Friday, May 17, 2019

Darkwood Inspired Leveling for Fighters

In Darkwood there is a leveling system where you attain abilities as you'd expect. Interestingly, you also must choose a drawback alongside it. This really adds to the depth and feel of the game and I thoroughly enjoy it. For fun, let's do something similar for Fighters with an example table (one roll on each table per every third level):

1d8 GOOD

1. Adrenaline (boost melee damage die by one step when below half health).

2. Weathered ol' Bastard (+1 AC, +2 to saves versus the elements).

3. Ravenous Hatred (Name a thing you fought that harrowed you, you get +2 to hit and boost your damage die when you deal with them).

4. No Train Left Unsuplexed (Once per day, you can attempt a feat of strength otherwise considered impossible by the DM). Thanks to Claytonian for inspiring this one.

5. War Cry (Once per day, you may let out a fearsome yell that causes 1d6+level foes with a HD equal to your level to Save or flee/surrender).

6. Gunslinger/Crossbowman (You have a knack for crossbows/guns. Instantly reload your weaponry).

7. Thaumaturgical Tennis (You can attempt to strike back magic with your sword once per day with an additional use every third level. Yes. You must declare this, then attempt to strike the magic with your weapon. The DM will decide the difficulty number, I'd do either 10+the caster's level or 10+twice the spell level. If it works, it is sent back to them and they must deal with it as normal).

8. ATATATATATATATATATA and so on (Once per day, you can do half your level in additional strikes).


1. Marked for Death (You are cursed by... something. -1 to Death Saves per two levels, you also shiver at night from an unearthly cold).

2. Shaky Hands (-1 to hit and -1 to initiative, assuming a d6 based initiative system, with all ranged weaponry. Please explain why you are like this).

3. Traumatized (Remember those goblins that fucked up your party? You need to pass fear saves to deal with a certain type of creature or foe that has tormented you before).

4. The Will is Strong but the Flesh... (You heal at half the rate, including magical means).

5. OH NO, IT'S MY RIVAL/SHADOW REALM DOUBLE/SIBLING! (You have an exceptionally arrogant and/or haughty rival. They are a level above you but they generally prefer to smugly vex you instead of outright killing you. Unless circumstances permit otherwise, of course).

6. You'll Wish You Were Marked for Death (Your favourite NPC/Pet/hireling/lover? They're going to die. In 1d6 adventures' time. The DM rolls secretly but they can foreshadow it clearly if they wish).

7. Bent Double, Like Old Beggars Under Sacks (Your encumbrance limit is halved, rounded up).

8. DON'T GO OUTSIDE AT NIGHT (Seriously, don't. Something's waiting especially for you).

Optionally, if you find these drawbacks too harsh you could allow the player to attempt to complete a perilous quest or journey to find a solution.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Dream Scenes/Sequences

Brilliant film, one of my favourites.

So when a PC in the middle of combat is rendered unconscious by something, be it drugs, enchantment, etc., they are unable to participate until the duration of the effect ends. How can we provide an alternate take on this that not only keeps the PC and player engaged but also allows their unconscious rounds to flow into the combat or threat the party is facing? Dream sequences/scenes!

When the round turns to that player they must struggle with a dream sequence to bring themselves to consciousness. If they fail, they remain unconscious until the combat or threat is over. Let's be fancy and call the level of the dream scene the INTENSITY. The intensity is generally decided by the DM (based on how strong the drug, gas, or other trap was, etc.) but for enemy spell casters affecting a PC you may use the caster's level to determine it.

What the heck kind of dream sequence is this? (1d4)

1. A significant scene from the character's distant past. A scene of childhood, their first magic training, and so on. Let the player describe it and why it is significant to them.

2. An earlier section of the dungeon/adventure. Something feels wrong, it is dark, but each step towards success will bring light and clarity to the dream scene.

