Archive for August 2017

Dungeons & Delvers: Conversion Notes & Other Stuff

For the next issue of Appendix D, working on the sorcerer, tables to get PCs up to 10th-level, higher-level monsters to go with the new level cap, maybe some more magic items, and some houserules in the vein of 3rd Edition's Unearthed Arcana in case you want to tweak parts of the game (or maybe because you want it to be more like Dungeons & Dragons).

For now, here are some of the houserules/conversion notes: lemme know what you think, or if there are rule variants for other things you'd like to see.

ARMOR
A big change that will make Black Book like any Dungeons & Dragon edition is changing armor so that it only improves Armor Class (instead of also giving you Damage Resistance).

  • Leather: 11+Dex
  • Mail shirt: 12+Dex
  • Scale armor: 13+Dex (max +2)
  • Chainmail: 14+Dex (max +2)
  • Chain and plate: 16
  • Plate armor: 18
  • Shield: +1 AC

Due to the game's very flat math, I'd consider increasing everyone's Attack Bonus by at least +1. You can drop it in for everyone at 5th-level as a nice sort of "capstone" feature, in addition to what they already get, so fighters and rogues will still be ahead of the curve.

If you want to make it like older editions (2nd Edition and earlier), then your full Dexterity applies no matter what armor you wear, though keep in mind back then the best Dexterity bonus a character could really have was +3: here it's pretty easy to get up to +5 without much effort, which means PCs could easily hit an AC of around 23-24 before talents, special materials, and magic items are factored in.

Something we considered early on was doing something like abstract armor, where you can just wear light, medium, or heavy armor, and describe it however so long as it's what reasonably you'd expect (ie, leather wouldn't be considered heavy armor). If you want to do that and give players more control over what their armor looks like, use these if you want both AC and DR:

  • Light: AC 11+Dex, DR 1
  • Medium: AC 13+Dex (max +2), DR 3
  • Heavy: AC 15, DR 5

And if you just want AC:

  • Light: AC 12+Dex
  • Medium: AC 15+Dex (max +2)
  • Heavy: AC 18
  • Shield: +1 AC

You can also allow the full Dexterity modifier if you wish. Note that the AC values are set up in a way so that light and medium can give you a total of 17 assuming Dexterity is maxed out, while heavy gives you 18. Didn't do this where armor gives you DR because, sure, you can be harder to hit with leather and a really high Dexterity, but plate shaves off 5 points of damage every time.

HIT POINTS
If you want to go with Hit Points, just combine everyone's Wound Points and Vitality Points. Easy. Wound Recovery would be the same, unless you also want to change that to something like 1 hp regained per day, 1 hp/level regained per day, or even all hp regained after a long rest (depending on if you wanna do the gritty or heroic thing).

Vigor potions instead grant temporary hit points: they don't stack, are removed first when you suffer damage, but wear off after 10 minutes anyway. Abilities and effects that work on VP would probably have a similar effect, while abilities and effects that work on WP probably have the same effect on HP. For example, mending potions and a cleric's Healing domain talent restore HP.

Just go with what makes the most sense for you.

Attacks and effects that normally only trigger when a target suffers WP damage (like a giant spider's venomous bite) just happen all the time, now.

SKILLS
If you want to go really old school you can just scrap skills entirely. Basically everything becomes an ability check: if you want to climb, that's just a straight Strength check. If you want to look for something, that's an Intelligence check.

But, since that means the best roll you can get is 25 (assuming +5 ability score and a nat 20), I'd also change the DCs to something like 10 (easy), 15 (medium), and 20 (hard).

SAVING THROWS
The Black Book basically uses 3rd Edition saving throws, but the numbers are different/lower. If you want to go with 5th Edition where every stat is a save, classes get bonuses to the following saves:

  • Clerics: +1 to Wisdom and Charisma saving throws.
  • Fighters: +1 to Strength and Constitution saving throws.
  • Rogues: +1 to Dexterity and Intelligence saving throws.
  • Wizards: +1 to Intelligence and Wisdom saving throws.

When a class would get a bonus to their saves (usually at 5th-level), increase those listed above instead. For example, when clerics would get a bonus to their Will saves, they instead get a bonus to their Wisdom and Charisma saves, while fighters would see both their Strength and Constitution saves increase.

If you want to do 4th Edition Defenses, you need to flip saving throw modifiers to Defenses, and abilities and effects that require a save around so it's an attack roll instead.

To convert a saving throw to a Defense, just remove the plus and add 10. So, if your Reflex save is +3, your Reflex Defense is 13. If your Fortitude save is +2, your Fortitude Defense is 12. These increase when the class gets a saving throw bonus.

To convert a saving throw DC to an attack bonus, subtract 10. So, if an effect requires a DC 14 save, it instead gets +4 to hit. Whatever save the effect calls for, that's the Defense it targets. For example, if an effect normally requires a DC 15 Will save, you would instead make a +5 attack against the target's Will Defense. Whoever is using the effect makes the attack roll, and this bonus increases whenever you get any sort of bonus that would increase your saving throw DCs.

Defenses basically function like Armor Class: if the attack roll meets-or-beats the Defense, then the target suffers effects as if they failed their saving throw, and if the attack misses the target suffers effects as if they succeeded on their saving throw.

Old-school saves (breath weapon, paralyzation, poison, death magic, etc) are a bit more complicated. They usually have static numbers that you roll against, which become lower as you gain more levels. These would be fairly annoying to put in a blog post for every class, so I'll save that for the Appendix D.

SPELLS
We didn't go with pseudo-Vancian magic because it doesn't make any sense, and we don't think that clerics, wizards, druids, bards, and so on should all operate using the same system. So, there won't be any guidelines for giving classes pseudo-Vancian magic (though it shouldn't be difficult to do that on your own, anyway).

That said we did add a vancomancer in an earlier Appendix D, so if you want magic to operate more like D&D there you go.

