Saturday, November 30, 2019

Angrim, the Troll King

In the Sorrowsink marsh, sits an immense, cunning, and powerful troll; Angrim, the devourer.

He squats upon a throne of mildew, moss, and mold within the deteriorated ruins of an old elvish keep. Many years ago, a battle was fought between the elves of the wood, and the monsters that dwelt there. There aren't many souls alive that could tell you that tale, but some say the coyote woman may know it. But, of course, she will require something in return.

Standing (what little Angrim does of it) at a towering 11 feet vertically, the troll also rivals his height with his girth. The devourer, you see, is what they call him.

Halflings provide the most flavor, and are his favorite to treat his appetite to. With plenty of fat, and sweeter skin that just melts in your mouth, Angrim will send out some minions to acquire them if he catches word of their presence nearby. The rotund monstrosity will eat just about anything, although dwarfs tend to be too tough, and must be tenderized with Dolly* for fifteen minutes to break down the fibres and tendons.

*A broken limb from a treant, who's been dead for many years. Treat as a +1 2-handed hammer, 1d10dmg

Angrim holds no love for most things, except the potential they may be served as his next meal, especially for elves. Due to an unknown reason, elves are killed on sight. It is rumored that the devourer is unnaturally old, and may be a remaining remnant from the battles long ago that turned a beautiful wood into the dreadful swamp it's now become.

On his head, a makeshift crown of brambles and thorny vines and sticks. Angrim had his goblins sew together a toadskin cape/robe which acts as excellent water resistance during drizzly and rainy conditions.

He wields a scepter, adorned with a fist-sized ruby on the head. It once belonged to an elven noble whom was slain. What the troll king is unaware of, is that the scepter contains the soul of a demon, and if the correct summoning ritual was performed successfully, the demon would act on behalf of the summoner for 1d6 rounds before being dragged back into the abyss from whence it originated.

Deep within his engorged belly, acid brews. Like a wyrm gathers its breath element, the troll king can regurgitate enough acid to melt a shield, with surprising accuracy. This ability is not beholden to any kind of recharge, he may do it once on every one of his turns.

When Angrim is not spitting acid onto his foes and their equipment, he will reluctantly get up and attempt to claw them, infecting those hit with troll fever*.

* The claw mark wound starts to fester and bubble, and the victim sweats profusely, and unable to drink water or drink potions. Within 24 hours, the infected wounds begin to cause extreme itching and ooze a black ichor. The ooze coagulates and follows the victim. Within 48 hours, the intense scratching has encouraged their limbs to fall off. It is at this point the ooze that has now become much larger in size enters the victim either orally or through the chasms where limbs once were. It is at this point they are deemed dead, and are now thralls of Angrim. Where limbs once were, the ooze forms a crude version of the appendage. They cannot be reasoned with. They cannot speak. They only act on behalf of the troll king.

The toad folk of the swamp are not to fond of Angrim, and will accept help from any source willing to give it. Once before have they tried battling him, but the ooze thralls, trolls, and goblins under his employ were too much for them, and they fled to the far side of Sorrowsink. The ruins prove to be a still-decent defensive position within the swamp, making a breach rather difficult with the muck, mud, and water. Chief Glorup of the toad folk wants to rule the Sorrowsink, and will aid in ridding the marsh of Angrim.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

LET'S TAKE A LOOK: Five Torches Deep

Five Torches Deep

By: Ben and Jessica Dutter

Art: Per Folmer and Sebastian Rodriguez

Graphic Design: Sam Mameli

Graphic Consultant: Jean Adaser

Design Consultant: Ben Milton

FTD is a new OSR game that runs on the 5e chassis of the world's most popular roleplaying game. Stripped down to its bare bones, FTD acts as the Dr. Frankenstein, patching old school mechanics and flavor to bring us a delightfully new, yet familiar monster.

Ok, let's get the verdict up first, so as not to bore anyone who just wants to scroll to the bottom of the post to see what I actually think. The game is damn good. I think they keep just enough of 5e to make it streamlined for folks already familiar with the system, while bringing some new ideas as well as introducing elements that define classic OSR games. For the price tag, buy it.

Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at this thing.

First off, let's start with the layout of the book. I can absolutely tell Ben Milton was involved. It's clean, concise, and everything can be found with no page turning while on the same subject. Page flipping has essentially been limited to moving on to a brand new topic, with flipping back and forth non-existent.
The construction of the book is what you'd expect of DTRPG, and in landscape style. This probably won't fit in nicely with my other books on the shelf, but it's unique I guess.

