Archive for April 2015

More Stores & Updates

You might have noticed that our store isn't up on DriveThruRPG anymore. This is because we've been suspended for 30 days (which started two days ago as of this post). I won't get into the specifics (and I've already had to explain it to plenty of our closer peeps), but I will say that it's equal parts confusing and absurd, perhaps with a—depending on how data is managed and other rules—dash of technicality.

While we (and you) wait, we've created a kind of store page on the blog: click here, or go to the Products tab up top and hit Dungeon World. How this works is that you buy something, we get an email alert from PayPal, and then we email you the pdf(s). Obviously if no one is home (which is rare) or we're sleeping (not so rare), you'll have to wait.

I know it's not as convenient, but once our suspension ends we'll send everyone that buys stuff from us a complimentary copy through DriveThruRPG, so it will eventually become convenient.

We're also going to start using Lulu for print-on-demand stuff, so expect to see adventures and our magic item collections over there.

Feel free to spread the word, and if anyone asks what the hell happened let them know. Also, if you can think of other online distributors, let us know either in the comments or over on G+, and we'll look into it.

In more pleasant news, the GM Screen is coming along nicely:

Six panels done, six to go. This is just the background art for the panels with actual tables, sans tables (hence all the white space). There's currently four panels of nothing but art, and when it's done I'll package everything into another art pack.

I've been in touch with a local printer company, and we're going to visit them tomorrow to see if they can actually make what I'm looking for. If so, that'll probably end up being a Kickstarter since they'll want a minimum production and all that.
April 30, 2015
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon Worldbuilding

Melissa and I managed to get in a bi-weekly Dungeon World game. I'm playing a dwarf battlemind with the mutation background (he in infested with cosmic horrors), while Melissa is taking The Bard for a spin (and is currently enjoying it waaay more than the "official" one).

We spent most of the session doing some broad-strokes world-building, so didn't get much done aside from picking a fight with a handful dire-field rats. I don't think that anyone got to mark XP for anything, even misses. Anywho, here's what we came up with (plus a map):

Nothing fancy, just something to let us know what's where, with plenty of blanks to fill in down the road. I forget if we named the rivers and mountains: most of pre-game worldbuilding focused on the steadings, with a bit about the mountains and region to the north.

Taking it from the top:

The northern region, specifically the area in the darkened circle, is a frozen wasteland. There's no gradual climate change: it abruptly shifts from temperate to arctic. Nothing lives there, either. It used to be a considerably warmer, sprawling dwarven kingdom, but an undead army drove them away and blanketed the land in an eternal winter.

Bands of dwarves occasionally venture north, hoping to discover lost relics and riches.

The mountains to the east are believed to extend into the heavens (or space, if space is a thing in this world). They are also said to be impassable: the rare group of explorers that attempts to cross either return defeated (usually fewer in number than when they started), or are never seen again. Survivors speak of nightmare-induced dreams and eldritch horrors.

What lies beyond, none can say.

Dunwater is a mining town that produces an abundance of gold and gems, which are shipped to Willowspear. The refinery and other waste has polluted the river.

Willowspear is a big city with bigger problems. There are hedonistic noble houses, artisans, and merchant guilds, several thieves guilds, and strange, monstrous creatures that lurk within the squalid river and sewers. Protection from any combination means that there's no shortage of work for mercenaries and bodyguards.

The city is so-named after the leader of the undead army was finally stopped by a humble spear made from willow, the only material that could harm it. This merely rendered it inert, and after it was discovered that destroying the remains would release a malevolent presence, priests sealed it deep underground. There it waits for someone to remove the spear, so that it may once again walk the land.
April 29, 2015
Posted by David Guyll

Dungeon World: Artifacts

Something we've been tinkering with in our A Sundered World campaign (in addition to, well, the campaign setting itself), are the Dungeon World equivalent of artifacts.

The concept was originally pitched by Chris, who is playing a psion that wields a soul-devouring intelligent sword, whose full name I can never remember. Geist...something or other.

What I do know is that the sword wants him to eat certain souls. This isn't always a...prudent course of action, but when he does it gains XP, and when it gains a certain amount of XP it "levels up", gaining a new ability or move.

The system is partially inspired by artifacts from 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, which have concordance scores that determined what sort of bonuses or penalties you received (the higher, the better).

Concordance can be raised or lowered depending on your race, alignment, maybe skills and other capabilities, but the major factor that affects it are your actions. If you do what it wants, your concordance goes up, and you gain more bonuses. Go against it, and your concordance goes down, which can result in losing bonuses or even gaining penalties.

This system is a bit simpler: each artifact has an instinct, and when you do what the item wants it gains XP. Like characters, when it gains enough XP the artifact can improve in some manner. Here's a very rough example of what we're talking about:

EGO is how willful the artifact is. EGO is subtracted from your WIS when you attempt to resist the artifact: artifacts with an EGO of -1 are easy to resist, while those with an EGO of 3 are far more difficult.

Instinct is why the artifact was created, or what it currently desires most. Again, when you do what the item wants/fulfill its instinct, the item marks XP. Not sure if this should be a once per session thing (part of the End of Session move), or done every time you do what it wants. Maybe instinct can be once per session, and doing its bidding nets it one each time.

Improvements are the new abilities and moves that you can buy with the artifact's XP. Not sure if artifacts should improve along a set track, or just let you pick whatever you want. I'm inclined towards the latter, because not all improvements will be useful for everyone (like, say, removing the clumsy tag).

Something to keep in mind is that—not that Dungeon World magic items themselves are "balanced"—artifacts are intended to be some of the most powerful magic items you can find in a campaign, though they aren't without risk: defy the artifact and it will try to gain control of you in order to get what it wants.

