Shaman | fighting wild-men with woods magic

Tuesday TootG+ is closing closed. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.

1 to 4Background:
This class stems from a fleeting idea that I put up on G+; the idea of a shaman class that could take on characteristics/abilities from defeated foes. I had some good feedback, some based on ‘feats’. I can see how feats could work well with this idea, but feat-based systems are not really my thing, so I’ve made this. I wonder if I’ve strayed too far from the core idea, but in any event, this where the idea has led me.

This is a class designed for (1e) AD&D, being a fighting wild-men/women with woods magic. They are not so much in harmony with nature as attuned to it. They are effectively a martial subclass of druid, or possibly a barbarian-druid.

This class follows the druid path/restriction in the first edition PHB in all ways except:

  • The class is also open to half-humans (i.e. in addition to humans)
  • For those that believe in Demi-human level caps (like me) – Half humans are level capped at a level equal to their CHA score.
  • Instead of 15+ CHA they need 15 +CON to qualify (i.e. in addition to 12 Wisdom)
  • The druidic special abilities at 3rd and 7th level do not apply
  • There is no hierarchical level limit, and so no need to defeat a shaman of higher level to progress.
  • 12 HD (i.e. not 8HD)

They gain spells at the same rate as a druid, but they get a much smaller subset of the druidical spells to choose from (see tables below) :

There are four principle shamanic paths, each with an associated alignment restriction; these are:

  • Light & Leaf – Plant & Weather magics; alignment NG
  • Mud & Paw – Animal & Earth magics; alignment CN
  • Wet & Ash – Fire & Water magics; alignment NE
  • Blood & Mind – Life & Perception magic; alignment LN

Once the path is picked, it is set.

Shamanistic ability
At each level this class may absorb a race/species specific ability from a defeated foe.

Examples of the abilities that may be taken up by a shaman include: night/dark vision, acute sense of smell, water breathing, a venomous bite, a bear’s powerful hug, a rust monster’s corroding touch, a velociraptor’s talons etc.

Mechanic: The player must declare this ability acquisition shortly after the creature is defeated. Once the ability is taken up by the shaman it can’t be changed. If no ability is taken prior to formal levelling up, that ability slot is lost.

Clearly, there is a chance for some serious game breaking here, by overpowering the PC. Therefore, the gained ability should be approved/agreed by the DM, and ideally be level/challenge appropriate. Essentially, it should be a fair reward, without breaking the game,

As a suggested guideline, the shaman can absorb an ability from any defeated creature which has a HD up to their current shamanistic level +3. So, a 2nd level shaman can absorb an ability from creatures up to 5HD, and a 6th level shaman can absorb an ability from creatures up to 9HD, etc. Also, the ‘defeated’ creature cannot be a trivial creature like a goldfish or slug.

For example, a first level shaman does not have the shamanistic strength to adsorb a fire breathing property from an ancient red dragon, or at least at its full potency. Or, if the defeated creature is trivial, then there is insufficient property to be adsorb by the shaman. For example, killing a gecko would not give the shaman a climb wall ability. But a giant gecko is a different matter. Similarly, killing a stirge might give the ability to deploy a bloodsucking proboscis for a round or two, but not the ability to fly.

Clearly this is not a class to give to a ‘power gamer’.

Using the shamanistic ability:
Each acquired shamanistic ability is like a Vancian spell, so each acquired ability is regenerated at the same time the Shaman regains their spells, i.e. after 8 hrs rest.  So, a third level shaman might have three shamanistic abilities, e.g. climb like an ape, punch like an ogre and blink like a blink dog once per day. However, each time they use an ability, this is at the cost of one of their spell slots. So, if the Shaman has cast all of their spells that day, they cannot use any of the shamanistic abilities until they rest.

Shaman spells paths:
Below are the spells allowable under the four shaman paths:

Path of Light & Leaf – Plant & Weather magics; alignment NG

Path of Mud & Paw – Animal & Earth magics; alignment CN

Path of Wet & Ash – Fire & Water magics; alignment NE

Path of Blood & Mind – Life & Perception magic; alignment LN


Class Balance
Hopefully this class is appealing without being super appealing (as this implies it is overpowered). Ideally, apart from raw novelty, hopefully this class is no more appealing than any other class in the PHB.