The art is good, but largely leaves me the same as much modern art does these days. I end up enjoying it, but it doesn't inspire me, if that makes any sense. I don't get any particular feeling from the art that tells me about the game. I look at the pieces, acknowledge the artist's skill, and look away. I was underwhelmed when the thing I got most from the art was the fact the dwarf was crimson, and the elf was alien green.
-You know, I really would have enjoyed hearing about the races, even if it's the classic Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling. Also, that Halfling face in character creation is absolutely frightening, with a Chucky vibe that I did NOT dig.

Now let's take a look at mechanics that those of you familiar with 5e WILL recognize:

- d20 System
- Ability Scores/Modifiers (but scores actually mean something in this game)
- Advantage/Disadvantage
- Ascending AC
- Spell Concentration/Components
- Proficiency Bonus
- Difficulty Class (although the default is assumed to be 11)
- Classes & Archetypes (Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard...but in this case, these are all archetypes with the four main being Warrior, Zealot, Thief, and Mage)
- Simple/Martial Weapons

How about the new stuff that 5e players may not recognize:

- Morale
- Classification of Monsters (looking at you 4e)
- Certain Class & Race Restrictions (as a demihuman you may be required to have a certain ability score to qualify for a class)
- Tracking Resources/Encumbrance (done well by use of Supply and Load)
- Equipment Durability/Repairing
- Treasure for XP (safely captured gold pieces)
- Healing Over Time
- Timekeeping
- Retainers
- Owning a game that only supports characters up to level 9

For elements like retainers, classifying monsters, or gold for xp, there are many more resources who are better-suited to explain them than me. Or perhaps I'll cover them in other posts. Suffice it to say, give them a quick search on the world wide web, and your questions will be answered with haste. Though, FTD does a few things new that I'd love to talk about.

Supply: Every character has Supply equal to their INT score (see, actual scores mean things in FTD). This determines how much resupply the character brought and their ability to plan ahead with what they'll need on an adventure.
You expend SUP on things like spent arrows from your bow, torches, potions, kits, etc.
Characters may buy supply when in town or a caravan. SUP cannot create something new, it only replaces and replenishes up to GM discretion.
If you run out of SUP, you cannot use that given item anymore.

Load: FTD's encumbrance system. Items, equipment, and even supply are broken down into what is called Load. For example, an arming sword is 1 Load, while Heavy Armor is 5. The system was really easy to understand, and I usually have a rough time figuring encumbrance in most systems, due to my small brain and finding everything pretty clunky.
Once again, like Supply, Load is attributed to your STR ability score. If you use more than what you're allotted, you become encumbered. Easy.

Rolling to Return: What I found unique about this, is that if no one wants to, or if there isn't enough time to relplay getting back to camp safely, the RtR mechanic allows characters to roll a check with their highest modifier. The GM decides if the path is dangerous, or arduous, with the DC adjusted accordingly.
If the PC succeeds, they return safely. But failure means taking damage, and if you get all the way to 0, you die or are left unconscious.

As for magic, FTD has few familiar and new ideas as well.

- Casting spells now requires a Spell Check to successfully cast
- Cantrips (though, neither arcane nor divine actually do any damage)
- Some spells still require concentration
- There is now a Magical Mishap table (to roll on, in case you fail your spell check)
- There are no prepared spells to determine ahead of time

There are also rules for categorizing and building monsters with FTD's own Monster Math, Techniques, and Tactics

FTD largely ignores alignment

On one of the last pages, FTD has a quick method of creating a dungeon with either a puzzle cube, or you can toss 9 d6s.

A character sheet is located in the back, and it, like almost all the pages of FTD, are easy to copy and use at your leisure, as well as a Quick Reference page or two.

All in all? Five Torches Deep has me in love with the fact that I can use the streamlined 5e mechanics many people are accustomed to, and introduce them to a style that is reminiscent of a time past. Ben and Jessica have indeed crafted a game that will be a launching pad for those interested in the OSR. It is apparent that love and care and much insightful thought has gone into FTD, making it a most welcome addition to the OSR family.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Coyote Woman

A man lay dying on the earth, his bandages leaking, blood being soaked into the soil like the ground itself accepting this offering.
His legs are numb, and his vision tunneling. Staccato breaths transition to final gasps. His head turns, with his blurred vision focusing on an approaching beast. It’s eyes as gold as the morning sun. It bares its teeth just as his vision goes dark.

Some say she is a soothsayer, devoting her life to the predictions and studies of the universe, with her mystical power of foresight. Others claim she is a witch, who traded her soul with a being of the lower planes in exchange for her powers. But everyone can agree, the coyote woman is dangerous, and should be avoided if at all possible.

