Grimdark – Gear

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For sake of ease most things should remain entirely the same, coinage and so on certainly. The thing, however, that always sticks in my craw about D&D are the armour rules. The way in which heavy armour makes you ‘harder to hit’ never worked for me, and splitting up the different kinds of protection – as was done in 3rd edition meant there was too much book-keeping.

One way to approach this problem is to make armour do damage reduction, instead of making you harder to hit.

Armour along this line for a more Grimdark game, might look more like…

  • Padded: Damage Reduction 1, Disadvantage on Stealth.
  • Leather: Damage Reduction 1.
  • Studded Leather: Damage Reduction 2.
  • Hide: Damage Reduction 2 (Max Dexmod 2)…

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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 Witch

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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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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 – The Scholar

09Scholar
A scholar devotes themselves to the pursuit of knowledge, whether perusing tomes of ancient and forbidden lore, or taking that knowledge out into the field in their examination of ruins and artefacts that may be found in-situ.

Hit Points
Scholar 5+Constitution Bonus
Heroism 1d8/Level

Proficiencies
Simple Weapons, Light Armour, Artisan’s Tools (pick two: Alchemist, Calligrapher, Cartographer, Painter, Poisoner Kit Tinker), Forgery Kit, Gaming Sets, Herbalism Kit, Musical Instrument (pick two), Navigator’s Tools. Saving Throws Intelligence and Wisdom.

Skills
Choose four from: Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Performance, Religion…

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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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Grimdark – Ranger

jake-waddington-jake-waddington-main-beauty.pngThe only real thing wrong with the Ranger is the magic. Everything else is pretty much useable as is. We just need to shift the focus and alter a few things to take the setting into account.

Class Features
Hit Points: 6+Con Bonus.#
Heroism: 1d8/Level

Proficiencies:
Light Armour, Medium Armour, Shields.
Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons, Hand-Arms, Long-Arms.

Saving Throws
Strength
Dexterity

Skills
Choose three from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth and Survival.

Tools/Equipment
Scale Mail, Leather Armour, Warhound, Shortsword, simple melee weaon, dungeoneer’s pack, explorer’s pack, longbow, 20 shots, flintlock rifle…

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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 – Cleric

russell-dongjun-lu-priest-finish-small (1)The Cleric is – by and large – OK. Perhaps a little more combative than is strictly appropriate, but the existence of chaplains and martial orders, as well as the ability to make characters with different emphases, doesn’t make that so much of a problem.

A few changes are, however, needed. Obviously, the miraculous curing of wounds is something that shouldn’t happen – if at all – until the higher levels, but people can draw strength from faith and faith can motivate and move people. As such, what would heal normally, would now restore or grant temporary heroism.

Rather than material costs, higher level spells like resurrection would require donations or the sacrifice of experience points.

Class Features:

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

Proficiencies:

  • Light Armour, Medium Armour, Shields.
  • Simple Weapons.
  • Saving Throws: Wisdom/Charisma
  • Skills: Any two of the following: History, Insight, Meicine, Persuasion and Religion

Tools/Equipment:

Five of the following, multiples are permitted – Fine clothes, vestments, mace, club, warhammer, chain mail, leather armour, light crossbow, pistol, 20 rounds of ammunition for a weapon, priest’s pack, explorer’s pack, shield, holy symbol.

Clerics retain spellcasting and channel divinity (along with destroy undead), but with a severely limited spell list and only one domain…

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

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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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