Saturday, January 28, 2012

[Illustration] Dwarf and Rogue

A sneak peak from the upcoming character cards for DungeonTeller. The rogue is colored in, but not the dwarf (yet).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Killing it With Fire

Claytonian over at the Kill it With Fire! blog has a nice writeup of my DungeonTeller ruleset available through this very blog.

PDF links here:

Character Sheets

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I drew this last year during a period of trying different styles to illustrate my ruleset. I stumbled on it tonight in a stack of assorted artwork and I find I like the fellow.
Brush and Ink, 2011.

[Flavah Menu] Dwarf my Dwarf

Dwarf up. Pick from the menus to make your dwarves more dwarfy:

  • Dwarves are akin to golems, made long ago by an earth deity to protect the riches of the deep from avaricious intruders from the surface world. They are immortal unless slain in battle or take other grievous harm.
  • New dwarves aren't born, they're mined out of the earth as inert statues and brought to life by the touch of gold.
  • Dwarves are all male -- when the ancient fey races had a falling out, the feminine beings became elves, and the males, dwarves.
  • Dwarves are servants of the creator, responsible for shaping the nonliving parts of the world, as the elves are shapers of living things.
  • Dwarves are the distant kin of giants, driven underground by encroaching human cultures, and dwindled to their present size over centuries of life in the deep.
  • A dwarf can escape a debt of honor by lopping off one of his fingers in the presence of the person he is indebted to.
  • Dwarves' beards are like totem poles, braided in symbolic patterns that tell of the wearer's lineage.
  • Dwarves can't see in the dark -- they require lanterns or other light sources, just as humans do. They can, however, hear extremely well, and sense vibrations through the ground.
  • Dwarves fear direct sunlight because they believe their ancestors commune through the medium of darkness, and to isolate one's own shadow is to be without spiritual guidance.
  • Dwarves cry diamonds, but weep only at the loss of a comrade with whom they have shared great peril and trials of courage.
  • Upon death, dwarves turn to stone.
  • Dwarves will survive a future fiery holocaust that destroys the surface world.
  • Dwarves will be called upon by the creator to unmake the world at the end of time.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

[Infographic] Holmes vs. Moldvay Basic Books

[Infographic] What's in the Blue Box?

This chart breaks down the Holmes blue box ruleset by subject area. Hope you find it interesting. I'm going to do Moldvay next and see how they compare. If anyone out there has the 4e "red box" set and wants to send me a page count by subject area, that would be fabulous -- I'd love to see a side-by-side comparison.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

[Play Report] Well-met by Moonlight

With outside temperatures struggling to get out of single digits this morning, it was of course a perfect time to go skiing. Once we had thawed out and dad had stolen a quick nap, it was time to brew up a pot of tea, bake some cookies, and start our new campaign -- just me, mum, and the kid.

If play reports don't bore you to tears, read on...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

That's Why The Lady is a Bard

I didn't paint this.
My offspring is gearing up for a new campaign. She has decided to retire Rosima the elf sorceress and wants to play an elven bard, based on this Reaper mini. "Her name is Palemoon and she's a moon elf with straight black hair. What can bards do?"
This is great, actually, because I haven't done a bard role for DungeonTeller. What's essential about bards?
  1. They use song as a medium for magic.
  2. They are lore masters.
  3. They are persuasive speakers.
In my ruleset, your race and role are inseparable, so "elf bard" is distinct from "human bard". Here's some flavor text to start with:

Elf bards are priestesses of the elven moon goddess Kaguya. Their songs can heal, give hope to those in need, and drive away evil. Moonlight being a vehicle of dreams, these bards can create phantoms from song and shadow to beguile or confuse. They often accompany themselves on lutes with silver strings. On completion of a bard's first important quest, the moon goddess grants her a rabbit companion that serves as a guide and sentinel. 

Battle 1
Magic 3
Make 1 (+4 bonus dice when making or fixing musical instruments)
Notice 5 (+1 bonus die when in presence of rabbit companion)
Resist 3
Shoot 3
Sneak 2
Stunt 2
Talk 5 (+1 when playing lute)

They have some of the powers of other elf roles: cloak and starlight.
They also grab some wizard and paladin powers, with the difference that they roll their Talk dice rather than their Magic or Resist dice to cast them:
drive away undead
hand of healing
will o' the wisp

They also possess the rogue power voice trick.

Let's make up a new power for them on the spot:

Your words can hold an audience spellbound. Costs 2 Luck. Bard starting power.
Roll your Talk dice. One or more successes means that your enemies lose their next turn, listening raptly to your song. If your friends make a Battle or Shoot roll against a beguiled enemy, it will not lose its next turn. Each enemy may roll its Resist dice to take away any successes you made. This power is best used before a fight begins. If you use this power after you or your friends have made Battle or Shoot rolls against your enemies, each enemy will get a bonus Resist die against your beguile for the rest of the action scene.

Anyone catch Colbert's "half-orc bard" reference on The Report the other night?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Obligatory 5e Post

Making a crowd-sourced, edition-neutral frame for D&D is an admirable goal.

Here are my predictions how it will shake out. Let's revisit it in a year and see how I did.