Many have tried to find the location of the coyote woman, but to no avail. Perhaps there is a spell she has cast to shield herself from unwanted intruders. The people of the village only know of one way to guarantee her arrival. On very specific nights, a woman must bring her youngest child and leave them at the forest edge. Then, when the twin moons meet, the woman may return to the forest, and await to coming of the witch.

Large in figure, her grey skin covered in dirt, she approaches. The only form of cover on her body is the crusted layer of mud, and the thin animal skin that covers her eyes. When she is close, she smells of rain-soaked earth.

Accompanying her is a coyote with gold, pupiless eyes.

Her powers vary, depending on what is asked of her. If she is asked to heal a sickness, it is done through the coyote’s bite. A scar from the bite is all that is left behind. It is impossible to remove the scar, even if Wished.
If they ask for knowledge, she will grant insight.

The price paid, is the child left. The coyote either picks up the child, or leads them back to her hut composed of animal bones and moss. The coyote woman performs a ritual, where she devours the child, and will immediately put her body into labor, birthing a new child, almost identical to the last.

These replica children are known as the Lightless, for the light in their eyes have disappeared. They are forever in service to the druid, with abilities to shapeshift, If she ever comes to harm, the many Lightless will always come to her aid. They no longer remember their past life if they had one, or any memories. The Lightless do not speak.

The coyote woman began life as a normal woman centuries ago. Her people starving in the harsh winter, turned to prayer. If the gods were just, they would answer. What answered was not as just as she had hoped. She had a vision, or perhaps a hallucination, and a being instructed her that if she and her last remaining child were to live, she would be in service to it. Now her and her child take the light from children’s eyes, feeding the celestial or demonic entity, granting her these powers.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Just A Quick Little Fiction

I wrote this tonight, not really knowing where it was going. It was an idea that randomly popped into my thoughts, and I typed it out. 
WARNING: This is NOT edited in any way, which will be obvious. I haven't even reread it. But I was chuckling as I wrote it.

“I knew we should never have went into the cave!” The young warrior dove into a somersault to avoid a large club, the size of a man and a half, as it slammed into the earth. Agile, even in her heavy armor, she was back up in an instant readying her blade and holding her shield aloft in a defensive position. Sweat was pouring into her eyes, but she was a trained soldier, not allowing the sting of it to throw her off.
A multitude of vines erupted forth from the earth grabbing the small, long-nosed creature, wrapping it in a stranglehold. The dwarf bounded over to it, now-suspended, as it wailed and slammed it on the head with a downward strike from his staff. The wailing ended abruptly, and it slumped over, the vines now retreating back into the earth. He glanced over his shoulder and saw that his companion was not in the best of circumstances.
The large, bumbling monster ripped the club from the ground, bits of grass and soil shrapnel flying about. With a roar, and a mighty two-handed swing, it swung the club with all its might to knock the warrior off her feet. This creature was slow and its movements predictable. As the club seemed as if it would make contact, she ducked, feeling the burst of wind across her face. Without hesitating, she quickly thrust her weapon into its large belly, piercing a thick layer of various animal hides. As it reeled in pain, she lost grip of the sword, but it remained lodged into the monster. Angrily, she unsheathed her dirk from its scabbard, and began to take evasive maneuvers. She knew it would now act without thought, making its movements much more difficult to follow.   
The dwarf began to run over to aid his companion, but felt a sharp pain in his leg as an arrow struck it, sending the dwarf tumbling head over feet. In what seemed like whole minutes, the dwarf came back to himself, just as another spindly, malnourished, long-nosed creature came to finish him off with a rusty dagger. It screeched at him and attempted to jump on him, but not before a large animal intercepted the execution with a well-placed tackle. The goblin looked on in fear as a much-larger-than-usual hog was standing steadfast in between the dwarf and it. The pig’s demeanor was resolute. After a brief moment, the hog burst forth in a sprint, heading straight for the little goblin. With a lucky sidestep, the creature avoided the attack and managed to slice into the thick pink and black skin of the hog. The pig shrieked out in pain, and turned around for another pass at the goblin. Afraid of the beast’s tenacity, the goblin turned and raced away from the mighty pig. The dwarf’s attack on the goblin was coordinated. A hard slam to the temple from the staff did the trick. The body of the little monster hit the ground with a hard thud.
She was able to dodge another wild swing from the big monster. As she found an opening to stab her knife into its large thigh, she caught a glimpse of something. A bright orange insignia glowed on the creature’s forehead, and its eyes went white. The flailing stopped in an instant, and the beast removed her sword from its belly and with uncanny accuracy, slammed the warrior across the head with the crossguard of her own sword.
Hitting the ground, she ripped the helmet off of her sweat-drenched head. Her vision blurred, she was unable to act. Through her hazy vision, the monster was towering over her, the orange etching glowing brightly. It raised the club and the sword simultaneously. Blood dripped onto her face, as it ran from the monster’s hand down his arm. She closed her eyes, ready for the final blow to be struck, but it did not come. She opened her eyes again, and saw that vines coiled themselves around its wrists, leaving it unable to attack.
“Get out of the way, I can’t can’t hold him for long!” the dwarf yelled from afar.
Not wasting her second chance at life, she backpedaled out of the way and got to her feet. The monster had not broken eye contact with her, its white eyes staring lifelessly at her. Just seeing them like this gave this hardened warrior chills down her spine. She wiped hair out of her face, and looked for her knife, but to no avail.
The wrists of the oaf trembled and broke free of the plant bonds. It was making its way toward the young woman. Feeling naked without her weapons, she nervously darted her vision looking for any chances at safety. Glancing to the east, she squinted against the sun’s light, but saw that there was a large tree. Her only chance was to race to it and hopefully gain some height advantage over it.
Sprinting now, she headed straight for the old tree. There was a branch low enough to grab and pull herself up, with enough of a running start. Feeling the earth shake behind her, the creature was not far off. She would have one chance. This was her moment.
Leaping off her strong foot, she jumped for the branch. Her gauntleted fingers wrapped themselves around the circumference of the branch, and as she pulled herself up with a fluid motion, another branch much thicker hidden by other foliage, knocked right against her head and immediately her vision went blurry again. Her hands went numb and lost grip, and she fell straight onto her back.
Blackness started to take her. She felt cold. Her tunnel of sight was narrowing, and all seemed quiet.

