Monthly Archives: January 2017

Class: Runecarver

Today marks the release of my next class for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, the Runecarver can be found here.

If you have any comments, criticisms or other feedback, please let me know.

If you aren’t sold on it already, from last week’s design notes, here is the first page of the supplement to explain the lore behind Runecarvers.

Enjoy!


The halfling laughs as they swing their hammer in a wide arc. Across the field of battle, their human ally crushes a glowing stone and a rune on the halfling’s weapon flares brightly. The hammer becomes surrounded by a corona of flames and slams into the orc’s shin where a cloud of sparks peppers the brute’s skin.

The dwarf whispers under its breath, plucking a faintly glowing stone from a pouch at its belt and crushing it into a fine powder that disappears into the air. The rune etched into the glass lenses of the dwarf’s spectacles glows with life. The dwarf pushes the glasses up its nose and grins in delight as the enchantment allows them to see into the Ethereal Plane and find the party member trapped there.

The tabaxi hisses in frustration as the hobgoblin cuts the last rope holding the bridge in place. It collapses with a loud rattling noise. Wordlessly, the genasi next to it offers a cloak embroidered with an intricate rune, already glowing with power. The tabaxi takes it, a savage grin on its lips, and springs into the air, flying across the crevasse.

Students of the Enchanting Arts

Runecarvers are driven by an insatiable need to tame magic and bring what order they can to the chaotic nature of the world. They are the both the quiet scholar in the dark corner of the library and the wild explorer, testing out their new theories and skills in the middle of a raging battle. When not breaking the laws of nature with a variety of magical effects, most Runecarvers can be found practicing their inscribing abilities and refining their knowledge of runes.

Runecarvers can be found in many areas of life. Whether dominating the battlefield with every swing of their magically empowered weapon or aiding their allies by boosting their defenses and giving them a variety of supernatural abilities, the Runecarver knows the value of teamwork. Their skills naturally lend themselves to a frontline support role where they can keep an eye on their allies and activate the effects of their runes for maximum effect.

Patient Scholars

Runecarvers are the ideal of the careful artisan. The runes they study, and the magical power they channel, require a calm mind and a steady hand to inscribe properly. Every apprentice is taught about the dangers of their art and knows too well the risks of activating poorly inscribed runes. Most Runecarvers learn the basics of their craft in a magical school of some sort, studying alongside wizards and other practitioners of the arcane. Others are taught by a travelling Runecarver who recognises the potential of the student. However they learn the basics of their craft, all Runecarvers quickly realise their life is not an easy one, nor for the easily distracted.

Runecarvers, almost without fail, are sent into the wider world to develop their art in a practical setting. Even those more at home in the library and behind the walls of a magical institution quickly learn the value of refining their runes through practical application. Whilst they know their travelling companions may not fully understand the intricacies of rune-carving, a Runecarver is usually happy to explain what they are doing. It is, after all, a rare skill to possess.

Design Notes: Runecarver

This week I’m trying something new. Below you will find the design notes for the Runecarver, a supplement for D&D 5th Edition that I will be releasing NEXT Friday.

I’m hoping that something here catches your interest.

Enjoy!


Class Overview

The Runecarver is intended to sit alongside the Cleric and the Bard as a support-style class. Through simulated spellcasting, a Runecarver can grant a wide variety of effects to weapons and objects. While capable of holding their own in a fight, their primary objective is to activate a variety of buffs and debuffs through their unique magical abilities.

Hit Points

The Runecarver is designed to be a front-line support, so uses the same hit die as similar classes.

Proficiencies

The saving throws are designed to emphasise the Runecarver’s willpower and ability to channel magic.

The starting skills are a reflection of the Runecarver’s intellect and dexterity.

Equipment

There is nothing special about the starting equipment.

Multi-classing

A potential Runecarver must meet a basic Intelligence threshold.

Features

Runic

This is a thematic class feature, intended to emphasise the structured manner of the Runecarver’s magic.

Runes

The strict rules here regarding the manner in which Carvings and Runes are created is to prevent a) the willy-nilly creation of pseudo-magical objects and b) to emphasise the concentration and dedication it takes to create a Runed object.

