This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sat, June 15 2019 4:59 PM UTC +00:00.
In a nutshell: the World’s First Roleplaying Game how I’d do it. A hack, clone, simulacrum, whatever you want to call it 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.
And 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 (that is, of the World's First Roleplaying Game), 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 as a kid.
Here are some 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 well over 500 (and approaching the 600 mark). 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 what Red Book's table of contents currently looks like:
Some stuff might get added or removed, and we'll nudge some of it around to make it look nicer. That's just to give you a slightly better idea of how much more content to expect.
Also, a bunch of the rules and mechanics have been tweaked or refined during the couple years since the release of Black Book and now, because there's been stuff that's cropped up at higher levels that we didn't realize would be a problem at the time, or bases that we didn't realize would need covering until way later.
Here's a rundown of the big things that help distinguish Dungeons & Delvers from the game 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. Ability scores typically range from -5 to +5, though some items and abilities (like the frost giant sorcerer's Giant Strength talent) can exceed that value. 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.
But that's not too big of a deal because...
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; a level 5 monster's AC, saves, and to-hit bonuses don't assume you're going to have that bonus.
A common example I use is the level 7 red dragon: it's AC is only 13, which means a wizard with a half-decent Dexterity and a light weapon has some pretty good odds of clobbering it with a staff. The tricky part is that the dragon will have a bunch of WP/VP, so the wizard probably isn't going to beat it to death with a staff before he gets torn to shreds. Speaking of WP and VP...
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. We're talking in small increments each day. 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.
In addition to making hit points a bit less abstract, some abilities and attacks do something different depending on the type of damage suffered. For example if a giant spider bites you, if the attack damages your WP you'll need to make a save to resist the effects of its venom. If it only inflicts VP damage? You're good!
Fortunately, armor can help you keep both your VP and WP because...
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! If this sounds complicated, then there's some good news because...
You can, for the most part, control how complicated your character gets. Most characters start pretty darn simple, and depending on what you want to do can remain simple. Want a fighter that just hits things? You can do that: just choose talents that grant passive modifiers like Defender or Slayer. Want to be able to more easily perform various special maneuvers? You can do that, too.
Even better, you can change your mind as you level up: you can start out just hitting things with an axe, but if you want to can branch out later by picking up maneuvers such as Sweeping Strike (chance to hit an adjacent enemy) and Press the Attack (to hit bonus when you attack the same target on subsequent rounds) as your talents allow. You're never locked into a path or subclass or what-have-you.
This applies even to spellcasting classes: you can build a wizard that sticks to the Evoker tree and blows everything up, or delve into the more complex schools of illusion and enchantment. Or, like the above example, try both, see which you prefer, and go from there. On that note...
Most classes have their own spellcasting mechanics. This wasn't done for it's own sake as a gimmick or anything like that, but to make sure the mechanics for certain classes evoke a specific tone and feel, that they build on the flavor so it all makes sense "in-game" (there's no pseudo-Vancian magic).
For example, wizard magic is unpredictable and dangerous. It often requires a random expenditure of Willpower, and if you push yourself too hard you can knock yourself out, or even die. The cleric's miracles on the other hand are completely predictable and safe: you'll always know exactly how much Favor you have, and there's no danger to you...so long as you don't abuse your god's gifts, and use them in ways they wouldn't approve of.
Though there is a bit of overlap between the spells and miracles of various class (the cleric's Fire Domain, druid's Circle of the Sun, and dragon sorcerer all have access to some variation of being able to create a wall of fire), largely every class has their own list with numerous unique options.
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.
There's a craft skill for making weapons, armor, and alchemical items, each with five ranks to reflect how skilled you are. At the baseline level of expertise you can make standard stuff, but as you spend time and cash improving your skill you can eventually make masterwork weapons and armor, and alchemical items of higher qualities. Note that your level doesn't restrict your crafting rank: you need to invest the necessary downtime to improve them.
Since magic items aren't assumed or required, learning how to make your own high quality gear is a very good investment (especially since you'll need to commission armor like plate, anyway). Also alchemical gear remains useful for a much longer period of time: if a standard flask of alchemist's fire isn't packing the punch you want or need, start cranking out exceptional or superior versions!
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) with various special abilities (like being able to walk through solid stone), 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. As opposed to being a true-breeding race of monstrous humanoids, they capture people, eat most of them, but have a few survivors square off and eat each other, and the victor is "rewarded" with a painful transformation into a gnoll.
Some things also look different, whether it's a majestic blue dragon...
...a slimy shambling mound...
...or a roper!
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. Take that juicy-looking roper above: why not take his outer membrane and fashion into a cloak that makes it easier to hide in cavernous environments? Or the weakening slime from its tendrils and make a strength-sapping oil or poison?
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 a few examples of what you can expect the final book to look like layout-wise:
The above is a page taken from the first issue of Delver magazine. Just an example of what we can do if people want more elaborate graphics on the page.
Page spread for the banshee. Note that this hasn't been colored by Melissa, yet.
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.
As already mentioned, the book is well over the 500-page count. Backers will be able to get the PDFs and/or physical copies cheaper that what it'll cost once published, to the tune of about $5-10.
As with our previous kickstarter for A Sundered World, everyone that backs at the Wanderer level or higher will get two PDFs when it's complete: one black and white, the other full color. You don't need to choose. We're very open to suggestions, and if people want would also do "art-free" and a version without a background page texture.
Higher pledge levels (Explorer and up) net you a print-at-cost discount link for a physical book. How that works is, once the book is finished and we get a suitable proof back from DriveThruRPG, we send out links. These let you get a book from DriveThruRPG "at cost", as in the bare minimum they charge to print it. We don't get any more money from you at that point.
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:
- B&W Softcover +$15
- B&W Hardcover +$20
- Color Softcover +$20
- Color Hardcover +$30
Your pledge level must already include a copy of the type of book you want. So, if you want another B&W Hardcover, you need to pledge at the Adventurer tier, and if you want another color hardcover you'd need to be a Veteran.
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.
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
You can get more information about all of those by going here.
These are for 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 discovered as we go. These will include more art, other graphics, add-ons, and content for the book (such as additional talent trees for one or more classes). There will also be additional accessories (such as card decks), including options to acquire physical products.
But the only way to see what they are is to explore the dungeon: the map will be revealed as we go.
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.
We included talent charts for the wizard and sorcerer classes, because they have the most talents and we figured a visual aid would be really nice sorting through everything. At this level though, we'll add them for every class.
Here's an example of a talent chart for the sorcerer, just to give you an idea of what they'll look like:
We were planning to do this at some point, anyway, but at this amount we'll lump it in with everything else for free. As with our Dungeon World GM Screen, it'll rely on the Hammerdog screen: the PDF will include a bunch of panels, allowing you to choose which content you need at a given time, with either art or player-facing content so your group will have easy access to key information.
If your reward level includes a print-on-demand book, you'll also get a print-at-cost discount link for the screen panels: B&W if you got a B&W book, color if you got color, and both if you're getting both book formats.
More to be revealed as we go!
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