Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crafting and D&D

Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles
A few weeks ago I opened the Pandora's Box of D&D Dungeon Crafting... yes I'm now doomed, because —let's admit it— as with dice, you can never have enough dungeon terrain for your table top gaming.
I've been looking —for a while now— at those gorgeous images of 3D dungeons people post in table-top gaming forums. I'd also pondered —for a while too— about buying some molds (Hirst Arts seems to be the staple) and start working on my very own 3D dungeon tiles.
But two things had been stopping me from buying them, a) I'm not sure the required materials are easily acquired in my city (I'm from Mexico), and b) I'm sure I won't have enough time to do all the cool things I would like to do.
Another option could be to buy pre-made sets, like the ones made by Dwarven Forge, but a) my budget is already thin enough gaming-wise and b) do I need to mention a point b)?
Nonetheless, this is a part of the hobby that's been flirting with me since the mid 90's, when I used to buy at my local magazine store the White Dwarf issues printed in Spain, just for the cool pictures and crafting tips, even if I couldn't get any Warhammer minis at that time.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ravenloft for Halloween

Halloween is coming once again, and this year I finally got to DM the legendary I6 Ravenloft module, the one that started it all.

At first I wanted to run it using the original 1st edition rules, but I've never played that edition and for time-frame reasons (too much to read and learn) I've decided to go with 5th edition, which is the edition we're currently playing. I also wanted to play it as a 1-shoot since we're currently in the middle of another campaign. But some of the players begin to ask when we'll be starting it, and because I've been wanting to run this classic a good 10+ years ago, I've decided to savor the pleasure of having Strahd play cat and mouse with the helpless PCs for more than one session.

And indeed I'm savoring it. Castle Ravenloft it's a beauty and the myriad of paths the players can take makes it really alive. Also the Fortunes of Ravenloft add an extra level of excitement to the gaming sessions (not to mention the re-play value).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dark Sun: The Gladiator

The Fighter class in the world of Athas is pretty much unchanged, the only thing was to remove the Eldritch Knight from the Martial Archetypes options, and to compensate I created the Gladiator as a Martial Archetype.
Some people suggested me doing the Gladiator as a completely separate class of its own. But I think that would be redundant. I was even tempted to use the Champion archetype and just change the name to Gladiator because it kind of fits. but in doing so, I was leaving the rest of non gladiator fighters with no option but the Battle Master.
So I worked on the new archetype. I looked at some of the gladiators from previous editions. The one on the original 2E box didn't had much to choose from, and the prestige class from 3.x was too dependent on the crowd cheering up. I somehow implemented that in one of the features, but also added the ability to impress the enemies, in case there's no crowd around—no, the party does not count as a crowd!
So here it is, my take on the Gladiator of Athas, as a Martial Archetype.

EDIT: I just changed the previous Favored Weapon feature for the Pit Fighter feature, to make it feel more like the original box gladiator.


The life of a gladiator is brutish and brief, but it is the one occupation a slave can hold that also brings respect. Gladiators are heroes to the common people. Their trials and victories are the stuff of legend, and many slaves grow comfortable from the accolades their conquests bring.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dark Sun: Feral Classes

The barbarian an the druid classes didn't required much changes. Just some renaming and tweaking for flavor sake.

The barbarian totems for example, since there are no wolves, bears and eagles in Athas, I had to look around for beasts with similar qualities. The Klar is literally a big nasty bear, so the choice was easy. The Dagorran (as presented in 4E) is a tracking beast that hunts in packs, so very much like the wolf, specially the benefits provided by the wolf totem. Finally the eagle was a hard one, I could not find a bird of prey besides the Kes'trekel, which is more a carrion bird. I really don't like it for a totem, but for now I'll leave at that—perhaps later I'll work a new totem from scratch based on an Athasian beast.

