4E D&D: Save the Princess, Pilot Episode

Cast
  • Aka (1st-level red panda hengeyokai slayer)
  • Mirai (1st-level human cleric/shaman hybrid)
  • Sho (1st-level spirit-folk cursed swordmage)

Synopsis
Even by pipe, which extended all the way underneath the Singing Spirit Mountains, the journey from Asuka to the edge of the Stolen Land of Eternal Rain had taken nearly two weeks.

Heavy rain and thick mist greatly impeded their vision; during their trek towards the edge of the crater that served as the border of kappa territory, it took them a while to realize that they'd wandered into the withered remains of a seemingly abandoned village.

They inspected a few buildings, but only found various types of fungi infesting most of them. Unsure what dangers the fungus might pose to them, Mirai wanted to just keep walking and get out as soon as possible, but Aka spied an object in one of the houses.

It glinted in what meager sunlight was able to penetrate the clouds, and was perched on a stone altar at the back of an exposed room. Whatever it was, it looked to be made of solid gold, and while fungus crowded much of the room she felt that she could maneuver across without disturbing it.

Though the fungus didn't react, the zombies nestled within did: about halfway across a trio of rotten corpses, caked with mushrooms and fungal frills exploding from their faces, tore themselves free and lurched towards her. They were unexpectedly fast and strong: Aka only managed to get a single swing in before they pummeled her into unconsciousness.

Mirai called upon wind spirits to revive her, and once she was back on her feet they were able to hack, blast, and incinerate the zombies. Once they were destroyed, Aka was able to safely cross the room and retrieve a golden cat figurine. It looked valuable, but rather than take what they could get and leave, Aka and Sho wanted to—in spite of Mirai's protests—continue searching the village for additional treasure.

Worse, they also decided that splitting up in a mist-choked-fungus-zombie-ruin was a good idea: ironically Mirai found a jade dragon stattuete clutching a pearl, Aka found nothing, and Sho ended up rousing a fungus zombie of considerable size and horrid shape. As it lumbered towards him, its body split open, revealing something like a maw filled with broken ribs for teeth.

Sho was able to shout for help before the monstrosity was upon him, scooping him up in its wide. jagged mouth with a clump of arms and tearing into his flesh. He slipped through space, teleporting out of the creature's mouth, but he didn't make it far and was so severely wounded that he could barely stand.

Fortunately, Aka arrived before it could strike again. Hacking at what passed for its back she inflicted considerable damage, but her attack inadvertently freed several incomplete-yet-still-ambulatory zombies. Worse, the rest of the zombie mass turned upon her, rendering her unconscious with its powerful bite.

Sho did his best to distract it with his magic, preventing it from killing Aka. When Mirai found them he again called upon the spirits to revive Aka before unleashing them upon the zombie mass: once it was destroyed, it was a much, much simpler matter for them to finish off the stragglers.

The characters didn't have long to celebrate: thanks to the mud and mist, they heard the next group of zombies before they could see them. They wasted no time fleeing, stopping only when night finally fell, after which they took shelter beneath the largest rock they could find.

Behind the Scenes
The last time I'd played in a 4th Edition-by-the-books campaign, Melissa was behind the screen. That lasted exactly one delve before we implemented the half-hp-houserule in the interest of speeding things up, and then we quickly hacked the game into something that would eventually serve as the foundation of FrankenFourth.

I'll probably have to do that here, though the party is doing a fine job slaughtering monsters 1-3 levels above their own. I have been using a rule I created during the original A Sundered World campaign, in which the characters make Endurance checks while camping in poor conditions: a really good roll means they regain most or all of their spend daily resources, good roll means they regain some, and a poor roll means they not only gain nothing, but lose something (like healing surges).

For the monsters, I just used existing ones with a few tweaks to their appearance and abilities:

  • Gunba: For the rank and file fungus zombie, I used normal zombies (level 2 brute) without the zombie weakness. Think Last of Us clickers, but they can see normally and don't make any noise.
  • Big Gunba: Started with hulking zombie (level 4 brute), remove zombie weakness, when bloodied produces 1d4 zombie minions, after fight characters wounded make a save to see if they get a disease. Big gunbas are made from numerous corpses that have fused together: they look like oblong masses with arms and legs sticking out every which way.

In both cases I could see giving them a spore cloud attack, either as a breath weapon (per encounter or recharging), or something that happens when bloodied and/or when slain.

Really though, the two reasons I'm running this is to actually play through the setting, fleshing it out for later publication using FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, and figure out exactly how many abilities a character needs to satisfy Shane.

In a post-game discussion, Shane admitted that while he likes the options his character has (which amounts to a handful of class features, four at-wills not counting basic attacks, two encounters, and one daily), he thinks it might be a bit much. So, that gives me a range of 4-8 things. Maybe the next time we playtest FrankenFourth, I'll start them at 3rd or 4th level, see how that goes.

