Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Fear and Loathing in Grayminster

From Out of the Garden by Crypt Sermon

Fear and Loathing in a Land Time Forgot is a series of posts for Dungeon Crawl Classics codifying content I've improvised during play. This may include settings, plot hooks, new equipment, characters, classes, and more! Although I'm a firm believer in ephemeral content for old-school games, perhaps you can pilfer some relics from these open-air tombs.

Grayminster

Grayminster is a towering city ruled by Camua the Master Thief and Hamua the (literal) dragon, who pooled together their massive hoards through marriage to found an entire kingdom through sheer economic gravity. At some point, the queens fell out with each other, and have been trying to kill each other for years. They put on airs as happy wives, but the sheer number of assassins and counter-assassins they've contracted have led to them forming a city around their castle, hewn from locally harvested slate (it's all that was readily available).

The first major construction was evenly bisecting the queens' castle, allowing them the privacy to plot (though they often spend time in their shared tea room, forcing small talk). This project earned the castle the name Seplucre; get it? Every tower, road, gate, and tunnel since was built to get a vantage point on the Seplucre, or to counter another vantage point. Over the years, assassins have had to fill civilian roles but with an assassin bent, like Assassin-Scribes and Assassin-Gongfarmers (think John Wick).

Contracts have become so complex, recursive, and re-delegated that they seem to have minds of their own. Every assassin-citizen of Grayminster has an intelligent sword, which pulls contracts from the Kanban and serves as a GPS through the trap-laden streets and portal-ridden alleyways. It's so bad that even objects are being "contracted" for assassination, from enchanted statues to entire animate buildings.

Recently, raiding parties of Drow have started filtering into Grayminster. Hamua is using the remainder of her fortune to outsource to the underworld—not to end her wife, but her life! Once these ruthless killers make their way to the queens' tea room, Hamua will finally be freed from a life of unending vigilance and scheming. The culture of assassins in Grayminster was not prepared for this inevitability, which is why it's only a matter of time.

But if Hamua dies, an entire city falls, as does its citizens' way of life; even though its assassin-politicians would never admit it, the fall of Grayminster would bring hardship to its citizens and the entire region.

New Class: Drow

As Elf, except with the following changes. This is based on a draft of a Drow class created by Rob Baxter, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of its development since the shuttering of Google Plus (requiescat in pace).

  • Add—Light Sensitivity: A drow in the presence of full or partial daylight (e.g., dawn, dusk, noon, overcast) or it’s magical equivalent may not cast spells
  • Add—Danger Sense: A drow can perform one action during the first round of surprise, instead of none
  • Add—Poison Sense: A drow can smell poison up to 30 feet away
  • Add—Two-Weapon Fighting: As Halfling
  • Change—Infravision: 100 feet instead of 60 feet
  • Change—Luck: Applies to attack and damage rolls made when two-weapon fighting, instead of to checks made for one spell
  • Change—Languages: Start with undercommon instead of elven
  • Change—Metal: Use adamantine instead of mithril
  • Change—Spells: Reduce the number of spells know by three
  • Remove—Heightened Senses
  • Remove—Immunities

New Equipment

Drow Outfit (AKA "Drowfit")

+1 leather armor that has no check penalty and a d6 fumble die. If you are not a drow, when you do up the hood and scarves, you are easily mistaken as drow. Becomes regular leather armor in sunlight. I picture it like a leathered-up Medjai getup from The Mummy.

Shade-Blade

You can use this dagger to backstab like a Thief, but you add your level to the attempt instead of the Thief's bonus.

Dreadful Tale

  1. The party is travelling on the road to Grayminster
  2. When they find a Drow raiding party desecrating the corpses of caravaneers (who are actually poorly disguised assassin-citizens of Grayminster)
  3. They kill them at the behest of Kafka, the intelligent sword given to the drow that carries the contract on Hamua; specifically, that more details will be provided by their drow contact Thanorthal at The Bloody Wand (yes, that's a euphamism)
  4. They find Thanorthal, who has had a change of heart after living in Grayminster. They may all be murderers, but they've also got hobbies, and kids to feed! The party has to get there before any of the drow do. But it turns out The Bloody Wand is an assass-inn, and must escape like it's Trap Adventure
  5. They use Kafka to find the portal that Thanorthal identified, hotly pursued by drow
  6. They meet with Hamua and perhaps convince her that death, ironically, isn't the answer
  7. What they do in the Seplucre determines the fate of Grayminster and its assassin-citizens
  8. Before they continue on their journey, they are provided a boon by whoever they helped out most. This boon should make them feel sort of guilty

Trackmarks Setting Rules for D&D 5e

From Mind Freeze by Haunt

Trackmarks is a fantasy dieselpunk setting over a decade in the making. In Trackmarks, you play members of the Blackguard, a conscripted police force tasked with getting drugs off the streets of Byle and into the veins of the nobility. Each shift, you have to make a choice between making your quota or taking those same drugs to survive in a city that wants you dead.