We haven't noticed an issue with low-level wizards using the more powerful spells such as fireball or lightning bolt, but if you prefer spells with auto-scaling damage (which can make them less appealing right out of the gate) make these changes:

  • Burning Hands: 1d4 fire damage per wizard level, up to 5d4.
  • Evoker: 1d6 force damage per wizard level, up to 5d6.
  • Fire Domain: 2d6 fire to start, plus another 1d6 fire per cleric level, up to 7d6.
  • Fireball: 1d6 fire damage per wizard level, up to 10d6.
  • Healing Domain: 1d8 WP (or HP) recovered, plus another 1d8 at 3rd- and 5th-level.
  • Lightning Bolt: 1d6 lightning damage per wizard level, up to 10d6.
  • Storm Domain: 1d8 lightning damage per cleric level, up to 5d8.

No Intelligence or Wisdom modifier gets added to any of them. Also looking into letting you spend more Mana/Favor to boost the effects of a spell. We'll see if that makes it in.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 26, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeons & Delvers: Age of Worms, Episode 608

Cast
  • Humal (level 11 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Corzale (level 11 dwarf war cleric/druid)
  • Sumia (level 11 elf rogue/ranger/wizard)

Session Highlights
After their conversation with Icosiel's spirit was concluded (and they were certain he wasn't going to give them any more magic loot or boons), the party wandered about the tomb's twisted tunnels for a time before finding an exit.

They walked about the surface for awhile, but didn't see Sionsiar's icy disc until, given that they all possessed the ability to fly anyway, were preparing to take off: it suddenly appeared, bobbing about as it struggled against the storm's powerful winds as it pushed through the stormsphere.

Once it was through it moved towards them, halting some distance from the tomb. Looming over them, Sionsiar asked if they retrieved the rod fragment. Corzale confirmed that they had, and Sionsiar explained that she could use it to divine the location of the other fragments: each rod fragment did something else, but as the rod was assembled it would acquire new powers, which sounded like a great deal to everyone.

Unfortunately, right after she placed it on the ice disk, Humal realized that this "Sionsiar" was an exceptionally well-crafted illusion. Fake-Sionsiar darkened and unfurled, like something between a shadowy flower and octopus: it was Seruya. Or, rather, one of her many forms that Humal was all too familiar with.

Corzale scooped up the rod fragment and tried to take off, but she didn't get far before Seruya's tendrils wrapped around her legs. Seruya probably thought it was going to be difficult pulling her back, but Corzale was more than happy to take the fight to her: Corzale she reoriented her gravity towards the disc and plummeted right into Seruya, glowing hammer first.

The hammer's divine light was especially potent, destroying the tendrils binding Corzale with each strike. Seruya shrieked with rage and pain, and began furiously slashing at Corzale. Her attention completely focused, Humal and Sumia would have had an easier time assisting Corzale, but before they could intervene Humata burst forth from the ice disc and slowly drifted towards them, muttering something about being tired and not wanting to have to do all this.

Humal wove an illusion of a holy warrior to mentally assault Humata, while Sumia hung back and loosed arrows. They weren't sure how much damage the former was inflicting, but it was clear that the latter wasn't doing much: as her arrows mostly clattered off of his scaly hide Humata literally yawned, and a wave of exhaustion hit Sumia so hard she fell asleep.

Humata then conjured a sword and approached Humal, but before he could carve his half-brother up an undulating sheet of what looked like flesh burst from the clouds. It struck what remained of the ice disc, and rolling about like a carpet. Once it stopped moving it then folded in on itself, before quickly expanding and stretching out into a humanoid shape.

It was Doppel-Filge.

He shouted at Humal and Corzale to keep the demon's busy (not that they really had a choice), and then went about carving symbols into the ice. Seruya didn't know who he was or what he was doing: she couldn't afford to turn her back completely on Corzale, but was able to direct at least one of her tendrils at him. She managed to slice off of one of Doppel-Filge's arms, but in response he grew several more and continued working at a much more frantic pace.

Allustan teleported to Sumia and administered one of their magical healing potions, instantaneously healing her wounds and reviving her, but then Humata skewered Humal with his jagged sword, rendering him unconscious.

One step forward, one step back.

Sumia did what she could with her arrows to draw Humata's attention. Once he was close Allustan took her last healing potion and teleported to Humal: it didn't replenish his spent magical reserves, but he still had enough to create another illusionary force to plague Humata with.

Despite losing a few more arms in the process Doppel-Filge managed to complete his work, just after Corzale had used up the last of her Favor but before Humata could finish hacking Sumia apart (more out of annoyance than anything else). Doppel-Filge told Humal he'd need another body and extracted the mind shard. The doppelganger shell flopped lifelessly to the ground, only to rise a moments later, eyes glowing blue and body covered in icy cracks.

It pointed at Seruya, and in Sionsiar's voice asked if this was the demon that had been troubling them so. Humal said yes, and Doppel-Sionsiar said...something. They didn't hear what she said, for they were all struck temporarily deaf. For a moment Seruya didn't move, and then her body, such as it was, crumbled to dust, and then even the dust vanished.

Doppel-Sionsiar explained that she had destroyed both Seruya's body and soul: she would never trouble them, or anyone else, ever again. She then pointed at Humata and declared that he was next. Humata muttered something about this being more trouble then it was worth, and drove his own sword through his head, killing himself before Sionsiar could.

Design Notes
Really not sure when this should transition to the next adventure, so I'm going to keep using the A Gathering of Winds cover image for now. Once they actually leave the tomb I'll switch it over to The Spire of Long Shadows.

Since Humata killed himself his soul will return to the Nine Hells, and over time reconstitute another body. So, he'll probably be back.

Melissa might start going more into diviner with her level-ups, which means I need to work on the divination tree some more. She's currently trawling the D&D books for a divination spell that looks interesting enough to her.

Speaking of more talents, Kelly (the player of Corzale) talked about some new cleric talents, as well as changes to the cleric.

