The Delves of Andophine (Cleveland ConCoction 2018)

This year at Cleveland ConCoction I’ll be play-testing The Delves of Andophine, a “funhouse” dungeon crawl made to fit with the 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons rules. It was credit by my friend Antonino Nigro and myself and is part one of the “Dice Grinder Series” (which will be available to download as a PDF by the end of March). If you’re in the area and interested in the event, please visit Cleveland ConCoction’s website and sign up!

-phill

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Magic Runes of the Chaos Helm (for 5e Dungeons and Dragons)

Magic Runes and Rune Creation (Rough Draft)

Inside my homebrewed campaign setting, the Chaos Helm, magic items are rare. Usage of magic items are also heavily restricted, normally only granted to prominent figures, such as wizards sworn to various baronies (known as Travelers), nobles, or those chosen few who have been granted, or paid for, the right to use them. The reason for this restriction of magic is baked into the setting of the Chaos Helm and the humancentric baronies that control it. To the baronies who favor order and law, magic is a necessary evil in combating the elven folk, which they been at ends with only up until recent history. Using magical abilities and wielding magical items without going through the proper channel is highly illegal, in some baronies weighed against the penalty of death; and magic items are to be turned into local garrisons or handed over to any practicing wizard licensed by the barony. There is still a way for a wandering adventurer or tomb plundering rat-catcher to still use magic, and this has been exploited to no ends in the Chaos Helm through Runes.

Runes are magical devices created from the essence of magical items. Powerful wizards render a magical item inert, draining its powerful essence, and then convert it into small stone tabs carved with arcane runes that can then be applied to necklaces, weapons, rings, and armor built with the ability to hold runes. The process is complicated and hard for any up-and-coming wizard to get a handle of unless they are being trained by a Traveler, which even then could take decades to master. But, when the process is finished, one magic item can that can be wielded by one person can then become a multitude of magical implements that can be used by many. They are short lived creations though, having only half a dozen charges or so, but they can help satiate the appetite of any magic starved adventure out there in the Chaos Helm. Spells can also be turned into runes, which is a less complicated approach, no more tricky than creating a magical scroll, but it can be wielded by anyone. It is especially resourceful in the field battle, and collecting such runes is widely viewed as a common, if not expensive, hobby by nobles or anyone with more than enough coin to burn.

Example of a Magical Item Compared to its Rune Counterpart

Flame Blade, Rare, Long Sword,

This brilliant blade is warm to the touch. Its yellow blade is carved with intricate patterns of fire. On its pommel is an orange and red marbled jewel carved to look like a flame.

 This Item requires attunement. While attuned to this item you gain + 1 to attack and damage rolls. This weapon has three charges that recharge on the dawn of the next day. As a Bonus Action, you can expend one charge to cover the blade in magical fire. Your attack then deals an additional 2d6 fire damage on a hit.

Flame Blade Rune, Rare, Sword, 6 charges

Flames shoot out from the rune placed in the hilt of your sword and envelope the blade. 

As a bonus action, you can expend one charge from the rune and cover your blade in magical fire. Your attack then deals an additional 2d6 fire damage on a hit. After all charges have been expended, the rune crumbles to dust.

As seen in the example above, while the Flame Blade Rune doesn’t grant the additional +1 magical weapon bonuses, the process of creating runes allows that magic to be shared with other party members and does not require attunement to use the magical properties (though it does require a weapon able to hold a rune). Also, when breaking down a magical item, the wizard doing so then learns how the process can be replicated.

Creation Process of Runes
There are two ways a magical rune can be created. The First is by using an Arcane Schematic to construct the framework of the room. The other way is by enchanting a blank rune with a spell. Arcane Schematics will map out the process a spellcaster must use to infuse a blank rune for a specific purpose (this follows the same rules as Crafting Magic Items that are consumable, found in the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 129). Having an Arcane Schematic takes out the guess work of the process. These are usually readily available to Travelers and, given the resources (Mana Crystals), only take a number of days to create a handful of them. They only take time and resources to construct.

