Saturday, September 30, 2017

Halloween Treats: The Flatwood Monster for Silent Legions

AC: 3
HD: 6
Atks: Claws +4 x2 

Dmg: 1d8
Skill: +3
Special: Radioactive* 

Move: 50'
Morale: 12
Madness: 1d8
Save: 11+

*Enemies risk radiation poisoning from the monster; being hit by it or remaining near it for more than a minute or two forces a Physical Effect save. On a failure, the victim’s Constitution score decreases by one point. Only one point of attribute loss in inflicted in a given encounter will return over the next month.

"Various descriptions of the entity exist. Most describe it as being at least 7 feet tall, with a black body and a dark, glowing face. Witnesses described the creature's head as elongated, shaped like a sideways diamond, and as having non-human eyes; a large, circular cowling appeared behind the head. The creature's body was described as "inhumanly-shaped" and clad in a dark, pleated skirt-like exoskeleton, later described as a shadow.

Some accounts record that the creature appeared to have "no visible arms" due to its incredible speed, while others reported long, stringy arm"s, protruding from the front of its body, with long, claw-like fingers.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Labyrinth Lord: Thundercat Race As Class

Thundercat for Labyrinth Lord

Requirements: None
Prime Requisite: Dex and Wis
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 14

Abilities Roll a d6 and gain the following special ability at 1st level.
1: Find and Remove Traps as a Thief of half your level (round up).
2: Move Silently as a Thief of half your level (round up).
3: Climb Walls as a Thief of half your level (round up).
4: Hide in Shadows as a Thief of half your level (round up).
5: Hear Noise as a Thief of half your level (round up).
6: Gain a +3 to Charisma.

A Thundercat cannot wear armor heavier than padded, but may use a shield. Additionally, they can use any weapon.

Level   XP       HD       AC0    BA    P/D    P/P    W       S   
1            0        1d8     19      12      13      14     12     17 
2        2,187     2d8     19      13      12      14     12     17 
3        4,375     3d8     18      13      12      14     12     17 
4        8,751     4d8     17      10      10      12     10     15 
5       17,501    5d8     16      10      10      12     10     15 
6       35,001    6d8     15      10      10      12     10     15 
7       70,001    7d8     14        9        9      10       8     13 
8      140,001    8d8    14        9        9      10       8     13 
9      280,001    9d8    13        9        9      10       8     13 
10    400,001   10d8   12        7        7        8       6     11 
11    540,001    11d     12        7        7        8       6    11 
12    660,001    12d8   11        7        7        8       6    11 
13    780,001    13d8   10        5        5        6       4      9 
14    900,001    14d8     9        5        5        6       4      9 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Character Crucible: Acererak, A Warlock Otherworldly Patron for D&D 5th Edition is NOW LIVE!

I've stepped back into the realm of publishing on the DMsGuild.

I've just released a new Warlock Otherworldly Patron, this one devoted to Acererak the Forgotten One, architect of both the Tomb of Horrors and the Tomb of Annihilation.

It's a 3 page PDF and is On Sale for $1.99.

You can find it here.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Counter Culture: Selling DnD vs Pathfinder

Counter Culture is, possibly, a new series where I relate my experiences as the Gaming Manager at Comic Book World, Inc., my family's two stores in Kentucky.

I've been doing my job there for almost 18 years, so I've watched the end of ADnD 2nd Edition, the rise of DnD 3, 4, and 5 and the rise of Pathfinder.

Today, I'm going to talk about my experiences selling both of them.

Many people talk about Pathfinder beating DnD, but for my stores that only occurred after Wizards of the Coast pulled the plug on DnD 4E and the period they didn't release very much.

While Pathfinder has always been a Top 3 Seller for me, it's never sold like any edition of DnD for me. I don't attribute this to not being popular, however, I attribute this to the phenomenal job Paizo has done selling directly to customers. In my experience their Subscription program has sustained them through the years and will continue to do so. While I understand how important the program is for their success, for us, it comes at the cost of numerous sales. In fact, I doubt that they could sustain the large number of supplements each year without the program.

Meanwhile, DnD 5E has been an amazing launch. I can't say that it eclipsed 3E's launch (but that was hard to do, after the death of 2E and the $20 books), but it has come close. Additionally, unlike 3.X and 4.X (I consider Essentials 4.5), the sales are growing and while we enter a period in the product's history around the time that we would previously see a ".5" edition, I'm seeing incredible sales growth as new and still returning players discover this edition. It's a real treat to see how the current DnD Team is treating the brand and making, to me, very intelligent decisions, the slower release schedule has galvanized fans and allowed them to better keep up with the product line.

