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Just a place for the odd thoughts, updates, and the detritus of my mind that doesn't belong on social media.

Showing posts tagged roleplaying

Posted: Nov 4th, 3:59am

The Church Grim

Over on rpg.net, forum member Felix has been conducting a read-through of the AD&D Monster Manual II. One of the entries is the Grim, a shapeshifting black dog in the finest tradition of the many "Black Dogs" appearing in British fairy folklore.

Unlike most Black Dogs, which are generally fairy creatures, the Church Grim is a spirit that protects churchyards from grave robbers and other criminals.

The tradition (which appears both in England and Scandinavia) has the Church Grim as a person, the first to be buried in a new churchyard, whose soul has to watch over it. To spare a human soul this duty an animal might be buried first. In England this seems to always be a dog, but in Scandinavian tradition the Kirkegrim might be a bear, pig, or horse as well.

One of the biggest influences on my childhood imagination was Katherine Brigg's 1976 Dictionary of Fairies, a book that was battered and dog-eared when I got my copy, and which is even moreso now, many years later. In the dictionary, Briggs describes hundres of fairy entities and tropes, indexing them all with a list of descriptive themes and motifs (which you can look up at the back of the book). As soon as I saw the RPGnet post about the Grim I was sure that it was included in the Dictionary, and indeed it was.

[...] when a new churchyard was opened it was believed that the first man buried there had to guard it against the Devil. To save a human soul from such a duty a pure black dog was buried in the north part of the churchyard as a substitute. Katherine Briggs, A Dictionary of Fairies

Eden Phillpotts (a very prolific author of the early to mid 20th Century) wrote a story called "The Church Grim" in 1914, revolving around the mystery discovery ...

Posted: Oct 2nd, 8:35am

Benefits of Living Standards in D&D 5E

The 5th Edition of D&D defines six levels of living conditions, from Wretched up to Aristocratic with different costs associated. However, apart from hob-nobbing with the rich (or the poor) there are no real mechanical benefits to each standard of living. This leads many players to ask: "Why pay 25gp a night to live at a Wealthy Standard, when I could sleep in a ditch for free?"

The most obvious answer is: "Because you won't have to sleep in a ditch!" but roleplaying benefits are not mechanical rewards, and some people are more focussed on the later than the former, which is a perfectly fine way to play. If you need your gold to buy diamonds for ressurection, you won't want to waste it on expensive inns.

Posted: Aug 29th, 9:36am


In my Solo D&D Adventure — Curse of the Emerald Elixir — I am mostly using B/X mechanics, as reflected through the lens of Adventurer, Conqueror, King.

One part of the ACKs rules that are unchanged from B/X, and not to my liking, are those for poison.

Poison: Poisonous monsters are among the most dreaded that adventurers will face. A character exposed to the poison of a monster, unless otherwise noted, must immediately succeed in a saving throw versus Poison or be killed. The 4th level cleric spell neutralize poison can be used to restore the stricken character if cast within 10 rounds of the character’s death.

ACKS 1st Edition Core, p151

You fail to save, you die. It has the benefit of simplicity, but the downside that all poisons are equally deadly. They don't make you sicken, nor do they give time for treatment (except for the use of Neutraise Poison).

As BX/Blackrazor suggests, the existence of the 10 round grace period on neutralise poison implies that the poison doesn't actually kill you instantly (unless neutralise poison is really ressurection). Instead you are incapacitated the moment you fail the save, but there is a short window in which you are, perhaps, saveable. Interestingly the 10 rounds parallels 3rd Edition's negative HP. Nevertheless, if there isn't someone availble to cast the spell (or in ACK's case, use the equivalent Healing Proficiency), then you are toast, whether you were poisoned by a bee or a purple worm.

I decided to take a varient rule that I'd seen suggested in various places — that Poison did damage dependant on the HD of monster (often 1d6/HD) — and adapt it for my own use.


Posted: Jun 27th, 5:02am

5E Fey Reincarnation

I've been running a campaign of 5th Edition D&D since the day it reared its head in the form of the Lost Mines of Phandelver boxed set. Over the years we've had a number of deaths, and a few cases of ressurection via Raise Dead, but recently one of the founding characters, Kerri, died in a way that Raise Dead couldn't fix (spontaneously dissected by the Headmaster of the Nothic College.

Enter the party Druid, Arra, and Reincarnate, which sent me off to think about how I wanted Reincarnate to work in my campaign.

The Original D&D reincarante could bring you back as a variety of monsterous and animal forms, with plausible Player Character races being very much in the minority. Delta's Spells Through the Ages has a great run down of what reincarnate (in both Wizard and Druid forms) used to do. The 5E version, on the other hand, brings you back as a boring adult member of one of the standard player character races.

Boring! I thought.

My own take was that, as a Druid spell, Reincarnate should create fey things, natural things — sprigans and boggans and banshees, oh my! (Not any of those actual things, as it turned out, but natural things nevertheless). More than influenced, I admit, by Ortwine's reincarnation in the fantastic Tales of Wyre. So I set out to comb through the official and fan fey races and compile a list I was more comfortable with, and this is the result.