This post explains how to modify the rules of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition to fit the setting of Trackmarks. These modifications assume the use of my house rules.

Honor

You have an Honor score that reflects how you are perceived in the eyes of the city (DMG 264). This score is generated as normal, after Charisma.

A low Honor means the city is out to get you, while a high Honor means your fellow Blackguard think you're a snitch (invert your modifier for checks). When your entire group's reputation matters, use the lowest or highest score in the party.

Character Options

  • Classes: Only the classes and archetypes in the following subsections are available
  • Feats: The Telekinetic and Telepathic feats (TCE 81) are available to all characters. Magical tattoos (TCE 118) are available to Gunslingers, Assassins, and Thieves

Cleric

  • Grave Domain (XGE 20): Sing the funeral dirge of the world
  • Life Domain: Prolong the decay of Visceria
  • Unity Domain: Primogen Only. Propagandists of the Poet-King
  • Twilight Domain (TCE 34): Darkling Only. Practice the rites of traditional Clyster use
  • War Domain: Wight Only. Warlords of the Purge

Fighter

  • Battle Master: Military academy dandies
  • Brute: Draconian Only. Fight like the feral beasts they are
  • Gunslinger: Enforcers of organized crime
  • Monster Hunter: Wight Only. Hunt Abominations and Thrall
  • Psi Knight (TCE 42): Automaton Only. Perfect weapons of war
  • Samurai (XGE 31): Darkling Only. Taught in the traditions of the original Blackguard

Mystic

  • Avatar: Seek total domination over the Network
  • Immortal: Draconian Only. Carry the psionic lineage of either Meddt or Zacharius
  • Nomad: Hack the Network as needed to improve their otherwise mundane lives

Rogue

  • Assassin: Essential political assets
  • Inquisitive (XGE 45): Fight a losing battle against rampant corruption
  • Mastermind (XGE 46): Politicians and strategists
  • Soul Knife (XGE 63): Carry out missives from the Observer in secret
  • Swashbuckler (XGE 47): Primogen Only. Restless dilettantes trapped in Byle
  • Thief: Just trying to get by in these streets

Formata

You can select from the following Formata:

  • Automaton: Requires 13 Charisma. As Warforged (Eberron 35)
  • Primogen: As Human or Variant Human
  • Darkling: As Drow Elf
  • Draconian: Requires 13 Wisdom. As Dragonborn, except with the following changes:
    • Replace your Breath Weapon feature with the Wings feature, which gives you a flying speed of 60 feet
    • Replace your Damage Immunity feature with the Scales feature, which gives you +1 AC
    • Replace your Draconic Ancestry feature with the Claws feature, which gives you a natural weapon (2d4 slashing, finesse)
  • Wight: Requires 13 Constitution. As Aasimar (VGM 104), except get +1 Wisdom and do not pick a subtype

Languages

Everyone speaks Common. Each Formata and faction has slang they use to communicate among themselves; this slang is named after the people who speak it (e.g., Darkling speak Darkling, members of the Guild speak Guild). Abominations and Thrall do not speak languages. Dragons speak telepathically and can be understood by anyone they communicate with.

Equipment

  • Armor: All armor and clothing received at a station also count as Blackguard uniforms. When wearing a Blackguard uniform, the common folk recognize your authority and will defer to you. You can only gain access to stations while wearing a Blackguard uniform
  • Disguise Kit: Blackguard always use this at disadvantage due to the brand on their face, and the disguise only lasts 10 x Charisma modifier minutes (minimum 10)
  • Firearms: Modern firearms and explosives are available (DMG 268) but are not purchasable. They must be found while adventuring or retrieved from a station
  • Money: All money is measured in Clyster (abbreviated "c"). To convert existing currencies, gold pieces are 1c, silver pieces are 0.10c, and copper pieces are 0.01c
  • Vehicles: Include the vehicles provided in Edward Wilson's d20 Modern 5e Conversion. These are not purchasable; they must be found while adventuring. They are most often in the possession of the Military

Clyster

During a short rest, you can spend Clyster to cook hypos at a rate of 100c per hypo. A hypo counts as a magic item. Taking a hypo can be done as part of your movement. When you cook a hypo, you pick which of the following benefits it gives you when you take it. If you take a hypo while experiencing the benefits of another, the previous hypo's effects end immediately.