  • Overall Design Philosophy: Modular, rather than exception-based. Lots of watertight compartments you can screw with and not sink the whole ship. Emphasis will be on imagination, open-ended, interpretive play, less on mechanics.
  • Armor Class: They will use the high = good, low = bad AC scale of 3e and 4e.
  • Saving Throws: Will follow the 4e model of being treated as additional forms of defense/armor, but will inexplicably be called saving throws anyway because the retro aspects of 5e will mostly be superficial nods to earlier game elements.
  • Generating Ability Scores: multiple methods will be described, from strict roll-in-order to point build. The preferred method will be roll 4d6, discard low die, arrange as desired.
  • Ability Scores' Effect on Play: More robust than in 1e, with anything above an 11 providing at least some benefit, but the list of bennies will be short. Strength will add damage, Con will add HP, Dex will add AC and missile accuracy, Int and Wis will affect arcane and divine spellcasting, and Cha will affect NPC interactions.
  • Classes: The basic game will include only wizard, fighter, cleric, and thief (yes, thief, not rogue, another easy cookie to toss at the retro crowd). Bards, barbarians, druids, and rangers will be add-ons. Weirdly, class abilities will get fairly modular again, with separate mechanics for turning undead, picking locks, and so on.
  • Races: The classic elf, dwarf, human, half-elf, and halfling. Half-orcs and gnomes will be optional. Dragonborn, eladrin, and tiefling will not be standard issue. Races will get some ability score tweaks and a paragraph or two of fluff in the basic game and that's about it.
  • Skills: the skill challenges of 4e will be quietly throttled with a silken cord and replaced with a short list of proficiencies, carefully limited to those most likely to be used in an adventure. "Roleplay it out" will be the preferred problem-solving method.
  • Combat: Far fewer conditions. Marked and blooded will be part of a tactical add-on. Daily and encounter powers will go bye-bye. Ditto healing surges. Combats will be shorter and deadlier for PCs.
  • Spells: Out-of-combat spells will come back in a big way. Rituals go bye-bye. Several game-busting spells like scry, fly, and whatever will disappear or become far rarer.
  • Magic Items: Won't be gimmes -- you'll find them in the course of play. Look for a general powering down of magic items. A +2 sword will be pretty cherry.

All in all, it's going to be a really stripped-down beast, if compatibility is a serious goal. The OSR Greek chorus is going to be very much on the mind of the WotC team as they go forward.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

[If I Ran the Circus] Operation Back Hall Closet

Since you asked (Didn't you? I could have sworn you did)...
... if I were D&D's product manager, my goal would be to put an entry-level D&D boxed set in every back hall closet in America, sandwiched between the ubiquitous dogeared copies of Risk, Scrabble, and Monopoly. Let's stop trying to make D&D cool. D&D will never be cool, no matter how many tattooed elves we include or how many WoW-isms we slap on it. Hell, WoW isn't even remotely cool anymore. We need to distinguish cool from classic. Cool is ephemeral. Classic is forever.
I'm not talking about reprinting Homes or Moldvay word for word, but dammit, just make an evergreen edition of the game that combines the charm of Holmes and the scalability of Moldvay and be done with it. And sell it at Target next to Stratego and Life and Sorry!, dice and a few plastic minis included. Emphasize family play, with mom or dad as the DM, and kids as the players. Trade on older players' love for the game -- "the classic adventure game you loved as a kid is back, and it's easier to play than ever!" Have the boxed set include several short, thematically linked adventures that can be played in one or two sittings each.
Additional boxed sets would be self-contained adventures or campaigns, with relevant plastic minis and dungeon tiles. If you wanted to slap the D&D brand name on some new-school product, like WotC's recent slew of D&D-based boardgames, go ahead, but D&D the classic game would remain its own thing, apart from the D&D brand.
I've seen WotC groping at this idea, with the retro red box set, but there's a difference between retro and classic. It won't work until they stop trying to please the hardcore gamers (because there's no pleasing them ever) and go after a mass audience of lapsed gamers in their 30s and 40s who want to share a classic pastime with their kids.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

[Free Stuff] Wundermorph Special Set 1: Raging River Redoubt

Another free geomorph for you all. This one is a triple-size tile that details a section of underground river spanned by a bridge that leads to a small, well-defended hideout. I've included at least two possible ways to bypass the main bridge, and hints that this could just be the front entrance to a much larger complex. Find the rowboat and take a ride down the river to parts unknown!
Enjoy -- and let me know what you'd like to see in future sets.

Link to PDF download

Sunday, January 1, 2012

[Free Stuff] Wondermorphs Sets 1 and 2

Hi, my first resolution of the new year is to make some of my hand-drawn geomorphs available to you as free PDFs. I calls 'em Wondermorphs. I draw them on 4/inch graph paper, using a Pilot pen, mostly without sketching first, although I will reach for my pencil when planning out some of the larger morphs, like the crypt in Set 2. I've played around with coloring them in PhotoShop, but for now they're in glorious, printer-friendly black and white. Because they're drawn in one-point perspective, with the nadir centered in the middle of each tile, they look great in any orientation.
You can print as many copies as you like, cut them out, and paste them together to make a dungeon layout. Or you can mount them on 2.5" coverstock or cardboard squares to make tiles that you can shuffle or pull out of a bag for building randomly/on the fly. Kids love to "explore the dungeon" by adding tiles and telling a story as they go along.
I give you my permission to make copies for your personal use, but please don't repost them without a linkback to this blog. I have more on the way, and I'll also take requests.
Here's to a year of wonder!
Link to PDF of Set 1:

Link to PDF of Set 2: