Dunkelwurm: One-roll Sword&Sorcery fantasy

It’s such a good time to be a roleplayer! So much creativity. And yes, hope. 

I’ve written about my Dunkelwurm game before.

Today, i’d like to introduce you to the Dunkelwurm One-Roll game: one roll of the dice, and you know who your character is – or at least, what he is right now, when the game starts. Everything else will be determined in play.

Roll a d4, d6, a d8, a d10, a d12 and a d20.

Now, take the d6 and the d10: Your Class

1–2 and 1: Rooster Rogue (Hahnenschalk)
Rooster? Hah! You’re so much more than a talking man-sized rooster with human hands and clothes! You are the direct descendant of the proud and noble House of Rooster Rogues. Your Art of Illusion is the stuff of legends. Bag of Magic Eggs, sword, noble clothes

1–2  and 2: Elf
You are ancient, but you look younger than most humans. A child you are not. Sometimes it amuses you to see those humans planning and scheming, without regards of the really long-term consequences. Plans will come to pass, and humankind is just a pawn in the Great Game. Bow and arrow, flute, bag of herbs

1–2  and 3: Dwarf
Rock gave birth to you. The ground shaped you. You know the mountains and stones and pebbles, better than anyone else. Ax, hammer, metal armor

1–2  and 4: Soldier/Warrior/Barbarian
One of the elite soldiers, you know battle. You love battle, and you have the scars to prove it. From the Flying Fields of Misan to the Dire Swamps in the South, you have fought there. One-handed weapon, leather armor, shield

1–2  and 5: Adventurer
Back home in the village, you were a nobody. Now, here, you’re free. Hungry and without riches, but free. You are one of the few who have left the Walled City, and the memories haunt you to this day. Knives, quilted uniform, musical instrument

1–2  and 6: Jarl:
A duke of the clods you are, a ruler over two villages. Or, you were. Now, Lady Adventure is singing her siren songs. Sword, polearm, leather armor, flask of schnaps

1–2  and 7: Magister
Your name is known in the Academy of the West. You haven’t made it into the White Tower, but a breakthrough in your research is only a matter of time. Books, writing utensils, magnifying glass

1–2  and 8: Man of the Woods
You know the forest and its inhabitants. You know them well, and they’re your friends, at least many of them. Dowsing rod, bag of herbs, a bottle filled with water from the Otherside

1–2  and 9: Sorcerer
You have opened a door you shouldn’t have opened. You have started playing with forces you don’t understand. Five spells have you defeated and forced into your labyrinthine cages so they may never escape. There are 95 more. Magic elmwood staff, foliants, scrolls, robes, pointed hat

3–4 and 1: Crusader
You know the One and True God. The ones who don’t believe in him are misguided. Heathens! Only when every city in the West and in the East are united under the banner of the Church, the world will know peace. Warhammer, chainmail armor, uniform, banner

3–4 and 2: Wandering Monk
Life in the monastery was good. Then, It happened, and you have never stayed in one place for long ever since. Some say, you are on the run. Sometimes, the gods are talking to you. Or is it the demons? Staff, frock, holy symbol

3–4 and 3: Fingersmith
Quick, agile and nimble. Specialized in property relocation. Dagger, bags, mask, rope

3–4 and 4: Stomptrooper
No kingdom, no empire, without mindless soldiers. Comrades in arms, a force to be reckoned with. Weak when alone. Form-fitting armor, sword

3–4 and 5: City
Some people know all the streets and places in town. Others have all the important contacts. But you. You. Are. The. City. Impromptu weapons you can find always and everywhere , Concrete plate armor, a horse, a carriage, a tiny house that‘s bigger on the inside

3–4 and 6: Officer of the Cult
Obey the Master. His word is Penultimate Truth. Obey the Master. Medallion with the image of The Master (acts as armor  on a good Luck roll).

3–4 and 7: Hunchbacked Mystic
Reclusive eccentrics. Wise men, sages and fools. Ask them, and you will get answers. Sometimes, they even make sense. Collection of Holy Books (count as armor)

3–4  and 8: Troll Cannoneer
One of the oldest tribes in the world. Their culture, both artistic, refined and violent. You are one of them. Young. Inexperienced. But proud. Trokkk® Two-handed Handgunne, bottle of moonshine

3–4 and 9: Nine Heavenly Seas Navigator
Pirates in flying ships. Adventurers in dark space. Scoundrels them all. Sextant, flintlock pistol

5–6 and 1: Netherworld Barbarian
Your people have lived under the land for as long as they can remember. Fierce and loyal, with an unsatiable lust for life. Huge two-handed sword or war hammer

5–6 and 2: Slugman Noble
Palaces up in the mountains, decadent, glittering in the sun. Your word is law, and has been forever. Aloof, distant and cold as ice. One month supply of rare tea, traditional chukri long dagger, an elastic, absorbing skin, eyestalks that allow you to look around corners.

