Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ultimate Ulverland Unleashed!

This seems a like a week of humble achievements here at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque: I've hit a subscriber milestone, 666 posts, etc. 

To celebrate, I'm releasing the latest (and best, in my opinion) version of my Gothic Fantasy setting Ulverland. It's available in print as a sweet little trade-sized book here, and as always, the proceeds will be given to charity. Nice black cover with cream interior, nice fonts used throughout--it's easily the best-looking book I've made yet. It's also available as a free pdf here.

This collects a lot of material I've published here on the blog (such as details on Lowedon, the Northlands, Ulverland's colonies in the Discovered Countries, etc.), as well as stuff I haven't shared before (lots of little details on daily life in Ulverland, technological levels and why they're all over the place in the setting, an explanation of why everyone speaks Common, an admittedly crude map of Lowedon, etc.) I've also expanded my overview of Ulverland and the greater world that it resides in.

The book is systemless; you could use it with whatever set of rules appeals to you. If you saw the draft of this on G+ a few days back, this is a new, edited version.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons V: A "Black Knight" Wizard

As the third child of an aristocratic family, it was always expected that Maynard Hardy would join the clergy. Although he had an aptitude for memorizing scripture from the Book of the Lady, his heart never truly belonged to the Church. Perhaps it was the lack of a "calling" that opened the way for Maynard's wayward curiosity to change the shape of his life. Attending the seminary gave him access to forbidden and blasphemous grimoires; where the Book of the Lady could not hold his interest, these commanded his attention. Using these tomes, Maynard was able to become adept at the black arts. Of course, when his arcane pursuits were discovered Maynard was expelled from the seminary in disgrace.

His expulsion was to be the first of two blows that altered the course of his life. The second was the mysterious assassination of his father. After the death of his father, Maynard pledged to use his newfound magical prowess to hunt down and destroy whoever killed his sire. He has donned black mourning attire in respect for his father and views his somber garb as a constant reminder to the world that he is sworn to bring death to the hand responsible for his father's murder.

Race – Human
Level – 1
Class – Wizard
Background – Acolyte

Strength – 9 (-1), Dexterity – 14 (+2), Constitution – 11 (+0)
Intelligence – 18 (+4), Wisdom – 16 (+3), Charisma – 12 (+1)

Hit Points – 6
Armor Class – 12
Proficiency Bonus – +2

Proficiencies – Daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, light crossbows,
Saving Throws – Intelligence, Wisdom
Skills – Arcana, Investigation, Insight, Religion

Equipment – Quarterstaff, arcane focus, scholar's pack, spellbook, holy book, holy symbol, 5 sticks of incense, vestments, belt pouch with 15 gp

Special Abilities – Spellcasting, Arcane Recovery

Personality Trait – Rough living grates on me
Ideal – Aspiration
Bond – I want to preserve heretical texts from destruction
Flaw – Once I pick a goal I become obsessed with it

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons V: A Mourning Blade

Hey look, another 5e character! I'm going to do one of each of the four classes in the Basic pdf. 

What do you do if you want to observe the tradition of a viewing for your deceased loved one, but there is a chance that they will rise again due to the curse of undeath? Why, you hire a mourning blade, of course. A mourning blade is a man or woman hired to sit and grieve by the remains of a deceased person; if the body should happen to stir into unlife, a mourning blade is trained to spring into action and give the deceased the comfort of a second death before they have a chance to wreak havoc. Since their profession requires a certain level of keeping up appearances, mourning blades prefer to wield weapons that are easily concealed; men favor swordcanes, while women prefer blades that can be secreted in parasols.

Orphaned at an early age, Catrin Steinmann was apprenticed to a mourning blade, and by all outward appearances she is a typical member of that sadly necessary profession. However, Catrin uses the cover of her profession to spy on the aristocratic families who hire her; her real employer is the Crown--she collects information on any families engaged in acts of dissidence or treason.