When you attempt to resist the artifact's desires, roll+WIS-EGO. ✴On a 10+, you retain control. ✴On a 7-9, you are able to resist, but it requires all of your concentration: you take -1 ongoing until you rest for a while, and cannot maintain any abilities that require your full concentration. ✴On a miss, the item gains control of you—the GM will tell you what happens.

When you mentally commune with the artifact, roll+WIS. ✴On a 7+, take +1 forward if you do what it desires, and you are resisting it if you refuse. ✴On a 10+, you also mark XP if you do what it desires. ✴On a miss, you take -1 forward.


When you mentally commune with the artifact, it will tell you what it wants you to do. If you do, mark XP. If you refuse, then you are resisting it.

So what do you think? Good? Bad? [x thing] needs changing, or it needs [y thing]? Assuming this design is sound/interesting enough, we could make an entire magic item book based around this.

Dungeon World: Concerning Hirelings

I more or less grew up on 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, but in the rare instance that we made it to 9th-level we just kept adventuring: no one stopped to build a castle or church, and we never had any hired help. At this point I don't remember why: maybe we thought it was strange to hire another group to follow us around, maybe we just never thought about it.

In 3rd Edition all of one player took the Leadership feat, but it turned out to be a huge hassle since the player specifically min-maxed the character (a half-celestial aasimar paladin) for it. I don't remember the exact number he ended up with, but it was around a hundred.

Dungeon World hirelings are mercifully much, much simpler than in Dungeons & Dragons, but even after playing through several long-term Dungeon World campaigns, we've almost never used them.

Let's see...over a month ago we did a one-shot, in which we got derailed from the actual adventure by heading into town to recruit. We succeeded in hiring someone, kind of, but the only time we got to see him in action is when he got eaten by a monster my cultist summoned.

There was also that time when Melissa and I were playtesting The Pirate, and I statted up her crew entirely as hirelings. This worked out well enough, though most if not all of them died due to an improbable string of misses (which isn't anything new for Melissa).

Oh, and back when we were playing Expedition to Castle Ravenloft With Dungeon World, whenever the thief's player didn't show I converted her into a hireling. I figured this would make it easier than trying to figure out her moves and roll for them, but we forgot about her almost the entire time. Ditto when I switched a character in our current A Sundered World campaign to a hireling.

In any case, now that I'm actually playing in a bi-weekly game this is something I aim to correct. Not my character: he's a crazy dwarf infested with cosmic horrors, which allows him to grow chitinous blades and plates. Melissa is playing a bard, so I'll just have her do the talking.

I've heard mention that some people dislike the hireling rules, because...I guess they rely too much on GM fiat? I frankly don't get this, because when I look at the hirelings section (which is going on my upcoming GM Screennothing about it comes across as, I dunno, more arbitrary than any other part of the game. You know, like monster moves, and pretty much whenever you roll a 9-.

For example, I guess it's "okay" if you try to dodge a troll's club and fuck up, that sometimes you'll take damage, other times you'll get knocked back and stunned for a bit, and still others your shield will get destroyed (and maybe even some bones will get broken). But when a warrior is also helping you out? Nooope, that's just, too damned much fiction for the GM to arbitrate.

I guess if you think hirelings (or even, say, mounts) play too fast and loose, maybe you need to re-read the hireling section (starts on page 36), as each skill seems pretty clear cut as to when things can go wrong. While you're at it, read (or re-read) everything in the GM section. Or just play another game: heaping on more rules to "solve" an alleged "issue" seems counter-intuitive for a rules-lite, fiction-driven game like Dungeon World.

To be fair I did consider houseruling hirelings a looong ass time ago, to make them more inline with characters or monsters, but in retrospect that was because in every case I just wanted to help round out the party when I was running a solo playtest with Melissa (ie, playing the game in a manner in which it was not intended).

The thing is, a hireling isn't supposed to replace an entire character. They're not heroes, and they're not even necessarily your friend (hence no option for Bonds, and a fluctuating Loyalty stat). In general even monsters are more important than a hireling, as they have hit points, armor, damage dice, moves, and so on.

All that said, I do think for games that only have one or two players (which is, again, less then the minimum recommended), you might need something a bit meatier and/or more reliable than a hireling to better round the party out. This is where companions come in.

This is something I got from 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, specifically Dungeon Master's Guide 2. A companion is essentially a character represented with a monster stat block, meaning that it lacks feats, loads of powers, a paragon path, and so on. Something that the DM or another player can better juggle alongside everything else.

In Dungeon World companions would be more of a middle ground: more complex than a hireling, less complex than a character. They'd be largely the same as a monster, with a damage die, hit points, armor, tags, and all, just with some added tweaks from the wizard's Summon Monster spell (pg 155). They also wouldn't have a Loyalty stat or Cost, just doing whatever the controlling character or GM dictates.

Companions would have access to all of the Basic and most of the Special Moves, including potentially End of Session and Level Up (when the companion levels up, you could add a new tag or move, upgrade a move or tag, and/or boost some stats). It really depends on how complex you want/need it to be: in a one shot this isn't particularly important.

Ability Score(s)
Since the companion has access to all of the basic moves, they need to roll+something. The wizard's Summon Monster just gets a blanket +1 to all stats, but I'm wondering if a single stat like Competence, Expertise, Proficiency, etc, could be used instead.

Or maybe two stats (or two modifiers): one for when it makes moves related to its skill set, another for when it does something outside of it. For example, a warrior might have Expertise +2/0: when she rolls to fight, she rolls+2, but if she rolls to spout lore it's only +0.

In any case this could be at the top of the stat block, right alongside tags. Hrmm...maybe hireling skills could be represented as tags? So, a rogue could have the tags burglar and tracker, and when it rolls to do either of those two things it gets the better modifier.

Hit Points
This would be based on the companion's overall toughness, not the number encountered: warriors would have more than spellcasters. I suppose you could use the monster's hit point steps of 3, 6, and 12. Maybe mod them by asking similar questions as that of a monster.

