The Dagger of all Daggers

Our interest in writing RPG products stems from our love of playing RPGs. One of my favorite campaigns, and certainly our most epic one, is Way of the Wicked. Written by Gary McBride of Fire Mountain Games, this adventure path allows the PCs to be anything but good. (Specifically, it actually recommends they all be lawful evil.)

The Bull & The Bear coverSome years ago, we ran through this campaign, taking the time to explore the cities more than the adventure path may have intended, which is where the Bull and the Bear was born. The PCs began amassing a reasonable collection of taverns, some of which have been published by us since.

We enjoyed dropping a fair few 3rd party products into this PFRPG campaign, including the 101 New Skill Uses by Rite Publishing and Legendary VIII: Evil by Sam Hing and published by Purple Duck Games.

It was in the latter we pulled Black Spider – a magical weapon (and a then some). Though intended for use by the BBEG, it was allowed in our evil solo campaign. (I should note here this product received a poor review and indeed has some glaring oversights.)

This blade was legendary in the course of the campaign. One moment I still clearly remember was when many of the party had fallen, with only the rogue (myself) and our anti-paladin remaining. Both of us were near the death. The righteous paladin still stood before us, and with the blade knocked from my hand, and my companion drawing her last breath, I was sure we were done for. Then this diminutive construct unleashed its fury upon the virtuous knight, scuttle across the floor before actually puncturing through his calf (hello double nat 20!). Perhaps it stole a bit of the thunder from the characters, but it earned this weapon much favor from its master.

Very recently we decided to revisit a version of Way of the Wicked: an alternate reality with some minor and some glaring differences. All of the PCs are rogues. The valiant Mitrans in the country are unknowingly demon worshippers (those pesky demons and their deception filled long game!). Our PCs did not start in prison (which made sense, but if you haven’t played WotW as intended, give at least the first module a go – it’s amazing!).

Some things have stayed the same, and one such similarity is the presence of Black Spider. With the switch to 5th Edition as the framework (as well as some of those glaring oversights), we’ve had to adapt the blade. Here is our modified version below. Again, a big shout out to Purple Duck Games for creating an amazing (and overpowered!) collection of weapons, as well creating one of my favorite weapons to date.


BLACK SPIDER

Weapon (dagger), legendary (requires attunement by a creature that meets all the listed requirements)

Requirements. A creature that wishes to attune itself to Black Spider must meet the following criteria.

  • Any evil alignment.
  • Proficiency in Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
  • Sneak Attack feature.

Black Spider grows in power with the creature it is attuned to. When a creature attunes itself to Black Spider, it gains all of the benefits listed for a creature of its current level.

  • When you reach 2nd level, Black Spider gains a +1 bonus to attack and damage. The dagger maintains a telepathic bond with you, and regularly urges you to commit acts of violence.
  • When you reach 4th level, Black Spider can animate itself and act independently from you. When it animates, the barbs lining the blade twist and act as spidery legs. Black Spider maintains its telepathic bond with you and follows your instructions, unless it can cause more carnage by doing something else. Black Spider’s starting statistics are below.
  • When you reach 6th level, the telepathic bond between you and Black Spider allows you to see and hear everything occurring within 60 feet of the dagger as an action. This effect can be ended as a bonus action. While using this feature, you have disadvantage on ability checks, saving throws, and attack rolls until the start of your first turn after ending the effect.
  • When you reach 8th level, Black Spider can urge you to overcome certain conditions. If you fail a saving throw and become charmed, frightened, paralyzed, or stunned, you can use your reaction to reroll the saving throw. If a condition allows a new save to overcome it at the end of each of your turns, you have advantage on it. If you are unconscious, Black Spider can use a bonus action to deal 1 hit point of piercing damage to wake you. Black Spider Enhancement: Armor Class increases by +1 (natural armor), Hit Points increase by 7 (3d4), Dexterity increases by 2 (add +1 to Armor Class,stealth skill, and Stab action to hit and damage), Challenge increases to 2 (450 XP), Sneak Attack damage increases to 14 (4d6), Multiattack action is added adding one additional attack per round. Black Spider’s CR 2 version is below for your convenience.
  • When you reach 10th level, Black Spider’s bonus to attack and damage increases to +2. Black Spider Enhancement: Stab action to hit and damage increase by +1.
  • When you reach 12th level, attacks made with Black Spider score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20. Black Spider Enhancement: Hit points increase by 7 (3d4), Challenge increases to 3 (700 XP), Sneak Attack damage increases to 21 (6d6).
  • When you reach 14th level, when you make a sneak attack against a creature, you can gain half of the sneak attack damage as temporary hit points. Once this feature has been used, it can’t be used again until you have finished a short or long rest.
  • When you reach 16th level, if you have surprise when you make your first attack with Black Spider in an encounter, you deal maximum damage. Black Spider Enhancement: Hit Points increase by 7 (3d4), Challenge increases to 4 (1,100 XP), Sneak attack damage increases to 28 (8d6)
  • When you reach 18th level, Black Spider’s bonus to attack and damage increases to +3. Black Spider Enhancement: Stab action to hit and damage increase by +1
  • When you reach 20th level, if you are hidden from your target when you hit it with Black Spider, it must succeed at a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 8 plus your Dexterity modifier plus your proficiency bonus or die. Once you have used this feature, you must finish a long rest before you can use it again. Black Spider Enhancement: Proficiency bonus increases by +1 (affecting skills, and Stab action to hit), Hit Points increase by 7 (3d4), Dexterity increases by 2 (adding +1 to AC, Stealth skill, Stab action to hit and damage), Sneak Attack damage increases to 35 (10d6), Black Spider can make three attacks per turn with Multiattack.

