Barbarians the Ruined Earth: Episode 1- Escape From the Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible!

Session 1

*Note on the Session 1 adventure- this adventure will be part of the Barbarians of the Ruined Earth Kickstarter that is coming soon😊.

The group started as level zero characters in a funnel of sorts.  Every player controlled four children who had been captured from their village and have been forced to toil away in the slave mines of Vindicus the Terrible.  This adventure is meant to feel like a Saturday morning cartoon.  The players need to sneak, use distractions, the events that are generated throughout play, etc. to get past the seemingly impossible challenges while hoping not to get snagged by Miner-bots or Robo-drones and put back in their cages.  Instead of worrying about stats and how strong, smart, etc. the characters are, I called it Child’s Luck- want to attempt something?  Just roll 1d20, if the result is 10 or less, success.  If not, failure.  If the character wanted to outright attack something, the roll is made with Disadvantage (they aren’t fighters yet, after all) and each character started with 4 hit points. 

Aside: Inspiration for this, largely, was the slave mine scenes in Temple of Doom.

The session started with the group in their cells, the lights going off and then emergency back-ups springing to life.  The group grabbed some tools and made their way out of their cages.  As the group vacated the first room, Vindicus the Terrible appeared on a television suspended from the wall, “There are intruders in my fortress!  They have come for the Battle Staff of Disruption!  Robo-warriors to my compound!  Defend your master!  Robo-guardians defend the staff!  Robo-drones, stay in the mines!  Prevent the slaves from escaping!”

With the sounds of battle and cheers of freedom echoing throughout the mine, the group decided to flee.  The group made their way through several rooms, with only a few getting recaptured by a Robo-drone and one got killed when a hovering Miner-bot fell on their head after being defeated. The group also discovered a weird mold-creature that attempted to snack on them, found a magical mushroom but were too afraid to take it, skirted past a room with a face-swapping alien, and found a few laser pistols and sticks of dynamite.

As the group explored, the Sorcerer kept appearing on the screens throughout the mines, looking more and more harried and filthy.  At one point, Vindicus the Terrible appeared on the screen, “Robo-warriors!  Double your efforts in the eastern compound!  The western and southern compounds, including the Robo-dog kennel, have fallen!” 

During the second half of the adventure, the group proceeded more cautiously as several of their number had gotten captured by this point. Eventually the group came across the Sorcerer’s loyal overseer, Glog who was whipping captured slaves.  A few of the group decided to engage in combat with Glog as a distraction while the remainder messed with a vat of molten ore, causing it to spill on the fat slaver, melting his ass into goo. 

Finally, only a rickety bridge and a chasm of death barred the characters from freedom.  The group had to cross the bridge while dodging falling boulders that rained from the ceiling, caused by the explosions and battle occurring in the Sorcerer’s lair above.   

Aside: I’m designing this section as a fun little mini-game.  I need to fine-tune some of the mechanics, but the group had fun crawling and jumping on a bridge was being blasted apart by falling rocks. 

As the group neared the exit, a screen near the door blared to life, filled with static and techo-color.  Vindicus the Terrible appeared on the screen looking filthy and frazzled; anger and panic etched on his face.  White lighting shot from his fingertips at something off screen, “Any remaining robo-guards and robo-warriors!  Report to Vindicus the Terrible’s—”

Vindicus ducked as a robot flew over his head, the roar of a beastman is heard.  Vindicus stood up, “Come to my inner sanctum!  Come destroy these foo—”.  An explosion rips somewhere off screen.  “These fools who dare meddle with Vindiu—aaaahhhhhh!” the battle shout of a barbarian fills the characters ears, as a hulking figure slams into Vindicus, taking them both off-screen.  The screen pixelates, goes to static, and then powers down. 

We ended the adventure there.

Next session- The group rolls up their adventurers!  The group has made their home in the village of Craterton for fifteen years since escaping one Sorcerer only to have their lives fucked up by another. 

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Further Design Thoughts on Spells for The Sorcerer Class of Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, Updated Rules, and Some New Art

Last week I posted the new spellcasting rules for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth.

After the initial conversations with my wife and her thoughts/concerns regarding the original alternative magic system I had written for the Sorcerer class, I took a step back and asked myself a few questions.

  1. What am I trying to accomplish here?
  2. Is what I’ve written fun?
  3. Is there a type of player who wouldn’t find this fun?
  4. Does this really add anything and really do what I’m wanting it to?

I figured it would be fun to go through this on my blog for those who are interested

Q1- What am I trying to accomplish here?

A1- To capture the feel of Thundarr the Barbarian, Pirates of Dark Water (and the like) with a sprinkle of Mad Max: Fury Road. I wanted to do this with as little “rules” as possible (hence why I used The Black Hack, 1e). I wanted the magic in it to be free flow and crazy as it is in Thundarr the Barbarian. I didn’t want it to be limited to a spell list and spells per day (although the standard spell rules from TBH were included in the book for those that didn’t want to use the alternative casting).

Q2- Is what I’ve written fun?

A2- I’ve been running various games of Barbarians of the Ruined Earth for over a year now and several people have had fun with the alternative casting rules. I watched as my players came up with cool and fun ways to use the spells on the fly… but something was biting at the back of my brain (see below).

Q3- Is there a type of player who wouldn’t find this fun?

A3- Absolutely. What I noticed is players didn’t like coming up with spells on their own all the time, or it would just fall into a “I want to damage them” or “I want to protect myself”… Some players would throw some utilitarian or healing style spells, but not as often as the damage/protect wash, rinse, repeat avenue.

Q4- Does this really add anything and really do what I’m wanting it to?

A4- Once I stepped back and really looked at it, I don’t think it did. I think it wasn’t as clearly written as I had hoped, gave some players decision paralysis, and bogged down play- which is precisely what I DON’T want.