Creating Runes with an Arcane
Schematic

Days

Charges

No. of Runes

Resources

5

4

1d4+1

1 Mana Crystal of same rarity per Rune Created

5

4

2d4+1

1 Mana Crystal of same rarity per Rune Created

10

5

1d6+2

2 Mana Crystals of same rarity per Rune Created

10

5

2d6+2

2 Mana Crystals of same rarity per Rune Created

15

6

1d8+3

1 Mana Crystal of one level higher rarity per Rune Created

15

6

2d8+3

1 Mana Crystal of one level higher rarity per Rune Created

20

7

1d10+4

2 Mana Crystals of one level higher rarity per Rune Created

20

7

2d10+4

2 Mana Crystals of one level higher rarity per Rune Created

25

8

1d12+5

1 Mana Crystal of 2 levels higher rarity per Rune Created

25

8

2d12+5

1 Mana Crystal of 2 levels higher rarity per Rune Created

30

9

3d12+6

2 Mana Crystals of 2 levels higher rarity per Rune Created

30

9

3d12+6

2 Mana Crystals of 2 levels higher rarity per Rune Created

Whether it be because the magical property has never been discovered, or because schematics have been stolen, sometimes Arcane Schematics are unavailable for the creation of Runes. In this case, a Traveler can break down a magical item, if possible, to acquire an Arcane Schematic. This process will also forgo any resources needed to create a few runes as test samples at the end of the process. The spellcaster attempting this feat must meet the Minimum Spellcasting Level, meet the Arcana DC, and set aside the number of days listed for this process. For example, on the chart below breaking down a Rare item a spell caster would have to set aside 20 8-hour days of uninterrupted work, and they must succeed 4 DC 20 Arcana checks within that 2- day period. If a spellcaster fails the DC more times than they have succeed, the process fails and no Arcane Schematic is acquired. Also, the magical item is destroyed, and no runes are created. For every successful Arcana Check that exceeds the DC, add the number it has exceed to the total of the Number of runes created by the end of the process.

Breaking Down Magic Items to Obtain
Arcane Schematic

Item Rarity

Min. Spl casting Lvl

Arcana
DC

No. of Runes Created

Charges

Days

Common

3rd

10

1+ Number over Arcana DC

4

1/10

Common

4th

12

1+ Number over Arcana DC

6

1/10

Uncommon

5th

15

1+ Number over Arcana DC

4

3/15

Uncommon

6th

17

1+ Number over Arcana DC

6

3/15

Rare

7th

20

2+ Number over Arcana DC

3

4/20

Rare

8th

23

2+ Number over Arcana DC

6

4/20

Very Rare

9th

25

3+ Number over Arcana DC

3

5/25

Very Rare

9th

28

3+ Number over Arcana DC

6

5/25

Very Rare

10th

30

3+ Number over Arcana DC

8

5/30

Mana Crystals
One of the key components in creating a Rune is the Mana Crystal. These glowing gems are about the size of a dagger and grow in a spiraling formation. They weigh about 1 pound apiece and have various uses. They are found in various locations throughout the Chaos Helm where the boundaries of the material plane and the elemental are weak. Because of their magical property, and their utilization in the creation of runes, they are a highly sought-after commodity and many adventuring guilds deal solely in the business of finding and procuring these shards of magical radiance. These crystals are theorized to be created as a result of chaotic elemental magic infusing crystals over the course of thousands of years.

Mana Crystals, wonderous item, varying rarity, consumable

These crystals are harvest and used in the creation of Magic Runes since they are much more powerful than material spell components. They can also be “consumed” by magic users to fight off magic fatigue.

As an Action, you can crush the crystal in your hand and regain 1 spell slot defined by their rarity.

