Monday, August 25, 2014

DCC Houserule: Glancing and Penetrating Hits

Credit goes to one of my players who also GMs from time to time.

Glancing Hit: On any attack roll where the dice total the target's AC, all damage is reduced by half, rounded down.

Penetrating Hit: On any attack roll where the dice exceed the target's AC, damage is rolled normally.

Friday, August 22, 2014

DCC RPG Variant: Thief Advancement by Guild

Of the seven available classes in DCC RPG, the Thief is the only one with a codified skill system. Naturally, these skills revolve around hiding in the shadows, pickpocketing, and stabbing things in the back. Y'know, Thief stuff. However, one of the more curious design choices was tying which ones advance to alignment. The book tries to make this more flavorful by renaming each advancement tree after a path (Path of the Boss, Path of the Assassin, Path of the Swindler), but I don't feel this adequately captures the true variety of Thiefdom. None of the three paths offered, for example, allocate the highest bonus to the Pick Lock skill.

One houserule I've been working on is advancement by Thieves' Guild. Rather than tie the skill advancement to alignment, it would be based on the flavor of the guild. Want a guild that is notorious for breaching the highest security areas in your world? Done. All the GM has to do is choose:

  • 4 Skills to receive the highest bonus
  • 4 Skills to receive the second highest bonus
  • 2 Skills to receive the second lowest bonus
  • 2 Skills to receive the lowest bonus
  • One of the two advancement tracks for Casting Spells from Scrolls

Of course, basing advancement on guild flavor opens up a world of possibilities. For one, having a guild with such influence on a character means a direct source for adventure. It also provides opportunity to completely customize the Thief class. In exchange for a smaller selection of skills, perhaps the player advances faster or higher in their areas of expertise. Maybe each guild has a wholly custom list of skills and abilities or favored weapons. With all of these options, I find it best to start with the the fiction and worry about how to make it work within the rules after the fact.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Microscope Explorer Announced

Microscope Explorer is a supplement that explores (ehh? get it?) different facets of Microscope. Seeds to get play started quickly? Check. Tools to hone your history? Check. Rules variants and other twists? Check.

The full announcement is here

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ability Scores Above 18

As I gear up to run a DCC RPG campaign, I've been tinkering with some optional rules I want to add to my game. One of them is a mechanical benefit of ability scores above 18. Rather than simply tack on an additional +1 bonus, what if that score had a bigger impact?

If an ability score is increased above 18, either temporarily, magically, or permanently, the player may choose one of the following abilities:

  • When using any ability rooted in this stat, the player rolls +1d on the die chain
  • When using any ability rooted in this stat, the player rolls 2d10 instead of a D20
  • If the stat is Strength or Agility, the player may re-roll damage rolls
  • If the stat is Personality, a Cleric may re-roll the damage healed from their Lay on Hands check
  • If the stat is Intelligence, a Wizard or Elf may re-roll their spell damage 
Players must accept the second roll, even if it's worse. If a character has more than one stat above 18, the player must choose a different ability for each. Should an effect reduce the ability score to 18 or below, either temporarily, magically, or permanently, the character immediately loses access to this ability. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Torchbearer GM Screen

GM screens are always one of the more trickier products to produce. While all accomplish the basic task of offering the GM's notes some much needed concealment, few are more than folded cardboard wrapped in some cool (or not) art. All of the good screens double as quick reference documents. I'm happy to say that the Torchbearer GM screen is one of the good ones.

The art depicts a sprawling dungeon in the typical light fantasy fare we've seen in all of the other Torchbearer products. At the upper levels are the archetypal fantasy creatures most people are familiar with: orcs, goblins, and the like. The lower levels are filled with dragons, demons, and other abominations. I particularly like this illustration because it reinforces the notion that you don't need to travel far and wide to find adventure, you just need to keep digging deeper.

This screen is smaller than the ones you normally find for use with the world's most popular roleplaying game. This is a good thing! Maybe I'm just short or need to better match my chairs to my gaming table, but I always feel like I'm straining to see over the top of those screens to make eye contact with the players. This screen provides adequate coverage without being obstructive.

One thing that did strike me as odd is that only two of three player-facing panels have art on them. The other one has the rules for conflicts printed on it. It's not an issue for me because I like the size of the screen and the art is really the least important part of this product, but I have a feeling that some may wonder if they couldn't have made a larger screen and put all of the rules on one side.

The hardest and most important part of designing a good GM screen is deciding which rules to include. Torchbearer is among the best as it includes rules for the Grind, Camp, Town, Light, Equipment (how much space they take up, how much they cost), Conflicts, and Loot tables, among other things. In short, there is not a session that goes by that almost all of the rules included do not get used, and having a quick reference to them will drastically cut down on the time spent flipping through the rulebook.

I think it speaks volumes that the only real criticism I can muster is that there is too much useful information included on the Torchbearer GM screen. Some may take issue with the size, but its utility for quick rules-reference far outweighs any form factor gripes. This product joins the Torchbearer Player's Deck as an essential play aid.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kickstarter: Peril on the Purple Planet

In Peril on the Purple Planet, the characters are cast across the cosmos to a foreign world. Left to die beneath a weirdling sun and its sickening rays, the PCs’ survival depends as much upon their quick wit as a quick blade, as even the finest chain hauberk must fail beneath the crush of an alien horde.

A level 4 exploration-style adventure spanning scores of leagues, the party must contend with hundreds of miles of alien wasteland, the predatory creatures of the Purple Planet, deadly mushroom jungles, and thousands of factious savage man-beasts locked in an endless war.

In the course of the sprawling hex-crawl, the PCs will have the opportunity to assume mastery of their own warbands or pit faction against faction, plumb ancient burial mounds or respect the age-old taboos, and experiment with deadly artifacts – the remnants of the Last War. How the PCs meet each challenge will determine whether they discover the secrets to returning home, or slip beneath the sands of the wastes, succumbing to the perils of the Purple Planet.

But for those few with the courage to remain, we offer a world for the conquering.

Fund it here!

Friday, July 4, 2014

More Magic Items for Torchbearer

Sunshard Ring

Once per adventure phase, a character may summon the mpower of this ring. It provides light as a torch that cannot be blown out or smothered in any way.

Level: 1
Type: Magical Clothing
Inventory: Hands/ Worn 1


This flask refills itself at the beginning of each phase.

Level: 1
Type: Magical Equipment
Inventory: Pack 1 or Replaces Waterskin slot

Oracle Blade

Once per conflict, before revealing action, guess what your opponent scripted. If correct, you may re-script.

Level: 2
Type: Magical Weapon (Sword)
Inventory: Be;t/Weapon or Hand/Carried 1

Blood Drinker Axe

During a Kill, Capture, or Drive Off conflict, you may recover 1 point of disposition for every 2 successes over the Ob on an Attack action.

Level: 3
Type: Magical Weapon (Battleaxe)
Inventory: Hand/Carried 2

Mirror Shield

When being targeted by a spell, roll a number of dice equal to the caster. If the spell is successfully cast but you roll more successes than the caster, it is reflected and affects them instead.