Black Spider is both greedy and jealous. You have disadvantage if you make a melee attack with a weapon that is not Black Spider. This penalty does not apply if your attack is made with a weapon in your other hand when you are fighting with two weapons.

 

 

 


What’s the most memorable weapon you’ve used in your game?

So Many Goblins….

Earlier this year the Dire Rugrat team started thinking about goblins. The way we saw it, goblins are an often used enemy in role-playing games, but they have become typical; PCs know what to expect when they see them. We wanted to bring some life to these poor little creatures, really give them a chance to shine for their 15 minutes of fame, so to speak. What better way to do that than 18 unique goblins, reminiscent of our Bullies & Brutes collection with the common thread being, well, goblins. So many goblins.

Moar Goblins

Moar Goblins coverAs we set to work building a collection of goblin NPCs, we realized we wanted to do more than just add some unique abilities to the same old goblin stat block: we wanted to address the lack of variety. To be fair, unlike some systems, 5e makes it relatively easy to customize NPCs, but even still, goblins were goblins. And so we ended up creating Moar Goblins, a mini-bestiary featuring a sextet of goblinoids adapted from a variety of real-world cultures. Back when that came out last April, we shared details of the PDF, including a sneak peak of one of the goblin sub-races. The book received a great review (and 5 stars) from Endzeitgeist.

Beyond the basic builds, which all have at least one intriguing feature, it is undoubtedly the copious flavor and inspiring supplemental text that makes this pdf come into its own; it s also a big, big plus that this does not simply regurgitate the same tired creatures we have seen over x editions and instead opts to go for the uncommon and novel, drinking deep from the wellspring of more obscure myths and legends.

-Endzeitgeist

It also substantially delayed our progress on the NPC collection. The pesky little creatures seemed to be everywhere like gremlins in the gearworks of our lives.

Fittingly, perhaps, it wasn’t that one goblin was a problem, it was that there were so many.

But I digress.

After a lengthy delay, we have finally chipped our way through the biographies and stat blocks of 18 different goblins. There are over 35 pages of NPC content and while all of the characters in the book are a goblin of some sort, numerous racial variants, capabilities, motivations, and challenges (ranging from 1/2 to 12) mean your PCs will never look at goblins the same way again.

Some of my favorites include the capable psychic goblin twins, Nix & Zub, the ever-helpful gudro bonga Eakogs Clutternugget, and the tokoloshe traitor N’tambu. If you love a little demonic backstory with your goblins, look no further than Flubboks Hugemitt, but if complicated family dynics is your thing, you’ll want to check out Neeha and Vaishik – these gudro bonga have a few family matters to sort out, assuming the PCs don’t wipe them and their children out.

