Saturday, March 13, 2021

Still Dwarfhackin'

This is a bit of an unusual post for me.  Usually I post rules proposals, but this is more of a log of stuff I've been working on.  Sort of funny - blog was short for web log.  Maybe I haven't been properly blogging since the last time I ran a game and was posting session logs.

Work on Dwarfhack continues.  Had a crisis of faith, an "is this really worth working on" this week, but then I decided that it would be sort of neat to actually finish something for once.


  • Men: low levels are finished, need to fill in the mid-to-high levels still (and decide whether I want to be giving out free mercs)
  • Vaultguard: needs flavor text and mid-to-high levels
  • Fury: have a lot of ideas here but nothing concrete for changes; wrote up a Slaying ability like Favored Enemy crossed with Backstab, thinking about giving them something sort of similar to Diehard.  Still not sure whether I want to give them Leather+Swashbuckling to make the low levels more survivable vs the current double-Swashbuckling where their low-level AC is worse but high-level AC is better.
  • Delver: Haven't started
  • Runesmith:  Haven't started building the class, just the spell list
  • Wizard: Haven't started really writing stuff down, but I think something like Turning plus cleric spell progression should work as the core
  • Elf: Haven't started really writing stuff down, but I'm thinking Magical Music / ability to calm beasts as their first-level "solve a limited set of encounters" ability parallel to Turning, and then cleric spell progression after that
  • Hobbit: Haven't started
  • Considering using Iron Heroes style HD - d4+1 instead of d6, d4+2 instead of d8.  Less swingy.

Proficiencies: I think I'm just...  not going to use them.  Classes get what they get, the rest of your stuff comes from hirelings and magic items.  Considering giving classes slightly more stuff as a result; sort of like getting the same number of profs but they're pre-picked.


  • General rules of magic: slightly-tweaked Fibonacci spell points, spell point recharge rate (slow), spend half the spell's cost on declaration before initiative is rolled and the other half on successful completion, no casting the same spell more than once in a given day
    • Considering a mechanic where you have to roll to cast in combat, and on a failure you complete the spell next round.  But I'm already sort of worried about casters having a hard time solving problems during combat.
  • Rune magic: Have some general ideas for the rules of rune magic and have a bunch of spell ideas.  I can't tell if they're too weak or too strong for the levels that I want to put them at, in part because they work weirdly - paint runes on weapons, discharged on first hit or after a duration, or paint protective runes on people and they discharge when they protect you from the thing that they work against.  So the action economy / burst potential for a prepared party is really high - paint everybody's gear before battle and then all your fighters and your caster can go hit people with spell effects.  But the ability to save the party's bacon during a combat that is going badly isn't there, because you need to spend at least two rounds, one to cast (potentially two with the roll-to-cast) and then one to hit people, and it could take a while for someone to hit with the runed weapon.  So I dunno.  Maybe it's OK to incentivize preparation?  Is it boring to play a "wizard" who does most of his work up front?
  • Elf magic: Flavortext is lacking, but I have a provisional spell list for 1st-2nd and some bits for 3rd.  3rd is where I really need to make a decision about whether I want to start introducing spells that solve wilderness-level problems.
  • Wizard magic: I'm happy with the flavor text and the 1st-2nd level spell list.


  • Healing: boosting natural healing rate a bunch because magical healing is much more scarce (only elves have it, so a Proper Dwarf Party won't have any at all but still needs to be able to survive). 
    • Speeding up natural healing and slowing down spell point recovery puts fighters and MUs on similar footing in terms of "time to total refill" of their relevant resources (HP for fighters, spells for MUs) at low levels, but spell point cap grows faster than HP; an empty high-level MU will end up spending more time to recover to full than their fighter buddies.  Magic is something to use sparingly.
    • Should still work OK for the low-level dungeoneering case where you go in, burn all your resources, go home, and rest for a week or two.  The place where it will matter most is in the wilderness, where MUs can't just drop their entire spell load every day.  Remains to be seen whether conserving resources on a wilderness trek out to a dungeon is now too challenging.
  • Death and dying: at 0HP, choose to either go down (and maybe survive) or die fighting (get an extra round or two but then definitely die).  I think I want to handle the "going down" case with "save vs death with a couple circumstance modifiers, on a success you get a minor maiming, else you die"; with the minor maimings being similar to 11-20 results on ACKS' Mortal Wounds table.  With saves improving with level, it might work out that the main way high-level characters end up dying is making voluntary last stands; an acceptable outcome.
  • Tracking: set some stuff up to make it interact with the Wilderness Evasion / chases rules.
  • Rations: switching over to one stone per week like in Simpler Logistics.  Changed foraging to require staying still in a hex but increased its yield.  Parties relying solely on foraging end up treading water / breaking just even in expectation if they don't have anyone with bonuses to it.  So then the tradeoff with hunting is better odds of food in exchange for random encounter chance.
  • Random encounters: considering a rule where it's a 1-in-12 chance of a random encounter each turn (or each day in the wilderness).  This prevents you from banking on "no encounter" on even turns or days.  On the other hand, this means rolling more often, maybe the forced gaps between encounters exist for a good reason, and you will occasionally get two encounters back-to-back which could be very bad news.  So I'm not sure about this.

I am also running into some issues resolving divergences between source material - do elves eat the flesh of sentients like in Dwarf Fortress?  Is the balrog a Forgotten Beast or a demon?  Do I need corruption mechanics like for the ring, or should I just not worry about that?

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see you made good progress on this project.

    The premise is great, and I'm looking forward to seeing men-as-class.

    The rules for spell points and recovery seem like a nice way to emphasize rest, but I wonder about the effect that cast limits resetting daily but spell points recovering like HP would have on the sort of long delves that might start happening at 3rd level or so.

    I'm also curious about the place of henchmen at low level play in a demi-human campaign chassis. Do you plan to make 0th level dwarves a main option, or do you have something else in mind?