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

5–Magic Lore 
11– Negotiation

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


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.

RANT with pics: And a no-glitz elf for me, please

I DO have an intense dislike of ‘high fantasy’ in general. It all reminds me (maybe with the exception of Tolkien, but only because his work was the first work of fantasy I encountered) of bad fanfic and bad kitchen sink rpgs.
I DO have an intense love for pulpy, action-packed, tersely written, sword &… literature and games.
Instead of high concept fantasy with dark elves that are nothing more than good-looking bad boys with goth makeup, instead of dwarves that are nothing more than short, grumpy master blacksmiths, instead of magic that’s as predictable as a happy ending in the latest boring Hollywood flick:
Give me Conan! Give me Tarzan! (and maybe a bit of Elric)
Give me evil witches and wizards!
Give me immense treasure!
Give me glorious violence!
Give me elves that are as alien as the elves of folklore!
Give me insatiable hunger for adventure!

The fuck? Issat supposed to be a barbarian or something? With a 20-kilogram maxi broadsword (“paddlesword”, I’m told, is the right nomenclature here; thanks, guys!). Sure. Why not. After all, everything’s possible in La-La-Land, right? Right?

Now that’s a warrior. Notice the difference? This one here has seen battle. The one above has only seen the mirror. A million times.

Geez. A tiefling. What the fucking fuck? Who wants to play that? Besides, everyfuckingbody knows that they’re a spawn of Hell. Chaos Incarnate. What the fucking fuck. But that’s high-concept 5e and glossy magazine, politically correct gaming to you.

See, that’s what a Chaos creature really looks like. And yeah, bullet to the forehead, serves him just right. John Blanche.

Aaaaaaand another polished looking, swanky character.  That’s the typically bland 4e and 5e look, and it’s disgusting. Sheesh, look at the swag mini fireball hovering above his palm. Neat braided beard, you loser.

If you want to know what a real magician in a real fantasy world looks like, look no further than John Blanche, the master. This is a slinger of spells. This is someone who was borderline fucking crazy when he started the Dark Arts. Now, he’s just a motherfucking abomination in human skin. Do you want to have someone like that in your party? Ha?

Ooooh. How cute. Mogogols. Frog men. A 5e player race. Much inclusive. Oh yeah, and roleplaying tip: “Always remember, when playing a Mogogol, they’re incredibly optimistic”
In contrast: real frog-men. The Slann. Aztec-cultured monsters. You know, Aztecs. What do you mean, blood sacrifice? But ain’t they, like, happy toads, or something? (Probably because they’re licking themselves, but that’s stuff for a future blog post)

Project Dwarven Runway. Neat little people, right? Just like humans, only stockier. That’s what happens when you make everything, everything equal. Dwarves? They’re vertically-challenged humans. Expert opinion: Fuck that outrageous lame-assery.

You know the drill. THAT’S what real dwarves look like. And see how… weird they look? That’s because they ARE weird, compared to what’s normal for us humans. Again, John Blanche shows the way.

Aaaw. 5e battle scene. So… dynamic. Look, Ma, no blood! Just the way the Committee for Decency and Clean Entertainmaint ordered it. My take on it: B.T.T. Bored to tears.

A battle scene in real, raw, down-to-blood-drenched-earth fantasy. That’s what battle looks like. Nothing like the Saturday morning cartoon idyll 5e and companions offer us. You gotta be kidding me.


Why D&D has nothing to do with the original sword & sorcery stories

Old school D&D: “I’m modeled after the old science fiction stories, where life is short and unforgiving. Your character probably dies very early on. What would you expect, with those ridiculously low hit points?”

Old science fiction stories (Vance, Leiber, ERB, de Camp, Carter, etc): “Our protagonists are heroes, that’s why we’re still (or, again) so popular with many readers. Life is short and unforgiving – but not for our heroes; to them, it’s dangerous, but they usually live to tell the tale.”
Notice anything? Old D&D was definitely not “modeled after” these stories. Anybody seriously claiming D&D is sword&sorcery in the tradition of Leiber, Vance, and their companions is wrong. The low survival rate of early D&D is a remnant of wargaming and has nothing to do whatsoever with the literary sources.
Even the term “Vancian magic” in the context of D&D is completely incorrect. Reading the literary source material, you’ll soon find that Mazirian, one of Vance’s heroes and a very powerful sorcerer, for instance tells the reader that he can hold four of the best/most powerful spells at any one time in his memory, or five minor ones – at best.
There are only 100 known spells on earth. One hundred. And every mage is a potential target because he might possess a spell that others don’t. I think cozy evenings in the armchair, while smoking a pipe, are definitely not on the list of those guys.
In my proto-D&D games, I’ll change all of this to make it real Vancian. What do y’all think?