Like hit points, this would be based on the companion's overall combat prowess, as opposed to the number encountered. As with hit points you could have it scale like a monster's damage die: d6 for weaker companions, up to d10. You could also ask questions here, giving it b[2d10], or d8 + 2, 2 piercing.

A Sundered World: Equipment

I'm taking a break from races and monsters, to bring you the WIP illustration for A Sundered World's equipment chapter.

Haven't finished all the fine detail, and the dwarf is going to have a mechanical limb, which is just one of the many new options for characters. To give you a better idea, here's a couple pages from the equipment chapter (specifically weapons and just some of the dungeon gear):

Awful Good Art Pack

Seeing as a lot of people really like my art, I figured I'd release the stuff that I've done for myself as a very cheap collection, that contains almost every single cover I've done, plus some of the interior stuff.

The art can be used both at your table (not that I could really stop you, there), and even in published works with minimal restriction: you can't use it in another stock art collection (but if you want to include our stuff, lemme know), and you have to credit me (and Melissa if you use a color piece, since she does all the coloring).

Otherwise I don't really give a fuck what you do with it, or how much you use it.

There's a digest-sized pdf that includes all of the art (you can use the preview links to see everything that's inside), and there are two zip files that contain all 20 high-resolution (300dpi), digest-sized images as jpgs, pngs, and tifs.

I'm going to start releasing these at the end of the year at the longest (if I do a bunch of stuff, I might release them sooner), so the next pack will likely contain some A Sundered World art. The only thing I won't release are paid commissions.



In addition to more A Sundered World art previews, Melissa and I are also working on a swashbuckler class and a Dungeon World GM screen. The GM Screen is currently undergoing closed feedback by a substantial group of people, and we've already come up with some ideas to make this a very expansive, modular screen.

Dungeon World: GM Screen Preview

UPDATE: There are currently twelve panels: basic moves, special moves, fronts, making monsters, treasure, some of the more oft-used gear, transports, and services (ie, what I could fit), making any kind of steading, updating steadings, etc. Since there's going to be something along the line of 16 panels of art, I'm going to release them (sans tables) as another art pack.

I've got quite a few people looking over the Dungeon World GM Screen I'm working on, to see if there's anything it's missing, if the information could be better organized/presented, swapped out, etc. In the meantime, here's a WIP preview of one of the panels (gonna add a monster or two in the bottom corners, maybe something on top).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's the completed above panel, including some more details and zombies.

It's (currently) intended to work with DrivethruRPG's GM Screen, which allows you to swap out panels whenever you want, and so far we've got eight of them: four for the GM, four player-facing (which includes stuff like the basic and special moves).

There's going to be some art panels, in case you want a more "traditional" screen, and Melissa and I have been talking about making panel "sets". These could be used for specific types of adventures (dungeon or urban crawl, wilderness trek, etc). There would be a list of example NPC names, floor plans, a table for dungeon dressing, wilderness encounters. Stuff like that.

Could even include additional art packs, and panels with moves, maps, and monsters for specific adventures.

UPDATE: Here are some more WIP images!

A Sundered World: Episode 105 Synopsis


Waive opted to stay behind at Spiral Harbor, in order to both help rebuild and—while there weren't any angels overseeing the archive—learn more about the swords that he and Agron wielded.

While they waited for Katra to repair her ship, they were approached by a well-sculpted cthon named Terminus. He had seen their fight against the dragon, and wished to accompany them on their travels.

Once the repairs were complete, they simultaneously celebrated their victory and mourned Ironhide's death with an excess of alcohol. After they were several mugs deep, a man approached them. He introduced himself as a Silas Tasso, captain of a merchant vessel that routinely sailed this part of the Astral.

He'd overhead them talking about finding god parts, and as thanks for saving the island from certain destruction, provided them with a linechart that lead to a god-fragment. Aside from Metacarpolis this was their only lead, and since Sift could see ley lines this meant that even without Waive they'd be able to easily locate the fragment.

After a brief, minimally damaging encounter with a star kraken, they arrived at the fragment. It was an arm, half-obscured by shimmering, golden clouds, and as they approached it saw that it was pierced by tens of thousands of swords. Ominous, but not nearly as immediately harmful as the star kraken that was perched atop it.

They descending into the clouds and searched for an entrance, hoping to avoid another kraken. When they found none they slowly emerged and circled about the arm, continuing to search in vain until Katra realized that the kraken was dead. Now concerned as to what killed it, they cautiously sailed towards the top. One they were close, they heard someone singing.

When they reached the plateau, they found a man seated next to the kraken's corpse and a vast pit. His hair and beard were both long and red, and he was clad in armor made of golden scales. A single sword pierced the kraken's eye, and a considerable portion of one of its tentacles was missing; part of it was roasting over a firepit.

They greeted him, and explained that they had come in search of godsteel. He warned them that while there might still be some near the bottom, they would have to fight for it. Katra conjured a guttering flame to light their way, and they drifted down the long shaft. They could see the faint, green glow of souls peering out from numerous cracks, but nothing challenged them for a long while.

Near the bottom a group of ten golden suits of armor, wielding golden swords, flew towards them. They ordered the party to leave, and when they refused the warriors spread out so that they could surround and attack from every direction, including above and below. Though they were outnumbered, after Agron's sword consumed two of their souls the rest retreated into the depths.

Hoping that they wouldn't return, they continued down until they came across a vast chamber. Numerous souls were gathered around a golden giant laboring over an anvil, and more emerged from a circular pit, carrying lumps of golden metal: godsteel. The giant would strike a piece with its hammer, and after the third strike the metal would transform into a suit of armor. He would then motion it towards one of the souls, and it would encase them.

