Monday, February 17, 2014

Vanor Custom Class: The Trickster

This is another custom class for the Ruins of Vanor campaign (the others thus far: the Holy Dungeoneer and the Arcanum Delver), but unlike the others that I made, this one was made by one of my players (using the ACKS Player's Companion, as always). He had a very distinct concept in mind, as you will see.

Tricksters are touched by magic, descended or reincarnated of chaotic gods or immortals. They frequently manifest their latent abilities in their early teens, and sometimes even younger. While most tricksters spend their entire lives on the run, some are called to adventure by dreams and visions; others adventure out of a desire to learn the secrets of the gods.

Prime Requisite: CHA
Requirements: INT 9
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: 14

Because of their frequent need to abandon the life they've led, tricksters receive limited combat training. At first level, tricksters hit an unarmored foe (AC 0) with an attack throw of 10+. They advance in attack throws only two points every six levels of experience (i.e., half as fast as fighters), though they advance in saving throws by two points every four levels of experience. Because of their need of free hands and movement, they may only fight with quarterstaffs, clubs, daggers, and darts. They are unable to use shields, fight with two weapons, or wear any kind of armor. For these reasons, tricksters are quite vulnerable to physical danger, and in an adventuring group they should be protected.

Because of a trickster’s magical nature, he does not reincarnate as other classes can. Instead of the usual result, a Trickster must roll 1d10; for results 1-6, also make an unmodified 1d20 roll on Tampering With Mortality, and use the 1d10 value in place of the usual 1d6 to determine additional effects.

  1. Human Trickster
  2. Human Trickster
  3. Human Trickster
  4. Human Trickster
  5. Human Trickster
  6. Human Trickster
  7. Human Trickster (No mortality roll)
  8. Human (pick Class)
  9. Demi-Human (roll 1d4, 1-2 Elf, 3-4 Dwarf, pick Class)
  10. Monster

Starting at 1st level, a trickster has the ability to move silently and/or hide in shadows as a Thief does. While Tricksters are not natural pickpockets, their first manifestation allows them to use prestidigitation and pick pockets as a thief of half-class level. At 2nd level, a trickster gains the running and skulking proficiencies (already factored into the table below).

At 3rd level, tricksters can learn and cast arcane spells as a Mage of 1/3-class level. They also manifest a silver tongue (command of voice) that gives them +2 to reaction rolls to reaction rolls with creatures he speaks to. If this bonus results in a total of 12 or more, the subjects act as if charmed while in his presence. Creatures with a WIS greater than the trickster’s CHA are immune to this power (and the trickster will know they are immune). Additionally, a trickster of 3rd level can perceive intentions, knowing the exact reaction result (Hostile, Unfriendly, etc.) of creatures he interacts with, even if the creatures attempt to lie or conceal their reactions. Creatures with a CHA greater than the trickster’s WIS are immune to this power (and the trickster will know they are immune).

At 4th level, tricksters are capable of sensing power (as the proficiency), detecting spellcasters within 60’ and estimate their level of power relative to his own. He can tell when arcane magic has been used within the last 24 hours within the same vicinity. (The trickster cannot necessarily sense whether an item is magic, unless it has been used in the last 24 hours.) Each use takes a turn. He can also use alter self as a spell-like ability once per hour with a 1 turn casting time.

At 5th level, once per day, a trickster can use charm monster as a spell like-ability with a 1 turn casting time.

At 7th level, the trickster gains a +2 bonus to reaction rolls when encountering intelligent chaotic monsters from his ancestors or former self’s ancient pacts. Intelligent chaotic monsters suffer a -2 penalty to saving throws against any charm spells cast by the character.

At 9th level, the trickster can establish a court of 2d6-1 thief apprentices of 1st level and a 1st level trickster will come to work with the character. If hired, they must be paid standard rates for ruffians. A successful character might use these followers to start a Thieves’ Guild. Additional rules for hideouts are detailed in the Campaign chapter. Additionally, the trickster also can teleport as a spell-like ability once per month, and can scry as a spell-like ability once per day with a casting time of 1 turn.

