Saturday, July 16, 2016

Rewriting the B/X Cleric [Part 2]

A cleric is the chosen champion of a god or goddess, trained in fighting and able to cast protective and restorative spells. Clerics are the adventurous crusaders of the temple hierarchy, righting wrongs and performing heroic quests on behalf of the faith. While not as capable in combat as a fighter, clerics are able to turn the tide of battle with their powerful magic to heal and protect their allies and smite their foes.

Wisdom is the prime requisite for clerics. A wisdom score of 13 of greater will give the cleric a bonus on earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Clerics use six-sided dice (d6) to determine their hit points. All clerics must be Lawful in alignment. A cleric who is no longer Lawful loses the ability to cast spells. Clerics have the use of all armor and shield, but may not use missile weapons (no arrows!) and are restricted to the use of Holy Swords and cannot normally wield other types of magical weaponry.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Clerics have the special ability to turn undead (such as skeletons, zombies, and ghouls). When an undead monster is encountered, the cleric may attempt to “Turn” the monster instead of fighting. A cleric may not attempt to turn the same creature more than once during the same 10-minute adventuring turn. If a cleric Turns an undead monster, the monster may not approach the cleric and will flee from the area if it can. Turning undead otherwise functions as described in the B/X rulebooks.

When a cleric reaches 2nd level and has had a chance to prove himself, he receives the ability to cast spells. A list of clerical spells and their explanations is given below.


Cure Light Wounds
Range: Touch
Duration: Instant

This spell heals 1d6 + 1 damage done to any living creature touched by the cleric. It may also be used to cure paralysis, but what doing so it does not cure any points of damage. Alternatively, it may be used to deal 1d6 + 1 damage to undead creatures unless the creatures make a saving throw vs. Spells.

Detect Evil
Range: 60’
Duration: 6 turns

This spell detects the presence of evil intentions or objects, places, and things enchanted with evil magic, causing them to glow. The exact definition of “evil” is left to each referee, and player should all be in agreement as to what constitutes evil in the game world.

Detect Magic
Range: 60’
Duration: 2 turns

This spell determines the presence of magic, causing any person, place, of thing enchanted with magic to glow.

Range: 60’
Duration: 12 turns

This spell casts light in a circle, 30’ in diameter. It is bright enough to read by, but not as blinding as full daylight. If cast on a creature’s eyes, the creature may make a saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the victim is blinded for 12 turns. Blinded creatures receive a -4 penalty on all “to hit” rolls. This spell will cancel a Darkness spell if cast against it and vice versa.

Protection from Evil
Range: Self
Duration: 12 turns

This spell circles the cleric with a magical barrier that wards out evil. The spell serves as some protection from “evil” attacks by adding +2 to the cleric’s saving throws and subtracted -2 from the “to hit” rolls of evil opponents.

Purify Food and Water
Range: 10’
Duration: Instant

This spell will restore spoiled or poisoned food and water and render it free of poison and disease. It will purify enough normal food and water to feed a dozen people. Creatures created by the magical enchantment of water, such as water elementals or water weirds, must make a saving throw vs. spells or take 3d6 + 3 points of damage when affected by this spell.


Range: 60’
Duration: 6 turns

This spell may only be cast on friendly creatures not yet in melee. All creatures in 15’ radius area within range receive a +1 bonus to morale and on to hit and damage rolls. Alterative, this spell may be cast over a vial of purified water to create Holy Water.

Find Traps
Range: 30’
Duration: 2 turns

This spell makes a trapped area glow when approached within 30’. It reveals presence both mechanical and magical traps, but not the type of trap, how the trap is triggered, or how it can be disarmed.

Range: Self
Duration: Instant

The spell grants the cleric the answer to one yes or no question. The answer may come in the form of a ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘maybe.’ The spell has limited foresight and cannot foresee potential consequences more than 1 hour in the future.

Hold Person 
Range: 60’
Duration: 1 turn

This spell will affect any human or human-like creature. It will not affect undead or creatures larger than an ogre. The victim must make a save vs. Spells or be paralyzed. If cast on a single person, that person must save vs. Spells with a -2 penalty to the die roll. If cast on a group, it will affect 1d4 persons, but with no penalty to the saving throw, and will always effect creatures with fewer hit dice first.

