Sunday 31 March 2019

20 player questions on Belswick

Session 0 for Belswick is happening this Friday, and there's character ideas bouncing around. Regular player Robert sent me these 20 questions to help shape his character (and the setting). Then in the next email, detailed the charlatan/criminal background that he'll choose for his cleric... Looking forward to it! Now let's get to answering these questions.

1 - How large and influential are Arcane and Priestly Orders in the public eye?Are commoners just trying to eat after taxes, or are the Orders omnipresent and a clear influence on daily life?

Commoners are mainly trying to survive. They want to get their chores for the First and Second Estate sorted, with spare time dedicated to gossip, smuggling, brewing moonshine, fornication, wild feasts for the whole village on the memorial day of some local saint or hero, experimental mushroom and bark smoking, speaking ill of their betters and so on.

In general, Church and Nobility are seen as Important Folk, not quite part of the real world where you work for a living. They get to mess up your life with the kind of annoying demands that Important Folk make. The local noble has the right to work - your work. Commoners have to provide a certain amount of free labour on top of those 75% taxes. And they have to pick up arms if the nobles tell them to, provide crazy hunts or lavish feasts, produce wondrous gifts and so on. (Sometimes this ruler will be a member of the Church - land grants for past loans or favours. That muddies the waters even further.)

The Church of the Authority is everywhere in terms of culture: after all, they decide what is Right and Wrong and advise people on that. Curses, oaths and lots of art reference the Church. And you'll see lots of signs the Church like statues, shrines, churches and monasteries. There's hundreds of saints, with little orders or monasteries dedicated to them. You might know them all if you're a trained cleric or a particularly devout commoner.

Commoners and Nobles know very well that the major Saintly Orders exist. But at the same time they're seen as minor variations within The Church. After all, the Orders concern themselves with pretty weird shit, which doesn't touch on daily life all that much. Think modern day political parties or ministries - you will probably recognize them by name, but will find it harder to explain exactly what they do and don't. And so in Belswick peasants don't necessarily know that the Leaden Order and the Kurelda Order have different remits in terms of hunting demons and heretics. But they do know that these Orders exist and have a rough idea of what they're for.

Arcane Orders are like weird guilds that offer specialty training. This does not make those wizards any better than other commoners; their dealing with dark magics may even make them worse off than a random peasant. The peasant is invisible to the nobility. A wizard stands out and will be called upon.
 There are of course ways to protest if nobles, or churchmen, demand too much. Make your case at the court of their liege, or just acting like an ignorant, wellmeaning but allruining yokel. They'll get the hint.

2 - How are the Arcane/Divine Orders viewed in the public eye?Are they mostly benevolent, mysterious, dangerous or tyrannical?

Depends which Order you're talking about. Arcane Orders are pretty secretive and don't have a big role in public life. Which means they get lumped together. Who can remember those fancy names for their wizard guilds anyway? Divine orders range from mysterious to remote to dangerous:
  • Order of the Scroll - monasteries with lots of books full of lots of mostly useless information. Teach you how to read and do sums (useful!), try to explain to you how farming works (they mean well, you're sure). Weird sideline in sleeping drugs.
  • Leaden Order of St. Vivione - run hospitals, train chirurgeons, chase away the minor demons of infections. Deeply scary sideline in excorcism, which they blend with the regular medicine work just in case. Expect an excorcism of the demon in your tooth before it's yanked out and the pain stopped cold in its tracks with excellent herbs. Excellent herbs.
  • Ivory Candle of St. Kurelda - oh man. Bad news. Witch hunters, trained to see all the signs of witches and warlocks. And if all you're trained to see is witch signs... The Archbishop is part ot this Order.
  • The Circle of Thorns / Carnellians - actually know their shit. Nature clerics, who help out the locals with dangerous predators, diseases, famine and so on. Attitudes vary from preaching the good word of the Authority to the forest people, to half-druidic veneration of nature.
  • Gale Order of St. Ingvar, the Raven Order - rarely seen, thank the Authority. Hauled out of their mountain monasteries to subdue monstrous servants of the Exile with gale-force winds and lightning storms. Zero regard for casualties or property damage when they're fighting an Exile-begotten Beast of the Apocalypse. Say goodbye to your town and crops.
  • Silent Order of St. Gustau / Gustavinians - mostly known for their work on the Small Gods; captured godlings or angels that are placated with minimal prayers. Seen as harmless excentrics.
  • The Black Hand, the Ferragun Order - knights of the Church, warrior-clergy. Obey, get out of the way. Reputation for slaughter, torture, sacking, deposing local rulers. Key word: reputation. They work very hard to be seen as terrifying witchfinders, because intimidating someone is so much easier than dealing with the forms and penances for chopping off some asshole noble's head. Which they will still do when its needs doing or when the guys is really getting on their nerve. Somehow they count as both nobility and clerics, with mandate from high up in the church to Deal With Things as they see fit. Power hungry nobles hate these guys with their dread inspiring black plate armor and insufferable encroachment on their lands and rights. Politically minded bishops and abbots hate these guys with their according-to-scripture-we're-supposed-to-live-in-poverty-and-humility interpretation of the Church's teachings. Take in orphans without any ties to proper families and give them both clerical magic and noble rights.
  • Order of the Third Lantern - used to be some kind of witch hunters, but their kind of witch died out or something? Not taken too serious anymore.