I decided to design spells so they were in line with abilities and weapon damage of other classes, scaling only slightly as the Sorcerer gains levels. Some spells give an added benefit as the sacrifice of another- duration is in rounds or turns (a few are in hours), but I nixed effects that lasted days, hours, weeks, etc.

My goal was to make magic as close to Thundarr as possible. I didn’t want to do spells per day; you don’t see Ariel saying, “Hold on Thundarr! I can’t ride through the night because I’m out of spells.” However, based on the experiences I got from playtesting- I didn’t want to do free form either.

I went through my notes of Thundarr and wrote out spells that from the show (Light Bridges, anyone?). I also decided that detecting magic, danger, or Stupendous Science should be an innate ability rather than a spell.

Finally I give a little advice/thought to creating new schools of magic.

The spells have been cleaned up and changed since I posted last week and I added a new school of magic, Stupendous Science.

Status Update

Matt Hildebrand is working hard on the layout of the book! We are nearly done tightening it up and then I’ll start getting the rest of the art done! Looking forward to this being out!

Here’s three new pieces by the sexy and amazing Kelvin Green as well!

The adventurer’s fight the Terrible Bear Monster
The adventurer’s battle a crazed mutant raider in the Devastator- a nasty piece of Stupendous Science!
Behold as the moon was destroyed by the collision of an alien planetoid!

Here is a PDF version of this as I know WordPress makes tables look like ass in the blog format.

Magic System

Art by Matthew Adams for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth

There are 10 “schools” of magic that Sorcerers harness to cast spells.  These spells allow the Sorcerer to manipulate, harm or hinder their foes, heal themselves or their allies, or even alter themselves with Stupendous Science!  Each “school” contains three spells. Starting at 1st level, a Sorcerer begins play knowing four schools and one spell from each (player’s choice).  Every level a Sorcerer chooses a new spell from a school they already know.   Every third level the Sorcerer learns a new school and gains one of its spells.  For Example:  A 10th level Sorcerer has mastered 7 of the 10 schools of magic and knows 17 of the 30 spells.   

A Sorcerer can cast any spell they know by succeeding on an Intelligence Save.  If the roll fails, they are unable to harness the magical energies necessary to use magic.  If the Sorcerer rolls a 20 on their Intelligence test, they lose the ability to cast spells for 24 hours.  Sorcerers can attempt to cast any spell they do not know, but the Intelligence roll is made with Disadvantage.  If a 20 is rolled when casting an unknown spell, it backfires disastrously, causing harm to the Sorcerer and loss of the ability to cast spells for 1d3 days.  Note that some spells may require an additional roll (as per the spell’s description) to function properly. 

Note on Magic: Players should feel free to ignore the spell descriptions, if they choose, and make up their own descriptions of how the spell manifests.  Magic in Barbarians of the Ruined Earth is zany and crazy; it’s an 80’s infused-kaleidoscope powered by heavy metal.  It’s an illuminated disco dance floor pulsing to the rhythm of fantastical machinery.  It’s inappropriate leather and spandex mixed with maniacal laughter and roars of fury.  It’s what you make it- so have a blast!

Creating New Schools and Spells: GM’s should feel free to create new schools and spells of magic!  Perhaps a long-forgotten school of magic is discovered in a brittle old book, and study and experimentation will unlock its secrets.  Look at the spells listed below as a guideline.  Damage should be comparable to weapon damage of the other classes while durations should be in rounds, turns, or hours- not days, weeks, or years.  Damage and duration should only increase slightly as the Sorcerer gains levels.  In Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, Sorcerer’s can cast spells more freely than standard OSR rules, so attention must be paid to not make these them overly powerful. 

Sorcerer Ability:

Detect: The Sorcerer chooses to detect magic, Stupendous Science, or danger at the time of casting.  Everything Nearby that is considered that category glows.  Duration: 5 minutes.  If the Sorcerer studies the object for 10 minutes, it is identified for what it is and how it functions. 

