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

S'mon

Legend
This just goes to show that 5E is a pretty good fit for S&S to begin with, which is obviously one of the main reasons I like the system.
I agree - I ran the Wilderlands of High Fantasy in 5e for around 4 years, and I found the system to be an excellent fit. Of course Wilderlands is an OD&D-based S&S setting (with a lot of Sword & Planet too), so higher magic than a typical Conanesque setting.

I'm currently running Primeval Thule in 5e, which is a more overtly Howardian/CAS type setting, and again it's a very good fit. Very few rules changes needed other than removing Raise Dead & Resurrection. The only person to ever cast Fireball is an NPC dwarf wizard who is explicitly presented as incongruous and odd for the setting; normally Wizards are casting Visions of Madness and making enemies' heads explode like in Scanners. :D
 

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xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
I feel the S&S genre does have examples of widespread poison gas attacks, and psychic damage attacks, at least in the hands of villains (the gas attacks often require a lengthy ritual though); so it's not AoE per se that is un-S&S. I think it's the Fireball and similar physical damage spells that are not a feature of either S&S or Tolkienesque fantasy; indeed I don't really think they featured in fantasy at all prior to D&D. And Gygax in Chainmail was creating fantasy analogues for WW2 artillery.
The stuff that comes to mind are the puffballs used by the Black Seers of Yimsha in People of the Black Circle (although this only affects one target per ball) :

People of the Black Circle said:
They all saw it--a white puffball of smoke that tumbled over the tower-rim and came drifting and rolling down the slope toward them. Others followed it. They seemed harmless, mere woolly globes of cloudy foam, but Conan stepped aside to avoid contact with the first. Behind him one of the Irakzai reached out and thrust his sword into the unstable mass. Instantly a sharp report shook the mountainside. There was a burst of blinding flame, and then the puffball had vanished, and the too-curious warrior remained only a heap of charred and blackened bones. The crisped hand still gripped the ivory sword-hilt, but the blade was gone melted and destroyed by that awful heat. Yet men standing almost within reach of the victim had not suffered except to be dazzled and half blinded by the sudden flare.
And the battlefield trick used by Natohk / Thugra Khotan in Black Colossus, which is clearly more of an alchemical thing than a fireball:

Black Colossus said:
The horde had halted. From the extreme wing rushed a chariot, the naked charioteer lashing the steeds like a madman; the other occupant was a tall figure whose robe floated spectrally on the wind. He held in his arms a great vessel of gold and from it poured a thin stream that sparkled in the sunlight. Across the whole front of the desert horde the chariot swept, and behind its thundering wheels was left, like the wake behind a ship, a long thin powdery line that glittered in the sands like the phosphorescent track of a serpent.

"That's Natohk!" swore Amalric. "What hellish seed is he sowing?"

The charging knights had not checked their headlong pace. Another fifty paces and they would crash into the uneven Kushite ranks, which stood motionless, spears lifted. Now the foremost knights had reached the thin line that glittered across the sands. They did not heed that crawling menace. But as the steel-shod hoofs of the horses struck it, it was as when steel strikes flint—but with more terrible result. A terrific explosion rocked the desert, which seemed to split apart along the strewn line with an awful burst of white flame.
So it's not that these things don't exist in S&S fiction, but the GM should decide if he wants the PCs to wield such magic, or if it is represented by alchemical items that can be crafted or bought, or if it is more effective as various (one-off) tricks and arcane abilities of NPCs. In good 5E tradition, the best thing is to leave it up to the GM to decide! :)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
(Warning: A little rant about spellcasters)
Thank you for your warning ;) (I certainly won't chastise you for going on a rant - especially since I have ranted plenty myself in this very thread :))

Realized I'm tired and perhaps a bit rambly, so warnings for that I guess...

Just wanted to make sure you realized that my comments were made in the context of agreeing this is a lightly-skinned game of D&D rather than a thoroughly reconfigured S&S game that just happens to use 5E as its base.