Regarding the druid, I gave the circles a little name tweak, and created new circle spells lists, more appropriate for Athas peculiar geography. I was tempted at first to use just four types of terrains: the Tablelands, the Sea of Silt, the Ringing Mountains and the Forest Ridge—I guess someone can try this simpler approach and use the desert, coast, mountain and forest spell lists, respectively. But I rather worked on the types of terrains presented in the 4E Dark Sun Campaign Setting book. Some of the spell lists may seem repetitive, because the differences are subtle. My three main focuses when creating the lists was theme, traveling, and survival in each particular terrain. Let me know what do you think.


Brutality is a way of life in Athas, as much in some of the cities as in the dwindling tribes of Athas’ harsh wastes. Nibenese sages claim that the potential for savagery is in every sentient race, and the history of Athas seems to support their claim.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dark Sun: Elemental Cleric

Clerics in the old Dark Sun® setting were quite peculiar. This was a setting without gods, so the designers substitute the worship of the gods with worship of the elemental planes—and of course worship of sorcerer-kings, but that's another class entirely.

Back then, the cleric spells were arranged in spheres, the grand grand fathers of today's domains, and elemental clerics had major access to their elemental sphere, and only minor access to the cosmos sphere. What does minor access means? Well... it means they only had access to 1st-3rd level spells. So no cure serious wounds, no heal, no raise dead and no resurrection! Dark Sun was a deadly gritty place to live in.

To reflect that lack of major healing magic, I'm thinking in removing some spells from the cleric list, and to compensate I'm giving more domain spells. If you don't want to remove spells from the basic cleric list, just give domain spells up to the 9th cleric level, just like in the PHB®.

Also to compensate this lack of healing, I'm giving the water cleric some healing powers, as they had in the Earth, Air, Fire and Water supplement.
In everything else I tried to emulate the existing divine domains. Let me know what you think about them.

Athasian Cleric

The cleric is a free-willed priest, tending the needs of the local people with his particular talents. On Athas, clerics draw their magical energy directly from one of the four elemental planes: earth, air, fire, or water; not from any manner of deity.

Class Features

You get all the class features from the Cleric class as presented in the PHB, unless noted otherwise.


As presented in the PHB, but replace Religion skill for Nature.

Elemental Domain

The Divine Domain feature is renamed as Elemental Domain. The four elemental domains available to you are Earth, Air, Fire or Water. Each elemental domain is detailed at the end of the class description. Other than that, this feature works as presented in the PHB.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dark Sun on 5th Edition

I remember back in the late 90s when I flip to the back of my AD&D Dungen Master Guide. There was this list of campaigns, with cool logos an tiny covers of material on the side page. There they were all of the now classics, Mystara, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Planescape and Dragonlange. But from all the descriptions this one catched my imagination like no other:

The Dark Sun world is the AD&D game's most savage game setting—a desert realm scorched by a relentless sun, blasted by the destructive magic of generations of evil wizards. It is a land of evil sorcerer-kings and powerful psionincists who command astounding mental powers. In this wild and brutal landscape, a single adventurer can alter the course of history and forever change the world. One of those heroes could be yours!

Most savage game setting! I wanted it so bad. Unfortunately, back in the day getting D&D material in my country (Mexico) was quite hard. Specially in my home town. When I finally got a chance to visit a gaming store in Mexico City, I had to suck it up and buy the only box they had, Forgotten Realms.

Ever since the Dark Sun setting it's a thorn in my side. Now the material is available as PDF in dndclassics.com but my players and I had stopped playing 2E long since, 3E didn't see any Dark Sun official books, and even though there was a Campaign Setting book for 4E, the fourth wasn't my edition at all.

Now I'm back playing 5th Edition. And as I said in my last post, there's a psionics playtest for 5E. Thus and the fact that I'm about to finish my Rise of Tiamat game (All players must die!) I've decided to take that thorn out and play a Dark Sun campaign, even if that means making a whole bunch of house rules.

Starting with the house rules, I present to you my take on the wizards of Athas. I tried to capture the feeling of careful casting and mastery of the Preserver vs reckless casting and quicker advancement of the Defiler. I hope you like it! (Italics are text taken from the original boxed set)

Athasian Wizard

A wizard is able to capture and master magical energies. However, in Dark Sun, magic is irrevocably linked to the environment. The casting of magical spells and the enchantment of magical items always draws energy directly from the living ecology in the vicinity, destroying the life there. Wizards can choose two paths toward mastery of magical energy.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A dream come true, my Blind Monk!

