Free 60+ page Guide to Sword & Sorcery for 5E D&D

GlassJaw

Explorer
This is quite good. I’m impressed, especially for a free product. I really like that there are mechanics that support the sword & sorcery style of play.

That always frustrated me about Thule. Great setting but puts a lot of work on the DMs shoulders to adjust the mechanics for the setting.
 

S'mon

Legend
I place Xoth as a continent to the east of the main landmass in my Primeval Thule campaign. I've used material from all four of the published adventures and they work great.
I like Primeval Thule as actual-Greenland, but Xoth ought to work well for antediluvian Europe/Africa/Arabia. The Orientalist tone and desert type climate might suit the Arabian peninsula & NE Africa well; or maybe central Asia & Iran. The map, though well done for play as-is, is vague enough to be redrawn easily.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
Unsure if people misunderstood my comment- I wasn't complaining about the nudity, despite that my heritage includes puritans who arrived in North America long before the 13 Colonies revolted :)

I was jokingly saying in addition to all the great nipple shots the art is fantastic ;)
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Feedback on your 5E implementation:

* Alignment: I would argue 5E already does what you want. Yes, Bob the Explorer has an alignment listed. But there is no way to find out what it is. Detect Evil tells you about angels and demons. It draws a blank both on Bob, and Xena the Wicked Witch. There are close to zero game effects that depend on alignment, certainly at low- to medium levels (where S&S normally lives). That said, Protection from Evil and Good already works as you think - because these creatures are outsiders (not because of their alignment). So I'd say this section is a tad "obsolete" in that it reads as if the writer is expecting 3rd edition or Pathfinder 2 rules. I am definitely not complaining about your actual suggested changes - I'm just arguing you might want to properly update the phrasing to account for the ways 5E differ from previous D&D :)

* Sudden death: these ideas are common, but rarely work since the horrible truth is that the hp buffer is at the center of D&D. Any attempt to bypass it fights the very nature of the game. The long and short of it is: D&D expects heroes to regularly suffer large amounts of damage. At full hp or at few hp. This rule basically tells heroes to stop adventuring as soon as they are not close to full hp. And you get the wonky situation where you're still invulnerable to getting one-shotted except when you're already low on hp. This rule basically kicks those that already are lying down. Why not then simply give out fewer hp?

But you're not really looking to reduce the amount of "functional hp", are you? I think what you're after is "every hit could be fatal" and "heroes are separate from non-heroes".

So what about "when you roll a critical, new rule: calculate maximum damage and then multiply that number by a d6" AND give heroes - and just maybe the very most important non-monstrous NPCs - Fate Points (spend one fate point to make the D6 roll "1")

This accomplishes that sometimes you can insta-gibb the ghoul or temple guard just like in the source material, but heroes have a certain buffer against being insta-gibbed themselves. And you haven't made the lowest fifteen hp or so less useful (which means players don't feel worse than the regular rules already make them feel, when they're forced to press on despite knowing better).
 
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CapnZapp

Adventurer
* natural healing: do you allow/encourage feats? Two feats are especially good in a game without easy access to Clerics or Healing Potions: Inspired Leader and Healer.

* Treasure should be spent: IMHO you should definitely mention gold for xp at the very least, if not actively offering a rule for it. That rule was MADE for Sword & Sorcery :)

You can certainly still use quest/milestone leveling just as you suggest. I guess my point is: a game should either track gold or not track gold.

If you track it, a good use for it is "now you've earned a level, but you still must pay 1 gp per xp". As a replacement for either "I buy a +1 Longsword" or "I build a Wizard's Tower or organize a Thieves Guild". Neither uptime or downtime really fits S&S, where heroes are more like drifters, living one day at a time (Conan becoming King notwithstanding).

If you don't track it, you simply say "I carry as many gold and silver candelabras as I can. In the morning I don't remember where they are". That is, you're either dirt poor or fabulously rich, with no need for meaningful nuance... :)

* One final piece of feedback. Note: this subject is highly controversial and I fully understand if you choose to simply ignore it in any reply.

