Developer's Log 0

Ships of the River Agrier

Rules for boating down the River Agrier

in Ket Ket 

Sailing the Agrier and Beyond

Our micro-campaign setting, Ket Ket, has a great and mighty river running through it. This river is responsible for much of the life and commerce in the land. It floods yearly, depositing rich soil and decaying plant matter, making farming possible. More importantly to the PCs, it is a source of travel. It’s possible they may wish to buy a boat or book passage on one. This blog post will help navigate that. 

When it comes to ship combat, roll an unmodified 1d20 for each ship. That is when the ship moves. It’s up to the players to agree on the movement of any ships they employ. 

Ships and Stats

AC: This is no different than AC anywhere else. This represents how tough the ship is to damage. 

HP: This is how much damage the ship can take before it is in danger of sinking. 

Speed: This is how many feet the ship can move in a round. Going against the current is considered difficult terrain. 

Distance per Day: These are the number of hexes the vessel can travel through in one day. The first number represents going against the current, while the second number is going with the current. Any ship that just floats will get carried downstream at a rate of 3 hexes per day. 

Turn: Turn is how far the ship must move before making a 45 degree turn. For instance, the Skiff must move 5 ft between each 45 degree turn. If it wanted to turn around, it would have to move 5 ft, turn 45 degrees, move 5 ft, turn 45 degrees, move five feet, turn 45 degrees, move five feet and turn the final 45 degrees. 

Crew: The first number is the minimum amount of people needed to crew the ship. The second number is the maximum it can hold.

Crash: If a ship crashes into another ship, it does this much damage to both vessels.

Sink: When a ship loses all its hit points, place the sink dice on it. At the end of every combat round, roll the dice. If the result is a 1 or 2, reduce the dice size by 1. (A d12 becomes a d10, a d10 becomes a d8, etc.) If the dice is a d4 and a 1 or 2 is rolled, the ship sinks. This dice must also be rolled whenever a ship is at 0 hit points and additional damage would be done to it. Any ship that would be reduced to negative HP equal to the amount of its starting HP in one attack is instantly dashed to pieces and sinks. 


The Ships

Skiff

A Skiff is a small vessel made of papyrus reeds. These ships were mostly used to fish and for short journeys, rarely being put out at sea. 

Price100 gp
AC10
Speed30
Distance/ Day2 / 4
Turn5 ft
Crew1 / 4
Crash1d4
Sink1d4

Khabra Ship

The city of Khabra is known throughout the region for the seaworthy vessels it produces. The Khabra Ship is used by both traders and military alike, as it can hold a good number of people.

Price1000 gp
AC15
Speed45
Distance/ Day3 / 5
Turn15 ft
Crew5 / 30
Crash1d8
Sink1d8

Khufai

The Khufai is a Ket Ket funeral barge, normally reserved for taking God Emperors to their final resting place, from one side of the Agrier river to the other. There is a death cult in Ket Ket who worships Ozire, the god of the dead. They will sometimes use these vessels, crewing them with a mixture of the living and the dead. 

Price10,000 gp
HP25
AC12
Speed1 / 2
Distance/ Day1 / 2
Turn20 ft
Crew1 / 6
Crash1d6
Sink1d6

Fire

Fire is a danger. If you’ve ran a D&D campaign for more than 20 minutes, it’s likely a PC has tried to burn something down. What does that look like when a boat and flaming arrows are involved?

First, it’s not just a matter of lighting an arrow on fire with your flint and steel and hoping for the best. In truth, it was really hard to make flaming arrows that worked (and still is.) The act of shooting them makes them want to extinguish. However, there are some historical documents pointing to their existence. Also, this is a fantasy game and flaming arrows are cool, so that’s a win. 

First, the arrows must be prepared. The materials to do so cost 4 gp per arrow (making each arrow cost 5gp.) Think pitch soaked cloth and things such as that. Ten arrows can be prepared in this manner during a short rest. When used, they must have a source of fire nearby with which to light them. Having a source of fire on your boat can be just as dangerous to the side shooting the arrows…

Let’s talk about ranges. These arrows are now a lot heavier and a lot less aerodynamic. When using a fire arrow, divide all ranges in half. This means a longbow has a range of 75/300 and a shortbow has a range of 40/160. 

Damage is going to change. For the sake of the game, we’re going to say that all that binding around the point of the arrow makes it a lot harder to penetrate it’s target. Instead of it’s normal damage, the arrow is going to do 1d6 fire damage. It’ll be the same for either type of bow. So why would anyone want to use fire arrows? Well, because something might just catch on fire. 

If the arrows hit, roll their damage. If the result is a 4 or above, the creature or item is now aflame. It’ll take damage from the fire at the end of every turn. If it is a creature, it can take an action to extinguish the fire. Otherwise, that creature takes 1d6 fire damage each turn. Realistic? Maybe not, but creatures burning round after round and not being able to put out the fire will really change the game in ways that might not be fun. 

What about an object though? This is going to go past the use of flaming arrows. Whenever an attack that does fire damage hits a flammable object (in this case, we’re mostly talking ships), roll the damage dice. For each damage dice that rolls a 4 or above, a fire starts. Leave the dice on the object to symbolize there is a fire in that location. It is only going to get worse from here. 

At the end of every round, roll damage again. Just pick up the dice that represent those fires and roll them. If any of them roll max damage, the fire spreads! Upgrade the dice to the next side up (a d6 becomes a d8, a d8 becomes a d10, etc.) That’s the dice you’ll use for damage next turn. A fire can not become larger than a d20. 

Any creature can take an action to attempt to extinguish the fire. To do so, they pick one fire within 5 ft of them (in other words, select one dice) and roll it. If it’s a 1-3, the fire goes down one dice size. If it’s not, well… better luck next time. This makes a fireball particularly devastating when it comes to ships. Fire damage does play into the sinking of a ship, forcing a sink dice roll if a ship is at 0 hp as mentioned above.

Developer's Log 0

Dev Log: Operation Hex Crawl

Things that are,

things that were,

and some things that may never be.

The Fiction

So the goal is to make a hex crawl game for 5E, right? In this I’m creating two things: a way to play and an adventure to use these rules in. The initial idea was simply just a card deck where each card was a new hex location, which would be a non-linear, location based adventure where I could count on nothing happening sequentially. The rest of the rules started coming in when I realized I needed to give players mechanics for interacting with these cards and how to hex crawl in general. This blog post deals with the fiction of the adventure. 

First, let’s start with one of the biggest premises of Hex Crawling as I’m running it- the players are there to explore. They don’t know what’s around the bend and finding that out is part of the excitement. The fiction of this game has to support and be centered around this core concept. I also wanted to stick with the idea that civilization is generally safe while the wilds are generally not. If I have people starting in this safe town, it brings up two questions: why do they want to leave and explore, and why haven’t they (or anyone else) done it yet?

Being as this is a fantasy game, I opted for the easy way out: magic. 

Seriously, though. 

I started putting together the city in my mind. It’s working title right now is Godsmark. It has been sealed off from the rest of the world for one thousand and one years by magic as a means to protect it. This means life went on as normal in Godsmark, but who knows what happened outside of it? Yes, I absolutely think this has been influenced by this quarantine. Six months or so isn’t that different than 1001 years, right?

Why was the city closed off? I started with this question to inform my fiction, which in turn will feed into my mechanics. So before the city was closed off, the mad God Grund went… well, mad. He spread chaos throughout the land, warping it and changing its inhabitants. Refugees fled to Godsmark where the great Wizard, Ravenschild, cast the spell to shield it from the outside world. No one in, no one out. 

This gives us a big uncertain situation. What the hell did Grund do out there while everyone was stuck inside? Any information from the before times can’t be trusted anymore, right? While the people of Godsmark were confined to the city, the world changed drastically around them in ways they couldn’t’ expect. As the game takes place right after the magical protection ends, people are going to be excited to see what’s out there, and perhaps a little scared. 

Somewhere along the way, I had an idea relating to the whole aspect of “civilization=safe/ wilds=danger”. Godsmark is going to be this safe place amidst a sea of traps, encounters, nature, dungeons, and other bad things. I won’t lie; I definitely thought a little bit about Sigil in this moment. What if Godsmark used to be the city of a god of travel? They left long ago, leaving the city behind because traveller’s gonna travel, right? Their legacy is the city’s many portals.

The problem is that no one knows how they work. They were sealed off just like everything else was and they seem to be a one way route leading into the city. Most people don’t even know where they are. Some may be obvious, others might be through the oven at the bakery or an innocuous looking archway. Now that the city is open again, so are the portals. The idea behind this was to make safety and portals a resource. Knowledge of these bad boys really is power. 

If the PCs find a portal out in the wilds that leads back to Godsmark, they have a new path they can use. Let’s say it’s like ten hexes away. Going with the idea that resting isn’t easy or safe  in the wilds and that supplies are incredibly necessary, knowing there is a portal that can lead you to safety can be a game changer. You no longer need enough food and water to travel to that far off hex and back again, you just need enough to get to the portal. In a game where encumbrance will be a focal point, that seems pretty important. 