Know Alignment 
Range: 10’
Duration: 1 round

This spell reveals the alignment (lawful, neutral, or chaotic) of one creature, place (such as a temple), or enchanted item (a magic sword).

Resist Fire
Range: 30’
Duration: 2 turns

This spells prevents one creature from being harmed by heat or normal fire for the duration of the spell. The creature also receives a +2 to saving throws vs. magical fire, including a dragon’s breath, fireballs, etc. Damage from magical fire is reduced by one point per die.


Call Steed
Range: 30 feet
Duration: Instant

This spell calls a strong, loyal, and semi-intelligence steed to your location. The cleric’s steed will arrive in 1 turn after the spell is cast and normally steed takes the form of a heavy warhorse with maximum hit points, but may also attract a light warhorse, hippogriff, pegasus, or griffon, at the DM’s discretion as warranted by the situation, such as if cast while on the Elemental Plane of Air. The cleric’s steed serves as a mount both in and out of combat. The steed remains until killed or dismissed. If the cleric’s steed is killed, another steed cannot be called for 1 year and a day.

Continual Light
Range: 60’
Duration: 24 hours

This spell creates a 60’ sphere of light centered on an object. The light is equal in intensity to full daylight and lasts for 24 hours. If cast on an opponent’s eyes, the creature must save vs. Spells or be blinded until the spell’s duration expires or the spell is dispelled.

Cure Disease
Range: 30’
Duration: Instant

This spell will cure the recipient of any disease, such as lycanthropy and mummy rot. Cure disease will also kill green slime without allowing a saving throw.

Locate Object
Range: 240’ (indoors) or 10 miles (outdoors)
Duration: Instant

For this spell to be able to locate a specific object, the spell caster must know exactly what the objects looks like (size, color, shape, etc.). A general type of object (such as a flight of stairs) can also be detected by this spell. The spell cannot, however, locate a creature. The spell will point towards the nearest desired object if within range, indicated the direction, but not the distance.

Remove Curse
Range: Touch
Duration: Instant

This spell will remove the effects of a curse put on a character or free a character from a cursed magic item. A single remove curse spell will only remove one curse.

Range: Touch
Duration: 1 turn

This spell make one normal weapon do an additional 2d6 points of damage per attack. The weapon will cause the extra damage for as long as the spell lasts. It does not add to the chance to hitting, but does allow the non-magical weaponry to damage creatures that can only be hit by magic weapons.


Create Water
Range: 10’
Duration: Instant

With this spell, the cleric summons forth an enchanted spring form the ground that will provide enough water for 12 men and their mounts for one day (about 50 gallons). For every cleric levels above 8th, twelve addition men and mounts can be supplied.

Cure Serious Wounds
Range: Touch
Duration: Instant

This spell will cure one living creature of 2d6 + 2 points of damage. Alternatively, it may be used to deal 2d6 + 2 damage to undead creatures unless the creatures make a saving throw vs. Spells.

Locate Creature
Range: 240’ (indoors) or 10 miles (outdoors)
Duration: Instant

For this spell to be able to locate a specific creatures, the spell caster must know exactly what the creature looks like (type, gender, coloration, etc.). A general type of creature (such as a hill giant) can also be detected by this spell. The spell will point towards the nearest desired creature if within range, indicated the direction, but not the distance.

Neutralize Poison
Range: Touch
Duration: Instant or 6 turns

This spell will cancel the effects of poison and revive a poisoned character if cast within ten rounds. it can also be cast on a poison, poisonous item, or poisonous creature to make it (temporarily) harmless. It acts only on poison present at the time it is cast.

Protection from Evil 10’ Radius
Range: Self
Duration: 12 turns

This spell circles the caster with a magical barrier that will protect all friendly creatures within 10’ of the cleric. This barrier will move with the cleric. The spell serves as some protection from “evil” attacks by adding +2 to the cleric’s saving throws and subtracted -2 from the “to hit” rolls of evil opponents. The spell will also keep out melee attacks from summoned monsters, but not missile or magical attacks from these creatures. Summoned creature may engage in melee only if any of the protected creature attempts to attack the creature in hand-to-hand combat.