Understand, while I might a preference between the two games as a player and gamemaster, I want to see both games succeed as a retailer. It's always good to have multiple choices to give to your customers.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hackable: An ADnD Skill System Inspired by Saving Throw Priority

I had a brainstorm for an alternative to Non-Weapon Proficiencies in ADnD 2E.

Every Class, except for Wizards use their Saving Throw for Spells for any Skill check they might need to make. Wizards use their Save for Paralyzation, Poison, or Death magic. 

If a character has an appropriate Non-Weapon Proficiency (NWP, hereafter), then every Class, except for Wizards, use their Saving Throw for Paralyzation, Poison, or Death Magic. Wizards us their Save for Spells.

Additional NWP ranks add a +1 to the die roll of the Skill check.

Thieves, Bards, and Rangers get to use their Percentile Skills in addition to making a Skill check. They roll their Percentile Skill first, if it succeeds, no Skill check is necessary. But if the Percentile Skill fails, they may then roll a Skill check.

This idea is based off of ADnD 2E's Saving Throw Priority.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Product Development: Stat Blocks

I'm stepping back into the publishing arena and am developing a product for the OSR and DnD 5th Edition.

At the moment, as I work out stat blocks I'm pondering two issues.  

First, should I simply include a PDF for the OSR, in this case Labyrinth Lord and a PDF for 5E? Or should I feature dual stat blocks within the same PDF?

Second, here is the format for both stat blocks, please tell me what you think?

For the OSR
Yvelda Rivenheart (Female Hobgoblin AL C, MV 30', AC 5, HD 4 +1, #AT 1 [weapon], THAC0 16, DG 1d6 or weapon, SV 4 fighter, ML 11, XP 80)

For 5E
Yvelda Rivenheart (Female Hobgoblin AC 18, hp 97, 3 maul +9 (2d6+3), hobgoblin abilities,  Str +3, Dex +2, Con +3, Int +3, Cha +2. CR 1)


For the OSR
Argyle Fayde (Male Tiefling AL C, MV 30', AC 9, HD 2, #AT 1 [weapon or spell], THAC0 18, DG 1d4 or weapon, SV 2 magic-user, ML 7, XP 20)

For 5E
Argyle Fayde (Male Tiefling  AC 13, hp 33, 1 firebolt +4 (1d10), fire resistance, tiefling abilities, Dex +1, Int +1, Wis +1, Cha +2. CR 1)

Opinions would be appreciated.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gamestorming: Teenage Mutant Ninja Tortles

Growing up in the 80's and being a comic book nerd, I've always loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Battle Beasts...basically I like humanoid Animals who use martial arts and guns.

Friday, Wizards of the Coast released the Tortle Package with it's proceeds going to the Extra Life charity. You get the tortle race and some additional information on Chult. 

It's worth the $10.

After reading through it, I started realizing that the tortle race, along with lizard folk, minotaurs, arakocra, kenku, and tabaxi, formed the backbone of a Mutant Animal game. You can stick with fantasy using straight DnD 5E or you can use UltraModern5 or Modern 5E for a game closer to the inspiration, or even Hyperlanes for SF.

I'm pretty stoked about the idea, but I don't have room to start another game right now, so I'm hoping to work this out sometime next year.

At this point, I'm leaning toward a modern setting probably working with UltraModern5, but allowing at least Warlocks and Mystics. The players would be raised in the Nursery, a base owned by the CHON Corporation. Are the mutants uplifted or hybrids? What is CHON's purpose for them? Why does the Si Fan have an interest in them? And last but no least, why is the sasquatch known as Howard Bly spying on them?

Friday, September 15, 2017

1,000 Faces: Sabrina and Serena Wollstonecraft

The Wollstonecraft twins are ambitious up and comers within the Contractor's Guild of Zobek. Their mother is Enchidna Wollstonecraft of Lem, Qent's most successful caravan magnate who has opened trade routes throughtout most of Tarth. Their oldest sister, Amarilla, went off to study wizardry at the Tower of Omens and Enchidna assumed her twins would want nothing more than to assume her place in the family business when she retired.

However, Sabrina and Serena despised their step-father, Piers Arliss-Wollstonecraft and their younger half-sister, Vyvian. Both women were always far more interested in stories of lost treasures and piracy, eventually found their way to Zobek and in the business of their uncle, Taurus Wollstonecraft, a moneylender who had ties to the Minerva crime family.

The twins were drawn to their Uncle's darker life, filled with violence, intimidation, and murder.  Eventually, a lover they shared named Norrin Dard, introduced them to the worship of Zehir and from there they used that thread to gain the access to the Contractor's Guild for the training they desired.