The portals will need keys, of course. Maybe a magic word, perhaps an item worn as you pass through them. These keys will be worked into different hexes, meaning the pieces of these puzzles might be quite spread out. This is just another reason to go exploring. You know there is a portal but you haven’t found the key? By the logic of the game, it’s out there somewhere. 

This is how the fiction of Godsmark came to be. The mechanics and story needed a way to play together. Sure, there is a lot more to flesh out. I love world building, but I’m going to try and resist the urge to get into really small bits of minutia. Well, at least in the core game. I can’t promise I’m not going to blog about it. I will try and make sure whatever fiction I present has some mechanical effects. It is a game after all. 

What ideas did this spawn in you? What do you want Godsmark and it’s surrounding chaos lands to hold? I’m looking forward to exploring this all by writing, hopefully as much as you look forward to playing it. If you have ideas, hit me up. Someday, in a post Corona world, I look forward to leaving my own Godsmark and seeing what our new normals are. What a time to be alive, huh?

Crumbling UpKeep 0

AD&D Wilderness Survival Guide

Reading the Tomes, Old and New.

In doing research for the aforementioned Hex Crawl supplement we are working on, I finally filled a hole in my collection and bought the AD&D Wilderness Survival Guide on Ebay. Notice, the link is to Ebay because WotC doesn’t need any more of your money. Frankly, I find something enjoyable about the old books with the dented corners. Maybe that’s just me…

As hoped, this book was a treasure trove of information on gaming and the wilderness. As expected, it was a bit overwhelming, and I have a hard time imagining anyone implementing all of its rules. I feel like you’d spend more time looking up strange minutia and figuring out if your rations had spoiled using the Chance of Food Spoilage Table. No, I am not kidding. 

Overview of the Wilderness

That said, it is a good source of inspiration and most folks putting together a wilderness campaign (especially a hex crawler) would find some inspiration in it. It starts by giving a general overview of wilderness terrain. It divides all terrain into a few categories for purposes of game statistics: desert, forest, hills, mountains, plains, seacoast, and swamp. This is a great place to start when you’re making a hex map, assigning one type of terrain to each hex. Obviously, there will be some transition areas (and the book discusses that too), but this is your starting point. 

Non-Weapon Proficiencies

As mentioned before, I started playing D&D during 2E. It’s fascinating for me to look over the 1E stuff, as I can see how 2E came about. For instance, in the ill named and problematic Oriental Adventures book, non weapon proficiencies were introduced. They didn’t exist as a core mechanic of 1E and never graced the pages of the three core books. These were expanded upon in the Dungeoneers Survival guide, and then in the Wilderness Survival guide. To get an idea of what these look like, consider your 5E proficiencies and then make them incredibly specific. Fire building is a distinct proficiency, as is hunting and weather sense. 

While this might seem a bit excessive, I mentioned before that, if you give a player a tool, they’ll use it. Characters in 5E have a lot of overlap in the proficiency department, meaning no one feels cool for making a history check. When only one person knows mountaineering, however, the character feels unique and more fleshed out in both mechanics and fiction. This book gives the tools to do just that. 

There are plenty of dangers in the frontiers of our own world, let alone a fantasy environment. “If you’re tired, pull over; if you’re hungry, eat somethin’!”

Temperature and Environment

The next stop in the wilderness is the land of convoluted tables! 

Every RPG exists somewhere on a spectrum of “reality simulation” to “game.” I’m of the mind that an adequate answer to the complaint, “but that’s not how it would work in real life!” can totally be, “You’re right. Now roll to ride the unicorn.” That “G” in RPG is there for a reason. While folks’ definition of fun does differ, we do play games to have fun, right? For me, there is a point where reality simulation becomes less fun than telling a story and playing the game. That point is right about when you have more than one table about a characters core body temperature. That’s exactly what this book provided. 

It only took 18 pages, but this is when the book went off the rails for me. Again, if you like this style of gaming, more power to you. For me, it felt a little bit like figuring out your taxes because the wind changed velocity. (Another of my favorite tables in this book: Wind Velocity Effects. Yup, it took a whole table.)

Encumbrance and Movement

Can we talk about what a blessing difficult terrain is? Not crossing it, but the concept of it? This terrain takes double the amount of movement to cross. End of story. 