3 - How prevalent are actual spellcasters, ie Wizards and Clerics, within the Orders?Are most representatives of the Orders capable of at least minor magic, or are magic users rare?

About half of the members in an Order have some kind of spellcasting capability - either through a Ritual Caster / Magic Initiate feat, or actual Bard/Cleric/Wizard levels. Spellcasters who can invoke 3rd to 5th level spells are rare (1 in 10), with a small group of excellents (1 in 20) reaching even higher. Of course high level wizards may get the spell slots for 7th - 9th level spells, but Church and even their own Orders make sure that no spells are available - in other words, they learn to cast lower level spells more intensely. Which is still terrifying.

4 - How is the political power divided in the public eye?Are the nobility on top, with the King undisputed figurehead of the Church, and Arcanists no more than advisors – is the King appointed by the Church, with nobility managing the lands, the Church ruling daily life and the Arcane Orders in clear opposition – something completely different?

The nobility rules, period. Archbishop annoints and blesses the ruler, some landgrabbing church folk may administer lands but mostly their influence on daily life is cultural, advisory. A Churchman (or woman) will have a good chance to catch the local noble's ear though.

Wizards are used as status symbol because as a noble you are expected to cover their upkeep in return for their work. They may advise or counsel, but on an individual basis - the Unbroken Circle doesn't have a seat on the Duke's privy council. Put differently, wizards are weird meddlers in half-sanctioned magics at best, and old-fashioned nobles will feel they should "know their place".

5 - Has there been open and widespread conflict between the Nobility, the Church and/or the Arcane Orders in recent history? Or is the something brewing right now?

Belswick has mercifully been spared this. Seriously misbehaving wizards (demonology, necromancy) tend to get hunted by their peers before the Church or State feels it needs to step in. There are tensions between the Duke and his Archbishop, a powerhungry Mouseling named Hector of Caerleon. There are also tensions between the Duke and the bishop of Ozillac, who descends from Arraynian royalty and is suspected of colluding with his brother, a baron in Arrayne.

6 - How dangerous is daily life for commoners?
Is the most common cause of danger monsters, famine, disease, cruel feudal lords, accusations of heresy, criminality, something else entirely?

Most dangers are natural - monsters (including crap like unicorns, hydras), famine, disease, cruelty, war, brigandry and other criminals. Accusations of heresy are rare, but see below. Likewise, fullblown supernatural manifestations such as demons or undead, or Warlock cults, are rare. But the more talked about for that rarity.

7 - Can everybody read and write?Is there organised education like elementary school and/or many colleges and universities, or do most people learn the trades of their parents or by applying to Guilds?

Many people can read haltingly or do simple sums. There is no organized elementary education. Your best chance is to get into the church, be a noble, luck out by having an Order of the Scroll library/monastery nearby who teach letters and numbers, or have your parents or a guild master teach you. There are lots of guild trained tradesmen who can teach you, and if you have talent, send you to a skilled master to learn more. You likely learn to do what your family did, but you're not locked into that - especially in larger towns and cities.

8 - How influential are the Guilds in the scheme of things?And are there well known Criminal Organisations?

Guilds are learning to play at politics in the cities and larger towns - they are showing that they can deliver more money, prestige and goods when given freedom and influence than a micro-managing ruler can.

There are small gangs of brigands and smugglers of course. But there is only one organization known across the land for crime, murder and allround villainy: the Violet Cloud. Its thieves' cant even has a swanky name: Mist. (Actually a dumbed down version of the arcane language that the Cloud's wizards use.)

9 - How common is travelling?Do most people stay within a 5 mile radius of where they were born, does everyone make at least one pilgrimage, or do people freely and often roam the country?

Most people have seen some travel throughout the Duchy, although on regular days they stick to their job and home. Serfs have to actually get permission to leave their lord's domain. People who traveled far on pilgrimages or to distant lands are uncommon and exotic. But definitely not unheard of.

10 - The Belswick Campaign uses NPC’s such as Mentors, Patrons and Contacts, which can be gained depending on the method of Attribute Generation. Are there other ways of gaining these at character generation, such as Background features, writing them in your character history etc? And can they be gained later, through roleplaying, Carousing, hiring them, or starting at higher character level after dying for instance?