At 12th level, the trickster can use programmed illusion as a spell-like ability once per month with a casting time of 1 turn.

Upon reaching 14th level, the trickster faces a choice, and must select one of these two options:

  1. immediate reincarnation that also reduces level to 1 and XP to 0 using the table above, but without the required mortality roll on 1-6
  2. forever more roll both the 1d20 and 1d6 twice whenever rolling on the Tampering With Mortality table, taking the lower result of each.

Proficiencies: acrobatics, alertness, arcane dabbling, bargaining, bribery, contortionism, craft, diplomacy, disguise, elven bloodline, familiar, gambling, illusion resistance, knowledge, language, lip reading, loremastery, magical engineering, mapping, mimicry, performance, profession, quiet magic, running, seduction, skirmishing, skulking, and soothsaying

Trickster Level Progression
Trickster Attack and Saving Throws
ExperienceTitleLevelHit DiceAbilitiesPetrif. &
Poison &
Blast &
Staffs &
0 Stray 1 1d4 Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Prestidigitation 13+ 13+ 16+ 15+ 14+ 10+
1325 Urchin 2 2d4 Skulking, Running 13+ 13+ 16+ 15+ 14+ 10+
2650 Ragamuffin 3 3d4 Command of Voice, Perceive Intentions 12+ 12+ 15+ 13+ 14+ 10+
5300 Guttersnipe 4 4d4 Sense Power, Alter Self 1/hour (1 turn) 12+ 12+ 15+ 13+ 14+ 9+
10600 Vagrant 5 5d4 Charm Monster 1/day (1 turn) 11+ 11+ 14+ 12+ 13+ 9+
21200 Swindler 6 6d4 11+ 11+ 14+ 12+ 13+ 9+
40000 Shyster 7 7d4 Ancient Pacts 10+ 10+ 13+ 11+ 12+ 8+
80000 Flimflammer 8 8d4 10+ 10+ 13+ 11+ 12+ 8+
180000 Trickster 9 9d4 Teleport 1/month (1 round), Scry 1/day (1 turn) 9+ 9+ 12+ 10+ 11+ 8+
280000 Scoundrel 10 9d4+1 9+ 9+ 12+ 10+ 11+ 7+
380000 Mountebank 11 9d4+2 8+ 8+ 11+ 9+ 10+ 7+
480000 Imposter 12 9d4+3 Programmed Illusion 1/month (1 turn) 8+ 8+ 11+ 9+ 10+ 7+
580000 Pretender 13 9d4+4 7+ 7+ 10+ 8+ 9+ 6+
680000 Deceiver 14 9d4+5 Reincarnation 7+ 7+ 10+ 8+ 9+ 6+

Trickster Special Abilities
Trickster Spells
Level Move
Hide in
Prestidigitation 1 2
1 17+ 19+ 17+ - -
2 14+ 16+ 17+ - -
3 13+ 15+ 16+ 1 -
4 12+ 14+ 16+ 1 -
5 11+ 13+ 15+ 1 -
6 10+ 12+ 15+ 2 -
7 8+ 10+ 14+ 2 -
8 6+ 8+ 14+ 2 -
9 4+ 6+ 13+ 2 1
10 2+ 4+ 13+ 2 1
11 1+ 2+ 12+ 2 1
12 1+ 1+ 12+ 2 2
13 1+ 1+ 10+ 2 2
14 1+ 1+ 10+ 2 2

Image Credit

"Crow Man" by James Zapata (link).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Vanor Custom Class: The Arcanum Delver

This is the second custom class I made for the Ruins of Vanor campaign, using the procedures in the ACKS Player's Companion. This one, like yesterday's Holy Dungeoneer, is connected to a distinct faction in the city. Two more classes, and maybe one more, should come along later this week.

Trained extensively by the Arcanum Collegium (aka the Arcane College) in Vanor, arcanum delvers are specialized explorers that rely upon practical skills and limited magical training to dive deep into unexplored ruins, dungeons, and tombs in search of ancient and powerful magicks.