Arcane
Obtained Spell
  Magical Ally: The Sorcerer summons an ally composed completely of magic.  The creature’s appearance is as Sorcerer desires.  These creatures have 1 HP per Sorcerer level and deal 1d6 damage.  Increase to 2 HP, 1 RP, and 1d8 damage when Sorcerer reaches 5th level.  A Sorcerer can summon a number of these allies equal to their level (must be cast multiple times).  These creatures are not intelligent and obey simple commands.  They do not have any special abilities. Duration: Lasts until killed. 
  Dispel Magic: The Sorcerer dampens a Nearby Arcane spell effect, be it a piece of Stupendous Science, magical item, or another Sorcerer or Death Priest’s spell.  If cast on Sorcerers and Death Priests, but they get to roll a WIS save with Advantage to avoid the effects.  If the Sorcerer or Death Priest has more HD than the caster, they are immune to this effect.  This is also applicable to magic items or pieces of Stupendous Science that are more powerful than the Sorcerer (GM’s decision).  Duration: 1d4 hours. 
  Animate Object: The Sorcerer uses magic to imbue a Nearby object with motion and simple intelligence.  Duration: 10 minutes.
Blight
Obtained Spell
  Plague: Sorcerer makes a Wisdom test against all Nearby targets.  If successful, targets suffer 1d4 damage per round for the next 1d6 rounds (ignores armor).  Targets are covered in boils, sores, and have a clammy, pallid appearance. 
  Confusion: The Sorcerer reaches into the mind of a target, befuddling them for 1d4 rounds. Each time the affected target attempts to act they must roll 1d8: 1-4) Do nothing; 5) Act normally; 6) Attack ally; 7) Flee for 1d4 rounds (do not roll during this time); 8) Attack self.
  Animate Dead: The Sorcerer uses dark magics to summon forth 1d4 Skeletons/Zombies with 2 HD each, from nearby bodies.  These undead remain until destroyed or banished.  The Sorcerer cannot summon any more undead until all current Skeletons/Zombies have been slain or banished. 
Control
Obtained Spell
  Charm: The Sorcerer uses magic to beguile a Nearby target.  The target obeys any command of the Sorcerer, If the Sorcerer gives a command that would directly result in the target’s death or is out of their character, the Sorcerer must succeed a WIS test (with Disadvantage).  The Sorcerer must pass a Wisdom test each turn to see if the effect lasts.
  Sleep: The Sorcerer places a 1d3 targets in a Nearby radius in a magical sleep.  Targets with 2 HD or more are immune to this effect.   At 5th level the Sorcerer can affect 2d4 targets in a Nearby radius.  At 10th level the spell can affect creatures with 4 HD or less. Duration: Number of rounds equal to Sorcerer’s level.  Loud noises can arouse affected targets.
  Hold Person: The Sorcerer uses magic to paralyze 1d6 Nearby targets. After the first round, the Sorcerer must test their Wisdom each round to see if the effect lasts.  Targets with 6 HD or less are immune. 
Force
Obtained Spell
  Stunning Orbs: The Sorcerer conjures 1d4 balls of light that can be directed at Nearby targets.  The Sorcerer must succeed a DEX test to hit the target.  If successful, the target is stunned for 1d4 rounds.  Targets of 3HD or more are immune to this effect.  
  Blast: The Sorcerer release a bolt of energy at a target up to Distant range for 1d6+1 damage (ignoring armor).  The Sorcerer must succeed a DEX test to hit the target(s).  When the Sorcerer reaches 5th and 7th level they gain an additional bolt.  These bolts of energy can be released at one or separate targets.  A Sorcerer can forgo multiple blasts by releasing a wave of energy that hits all targets for 1d8 damage in a Nearby radius (no attack roll necessary).
  Whirlwind: The Sorcerer conjures a whirlwind which engulfs up to three targets (must be standing next to one another).  At the start of the next round the whirlwind flings them Nearby distance, stunning them for 1 round and dealing 1d6 damage.  A Sorcerer can concentrate increasing the effects of the of the spell each round for three rounds.  Second round: stunned for 2 rounds and suffer 1d8 damage.  Third round: stunned for 3 rounds and suffer 1d10 damage. 
Illusion
Obtained Spell
  Invisibility: The Sorcerer uses magic to bend reality and make themselves or a touched creature invisible.  This does not mask sounds or hide tracks made.  Duration: Lasts until the target attacks or the Sorcerer dispels the effect. 
  Silence: Magical silence covering everything Nearby to a target.  Duration: 1 hour.
  Darkness: The Sorcerer release an inky cloud of smoke covering a Nearby area that blocks all types of vision (all melee attacks suffer Disadvantage and ranged attacks miss automatically).  Duration: 1 minute per Sorcerer level.
Movement
Obtained Spell
  Light Bridge: The Sorcerer creates a bright golden bridge of pure light that extends from the caster’s feet up to the Sorcerer’s level x 30’ away.  The bridge can handle up to an automobile in weight.  Duration: The bridge remains for 10 minutes per Sorcerer level or the Sorcerer cancels the effect. 
  Web: The Sorcerer’s hands release a web that grows to encompass a Nearby area.  Web stops movement.  Must make a STR test (Disadvantage) to cut it or burn it to break free.  If freed, movement is reduced to one quarter of normal.  Target must make a new test each round (or Luck roll for NPCs) to remain free.  Test Wisdom each hour to see if the effect lasts. 
  Float: The Sorcerer touches a target (including self?), granting them the ability to float down from great heights (roughly 60’) and land on the ground safely.  The distance is increased to 150ft when the Sorcerer reaches 5th level and the Sorcerer can cast this on all Nearby allies (and objects?) .  Duration: 10 minutes.
Protection
Obtained Spell
  Force Field: The Sorcerer conjures a protective bubble that encases them.  The bubble has 1 HP per level.  The bubble must be destroyed before the Sorcerer takes further damage.  This sorcerer can still cast spells while in the bubble, but not physically attack or use their staff.  At 5th level the Sorcerer can cast this spell on an ally and the bubble has 2 HP per Sorcerer level.  Duration: Lasts until consumed.
  Sorcerer’s Aid: All Nearby allies defend against attacks with Advantage.  Duration: 1d4 rounds.
  Wall of Fire/Ice/Stone/Energy: The Sorcerer summons a wall that encompasses a Nearby area.  Duration: 10 minutes (see description).  Choose type of wall below: Fire: Targets that are within 5’ of the wall take 1d6 fire damage per round until they get further away.  Running through the flames results in an extra 1d6 damage. Frost: Targets that are within 5’ of the wall take 1d4 frost damage per round until they get further away.  Targets become frozen and can only take a partial action (either move or attack) per round while near the wall and an additional round after.  Running through the frost results in an extra 1d4 damage. Stone: Thick stone wall bars passage.  The wall is 10’ tall and will only crumble if 50 points of damage has been done to it.  Energy: Yellow swirling energy bars passage and will even block magical attacks and effects.  
Restoration
Obtained Spell
  Cure Wounds: The Sorcerer heals a Nearby living target for 1 HD of hit points.  At 5th level this increases to 2 HD of hit points. 
  Cure Disease: The Sorcerer releases a wave of healing energy at a Nearby target, removing a single disease from them.
  Neutralize Poison: Energy flows from the Sorcerer, encasing a target for just a moment, removing any poison from a Nearby target or making them immune to poison for 10 minutes (Sorcerer’s choice).
Stupendous Science
Obtained Spell
  Conjure Device: The Sorcerer can create small items such as chairs, melee and ranged weapons, helmets that allow a person to breathe underwater, even laser pistols, or a small hoversled that holds up to two people (GM has final arbitration on what can be created).  All these items are created by magic and do not actually have inner working pieces.  A Sorcerer cannot have more than three devices created at one time.  At 7th level a Sorcerer cannot have more than five devices created at one time.  Duration: 1 hour or if the Sorcerer is knocked unconscious/killed.    A Sorcerer can opt to create a single permanent device.  If they do so, they cannot use this spell again for one week.  
  Repair Technology: The Sorcerer can use magic to repair small damaged pieces of technology/machinery (broken laser weaponry, cell phones, etc.) which are repaired instantly.  Robots are healed for 1 HD of hit points.  At 5th level the Sorcerer can heal Robots for 2 HD of hit points.  Additionally, the Sorcerer can use magic to repair more complicated piece of a technology/machinery (factory equipment, vehicles up to a two-person helicopter, etc.). 
  Augment: The Sorcerer uses magic to fuse cyberware (pg XX) to their body (or another person or creature).  This process is less risky and invasive than the unsanitary surgical conditions in the Ruined Earth and there is no pain or recovery time involved.  If the Sorcerer fails their spellcasting roll, they cannot attempt to augment that piece of cyberware again.    
Transformation
Obtained Spell
  Mist Form: The Sorcerer can transform into mist and float around, up to 50’ high, and back, at will.  While in this form the Sorcerer can move through cracks, keyholes, etc.  They move slowly, roughly 10’ per round.  Only magical attacks can harm the Sorcerer while in this form.  The Sorcerer cannot communicate, manipulate or interact with objects, or use magic while in this form.  Duration: 1 minute per Sorcerer level.
  Morph Object: The Sorcerer uses magic to transform a mundane object (or weak Stupendous Science items) into something else.  For example, an enemy’s laser pistol can be turned into a stick or a metal girder transformed into manacles that bind a target.   The effect is permanent and cannot be reversed. 
  Change Shape:  The Sorcerer transforms themselves or a willing target into another creature of equal or less HD.  The target gains all abilities of the new form.  At 7th level the Sorcerer can transform an unwilling target.  Duration: 1 hour per Sorcerer level. 