A lot of love went into these NPCs, so much so it saddens us a little bit that your band of adventurers may just want to wipe out these poor unfortaunete souls just because of their race. We hope you’ll consider checking out this colourful collection, and showing your PCs that goblins can be just as diverse as any longshanks. To that end, we present Eakogs Clutternugget, a sneak peak at the offerings inside 5e NPCs: Goblins! Goblins! Goblins!


Eakogs Clutternugget

“Trade! Trade! I have many goods for trade!”

A great many years ago there lived a goblin who desired little more than to assist weary travelers. Through chance, he had come to be in possession of a magical drinking horn that produced the most delicious beverage imaginable and sated even the most parched traveler. Atop a hill in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, the benevolent goblin resided. When a traveler stopped to rest his weary feet and called out for water, the goblin appeared, as if by magic.

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Always dressed in a red cape, the goblin would provide drink to those in need. Most were incredibly grateful, and word spread of the benevolent goblin and his incredible beverage until one day a traveler came through not looking for aid, but for the horn itself. When the goblin produced the magical vessel the traveler snatched it and jumped upon his horse, riding off into the distance faster than the goblin could follow.

Heartbroken, devastated, and feeling betrayed by those he had assisted, the goblin retreated into his hidden hilltop home. His child, Eakogs, who had long watched his father’s good deeds was perplexed. What would possess someone to take something which did not belong to him? How could his family aid those in need now?

Travelers continued to arrive at the hilltop hoping for a respite from their difficult journey. With the drinking vessel stolen and the benevolent goblin’s spirit crushed, their hopes were dashed. Over time fewer and fewer people made their way to the valley hilltop and fewer still hoped for that magical beverage.

Tales of encounters with the benevolent goblin stopped being shared and he became something of a myth or legend that could no longer be substantiated. Many a time Eakogs asked his father if they could assist the travelers in another way, but the betrayed goblin bid his son stay inside the safety of their hidden hilltop home lest they lose any more than they already had.

For years Eakogs watched and puzzled over how he could restore his father’s spirit, and do his part for the world. When he came of age Eakogs set out, promising his father he would return with tales of generosity, both his own, and those of the beings he encountered. Secretly, Eakogs hoped he could also find the horn, but he feared raising his father’s hopes.

Eakogs began to roam the world, offering assistance to those in need. He quickly discovered that many beings were leery of goblins, while others were outright hostile. Still, Eakogs made peace with many a traveler, providing goods from his laden down pack and often going without if he stumbled on those less fortunate.

While he carries a weapon, Eakogs uses it for only for self-defence. He is furious if anyone attempts to steal from him, certain the world would be a better place if everyone shared and was kind to each other. Eakogs prefers to trade items rather than sell them, though he happily accommodates shopkeepers who have no need for the goods he carries and would prefer coin.

This strange but optimistic goblin continues to search for leads of his father’s missing horn, and would be eternally grateful to any adventurers who helped him locate it.

Moar Goblins: Exploring the Pukwudgie

Gob·lin /ɡäblən/

noun

A mischievous, ugly, dwarflike creature of folklore.


Once upon a time, these creatures went by many other names.

Elf. Gnome. Imp. Orc. Brownie. Troll. Puck. Redcap. Ogre.

They were antagonists of myth and fable. The subject of cautionary tales parents would tell their children to encourage common sense and good behaviour. They were the face of humanity’s collective fear of the unknown. They were feared and respected.

Goblins’ folkloric qualities have been stripped away from them in the world’s oldest roleplaying game. The aspects that have made them mythic across the vast and varied tapestry of human culture have been stripped away and granted to other creatures, leaving the poor goblin a pathetic, sniveling servitor to creatures that carry the names that were once synonymous with goblin. First level adventurers kill these pathetic excuses for goblinkind by the score before moving on to bigger challenges. No one fears goblins anymore. No one respects them.

Moar Goblins

Dire Rugrat Publishing aims to change that with Moar Goblins, which features a sextet of goblinoids adapted from a variety of real-world cultures.

  • Grindylows – aquatic scavengers and terrors of the deep.
  • Gudro Bonga – sometimes benevolent creatures often mistaken for children.
  • Kallikantzaroi – weird, yule ruining goblins obsessed with the destruction of the World Tree.
  • Nacht Kabouters – red hat wearing mischief makers that travel by night.
  • Pukwudgies – forest dwellers with a kinship to hedgehogs.
  • Tokoloshe – vicious child stealers and vengeance takers.