Level: 4
Type: Magical Weapon (Shield)
Inventory: Hand/Carried 1 or Torso/Worn 1

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Sixth World: Another Shadowrun Hack

The other system I had in mind for running Shadowrun was Apocalypse World. Before deciding what anything else would look like, I decided that the hack would have to be called The Sixth World, a nod the timeline of Shadowrun that keeps the naming tradition of all the various *world games. Again, it appears that someone has beaten me to the punch. Not that I'm complaining. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

ShadowFate, FateRun: Shadowrun Hack for Fate

Shadowrun has one of the coolest, most distinct settings in the world of RPGs. It also has a pretty dense system. I was thinking about how cool it would be to hack Fate into a Shadowrun game, but someone seems to have beaten me to the punch. Specifically, Rob Wieland, the author of several Shadowrun books.

Take a look here for skills and stunts, and here for the archetypes.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Masterwork Items in Torchbearer


Once per Kill, Drive-Off, or Capture Conflict, the player may choose to re-roll* a single failed die while using this weapon.


Once per Kill, Drive-Off, or Capture Conflict, the player may choose to re-roll* their die when testing for armor damage.


Once per adventure phase, in a test where a masterwork item was used as supplies, they may re-roll* a single failed die. This item must grant a +1D to the test in order to use the ability.


The cost for all masterwork items is equal to double their Ob. It is up to the GMs discretion whether or not they are available for purchase.

*The normal rules for re-rolling apply. This ability may not be used to re-roll dice that have already been re-rolled.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Torchbearer GM Screen

The folks at BWHQ recently announced that they are in the process of putting together a GM screen for Torchbearer! Pre-orders were restricted to the backers of the Kickstarter, but everyone else can get in on the action this August.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sounds from the Crypt #2: Electric Wizard

I am hardly the first to make the connection between metal and D&D. If it isn't your thing, Electric Wizard isn't going to change your mind (I personally prefer fast to heavy). However, there is something about the sludginess of this stuff lends itself well to gaming, particularly a good DCC session.

This song does have vocals but the lyrics are mostly unintelligible so they won't distract. There is a nice build up from the slow foreboding march of the beginning all the way until the end. Perfect for a final boss fight or raising the dead.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Torchbearer: Familiars

Upon gaining a new level, Magicians may opt to form an Arcane Bond with a creature or object rather than gain a new spell slot. Magicians may only have one Arcane Bond at a time.

Arcane Bond

During the course of their travels, Magicians often form special bonds with a creature or unlock powers hidden deep within objects. A Magician who chooses this level benefit has merely done the proper rituals necessary to create this bond and must still find a suitable creature or object to gain any effect. As with spells, your Mentor can provide a familiar. Others may test Circles to find someone in town who can help or find a suitable familiar in the wild at the GMs discretion.

Sample Familiars

Brain in a Jar: +1D to Lore Master
Chameleon: Anytime Nature is taxed, reduce the amount by 1
Crow: +1D to Scavenger
Dog: +1D to Pathfinder
Eagle: +1D to Scout
Fox: +1D to Criminal
Moth: Whenever a light source would go out, roll a d6. On a roll of 4+, it stays lit for another turn
Owl: +1D to Hunter
Pseudodragon: +1D to Arcanist
Rat: +1D to Dungeoneer
Spider: +1D to Alchemist
Toad: Increase disposition of caster by 1 during a conflict

The benefits that grant +1D to a skill are neither help nor wises and therefore are not affected by conditions. Additionally, if the Magician is using Beginner's Luck on a skill, this die is added after reducing the number of dice by half.

Losing a Bonded Creature/Item

If a creature is killed as part of a twist or compromise or if the item is lost or stolen, the bond is broken. Tax the Magician's Nature by their current level.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Torchbearer on

Courtesy of SilverSeraphim on the forums. To use it, login to (make a free account if you don't have one). Before launching your campaign, go to Details > Campaign Settings. Scroll down to the Character Sheet section and select Torchbearer from the drop-down list.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kickstarter: Drinking Quest

It's a Drinking Game and a Tabletop RPG! The first 3 Drinking Quest games were cult hits-now they've been remastered with new content.

In 2011 Drinking Quest: The Original Drinking RPG spawned a hilarious new genre. The Drinking Quest games are a light RPG, a light Drinking Game (with non drinking rules as well) and a heavy parody experience because it's such a ridiculous concept.

Since then two sequels have been released: Yeddy Vedder's Yeti Adventure (2012) and Nectar of the Gods (2013).

The goal of Trilogy Edition is to bring all three games together seamlessly in one package and make all kinds of improvements like:

  • Full Colour Cards
  • An Improved D4, D6, D8 System (Instead of 3D6) This adds complexity to the game without adding a single new rule.
  • Bigger Cards while still staying a good size to bring to the pub
  • A Bigger, More Attractive Box
  • Up to 3 new Quests (Consisting of 12 cards each)
  • Other smaller improvements (Think remastered Star Trek not remastered Star Wars)
Fund it here

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fyndel Forest: The Trees Are Dreaming

Fyndel Forest came to be known as the Dreamwood for its protean nature. The trees change shape, the weather cycles out of season, and if you go down to the river you may find wine flowing across its banks. Skeptics dismiss this as simple illusion, the work of some hedge wizard, but anyone who has spent time in these woods can you tell you the forest's dreams are real.

Once per day, roll a d66 and apply the appropriate effect. Some of these effects are meant purely to be cosmetic. Others may increase the difficulty of some actions. As a rule, simply count these as a factor when figuring the obstacle for any action that could reasonably be affected by it. Additionally, this table may be used to introduce magic twists for failed spell attempts.

11 Foiliage: the leaves are made of gold and silver. If they are removed from the forest they turn to mulch.
12 Shifting Roots: the brush constantly readjusts itself making tracking, pathfinding, and mapping difficult.
13 The forest is asleep. No effect.
14 The forest is asleep. No effect.
15 Blinding Miasma: heavy fog blankets the forest obscuring vision.
16 Warp Pool: all bodies of water become portals to other parts of Fyndel Forest.
21 Deadwood: the trees are made of bone.
22 Seagrove: the floor of the forest is covered in seashells.
23 The forest is asleep. No effect.
24 The forest is asleep. No effect.
25 Early Winter: heavy snow is falling and turns pass as in the Winter phase.
26 Root Maze: Players cannot leave this area of the forest. If they cross a border, they re-enter on the opposite side.
31 Topiary Jungle: the trees have contorted themselves into the shapes of beasts and animals.
32 Beachwood: the floor of the forest is covered in sand.
33 The forest is asleep. No effect.
34 The forest is asleep. No effect.
35 Cloudburst: heavy rain and thunderstorms.
36 Emerald Dreams: roll on this table again--the characters dream this effect will happen, and it does the following day.
41 Palette Swap: all of the colors in the forest are inverted.
42 Wet Roots: campfires will not start and torches have a 50% chance of going out each turn.
43 The forest is asleep. No effect.
44 The forest is asleep. No effect.
45 Smoke Without Fire: a cloud of heavy, black smoke hangs in the forest air.
46 Trick or Treat: a mysterious fruit seems to have grown on all of the trees.
51 Water To. . .: Roll 1d6. All bodies of water are full of (1) wine, (2) vinegar, (3) salt water, (4) blood, (5) acid, or (6) oil.
52 Eversun: even after the sun has set, the forest is still as light as day.
53 The forest is asleep. No effect.
54 The forest is asleep. No effect.
55 Mirewood: the water levels rise, flooding Fyndel and turning it into a swamp.
56 Evernight: even after the sun has risen, it remains as dark as night.
61 Tempest: Roll 1d6. It is raining (1) frogs, (2) scorpions, (3) glass, (4) stones, (5) Blood, or (6) oil.
62 Voodoo Stones: carvings of the adventurers appear on the stones.
63 The forest is asleep. No effect.
64 The forest is asleep. No effect.
65 Rootwatch: there are eyes on the leaves.
66 Giant Growth: All of the trees and plants grow to massive stature.