The druidic powers are nerfed somewhat by lack of spell choice, but is buffed again a bit by a customizable ‘shamanistic’ monster property per level. The paths with the more aggressive spells, (or most clerical-like spells), have the fewest spell options. The most aggressive spell path also gives an evil alignment, which is not always appealing. The class  benefits from a high base HD (i.e. D12), but has the less-that-great weapon/armour choices of a druid, and fights as a druid. Therefore, it can soak up damage, but is not as good as a fighter at dealing damage out.

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InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea.



Tomb of the Serpent Kings | Spreadsheet Adventure Module Adaptation

I’ve made a Spreadsheet Adventure Module (SAM) of Skerples and company’s great learning/beginner adventure: Tomb of the Serpent Kings (xls  download)

Video demo:

Screenshot:TotSK screen capture.png

Original work: Written by SKERPLES (; Art by SCRAP PRINCESS (; Map by JANON; Layout by DAVID SHUGARS (

Skerples et al’s original work (shared under a Creative Commons license) can be found here: Link

Description:  People keep asking for “beginner” dungeons. Everyone can name “classic” dungeons – Tomb of Horrors, Barrier Peaks, The Temple of Elemental Evil, etc. – but in order for those adventures to make sense, there needs to be some sort of introduction.

It’s like all the adventures we have are Bach concertos. People keep writing amazing works of staggering genius, but someone needs to write a book on how to play the piano.  I had the same questions, and since I couldn’t find anything satisfactory, I decided to write the kind of dungeon I would have loved to find. I wanted to write the best basic old-school dungeon for new players that I could, and I also wanted to show the design process. And since people keep refereng to it, I figured I’d put up a fancy print version.

Tomb of the Serpent Kings is designed to be easy to adapt to your system of choice to create an old-school dungeon-crawling tomb-robbing experience.

Spreadsheet Adventure Modules (SAMs)

If you don’t know what SAMs are about – then please see the video which explains the ‘Big Idea‘ behind using Excel to present module information in a super compact fashion. There is also a 5 minute How-to-Guide video which shows you all you need to know to get started.


For more SAMs here: Link

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InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea.


Tuesday Toot!! | Cave System Map Generator in Excel

Tuesday TootG+ is closing closed. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.


One level

Random cave system

I toyed with this idea but never really finished/refined it. This Excel cave system generator basically uses the bones of my random hex wilderness generator engine to make a randomly generated cave system. Like its parent file, there are some global and regional controls to vary the outcome of the cave system. But, overall, as a proof of concept, I simply tweaked a few settings to see if it could be done. I did consider stacking layers of these and interconnecting them to make a wider cave system, but …

I suppose if there is any kind of demand for a finished/refined version of this, I guess I could figure out where I was up to and finish/upgrade it. Let me know?! That said, if all you want is to generate a simple random cave system on a broadly hexagonal-like layout, it does work.

Three depths

Colours indicate depth

I also made a multi-coloured version of the cave generator. The colours are intended to represent different depths, eventually leading down to water.

These cave generators could be used to make an individual cave system, or to make a ‘global’ map for a wider ‘Underdark’ domain, i.e. ‘Veins of the Earth’ style.

If you want to mess around with the ‘work not currently in progress‘ Excel file, it can be downloaded here:  Link


Veins of the Earth Cave Generator 101Some ‘Veins of the Earth’ based Excel widgets (actually finished) can also be found here: Blog link


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InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea.

Non-Homogenous Random Tables

In the balanceRandom tables are a great way to introduce some unpredictability into a game, but they can also be a tad predictable , same-ish, consistent, ‘one size fits all’ … mono-dimensional?

I thought it would be nice to have a random table that responded to a situation/condition, rather than any given result having the same likelihood.

For example, I like the idea that:

(a) the deeper you are in a dungeon, the more likely the random encouters will be dangerous; or

(b) the further from town you are, the more likely you’ll encounter goblins; or

(c) a landscape than favours some creatures in one area, and other creatures in a different area, but where there is a theoretical continuum between the two areas and so encounters; or

(d) Henchman ‘moral check’ indexed to the threat level … etc.

There are several solutions to this, the simplest of course being to have different random tables for different situations, or even to use modifiers.

Another way to go, the idea that I quite like, is to stratify the encounters from one extreme to the other and use an advantage/disadvantage type mechanic to ‘tip’ the results depending on the current situation.

Below is an example lifted straight out of my procedural adventure ‘Carapace’. The random table is ‘stratified’ into three main layers: the lowest values (blue layer) giving giant ants, the middle values (green layer) giving wildcard monsters, and the highest values (yellow/pink layers) giving the boss monster and its elite guards.