While I feel like 5E could maybe use more robust rules for climbing, this book devotes 5 pages to the subject. I’m all for mini-games in RPGs (I feel like Star Trek Adventures has one of my favorites when it comes to dealing with long term problems instead of using a single dice roll), this is just a lot. You take into account surface types, surface conditions, if you are roped together, grappling hooks – there are a lot of small pieces here. 

Encumbrance does nothing new. This is a great example of old school encumbrance. Basically, you can carry X amount of weight. Tally up the weight of all your equipment and make sure it doesn’t go over that amount. It’s a lot of book keeping that, in my opinion, slows down play unnecessarily. 

Personally, I love Blades in the Dark’s inventory management. You have a few slots that you can use during play. You don’t need to decide what is in those slots until you need it. Once you decide, that is what you are stuck with, but it gives a lot of freedom for your inventory to fit the story. What it doesn’t do is get in the way at all. This isn’t great for a survival type game, however.

We can find the best inventory management for those types of games in the post apocalyptic Genre. Take Mutant  Year Zero: you get a certain amount of lines on your character sheet for inventory. Different items take different amounts of line, between 1-3. Suddenly that massive damage dealing chainsaw comes with a price. It’s easy to keep track of while still keeping space important. 

I like the idea of encumbrance that the Wilderness Survival Guide offers, but I think some really cool innovations have happened since then.

“Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Food and Water

This is where we talk about everyone’s favorite topic: starvation. Going without food and water can basically be boiled down to the distant ancestor of 5E’s exhaustion rules. There are many more paragraphs to explain this, however, with much more minutia. Raise your hand if you are surprised. 

Then we get into minimum requirements for food and water. This honestly brings up something I hadn’t thought about before: humans need more nutrients then halflings! I won’t be adopting any of those rules, as it seems like a nightmare to navigate and some needless complexity, but it was an interesting thought. 

Then we get rules for hunting, gathering, and fishing. It’s interesting to see how these diverge from, not only each other, but from any other system in the game as well. I feel like one of the big things that changed over the years was the desire for a core mechanic that covers most situations. In 5E, you will generally roll a twenty sided dice and add modifiers to see if you get what you need. In earlier editions, there were all kinds of different mechanics to figure things out. Take the “thief” for example (the predecessor of 5E’s “Rogue.”)

If you want to pick pockets as a 5E rogue, you roll a d20 and add your sleight of hand. Want to hide? Do the same and add stealth. Feel like climbing a wall? Add your athletics. If we look at the 2E Thief, this was all handled by percentile dice. You had different scores for each of the above mentioned skills which ranged from 00-100. To attempt any of them, you’d roll a d100 and try and roll under the number. It worked just fine and made thieves feel different, but there was no reason a D20 couldn’t have been used for these checks instead (other than d100 rolls feel cool, which is important.)

Hunting, foraging, finding water, and fishing are handled in similar ways, with each having its own system. The upside of this is that each feels like it’s own mini game with its own rules. The downside is that you have something to look up wherever you try to do any of them. It may be fun in it’s own right, but it’s not smooth. 

“Hooooome, home on the range, where the owlbears and basilisks prey!”

Camping and Campfires

I wanted to find something here about random encounters. I did find something about cold weather, though it played into the multiple body temperature charts from earlier. I didn’t really get any system for the difference a fire makes for visibility. 

For a choice to matter, each side should feel similarly weighted. I often have parties not wanting to start a fire because of worry of discovery. I generally gloss over the downsides of that because I don’t want to feel like I’m browbeating them with small things. This feels different if it’s baked into the core mechanic of the game, however. I’ll be thinking of ways to make fires matter in my head. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

Natural Hazards in the WIlderness

Okay, this was cool. This chapter was largely on natural disasters and quicksand. I’ve never used a natural disaster in one of my games, so this really got some gears turning. It contains information on three different types of volcanic eruptions, because of course. This is a great short chapter for inspiration. 

The Rest of it

The rest of the book generally expands upon combat and magic in the wilderness and how it changs. There was also a chapter on fatigue and exhaustion. Newer editions have covered these things just as well, at least the things I feel that needed covering. It felt a bit like a miscellany of things that didn’t fit elsewhere. 

There was a chapter on mounts and beasts of burden, however. When I think about my hex crawl experiment, I do tend to think of how much more a horse could carry than a human. When the name of the game is supplies, having something with a large carrying capacity suddenly becomes worth the GP.  This chapter talks about donkeys, camels, bears, and dog sleds. I look forward to figuring out my own rules for a pack yak in the future. Better yet, I can figure out rules for a herd of sheep acting as pack animals. Yup, that’s in this book too. 