First up are auras, which would be based on the Hymn class feature that the cleric used to have in a very early draft: there was a battle hymn that gave everyone bonus damage (which I used with my Dagon-cleric), and a protection hymn that gave everyone bonus AC (would probably just be DR now). Might have been others but I can't think of them.

You'd need to spend a talent to acquire a hymn (originally they were automatic, but I think that's a bit much what with all the other stuff a cleric gets), they'd have prerequisites based on what the hymn does (ie, War Domain for Hymn of Battle), Swift Action to activate, only one at a time, and they'd affect all allies within a certain distance (probably 10-30 feet based on what it does).

Just gotta figure out what they'd do, exactly. Hymn of Battle would probably just add +1 damage, but a rank up or other talent could add +1 to hit, and maybe an even bigger rank 3 talent could give an extra attack (might require a Favor cost for that and give it a limited duration).

Another idea was changing how Healing Domain works. We talked about two different changes: the first is having you buy in more talents to make it heal more, but the one I think we both preferred was taking a second talent on top of Healing Domain, and from then on you can spend +1 Favor to up the healing amount by two dice.

So, 1 Favor heals 1d8+Wisdom, 2 Favor heals 3d8+Wisdom, 3 Favor is 5d8+Wisdom, etc. I think the cap was no more dice than your cleric level, though. The main reason is this way a cleric can handle larger amounts of damage: doesn't really mean much when you take like 30 damage, and the cleric only heals 5ish points.

Lastly was spiritual weapon. Playtesting a version that conjures a glowing weapon made of divine light, and is basically a dancing weapon. For now we're going with 1d10+Wisdom radiant damage, and a duration of 1 round per level, which even at low levels would be nice because hey, free attack!

Unrelated note, our kobold vote is almost up to 100 votes, and looks like the "let-the-GM-decide" won, followed by grown-from-teeth and ate-a-dragon.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

#RPGaDay: Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Before I get into this day, I'm going to lightning-round tackle the previous three:
  • Day 19 (best writing): Unsure. Depends on what you mean. I've seen 400+ page books that fail to sufficiently explain the game, and I've seen 10ish page "games" that I either have no desire to play or are at best good for maybe one playthrough. I've also seen a lot of stuff in the middle that's just kind of meh. I'm going to default to Dungeons & Dragons (editions 2 through 4), because after trying other stuff for a few years I went back to it.
  • Day 20 (best way to get out-of-print stuff): Ebay seems like a good place to get out-of-print RPGs, though I've had some luck getting decent prices on Amazon, and I've sold out of print stuff via social media and Craigslist: I'd at least trawl social media, but ultimately bank on the former.
  • Day 21 (most with least words): See Day 19. Again I'll just default to Dungeons & Dragons.

Okay, now to day 22.

I started out with Dungeons & Dragons, and over 20+ years that's mostly what I've played (spread over various editions, of course). Not for lack of trying, mind you: early on in my gaming days we played a bunch of different stuff, though Dungeons & Dragons always won out in the end.

I kept playing Dungeons & Dragons up until 4th Edition, and when 5th Edition got into playtesting we did that for awhile, but didn't like it and decided to try out something else, which was when I got into Dungeon World (and published a bunch of stuff for it).

Dungeon World is very difficult: the book doesn't explain itself very well, and even contradicts itself, which is probably why there's an unofficial beginner's guide, and a bunch of threads asking how the hell you're supposed to play it/do certain things (like combat).

We stuck with it for years, and while I think I figured it out well enough for myself (I basically run it the way I ran 4th Edition) I still don't think I'm running it the "right" way. Or at least not the way people from the Dungeon World community-in-general would approve of.

Eventually I realized that Dungeon World demands a lot more work than Dungeons & Dragons for the same payoff. It also waters down the PCs' successes, and the results of doing certain things doesn't make any sense (like mess up a scouting roll and then all of a sudden the weather gets worse). Plus, the player can often choose what goes awry even if their character would have absolutely no control over it.

So that's why I've come back to d20 stuff, and will most likely stick with it: I can do all the things I did with Dungeon World, just faster and easier, and when the PCs succeed they know it's because of their luck, skill, and creativity. Melissa and I even made our own d20 game, and we've got a lot of stuff in store for it (we also did another game mostly intended for kids: not d20 but also not a storygame).

At least I can look back and say I tried something else, so I know what I like and don't like.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 23, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGaDay: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

If the edition doesn't matter then it's definitely Dungeons & Dragons.

If for some reason you care about the edition, I'm pretty sure that would be 3rd Edition. Yeah, I started with the Easy-to-Master black box (not sure what edition that would be), but most gamers I knew played 2nd Edition so I quickly moved on to that.

They also had a bunch of different games so we'd bounce around between stuff like Rifts, Palladium FantasyShadowrun, WEG Star Wars, and various White Wolf stuff (mostly Vampire and Mage).

But, once 3rd Edition came out we pretty much exclusively played that until 4th Edition came out. I picked up d20 Modern and all of its supplements, but we never touched it (though someone is doing something similar for Black Book so that's cool).

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 21, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

Enlil-Zi-Shagal's Sky Tomb: Pilot Episode

Cast
  • Helga (level 1 dwarf fighter)
  • Lydia (level 1 human bard)
  • Taverick (level 1 human cleric)

Session Highlights
We were supposed to do Adam's A Sundered World-But-With-Black Book campaign, but stuff happened, he wanted me to run something, and I figured this adventure could use more playtesting with more people/different characters, anyway.

As before the party was hired to deal with a harpy that had been attacking a village. The handful of witnesses that managed to either avoid the harpy, or happen to be there when it carried off someone else, believed that it was coming from a mountain range about a day or so away.

Following the villagers' directions, the party ventures to the mountains and discovers an ancient tower jutting from the peaks. It's surrounded by smaller towers, each connected by a narrow bridge, and decorated with numerous, incomplete skeletons clattering in the wind. While hiking up a fragmented trail leading to the tower, they notice numerous horizontal slits running up about half the tower's height.