They party revealed themselves, and the smith said that it would give them godsteel in exchange for Agron's sword, so that he could free the warriors trapped within. Obviously his sword refused this bargain, so he resolved to just slay the smith, devour his soul, and claim the metal. Agron sped towards the smith. He quickly shaped a piece of godsteel into a massive sword, and though Agron managed to evade the blade, his sword was unable to pierce the smith's armor.

The smith swatted Agron into the ground with the flat of his sword. He gave Agron one final chance to surrender the sword, but when he again refused raised his hammer to crush him. Before he could strike, Katra's voice rang out from behind him: she had slipped past, and was now dancing about, holding a chunk of godsteel. Her taunt gave Agron enough time to will himself away.

The smith furiously hammered his sword into a shining fire lance. He fired it at Katra, but she twisted about the blast, dodging it, and shouted for everyone to leave. In the chaos that ensued, Terminus tried to sneak past the smith and snatch some of the armor, but after barely avoiding a salvo of searing blasts he turned about to follow Katra's lead.

They ascended the shaft, but didn't make far when they heard another peal of the smith's hammer, and then saw a golden sphere hurtling towards them. There was plenty of room in the shaft, allowing them to easily avoid it. They considered trying to catch it and take it with them, but Katra realized too late that it was covered in runes, the same kind of runes inscribed her own elemental grenades.

At least they survived the explosion.

Back at the ship, as they prepared to leave another soul approached them. It was Ironhide. He returned Katra's ghostly blade and thanked her. It was because of her that he was able to enact his revenge against Panzer. He told her that he hoped they would meet again before leaving, floating down into the pit.

Behind the Scenes
Adam, the player of Waive, is out of the game for at least a few weeks, and Matthew had to abruptly duck out mid-session, so I'm not sure if we'll be playing next week, if we'll have to scrap the campaign and start fresh, or what. If we had to start all over again, what kind of a campaign would you like to see us do? Where would you want the players to go? What would you want them to face?

At the least I'm glad to have taken this setting through the motions (several times). It's been very useful design-wise to see how the classes function over extended play. The players have also asked some questions about the setting that I'd taken for granted, and even suggested additional content to help make it stand out even more than it already does.

Melissa got done proofreading it about a week ago, so over the next few days I'll be going through the doc again, updating it with corrections, clarifications, and new content. Art (the black and white stuff, anyway) is approaching the halfway mark.

Super Dungeon Explore: Arcade Mode Review

I got the first wave of The Forgotten King Kickstarter sometime last week. The game has two modes: Arcade, which is fully cooperative, and Classic, which is, well, the "classic" way to play. I've only delved into Arcade mode, so that's what I'm going to talk about in this post.

I'll get into the heroes some other time, because some of the originals got tweaked, I got another heap in the first wave (currently my hero roster is nearly at forty), and there's still more to come in the second wave. I will say that, so far, Brave-Mode Candy is fucking awesome.

If all you want to know is what I think, the short of it is that, quibbles about rules clarity aside, I really like Arcade mode. The game seems far less one-sided, plays faster due to the monster gang rules, and adds plenty of fun new bits, like new basic actions, exploration cards, and pets.

For us it seems a tad easy, what with princess coins, ease of treasure accumulation, and bosses not summoning hordes of monsters at the halfway mark. To be fair we've only played a couple times, and there are suggestions in the back for ramping up the difficulty. It might have also been because of our party composition: we're going to try out new heroes the next time and see how it goes.

So, that's my recommendation: if you like the original Super Dungeon Explore I think you're going to like this way more due to the tweaks and additions. If you didn't like Super Dungeon Explore because you prefer coop games, or were frustrated by how easy it is for the Consul to utterly dominate the game, then I'd definitely give this a chance.

If you've never played Super Dungeon Explore, it's a fast-paced, easy to learn and play, beat 'em up chibi dungeon-crawler. You run around beating up monsters for loot, potions, and hearts, smash spawning points, and ultimately try to destroy the boss. It's a great stepping stone to something more complex, like Descent, and you can use the minis for tabletop role-playing games.

The Heroes
Though the hero cards look pretty similar, there are some key mechanical additions and differences.

The middle of the card no longer says stuff like Magic, Missile, Reach, and such. Instead there are tiny icons by the stats, letting you know which can be used to attack (and the attack's range) or defend yourself. So if your STR has a little sword with a 1, you can use your STR to make a melee attack against something 1 space away. If your WILL has a wand with a 6, then you can make a magic attack against something up to 6 spaces away.

On the left-hand side is a picture of a crystal with one or two colors. This denotes the hero's crystal affinity. Crystal affinities, near as I can tell, only pertain to specific treasures. Like, one might give you +1 Red to your STR stat, but if your crystal affinity matches you instead get +1 Green to STR. Some monsters also have them, but I'm not sure what they do.

Some of the traits have been changed or removed. For example Dodge is no longer a thing: instead a hero that used to have Dodge can just use DEX to defend themselves (and, even better, still do so when suffering from the Slow or Knockdown status effects). Another example is Stealthy: instead of rolling DEX to reduce the range of an attack, it just gets reduced by 3 (to a minimum of 1).

Finally, potions. In Super Dungeon Explore you could use them pretty much whenever you wanted to, as often as you wanted to so long as you had them on tap. Hell, you could use a potion in anticipation of a hero with lots of red dice rolling another. We used to do this with the Claw Tribe Barbarian to give everyone +1 Blue to Armor and Backlash before the Consul went.

Now you can only use one (unless you have Alchemy, which lets you use two), you have to declare it during the hero's activation, and instead of an immediate effect it gives you a free, single-use action to use during your turn. The exception are emergency potions, which can be used during the Consul's turn.