With challenges ranging from ½ to 6, Moar Goblins will keep adventurers busy into the middle of their career, and hopefully rebuild some of the respect goblins have lost over the course of five editions.

Moar Goblins (A Mini Bestiary) was released on DriveThruRPG last week.  We love our blog readers, so we’re sharing a sample of one of the goblin variants below.


Pukwudgie

Pukwudgies reside in moderate climates, typically near wooded areas with fresh sources of water. If left to themselves, or occasionally gifted with offerings, pukwudgies refrain from interfering in the lives of those in the area.

pukwudgieGoblinoids. Pukwudgies were once friendly, helpful goblinoids, but their inability to share a language with and understand the ideals of those they attempted to befriend and aid resulted in many of their efforts backfiring. Over time, the creatures were viewed as a nuisance and, feeling unappreciated, the pukwudgies decided to torment those who tried to exclude them and treated them like inferior beings.

Growing Resentment. The less appreciated a pukwudgie feels, the more malicious it becomes. Harmful pranks, missing items and eventually disappearing children are not uncommon in areas with tribes of pukwudgies that believe they are mistreated by humanoids.

Skilled Hunters. Pukwudgies are capable hunters. Living off the land, they are adept at navigating the wilderness. They are also proficient with poison and often dress their arrows with it to take down those who dare trespass into their territory.

Magical Aptitude. Drawing on their bond with nature, pukwudgies have some facility with magic, including the ability to take on the form on a porcupine.


Two stat blocks accompany this variant in Moar Goblins, offering a lower level pukwudgie as well as the more capable pukwudgie shaman.

Pick up your copy of Moar Goblins today and, (bonus!) if you use this link you can pick it up for just $1.50! 

5 Thoughts on Volo’s Guide to Monsters

In November, Wizards of the Coast unleashed Volo’s Guide to Monsters, a combination monster ecology lorebook, bestiary, and, just for fun, they tossed a chapter on new player races in. Since I’m perpetually behind the times (I like call myself a late adopter), I have only recently come to possess a copy of this tome. My first impressions follow: Continue reading 5 Thoughts on Volo’s Guide to Monsters

5 Times A Favorite Show Referenced Dungeons & Dragons

I have only been gaming for a few years, which is a drop in the bucket compared to many gamers. In times past, before I met my husband, references to RPGs in my favorite TV shows went virtually undetected; the witty banter continued, the scene changed, or it went over my head. After I met my husband and learned a bit about his hobby, I would roll my eyes at the references, or tell my husband x show mentioned his favorite hobby, so, you know, it isn’t all bad and maybe he could watch it with me.

Once I picked up a handful of dice and embraced my inner geek, I started getting a thrill out of the references. They were a nod to my new hobby, a secret shared between me and a favorite show.

And there are loads of references out there. RPGs, especially Dungeons and Dragons, have a huge following, and a broad range of fans. And it isn’t like we all sit around in our basement living in an imaginary world where we pretend to be high level wizards (not all day, every day anyway – sometimes we might go for a fighter!)  We are often functioning members of society with jobs, families, responsibilities and commitments.

Either to appeal to us, or because TV show creators, producers and writers love RPGs like we do (and might also break out the dice during their time away from the studio) references to this beloved hobby show up now and then. Recently, Netflix released Stranger Things, a show that starts with a group of young boys playing Dungeons & Dragons. Numerous references are made throughout the season, and even non-RPGers would be hard pressed to miss the big nods to the geeky hobby.  The cult-classic Community spent a whole episode following the college students as they explored the adventures fellow student and Dungeon Master Abed had in store for them. There are numerous other shows, some of which seem more likely than others, that pay homage to the beloved game, so without further ado:

Here 5 D&D references from some of my favorite shows:

  1. Veronica Mars

    2.13 “Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough”

    Dick: “I think he took Ghost World up to his room. They’re probably up there making love. Or playing Dungeons and Dragons. Or both, at the same time.”

    BONUS? They did it more than once.

    2.04 “Green Eyed Monster”
    Jackie to Wallace

    Jackie: “Get back ladies; he’s mine! You really are a basketball star, aren’t you? I mean I’m not just smacking the ass of some Dungeons and Dragons geek, right?”

