Goofy descends into Hell: My first experience of Open Legend

Last Sunday I played using the Open Legend system for the first time. Our dungeonmaster has been keen to run a Planescape adventure about breaking out of the prison-plane of Carceri, but hasn’t been finding that Dungeons & Dragons rules promote roleplay or collaboration as much as she’d like.

Having a look at the rules, what I like is that character creation is very flexible. Rather than offering classes and races for a specific kind of setting, there are a whole lot of basic character attributes that can be used in different ways. You could use the ‘Alternate Form’ feat to make a lycanthropic character or a shapeshifting druid. You could use the ‘Companion’ feat to represent a character’s hired bodyguard or an animal companion or a sibling who tags along for adventures. So it’s very modular, very flexible. Because there’s no detailed flavour tied to the attributes, you can use them for a whole bunch of genres and settings, or for a mashup of genres and settings. That meant we were able to have an adventuring party consisting of a halfling, an orc and an anthropomorphic cartoon dog.


I think the downside of the openness and flexibility is that the game can depend a lot on the ability of the players to get their character across. In our adventure, I was playing a psionic orc and another player was a shady halfling. The third player, when he was told he could play as anything or anyone, said, ‘I’ll be Goofy.’ I think that was actually really helpful because we know who he is and what he’s like, and we get how cartoon slapstick works. He was able to get the character concept across easily by having Goofy walk up imaginary stairs or elongate his arms in order to catch falling adventurers. I think my psionic orc and the sinister halfling were less clear, so it was harder to get into the swing of things.

Back to the positive: another thing that makes Open Legend stand out if the way that dice ‘explode’. If you roll a die, whether it’s a d4 or a d20, maximum rolls are repeated and added. So If you had to roll a d20 and a 1d6 and rolled a 20 and a 3, you’d expect to get a score of 23. But because you rolled a 20 on the d20, you would roll the d20 again and add the result to the 23. If you rolled another 20, it would explode again. The same thing would happen with the d6 if you had rolled a 6 – you’d roll it again and add the result to your score. This means that you can end up with some really high scores and results, and it means the game really lends itself to characters every now and then managing ridiculous, epic achievements.

* * *

If you want to check out Open Legend, the rules are available for free on their website. You can also try out their free, play-to-learn adventure, ‘A Star Once Fallen’ or support their Kickstarter campaign to publish their Amaurea’s Dawn adventure setting.

Starting at higher levels in D&D

last night I got to play a Planescape game as a player character for the first time. (My second time should be Sunday, but we’ll be trying out the Open Legend system rather than using Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.) We were playing an adventure from Tales from the Infinite Staircase, and we started with 4th level characters. I played as a bugbear mystic (using playtest rules for mystics), which was a lot of fun.


I did find however, that starting off at level four made it harder for me to have my head around all of my character’s abilities. I need to keep that in mind for when I run adventures myself. Last time I ran an adventure (a few weeks ago) we were starting at a higher level, and one player who’d never played before found it hard to get their head around all the things they could do at that level. I think it’s a good reason to start new players at 1st level, even if they’re playing alongside other players with higher level characters. It’s easier to learn your character’s abilities if you start off with just a few and gradually gain more.

Here’s the Chant: Sheep Lord, fungal fey and Amonkhet

On Wednesdays I normally post a roundup of content related to Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying games in general. Here’s this week’s roundup:

For players or DMs:

For DMs:

For anyone who wants to reflect more deeply on gaming:

Content I’ve recently published:

Sheep Lord and Crab Lord

On Sundays I’ve normally been posting some illustrations that can be used in tabletop roleplayng games like Dungeons & Dragons. (This week’s is a bit late – our household’s on holidays from our common work, so I’m out of town for a few days.)

Last week I asked which animal lord folks would like me to draw. Particularly in the Planescape D&D setting, animals lords are almost like minor gods who protect various kinds of animals. I’ve been interested in using animals lords as ways to promote reflection on our relationships with animals. This week folks chose the sheep lord for me to illustrate:


I’ve also put together some statistics for the sheep lord, and for the crab lord that I drew as part of the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge. If anyone gets to try these out I’d be keen to receive feedback.
Sheep Lord

Medium fey, neutral


STR 17 (+3) DEX 18 (+4) CON 16 (+3) INT 10 (+0) WIS 20 (+5) CHA 16 (+3)

CHALLENGE: 15 (13,000 XP)

ARMOR CLASS: 17 Natural Armor

HIT POINTS: 97 (13d8 + 39)

SPEED: 30 ft.