In addition to special actions featured on the hero's card, you can also choose from a slew of new basic actions, including bandage (roll your WILL to remove a wound from a target), explore (draw an Exploration card), pick lock (roll your DEX to try and get two treasure cards from a chest), vigor (roll ARM to remove a Status Effect), and more.

There are still four item slots, but you don't gain loot the same way. Instead of having to rack up three wounds, you get one loot card per minion or elite monster you kill, up to three per turn. You also can't equip them right away: you have to wait for the power up phase (which at least happens after every hero and consul turn).

Treasure is not only gained in the usual manner, but you can easily gain way more than before. Partially this is because you can use dungeon keys or the pick lock basic action on a chest to draw two cards (and keep them both), Another key factor is that you get to place the treasure chests, meaning that you can plant them near tile entrances and even the starting token.

The Monsters
Monsters are way different, at least in Arcade mode, and I don't just mean how they try and stop the heroes.

First, they don't roll any dice. Instead they have static STR and ARM stats: if you want to avoid getting hit, your defense roll has to meet-or-beat the attacker's STR, and if you want to hit them you have to roll higher than its ARM (even if the attack tells you to use DEX or WILL or whatever). Effects that would have formerly added or removed dice just increase or reduce their stats.

Second, they come in three flavors: minion, elite, and solo.

Solo monsters are mini-bosses and bosses.

They do their own thing, and gain no inherent benefits from having other Monsters hanging around (though they can benefit from various support actions that other monsters use). Killing a mini-boss nets you a treasure card and dungeon key, but also makes minions and elites more powerful: their ARM and STR can both increase twice, and they can also gain add a random Status Effect to their attacks.

Something to note is that bosses no longer spawn hordes of monsters and teleport away with their timeout effect. Instead they add kicker effects to any minions and elites that are still alive.

By themselves minions don't do shit: the only Command they respond to is Move (I'll get to Commands in a bit), which causes them to follow an elite that they are bonded with (ie, within 2 spaces of), run towards the nearest elite that they can bond with if unbonded, or leg it to the nearest spawning point that can spawn an elite they can bond with, if there isn't an elite on the board.

Elites are the most common threat you'll deal with. They're similar to solos in that they actually attack the heroes, but they also gain bonuses when they are bonded with minions in groups that are called gangs. Here's an example of the Lil' Sprouts gang card (and minis):

See the two sets of stats in the upper right-hand corner? The set on the left is if the Sprout is all by his lonesome, while the set on the right is for when he as at least one Mook within 2 spaces: the Sprout not only attacks with a STR of 2, but his RNG is increased and he can attack three times.

The Sprout is the elite, with a Speed of 5, 2 Wounds, and an ARM of 3. He transforms into King Sprout when killed (Forced Shift and Shapeshift: King Sprout), and has the Virulent trait, which boosts his STR by 1 when attacking a hero with the Poison status effect.

The minions that he bonds with are the Mooks. They have the same Speed, but only 1 Wound and an ARM of 1. As I said above they don't attack, but if they are bonded with a Sprout they cause his attacks to gain Poison (which syncs with his Virulent trait), add the support action Rampant Growth to the Sprout's Commands (further boosting his STR, assuming the Command card has them use it), and let him use his "gang" stats.

You might be thinking, rather that hew through all of the minions, that you can just take out the elite and call it good. After all he only has two Wounds, and minions don't attack. Well, it's not that easy. When an elite is hit by a single-target attack, any Wounds get shifted to bonded minions until there aren't any left/within 2 spaces. So, you either have to use area-effect attacks, or use actions that push/pull monsters about to keep them separated.

The Setup
As before you lay out one dungeon tile per hero, each tile gets one spawning point and treasure chest, and the heroes put a starting token within four spaces of a tile door that isn't connected to another tile. Unlike before, spawning points are always placed in a specific spot, and treasure chests have to be placed within 5 spaces of the spawning point.

This means that you can drop the chest right next to a hero, and depending on the facing of tiles can put treasure chests by tile entrances, making it incredibly easy to get all of the treasure chests.

The loot deck is much as it was before, though the cards look different. The treasure deck is built using a default set of cards, which include six Boo Booties (two of which eats your gear). You are permitted to customize it with various other cards, though some cards feature hero or monster portraits: those can only be included if you are using said hero or monsters in the game.

Similarly, the exploration deck is built using a default set of cards, plus another set of cards related to whatever boss you're fighting.

Finally, all minion and elite monsters start in play. You have to put them within two spaces of the spawning point, and they can't be next to each other unless you have no other choice. My guess this is to avoid dropping an area attack on the entire batch right out of the gate, since the heroes always go first.

The Gameplay
The overall goal of the game is to defeat the boss. Since there's no Power Gauge, the boss spawns once all of the spawning points have been destroyed.

There's also no initiative roll: the heroes always go first (which I love, because it means you don't have to hoard WILL items whether or not it's a key stat for you). You activate any two you want, then the monsters go, then you activate two more heroes (starting with any that didn't go on the previous turn), then the monsters, and so on.

When you activate a hero, before you do anything else, there's an upkeep phase. During upkeep you end effects from the previous turn, like auras and potions, can spend princess coins (I'll get to those in a bit), apply healing effects (like from Tough), and apply Status Effects (like Fire and Poison). I like this, because it makes it explicitly clear that you heal first, then take damage.

Once the heroes are done it's the Consul's turn. Only monsters on the same tile as the heroes, and those directly connected do anything. Arcade monsters don't have a skull value, so every valid monster acts. The book actually states that for an easier crawl, arrange the dungeon tiles in a straight line. This will make it so that at the start of the game, only monsters on the starting tile and the next one over will do anything: the rest will just stay put until you advance to the second tile.

To determine what the monsters do, you draw a Command card. These usually have a set of Commands, like Move x 1, Unique x 1, and Fight x 1, though the Recover card removes all Status Effects and one Wound from the Monsters.

