Game Master Advice

Although the rest of the chapters of this book contain rules for most things that may arise during the course of a game, there may be some situations that are not covered.

This chapter contains guidelines, advice, and miscellaneous rules for handling those situations.

Character Aging

When a campaign reaches mid levels and characters start settling down and ruling dominions, things get a lot less hectic for the characters. Instead of going from adventure to adventure, they may now be spending whole seasons or even years ruling from their castles between important events happening.

And, of course, the characters will age during that time.

Additionally there are some magical effects that will prematurely age a character, or even restore youth to a character.

Dark Dungeons does not include detailed rules for aging characters. There are no modifiers to ability scores for different ages or anything like that.

For the most part, age is simply assumed to be something that is role- played rather than something that has game mechanics attached to it.

However, there is a limit to this. People do not live forever.

While characters are unlikely to die of old age over the course of a normal campaign, magical aging attacks can bring people perilously close after only a couple of hits.

Whenever a character is magically aged (or whenever a character becomes a year older naturally), make an aging roll based on the character’s race:

Elf = 750+2d100

Dwarf = 375+1d100

Halfling = 190+2d20

Human = 95+2d12

If the result of this roll is less than the character’s new age, the character dies of old age. These age rolls are quite high, because they are designed for healthy and heroic adventurers. The average peasant may well die far earlier than the ages listed here.

When a character dies of old age, they may still be raised by a Raise Dead spell—but will only last for 1d10 days before dying once more.

The only way to keep an old character alive for longer is by reducing their age below the dangerous level. If the character was magically aged, this can be done with a Restore spell. If the character was not magically aged—their age is entirely natural—then they must either drink a Potion of Longevity or use a Wish spell to wish to have their youth restored.

Minimum Hit Points

By the rules as written, players roll one die (from a d4 to a d8) per level to determine their hit points.

At higher levels, the multiple dice will usually average things out into a normal distribution, so it will be rare for characters to have extremely low or extremely high hit points.

At low levels, however, even one in eight fighters will roll a 1 and be stuck with only a single hit point before constitution bonuses are applied.

Realistically, such weak characters would not embark on a life of adventuring.

In order to counteract this, whenever a character gains a level (including when a character is first created) and rolls an extra hit dice to determine their hit points, check table 21-1. If the character’s new hit point total before any constitution bonus is applied is less than the value given on the table for their hit dice type and level then the player should re-roll that hit dice until the total is at least the value.

Table 21-1: Minimum Hit Points Per Level

Level d4 d6 d8 1 3 4 5 2 5 7 9 3 7 9 12 4 9 11 14 5 11 13 16 6 13 15 18 7 15 17 20 8 17 19 22 9 19 21 24

Example: Andy has just created Aloysius, his magic-user character. Aloysius has a constitution of 10 and therefore has no constitution bonus. Andy rolls 1d4 for Aloysius’s hit points at first level. According to table 21-1, the minimum hit points for a first level character who uses a d4 for hit dice is 3. Andy rolls a 3, which is not less than the minimum, so Aloysius has 3 hit points at first level.

When Aloysius reaches second level, Andy rolls a second d4 to see how many additional hit points Aloysius gains. He rolls a 1. Since this would bring Aloysius’s hit point total to 4, which is less than the minimum on table 21 -1, Andy re-rolls the die. This time he gets a 4, which would bring Aloysius’s hit point total to 7. That is not smaller than the minimum, so he keeps the roll and Aloysius has 7 hit points at second level.

Creating a Setting

The Dark Dungeons rules are not tied to a particular setting. The exact setting of the game—and in particular the towns and countries that exist and so forth—is left for the Game Master to decide.

This may seem a daunting task, but it can be done piecemeal as a campaign is run. For example at very low levels, all that is needed is some kind of town for the adventurers to start in and a few adventure locations around it. It is only when the adventurers reach a higher level and have a need or a wish to go exploring that the Game Master needs to know what lies beyond the mountains.

However, the Dark Dungeons rules do make various assumptions about the setting that the Game Master must bear in mind, since although the player characters might not interact with them much at lower levels, their presence in the world deeply affects the way the world works and the effects of that should be visible to the players in the background.

If this is not taken into account, the sudden introduction of elements such as Skysailing or Immortals into the campaign because the adventurers are now “ready for them” will be jarring, as such things should have been around all the time.

In particular, the following key parts of the assumed setting may have a large influence on the feel of the campaign:

All these parts of the assumed setting have been deliberately designed to be modular, so that the Game Master can choose not to make them part of their specific setting.

For example, if the Game Master does- n’t want travel through the Luminiferous Aether to be part of the game, they can simply say that only one Celestial Sphere exists and that there is no way to leave it. The Celestial Sphere and its associated inner and outer planes are effectively the whole multi-verse.