Saving Throws: STR +8, DEX +9, WIS +10, CHA +8

Skills: Intimidation +8, Nature +10

Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Magic Weapons

Condition Immunities: Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Poisoned

Senses: Passive Perception 15

Languages: Telepathy 60 ft

Shapechanger. The sheep lord can use its action to polymorph into the form of a humanoid or into its sheep form. Its statistics are the same in each form. Any equipment it carries is not transformed. If slain, the sheep lord reverts to its sheep form.

Magic Resistance. The sheep lord has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects. 

Succession. A destroyed sheep lord will be succeeded by another sheep in 24 hours. The successor becomes a sheep lord and gains the memories of its predecessor. 

Spellcasting. The sheep lord is a 13th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks). The crab lord has the following druid spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): shillelagh, druidcraft 

1st level (4 slots): charm person, detect poison and disease, entangle 

2nd level (3 slots): gust of wind, moonbeam, pass without trace 

3rd level (3 slots): conjure animals, meld into stone

4th level (3 slots): divination, plant growth

5th level (2 slots): geas, mass cure wounds 

6th level (1 slot): wall of thorns

7th level (1 slot): plane shift


Actions

Multiattack. The sheep lord makes one attack with its horns and one attack with its planar crook.

Horns. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 35 (9d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 16).

Planar crook. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) piercing damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 16). The crook can only be used to grapple small, medium or large creatures, and only one creature at a time. When a creature is grappled with a planar crook it cannot be transported to another plane. If it tries to do so, it is inflicted with 1d10+4 magical damage and must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution save or become unconscious. The sheep lord planar can only use the planar crook while in humanoid form.


Legendary Actions

The sheep lord can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The sheep lord regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Attack. The crab lord makes one attack with its horns or planar crook.

Blinding Dust. Blinding dust and sand swirls magically around the sheep lord. Each creature within 5 feet of the sheep lord must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the end of the creature’s next turn.

Bolster. The sheep lord bolsters all nonhostile creatures within 120 feet of it until the end of its next turn. Bolstered creatures can’t be charmed or frightened, and they gain advantage on ability checks and saving throws until the end of the sheep lord’s turn.

Description

The sheep lord can appear in sheep form or in the form of a horned, fleece-clad. The sheep lord is the protector of sheep or various kinds, and may also take responsibility for other herd animals. It makes its home on the Beastlands, but it could turn up wherever crabs are in trouble.
The crab lord is typically accompanied by a retinue of 2d20 + 10 sheep or goats and 1d12 + 2 giant sheep or goats.


Crab Lord

Large fey, neutral


STR 18 (+4)   DEX 10 (+0)   CON 17 (+3)   INT 16 (+3)   WIS 20 (+5)   CHA 16 (+3)

CHALLENGE: 15 (13,000 XP)

ARMOR CLASS: 17 Natural Armor

HIT POINTS: 97 (13d8 + 39)

SPEED: 30 ft. (swim 30 ft.)

Saving Throws: CON +8, INT +8, WIS +10, CHA +8

Skills: Intimidation +5, Nature +5

Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Magic Weapons

Condition Immunities: Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Poisoned

Senses: Blindsight 60 ft, Passive Perception 15

Languages: Telepathy 60 ft


Shapechanger. The crab lord can use its action to polymorph into the form of a humanoid or into its crab form. Its statistics are the same in each form. In its crab form it uses a claw attack and in in its humanoid form it uses a crush attack. Any equipment it carries is not transformed. If slain, the crab lord reverts to its crab form.

Amphibious. The crab lord can breathe air and water.

Magic Resistance. The crab lord has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects. 

Succession. A destroyed crab lord will be succeeded by another crab in 24 hours. The successor becomes a crab lord and gains the memories of its predecessor. 