5–6 and 3: A King/Queen in Exile
Men, women, wine, slaves, gold and riches, you had it all. Then the Others invaded your lands, and you ran for your life. Royal insignia, a rusty sword

5–6 and 4: Dwarven Engineer
Great tinkerers with a keen sense of weird mechanisms. Mechanical miracle workers. Book of Forefatherly Complex Constructions:, Dwarven Machines that imitate a spell effect

5–6 and 5: Panzer Templar
Defenders of the world. Unholy alliances threatening existence. The truth does not lie in the middle, it‘s both. At the same time. Scorchsword, roll 1d6: 1-5: metal arms, 6: metal head

5–6 and 6: Councilman
Secrets, trade deals and connections. Most of them shady, some outright dangerous. A fragile equilibrium. Poisoner‘s ring 

5–6 and 7: Holy Man/Holy Woman/Holy Hermaphrodite
Your god talks to you. And your life only knows one goal: to please God. Begging bowl, chillum pipe and hasheesh, Prayer Beads 

5–6 and 8 Runemaster
The secrets of Dere are contained in the eon-old runes the gods gave you. You know how to combine them. You know how to feed them. Treat them well, and they will be your allies. Set of runes consecrated with your own blood, sword, wolfskin complete with head , Book of The Nine Worlds

5–6 and 9: Stranger
You have no memory of how you came here, or who your parents are. Sometimes, you just know things, but how? Also, when you’re involved in a fight, bystanders have called your style „weird an unexpected“. You seem to have a natural affinity towards everything mechanical and… strange. Book written in a language nobody has ever seen, a small rectangular-shaped thing, flexible, but sturdy, with your name on it, a magic item that looks like a very flat rectangular box with unbreakable glass on the frontside. 

Now, take your d8: Where you come from

1–Havena, the infamous harbor city
2–Gareth, the capital of the Middle Reich
3–The Orkland, where the monsters roam free
4–Norbard-Nivesi, the cold steppe inhabited by small tribes
5–Thorwal Pirates
6–Khom Desert
7–Kingdom of Batubatan, on the highest peak of the highest mountain in the whole world
8–Southern City States, the cesspool of sin and decadence

Now, take your d4: The god you worship

1: an Angry and Wrathful God
2–3: a Neutral God
4: a Friendly God

Now, take your d12: a Skill

1–Attention
2–Acrobatics 
3–Education 
4–Climbing,
5–Magic Lore 
6–Riding 
7–Stealth 
8–Lockpicking 
9–Swimming 
10–Seafaring 
11– Negotiation
12–Wilderness 

Now, take your d20: What’s your Sign again?

You were born in the Year of the 

1–2: Rat: charismatic, quick learner
3–4: Ox: smart, but huge, huge appetites
5–6: Tiger: courageous and strong
7–8: Rabbit: charismatic, but moody and angst-ridden
9–10: Bear: enormously strong, but gullible
11–12: Snake: smart, but pretty cold
13–14: Horse: fast, but easily frightened
15–16: Sheep: smart, but stubborn
17–18: Monkey: smart, but greedy
19–20: Dog: loyal, but a follower, not a leader

RULES

Love the characters. Respect the genre. Try to resolve every action by using common sense. Clarify your players’ intentions, then make a judgment. Grown-up healthy human beings can take 3 or 4 hits. Each hit with a weapon or bare hands reduces a character’s hits by 1. Especially good or dangerous weapons inflict more. Feel free to knock out or injure a character if the narration and common sense warrant it. If in doubt, go with the first idea that comes to your mind. If you want to roll dice, roll a d20 vs. another d20.

Dunkelwurm: Confusion? Yes, please!

A few days ago, I switched from a list of 20+ character classes to a massive list of more than 200. I did that because I thought it would offer more variety to players. But in reality, what it did was it made Dunkelwurm boring. Uninteresting. Too much choice makes a game interchangeable.

So, I’m straightening out my self-inflicted mess. And I’m returning to Troika!-like classes.

In a guest post over at Thoul’s Paradise, author Dan Sell wrote (emphases mine):

(Troika) was built as a strongly worded objection to the vogue of transparency and usefulness. It still holds immediacy, since anyone can play the game in a matter of hours if they want. They just need to go limp and enjoy a state of comfortable confusion. The book doesn’t need to tell people that it expects them to decide what is happening for themselves since it offers few answers and the answers present are contradictory.

