Tuesday 30 July 2013

D20 Icons - Gibbering Mouther

Each week I'll be taking a crack at converting some of the most iconic d20 monsters that, for one reason or another didn't appear in the awesome 13th Age Core rulebook. This week - the Gibbering Mouther.

Gibbering Mouther
Level 3 (Aberration)
Init: +1
HP: 48  AC: 17  PD: 13  MD: 17

Pseudopod: +8 vs AC - 10 acid damage, and 5 ongoing acid damage.
Miss: 5 acid damage.

Terrifying utterance: +9 vs MD (1d6 nearby enemies) - 8 psychic damage.

Fear: While engaged with this creature, enemies that have 15hp or fewer are dazed (-4 attack) and do not add the escalation dice to their attacks.

Amorphous: The Gibbering Mouther has resist weapons 12+

Unnatural movement: The Gibbering Mouther can move unhindered through almost any terrain, as well as climb walls and other sheer surfaces with ease.

No-one knows where the abomination that is the Gibbering Mouther came from, or why it was called into existence - one thing is clear to all however, it should not be. They can often be found in use as biological traps in the service of the Diabolist or even the Archmage,  however they are notoriously difficult to control and are ultimately kept at a very long arms length.

: If you like this monster check out the other Iconic classic D&D monsters I've converted here :

Wednesday 24 July 2013

"There will be.. consequences"

Following up from an earlier post about integrating elements from DungeonWorld into the 13th age, i've taken some time to write up and transform DW's moves into a format that I can use in my 13A game or practically any other RPG that has some dice mechanic that determines success/failure. I've called them Consequences, but really they're just neat ways of categorising/organising methods to Fail Forward - here they are, and here's how you use them:

Regular Consequences

Whenever a player makes a skill check, and doesn't quite cut it - choose one of the options below to help you discern what consequences their failure has. Remember you're failing forward, so you should always give  them some form of limited success to go along with it. If you need more guidance check out the Failing Forward section of the 13th Age core rulebook (p42.) Here's a list of handy options:

It sure is getting dangerous! - Their actions cause their enemies to react, this could very well be a slow burner.

You'll be surprised to know.. - The players learn something that they didn't want to know / a terrible truth is revealed to them.

Something wicked this way comes.. - The players become acutely aware of how danger much they are soon to be in.

That Hurt! - Whatever they did, really hurt.

Im almost out! - Their actions waste some of their resources, mundane or magical - perhaps even recoveries.

That didn't work out as I planned.. - Whatever they accomplished backfired somehow, perhaps not right away either.

Where is everybody? - They are separated from their companions or something they need.

Don't worry I can do this! - The player is presented with an opportunity, one that can't possibly go wrong....

I think I may be out of my league.. - Complications arise that they aren't the best suited for.

Why me? - The player is singled out in some way.

Environment Consequences

Sometimes a characters' actions can impact specifically on the environment they are in, or it makes more sense to have their surroundings react to their 'failure'. Some of these overlap with the above, but they can quite happily be used as Regular Consequences and vice versa. I've partitioned them off for simplicity and to follow suit with DW.

Look out! - The environment changes somehow - rolling boulders, triggered traps you get the idea.

Did you hear that? - Some sign or clue that something bad may be lurking nearby.

What are they doing here? - Another faction or group gets involved.

We've been here before.. - The players actions force them to backtrack somehow.

Oooh! Shiny! - Present some form of reward, preferable highly desirable with a heavy cost!

I think I can make it! - Challenge one of the players with something they're good at.

The Snowball Effect

Sometimes these consequences can call for a player to make more rolls, and in turn more consequences, this is what we want - to propel the story forward, just go with it! Just try and keep the spotlight moving around the table and involve other people. After all the players are all in it together (whether they like it or not!)

Hard or Soft?

If you familiar with DW you may be thinking, where are the hard and soft moves? For those not familiar i'll quickly explain. Each of Dungeons World's moves are executed in two ways - Hard and Soft, Soft being the setup and Hard the follow through. Look at the examples below, we'll use my consequence 'It's sure getting dangerous!'

 'The ogre brings his giant club down in a wide arc, aiming to smash your skull in..'

Thats a soft move or the setup - the danger is presented and the players are have an opportunity to react, lets look at the same thing but presented as a hard move.

'The ogre brings his giant club down smashing into you with full force, take 7 damage!'