Prime Requisite: DEX
Requirements: None
Hit Dice: 1d4
Maximum Level: 14

Arcanum delvers advance in attack throws and saving throws as a thief, by two points every four levels of experience. At first level, arcanum delvers hit an unarmored foe (AC 0) with an attack throw of 10+. They may fight only with bows, crossbows, swords, and daggers, and may wield a weapon in each hand if desired. They cannot wear armor heavier than leather, and cannot use shields.

The Arcane College offers arcanum delvers considerable training in the practicalities of the magical arts. This allows arcanum delvers to dabble in the arcane. They may attempt to use wands, staffs, and other magic items only usable by mages. At 1st level, the character must make a proficiency throw of 18+ on 1d20 or the attempt backfires in some desultory way (Judge’s discretion). The proficiency throw required reduces by 2 per level, to a minimum of 3+.

This same training allows the arcanum delver to read and cast magic from arcane scrolls with a proficiency throw of 3+ on 1d20. However, a failed throw means the spell does not function as expected, and can create a horrible effect at the Judge’s discretion.

Arcanum delvers are expert delvers. The character is able to keep maps in his head of where he is when exploring underground dungeons, cavern complexes, and ruins. On a proficiency throw of 11+, the character will be able to automatically know the route he has taken to get here he is, if he was conscious at the time.

Because of their time spent exploring dangerous ancient ruins, arcanum delvers have developed heightened senses and key skills in order to survive. They have keen eyes that allow them to detect hidden and secret doors with a proficiency throw of 8+ on 1d20 when actively searching, or 14+ on casual inspection. They can also hear noise as a thief of their level. Because of the many traps left behind in long-lost tombs and treasure vaults, arcanum delvers can find and remove traps as a thief of their level.

Upon attaining 2nd level, arcanum delvers can cast detect magic at will with a casting time of 1 turn.

At 3rd level, training, study, and experience give arcanum delvers loremastery. This knowledge allows them to decipher occult ruins, remember ancient history, identify historic artifacts, and similar tasks. The character must make a proficiency throw of 18+ on 1d20 to succeed in these tasks. The proficiency throw required reduces by 1 per level.

At 4th level, arcanum delvers can cast knock once per hour with a casting time of 1 turn.

Upon attaining 5th level, arcanum delvers can cast invisibility once every 8 hours with a casting time of 1 round. In addition, they gain the ability to read languages, including ciphers, treasure maps, and dead languages, but not magical writings. A proficiency throw of 5+ on 1d20 is required. If the roll does not succeed, the arcanum delver may not try to read that particular piece of writing until he reaches a higher level of experience.

Upon reaching 7th level, arcanum delvers develop poison resistance that makes them immune to all forms of poison, including magical poisons.

At 9th level, arcanum delvers can cast dispel magic once per day with a casting time of 1 round. In addition, they can build a delving tower and become a ruler. When he does so, up to 2d6 arcanum delvers of 1st level will come to work with the character. If hired, they must be paid standard rates for henchmen. A delving tower is otherwise identical to a thief’s hideout, as detailed in the Campaign chapter of the ACKS rulebook.

Upon attaining 11th level, arcanum delvers can cast find treasure once per day with a casting time of 1 turn.

At 12th level, arcanum delvers can cast teleport once per week with a casting time of 1 turn.

Proficiency List: Acrobatics, Adventuring, Alchemy, Alertness, Blind Fighting, Bribery, Climbing, Collegiate Wizardry, Combat Trickery (Disarm), Diplomacy, Dungeon Bashing, Eavesdropping, Endurance, Familiar, Illusion Resistance, Knowledge, Language, Mapping, Mimicry, Mystic Aura, Prestidigitation, Running, Sensing Evil, Sensing Power, Skirmishing, Trap-Finding, Vermin-Slaying, Weapon Finesse

Build Summary

Build Points: Fighting 1b, Thievery 3
Trades: Broad weapon selection for Narrow (+1 CP); eliminate 1 weapon style (+1 CP); eliminate 6 thief skills (+6 CP); 1 initial skill trade-off for 1 at 4th and 1 at 10th (-1 CP); 1 initial skill trade-off for 1 at 2nd and 1 at 12th (-1 CP); 1 initial skill trade-off for 1 at 5th and 1 at 9th (-1 CP); 2 initial skills traded for 1 at 3rd, 1 at 5th, and 1 at 7th (-2 CP)