Definitely! Any NPC that you build up a bond with during play can become a contact. If you write someone in your starting character history, I expect they were 'bought' at character creation. Future contacts, mentors and patrons will just take in-game effort. Do them a favor, blackmail them, pay them, rescue their daughter from trolls, you name it.

11 - It was mentioned that swords are weapons for the nobility – how strict are the weapon laws in Belswick? Is it rare for people to carry any weapon from day to day, do most people carry some small way to defend themselves, or is anyone carrying a weapon a professional with a license?

I was too strict there. Anyone can carry a weapon (most often a knife or club). Although you're expected to leave them at the door or guard house when you go into a dwelling. Dito with heavy armor-piercing crossbows - why are you wearing that to market day?

Swords used to be hard to make, which made them expensive and almost automatically limited to noble owners. But with better smithing, and higher prosperity, they've become a soldier's tool as well. A sword with exquisite workmanship is still suspect for a yokel to have, so maybe arrange for the local lord to publicly gift it to you after you cleared a dungeon on his lands?

12 - Is the calendar comparable to our own? 365 days in a year, 7 day weeks, 12 months, 1 day in the week somewhat devoted to worship, many celebrations devoted to the changing of the seasons and saints?

That's it. I'll go for the classical 12 months of January etc, each of 4 weeks of 7 days, Sundays for worship, with a one-week summer feast and winter feast starting 1 January and 1 July. So 48+2 = 50 weeks in total. Easy to remember. Pretty much every day is dedicated to some saint or other, but they're mostly minor worthies. I'll break out a chart for Major Saint's Days when I think of it.

13 - How much of the land is populated, or at least well explored?Are there vast swathes of untamed wilderness, cursed or unknown ruins of ancient civilisations spread about, regions under control of one or more species of monsters? Or is the country cultivated and controlled by one or more of the political powers in the land, and are the dangers Beyond the Borders?

People will live anywhere they can survive. Check out the map: green areas are wilderness, orange is more cultivated and civilized. So there's a lot of untamed or unwanted terrain.

Cursed or forgotten ruins: YES they're there. Either known (don't go to beacon hill when the marsh lights burn!) or unknown (say, that stone is suspiciously well-dressed for a random cave wall). I hate to say it, but...grease the local bard and pick his brain for lore about hidden treasure.

Monster controlled? Assuredly not! All lands are protected by the King and his nobles. How dare you.
Well, truth be told, the following beasties make the land unsafe:

  • the Giant Wolfstan of the Blue in the Snake Mountains
  • the Hound of Bodmin Hills between Badlesmere, Belswick and Cromney
  • the Bone Witch of the Eldermarsh in Valbonnais
  • the Unicorn Abyss in Corsewall forest
  • the wolf packs in the Old Fulwood
  • rumors of a werewolf in the Ozillac forest
  • a persistent plague in the isolated village of Tilmarsh, barronetcy Martin
  • faerie goblins haunt Walden forest
  • deep lights below the waves and wreckings on Lake Ful
  • the Sea Serpent in the Bay of Denbigh
  • the behir Fulmas on Mount Grey
  • the hydra Coruscon of the Corsewall hills
  • the First Basilisk should still be alive and growing in the depths of the earth

In addition, when the moon is right and the Old Ways have not been properly kept, faerie can ride into our lands where the world is thin. That could be a pack of (Un)Seelie knights. Or maybe a band of Svart Alfar [Goblins] or their Orc war leaders. We're not talking tinkerbell here. We're talking the Fair Folk.

Like Terry Pratchett taught us:

“Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.

The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.

No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.”

 - Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

It is as the old song goes: if you go out in the woods today, pack cold iron. Or purchase an iron filing-laced incendiary from the Fraternity of the Comet. Show those faeries who's boss.

The Fair Folk by Taissia Abdoullina. Illustration done for Mythbook3, 2018.

14 - What is the drink of choice in Belswick?Do most people go for a flagon of ale after a hard days’ work, or does every region produce wine? Is safe drinking water easy to come by, or are tea and fruit juice available to all?

Common folk around Belswick will drink ale (watered for breakfast and lunch), with stronger brews for feast days. Nobles will enjoy a good wine as well. In the former Arraynian provinces in southern Belswick, wine is the drink of choice for everyone.

Safe drinking water: if you're nature wise, that shouldn't be a problem. Or just use the village well?

15 - How common are adventurers in society?
Are they just mercenaries doing specialist work, working to survive day to day like everybody else – or are they deviants with danger lurking just around the corner whenever they show up? Do people go on quests at the drop of a hat, or the mutterings of any soothsayer – or are they as organised as any guild or Order?

Very good question. How do we get ourselves to an adventure?

There are no adventurer guilds. Quests are for besotten nobles.