The hard move tells the same story, but give the follow-through and crucially its more punishing - the player doesn't get to react and also takes some damage.

So bear this in mind when creating consequences, some should be Soft and some should be Hard - both further the narrative but some will offer the players more opportunities to react, others will show them the direct consequences of their actions. It works nicely by following a soft consequence with a hard one, going straight to the hard can leave players feeling powerless - and likewise never giving them the hard option can leave them feeling unthreatened.

Wrapping Up

A lot of what i've covered here is pretty much standard practice for most GM's, I know it was for me - just that seeing it presented in such a way really blew my mind. Its all stuff that I do every time i'm behind the screen - but having a nice list to get the sparks in my brain going really has helped reduced the moments when i draw a blank, and turned the mundane into the exciting, every time!

So thats it, hopefully a fair to bit to think about and mull over, i'll probably be back on this topic soon - until then.. Happy Gaming!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

D20 Icons - Carrion Crawler

Each week I'll be taking a crack at converting some of the most iconic d20 monsters that, for one reason or another didn't appear in the awesome 13th Age Core rulebook. This week - the Carrion Crawler.

Carrion Crawler

Large Level 4 (Beast)
Init: +5
HP: 108  AC: 20  PD: 17  MD: 13

Paralysing Tentacles: +8 vs PD - The target must start making last gasp save as it becomes paralysed.

Bite: +10 vs AC (2 Targets) - 25 damage.

Nauseating Aura: Whenever a creature attacks the Carrion Crawler and rolls a natural 1-5, that creature is Weakened. 

The Carrion Crawler is one of the dungeon's natural janitors', cleaning up detritus and providing ample security to boot. For these reasons many icons who have need of keeping underground dwellings free of clutter, both living and dead encourage the Carrion Crawler to lair therein.

: If you like this monster check out the other Iconic classic D&D monsters I've converted here :

Monday 22 July 2013

Rules for Non-Asshole Gamesmasters

I had always assumed that a GM's job was to be a judicator and guide into a fantasy setting, in order to be a good one equal measurements of affability, fairness and welcoming attitude would be needed. As it turns out, after reading this post it seems there is a small minority (I hope) of GM's genuinely believe that there are situations that call for rude behaviour towards their players. 

I had thought that with the advent of modern role-playing games and their focus on co-operative storytelling, that the generally accepted notion of what makes a good GM had changed. It's no longer GM vs. Players but a co-operative experience, one that fosters fair play and good 'sportsmanship'. Moreover that the whole process of getting together with a group of people connected by a shared interest should be a fun, light hearted and generally positive experience for all.

Now don't get me wrong I appreciate that there are problem players out there, that people can be difficult and not everyone can and should get on with everyone else. Thats life, people can be awkward and sometime purposefully so. But should there ever be a reason whilst playing a game for pleasure that you are required to be and I quote 'an asshole'? I could understand drastic behaviour would be called for if a player became violent, or another type of inexcusable behaviour that required some sort of drastic action, but the above post is dealing with a lack of attention!

I tried counter the original poster with the notion that perhaps a calm and polite word after the game would have been a better, but several other GM's chimed in with support - with the asshole behaviour tactic!? 

Edit: Just to be clear, its not necessarily the passing over of the player I take umbrage with, I have in the past moved on when a player isn't ready for whatever reason. Its the manner and delivery of this advice that got me. Its not what you say, but how you say it so to speak.

Now I know this has probably devolved into some form of pseudo-rant and i'm definitely not trying go tit-for-tat with the original poster, but I just couldn't believe that actively being an asshole - to another person whilst playing a game was being prescribed as sage advice. It left me a little dumbfounded.

So if a player is displaying behaviours at your table that you or others find less than agreeable -  don't be an asshole - have a quiet word with them afterwards, be nice, you never know you may find that in the long run it breeds less resentment and doesn't damage your reputation as an awesome GM to play with.

To finish I thought i'd end with a quote that particularly suites the situation - Happy gaming all.

"Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and 

expecting the other person to die."

Sunday 21 July 2013

4e Map Template

Way back at the beginning of the year I posted a screenshot of a map template I had been working on, one that borrowed very heavily from Mike Schley and the amazing maps he's been creating for a while for WoTC's 4e Dungeons and Dragons (a system close to my heart)

Having joined Google+ recently this has prompted me to perform a bit of necromancy on the template, and after a bit of interest in some of the communities i'm happy to post it here for you to download.

