Friday, December 3, 2021

Starstone Handout - Bertram's Manuscript

I've been working my way through Starstone, trying to grasp all the nuances (I'm retyping the module just so that I can force myself to read every word and figure out what's going on - and then I can do a layout of the module that I can actually use :) ). 

Anyway, in the process I typed up Bertram's Manuscript and then made a handout for players, with the italicized words legible and the rest of the manuscript faded (as per the module). And I figured if I could use it with my players, maybe someone else would want it as well.

Here's a link to hi-res versions:

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Hit Points and Character Death


I'm reading a lot of posts asking, "What do hit points really measure?" or something similar. Where hit points seem to jump the shark for people is when a high level character falls 100 feet, gets up, dusts himself off and walks away - or the giant fights with one hit point as effectively as he did with fifty.

D&D seems to me to be about resource management - and hit points are just another resource to manage. Do I have enough to get through another encounter? If not, am I in a safe place to rest? If not... how do I manage my resources? 

So here's my proposal for hit points (almost certainly not original of course - but I haven't seen it exactly like this anywhere).  

NOTE that this is, of course, an untested work in progress :)

Health, Hit Points, Damage and Recovery

Health Points at 0 Level - all characters roll 1d8 for Life Points, Creatures have their Hit Dice in Life Points

Hit Points are rolled at each successive level according to class and added to the Hit Point Total, as normal. Hit Points represent exhaustion, tenacity, skill, survival instinct, and the blessing (or not!) of the fates and are easily lost and fairly quickly recovered. 

Damage in combat and adventuring (with some few exceptions, see below) reduces Hit Points until they are exhausted, then Life Points are reduced accordingly. Additionally, once Hit Points are exhausted, Life Points are drained normally (that is, a 0 level human, or a levelled character who has 0 Hit Points remaining, who is hit for 5 points loses those 5 Life Points) and each point is a wound or scar (see below). 

Each time a character takes 10 or more hit points in damage in a single round, regardless of how many total Hit Points the character has, his or her Life Points are reduced, one Life Point per 10 Hit Points of damage, rounded down (1 Life Point for 10-19 Hit Points, 2 Life for 20-29 Hit Points, etc.) with a subsequent Wound or Scar (see below).

Hit Points are recovered with Rest, while Life Points with Recuperation.

Rest: for every 10 minutes of rest, recover one Hit Dice of Hit Points.

Recuperation: for every 2 hours of recuperation, recover all Hit Points and 1 Life Point.

On Death, Dying and Dismemberment

Characters reduced to 0 Life Points are Dying. Dying Characters make a death save every round. A Death Save is a d20 rolled against the PC’s Constitution score, adjusted by his or her Constitution bonus. Two successive failed Death saves and the Character is dead. If a Dying Character is tended to by another Character (or NPC), the Death Save is rolled at Advantage.

Wounds and Scars: When a Life Point is lost, the Character receives a wound or scar appropriate to the situation. Roll on the general wounds and scars table below, adjusted by the number of Health Points lost in a single round and the Character’s Constitution Bonus (adding the Life Points lost, subtracting the Constitution Bonus).

Roll 1d12


1 or less

a surge of adrenaline returns 1d4 hit points per every other level (1d4 at 1st and 2nd, 2d4 at 3rd and 4th, etc.) At the end of the combat, the adrenaline drains away, hit points are reduced to zero, and the PC faints for 2d6 rounds.


No Effect


Minor Scar. It’s just a flesh wound, really. A little blood, a little pain but no lasting effect except a little scar (as determined by player and DM)


Major Scar. Out of action for remainder of combat and heal at half rate for 24 hours. Permanent scar (as determined by player and DM)


knocked down, disadvantage on rolls next round


knocked out for 2d6 rounds, unless wearing a helm. With helm, only stunned for 1 round. Disadvantage for 1d12 subsequent hours


broken bone (DM's choice), 2d4+9 weeks to heal.


severed limb (DM's choice or roll randomly) will die in 3d6 rounds unless tourniquet applied, wound cauterized with fire, or Cure Serious Wounds cast (CSW used for this will not restore lost hp).


fatal wound (gutted, stabbed through lung, broken back, etc.) die in 1d6 turns.


instant death (decapitated or other grievous wound).

NOTE: While death is generally final, there are some rituals of the Church of the Holy Saints that can potentially resurrect a dead Character. In addition, the clerics of the old gods (Druids) can employ spells like Reincarnation to keep a Character’s Soul from traveling to the great beyond and magic users are able to trap souls in the Mortal Realm (in decaying bodies or as disembodied spirits). 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Cragrapid Keep

Back in the day... I bought ever issue of Dungeon Magazine I could get my hands on - starting with issue #9. I poured over those issues, reading and rereading the adventures. 