Planescape was a hundred times better when I was a child who only owned a box set and no context or rules. A single book hinted at places just beyond the horizon, a teasing joy in incomplete knowledge. But then you get older and realise you can just get up and walk, read all the books and know all the secrets, only to learn that they were banal, soggy-minded. The illusion was better and more useful than the words on paper telling you exactly how Lawful Good these allegedly complex but somehow easily and briefly explained people and places are. Information kills knowledge.

That post is true in so many levels. Let’s repeat the key points I can identify as most important for me:

  • objection to transparency and usefulness
  • comfortable confusion
  • no context
  • information kills knowledge
What does this mean for my design? 
I’ll move away from gazillions of classes. I’ll describe the setting IN the character backgrounds. This information might, no, will, contradict information provided in other passages. And THE REF will have to make their mind up: How do I interpret that thing? See? Creativity trigger, built right in.
Dunkelwurm FTW!

Dunkelwurm: The Central Reich

Let’s do this properly. The Middle Kingdom in my FKR game.
Capital: Gareth (Kaiser Hal)
 
Geographical borders:Finsterkamm, Salamander Stone, Black Sickle, Troll Peaks,
Raschtul’s Wall, Anvil mountains, Kosch mountains
Think of: Germany in the High Middle Ages
Religion: The One God (think of: Medieval Catholic Church)
… and the appropriate spark table:

1

Counts

Conspiracy

2

Dukes

Battle

3

Indentured Farmers

Science

4

Castle

Palace

5

Knight

Graveyard

6

Cornfields

Office

7

Rolling Hills

Magic

8

Merchants

Academy

9

Craftsmen

Horsecraft

10

Guilds

Cavalry

11

Small Town

Monastery

12

Forest

Huge Amount Of Money

13

Orcs

Arcane Threat

14

Bureaucracy

The Nameless God

15

Taxman

Flying

16

Warfare

Snow

17

Shadows

Invasion

18

Alley

Revolution

19

Assassination

Demons

20

Metropolis

Empress

Impressions:

Dunkelwurm: Hero Types

After I introduced my new FKR fantasy game, I’d like to show you what type of heroes you can play.

1. Rooster Rogue (Hahnenschalk)
Rooster? Hah! You’re so much more than a talking man-sized rooster with human hands and clothes! You are the direct descendant of the proud and noble House of Rooster Rogues. Your Art of Illusion is the stuff of legends. Bag of Magic Eggs, sword, noble clothes

2. Elf:
You are ancient, but you look younger than most humans. A child you are not. Sometimes it amuses you to see those humans planning and scheming, without regards of the really long-term consequences. Plans will come to pass, and humankind is just a pawn in the Great Game. Bow and arrow, flute, bag of herbs

3. Dwarf:
Rock gave birth to you. The ground shaped you. You know the mountains and stones and pebbles, better than anyone else. Ax, hammer, metal armor

4. Soldier/Warrior
One of the elite soldiers, you know battle. You love battle, and you have the scars to prove it. From the Flying Fields of Misan to the Dire Swamps in the South, you have fought there. One-handed weapon, leather armor, shield

5. Adventurer:
Back home in the village, you were a nobody. Now, here, you’re free. Hungry and without riches, but free. You are one of the few who have left the Walled City, and the memories haunt you to this day. Knives, quilted uniform, musical instrument

6. Jarl:
A duke of the clods you are, a ruler over two villages. Or, you were. Now, Lady Adventure is singing her siren songs. Sword, polearm, leather armor, flask of schnaps

7. Magister:
Your name is known in the Academy of the West. You haven’t made it into the White Tower, but a breakthrough in your research is only a matter of time. Books, writing utensils, magnifying glass

8. Man of the Woods:
You know the forest and its inhabitants. You know them well, and they’re your friends, at least many of them. Dowsing rod, bag of herbs, a bottle filled with water from the Otherside

9. Sorcerer:
You have opened a door you shouldn’t have opened. You have started playing with forces you don’t understand. Five spells have you defeated and forced into your labyrinthine cages so they may never escape. There are 95 more. Magic elmwood staff, foliants, scrolls, robes, pointed hat

10. Crusader:
You know the One and True God. The ones who don’t believe in him are misguided. Heathens! Only when every city in the West and in the East are united under the banner of the Church, the world will know peace. Warhammer, chainmail armor, uniform, banner

11. Wandering Monk:
Life in the monastery was good. Then, It happened, and you have never stayed in one place for long ever since. Some say, you are on the run. Sometimes, the gods are talking to you. Or is it the demons? Staff, frock, holy symbol

12. Fingersmith
Quick, agile and nimble. Specialized in property relocation. Dagger, bags, mask, rope

13. Stomptrooper
No kingdom, no empire, without mindless soldiers. Comrades in arms, a force to be reckoned with. Weak when alone. Form-fitting armor, sword

14. City
Some people know all the streets and places in town. Others have all the important contacts. But you. You. Are. The. City. Impromptu weapons you can find always and everywhere , Concrete plate armor, a horse, a carriage, a tiny house that‘s bigger on the inside

15. Officer of the Cult
Obey the Master. His word is Penultimate Truth. Obey the Master. Medallion with the image of The Master (acts as armor  on a good Luck roll).