  • Campfire: Spend any number of hit dice. Spending hit dice in this way grants temporary hit points, which last for 1 minute
  • Chessboxing: Add your proficiency bonus to the next ability check or saving throw you make. If you would already add your proficiency bonus, add it again
  • Ruckus: You have resistance to bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage for 1 minute
Between short rests, you can take a number of hypos equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1). For each hypo you take after that, you suffer a short-term madness (DMG 259).

Adventuring

  • Acid Rain: Characters take 1 acid damage per round they are outside in rain without protection, like a poncho
  • Clyster Stashes: If you hide Clyster somewhere to avoid giving it up at a station, unless you hid it in the wastes, it will be gone when you come back
  • Godflesh: Being submerged in swampy godflesh causes 1d10 damage per minute (minimum 1d10)
  • Random Encounters: Roll 1d6 for random encounter checks. A random encounter occurs on a 1. Modify random encounter checks with the lowest Honor modifier in the party
  • Resting: You can only take short rests at Qwik Noodles and long rests at stations:
    • Qwik Noodle: To Enter a Qwik Noodle, you need to pay 6c – your Honor modifier, times 10. The city changes fast; for example, whatever stash you were raiding before a short rest has either packed up or hunkered down by the time you get back
    • Station: To enter a station, you need to pay all Clyster in your possession, which must be at least 1,000c per head. When you leave a station, you can restock on whatever equipment you like

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

D&D 5e House Rules

From V by Fief

The purpose of these house rules are to make Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition play more like Basic Dungeons & Dragons.

Characters

  • Ability Scores: Roll 4d6 and drop the lowest to determine your Strength. Do the same for Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, in that order. You cannot reroll or rarrange your scores
  • Demihumans: The only playable demihumans are Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human, and Orc (VGM 120)
  • Classes: The only playable classes are Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard. The Fighter can use the fighting style and maneuver options from TCE 41 and can cleave through creatures (DMG 272)
  • Skill Proficiencies: Use the ability check proficiency skill variant (DMG 263). Pick two abilities listed for your class
  • Backgrounds: Instead of picking a background, pick any combination of two languages and tool proficiencies
  • Advancement: Use three-pillar experience. Coinage also counts for treasure under the exploration pillar. The maximum level is 12

Equipment

  • Trade Goods: Sacks of trade goods are worth 100 gold pieces and weigh 300 coins. Their value can be manipulated using the grapevine

Encumbrance

Most characters' carrying capacity is high enough they don't have to worry about it; however, limit characters to one set of armor and three weapons.

In the case of treasure, characters can carry a number of coins equal to their Strength score times 100. These coins can be of any denomination. For each size category above medium and for mounts pulling vehicles, double this amount.

Treasure that isn't coins have "coin weight;" that is, they count as a certain number of coins when carried. Gems count as 1 coin and art objects count as 10 coins.

All magic items must be attuned to be carried, even if they don't typically require attunement. This creates a separate inventory for magic items that isn't based on weight.

Adventuring

  • Downtime Activities: Include the downtime activities described on DMG 128. Also use the carousing option from XGE 127
  • Expenses: Emphasize lifestyles and food, drink, and lodging as described on PHB 157–158
  • Inspiration: Spend inspiration to reroll an attack, ability check, or saving throw
  • Random Encounters: Emphasize random encounters as described on DMG 86
  • Resting: Use the gritty realism rest variant as described on DMG 267

Combat

  • Initiative: Use side initiative as described on DMG 270
  • Injuries: Use injuries as described on DMG 272, but roll 1d8 + 1d12 on the modified table below, created by u/KingFerdidad:
    • 2: Lose an Eye
    • 3: Lose a Leg or a Foot
    • 4-7: Limp
    • 8-11: Minor Scar
    • 12-13: Broken Ribs
    • 14-15: Internal Injury
    • 16-17: Horrible Scar
    • 18-19: Festering Wound
    • 20: Lose an Arm or Hand
  • Morale: Use morale as described on DMG 273

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Thoughts on Blueholme and Basic D&D

From MIDIeval by Elminster

This post collects my thoughts on Blueholme, which is a retroclone in the tradition of Basic (Holmes) Dungeons & Dragons. These thoughts extend to Basic D&D as a whole.

