: Fat – You have disadvantage on all physical ability checks, move at half speed and halve your maximum hit-points.
    F: Hambeast – You have disadvantage on all ability checks, can no longer move and divide your maximum hit points by 4. You can – however – now reduce all incoming damage by two points, due to a thick, protective layer of blubber.

  6. Tooth-Rotting Ray: A target struck by this ray, provided that they have teeth, must make a Constitution Save against a DC of 17 or take 1d4 damage as though from a disease. A second strike does 1d6 damage and a third rots their teeth out of their head.

  7. Berry Blast: The target of this ray must make a DC 13 Dexterity Save or be struck by a hail of berries. The force with which they are blasted does 1d4 x 1d4 damage and the staining makes them sticky and causes them disadvantage on Charisma-based rolls until they can get clean. They will also be the preferred target of both giant and conventional insect attacks until they are cleaned.

  8. Trick or Treat: A target struck by this ray must roll a d20 to make a Saving Throw on behalf of their rations. Standard rations just roll a d20, iron rations add +2 to their total, both rolling against a DC of 12. If they fail, the rations are turned into sweet, delicious, but fattening treats. They can still be eaten but now require a Strength Save against a DC of 12, or the person who eats the rations gains a level of obesity (see above). This change is permanent.

NB: This is just for fun, but it’s entirely usable if you really wanted to. Hanging out with Satine and Ruty (Rudy?) warped my fragile little mind and reminded me of one of the times I helped with the D&D School Competition back in the 2nd Ed AD&D days. One of the adventures involved a candy/sugar-themed dungeon and a peppermint dragon!

Beelzeboob for 5e D&D

maxresdefault (1)Inspiration’s thin on the ground these days, but when Liana Kerzner went on a D&D parody tear on Twitter about her demonic alter-ego Beelzeboob, I got a wild hair up my arse to write up ‘Literally the devil’ for 5e.

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#RPG 5e D&D Monster – Glazarn

sewer-monster-800x480Glazarn are small, clammy, humanoid creatures that live in total darkness, deep underground. They are as translucent as glass and barely visible under any normal circumstances. They live in the icy waters of underground pools and lakes, feeding on the blind, white cave creatures that live in similar places. They have no culture, no language and operate on pure instinct despite their humanoid appearance and attack as a pack, their prey seeming to be suddenly assaulted by dozens of bites out of nowhere.

Other underground dwellers loathe these creatures and exterminate them on ‘sight’, but their spores seep through the rock strata and find icy black pools wherever they can, spawning new ‘tribes’ of Glazarn wherever they can take root.

They are always hungry and will eat anything they can find, silent apart from the tearing of flesh and the crack of bone.

Glazarn

Small Humanoid (glazarn), neutral evil.

Armour Class: 11
Hit Points: 9 (2d8)
Speed: 15 ft., swim 50 ft.

Str: 10 (+0) Dex: 14 (+2) Con: 11 (+0) Int: 5 (-3) Wis: 16 (+3) Cha: 5 (-3)

Skills: Stealth +4
Senses: Passive Perception 13, tremorsense 60 ft, Blindsight 60 ft.
Languages: None.
Challenge: 1/4 (50 xp)

Amphibious: The glazarn can hold its breath – essentially indefinitely – underwater.

Glass Skin: The glazarn are virtually invisible without needing the assistance of magic. Their skin and organs are virtually see-thru. Rather than the invisibility bonus it gains +2 to AC and to attack against enemies that can’t detect it, as well as ignoring any bonus they get to their AC from their Dexterity. Painting or otherwise marking a glazarn negates this ability.

Low Level Telepathy: Glazarn can communicate telepathically and can sense intent, they cannot be surprised or ambushed and always know when enemies are around – even if they can’t necessarily see them or target them.

Unique Ability: Glazarn packs exist in closed off caves and are usually only encountered when those caves are newly discovered or excavated into. Their spore can travel through cracks in the rock to find new pools, but different packs evolve along different lines with unique abilities such as venomous bites and so on. The Gamesmaster is encouraged to be creative and to steal an ability from another creature in the Monster Manual.

Resistance: Cold.

Vulnerability: Radiant, Fire.

Actions
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack +2 to hit, reach 5ft, one target, hit 3 (1d6) slashing damage.

fangs_by_vederant-d5l5qwv.pngSuggested Unique Abilities
Ambusher: (See Kenku)
Claws (additional attack, indentical to bite).
Constrict: (See Constrictor Snake)
Fetid Cloud: (See Dretch)
Natural Armour: +2 AC.
Nimble Escape: (See Goblin)
Pack Tactics: (See Kobold)
Slippery: (See Kuo-Toa)
Venom: DC11, choose a poison effect you like – paralysis is a good fit.