3. A cave/weathered home containing a horrible revelation. The Vader sequence strikes back.

4. The future of the dungeon/adventure is glimpsed in some way in this dream scene. Success may give a useful hint, failure leaves you in the dark.

Okay, what do I have to deal with to wake up? (1d4)

1. 1+intensity challenges, pertaining to the character's skill set and background. Remember, these dream scenes do not require an extreme amount of detail and each challenge should be treated with the same speed as combat rounds.

2. An inner demon or some other manifested memory tries to "kill" you and drag you deeper into your slumber. It's level is equal to the intensity and you must slay it to wake up.

3. The DM will ask you 1+intensity questions about details your character has closely experienced in the campaign such as the names of people or towns, a description of particular heraldry they have seen, etc. One question per round. I'd personally limit it to a maybe a session or two ago in terms of how far back these questions are derived from.

4. An intensity number of THINGS (hints of future foes, perhaps?) pursue you. You are completely unarmed. Run. OR, if it's easier to run, you are pursued by a single invincible thing for intensity+1 rounds.

Darkwood is great.  It's like S.T.A.L.K.E.R and
Dark Souls meets David Lynch... in a forest.

Claytonian of Kill It With Fire! pointed out to me that this is basically a tabletop adaptation of an anime trope, and offered the following extra rule to reflect this: the PC gains a +1 to their roll this round for each of cry of pain that another party member makes upon getting hit.  Cue Goblin Slayer's eye glowing...

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Gorvils (The Bane of Dungeoneers and Tom Hanks)

HD: 5.

AC: 5 [14].

Attacks: 2 claws (1d4), 1 bite (1d10).

Special: Haunting, surprises on 1-3, can drift into the shadows seamlessly.

Movement: Their movements are slow and dreamlike, until they strike ferociously.

Alignment: Chaotic Evil.

Gorvils are the hideous mutant hybrid of ogres and basilisks. They prowl in the darkness of caves and other subterranean structures for victims. They are solitary in nature, malevolent and will try to strike only when party numbers are small or there is only an individual. Due to a strange mutation of arcane energies during their creation, they possess a different power than the curse of turning flesh to stone. Upon seeing the eyes of a Gorvil, the victim must save versus a haunting.

Regardless of whether they pass the save or not, the Gorvil will attempt to flee into the darkness, making the victim question if it was real or a hallucination. A Gorvil's haunting makes the victim believe that another human being or NPC is a Gorvil, driving them towards confronting and killing the "monster". This hallucination lasts until the killing is done or the curse is lifted. The haunting will occur at the most inconvenient and/or tragic of times.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Severed Heads

Talking severed heads are a great and memorable way to insert NPCs into your dungeon. They help add to the weirdness of the underworld, you can put them in strange places and they raise questions. Which is always a good thing.

Why is there a talking head here? (1d6)

1.  A wizard once wished for a demon to allow him to "throw off the shackles of my mortal body but preserve the greatness of my mind".  Now he's just an immortal, impervious head.
2.  It's actually a small, young shape shifting creature.  It heard people coming and, despite its best efforts to appear human, could only manage to form a human head.  Lies and claims it's a curse by a witch or something.
3.  A reverse Highlander (Lowlander?) that can only truly be killed by cutting off their... never mind.  Point is, they played dead after being decapitated and have ended up in this dungeon.
4.  Combining teleportation spells and permanence charms leads to a power to infinitely teleport, right?  This severed head, with the rest of its body trapped in the dungeon floor, will tell you otherwise.
5.  A victim of the Executioner of Bemyr.  His terrible ensorcelled blade brings the pain of severance and the guilt of past sins, but not the mercy of death.
6.  A head kept alive and controlled by the intelligent, insidious parasitic insects crawling within.   