They're several feet wide, and they can hear groaning and cracking echoing from within. Helga climbs up and peeks inside, and discovers a massive wind turbine made from stitched hide stretched over a wooden frame. It's steadily turning due to all the wind, though she has no idea as to what it's for.

Continuing their trek, they make it to the tower's entrance, fortunately without any sign of a harpy. Even better, there's no door. The curved passage inside leads both to the basement and up to the roof; they opt for the latter, because really the roof sounds like the kind of place you'd expect to find a harpy.

Near the top of the stairs they hear what they assume is the harpy, muttering to herself and scratching into the stone. Not wanting to take any chances they all rush onto the roof, blasting her with divine light, clobbering her with a maul, and if Melissa wasn't so unlucky she'd also have gotten tp stab a few times: fortunately Helga and Taverick get in a few crits and the harpy goes down without so much as a scratch.

On any of the party members, that is: she only managed to get in a single attack, but her talons couldn't tear through Helga's scale armor.

Mission accomplished, they decide to explore the roof some. Each of the smaller towers has a single stone obelisk on it, and each obelisk has different number of discs: two, three, four, and five. Each disc has the same fourteen runes carved into it, which leads Taverick to suggest that it's some kind of combination lock.

At the base of each obelisk was an arcane circle, and lines engraved into the roof all pointed towards the pit at the center. They also found what they assumed were many combinations that the harpy had already tried (which explained what the scratching was). Even so, given the number of discs and symbols even if they picked up where she left off they'd probably still be there for awhile.

A very, very long while.

Lydia decides to check the pit. It's filled with bones, but she figures there might be treasure in there, so has Helga hold onto a rope while she goes in. She doesn't have to go far before she finds an alcove about halfway down stuffed with coins and jewelry. Judging by the claw marks surrounding the alcove, probably the work of the harpy.

The party heads back to town. They exchange the harpy's head for a bunch of silver, and return the plainer pieces of jewelry that they assume belongs to the villagers (they did, and the villagers gave them another 25 sp and a mending potion for their honesty). Only a few villagers are aware of the tower's presence, but the only thing they can recall is that it was used a long time ago for a sky-burial ritual.

Hoping that they'll at least find something of value, the party buys some more food and returns to the tower to check out the basement. There they find a pack of dire rats with human faces randomly growing out of them, but before Lydia can obliterate them with her magic a ghoul shows up and offers to trade them information if they spare him and the rest of his...er, children.

Helga and Lydia are all for free information, and not picking fights with weird rats and demons, but Taverick eventually agrees and the ghoul, who introduces himself as Baraz, shows them the rest of his humble abode.

Baraz first brings them to the turbine room, which contains a pair of chains dangling from the ceiling that he can't reach. Helga manages to climb up with the help of rope and some spikes, but it takes the combined weight of her and Lydia to get the chain to budge. They hear stone grinding on stone for a bit, but don't see anything happen.

They do the same to the other chain, and when they return to the roof see that the pit is now sealed by two half-circle stone slabs that combined form an elaborate arcane circle. They're certain that the obelisks are the key to making the pit-circle do...something. Baraz claims to have no idea what, but mentions that there's an archive in the basement filled with crumbled scrolls, tablets, and cylinder seals.

While rummaging about the archive, Taverick spies a cylinder seal seemingly stuck to the ceiling. Helga climbs up to retrieve it and realizes that it's not stuck, but floating. Checking the symbols it's clear that they match those found on the obelisks, just mirrored. They roll it across some soft earth, and it creates four rows of symbols: one has two symbols, another three, then four, and finally five, obviously corresponding with the number of discs on each obelisk.

Lining up the symbols on each obelisk, the runes begin to glow, magical energy flows towards the circle at the center, and a spherical portal pops into existence above it. They can see a distorted image within, and gusts of wind issue from it. Taverick suspects a trap, but Baraz says it smells like home. Helga thinks it's much to elaborate for a trap and hops in, and after some hesitation the rest of the party follows...right before the portal collapses shut behind them.

Design & Development
Party was able to defeat the harpy the first time I ran this adventure, though they had more trouble because they didn't ambush it and Melissa had a string of bad rolls. So, I think the harpy is fine as a first-encounter monster for even a party of three to confront. Might even recommend two for a four-man team.

Didn't get to see much bard magic in action, so more playtesting is needed to see if the 2-round casting time is too crippling/annoying. Might swap out her charm effect since I doubt that will be of any use in this adventure.

Adam felt that the puzzle was doable albeit a bit annoying to solve (though that might have been because we were playing over hangouts and I didn't have any visual aids of the obelisks and symbols handy). In the original adventure there was a sylph NPC that can help translate stuff and kind of explain things, but they ended up befriending the ghoul so she wasn't necessary.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

#RPGaDay: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

I thought this was going to be a tricky one, because a long time ago, while we were still playing 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, there was a period where I bought a bunch of games just to see what was up.

The list included but was not limited to: CthulhuTech, Legends of Anglerre, Call of Cthulhu (6th Edition), Dark Heresy, Black CrusadeThe Dying Earth, and I'd even given money to Pelgrane Press for something like-but-not-quite a Kickstarter for 13th Age.

Now I was just going to throw my hands up and say "one of these" and call it good, but then I remembered that before all of that, way back when 4E D&D was announced to simultaneous excitement, curiosity, disinterest, and nerd-rage, I'd purchased Star Wars: Saga Edition (pretty much because I'd heard that some of its rules were used to some degree in 4th Edition, and I wanted to get an idea as to what to expect).

I actually lent it to someone I used to game with. He moved and I honestly forgot about it because I'm just not that interested in Star Wars, but then he got in touch with me five or so years ago and gave it back, and it now sits on my bookshelf gathering dust: it'll probably still be a valid answer the next time this question shows up on RPGaDay.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 19, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGaDay: Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

Right now that would obviously be Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book, because I specifically designed it to do everything I wanted it to do (which is what I assume is the goal of most game designers), but who knows there might be things that crop up in the future that I'll want to add/change/remove.