Adam mentioned wanting fighters to have more interesting things to do. Melissa seems perfectly happy with the slayer since it mostly makes basic melee attacks, which is a FrankenFourth design goal: if you want a complex fighter, choose exploits and/or multiclass, but if you just wanna make attacks and deal damage, that's fine, too.

In the interest of giving them more complex things, Adam's going to comb through various 4th Edition books, and even some of our Dungeon World classes, to provide concrete examples of what he would like a FrankenFourth fighter to be able to do.

Announcements
If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library and Payhip.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Beastmaster is also out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

4E D&D: Save the Princess

In our Wednesday FrankenFourth campaign, in which I ran Keep on the Shadowfell and started Thunderspire Labyrinth, one of the players expressed his dissatisfaction with the sorcerer. Specifically, he felt that it should have access to more abilities, and maybe more magic points to use said abilities.

As I mentioned in this post, the sorcerer's number of magical abilities are limited by design. I tried convincing him to try out a wizard, as they start with more magic talents and aren't limited in scope. He mentioned loving The Swordmage, and when I pointed out that it's based on the swordmage from 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons I somehow got roped into running a 4E D&D campaign...

...based for the most part on the Super Mario Bros series.


I blame this on playing a bunch of Super Mario Bros 3Super Mario World, and Super Mario Wii with our kids: at some point I started seriously considering whether I could lift elements from the series and run an actual campaign. I'd initially intended to run it with Dungeons & Delvers since I know the kids would love it, but when I mentioned it to the Wednesday group formerly known as the second FrankenFourth playtest group, they also expressed interest.

The basic idea is that an army of kappas, led by a kappa king that I'm probably not gonna call Bowser  (or even some of the originally pitched names), conquered a human kingdom and drove almost all of its inhabitants out. Using a magic pearl taken from a dragon he slew, the kappa king has perpetually blanketed the land in an eternal rainstorm, making it a great place for kappas to live and not much else.

These get along just fine.
Now, some 100 or so years later, corroded metallic pipes jut from the ground, carrying water to numerous underground kappa cities (and, in the case of the larger ones, also providing somewhat more convenient passages to the surface), some of which are inhabited by carnivorous plants. Fungus zombies, skeletal kappas, and ghosts infest the rotting remains of long-abandoned villages. Giant insects scuttle across the land, and giant octopuses dwell in large bodies of water (both above and below ground).

The human survivors founded a new kingdom far away, where they hoped the distance and mountains would keep them safe from a second kappa invasion. This worked insofar as an army didn't show up to conquer them, but a small band of kappas still managed to infiltrate the kingdom and abduct a princess, which is where the characters come in: they're one of many adventuring parties that are attempting to venture into the Drowned Land and rescue her, each for their own reasons of course.

Currently we've got Aka (Melissa), a red panda hengeyokai slayer, Mirai (Adam), a heavily modded cleric/shaman hybrid, and Vannis (Shane), an eladrin-reskinned-as-a-spirit-folk swordmage. I didn't want to use themes, but Shane wanted Vannis to have some sort of cursed ability (spends a healing surge to use an encounter ability that wreathes him in flames for a turn), and in the end it was just easier to go that route.

Anyway, I'm hoping that while playing this Shane will be able to figure out just how many abilities he wants to have at lower levels (which in turn might help inform further design of the sorcerer and wizard classes), and whether he prefers complicated games, as besides FrankenFourth, he's only played Dungeon World.

Also, I'm going to flesh out the setting out as we play, and when it's done we're going to compile everything into a weird-ass hexcrawl for at least FrankenFourth (which so far is pretty compatible with D&D) and Dungeons & Delvers. I've also been writing a list of example treasures and Mario-themed magic items, the latter of which I might make into yet another magic item volume for Dungeon World.

Announcements
If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library and Payhip.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Beastmaster is also out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Dungeons & Delvers: Public Playtest Adventure

It's been a while since we talked about Dungeons & Delvers, so here's a simple playtest adventure!

It's one part hexcrawl, two parts dungeon crawl, and there are four pregen characters in the back; a future release will provide rules for actual character generation and advancement.

We're mostly interested in how difficult the adventure is (so we can get the numbers right): can the adventurers get through several encounters before having to rest, do they need to run back each time, are they able to breeze through everything, is there something they can't beat even at their best, etc?

Of course if the rules aren't clear, don't work, don't seem to work as intended, or you have a better idea for how to handle something, definitely let us know.

As with our FrankenFourth playtest, feel free to share this with your group, run it, and comment on anything and everything: send it via email, post a comment here, or head on over to the G+ community.

Announcements
We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library!

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Beastmaster is out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

FrankenFourth: The Magic Number

In 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, wizards could only cast a single 1st-level spell in a given day. They had access to "up to a few 1st-level spells" as determined by the DM, had to have a "restful night's sleep" to memorize spells (which took 10 minutes per spell level), and whether or not you received new spells when you leveled up was also determined by the DM.

3rd Edition increased this so that you could cast three 0-level spells (called cantrips) and one 1st-level spell per day, the latter of which was modified by a high Intelligence (which pretty much every wizard qualified for, at least up to about 2nd- or 3rd-level spells).