Race – Human
Level – 1
Class – Fighter
Background – Criminal (Spy)

Strength – 16 (+3), Dexterity – 14 (+2), Constitution – 15 (+2)
Intelligence – 13 (+1), Wisdom – 15 (+2), Charisma – 10 (+0)

Hit Points – 12
Armor Class – 15
Proficiency Bonus – +2

Proficiencies – All armor, Shields, Simple weapons, Martial weapons, Playing cards, Thieves' tools
Saving Throws – Strength, Constitution
Skills – Acrobatics, Perception, Deception, Stealth

Equipment – Leather armor, Longbow with 20 arrows, Longsword (hidden in parasol), Shield, Two hand axes (kukri), Dungeoneer's pack, Crowbar, Belt pouch with 15 gp

Special Abilities – Fighting Style (Dueling), Second Wind

Personality Trait – I always have a plan for when things go wrong
Ideal – Freedom
Bond – Something was taken from me, I aim to take it back
Flaw – When faced with a decision between friends and money, I usually take the money

* * *

I timed this one as well--I'm starting to feel like a trainspotter--and it only took ten minutes. That's a perfectly acceptable range, so this edition is already miles ahead of 3e and 4e for me.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Complaints I remember hearing from OSR types about the new D&D's cover art:

- "too anime"
- "the composition is too static"
- "they should show more of the adventuring party on the Player's Handbook"

And is the cover from the OSR's "legendary" megadungeon, Dwimmermount:

Now HERE is a gaming topic that is finally worth demanding public apologies over.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons V: A Blood Priest from Gond


Oluwat was raised as a scout in his tribe of Gond nomads. While exploring for potential lands for his people to hunt he discovered a cavern that had been used as a hiding place for early members of the Church of the Lady who had fled their homes in the Martyrlands. Deep within the cavern he found an ornate goblet filled with a blazing red fluid. Driven by an irresistible compulsion, Oluwat put the cup to his lips and drank deeply.

His conversation was immediate.Drinking of the sacred blood therein opens their soul to direct communication with the deity. However, mortal souls are frail, fallible things; the souls of mere men and women are touched with divine madness as a consequence of drinking from the Grail. Now, Oluwat often hears the voice of the Lady within him--in a confluence of sweet whispers the voice commanded him to leave his tribe and travel to Ulverland where a great Devil must be slain without mercy. 

Partaking of the Grail's blood also changed Oluwat physically; he is relentlessly strong and his eyes glow a deep blood-red when he is angered.


Race – Human

Level – 1

Class – Cleric

Background – Soldier (Scout)

Strength – 19 (+4), Dexterity – 15 (+2), Constitution – 16 (+3)

Intelligence – 12 (+1), Wisdom – 19 (+4), Charisma – 14 (+2)

Hit Points – 11

Armor Class – 18

Proficiency Bonus – +2

Proficiencies – Light armor, Medium armor, Shields, Simple Weapons, Heavy armor, Dice, Vehicles (land)

Saving Throws – Wisdom, Charisma

Skills – Medicine, Religion, Athletics, Intimidation

Equipment – Mace, Scale mail, Light crossbow with 20 bolts, Explorer's pack, Shield, Holy symbol, Bone dice, Insignia of rank (tribal), Broken blade taken from an enemy (trophy), Belt pouch containing 10 gp

Special Abilities – Spell casting (3 known cantrips, 2 1st level spell slots), Life Domain (Disciple of Life, heavy armor prof.)

Personality Trait – I can stare down a hell hound without flinching

Ideal – Responsibility

Bond – I fight for those who cannot fight for themselves

Flaw – My hatred of my enemies is blind and unreasoning

* * *
Okay, this is the second character I've made using just the D&D Basic pdf. This one took me 15 minutes, which is not bad; frankly, I think I could get that to under 10 if I had a book instead of a pdf. And god-damn the online dice roller served me up some high stats.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons V: An Accursed Sword Bearer

Hey, there's a new D&D in town. Let's see if it can make a fun character using just the Basic pdf.

When an archaeological dig in the village of Melmoth uncovered a strangely untarnished rapier held in the mouldering grip of a corpse clad in scraps of pirate garb, it was thought that a major historic treasure had been unearthed. Research into local legends linked the sword to an infamous pirate who was gibbeted for his crimes over a hundred years ago; according to the tale, the pirate pronounced that his blade would return one day to wreck calamity upon the townspeople of Melmoth as repayment for his execution. 

Soon enough, things began to go wrong in Melmoth. First, blight devastated the harvest; then, a wasting illness took hold among the beleaguered populace. The superstitious people of Melmoth began to believe that the pirate's curse had been visited upon their heads. Afraid to attempt destroying the sword and risk further angering the dead pirate, the residents of Melmoth took a drastic step to rid themselves of the hex: they held a lottery. The 'winner' was a young tinkers apprentice named Marjorie Hill. She was given the sword and told to leave the village, never to return again. Lost and alone, Marjorie made her way toward the sea, bearing the rapier with her. She would eventually turn pirate in the footsteps of the sword's original owner.