Adventurers are decidedly rare. Weird folk, half Outlaw already: they stepped away from their appointed job or position and travel to where there's trouble brewing. So yes, mercenaries to some, trouble-bringers to others, poachers even if you've got a stickler for law running the fief. Best to keep an ear out for jobs and approach the local lord to see if they'll delegate it to you for a share.

Normal people don't drop their work to go on dangerous adventures to fight with (sorry, against) supernatural monsters. People might be contracted to solve a problem by a ruler, guild master or high mage. This may start low key, like when a sherriff organizes a posse of people to smoke out an outlaw. If you can handle yourself and grease the right pockets, people will find you to do other, harder jobs.

16 - Warlocks are a thing in Belswick. How common a threat are they?Is their existence well known to all, with stories of their mischief arriving from every corner of the land every week – or are they rare and mysterious? Have there been regular witch hunts, and if so is the public invited to participate or should it be left to the pros? Is there a penalty for falsely accusing someone for being a warlock, or does the Church prefer certainty above doubt?

Everyone knows that witches and warlocks exist. But the majority of people go their entire life without seeing actual witchcraft in action. There's actual quite a lot of witches - say, 2% of the population has some minor deal with a warlock patron. Most of them get scared after the one task they have to fulfill for their patron and stick to these minor magics to help them through life. Some like the taste of forbidden power. Those are the ones that make it into the stories.

Witch hunts are called sparsely, against either large cults or covens or against archwarlocks of great power. A posse can certainly be called against a coven of minor warlocks: maybe five times a year in the entire duchy. Against an archwitch and her demons, only the brave and devout have a chance. (Of course songs never talk about the many servants of those pious and noble heroes...) These kind of quests are rare - once every five or ten years maybe. (It's been twelve...)

The penalty for a false witch hunt is a fine for targeting a peasant to a great weregild or even corporal punishment and incarceration for accusing a high ranking noble or cleric. (I'll use the Indulgence chart.)

17 - Is there a lot of widespread and open racism towards non-humans?
After all, Dwarves are rumoured to be digging towards Hell, and mistrusted for that reason. Elves and halflings a rare, or at least a lot less prevalent than in most worlds – and other races even more so. How about the animal headed folk?

There are actually more animal folk ("people") and elves+halflings+dwarves ("half fae people") than humans ("people"). It's just that each individual type of animal person is pretty rare. Mistrust and racism is not as wide-spread as you'd think. The other that people fear and hate is the unknown: the other Estates, those from Far Away (sometimes that means the other side of the world, sometimes another country, sometimes another barony).

This said, there's a lot of stereotyping. Foxlings are liars, swanlings are cursed, toadlings are diseased, mouselings (do NOT call them ratlings there is no such thing as ratlings and they do NOT call themselves Skaven!) are...of the tactical withdrawal persuasion, houndlings are dumb thugs, spiderlings have weird blooddrinking rites and their own deity (what?!) that they're allowed to keep.

And humans are bald weirdo freaks that must descend from something vile and more fertile than rabbitlings. (A theory never spoken aloud is that souls get second and third chances at heaven, and that the better they did in their previous life, the higher up in the animal folk chain they incarnate. Humans in this view rank lowest of the low.)

18 - Who is the most popular public figure in the region? The King, a devout priest, or a talented bard perhaps?

That is a great question. I've no answer yet, and I'll let the people decide: expect this to be a question to the group during the first session.

19 - Who is the least popular public figure, either openly or hush hush?

Hard choice. In terms of sheer dread it's a tie between:
  • Hector of Caerleon, the Mouseling Archbishop of the Church of the Authority, Master of the Domesbury Cathedral and Archprelate of the Kurelda Order, and
  • Sir Ulric of the Broken Spear, the Dread Knight in his forsaken castle on Mount Gale, bearer of the Hellfire Standard, arch heretic, slayer of thousands, who was slain thrice by Saint Cascarrion and has slain him three times in return.

    I might start the campaign in the foothills of Mt. Gale.


20 - Tired of me yet? ;)Since I was also the bozo that dropped the language question let me clarify, I don’t expect whole posts on any of these. Couple of sweet sarcastic sentences will do me fine – though I would be delighted if anything sparks more posts, naturally.


I think we're moving into the part of the campaign where the lore is decided at the table, but happy to write some more here about Belswick. Useful questions!

Friday 29 March 2019

5e cheat sheets - class and background

Character creation can be fun, but when it needs to happen mid-game (i.e. the party is now looting your character), it had better be fast so you can get back into the action right away.

New characters in 5e still takes some looking up of gear and skills and background abilities - I thought I'd speed that up by making little paper slips with the relevant info. The idea is to cut these out, clip them to a fresh character sheet and circle any options chosen, then fill in the sheet properly when you have time.

Steal the pdf or click-to-enlarge the images below.