It requires Photoshop CS5+, if i can and have time i'll think about doing a backwards compatible version for CS3 or something - unfortunately I've got no plans for any other program at this stage (such as Gimp etc)

A couple of things first however, I hate to be that guy but I do have to add a caveat and ask anyone downloading to template that they don't use it for any commercial purposes. This is strictly for home use, firstly because i'm hazy on any copyright issues regarding WoTC and Mike and secondly I already know i'm ripping someone's style off and whilst thats (kinda) fine for home use its most definitely not if you want to make money from it.

By downloading it you agree to not distribute the file itself, only point people here - and to use it for non-commercial purposes only.

I''d really really love to see anything you guys come up with, so send me some screenshot of your maps!

Download the template here

Saturday 20 July 2013

Integrating Dungeon World's Moves into 13th Age

Having recently read my newly acquired copy of Dungeon World some of the concepts have set me thinking. My curiosity was particularly piqued over the Moves aspect of the game, specifically how this could be applied to my home-brew campaign currently using the 13th Age rules.

13A puts a big emphasis on the Fail Forward technique of challenge resolution, every action that the players undertake will have some form of positive outcome, albeit not necessarily the one they desired. The story/action will always move forward, it never stagnates and crucially the players are kept happy most of the time as they're not failing (too hard)

So how do we apply Moves to 13A? It's especially tricky as this is DW's entire mechanic for challenge resolution. There are two very broad categories of moves - Player Moves and GM moves, each trigger the other and its this mechanic that creates the momentum that propels the narrative forward.

13A already has robust system that handles combat, and as such removes a need to bring over the majority (if not all) of the Player's Moves thus breaking the mechanic, so we need to reinterpret Moves and think of them in a different way.

Moves = Consequences 

(or another way to mechanically deal with Failing Forward)

The reality is this will mostly occur out of combat in the "exploration phase", encounters with dangerous enemies in 13A already have nice mechanics that measure and resolve challenges. This means that we really wont need the Players moves, but we do still need a way of measuring and triggering the GM moves when our players climb, barter, track and perform all of those actions that come up against some sort of skill challenge (not the 4e ill-implemented mechanic of the same name) so we'll use the DC system for this.

We already categories challenges into Normal, Hard and Very Hard DC's - a function common to most modern d20 games. If we look at DW's mechanic of a "threshold" of success - a 7-9 yielding partial success with a drawback and 10+ a full success, we can apply a similar technique when we look at our DC's in 13A.

When attempting an action, set a DC as you normally would - if they succeed you get a positive consequences (the action is a success, the game moves forward) 

If they fail, they get a partial success (remember failing forward!) with some type of negative consequence.

For example, in a recent game I GM'd one of my players was searching for an entrance to a lair of enemies they were questing after. I wanted him to succeed, and so did he - but it felt very natural to have him make a skill check to search for the place. Of course as luck would have it he rolled low, so (failing forward) he incurred a penalty for not getting a good result, but still found his way.

Adapting this type of mechanics relies much more on a GM's improvisational skills, and works best with loose framework adventures where you have the freedom to influence the course as you see fit - heavily preplanned modules can be hard to riff off, and don't always lend themselves to this style of challenge resolution.

I've listed a couple of the GM Moves from Dungeon World that straight away jump out as superb consequences to aid the fail forward technique, there are more and each has a great qrite up in the DW book so I suggest grabbing a copy and having a look

  •  Reveal an unwelcome truth
  • Show signs of an approaching threat
  • Use up their resources
  • Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment
  • Offer an opportunity, with or without cost

I'll be writing up the moves into a more solid list of consequences to post here at a later stage so stay tuned. In the meantime happy adventuring!

Friday 19 July 2013

The 5 Room Dungeon

Im reblogging this, not to take credit for it but rather keep it in a place where perhaps others can see it and crucially to keep it somewhere I can always find it! I take no credit for it of course, it comes from http://www.roleplayingtips.com/ 

Using The Five Room Model

One thing that kills dungeons for me as a player and GM is length. If a crawl goes on and on I get bored and crave a change in play style. Not everybody feels this way, which is fine, but if you're like me then you might consider trying the five room dungeon formula: 

Room 1: Entrance And Guardian
Room 2: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
Room 3: Red Herring
Room 4: Climax, Big Battle Or Conflict
Room 5: Plot Twist 

A two to four hour dungeon romp quickens flagging campaign and session pacing and can be squeezed into almost any on- going story thread. It also grants a quick success (or failure) to keep the players keen and excited, is quick to plan for, lets GMs "theme" dungeons with greater ease, and can be plopped into most settings with minimal continuity issues. 