The Sorcerer Spell Casting for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth

Recently I’ve started running Barbarians of the Ruined Earth for my Rochester group. We are four sessions in and everyone seems to be having a blast thus far. Hopefully someday I’ll have time to do a quick summary of the sessions, but who knows.

After the second session, my wife, who is playing a Sorcerer stated that she wasn’t a fan of the Alternative Casting rules I had written. So upfront- my wife isn’t a gamer. She plays once a month and does proofing and art for me (to which I am eternally grateful)… so when she starts debating mechanics in a game with me- I listen.

After hearing her feedback/concerns, I really looked at why I went that route. I listed the standard spell list found in The Black Hack (and other OSR books) for those who preferred that, as well as the free form casting. The reason behind this was to try and capture the feel of Thundarr the Barbarian.

When I really started looking at it though, it is overpowered and I felt it ended up being more confusing and cumbersome than it was worth. I then looked at the standard magic list and system and felt that didn’t quite work for me either.

So after some thought, here’s where I’m leaning on this.

New Magic System

There are “schools” of magic, each has three spells the Sorcerer can cast.  At 1st level a Sorcerer begins play knowing three schools and one spell from each.  Every even level a Sorcerer chooses a new spell from a school they know.   Every third level they learn a new school and gain one of the spells in it. 

To cast a spell the Sorcerer knows, they must succeed on an Int save (like attacking).  If they roll a 20, they lose the ability to cast spells for 24 hours.  A sorcerer can attempt to cast any spell they do not know, but the roll is made with Disadvantage.  If they roll a 20 on a spell they do not know, the spell backfires disastrously and they lose the ability to cast spells for 1d3 days.  Note that some spells may require an additional roll (as per the spell’s description) to function properly. 

Sorcerer Ability:

Detect: The Sorcerer chooses to detect magic, Stupendous Science, or danger at the time of casting.  Everything Nearby that is considered that category glows.  Duration: 5 minutes.  If the Sorcerer studies the object for 10 minutes, it is identify for what it is and how it functions. 