That is, assuming we just agreed the details of Bard or Druid or whatever is secondary to "it's still D&D", then it stands to reason we can argue Fireball should remain in the arcane casters' repertoires since it represents a significant aspect of these classes.

That is, as a designer, choose which is the more important aspect: class balance (the "it's still D&D so who cares if the Druid can use elemental magic" school) or setting fidelity (which then begs the question why any number of D&Dism aren't removed).

I guess my point is: at the end of the day, Fireball is just D&Ds way to help some classes matter. It can't actually help the players bypass the challenges that D&D would call "low level" (castle walls, deserts w/o water, ...) It just means the caster's ability to meaningfully contribute and share in the spotlight is retained.

Don't get me wrong - I am absolutely on board with the idea that lots of magic stuff should be excised from the game. Heck, I'm even miffed a 5E caster can apply fire (or cold, force, acid) damage each round, every round all day long! That is, infinite cantrips, that logically would allow you to burn holes in any wooden wall, dissolve a murder victim (no evidence) and a lot of stuff that definitely isn't in the S&S ball park!

Personally I would be okay with that as a player, but I know many people who get a lot of enjoyment out of counting every single coin after looting fallen enemies, and spending said (exactly counted) coin on various stuff after the adventure. So I think each group (GM and players) has to come up with a solution that maximizes their fun.
Yet you decide for them Fireball is where you draw the line ;)

Anyway, maybe you already understood this, but to be sure:

I wasn't arguing "regular economy admin should be disallowed".

I was arguing "your sole rules option re: wealth should probably not be nearly as detailed".

Counting every penny is fine, and then spending them on fine wine, or luxurious golden dresses. Downtime activities of Xanathar. Whatever.

It's just that the included rules option doesn't really change all that much. Having to pay 4000 gold for an ability increase or AC bonus still means having to count all that money.

I find it more useful to, as my sole Treasure Should Be Spent option, present a true alternative to counting money.

If you like counting money, all the power to you. You're likely fine with rules as written.

It is if you really agree Treasure Should Be Spent you might need a rules option that FREES you from bean-counting.

Best Regards :)

PS. Plus I find I don't really like the option that much. In fact, I think it reminds me way too much of d20 and Pathfinder. I would much rather keep the ability score increases free every four levels, just like 5E RAW, if you ask me.

And that's coming from someone who really likes being able to purchase magic items in my regular D&D. It's just that first you say "In a world without magic items for sale..." and then IMMEDIATELY offers bonuses for sale :)

"...they need something else to spend their gold on"

In d20/PF you needed this to stay relevant as a character, against high level monsters. In 5E you don't. You simply don't.

In all of D&D you do need things to spend gold on, or gold becomes "worthless". One option is to spend gold on xp, but you've decided against spending space in your document on that alternative.

So my proposal was realize some people are fine with what 5E offers as "gold outlets": which mainly is downtime or even "not much at all". You don't have to focus on providing more options here.

Instead why not offer an option that takes gold-counting out of the equation entirely? :)
 

S'mon

Legend
Yet you decide for them Fireball is where you draw the line ;)
Personally I definitely do find that there's something about the Fireball spell that screams "D&D Fantasy" in a way other spells don't. The lack of S&S precedent, the power, area and range, the very visible effect, the low casting level... I'm not sure exactly. But a spell which did say 8d6 psychic damage in a 20' radius around the caster (WIS save for half) would feel very different, and much more compliant with S&S norms even if it might actually be more powerful than Fireball in the hands/heads of NPCs.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
That is, assuming we just agreed the details of Bard or Druid or whatever is secondary to "it's still D&D", then it stands to reason we can argue Fireball should remain in the arcane casters' repertoires since it represents a significant aspect of these classes.
My position on this is that spellcasters are so good compared to other classes, that you could take out half the spells and class balance is still fine. Especially in a S&S world where there are not other spellcasters and magic-using creatures on every corner. (Let's pretend you are a warlock and you arrive in Zamboula and start casting spells on the streets, you would immediately be the talk of the town -- now do the same in Waterdeep and hardly anyone would bat an eyelid.)