Spellcasting. The crab lord is a 13th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks). The crab lord has the following cleric spells prepared:

  • Cantrips (at will): spare the dying, thaumaturgy 
  • 1st level (4 slots): command, sanctuary, shield of faith 
  • 2nd level (3 slots): hold person, silence, spiritual weapon 
  • 3rd level (3 slots): dispel magic, meld into stone
  • 4th level (3 slots): divination, control water 
  • 5th level (2 slots): dispel evil and good, geas 
  • 6th level (1 slot): forbiddance
  • 7th level (1 slot): plane shift

Actions
Multiattack. The crab lord makes one attack with its claw and one attack with its planar mancatcher.
Claw (Crush in Humanoid Form). Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 35 (9d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 16). The crab lord has two claws (or two arms in humanoid form), but one is large and the other is small. Only the larger one can be used to attack or grapple.

Planar Mancatcher. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4 + 4) piercing damage and the target is grappled (escape DC 16). The mancatcher can only be used to grapple small, medium or large creatures, and only one creature at a time. When a creature is grappled with a planar mancatcher it cannot be transported to another plane. If it tries to do so, it is inflicted with 1d10+4 magical damage and must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution save or become unconscious.

 

Legendary Actions

The crab lord can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. The crab lord regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Attack. The crab lord makes one attack with its claw or planar mancatcher.

Blinding Dust. Blinding dust and sand swirls magically around the crab lord. Each creature within 5 feet of the crab lord must succeed on a DC 16 Constitution saving throw or be blinded until the end of the creature’s next turn.

Whirlwind of Sand (Costs 2 Actions). The crab lord magically transforms into a whirlwind of sand, moves up to 60 feet, and reverts to its normal form. While in whirlwind form, the crab lord is immune to all damage, and it can’t be grappled, petrified, knocked prone, restrained, or stunned. Equipment worn or carried by the crab lord remain in its possession.
Description

The crab lord can appear in crab form or in the form of a large, armored humanoid. In humanoid form it has one large, muscular arm and one small, weak arm. The crab lord is the protector of crabs or various kinds, and may also take responsibility for other crustaceans. It makes its home on the Beastlands, but it could turn up wherever crabs are in trouble.

The crab lord is typically accompanied by a retinue of 2d20 + 10 crabs and 1d12 + 2 giant crabs.

#DungeonDrawingDudes: Week 1

For the last week I’ve been participating in the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge. For each day in July there’s a suggested Dungeons & Dragons creature to draw. If you have a look on Instagram, you can see what everyone’s contributed. I’ve put my contributions here, and you’re welcome to use them.

One thing I’ve realised so far is that it’s a lot more sustainable to be sticking to black-and-white line drawings – especially when I have other illustration projects I need to be working on. I think it’s also meant I’ve been able to be more reflective.

On day one I decided to draw the crab warrior as a crab lord. (Animal lords can be important in Planescape, so I’ve been keen to work out how to approach them. I’ve also got to come up with a sheep lord over the weekend.) I’ve also been working on stats for a crab lord on D&D Next, but I’ve been finding it difficult – the platform’s still got some problems. I’ll probably post what I’ve come up with here over the weekend.

Crab Lord

On day two when I was thinking about how to approach the pirate’s mimic, the obvious approach was to portray it as a treasure chest. That’s how these monsters normally disguise themselves. But I wondered about drawing a mimic disguised as a boat? I imagined adventurers trying to escape a pirate ship and jumping into the lifeboat, only to realise it has sharp teeth. It should be no surprise that this also got me thinking about the fear Australian society seems to have about boats, hiding the fact that many of us came here by boat ourselves.

pirate's mimic - Drawing 1_1

On day three I drew a wereshark, which I’ve already reflected on here.

On day four I drew an anemone monster, and came up with some thoughts about how to use it in an urban setting like Planescape’s Sigil. What I was thinking was that folks might be getting these creatures installed on their roofs to deter feral pigeons, but that they might also be up to something sinister…

anemone monster - Drawing 2

On day five I did a search to see how other folks had approached kraken priests, and I ended up coming across China Miéville’s novel Kraken, which I’m now enjoying reading over the weekend.

kraken priest - Drawing 1_1

 

Here’s the Chant: Planescape factions, dragon totem barbarians and frogs

On Wednesdays each week I’ve been posting a roundup of content related to Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games. Here’s today’s roundup:

For players and DMs:

  • D&D Beyond – the second and third stages of beta testing are now live, which means you can create characters, manage campaigns and publish some forms of homebrew. I’ve enjoyed seeing how this is eveloping, but there are still some problems – it’s beta testing. (The main problems are with being able to edit homebrew items after they’re saved or published, and I’m sure those problems will be ironed out.)
  • ‘Eberron turns Thirteen’ Keith Baker – the creator of the Eberron campaign setting reflects on the thirteenth anniversary of the setting’s first publication, and answers some players questions about the setting

For players:


Godsman illustration: Tony DiTerlizzi

For DMs:

Content I’ve published:

Are kobolds really evil?

