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, 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!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Minimalist D&D II - DITCH initiative!

Still writing my "minimalist" Dark Fantasy Hack, as we've mentioned in part I.

I tried MANY complex ways of fixing initiative in the past, as you can see in this blog - and I've found it is not especially useful, realistic or fun.

First, initiative DOES nothing. You roll a dice to see when you'll have the right to roll another dice, and then MAYBE accomplish something.

If you win initiative and miss your roll, nothing is accomplished (and you rolled twice for nothing). If you lose initiative and one side wins before your turn (or you're taken out), it is just frustrating. If a monster loses initiative and gets attacked by the whole party it can be taken out without even appearing menacing.

Of course, whoever loses initiative can at least react to everyone else's actions... which doesn't make much sense.

And when initiative does something fun - you win initiative, and you hit, AND you roll well for damage - is lots of rolls and calculations where ONE would suffice.

If you use initiative just to give some semblance of order to combat, that's understandable. But do you really want to turn combat into an orderly affair instead of something unpredictable and chaotic? Is it really a good idea?

Anyway, IF that is the case, I'd use side initiative - one "side" acts, in any order they wish, then the other side. Or just let everyone act in order of Dexterity, without even rolling.

But wait - Dexterity? Why? Why would a wizard or sorcerer need to be agile to cast a spell first? Dexterity covers a LOT of unrelated things already - picking locks, dodging, shooting arrows and (gasp!) even playing stringed instruments in 5e. Why does quick-thinking need to be included in this unholy hodgepodge?

Now, imagine a 11th level orc fighter with Dexterity 10 (in 5e for example). She can attack THREE TIMES in a turn, or SIX TIMES with action surge (seven, with light weapons). Why would the 1st level rogue with Dexterity 16 be able to attack before ANY of the seven attacks?

(In fact, 5e DOES realize this and attempts little "fixes" such as giving initiative bonuses to champions and barbarians. But this shouldn't need fixing in the first place. If you're a good fighter, you should master your timing in combat by default).

What if we inverted this rationale?

A competent fighter attacks fast. A competent wizard casts a spell before the low-level ranger can act (unless we are interrupting spells, but that's a different matter). However, the old wizard CANNOT throw a punch that quickly!

In short - how fast you act depends on what you want to do.

But then you must DECLARE what you'll do BEFORE you roll, which makes PLENTY of sense.

So, try this.

EVERYONE says what they'll do. Ogrok the barbarian attacks the dragon. Maellus prepares a spell. Melfin draws his bow while moving behind a rock. The dragon inhales, ready to breathe fire over all of you! Oh my!

NOW everyone rolls at the same time.

Ogrok rolls best! Then the dragon, Maellus and Melfin.

The barbarian flanks the dragon and attacks before it can react, causing massive damage. The dragon  breathes fire, but now the barbarian moved to the side, and he chooses to toast the barbarian instead of the rest of the party. OR: the dragon already chose where to attack (and thus cannot change the action), and burns the other two before they can act!

And what if Melfin rolled a 1? Well, he knows shooting the dragon will lead to failure, but he declared his action already. Maybe he can change it, for some price? Or maybe his roll meant he also failed his saving throw and is badly burned? Maybe he has more than one dice to roll with many attacks?

I don't know, there are many specifics to think of.

But, overall, this kind of combat feels faster, more chaotic, real... and fun.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Minimalist D&D?

So, I finally feel the urge to create my "minimalist D&D". Blame the fact that currently all of my games are online, and and I dislike the endless dice-rolling even more over the internet (dice rollers didn't help much, really).

I'm calling it Dark Fantasy Hack for now, because why not.

Bear in mind that, to be honest, I don't want minimalism "per se", but efficiency.

If that requires clarification, I'll give you some examples.

The six basic ability scores could be easily reduced to five, four, or even three without losing much. However, I'm not interested in doing that because I think the familiarity of having the same ability scores you already know beats the ease of having fewer. Likewise, I could reduce the four basic classes to three or even two, but unless I can get rid of classes altogether I don't se much reason to do that since I believe the basic four classes to have some interesting balance. And saving throws? Easily reduced to two or even one, but if you can use the six ability scores you already have, you're not adding too much complexity.

Basically, I want to cut redundancy instead of reducing everything to the "essentials". Maybe it is the same thing. So let's just say I want to write my version of D&D in 20 pages instead of one or two.

Anyway, here is a poll I made on Facebook (BTW, if you are on FB and want to talk about games, feel free to add me).

This is something I created on a whim, so there is stuff missing. I added "damage rolls" and "initiative" after creating the poll, because someone suggested it. I didn't say "feats" or "multi-class" because these are already optional in 5e. So this is not comprehensive or precise... but it can give you a rough idea.

So, spell slots are the first to go (with 159 votes IIRC). I agree. We already solved this issue.

Now, skills is an obvious one, although I was reluctant at first.

I say its obvious because there are already optional rules in the 5e DMG that do away with skills in favor of ability scores and classes. In addition, skills were often unimportant (except for thief skills) in old school D&D.

I was reluctant because Dark Fantasy Basic is skill based, and for me there is something so EASY about making classes through skill combination... "Spells + nature" make druids, "Combat + nature" make rangers and barbarians, etc.

Well, you can do the opposite and replace skills with classes. The important thing is that you have SOME method of customization for different characters.

Initiative we've discussed briefly before. I think it is completely unnecessary. That might deserve a post of its own.

Level and HP, well, these two are hard to do. Possible, sure, but they are really close to the "core" of what D&D is in the first place, IMO. Giving levels and HP to single figures is basically what separated D&D from wargames at the beginning of the hobby. They could certainly be replaced - for something like "wounds" and "character points" - but it sees that if you've got to replace them with SOMETHING, instead of simply cutting them out, I'd rather stay faithful to D&D.

