In a nutshell: the World’s First Roleplaying Game how I’d do it. A hack that does what I always wished the game would do, that changes or discards the bits and pieces that always rubbed me the wrong way, while not overly complicating things and still delivering the same classic dungeon-crawler experience I’ve loved since I was a kid.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve enjoyed the game for over twenty years. I wouldn’t have kept playing it and writing about it if I didn’t. But everyone has their issues with it, everyone cooks up their own homebrew rules whether or not they end up using them at the table, or even bothering to fully flesh them out. I just ended up with enough that I felt collectively it justified a new game.
People have described it as a more customizable-yet-simpler take on 5th Edition, something between 3rd and 5th Edition, and even a kind of modernized B/X or Rules Cyclopedia. Pretty much everyone agrees it fits the old-school aesthetic, which is good because it was intended to be a kind of homage to the "easy to master black box" that I grew up on.
If you want to check out Black Book, you can snag it over on DriveThruRPG by going here (or get it as an Add-On: see below).
You can also check out a quick-start version of the rules and content by clicking here (this incorporates some of the changes that will be going into Red Book). It's a direct Google Drive link, so you'll just need to click and download, no other steps necessary!
Here are some other links if you want to dig even deeper:
An interview with the folks from Game School TSR Podcast:
Several reviews for Black Book:
- Mark Craddock (Cross Planes)
- Jeremy "Frothsof" Smith (Thought Eater)
- Niklas Skinner (Skinner Games)
- The RPG Crawler
Not an interview or anything, but this guy Will "BilliamBabble Meddis" seems to dig it, too.
Red Book takes all of the things that worked in Black Book and Appendix D and GREATLY expands upon and refines them. Black Book was 141 pages, Red Book is nearly 600. It's got more of the stuff that you love: races, classes (and talents for each), alchemical items, magic items, monsters, treasure, tables to speed things up, etc. It's like comparing a Starter Set to something like Rules Cyclopedia.
Just to be clear: virtually everything in Black Book (and the Appendix D supplement) is in Red Book. Some mechanics or minor elements might have been scrapped, others changed, but for the most part it's all been ported over to Red Book (it might also be worded differently). This is intended to be a stand-alone RPG that doesn't require Black Book (or Appendix D) at all.
Here's a rundown of the big things that help distinguish Dungeons & Delvers from the game(s) that inspired it:
Ability scores are just modifiers. You don't have a Strength score of 14, with a modifier of +2. You just have the +2. You can roll stats, which requires you to reference a table, but it uses old-school modifier ranges so an 18 nets you a +3 instead of the +4 you'd get in later editions.
There's very little number scaling. Some editions of the World's First Roleplaying Game had a lot of assumed math and wealth progression, especially 3rd and 4th. In Dungeons & Delvers there is some scaling, to the tune of about +1 every five levels. Monsters and task difficulties aren't built around this however, so you can better experiment without fretting much about your stats.
Hit Points are split into Wound and Vitality Points. Wound Points (WP) represents more severe injuries, or "meat points". As such it recovers very slowly. Vitality Points (VP) represent fatigue and minor injuries. It replenishes much more quickly, at first with a quick rest, but over the course of the adventuring day it takes longer and longer.
Armor provides both an AC bonus and Damage Resistance, so even if an attack connects it can absorb some of the damage. Beware though: some attacks like poisonous gas or a ghost's life-draining touch can penetrate your armor's DR, or even bypass it entirely!
You can, for the most part, control how complicated your character gets. Whether you're a fighter or wizard most characters start pretty darn simple, and depending on what you want to do can remain simple. You can also shift gears as you play, choosing more complex stuff later on (and vice versa).
Most classes have their own spellcasting mechanics. There's no pseudo-Vancian magic. This wasn't done for it's own sake as a gimmick or anything like that, but rather to make sure the mechanics for certain classes evoke a specific tone and feel (wizard magic is more dangerous and unpredictable, cleric magic is completely safe), that they build on the flavor so it all makes sense "in-game".
Simple, Useful, and Robust Crafting: Making something is a snap: make sure you have the relevant crafting skill, make sure you have the item's cost in materials, and make sure you have the time. That's it. No rolling necessary.While there are a bunch of examples in the book, the rules are also open-ended, allowing players to try making their own unique items out of strange materials they discover.
Fresh Takes on Classic Monsters: As we stat out monsters, we've been looking at the flavor behind them, deviating from the default where we think it'll make things more interesting.
For example, kobolds are based on Germanic spirits (and a core PC race, effectively replacing halflings), and ghouls are demonic creatures with the ability to change their shape and steal the face of a creature they have eaten. Piercers don't just fall on you: they gather in clusters, and spray a paralyzing acid on anything that gets close, before using long proboscis to slurp up the remains.