So, in ‘Carapace’ the idea was that the area being explored (a giant ant’s nest) was divided into 4 Zones, with the ‘Big Bad’ most likely being found in Zone 4. The more mundane monsters being located in Zone 1 and 2. There was also a fair chance of getting ‘wild card’ monsters basically anywhere.

Carapace encouter table as per zone

If it is not clear from the above, you roll a number of D20s equal to the zone you are in (so 3 x D20 in Zone 3), and use a tailored advantage/disadvantage mechanic to influence the result (to swing the result towards one end of the table or the other).

So, for example in Zone 1 you’ll never get the Queen Ant (the boss encounter), in Zone 2 it’s 1 in 400 (i.e. possible, but improbable), in Zone 3 it’s 3 in 20 and in Zone 4 it’s 4 in 20 (i.e. now getting quite likely).

The reverse of this for example would be, in Zone 1 a lone worker ant is 1 in 20, but in Zone 4 it’s 1 in 160,000.

Even if I’ve messed the maths up above, I think the idea is clear enough, that is you can tip the result of a random table using a system like this. Of course, this idea could be applied to any random table outcome (not just encounters), e.g. types of terrain, NPC reaction dependent on closeness of alignment etc.

Again, there are other solutions, I just think this one appeals to me. I’m also fairly certain this has been done before in some form at least, but this post is an attempt to flag the idea up as an option for the old ‘DM tool kit’.

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InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea.

Tuesday Toot!! | Shield of Corroding

Tuesday TootG+ is closing gone. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.

The Master’s Hoard is a compilation of quirk-some magic items which I posted on my G+ page over a period of weeks. The compilation of magic items can be downloaded for free here: Link

:: Shield of Corroding ::

Can corrode metal edged weapons striking it

Shield of Corroding

A shield covered by the magically-preserved, hide of a Rust‑o‑pede (a centipede-like creature that turns ferrous metal items to rust). The shield incorporates the creature’s antennae (its rusting parts), stretched and pulled into the bumpy leather, sheathing them from casual contact.

Only edged weapons that cut deeply enough into the hide are subject to corrosion.

An attacker (using an edged weapon) that misses its attack roll by 1 (e.g. needing 12 to hit, but rolling 11), triggers the corroding effect, and the weapon decays into dust. Magic weapons may save vs corrosion.

Tampering with the shield (e.g. trying to remove the antennae) upsets the magical preservation, ruining its corrosive properties in a few rounds.

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Me on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony and my ‘1998 Dungeon‘.



Tuesday Toot!! | Art & Carapace Play Test

Tuesday TootG+ is closing closed. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.


MarcinSWhen G+ was swinging, I came across the artwork of Marcin S, and decided that if I ever made anything ‘worth’ publishing (even informally), I’d try and get Marcin involved. Recently Marcin did some artwork for my procedural adventure Carapace. What a great guy, and what great work he did too! If you like his stuff, I can recommend him wholeheartedly. The revised Carapace adventure (with new art) is still in layout, but will come out when it is ready.

Aside from a little teaser art below, I thought I  might as well give some details from a recent play test of Carapace.

Play test of Carapace – Session 1.

Shire Runner

A snippet taken from a concept fight scene by Marcin S

Start & Setup – In the play test we used 6 characters from the  module “Tomb of the Lizard King” (2 x fighters, a fighter magic-user, a magic-user, a cleric, and a thief), and I DM’ed using AD&D 1e rules. Why characters from the TotLK? Just thought any random party might tackle this adventure, so I picked a random party. And I’d rather have a highish level party, so they wouldn’t die in the first encounter …

I started by sourcing the table for a back story. So I asked why the PCs were in this borderlands backwater with only their kit and low on food? I was informed that the PCs were here due to “problems” they had encountered in the regional capital, specifically trouble with the local regional ruler (a despot).

The PCs headed straight to the nearby village/town (taking the big hint to start the adventure there).

Town & NPCs
On the ‘in medias res’ table, I rolled for a hidden assassin taking a potshot at the PCs with a poisoned crossbow bolt … rolled a *natural 20*, hitting the cleric square in the chest. The cleric thankfully saved vs poison, and managed to survived the first 5 minutes of the adventure (phew). The assassination attempt also fitted in neatly with the idea that the regional despot wanted them dead.

Town Guard

Tergite (head of the town guard) – Doesn’t like troublemakers. Outsiders are usually troublemakers; drawing by Marcin S

This prompted the PCs to speak with all the NPCs in the town, trying to figure out who tried to kill them (they presumed wrongly that this was an integral part of Carapace’s plot). I printed out 12 NPC portrait cards to help in exploring the town (like the one shown up and left).

