Grimdark: The Missing Material

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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.

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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.

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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

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…

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.

Grimdark – Personality & Backgrounds

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A very welcome addition to D&D has been the inclusion of more rules that encourage roleplay and thought about where your character came from and why they do what they do. These are chiefly served by very loosely defined ideals, bonds and flaws. Mechanically you get awarded inspiration for playing to your character traits – even when it inconveniences you. Some bristle at these newfangled story mechanics, but for players who have a hard time putting themselves into another, fictional, person’s shoes the encouragement is helpful. The chits system for playing up your flaws is a big part of what made Deadlands work so well, and took a lot of the weight of book-keeping away from the Games Master.

Backgrounds are a bit more mechanically involved in 5th Edition D&D, with features, suggested characteristics, random tables (if you choose to use them) for personalities, ideals, bonds and flaws as well as skill proficiencies, languages and gear to go with your class choices.

This is all great stuff and easily customisable, you can add plenty to it and in many ways it can act as a sub-class or specialisation.

Nothing really needs to change there for a Grimdark setting, just added to, barbers, vivisectionists, gong-carriers, chapbook publishers, heretics and other backgrounds might need to be added, but by and large it’s all good. The background I envision for the setting I would use Grimdark rules though, there’s another aspect to your character’s background – their crimes…

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Grimdark – The Ritualist

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A ritualist is something you become, rather than start as. The ritualist studies ancient tomes and enters into pacts with demons and spirits, permanently changing themselves in their pursuit of magic and power. You have to multiclass into Ritualist and cannot take it as a starting class. In order to become a ritualist and start your pursuit of power you must have an Intelligence of 13+. Whichever class has the most Hit Points is used as the basis for your health.

Hit Points
5+Constitution Bonus
Heroism 1d8/Level

Proficiencies Gained
Light Armour, Simple Weapons.

Skills
Arcana, Religion.

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

  • Level 1: Witch Mark, Ritual Magic, Talisman
  • Level 2: Imp
  • Level 3: Dark Gift
  • Level 4: Ability Score Improvement
  • Level 5: Witch Mark…

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Grimdark – Peasant, Merchant and Noble

fernando-carmona-fraternity-royal-family-scene18.pngThese three classes constitute non-specialist classes and describe the three main social classes that exist in most medieval worlds through to the end of the Early Modern era.

Hit Points

  • Peasant: 7+Constitution Bonus
  • Merchant 6+Constitution Bonus
  • Noble 5+Constitution Bonus
  • Heroism 1d8 per level.

Proficiencies

  • Peasant: Simple Weapons, Light Armour, Appropriate Tools, Strength Save, Constitution Save.
  • Merchant: Simple Weapons, Light Armour, Appropriate Tools, Dexterity Save, Intelligence Save.
  • Noble: Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons, Light & Medium Armour, Shields, Charisma Save, Intelligence Save.

Skills

  • Peasant: Choose two from: Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, Survival.
  • Merchant: Choose two from: Arcana, Deception, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Persuasion.
  • Noble: Choose three from: Deception, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, Persuasion.
  • Peasants and Merchants may choose an additional skill determined to be suited to their trade.

Equipment:
Choose five pieces of equipment, suitable for your social class and trade.

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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.

To read this full article, please donate $1 a month on my Patreon to get articles like this, access to me and discounts on apparel and PDFs of RPGs. You can get many of the same perks (but fewer) by following me on Minds.com and donating 1 token a month.

#RPG #DnD5e – D&D Month: Grimdark

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Art by Nikolay Razuev

A new month, a new blog project.

I’m thinking ahead to my next crowdfunded project, though I don’t know when I will get around to it. There’s no harm in thinking on the issues involved though.

5e has taken a step back towards the ‘old school’ style of play and improvisation, coupled with a few story elements from the indie scene. What is, perhaps, missing a bit is the grittier, nastier side of dungeoneering.

The setting I will be creating is a harsh, horrific setting – a closed off city that has been left to the undead, into which criminals, heretics and the foolhardy are cast – never to return.

For this I need a deadlier, nastier take on the standard rules and need to expand them to take other things into account. I want a low/no magic setting, slightly more technologically advanced setting.

This is going to take a considerable amount of changes, innovations and new approaches.

Starfinder month was open, D&D month will be paywalled for Patrons and Minds.com subscribers. Tasters will be here, but the full text will be found there.