Crystal Type

Rarity

Spell Slot Recovery

Cracked

Uncommon

1st Level

Dim

Uncommon

2nd Level

Glowing

Rare

3rd Level

Bright

Rare

4th Level

Lustrous

Rare

5th Level

Brilliant

Very Rare

6th Level

Sublime

Very Rare

7th Level

Glorious

Legendary

8th Level

Radiant

Legendary

9th Level

 Mana Crystals created by Reddit User crankdawg47 (go send him some upvotes!)

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Space Tether

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The end of NaNoWriMo (But Not the Story)

It’s just after eight in the evening and my dog is staring at me from the hallway. The cheap, red wine is coursing through my veins, warming my body like a well earned hug, but its warm happiness is only a precursor to the bubbling joy I feel from finally achieving a well set goal. This month was NaNoWriMo, and for the first time since 2014, that’s four whacks at this pig mind you, I have finally reached the disgustingly high word count goal of 50,000. To put that into a bit of perspective, that’s about 1667 words a day, rounded up. To put that into an even better perspective, Stephen King claimed that while working on a novel, he writes 2000 words a day. Stephen King doesn’t have a 9-5 sucking the life out of him (he did, at one time, gods bless him), his kids are all grown up, and he isn’t going to college or trying to snag that hot little piece from work with a heart as sick and swelled as his ambitious of placing word on paper for a living – he’s gotten all those ducks tightly in a row. Whereas, in contrast, I’m some clock punching, knuckle dragging, drunkard whose only surface passions seem to be reading, Dungeons and Dragons, and pissing my time away as the whole world carries on and on and on without me. Fifty-thousands words, just saying it sounds like a mouthful of shit. One thousand is on the above average side of a college term paper, 1984 by George Orwell was eighty-eight thousand nine-hundred and forty-two, and in between that, somewhere under the spilled wine, crushed out cigarettes, and countless baleful glances from an unwalked doggie is fifty-thousand words. Hard to believe, but believe it. If I could do it again (and I can) I would (and I will). This novel is far from over (a little on the far, but close to an end). I have bitten nails to nubs, doubted myself into insomnia, talked to my handgun like an old friend over far too many drinks, and more than once had the urge to stop fooling myself and resign my life to punching a clock and scratching my ass for a living.

NaNoWriMo is over now. The words have been counted, I’ve watched their Congratulations YouTube Video, I even bought that damned near twenty-dollar t-shirt that claims “I’m a fucking winner” (after shipping and handling, they aren’t savages after all); but then there is that question posed time and time again that I read all too often as a LOSER on the wrong end of fifty-thousand words: What’s next? The rest of the novel, you assholes.

Fifty-Thousand words is a good starting point, don’t get me wrong. But Game of Thrones is like what, a thousand books? Jane Austin shit books in her sleep, Tolkien cracked a few when he wasn’t busy being grumpy, and Bukowski turded out a few more when he wasn’t drowning himself in contempt for the human race (among other things). I won, truth be told. I hit the mark, I finished the race, I bought the goddamn t-shirt – but I’m not done. There’s a story there that needs an end, there are people there, people I created, that need an ending to their tale. But not tonight. Tonight is for celebration. Tonight is for smiling because “I done good, momma.” I tested my salt. I tested myself. I hit a goal that is fucking ridiculous when there are bills to be paid and jobs to be done. And, maybe because I’m drunk, and, maybe because I think I’m hot shit in a champagne glass (and not cold diarrhea in a dixie cup, for once); I’d like to share the chapter that pushed me, and my story, and the denizens within its wordy bounds, with anyone who cares to read it. Now, like always, this is a rough work, rougher than, well, you find an analogy, I’ve done my writing work for the day. But thoughts, comments, criticism, hate, what-have-you is always welcome.

To read my last chapter (written for NaNoWriMo) follow THIS LINK RIGHT HERE, or look up into the navigation bar under NaNoWriMo Excerpts and click on Hamman (2017).