Otherwise there aren't any RPGs that I just use as-is, because every RPG I've played has one or more flaws that I'll either just put up with or change. This is what eventually caused me to make my own game.

For example, I enjoy playing 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, but I ended up doing the half-HP tweak, making my own skill challenge system because the examples in the book were just terrible, and letting players make their own powers and even "Essentialize" classes to make things simpler.

In Dungeon World, for starters, I scrapped the entire Undertake a Perilous Journey move (since nothing about it makes any sense at all), did a post on how I'd change the bag of books, dunno how I'd change Hack & Slash and Backstab to account for the in-book contradiction (attacking an unaware monster is supposed to be an auto-kill, but Backstab just does more stuff), and Melissa and I have almost made a variant for every core class.

Also need to bump up the dragon's HP, since by the book it should have 20 and not 16.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 16, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGaDay: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

As with what games are good for two-hour sessions and for about 10 sessions in total, I think a lot of RPGs work well enough for open-ended campaign play.

Off the top of my head any of the D&Ds (and by association Black Book), Dungeon World, WEG Star Wars (though I think the d20 versions would also be easy enough), and I did a mostly on the fly Rifts campaign years ago.

Really I think it just depends on how difficult it is to come up with shit on the fly. If the game has a lot of fiddly rules and things are super crunchy (like 3rd Edition D&D monsters), that'll make things more difficult.

I know Fate has the entire group sit around and establish the setting and bad things going on before you even start, so probably not that one, and Shadowrun is insanely complicated.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeons & Delvers: Individual XP Awards

Here's a variant way of earning XP in the Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book that is based on an optional rule from 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, in which classes could earn bonus XP by doing certain things.

Note that unlike in 2nd Edition these are instead of gaining XP for killing/defeating/overcoming/sneaking past monsters. Some classes can still get XP from that but not all, and not all the time. Scroll to the bottom if you want to use these individual awards with normal XP gains.

Also note that in every case you only get XP if a skill check, spell, and so on was used for an actual purpose/the monster was an actual threat.

You can't, say, just stand around casting spells purely to gain XP, and you can't lock a door, pick the lock, lock the door again, pick the lock again, and so on: GMs should feel free to waive XP rewards for asshole players simply trying to grind XP.

Clerics
  • 1 XP per Favor spent.
  • 1 XP per level of a successfully rebuked adversary (as per the Rebuke Adversary talent).
  • Standard XP amount from killing monsters that are also adversaries. (Divide the monster's XP by the number of PCs as normal, and the cleric gains that amount: for example, if a party of four defeats a monster-adversary worth 20 XP, then the cleric gets 5 XP.)

If the cleric rebukes and then defeats the monster, he just gains the rebuke or defeat amount, whichever is higher.

I'd also throw in an XP award for cleansing unholy sites and converting new worshipers. Something like 1-5 XP per cleric level.

Fighters
Standard XP amount from killing monsters: divide the monster's XP by the number of PCs and the fighter gets that much. Basically business as usual.

Rogues
  • Standard XP amount from killing a monster using Sneak Attack or similar underhanded means (like sniping or poison), or simply sneaking past. Same division as the cleric and fighter above.
  • 1 XP each time they successfully use a skill they're proficient in, plus an additional 1 XP for every point they exceeded the DC by. For example, if they make a DC 15 Thievery check and get a 15, that's 1 XP, but if they rolled a 16 they'd get 2 XP, 3 XP if they rolled a 17, and so on.

I considered giving them 1 XP per sp looted, but they'd level up insanely quickly and really treasure is its own reward. Maybe if you went with a ratio like 1 XP per 100 sp or more.

Wizards
  • 1 XP per point of Drain suffered (so they get XP from losing Mana, VP, and WP), as well as 1 XP per Sustain spell they activate: basically the idea is to get XP each time they use a spell.
  • 1 XP each time they succeed on an Arcana or "lore" check, plus another 1 XP for every point they exceed the DC by (as per rogues above).

Could also award XP for the creation of alchemical items (wouldn't base it on sp value because that can add up very quickly, maybe 1-3 XP for standard items, +1-3 XP if it's enhanced or superior), and researching spells and creating magic items (thinking 1-5 XP per level depending on what it does).

Giving Everyone XP For Killing Stuff
The reason not everyone gets XP from killing/defeating/overcoming monsters in addition to these other awards, is that except for the fighter everyone would level up much more quickly. But, if that's something you actually want or don't care about, then classes that gain XP from defeating monsters gain twice as much.

For example, clerics would get normal XP for defeating monsters, but twice as much from defeating their adversaries, and fighters just get twice as much from everything.

Note that this doesn't take away from the monster's total XP value: if a party of four kills a monster worth 20 XP they'd each normally get 5. Using this system the fighter would instead get 10 XP, and everyone else would still get 5. If it was a cleric's adversary he'd also get 10, while everyone else gets 5.

If that's too much, you can instead give +1 XP per level of the monster. Yeah, not all monsters of a given level are equal, but it's quick and easy to figure out.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 15, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGaDay: Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

The Short Answer:
Back when I ran the original A Sundered World campaign, I barely did any planning at all: I mostly made up shit as we went in response to what the players did. The players said it was the best campaign they ever played in, so from then on I ran games doing as little planning as possible.

This meant less work for me, less wasted prep, and it was easier to adapt to random shit the players did (and they knew they could do things without worry about me wasting time or trying to nudge them back on a kind of plot railroad).

The Long Answer:
Some six or so years ago, after a string of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns and one-shots, a couple friends and I are sitting around a table thinking on what to play next. This was back when I kept buying lots of role-playing games, because I'd been wanting to make my own game and figured it would be useful to at least read other non-D&D systems and ideally play them.

After running through a variety of options—CtulhuTech, The Dying Earth, Dark Heresy, I think Exalted, and a few more—they just wanted to keep on playing Dungeons & Dragons.

So I had them roll up characters and pitched this campaign idea I thought of even further back, which was basically pirates in the Astral Sea/Astral Plane. They liked the idea, and that campaign soon exploded into what would become A Sundered World.