Tips for reading the dice: If the 1's column would be a 3 or 4, there will be no effect no matter the 10's column. You can also read the dice two ways (ie, you could choose either 12 or 21 and apply whichever effect you like better).

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Six New Classes for Torchbearer!

Jared Sorensen tried his hand at Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Monk, and Strider. They can be your for the low price of $1 per class. Take a look here!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dark Elves: Torchbearer Edition

Class: Raider
Raw Abilities: Will 4, Health 4
Skills: Fighter 3. Ritualist 3, Theologian 3, Scholar 2, Scout 2, Dungeoneer 2
Trait: Born From Shadow
Weapons: Crossbow, Sword, and Dagger
Armor: Leather and Chainmail

Born From Shadow

At the dawn of the world, the First Born cast out those of their kin with impure intentions, driving them deep underground. Over the ages, their skin became the color of pitch, their hair lost all pigment, and they found a certain comfort in the darkness. Those Born from Shadow can find a way when there is no clear path, but are often blinded by that which is in plain sight.

Where is Your Home?

Below are two new settlements meant to represent some of the many possible locations of the Underdark, the Dark Elves' home.

Drow Citadel (Dark Elves Only)
Skills: Weaver, Theologian, Alchemist
Traits: Cunning, Jaded

Isles of the Underground Sea (Dark Elves Only)
Skills: Carpenter, Laborer, Sailor
Traits: Bitter, Rough Hands

Optional Rule: Unless you're playing a campaign set within the Underdark, it is very unlikely that you will visit your home. Players may choose to take any of the normal settlements within the books, but they may only choose between Loner or Stoic as the home trait choices to reflect their status as outsiders.


Choose one of the following: Poison-wise or Elf Lore-wise; additionally, take a second wise of your choice.


If you're a Dark Elf, write Nature: Dark Elf on your character sheet. Your descriptors are Spiting, Remembering, and Hiding.

Dark Elf Nature Questions

Do you take pleasure in every opportunity to spite your enemies? Or do you save your energy for more important matters?
  • If you pleasure in spiting your enemies, increase your Nature by one.
  • If you save your energy, replace or increase home trait with Thoughtful or Calm.
Have you found it within yourself to forgive those who have betrayed you? Or do you brood over the past, remembering the faces of all those who have wronged you?
  • If you remember the faces, increase Nature by one.
  • If you found it within yourself to forgive, replace your home trait with Generous or Honorable/
Do you desire to reclaim your place beneath the sun and stars and bathe in the light once more? Or do you prefer to hide in the depths of the world, shrouded in darkness?
  • If you prefer to hide, increase your Nature by one and decrease your starting Fighter by one.
  • If you desire to reclaim your place, your Nature and Fighter remain unchanged.
Starting Equipment

As Elf Ranger.

Dark Elf Raider Levels

When they gain a level, Dark Elves choose between a Cleric prayer or a special level benefit. This section describes the special level benefits. Gaining new prayers is described in the Divine Power section.

Level 1

Raider: Your level 1 title is Raider. Your level 1 benefit is the ability to use Ritualist to cast one first circle prayer of your choice, wear leather and chainmail armor, and wield a dagger, crossbow, and sword.

Level 2

Eldritch Sink: Dark Elves are supernaturally resistance to magic. All attempts to affect a Dark Elf with magic, helpful or harmful, suffer -1s.

Level 3

Essence of the Earth: As the level 3 Elf ability

Level 4

Fearless: As the level 4 Elf ability

Level 5

Shadow Dancer: Dark Elves are adept at wielding two weapons, either two swords or a sword and a dagger. While doing so, they may add +1D to all Fighter rolls during a Kill, Capture, or Drive Off Conflict. If wielding two Swords, they may choose two actions that receive a +1D bonus.

Friday, May 30, 2014

101 Wises for Torchbearer

  • Aasimar-wise
  • Armor-wise
  • Ambush-wise
  • Betrayal-wise
  • Beholder-wise
  • Bugbear-wise
  • Basilisk-wise
  • Bone-wise
  • Centaur-wise
  • Crypt-wise
  • Chimera-wise
  • Cavern-wise
  • Cult-wise
  • Castle-wise
  • Dragon-wise
  • Demon-wise
  • Desert-wise
  • Disguise-wise
  • Ettin-wise
  • Egg-wise
  • Earthquake-wise
  • Forest-wise
  • Foul Odor-wise
  • Fungus-wise
  • False Idol-wise
  • Flood-wise
  • Goblin-wise
  • Giant-wise
  • Ghost-wise
  • Gargoyle-wise
  • Gold-wise
  • Hobgoblin-wise
  • Hidden Entrance-wise
  • Horse-wise
  • Hag-wise
  • Herb-wise
  • Imp-wise
  • Idol-wise
  • Inscription-wise
  • Illusion-wise
  • Jest-wise
  • Jewel-wise
  • Kobold-wise
  • Key-wise
  • King-wise
  • Knot-wise
  • Lich-wise
  • Lake-wise
  • Lock-wise
  • Labyrinth-wise
  • Lycanthrope-wise
  • Manticore-wise
  • Mindflayer-wise
  • Mountain-wise
  • Merfolk-wise
  • Magic Carpet-wise
  • Naga-wise
  • Necromancy-wise
  • Orc-wise
  • Ooze-wise
  • Oracle-wise
  • Ogre-wise
  • Owlbear-wise
  • Poison-wise
  • Portal-wise
  • Pirate-wise
  • Plains-wise
  • Planes-wise
  • Quicksand-wise
  • Riddle-wise
  • River-wise
  • Ritual Sacrifice-wise
  • Ruins-wise
  • Rune-wise
  • Satyr-wise
  • Sea-wise
  • Swamp-wise
  • Spider-wise
  • Skeleton-wise
  • Shrine-wise
  • Statue-wise
  • Serpent-wise
  • Temple-wise
  • Tomb-wise
  • Trap-wise
  • Troll-wise
  • Tiefling-wise
  • Tsunami-wise
  • Underdark-wise
  • Unicorn-wise
  • Vampire-wise
  • Valley-wise
  • Volcano-wise
  • Vault-wise
  • Worg-wise
  • Witch-wise
  • Ward-wise
  • Wand-wise
  • Wine-wise
  • Yuan Ti-wise
  • Zombie-wise

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dark Dungeons Headed to the Silver Screen

Dark Dungeons brings Jack Chick’s 1984 masterpiece to the silver screen. Debbie and Marcie arrive at college unaware of the dangers of RPGing. They are soon indoctrinated into this dangerous lifestyle where they face the threat of learning real life magical powers, being invited to join a witches’ coven, and resisting the lure of Ms. Frost, a vile temptress of a GM. But what peril must the two friends face when they stumble across the Necronomicon and their fantasy game becomes a reality game? Find out in Dark Dungeons!