Runestones

Rather than opt for a spell-slot like approach, I wanted the Runecarver to be thematically different from typical spell-casters and so gave them an expendable resource instead.

Rune Mastery

Practice makes perfect and all that. The idea here is that the Runecarver’s dedication pays off sometimes and allows them to have a reliable way of aiding their companions.

Inscription Feature

Basic archetype levelling as can be found in every class.

Runestone Generation

A class should never be starved for its key resource, especially one that revolves around buffing party members. This is intended to avoid this.

Ability Score Improvement

Basic ability score improvement as can be found in any class.

Runic Speech

I wanted to tie the Runecarver’s Rune Mastery feat into a feeling of advancement within the Runecarver’s art, whilst also giving a general feeling of progression and flexibility to the class.

Rune Touch

Again, this was intended to give a feeling of progression whilst improving the flexibility of the class.

Rune Keeper

This feature is designed to reflect the mastery of the character by improving their ability to inscribe and activate their Runes.

Inscriptions

By the time a Runecarver reaches 3rd level, they have discovered an affinity for runes of a certain type. Each inscription allows the Runecarver access to  Carvings and Runes that they know without counting towards the ‘Carvings Known’ and ‘Runes Known’ limits. In order to use a Rune, you must still reach the level requirement.

Inscriptions of Lore

Runecarvers who prefer a more scholarly and utilitarian approach to their craft frequently develop new methods of creating runes. Their pursuit of knowledge and efficiency allows them to improve upon the runes they already know and teach the basics of their craft to others.

Carving of Lore: Foresight

Runes of Lore: Quick-thinking and Teleport

The Scholar’s Eye

This feature is designed to emphasise the importance these Runecarver’s place on streamlining the power of their Runes.

The Scholar’s Skill

Building upon the previous feature, this represents the Runecarver becoming more efficient at their skill and being able to make subtle improvements and changes.

Sharing the Knowledge

The student becomes the teacher. The goal with this feature was to free up an action in combat for the Runecarver to do other things whilst also allowing an ally to bear some of the brunt of the resource cost.

The Teacher’s Pride

This is intended as a refinement of the previous feature.

 

Inscriptions of War

Runecarvers who delight in the chaos and maelstrom of battle frequently become adept at inscribing their runes whilst in the middle of a fight. For these Runecarvers, there is no higher testament of skill than being able to give their allies an advantage whilst avoiding the attacks of their foes.

Carving of War: Strength

Runes of War: Wounding and Arcing

Under Fire

This is for the Runecarver who likes to be in the thick of things, the one who wants to be activating Runes more often and still be able to do things on their turn in combat.

Over-charged Runes

Building upon the idea of the Inscriptions of War as being more combat focused, this feature emphasises the brutal nature of magic in combat and demonstrates that even simple things like bright flashes can distract an opponent.

Combat Runes

A further development of the previous feature that encompasses Utility and Defence Runes as well as Offense Runes.

Empowered Runes

This represents the double-edged sword of magic (a theme in my contributions to the DM’s Guild). The extra damage is significant, but can harm allies as well.

 

The Incident

This week features a snippet from the background of a Monsterhearts character I recently created.

For those who don’t know, Monsterhearts is game in which players are (usually) teenage monsters struggling to come to terms with their nature, their body and their sexuality, typically whilst at school. For things with a similar feel, think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries and Twilight.

I can’t really do it justice with a brief summary here but it deals with important issues and themes and just oozes style. To me, at least.

My character, Ash Forest-Williams, is one of the Fae. In MH, the Fae are all about gaining the promises of others, and getting vengeance through faery magic when those promises are broken.

Ash doesn’t identify with one particular gender so in the following vignette, I switch between the male/female pronouns to reflect this.

In terms of character chronology, the following fiction occurs during Year 13 of the United Kingdom’s education system, the last year before university. Ash is 17 and the what happens here starts a chain of events that lead to her being sent to university in Boston (the setting of the game he is being used for).

If you have any comments, questions or criticisms, feel free to leave them below.

Enjoy!


Ash’s suit chafed as he ran towards the circle of laughing children pressed up against the rear wall of the school. Flashes of light blinked as one or two of the onlookers immortalised Vincent’s shame with their phone cameras. She heard a meaty thud as another of Garth Howard’s blows landed solidly.