Prior to running A Sundered World I read and ran a lot of adventure paths and modules, changing them up here and there but usually not too much (I did draw from background ideas from time to time, and even whipped up some side treks). When I wanted to plan my own adventures I used the official shiny published stuff as examples, which meant a lot of writing and planning and mapping, most of which ended up not being necessary.

For A Sundered World I took another approach, which was to just make almost all of it up as we went along. The first session had one character (Lothelle) show up in Hammerfast, a dwarven city, in search of a weapon that would end a war between the elves and fomorians. She goes to a library and learns about an island with an abandoned elven city: the player decides to follow this lead on her own (could have been other options but she ran with that one) and on a whim I have her run into the other character (Danh) when she gets there: he's just been waiting there because the spirits told him to.

They explore the island, fending off a few twig blights and run into—again, on a whim—the inert husk of a copper horror, mostly overgrown by vegetation like the robots in Castle in the Sky. I'd been wanting to use clockwork horrors for quite some time (since early 3rd Edition I think, whatever year they appeared in one of the Monster Manuals), just never had the chance and figured why not let's see where this goes.

(Fun fact, the various Legionnaires that form Antikythera's Legion are based on the old D&D horrors.)

They keep exploring and find the elven city, and while checking out various towers a copper horror activates and attacks. They find an arcane locked door, which prompts Lothelle to make a bunch of Arcana checks to "hack" it (I envisioned it like hacking a door in Mass Effect 2, with glowing glyphs and shapes and everything) while Danh tries to keep the copper horror at bay since it's too high level for them to defeat: take that people that kept saying 4E was too easy!

Lothelle manages to get the door open, they both duck inside and then she seals the door. But, the machine keeps on coming, blasting and slicing at the door with bladed mandibles, so she's again stuck playing door-duty, using her magic to constantly reinforce the wards while Danh looks for a way out. They find a pair of trees which house owl spirits, and they end up sacrificing themselves opening a gate to the moon so Lothelle and Danh can escape.

The whole thing was tense and crazy and they could have died because I wasn't pulling any punches (and also their characters weren't pivotal to some larger plot), but it was also driven entirely by the players' actions and it was all shit I made up as we went. I did this for another fifteen or so sessions, and in their words it was the best campaign they'd ever played in.

This campaign completely changed how I plan and run things (which luckily meshed really well with Dungeon World's default assumptions), though nowadays I do a bit more planning and when I'm running a module or adventure path (like say Age of Worms) I tend to change them up a lot more, to the point where I've completely replaced entire dungeons. It's great because I do less work, what prep I do is less likely to be wasted, and I can better respond to what the players do.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 14, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGaDay: Whch RPG has the most inspiring art?

If we have to go with core games (and not supplements, settings, adventures and the like), then 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons.


A lot of the art from 3rd and 4th Edition (while perhaps usually more...I dunno, technically proficient?) is characters standing around, maybe doing something (like aiming a bow, picking a lock, or attacking a monster), but that doesn't really inspire anything, especially when it's just them standing around in a stock pose like they know they're getting their picture taken.

In the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook, you get scenes of people venturing towards a tower, some guy and his donkey preparing to go through a door (and you can just see a claw and tail poking out), a wizard looming over some tiny woman with a lizard tail, an army of orcs storming a castle, a griffon fountain surrounded by crystals, and a couple of adventurers bashing open a door with a ram (the last time the adventurers had to bash open a door was in a 3rd Edition campaign: I feel like nowadays players would complain that they couldn't pick the lock).

There's also scenes like this one:


What the fuck happened to those guys? Are they dead? Just knocked out? What's with the tree and necklace? Is the box a kind of force field, or glass?

Also this:


What's written on those door-monster-tongues? Who made it? What's inside? Who keeps replacing the torches in the face at the top?

Again, I think a lot of the art from later editions is good, there's just very little if any that makes me think, "What happened/is about to happen/is going on right now?" If supplements are allowed, then I'd give second place to Planescape: it has some interesting scenes, just less than the Player's Handbook and the art (especially in the campaign setting box) is usually pretty sloppy.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 12, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGaDay: Where do you go for RPG reviews?


I've found that far too often people for whatever reason (money, popularity, the "status" of being a reviewer that gets free shit, friends of the creator, creator is backing their Patreon, etc) lie, exaggerate (I groan every time I see a game described as amazing/excellent/inspiring), and/or are so biased that they barely mention anything bad about a game/game-related thing, if they mention something bad at all (this trend is what caused me to write my review on Inverse World).

So, because of everything above I don't really go anywhere in particular (I usually try a few places and make sure to look for negative reviews), but there are places and people that I specifically ignore.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGaDay: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

As with yesterday's answer I'd say a lot? Most? It depends on if the question is asking what is a good game to play for about ten sessions because you can only for some reason play it for about ten sessions, or what game kind of loses its novelty after about ten sessions. Assuming the former, it also depends on what you're looking for/to do in a role-playing game.

If you're the kind of player that thinks you need to hit a kind of character cap for the entire play experience to mean anything, such as 20th-level in Dungeons & Dragons (or even 30th in 4th Edition), then obviously that's not gonna work. Well, unless you do some kind of wonky progression like 2-3 levels per session (no matter what happens).

I couldn't even recommend Dungeon World in that case, because despite only having 10 levels unless you play for progressively longer period of time you can't do one level per session. If you're like Melissa and miss a lot well, that will help, but even in the longest campaign we ever played things ended with her weighing in at "only" 7th-level (I was 6th I think, and the other guy was only 5th).

If you're the kind of player that just wants to resolve something (like a plot line or wrap up a dungeon), well that's much easier to do, and you can do that in pretty much every game I've played. You could even feasibly wrap up a few things so long as you roughly plan out about how long each thing is going to take based on what your group can usually do in a normal session.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 10, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

Streets & Stabbers (Black Book/Urban Arcana Mashup)

Over in the Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book community, Darcy (Dettman Junior) posted a Google doc with his notes so far on a kind of Urban Arcana (holy shit that came out in 2003?!) hack that uses the Black Book as a foundation.