Demihumans

There are no demihuman classes, and demihumans are relegated to the creatures section, which must be modified and scaled to be appropriate for play. As such, it's possible for players to simply say "I am an Elf" or "I am a Dwarf" without the need to reconcile this mechanically.

In my opinion, whether a character is demihuman should be represented though roleplay and their interactions with the world around them. This is especially because I don't ascribe to the Basic D&D definition of "monster," which includes humans and demihumans; true monsters are like those found in the Random Esoteric Creature Generator.

At the same time, if this is something you are looking for, you will find much more flexibility. The book's prime example for monstrous characters is a playable dragon. Enough said!

Monsters

On the topic of monsters, I appreciate that they possess even less unique stats than in other iterations of Basic D&D, making them much easier to improvise and customize. The treasure types are also more tolerable in that the higher the number, the more treasure it has. Figuring out which treasure type makes sense for a given monster requires much less guesswork.

Followers

Historically, retainers have always been a hangup of mine. The idea of simulating multiple full characters for a party seems extreme. The "followers" parlance here is new for me, and the way they are written and tied to Charisma (i.e., without a presumed loyalty) offers a much more ephemeral interpretation. Though followers are indeed assigned classes and levels, perhaps those should be determined as needed.

Holmes seems to treat followers more like an expendable resource than anything, while retainers are characters in their own right, guest party members of sorts.

Weapons

I've always liked d6 weapons for their simplicity, though players have always balked at the idea of a battleaxe doing the same damage as a dagger. I find the Weapon Speed/Variable Damage option here to be preferable, a good middle-ground.

But rediscovering d6 weapons has led me to an epiphany: It's about availability. It's going to be cheaper to buy daggers from the man in the cloak in the alleyway than from a fortress of kingsmen. Plus, those daggers are going to be chipped and preowned, while the swords will surely bear your signet and fit snugly into your (and only your) palm.

Life in the Realm

Tying character upkeep to their XP is ingenious, as is describing this interaction as maintaining a lifestyle. Surely a character who is spending 20 gp for upkeep is more socially mobile than a character spending 2 gp for upkeep!

This not only provides a non-advancement motivation for retrieving gold, but is a self-regulating artifice that keeps coals to the characters' feet. A referee could even wrap restocking equipment into lifestyle maintenance, with their lifestyle cost determining the type and quality of gear.

Encumbrance

Always a nuisance! We know the compromise lies between faithful tracking and abstractions (e.g., inventory slots, sacks), but the optional rule provided here is the one I'd like to use going forward.

You are fully armored if you are wearing metal armor and/or a shield. You are fully loaded if you are carrying 60 pounds of treasure. (Adventuring gear isn't accounted for, since treasure is the only thing I can imagine being "beyond what is normally distributed around the person.) If you are either fully armored or loaded, you move at 75% speed; if both, 50%.

I will say that 10 coins to 1 pound is ridiculous. What are they, dinner plates? But I understand this translates to 600 coins on your personage in later iterations of Basic D&D, so though arbitrary, this measurement holds water.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Spell Points in D&D

From Spellwind by Fogweaver
Many systems for implementing spell points—including the method in the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide—tend to overthink things, when the Vancian slot progression itself provides the simplest answer! This same concept applies to Basic Dungeons & Dragons.

It's simple: Casting a spell costs points equal to that spell's level. Spellcasters have a number of spell points equal to the total levels of their slots.

Example 1: A Basic D&D Cleric has two 1st level spell slots and two 2nd level spell slots, giving them a total of 6 spell points per day.

Example 2: An 8th level D&D 5e Wizard has four 1st level spell slots, three 2nd level spell slots, three 3rd level spell slots, and two 4th level spell slots, giving them a total of 27 spell points per day.

Level

Basic Cleric

Basic Magic User

5e Cleric/Wizard

1

0

1

2

2

1

2

3

3

2

4

8

4

4

6

10

5

6

9

16

6

13

12

19

7

21

17

23

8

28

23

27

9

36

31

36

10

43

40

41

11

51

47

47

12

58

60

47

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Dungeon Crawl Classics House Rules

From Doomed and Stoned in Scotland

These are my house rules for Dungeon Crawl Classics.