Like 2nd Edition you still had to prep which ones you wanted ahead of time, but unlike 2nd Edition you had access to every 0-level spell, three 1st-level spells of your choice, and you received two spells of your choice at each level up. Prepping all of your spells always took 1 hour, no matter how many, and you could spend less time to prep fewer (ie, 30 minutes to prep half), but it would always take a least 15 minutes.

Finally, 3rd Edition also introduced the sorcerer class, which was an arcane spellcaster that had access to fewer spells overall (and could not learn more via snagging other spellbooks like a wizard), but could cast more spells in a given day. There were some other differences, such as how sorcerer spells interacted with Metamagic feats, but it's not particularly important.

4th Edition shook things up quite a bit. You started the game with access to a whopping six spells that you could cast whenever you wanted (four cantrips plus two "at-wills"), one spell that you could cast per encounter (it would recharge with a 5 minute rest), and one "daily" slot (regained after a long rest, and unlike other classes you could choose between two dailies at the start of each day). As you leveled up you got to add more encounter and daily spells to your roster.

There was also a woefully underutilized ritual system, which were mostly utility spells like comprehend languages, various wards, the ability to enchant magic items, teleports, gates, and so on that could be used whenever, they just took time and components. Down the road they added feats and the like that let you use rituals x times per day for free, and some classes maybe had to spend less time/money using certain rituals.

5th Edition cribs 4th Edition's at-wills and rituals, but further muddies the pseudo-Vancian waters by having you prep specific spells and then use spell slots to cast spells you've prepared, making them similar to a more flexible 3rd Edition sorcerer, and some spells could also be cast whenever if you had enough time. The wizard class can also eventually turn some dailies into encounter spells.

FrankenFourth currently uses a spell point and talent system. Wizards start with 4 points of Mana (name subject to change), Detect Magic (you can see magic, no cost), Magic Focus (+1 to hit when you are using a magic focus), and your choice of two baseline magic talents (Abjurer, Enchanter, Evoker, etc).

Using most talents carries a Fatigue cost. Sometimes it's a static amount, other times it's random. For example, Abjurer (+1 armor when not wearing armor, basically a poor wizard's mage armor) has a Sustain cost of 1, which means that you can activate it, and it stays active until you get knocked unconscious or go to sleep, but your maximum Mana is reduced by 1.

The Evoker talent on the other hand has a Fatigue cost of 1d4: you roll 1d4, lose that much Mana, and then make an Intelligence attack that deals 1d10+Intelligence damage, or half on a miss. The Firebolt talent has a Fatigue cost of +1. It builds upon Evoker, so if you use Firebolt you take 1d4+1 Fatigue, but you deal 2d6+Intelligence fire damage.

Something to note is that when you suffer Fatigue, you reduce your Mana first, then your Vitality, and finally Wounds. Like Vitality, Mana is regained during a short rest. In this way a wizard can exhaust and potentially kill herself by overusing magic. Also, some talents have a random cost so as to actually make it unpredictable and dangerous.

So, a 1st-level wizard with Evoker and Firebolt has two options: you can play it safe, using Evoker by itself, knowing that at most you'll only take 4 Fatigue. On average you can use Evoker twice and only suffer a single point of Vitality, which like Mana is easily recovered. Of course, if you've gotten hit and are out of Vitality, then you're risking suffering Wound damage, of which you have precious few.

You can also gamble on Firebolt for the added damage, and/or if the target is vulnerable to fire/you want to light something on fire. But, even at your best there's still a chance you'll dip into Vitality (or, again Wounds).

As you level up you gain Mana and Vitality, at a rate of 2/level and 1/level respectively. You also get to choose more talents, like Burning Hands (1d4+2 Fatigue to hit a 15-foot cone with 1d6+Intelligence fire damage), Mage Armor (Sustain 2 for 2 armor instead of 1), and (not featured in the public alpha) the ability to conjure solid, mobile, harmful illusions (which requires four talents and runs you something like 2d4+1d6+1 Fatigue).

Comparing Across the Editions
Compared to other editions, the FrankenFourth wizard is better off than a 2nd Edition wizard (and by extension wizards from previous editions), better off than a 3rd Edition wizard over the course of the adventuring day, and I guess maybe worse off than the 4th and 5th Edition wizards due to a lack of numerous at-wills.

It's difficult to tell, because the only "daily" resource is Wounds and their "encounter" attacks are pretty potent.

What I can say is that in our Monday game, the wizard player is loving being able to build illusion effects on the fly and have undead minions at his beck and call, while in our Wednesday game a player felt that the sorcerer had too few Mana points and spell options (or rather, wanted access to abilities that didn't fit the dragon sorcerer scheme).

Now, the type of spells/abilities can't be helped: sorcerers are by design restricted to spells and abilities thematic to their bloodline, but have more Mana, Wounds, and Vitality, and similar to Howl from Howl's Moving Castle transform the more they use their magic. So, a dragon sorcerer grows scales (+1 armor), claws (nifty melee attack), and their blood burns those that wound them (use Reaction to automatically damage someone that hits them in melee).