On Sundays I normally post some illustrations of creatures that can be used in tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. (Because last week was really busy in our household and this week I’ve been doing an intensive class, I haven’t been able to post as often as I have been, but I’m posting some illustrations now.) Folks on Twitter voted for me to draw some kobolds this time, so here are a kobold dragonshield and a kobold inventor:


I drew a winged kobold earlier in the year. Having reflect on them a bit, I’m not convinced that they should be considered lawful evil. In Volo’s Guide to Monsters they’re described as being willing to sacrifice themselves so that other members of their tribe might escape their enemies. It seems like the main reason that they’re considered to be evil-aligned is because they tend to come under the sway of evil dragons and other evil creatures. I’m not saying that they should be considered good-aligned, but I wonder if they should be considered lawful neutral or true neutral?

A couple of other things I’ve been wondering about have been elderly kobolds and the lost kobold god Kurtulmak. Volo’s Guide says that while most kobolds are short-lived, some live up to 120 years old. I wonder what kind of abilities such an elderly kobold would have?

I was also thinking that it would be interesting to run an adventure involving kobolds trying to free Kurtulmak from the maze where he’s imprisoned. Since I’ve been running Planescape adventures recently, I thought it could be interesting to change the Kurtulmak’s story a bit and have him trapped in the Lady of Pain’s maze in the city of Sigil – perhaps due to gnomes’ trcikery.

Here’s the Chant: ooze characters; 5e spells for Spelljammer and Eberron

For players:

For players and DMs:

  • ‘A Guide to Oozes, Slimes and Jellies’ Power Score – a roundup for ooze content from all editions, including monsters, non-player characters and player character options. I’ve done a drawing of the oozemaster:

For DMs:

For anyone wanting to reflect more deeply on RPGs:

Content I’ve published this week:

D&D & Dinosaurs

A little while ago I published a few dinosaur illustrations here and some suggestions about how they could be used in Dungeons & Dragons adventures while we await the release of Tomb of Annihilation, which will feature a lot of dinosaurs. One of my suggestions was based on Jurassic Park, and I got to weave this idea into a short Planescape adventure that I ran on Wednesday night.

To set up the adventure, I had the adventurers meet in Sigil, the City of Doors, with a dwarven scientist called Yon Garamond. Yon said he wanted some mercenaries to protect him on a quest the Beastlands, to study lizards that are hard to find on the Prime Material Plane. One of the adventurers (who had levels in the mystic class that is currently being playtested) was able to probe Yon Garamond’s mind and find that he wasn’t entirely telling the truth. When they arrived at the top of the Forbidden Plateau it became evident that Yon just wanted them to help him steal some dinosaur eggs, hoping to create a dinosaur theme park on the Prime Material Plane.


The main challenge, as I had planned the adventure, was crossing the Beastlands and getting to the Forbidden Plateau without succumbing to the plane’s primal influences. One thing I think I could have done better was to make it clear why the party might need to do survival checks in order to travel to the plateau, when they could see it looming on the horizon. (My thinking was that a survival check might help them choose a safe route, considering they knew there were lions, snakes and who knows what else around, but that didn’t come across clearly.)

But there was a lot I was happy about. I found that I had prepared plenty of content to occupy the time I’m allotted for the adventure – in fact I needed to cut out some of the encounters I’d prepared. However, I found that one of the player characters ended up doing something that fitted with both my plans and the source material. Once the party had arrived on the Outlands with the dinosaur eggs, one of the player characters decided to do a runner with the eggs. I’d planned to have the party ambushed by fiends who wanted to steal the eggs so that they could use dinosaurs in the Blood War. (There’s an adventure completely based around this idea in the Planes of Chaos boxed set from 2nd Edition Planescape.) I ran out of time to run that encounter, but this player ended up doing what I’d imagined the fiends trying to do. It’s also kind of similar to what Dennis Nedry does in Jurassic Park – stealing dinosaur embryos be cause he feels like he’s underpaid by John Hammond.