16. Hunchbacked Mystic
Reclusive eccentrics. Wise men, sages and fools. Ask them, and you will get answers. Sometimes, they even make sense. Collection of Holy Books (count as armor)

17. Troll Cannoneer
One of the oldest tribes in the world. Their culture, both artistic, refined and violent. You are one of them. Young. Inexperienced. But proud. Trokkk® Two-handed Handgunne, bottle of moonshine

18. Nine Heavenly Seas Navigator
Pirates in flying ships. Adventurers in dark space. Scoundrels them all. Sextant, flintlock pistol

19. Netherworld Barbarian
Your people have lived under the land for as long as they can remember. Fierce and loyal, with an unsatiable lust for life. Huge two-handed sword or war hammer

20. Slugman Noble
Palaces up in the mountains, decadent, glittering in the sun. Your word is law, and has been forever. Aloof, distant and cold as ice. One month supply of rare tea, traditional chukri long dagger, an elastic, absorbing skin, eyestalks that allow you to look around corners.

21. A King/Queen in Exile
Men, women, wine, slaves, gold and riches, you had it all. Then the Others invaded your lands, and you ran for their lives. Royal insignia, a rusty sword

22. Dwarven Engineer
Great tinkerers with a keen sense of weird mechanisms. Mechanical miracle workers. Book of Forefatherly Complex Constructions:, Dwarven Machines that imitate a spell effect

23. Panzer Templar
Defenders of the world. Unholy alliances threatening existence. The truth does not lie in the middle, it‘s both. At the same time. Scorchsword, roll 1d6: 1-5: metal arms, 6: metal head

24. Councilman
Secrets, trade deals and connections. Most of them shady, some outright dangerous. A fragile equilibrium. Poisoner‘s ring

25. Holy Man/Holy Woman/Holy Hermaphrodite
Your god talks to you. And your life only knows one goal: to please God. Begging bowl, chillum pipe and hasheesh, Prayer Beads

26. Runemaster
The secrets of Dere are contained in the eon-old runes the gods gave you. You know how to combine them. You know how to feed them. Treat them well, and they will be your allies. Set of runes consecrated with your own blood, sword, wolfskin complete with head , Book of The Nine Worlds

27. Stranger
You have no memory of how you came here, or who your parents are. Sometimes, you just know things, but how? Also, when you’re involved in a fight, bystanders have called your style „weird an unexpected“. You seem to have a natural affinity towards everything mechanical and… strange. Book written in a language nobody has ever seen, a small rectangular-shaped thing, flexible, but sturdy, with your name on it, a magic item that looks like a very flat rectangular box with unbreakable glass on the frontside.

Dunkelwurm: FKR fantasy game

Dunkelwurm!

The Pitch

1. The world is ancient. 
There are ancient ruins, and machines, that show there were many civilizations before the one living on Dere now. This ties in neatly with the first few modules (dungeon crawls, mostly) before the publisher decided they were verboten!, and streamlined the whole setting… just to turn it into pure boredom.

2. There are portals to other worlds.

3. There is at least one more country or continent on the map.

4. Magic is corrupting.
Dangerous, soul-sucking magic is the norm in Dunkelwurm.

5. There are many different cultures on the world.
A wild combination of disparate cultures and scientific developments – flying apparatuses in one country, and sticks and stones in the one right next to it. 

6. More sword&sorcery, less Three Musketeers.
Dunkelwurm uses FKR rules.

Sources of Inspiration

1. The art Of Talbot, Yüce, Biswanger and Holitzka
Dunkelwurm would be not the same without the stunning old school black and white art of British artist Bryan Talbot. For examples of his work, click here or here. Another perennial favorite of mine is Munich artist Claus Biswanger, who painted quite a few covers for the first modules. Klaus Holitzka, another German artists, is what I’m looking for. And last, but not least: Turkish artist Uğurcan Yüce. Yüce’s unique style (mustaches for the win!) speaks to me.

2. The music
Every kind of stoner rock, definitely. And, handily enough, the Sword&Backpack mixtapes.

3. The movies and the books
Conan. Barbarian Brothers. Headlopper. Heavy Metal, and Heavy Metal 2000. Rankin/Bass The Hobbit. Bakshi’s crazy-ass movies. Pretty much the entire Appendix N, but Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, L. Sprague De Camp, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny being on top of the list. And, not to forget, the first Das Schwarze Auge novel, Andreas Brandhorsts “Das Eherne Schwert” (The Bronze Sword; 1985).