Restoration
Obtained Spell
  Cure Wounds: The Sorcerer heals a Nearby target for 1 HD of hit points.  At 5th level this increases to 2 HD of hit points. 
  Cure Disease: The Sorcerer releases a wave of healing energy at a Nearby target, removing a single disease from them.
  Neutralize Poison: Energy flows from the Sorcerer, encasing a target for just a moment, removing any poison from a Nearby target or making them immune to poison for 10 minutes (Sorcerer’s choice).
Protection
Obtained Spell
  Force Field: The Sorcerer conjures a protective bubble that encases them.  The bubble has 1 HP per level.  The bubble must be destroyed before the Sorcerer takes further damage.  This sorcerer can still cast spells while in the bubble, but not physically attack or use their staff.  At 5th level the Sorcerer can cast this spell on an ally and the bubble has 2 HP per Sorcerer level.  Duration: Lasts until consumed.
  Sorcerer’s Aid: All Nearby allies defend against attacks with Advantage.  Duration: 1d4 rounds.
  Wall of Fire/Ice/Stone/Energy: The Sorcerer summons a wall covers a Nearby area.  Duration: 10 minutes (see description).  Choose type of wall below:   Fire: Targets that are within 5’ of the wall take 1d6 fire damage per round until they get further away.  Running through the flames results in an extra 1d6 damage. Frost: Targets that are within 5’ of the wall take 1d4 frost damage per round until they get further away.  Targets become frozen and can only take a partial action (either move or attack) per round while near the way and an additional round after.    Running through the frost results in an extra 1d4 damage. Stone: Thick stone wall bars passage.  The wall is 10’ tall and will only crumble if 50 points of damage has been done to it.   Energy: Yellow swirling energy bars passage and will even block magical attacks and effects.   
Control
Obtained Spell
  Charm: The Sorcerer uses magic to beguile a Nearby target.  The target obeys any command of the Sorcerer, If the Sorcerer gives a command that would directly result in the target’s death or is out of their character, the Sorcerer must succeed a WIS test (with Disadvantage).  The Sorcerer must pass a Wisdom test each turn to see if the effect lasts.
  Sleep: The Sorcerer places a 1d3 targets in a Nearby radius in a magically sleep.  Targets with 2 HD or more are immune to this effect.   At 5th level the Sorcerer can affect 2d4 targets in a Nearby radius.  At 10th level the spell can affect creatures with 4 HD or less. Duration: Number of rounds equal to Sorcerer’s level.  Loud noises can arouse affected targets.
  Hold Person: The Sorcerer uses magic to paralyze 1d6 Nearby targets. After the first round, the Sorcerer must test their Wisdom each round to see if the effect lasts.  Targets with 6 HD or less are immune. 
Movement
Obtained Spell
  Light Bridge: The Sorcerer creates a bright golden bridge of pure light that extends from the caster’s feet up to the Sorcerer’s level x 30’ away.  The bridge can handle up to an automobile in weight.  Duration: The bridge remains for 10 minutes per Sorcerer level or the Sorcerer cancels the effect. 
  Web: Release a web from hands that grows to encompass a Nearby area.  Web stops movement.  Must make a STR test (Disadvantage), cut it, or burn it to break free.  If free, movement is reduced to one quarter of normal.  Target must make a new test each round (or Luck roll for NPCs) to remain free.  Test Wisdom each hour to see if the effect lasts. 
  Float: The Sorcerer touches target, granting them the ability to float down from great heights (roughly 60’) and land on the ground safely.  The distance is increased to 150ft when the Sorcerer reaches 5th level and the Sorcerer can cast this on all Nearby allies.  Duration: 10 minutes.
Transformation
Obtained Spell
  Mist Form: The Sorcerer can transform into mist and float around, up to 50’ high, and back, at will.  While in this form the Sorcerer can move through cracks, keyholes, etc.  They move slowly, roughly 10’ per round.  Only magical attacks can harm the Sorcerer while in this form.  Duration: 1 minute per Sorcerer level.
  Morph Object: The Sorcerer uses magic to transform a mundane object (or weak Stupendous Science items) into something else.  For example, an enemy’s laser pistol can be turned into a stick or a metal girder transformed into manacles that bind a target.   The effect is permanent and cannot be reversed. 
  Change Shape:  The Sorcerer transforms themselves or a willing target into another creature of equal or less HD.  The target gains all abilities of the new form.  At 7th level the Sorcerer can transform an unwilling target.  Duration: 1 minute per Sorcerer level. 
Illusion
Obtained Spell
  Invisibility: The Sorcerer uses magic to bend reality and make themselves or a touched creature invisible.  This does not mask sounds or hide tracks made.  Duration: Lasts until the target attacks or the Sorcerer dispels the effect. 
  Silence: Magical silence covering everything Nearby to a target.  Duration: 1 hour.
  Darkness: The Sorcerer release an inky cloud of smoke covering a Nearby area that blocks all types of vision (all melee attacks suffer Disadvantage and ranged attacks miss automatically).  Duration: 1 minute per Sorcerer level.
Arcane
Obtained Spell
  Magical Ally: The Sorcerer summon an ally composed completely of magic.  The creature’s appearance is as Sorcerer desires.  These creatures have 1 HP per Sorcerer level and deal 1d6 damage.  Increase to 2 HP, 1 RP, and 1d8 damage when Sorcerer reaches 5th level.  A Sorcerer can summon a number of these allies equal to their level (must be cast multiple times).  Duration: Lasts until killed. 
  Dispel Magic: The Sorcerer dampens a Nearby Arcane spell effect, be it a piece of Stupendous Science, magical item, or another Sorcerer or Death Priest.  If cast on Sorcerers and Death Priests, but they get to roll a WIS save with Advantage to avoid the effects.  If the Sorcerer or Death Priest has more HD than the caster, they are immune to this effect.  Duration: 1d4 hours. 
  Animate Object: The Sorcerer uses magic to imbue a Nearby object with motion and simple intelligence.  Duration: 10 minutes.
Force
Obtained Spell
  Stunning Orbs: The Sorcerer conjures 1d4 balls of light that can be directed at Nearby targets.  The Sorcerer must succeed a Dex test to hit the target.  If successful, the target is stunned for 1d4 rounds.  Targets of 3HD or more are immune to this effect.  
  Blast: The Sorcerer release a bolt of energy at a target up to Distant range for 1d6+1 damage.  This spell ignores armor.  When the Sorcerer reaches 5th and 7th level they gain an additional bolt.  These bolts of energy can be released at one or separate targets.  A Sorcerer can forgo multiple blasts by releasing a wave of energy that hits all targets for 1d8 damage in a Nearby radius.
  Whirlwind: The Sorcerer conjures a whirlwind which engulfs up to three targets (must be standing next to one another).  At the start of the next round the whirlwind flings them Nearby distance, stunning them for 1 round and dealing 1d6 damage.  A Sorcerer can concentrate increasing the effects of the of the spell each round for three rounds.  Second round: stunned for 2 rounds and suffer 1d8 damage.  Third round: stunned for 3 rounds and suffer 1d10 damage. 
Blight
Obtained Spell
  Plague: Sorcerer makes a Wisdom test against all Nearby targets.  If successful, targets suffer 1d4 damage per round for the next 1d6 rounds (ignores armor).  Targets are covered in boils, sores, and have a clammy, pallid appearance. 
  Confusion: The Sorcerer reaches into the mind of a target, befuddling them for 1d4 rounds. Each time the affected target attempts to act they must roll 1d8: 1-4) Do nothing; 5) Act normally; 6) Attack ally; 7) Flee for 1d4 rounds (do not roll during this time); 8) Attack self.
  Animate Dead: The Sorcerer uses dark magics to summon forth 1d4 Skeletons/Zombies with 2 HD each, from nearby bodies.  These undead remain until destroyed or banished.  The Sorcerer caannot summon any more undead until all current Skeletons/Zombies have been slain or banished. 