Room 1: Entrance And Guardian 

There needs to be a reason why your dungeon hasn't been plundered before. A rule of thumb is, the older the dungeon the more difficult room 1 needs to be--else the place would have been discovered and sacked well before the PCs come along. Also, a guardian sets up some early action to capture player interest and energize a session. 

Room 1 challenge ideas: 

  • The entrance is trapped.
  • The entrance is cleverly hidden.
  • The entrance requires a special key, such as a ceremony, command word, or physical object.
  • The guardian was deliberately placed to keep intruders out.
  • The guardian is not indigenous to the dungeon and is a tough creature or force who's made its lair in room 1.
  • Turn room 1 into a puzzle by creating a special requirement that lets the PCs pass (i.e. a riddle to solve).

Room 1 is also your opportunity to establish mood and/or theme to your dungeon, so dress it up with care. 

Room 2: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge 

The PCs are victorious over the challenge of room 1 and are now presented with a trial that cannot be solved with steel. This will keep the problem solvers in your group happy and break the action up a bit for good pacing. 

Room 2 can be an independent puzzle, or preferably, one that grants approach to rooms 3 and 4. It should allow for multiple solutions and engage more than just the rogue or wizard in the party. 

Room 2 ideas: 

  • Ye old classic death trap.
  • Magic puzzle, such as a chessboard tile floor with special squares.
  • An intelligent entity grants access to the rest of the dungeon but must be befriended, not fought.
  • A being far more powerful than the PCs must be roleplayed/ negotiated with.

Once you've figured out what room 2 is, try to plant one or more clues in room 1 about potential solutions. This will tie the adventure together a little tighter, will delight the problem solvers, and can be a back-up for you if the players get stuck. 

Room 3: Red Herring 

The purpose of this room is to build tension. The players think they've finally found the treasure, confronted the stage boss, and achieved their goal only to learn they've been tricked. 

The best red herrings allow the PCs a choice between choosing room 3 or room 4 and then issue a penalty to those who choose room 3. In other words, avoid railroading PCs into taking room 3 because it will dampen the red herring's tension-building effect and puts a GM on thin ice as far as issuing a penalty is concerned. 

Room 3 ideas: 

  • "The passage ends in a 'T'. The right looks well-travelled and the corridor is unremarkable. The left looks untouched, smells faintly of cinnamon, and there's a mysterious orange glow that can barely be seen at the end. Which way to do you go?" The left passage leads to the red herring.
  • A fake sarcophagus that contains another guardian.
  • A collapsed structure blocks part of the area. The debris is dangerous and blocks or hides nothing of importance.
  • Contains a one-way exit (so the PCs must return and deal with rooms 1 and 2 again). i.e. teleport trap, one-way door, 2000 foot water slide trap.
  • Room 3 does contain the PCs' goal but hides the presence of room 4, which contains an even greater reward.

Another potential payoff for room 3 is to weaken the PCs to make them more vulnerable for room 4. Perhaps room 3 simply contains a tough combat encounter. If this is the case, try to weaken any strengths that would give the PCs an advantage in room 4. 

For example, if room 4 contains a mummy monster that is quite susceptible to fire, then make room 3 a troll lair (another creature often susceptible to fire) so the PCs might be tempted to burn off a lot of their fire magic, oil, and other flammable resources. This would turn a plain old troll battle into a gotcha, and thus a red herring, once the PCs hit room 4 and realize their mistake. 

Don't forget to dress room 3 up with your theme elements to lend it credibility! 

Room 4: Climax, Big Battle Or Conflict 

This room is The Big Show. It's the big combat or conflict encounter and is the final challenge before the Big Reward. Try to make the environment interesting, engage all the PCs, and provide opportunities for PC tactical advantage so thinking players will be rewarded. 

Room 5: Plot Twist 

Here's your opportunity to change the players' bragging to "we came, we saw, we slipped on a banana peel." Room 5 doesn't always represent a complication or point of failure for the PCs, but it can. Room 5 doesn't always need to be a physical location either--it can be a twist revealed in room 4. 

Room 5 is where your creativity can shine and is often what will make the dungeon different and memorable from all the other crawls in your campaigns. 