From JR Ralls and the makers of The Gamers, Dorkness Rising, Hands of Fate, and JourneyQuest.

Learn more here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Kickstarter: World of Dew

A World of Dew is a brand new Samurai Noir role-playing game, and a sequel to John Wick’s Blood & Honor. In the original Blood & Honor you played samurai who were members of a clan. In World of Dew you can now play everyone else: perceptive geisha, weary ronin, gargantuan sumo, greedy yakuza, and even gaijin. Instead of being members of a clan I have designed a slick city design system. Players build a vibrant living city with deep connections with both the characters and the rules. 

Fund it here

Kickstarter: Wield

You are an ancient and powerful magical artifact...

... and those who wield you believe themselves  heroes...

... but they are nothing more than disposable pawns.

Who was the wielder, Elric or Stormbringer?

Did anyone ever really master Sauron's One Ring? Or was it the master of all who carried it?

Orna, the sword of Tethra, tells the hero who picks it up the stories of all its murders... thousands upon thousands...

Claíomh Solais, the Sword of Irish Kings, always seemed to have its own agenda, regardless of who held it...

Tales of "willful weapons" are rife in fantasy literature, and now, here is your chance to play one.

Fund it here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sounds from the Crypt #1

For some reason, in my two years of sporadic updates I have never talked about music at the gaming table. This is especially odd since few of my games don't feature music. To remedy this, I bring you the first post in "Sounds from the Crypt", an irregular series of posts that will chronicle the music that gets played at my table as well as some occasional advice on how to get the most out of it.

John Fahey's Death Chants, Breakdowns, and Military Waltzes is one of my favorite albums of all time. It first showed up on my radar about four years ago, when I wasn't even playing RPGs. I'm not sure who had the brilliant stroke of genius in our group to put this one on, but it has never gone out of rotation since.

The album, entirely instrumental, is just perfect for for fantasy RPGs. We never try to use music for certain locations or during certain moments and prefer to just kind of let it organically sync of up with the in-game action. Few albums achieve this so effortlessly as this one.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Equipment Conditions in DCC RPG

One thing I've found is that players often lack for ways to spend their loot. After a few adventures they are usually able to afford any piece of gear they desire. Considering how much time is spent evenly and agreeably dividing the treasure, it should be a little more valuable. In an effort to create a much needed sense of economy and introduce some resource management into DCC RPG, I have created rules for equipment degradation. 
Weapons have three conditions: Good Repair, Damaged, and Broken. At the end of every encounter you must test to see if your weapon degrades. Roll the weapon’s damage die. If the result comes up a 1, it degrades a condition. If it was in good repair, it is now damaged. If it was damaged, it is now broken.
Damaged weapons are not as effective in combat. Reduce all damage done by half, rounded down to a minimum of 1. Track damaged weapons on your sheet by underlining them. This is to remind you that they need to be repaired.
Broken weapons are useless until repaired. Track broken weapons by crossing them out on your character sheet. This is to remind you that you can’t use them until they’ve been repaired. 
Armor has three conditions: Good Repair, Damaged, and Broken. At the end of every encounter you must test to see if your armor degrades. Roll its fumble die. If the result comes up a 1, it degrades a condition. If it was in good repair, it is now damaged. If it was damaged, it is now broken.
Damaged armor is not as effective at protecting you. Reduce it’s AC bonus by half rounded down to a minimum of +1. Track damaged armor on your sheet by underlining it. This is to remind you that it needs to be repaired.
Broken armor offers no protection. Track broken armor by crossing it out on your character sheet. This is to remind you that you can’t use it until it’s been repaired. 

Tools and Other Equipment
Unlike weapons and armor, tools only have two conditions: Good Repair and Broken. After each use, you must check to see if tools are broken. Roll 1d6. On a roll of 1, the item is broken. Unless they were masterwork quality, broken tools are worthless and cannot be repaired. 
Repairing Equipment

The two most common ways to repair items are through using the appropriate skill or hiring a tradesperson in town. The difficulty and cost of repair will vary according to condition and equipment is sometimes so badly damaged it cannot be restored to its former glory.

DC to repair Damaged Equipment: 10
DC to repair Broken Equipment: 15

Cost to Repair Damaged Equipment: 1/4 of Market Price
Cost to Repair Broken Equipment: 1/2 of Market Price

Weapons and armor that were broken can be repaired but only partially. Each time a broken weapon is repaired, reduce it's damage die one step down the dice chain. If this would reduce its damage die below a d3, the weapon shatters and is permanently broken.

Each time broken armor is repaired, reduce its AC bonus by 1 and its fumble die is reduced -1d on dice chain. If an armor's AC bonus is ever reduced to 0, it is too damaged to salvage.

Eventually it will just be worth it to plunk down on a new piece of gear. Better make it masterwork this time!
Masterwork Equipment

Masterwork equipment is made of sturdier stuff than its more mundane counterparts. When rolling to see if a piece of equipment degrades, players may re-roll the die if it comes up a 1. If a second 1 is rolled, then the equipment degrades. Otherwise, it remains in its current condition.

Broken masterwork weapons and armor can be repaired to their original values. The costs are the same for hiring a tradesperson, but the DC and the risk for doing it yourself is higher.

DC to repair Damaged Masterwork Equipment: 15
DC to repair Broken Masterwork Equipment: 20

Players who do not succeed on these rolls still manage to crudely repair their weapons and armor. Reduce the damage die by one on the dice chain for weapons and reduce the AC bonus by 1 for armor and decrease its fumble die -1d on the die chain permanently. It's best to leave this to the professionals!

Damaged masterwork tools and gear are only repaired on a successful roll but do not degrade

To represent this hardiness, all masterwork equipment costs twenty times the market price. Yes, I'm seriously going to charge my players 24,000 gold for a suit of masterwork full plate. Put aside these mechanics for a moment and consider what makes an item masterwork. The workmanship is only half of the equation. The other half is the raw materials. This is your chance to really instill a sense of awe and value into an item. That 24,000 suit of armor? It's made from dragonscale, and you better believe there's only one of them for sale in the entire kingdom. Players who can muster the raw materials themselves (easier said than done) will see a 50% discount.
Magic Items

Magic items follow the same degradation rules as masterwork items.