Now thankfully 5E has turned down the power level of spellcasters by adding Concentration, saves to break spells every round, etc., but magic is still so incredibly versatile and powerful (that's why we call it "magic", I guess!) that even if you take away some spells from a spellcaster, you don't break game balance. (And so what if you do? You've mentioned yourself how "the mighty warrior" archetype should be dominant in S&S, and sorcery should not be its equal. Doesn't nerfing spellcasters more than regular D&D achieve exactly that type of feel?)

Don't get me wrong - I am absolutely on board with the idea that lots of magic stuff should be excised from the game. Heck, I'm even miffed a 5E caster can apply fire (or cold, force, acid) damage each round, every round all day long! That is, infinite cantrips, that logically would allow you to burn holes in any wooden wall, dissolve a murder victim (no evidence) and a lot of stuff that definitely isn't in the S&S ball park!
Yeah, stuff like that smells of cheese, and should be excised if it is abused.

Yet you decide for them Fireball is where you draw the line ;)
Time for the immortal Jean-Luc Picard quote: :)



Also, the whole discussion about Fireball specifically is kind of moot, because neither the druid nor the warlock have fireball on their spell lists.

It's just that first you say "In a world without magic items for sale..." and then IMMEDIATELY offers bonuses for sale :)
Are you getting the Pathfinder and the 5E version of the Player's Guide mixed up here? Because the 5E version certainly does not offer any bonuses for sale. It just says: "The GM should encourage the players to buy land, build strongholds, hire mercenaries, bribe corrupt officials, or even just waste money through gambling and feasting. These are all fine ways to spend treasure, any of which could lead to further adventures."

One option is to spend gold on xp, but you've decided against spending space in your document on that alternative.
Again, are you getting the Pathfinder and 5E versions of the book mixed up? The 5E version includes a whole paragraph on this very alternative:

Player's Guide for 5E said:
A third, old-school alternative is «XP for gold», where the characters gain XP based on the gold value they are able to retrieve from dungeons and successfully bring back to civilization. Experience points must then be «purchased» with the gold, at a ratio of 1 XP for 1 gp (the GM may adjust this ratio, or the experience per level table, if a different advancement rate is desired). Money gained from passive or peaceful means, such as investments, trade, skilled work, etc., cannot be used to purchase XP. No XP is gained from killing monsters. Note that this tends to make the PCs avoid combat if possible, focusing more on sneaking, stealing, trickery, negotiation, clever planning, etc. — all appropriate for certain types of sword and sorcery.
 

S'mon

Legend
The stuff that comes to mind are the puffballs used by the Black Seers of Yimsha in People of the Black Circle (although this only affects one target per ball)
Isn't there a story where a sorcerer uses a killing gas spell or similar against a city?

Also of course Leiber's Ill Met in Lankhmar with the long range poison gas attack vs a house/apartment, but that's a slightly different sort of S&S.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
Isn't there a story where a sorcerer uses a killing gas spell or similar against a city?
In the Conan stories by REH you mean? I can't remember any such thing. Or did you mean in any S&S story?

I just re-read The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles by Clark Ashton Smith the other day, and it features (minor spoiler alert!) a powder that produces hallucinations causing fear in those affected by it, over quite a large area (a temple) but that is clearly an alchemical item, not a spell:

The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles said:
Going to a cobwebbed corner, he took down from a high shelf an abdominous jar of uncolored glass filled with a fine grey powder and brought it to the light.

"I will now," he said, "explain to you the singular properties of this powder and the way in which it must be used. It is truly a triumph of chemistry; and more devastating than a plague."

We were astounded by what he told us. Then we began to laugh.

"It is to be hoped," I said, "that none of your spells and cantrips are involved."

Veezi Phenquor assumed the expression of one whose feelings have been deeply injured.

"I assure you," he protested, "that the effects of the powder, though extraordinary, are not beyond nature."
 