  • Carousing: What else to do with all that gold? I use the carousing charts created by Knights in the North
  • Death: If your character dies, either make a new batch of level zeroes or a new character with half your old character's XP
  • Level Zeroes: I find having 16+ active characters at the table too cumbersome. At the beginning of the session, each player selects their active character, who remains as such until their death, at which point another character is selected
  • Luck: You can spend Luck after making a roll
  • Proficiencies: Characters can use all weapons and armor, regardless of class

Primals

If you want your character to be a primal as described in Primal Tales #1 (you know who you are), follow the rules appropriate for the milieu.

Note that primals with multiple natural attack types do not get additional attacks per round.

Primal Milieu

For each character with a human occupation, roll on the Primal Family Chart in Primal Tales #1 to assign their species. 

Non-Primal Milieu

For each character with a human occupation, choose whether they are a primal; if yes, roll on the Primal Family Chart in Primal Tales #1. In non-primal milieus, primals are subjected to the following:

  • Primals are attacked on sight within civilization. For this reason, primals tend to be nomadic, though they occasionally maintain small settlements
  • Primals are treated as monsters by non-primals; even the most tolerating give –1d to social overtures
  • Primals are unable to wear clothing or armor made for other humanoids. Their outfits must be made custom by sympathetic tradesmen at a percentage upcharge calculated by subtracting your Luck score from 30

Monday, March 22, 2021

My Road Crew Judge's Kit

From Obey Thy Master by Double Cross

When I run or play in Goodman Games Road Crew in person, I bring my go-bag with me, which contains all the kit needed to run some righteous games of Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics.

This go-bag is just about the same no matter which system I'm running. Just swap out the rulebooks and dice.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A

It might not be the best tablet on the market, but it sure is cheap, and its insane battery life is the real draw. All my modules are in PDF format, and having a tablet die on you is a real game-killer. Reading documents, pulling up reference tables, and running character generators doesn't use much processing power anyway, making for a roadworthy tablet.

Plus, it has a camera to snap table pics with. Post them on social media and show nonbelievers just what they're missing!

I also always pack chargers for my tablet and phone, just in case.

DCC and MCC Core Rulebook

I own leatherbound copies of each core rulebook because they are markedly more resilient than the standard editions. Specifically, I own the red-foil "Hobby Retailer" edition of MCC and the gold-foil "Pharaoh" edition of DCC.

Since these things see a lot of travel, they need to be sturdy! Plus, nothing wrong with flashing some drip at the game table.

Accordion Folder

This folder contains blank character sheets (I use CuaBM's generic sheet for both DCC and MCC) and pregenerated level zeroes for both DCC and MCC. I also stash my regular players' sheets as requested.

On a typical Office Depot run, I print 50 character sheets, 50 DCC premades, and 25 MCC premades for about $20. I use Purple Sorcerer to generate my premades. (Who doesn't?)

In the back of this folder, I keep Road Crew materials, like spare fliers and schwag. I also keep my Judge's screens back there.

Notebook

My favorite notebook is the Moleskine Cahier journal, size XL, with lined paper. I especially like them when I manage to pick up a pack of 6 at Costco for $20. This notebook is reserved for my game prep and in-game records.

Writing Utensils

A pack of solid mechanical pencils is easy to procure and saves everyone the headache of sharing utensils. I don't use pencils though, opting for my personal stash of Sharpie rollerballs and S-Gels. If I know space is limited beforehand, I'll cart along some plastic clipboards, but I usually need to carry those in a separate tote.

Dice and Dice Trays

I cherish my set of Venusian Fae Zocchi dice. Everyone else gets Koplow Games "Who Knew?" sets mixed in with regular polyhedrals I have laying around. I even tote around some portable dice trays to keep all rolling on the up-and-up. This can really help if space is limited.

Stamp

What Road Crew bag would be complete without a big red stamp to officiate PC death? I like cheap premade office stamps with something cheeky on them, like "VOID," "DENIED," or "RETURN TO SENDER."

Podcasting Equipment

I own a Zoom PodTrak P4 for on-the-go recording. After games of Road Crew, if anyone sticks around, I see if they want to record an episode right then and there. It's a great opportunity to reflect on the experience and get to know people in the scene! I carry this in my Toxic Elven Smut tote.