Well, okay, what can they do for me? (1d6)

1.  It knows where the best treasure is.  Simple as that.
2.  It can whisper the words of great and powerful sorcery.
3.  They can give you some excellent dirt on a powerful figure/monster within the setting/dungeon.  This can include its one weakness.
4.  The head can regale you with the tale of a powerful enchanted object and where to find it.
5.  It can transfer and teach one useful psionic discipline.
6.  It has some hidden power (gaze attack, laser blast, etc.) and would gladly let you carry them around and use it on a foe once.                                           

Wait, do I need to do something for them first? (1d6)

1.  "Avenge me!"  Kill a target.
2.  Bring it some expensive and fine wine.
3.  Beat it in a game of riddles.  Yes, it's one of THOSE types of dungeon denizen.
4.  They remember the stars and wish to gaze upon them for the rest of their days.  Find it a good and safe spot, like an observatory or something. 
5.  They would like a fancy hat or crown.
6.  Get it a body.   

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Insult Sword Fighting

An absolute classic.

What?: It's a type of combat from the Lucasarts Monkey Island games where wit is the focal point of a duel, using insults to humiliate and catch the opponent off guard to disarm him/her rather than combat prowess. These are brief rules attempting to adapt that idea. This was written with DCC in mind but it can probably be adapted to any D&D-style system.

To represent the stress and humiliation that takes a toll on the character during insult sword fighting, they take Charm Point damage rather than HP. A character's CP is Personality/Charisma + Level.

Initiative is handled as normal. The winner hurls the insult and the loser must make a retort to defend themselves. The rest of the rounds the roles of attacker and defender are switched. Or not, if you prefer to roll initiative every round.

An okay insult met with an okay retort results in a D6 of CP damage taken by the defender. This damage die is adjusted by weaker or stronger insults and retorts, with the adjustment expressed as Xd (where X is the number of steps up or down the die chain). A great insult gives +1d to the damage die while a superb or genius insult gives +2d. A great retort or genius retort gives -1d and -2d respectively.

Weak insults or retorts give -1d to damage and +1d to damage respectively. If the attacker has no insult, the defender may launch a counter insult. If the defender has no retort, they give +2d to damage. This is all adjudicated by how amused or impressed the Judge is by the wit of an insult or retort.

The first "combatant" reduced to 0 Charm Points is disarmed both mentally and physically and is at the mercy of the winner. A winner killing his opponent is massively frowned upon and considered unlawful murder. That being said, never enter an insult sword duel with a chaos champion...

I've realized that judging how effective an insult is can be strange when it's an NPC that you, as the GM, are playing. To avoid bias when determining the retorts and insults of NPCs, I'd recommend the following simple rule:

Roll under the NPCs Personality/Charisma. If it is equal to or below their score, it's a good insult/retort and above the score grants a weak result. Rolling ten points below (or a 1) grants a superb insult/retort and rolling 10 points above (or a 20) results in a complete blank as they are taken aback.

Some example opponents, for fun:

Bilbert the Quick-witted (Self-given title, Charisma 10, CP 11): A young scamp with a wooden sword and Ned Kelly style pot helmet (literally a pot), eager and brash. All of his insults and retorts are puerile, cheeky and boastful. Will attempt to sway an audience to his side during the duel. When defeated, he is a graceful and humble loser who will become a fan of the PC and try to help them if he can.

Francis Moralon ("MORAL-OWN, NOT MORAL-ON YOU INSIPID...", Charisma 8, CP 12): A self-aggrandizing snooty noble type, too self-important to crack a smile. Will of course turn their noses up at the PCs. All of his insults and retorts are references to long-forgotten literature that YOU wouldn't know about. Holds his audience in disdain, considering the duel a "demonstration of civility" that will educate them. It's not hard to imagine how sorely he takes defeat. Will try to avoid the PC after that because of the humiliation.

