Monday, January 21, 2019

Death, But Make it Spooky

I've been in the process of putting together a players guide for my upcoming spooky forest game and I put into writing some fun death rules. My players tend to get attached to their characters and I've provided ways to avoid that unfortunate situation where a character dies midway through a session leaving one player benched for a couple of hours. Without further ado here is Death in the Bitterwood. These rules will likely be used for a 5E game but here's hoping I can add more weird curses to it in the future.



The Bitterwood is often very dangerous. Death might become common while exploring and you should be prepared for that. Resurrection magic is unseen in these parts but other options exist. After death, you may make a new character with a level matching the Party Level - 1. They will level up to Party Level upon surviving one session. When you die in session you have 3 options.

Change in Perspective. 
Take control of an NPC ally until the session ends.
(Easiest option, keeps the player involved and allows a possible permanent replacement to emerge.

Walking Dead. If your body can be retrieved, taken to a safe location, and your allies can perform a DC10 medicine check, you can be brought back to the land of the living temporarily. For the remainder of the session, you can play your character, who has been brought back with half of its maximum HP. You can’t be healed by magic in this state. If you fall unconscious in this state you die permanently. At the end of the session, the grit and bandages keeping your character alive run out.
(This one gives the character a chance to finish off lingering business without undoing the death. It also rewards players for retrieving the bodies of their allies).

Petition the Things in the Dark. If your body cannot be retrieved, your spirit can hold on at a price. You return to life whole of body and unsound of mind. You harbor a general curse and a specific curse and are always aware of them. The general curse is as follows:

  • You cannot stray more than 6 miles from the Bitterwood or you will die (painfully)

The specific curse is as follows (roll 1d10)

  1. Hunger: Your body always needs more to eat yet you waste away. You require twice as many rations to avoid exhaustion. You have disadvantage on Constitution Checks and Saves.
  2. Wolf: You are always pursued by a large, white wolf. You can fight it off but it always comes back within a day. Eventually, it will win.
  3. Tether: Someone you are close to takes damage whenever you do. If you can’t decide, each day the forest decides for you. Those tethered see a ghostly string connecting them to you.
  4. Faceless: Your face melts away leaving only vacant eye holes and a slit mouth. You have disadvantage on all Charisma Checks and Saves.
  5. Gibbering: You are unable to speak any common language. You are at disadvantage to attack with your spells and creatures have advantage on saves against your spells.
  6. Master's Call: Your mind becomes weak to suggestion. You have disadvantage on all Wisdom Saves and Checks. Any attempts you make to navigate will always lead you deeper into the wood.
  7. We Are Many: Everyone looks like you now. Animals look like strange stretched out versions of you. Your allies look like you cosplaying your allies. Killing anyone that looks like you makes you go unconscious from the shock of it all.
  8. Tar: You feel like you are constantly covered in thick tar. Your movement is stiff and speaking feels like drowning. Movement speed is halved.
  9. Lies: Large crows follow you around. they insist on calling you “Maddened of the Woods” and spin tales of your awful debauchery to anyone that will listen. Like all good rumors, these spread like wildfire.
  10. Changeling: You are actually a changeling pretending to be you. Healing magic hurts you and animals fear you. Your actual “corpse” is somewhere in the woods. If you find it and dispose of it no one will know of your true nature.

Dying after you’ve been cursed turns you into a creature of the night. Your character becomes an NPC under the DM’s control.

(The curses are meant to be more evocative than balanced. They show off the spooky sorts of things that could happen to those lost in the woods. I intend to apply a few of these to NPCs the players find to make it feel like a more concrete part of the world.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Running OSR (for the first time)

Over the holiday season, I ran Tomb of the Serpent King not only once but twice with two different parties. I also used the opportunity to playtest my 5e character creation hack.

My players were used to 5e so I did some explaining on how the tomb isn't balanced for their level one characters, furthermore, I tried out gold as XP and gave them an NPC hireling and a donkey as possible secondary resources.