On the other hand, the number of times spells/abilities can be used in a given time frame is something that could be adjusted, if people think that they can do too much/not enough. As it stands, I'd basically say that a 1st-level wizard starts with three spells/effects (Detect Magic plus two others of your choice), and can use about 1-2 spells in a given encounter depending on what you roll.

What do you think: would that be enough for you to work with (check the doc if you want to see what's currently available)? Is that too much? Would you just want access to more talents, more Mana, or both?

Announcements
We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library!

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Beastmaster is out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 304

Cast
  • Humal (level 4 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Corzale (level 4 dwarf war cleric)
  • Sumia (level 4 elf rogue/ranger)

Summary
Despite no one daring them to, the characters decided to stay the night at the hastily abandoned, only very recently de-zombified keep. Well, everyone except Adair that is, who ventured off in search of his missing battle chicken.

While they were barricading the door, a dwarf arrived at the doorstep. She introduced herself as Corzale, and explained that she was looking for a band of dwarves that had traveled to the surface in order to wipe out a rash of worm-ridden undead that had been troubling them lately.

None of the characters had seen any other dwarves; they invited Corzale along for the return trip to Diamond Lake the next day, as it was both a mining town and the closest settlement to the keep. It was the only lead Corzale had, and safety in numbers, so she agreed.

Though nothing attacked them at the keep, during the three-day trek to Diamond Lake a pair of trolls ambushed them while they were trying to march through the night in an effort to put as much distance as they could between them and the swamp. The trolls more-or-less made it clear they just wanted to eat Corzale, since she smelled of gods. Of course the party objected, and after reducing the trolls to rubble they sought out as good a refuge as they could and rested for what remained of the night.

Their arrival at Diamond Lake was preceded by several gibbets, though this did little to prepare them for the sight of blackened corpses and stakes planted in the town square, and armored soldiers from the garrison patrolling the streets. Diamond Lake had been rife with crime and corruption for quite some time: what could have prompted such a response?

A brief exchange with a trio of soldiers implied that Balabar had been executed or driven off, and that the characters' presence was not welcome. Since Humal mentioned heading to a now vacated Blackwall Keep, the soldiers instructed them to visit the garrison and explain what transpired. Humal and Cenric did so, and once the debriefing was over Humal was warned against practicing necromancy on pain of death.

Having answered numerous questions and yet received only threats and warnings in response, it was time for them to visit Allustan.

Design Notes
First things first, if you're interested in playtesting FrankenFourthyou can see the current alpha document here (you can also see the Wound/Vitality and damage math for the first three levels).

Kelly, the player of Corzale, voiced his concerns about the current Wound/Vitality system after getting knocked deep into Wounds during the troll fight: namely he felt that characters should have more Vitality than Wounds. I don't think I've posted specifically about the Wound/Vitality split (or, at the least, explained why it's the way it is), so here goes.

Originally I had it so that everyone calculated Wounds the same way, something like 10+Constitution, while your class determined your Vitality. This meant that most characters started out the game with about 9-12 Wounds, and anywhere from 4-10 Vitality depending on class (basically using the class's Hit Dice from prior editions). As you leveled up, you gained flat amounts of Vitality using a rounded-up Hit Die average (ie, how it works in 5th Edition).

The idea was that over the course of the adventuring day you'd gradually lose Wounds until you eventually had to rest. At 1st-level this worked out fairly well. Characters were tougher than in previous editions, which was by design since A) magical healing isn't assumed, and B) magical healing isn't as readily available as it is in other D&D editions (and it can be both time- and money-consuming).

We noticed a problem within just a few levels: characters would get in a fight, take some damage, and get all their Vitality back when it was over. It was almost like playing 4E with infinite healing surges. Yeah, occasionally characters would take a bit of Wound damage, but so long as they survived they could take a short rest and get the majority of their points back.

The problem would only get worse the longer you played, as characters gained more Vitality and purchased better armor, so we quickly shifted the Wound/Vitality ratio to favor Wounds, and it's been going much better: characters get gradually worn down over the course of the adventuring day, but they still don't need a constant supply of magical healing just to get by.

Plus, I wanted to include kicker effects when characters suffer Wound damage (like venomous bites, blood drain, etc), and a bigger Wound point pool makes it easier without a character needing to be nearly dead.

So, lemme know what you think: do you agree, disagree, is there something we're overlooking, something else we could do with the system, etc?

Announcements
We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library!

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Beastmaster is out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

Dungeon World: The Beastmaster

The Beastmaster is now on sale (and has been added to our All of the Playbooks, Adventuring Party, and Wilderness Survival bundles)!

A big part of this class is your animal companion, not just because you both work well together, but because it's essentially a pseudo-character: similar to the eldritch horrors The Cultist can summon, it's got stats, hit points, Armor, a damage die, makes its own moves, and you build it from a list of options (it's just initially tougher and more competent, but you only get one).