Thanks for stickin’ it out with me even though I’ve been a real rat-bastard of a stick-in-the-ass for all of November.

-phill

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The Annis Hag’s Tree (and an update)

mindflayer It’s been a while, and like always the reasons vary from different view points. The typical reasons are apathy, but i haven’t just been apathetic, i’ve also been busy – continuing working on my novels, working on a secret project, playing dungeons and dragons… you name it, i’ve been digging my hands through it – so some things have to suffer. And, in this case, the thing to suffer the most has been this page.

Now that the colder seasons are descending upon us here in Ohio, i’ll have more time in front of this computer away from the distractions from the outside (other than shoveling snow… it’s coming soon, believe me).

Last gaming session my players came upon a planar crossroad as they sought out an Annis Hag (don’t worry, I’ll have a Dungeons and Dragons session story time soon enough – we’re only getting to session 8, so there isn’t all that much to cram). As they made it to the Annis Hag’s home, they found that it was surrounded by Nothics. That ended the session, and the next session picked up right in the beginning of a fight, and i figured, instead of just drawing it out on the battle map, i’d build some battle terrain for them to play with. The end result looked something like this.

IMG_5027

The “tree pillars” were pretty straight forward to build. Just papertowel rolls, cardboard, hot glue, and paint; but the center piece was the real point of interest. It was the first time i attempted paper-mache.

I started with a base of some twistie ties, three towel paper rolls, and some carboard, and then crushed them together. Then i just used a mixture of white glue and toilet paper and covered it up. The next step was to add rubble, which was just a mixture of fish-tank stones, pebbles from the yard (which i have a ton of since running a powerline to the garage last summer), and this fine stone stuff (the black stuff in the pictures above) to get this look. Then I used a stink load of modge-podge to seal it all together… and then i waited two days for it all to dry.

Next, after the two days have finished, I made a mixture of black acrylic and modge-podge to lather the whole thing. The mixture not only made a nice base coat, it also sealed all the rubble in (because, even after drying, a lot of it started flaking off). This part took my longer than i expected because i found that after letting the mixture start to gum up, i’d apply another thin layer, making upward brush strokes, which game the model a more bark-like look instead of gummy paper mache.

After the undercoat finally dried i moved onto the next step, painting. This is something that i’m still getting the hang of, especially when it comes to mixing and knowing what they will look like when they dry. I’m using cheap acrylics which can just be found at any art store (you can actually see a red bottle of it in the background. Since the tree was dead and ash colored, i used light blues and grays, then cool blues and whites with lighter passes. In the end, it looked like this:

For creating this, i used a lot of methods taught by DM Scotty over at the DM’s Craft (check him out). Thanks for checking it out!

-phill

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Dungeon Crafting – Stone Tiles

gonna-need-a-bigger-newspaperBefore i start biting off more than i can chew, i decided to start with the basics: tiles. I’ve seen a handful of different tutorials on reddit and Youtube, but the easiest (and cheapest) method was DM Scotty’s method from the DMs Craft.

The process altogether, counting cutting, gluing, designing, drying and painting, took about 8 hours, leaving me with about 12 gaming tiles i can use in almost any table top situation. Also, other than the cost of the glue gun (and paints, which i already had), the whole project only cost me about 5 bucks to craft. Again, like my last Dungeon Crafting post, i don’t have a play by play on how i did this, but i can try to describe what was done with each set of pictures.

Part One: From Foam
I started with foam board, which can be bought at $1 for a poster board size of this stuff Continue reading

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Dungeon Crafting – Ruins

img_3159

While I’m not going to go into too many details here, i have to say that following The DMs Craft (Check out DM Scotty’s forum and his Youtube channel) makes it very easy to realize some of the visual aspects you wish you could convey to your players. Also, it kind of adds that extra “wow” to the gaming session.

So, without rambling on, here are some pictures of how i turned cardboard and hot glue into battle encounter set pieces Continue reading

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