1st Party 

 This party of three made their way to the tomb with Gabe, a local youth who has agreed to stash and transport the party's treasure for a flat fee. Featured in the party was a Tabaxi Monk, a Goblin Bard, and a Human Barbarian. They were definitely more cavalier with encounters. They triggered quite a few traps but learned to start avoiding them once they entered the true tomb. There was a fight against the black pudding which they smartly kited around to avoid the lethal nature of its pseudopods. One player did some cool shenanigans with the ring that lets you remove your eye and see through it by combining it with mage hand. There was almost a TPK as the players attempted to face the Stone Cobra Guardian head on. Following their near-death experience, they took advantage of the bottomless pit and stealth to dispatch the guardian. The dungeon barnacles stumped them for a bit so they continued on towards the goblin pits. At this point, things went poorly. The goblins moved in numbers the party wasn't well prepared for, forcing the party to use oil and firebombs to keep them at bay while retreating. With a sizable haul of treasure retrieved the party voted to head back to town and sell their treasure for more efficient resources. At this point, we ended the session. (This was the only party that made use of the hireling and sent him out ahead to get some gold safely out of the dungeon.)

2nd Party

This party of three featured an Elf Barbarian, a Human Wizard, and an Elf Rogue. This party was much more cautious about traps and were only seriously hurt by the lightning trap. They briefly encountered the Basilisk but chose to take an alternative path to avoid such a dangerous creature. They briefly split the party and the hidden mummy claws almost killed the rogue. The black pudding was trapped in the tomb it came from due to the wizard setting off a minor cave in with some spells. Upon reaching the Stone Cobra Guardian they made a few exploratory attempts to test its strength and opted for the stealth+push off cliff combo right away. After defeating the Guardian and reaching the dungeon barnacles we called it for the night.  


Tomb of the Serpent King: The 1st group enjoyed the dungeon and being able to solve problems creatively. The stand out encounter for them was definitely the fight and later toppling of the Stone Cobra Guardian. They took a route that completely avoided the Basilisk so they never got to experience that section of the dungeon. The 2nd group enjoyed the camaraderie and seemed slightly disappointed that combat was almost always solved by wit rather than fisticuffs. I'm hoping to finish the dungeon sometime down the line and expose the players to the other weird things within.

5E Character Creation Hack: All the players seemed to appreciate the fast rolling nature of the 5E Templates. One of the players wanted to switch out weapons for their background and another wanted more choices than the given 6.

Gold as Experience: This one didn't elicit any specific reactions. It did encourage more exploration and planning on how to exit the dungeon safely. More importantly, it kept them away from the mindset of dungeons having a final boss.

Overall: I enjoyed myself immensely and might try a simpler system next time. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Quaggoth of the Underdark

The Quaggoth are the white ape-like humanoids of D&D's Underdark. They are classically depicted as surface elf hating slaves to the drow. In my Underdark, many were no longer slaves and served as mercenaries and sailors in the underground body of water called the Inkblood Sea. They were constructed with a partial basis on the Bugbears found in Volo's Guide to Monsters. Included in the race are two subraces matching the two quaggoth Monster Manual entries (one melee and one psionic).

Originally believed to have been bred by drow magicians as a slave race, the quaggoth escaped and filled their own niche in the Underdark. The origin of the quaggoths was unknown. Some sages claim that they were once a semi-civilized race that dominated much of the Underdark through conquest and ritual sacrifice, until the drow, duergar, and other races broke their power. Now they are common throughout the Inkblood Sea as sailors and mercenaries. Others in the Underdark them as tough and uncompromising.

Quaggoth traits. Your quaggoth character has certain characteristics in common with all other quaggoth.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2

Age. Quaggoth reach adulthood at age 16 and live up to 80 years.

Alignment. Quaggoth endure a harsh existence that demands each of them to remain self-sufficient, even at the expense of their fellows. They tend to be chaotic evil.

Size. Quaggoth are between 6 and 8 feet tall and weigh between 250 and 350 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in Darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in Darkness, only shades of gray.

Long-Limbed. When you make a melee Attack on Your Turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.

Powerful Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.

Quaggoth Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

Languages. You can speak Undercommon and Quaggoth.



Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
Sneaky. You are proficient in the Stealth skill.
Surprise Attack. If you Surprise a creature and hit it with an Attack on your first turn in Combat, the Attack deals an extra 2d6 damage to it. You can use this trait only once per Combat.


Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Thonot Fearsense. You are proficient in the Insight skill.
Thonot Psionics. You know the Mage Hand cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Featherfall spell on yourself once with this trait. When you reach 5th level, you can cast the Mirror Image spell on yourself once with this trait. You don’t need material components for either spell. You must finish a long rest to cast them on yourself once again with this trait. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Underdark Encounters: The Umber Hills

For the past year I ran a D&D 5e game set in the Underdark, or at least my version of it that featured elements from Hot Spring Island sprinkled in. The players all played Underdark races and never once saw the sun (the one they saw when transported to Hot Spring Island doesn't really count) My players and I finished that campaign recently so I am free to put my encounter tables up without fear of spoiling my players. These encounters were meant to provide a challenge for a high-level 5E party but the Umber Hills holds this level of danger most of the time.