Rumor has it that the twins have deeply impressed Guild Master Yuanna Shadowspear and have continued to perform above expectaions for assassins of so little experience.

Sabrina (7th Level Human Assassin Rogue and 1st Level Sorcerer) is the quieter of the two, she notices everything and truly enjoys the kill. She believes that some strange heritage flows through the blood of her family and spends her downtime perfecting it. She is very close to their oldest sister and exchanges letters with her often.

Serena (8th Level Human Mastermind Rogue) is talkative and vivacious. She likes to be the center of attention and is always aware of the most recent gossip, a literal encyclopedia of who's who in both the underworld and high society. She is plagued by recurring nightmares of murdering her mother, which she has hidden even from Sabrina.

Both women are very loyal to the Guild Master and to their mentor Trok of Brimmen. While they learned the tenets of Zehir, they have no interest in the religious aspects of the Guild and therefore despise Highs Shroud Cedric, an old friend of their father who seems to always be keeping his eye upon the two women.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan: The Olman

My Oakhurst game started with the Sunless Citadel and has just entered the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.

While my game is set in my own world, Tarth, which is a mixture of homebrewed sandbox and Nentir Vale, and Greyhawk. Reading through the adventure, the Olmans and their language come up regularly. None of my Players speak Olman and I didn't plan ahead enough to factor them.

My solution is to have the Olman people be the source of genasi for my campaign and exchange the Olman language for Primordial.

While I currently have no genasi characters, it gives me options for how they might enter the Campaign if word gets out that the Players found Tamoachan and raided it of it's treasures.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Thinking about WotC's Campaigns for D&D 5th Edition

Because I run a Wizards of the Coast Premier Store, I got my stock of Tomb of Annihilation in today and I took my lunch to browse through it. It's awesome, gorgeous, I can't recommend it enough.

But as I was browsing through it, a thought occurred to me. The campaigns and adventures that have published for 5th Edition, to me, channel the spirit of early DnD and ADnD. I don't say this simply because many of them draw deeply on classic roots, but in the sense that yes, they are mostly set in the Forgotten Realms, but in the same way that early adventures were set in Greyhawk or Blackmoor. Sure, they can expand that world, but they are just as much a DM's tool to shape their world.

I'll be the first to admit, I didn't start roleplaying until 1991 and ADnD 2nd Edition is where I started, so I'm not really an authority on those earlier modules. But I've read them since and again, in my opinion, each new Adventure WotC releases gets better and this impression I have feels more accurate.

Whatever the truth is, I feel like I'm living in another Golden Age of DnD and I'm very happy to be doing so.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Starfinder: Part 1

As a fan of Dreadstar and FFG's Dragon Star, I picked up Paizo's Starfinder RPG.

While Pathfinder is not my game of choice, I admire what Paizo has done with it and the direction it has taken. I've never been a min/maxer so the sheer number of options within Pathfinder are a bit overwhelming to me as a player. Those options and the Pathfinder rules themselves are doubly overwhelming to me as a Game Master.

Diving into Starfinder was not an easy decision for the above reasons.

The book is gorgeous, as beautiful as any product Paizo has produced. However, at 45, these eyes aren't sure how I feel about a 500 page book with something along the lines of an 8 point type font. The page count alone is intimidating to me.

I like the rule change where Hit Points are a flat number (as I did when I first encountered it in FantasyCraft), but I'm uncertain about adding Stamina Points. I'm guessing this is to allow a broader range of weapon damage, but I'm not sure why a laster gun has to be more deadly than a sword?

I'm still making my way through it and I'll post more thoughts as I continue.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Fiend Folio: Cifal

"The cifal — the name is acronymic of 'colonial insect-formed artificial life'  used by gnomes — refers to several swarms of insects (several hundred thousand insects to each swarm) which come together to form a single amorphous creature about man-sized."
Medium beast, unaligned

Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 45 (7d8 + 14) 
Speed 30 ft.
   Str            Dex         Con           Int         Wis         Cha
16 (+3)        11 (+0)        14 (+2)        4 (-3)      10 (+0)      6 (-2)

Damage Resistances Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing
Senses blindsense 30 ft. 
passive Perception 10
Languages --
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP)


Swarming Insect Bites. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (3d6 + 3) poison damage.

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Avalon Game Company is having a $1 Sale

Avalon Games which published Heroes Wear Masks for DnD 5E and Pathfinder is having a company-wide $1 sale on many of their PDF products!