One of the early adventures that has stuck in memory for all these decades is from issue #11 - Wards of the Witching Ways.

Actually, it's not the plot of the adventure that has stayed with me - oh, I remember it - two mages betting on the survival of random shipwrecked strangers - plotting and cheating against each other. 

It's a tournament adventure - and as such, it's an okay plot...

But what I kept coming back to was the maps - the layout of the castle: Cragrapid Keep. It has four levels, multiple entrances and many interesting connections.

The other day I was thinking again about this keep and I decided to sketch a perspective image of the keep - not great (I'm no artist) but it helps me keep things in perspective...


Friday, September 10, 2021

Fiend Factory Cover Mockup

 I was reading Grognardia's random roll on the Fiend Folio this morning and I remembered that someone had put together a PDF of all the Fiend Factory monsters from White Dwarf. I found a copy of it a long time ago. It's just image scanned copies of the pages - meaning the layout is... um... variable as is the quality at times. I thought about trying to do some layout work and minor editing... but that's a deeper dive time-wise than I wanted to undertake. 

But I thought a cover would be nice :)

So I grabbed an image of a White Dwarf cover I liked (#26) and did some quick edits to make it a Fiend Factory Cover. Why? Because I could...

Friday, February 19, 2021

Free Map Friday

I'm always looking for new maps so I started drawing some. They're pretty rough - but they're free!

Available for use in any way, including commercially, with attribution:

Map by WR Beatty

If you want a larger image or a different format or just to tell me you used the map:

daenralworld AT gmail

Friday, February 12, 2021

Free Map Friday

 I'm always looking for new maps so I started drawing some. They're pretty rough - but they're free!

Part three of at least three. This is the right section.

Here's how they all fit together.

Available for use in any way, including commercially, with attribution:

Map by WR Beatty

If you want a larger image or a different format or just to tell me you used the map:

daenralworld AT gmail

Monday, February 8, 2021

When Art Works

 Art in adventures is useful for any number of reasons. I use art as reference: both visually ("oh, THAT'S what a Murrful Monster looks like!") and as a kind of shorthand bookmark in the adventure ("I know the Trash Beast encounter is after the four-armed Minotaur - that image is on page...17..."). Sometimes art really helps fill out the layout of the page. A good header or page border  can make an adventure stand out in my mind - I'm thinking particularly of some of the old D&D adventures written in the UK - UK 5-7, B10, O2. 

Mostly what I want from art is that it be evocative. I was leafing through The Gates of Firestorm Peak this morning. I've never played it - I didn't buy it back in the day. By the time it was published I was starting to get overwhelmed by the number of products TSR was putting out and I had discovered Magic: The Gathering (or, as my friend Jim used to call it, "Magic the Moneypit"). We weren't playing much D&D anymore anyway.

But I was looking through it today and several things about the art struck me:

First, the negative. I HATE watermark art on the page. There was a time when I thought it was kind of cool - but now I just find it distracting. It makes the pages just a bit harder to read - and heaven forbid you put italics over a watermark - my old eyes just aren't up to the struggle...

Second, the meh. Headers. I had forgotten how en vogue it became in second edition to use headers and page borders. The thing is, they aren't effective AT ALL. What the UK modules of the past did was a different header for each section (again, kind of a bookmark for where you are in the adventure) and had style. These are just the same two images repeated ad nauseum... I wouldn't mind if it wasn't just kind of page filler - add six more lines of text to each column, please...

Where is this?
Third, the confusing? There's a great image of a guy standing on a narrow ledge in front of a door with runes carved into it.  Thing is... I can't figure out where in the adventure this door exists... I probably missed it somehow? 

Finally, the evocative! I like a lot of the art in this adventure - it really helps set the mood for me. "Giants" staring over a gate, huge skeletons, weird tentacled things and mutated trolls.  Good stuff. In the "really helping me get it" mode, there's a creepy fountain and a crystal room with a bizarre hanging quicksilver pool (which I totally didn't understand until I saw the pic) - heck even the myconid image is evocative (huddled in a group but, to me, still defiant and aloof...).

Here's a couple images (full pagers) that help sell the scenes for me - where a picture really does say a thousand words:

There's this weird bazaar in a great hall - 
with spider-riding duergar patrolling the upper level.

The battle against the BBEG. 

Art does much more for me than just fill in white space. I really appreciate artwork that helps to build the world for me. Dragonlance did this well for me - I got a real feel for the world of Krynn by the consistency of the artwork. Say what you will about late First Edition and Second Edition adventures (oh the many WORDS...), many of them had fantastic art.