Guest Post- Review of Hubris by James Maliszewski

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure is available on Drivethrurpg and Lulu.)

I’ve known Mike Evans for a long time, starting with reading his blog, way back in the mists of 2009. In the years since, we’ve exchanged emails, commented on one another’s posts on G+, and generally moved in the same circles. In that time, I’ve come to admire his creativity, his industry, and, above all, his perseverance in pursuit of his dreams, perhaps the greatest of which is his Hubris campaign setting, published in 2016.

Being an (increasingly) old and out-of-touch person, I didn’t get around to seeing a copy of Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure until a few weeks ago, thanks to the generosity of Mike. I mention this both to thank Mike and to be upfront about our connections to one another. In my experience, many people expect a certain degree of detachment and objectivity from something purporting to be a review. If so, what follows most certainly isn’t a review so much as a collection of thoughts occasioned by reading Hubris. Even so, I hope these thoughts will nevertheless prove useful.

Hubris is an original setting for use with Goodman Games’s Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, presented in a large 348-page book. Like so many third-party DCC RPG materials, Hubris is weird. I don’t mean that negatively. What I mean is that it goes off in unexpected directions, mixing and matching stuff that generally isn’t put together (or at least that I wouldn’t put together), and then cranking it up to 11. You only need take a look at Mike’s version of Appendix N to get a sense of what I’m talking about: a stew of Lewis Carroll, Robert E. Howard, Army of Darkness, Princess Mononoke, and Metallica – just to name a few of its eclectic “literary” sources. To call it “a sword and sorcery campaign setting,” as the cover blurb does isn’t to do it justice, but then I’m not entirely sure what would do so.

For me, whose own tastes in fantasy tend toward the prosaic, what really sets Hubris apart is its wild creativity, starting with its additions and changes to the DCC RPG rules. There is, for example, a new table of occupations for starting characters. Simply reading the table gives you a good idea of what the setting of Hubris is like. There are alien abductees, chimney sweep children, flimflam artists, nosey neighbors, pig wrestlers, and snake handlers, to name but a few. There are also five new races, each with their own table of occupations. It’s amazing how much flavor is packed into this single table, except that this isn’t the only table like this. Hubris is positively packed with imaginative tables, which both efficiently present the setting without the need for lots of encylcopedia-style exposition and inspire players and judges alike.

There are four new classes, too, such as the Dr. Jekyll-like alchemist, fiendish blood witch, bestial druid, and stealthy shadowdancer. These are in addition to the aforementioned five new races, which function as classes like those in the DCC RPG rulebook. Wizards get four new patrons (in addition to freakish, living spellbooks), while clerics get twelve new gods. And, of course, both classes get new spells and other game mechanical goodies. This is all good stuff, but it’s the kind of material you’d find in almost any RPG setting book.

But the real glory of Hubris is its presentation of the setting itself. Instead of long, faux-academic entries on the Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow or the Land of Perpetual Stone and Mire, we’re treated to short overviews of the setting’s regions, followed by tables, tables, and more tables. Some present rumors and adventure hooks, while others typical encounters, “the lay of the land” (that is, unique locales within a region), or even more specific content (such as the effects of bathing in the Black Pool of Inexplicable Ecstasy or your opponents in the Arena of Blood). It’s frankly a brilliant way of presenting a setting, one that gives judges lots of leeway to mold it to their needs while still providing plenty of details to hang their hat on.

Hubris also offers many more tables for the judge, all of which combine utility with flavor. There are tables for ancient and forgotten demigods, bandits, grave diggin’, herbs, taverns – just about anything you’d need in the course of play. That’s another aspect of Hubris that comes through in reading it: Mike has clearly used this setting extensively. Its content is geared toward play rather than simply being an exercise in creativity. Hubris is a big book, yes, but it’s filled with very practical material. This includes the magic items, monsters, and, above all, starter adventures (one of which is a funnel). Reading through this, I found myself wanting to run my own Hubris campaign and, because of the material included in its page, I felt like I could.

If I have a complaint about Hubris, it’s that it’s pretty gonzo. It’s a kitchen sink setting filled with mutants, bird-men, half-demons, steam-mechs, sex prophets, and dinosaurs, among many, many other things. At times, it’s a little too much. I occasionally felt overwhelmed by it all. But, as I noted above, one of the glories of Hubris is its presentation, which is highly customizable. Don’t like some aspect of the setting? Change it or get rid of it entirely. Want to add something to it that you think is missing? Go right ahead. There’s no One True Hubris, except perhaps the one you’re using at your own table and the book makes it extremely easy to turn it into the setting you want it to be.

Ultimately, that’s why I was so inspired by Hubris. There’s no doubt that some of the material included in its pages is terrifically imaginative, but it’s the presentation that really grabbed me. Mike Evans has done a remarkable thing here, providing us with a toolkit that is simply packed with tools of every conceivable shape and size. Even if you’re not interested in using a single thing directly from Hubris – and I’d be amazed if anyone could read it and not want to swipe at least a couple of things for their own campaigns – you’ll have your eyes opened about how to introduce a setting and its details.