“Still picking on easy targets?” He called, prompting a few of the students to turn around. “Who are you trying to impress this time?” Garth’s head appeared above the crowd, the boy was easily a good six inches taller than anyone else there, and swivelled to look at Ash. “It’s not Elizabeth, is it?” Garth’s eyes narrowed and darted to one side before resuming their malevolent, uncomprehending stare.

“I’ll deal with you when I’ve knocked Cassie’s teeth out.” He grunted, raising a fist and bending down. Vincent Cassel, a small boy with protruding teeth, whimpered audibly.

“Promise?” Ash said, snaking her way gracefully through the crowd.

“Sure. Why not?” Garth muttered. Ash smiled as the familiar rush of power bound him to Garth with an ethereal thread. He could sense these lines stretching to a few others in the crowd.

They were nothing new. Ash had been able to create these links with the oaths of others for years now, but he had only just discovered how to manipulate them. A few of her father’s staff had quickly learned to stay away from the strange child and her thoughtful eyes after minor misfortunes began happening to them after breaking their word.

“Only, I’d rather you didn’t hurt Vincent any more.” Ash’s voice was low, husky. It wrapped itself around the ears of those present and grabbed their attention. A few of the girls in the crowd looked at Ash as if seeing her for the first time, as did a few of the boys. Garth straightened and turned to look at him.

As their eyes met, Ash cocked his head slightly, almost coquettishly, and Garth’s cheeks reddened.

“I don’t care what you want.” He growled, absently kicking Vincent’s hand away from his shoe. Ash smiled, her teeth white in the afternoon sun.

“Mmmm. No. You probably don’t. But why should I care what you want?” Ash took a few graceful steps forwards. Since he had started Year 12, Ash had found it increasingly easy to attract the attention of her classmates through physicality alone. Even now, angry and intent on violence, Garth found his eyes drawn to Ash’s hips. “Do you care what she wants?”

Ash got even closer and gestured to Elizabeth Cooper with a dancer’s fluid grace. Garth growled and swung for him, forgetting Vincent in a hearbeat.

The ethereal lines connecting them went from silk to steel instantly.

Ash gasped as Garth’s fist slammed into his stomach.

“At least promise to not damage my tie.” He groaned, straightening slowly. She’d been in trouble already this week for ‘improper attire’ after getting a slight stain on the school tie during a science lesson.

“I promise.” Garth said, grinning and grabbing for the tie. Another silk line, invisible to everyone else, lashed them together. He caught it and yanked, pulling Ash off-balance. “I’ll also promise to leave your face alone, pretty boy.” He growled, punching Ash square in his right eye as another bond between them formed.

Again, it strengthened and pulled tight. Garth laughed, planted a foot on Ash’s chest as she staggered slightly, and kicked her backwards, holding onto her tie as he did so. The tie tore, the noise carrying on the now quiet air.

Ash staggered into the wall behind him as she felt the bond turn metallic.

“Promise you aren’t enjoying this and that you’re just trying to prove yourself worthy of Elizabeth?” He gasped as the stars began receding. Garth looked at Elizabeth and smiled.

“Yes.” He said quietly. It was well known that he took a rather direct method to prove his worth but as his father ran the school, no-one did anything to stop him. Ash also suspected that he enjoyed hurting others.

The bond between them formed as a length of chain as Garth’s word was broken immediately, wrapping together with the other three steel threads. Ash laughed and winked at Elizabeth. Garth bellowed in rage and swung wildly.

Time seemed to slow for Ash. She willed the chain to break and stepped sideways slightly as time snapped back into sync.

Garth’s fist slammed into the solid wall and he groaned as several bones in his hand and fist broke with a dry snap. Ash pushed him gently and he staggered backwards in shock, tripping over a small stone as he did so and cracking his head solidly against another.

A howl went up as he bit his tongue and blood began to leak from his mouth. He got slowly to his feet, wiping the blood away with his cuff and noticed the mobile phones now trained on him, a few ‘recording lights’ blinking slowly.