Image Credit

Skyrim Screen Capture (link).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Vanor Custom Class: The Holy Dungeoneer

The following is a custom class I made for the Ruins of Vanor campaign using the ACKS Custom Class rules found in the ACKS Players Companion. It is written up in ACKS style. I will be posting more of these throughout the week, as well as a couple custom classes made by my players after the campaign call went out. 

The Holy Dungeoneer

Infused with the divine power of the Slezan Triune God, holy dungeoneers are the vanguard soldiers of the Sacrosanct Militant Order of the Holy Dungeoneers, a religious fighting order dedicated to the eradication from Hrimgate of all ruins, evil sinkholes, and dungeons, along with their beastly and vile inhabitants.

Prime Requisite: STR
Requirements: WIS 9
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 14

Holy dungeoneers are trained warriors and exceptionally skilled combatants. At first level, holy dungeoneers hit an unarmored foe (AC 0) with an attack throw of 10+. They advance in attack throws and savings throws by two points every three levels of experience (the best progression of any class). Holy dungeoneers also increase their base damage roll from successful missile and melee attacks by +1 at 1st level and by an additional +1 at 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th level.

Holy dungeoneers are trained in a broad selection of weapons, including axes, flails, hammers, maces, lances, javelins, pole arms, spears, and crossbows. They may fight wielding a weapon and a shield or wielding a two-handed weapon. They are trained in the use of all armors up to chain mail, and may use shields.

Holy dungeoneers are instructed in the sacred teachings of the Sacrosanct Militant Order. They can automatically identify religious symbols, spell signatures, trappings, and holy days of his own faith, and can recognize those of others faiths with a proficiency throw of 11+. Rare or occult sects may be harder to recognize (Judge’s discretion).

Holy dungeoneers go through extensive physical training to increase their strength and endurance while penetrating ruins and sinkholes, making them excellent ruin smashers. They gain the Dungeon Bashing proficiency for free at first level, which gives the character a +4 bonus on throws to open doors and similar acts of brute strength.

All holy dungeoneers know how to propitiate the Triune God and gain its/their favor. In return, they have a divine blessing, gaining a +2 bonus on all saving throws, and holy vision, giving them infravision to 30’.

At 2nd level, holy dungeoneers gain an aura of protection, giving the character a +1 bonus to AC and a +1 bonus on saving throws against attacks made or effects created by evil creatures. The holy dungeoneer’s aura of protection appears as a reddish nimbus of light when viewed with detect good, detect magic, or true seeing.

At 4th level, holy dungeoneers instill a unity of purpose in all hirelings of the same religion as the dungeoneers, giving a +1 bonus to their morale score whenever the character is present.

When holy dungeoneers reach 5th level, their battlefield prowess inspires others to follow him. Any henchmen and mercenaries hired by the character gain a +1 bonus to their morale score whenever he personally leads them. This bonus stacks with any modifiers from the holy dungeoneer’s CHA or proficiencies.

At 9th level, holy dungeoneers learn how to purify their bodies and souls, gaining divine health. The character is immune to all forms of disease, including magical diseases caused by spells, mummies, or lycanthropes.

Also at 9th level, holy dungeoneers can, assuming enough gold is at hand, build a castle and become a great leader of men in the Sacrosanct Militant Order. When doing so, up to 1d4+1x10 0-level mercenaries and 1d6 holy dungeoneers of 1st-3rd level will come to apply for jobs, training, and membership in the Order. If hired, they must be paid standard rates for mercenaries. Through force of arms, holy dungeoneers may ultimately control several castles or even entire realms, but must be a capable, strong, pious leader and provide protection. Additional rules for castles are detailed in the Campaign chapter of the ACKS core book.