But just as she began to close her eyes, a loud, booming voice was heard in a tongue she had not heard but once before. The shaking of the ground intensified to an incredible degree, but she was already out cold.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Shaming Fellow Game Masters

I am always on the lookout for more D&D, OSR, and TTRPG videos, blogs, and the like because I love hearing different takes on similar subjects. We content creators have unique (and sometimes not so unique) stances on various subject matters that pertain to our hobby. This is a good thing. Variety is the spice of life, so they say. But I am appalled when I hear creators specifically shame a type of playstyle, or shaming fellow game masters on certain calls they make.

Every group is different. What works for your group may not work at another. This pertains to every aspect, every rule, every kind of behavior at the game. But do NOT tell me how to run my group. Do NOT infer that I am a poor GM because of a certain call I allow, or disallow.

The person I am referring to will remain unnamed, but suffice it to say, this individual has a large following and must have some sort of mild influence among their fan base. This wouldn't bother me so much, if it wasn't a constant occurrence in their views.

"DMs, if you're doing this, then you should stop because this is bad." (Obviously a summary of what the YouTuber meant)

Excuse me, but I will prepare whatever content my group is happy with. If I want to start my group in a tavern and have a slow start to the campaign, or if I want to start them in the heat of action, neither is superior to the other. Some players enjoy describing their character's appearance in detail, and some players like to listen to said descriptions and patiently await their turn to do so as well.

Look, if you decide that there is a method you don't have a lot of luck with, and doesn't work for your players, great. But don't act all high and mighty and pretend you have all the good answers, and the rest of us are lesser because we have yet to absorb your brilliant ideas.

Sorry, but I had to get this off my chest. It was a sloppy rant, but I want it to be clear to all game masters and players that if there is a certain behavior at your table or trope you succumb to , don't worry. The only time anything becomes a problem is when whatever is happening makes another player at the table uncomfortable. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Classic Fantasy Tropes In Your Home Campaign

This is a topic that seems to come up all the time all over the internet, at least once in a few days. The discussion on whether or not common tropes are accepted or shunned by the RPG genre (and really any other kind of media i.e. novels, film, etc.) plague our forums and message boards.

Perhaps "plague" seems a bit melodramatic, but you catch my meaning.

Yet here I am putting my own two cents in, or tossing my hat in to the ring so to speak. The conclusion I've come to is... whatever you want. Do what makes you excited to create. That to me is the most important aspect of creating at all.

There is a high probability that the content you happen to be creating is for yourself, and your regular gaming group. So what is the harm of leaning into those cliches? Tropes are tropes because they've worked in the past, and have become the normal default assumption. And you know what? That's totally ok.