Monsters usually go after the Hero with the most Wrath (though the Griefer Command card makes them target the one with the lowest). Wrath is analogous to aggro in MMOs, and is gained each time you kill a monster, open a treasure chest, drink a potion, and use support actions.

The rules specify that they'll avoid harmful terrain effects if possible, so you can't run them through difficult terrain to slow them down (unless they have Surefoot, which let them ignore it), and/or brambles to hit them with the Poison status effect (unless, again, they are immune to Poison).

Something that the book wasn't clear on, but I was able to figure out online, is that monsters will move towards the hero with the most wrath, but will attack the hero with the most wrath that they can get to. So, you can't use one or more heroes to block entrances and passages, to prevent them from getting into a fight.

There's also a spawn command, but again since Arcade monsters don't have a skull value it causes every available monster to respawn. If you killed a couple Mooks, they respawn. If you wiped out the entire Lil' Sprouts gang, then all of them make a comeback. So, hopefully it comes in last on the list. On the upside, each time a spawning point spawns monsters it suffers a wound: at least that will make it easier to destroy.

Speaking of destroying spawning points, when one is destroyed you put a mini-boss and a princess coin in play. Princess coins can be used during upkeep to either fully heal or revive a dead hero (no more resurrection charms). When you finally kill a mini-boss you not only get a treasure card, but it also drops a dungeon key. Dungeon keys can be used to allow anyone to safely open a treasure chest and get two treasure cards.

The last major addition to the game are exploration cards. You draw one the first time a hero enters a new tile, and you can also use the explore basic action once per tile (meaning that, besides the starting tile, you can get up to two per tile).

They often cause creeps to spawn (the number in the mouth of the weird, purple face). creeps are obnoxious little shits—especially the rabid squirrels—that aren't worth any loot at all, and pretty much solely exist to harass you and make you waste your time.

Exploration cards can also introduce an effect (which can be good or bad, like netting you a princess coin or preventing you from using certain actions) or trigger a trap. Traps do something whenever a hero moves onto or next to a trap template, but affect both heroes and monsters. They can be disarmed using the disarm trap basic action (roll DEX against the trap's ARM).

Closing Words
As I said at the start, I fucking love Arcade mode. After the countless, regular total party wipes of Super Dungeon Explore, the only reason I'm even going to try Classic mode is to see if there were any meaningful changes made, in particular some that would prevent me from using my key strategies (and I'll be writing an article on Arcade strategies). 

With the new loot mechanics you're pretty much guaranteed to get three on every turn. I don't mind this, since it allows heroes to not have to focus entirely on slaughtering monsters, and can help both lessen the blow of playing with two heroes that use the same key stat, and losing it to monsters that destroy gear on a hit (like one type of Boo Booty and Trent).

I also like how you can regularly get access to more treasure cards. This is something I disliked from the original, where you'd maybe get 2-3 depending on treasure chest placement, and a lot of times it wouldn't even be useful. Even as a veteran player, when I played a hero it was difficult to get to the chest on the third tile, unless Melissa was deliberately merciful and placed it near the entrance.

Now you can easily get six or more per game: just have a high DEX character pick the lock of the first one for two, or just be patient, kill the mini-boss, and use a key to get three (since the mini-boss drops one, too). They still might not all be useful (in the last game we played as of writing this we discarded two), but your odds are certainly better.

Kinda related, I've been working on my own tabletop role-playing game. Not only are these minis perfect for it (ditto for the art style), but coincidentally the monsters use minimal stats that the characters roll against; Attack and Defense. I also mentioned during our last Hangout playtest that I'm changing it so that when defending against a horde of monsters, the Difficulty just goes up and you roll once.

Image Dump
Here are some random pics from our most recent game:

We've got a bunch of awesome stuff going on this month:

Today's the last day to sign up for this month's Mythoard, which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.
April 16, 2015
Posted by David Guyll

A Sundered World: The Dwellers in Darkness

Nearly two years ago I wrote a draft on how I envisioned drow fitting into A Sundered World, and not much has changed since then. Actually the only thing that has really changed (aside from switching mechanics from d20 to Powered by the Apocalypse) is that I'm not referring to them as drow at all anymore, just dark elves.

This is partially because I've never really liked the Dungeons & Dragons portrayal of dark elves. Not because of any social justice bullshit about their skin color or whatever, but because they're still, even in 5th Edition, flat, uninteresting, and utterly nonsensical (so, par for the course when it comes to 5th Edition flavor).

The short version is that dark elves in A Sundered World serve the Weaver, a mighty spider spirit that helped them after the Sundering. They dwell in the darker regions of the world, venturing forth to hunt in swift, spinous ships made from chitin, bone, and sheets of webbing. Their warriors are similarly draped, wielding venomous weapons and often bearing a variety of mutations.

I realized that I haven't written up race moves for them, but the whole spider-mutation thing is going to be a compendium class. Here's a work-in-progress art preview for the Dwellers in Darkness monster setting (thinking of adding weapons, maybe a second set of arms):

Aaand here's a preview for some dark elf stat blocks:

The next preview will showcase some of the fauna that can be found throughout the Astral.

We've got a bunch of awesome stuff going on this month:

Finally, you can now sign up for this month's Mythoard (up until the 16th), which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.

Dungeons & Delvers: Into the Serpent's Coils

The last playtest went smashingly well, but we weren't sure if characters had enough Wounds to see them through a "normal" crawl, so this time we cut out the bullshit and just started at the foot of a crumbling lizardfolk ziggurat.

As before it was a trio of 1st-level characters, with Angus making another appearance, along with Finella (fae fighter) and Mae (fae wizard). After about a half-dozen encounters and two traps, the game ended with Angus down and out at zero Wounds, Finella at two, and Mae limping along with one.