Conclusion

I wouldn’t mind playing in an AD&D game sometime with an experienced DM to get a feel of what all this really feels like in practice. In my mind, there is a lot I’d change to update it to modern sensibilities. Then again, that was my goal going into this book anyway, and it gave me a plethora of material to sort through for that. It certainly feels like it sides way more toward reality simulation than game, as was the trend of the times. This is exactly what I’d expect a RPG book from the mid 1980s to feel like. 

Bottom line: if you’re running things with modern rulesets (or looking to make your own), this is a great place to steal inspiration, but very little of it will work as is.  Still, it was a fun read. I’ll never forget you, chance of capsizing table. I hope you don’t forget me. 

Supplemental 0

Dinosaur Fight!

Hey, you might have seen our free one page adventure, The Hunt. If you haven’t, it’s going to be coming out really soon. I’d been making a lot of stone age type weapons and magic items lately and wanted to create an adventure that was set in a fantasy version of the era. It’s a clan vs clan revenge story, but with a very important element: The PCs ride around on dinosaurs. 

Yeah yeah, Forgotten Realms did it first. Do I care? I do not. No one is betting on these dinosaur races.

So at the climax of the adventure, it turns into a dinosaur fight. The PCs are riding dinosaurs, the enemy are riding dinosaurs, dinosaurs everywhere… you know, the good stuff. I thought about throwing in some monster trucks, but thought that might be over the line. I did want to go over some mechanics to run the encounter, or just some dinosaur fights in general. First, let’s look at what rules are already provided for us. 

Mounting and Dismounting

This is an easy one. You have to be within 5 ft of a creature you wish to mount. To do so, you spend half your speed. Want to dismount? Spend half your speed. It’s just like standing up from being prone. Easy peasy. 

If something moves your mount against its will (a spell pushes it or pulls it or what have you), you must make a DC 10 Dexterity save or fall off, landing prone next to it. Same thing if you are knocked prone while riding by some effect. 

If your mount is knocked prone, you can use your reaction to dismount it and land on your feet. Don’t have a reaction? You fall prone within 5ft of it. 

Controlling a Mount

There are rules for this, but I don’t think they fit the type of situation I’m trying to create here. We’re going to take some liberties with this and mix things up a bit. What we’re going to keep: the mount acts on your turn in the initiative order. This starts the moment you mount it, unless it has independently already used its action this turn. You jump on, and the dinosaur takes off under your command. 

According to rules as written (borrrrrrring), the mount can take three actions: Dash, Disengage, and Dodge. I’m trying to have a dinosaur fight here. As such, the creature can take any of the actions listed in its stat block, certainly including it’s attacks. I want Pteranodons dive bombing Allosauruses, claws, teeth, and beaks slashing out in fury.  Basically, the mount just becomes a player controlled monster, taking a full turn on the player’s turn. This doesn’t interfere with the action economy of the PC; they still have actions, reactions, bonus actions, etc. 

Next, let’s flesh it out a bit with some new rules. 

Keeping Control

The mount doesn’t become a mindless follower. It’ll help its rider up to a point. The Dinosaurs are going to get real skittish once half their HP is gone. After this happens, we’re going to treat it like concentration for spells. If a Dinosaur mount that has lost half its hitpoints takes damage, the rider may spend their reaction to make an Animal Handling check, the DC equal to 10+ the damage the mount has taken. Success means the rider has kept control. If the check is failed (or not made), roll a d4 on the chart below. These effects happen at the beginning on the rider’s next turn. The rider may use their reaction to repeat the Animal Handling Check at the end of each of their turns to regain control of the mount. 

Flying and Falling

The PCs will be riding Pteranodons into this battle, because the only thing cooler than riding dinosaurs is riding flying dinosaurs. This comes with its own risks, however. If the Pteranodon’s speed is somehow reduced to zero (maybe grappled by ropes from below?), or it’s knocked unconscious, it falls, which means the PC also falls. They can fall 580 ft in a round, so chances are they are hitting the ground if this happens. The damage is 1d6 for every 10 feet, for a maximum of 20d6. 

If you personally are feeling kind, maybe let the PC use their reaction on the way down to attempt to grab onto something to stop their fall: another flying dinosaur, a vine in a tree, an outcropping of rock. This might cause some damage as they swing and slam into something else, but that has gotta be better than 20d6, right?

The Pteranodons should also be diving from above, right? If a Pteranodon starts its turn at least 10 ft above it’s target and takes its full movement before attacking, it gets advantage on the attack roll. The PC is also protected by the Pteranodon’s flyby ability. 

The pteranodon doesn’t provoke an opportunity attack when it flies out of an enemy’s reach.