Some monsters look similar enough but have different abilities or flavor surrounding them, like gnolls: they look like classic gnolls but have more in common with the wendigo.
Fresh Takes From Classic Monsters: Not every monster hoards treasure, but that's not a big deal since many monsters have useful bits you can harvest from them. These can be sold or traded, or used to make equipment.
As it stands almost all of the text is done. There's about...1d4+2% left to go, but the primary purpose of this Kickstarter is so we can more easily set aside the time to finish the staggering amount of art it still demands!
People love our art. It's been a defining trait since our Dungeon World class-creating roots. We've gotten better and faster over the years, but it can still take a lot of time and we don't like to skimp. The Black Book edition was 141 pages and boasted an impressive 58 illustrations. Red Book has greatly exceeded the 500-page mark, which will require a substantially greater amount of art. The current ballpark number is 100 new illustrations.
Here's some samples of our art, so you can get idea of the style and quality:
And while that's all going on we're also going to incrementally share content documents with you, the backers, giving everyone a chance to chime in, provide feedback and suggestions. This way we can better iron out kinks, make the system as airtight as possible so we ideally will never need to do another "edition" down the road. We really want to focus on new settings and adventures, but want a more finalize system before doing all that.
The secondary purpose is to pay Chris for editing and proofreading.
First things first, backers will not only be able to get their mitts on content sooner than later, they'll also get the PDFs and/or physical copies cheaper that what it'll cost once published, to the tune of about $5-10.
Second, as already mentioned, the book is nearing the 600-page count, but that's just for a single-volume, digest-sized book. Sounds impressive, but we know some people prefer letter-sized books (8.5 x 11), and others might prefer to have the digest-sized book divvied up a bit, so we're making it available in three different formats:
The two digest-sized books will be divided into a player and GM book. We considered doing three (player, GM, and monsters), but the GM book would have been really small. This way they're more evenly matched in size. The letter-sized book will have a two-column per page layout.
I should note that if you pledge for multiple books they can be in different formats. For example, if you want a color and B&W book, the color can be letter-sized, while the B&W can be a pair of digest books. Mix and match them however you like!
Everyone that backs at the Wanderer level or higher will get PDFs for every format, in both B&W and in color: you don't need to choose. We're very open to suggestions, and if people want we could also do "art-free" and a version without a background page texture. Your name will also be added to a Kickstarter Backer section at the back of the book.
Higher pledge levels (Explorer and up) net you a physical book. You choose what size of a book you want, and if you want a digest-sized book whether you want it in one or two books. Once the books are nearing completion, we'll send out a survey asking you how you want your book, and when they are ready send you a print-on-demand (POD) link.
How that works is, once the book is finished and we get a suitable proof back from DriveThruRPG, we send out the POD links. These let you get a book from DriveThruRPG "at cost", as in they bare minimum they charge to print it: we don't receive any money from those, it all goes to DriveThru to pay for the books.
If you want additional books, see the Add-Ons section, below.
Since DriveThruRPG has print-on-demand facilities in America and Europe, in most cases this should keep shipping and handling costs at a minimum.
The Immortal pledge level is different. For that we print the book and mail it out ourselves; since shipping and handling costs can change dramatically we'll have to wait to figure that out later. Just something to keep in mind, especially if you live in another country.
If you want additional books, simply increase your pledge as follows for each additional book you want (required pledge levels are mentioned in parenthesis):
- B&W Softcover (Wanderer or higher) +$15
- B&W Hardcover (Adventurer, Veteran, Hero, or Immortal) +$20
- Color Softcover (any tier with a color softcover or color hardcover ) +$20
- Color Hardcover (any tier with a color hardcover) +$30
There are no limits, just keep in mind that although DriveThru will package them together (up to a point, anyway) S&H might increase.
Once the campaign is over we'll send out an email survey asking you which add-ons you want, and how many (as well as sizes in case you want both digest- and letter-sized books, or one big digest book and a pair of smaller ones).
One other thing is that for the duration of the campaign, you can also pick up other Dungeons & Delvers products at a discount:
- Black Book +$4
- Appendix D +$4
- Krampus Run +$1
- Escape From the Flesh Catacombs +$3
- Delver #1 +$3
- Dungeons & Delvers (Dice Pool/Chibi Version) +$6
- Dungeons & Delvers: Red Book GM Screen +$5
- One-Page Dungeons +$1 for each (5 in total)
- Dungeons & Delvers: Red Book Paper Minis +$5
You can get more information about all of those except the GM screen, one-page dungeons, and paper minis (we haven't made them yet) by going here.
These prices are for both PDFs and at-cost print-on-demand if you want a physical version, just keep in mind that you'll need to pay the print cost and S&H as well. These will be sent out as soon as the campaign is over, in case you want to try out a more basic version of the game sooner than later.