Area Summary

The Umber Hills represent a section of the Underdark with glowing hills. It divides a dwarven kingdom (Argentus) from a tiefling enclave (Formosa) and is isolated from the rest of the caverns by underground rivers. Visibility is understandably much better here but the glowing hills seem to shift and change the creatures living within. The only humanoids making their home in the area are a group of deep gnome monks (The Pinnacle Order) who pledge themselves to the dead goddess of balance. 


Umber Hills Event Table

roll 1d10
  1. Bright Lichen, an area where pressure generates light, blinding light. Not moving creates patches of light that burn for 2d6 radiant damage
  2. Heart Root, a massive pulsing red root that will flood areas with red sticky nectar that smells of blood (it confers difficult terrain and grabs and sticks at flying things as per the Earthbind spell (DC15 Str Save)
  3. Ancient carvings on the hills generate areas of magical darkness, of course, things are hiding inside.
  4. Holes shaped like upright humanoids dot the hillside, you get the sinking feeling one of them belongs to you. (Save 15 Wis Save or start looking for yours, if you roll 10 or lower you start to climb inside).
  5. A ruined tower looms ahead, a fire burns a bright green inside, you hear whispers (75% chance of summoning a glabrezu)
  6. A pall cold fills the hills, treat as extreme cold from the dmg (DC10 con save every hour or gain exhaustion)
  7. A buried titan's eye flutters open in waking sleep, it fires beams that slows the movement of whatever moves the most.
  8. A large nest is set up amongst the hills, it belongs to something big and there's baby-like mewling coming from it.
  9. A sunken temple overgrown with plants comes into view. Singing can be heard from within.
  10. The way is clear and the path is peaceful...

B) Creature
roll 1d10
  1. Sundew-men, monstrous plants that grow in a humanoid shape. They smell sweet and eat meat. (4d8)
  2. 4 cyclops are engaged in a long distance staring contest
  3. Something ancient appears, it has 4 heads, 7 wings and seeks to cleanse the hills of sinful life.
  4. A troop of tielfing knights (3d4)
  5. A group of Pinnacle Order Initiates (2d4) 
  6. A chariot pulled by nightmares is chilling on the side of the road, I'm sure it doesn't belong to anyone. (Contains a death knight within that will possess would be thieves)
  7.  A creepy gnome salesman is waiting at a crossroads, he sells magical wheels
  8. A literature spider (it consumes written language) has made its nest nearby
  9. A previous enemy of the party reappears dramatically!!
  10. Purple Worm x2 Electric Boogaloo

Thursday, December 27, 2018

5E Hack: Class Templates Part 4

Welcome back to my attempt to hack 5e character creation into something fast and rollable.  Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard class templates were mostly completed. They function as follows.

Class Templates

All classes have 6 templates. You may roll to determine or choose one from the list presented.
Templates functionally combine and replace Starting Skill Proficiencies, Starting Equipment and Backgrounds during character creation.
If your race provides a proficiency provided by your Template, you may replace one of the proficiencies in the template with a different one.

All Templates come with traveling basics

  • A backpack/bag/sack
  • A wineskin with alcohol or other liquid 
  • A bedroll
  • A mess kit 
  • A tinderbox
  • A day's rations (7) 
  • 10 gold pieces 
  • A light source (usually 6 torches or a hooded/bullseye lantern with 2 flasks of oil) 

Some templates include an animal. Unless marked by a “*” the animal has 1 hp and no concrete mechanical capabilities. Animals marked with a “*” can be found in the PHB

After selecting/rolling a template choose a discipline and toolkit for your character

  • A Discipline includes a game set, artisan’s tools, or musical instrument; along with its accompanying proficiency.
  • A Toolkit includes a Disguise kit, Forgery kit, Herbalism kit, Navigator’s tools, Poisoner’s kit, Land Vehicle or Water Vehicle Proficiency and the accompanying kit/tools (Land Vehicle Proficiency comes with a wagon, Sea Vehicle Proficiency comes with a rowboat).
Now completed and ready to roll on are the Monk and Ranger tables.