You should check it out now!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

D&D 5th Edition: Skaven Clanrat

   "Clanrats forms the vast overall bulk of Skaven military power, a large verminous horde of ratmen that go to war as basic and highly-expendable front-line infantry. These Skaven belong to any one of thousands of Clans scattered throughout the underground burrows, strongholds and bursting cavern-cities that make up the whole of the Under-Empire. Of all the teeming masses, only the worker dregs, the worthless and even more insignificant Slave Rats, are care considered even more numerous then the Clanrats themselves.

   Clanrats are slightly smaller than man-sized, standing four to five feet high. They range between lithe and scrawny and are possessed of a constant energy, most commonly seen in a nervous twitching of their hairless, worm-like tails. A single Clanrat is not a fearsome opponent. A lone warrior will lack any degree of discipline or determination and is likely to skulk in the shadows, afraid to go forward, too catious to go backwards and terrified to even stand it's own ground for more then a moment without fleeing. Unless driven by black hunger, a single Clanrat will only attack something that is visibly weakened or crippled, preferring even then to attack unseen from behind. When banded together in a large pack, however, each individual Skaven would bolster each other's confidence and fuel their feral ferocity to a highly aggressive level. This allows the individually cowardly ratmen to form massive units that will recklessly hurl themselves into a fray against obviously superior troops."

Medium humanoid (skaven), chaotic evil

Armor Class 13 (leather armor)
Hit Points 11 (2d8 + 2) 
Speed 30 ft.
   Str            Dex         Con           Int         Wis         Cha
10 (+0)        15 (+2)        12 (+1)        11 (+0)      13 (+1)      9 (-1)

Skills Athletics +2, Perception +3, Stealth +4
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13

Languages Common, Undercommon
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

Keen Smell. The skaven clanrat has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell. 

Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) slashing damage and 2 (1d4) poison damage.

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Oakhurst: The Contractor's Guild

The Contractor's Guild is the only authorized and legally operating assassination guild in the Kingdom of Qent. The Guild operates out of the city of Zobek, along the eastern bank of the Essex River.

The Guild received it's charter from King Urth XI after successfully eliminating the Ianna of Tarn, also known as the Usurper and who some sages claim was Urth's older sister.

For the last 200 years they have followed their charter's guidelines and even opened a charter house in Jarlsburg to the north, Lem to the west, and Freeport in the south.

The current Guild Master is Yuanna Shadowspear, the great, great grandaughter of Kelven Shadowspear, who assassinated Ianna the Usurper.

The Guild also enjoys certain tax benefits within the Kingdom due to their status as a church of Zehir. The high priest of the Guild, known as the High Shroud is Cedric of Lem, also known as Crowspeaker. He holds nearly as much power as Yuanna and there is a growing antagonism between the two.

Membership within the Guild does not require members to worship Zehir, but a growing number of recruits are being converted, which is shifting more power toward Crowspeaker.

Yuanna has no use for gods or zealots and is secretly seeking ways to split from the church, even though it will be mean a substantial increase on taxes from the Kingdom.

DnD Beyond: Two Weeks In

I've reached a point with DnD Beyond where I'm not using my print books any longer and hypothetically, if I had access to PDFs, I'm not using them either.

As a DM, I find the campaign feature works very well. It has Private and Public Notes which are easy to use and have simplified my workload.

The chat interface is great for Play by Post, scheduling, questions or simple discussions. For me it has replaced our Facebook group.

I really can't stress how glad I am I early adopted. The product, as it stands right now, is worth the investment to me and any further features will simply be icing on the cake.

I'm planning on slowly buying the additional monster and magic item sections of the various campaigns, about 1 each week, as they range from $3 to $6.

For me DnD Beyond is a 10 out of 10.

Oakhurst: The Blood War

The Blood War between devils and demons or baatezu and Tanar'ri, respectively, has always fascinated me.

In my Oakhurst game, the Blood War is over. Perhaps Asmodeus, as a new god, pushed the Abyss deep into the Elemental Chaos as he did in the 4th Edition Era or perhaps not? What matters is that, according to prophecy, it has reignited and the Players are right in the middle of things. In fact, our Paladin has to find a mythic shield and horn to protect his world from this newly ignited conflagration.

What has me excited, isn't merely the chance to toss my Player's into the crossfire of war between fiends, but also how those fiends might go about interfering with or even recruiting said players. How will celestials factor in? And what role will yugoloths play?

In my mind's eye, the Blood War is an epic, desperate, ruthless battle between enemies willing to do anything to win.  In many ways, they remind me of my Players.

Thundarr the Movie

As a life-long comics fan and a retailer with a quarter century of experience, I was today years old when I discovered that Buzz Dixon and ...