There is nothing stopping the enemy from holding their actions for when the Pteranodon and PC are within reach, however.

Taking another mount

In this adventure, two of the enemies are riding Allosauruses. If the riders are taken out of commission, perhaps the PCs would like a mount that isn’t going to fall out of the sky. They can take control of a riderless Allosaurus, but they must use their action to make an Animal Handling Check with a DC of 10 to calm the beast enough to mount and control it. If the Allosaurus has lost half its hit points or more, it becomes a trickier proposition. The DC to calm the beast rises to 15, as the dinosaur is now more interested in getting far away from this mess. 

Have Fun!

That’s it. That’s your dinosaur fight. Use this in The Hunt or whatever campaign you might be running. Have ideas? Things I missed? Stuff that would be cool? Leave a comment! I like to think of this more as a beginning than an ending. 

Developer's Log 0

Operation Hex Crawl

Things that are,

things that were,

and some things that may never be.

Survival and Exploration

It occurs to me, as I get older, that I came into RPG gaming at a very specific time. I cut my teeth on 2nd ed AD&D. Things had moved away from the original editions to something with more customization and rules for every situation. The amount of books released during 2E was staggering, and I’m not sad about it. The game had yet to move to it’s more streamlined present, and one could expect to either make a lot of calls on the fly or flip a lot of pages.

In those very first games I played, I learned how to play by watching. The DM set a stage, and then the players showed me what was possible. More importantly, they showed me what was expected. The flow of the game made sense because I got to see other people do it. This is something that isn’t really written into the rules – at least not anymore. I never much thought about the importance of it until reading about Game Structure  on The Alexandrian. The series of articles really turned my thinking on its head. 

I had a lot of takeaways from it, but one of the biggest, and most pertinent to my current discussion, is that if you give players a tool, they will use it. Let’s examine what that means.

Give a player a tool and they’ll use it. 

If you are making an RPG and give players a strength skill, strength is suddenly important. If you give them a perception skill, suddenly perception is something they’ll use. If you give them a fishing skill, guess what they’ll do when they get to a river? Probably something horrible at first, but eventually, they’re going to want to fish. You can almost think of each tool like this as a mini game. Do you want to lift heavy things? Do you want to know if you see something? Want to fish? Play the appropriate mini game using the appropriate skill and see what happens!

Consequently, this is one of the things I really liked about 2E: Non weapon proficiencies! (Yes, I know they technically started in 1E.) The list of these is incredible. In 5E, you have the catch all survival skill. In 2E, you have Survival, Tracking, Set Snares, Mountain-fricken-eering… It’s intense. You needed to use a proficiency slot to read and write, otherwise you were illiterate – and I fricken loved it.

For me, it was less about what you couldn’t do and more about what you could. If you have the charioteering non-weapon proficiency, chances are you’re going to want to drive a chariot. Yes, land based vehicles covers that currently, but is it as evocative? Do you see yourself racing a chariot through the city streets using it? What about Reading Lips? Perception would be the default today, but you know someone with Reading Lips is going to want to use it in all kinds of situations. 

Game Phases.. in the Dark

Let’s shift focus away from D&D for a moment and look at Blades in the Dark. This game does a lot of cool things, and I find it among my top RPGs at the moment. It does fast and dirty stories like no one’s business and flows really smoothly once you get into it. System aside, I really dig the gritty, thief ridden, pseudo-victorian, ghost world thing it has going on.  Seriously, it’s a great game. 

One of the things that really amazed me, however, was how they laid out the game structure early on. The game is played in distinct phases. There’s Free play, which encompases a lot of what we think of as standard RPG. Players can request scenes they want to have, they gather info, figure out what their next score will be, etc. This isn’t where too much of the action happens; that comes soon enough though… 

Post Free Play, you make an engagement roll. Long story short, this tells you where you’re going to start off in the adventure. It sets up the score phase, which comes next. The score phase starts off when your characters are already in the thick of things. The planning is over. Game play starts at the first obstacle and proceeds from there. A good engagement roll means things start off well for you: you’re sneaking past the guards, the target is already drunk and you try to guide them from the bar. A bad engagement roll means you’re already fighting those guards and the target has two big bodyguards around them.

Genius, really. 

After the score phase, which is the meat of the game, comes Downtime. This is the part that really amazed me. Downtime is a record keeping phase. While there can be some roleplaying in there, it involves a bunch of rolling on charts and doing upkeep. The world moves around you. Things just happen. As part of downtime, your character might get picked up by the police and roughed up. The crew can pay them off or suffer the consequences. This doesn’t happen through roleplaying; it’s just part of the game! It happens, it affects future scores, you deal with it and move on. 