Speak with Dead
Range: 10’
Duration: 1 turn

This spell gives the cleric the power to communicate with the spirits of creatures who have died within range of the spell. The cleric may ask up to 3 questions of the spirits, though they may not necessarily be willing to give up their knowledge easily.


Range: Self
Duration: 3 turns

This spell allows the cleric to ask questions of the greater powers that be. The cleric may ask three questions that can be answered after casting this spell. The powers will do their best to provide reliable, truthful answers to the cleric’s questions. This spell can be cast no more than once per month.

Create Food
Range: 10’
Duration: Instant

With this spell, the cleric may create enough food to feed 12 men and their mounts for one day. For every level the cleric is above 8th, he or she is able to create food for an additional 12 men and their mounts.

Death Ward
Range: Touch
Duration: 2 turns

This spell grants a measure of protection from death to a touched creature. Until the spell ends, the next time the recipient would drop to 0 or fewer hit points or would be killed instantly by death magic, he or she is instead reduced to 1 hit points and the spell ends.

Dispel Evil
Range: 30’
Duration: 1 turn

This spell will banish or destroy any summoned or undead monster that comes in range if the creature fails its saving throw vs. Spells. If the saving throw is successful, the creature will immediately flee from the affected area. The caster must remain stationary and concentrate to maintain this effect. Alternatively the spell can be cast against a creature or objects. This spell will also free a creature within range from any curses and cursed items or removes all “evil” magic from an object.

Range: 30’
Duration: Special

This spell forces the character it is cast on to perform some special task or quest as commanded by the cleric at the time the spell is cast. A successful save vs. Spell will result in the spell having no effect. A typical task might include slaying a certain monster, rescuing a maiden, obtaining a magic item for the caster, or going on a pilgrimage. Such tasks may not be suicidal. Once the task is complete the spell ends. If the character refuses to go on the quest, he or she will be cursed in a manner determined by the cleric at the time of casting until the quest is resumed.

Raise Dead
Range: 30’
Duration: Instant

By means of this spell, the cleric can rise any human, dwarf, halfling, elf (or any other type of creature at the discretion of the DM) from the dead. An 8th level cleric can raise a body up to eight days old. For each level the cleric is above 8th, four days are added to this time. A raised character has 1 hit points and cannot fight, cast spells, use abilities, carry heavy loads, move more than half speed, or regain hit points. These effects will be healed after two full weeks of complete bedrest. Alternatively, this spell will slay one undead creature it is cast against unless it makes a saving throw vs. Spells.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rewriting the B/X Cleric [Part 1]

Cleric spell list has always confused me. While most of the spells seem to fit the theme and role of the class (detect evil), I have been consistently off-put by others (sticks to snakes). I have heard that some of the more colorful spells (part water, for example, but that's a magic-user spells, anyway) are biblical references. Maybe they are. I don't know. The Bible (author unknown) has never struck me as the type of literature I would enjoy, although I know that many others do.

For reference, lets look at the spells that have nothing to do with smiting, healing, divination, or protection:

* Silence 15' radius
* Snake Charm
* Speak with Animals
* Growth of Animals
* Speak with Plants
* Sticks to Snakes
* Insect Plague

Notice anything? Do any patters stick out to you? 

With the exception of Silence 15' radius, which looks more like a magic-user spell, all of these spells are nature-related, which to me always scream druid.

Maybe it's because I always associated druids more with magic-users than clerics, but these seven spells continue to be off-putting to me. Why should Poseidon grant his followers Insect Plague or Thor allows his champions to charm snakes. Where are the thunderbolts? Where are the tidal waves?

There is, however, a reason why clerics don't have access to call lightning and control water. Clerics are not generic priests.

They have more in common with the classical image of a Paladin or one of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table than that of the champion of Greek or Norse god. Now, if I am going to interpret the B/X cleric as  a paladin, why not bring it full circle and update the spell list?

