I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Sunday, June 28, 2020

New fighting styles for 5e: unarmed, grappling and versatile finesse

As I often say, D&D must have more than 500 "official" spells at this point, but not more than a dozen fighting styles in published books. I also say D&D is about magic (and magical combat) more than just combat, but few people seem to agree.

Anyway, fighting styles seem a bit weak and unbalanced to me. I've analysed them all here. But, since this design space exists, we might as well use it.

Here are a few fighting styles that might add more archetypes to the current fighter:

Unarmed Fighting: When you make an unarmed attack, you can roll a d4 in place of the normal damage of your unarmed strike.

Yes, this is from the monk. Other "minor" class features, such as "brutal critical", could easily be turned into fighting styles. Notice that they don't improve as much as the usual class features.

Grappling: You gain a +2 bonus when you make a grapple check or a check to escape a grapple.

Fighter grappling in 5e is somewhat lackluster, since the feat doesn't work and you cannot get expertise unelss you multi-class or take a special feat from Xanathar's. This small fighting style makes you a better grappler without being as powerful as a feat or expertise.

Finesse fightingWhile you wield a longsword, trident, or simple melee weapon that does't have the heavy property, it gains the finesse property.

This is just a way to allow Dexterous fighters to benefit form spears, longswords, and quarterstaves. Maybe I should exclude maces and axes.

"Finesse fighting" isn't a great name, just the first thing that came to mind.

Anyway, these are just a few examples on how new fighting styles could create a versatile fighter - and ranger, paladin, etc.


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In addition, there are many other ways to help us! Share this post, recommend it, leave comments, etc. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Teratogenicon - the ultimate monster maker!

The ultimate monster maker is finally here!

TERATOGENICON - our most impressive book so far - is a collection of tables and essays on how to create your own monsters.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Rick Troula (of The Displaced fame). Take a look at the images below to see for yourself!

NOTE: There seems to be some issue with DTRPG's preview, making the index Table of Contents disappear. The PDF is fine, however, as you can see in the Quick Preview. Here is the ToC:

As you can see, Teratogenicon contains one chapter for each of the fourteen most famous monster types (aberrations, beasts, celestials, constructs, and so on). Each chapter examines specific habits, appearance, goals, traits, powers, origins, and many other topics. In addition, the appendixes will help you to create stats (for both old school and contemporary games), to roleplay monsters, and to include all monster types into a coherent whole, among other things.

The book is inspired by the most famous RPG in the world (in its current format and by its earlier "old school" version) but is mostly system-less. Use it as inspiration for ANY RPG of your choice, or even for your own stories, comic books, videogames, etc.

Print version: a print version is in our plans. However, it will likely take a long time due to current circumstances. If/When we make it available, we will send an email with a discount coupon to everyone who bought the digital version. If you want to receive this e-mail, make sure you're receiving e-mails from us, and change your settings if you aren't! Also, let us know if you need any help.

By the way, I've sent an e-mail to all our previous customers with a discount coupon - same for whoever is following our Facebook group. If you're a reader of this blog, I'd like to extend you the same courtesy. The coupon is good for 15 days:


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Metallic Tome KS (+ Rafael Chandler)

Here is the Kickstater campaign for "Metallic Tome: A Sourcebook for OSR Games":

If I were to list my favorite OSR modules, Rafael Chandler would certainly appear multiple times.

Here is my review of Obscene Serpent Religion. Also, check Pandemonio, Teratic Tome, Lusus Naturae... all his stuff, really. It's been a while since his last project, AFAICT, and I'll happy to see he is making something new.

I won't review all of these books, because Rafael was kind enough to make all his stuff pay-what-you-want, so I can just say: go get this stuff

And help fund the Metallic Tome so we can have more amazing works by Rafael as soon as possible. 

If Rafael's amazing writing skills are not enough to convince you, check the artists:

Cover art by Peter Mohrbacher, and interior art by Adi, Christianne Benedict, Claudia Cangini, Cliff Roth, Diogo Nogueira, Earl Geier, Gennifer Bone, Pavel Popov, and Will Towles.

I'm certainly getting this!

Saturday, June 06, 2020

REPLACING the cleric... for a LEADER?

Here are my original thoughts on the matter of OSR clerics.

In that post, I picture the cleric as an "anti-thief" without saying it clearly - and mentioned a "leader" character in the last paragraph.

Let's develop this further.

So, the thief has strong offense (many weapons, back-stab) but weak defense (light armor, low HP). The cleric is the opposite: fewer weapons, better armor, and (usually) more HP.

But that is not the only correspondence. Thieves are chaotic; clerics are lawful. The meaning of alignment changes a lot from edition to edition (see this post), so I will not dwell on that. suffice to say thieves are often depicted and more egotistical, with their own motives, while clerics are often more altruistic.