The text states in several places there is a meaningful gender difference:
"Welcome to a world where men are mighty, women are voluptuous..." (page 4)
"a world of cruel kings, barbarous fighters, beautiful but seductive women..." (page 4)
"Female Mazanians are all stunningly beautiful, since all girls with the slightest physical flaw are quickly abandoned in the jungle." (page 15)

But you studiously avoid even hinting at any mechanical framework to support any of it :)

My personal observation is that since your game is already targeting a mature audience, it should be able to expect players to meaningfully handle gender differences, as opposed to the current inclusive trend. Don't get me wrong, I like equality in the real world. And I love the stereotype of the 4"10' lithe girl who busts heads as much as the next guy, but S&S is decidedly not a Luc Besson arena ;)

Just as a brutally simplistic example, if the rules should offer "males get +2 to Strength, females get +2 to Charisma", even as an optional suggestion, most players will be nudged to playing "genre-appropriate" characters, that is, most hulking brutes will be male while most bewitching enchantresses will be female.

Note: You still can play a female warrior based on Strength. You can still play a male Bard Courtier based on Charisma. After all, there are no penalties.

But since 5E already offers robust support for the "Dex build", you are likely to end up with a bad-ass woman warrior that looks like Grace Jones or Sandahl Bergman, and not a gender-switched Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sven-Ole Thorsen (the bad guy with the ridoncolous hammer). Which is the point. The only point.
 
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CapnZapp

Adventurer
I love your Cultures of Xoth! They are simple, elegant and spot on to drive home the themes of S&S!

I really think you're short-changing yourself by making them essentially optional. We already know all your rules are optional - you could and should integrate Cultures to be a core "Xoth rule" and character build choice. Move that chapter up to the front, and really play up the importance of defining your character as "Savage" or "Decadent". :)

Enlightened, Savage and Nomadic are essentially uncivilized, barbaric - or rather, outsiders to civilization. While Civilized and Decadents (and Degenerates, I guess) stem from established if not ancient civilizations.

Restrict the gender bonus discussed above to Uncivilized cultures. Civilized cultures instead get a bonus skill or something.

Only an Uncivilized culture could produce a mountain of a man like Schwartzenegger. In comparison, the gender difference in civilized countries are negligible - all civilized men have a certain effete appearance :p
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Let me note that I have now checked S'mon's post. It does not display any imagery on either desktop mobile or app. So it appears the link can safely be added to the OP, which still contains only the mod's comment as a replacement for the objectionable picture, and no friendly link. You should be able to do this yourself, @xoth.publishing
We’re all still getting a link directly to the pdf using S’mon’s link, including the art.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
Feedback on your 5E implementation:
Thanks for the detailed feedback! My comments follow below...

* Alignment: I would argue 5E already does what you want. (...) So I'd say this section is a tad "obsolete" in that it reads as if the writer is expecting 3rd edition or Pathfinder 2 rules. I am definitely not complaining about your actual suggested changes - I'm just arguing you might want to properly update the phrasing to account for the ways 5E differ from previous D&D :)
Good points, I'll rephrase those sections. +1 to 5E for already handling this in a sensible manner!

* Sudden death: these ideas are common, but rarely work since the horrible truth is that the hp buffer is at the center of D&D. (...) you get the wonky situation where you're still invulnerable to getting one-shotted except when you're already low on hp.
By default, under the 5E rules you are instantly killed if brought to (negative your max hit points) from a single attack. As you rise in levels and gain more hit points this chance to be instantly killed will be reduced (unless the monsters you fight deal correspondingly more and more damage).

The intention between the adjustment to the instant death threshold is to make high-level characters more vulnerable (to lower-level opponents). That said, it can be argued that due to 5E's bounded accuracy, low-level opponents (in large numbers) can still be a threat to higher-level characters, so perhaps adjusting the instant death rule is not necessary.

The instant death modification is marked as an optional rule ("discuss with your players before adding this rule..."), but I think I'll rephrase the part about "the default assumed by this book" to make it more clear that this is indeed optional. In other words, use 5E as-is and only modifiy if you find your players are never actually in danger of dying.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
* natural healing: do you allow/encourage feats? Two feats are especially good in a game without easy access to Clerics or Healing Potions: Inspired Leader and Healer.
Personally, I allow feats, except the three feats known to cause a lot of problems: Great Weapon Master, Lucky, and Sharpshooter.

The tips about Inspired Leader and Healer are good.

The general philosophy when it comes to healing (as you'll see when you get to the Classes and Sorcery chapters) is that life force (healing) can't just be taken out of thin air, it has to come from somewhere, either by sacrificing your own or someone else's hit points (as the Cultist class can do), or by drawing life out of plants (as Druids can do, either as "preservers" or "defilers").

In this context, personally I allow healing potions as long as they follow this philosophy; essentially healing potions are bottled blood from sacrifice! They are still somewhat rare, and the PCs might feel a bit different about quaffing them down when they learn what it really is... :)

* Treasure should be spent: IMHO you should definitely mention gold for xp at the very least, if not actively offering a rule for it. That rule was MADE for Sword & Sorcery :)
I already did mention it, see the third paragraph under "The Tale Is Its Own Reward".