     

  2. Supernatural

    7.20  “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo”

    The RPG in question is not just referenced in the title of this episode; just as Charlie, a computer hacker who stumbles into the world of weird, thinks she has broken the password, a voice taunts her with “Nice try Zero Charisma.”

     

  3. Gilmore Girls

    2.13. “A-Tisket A-Tasket”

    Lorelai begs Luke, the local diner owner to jump in and save her from being set up with one of several random suitors during a picnic basket auction. When he wins her basket, she calls out: “Sorry guys, don’t feel bad; I’m totally into Dungeons and Dragons.”

     

  4. The Simpsons

    3.5 “Homer Goes to College”

    Homer: “We played Dungeons and Dragons for three hours, and then I was slain by an elf.”

  5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    7.22 “Chosen”

    Giles: “I was a highly respected watcher, and now I’m a wounded dwarf with the mystical strength of a doily.”

What show have you seen that referenced D&D (or another RPG)? Share in the comments below!

jar of dice

5 and 5 for D&D 5e

The newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons may not have that new game scent anymore, but over a year of regular play has done a lot to display its virtues and vices to me. Before we get to the five things I like most and least about the game, I’ll provide a bit of background.

I was all set to ignore 5e (still being called D&D Next at the time), and paid no attention to the public playtest. My fantasy RPG itch was being scratched by Pathfinder, after all, and really, could any game dethrone Second Edition AD&D as my favourite fantasy RPG of all time? But 5e was released, and it got a lot of positive attention… and my mother, the person that got me the Mentzer Basic Set for my eighth birthday and set off a lifetime love of RPGs, gifted me with the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual… so I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did.

That out of the way, let’s get to five things I really like about 5e:

  1. Advantage/Disadvantage. More than anything, I love advantage and disadvantage, and their lack of absolute codification. Replacing the horde of small bonuses, and especially bonus types, used in D&D 3rd edition (and its derivatives) and 4th edition with this simple rule was genius.
  2. Spellcasting. Spells that scale based on the level of spell slot being used is a thing that should have been done several editions ago. Thankfully it’s a thing now. Further, rituals are back from 4th edition. This is a good thing.
  3. Concentration. More to the point, that many buffing spells require concentration, meaning that a caster can only have one in effect at a time. Gone are the suites of buffs players cast before every encounter. Good riddance.
  4. Return of the horde. The so-called “bounded accuracy” that 5e is based around means that low challenge threats are still threats far into a character’s adventuring career. My players, with 6th level characters, are still struggling against the mobs of low challenge mooks that amass around the big bad guys and gals. That’s right, mobs. I can use tons of enemies because of…
  5. Quick combat. Combat is resolved relatively quickly in 5e. Much more quickly than in 3rd or 4th edition, certainly. I like this, it means I can run two or even three combats in a three to four hour session but still have time for exploration and role-play. Wins all around.Paizo goblin

Lots to like, right? All is not sunshine and unicorns however, as the next five points will detail. Without further ado, five things I dislike about 5th edition…

  1. Tieflings, and drow, and dragonborn… Oh my! Call me stodgy, but I don’t think these three races… well, two races and a subrace… should be part of the core game. Of course, if my players would let me, I would disallow every non-human race in my games…
  2. Short adventures. Where are they? The campaign length hardbacks are nice, for the most part, but 5e suffers from a dearth of short adventures. Sure, I can and do convert adventures from previous editions, but come on, The Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Basic Game is a fantastic, sandboxy short adventure… I’d like to see more in that vein.
  3. Dying. By the gods it’s difficult to kill a character in 5e. But the characters get dropped to death saves, often multiple times in an encounter as their companions bring them back to consciousness. It’s silly.
  4. Encounter design. One of the best aspects of 4th edition was the ease with which a DM could put together an encounter. With 5e’s lighter engine, I was expecting that it would be even easier to design exciting encounters. My expectations were in vain; 5e is more difficult to generate encounters for than both 3rd and 4th editions. This is exacerbated by…
  5. Creature creation. Unlike the previous two editions, 5e doesn’t do a very able job of explaining how to create monsters, and more importantly in my opinion, npcs. There’s a table of benchmarks creatures should meet… but special features are not addressed in any meaningful way. Please, design team, give us something better.

So there they are: five and five. Have you been playing D&D 5e? Why or why not? What are your likes and dislikes?