There is another important dichotomy here: thieves are lone wolves, clerics are team players.

Fighters and mages? Well, the best combination is having both of them: the fighter in the front-lines, the wizards as artillery.

But the thief-cleric dichotomy is different: thieves' abilities are GEARED TOWARDS GOING SOLO. For example,sneaking and hiding makes more sense when you're alone. Picking pockets is something you do on your own (in some games, the thief will even rob their own allies). If you fail, you fail on your own. Same for some (maybe most) small traps. And climbing.

Conversely, the cleric has abilities that HELP THE ENTIRE GROUP, and are often less useful for a single adventurer. Sure, the cleric could heal himself - if he is conscious - but cannot resurrect himself. Even turning undead is more useful when you have an ally with a bow (since the cleric cannot use one) that can shoot them from afar...

As always, this isn't clear-cut as it sounds, but it is relevant enough to mention.

So, in short, the cleric DOES have a specific role to play in the "classic four classes".

But again, as Delta says herethe armored, adventuring, miraculous man-of-Catholic-faith is simply not a type you see very much in the roots of the genre, if at all. 

There IS a type, however, of "team-player" character we can find in the roots of the genre. I'm thinking of Aragorn and King Arthur; the type whose greatest strength isn't prowess in arms, but inspiring and helping others to achieve common goals.

Notice that these "leaders" often have powers usually attributed to the cleric - healing, inspiration, end even undead-controlling stuff.

But that is not all. The "leader" position is infinitely more versatile and useful than the cleric position. Yes, priests can be leaders - but also aristocrats, warlords, politicians, teachers, etc. Maybe the class should have some "inspire masses" power, letting the rogue keep some mountebank-like qualities? Or have rogue schemers (like Wormtongue or Littlefinger) that can influence you one-on-one, but end up exposed in front of crowds? Makes sense to me.

Of course, these "leaders" would work well in low magic settings, sword and sorcery, settings without deities or miracles, etc.

In addition, the four basic classes are a great way to classify most monsters.

The leader, especially, is an interesting type of adversary: not that dangerous by itself, but able to inspire, strengthen, organize and control weaker allies.

By the way - this is one of the things 4e got right. But that's another story.

Further reading:
My original post.
Delta's post about clerics.
Interesting "anti-thief" post from JB.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Attuning to nonmagical items (D&D 5e quick fix)

A quick alternative to the usual "find progressively better magic items as you adventure" scheme.

Instead, start with an item that seems ordinary, but has some history behind it. Maybe it came from your ancestors, or as a gift from someone you admire, or maybe you forged a sword yourself for some worthy goal. It might be an ordinary shield you just REALLY like and that's it. Or your favorite set of thieves' tools. Any item, really.

I'd would probably allow for only ONE nonmagical item per PC to be attuned at a time. Of course, there should be an in-character explanation.

The usual rules for Attunement apply.
Some magic items require a creature to form a bond with them before their magical properties can be used. This bond is called attunement, and certain items have a prerequisite for it. If the prerequisite is a class, a creature must be a member of that class to attune to the item. (If the class is a spellcasting class, a monster qualifies if it has spell slots and uses that class’s spell list.) If the prerequisite is to be a spellcaster, a creature qualifies if it can cast at least one spell using its traits or features, not using a magic item or the like.
Without becoming attuned to an item that requires attunement, a creature gains only its nonmagical benefits, unless its description states otherwise. For example, a magic shield that requires attunement provides the benefits of a normal shield to a creature not attuned to it, but none of its magical properties.
Attuning to an item requires a creature to spend a short rest focused on only that item while being in physical contact with it (this can’t be the same short rest used to learn the item’s properties). This focus can take the form of weapon practice (for a weapon), meditation (for a wondrous item), or some other appropriate activity. If the short rest is interrupted, the attunement attempt fails. Otherwise, at the end of the short rest, the creature gains an intuitive understanding of how to activate any magical properties of the item, including any necessary command words.
An item can be attuned to only one creature at a time, and a creature can be attuned to no more than three magic items at a time. Any attempt to attune to a fourth item fails; the creature must end its attunement to an item first. Additionally, a creature can’t attune to more than one copy of an item. For example, a creature can’t attune to more than one ring of protection at a time.
A creature’s attunement to an item ends if the creature no longer satisfies the prerequisites for attunement, if the item has been more than 100 feet away for at least 24 hours, if the creature dies, or if another creature attunes to the item. A creature can also voluntarily end attunement by spending another short rest focused on the item, unless the item is cursed.
Here is the twist: every time your gain an odd level, roll 1d6 for every nonmagical item you're attuned to, and 1d10 for each magic item. If you roll a 1, the item becomes better somehow.