Proficiency List: Adventuring, Animal Training, Blind Fighting, Caving, Climbing, Combat Reflexes, Combat Trickery (force back, knock down, overrun, sunder), Command, Diplomacy, Eavesdropping, Endurance, Engineering, Fighting Style (pole arm, single weapon, weapon and shield, two-handed weapons), Healing, Intimidation, Laying on Hands, Manual of Arms, Martial Training, Prophecy, Riding, Sensing Evil, Survival, Weapon Focus

Build Summary

Build Points: HD 1, Fighting 2, Thievery 1
Trades: Eliminate 1 fighting style (+1 CP); Unrestricted armor selection to Broad (+1 CP); Unrestricted weapon selection to Broad (+1 CP); Eliminate 3 thief skills (+3 CP); 2 initial skill trades for 1 at 2nd, 1 at 4th, and 1 at 9th (-2 CP)

Image Credits

Pegaso Hospitaller Miniature (link).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Campaign Call: The Ruins of Vanor

The following is the campaign call that went out to the players in my gaming group (with a few edits along the way), announcing the first campaign to run in Hrimgate: the Ruins of Vanor.


Vanor was once a mighty city, capital of a vast empire that stretched across the continent of Boreas. Built up and glorified by witch-kings of old, the teeming metropolis held close to 500,000 people within its indestructible walls. No land or people throughout Boreas were untouched by the Imperial yoke or the light of the Unconquered Sun.

And then the end came, in fire, blood, and iron. With the humbling of the last Vanoran witch-king, Celsus the Proud, the Empire shattered into pieces. Conquered peoples tossed off the yoke, provinces broke away or collapsed, and the flow of tribute and treasure ceased. The rump heartland of the Vanoran Empire fell into decay and ruin, its location only vaguely and infrequently remarked upon as it was swallowed by the mists of time and almost forgotten.

But deep within the Beast Lands of Arborea stretching along the northern coasts of the great Inner Sea of Boreas, the derelict corpse of the Vanoran metropolis and its rump population of 35,000 people remains. And it is your home.

You are born, live, and die in the decaying shadows of imperial greatness.

Vanor is a dead city of shattered glories and crumbling colonnades, of broken and defaced statues littering old causeways and decrepit porticoes on the Campus Marcianus, of collapsed basilicas to the Unconquered Sun looming over the city from forlorn hilltops in the Celian Heights, of inscrutable monuments to past imperial progress squatting amid the empty shells of the rat-warren apartment buildings of the long-ago mob in the Via Interius.

Vanor is a living city of hardy survivors struggling to endure amidst the ruinous blight, of wonder-workers and prophets preaching the miraculous and the Liturgy of the Unconquered Sun while cultists and witches practice and perfect more ancient mysteries, of Slezan Knights of the Sacrosanct Militant Order of the Holy Dungeoneer proclaiming the Great Reclaimation to scourge the city of its diseased ruins, of brave hunters who range out into the surrounding countryside to stalk the chimeric monsters of the Beast Range or battle the horse lords of the Centaur Wood.

Vanor teems with forgotten treasuries, lost libraries, saints tombs, and ossuary crypts, all waiting to be plundered for their relics and rewards. Gargoyles leer down from the weathered cornices of imperial triumphal arches in the Velabrum. The living dead crawl out from the great imperial necropolis on the Esquiline Heights and shamble through the ruins in search of flesh at the behest of the King-In-Bones. The Sabine Sisters stalk the Overlook, searching for the blood of the innocent or the unwary. Collapsed aqueducts and breached walls define and dissect the urban landscape and speak to the majesty of its past.

And over this dead and living city of old looms the Seven Tombs on the Seven Hills of the Seven Witch-Kings of Vanor.


You are a member in good standing of the Collegium Fossoribus (aka the Digger's College) in the ruined city of Vanor. As a group, the Diggers are dedicated to the exploration, reclamation, and renovation of the ancient city's ruin sprawl. The College has grown quickly from its origins in the recent past, and has in the last few months taken over a ruined temple along the Broadway in the Campus Marcianus district as its main headquarters (the Diggers Hall), putting it squarely on the front lines against the beasts, rotters, and lawless gangs that bleed over from the nearby ruined Overlook district.