As it turns out, teachers don't work during the summer holidays and I always need more excuses for delaying progress on my novel (I hit 100 pages today, by the way!). 

[Tune back in tomorrow for part 2]

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

OSR College of Fire Magic - Proof of Concept

For those of you who haven't heard of it, DragonQuest is a little bit like RIFTS - great ideas, terrible implementation. One of those great ideas is to break up all magic-users into Colleges of Magic. A character may belong to only one magical college, making an adept from the College of Celestial Magics completely different from one of the College of Earth Magics.

These days, I'm interested in games a little lighter than DragonQuest, 5e D&D, Dungeon World, Risus, etc. One thing that has always frustrated me, however, if being unable to capture the DragonQuest-style magic-users with any of those systems. Honestly, I've tried dozens of times to recreate them in 5e D&D, but have never been satisfied with the result.

Today I tried putting together another DragonQuest hack, this time for OSR - type games. After sketching it out in my head, it seemed decent enough, so I typed it up the College of Fire Magic as a proof of concept.

I'm interested to know what you all think:

  • Too simple/complicated?
  • Not flexible enough?
  • Too weak / overpowered?

College of Fire Magics

The College of Fire Magics is concerning with the manipulation of elemental fire and is considered the most straightforward and destructive form of magic. Adepts from the College of Fire Magics is called Fire Mages or Pyromancers.

Mana Dice: You have a number of d6 Mana Dice equal to one-half your level, rounded up.

Using your Pyromancy abilities usually requires you to roll one or more Mana Dice. Any Mana Die that results in a 1, is expended and cannot be rolled again until recovered.

Mana dice are recovered after eight hours of rest or after 1 hour of rest in a mana-rich area.


Fire size Table: Click to Enlarge

Create Fire: You may roll 1 Mana Die to produce a Tiny-sized magical fire within 15 feet + 5 feet per caster level. This fire may be increased by 1 or more size categories by rolling the appropriate number of Mana Die. Any creature occupying a space in which the fire is conjured takes damage according to the size of the fire  (save vs. Dragon Breath for half damage).

Alter Fire: You may roll 1 Mana Die to increase or decrease the size of many normal or magical fire by 1 size category, plus 1 for every 5 caster levels. The fire consumes fuel and deals damage as appropriate for its new size.

Flame Blade: You may roll 1 or more Mana Dice to cause a weapon to become wreathed in flames. For 1 minute, that weapon deals additional fire damage equal to the number Mana Dice you rolled.

Move Fire: You may take a fire, equal to or smaller than the maximum size you may conjure using create fire with your current Mana Dice, and move it up to 30 feet. The fire dissipates at the end of your turn if it does not have a new source of fuel. Moving a fire into a space that is occupied by a creature causes that creature to take damage (save vs. Dragon Breath for half damage).

Shape Fire: You may roll 1 Mana Die to reshape an already existing fire into any shape or configuration, such as a pillar or wall of fire so long as the fire continues to extend from its fuel source. Should the fire extend into space that is occupied by a creature, that creature takes damage from the fire (save vs. Dragon Breath for half damage).

Sustain Fire: You may roll 1 Mana Die to sustain a normal or magical fire without a fuel source until the end of your next turn. A fire without a fuel source must be sustained each round or it will go out.

Pyromancy Rituals

Summon Fire Elemental: You may spend 1 hour to conjure a Fire Elemental. The size of the fire elemental is based on the number of Mana Dice you expend at when you begin the ritual. At the completion of the ritual, the Fire Elemental is summoned forth. The Fire Elemental is, at least initially, friendly towards its summoner. In order to sustain the Fire Elemental on the material plane, the elemental requires a steady stream of mana. Therefore, the caster is unable to regain the Mana Dice expended during the summoning process until the Fire Elemental has been dismissed.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Musing on Post-Apocalyptic Science Fantasy Gaming

For the past few weeks, Jack Vance has consumed my nightly reading, specifically his stories from the Dying Earth (rereading) and the Planet Adventure (first time). Each time I put down the book, I end of thinking about Geoffrey McKinney’s science fantasy masterpiece, Carcosa,

In some ways, both the Dying Earth and the Planet of Adventure remind me of Carcosa, at least superficially. All three worlds are ancient, filled with wonder and the unknown. Similarly, they all contain magic and technology juxtaposed against one another. Planet of Adventure is even filled with primitive tribes of outrageously colored inhabitants struggling to survive on an unforgiving planet.