Similarly, the Game Master could go a step further and simply say that travel through the Void is impossible— effectively limiting the campaign world to the single planet; or even say that Sails of Skysailing don’t exist in the world, limiting large scale movement and communication around the world and effectively reducing the campaign setting to a single continent or part of a continent.

Either Immortals or Red Powder can be dropped from the game very easily if the Game Master doesn’t like their effect on the tone of the campaign. In the case of Immortals, this would simply mean ruling that clerics get their power straight from whatever gods exist, or that they get their power from the strength of their faith.

However, in any of these cases, the decision to drop the item from the setting should be taken (and should be discussed with the players in order to manage their expectations of the campaign) before the campaign starts.

Although these elements of the setting may see little use in a low level game (low level characters are unlikely to travel off the planet, for example) their presence—or lack of it—will shape the social and political structures of the world to an extent, and should therefore be consistent throughout the campaign.

Magic Item Values

Dark Dungeons does not give specific rules for the creation of magic items, neither does it give strict prices for buying and selling them.

However, the cost of the Immortal level spell Create Mundane Item is based on the value of the item created.

For purposes of the Create Mundane Item spell, use (or approximate) the following formulae:

Armour

Multiply the standard price for a non- magical suit of the appropriate armour (in gold pieces) by the encumbrance of the armour (in coins) and divide the total by three.

That value is the value per “plus” of the armour.

If the armour has an additional power, add 5,000gp to the value of the armour per level of the spell which the power is based on.

Weapons & Shields

Multiply the standard price for a non- magical weapon or shield of the appropriate type (in gold pieces) by the encumbrance of the weapon or shield (in coins) and multiply the total by five.

That value is the value per “plus” of the weapon or shield. If the item is a weapon which has varying “plusses” against different opponents, use the average of the plusses to determine value.

If the weapon or shield has an additional power, add 5,000gp to the value of the armour per level of the spell which the power is based on.

Other Magic Items

For each power that the item has, find the spell that most resembles the power, and multiply that spell’s level by 100gp if there is no restriction on the power’s use, 75gp if the power can only be used once per day, or 70gp if the power can only be used once per month.

If the item has only a single charge (such as a scroll or a potion), then that is the value of the item.

If the item has multiple charges (such as a wand or a staff), multiply the value by the number of charges. For staffs with multiple powers and a single set of charges, add the costs of the powers together and then multiply the total by the number of charges.

If the item has a permanent effect or unlimited uses (such as most rings, rods or wondrous items) multiply the value by 50. Again, for items with multiple powers, add the costs of the powers together and then multiply the total by the number of charges.

Making Magic Items

It should be stressed that the values given above are only for Immortals bringing magic items into existence with the Create Mundane Item spell.

When mortals try to create magic items, the process is much more difficult and time consuming, and isn’t guaranteed to work.

If a mortal wishes to create a magic item, you should apply the following rules:

Once the mortal spell caster has followed all those requirements, the percentage chance of successfully making the magical item is determined by adding together the caste’s level and either the caster’s intelligence or wisdom score (whichever is higher), doubling the result, and subtracting three times the level of the spell or number of “plusses” they are trying to put into the item.

If the caster is trying to make an item with both “plusses” and a power, or is trying to make an item with multiple powers, then each should be rolled separately, and all must succeed for the item to be made.

If any creation roll fails, the item will be ruined and all time and materials (including the rare ingredient) will have been wasted.

Example: Elfstar wishes to make a Potion of Healing. This item is effectively a single use of a 1st level spell (Cure Light Wounds), so it will cost only 100gp in ingredients and take a week to make.

The Game Master decides that for such a low level item, the rare ingredient is not going to be difficult to find, so specifies that Elfstar needs to find a rare herb that is known to grow in a nearby enchanted forest.

Elfstar gathers the herb and starts to make the potion. Since Elfstar is currently 5th level and has a wisdom of 17, her chance of success is:

(5+17)x2 - (1x3) = 41%

Elfstar’s player rolls 1d100 and gets a 19. At the end of the week, Elfstar has successfully made a potion of healing.

Example: Aloysius wishes to make a +3 Sword of Speed. The base value per plus for a normal sword is determined by multiplying its price (10gp) by its weight (60cn) and multiplying the result by five. This gives a total of: (10x60)x5 = 3,000gp per plus. The sword is going to be a +3 sword, so the total cost is 9,000gp.

However, the sword is also going to be Of Speed. This is the equivalent of a third level spell (Haste), that can be used once per day but has unlimited charges. Therefore the cost is:

(3x75)x50 = 11,250gp

The total cost to make the sword will therefore be:

11,250gp+9,000gp = 20,250gp

Since this is a fairly powerful item, the Game Master decides that it needs a fairly difficult to find rare ingredient—the tail feather of a cockatrice.

