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…

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 – 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…

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 – 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.

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 – 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.

#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!

#RPG #TTRPG #DnD – Things by me that aren’t sold by me!

You can get a lot of stuff on RPGNOW, and some of my freelance work is up there too. If you buy using these links, I also get a kickback, which is helpful to me! So worth pimping some of these out! Plus, I wrote them, so you know they’re cool. I’ll get a kickback if you use this link to purchase anything from there, so if you want to help me out on a more regular basis, you can bookmark that link and use it whenever you go to RPGNOW!

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Like a hell of a lot of other game designers, I did a lot of stuff for D&D 3.5/Pathfinder. Amongst those, I wrote a good chunk of CITY OF STORMREACH for Eberron, bringing the setting from D&D Online (which I was in the position of having played) into tabletop. It was a bit of a challenging project with far ‘too many cooks’ making it hard to coordinate, but people seemed to like it!

Books of feats and other rules faff were a plage on 3rd edition, and I did more than my fair share of spreading that plague, but always with an eye to making things fun rather than just making things for the sake of it. I did a couple of Unorthodox books, RANGED COMBATANTS and MONK FEATS.

Louis Porter Junior is a rapid-fire powerhouse of OGL material and I worked with him on two things. One of these, the underdeveloped Pirates of the Bronze Sky, had me fleshing out races such as the KAYLATHEON and TOCARRA. With a little work these might even make interesting character races for Starfinder.

Much more complete was our horror/post apocalyptic setting ‘Obsidian Twilight’ over which I had a lot more influence. There’s a lot of material available for that, some of it free. So do check out the OBSIDIAN TWILIGHT CAMPAIGN SETTING and other material like THE WELL OF DEAD FLESH, OBSIDIAN APOCALYPSE, and more.

I also wrote an unusual adventure ‘Cross City Race’ for 4e in DUNGEON, but easily adaptable to other versions. That was good enough for me to win signed copies of the 4th Edition core books. Cool then, a source of eternal shame now!

For 5th Edition I’ve written a couple of third party products, freelance, for Asatania. THE PRISONER OF SPUR ROCK and THE NEW MINE MASTERS, which have been praised for accessibility and atmospheric writing.

Way back in the mists of time, when men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures were called halflings, I wrote a d20/OGL PUBLISHING GUIDE. Some of this is out of date, but since the OGL is still being used it’s not quite as out of date as it could have been. You may still find it useful.

Outside of D&D I’ve written material for lots of people. Not all of it is still available, it seems, or I’m not listed as a contributor, but of those that do there’s still plenty.

84193For Victoriana I contributed material to FACES IN THE SMOKE and FAULKNER’S MISCELLANY. I always preferred a more grounded type of Steampunk, so you may find the parts I wrote – at least – suited to other Steampunk games than the Victorian Shadowrun that Victoriana brings to mind.

While my relationship with the SLA Industries team has become a little fraught since Gamergate they still make very good stuff, and Dave Allsop is an artistic genius with a mind for horror that is unparalleled in games media, in my opinion. More recent material the publish with my name to it include URSA CARRIEN and HUNTER SHEETS 2.

If you’ve like my other fiction, you might enjoy the story I contributed to the DARK HARVEST collection, a number of stories set in the Legacy of Frankenstein RPG setting.

Some of my stuff has been republished in nicer format by Chronicle City, where I am still partnered with keystone of the UK RPG scene, Angus Abranson. We hope to get back into production there eventually, meanwhile you can buy the following things there:

FOREVER SUMMER: You play as a gang of children solving mysteries in the town Oceanview. If you liked Goonies, Monster Squad, Explorers, Eerie Indiana or even Stranger Things you might find something fun here.

@CTIV8: This is the second edition of my activist game, drawing on influences such as Anonymous and Global Frequency, it’s about ordinary – but skilled – people, making a difference in the world. This second edition is much tighter and more playable.

ARS GOETIA: If you’re after an ‘old school’ magic system that isn’t just the same old ‘whiz-bang’ Vancian magic or similar, this is for you. Based on the Goetia, a ‘real’ book of magic, this allows you to create a magician whose power and skill derives from his pacts and command over demons, angels and spirits – and whose soul is always at risk. This would work well with RPGPundit’s Lion & Dragon, with a bit of kitbashing.

dice-png-transparent-images--png-all-4100 SEEDS: I still publish most of these myself, but several turbocharged editions were created for Cubicle 7 and the rights have since moved to Chronicle City. So if you want the more professionally laid out versions of 100 FANTASY, 100 SCI FI or 100 HORROR adventure seeds, you know where to look!