It's obviously a work in process (still cool to see someone running with something we did), but he's looking for feedback and suggestions, so if this is something that interests you take a look and let him know what you think!



Announcements
Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book is out!

It's our own take on a D&Dish/d20 game that features (among other things) simple-yet-flexible classes, unassumed magic and magical healing, a complete lack of pseudo-Vancian magic, and more mythologically accurate monsters.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Renaming Kobolds

Since I've changed kobolds in Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book to be more inline with their mythological counterparts, and I've got a shitload of kobold minis that I still wanna use, I now need to at least rename D&D kobolds to something else, and maybe come up with another backstory.

Like, D&D kobolds could just be kobolds that managed to kill and eat a dragon, and so were physically changed. They'd retain their kobold abilities, which varies between kobold type, so mine kobolds would still be able to phase through stone.

There's also the story of Fafnir, a dwarf who along with his father and brother captured Odin and HÅ“nir for some reason. Loki was also with them, but they chose him to go out and get a ransom, which ended up being cursed gold and a magic ring.

Fafnir killed his father to keep it all for himself, and eventually ended up turning into a dragon.

So, D&D kobolds could also be normal kobolds that killed a bunch of dwarves and took their gold (which might have been cursed by a dwarf with his dying breath), or it could have been cursed gold that they took from a dragon they slew. In either case you could have absurdly trapped kobold vaults; in the case of mine kobolds they'd be able to simply walk around them.

(If it's a hand-me-down curse it would explain why they don't all fully transform into dragons, though exceptionally greedy and/or old kobolds might gain additional features, such as wings and breath weapons, and could eventually fully transform.)

Another idea is the Greek legend of the dragon's teeth (which I'd heard before but was reminded of while designing The Dragon): you plant the dragon's teeth in the ground, and they grow into fully armed warriors. This is actually an idea I like for A Sundered World's tarchons, though I'd use it for campaigns where I have tarchons but not a worlds-shattering cosmic war.

So kobolds could be grown from the teeth of young dragons, or creatures that are like dragons but not quite, such as wyverns or all those wingless drakes.

Personally if you want to better associate dragons I like this one the most: kobolds grown from the teeth of black dragons would have black scales, breath underwater, and have acidic blood, while kobolds grown from the teeth of green dragons would have green scales, immunity to poison, and venomous bites (or explode into toxic clouds upon death).

I suppose specific physical traits and abilities could also be gained by kobolds that eat a dragon, too.

So, which kobold do you prefer: kobolds that ate a dragon, kobolds suffering from a greed curse, or kobolds grown from dragon (or dragonish/drake) teeth? All of the above (so the GM can choose or tweak one)? In any case I want to rename them to avoid confusion: got any suggestions? Do you have another idea for a kobold origin?

Announcements
Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book is out!

It's our own take on a D&Dish/d20 game that features (among other things) simple-yet-flexible classes, unassumed magic and magical healing, a complete lack of pseudo-Vancian magic, and more mythologically accurate monsters.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 09, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

#RPGaDay: What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?

Melissa and I actually have only really done 2-hour sessions for the past few years, and while it's primarily been Dungeon World or the Black Book (with the occasional playtest session for other games) I think a lot of games would work just fine: just plan out however many rooms/areas/encounters you think your group could reasonably tackle in a couple hours.

When the session is over ask them what they expect to do next time, plan a bit more (better learning what to expect from your group each time), and rinse and repeat.

A game I think wouldn't work is 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons completely by the book, as even small fry encounters can eat up a considerable amount of time. Sure, you can still plan-as-you-go, but the going is going to be really slow.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 08, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeons & Delvers: Bone Devils

In The Spire of Long Shadows, there's a part early on in the adventure where some barbed devils and a quartet of bone devils show up to attack the party; the party has a fragment of the rod of seven parts, which they really want for some reason.

I remembered reading in one of the Planescape monster manuals that bone devils, aka osyluths, were basically devil police for the Nine Hells. 3rd Edition gives them a similar role, so it seemed odd that they were getting bossed around by barbed devils.

But then this was a 3rd Edition adventure: what with all the numbers scaling maybe they were the only devil you could throw at the party without maybe making things too easy or hard (because 3rd Edition used the wonky Challenge Rating system that was rarely accurate).

Really though if the current party didn't have a cambion, and that cambion didn't already have to deal with infernal siblings trying to get their claws on the rod fragment, I probably wouldn't even include them at all, but at least this way it kind of makes sense.

This meant I'd have to convert them, and while converting the bone devil to Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book I decided to check out what it could do across various editions. Here's what I found.

2nd Edition
This was back when bone devils were referred to as osyluths. They were described as the "police officers" of Baator (aka the Nine Hells), and looked like a rail thin husk of a human, tightly covered in skin, with a scorpion-like tail. Aside from pit fiends, they could punish any baatezu by sending them into the Pit of Flame for 101 days.

They'd also get together to help vote on which gelugons (ie, ice devils) to promote to pit fiend status, and after a set period of time every osyluth would get automatically promoted to hamatula (ie, barbed devil) status, though sometimes one gets turned into an amnizu (ie, Styx devil) instead.

Mechanically, osyluths weighed in at 5 Hit Dice (or 22.5 hp on average), AC 3 (effectively 17 in later editions), effectively +5 to hit, and a claw, claw, bite, and stinger routine. The claws only inflicted a meager 1d4 damage each, while the bite was a bit better though still pretty sad at 1d8 damage. The stinger dealt a pretty good 3d4 damage and injected a poison that caused victims to lose 1d4 Strength for 1d10 rounds.

Their unique magical abilities allowed them to fly, turn invisible, and conjure a wall of ice (this was in addition to the generic devil magic such as animate dead, charm person, know alignment, and teleport without error). They could also use improved phantasmal force, though I don't know what it does, and were surrounded by a constant 5-foot aura of fear.