The next step is a much lengthier crawl, something that might force them to leave the dungeon and get some rest. I got the first part of The Forgotten King kickstarter yesterday, so I'll probably do something plant related (and add plant-monsters to the bestiary).

Maybe this is a good time to dust off my 4th Edition campaign, Songs of Erui?

One thing I want to know is how fans of dungeon crawlers would like to see running out of Wounds handled (keeping in mind that this is somewhat intended for kids):

  • The current rule is that you're dropped at 0 Wounds, and outside of combat other characters can always revive you with 1 Wound. This essentially means that the only way you can "lose" the game is if everyone gets dropped in the same fight. Having grown up on 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, this seems a bit too "easy" for me, but editions 3rd and up effectively run this way.
  • You're dropped at 0 Wounds, and need a period of rest to get back on your feet. An Intellect + Medicine check could reduce recovery time.
  • You're dead at 0 Wounds. No check to avoid your fate, you're just dead: grab a new sheet.
  • When you're reduced to 0 Wounds, once combat is over other characters can attempt an Intellect + Medicine check to revive you. If they succeed, you get back up with 1 Wound. Otherwise you're dead. Tweak: Each time you're dropped before you have time to rest, the Difficulty increases by 1 or 2 points.
  • Something else entirely (lemme know in the comments).

I'm asking for feedback on this now, because whatever the majority wants I can just tweak starting Wounds to accommodate. Currently characters start with a base of 2-4, and can only gain more with race and class talents: levels don't inherently make you tougher, unless you opt to boost your Might stat.

Something else that's been kicked about is a kind of Reserve-Wounds mechanic, similar to 4th Edition's healing surges, which puts a cap on how much characters can heal in a given day. They were largely used outside of combat, but helped alleviate the necessity of a healing-class (whether magical or mundane).

How it would work in this game is that you'd have a set of Wounds and Reserves. When you're out of combat you can move Reserves to your Wounds, up to your maximum (and maybe in combat you can use an action, similar to 4th Edition's second wind, to move a Reserve to your Wounds).

For example, lets say a fighter has 4 Wounds and 4 Reserves. She gets into a fight and loses 2 Wounds. When the dust settles she moves she takes a few minutes to rest and bandage herself up, moving two of her Reserves to her Wounds, topping them off at 4 and reducing the Reserves to 2.

Not sure how quickly I want characters to heal, but for now I'm saying that when you rest you get all of your Wounds back. If we went with Reserves, you'd get all them back, too.

One thing to keep in mind, is that there is not going to be easy access, if any, to magical healing (including *gasp* potions). This is something I really dislike from Dungeons & Dragons, as I can't think of any stories where a priest runs around and constantly pokes the other characters to keep them propped up, and/or the characters are constantly knocking back healing potions.

So, rather than just tow the line and do what every dungeon crawler out there is doing, I'm trying to develop the game so that it's not needed, to better represent the stories I grew up on. There is a cleric class, but the closest thing it gets to a healing ability, assuming you choose a specific talent, is the ability to negate one Wound in a fight.

Otherwise the game's still running as expected (even the random treasure table, the results of which I largely pulled out of my ass), though I think I need to bump up some of the monster's Defenses by a point or two. One of the players from the previous playtest mentioned changing the skills (not how they work, but the skill list).

Anywho, here's a preview for some of the lizardfolk stat blocks (and some art that I don't think I've posted, yet):

We've got a bunch of awesome stuff going on this month:

Finally, you can now sign up for this month's Mythoard (up until the 16th), which features a Dungeon World adventure written by me.

Mythic Mortals First Impressions

Disclosure: I drew the cover for this game and am acquainted with the author. I also provided some criticism and feedback during the game's development, and am planning a supplement. I haven't actually played the game: this is more of an overall first impression.

Mythic Mortals is a short (weighing in at just over 20 pages), easy to learn, quick to play, action-oriented role-playing game from the mind of David Schirduan. It's also currently Pay What You Want, so really your only risk to giving it a shot is time.

The Concept
The game's backstory is that a long time ago, countless gods, spirits, and other powerful entities collectively referred to as the Ancients were weakening and dying. In order to prevent their deaths, they planted the seeds of their power in humanity and slept for thousands of years, giving time for mankind to multiply across the world.

They eventually awaken on modern day Earth so that they can reap what they have sown, and it's up to you, one of the few mortals with the ability to tap into this reservoir of god-like power, to stop them.

The Mechanics
While your ability to harness the power of the Ancients allows you to fight back, you don't have full control over it. How this works is you randomly draw cards from a standard deck of cards, and assign them to four different stats: Accuracy, Damage, Mythos, and Defense. The higher the number the better, and in the case of the numberless face cards the game assigns them values.

Usually when you want to do something (the sneak's Mythos tricks always hit), you roll 2d6 and try to roll under a card's number: if you want to attack, you have to roll under your Accuracy, and if you want to dodge you have to roll under your Defense.

The only difference is the Accuracy card: if you roll the exact number, you get a critical hit. Rolling a nat 12 is a critical failure, which means that there's a good chance your odds of a critical hit are going to be much better than a critical failure, but given you're playing with (godly) power I'm guessing that's by design.

In addition to the number the card's suit also matters. Not just the stat you assign it to, but your archetype as well. For example, sticking a card with the club suit into a brute's Defense allows you to grab, throw, or grapple anything slightly larger than a school bus, while putting a club card into a hunter's Defense grants you exploding ammunition.

When you take damage you discard cards from your deck, and if you don't have enough cards to fill in all the slots on your mat, you're out of the game unless someone revives you. To do this they spend 1 card from their deck to add three cards to yours.

Finally, don't get comfortable with your cards, because one way or another they're going to change: each time you do something the Stability Track progresses, and when it hits Overload (every four actions/reactions) you discard all of your cards, draw four new ones, and assign them on the spot.