Aloysius manages to find a suitable tail feather, and spends 27 days in his workshop making the sword.

At the end of that period, he must make two rolls; one for the +3 bonus and one for the “Of Speed” ability.

Since he is 23rd level, and has an intelligence of 16, his chances are:

(23+16)x2 - (3x3) = 69%

-and-

(23+16)x2 - (3x3) = 69%

Aloysius’s player rolls 1d100 twice. His first roll is a 41, but his second roll is an 80. He has failed to make the sword properly and his 20,250gp worth of materials (and his 27 days) have been wasted.

Trading Magic Items

When it comes to trading magical items, the above rules for their value do not directly apply for four reasons. Firstly, the value of an item doesn’t take into account how easy it is to make. Items that are difficult to make are likely to need multiple attempts before the creator is successful, making the actual price of making such an item in real terms more than the calculated value.

Secondly, magic items rarely get destroyed. There have been people making magic swords for hundreds if not thousands of years, so there are lots out there lying around in monster lairs and tombs and so on. In the case of some common items, the ease of finding one or taking one from monsters means that the market price would be brought down; possibly even to the point where it is not economically viable to make one since you can buy an old one more cheaply.

Thirdly, magic items are only worth what people will pay for them. A Ring of Water Walking costs more to make than a Ring of Invisibility for example, but the invisibility ring will be worth far more than the water walking ring to the average adventurer.

Fourthly, there is a limited market for magic items. Your average farmer has little use for a Potion of Flying or a Ring of Life Protection, and even less use for a Wand of Fireballs that they can’t even use. The fact that the people who want magic items—adventurers—are the very people who are most likely to find their own and not need to buy them means that it is very much a buyer’s market.

For these four reasons, Dark Dungeons does not give hard prices for the buying and selling of magic items. It is suggested that most trading of magic items will be simply done in the form of like-for-like barter if items between adventurers, and that there should not be merchants or shops that buy and sell such items.

In particular, the magic item list should never be simply treated as a shopping list with price tags attached.

Constructs

Many of the creatures in chapter 18 have the Construct keyword. These creatures are artificial beings created and animated by magic.

It is suggested that these creatures are treated as if they were magic items for purposes of creation by both Immortals and mortal spell casters.

The base value of a construct should be 2,000gp per hit die, plus 5,000gp per asterisk that the creature has on its hit dice in its monster entry.

When a mortal wishes to make a construct, it should be just like making a magic item; they need to use the value in materials, find a special rare ingredient, and spend a week plus a day per 1,000gp of value making it.

The percentage chance of successfully making a construct is determined by adding together the caster’s level and either their intelligence or wisdom score (whichever is higher), doubling the result, and subtracting the sum of the construct’s hit dice and asterisks.

Example: Aloysius wishes to make a manikin construct. A manikin construct has a hit dice value of 6.

The cost of making the construct is therefore 6x2,000gp plus 2x5,000gp—for a total of 22,000gp.

The construct will take 29 days to make, and the chance of success will be:

(23+16)x2 - (6+2) = 70%

Once a construct is made, it will obey the commands of its creator, who becomes its first owner.

Ownership of a construct may be transferred to someone else at any time by the current owner, although once a construct becomes ownerless (because its old owner died without passing on ownership) nothing short of a Wish can take ownership of it again.

Usually, constructs are unintelligent, and will therefore continue to operate under their current instructions indefinitely if ownerless. However, occasionally the inability to carry out its instructions combined with the lack of an owner to give it new instructions will cause a construct to break its magical programming and go rogue.

Most rogue constructs simply go berserk and attack any creature they encounter. Rarely, however, one will develop a free will and intelligence of its own and develop a personality.

Character Alignment

When players create their characters, they will usually have an idea of what that character’s personality will be like. As part of that character creation process, each player must choose an alignment for their character.

Of course, during play the character’s personality might turn out rather different than originally imagined. This may be accidental, or it may be a deliberate intent of the player to have their character’s personality shift over time. Whatever the reason, a character can end up not actually acting like their alignment states.

There is nothing wrong with this, and the player should not be penalised for playing their character “wrongly”. Instead, you should simply talk to the player and between you decide whether to change the alignment on the character sheet so that it matches the way the character is being played.

You need to be careful not to be too enthusiastic about changing the alignment of characters.

Nobody is completely consistent in their behaviour, and an occasional bit of unusual behaviour is normal, so you should be wary of changing a character’s alignment too often over individual acts.

In particular, if you find that a character’s alignment constantly seems to be flip-flopping between lawful and chaotic, it’s probably best just to change the character’s alignment to neutral and leave it there.