Monk Tables go by the following starting equipment template
  • 1 Monk Weapon (Detailed)
  • 1 Ranged Weapon
  • Robe or monk outfit
  • Musical Instrument or Artisan Tools
  • A light source (6 torches or either kind of lantern with 2 flasks of oil)
  • Flavor/fluff item (no clear mechanical use)
  • Equipment (Clear mechanical use)
  • 50’ of rope

Ranger Tables go by the following starting equipment template
  • 1 ranged weapon w/ 20 arrows/bolts
  • 2 simple weapons
  • light/medium armor
  • A light source (6 torches or either kind of lantern with 2 flasks of oil)
  • Flavor/fluff item (no clear mechanical use)
  • 2x Equipment (Clear mechanical use)
  • 50ft of rope where applicable

Minor notes:

I have four classes left to complete before I can playtest the whole template situation. I'm trying to keep good notes on the starting equipment so I can make more templates in the future. Overall I've really been enjoying the process and hope it's something people can use in their game. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Myconids of the Underdark

For my now completed D&D 5e Underdark game, I developed some fun setting specific player races. Here is the Myconid race available in my games. They make their home in the Rotted Expanse and two guest player had the pleasure of playtesting them to fun results.
This race of sentient mobile fungi lives peaceful existences in the Underdark. They communicate through spores and are shown to be adept at magic despite a verbal language of their own.

Myconid Traits. Your myconid character has certain characteristics in common with all other myconid.

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 2 and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Size. Myconids grow to 6 feet tall, weighing around 125 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of grey.

Speed. Your speed is 30 feet.

Age. Myconids given enough nutrients can easily survive centuries with the oldest among them becoming Sovereigns of their people.

Alignment. They tend towards lawful.

Sun Sickness. You become poisoned if you spend more than 1 minute in direct sunlight. This condition ends when you spend 1 minute in dim or dark conditions.

Cast without Words. You have no conventional language, however, your magical nature allows you to cast spells that require verbal components.

Rapport Spores. All creatures within 15 feet of you with an Intelligence of 2 or higher that aren't undead, constructs, or elementals can communicate telepathically with you and with each other. You don't need to share a language with the creature for it to understand your telepathic utterances, but the creature must be able to understand at least one language. You can suppress this ability at will.

Hallucinogenic Mastery. You know the Minor Illusion cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Blur spell once with this trait and regain the ability to do so when you finish a Long Rest. When you reach 5th level, you can cast the Phantasmal Force spell once with this trait and regain the ability to do so when you finish a Long Rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these Spells.

Languages. You can read and write Undercommon. You cannot speak.

If you have any questions about playing a mushroom person let me know!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Secret Santicorn: Codpiece Crafting

So this holiday season I participated in the OSR Discord Server's Secret Santicorn Event. As per the lovely Rattlemayne's request I've taken to creating a nuanced codpiece crafting system, including enchantments. I'll be honest, codpiece crafting has never even entered into my consciousness as something to make but here I am and Merry Santicorn!

The codpiece began life as a piece of cloth that covered an underexposed area in men's Renaissance fashion, from there it was popular for 50 years in the 1500s as a thing to adorn and call attention to the crotch region. It was also a part of plate armor construction during the time period.
Portrait of Antonio Navagero (1565), oil on canvas, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, by Giovanni Battista Moroni
Moving into the realm of enchantable codpieces I present to you the following crafting system.


The first step of crafting a codpiece is the material construction. The higher quality the material the more powerful the possible enchantment
  • Gourd: Old school, easy to decorate, cumbersome, and secured by a rope sling. A gourd codpiece can be made by the poorest farmers and offers no bonuses to enchantment rolls.

  • Cloth: Dignified, available in many colors (mostly red), wicks away sweat and goes great with your favorite pair of hoses. A cloth codpiece requires a skilled hand to craft and provides a +2 bonus to enchantment rolls.

  • Metal: Protective, usually part of a set of armor, terrible in hot climates, you'd think the armor would protect you but it usually just draws attention down there. A metal codpiece provides a +5 bonus to enchantment rolls.

  • Giant Hide: Dangerous, can be made from any giant if you're industrious enough, it's usually worn to assert dominance. A giant hide codpiece provides a +7 bonus to enchantment rolls.

  • Devil Hide: Positively brimming with sin, you probably shouldn't have this on hand, always blood-red and stains other clothes you wash it with. A devil hide codpiece provides a +10 bonus to enchantment rolls.


The second step of crafting a codpiece is the various enchantments that can be placed on it. You can enchant a codpiece a number of times equal to your Shame (Charisma Score - Wisdom Score). Having a negative Shame value means you're less inclined to wear a codpiece overall while having a Shame value of zero means you can wear a codpiece but you find the idea of enchanting them to be ostentatious at best.  