Hubris is terrific. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


DIY RPG Productions Rules Development Notes- Thoughts on Ability Scores and Modifiers

AI knew I wanted my system to be easily hackable, OSR-inspired/based, and could handle running D&D (and the like) modules with little change or thought. 

In the main book I will be keeping the six stats most of us are all used to: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.  All who play D&D or one of its many variants know these abilities, what they do, etc. 

I give a quick note having less abilities:

Note Different Ability Names: Some Game Masters (GMs) may feel these ability names do not fit the tone of their campaign setting or maybe they prefer fewer Abilities (or hell, some GM’s want more Abilities).  An example of this would be: Physique (merges STR, DEX, and CON), Smarts (merges INT and aspects of WIS), Grit (bravery, etc. from WIS), and Charm (Functions as CHR).  As another example, in Death is the New Pink, I refer to the stats as Badassery (Melee fighting, fortitude, intimidation, and toughness), Dodging Some Shit (Stealth, athletics, reflexes), and Moxie (Confidence, physic powers, discipline, and charisma).

So that’s that…  Ok- so what about generating abilities scores and what do they mean?

When developing this I decided to keep the “roll 3d6, add them together, and do it six times” thing.  I feel the Bell curve serves an important function in character creation and I miss it when it’s not present. 

Once the numbers have been generated, consult the table (see below) and write down the modifier next to score.  The player allocates these numbers to the six abilities as best fits their rolled background (more on this later) and play-style. 

3d6 Score Modifier
3-10 0
11-13 +1
14-15 +2
16-17 +3
18 +4

I’m keeping it familiar, but again- I’m trying to chew the fat.  When I looked at what really mattered when playing- it was the modifier (I’m not talking about roll under mechanics- as previously stated I’m moving forward with a target number/roll over mechanics).  Often, when I’m running games for newbies I get asked why they have 18 Strength and a +4 modifier, what do they do, why are they separate, etc. and I started thinking about it: Why do we have both?  I mean I get that the total is a means to an end to get to the modifier, but is having both necessary?

With how abilities and modifiers work in 3.x, the score is basically a form of advancement currency that functions to slow ability advancement or degradation.  What I mean is, if you have a 16 Strength- that gives you a +3 modifier and you won’t see that sexy +4 until you get your Strength up to 18 (so start juicing, motherfuckers!).  Characters only gain the ability to increase an attribute by +1 every four levels “naturally”, otherwise it’s using potions, magic items, spells, etc. and most of those are temporary.  The other side of the coin is losing ability scores.  You get hit by a wight that deals 1 point of Constitution damage per attack, it’s not as devastating when you get smacked from a 17 to a 16. 

In my current brain space and how I want to play games, this just seems like unnecessary bookkeeping to me.  If a PC has a +4 Constitution and get smacked in their stupid face by a wight and fails their save- guess what…?  They now have a +3 Constitution- guess it’s time they start learning how to dodge. 

That’s pretty much it for ability scores and how to generate them- so let’s move on to…

Modifiers!

Ability modifiers generated through character creation range from 0 to +4.  These modifiers can be increased to a max of +6 through spending Experience Points (more on this later).  Enchantments, spells, magic items, and even some standard items can increase the modifier to +8 (either permanently or for a limited time).

Characters can become proficient in skills which grants a +2 bonus to their roll (more on this later too).  There will be Traits that will give a character Advantage to their roll as well. 

All in all, the highest bonus a character could have is +10 and I have a feeling that will be uncommon. 

Mechanics

That is the barebones of my mechanics- the no frills, three sentence explanation of how the rules work. 

Doing Stuff: Roll 1d20, add appropriate modifiers and attempt to beat the target number.

The target numbers for my rules are: Moderate: 10; Hard: 15; Extreme: 20; Impossible: Roll a natural 20. The two most common TN used will be Moderate and Hard

Things that help the situation will give a +2 bonus to the roll. For example: Thieves tools for picking locks, alchemist kit for making poisons, rock climbing gear for scaling a mountain/building, etc.

Note: Big thanks to Kyrinn and Gregor for kicking me in the head to look at my target numbers again.

Note: The other day I mentioned my thoughts behind only rolling when necessary and when it presents an interesting situation or option. 

Killing Stuff: Roll 1d20, add STR/DEX modifier and +2 for Weapon Specialization (if applicable) and compare to the defender’s armor threshold and roll damage. 

Alternatively- Even Smaller Modifiers– I am pondering that through character generation, the highest modifier one can start with is +2 or +3 and through leveling up one can get to +4 and that would be it. I’d still keep the +2 bonus for being proficient in a skill. My current mindspace seems to like this better.

Also- big thanks to everyone who has given me great constructive feedback. I really appreciate it. It’s great to see this all from different angles.

Next one- I think I’ll tackle my thoughts on where I want to go with races in my system.

#diy_productions_rules_dev_note


DIY RPG Productions Rules Development Notes- Thoughts on Target Number VS Roll Under

Target Numbers VS Roll Under

When I started designing my rules- this was a big hurdle for me.  First, I had to decide which way I wanted my mechanics to go: Target Number VS Roll Under.  I needed to figure this out before I moved onto Ability Scores and Modifiers. 

I pondered (what I felt were) the strengths and weaknesses of both, gauged my players thoughts and reactions to the different games and mechanics we played, and considered my desire to create something that is immediately easy to grok, but is engaging and has longevity (hopefully).    

When running Barbarians of the Ruined Earth (which uses Black Hack as a base) and Death is the New Pink (which uses Into the Odd) games for my players, I got to see how easily they understood the rules.

ME: “See your Strength score is a 8?” 

Player: “Yeah.”

ME: Ok- so you need to roll a 1d20 and get a 7 or below. 

Player: “Man- my Strength sucks.”

ME: “Yeah it does.”

Player rolls 1d20 and attempts to get a 7 or less. 

And that’s it.  Super fucking simple. 