Sir Brett Romero (Courteous female knight, Charisma 14, CP 18): A very hearty and generous knight wearing a bulky suit of plate and wielding a one-handed blade resembling a flamberge. If asked about it she will tell of how it is an enchanted blade won from the hoard of a Jabberwock. It can be activated by a "good and virtuous soul" to enflame but she will truthfully assure her opponent that she will not cause foul play. Her insults and retorts are polite and playfully put remarks about her foe's character. She greatly values a good insult sword fight and will try to buy the party drinks afterwards. I recommend making her say "OH-HO!" at least once.

They of Glorious Frame and Tongue (An affable enigma wrapped in exotic clothing, Charisma 18, CP 25): A peculiar but soft spoken individual who the party will meet in the wilderness, surrounded by a strange mist. They will request an insult sword fight and offer a bag of valuable gems to whoever can defeat them. Their weapon is a simple rapier. If questioned about their clothing, they will explain that they have been blessed by the Gods with utterly magnificent beauty and "would stop the heart of any who gaze upon my form".

They are actually a champion of Chaos but cannot resist flaunting their wit. All of their insults and retorts are creepily intimate, discussing secrets and details of the PC's life that they shouldn't really know. If the PC loses, they will ask "Your body or your life?" Choosing "body" will make them reveal their true eye which fires a Ray of Mutation. Save vs. Mutant. After this, the mists will reveal a band of mutants waiting for their new member. They will then simply leave, laughing and not attacking the party unless provoked. If the PC manages to win, They will have a look of intense anger in their eyes and then disappear into the mist. The mist itself soon fades and the PCs have made an enemy for life.

Refusing the duel and/or fleeing is definitely an option. Running through the mists won't cause the PCs to teleport, unlike in Ravenloft. They will just watch, disappointed and shaking their head, before looking for their next opponent.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Hidden Folk (A Replacement for Gnomes)

Here's a quick and unusual replacement for gnomes (heavily influenced by/ripped off from Nelson Tethers) because I'm not super fond of D&D gnomes:

The Hidden Folk: +1 WIS, -1 CON.
You are short, have a beard and red hat, and fucking love riddles.

You are also part of THE CONSPIRACY to make sure [REDACTED] happens. The GM should just give you a random objective (not necessarily good or evil) to perform for the The Hidden Folk. After you are done, a messenger will show up and give you another objective with no further details. You will never get a clear idea of the big picture and should never question it. You can't level up until you help further THE CONSPIRACY.

Your aptitude for riddles, puzzles, etc. allows you, once+level times per day, to receive a clear and useful clue or hint from the DM regarding any puzzle or riddle. Your obsession also makes it extremely hard to resist a riddle challenge from others (Save versus riddle solving).

Your actual language is maddening to those who aren't Hidden Folk. You have no idea of its linguistic origins and frankly, it's draining to even speak. Once per level you may whisper into the ear of a creature and (if they fail a saving throw) one of two effects can be chosen:

They briefly become part of THE CONSPIRACY (as Charm Person) or they are temporarily driven insane (as Confusion).

At name level (HIDDEN RIDDLEMEISTER) you may retire to wherever your people hide and you are finally privy to the details of THE CONSPIRACY.

By WonderDookie.  Beware the whispers...

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Video Game Inspired Encumbrance Idea

Glorious kill!

Fighters can carry one extra unique type of weapon or other war implement per level without encumbrance (so one axe, one bow, one sword, etc.).

I'd count this as religious equipment.

Clerics can carry one extra unique item of religious equipment per level without encumbrance (one holy symbol, one incense burner, an extra holy water flask, etc. If you want to go all Uukrul/polytheistic allow each holy symbol of a different religion to count as a unique item).

For all your daemon summoning needs!

Magic-Users can carry one extra magical tool, scroll or significant magic component per level without encumbrance.

Ignoring encumbrance rules since 1986. 

Thieves/Rogues/Specialists can carry an extra, well, anything per level without encumbrance as long as it is related to one of their skills in a reasonable fashion. OR, optionally, it could be straight up anything they find, if you want to go for maximum 90s point and click hero.