Roll 1d10+Enchantment Bonus

1. The codpiece performs its necessary function and covers up a vulnerable area and refuses magical enchantments. You don't have to roll drawbacks.

2. The codpiece tightens 1 hour before it rains.

3. The codpiece changes color based on your mood.

4. The codpiece can be activated to pull you due north. This effect lasts for 1 hour, can be used once a day.

5. The codpiece causes all flowers within 10ft of the wearer to bloom

6. The codpiece can magically store an entire weapon within. You can conjure it and store it with an appropriate double entendre.

7. The codpiece emits light like a lantern might. You can turn it on and off with a simple tap.

8. The codpiece can point toward the nearest bar/tavern/establishment to buy alcohol at.

9. The codpiece stiffens, allowing your voice to be projected and audible up to 1000ft.

10. The codpiece can discreetly record 4 hours of audio. On the side are buttons similar to that of a recorder.

11. The codpiece can be used to turn invisible for 10 minutes. The effect functions as long as you keep one hand on the codpiece.

12. The codpiece contains a fully functioning grappling hook and 50ft of rope. It is mounted in a way that doesn't tear off your trousers upon use.

13. The codpiece contains a considerable amount of either caltrops or ball bearings (your choice). You can unleash them at a moments notice.

14. The codpiece contains wisdom from the future. Once a day you can ask the codpiece a question about the future. It will answer with a good, bad, or mixed omen (usually by rising or falling).

15. The codpiece has an attachment that functions as a heavy crossbow with 20 bolts. It can be reloaded by removing the codpiece (this takes about 10 minutes).

16. The codpiece increases your strength magically. While wearing the codpiece your Strength score increases by 4

17. The codpiece allows you to increase your size to that of a giant once a day. Your new giant form has equivalent giant strength and increases damage from melee attacks by 4d4.

18. The codpiece can extend and works like a prehensile limb. It has a reach of 10ft and can manipulate objects dexterously. It can manipulate and attack with light weapons.

19. The codpiece increases your intelligence magically. While wearing the codpiece your Intelligence score increases by 4

20. The codpiece grants infernal resistances. You become immune to fire, acid and cold damage. While wearing it you gain knowledge of the languages of hell.


The third step of crafting a codpiece is to understand that wearing an enchanted object so close to your crotch might have some unintended side effects. The codpiece gain drawbacks equal to its number of enchantments. Bonuses to enchantment rolls also affect drawback rolls.

Roll 1d10+Enchantment Bonus

1. The codpiece is a little tight, nothing major though.

2. The codpiece makes loud clanging noises whenever you drink liquids.

3. The codpiece painfully retracts inward when you hear lightning.

4. The codpiece shouts obscenities whenever you cough or clear your throat.

5. The codpiece slowly dyes all your clothing and armor a dull brown color

6. The codpiece sings bawdy songs about the sea and whatever handsome lady or gent happens to be nearby (it's in your voice).

7. The codpiece occasionally will disappear completely, leaving you smooth down there for about 1d4 hours.

8. The codpiece is way too hot and chafes nonstop.

9. The codpiece forces the wearer to speak in rhyme. Not doing so deals 1d4 psychic damage.

10. The codpiece causes the hair on your head to grow down to your ankles, this hair can't be cut by mundane means and causes you to trip constantly.

11. The codpiece causes all wild beasts to instinctively hate you while you wear it.

12. The codpiece can't be removed except by a spell that would remove a curse

13. The codpiece collects static electricity as you move, zapping you for 1d6 damage for every 120ft of movement you take

14. The codpiece chills you to the bone, you are always cold and take double damage from cold-based attacks.

15. The codpiece traps your soul within it if you die. You cannot be resurrected.

16. The codpiece grows a tiny face on the material. The face can't stop talking (making stealth impossible for you) and bites anything nearby for 1d6 damage

17. The codpiece can't be worn with any other armor or clothing. All attempts to do so cause the armor and clothing to fly off.

18. The codpiece magically labels you the greatest duelist in all the land and the greatest cheater in all the land. Duelists will try to duel you on sight, gambling houses will deny you entry, and agents of the law know you by name and would benefit from your capture

19. The codpiece summons a powerful devil when worn. This devil will not act against you directly but will take every opportunity to spread lies about you and make your life miserable

20. The codpiece is very sticky and cannot be removed. Anything that touches it becomes adhered to its surface. When completely cover with objects/creatures the stickiness wears off and becomes a potent acid that deals 4d10 damage to all objects/creatures attached to the codpiece

The Bogeyman's cave did my prompt for locales in Ke'Sik here.