Finally I'm gonna be able to make a character I've wanting to make in D&D 5e, a Blind Monk!

In the latest entry of Unearthed Arcana, +Mike Mearls shares with us a first draft of the psionics rules for the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. While excited about the idea of having psioincs to test —Dark Sun is one of my favorite settings— my joy went crazy when I read the Third Eye Discipline. 30 feet of Blindsight just by concentrating on the discipline! Holy cow! Instantly I forgot about everything else, I even didn't care about the rest of the powers and disciplines. With just one level of multiclassing I can make my high level monk (15th level) into a Hundred Eyes or Zatoichi character! I send a message to my DM, with the link to the playtest rules and he was ok with it. Since we only have one session of play, it's not a big deal to change my character, and make him a blind 14th lvl monk, 1st level mystic from the Order of the Awakened. I'm so happy.

Give yourselves a look at the playtest rules. As Mike says, this are far from definitive. They are written in pencil not ink. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy them!

Here is the Awakened Mystic on the Unearthed Arcana article.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Why Powered by the Apocalypse?

Maybe you already know it, maybe not. I'm in the process of writing a Powered by the Apocalypse role-playing game: Nahual. I'm Mexican, so this is a Mexican game, based in the universe and works of (also Mexican) artist and graphic novelist +Edgar Clement.

Just recently I had to ask myself (for reasons not important to this post), why I'm powering my game by the Apocalypse? The answer I picked was straight and short, so now I'm trying to expand it here.

First I'll say that I've been wanting to write this game since around 2005 or so. My first idea was to use the d20 Open Gaming License, but back then it was just an idea, no words where put together at all.

I guess the reason I never sit down myself to start writing the game was that it felt odd. I thought about the classes for the game, of course I had to. And what about races or something similar? Then the levels, how skills and feats and all that crunch will help represent the universe of nahuals and angels and devils that Clément is (still) developing. As I said, it just felt odd.

Then I moved to another town, new job, things changed. The idea was left on the pipeline for a while. Then again I decided to continue. It was around 2012. I had found some of the material from The Forge forum. Theory about role-playing games, how system matters, etc. So I decided to create my own brand new system. Except that, despite all the theory and stuff I had read, my main gaming experience was D&D 2E and 3E, Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu and the old World of Darkness games. So my "brand new system" was just a mirror/shadow of some of the concepts/rules presented by those games, specially the WofD.

Then, I don't remember exactly how, I found out about this indie game called Apocalypse World, by this author named +Vincent Baker, and the comments I'm reading on the internet are quite interesting, and then I saw Mr. Baker talking about game design in a convention in Finland! (via Youtube of course, I've never been to Finland) And I was like OMG!

And then I got my PDF version of the Apocalypse World game, and THEN is when I knew this is how I wanted to make my Nahual role-playing game based on Cléments works. But why?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"It's a trap!" Finding traps in D&D 5E

My first time as a player, in the not so new D&D 5th Edition, I played my favorite class (of course): a Rogue. Back then, I hadn't read thoroughly the PHB so I made the wrong assumption, by reading the skills list, that my Rogue will be needing Intelligence (Investigation) to look for traps. Imagine my surprise when I tried to look for them and my DM tells me to roll Perception! We argued a little, but at the end I conceded (because you don't want to piss-off your DM =P), and ask him to let me change my character, so that I may have proficiency in Perception instead of Investigation. He agreed.

And that was it. I was going to just accept that now you look for traps with Perception. Even when it felt weird, because (for me), when you're looking for traps... well, you are actively looking for them, right? For me that's "investigating", and it kind of fits the Intelligence stat because you're supposed to know what you are looking for. I mean, when I think about it, if me (the actual real me) was supposed to be in a dark dungeon looking for traps, I will die on the first step because I have absolutely no clue what a trap should look like. It's a know how, knowledge, ergo Intelligence. I consider Perception (and Wisdom) a more intuitive thing, instincts and senses are involved. But anyways, as I said, I was accepting the new system as is. Until running The Rise of Tiamat adventure!