Recently, the head of the College, John of Tharsensis, has asked you to take part in the most important Digger operation yet. To date, the Diggers have mostly focused their energies on targeted delves into the ruins, avoiding the hill-tops with their witch-king tombs while searching the low areas in between for treasure and information. This has been helpful and profitable for the group overall, but now is the time to push further.

Your mission then is to establish a Digger outpost in one of the ruined city districts, a foothold from which deeper delves into the ruins can be launched and reclamation efforts can begin.

Vanor is an old school dungeon crawl through a living, urban megadungeon in a cultural and social milieu that is roughly late antique/early medieval Europe. This means the vagaries of faction politics will be just as important as dungeon crawling skills in navigating this campaign. We will be using ACKS as the core rule system, absent some of the more persnickety domain management aspects (instead we will be using a modified version of Kevin Crawford's An Echo Resounding to manage such matters when we need them).

The campaign is designed to be rather open-ended, in that you are free to take the campaign in any number of directions as you progress through it (your initial mission is just the start; where you go after that is up to you all). Time will pass on a monthly basis during the campaign (just like the Rainy City structure), so there will be plenty of long-term scope for you to plan for and play with. The city, its environs, its people, and its factions will all develop, change, and act as you interact with the city over this time frame, and you will have a lot of leeway to reshape the city in your attempts to rebuild this ancient and fallen capital.

Image Sources:

Image #1: Kenilworth Castle, England (link).

Image #2: Fantasy View with the Pantheon and Other Monuments of Ancient Rome, Giovanni Panini, 1737 (link).

Image #3: Fantasy Church Ruins (link).

Image #4: Dark Ruin Wallpaper (link).

Image #5: Guild Wars 2 Concept Art by Levi Hopkins (link).

Image #6: Fantasy Dark Wallpaper (link).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

And So the Tales Begin...

Storm in the Mountains by Albert Bierstadt
"Storm in the Mountains" by Albert Bierstadt (1870)
“Hey, we should co-GM something. It’ll be half the work for each of us and a lot of fun.”

It started over lunch last fall, just a simple idea to collaborate on a tabletop rpg. The ground rules were straightforward: nothing too large, no huge campaigns. We bounced ideas around over the next few days and settled on a contained megadungeon idea: a dilapidated vault of witch-king tombs, located on a high moor, in need of sound management by the player characters (someone has to restock the dungeon when the owlbears escape, amiright?). Slightly farcical, it fit the tone of our gaming group and our mood at the time, immured as we were in our own long-term and prep-heavy dramatic campaigns.

And then it just sort of exploded.

This joint blog is a by-product of the creative explosion that transformed our megadungeon idea into an expansive, collaborative rpg campaign setting. We could lie and say that through this expansion we were guided by a number of principles or a singular vision of some sort, but there’s no need to blow such smoke. Hrimgate has simply grown organically, as new ideas beget newer ideas which sparked digressions that spawned even more ideas, not to mention the inevitable inclusion of older ideas as well. What was once a limited concept has morphed into a shared campaign setting yoked to no single rpg rules set that we hope to campaign in for many years to come. And we will share as much of it as we can with you on this blog, time and discipline willing.

Despite having no coherent origination, Hrimgate has found itself anchored to a few core ideas. First, Hrimgate is a nonlinear early medieval-esque setting that cycles through periods of disruptive chaos and imposed order, as represented by the rise and fall of mighty witch-kings. Being individuals of unique power, focus, and prestige who in one way or another seized the mantle of power, witch-kings emerge only once per age to tamp down the chaos and to bring order and stability, for good or for ill. However, when witch-kings recede or fall from power, primordial chaos seeps once more into the bones of the world, and the pendulum swings back in the other direction. Second, Hrimgate is a setting suffering under the strains of severe ecological distress. The primordial forces that threaten Hrimgate manifest as persistent storms, elemental flooding, advancing glaciers, or berserker rot from the deep core that wrack and devastate whole regions of the world. It takes everything for people to survive, but survive they do.  

Welcome to the Tales of Hrimgate.