Just because you like your knights to be gallant, and your wizards to be mad, or your dwarfs to live in mountains or your elves to steal halfling children in the night to feast upon their supple flesh under the light of the Just me? Damn alright.

It's totally valid. Don't let anyone tell you that just because you happen to like a specific trope that you're a lazy creator, or too narrow-minded to come up with more "clever" ideas. Guess what? No idea is original. Everything has been done in one fashion or another. Good ideas spread. Good ideas spark more creativity, and at the end of the day, if you are sitting down smiling at your work station because of how jazzed you are about creating this specific aspect of your campaign, you're doing it right.


On the flip side though, it is great to broaden your horizons a bit. Perhaps you're sick and tired of your orcs always being the same tribalistic, simple-minded brutes from the hills. Something I did in my homebrew campaign is *loosely* model my orcs after ancient Romans. Their military is their strength and core of the nation and they desire to expand their empire.

While the characters have been busy clearing out abandoned keeps and liberating towns, there has been a war raging in the northwest between the invading orcs and the natives of Krysul (my continent). Orcs managed to slip their way into the heartland and confront the characters. None of them had seen orcs before but word spread through the land that they were just savages ready to steal your children away and snack on their supple flesh under the light of the moon...
...but when they actually encountered them, the heroes quickly learned that the orcs were not only not savages, but were highly intelligent and organized. Their infantry moved as a unit in defensive positions. They knew to use subtlety to their advantage. They knew when to retreat and when to stand their ground.

I've also had other ideas in the works such as naval halflings. Imagine the mighty English Royal Navy, but the sailors, captains, and pirates were all three feet tall. Their ships would long and wide instead of tall due to their height and reach disadvantage.


Well, I'll step off the soapbox for now, and will leave it at that. I wish we would just leave this topic to rest, because it brings me no pleasure to see people being put down over ridiculous comments from those who think that every idea must be as wacky and crazy so it brings a modicum of variety to the genre.

Write the content that makes you excited to create. If that's a dwarf warrior with a drinking problem and a hatred for orcs, or a hermit in the woods who actually isn't mad at all and only wishes to reduce his carbon footprint upon the land, living peacefully with his gnomish family, smuggling illegally mined sapphires into the port city.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Short Resting In 5e D&D

There seemed to be quite a trend during my sessions I ran at Gary Con this year, and that was the short rest.
In 5e, a short rest is about an hour long, and you can expend your hit dice to regain lost hit points as well as certain spells and/or abilities. This is nice since it allows the players to try and find a way to *essentially* press pause on the dungeon crawl or adventure, and come back to it a little stronger. Well, during my one-shot adventure, this took away some of the tension I had attempted to build. 

I understand that as the GM, I could always reach into the toolkit and whip out a random encounter, and I do many times. But what happens when that rest is interrupted and they defeat the encounter? "All right guys, that was a pain. Lets try and take another." 
I may be missing something, as in perhaps they can't attempt a certain number of short rests per long rest, but in my example, you sort of see my point. This is something I had noticed in my many home games, but never paid much attention to. It really came to a head when I was doing my best to ramp up the tension for the folks at the convention, but they all wanted to take rests and rightly so. Some of them even wanted to try and take a long rest to regain everything back!

So, this had me thinking. What could I do to not shoot the players in the foot and ruin their fun, but make it a bit more difficult and/or tactical, so resting is really something that has to be thought through? This is my solution:

The 5e DMG has a variant rule, where you do not get the hit dice of a short rest, unless someone expends one use per player, of the Healer's Kit. This really spoke to me, and I even wanted to take it one step further. I will also only allow a player to use the Healer's Kit, if they are proficient in the Medicine skill.

This will allow those with the Medicine skill to effectively use their proficiency to really be a vital asset to the group. So, a soldier background who was once a medic can effectively use the healer's kit, the life cleric can use the healer's kit as a backup if their spells are gone, etc.  

So, take this as you will. Maybe you think this is interesting (certainly not new or revolutionary), or perhaps you think I'm a horrible game master. This new rule I'm implementing is purely based off of my own experiences, and your mileage may vary. I just thought that maybe this would add a bit of flair to the thought of resting, "I only have two uses of the healer's kit left, but three of us need it." It adds a bit more risk, I think. 

My next hurdle to conquer is that of Encumbrance. I really never use it, but I think it is because I've never found the right tool to use for it, without the headache of micromanaging every last coin. Perhaps it will involve that these healers will only have room for one healer's kit and they can't continually bring a bunch of them without sacrificing other equipment. Eh, just more thoughts to straighten out.