Source: classes from D&D 5e, icons from the 5e fan kit, Telecanter's collection, and random googelry. Particularly happy with the ones that I picked for Legendary Lineage and Deserter.


These include my house rules for Belswick such as cantrips costing spell slots (until you learn to cast them for free), all spellcasters except nature types needing to collect spells for a spellbook, clerics having less experience with armors. You'll also struggle to find sorcerors, monks or paladins. The first two need to be encountered in game first, and paladins are somehow not being inspired anymore by the Authority.

Barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter - print, cut out, clip to your fresh character sheet
Ranger, rogue, warlock, wizard


These backgrounds are intentionally low-key (no "royal assassin", which sounds like a title you should earn in game). Sources indicated, but I've modded most of them so check the pdf if you're in my game.
  • Beggar - slip in unnoticed - DnD Beyond
  • Bravo - intimidate people for a friend - Hack & Slash
  • Deserter - always has an out out for trouble - Eberron5e
  • Duelist - know how to properly challenge people to a duel of honor - DanDwiki
  • Ex-prisoner - mementoes and a contact from your days in prison - Hack & Slash
  • Farmer - have livestock, know how to work the land in exchange for food&bed - Hack & Slash
  • Fey-touched - sought out by the fey and understand their customs - Dnd Beyond (modified)
  • Gravedigger - got the tools, loot and looks of someone who is allowed to haul corpses - Hack & Slash (modified)
  • Haunted one - you were targeted by supernatural horror but survived - DnD Beyond
  • Legendary lineage - you are the heir to a famous family or object of power - Eberron5e
  • Pilgrim - know many religious trivia and useful info - Eberron5e
  • Ratcatcher - you squeeze into underground places and kill stuff. sounds like transferable skills - Hack & Slash
  • Redeemed cultist - you turned away from all that, but you can still spot them - DanDwiki
  • Ruffian - you're a hard one. people stay quiet when you misbehave - DnD Beyond
  • Sawbones - you're a barber-surgeon and can get access to the sick, dead or quarantained - (source?)
  • Smuggler - know how to transport stuff and know who might buy it - Hack & Slash

Saturday 16 March 2019

More 20 Questions - on gameplay and double wielding pets

Last week I answered Jeff's 20 questions about my Belswick setting. Which is getting on the rails any minute now, I promise. Grown-up schedules, ugh. While we wrangle agendas, here's two other sets of 20 questions answered.

First, 20 questions on gameplay from Necropraxis.
And then 20 more on weaponized squid by Monster Manual Sewn From Pants.

You know you want to.


'cause I love house rules and special character generation shit. This campaign will run on the D&D 5e rules.

1. Ability scores generation method?
Either arrange {15,14,13,12,10,8}, OR roll for your scores and get a contact, mentor or patron.

2. How are death and dying handled?
At 0 hit points, we break out this Death & Dismemberment table. Different damage types give different conditions you get to struggle with. Particularly solid hits give you Fatal Wounds, which kill after 3 rounds unless you are healed or recover on your own.

3. What about raising the dead?
As undead: frowned upon, frowned upon hard. Clerics of the Church of the Authority can return the dead to real life (as can clerics of the Watcher and the Exile...if you like being in debt to the Spider God or the Corrupter hirself). They'll only do so for a hefty donation and a solid reason.

4. How are replacement PCs handled?
Quick as we can, we get you back into the action. Pick stats, race, estate and class, and write down only what you need at that moment; pick your skills and equipment later. You start 1 level lower than your previous character.

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
Never thought to do it differently: this group always rolls individual initiative, with groups of similar opponents acting on shared initiative. We roll at the beginning of combat. New participants roll when they enter the fight.

6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
  • Critical hit: roll double the amount of dice (including extra energy damage, sneak attack) OR give a nick to an opponent's weapon or armor (see below).
  • Critical fumble: one of the combat items you were using gains a nick. Weapons have their dice reduced (2d6 becomes 2d4, d12>d10>d8>d6>d4); armor loses 1 AC.
    Items are destroyed when they drop below d4 damage or +1 AC. You can have this damage repaired at 1/10th the original item cost. Magic items ignore a number of nicks per day equal to their magical bonus. Yes, you can hit the magic off of an enchanted armor if you've damaged it enough; magical plusses get destroyed last. Repairing this will take a wizard.
    If you weren't using a weapon or armor somehow, you drop a valuable item, which rolls away (d2 x 5 feet if you need a number). Or you drop prone yourself.

7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
It looks snazzy. No mechanical benefit. this question just made me think of a nice way to tie in the Death & Dismemberment chart. Helmets (10 gp to replace) are included in medium and heavy armors. You can sacrifice your helmet to make a head wound on the table one step less bad.