Race – Human
Level – 1
Class – Rogue
Background – Folk Hero

Strength – 11, Dexterity – 17 (+3), Constitution – 14 (+2)
Intelligence – 13 (+1), Wisdom – 12 (+1), Charisma – 16 (+3)

Hit Points – 10
Armor Class – 14
Proficiency Bonus – +2

Proficiencies – Light armor, Simple weapons, Hand crossbows, Longswords, Short swords, Rapiers, Thieves' tools, Tinker's tools, Vehicles (land)
Saving Throws – Dexterity, Intelligence
Skills – Animal handling, Deception, Intimation, Persuasion, Stealth, Survival

Equipment – Rapier (believed to be cursed, but is just a regular rapier), Shortbow with quiver of 20 arrows (re-skin as pistol), Explorer's pack, Leather armor, Thieves' tools, Daggers (2), Tinker's tools, Iron pot, Shovel, Belt pouch containing 10 gp

Special Abilities – Expertise (double proficiency bonus with Deception and Persuasion), Sneak Attack (+1d6 damage), Thieves' Cant

Defining Event – I saved the people during a natural disaster (took the “cursed” sword away)
Ideal – Sincerity
Bond – I have a family, and one day hope to see them again
Flaw – I have a weakness for the vices of the city, especially hard drink

Monday, August 11, 2014

Doing Ulverland in 5e: Races and Such

I've run or played games set in Ulverland in every edition of D&D from 2e onward. It feels like tradition to give a new edition a go with a setting I love messing about in, so I'm going to give some 5e play a whirl as well. Now that I've had a chance to sit with the Basic pdf rules for a bit, it looks like a really good match for how I like to play the game. Sweet!

Nevertheless, the one area that D&D has traditionally not fit my setting is the matter of races. This time out I think I'll just relax and let re-skinning do the heavy lifting instead of doing up a bunch of unique races on my own. As always, I'm thinking more in terms of "bloodlines" than "races," for the most part. Here's what I'm thinking thus far:

Elves -- No elf characters come from a community of elves; instead, they've been left behind in human cribs by elves as changeling babies. (Elves are weird like that.)

Half-Elves -- It's not unusual for a man or woman who has wandered into Faerie (Feywild, I suppose) to fall in love with an elf. If a child results from such a union, the human parent is forced to leave the magic realm of the fey with their half-breed child. (Elves are dicks like that.)

Halflings -- Same as elves, really. These are just a different kind of fey baby-swappers.

Dwarves -- I figure that Gothic Fantasy dwarves should be more Hop-Frog and Quasimodo than Gimli. Dwarves also won't be from a community of their own; they are born to human parents who have been cursed or they were born warped by the presence of black magic.

Gnomes -- Yeah, also like elves.

Dragonborn -- This is an interesting case. I remember people freaking out that dragonborn were in the Ravenloft board game; "These guys don't belong in a Gothic setting!" they cried. Oddly, they aren't a bad fit for the World Between. In the World Between dragons are a manifestation of human sin. Playing with that idea a bit led me to this: you're not BORN a dragonborn; rather, you can become one by living a particularly sinful life. A dragonborn character was born human, but later committed a grievous sin that transformed them into what they are now. I kinda like that.

Half-Orc -- I haven't seen the stats yet for these guys in the PHB, but I'm kinda hoping that I can re-skin them as animal-men, something like either Doctor Moreau's creations or Lycanthropes Lite. If somebody's got the scoop on what half-orcs are about mechanically, feel free to leave a comment and dispel the mystery.

Tieflings -- Also not a "race," but rather the product of the unholy union of a mortal man or woman and something from the lower planes. They pretty much fit mechanically already.

I've heard that there will be more races in the DMG when that comes out. So far I've heard rumors of:

Warforged -- Easy to add into the setting; they're created by mad scientists. Get dat Frankenstein shit in there. Mo Shelley no problems.

Kender -- More fey baby-stealing shenanigans, I suppose.

Oh hey, if the drow have some penalty in sunlight I wonder if they could be easily re-skinned as dhampir...