Perception and/or Investigation?

So here I was reading my beautiful new module, when I found out —in the Tomb of Diderius section— that a player can make a Wisdom (Perception) check DC 24 or an Intelligence (Investigation) check DC 18 to find a plate that is part of a trap, but not the trigger. The trigger itself was somewhere else and it required a successful Wisdom (Perception) check DC 22 (I'm not including any details about the actual trap to avoid any spoilers). Now, hold on a second! Why can a character find part of the trap with either Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation)? And why is way easier to do so with the latter? Alright —I said to myself— the actual trap still requires Wisdom (Perception) check to find, let's stick to that. So I kept reading, and three pages later I found another trap, that can be detected with a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check DC 15! What!?

Monday, March 23, 2015

All hail Tiamat!

I'm preparing the Rise of Tiamat adventure for my Tuesdays D&D group. So far the adventure looks great, but the thing is, my group didn't play the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure, and even though the RofT book says you don't need to, I feel like there will be a hard gap for my players to get really involved with the campaign. Also as DM, I have this sense like there's a lot I don't know, as if the authors assume I know things because it's a sequel adventure. It's quite a common mistake when writing, it has happen to me a lot of times. Or maybe I'm the problem.
Anyway, my group is right now in Undermountain. From there I'm planning on getting them involved with the Cult activities and pave the way to Tiamat's return. I'm just wishing that the authors had included more concrete hooking options for characters not playing the HotDQ adventure. Anyhow, "All hail Tiamat!"

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Blind Monk for DW

A couple of weeks ago I was watching (for a second time) the Netflix series Marco Polo. I watched it a second time so a friend of mine could watch it for the first time. And since I was not dazzled as the first time, I was able to let my mind wander while watching the show. And thus came to me the idea of making a Blind Monk class for Dungeon World.
I've always loved the archetype, even before Marco Polo. And I've always wanted to play a character like that. But there was not possible to play a blind character without suffering fully all the rules drawbacks. Now (I was thinking while watching Hundred Eyes on the screen) thanks to the Apocalypse World engine, I think it is quite possible.
Here is what I've got so far:

The Blind Monk


Hundred Eyes
Even though you’re blind, through discipline and meditation you have heightened your other senses and obtained the ability to feel the general shapes around you and their movements. This allows you to perform general activities, including combat, as if you were able to see. You still can’t tell any details about the shapes until you touch them.

Fists of Fury
Your body itself is a weapon (hand, precise).

Shapeless like water
By emptying your mind, you become shapeless, formless, like water. You adapt to the attacks of your enemies. When wearing no armor and carrying less than your Load, you have armor equal to your WIS as long as you have Chi left.

Inner Peace
When you have time and tranquility to center your mind and body lose any Chi you had and gain 3 Chi. You cannot have more than 3 Chi at any time. You can spend a Chi at any time to achieve one of the following effects:
    •    Block a blow meant for you or someone else (you take half damage).
    •    Take +1 forward to Defy danger.
    •    Cross the distance between yourself and a foe, bypassing all obstacles.
    •    Deal your damage to a foe within reach.
    •    Leap over or across a physical obstacle.

I'm drawing a lot here from +Sage LaTorra's Battlemind and +Johnstone Metzger's Martial Hero from Class Warfare.
Let me know what do you think, and I hope to post soon more material on this class.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Alea iacta est!

Ok, I'm doing this, I'm going to have this blog to post all the role-playing related stuff that I do in one single spot. I hope this helps me focus and pushes me toward doing more and more things. I'm leaving the other blogspot about a Ravenloft-like hack for DW in stand-by because right now I have other things in hand. One of them is my D&D campaign. So, since I'm working on stuff for my players already, I'm going to share it here. I hope someone else may find it helpful.

Alea iacta est!