So, lotta stuff to juggle, most of which wouldn't get used anyway.

3rd Edition
Here they're referred to as both bone devils and osyluths. They're considerably beefed up, having 10 Hit Dice, plus an additional 50 due to their whopping Constitution of 21 (which grants +5 hit points per Hit Die), giving them an average hp total of 95.

Their AC gets catapulted to 25, their attacks get either a +14 or +12 to hit, though their damage doesn't see much of an increase: the damage dice remains the same, but they get a bonus from their Strength (which like Constitution also confers a +5 bonus to attack and damage rolls).

The spell list gets mercifully trimmed to greater teleport, dimensional anchor, fly, invisibility, major image, and again wall of ice for some reason.

As in 2nd Edition they're still devil police, but they also act as informers. No mention of being able to send other devils to the Pit of Flame: presumably they need to report to a higher up devil so they can mete out punishment.

3rd Edition has a lot of assumed math, so the ramped up numbers makes sense in that context (though if there wasn't a lot of assumed math the numbers would have to get so insane in the first place). I do like that there are fewer spells, though only a few really make sense for spying on and possibly detaining creatures.

5th Edition
Hit Dice are ramped up yet again (to 15), though their Strength and Constitution scores are reduced by 2-3 points (giving them +4's instead of +5's). They have wings but no magical powers of any sort (not even as an optional thing in a sidebar). Bite attack is gone, but their claws now deal a base 1d8 damage.

Flavor-wise they no longer enforce the laws of hell. Instead they make other devils to do whatever work needs to be done in the Nine Hells.

Overall simpler, but boring: they're basically spiky Large humanoids with flight and a poison attack.

Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book
Personally I like the Tony DiTerlizzi art (which I used above): the 5th Edition bone devil just looks over the top, like they figured piling on more spikes makes it scarier or something. So I'm going with a more classic look.

For its Level (effectively Hit Dice) I just met in the middle at 10. There isn't a lot of scaling numbers in Black Book anyway: we've run playtests where low level characters managed to take out single monsters 5 or so levels higher than they were (albeit with some lucky rolls).

I'm sticking with the Hell police angle, so they'll need good Insight and Perception, and invisibility will make it even easier to monitor and sneak up on offenders. A fear aura plus a high Intimidate modifier makes sense for making creatures back down or confess their crimes.

I didn't want to give them the ability to conjure walls of ice, because it doesn't really make sense, though being able to summon a wall would handy for blocking an exit, or even encasing a creature completely. Since they're called bone devils I let them instead summon a wall of bone (freakier than a wall of ice, though I could also see them summoning cage walls or even just cages to trap creatures).

Since I wanted them to do more weird shit with bones, I also gave them the ability to just touch a creature and break its arms, legs, or even ribs: in any case it's also good for keeping creatures from running or fighting back.

The stinger is still there, but the poison messes with a creature's bones, draining their Constitution (which has the added effect of making them more susceptible to its other abilities and future poison attempts): if your Constitution gets reduced to -5, you're bones are completely dissolved and you just die.

Here's the finished bone devil:

BONE DEVIL
Level 10 Large Demon
XP 400
Speed 40 feet; flying (magical)

ABILITY SCORES
STR +5 DEX +3 WIS +2
CON +4 INT +2 CHA +3

SKILLS
Intimidate +7, Insight +6, Perception +6

DEFENSE
AC 16 DR 3
Fort +4 Ref +3 Will +5
Immune charm (so you can just enchant your way out of trouble), fire, poison
Vulnerable silver and magic weapons ignore the bone devil’s DR, and silver weapons deal +1d6 damage (making silver really useful against them)
Wounds 80 Vitality 30 Total 110

OFFENSE
  • Multiattack the bone devil makes two claw attacks and a sting attack.
  • Claw +9 to hit; 1d8+9 slashing damage (armor piercing 1)
  • Sting +9 to hit; 1d10+0 piercing damage (armor piercing 3); if this inflicts WP damage the target suffers an additional 3d6+8 poison damage and has their Constitution reduced by 1 (DC 18 Fortitude save for half damage and no Constitution reduction) as their very bones start to soften and deteriorate. If a creature's Constitution is reduced to -5, its bones are completely dissolved and it instead dies.

Spell-Like Abilities (Recharge 5+)
When the bone devil uses one of these it cannot use any of them until it recharges (makes more sense for a creature with magical reserves, as opposed to being able to use various abilities x number of times per day).
  • Bonesnap Must touch a creature. Suffers 7d6+6 damage (ignores armor) and a limb is broken (-2 to activities that benefit from having both limbs; can break ribs to make the target slowed but can suffer 1d8 damage to move full Speed for a round). DC 16 Fortitude save means half damage and limb is only fractured (-1 until healed).
  • Improved Invisibility Turns invisible, and can attack but remains invisible. Lasts 10 rounds.
  • Wall of Bone Covers 10 5-foot spaces. Each section has 75 hp (takes +5 damage from blunt weapons). Can also create a ceiling. Bones molder and rot away after 10 minutes.

SPECIAL
  • Fear Aura Creatures adjacent to a bone devil are automatically frightened (-2 to all d20 rolls) unless they're 10th-level or higher.
  • Invisibility Standard Action. Lasts 10 minutes or until the bone devil attacks or uses an offensive spell.

If you want to be particularly vicious, you could give them basically a save or die ability that causes a creature's skeleton to completely burst forth from its body. I considered giving it an ability that makes bone spurs explode from a creature, or even just tear bones right out of you (like on a critical hit), but figured it has enough going on already: I'll just add them as optional powers that bump up its XP value.

Announcements
It look a lot longer than expected, but we finally released The Jinni. As with our other monstrous classes, this one is more faithful to the mythology (so don't go in expecting elemental-themed jinn).

After putting it to a vote, the next couple of classes on the docket are the warden (think 4E D&D warden) and apothecary (gotta go see what they're all about).

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).
August 07, 2017
Posted by David Guyll

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