He roared in rage and pain, shambling forwards towards Ash, his left hand swinging wildly. Ash smoothly stepped backwards, avoiding one blow, and then stepped to the side as Garth overbalanced and bashed his head into the rough brick wall. There was another crack as his nose broke and he fell bonelessly to the floor, moaning in shock.

“You really should keep your promises.” Ash said, looking sadly at his tie. “You really should.”

Chapter Four: Clearing the Castle

After last session’s foray into a plotline of my own devising, we returned to the Lost Mine of Phandelver with an assault upon Cragmaw Castle.


Cast

  1. – N’idera – Half-elf Ranger (Beast Master)
  2. – Ara’tak – Aarakocra Druid (Moon)
  3. – Sirath – Dragonborn Paladin (Vengeance)

DM – Torvak – Goliath Cleric (Life)


Play began with the party re-uniting and interrogating the captured Halfling. He said he had been hired from his home to provide undead minions by a ‘tall, thin figure’. The party took possession of the key to his house in Waterdeep and turned him over to the authorities.

They took care of business with the Graywind’s (including telling them about the supplies they had to leave in the hunting lodge and selling a lot of the stuff they had been hoarding) and examined the scroll case they had found. Within was the land deed for the hunting lodge and land around it. With that taken care of, they examined their current goals and determined to clear out Cragmaw Castle (and thus eliminate the big threat in the local area) before tackling anything else.

[DM Note: I gave the party the map to the castle in the last session as a way of tying things together (the undead goblins were part of the Cragmaw tribe) and because the suggested method of them obtaining it (random encounter) doesn’t feel right to me.]

Instead of waiting to scout it out, Sirath (true to form) strode right in through the main doors. The watch-goblins alerted the waiting reinforcements, as they are supposed to, and combat was joined. The party made great use of their plentiful AoE effects and made short work of the large force that rushed them in the entrance hall of the ruined castle.

N’idera, after trapping two watch-goblins in their room, and Sirath began to explore. N’idra found a set of bloody chain-mail and an ornate longsword. Whilst they were doing this, Ara’tak decided to continue further into the castle and triggered a trap. Although he escaped unscathed, the sound of the ceiling falling in alerted more of the castle’s inhabitants.

The party (possessing two characters with a high Perception score) heard the sounds of surprise from the banquet hall to the south and, with some slight damage to their pride, vanquished the large number of goblins within. Both the goblin who fled, and one of the watch-goblins from the other guardroom were hunted down and slain. One goblin escaped with its life.

The party then checked out the northern rooms of the castle (after finding the Owlbear tower and the secret entrance) and beat both the Grick and the goblins in the chapel handily.

Unfortunately, due to Sirath’s magic use during the last battle, the rest of the castle was on high alert. The crash of her magic enraged the Owlbear which broke out of its tower in response to the painfully loud noise and went on a rampage as it escaped. Recognising this, the party moved carefully forwards.

[DM’s Note: Thunderous Smite REALLY puts its work in to alert the NPCs to the party’s progress.]

They found the signs of the Owlbear’s escape and entered the final room. The King of the Cragmaws proved a challenge but they overcame both him and his wolf in okay shape.

As N’idera checked on Gundren (who was held captive in the King’s chamber), Sirath opened the second door in the room (the first being the entrance).

Full disclosure, as a DM, I am unhappy with the stat block for Vyerith. I kept it the same, but interpreted the line about the extra damage occurring in the first round of combat as occurring in the first round of combat she takes part in, but only if she hasn’t been detected. Imagine my surprise when she rolled a natural 20 and downed Sirath instantly.

The fight was nasty but short and the party, initially distrustful of the drow they encountered, took her prisoner. N’idera, being a half-elf, remains distrustful but seems happy enough to keep an eye on her.

Whilst searching their new prisoner who explained that she was trader, N’idera found Gundren’s map to Wave Echo cave. Keeping that, but leaving her with everything else in the satchel she had ‘mysteriously’ acquired, the party set off back to Phandalin.

[DM’s Note: Vyerith is supposed to fight to the death if cornered, but the party put a lot of effort into talking her down and I don’t think DM’s should ignore the efforts of their players. Also, she ended up with the Cragmaw King’s satchel because the party didn’t have time to search the room and Vyerith snagged it while they weren’t paying full attention to her.]