Then there is all the record keeping. You can advance your crew’s stats at this point. You mark down how much you “heal”, take care of your vices, and move money around. Like… it’s an actual record keeping phase. It takes all the paperwork and makes a dedicated time for it. This makes it feel less like a chore, as it’s all tidy and gamified in some cool ways. You get downtime actions that you don’t play through. They just get you cool stuff (or get rid of less cool stuff for you).

Again… Genius. 

One last piece of this puzzle: Hexes

I’ve been enthralled by the idea of Hex Crawls ever since I read about Ben Robbin’s West Marches Campaign. The idea that you could write a story that wasn’t linear or chronological, but instead was locational, really excited me. The emphasis of the game became about exploration into the unknown. What was this land before you got here? Who are its inhabitants? What’s in that tower? This really played into my ideas about enticing the players with knowledge instead of xp or magic items. Like, that’s why we read books, right? No one rewards us with gold pieces after finishing a novel. We read it to find out what happens. We can also play to find out what is around us.

The Pot

Let me stir this whole stew together now. After having a discussion with Jezsika Le Vye (who is an absolutely outstanding fantasy artist – go and fall deep into her work!) and talking about what RPG content would look like on cards, I decided to create a Hex Crawl card deck. Each card would be a different hex. Think about it: in reality, it’s an adventure module, just with the locations randomized and presented in card deck form. The DM doesn’t have to read forward on anything; they just have to focus on the singular scenario on the card in front of them. They learn the adventure as the PCs do. It gets to be the survival hex crawl campaign of my dreams, but all in small digestible pieces. 

You may have noticed that Crumbling Keep has a thing for small digestible pieces

But here’s the thing: 5E doesn’t have the game structure to support this, at least not in the way I want it to. This was going to need to be more about making a card deck; it’s going to have to provide rules and structure for how to play this way. How many hexes can we go through? What happens during camp? How do I fish? (You think I’m kidding about fishing? I am so incredibly serious.)

The goal is to have that old school hexcrawl feel, but with the 5E sensibilities. I want it to flow. I don’t want it to feel like doing taxes, and it doesn’t have to. Blades in the Dark taught me how to get around that. There can be phases – I can’t wait to tell you about the “camp” phase! This Hex Crawl business is going to be awesome, and I’m so excited about it!

This is the first of the Devlogs related to it. They’ll be more coming out as I flesh out more ideas surrounding it. Inventory management, food, hunting, what do rations look like, traveling… there’s a lot on this plate right now, and it looks like a real pretty feast. 

Thoughts? Questions? Drop a comment. Let’s chat. I’m open to inspiration, so if you know systems and games which do this well, lemme know. 

See you in the undiscovered country side.

Random Encounters 0

Conspirators

I like random encounters. Just as the players are subject to the whims of the dice, DMs should be too. Random Encounters can make a journey feel like a journey and gives me something to roll with.

What I don’t like: generic random encounters. “You see 1d4 goblins” doesn’t do much for me. What are those goblins doing? Why are they there? I want them to be something more than cardboard monsters.

Crumbling Keep is starting a random encounter collection. Each week, we’ll be dropping two fleshed out random encounters: one for free right here on our website and one on our Patreon. The goal is to add a little story to your random encounters. Just save the images and start adding them to your random encounter tables.

How do these work? Here’s what the stats mean.

Category: I divided the random encounters into different categories: Nature, Civilization, Enemies, and weird. Not all random encounters are going to just be things to kill.

Time of day: Some encounters only happen at night. Some only happen during the day. Some happen whenever.

Weight (xx/100): If you’re making a random encounter table that uses a 1d100, this is how many lines this encounter should take up. For instance, a weight of 2 would mean that the encounter takes up 2 out of those 100 numbers (let’s say 99 and 100 for this example.) A second encounter with a weight of 3 would take up three spots (96-98) and so on.

Terrain Type: This is the terrain type for this encounter. If you make up random encounter tables based on terrain, this tells you which tables it belongs in.

Samsarras Location: These are all based in our homebrew world of Samsarras. If you are using our world, this tells you what part of it the encounter is linked to. Do you need to use our world? Nope. You can ignore this section completely.

That’s it! Start your collection now because we’ll be pumping out a lot of these. Right click and save it.

Random Encounters 0

Menhir’s March

I like random encounters. Just as the players are subject to the whims of the dice, DMs should be too. Random Encounters can make a journey feel like a journey and gives me something to roll with.