8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
If you want to... I'll go with standard 5e rules here. Might give some cover if you have to fire through a buddy. If you're in melee range of an enemy and attacking with a ranged weapon, you do so at disadvantage (roll twice, take the worst).

9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
Definitely you'll want to run away from some encounters. I'll do my best to telegraph that. Remember that you don't get XP for defeating enemies, you get it for finding loot and bringing it home!

10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
I'm going for no. I will slightly modify 5e's life drain ability, when it comes up. Normally, you lower your max HP by a certain amount until your next long rest; I'll let you recover up to half that amount for every long rest (same as I changed regular long rests).

11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Sure. Again, I'll telegraph any hefty encounters so people can make informed choices. If that choice is to run along a long corridor to kill the lightning wizard, so be it...

12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
You can carry an amount of items equal to your strength, more if they're bundles of tiny items. Beyond that you get encumbrance penalties. I've made an equipment sheet to streamline this. I'll ask for light source and ration depletion, but ultimately I trust my players. No audits planned. Bring a cart or a donkey or hire porters.

13. What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
Your regular level-up just happens after the next long rest = good night's sleep. Archetype powers (clerical domain, wizard specialty, ranger specialty etc) have to be learned from a teacher. Will typically take a few days of downtime and a mini quest. All spellcasters except nature types have to find or earn their new spells. Make some friends in your Clerical / Wizardly order.

14. What do I get experience for?
Finding valuables and bringing them to your home base safely. Wealth you lose to taxes does not count for XP. Wealth you spend in carousing does.

15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
I'll let you spot huge traps right away; the type where the challenge is on avoiding, not spotting them in the first place. For poison needles hidden in a locked chest, you better check. Good description will give advantage on the roll (roll twice, take the best).

16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Most yes. Retainers can take fire, haul materials, do work around camp, carry shields and torches. They have a morale from 2-12, and every time their side takes a big setback (half party incapacitated, leader cut down, overpowering magic), I check 2d6: rolls over their morale means the retainer will cut their losses. Or freak out amusingly.

17. How do I identify magic items?
The Identify spell is the easiest way to do this. Just seeing whether something is magical will take a Detect Magic.

18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
Potions are going to be a thing: they're half magical, half folk lore, meaning even dabblers can brew them. You'll have to ID potions by taste, smell and look, and some are downright dangerous to taste. Consider Identify. Or a disposable halfling taster.
Bonafide magical items are hoarded jealously - no magic shops. You can trade with collectors like the church or a wizard's guild, or try to make a deal with a noble.

19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
I'm torn between "lost art" and "for high wizards and archclerics". Not something you'll do in the first 5 levels; I think it will involve questing for a recipe and ingredients, then spending serious downtime and wealth to create the item.

20. What about splitting the party?Split away.


1. Is there weaponized Squid?Can I start with one? How much are they? Can I have one as a pet/horse/best friend? Can I play one? Can I dual wield them?

Yes there is. Find the scenic village of Omst on Lake Ful. You know those hick towns with prize pumpkin competitions? Omst has prize weaponized squid. They breed 'em for colour, poisonicity, range and clinginess. There's a contest who can keep quiet longest after being bitten.

You can but one as a pet. It will hate you. You can dual wield them if you like being bitten twice a round.

You can maybe find landsquid to ride. Not in Omst though. They don't go in for weird shit like that.

*sigh* fine, you can play a squidling. No, you can't be a mindflayer.

by Gris Grimly

2. Is there undead robots?follow up questions involve the nature of consciousness and the existence of the soul in your campaign and can I play one? or have one as a pet or a gun that shoots them?

No warforged. Souls are the same as spirits and spells and demons and angels, only housed in flesh.

You can play an enfleshed soul. It's called a hoo-mon. You cannot have one as a pet or shoot them, that's called either slavery or a war crime respectively and those are bad.

3. Do Icebergs walk across the land ?can I be from one? Is godzilla frozen in one? Can I play a godzilla?

Far north, beyond the Vaeringjar, the oldest 'bergs have personality. And a mind of their own. Who knows what's inside them? Maybe godzilla. You can play a baby godzilla as soon as you discover lizardfolk.

4. What do birds know?(no further questions)

Birds just know, man.

5. Does medicine work like it does here but no-one knows CPR or does it work like a cartoon so I cure amnesia with more head injurys or does it work like medieval euro people thought it did with demons in your teeth?Do I start with demons in my teeth? Do I know CPR? Can I invent CPR? Can I give myself powers with additionally organs? What planet is in ascension in my spleen midmorning?

Gross medicine (bleeding out, broken bones) works like you'd hope - bind the wound, set the bone. Mental illness and disease and possession is cured best by a certified Cleric of the Leaden Order.

Hitting people over the head or massaging their chest is just weird. Don't do that.

You can definitely get different spleens and other assorted organs inserted. Ask a Cleric of the Exile or an adventurous Elf transmuter.