I also found, once again, that there were plenty of opportunities to improvise. This led to the creation of a couple of unplanned non-player characters – an angry lizardfolk and a talking snake. I also received feedback (from a player who said their character would later go back to the Beastlands to return the extra egg she’d secretly stolen) that they appreciated the mystical and ethical elements of the adventure.

Sigil, the City of Doors, in D&D 5e

On Thursday night last week I ran a 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Adventure using the Planescape setting for the second time. During the first adventure, the players didn’t arrive in Sigil, the City of Doors, until right at the end of the adventure, so I didn’t need a lot prepared. This time, however, the adventure was set almost entirely in Sigil. If the adventure had played out differently, we might not have actually left Sigil. I think this time I felt much more stretched, because Sigil is quite complex. Here’s a list of things I’d like to remember next time I run an adventure in Sigil:

  1. Get familiar with the the Cant, berk! Characters from Sigil use a very distinctive dialect of urban slang called the Cant. Having non-player character use this vocabulary really helps get across the feel of the city. I was able to slip in a bit of Cant, but would like to be more familiar before running another adventure in Sigil.
  2. Use lots of random encounters. I prepared a short table of random encounters that I could use while the adventurers were travelling between locations in the city. I used this once, early in the adventure. I wish I’d used it a couple more times, in order to give the sense that there are crowds of people everywhere and that there’s always stuff going on in the street.
  3. Get clear on how day and night works. Since the city is on the inside of a giant ring, it’s artificially lit. I needed to look into more detail about how this works.
  4. Get a good idea of where things are in relation to each other. The adventure only took part in one ward of Sigil (the Hive Ward), so I didn’t need to have a precise idea of where the Hive was in relation to other parts of the city, but I think it would have been helpful to have a map handy.
  5. Prepare some incidental NPCs – during the adventure I needed a few incidental non-player characters, because players asked who was around in the street, or because they decided to go and knock on the doors of neighbouring hovels. I managed to make stuff up okay on the fly, but it probably would have been helpful to have some prepared.

That said, there were also some things I was pretty happy about:

  1. Factions were an important part of the story. The adventurers came into conflict with representatives of three of Sigil’s factions, and I think the players got the idea of what those factions were on about.
  2. As I said, I had to make up some incidental nonplayer characters on the fly and they worked well. I mentioned that some of the adventurers decided to go knocking on doors in the Hive Ward. One of the people they met was a rather zealous worshipper of the god Pelor, and one of his co-religionists became important in the story later on – something I hadn’t expected.
  3. I was able to turn around a mistake to advance the plot. At one stage an adventurer asked if another character seemed to be telling the truth, and I said they did, when I should have said they didn’t. The adventurer who asked the question then wondered about whether the other character thought they were telling the truth but were mistaken. I ended up going with that, and their mistake gave the adventurers an opportunity to bargain for a solution to their quest.
  4. I was able to use my mistake to advance the setting. A lot of the early travel around the city went on across the rooves of buildings, so later on when I wanted a rival character to ambush the adventurers, I described him jumping out from behind a chimney. However, most of the adventurers were under the impression that they were now travelling at street level – so what was a chimney doing in the street? I was able to think quickly and said that there was a chimney coming up out of the pavement, suggesting that the houses and streets of the Hive Ward are simply build over the top of previous buildings. I decided to repeat this idea when some of the adventurers went door-knocking, by having a chimney coming out of the floor inside the house, making the occupants unhealthy.
  5. Using my dungeon master’s screen to show who the important non-player characters were. I attached my drawings of the main non-player characters to my screen, to remind the adventurers of who I wanted them to keep in mind. I also included Tony DiTerlizzi’s illustration of the Lady of Pain, in order to remind the players of her tyrannical power over the city – which nevertheless brings a certain level of stability.

I’m running another Planescape adventure this week, but I’m planning that this time we’ll spend more time on the Outer Planes again, but I’m also looking forward to running more adventures in Sigil.