Salvaged Kit

Weapons and armor salvaged from dungeons and its denizens should have their conditions rolled randomly on the table below.

1: Broken

2-5: Damaged
6: Good Repair

For tools and other equipment, roll on this table:

1-2: Broken
3-6: Good Repair

The shops back in town aren't interested in your trash. They will only purchase items in good repair. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Kickstarter: DCC RPG #83 The Chained Coffin

The adventure is designed for level 5 characters. A whispered voice calls from a coffin bound in chains, urging the heroes into the depths of the Shudder Mountains, a place rife with superstition and forlorn secrets. In the shadowy, pine-grown valleys of the Deep Hollows lurk mysteries of a bygone age and a new evil emerging from the ruins of the past. The adventurers must plumb the mountains’ secluded reaches to root out this rising terror before its power comes to fruition. Standing in their path are cackling witches, subtle devils, lingering spirits, and a foul thing that moves in the night. Can the heroes appease that which lies within the Chained Coffin and thwart the dawn of a new and terrible age?

If it goes to $36,000, this module will grow into a box set. Full details here. Become a backer here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It Revolves on This: Say Yes to Failure

My final piece of advice for playing Burning Wheel is this: do not be afraid to fail. Whereas most games only reward success, Burning Wheel rewards both success and failure. I would even say that it incentivizes failure since its the game's philosophy that failure leads to complications and complications lead to drama and tough choices.

This is one of the things I often find players struggle with most when learning this game. Players want to play it safe and live to see another day. That's not what Burning Wheel is about. It's about challenging your beliefs and seeing how far you'll really go to see them through. Far more likely than dying is having to make difficult decisions about who and what you really care about. You'll never get what you want if you play it safe.

Take the chance, roll the dice, and embrace the outcome, whatever that may be.

Monday, May 12, 2014

It Revolves on This: The Sword and How You Wield It

You've read the rules. You're ready to meet the game on its own terms. You've assembled your group of players. Time to make characters, right? Wrong. As I suggested in a previous post, you should always begin with a module. For Burning Wheel, that means running "The Sword", a simple one-scene scenario meant to introduce the basics of the game.

The situation is a familiar one, how to split the loot, namely, a sword that all of the players have beliefs about. You can find it here, along with each of the characters here, here, here, and here. Side note: if you've been paying attention you have everything you need to take Burning Wheel for a spin between the free "Hub and Spokes" PDF and this adventure.

Aside from the obvious reasons why you should begin with the demo scenario, a major one is simply that creating characters in Burning Wheel is a lengthy process. There are no classes, no obvious builds, no way to game the system. It's all about concept and representing that concept within the rules. Since this will all be alien to new players, I find it's best to front-load the character creation session with "The Sword" so that players will better understand the ramifications of their decisions.

After you've played through this scenario, start talking about what you liked. What did the system do that interests you? What do you want to see more of? Keep talking and asking questions. Eventually you will have enough that you and the group can move into building a situation that you're all ready to explore. The most important step at this stage is concept. What kind of game do you want to play? What kind of character do you want play?

Friday, May 9, 2014

It Revolves on This: The Hub and The Spokes

At almost 600 pages, The Burning Wheel rulebook is a monstrously huge tome. The good news is that you don't have to bother with a large chunk of it in order to get a game going. In fact, it's discouraged if you want to have a successful game.

The core of the game is called "The Hub and the Spokes", and is the foundation that the rest of the game builds upon. These first 75 pages are really all you need to get a game off the ground. Seriously. Some of my earliest failed attempts were simply due to trying to engage too much of the system at once.

For your first few sessions, possibly even your first campaign, stick to the rules in this section. Focus on writing interesting beliefs, mastering intents and tasks, and creating dynamic failure consequences and you should see the Artha begin to flow.

Once you have that down, you can consider what you want to add to your game. The other sub-systems crank up the drama, but also come with a considerable amount of rules crunch that will interfere with learning the basics.

Finally, you can get those rules for free from BWHQ here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It Revolves on This: This Wheel's On Fire

Above all else, having a successful experience with Burning Wheel hinges on this: you must meet the game on its own terms. This is solid advice for trying out any new system but it is particularly critical for Burning Wheel.

The conventional wisdom is that you can just strip out the parts of a game you don't like and what add what you think is missing. This philosophy is largely the guiding principle behind all of the variations of the D20 system and it has produced some great games. However, if you go into Burning Wheel with this intent, you will likely break the game. The game's mechanics are so interlinked that any changes or additions may have significant, unintended effects. Often, rules that seem counterintuitive make much more sense in the context of play.

Along those lines, Burning Wheel is a set of procedures that, if followed, produce a certain kind of play experience: one that is fueled by the character's goals and the tough decisions they must make to achieve them. You may not want this or enjoy how Burning Wheel achieves that end, and that's fine. This game is not for everyone but it's important to honor these procedures if you're to find out if it's right for you.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

It Revolves on This: Getting the Most From Burning Wheel

Since I first discovered it a few years ago, The Burning Wheel has become one of my favorite games. It has mechanical depth (not to be confused with complexity) I've yet to see matched in any other system; it puts the focus on the characters and their beliefs, leading to an intense, drama-centric roleplaying experience; and it's totally changed how I approach and think about RPGs. 

This was not always the case. My initial desire to like it never turned into a good session, which meant a lot of false starts and campaigns that were total flops. Still, every time I sat down and read the book I was inspired, ready to challenge my player's Beliefs or see my own tested. Despite my persistence, it wasn't until I sat in the player's seat with some experienced Burners that things finally clicked.

"It Revolves on This" will be a short series of posts on how to avoid the pitfalls that I fell into while trying to figure this game out. I'm not sure how much of what I'm saying will be new but, if nothing else, my voice will join the chorus of advice so that you may get the most out of this game. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Kickstarter: Custom Dice!

Quality custom dice you can afford and a design process that's easy - even if you're not a graphic designer.

Help us provide the gaming community with customized 16mm (standard size) D6 dice - with more colors, shapes, and sizes available when we reach higher funding levels!

Right now, if you want to make custom dice for a game prototype, print-n-play game, or just to customize your old Yahtzee! game, it'll cost you several dollars per die - before shipping.

Fund it here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Free: Midsummer Wood

It's midsummer and in the darkest, weirdest wood the fairies meet in mask to feast and fête. Of mortals, the canniest and most wary can dare to join them. The rewards are wealth and poetry, pleasure, love and magic. The risks are sanity and soul. One of you is just such, a mortal man or mortal woman cunning, lovely and bold. Can you move uncaught among these, the perilous and subtle, shapechangers, elementals, embodiments of the oldest fears? Can you rob them of their treasures and escape, or will they discover you, bind you, and make you theirs?