Alternatively you can Vent. It eats up your turn, but two of the cards on your mat go back into your deck, so it can help save some cards.

The Characters
By default the game assumes you are playing yourself. I remember trying to do this with older role-playing games, which invariably resulted in players arguing about their stats, class, skills, and so on. Fortunately that won't be a problem in this game, because there are no stats and skills, and the abilities are randomly attained.

Obviously if you don't want to play yourself with god-like power there's nothing stopping you, and you don't have to change anything about the game to do so. Character creation is as easy as grabbing one of the playmats, assigning your cards, and playing.

There are currently four archetypes: the brute, hunter, brewer, and sneak. Each of them eats up a single side of a single page, and there are no levels or new abilities to buy. I think this is fine given that your abilities will constantly fluctuate throughout the game (see the bit above about Overloading and Venting), and each archetype has twelve abilities (your Damage slot instead gives you one of four Flaws).

There is a page on running an extended campaign, which includes a bit on dealing with non-combat obstacles, and a form of character advancement involving starting with a smaller deck, and gaining more cards over time. I think the ability to boost what the card suits do, and/or the ability to mitigate/remove flaws, would also be an interesting way to go.

The Bad
I like to end things on a high note, so lemme get the bad stuff out of the way (keeping in mind that I have no played the game, so what I'm about to say may not be a problem at all).

I'd like to see more headers and sidebars to help you navigate chunks of rules. There are some, but not enough for me. Terms are bolded, which helps, but I would have liked to have seen, for example, a header for Overload and Venting, movement and ranges, a sidebar for the rule on rounding numbers up, and so on.

In addition to a table of contents, I also think some of the mechanics could be organized and presented in a clearer, cleaner manner. Currently the rules start out by telling you to draw four cards and place one in your Accuracy stat, after which it tells you that you want to roll under the card's value. It then proceeds in this manner for the rest of the stats.

I think explaining the core mechanic, then the stats, then character generation would be a more intuitive way of going about it.

To be fair this is really only going to be an issue for first timers: once you've read and played the game, the next time you'll have a better handle on it. As it stands my recommendation is for the GM to read the full book, and then explain stats and the core mechanic to the players before they place any cards.

There are a couple parts where it says to fudge things in favor of the players (especially if you are just starting out an extended campaign). I think people will have a problem with this, especially if they are more of the "let the dice fall where they may" mentality.

Personally, I like to earn my victories: if I die, I die, and that makes the times that I do win all the more meaningful. That said, I think this would be an excellent area for people to playtest and provide feedback on: if the characters routinely require DM fudging to survive against mooks then, in a game where characters are mortals with god-like power, I don't think it's working as intended.

The Good
This game has a strong focus on combat, which isn't a bad thing. I love a game that knows what it wants to be and embraces it, instead of trying to please everyone, provide rules for social role-playing because that's the "right" way to play, or stretch in directions that it shouldn't bother with (like Dungeons & Dragons and, say, horror).

I also like that it uses its own, unique system. I know that having to learn a new system, however simple, will potentially turn people off, especially when it comes to system diehards. There seems to be an abundance of clones and hacks of existing games and systems (of, well, dubious quality), so it's refreshing to see someone take the time to develop mechanics that they need, instead of settling on what's popular.

Most monsters are insanely simple, having only three stats (Base Damage, Mythos, and HP) and a short list of moves (like unleash a foul, sticky liquid on the player, taking them out of the fight for a round). This is good, because you're usually going to throw a lot of them at the players. I think, as a simple tweak, I would consider "mob" rules, so that instead of having to roll to Defend numerous times, you can just roll once.

"Boss" monsters are a bit more complex, having multiple "phases". This is something I first saw in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, mostly with solo monsters, but frankly it wasn't utilized enough (and in many cases well enough). I think this is a great idea for keeping the players on their toes, because you can't just fight it, learn what it can do, and reliably go through the motions until you win.

Take the shell dragon: it starts out dealing decent damage (8), acts three times per round, and has a pretty beefy 20 hit points. Once you beat it down, it grows wings and tries to escape. In this phase its damage is reduced (only 5), it doesn't act as often, and has less hit points. Once you knock it out of the sky shit hits the fan: 10 damage, three actions (again, though one of its actions allows it to hit 2-3 characters at once), and a whopping thirty hit points.

There's a bunch of advice on running a game, from rethinking combat, giving the characters something to fight for, creating powerful and changing enemies, creating your own adventures, and so on. Some of it you might agree with, some of it you won't, but it all boils down to how you like to play/run your games and doesn't really change the mechanics.

Finally, there are several example adventures, making it incredibly quick to make a character and just get playing. With the minimal rules and setup time, I think this would make for an excellent convention game, maybe even something you could run during a lunch break (Mythic Meal Time?).

If you like action-oriented games, I'd take advantage of its Pay What You Want status to take it for a spin, and then let David know what you like and hate about it. It's clear this wasn't crapped out as a cash grab, or so that he could label himself a game designer.

So let him know what works and what doesn't. Be constructive. If you like it, tell him why. If you don't, tell him why. Don't just say, "I hate it", and definitely don't just look at it and conclude that it sucks: give it a legitimate shot.

Oh, and if you enjoy the game don't forget to go back and throw some cash his way (Drivethru allows you to do that, even if you initially pay nothing).

Also, David encourages anyone and everyone to make their own content, so long as you merely credit him (hence the Atlantis supplement that I'll be working on). No bullshit licenses or anything else like that. Some things that I'd like to see are rules for essentially carving out, managing, and protecting your own dominion from the Ancients.

I'd also like to see an implied setting, set many years in the future, in which humanity desperately tries to keep the minions of the Ancients in check. Maybe something like Rifts, just without the horrible, often contradictory mechanics and hundreds of races, classes, and books packed with guns and armor.


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