S'mon

Legend
In the Conan stories by REH you mean? I can't remember any such thing. Or did you mean in any S&S story?
It was a Conan story, but I couldn't swear it was by REH. Also the distinction between death by gas and death by demons/curse/other magic isn't always clear - especially with colourless/odourless gas it wasn't that clear to people IRL either.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
You are correct - I must have gotten the versions mixed up.

Okay, I will reserve any further opinion to the next version of the 5E player's guide!
 
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xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
Okay, I will reserve any further opinion to the next version of the 5E player's guide!
I just put up a new version (v1.5) of the Player's Guide, with a few minor changes: added the "words to the wise" disclaimer, did a few edits (adjusted the conqueror's battle cry, removed rapier from courtier, etc).
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I just put up a new version (v1.5) of the Player's Guide, with a few minor changes: added the "words to the wise" disclaimer, did a few edits (adjusted the conqueror's battle cry, removed rapier from courtier, etc).
Perhaps you didn't intend to reply to me? I don't see any changes that merits any further commentary.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Perhaps you didn't intend to reply to me? I don't see any changes that merits any further commentary.
Returning to this half a year later: You replied to me saying you had put up a new version. Because of the recent rpg.net thread I had reason to check out your latest version (called "1.6 playtest").

But I'm afraid I can't immediately see any further changes to anything we have discussed. Frankly, by now you come across as "I see your feedback, and acknowledge the validity, but won't change my mind, and can't be bothered to argue further for my position". I could be wrong or misremember - if so, I would much appreciate you pointing out any specific progress, ideally acknowledging which poster that made you change your mind (definitely does not have to be me).

Me and others have provided excellent feedback where you can push S&S tropes much further while not making significant (or even any!) changes to the 5th Edition core, and furthermore you have gotten several instances pointed out to you where your take on 5th edition concepts is still colored by old-edition-itis. In some instances we've also provided feedback that says "we suggest taking out this or that subsystem entirely, relying on 5E core is better and simpler!" You have AFAIK responded by saying the subsystem is optional. That still fails to acknowledge our point. Merely having a subsystem in a product brings implict recommendation; our point is that taking it out is the improvement we suggest, something marking it as optional fails to achieve. Please argue for keeping it in, so we can see your side of it!

While I like your product very much, and the idea of it even more, don't expect me to provide further feedback until you show yourself willing to not only discuss, but also change. You're starting to come off as somebody unable to kill your darlings here, Xoth.

Also, I noticed you still post your PDF link without regards to how others react to its cover nudity, even after extensive discussion as well as moderator action, which comes off as just sloppy by now.

I wish you good luck with your game, Xoth, but at this time you need to actively work to regain trust if you want the feedback implied by calling your public version a "playtest" version. Does that mean you must make changes you don't want to make just because of a random anon or three? Certainly not. But you should be able to make us see your point. That point, I'm afraid, can't and shouldn't be "because it was in my PF version" or somesuch. 5E is a decidedly different game.

There's value in you putting your reasons for sticking to your guns into words. :)

Best Regards,
Zapp
 


xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
But I'm afraid I can't immediately see any further changes to anything we have discussed. Frankly, by now you come across as "I see your feedback, and acknowledge the validity, but won't change my mind, and can't be bothered to argue further for my position". I could be wrong or misremember - if so, I would much appreciate you pointing out any specific progress, ideally acknowledging which poster that made you change your mind (definitely does not have to be me).
I went back and re-read the full thread. You and others have provided feedback; I've responded with my own thoughts, which range from "you're right, I will rephrase/adjust/remove that" to "I think it's fine as it is". It would be redundant for me to repeat the discussion and progress here; the thread provides an excellent log as-is.

Me and others have provided excellent feedback where you can push S&S tropes much further while not making significant (or even any!) changes to the 5th Edition core, and furthermore you have gotten several instances pointed out to you where your take on 5th edition concepts is still colored by old-edition-itis.
And what are those "several instances"? I'm not aware of anything that hasn't already been rephrased or removed if it erroneously referenced a Pathfinderism.