As you level up you can make your animal companion even stronger, gain a damage bonus against beasts, gather a pack of other animals (which mercifully use hireling rules), learn to speak telepathically with beasts (and even see through their senses or control them for a time), better refine your fighting tactics with your companion, and more: all told there are 25 advanced moves to choose from!

We didn't include any multiclassing moves, because those are the easiest to "design", but if your GM is cool with them we could see it working very well with the ranger, druid, and even shaman (especially with the Spirit Bond move).

This product contains three files.

One is a letter-sized character sheet that uses our new character sheet layout.

The other two are digest-sized books, one in color, the other in black and white (to make it easier to print at home if you want). They both contain:

  • The beastmaster class.
  • New weapons, armor (both for you and your animal companion), and dungeon gear, 
  • A director's cut with questions to ask yourself when rolling up a beastmaster, explanations/clarifications for some of the moves, and an alternate move in case you wanna better focus on Bonds.

You can see a preview of it over on DriveThruRPG.

Note: If you purchase using the PayPal Buy Now button, we will also send you a complimentary copy through DriveThruRPG. Please allow up to 24 hours for delivery, though it usually ends up being at most eight (depends on if you buy it after we've gone to bed).

$2.25

$2.50


$2.25


Announcements
If you're interested in playtesting FrankenFourth, you can see the current alpha document here.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

FrankenFourth: Taking 10/20

One of the few rules that I liked from 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons was the option to "take 10" and "take 20" on certain skill checks in certain situations.

Basically, if your character wasn't being rushed, threatened, distracted, etc, you could opt to simply take 10 on most skill checks, calculating your check result as if you'd rolled a 10, plus all of your usual modifiers.

This way, instead of rolling numerous times to see if you can make it up a cliff, you could just try to take 10 on your Climb check and, assuming 10+your mods was enough to meet-or-beat the Difficulty Class, get it over with.

Another, somewhat more restricted option, was take 20. This mechanic assumed that you kept trying to do something over and over until you "rolled" a natural 20, which meant that the task took twenty times as long, and you couldn't do it if there were consequences for failing.

For example, you could take 20 to search for traps (and secret doors), but you couldn't take 20 to disarm a trap because a poor roll meant that you'd set it off (other instances where you couldn't take 20 would be jumping over a pit or trying to sneak past some monsters). Assuming you weren't pressed for time, you could however take 10 on your Disable Device attempt.

While 4th and 5th Edition both retained take 10 (with 5th Edition referring to it as a Passive Check), they dropped take 20. Oddly, 5th Edition describes its Passive Check as trying something over and over again, similar to how 3rd Edition described take 20, but still only factors your result as 10+mods. There's a precedent for take 10, but what about take 20? Why is that rule in FrankenFourth when the previous two editions dropped it?

Because it speeds things up and avoids DM fiat.

In the current FrankenFourth public alpha, one of the commentators stated that he doesn't like take 20, because if there aren't any penalties for failure that the player shouldn't even have to roll; the DM should just tell them what happens (I'm unsure if the implication is that the players should just succeed or fail). I disagree, because it's possible that even if the player rolled a nat 20 that their character might still be unable to do whatever it is the player wants to do.

Since both 4th and 5th Edition allow you to retry certain skills why, if time/monsters/etc aren't factors, force the players to keep rolling for a particularly difficult task until they happen to roll a 20 (or even something less-but-still-high, like a 15)?

This rule doesn't unnecessarily complicate the game, and makes it really easy to determine what the characters are capable of given plenty of time. Searching for traps (or secret doors)? Assuming you aren't pressed for time, just play it safe and take 20. Trying to pick a lock? Take 10, and if you still can't do it, take 20, and if that doesn't work come up with something else (because it's perfectly fine if your character can't do something).

What do you think? Any reason I shouldn't include take 20?

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 303


Cast
  • Adair (level 4 elf war cleric)
  • Humal (level 4 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 4 elf rogue/ranger)

Summary
After re-setting the warmage's broken hands and jaw so that they would eventually heal properly, Adair again lead the party back through the Mistmarsh, more or less retracing the path that brought them to the Twisted Branch lair.

Though they didn't have to worry about lizardmen, a cockatrice ambushed them once they were roughly halfway to the swamp's edge. It bit one of the soldiers in half before they slew it, and Humal had his undead minions drag its carcass along so that he could later animate it.

Night had fallen by the time they returned to Blackwall Keep, which was ominously dark and silent. The front door hung open, and a hastily scrawled sign warned away anyone that might see it.

Humal directed one of his zombies inside, and when it did not return Adair ventured within. Though the place was in disarray there were no signs of conflict, leading them to conclude a hasty evacuation as opposed to an attack. Humal's zombie was also walking into a wall, because as per his instructions it was only to return when it found a creature.

Their investigation eventually lead them to the basement level. Here they found a partially collapsed passage, at the end of which was a solidly barricaded door.

Something was rhythmically beating against it.