Room 5 ideas: 

  • Another guardian awaits in the treasure container.
  • A trap that resurrects or renews the challenge from room 4.
  • Bonus treasure is discovered that leads to another adventure, such as a piece of a magic item or a map fragment.
  • A rival enters and tries to steal the reward while the PCs are dealing with the big challenge in room 4.
  • The object of the quest/final reward isn't what it seems or has a complication. i.e. the kidnapped King doesn't want to return.

The five room format is simple yet allows for variety and permutation, thus it's a powerful little GM tool. I feel a GM is always better off improving their dungeons by making them smaller because it gives them more planning time for clues, plot hooks, character involvement, twists, etc. 

Tuesday 16 July 2013

D20 Icons - The Rot Grub

Each week I'll be taking a crack at converting some of the most iconic d20 monsters that, for one reason or another didn't appear in the awesome 13th Age Core rulebook. This week I present two particularly gruesome variants of the repulsive Rot Grub!

EDIT: Thanks to +Lawrence Augustine Mingoa I've updated some of the Rotgrub's Nastier Specials

Rot Grub Larvae

Level 3 Mook (Beast)
Init: +4
HP: 11  AC: 17  PD: 11  MD: 11

Bite: +8 vs AC, 6 damage
Hit Natural Even: Ongoing 3 damage
Hit 16+: Ongoing 6 damage (doesn't stack with the above)

Mook: Kill one Rot Grub for every 11 damage you deal to the mob.

Small: The Rot Grub Larvae is small and clumsy, so targets can automatically disengage without taking opportunity attacks.

Nastier Special
Whenever the escalation die is even, double the damage and ongoing damage dealt by the Rotbrub Larvae's Bite attack.

Rot Grub

Level 3 Wrecker (Beast)
Init: +4
HP: 40  AC: 17  PD: 13  MD: 11

Bite: +8 vs AC, 10 damage and the target must start making last gasp saves as the Rot Grub attempts to Burrow towards its heart.

Burrow: Whilst an enemy is making last gasp saves the target is grabbed, but can move freely - however cannot disengage. The Rot Grub will not attempt to attack any other target whilst Burrowing.

Small: The Rot Grub is small and clumsy, so targets can automatically disengage without taking opportunity attacks.

Nastier Special
Lay My Eggs: Whenever the Rot Grub rolls a natural 18+, reduce the targets total recoveries by 1. Its upto the GM how they recover these and the consequences for having a Rotgrub lays its eggs inside you!


Students of the Archmage find themselves drawn to the Rotgrub as an academic curiosity, no other creature know to them consumes flesh both living and dead with such rapidity. Darker folklore speculates that the Rotgrub spawn at the very feet of the Lich King, his very passing leaving a writhing carpet of the foul creatures.

: If you like this monster check out the other Iconic classic D&D monsters I've converted here :

Tuesday 9 July 2013

D20 Icons - Mind Flayer

Each week i'll be taking a crack at converting some of the most iconic d20 monsters that, for one reason or another didn't appear in the awesome 13th Age Core rulebook. This week - the Mind Flayer!

  Mind Flayer
  Level 6 Controller (Humanoid)
  Init: +11
  HP: 82  AC: 22  PD: 18  MD: 20

  Tentacles: +11 vs AC, 21 damage
  Hit: The target is Grabbed

  Enthral Brain: +11 vs MD, 38 damage
  The target must be grabbed by the Mind Flayer  
  Hit 16+: The target is Confused

  Mind Blast: +11 vs MD (1d4 nearby enemies)
  14 damage
  Hit Even: The target is Vulnerable

Psychic Feedback: When an enemy deals damage to a nearby ally, this damage is shared between a nearby enemy, once per battle per enemy.

TelepathicA mind flayer can communicate with all nearby creatures capable of sentient thought via telepathy, likewise it can also sense thoughts of nearby creatures.

Elder BrainEvery Mind Flayer is connected telepathically to the Elder Brain.


Whilst Mind Flayers generally serve their own ends, they will often strike short lived alliances with servants of several of the Villainous icons - as long as they think they have something to gain. Often the Diabolist and even the Prince of Shadows will attempt to manipulate an isolated Mind Flayer sect into believing they have the upper hand, whilst all the time dancing to their tune.

: If you like this monster check out the other Iconic classic D&D monsters I've converted here :