Midsummer Wood is a competitive single-session rpg for 4 or 5 players designed by D. Vincent Baker. Get it for free here

Friday, April 25, 2014

Kickstarter: Metamorphosis Alpha

I am very late to this party, but you still have two days to get in on the reprint of Metamorphosis Alpha, the original sci-fi RPG by the folks who brought you DCC.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monstrous Workshop: Putting It All Together

Now that we've gone through all of the elements of a monster in Torchbearer, it's time to actually make one. For some reason this idea didn't occur to me until after I began this series of posts. No matter, I think handling it all in one shot will make clear some steps that were not evident in my breakdown of monsters.

Before even thinking about how to represent your creature within the framework of the rules, you need a concept. Given that we have 40 years worth of roleplaying game materials to serve as inspiration, I won't waste any time on where to turn for ideas. The only thing that is necessary is that turning the concept into a creature excites you.

The Torchbearer rulebook covers a lot of the classic monsters, but is missing marine-based monsters. For this reason, I'm building a variant of a Giant Crab. Only, that's kind of boring. I want this creature to be just as feared as a Dragon. I'm thinking it lays dormant in its caves for years at a time before emerging from the deeps to hunt and feast. For the time being, let's call this thing the Cragon.

Might: While I want it to be as feared as a Dragon, I don't want it to be quite as powerful. Might 6 seems a little steep for this creature. If I were building an average Giant Crab Might 4 would be appropriate, similar to a Stone Spider, but I want this thing to be a little stronger. Might 5 feels perfect. Without the aid of magic, players cannot Kill or Capture the Cragon, but they can drive it off each time it wakes from its slumber to feed. Or they can do what most people do, and run at the first sight of it.

Nature: Since the Cragon isn't quite as powerful as a Dragon I'm going to assign it Nature 6 for the moment, right in between keeping it equal and within two steps of its Order of Might. Depending on the kinds of weapons it has, it will reliably be able to throw 3-4 successes, enough to challenge players but not overwhelm them.

Nature Descriptors: The first thing that pops into my head is Scuttling. Looking at Merriam Webster, I am delighted to find that this word has an additional meaning of which I was unaware.

to cut a hole through the bottom, deck, or side of (a ship); specifically :  to sink or attempt to sink by making holes through the bottom

This is perfect.

Feasting seems appropriate as well, but it's a little flat given that this thing basically feeds on an entire village once every few years. I'm remembering the Nature question I wrote, "Does the sun fill your wings as you rule your from kingdom high above the clouds or do you wear a crown fashioned from the bones of dead sailors, commanding the waves that crash on every shore?" The Cragon doesn't wear a crown, but it certainly feasts on the bones of dead sailors. That's two.

I'm a little stumped for the third descriptor. I didn't realize what I found boring about just making a Giant Crab, but I think it has to do with its anatomy. Once you get beyond the claw, there is not much there. Crushing would probably be the appropriate descriptor, but I'm not sure that I want something that plain. Let's think more about this.

The name Cragon, originally just a playful portmanteau meant to sum up my concept, seems to suggest something a little different. It definitely doesn't have wings or a breath weapon, but maybe it has a tail? The creature I'm imagining now looks something closer to a giant lobster or maybe a marine-based scorpion, even. Crushing seems a lot more interesting in this context. Let's leave it here knowing that it might change.

Conflict Dispositions: This creature is definitely geared towards the martial Conflicts and its dispositions are going to reflect this. Still, I tried to make this thing more than just a killing machine.
  • Kill: Those foolish enough to go to blows with this thing will have a hard time taking this thing down. 
  • Capture: Capturing this thing isn't going to be any easier.
  • Drive-Off: Most people are going to go for this option when taking it on. The Cragon definitely feeds down the food chain, and if its prey makes a stand they could potentially drive it off. Lose, however, and you'll likely find yourself on its dinner plate.
  • Pursue: The Cragon has a lot of things going for it, but speed is not one of them. Those with the good sense to run will likely live to see another day as this thing scurries frantically and clumsily after its prey.
Conflict Weapons: There are really three things that jump out to me about the Cragon: the claw, the tail, and it's shell. Looking at it's Scuttling Nature, I remember that crabs often dig/burrow into the sea floor, as well. I'm going to assign the names as I assign them to the conflict below:
  • Kill
    • Attack: +2D Claw Vice
    • Defend: +1D Parry and Scuttle
    • Maneuver: +1D Burrow
    • Feint: +1D Tail Sweep
  • Capture
    • Attack: +2D Claw Vice
    • Maneuver: +1D Burrow
    • Feint: +1D Tail Sweep
  • Drive Off
    • Attack: +2D Claw Vice
    • Defend: +1D Parry and Scuttle
    • Maneuver: +1D Burrow
    • Feint: +1D Tail Sweep
  • Pursue
    • Attack: -1D Frantic Scuttle
    • Maneuver: +1D Burrow
    • Feint: +1D Claw Vice
Instinct: I want something that speaks to its feasting ritual--Always feast in my lair.

Special: The Cragon's carapace functions like plate armor in Kill, Capture, and Drive Off conflicts. While the Cragon is burrowed, change its bonus for any Feint action to +1s. Additionally, all character actions taken while the Cragon is burrowed suffer  a -1D penalty. If the Cragon scripts Attack, it leaves its burrow removing these bonuses and penalties.

Finally, let's put the whole thing together!

The Cragon

Deep beneath the black waters of the sea, the Cragon sleeps for years at a time. Upon waking, it swims to the surface, attacking ships and coastal towns, capturing as much food as possible before returning to its lair to feast. While it only wakes once every 10 years or so, its reign of terror often lasts weeks and The Cragon has completely destroyed entire towns. No one has ever seen its lair, but it is rumored to be full of the sunken treasure of a dozen fleet of ships by now.

Might: 5
Nature: 6
Descriptors: Scuttling, Feasting on the Bones of Dead Sailors, Crushing


  • Kill: 14
    • Attack: +2D Claw Vice
    • Defend: +1D Parry and Scuttle
    • Maneuver: +1D Burrow
    • Feint: +1D Tail Sweep
  • Capture: 9
    • Attack: +2D Claw Vice
    • Maneuver: +1D Burrow
    • Feint: +1D Tail Sweep
  • Drive Off: 6
    • Attack: +2D Claw Vice
    • Defend: +1D Parry and Scuttle
    • Maneuver: +1D Burrow
    • Feint: +1D Tail Sweep
  • Pursue: 3
    • Attack: -1D Frantic Scuttle
    • Maneuver: +1D Burrow
    • Feint: +1D Claw Vice
Instinct: Always feast in my lair.

Special: The Cragon's carapace functions like plate armor in Kill, Capture, and Drive Off conflicts. While the Cragon is burrowed, change its bonus for any Feint action to +1s. Additionally, all character actions taken while the Cragon is burrowed suffer  a -1D penalty. If the Cragon scripts Attack, it leaves its burrow removing these bonuses and penalties.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Monstrous Workshop: Special

Flipping through the "Denizens" chapter of the Torchbearer rulebook, you'll notice most creatures have a "Special" category in their statblock. These entries detail any special advantages the creatures have, ways in which they break break the rules, and further define their behavior. With few exceptions, any creature you make should have a "Special" entry. The book is rife with examples to steal or model your ideas upon, which I've catalogued below.