6. I want to play a hobbit but really I'm the fleas controlling the hobbit. Where is that in the book?
Could I take over a new guy with my fleas? Or another players guy?

Hobbits are famously flealess. Why waste a free snack?

7. How much could I rent my body out to spirits before I lost control of my character?
What are the names of the spirits? Are they cool?

You can keep that up for a while. Eventually either the Church or your Patron will catch up with you.

The best-known spirits for body renting are the Hungry Crone, the Emerald Saint, the Scandalous Courtier and the Blistered Squire. They are very cool.

Or pray directly to the Exile. That always ends well.

8.What level do I have to get my character to before I am the g.m?
Can I half be the g.m at an early level? What about when you leave the room?

You can be DM for a bottle of Oban. Or if you have a cool idea for a oneshot.

9. What is the dumbest thing I can spend my money on?

no dumber than that but cool. Like a pet with a pet with a weapon? Can pets dual wield?

I am under no illusion that I could make up a dumber thing than the combined brainpower of my players can. Although naming a halfling evil mastermind Morasco d'Jorasco comes close. Dude was just laughed off stage.

You can dual wield him. He needs the money.

10. How ugly can my guy be? Like Can I basically be a walking fish?
No wait I wanna be a walking fish. What is the reverse scuba technology like in this world?

Yeah you can be a fishling.

11.The lamp oil? Is that like cooking oil, kerosene, white spirits or napalm?
How much can I buy of it?

Lamp oil is like cooking oil. The wizards of the Fraternity of the Comet sell the good napalmy stuff. You mad fool.

12. How does physics work in this world?

What makes the planets stay up? Are there planets? Is it elves? Can I play an elf from another planet? Does everything work like how we though it did in the past? Can I discover stuff and pass it off as a magic? Is possible to use the scientific process to organise the concepts of magic?

Discovering the underpinnings of magic through the scientific method is deffo possible. It didn't end all that horrifically last time.

That said: planets stay up because the Authority has decreed it so. There are no planets and they're full of crazy angels hugging themselves because they're still addicted to True Heaven but that's been lost forever because of wizards, but you're not supposed to know that. Like anyone is still reading this.

Everything does sort of work like we thought in the past: alchemy, demonic posession - at least that's what the Olmadician Order of the Scroll teaches.

It's never elves.

13. Can I start with weapon hands?
What about crab claws? Can  I play a crab with human hands? Can I have one as a pet? Do they live on a different planet? Can we go there?

Crablings: sure. Crabling with human hands: sure. Weapon hands: no monks until you meet one. You can't have them as a pet, that would upset diplomatic relations. They're not from a different planet, it's even worse: they live right here on this one. You can go there if you like really long sea voyages with a vicious encounter table.

14. What cultures approve of cannibalism?
What about if we are super rich? Aren't rich cannibals be default , I mean if you think about it? How is the class struggle here anyway? Is there a Karl Marx? How receptive are people to the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism here?

We're only just inventing capitalism, the rest of this will have to wait. Cannibalism is a great way to turn into a hag, ogre or goblin. Especially if you're a Hobbit.

15. Can my character not be real , but a hallucination of another character?
But I still wanna be able to do stuff. What are the stats for that?

Illusions are a criminal's tool.

16. Which is the rome but with lava fire country in this world?
What about the ice circus country? Can I have a pet from there?

oh god please make it stop

17. Can I invent an insect?
as a player like right now I tell you an insect and you put it in the game? Or as a character? Can my spells be insects that then exist in this world after I cast them? Can I play an insect who is actually a spell cast in this world? What about as a pet?


18. Is there reverse fire?
What about reverse water or earth? What do they wear there?


19. How much money can I make inventing siege engines?
Can I play a siege engine? In what ways are animals used in siege engines?

Again, no warforged.

20.What is the most significant tree to the economy of the starting place?
Is it really a tree or maidens stitched together? If I play a maiden do I get spells or do people that worship me get spells but only if I'm mad at them?

I need a drink.

Wednesday 13 March 2019


One of my computer screens is hardwired to UK Parliamentary tv to follow the latest set of Commons votes on Brexit. You may think that's weak political shit and boring as hell. It's exactly that. All the way to hell. And it inspired me to give you all a vote on what happens to my Belswick campaign. Vote in the comments!