* One final piece of feedback. Note: this subject is highly controversial and I fully understand if you choose to simply ignore it in any reply.
Yeah, I'm not going to comment on this, except to say if a GM and the players want to explore such rules options, then by all means go ahead. As long as it's fun for everybody.
 
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xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
I love your Cultures of Xoth! They are simple, elegant and spot on to drive home the themes of S&S!

I really think you're short-changing yourself by making them essentially optional. We already know all your rules are optional - you could and should integrate Cultures to be a core "Xoth rule" and character build choice. Move that chapter up to the front, and really play up the importance of defining your character as "Savage" or "Decadent". :)
Thanks, many people seem to like this solution as it avoids undue focus on the races.

Cultures are not intended to be optional, though; see "Summary of Character Creation" on page 8, step 3 (pick your culture). It's placed after step 2 (pick your race) because each race description has notes on which cultures are most common for a given race, so it makes sense to pick a race first.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
Like it very much, it gives me some nice ideas for my darksun conversion.
Thanks! Dark Sun, that's a badass sword and sorcery setting, one of my all-time favorite settings from any publisher. Would love to see an illustrated "Player's Guide to Dark Sun for 5E"... ;-)
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
My personal observation is that since your game is already targeting a mature audience, it should be able to expect players to meaningfully handle gender differences, as opposed to the current inclusive trend. Don't get me wrong, I like equality in the real world. And I love the stereotype of the 4"10' lithe girl who busts heads as much as the next guy, but S&S is decidedly not a Luc Besson arena ;)

Just as a brutally simplistic example, if the rules should offer "males get +2 to Strength, females get +2 to Charisma", even as an optional suggestion, most players will be nudged to playing "genre-appropriate" characters, that is, most hulking brutes will be male while most bewitching enchantresses will be female.

Note: You still can play a female warrior based on Strength. You can still play a male Bard Courtier based on Charisma. After all, there are no penalties.

But since 5E already offers robust support for the "Dex build", you are likely to end up with a bad-ass woman warrior that looks like Grace Jones or Sandahl Bergman, and not a gender-switched Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sven-Ole Thorsen (the bad guy with the ridoncolous hammer). Which is the point. The only point.
I feel like there are way too many statuesque Amazon heroes in sword & sorcery fiction to make this a good idea even on the grounds of being genre appropriate. Yes, Red Sonja is gorgeous. But she's also really freaking strong.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
We’re all still getting a link directly to the pdf using S’mon’s link, including the art.
Edit: all's good now :)

Do you mean ENWorld won't even allow links to nsfw content, even if none of it appears on site? Does this mean the link is disallowed entirely? Why then allow the link as it appears in subsequent posts?

I guess my question is: normally the first post needs to contain the link or you miss out on loads of visitors. What is served by burying the link so only those who browse the entire thread will find it?

(Genuine honest questions. I don't object to ENWorld wanting to stay SFW and PG. Feel free to move this to Meta)
 
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CapnZapp

Adventurer
By default, under the 5E rules you are instantly killed if brought to (negative your max hit points) from a single attack. As you rise in levels and gain more hit points this chance to be instantly killed will be reduced (unless the monsters you fight deal correspondingly more and more damage).

The intention between the adjustment to the instant death threshold is to make high-level characters more vulnerable (to lower-level opponents). That said, it can be argued that due to 5E's bounded accuracy, low-level opponents (in large numbers) can still be a threat to higher-level characters, so perhaps adjusting the instant death rule is not necessary.

The instant death modification is marked as an optional rule ("discuss with your players before adding this rule..."), but I think I'll rephrase the part about "the default assumed by this book" to make it more clear that this is indeed optional. In other words, use 5E as-is and only modifiy if you find your players are never actually in danger of dying.
Yeah, the instant death rule is more like a rules carry-over from previous editions. It has close to zero impact on the game once you leave the very lowest levels. And low-level characters easily die even without instant death.

But that is a good thing. You (or at least I :) ) want heroes to act suitably heroic, which means going at full speed from their first hp to their last.

I hope you see that my suggested alternative rule means there is no incentive for heroes to slow down, take it cautious because the threat of "instadeath" is always there. The probability is small, but it is there for both the 109 hp hero as well as the 9 hp hero.