A simple way to decide what your creature's Special should be is to think what a Lore Master/Hunter roll would reveal about this creature. Sure, we know a red dragon has a breath weapon, but that's rather obvious and doesn't really get to the unique thing about the creature. However, saying, "Red Dragons are the most covetous of all--they sleep with one eye open so they can count their gold in their dreams and watch for thieves who would try to sneak into their lair," does get at this. A simpler example is Trolls. It's hard not to think about the Troll's weakness to fire and their regenerative abilities first and foremost.
  • Undead Traits 
    • Barrow Wights, page 151
  • Disease Transmission 
    • Barrow Wights, page 151
    • Giant Rats, page 154
    • Wererat, page 158
  • Corrosive Effects 
    • Black Dragon, page 152
  • Terrain Advantages 
    • Bugbears, page 152
  • Anatomical Advantages 
    • Creeping Ooze, page 152
  • Weapons that paralyze 
    • Ghoul, page 153
  • Weapons that poison 
    • Stone Spider, page 157
  • Variant Species 
    • Giant Bats, page 154
  • Animal Companions 
    • Gnolls, page 154
  • Racial Advantage/Disadvantages 
    • Goblins, page 154
    • Orc, page 156
    • Red Dragons, page 156
  • Natural Armor 
    • Guardian Statue, page 155
  • Conflict Immunities 
    • Guardian Statue, page 155
    • Tomb Guardian, page 157
  • Charm Effects 
    • Harpy, page 155
  • Weapon Preferences 
    • Hobgoblin, page 155
    • Tomb Guardians, page 157
    • Wererat, page 158
  • Cultural Hierarchies 
    • Lizardman, page 156
  • Magic Immunities 
    • Tomb Guardians, page 157
  • Regeneration 
    • Troll, page 158
  • Weaknesses 
    • Troll, page 158
  • Lycanthrope 
    • Wererat, page 158

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Monstrous Workshop: Instincts

Unlike a character's instincts, monster instincts are not for making mundane tests or causing drama. They are simply there to better explain how a creature behaves. This post will (hopefully) provide some insight on how to effectively write them for that purpose. I'm going to begin by quoting the rulebook, a passage which has already (partially) appeared in this series of posts.

"Give every single creature in your adventure a want. Some will want something from the adventurers: their flesh, their souls, their help, etc. Some will want something from the adventure area: a lonely ghost wandering around trying to find his lost boots, kobolds who covet the dragon’s hoard, a giant spider waiting for orcs to blunder into its web."

Instincts are a fantastic way to express those wants. If you've built all of the other aspects of your creature already (and I recommend you do before thinking about instincts), you should see how the various parts add up to your concept. Figuring out what your creature wants may be as simple as putting those pieces together or focusing on one or two. It may also be more complicated than that. In those situations, I find it's best to just start asking questions.
  • What does this creature want?
  • If threatened, what does this creature do?
  • Does this creature have a natural enemy? If so, how do they deal with them?
  • What is this creature doing on an average day?
. . .and so on. Remember, these are instincts. If you ask the question above and you've still got nothing, the issue may be a lack of clarity of concept. Take a step back and think about your creature outside of the realm of rules for a game and then try again.

Let's end on some examples, using the passage above as inspiration.

Always skin your victims.

Always carry an empty soul gem. 

If I can convince others to help me, I can finally succeed at this task.

Never leave a piece of gear behind, in this life or the next one.

Never break camp before counting the gold. 

Always let your food come to you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monstrous Workshop: Conflict Weapons

Whereas Nature Descriptors lay out your creature's concept in broad strokes, the weapons you assign it often provide the most flavorful details. At this point, nothing should be a surprise to you. If your creature has Flying as a descriptor and Pursue as one of it's dispositions, it should be fairly obvious that its wings are going to be one of its weapons. If you get stuck, reevaluate your Nature Descriptors to make sure they accurately reflect your concept.

Defining your creature's features, both descriptively and mechanically, is probably my favorite part of this entire process. Let's begin with the former. While we could just call them Wings, it's important to remember that the abstract nature of the conflict system relies heavily on narration and description to provide the dramatic action lest you find yourself playing a complicated game of rock-paper-scissors. To this end, I'm often amazed at how suggestive a single word can be. Always Skeletal Wings, Angelic Wings, Scaled Wings. Never just Wings.

A monster should typically have about 2-3 weapons, though the more fantastical and mythical ones could very well have more. Once you know what they are, it's time to figure out what they do. This will vary depending on the conflict. Continuing our Wings example, it makes sense that they would apply to the Maneuver action during most martial conflicts. However, for Pursue and Flee Conflicts, it also seems like they could apply to the Attack action, too. Rather than just slap the same weapon on both actions, maybe the Attack action is Diving from the Clouds and the Maneuver is Skeletal Wings. When you find a weapon has multiple uses it may merit creating additional weapons to further define the creature's behavior.

The final step in this process is assigning these weapons dice values. In most all cases, a weapon should be +1D. If the character does something exceptionally well or this weapon is particularly suited for the kind of conflict, +2D is appropriate. Weapons with a +1s (or more) bonus should generally be rare, reserved for supernatural ability. Don't forget that weapons or features may be hindrances in some contexts as well, receiving a -1D/-2D/-1s following the guidelines above.

Lastly, avoid "doubling up" the bonuses on a monster. If you break a feature down into multiple weapons as above, don't assign them high dice bonuses, too. Choose either versatility or raw power.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Monstrous Workshop: Conflict Dispositions

This will be a shorter entry in this series, mostly due to the fact that the book lays out the procedure for determining the exact values of each entry. What I will focus on instead is choosing the kinds of conflicts your creature will have disposition values for. As with Nature, we want a mix of dispositions that support the concept of the creature.

I find the easiest way to achieve this is to look at the creature's Nature Descriptors. In fact, I would caution that this step in building your monster cannot be completed until those have been assigned. Each descriptor should point towards one or more potential types of conflict. If they don't, or you find that you're only getting a few types of conflict out of those descriptors, this is a good indicator that your concept needs some tweaking. The book reminds us, "Creatures who want something become puzzles to explore and solve. Creatures who only want to fight rapidly become tiresome."

Finally, be conscious of how many dispositions you assign your creature. For most creatures, I find that three is the perfect number, as it allows you to assign it a strength,a competency, and a weakness. For the more difficult creatures, absolutely assign more, but just note that this will increase the difficulty of the encounter

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Monstrous Workshop: Descriptors

Assigning Nature Descriptors is probably the hardest part of creating monsters in Torchbearer. Whereas other games represent the monster through a series of numbers and abilities, the core of your creature is expressed in as few as three words. These descriptors will also likely suggest the kinds of conflicts it excels at as well as any weapons it possesses, making choosing the right three descriptors a little daunting.