In some instances we've also provided feedback that says "we suggest taking out this or that subsystem entirely, relying on 5E core is better and simpler!" You have AFAIK responded by saying the subsystem is optional. That still fails to acknowledge our point. Merely having a subsystem in a product brings implict recommendation; our point is that taking it out is the improvement we suggest, something marking it as optional fails to achieve. Please argue for keeping it in, so we can see your side of it!
Not really sure what "subsystems" you are talking about here? I've suggested (as an optional rule) a small tweak to the Instant Death rule, and Instant Death is part of core 5E.

While I like your product very much, and the idea of it even more, don't expect me to provide further feedback until you show yourself willing to not only discuss, but also change. You're starting to come off as somebody unable to kill your darlings here, Xoth.
As mentioned above, I've responded to all feedback with my own thoughts, which range from "you're right, I will rephrase/adjust/remove that" to "I think it's fine as it is". I appreciate all feedback, that's why I put the book out there for review, and you've provided a number of good and useful points. Some of it has led to changes, some of it has not. As the author of said book it is ultimately up to me to have the final say. Of course people have different tastes and not everyone is going to like everything. Fortunately, it you like, say, 80% of the work it is easy to apply your own house rules on top of it. I'm sure most people do that with the core rulebooks, too.

Also, I noticed you still post your PDF link without regards to how others react to its cover nudity, even after extensive discussion as well as moderator action, which comes off as just sloppy by now.
My bad. The last "nipplegate" was six months ago, so I had forgotten the strange fact that many people in the New World are more easily offended by nipples than by blood, gore and violence.

I wish you good luck with your game, Xoth, but at this time you need to actively work to regain trust if you want the feedback implied by calling your public version a "playtest" version. Does that mean you must make changes you don't want to make just because of a random anon or three? Certainly not. But you should be able to make us see your point. That point, I'm afraid, can't and shouldn't be "because it was in my PF version" or somesuch. 5E is a decidedly different game.
Again, after re-reading this full thread today, I feel that I've responded to all feedback so far, incorporating changes if they make sense to me (even if in some cases it's only slightly rephrasing a sentence). I'm certainly not trying to hang onto Pathfinder, please point out any specific PF-isms that are still left, if any.

Also, work on the Player's Guide has been on the back-burner because I've been DMing 5E and working on the "Trials of Ngura" adventure, which is the first Xoth Publishing module written for 5E. So it's been a learning process on many fronts, but I still think that 5E is an excellent chassis for swords & sorcery (as lightly re-skinned D&D, not the hardcore S&S that would require a different rule system).
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
This is still one of the coolest swttings/supplements for 5e I've seen. It really seems to capture the old sword and sorcery feel.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
Saw the cover page, pressed like. Thanks for sharing this, always fond of reading other peoples well considered design thoughts. Especially if this goes where I think it will.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I went back and re-read the full thread.
I hope you don't expect me to put too much time into this reply, since you're by now trying to make the discussion to be about "I've done what I can and what, what more do you expect" instead of engaging with specific issues. Instead of taking my post as evidence of "maybe I haven't been so open as I think I have been", you're doubling down on your openmindedness and responsiveness. That's defensive, not constructive. (I wouldn't have written my reply if I had thought everything was alright.)

Just as a ultra-quick reminder, let me bring up a few points - trying to focus on things brought up by others, not merely by me.

You still include the advice about removing alignment despite being told many times that from the perspective of a 5E gamer it comes across as simply outdated and unnecessary. Please trust your audience: the best approach is to remove it altogether; 5E alignment ALREADY is where S&S needs it to be.

Instant Death: please remove the rule altogether. As FXR wrote: "it adds nothing to the game and actually goes against some of the usual themes of S&S".

More alarmingly, responding "it has been discussed before in this thread; it has been made clear the rule is optional" completely misses the point. Please don't miss the point!