Update, Tue 2 April:
A 1st place vote gets 3 points, 2nd place 2 points, third place 1 point. After 5 votes, the score is:
  • 8 points, 3 votes: no. 6, They're Here (visitors from other planes)
  • 7 points, 3 votes: no. 3, Rise and Fucking Shine (the Du'vanku rise again)
  • 5 points, 2 votes: no. 4, Silk Road (trade and travel with the far away Empire of Qi'dan picks up)
  • 3 points, 2 votes: no. 5, The Egg Hatches (the monster at the heart of the world wakes up)
  • 2 points, 2 votes: no. 10, Hungry Earth (crops fail, magic starts to drain vitality) 
  • 2 points, 1 vote: no. 2, New neighbors are keeping me awake (distant country falls to the Awakened)
  • 2 points, 1 vote: no. 7, Firebinders (firearms are invented by binding demons into shells)
  •  1 point, 1 vote: no. 8, Untaught magic
Finally someone wants to deal with psionic children. Still no appetite for spells suddenly going offline or mutating. I see most appetite for strange visitors (from other planes or far lands), and for an undead army rising out of the earth.

I point out that there is a Mount Frostcrown on the map, where no-one goes because there's a weirdo hermit. Lamentation of the Flame Princess-fans will know which module is prepped and ready to go :) DEATH FROST DOOM


In brief: in two weeks, the UK automatically crashes out of the EU. That includes crashing out of all existing trading deals, agreements on landing rights for airplanes, ways to import medical isotopes and much more.

Unless they decide not to wreak havoc on their economy (and to a lesser degree, the EU's). Easy choice?
Apparently not.
The Guardian's Brexit vote flowchart as of 5 days before this post. Navigate this dungeon.

Two years ago the UK decided that they would leave the EU on March 29th 2019. The decision can be revoked without any OK needed from the EU, as long as the UK acts before the 29th - but parliament doesn't want that.
They can agree to a deal they painstakingly negotiated with the EU to safeguard existing relations until a more durable set of agreements is worked out. But parliament can't decide on whether they want the deal that Theresa May's government made with the EU. Which is done with negotiating, by the way.
So what does the UK want? What indeed?
Two years after Brexit was triggered and two weeks before it happens, government and parliament are now finally discussing what kind of future they'd like to have with the EU. If any at all. The risk is real that they'll end up squabbling so long that a No Deal Brexit happens anyway.

It's going to be a wreck because they can't choose.

I don't want that for my campaign. And so I'm giving you a choice before it even starts: what monkey wrenches are going in there?


Belswick is medieval, feudal, pretty bog standard. It's not going to stay like that. There will be Player Characters running around in there after all. Above and beyond their influence, I like the idea of a couple of world changing events ticking down to Doom Day in the background. Some of these end or destroy parts of the world. Some are Out of Context Problems that will throw whole societies for a loop. Some are just fun. 
You can pick three and are welcome suggest your own - rank 'em in the comments.

1 - We hear your voice
A cult renounces Warlock Patrons as the slow-moving corrupters that they are and prays straight to the Exile. Hir rage drives them beyond insane. S/he inspires them to end the World by killing/binding/harvesting the Four Keystone Serpents. It's a race to save satanical monsters.

2 - New neighbors are keeping me awake
A distant country falls to the Awakened. Far away enough for a blockade or to limit exposure. Maybe the ocean, so full of dreams, puts Awakened to sleep before their boats can reach civilization. Maybe the Awakened find a way anyway.

3 - Rise and Fucking Shine
The Du’Vanku rise again with their undead armies after a 700 year sleep and attempt to enter heaven like before. Last time they destroyed True Heaven and killed the Creator and we've been living in the ruins. Oh wait, the Church wanted that kept super secret.

4 - Silk Road
An unexplored passage or new mode of travel connects to the far lands of Qi’Dan. Trade picks up. Then drugs spread. Then we learn who rules Qi’Dan. 

5 - The Egg Hatches
Except the egg has a 6000 km radius and we're kinda using it to live on. All hail the Starspawn.

6 - They're Here
Travelers from another plane bring knowledge of high wizardly magic. Which the Church says is a big no no. They spread the information faster than it can be stamped out. There are more of them every month. Are they invading, trading or fleeing?

7 - Firebinders
Demon binder Johannes Schäfer finds a way to bind imps and create firearm shells. Larger demons lead to the development of artillery. Suddenly conjurors can arm the masses with knight-killing weapons, and castles need to be rethought. Sure, you're bound for hell for consorting with demons. Until then, you change warfare.

8 - Untaught magic
An apprentice cannot learn the simplest spells but has unformed magic that cuts through defenses as if they weren't there. She's scooped up, hidden, weaponized. Then more children like her surface with the new power of psionics, which may or may not be a beacon for the Old Ones from beyond the stars.

9 - Breach of Contract
The original binding contracts underpinning certain spells are being found and tampered with. Spells stop functioning or become wildly dangerous.

10 - Hungry Earth
Crops are...not failing, but struggling. There's drought. Farm animals grow weak. Magic helps a bit. But not for long and not enough. Then the sun starts growing colder. And weaker. Is that a tint of red? Are wizard spells leaving behind fragments of black ash? Am I going Dark Sun on you or is it just your imagination?