If you're converting monsters from other games or working with a clear concept (a new kind of dragon, for example), you can just start selecting descriptors from this list, making up your own where necessary. Should you end up with more than three (which is easy to do using this method), just ask: does this describe every single creature of this type? If the answer is no, it probably shouldn't be one of the descriptors. Still, note that you considered it for later, as it may come in handy when assigning weapons, conflicts, and instincts.

You could also approach that list without a concept and put triads of descriptors together until they evoke a creature of interest. This is great for making things up on the fly or when you want to throw something new at the party. The thing to be cautious of (and this is true in general) is to avoid putting too many like descriptors together. You want a variety that suggests how the creature defends itself, travels about the world, what purpose it may serve rather than three ways it kills all humans.

Alternatively, you can generate or further define a rough concept by answering some questions. These were heavily inspired by the Nature question in the rulebook, and are by no means exhaustive. Ignore any that don't apply and make up your own!
  • When humans invade your home with fire and steel, do you guard it fiercely or retreat further into the wilderness and start over?
  • Do your roars of victory echo through the night, frightening the dead awake or do you brood silently, plotting your next raid in the shadows?
  • Were you born in the volcanic forges of smoke-plumed mountains or hatched from the icy hearts of glaciers? Somewhere in between? 
  • Are you the only one of your kind, the likes of which the world has never seen or one in a rising tide set to swallow the mountains?
  • Do you take comfort in your trinkets and treasure deep underground or do you stalk the world constantly searching for more to covet?
  • Is your skin harder than stone or does it bruise like an apple?
  • When the Elves sing of the end of our age, is it your name that brings the darkness or do you too cower in fear of another's shadow?
  • Does the sun fill your wings as you rule your from kingdom high above the clouds or do you wear a crown fashioned from the bones of dead sailors, commanding the waves that crash on every shore?
  • Did you you witness the first nights before any stars opened their eyes or do you still measure time in the passing of winter?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monstrous Workshop: Nature

If Order of Might is important for determining how players can deal with a monster, Nature is doubly so because it dictates how difficult that's going to be. This score sets the strengths, weaknesses, and the overall amount of dice the monster will be able to roll for all of its actions. As with Might, the examples in the book should be followed closely for guidance.

One thing that may not be clear looking at those examples right away is how close Nature often is to the Order of Might score. With few exceptions, every example is equal to or within 1-2 steps of Might. The creatures that deviate from this formula are few and tend to be iconic and notoriously difficult: dragons, trolls, etc. A last observation: no creature has a Nature below their Order of Might. I recommend following these guidelines when determining Nature.

Finally, one thing to be cautious of is slapping a high Nature score on a creature that will be in a large group. While I won't say it should never be done, it will drastically increase the difficulty of a fight and should be considered carefully. More often than not, Nature for a creature that players encounter in groups should equal their Order of Might. It makes sense narratively, too--their strength is in their number, not their Nature.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Monstrous Workshop: Order of Might

One of the most important decisions you will make while building a monster is setting its Might score.
Not only are you choosing its place within the natural (and unnatural) order of things, but you're effectively choosing the methods by which the players will dispatch of them. Choosing the right fit for this means having a clear concept, both of the creature's abilities as well as how they exist within their respective ecosystems. While the book provides ample examples, it's definitely more art than science.

The obvious first step is to compare your monster to one of those examples. Alternatively, ask yourself if it would win a fight against any of the the monsters at that Order of Might. If the answer is yes, go to the next level. If it could go either way, you're probably at the right number. If the answer is unequivocally no, you've gone too high.

Should nothing jump out at you, consider how supernatural this creature is. Generally, the more mundane stuff (for a fantasy world) falls at 4 or below. At 5 we start getting into the larger predators--dragons, ogre, trolls and the like. If your monster is similar to one of the examples but, due to something extraordinary, simply increase their Might by 1. Tieflings and Aasimar, for example, would be Might 4 as they are natural adventurers from the planes.

Finally, don't feel like you have to answer this question right away. If nothing jumps out at you right away, start by filling in the other details first. Once you're done, take a step back and see how it compares to other creatures. The best advice I can give is to trust your instincts here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Diseases in Torchbearer

The Sick condition is a great default for most diseases. However, for those situations when you want to add a little flavor (see: make your player's lives more miserable), I've cooked up a few specific diseases:

Blinding Sickness: Apply the sick condition as normal, but the character is also in complete darkness until recovery. If they fail their roll, remove the condition, but add a trait at level one to reflect their time without sight. 

Infernal Fever: This disease has a long incubation period. As part of a Twist, the character may:
  • Speak in the parasite's language
  • Lose control of the body as the parasite asserts dominance (often to kill the other party members)
During one of these spells, the players can force the parasite back into hiding with a Banish conflict. If you lose, the character is lost forever to the parasite.

Recovery: Increase the Ob by 1. Normal failure effects and the disease remains. If Nature is ever brought to 0, the parasite consumes the body.

Mummy Rot: The character's body begins decaying. If the player fails, subtract the margin of failure from their Nature. If they succeed, they lose one point of Nature.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Torchbearer Player's Deck

While it's true you can play most roleplaying games with nothing but some pencils, paper, and dice, most benefit from a few play aids. Maps, miniatures, other things beginning with M, these enhancements are often optional and vary based on the needs of the group. Occasionally, one of these improve the experience of the game so much it's hard to imagine playing without them. The Torchbearer Player's Deck is one such aid.

Let's look at the physical product first. For $12 you get 42 cards in a sturdy little cardboard box, one for each weapon, piece of armor, type of light source, condition, and three copies of each conflict action. Additionally, there are two dividers to separate the cards out. Each one has a rumor/story on one side and a mini-dungeon map on the other, courtesy of Tony Dowler at Year of the Dungeon.

The cards are similar in quality to a Magic: The Gathering card. The art is comparable to what you find in the Torchbearer rulebook. My only real complaint about the presentation is that it's not possible to fit all of the cards in the box if you decide to sleeve them. Not a deal-breaker, but given the price I think they could have been packaged in a bigger box.

The reason these are so vital to the game is how they streamline play. Torchbearer has so many moving parts that juggling all of the rules is going to challenge even the most seasoned of GMs. These cards help ease the burden of taking notes by keeping the rules for light and conditions right in front of you. A particularly nice touch is the numbered borders on the light cards. To track how many turns your torch, lantern, or candle have left, simply rotate the card.

Their real value becomes apparent during conflicts, which are the hardest rules to teach new players in my opinion. Each action card explains how it fits into the rock-paper-scissors mechanics, allowing players to better understand rules interactions. The weapon cards break out the bonuses and penalties, as well as any special rules they might have. The armor cards are the same. Should it ever break, players can flip it over to the "broken" side to track what they'll need to repair later. Easy and intuitive.

I honestly can't recommend these enough. If you've been playing Torchbearer without these (which is likely seeing as they've been available for less than a few days now), pick up a deck and see how it affects play. If you haven't played Torchbearer before, make sure to grab a deck with the core rulebook. You won't regret it.