Warlock! Thinking Outside the D&D Box

Let’s face it. We all get into ruts. We have those times that we have blinders on and bypass cool things just because it match one of our little check boxes.

Recently, a Humble Bundle for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay ended. Sure I grabbed it up. I have some fond memories of playing it a couple of times back in the days of first edition. Who knows? I may run it in the future some time. Of course, I was also thinking of ways to make it easier to play especially virtually so I started doing some Internet searches for house rules and streamlining ideas. Which lead me to Warlock!

Sure I’d seen this game pop up multiple times. And I paid no heed. Heck, there was even a Bundle of Holding a couple months ago and again I really didn’t pay attention. That was my loss. I figured what the heck and grabbed up the core book and the two compendiums. And I like it.

Sure this is already a Platinum Best Seller and they don’t need my help but since I’m weirdo who likes to smash things together, I thought I put a few thoughts here.

So here’s the low down for game mechanics. Throw together the old Fighting Fantasy Books and Warhammer Fanstasy 1st Edition with a d20 roll high mechanic and there you go. Basic characters (without using the Compendiums) have just two stats. Stamina (think HP) and Luck. Then everything else is based on Skills which are acquired by choice and by the character’s career. Task resolution is pretty simple. Roll a d20 add the skill. For opposed rolls like combat, the higher wins. For other tasks, roll higher than 20.

The simple Warlock system got me thinking. Just take Warlock and PC stat blocks but not classes from a retroclone and run with it. First, I know I’d have to roughly cut the skill bonuses in half to keep the feel with most other 3.x and later D&D. Since the classes are out just use the Warlock careers. Figure out a good way for Saving Throws and how exactly advance would work. Sure it’d take some playing around but there’s a gem in the rough that would let me run all those old school adventures I’ve got sitting around with something out of the ordinary but still familiar to my players. Don’t take this that I’m saying Warlock is bad. It’s fine game that stands on its own. And heck running it would be a breeze on its own. I’m just looking to ease the game system shock of my players. And this is also just me ranting about the first thoughts that came into my head.

I will admit that there a couple of rules that I’m not that fond of like having spells cost Stamina and that a character’s race has no game effect other than RP. But there are also some neat ideas to pull in no matter which game you happen to be running.

I like how crits are done. Sure if you roll well enough you do extra damage but things don’t really get nasty until you hit 0 Stamina. Then it’s time roll on those fun charts to see what kind of bad thing happens to your character. The Compendiums have handy random tables for character backstory, how the party met, and random adventure generation.

So overall, would I run it or play it? Of course, it’d be a fun game. Will I root through its pockets for cool rules to add into my own home game. Oh hell yes. That makes it a fun game on its own plus inspirational material for regular old school game.

You can pick up Warlock on DrivethruRPG.

A Couple Rules You Can Use

I’m always looking for ways to make the game more fun and make it easier for me to run. There’s a couple that have it my radar that are getting added to my already list of house rules.

Let’s hit the easy one first. Cinematic Advantage. Tired of boring old combats? Want the players to do something besides just run up and beat the monster until it stops moving. Then look at the Cinematic Advantage rule by Sly Flourish. So just go read that post and you’ve got what you need.

The second is Fate Magic. I’m grabbing this from Art of the Genre‘s Black Label No 5: Dagger, Venom, Throne. It’s a simple mechanic for NPC spell casters and it doesn’t need me as the DM to keep track of spells. I used it in this last weekend’s game and it worked pretty well. Now, the first thing you have to realize that as a DM, you have to be fair about using it and not just kill of the player characters.

Here’s how it works. The foe has a number of d6’s equal to their HD/level that they can use each round for magic effects. So they can do any magic/spell effect that’s thematically appropriate and that basically fits with overall game mechanics and spell design. Here’s what I did with some 2 HD Cultists. Heal 2d6 HP. Create an area of tentacles that did 2d6 damage (Save for half), Save at -2 or be blind for a round. They could have a 2HD demon. Did a 2d6 blast. Whatever. Like I said the DM really has to be fair. I could have easily blasted away at one PC until they dropped but I wanted the encounter to be interesting and challenging. So throwing in whatever happen to pop into my head at the time that was basically fair but still obstacle. I didn’t have to look up spells for exact areas, ranges, effects and so on. It was roll some dice and move onto the action.

For a big bad or major villain, I probably wouldn’t use this. But for something challenging and off the cuff or just a bunch of cultists, then it can work fine at the table and make my job easier as DM with less bookkeeping and more attention on making an exciting encounter.

The Only Map You Need For Your Campaign

Yes, I know that a real click bait title for this post. But you know it kind of fits. Let me start of with saying that I understand that maps are cool. Some are even works of art but how valuable and efficient is that work of art at the gaming table? Sure they can inspirational and evocative but I’m looking plain old utility and ease of use at the gaming table.