Maybe start with a +1 bonus, then +2, etc. Add extra damage against dragons if you're on a quest to slay dragons. Give the player some choice. Require special materials or new quests if you want to. You might prefer rolling every level, or every four levels, etc., as you wish.

Your call.

You can still combine this with the usual "find progressively better magic items as you adventure" - even found items can improve with time, if you attune to them.

Could the PC give their items away? Well, it would be missing the point, and also sub-optimal, but why not let them? Especially if a PC dies and a new PC want to continue the dead man's quest, etc. Sounds like a good idea.

If you want to limit that, make the item lose some of its power when changing hands. Only high-level heroes leave legendary items worthy of notice.

I see a lot of advantages to that rule, but one thing that comes to mind is that I know one character (Rogue) that played trough a whole (published) module but found no magic weapons with finesse, only plenty of monsters that are outright immune to nonmagical attacks. The entire group is level 10 and everyone else has magic items (or just spells) since level 5.

There is also this player tendency to pay attention to things that have no special importance or powers. "So, this is the shield of the last guy that fought the tyrant? I'll take it!". Why not let players CHOOSE what is important and POTENTIALLY give it a benefit?

[Giving it a benefit AUTOMATICALLY might be a bad idea, but I'll not go into this here.]

In short, this gives players meaningful choices. I like it.

Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments.


I wrote a couple fo books about magic items: Dark Fantasy Magic Items and 100 Magic Weapons (Dark Fantasy). You can find it by clicking on these links.

If you like this, you'll find more stuff like this on my Dark Fantasy line.

It is also a great way to support this blog!

Hope you enjoy it! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Wretched Hive - my first published adventure!

So, here is my first published adventure, The Wretched Hive.

It is an expanded version of an old one page dungeon.

Here is the blurb:

A titanic insect god, constantly giving birth to endless larvae. An assassin whose task is to poison the enemies of her faith. Twisted hybrids, half human and half bee, created by devilish biomancers. A pagan cult whose temple was invaded by demons. And these are the good guys!?!?! Welcome to the Wretched Hive!

An OSR adventure for low-level characters, easily adapted to high-level characters by switching goals - rescue the prisoners and run, or face the demons and take down the hive!

Although you can use this with any OSR system of your choice, it is especially suited for medieval dark fantasy games, such as Dark Fantasy Basic.

Anyway, I really like the way it looks. I added awesome stock art from various artists.

The whole thing is organized by colors and factions (notice the yellow and red titles below).  It is meant to be really easy to run at your table.

Take a look (or check the previews on DTRPG):

The art on this pages in Jack Badashski (page 19) and Jeremy Hart (page 21).

By the way, if you are one of the artists feature in this book (the list is on DTRPG), just ask I'll send you a copy. I hope you like what I've done with your art!

Also, if you've got this far, here is a little something to show you my appreciation: a 50% discount, good for seven people, valid for the next seven days.


EDIT: okay, that went fast; if the discount above doesn't work it, use the one below.


I might do that for future books too; stay tuned!

Hope you like this!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Blood of Elves (The Witcher) - quick book review

The Blood of Elves is the third installment of the Witcher series (see my reviews of the first two books here and here, and of the TV series here).

In my last post about the subject, I said I was "on the fence" about the series. Well, this book is different to the other two, but didn't push me either way.

The first two books are collections of interconnected short stories. This one takes the form of a novel, although there are still some distinct "arcs" happening separately.

It feels a lot better written than the first two. The dialogue is great - I especially enjoyed the quarrel between elves, dwarves, bards, druids, etc., in the beginning of the book.

On the other hand, the pace suffers a bit. The last half of the book is especially slow. I don't mind some character development, but it failed to pique my interest. Maybe some scenes bored me because I've been playing the last videogame so I have a good idea on what happens to some important characters.

The world-building... well, like the other books, it is still interesting but full of Poughkeepsie. The bards go to bard universities with the doctors, the structure of espionage is really modern, etc.

The action scenes are decent, but a bit sparse. The twists at the end of each arc are good and not entirely predictable... yet. Geralt suffers a bit, but honestly not enough to make me feel like he ccan be defeated.

Some of it still feels like soap opera. Some of it is cringey. The hero still gets all women - and they are all quite beautiful, it seems. There is some intrigue, but it feels a bit gratuitous. There are still lots of cool ideas to use in your D&D games. Not a lot of cool monsters in this one, tough...

Frankly, I think I like the first two books more. The writing and dialogue felt better on this one, and but the first ones had more interesting bits.

The books are short and fast-paced enough that reading them is rarely a chore. Not sure I'll read the next one, but, as long as you're interested, I'll let you know!