Rather than leave mysterious entities to apparently, futilely hammer against a door, Sumia approached and used her dagger to carve out a small slit. When she peered inside a green worm leaped at her face and tried wriggling its way underneath her eye. Fortunately she was able to tear it away, and when she threw it to the ground it melted into a dark green paste.

More worms began pouring forth from the slit, but as before they dissolved moments after landing on the ground. Rather than leave the seemingly contained threat alone, Humal ordered a skeleton to plug the hole, and was shocked to see the worms wriggle about the skeleton and take control of it. They quickly surrounded and destroyed the worm-ridden skeleton, but rather than, again, simply leave the other worm zombies clearly trapped in the room, devised a plan to take them out as well.

The plan fell apart almost immediately.

Adair used his hammer to smash open part of the door, but when Sumia tried lobbing a flask of alchemist's fire into the room it shattered against the outside of the door. A trio of worm-ridden zombies then began climbing out of the room, heedless of the flames.

Adair and Sumia closed in, hoping to prevent more than one from getting out at a time. This worked up until several worms crawled onto Adair; while Sumia helped remove them, one of the spawn pulled Humal's remaining skeleton into the room and infested it, after which they resumed trying to escape their formerly sealed prison.

Humal was able to use his illusion magic to keep at least one detained, which made it easier for Adair and Sumia to destroy the others. They then rested while Humal sustained the illusion, and once they were somewhat less the worse for wear he dismissed it. The last worm zombie crawled free, and with Adair's holy magic they promptly eradicated it.

Design Notes
That wraps it up for the third adventure in the Age of Worms adventure path, which means next week we start up The Hall of Harsh Reflections. As I mentioned in the previous play report, we've assembled a kind of public alpha document, which you can see and comment on here.

Been fleshing out the Necromancer talents. Jacob is enjoying them, as it's giving Humal an offensive option without having to rely on the Evocation tree. He'll need a couple more levels and at least one other talent before he can animate the cockatrice, though.

Here's the stat block for a converted spawn of Kyuss:

Spawn of Kyuss
Level 5 Medium Humanoid (Undead)
XP 30

Ability Scores
STR +4 DEX -1 WIS +0
CON +2 INT -2 CHA 0

Skills
Perception +3, Stealth +3

Defense
Initiative -1
Speed 10 feet/30 feet
Fort 14 Ref 9 Will 10
Armor 0
Wounds 32

Offense
Fear Aura 30 foot range; targets must make a Will check or suffer a -1 penalty to ability checks, attacks, skills, and Defenses.

Slam +5 to hit; 1d6+4 damage; on a 15+ a Kyuss worm is also transferred to the target

Kyuss Worm The worm can be attacked normally: its Defenses are all 10, and it can only suffer 1 point of damage before being destroyed. On the spawn of Kyuss's turn, any worms not removed from characters automatically burrow into their flesh. The worms inflict 1 point of damage for 1d4+1 rounds, after which they reach the character's brain; characters then suffer 1 point of Intelligence damage each round. If a character is reduced to INT -6 they die, only to rise as a spawn of Kyuss 1d6+4 rounds later. Before the victim dies, a character can attempt a DC 20 Medicine check in order to remove the worm.

Also realized that stuff like alchemist's fire needs to scale. Not artificially based on your level, but based on quality.

As I mentioned in the post on non-magical potions, there will be grades for them. So, a baseline mending potion restores 1d8 Wounds, but an exceptional quality potion would restore 2d8. Same deal for alchemist's fire: the better quality you buy, the more damage it deals. Simple, and makes it at least somewhat viable more than a few levels down the road.

Announcements
We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library!

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

A Sundered World: More Character Stuff Preview 5

Previous A Sundered World: More Character Stuff updates have focused on new ideas for moves (like moves that require race and class combinations) and several races, like the ishim, cthon, and kytheran. For this preview, I'm going to shake things up by talking about vehicles, specifically enthollows and jotuncases.

The high concept for enthollows and jotuncases is essentially fantasy power armor, crafted and utilized respectively by the Summer and Winter Courts. They're usually employed against the fomorians lurking within the Wanderer, but are sometimes used in skirmishes between the Courts.

Enthollows are plant-like (an illustration of one can be found on page 354 of A Sundered World), and require a thoughtroot implant in order to pilot (though dryads could feasibly control one made from her tree). Jotuncases are the bones of giants encased in blocks of black ice (an illustration of one can be found directly beneath this text), and can be controlled using a bone mask or crown, or necromantic magic.


Since Dungeon World doesn't have any rules for mounts or vehicles, we originally just slapped a price and load on them and left it at that. While writing this supplement, however, I realized that I wanted to expand on them; after all, we provided actual mechanics, guidelines, and moves for ships (without unnecessarily deviating from Dungeon World's mechanics to boot).