In town, all fingers seemed to point to the ‘thief in residence’ for any help in finding the would-be assassin, and also to the dodgy merchant.

On the random NPC relationship encounter table, I rolled that: (i) the local druid wanted help from the PCs in finding his missing apprentice; (ii) the rich merchant wanted to do the PCs harm (I decided he had more than just trade connections with the regional capital and the associated despot); and (iii) one of the PCs knew the blasphemy-prone peasant looking to recover his daughter’s body from the Hive.

Travel & Preparations
With a bunch of side quests queued up, the PCs, with the local thief in tow as guide, headed for the Hive (incidentally this was the same direction the assassin was last seen headed towards).

Before leaving town, the PCs asked lots of questions, and learnt that the giant ant larvae will be with the Queen, and need to be kept moist; so in the Hive follow any damp air currents. This knowledge gave the PCs a +1 on the (Labyrinth Move) navigation rolls.

The Druid prepared a salve that mimics ant pheromones (for a short time) to use if the PCs needed to go unnoticed. The Cleric in residence, gave each PC a healing potion for the promise of soldier ant stinger glands.

At the Giant Ant ‘Hive’
PCs travelled the two days to the Hive without event.

The PCs after being freaked out by the giant wasps living at the top of the Hive, decided to head straight for the main Hive entrance, rather than risk being caught out in the open by giant wasps.

If you don’t know, the internals of the Hive is generated procedurally. The idea is to find the Queen in Zone 4. Zone 0 being outside.

Instead of calling out each Zone by its ‘number’, I decided to describe each Zone as:

Zone 1 = compacted earth with sticks and bits of organic matter
Zone 2 = same as above, but without the sticks and stuff
Zone 3 = as above, but with embedded rocks and stones
Zone 4 = as above, but in which chunks of worked masonry in found in the earth

I let the PCs infer which Zone they were in from the Zone description.

So as the DM, I generated the encounters (if any), and indicated if there was a Zone change. The players roll the ‘dungeon dressing’ using player facing random tables.

The dungeon dressing is not intended to be prescriptive, but rather is there to be used as the basis for inspiration, to build off.

slaad FF.png

Slaad – from Fiend Folio (not by Marcin S)

After a few attempts, the player really warmed to the task, improvising off the basic dungeon dressing information. For example, when the PCs learnt about the link with an abandoned Slaad temple (i.e. below the Hive, from the bits of worked masonry embeded in the earth of Zone 4) and rolled a “buttery smell” in a polygonal room, they stated that the PCs were in an abandoned Slaad birthing chamber.

The DM generated encounter gave two resting Slithering Trackers, which I decided looked just like water in a central birthing pool, needless to say, this  ‘liquid’ tempted the PCs to poke about.


In Zone 4  and the hunt for the Queen
With a +1 to the PCs navigation rolls, the PCs got to Zone 4 quite quickly. The PC’s thief guide (with a secret map of the Slaad temple) ditched the PCs in Zone 4, looking for a secret entrance to the temple. The PCs had a few encounters before discovering the False Queen. The PCs had no reason to expect anything but a true Queen.

The False Queen sent the PCs pheromone ‘message 2’, asking the PCs (i.e. by these smell messages) to find and destroy a ‘False Queen’ (which in reality was the true Hive Queen) … which is where the session ended.  

The False Queen also gave the PCs the equivalent of a pheromone map to the True Queen (so, I’m going to add big modifiers to the encounter tables to get to the True Queen; if that is the direction the PCs take), so I’m sure the PCs should find her quite quickly.

What’s next in session 2 … we’ll see?!!

Overall, so far, I think the core ideas in this procedural adventure work as well as I hoped …

If you ever run ‘Carapace’, I’d be glad to know how it all panned out!

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Me on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony and my ‘1998 Dungeon‘.

One Page Dungeon Contest 2019 | In the Heart of the Sea

This is my first attempt at the “One Page Dungeon Contest”. Clearly, it won’t win!

I made this entry because I figured there is a ‘need’ out there in RPG-land for a procedurally generated sea-going adventure. This is my take on it:

:: In the Heart of the SeaA Procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’

My One Page Dungeon Contest entry can be downloaded for free here: ItHotS

InHotS the cover image

Underlying mechanic explained a bit:

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More of my stuff on DriveThruRPG: