Barbarians


When you run out of HP, you must save or die.

Unless you're a Barbarian, that is. As the Constitution class, Barbarians can withstand the first death blow. They can keep moving and fighting at 0 HP. It's only if they're hit again while on 0 HP that they fall into Save Or Die territory.

This means Barbarians can be crazy reckless - charging through doors, jumping down pits, and checking for traps with their face. When the chips are down, the Barbarian will be the last line of defense - arrows through his chest, an axe hanging off his shoulder, somehow still alive and roaring.

As they gain levels, they can get feats like double attacks on the edge of death, and the ability to stay up as long as they keep passing their death save.

Anyway, that's what I'm going to do with them in this RPG I'm making. I've decided to call it:


Appendix N: Blackbeard, Rasputin.

Anticipation


What I love about simple initiative is the way it swings around.

The encounter starts, and every monster attacks. It's chaos. Your fighter goes down, the cleric is on fire, you're cursed and level drained and tied up with ropes and shoved down pits. Every bad thing happens at once, and you're totally helpless. All you can do is sit, groaning, and wait for your turn.

That anticipation makes it all the better when it swings around to your turn, and suddenly every good thing happens at once. You punch a kobold through another kobold, the dragon blows up, the monsters are backstabbed and tripped and disintegrated and thrown over cliffs. You're totally unstoppable.

Until next turn comes around...

0 Level

DCC has a level 0, where you play four terrified peasants with no class and d4 hit points.

Here's the great idea in that: A character should start simple, and get more and more complex as they get less and less likely to die. A first level character can die in a single turn - so you should be able to make one in the same amount of time. As they grow more permanent, leveling up should steadily grow more interesting.

That sounds obvious, but here's the way character complexity grows in most RPG's.


At level 1 you have to roll ability scores and hit points, choose a race and class, buy equipment, calculate all your bonuses, and maybe get an occupation and some spells, skills and feats on top of that.

At level 2, you get more HP and an attack bonus. You may also get a single new spell, or choose one skill to become better at.*

So you spend the most time making decisions about your character at level 1, when they're likely to keel over to a goblin fart ten minutes into the game. Once they have a decent chance of sticking around for a while, you're making a very small amount of choices that have a much lower impact on your character. For instance, a DCC wizard picks 4 new spells at level 1 and 1 new spell at level two. The 0-level helps this problem, but it mostly just postpones that massive complexity mound until level 1.

This is mostly shitty for newcomers, who have to spend a lot of time making a character before they even know how you play D&D. It can reach breaking point if the system is complicated. The first RPG I ever played was 4th Edition, and making characters was just an hour-long slog. Same thing happened with the next RPG I tried, Call of Cthulhu. Both of them have a lot of shit going on at first level, and not much thereafter.

I can understand why things work this way. A character has years of history before you picked them up, and it doesn't make sense for them to suddenly remember their race or occupation at third level. Here's how I'd change things.

Level 1: Roll ability scores and health. Choose race and background.

You roll for a random region, and then choose one of the six races and 6 backgrounds of that region. Each race has a special ability, and determines your starting HP.

The background gives you starting equipment and skills. I like the skills in D&D Next so much that I'd steal the idea for this. For any normal skill check, you roll a d20 and add the relevant ability score modifier. Your occupation gives you four trained skills (e.g. Gather Rumors, Intimidate, Spot, and Use Rope) and you roll an extra dice to add to those skills. This skill dice starts as a d4, and goes up each level.

Race and Background are good starting choices because they rely on real-world logic over game logic. A newcomer might not know what it means to choose +2 AC, but they know how to use a skill called "Intimidate".

So a starting PC has a special racial ability, starting equipment, and four skills. That's a useful, interesting guy.

Level 2: More HP, and Class.

The class you get here would be the simplest possible expression of each archetype. An attack bonus for a fighter, a spell for wizards, a bonus to skills for thieves. Your class is proficient in some weapons.

Level 3: More HP, Specialty, and whatever your class gets when they level up.

Any fiddly extra bits of a class are packed into a specialty. So, a default fighter just gets a boring old attack bonus - at level 3 (when the PC is looking pretty permanent) they get to pick the special cool thing their fighter can do. Falling into a beserker rage, punching through walls, being unstoppable, that kind of thing.

Your class also chooses something every time they level up: a new spell, a new skill, a new weapon to be awesome at, that kind of things.

Level 4+: More HP, and whatever your class gets when they level up. Every three levels, you can choose another specialty.

So hopefully someday soon I'm going to package this and the ability score thing and the summoner class and a random monster generator and everything else into an RPG and release it into the wild.

*Those little lumps in the graph indicate that you'll usually get extra bumps of complexity every few levels. For instance, D&D next gives you an extra feat about every 3 levels.)

The final battle

It's this bunch of losers:




Vs.


The City of Vornheim.

In the red corner:


A thief, an elf, a fighter, a frogman, and their magical walking castle.


No. Appearing: 1.
Hit dice: 10d10
AC: 19
Attacks: 4. Hand (3d8), Hand (3d8), Trample (d20), Diamond Eye Laser (d4+d6+d8+d10+d12+d20+d30)


The castle is studded with a thousand tiny glass shards that reflect solid hologram beams, used to make the legs that carry it around. The head and arms are the remaining pieces of a giant golem the party stole from the dwarflands, mashed on so the head can shoot it's laser and the arms can rocket off, punch people, and scuttle back to the castle.

Yes, this is all a little over the top. It's been a long campaign.


In the blue corner:


Vornheim.

Due to previous treachery, Vornheim is controlled by two competing Demon-lords. Half of the city is ruled by the Skin King, Odermagroth, and the other half is under the command of the Worm Queen, Flounder. The people in the left half of the city have become mutant insect-men, while the people in the right half constantly drip flesh. To defend the demon lords against treachery, each of these vassals are forbidden from entering the other half of the city. Both of the lords wage a constant, covert war to stab the other demon-lord in the back and take over the entire place. 

They're kept in an eternal stalemate by an enormously intricate series of rules that wind up the city like a clockwork watch. Everything is done according to strict protocols, drawn up by the demons when they took over Vornheim: what food you're allowed to gather, where you can walk, what you can say. For instance, all corpses are devoured by the insects - all except for the skin, which must remain completely pure, so that it can be hung up in the House of the Skin King.

I would like to personally apologize to Zak Smith for what we've done to his setting.

=====NO PLAYERS ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT=====

Wanderlust


Just a scan of something I was working on a while ago. Maybe it'll inspire you.

Ability scores

So here's the score:


Everybody wants Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, because everyone wants to hit dudes, avoid being hit by dudes, and stay alive.

Wizards want Intelligence and Clerics want Wisdom, because they're the only ones who can use those for magic.

No-one wants Charisma. Not that you'd turn down a good CHA score, but it's not core to being useful to any class.

So: Everybody gets the exact same benefits from those three physical stats, but the two mental stats have special effects specifically set aside for Clerics and Wizards. Training doesn't let fighter use his +3 Strength for any class-specific purpose, but only a Wizard's knowledge unlocks the potential hidden in the INT score. That's shitty for physical classes, and makes INT and WIS almost useless to everybody but Wizards and Clerics.

I think the best thing to do is to have six core classes. Each does something special with each ability score. We already have two flavours of spell caster - one for Int, one for Wis. It seems sensible to extend that and make a Charisma-flavoured Thief, and a Con-flavoured fighter. The Charisma thief would be some kind of Fool or Alice. Fighters could be split into offense and defense, barbarian and knight.

All the scores should have a massive effect on every character, regardless of class. This makes every character more distinct. If you can say "Hey, my fighter's pretty smart" - and that has a meaningful impact on the way you fight dudes - then you've got more options and a more interesting character. You already get bonuses like better saves and more languages, but I don't think that's enough - ideally every score should be as important as STR and CON are for non-fighters, and those are hard scores to top.