On the other hand, both of Vance's worlds support a completely different world-view and different types of challenges. Carcosa, at least from my reading, supports a play-style that is primarily man vs. nature (or a post-apocalyptic, radioactive, mutated, otherworldly mess). Adventurers must spend as much time hiding from the unimaginable horrors that walk the dunes and haunted the forests, as they do delving into unknown regions for gold and glory. Depending on one’s reading of the setting, gold and glory might even be completely non-existent.

Comparatively, the many scattered tribes of brightly hued men seem to serve as a place of refuge. Despite racism and xenophobia, the lowly race of men is alone in the word and must find their strength in unity and congregation. The inhabitants of Carcosa don't have enough time to war with one another. They are too busy failing to provide food and shelter to their own miserable tribe.

In ancient times, warfare was primarily concerned with the acquisition of resources – land, natural resources (fertile soil, access to iron or other useful/valuable metals, etc.), and slaves – and glory. On the planet Carcosa, land is abundant and in low demand. Natural resources are scarce and most hexes are probably devoid of any worthwhile resources. There's little purpose in capturing your neighbor's land when his village or citadel is just as poor as yours.

Finally, we come to slaves. Some may make the point that slavery may be common on Carcosa, fueled by a strong suspicion of outsiders and the need for additional labor. And while this may be true, slavery has at least one major downside. Most slaves means more mouth to feed. Most Carsosian villages contain no more than 300 residents, some as little as 30. I, therefore, argue that the ability for a settlement to survive on Carcosa is a direct function of its size. The settlement must be large enough to defend itself again outside threats (the unexpected arrival of mutant dinosaurs), but small enough to go unnoticed by insane sorcerers in need of unwilling sacrifices and able to support itself through hunting and primitive agriculture. The smaller the settlement the quicker it is to react to certain threats. It is easier to relocate 100 people than it is to relocate 5,000, for example.

That's one way to read Carcosa, but it's certainly not the only way.

In fact, having only seen the original printing which include not a single piece of artwork other than the small silhouette of a city on the front cover, my interpretation could differ wildly compared to someone reading the LotFP edition of Carcosa. Art direction matters!

One could also argue that the abundance of castles and citadels informs the reader that the world of Carcosa, at least on the surface, is, in many ways, no different than any other dark fantasy world, except that instead of fighting trolls and goblins, adventurers match their skills against horrors from the star and greedy sorcerers, corrupted by their thirst for power and an ancient darkness. It is the DM's decision to decide how much technology and how many Cthulhoid monstrosities to include (or not include). One could run an entire Carcosa campaign without the character ever encountering a piece of advanced technology a single old one. Characters may not even know the difference between a magical wand and a raygun or be able to tell the different between a mutated dinosaur and a spawn of Shub-Niggurath.

When comparing these two versions of Carcosa, I personally feel that, as a game setting (as opposed to the setting a short story or novel), the second seems a lot more fun and exciting. The first may have more depth and make more sense, but it just doesn’t resonate with me as a place I would like to adventure in. The first view is bleak, grimy, and hopeless. The other is bursting with color, life, and mystery. It is a world in which an assaulting a castle in equally likely to be met by a cavalry charge as Word War II tank being driven out from behind the drawbridge. 

Now that is a world in which I want to adventure!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Words of Wisdom

After a month with no sleep and constant running around. I have come to a new conclusion: Don't start new commitments just after starting a brand new NGO and your wife having a baby.

Turns out, that, no, the urban myth that YES, you can just shove the baby back in the womb and wait another month is actually false. And with everything going on -work, NGO, theater, novel writing, new baby, new blog - something had to go.