Wounds Heal Quickly: About the only reason to even have this section, is because you have had it in your rules for other game systems. But since it now amounts to exactly nothing, the natural thing is to remove it. (You're saying natural healing should be accelerated, but that assumes acceleration from a previous-edition baseline. You then say there's no need for special rules. All of this reveal an author still writing from a point of view that isn't 5E)

Just to mix in a little good into this message:

Treasure Should Be Spent: I see you have responded here, removing the decidedly Pathfindery xp and gold amounts, and for that you deserve acknowledgement. Kudos!

I still think it would be more natural to first choose Culture, then Race (since your options for race are informed by your culture). There should totally be a cross-reference list "which races have Nomad members"? More importantly, it would put the emphasis on Culture. After all, whether you're Jairanian or, I dunno, Khazrajite matters much less (for everybody else than yourself) than the fact you're a Nomad. Everyone not from either of those two nations/areas likely won't know the difference unless the adventure is set in that particular corner of the world, they would just see a Nomad.

Just a final note to say I won't regurgitate our discussions on gender politics. I should also say I haven't looked at your class design. I see people say great things about your Cultist class!

:)
 

Weiley31

Adventurer
Huh. I didn't post any pictures, just a link to the book. I'm always surprised by the fact that monsters, blood and violence seems to be OK in movies, comics and games; but some nipples must be censored like the plague. Anyway, if you just google "world of xoth", you should be able to find the website and the book (and lots of other free downloads) within a couple of clicks.
I mean, EVERYBODY knows that Boobs/Nips are the Path to the Darkside.

Hmm, are those the supposed "cookies" that it has?
 

S'mon

Legend
I hope you don't expect me to put too much time into this reply, since you're by now trying to make the discussion to be about "I've done what I can and what, what more do you expect" instead of engaging with specific issues. Instead of taking my post as evidence of "maybe I haven't been so open as I think I have been", you're doubling down on your openmindedness and responsiveness. That's defensive, not constructive. (I wouldn't have written my reply if I had thought everything was alright.)

Just as a ultra-quick reminder, let me bring up a few points - trying to focus on things brought up by others, not merely by me.

You still include the advice about removing alignment despite being told many times that from the perspective of a 5E gamer it comes across as simply outdated and unnecessary. Please trust your audience: the best approach is to remove it altogether; 5E alignment ALREADY is where S&S needs it to be.

Instant Death: please remove the rule altogether. As FXR wrote: "it adds nothing to the game and actually goes against some of the usual themes of S&S".

More alarmingly, responding "it has been discussed before in this thread; it has been made clear the rule is optional" completely misses the point. Please don't miss the point!

Wounds Heal Quickly: About the only reason to even have this section, is because you have had it in your rules for other game systems. But since it now amounts to exactly nothing, the natural thing is to remove it. (You're saying natural healing should be accelerated, but that assumes acceleration from a previous-edition baseline. You then say there's no need for special rules. All of this reveal an author still writing from a point of view that isn't 5E)

Just to mix in a little good into this message:

Treasure Should Be Spent: I see you have responded here, removing the decidedly Pathfindery xp and gold amounts, and for that you deserve acknowledgement. Kudos!

I still think it would be more natural to first choose Culture, then Race (since your options for race are informed by your culture). There should totally be a cross-reference list "which races have Nomad members"? More importantly, it would put the emphasis on Culture. After all, whether you're Jairanian or, I dunno, Khazrajite matters much less (for everybody else than yourself) than the fact you're a Nomad. Everyone not from either of those two nations/areas likely won't know the difference unless the adventure is set in that particular corner of the world, they would just see a Nomad.
Despite Zappy's obnoxious tone, I think the advice is good. 5e is a much bigger departure from 3e than appears at first sight, and much better suited to a lower magic sword and sorcery style.
 

Weiley31

Adventurer
So I can make a Seducer bard basically in regular dnd.

I mean the Bard does that already, but now it can be kinda official now.
 

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