Note that you will not need Black Book or Appendix D to use Red Book: it will be completely stand-alone, and include most, if not all of the content from both books. It's really only if you want to try out the game sooner, and at a discount.
If we exceed the initial goal, more loot will be obtained!
Though the book will already be profusely illustrated, at this amount we'll be adding even more art: most if not all monsters will get illustrated, and we'll fill in most of the blank spaces with smaller bits of art. In addition, every backer will receive the art as individual images (300dpi, multiple formats): you can use them in personal or commercial projects, no limits!
We were holding back on the wizard due to the sheer number of spell talents it already gets (which in turn were justified by all the bonus talents it also gets), but at this level we'll cram in the Conjurer talents we've cooked up, plus the Conjurer Talent chart!
As with the Conjurer School, the cleric already had a bunch of talents. Not as many but then it doesn't get any bonus talents. At these level we'll add them to the mix.
We were thinking of saving the Greek monsters for an issue of Delver, or a Greek campaign setting so everything would be in a single thematic book. At this level we'll at least put the classics in Red Book, and won't reprint them later, instead sticking to the more esoteric stuff, plus a bunch of variants and original stuff we've cooked up.
Back in my day, race was your class! You played a dwarf or elf and liked it! At this level we won't replace races with classes, but make it an optional thing you can choose. You'll be able to multiclass between a racial class and a standard class, too, so you can decided just how dwarfy or elfy you want to be!
Something we whipped up for the Game Science Podcast interview: players find an odd, seemingly abandoned tower in the wilderness, and quickly learn that a bunch of really nasty shit went down.
It's mostly done, and we were going to publish it standalone, but at this level we'll stick it in the back so you'll have an adventure ready to go after whipping up your first batch of characters!
David Guyll has been gaming for well over 20 years, cutting his teeth on the Easy-to-Master D&D "black box" (the one with Zanzer Tem's dungeon), before soon moving on to 2nd Edition. He’s maintained the roleplaying game-centric Points of Light blog for over ten years, where he reviews games, posts play reports, talks about games, adventure and game design, and features a bunch of homebrewed content.
Melissa Guyll has been playing tabletop RPGs since meeting David one fateful day after being enticed by a plate of bacon and chocolate cake. Her history with RPGs didn't start there. Since she was in elementary school and took hold of a Nintendo controller she found a love for playing video games, RPGs being her go-to genre. When she's not being a nerd or coloring David's amazing art, she's also a mom, chicken herder, and gardener.
Starting way back in 2013 they have labored to publish a collection of class powers and magic items for Dungeons & Dragons, as well as several adventures, numerous classes, a half-dozen magic item collections, and an original, unconventional campaign setting for Dungeon World. They've since expanded to publishing their own stand-alone roleplaying games, though still produce the occasional third-party product.
They enjoy helping other creators with their work when they can, offering advice and providing inexpensive, sometimes free services and art.
Chris started playing RPGs in 1980 and was hooked when after 2 hours of working on first character he died in first encounter (RIP forgotten named elf character). Chris went on to get his revenge with his second character and spent most of his youth with RPGs somewhere in the background. Always tinkering and coming up with house rules, characters, and adventures, from both a player and GM side.
After high school Chris went on to join the Navy and became a pirate for God and country, where he learned the skills required for good QA work in a Submarine Engine Room. Afterwards going to art school to be a comic artist and eventually becoming an art/design director for the last twenty years at a promotional design firm. Red Book is his first adventure into being on a RPG team. His sword and pack are ready.
Melissa and I delivered the PDF of A Sundered World over a month early. The print copies took longer, as it took us several tries to get the cover looking right but we've gotten better at predicting the results of DriveThru's print-on-demand service.
We were also ordering them during the holidays, which probably caused them to take longer to arrive.We didn't bother running a Kickstarter campaign until the book was nearly complete, leaving us with pretty much just the art to worry about. That that's the same deal, here: text is mostly done, it's really a matter of cranking out the art.
We also kept in constant contact with the backers, providing them with access to easily digestible Google documents, so they could offer feedback and suggestions while we toiled away on the art. We're also incredibly easy to get in touch with directly if needed.
Risks and challenges
The only potential risk is that something will happen to Melissa, myself, or the both of us, preventing us from completing the art, such as the loss of our hands or death. If something were to happen to Melissa, or she is unable to color it for whatever reason, I can do it, though it won't look as nice.
If something should happen to the both of us, Chris would still be available to at least release the game with missing art. Or maybe he could fill in the gaps with some Creative Commons art, or find an inexpensive artist. But there's nothing in the foreseeable future that would prevent us from doing our part.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)