Similar to ships in A Sundered World, vehicles have Armor and hit points. Unlike ships, they don't have their own set of universal moves: you can use whatever moves the GM feels appropriate (and some moves might have different results, or be automatically successful), but some of your stats are modified while in use. For example, here's one of the jotuncases:

Warrior Class Jotuncase
  • You gain the huge, reach, and freezing tags
  • Your STR and CON becomes +3
  • Your DEX becomes +0

A warrior class jotuncase has 24 hp and 2 armor. When its hp is reduced to 0, it no longer functions (and the bound soul used to animate it might escape). Warriors normally wield black ice ogreswords or axes (d10+7 damage, forceful, 1 piercing, freezing), but sometimes they are equipped with cold iron ogreswords or axes (+cold iron).

Announcements
We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library!

We've assembled a kind of public alpha document for FrankenFourth, which you can see and comment on here. It contains enough information (races, classes, monsters, etc) to play for at least the first three levels, though you could pretty easily bullshit at least a few more beyond that point.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

FrankenFourth Public Alpha

As I mentioned in our most recent (as of this post) Age of Worms play report, we've assembled a kind of public alpha document, which you can see and comment on here. It contains enough information (races, classes, monsters, etc) to play for at least the first three levels, though you could pretty easily bullshit at least a few more beyond that point.

We're currently most interested in hearing feedback about the mechanics. More content (races, class, talents, monsters, magic items, treasure tables, everything from A Sundered World, etc) will be gradually added over time.

In particular we're really curious what people think about the cleric and wizard, Vitality and Wounds, and armor. I've been gradually tweaking Vitality and Wounds, trying to get it to a point where characters are a bit more durable than their D&D counterparts, because I think it's silly for a cleric to run around poke-healing the rest of the party x times per day.

We're also trying out the abstract armor rules, because Chris feels that Adair's armor of 6 (5 from plate, +1 from Abjurer) makes him "too safe" (and I agree). Gonna see if reducing it to 4 (3 from heavy armor, +1 from Abjurer) makes him actually worry about getting hit, without making him too easy to take him out.

Feel free to share it with your group, play it yourself, and comment on whatever on the Google Doc, here, or the FrankenFourth community over on G+.

Announcements
We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library!

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 111

Cast
  • Adair (level 4 elf war cleric)
  • Humal (level 4 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Sumia (level 4 elf rogue/ranger)

Summary
Since there were still prisoners that needed rescuing, the characters resolved to continue exploring the lizardmen lair.

They'd just finished arming the soldiers when a lone lizardman entered the chamber, and with a single rap of his staff both entrances were suddenly clogged by a tangle of thick roots. Prepared for a fight, they were surprised to discover that not only could he could speak Common well enough, but he elected to do so instead of fighting.

The lizardman druid told them that it knew why they'd come, and offered to exchange the remaining prisoners, help them escape, and cease hostilities against Blackwall Keep if they would slay the current chieftain. When asked why, he explained that their chieftain had been recently changed by a dragon, both physically and mentally, which had spurred their tribe into what the druid considered to be needless conflict.

Knowing that this would ultimately lead to their destruction, the druid had been seeking a way to eliminate the chieftain, and it believed that the characters were more than capable of doing so (and if they failed, the druid wouldn't be to blame). The characters agreed, and were led to the druid's personal chamber, which housed the other two bound and unconscious prisoners. The druid explained they had been drugged with a sleeping poison, but were otherwise fine.

The chieftain's chamber was nearby, so Sumia tried sneaking in to scout it out. It was too dark for her to see clearly, but the chieftain could apparently sense her just fine; whatever the dragon had done to him had increased his strength substantially (and enabled him to breathe acid). Fortunately, he only got one hit in before the rest of the party came to her rescue.

Once the chieftain was slain Sumia asked the druid about the dragon. He didn't know why it had offered to help them or where its lair was, but it had left an egg with them as a gesture of good faith. The party wanted to take the egg, each for their own reasons. The druid wanted nothing more to do with the dragon, and fully intended to relocate the tribe elsewhere in the Mistmarsh, so told them where their hatchery was as it also had a passage that would lead them outside.

Carrying the unconscious and wounded soldiers, they traversed a mostly submerged tunnel that eventually emerged into the hatchery. The dragon's egg was easy to identify: it was considerably larger, black, and seemed to loom over the rest of the eggs. When Adair went to examine the egg, he noticed several partially buried chests surrounding it.

They debated on what to take, wondering if the chests belonged to the lizardmen or dragon (or were gifts for the hatchling), and whether either party would notice or care if they were gone. Eventually they settled on just taking everything, figuring that the lizardmen wouldn't bother trying to track them down, but when Adair tried picking up the dragon's egg it tore in half.

It was filled with Kyuss worms.

The worms spilled out of the egg, sluggishly crawling towards the lizardmen eggs. The characters and conscious soldiers frantically smashed the worms and carried eggs to safety. Only one worm managed to wriggle its way into an egg, and moments later a gruesome, mostly-formed lizardman hatchling tore its way free, only to be immediately crushed by Adair's hammer.

Once they were sure the worms were dead and no more lizardmen hatchlings would be zombified, Sumia returned to the druid to tell him what had transpired. The druid thanked her, she returned to the party, and together they following the other passage outside and began the trek back to Blackwall Keep.