Here, the good news, though, we might be back (no promises). School is over, which means I have three months where I get paid not to go to work (YES!!!!), I have new material to share. This time it's not 5e, but old OSR type stuff, including a new take on the Cleric and a crazy, new post-apocalyptic fantasy world.

Let's get cracking!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Bard: College of the Muses

Designer's Notes: This is my first time creating a Bard College. I found this process significantly more difficult than creating cleric domains. Firstly, there are only 2 examples provided in the PHB, and they provide very few  guidelines as to what sorts of abilities are appropriate. Design-wise I am considered switching the levels of the mercy for heroes and true masterpiece features. As always feedback is welcome, even if it's only to tell me that I need to take the whole thing back to the drawing board.

College of the Muses
While all bards find inspiration in the world around them, only a select few are blessed with the gift of the Muses. Whether in art, poetry, or sculpture some bards find ways to express themselves beyond a simple song.  It is an even rarer gift, however, for your action and succeeds to become an inspiration for others. Like how the Muses serve to inspire you, your achievements serves as a motivation and impulse that stirs other to even greater success.

Bonus Proficiencies
When you join the College of the Muses at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with any three tools of your choice.

Font of Inspiration
Starting at 3rd level, whenever you score a critical hit or roll natural 20 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw you have proficiency with, you can immediately grant any creature other than yourself within 60 feet you who can hear you an inspiration die without expending one of your uses.

Mercy for Heroes
At 6th Level, the presence of the muses raises your allies’ courage to new heights. A creature that has a Bardic Inspiration die from you can roll that die and regain hit points equal to the result + proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier.

True Masterpiece
At 14th Level, you have advantage on Charisma (persuasion) checks when interacting with anyone who has viewed any work of art you have created using a tool with which you are proficient within the last 10 minutes. This effect lasts until you finish a short or extended rest.

Download the PDF Here!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Barbarian: Path of the Thaneborn v.2

Yesterday, after seven hours in labor, my wive gave birth to out first daughter, Elizabeth. Needless to say, I am dreadfully behind on my blogging. For that, I apologize. Instead of offering up a new batch of monsters (that will have to wait for another day), I would like to present the next draft of the Thaneborn Barbarian.

Designer's Notes: The new draft replaces the level 10 feature, which before gave proficiency with an additional skills (chosen from history, insight, intimidate, and persuasion), now gives the barbarian advantage on intimidate, and persuasion rolls made for a short time after raging. Theaneborn charge proved too finicky during our playtest of this subclass and has been replaced with a defender-like ability, furious challenge.

As always, let me know what you think. Feedback is always welcome and appreciated.

Path of the Thaneborn v.2

While most barbarians unleash their inner rage through destruction, others are born leaders, holding positions of great prestige in their tribe. These thanes are not only ruthless warriors, but inspirational war-leaders, whose furious tendencies serve not only to devour their foes, but also to inspire their allies.

Triumphant Shout
Starting when you select this path at 3rd level, your battle prowess begins to inspire those around you. Whenever you reduce a creature to 0 hit points, you and a number of allies equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum 1) within 30 feet who can see and hear you gain temporary points equal to your barbarian level + your charisma modifier.

Inspiring Presence
Beginning at 6th level, your presence and headfast resilience allows your allies stand in the face of fear and uncertainly, never surrender, even under the effects of charms and enchantments. Whenever you are raging, you and all allies within 30 feet gain advantage on saving throws to against being frightened or charmed.

Words of the Victor
Starting at 10th level, you fighting prowess and reputation begins to give you an edge in diplomacy and negotiation. After you finish raging and until your begin your next short rest, you have advantage on all Charisma (Intimidation) and Charisma (Persuasion) checks.

Furious Challenge
Starting at 14th level, whenever you are raging, you can let out a furious challenge that calls an opponent to arms as a bonus action. Choose a creature within 30 feet of you that can see and hear. That creature must make a Wisdom saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. One a failed save, any attacks that do not include you as a target are made with disadvantage and cannot willingly move away from you. This effect ends whenever you stop raging or if you willingly move more than 30 feet away from the target.