Damage rolls are pretty redundant, IMO. 5e already calculates average damage for monsters, do the same for PCs. Critical hits are there to add some variety. So, 1d8+3 becomes 7 damage (a critical hit becomes maximum damage: 11 points).

Then we've got classes and ability scores. Also tricky. Seems to me that you can have classes but no ability scores - OD&D seems easy to play without them, for example. B/X too. Them you have games like Knave without classes, relying solely on ability scores. But, you've got to have some customization, in one way or another, to differentiate PCs.

In short, most of these things are easy to cut, but we've got to keep at least some semblance of skills OR ability scores OR classes to allow for some customization - as we'll see.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Owlbear-like generator

The TERATOGENICON is coming!

Roll 3d6.

1. Owl.
2. Hawk.
3. Parrot.
4. Komodo dragon.
5. Alligator.
6. Snapping turtle.

1. Bear.
2. Sloth.
3. Gorilla.
4. Monkey.
5. Giant Armadillo.
6. Wolverine.

Cool power.
1. Limited flight or swim.
2. Stealth.
3. Tough armor.
4. Burrowing.
5. Climbing.
6. Tail club.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: the TERATOGENICON has arrived!

Saturday, May 02, 2020

The beauty of NON-MAGIC Points (NMP?)

I wrote a previous post about "The beauty of Magic Points (MP)"; take a look a that, if you haven't.

It lists 10 reasons why MP are "better" than spell slots.

Notice that many of these reasons apply to all "PC-power resources": healing (paladins), rages (barbarians), bardic inspiration, etc.

You could unify all these resources into one single pool and use it for multiple purposes.

One good example is Low Fantasy Gaming*. It uses Luck as a multipurpose mechanic to do a lot of the work that is usually reserved for saving throws, limited powers, etc. Since I've read the original game, I'm not sure if the latest version (the one in the link) went the final step of using Luck for spells and all "class powers" as well. But I think it would be a good idea.

Starfinder does something similar with "resolve".

I will call this "inspiration" instead, because it fits 5e.

So, instead of getting a certain number of rages per day, a barbarian would spend inspiration to enter rage.

Likewise, the paladin can spend her inspiration to heal, smite or protect. Instead of writing down how many "smites" and how many "healing hands" a paladin can perform, just say each one costs one point of inspiration; it is a lot simpler.

The fun part is that each class or character can have their own ways of recovering inspiration (probably in addition to resting).

The paladins spends 10 minutes praying in the church? One point of inspiration. Barbarian gets wounded? One point of inspiration. And so on.

The combinations of "ways to get inspiration" and "ways to spend it" are endless - you can easily create a rage paladin, or a martyred one (suffer wounds to heal other people), or a benevolent mage that gets spells from prayer (not much different to a cleric, except for the spells). Warlocks can get mechanical benefits from their patrons, and so on.

This would replace the usual inspiration, so your flaws, boons, etc, can give you additional points.

This creates a kind of "funnel" with many useful side-effects. For example, you could have a "multi-class" fighter-barbarian-mage with many powers, all relying on inspiration, which makes the "jack of all trades" a "master of none".

Also, all the advantages of using MP instead of "spell slots" also apply here. For example, one night of rest can make you recover some HP and some inspiration, and so on.

This is the system I'm using for my next game, Dark Fantasy Hack. But this is a subject for another post.

* Affiliate link. By purchasing stuff through affiliate links you're helping to support this blog.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Where to find me

For a long time, I ignored social media, except for one: Google+ (now defunct). If you've been there, you know that, for a long time, it was the hub where all OSR fans (also, D&D and all RPGs, really) used to meet.

Since the untimely demise of G+, I've been trying to get back in touch with people interested in RPGs. That's 99% of what I do in social media, BTW. I do not usually talk about current events or personal stuff.

So, I've been trying many alternatives. If you want to find me, I'm in all these places, although not assiduously.

I even created a wheretofindme profile.


This blog is the best place to get in touch with me. I check for comments, etc. almost every other day.

My email is ericdiazdotd@gmail.com.

I have stuff on DTRPG, as you probably know.

I'm trying Facebook now. I think it has potential for RPG conversations. I do not use it often.

I also have an Instagram account - RPGs only.

I'm on MeWe frequently.

I'm also on Reddit.

I also frequent a few RPG forums sparingly... RPGnet, RPGsite, GitP, etc.

Anyway, I'm putting this out there so you can add me to your circles if you want.

See you there!

UPDATE [2023]: Notice that in all this cases, my goal is to talk about RPGs and things that are directly related (books, movies, etc.). Rest assured, you will NOT see a picture of my lunch in any of these places!

DTRPG e-mails: I send two or three e-mails through DTRPG every YEAR announcing new products, always with a discount. If you got any of my books - including Dark Fantasy Places, which you can get for free - and accept DTRPG e-mails, you'll get this. We promise not to spam - and we never have!

Discord: I use this one once a week more or less. I just created a channel to discuss ideas, drafts, sales, etc. Feel free to join! I recommend this one if you are interested in my work. Let's see how it goes.

Reddit: r/OSR seems to be one of the best places to discuss OSR games  right now, even though it is not great for group conversation. Reddit seems more appropriate for communities than to communicate with individual people, but you can still follow individuals. I'm there often.

Instagram: I post about once a month, mostly about blog posts. Take a look to see if you will enjoy my feed.

Mewe: This is in some aspects the closest to G+, has lots of great groups, and  awesome people. It's still a small place however.

Facebook: I can hardly make this one work properly. My posts get no traffic. Still, get in touch if you're in there. I post only 3-5 times per year.