What I don’t like: generic random encounters. “You see 1d4 goblins” doesn’t do much for me. What are those goblins doing? Why are they there? I want them to be something more than cardboard monsters.

Crumbling Keep is starting a random encounter collection. Each week, we’ll be dropping two fleshed out random encounters: one for free right here on our website and one on our Patreon. The goal is to add a little story to your random encounters. Just save the images and start adding them to your random encounter tables.

How do these work? Here’s what the stats mean.

Category: I divided the random encounters into different categories: Nature, Civilization, Enemies, and weird. Not all random encounters are going to just be things to kill.

Time of day: Some encounters only happen at night. Some only happen during the day. Some happen whenever.

Weight (xx/100): If you’re making a random encounter table that uses a 1d100, this is how many lines this encounter should take up. For instance, a weight of 2 would mean that the encounter takes up 2 out of those 100 numbers (let’s say 99 and 100 for this example.) A second encounter with a weight of 3 would take up three spots (96-98) and so on.

Terrain Type: This is the terrain type for this encounter. If you make up random encounter tables based on terrain, this tells you which tables it belongs in.

Samsarras Location: These are all based in our homebrew world of Samsarras. If you are using our world, this tells you what part of it the encounter is linked to. Do you need to use our world? Nope. You can ignore this section completely.

That’s it! Start your collection now because we’ll be pumping out a lot of these. Right click and save it.

Random Encounters 0

The Blood Tree

I like random encounters. Just as the players are subject to the whims of the dice, DMs should be too. Random Encounters can make a journey feel like a journey and gives me something to roll with.

What I don’t like: generic random encounters. “You see 1d4 goblins” doesn’t do much for me. What are those goblins doing? Why are they there? I want them to be something more than cardboard monsters.

Crumbling Keep is starting a random encounter collection. Each week, we’ll be dropping two fleshed out random encounters: one for free right here on our website and one on our Patreon. The goal is to add a little story to your random encounters. Just save the images and start adding them to your random encounter tables.

How do these work? Here’s what the stats mean.

Category: I divided the random encounters into different categories: Nature, Civilization, Enemies, and weird. Not all random encounters are going to just be things to kill.

Time of day: Some encounters only happen at night. Some only happen during the day. Some happen whenever.

Weight (xx/100): If you’re making a random encounter table that uses a 1d100, this is how many lines this encounter should take up. For instance, a weight of 2 would mean that the encounter takes up 2 out of those 100 numbers (let’s say 99 and 100 for this example.) A second encounter with a weight of 3 would take up three spots (96-98) and so on.

Terrain Type: This is the terrain type for this encounter. If you make up random encounter tables based on terrain, this tells you which tables it belongs in.

Samsarras Location: These are all based in our homebrew world of Samsarras. If you are using our world, this tells you what part of it the encounter is linked to. Do you need to use our world? Nope. You can ignore this section completely.

That’s it! Start your collection now because we’ll be pumping out a lot of these. Right click and save it.

Random Encounters 0

Ne’er Do Wells

I like random encounters. Just as the players are subject to the whims of the dice, DMs should be too. Random Encounters can make a journey feel like a journey and gives me something to roll with.

What I don’t like: generic random encounters. “You see 1d4 goblins” doesn’t do much for me. What are those goblins doing? Why are they there? I want them to be something more than cardboard monsters.

Crumbling Keep is starting a random encounter collection. Each week, we’ll be dropping two fleshed out random encounters: one for free right here on our website and one on our Patreon. The goal is to add a little story to your random encounters. Just save the images and start adding them to your random encounter tables.

How do these work? Here’s what the stats mean.

Category: I divided the random encounters into different categories: Nature, Civilization, Enemies, and weird. Not all random encounters are going to just be things to kill.

Time of day: Some encounters only happen at night. Some only happen during the day. Some happen whenever.

Weight (xx/100): If you’re making a random encounter table that uses a 1d100, this is how many lines this encounter should take up. For instance, a weight of 2 would mean that the encounter takes up 2 out of those 100 numbers (let’s say 99 and 100 for this example.) A second encounter with a weight of 3 would take up three spots (96-98) and so on.

Terrain Type: This is the terrain type for this encounter. If you make up random encounter tables based on terrain, this tells you which tables it belongs in.

Samsarras Location: These are all based in our homebrew world of Samsarras. If you are using our world, this tells you what part of it the encounter is linked to. Do you need to use our world? Nope. You can ignore this section completely.

That’s it! Start your collection now because we’ll be pumping out a lot of these. Right click and save it.