(Of course a 9 hp hero will still feel much more vulnerable. The point is: we're not adding a rule that makes you even more vulnerable than you already are, because that seems to be at odds with the real reason we're adding a stronger sudden death rule)

The secret is: thanks to Fate Points (or Doom Points or whatever you want to call them), the way sudden death can strike at any time, even when you are at full hp, this benefits characters, since they can now insta-kill regular mooks that can't insta-kill them. As you know, there are no real mooks in 5E - even monsters of moderate level have heaps of hit points. But not so many that a six-fold maximized strike won't take them all away at once.

I guess my vision of S&S isn't about carefully counting your remaining hit points. It's more about stoically charging full steam ahead and just trusting to Crom that the Great White Ape will run out of hit points before you do! :)

But good luck and thanks for listening!
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Thanks, many people seem to like this solution as it avoids undue focus on the races.

Cultures are not intended to be optional, though; see "Summary of Character Creation" on page 8, step 3 (pick your culture). It's placed after step 2 (pick your race) because each race description has notes on which cultures are most common for a given race, so it makes sense to pick a race first.
I guess I'm nitpicking the word "can" in "The following broad cultural archetypes can be used to further distinguish between characters who would otherwise have the same racial abilities." ;)

I would totally ask players to choose culture first, since that is your #1 defining trait (whether you're a Barbarian, proud but uneducated, or some pampered but cunning citizen from a crumbling empire) and then list suggested races under each culture. (So the two chapters reference each other)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Do you mean ENWorld won't even allow links to nsfw content, even if none of it appears on site? Does this mean the link is disallowed entirely? Why then allow the link as it appears in subsequent posts?

I guess my question is: normally the first post needs to contain the link or you miss out on loads of visitors. What is served by burying the link so only those who browse the entire thread will find it?

(Genuine honest questions. I don't object to ENWorld wanting to stay SFW and PG. Feel free to move this to Meta)
No. The NSFW tag for a legit gaming product is good enough, according to the owner himself.

That the link wasn’t edited out of quotes along with the original quote would be sloppiness.

The point of the note was that reposting the link after it had been removed by a moderator was...risky. But the boss is letting it pass.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I feel like there are way too many statuesque Amazon heroes in sword & sorcery fiction to make this a good idea even on the grounds of being genre appropriate. Yes, Red Sonja is gorgeous. But she's also really freaking strong.
Well, she's always brought up in these cases. To me, she's an exception, and an impossible one - not the rule.

...even if we're just discussing them in the context of a specifically retrograde fantasy genre!

Without any mechanical guidance, my experience is that D&D drives players that want to be absolute combat monsters into a strength build (certainly if the RAW feats are enabled), male or female. And I don't buy that your female character just happens to have 20 Strength while still looking not like Schwarzenegger with boobs but like Red Sonja. That's having the cake while eating it.

In fantasy it is absolutely the right thing to ignore real life physics. In a world of dragons and fireballs, who am I to argue your 16-year old 90 pound girl can't kick the shit out of zombies or umber hulks? But I happen to believe that S&S is improved by at least giving the nod to real-life gender limitations. In my S&S, women are from Venus, men are from Mars (sometimes they're on Mars but from Earth, but I digress). Women are not a match for men in physical contests. We're using the way 5E boosts Dexterity to still allow fierce bad-ass women warriors but still.

You're supposed to have to choose.

Maximum strength? Sure. Wielding a hammer bigger than a sofa? Of course. If your muscles are bigger than tree trunks! And since my business isn't how your junk looks like, I guess you could technically be any gender you like, but everybody will just assume you are a man, since you look like one. Remember: you're not just a body builder. You're a freakishly huge bundle of testosterone-driven muscle.

Want to look womanly, seductive and alluring? Sure. Still want to be a bad-ass fighter? Of course. Choose the Dex build and max your Charisma. And not Strength and Con.

Do note that just because males get +2 Strength does not mean you can't still roll up a female warrior with an hour-glass figure with Strength 18. It just means that you can't get one with Strength 20.

In the same vein, the only way to truly maximize diplomacy and seduction is to create a voluptuous Venus of a woman. (Even though you could create an intense and brooding charmer of a man with just 1 point less).

I fully understand not everyone shares these ideas.
 
Great stuff, but I have a big gripe -

None of what you list as races are races. They're ethnicities. There is only one human race, and what we call race is a social construct created by, well, racists.

Given that D&D actually does have contextually "real" races, it also avoids confusion of two concepts using the same word. You changed clerics to cultists, when you could have kept the name. Please consider doing the same for an outmoded concept.
 

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