While the game is simple- I did notice a few issues that seem to be a common issue/complaint with very rules-lite mechanics.

First– Roll Under goes against how we are programmed.  1 is less and is shit and 20 is more and is exciting.  Even when I run a game with people who have never played a RPG ever get excited when they roll a 20.  “Oh!  A 20!  That’s the highest on this dice, right?  Does something cool happen.”

Second– Without target numbers and modifiers, I feel the system loses an amount of robustness, be it through skill points, modifiers for attributes, or modifiers gained though magical items, spells, drugs, etc.  It usually boils down to gaining Advantage or Disadvantage for the situation (or canceling one another out) and rolling the dice. This is a super simple approach, easy to grok, and do- but all situations end up feeling the same mechanically.

On the other side of the coin I was worried about the escalation shit storm that usually accompanies target numbers and modifiers.  This is why I find any level past 5th in 3.x, Pathfinder, and 5e so fucking annoying.  All the math… Negative modifiers, positive modifiers, situational modifiers, Feat modifiers, spell modifiers, magic item modifiers.  This escalation creep was created to keep the game challenging.  You look at the target numbers of high level play (like 38 or some shit) and I’m all like, “Why? What purpose does this serve to anybody?  What fun does such high and ridiculous amounts of modifiers really add to the game?”

To me- it doesn’t.  It’s annoying, makes character creation a chore (which as I’ve said I don’t want), and bogs down the game more than it enhances it. The only thing that high modifier does is tickle the child part of our brain that “more is better.”

After much pondering about what excites me as a GM and what my players seem to enjoy and react to I decided to go with a TN/Roll equal to or over mechanic.  Here’s notes from a previous post:

In the end, I decided to move towards a TN/Roll equal to or over mechanic. 1- I enjoy the fuck out of rolling a 20 and the thrill/dread or rolling a 1.

2- I feel (and this is totally my opinion here) that a game with small range of modifiers has a wider berth for long term play, and as my goal was to attempt to create something I’d want to run for one shots, con play, and long term- this sat right with me.

3- Those modifiers help to facilitate an easy mechanic for skills that help flush out characters to feel interesting/varied.

So What are the Target Numbers?

With my desire to avoid escalation I knew I wanted to keep the modifiers and target numbers down to a reasonable level. 

The target numbers for my rules are: Easy: 5, Moderate: 10; Hard: 15; Extreme: 19; Impossible: 22.  Mechanically, this means roll 1d20, add appropriate modifiers (ranging from 0 to 4 at character creation, up to +6 through leveling up, and up to +8 through magic items/spells, drugs, etc. and finally a +2 proficiency skill (more on this later).

These rolls are for tests like resisting poisons, charms, traps, explosions, etc.  Combat is slightly different.  That is roll 1d20 + STR/DEX modifier and +2 for Weapon Specialization (if applicable) and compare to the armor’s threshold (more on this when I talk about combat). 

There will be Traits (think very simple feats), potions, situations, etc. that will let a character roll with Advantage or Disadvantage (more on this later too when I talk about modifiers). 

On Rolling In General

I tend not to make the player roll the dice unless there is a reason or interesting situation that will come from it. I find that the thrill of giving the character’s an option is more enjoyable. “Ok you can open the lock on the treasure chest. You can take your time and will automatically succeed and you’ll disarm the trap (if there is one), but I’m going to roll a d6 and if it comes up a 1-2 something’s gonna happen… I’m gonna roll on one of my charts you dread so much. Or you can attempt to unlock the chest by succeeding on a roll. If not, there may be consequences.”

The player’s evaluate their situations and make the call. It gives them agency over the current situation in a way that normally would boil down to a roll.

I believe this is what 3.x was trying to do with taking 10 (or taking 20), but it just felt clunkily bolted on and mechanically driven more than an organic choice. Chris McDowall (author of Into the Odd) was the first person I noticed preaching this kind of philosophy and it’s definitely one I really enjoy, so I gotta give that man props there!

Alright- enough for today.

#diy_productions_rules_dev_notes


DIY RPG Productions Rules Development Notes- Thoughts on Character Creation

Character Creation, for me, needs to be smooth, quick, easy to grok, and not intimidate or fatigue new players.

Over the years I have seen how daunting character creation can be- especially for new players and if there is a high lethality to the setting/game.

Challenge One- The info dump. While this can be annoying for veteran players, my greatest concern is for newbies or those with the attention span of a 10 year old who has snorted Pixie Sticks and shotgunned a bottle of Mountain Dew…

First you have the GM’s campaign exposition- all the fluff and backstory and bullshit (the stuff I really don’t do and nix from my games, but that’s a whole different issue/thing and I wrote Hubris in the first place), then there’s the summary of the rules and showing of the dice (and the disclaimer of not to put the fucking things in your ear, nose or anus), followed by the the explanation of the races, the description of the classes, and so on and so forth.

People can become fatigued right from the get go or suffer from decision paralysis.

My main desire is to cut the fat from character creation.

My games tend to have a high fatality rate… when a character died in 3.x the players were CRUSHED- not so much because they liked their character (although they did), but because the sheer amount of work that went into creating the fucking thing… And now they have to do it again. When PCs were dying in my Going Medieval on Yo Ass playtests, it wasn’t such a big deal. They were still bummed their character had their heart eaten out by a giant Dire Booger, but hey- that happens in the Forever Dungeon.

I’ll touch on this more with classes and races, and the other fiddly bits, but I really want these rules to be more “show me, don’t tell me.” I don’t want to pause while players look up rules or get bummed that the ability only activates under certain conditions. I want to capture the players sense of excitement and wonder right out of the box (whether I’ll be successful or not- fuck all if I know…).

Ok… I think I’m done rambling for now.
#diy_productions_rules_dev_notes