Design Notes
We've assembled a kind of public alpha document, which you can see and comment on here. It contains enough information (races, classes, monsters, etc) to play for at least the first three levels, though you could pretty easily bullshit at least a few more beyond that point.

We're mostly interested in hearing feedback about the mechanics. In particular we're really curious what people think about the cleric and wizard, Vitality and Wounds, and armor. I've been gradually tweaking Vitality and Wounds, trying to get it to a point where characters are a bit more durable than their D&D counterparts, because I think it's silly for a cleric to run around poke-healing the rest of the party x times per day.

We're also trying out the abstract armor rules, because Adair's armor of 6 (5 from plate, +1 from Abjurer) makes him feel too safe. Gonna see if reducing it to 4 (3 from heavy armor, +1 from Abjurer) makes him actually worry about getting hit, without making him too easy to take him out.

Chris, the player of Adair, needs to drop out for at least several months: if you're interested in playing, lemme know. You don't gotta play his character (and we'll give you access to all of the stuff we've made), we'd just like at least one additional player to round the party out.

Announcements
We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library!

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

Forging Dungeons With Dwarven Forge: Caverns

In my previous post on Dwarven Forge tiles, I talked about their vanilla dungeon sets. This time I'm gonna talk about their cavern sets, which unfortunately require more investment because:
  • A basic set of cavern tiles runs $80 for pre-painted, and $60 for "dungeon grey" (and there isn't a slightly discounted three-pack).
  • You don't get as much as you do in a dungeon set: only 26 pieces compared to 32 (plus two doors, for a total of 34), which means you'll need more sets to get a really good cavern going (and the varied walls and floors and cavern floor sets if you want some added variety).
  • They take a bit more effort to paint: we go through the same steps as our dungeon tiles, just adding some brown here and there for the stalactites and stalagmites.

The basic cavern set comes with 8 corners, 9 straights, and 9 floors, Compared to dungeon tiles, you get more corners but less straights and floors, and as with dungeon tiles they all eat up a 2 x 2 space. Here's the total floor space you get with a single set:


And here's about what you can do if you're going for a more "cavernous" look:


Not much. Here's an example of what you can do with two sets:


Bigger, but still not much. I wish Dwarven Forge had a cavern three pack, like they do with the standard dungeon: you'd be able to save a few bucks, and that's basically what you're going to need if you wanna build a decent-sized cavern.

Oh, pick up the varied floors and walls set if you can. It's basically an entire set of tiles that adds some much needed, well, variety.


Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

FrankenFourth: Deep One Dungeon Crawl, Part 2

Cast
  • Arras (2nd-level human wizard)
  • Jovan (2nd-level human fighter)
  • Rosalind (2nd-level human fighter)

Summary
The previous session ended with a shoggoth bashing its way through a nearby door.

Since Rosalind and Arras had exhausted themselves during the last fight, the party decided that discretion was the better part of valor and legged it.


The characters fled through a few doors, and once they were out of the shoggoth's sight ducked into a small chamber and hoped it wouldn't find them.

They waited long enough to take a short rest (ie, about 30 minutes): partially because Arras needed to regain her magic, and partially because they wanted to be really sure the shoggoth was gone before they emerged.


To their relief, when they finally came out of the closet the shoggoth was nowhere to be found...but a quartet of deep ones did get the drop on them while they were preparing to smash open a door. It was then that they realized that all pools they'd seen throughout the dungeon were connected...


...just in time for the shoggoth to make another appearance.

They again fled and ducked into another room, but the shoggoth still managed to find them. They tried barricading the door with a stone sarcophagus, but to their dismay it was still able to force its way through.


The shoggoth got a few hits in before the characters were able to wriggle their way past and find a place to hide. The party was able to evade its notice for a time thanks to a hidden passage that linked a pair of rooms...


...but it found them soon after they'd made their way into what they could only assume was some kind of deep one treasury.


This time they didn't stop running, even when it seemed as though the shoggoth had finally given up...


...because of course it hadn't, ambushing them in the cavern near the portal. Fortunately, they were all able to escape through the portal before Arras sealed it behind them.

Behind the Scenes
There wasn't really any objective for this dungeon crawl: it was basically them trying to nab as much treasure as they dared to. They were aware that they could die, and were surprisingly cool with it (if nothing else, the kids looked at it as a chance to get a new mini).

With Melissa's prompting, the kids were smart enough to run from the shoggoth, which was five levels higher than them. The whole session reminded me of playing Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Amnesia, with the shoggoth randomly popping out of pools or bashing in doors to try and devour them.

All things consider it went really well: they got a bunch of money, and even a magic amulet that lets them breathe underwater, but only underwater since it causes whoever wears it to grow gills. Here's a screenshot of Melissa's character sheet, so you can see how she records XP and loot (and how little space characters take up):


In other news, the public alpha is nearly ready to go. I'm hoping by the end of this week, or during next week at some point. Juggling this, new classes for Mythic Mortals, and adding our stuff to Tabletop Library (and other places).

Announcements
A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Ghost has manifested!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

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