I’ve been playing around with Inkarnate for a world map for the reboot of my original campaign and while also playing around with online campaign managers I got to thinking about the way I actually keep notes which is a lot of bullet journaling and mind maps. This lead me to the idea of using “one map” for each thing in my world and basically here it is:

Wait? What? That’s it? Yep. I started with the simple concept of a group of hexes then changed it up to off-set squares just to make it easier to use with a word processor. As you can see, it’s numbered from 1 to 19 (20 is “outside” the map) in case I want to do something random. I also grabbed some inspiration from Index Card RPG with the zoned combat and the Ultimate Dungeon Terrain from Dungeon Craft on Youtube.

I figured if you can do this combat then why use it on a bigger scale?

Here’s how it works. Let’s start with the big picture. The World. You may be tempted to put that Big City in the middle of the map. I say no. Put where the characters start in the middle. Build the map from the character’s perspective. Let’s say you’re starting your campaign with the classic Keep on the Borderlands. Put that right in the center. What do the characters know? Since this is the “world” map at this stage. They would know that say the Dwarves come from “Far Away” to the north. So put the Dwarf home there like in Box 9. The Elves are far too but to the south east and so on. All that matters really is that something “near” to where they are or faraway. Fill in what extra bullet details you want.

Then you can do the same thing with a region. Once again with Keep on the Borderlands. Put the Keep in the middle then add the Caves of Chaos, Caves of the Unknown, the Mad Hermit, and the other adventure areas on the region map. All that really matters, is it close or far?

And you can do the exact same thing with a city. I know that the actual distances are abstract. Personally, I’ve found it better to measure the distances in actual miles or whatever but how many days it will take the party to get to their destination (for supply purposes) and what may be between them and their destination (making getting rumors even more key to survival).

This idea is also handy for my DM World Notebook. I can squeeze just about all of the information for a city or region that I need quickly into a single page.

And there you go. A single simple tool with many uses. And here’s a PDF of it:

Enjoy. Roll those dice and have fun out there.

It Came from the Scriptorium

It’s great to see an adventure come out for Barbaric! It’s one those fun games that hasn’t gotten as much love as it should. So what you get for under $2? A nice tidy little adventure.

It Came from the Scriptorium is mean, horror dungeon crawl set in a corrupted abbey. There’s plenty of mean nasty things to rip your head off. This adventure has a strong Lovecraftian vibe going and isn’t your usual just a bunch of undead and monsters that the players have seen a dozen times before. A few times it even slips into an Army of Darkness/Evil Dead tone with some the bits that show up. Yes, I’m trying to do this spoiler free. There’s plenty of weirdness to keep the players on their toes or into a shallow grave.

Clocking in at just 23 pages (including cover and legelese), It Came from the Scriptorium packs in new freaky monsters, villains, and bizzaro magic items. All which can easily be added to add a little more spice to an existing campaign.

While the adventure is technically written for Barbaric!, it can be easily used with Sword of Cepheus or, heck, just tweak it a little bit and you could use it with any of the 2d6 based games.

You can grab It Came from the Scriptorium on DrivethruRPG. And like I said, it’s under $2. Well worth that little bit of cash.

Online Campaign Managers

I’ve been kicking around a lot of ideas lately and I’m gearing up for my next campaign. I’ve been drug into using Virtual Tabletops (Check out Owlbear Rodeo. It’s my favorite.) So I figured I’d look at some of those fancy online campaign managers too.

There’s a bunch out there and a lot of them have more bells and whistles than I want like World Anvil. I want something and cheap or free. After doing a bit of research, I narrowed it down to two that I’d play around with for a bit.

First, I played around with Scabbard. This one is a freemium type site. The UI was pretty easy to pick up. So that’s a good thing. But you pretty limited on the size of your campaign. And I did feel that it got mired in extra details that probably wouldn’t ever use. It’s fine and it works.

Then I played around with Kanka.io This one is Open Source but still does have some paid features. But for free, you get much more space for your campaign and some nice features like putting pins/links on your world map which is a paid feature on Scabbard. There is an annoying paid feature which is recentering a character picture. Yes, it’s a paid feature. So some of my NPC’s have thumbnails of just their torsos. Kanka does take a little extra work to start to figure things out. I just figured out the other how to do basically a custom character sheet.

Personally, there is one feature on Kanka that I found the most beneficial overall. And that’s inviting players. Every other campaign manager required the DM to bug their players for their emails. That may or may not be a problem for you. And you can do that in Kanka. The other way is you can generate a custom invite link and share it.

Now for the $10,000 question. Which would I use? Well, I do like Kanka better but I know my players. If you’re like me then you’re lucky if they remember to level up their characters between sessions. Having them go to a site, create an account, and read through pages of fluff? Well, that’s probably not going to happen. YMMV. I have found it inspirational and pretty good for organizing all notes and quickly seeing where there’s a big gap of information. Or even an idea for a new NPC (which the PC’s may never meet).

So for me, it’s something that’s handy as a DM but for my players a single page world overview PDF on Google Drive is enough to get them going. Of course, as the campaign progresses then they might want the bigger and more detailed picture. And details that they gotten.

Going through all this has also given me another good idea. But more about that later.

Roll Dice. Kill Monsters. Take Their Stuff. And Have Fun!

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