The spirit charms are my first step to doing that - everybody can use a Wis check to get help from the spirits, so everybody has a good use for Wisdom. I'm giving Charisma some heft with this Caste system. Charisma gives you your rank- fuck with anyone below you, fear anyone above you. For Intelligence, I'm thinking you can make an int check (d20 + int mod VS a difficulty) to know monster HP, AC, abilities, attacks, secret weak spots, etc - all but the most secret of knowledge.

I might work through this and post more later - rules for giving fighters and thieves something special to do with Strength, Constitution, Dexterity and Charisma, and those two extra classes.

By the way


Here's some cards you can use for Card Wars.





Spirits to Summon





Summoning Errata


If you attempt to call on your Patron for aid and don't get a roll good enough for the request you wanted, a Demonic patron will be happy to add on points until you can get whatever assistance you need... for a price. A small favour, a small sacrifice, something that gives them a just a little more power over you. Any patron who doesn't want to cause you harm won't grant you this luxury.


Spirit List


Gain a level 1 summon slot whenever a cleric in your system of choice would gain a level 1 spell - the same for levels 2 through 5. You should let them choose instead of rolling for it.This list obviously doesn't represent every single type of spirit that exists. Feel free to let the summoner capture any of the ones you make up in the normal course of the campaign.

I'm walking a fine line here - the risk is that the summoner could summon spirits who are great at fighting, thieving and magic and make the rest of the party redundant. Summoned spirits will always be more unreliable than PC's, so hopefully that won't be a problem.

Still, none of this has been playtested, and I'm still unsure exactly when you should be rolling a command check - you definitely don't want to be rolling a command check and a to-hit roll every time you want your minions to attack. Post a message on how it went if you end up using this - I'll do the same when I get a chance to use it.

1st Level


1. Unseen servant: an invisible imp that can carry 20 pounds. It's taken an oath to do no harm - if it discovers that it has been tricked or forced into breaking that oath, it will immediately break it's bonds and go crazy.

2. Baby Ifrit: just a little spark of living fire. No physical mass, but can set things on fire and do d6 damage if it flies into someone.

3. Qarin: Tiny devil that sits on your shoulder and whispers secrets. Can sense magic, evil, etc - but may lie to you.

4. Swarm of bats. Can surround enemies to make it hard for them to see and attack.

5. Zephir: A living gust of wind. Can push enemies back or whirl around a target, making it harder to hit them. (Say, -2.)

6. Guardian. This creature can only exist in half-open spaces: ajar doors, windows, mirrors, etc. If summoned there, it can prevent others from coming through. In the wild it will traditionally bar passage to all who cannot answer a riddle, or abduct children to the fae realms as they pass through a door.

7.  Familiar. Not a spirit to summon, but an animal you have chosen and bound to you, so that it's life is permanently tied to yours. DCC has good rules for these, but to paraphrase: It gets 14 AC and d4+2 hit points (which you also receive). It is intelligent and completely loyal You can see through its eyes and gain any natural abilities it has (like sneaking for a cat, or breathing underwater for a toad). It may have other, magical abilities.

2nd Level


1. The spoon-sized boys: 2d4 tiny homunculi with daggers. Hard workers.

2. Spectral hound. Can track infallibly. Its howl causes fear.

3. Dead King. Ranks have no merit in the Dead Realms, but he can get information from other dead, knows history, stuff like that.

4. Shade: Attaches to someone by pretending to be their shadow. Feeds off them and drags them down like a curse.


6. Ape Ghoul: Stats as normal ape. Devours corpses to gain their powers for a day.

7.  Blight lamb. A hapless spirit that can be bound with the poisons of others. You can take a condition - paralysis, blindness, poison, or a disease - and force it out of the afflicted party and into the blight lamb. Be warned that the Blight Lamb may eventually die from the diseases you inflict on it. You can not transfer magical conditions to the Blight Lamb. If it breaks free it'll violently force its diseases into its tormentors.

3rd Level


1. Succubus. While sleeping beside someone, she can invade their dreams to steal their thoughts or memories and bring them back to her master. Thoughts and memories from other people could also be placed there. Y'know, Inception.

2. Giant spider-lady. You can ride her around, but she won't be able to climb up walls while you're on her back.

3. Doppleganger: Attaches to a target, takes on their features, and repeats their movements exactly - attacking what they attack, succeeding when they succeed, etc.

4. A pact with the Cold Dead Old ones. You can now summon the souls of the dead back into their corpses.

5.  Rage Demon. Possesses a target, taking control of them completely and driving them mad with rage. They will attack all in sight with twice the attacks per round they normally get.

6.  
Uri and Baki: Tricksy Aelfmaidens, madly in lust with and conspiring to destroy you.  They can teleport  and travel long distances fast by moving in and out of the fae realms.


7.
Curse Lamb. An angel sent to learn humility by bearing the sins of others. Like a blight lamb, but it may be bound with magical conditions, including curses.

4th Level


1. A Pegasus.
2. The kraken.

3. You've tapped into the vast spy network of pixies, dryads and fae - all the tiny folk that watch humanity and laugh. You can call upon them to report on the things they've seen - they can spy on anything that isn't magically protected.

4.  The Great Glass Head of Gruloctica comes forth. His mouth temple can fit about 10 people. Within this sanctuary, the party gets a bonus to all spells, healing, pleas for divine aid and so forth. Unholy creatures must make a save to enter. The head can't do much more than open and close it's mouth, very slowly.


5. Brain-worm: can burrow into a brain and take control over it. At first this will be simple - you can dictate their actions for a single round - but eventually this control will become total.

6.
Sacrificial Lamb. You may bind it to take damage for one member of the party - it will take wounds instead of them. Beware, its HP is finite.

7.
Plague! Just like the plagues of egypt; you can summon a swarm of locusts, rats, or other wild animals. These animals fill an area and attack all who enter it. They are all diseased.

5th Level


1. A dragon.


2. Beloch: One of the great demons, with influence over some of the highest rulers of the land. Can manipulate the high courts of man to bring you power and prosperity.

3.
Actorias the Gatekeeper, who holds all the pathways of the infinite planes; can open the way to the various realms of Death, Fae, Heaven and Hell and guide you on your journeys there.

4.
You can make the sleeping giants that form the mountains and bedrock of the world stir in their slumber - causing earthquakes, etc. On a natural 20, you wake them. They are likely to kill you, and everything.

6.  The legendary sword, Eterne. When you draw it, you may summon a legion of a thousand ghostly soldiers - the shades of all those who drew her before you. These are only half-real, and can't attack properly as an army unless rendered fully physical by special circumstances.

7. 
The Pledge of Predation. Spill your blood while chanting to open a chasm and summon Rondoclavusius. She will destroy all she sees - but her main goal is to find and devour you. She can be reduced to 0HP and thus immobilized, but will not die unless slain by your hand. You must then eat her completely to continue the pact.

Summoner


The Cleric class assumes that your setting has a very specific type of god. A noble and benevolent deity that loves healing and nature, and constantly fights against corruption and evil. An ever-present, all-knowing and all-loving god. A Christian god.

I've never played a game with this kind of god. I've had savage, thoughtless gods, whimsical trickster gods, cold and absent gods, pagan pantheons holding gods of every color - never a Most High God. Growing up with Christianity everywhere, my group finds Him pretty boring. I haven't played around much, but it seems like a lot of the blog-o-sphere must feel the same way. The gods I've seen take more inspiration from Moorcock, Vance and Lovecraft than from the bible.

People still play Clerics, of course, so I shoe-horn the Catholic stuff into my weirdo gods. My goofy crocodile trickster god gives his clerics the power to heal, help others, and destroy the wicked, as does my dual-aspect insect god. So does Zak smith's Grim, Gaunt God of Iron, Rust and Rain. So does every one of these, I assume. Maybe the evil gods get to be Catholic Satan instead.

DCC has a slightly different problem. Whenever a DCC cleric fails a spell, they incur disfavor. This disfavor builds up over time, making them more and more likely to suffer the wrath of their god - until they take a rest for the day, whereupon it resets to 0. So, along with the catholic baggage, all gods are now crazed, wrathful avengers with the memory of goldfish. They get pissed off whenever you use the spells they gave you, only to instantly forget that on the next day.


There's nothing wrong with playing a game with catholic gods - even blind, angry ones. It's just that making every god with a cleric the same is a terrible waste. So here's my alternative: A Summoner. A more pagan kind of Cleric that's in communion with all the various demons, Fairies, Loa and Jinn that span this wild world. You can use them instead of a Cleric or side-by-side.

Commanding the Spirits



Every tree, forest, ocean and mountain has it's own spirits. As a summoner, you can command them. Use the same stats as a Cleric, but gain a Summon Slot every level instead of a spell slot. This lets you make a pact with a new spirit, which you can then summon at will. (You can play out tracking down and binding of this new spirit, or just automatically gain it - DM's choice.) You roll a Command Check to order these spirits  around.*

Command check: Roll d20 + your WIS modifier + half your Summoner Level. 


The check is 10, +2 per level of the spirit. So you need 12 or better to command level 1 sprites, 14 for level 2, etc.


If you succeed, you can give them a single command - usually a normal action, like "Go here and do this". Once it's completed it's task the demon may disappear or sit around to watch the show, but you'll need to re-roll the Command Check every time you want to give them an order.


Whenever you fail the Command Check, you gain one Disloyalty. This adds 1 to your Critical Fail chance for Command Checks, representing the weakening of your bindings. Disloyalty builds up over time, resetting when you sleep. If you ever critically fail a command check, one of your spirits will burst free of your bonds and start causing havoc.

While free, a spirit adds their HP to the Command Check needed to bind them. You'll need to wear them down, then succeed at a Command Check to bind them again.

Healing

Drink, Drink!

You can sacrifice your servants to sustain you and your companions. Roll a Command check and order your minion to let the afflicted party drink of their blood. A level 1 sprite heals as "Cure Light Wounds", level 2 blood acts as "Cure Serious Wounds", and level three is "Cure Critical Wounds". Once you do this, you won't be able to summon them for the rest of the day.

When you get up to a high enough level, you gain enough control over your minions to bind them into objects, or even dead bodies. To do this, you need to be 5 times the level of the spirit - level 5 Summoners can bind level 1 spirits, level 10 summoners can bind level 2 spirits, etc. (For DCC, it's 2X the level of the spirit.) 


Patron

Arioch, Arioch! Blood and Souls for my lord Arioch!

You have one powerful Patron - your god, or a powerful demon. This spirit gave you your power, in exchange for your True Name. Your soul will go to them when you die. It's up to you whether this thought fills your days with joy or wakes you up in a cold sweat every night.



You can call on them for Divine/Infernal Intervention. Roll a Command Check. A 10 gets you the simplest request possible, 12 is useful, 18 is incredible, up to an apocalyptic 30. The power of them entering this world makes the spirits restless, and weakens all bonds; add +10 to Disloyalty when you summon them.

Spirits for the rest of the party


Everyone can ask the spirits for aid, even if they can't actually summon them. You can find, make or buy charms dedicated to Gods, Demons and Sprites, and roll a Command check once per day to ask one of them for help. For non-summoners, that's d20 + your Wisdom modifier. Like Patrons, you can make a request equal to the number you rolled - 10 for the most useless thing imaginable. What they can do depends on the spirit - a sea god could protect you from drowning, but be useless against fire.

NPC's will typically ask for good crops, help in childbirth, or protection from barnacles on the hulls of their ships. PC's will likely want something more obvious, but the effect will always be passive and invisible - a bonus to dice rolls, better AC against unholy creatures, protection from disease, that sort of thing.  


You can get a bonus to your command check by making offerings to the spirit. Tropical Loas love candy and rum, fairies love music and houses of cards, Christian gods want dedicated worship and acts of goodwill. You can use this to become a kind of paladin - dedicate yourself to a god, make their sacrifices and wear their charms to get their aid with your fighting, thiefing, or magic-using.

The old gods have no power in the South... You may find that your charm's power wanes as you enter the territory of a foreign god. Suffer a -1, -2, etc to command checks for amulets as you get further in to those hostile lands.

*Next up: A full list of spirits you can summon. 


Appendix N: Dying Earth, Elric, the Wizard-Knight books, Clandestinauts, Pokemon.


Something weird

In classical D&D, almost everything is uncertain. Your best attack will miss, your best defense will fail, and everything always has a five percent chance of turning into slapstick at any moment. In this crazy world, there's only one thing that amounts to a hill of beans:

Magic.

— Angus McBride

Magic is the one pillar of sanity and reason in a world of 50% fail chances. It's the only thing that will reliably work exactly the way you want, at exactly the right time, every time. The best thief in the world can fall off the roof, the best fighter can fling a sword off into his pal's head, but even the lowliest wizard is in complete control of every aspect of his unearthly powers.

Isn't that fucking weird?

I think DCC is a good step on the road to the mythical Perfect Magic System on the hill, and I'm going to try to keep climbing a bit in the posts to come.

DCC Magic for the rest of us.



I love the chaos of magic in Dungeon Crawl Classics, but if I look up another spell table I'll go insane. Here's a simple version for you folks at home.

To cast spells, a wizard must roll a spell check. Roll a d20, add your Intelligence modifier and your level as a Wizard, and try to beat the spells difficulty. That's 12 or better for a level 1 spell, 14 or better for a level 2 spell, 16 or better for level 3, and so on.

If you succeed, you cast the spell and keep it. If you fail, you lose the spell for the day. On a natural 20, you get some incredible super version of the spell. On a natural 1, the spell backfires hilariously and you become hideously corrupted. The DM should just make these critical spell effects and mutations up on the spot, taking into account the context. DCC has plenty of examples, and you can use The Benefactors for inspiration.

Clerics are slightly different. First, they add their Wisdom/Personality modifier to spell checks instead of Intelligence. Second, when they fail, they incur Disfavor from their god instead of losing the spell. Disfavour adds 1 to their critical fail chance for spells. When they inevitably end up critically failing a spell, their god curses them. Make up some terrible fate based on their god.

A cleric spends all day pissing off her god, and all night trying to patch things back up again. Clerics can get rid of disfavor by pleasing their god with sacrifices and the like, and all Disfavor disappears if you spend your normal 9+ hour rest in deep meditation and prayer.

— Ken Kelly
The Elemental

Magic-users can improvise special effects for a spell, in the same way that a fighter can improvise exciting ways to stab someone. Say, set the ground on fire instead of sending out a Fireball, using Turn Unholy to destroy demonic artifacts or Sanctuary to stop monsters from entering a room. Anything that fits in with the general feel of the spell is fine. Just raise the spells difficulty by 2, 4, 6 or more, based on how hard the thing they're trying to do is. EDIT: or you could use this called shot mechanic. Raise their critical fail chance and lower their critical hit chance. The crazier the thing they're trying to do with it, the more likely it is to misfire.

This is my favorite idea on this page. DCC has a lot of spells like "Force Manipulation", which could give you an invisible weapon, platform, blockade or manservant, depending on your roll. The variability is great, but having it depend on a roll sucks. This rule makes normal spells as free-form and weird as they are in DCC and gives power to player creativity instead of forcing them to look shit up in a book.(!!!)


All spellcasters have friends in high places. Wizards can call on the despicable beasts they've made obscene pacts with, and Clerics can call on their Gods. If they want to ask their pals for aid, have them roll a spell check as usual. They can ask for a favour as good as the roll allows; beat 5, 10, 15 or 20, where 5 is a minor boon and 20 is apocalyptic. Wizards will of course have to satisfy some dark price later on (again, see The Benefactors). For Clerics, asking their god for Divine Intervention incurs +10 to Disfavor.

(This means that clerics will generally ask their god for help at least once a day, while Wizards will avoid getting in debt to their Patrons unless they can possibly help it, and then wish they hadn't for the rest of the game.)

You can use this system to DCC-ify spells from other versions of D&D. Vancian spellcasters should get all their spells, instead of memorizing a set number of them per day. This may seem like a lot, but that high failure rate means they'll lose plenty of them without casting them. Clerics and wizards should both start with about 4 spells and get one more per level.

On adding your level to spell checks: in DCC, level 10 is the max. Adding 11-20 to a spell check makes the whole thing a little redundant, so you might want to consider giving out that +1 to spell checks every second level if your system goes up to 20.

Professor Quercus' Qorner


Some advice from one of my players, the wise Professor Quercus.

"Your problem is that you love us too much. You claim to be a PC killing maniac, but it's all talk."

"There's too many of you. I am weak. You all gang up on me."

"Of course we're going to fight you, we're spoiled children. You have to take a firm hand with children."

He's right. Conversely, I have some advice for players: Take off the black hats.


"Black Hat thinking" is criticism. Poking holes in an idea. Like, when I say "You open the door and a monster bursts out of the room!", someone who's got their black hat on asks "How did the monster get in there? What has it been eating? Why would it want to attack us?"

I don't know about you, but this happens to me all the time. I'm in creation mode, trying to make interesting stuff as quickly as possible in front of an audience, and my players are in problem solving mode, trying to find a way around my obstacles. I'm naturally going to leave a lot of gaps, and my players are naturally going to pick up on them.

If you can talk your way out of the plot hole, this might work out. Say: "Uh, the monster has a slave-race of tiny fungus-men that do nothing but bring it food all day." So now instead of a plot hole your players have an interesting thing to interact with, and your world is a little bit better.

No matter how you handle it, though, this always sucks away momentum in the same way that blocking does in improv theatre. When you critique like this you're taking energy away, not adding it. When the GM has to stop and think up an explanation, all the momentum he built up from that monster introduction disappears. Building up that momentum again is hard.

A GM is constantly giving energy to players by making stuff for them to break. For D&D to work, the players need to constantly give energy back. They do this by putting on funny voices, coming up with exciting plans, making jokes, and stabbing people in interesting ways. The best type of player gives out massive amounts of energy, to the DM and everyone else.

If you sit in the corner and don't add anything, then you're not giving the GM any energy - but you're not taking any, either, so it's sort of ok. If you wear the black hat, you're not adding anything, AND you're forcing the GM to spend more energy in making up more things. If you're wearing nothing but the black hat, then you're constantly sucking energy from the GM and giving out absolutely no energy of your own. This is the absolute worst kind of player.

There's a lot of writing out there on how to be a better GM, but not a lot on how to be a better player. If you're the kind of person who reads this blog you're probably already the raddest player possible, but I thought it was worth trying to articulate what kind of responsibility a player has.

How to get to the Dwarflands - Part 2

From Thief Town to the Seventh Pillar


In a molten sphere in the center of the earth resides the dwarfish deity, the Most Low God. He is circled by six concentric tunnels that stretch the circumference of the earth. An enormous stone cylinder moves through each of these tunnels, rotating around the Most Low God. These hollow cylinders are called the Pillars, and the Dwarves make their cities inside them.*

The Dwarves judge time by the rotation of these pillars. Once every cycle the pillars align perfectly, and it is possible to walk straight from the first pillar to the last. It's a time of celebration, but also of judgement. Each dwarf is evaluated on their actions from the past cycle, and moved up or down the pillars based on their merit. Within each pillar, Dwarves are strictly ranked - come the Alignment, the kings of the upper pillars descend to become to beggars of the pillars below.

Sixth Pillar


"Sa’ah". Destroyed long ago. The only remains are the giant tunnel that once housed it, and the ruins under the bog of thief town. The thieves have stripped most of the treasure clean, but there's a ruined dwarf-house that still stands in the darkness just beyond thief town, guarded by some kind of tentacled barnacles.

There is an intact passage under the throne of the thief king that leads down to the lower pillar.

Fifth Pillar


"Hatma", a great bazaar where the majority of dwarvish peasants live, work and trade. All dwarf children live here in great, squabbling orphanages.

Fourth Pillar


"Nati", the great furnace. This is the heart of dwarvish industry, a constant heat of blacksmithing and building. Through some curious process, they are able to use fires without producing smoke.

Third Pillar

"Saqar", the perfumed garden. All dwarven women reside here until they are ready to be married, tending the vast subterranean garden that feeds all Dwarves. Dwarfmaidens are said to be so beautiful that glimpsing even an inch of their flesh unprepared would kill a man instantly, so they must wear full black robes while away from the third pillar. They reveal themselves to their lovers inch by inch over a period of months, until they can view them entirely without being destroyed.**

The pillar holds troops of إنسان آلي, automated men which work for the comfort and protection of the ladies. These machines are ingeniously designed to pour tea, offer towels and water for hand-washing, or play short pieces of music. There are also scattered monasteries, where those chosen to ascend descend to the second pillar must spend a cycle meditating and fasting.


Second Pillar


"Jahim", the pillar of Glory, city of the dwarf kings. The greatest of the dwarves reside here, raised to the second pillar by the judgement of the Most Low God. These are typically the greatest philosophers, scientists, leaders and priests of the age, along with those judged worthy enough to serve them.

The workshop of Al-jazari is here, where he works on the most beautiful and terrible of his automated war machines.[1][2] So too is the head church of the Dwarf Pope, known as the First Eye of the Most Low God, who sits in judgement of the deeds of each dwarf. Below him are the Million eyes, priest spies said to infest each pillar and report on the actions of every dwarf.

One of the most fearsome of Al-jazari's mechanical war beasts.

First pillar


"Hawia", the pillar of Faith. A vast labyrinth that holds the seven monstrous children of the Most Low God, along with their jinn servants. All dwarves must make a pilgrimage here at some point in their lives, to worship at the feet of one of these so-called Angels.

1. Lolth, the spider queen. Her servants are the Drow.

2. Gloria of the glass, a transparent maiden who can manipulate minds and memories. Her servants are the Shards. They carry glass books, which can absorb minds to be fed to their mistress.

3. Bahamut, an enormous fish with an elephant head, said to hold up the world. He has no servants.

4. Al-Qaum, a pillar of blood with three faces embedded within it. These faces change to become the mother, father, and eldest child of whoever views it. His servants are the skinless children.

5. Almaqah, an enormous penis made of vaginas. The dwarves have sworn this isn't a joke. It's servants are some kind of women with bellies that distend, wormlike, opening onto rows of teeth.

6. Malakbel, a collection of 700 golden masks grouped into a hoovering sphere. Each mask whispers secrets constantly. Her servants are headless men.

7. الحصان الساق, lit. "Leg horse".

Seventh Pillar


Jahannam, what we call the outside world. The Dwarves believe that our surface world is actually another pillar, enormous, but still underground. The stars and sun are merely holes in the roof of the pillar, where sunlight shines through from the true above ground. In that realm above sits the Most High God, the source of all evil.

As the farthest pillar from the Most Low God, the Dwarves consider us the most evil. The Dwarves that live here are the damned, outcast from every other pillar and forced to walk under the rays of the Most High God.

*I have written this story as it was told to me by the Dwarves, but the distinguished reader will be able to see the holes in it themselves. As Bomgumblewitz is the only true god, this Most Low God cannot exist, and the lower pillars of Dwarfland are doubtless empty.

**The dwarves describe their women as "like precious gems and pearls in their splendor, their clarity, their purity, and their whiteness." They have full black eyes, and b
linding white skin, "so delicate and bright... that you can see through to the bone marrow on the delicate flesh of their legs."[1] Obviously this does not match with the Dwarfmaidens we see above ground. The dwarf men explain that this true state slowly fades as a woman spends time away from the Garden, which is why all women must gather at the third pillar once every cycle.