Access is one of the more jealously guarded privileges in hierarchical systems, and social standing reinforced status, but also kept the big dogs ideally focused on the issues they need to be concerned with. Details of policy and realm health, maurauding fae raids, and magical curses. The important stuff.

The rules below are a revision of a new insertion to the Dragon Heresy set, and seemed like a good idea when in my recent streaming play the 1st-level characters seemed bound and determined to head off to see the hajarl or a merchant prince personally. I deflected it in play by having a lower-rank NPC, who happened to be related to the merchant prince, take the call instead. Why pick up dice if you don’t have to?

But some sort of guideline for whether or not an influential person will take the PCs request seemed wise.

Plus: if you’re wondering, this is basically an equivalent of “you get XP for gold.” The wealthier and more successful you are, the more ships, fortresses, and troops you commend, the nicer your armor, weapons, and clothing, the more you look the part of the mighty hero. It’s also a good way to look at how a sheltered offspring of a powerful noble might be a 1st-level or lower character, but still be worthy of dealing with seriously: good Persuasion due to charisma and practice, plus tremendous status and resources. Suddenly not all lords have to be 15th level fighters or mages (though many will be)!

The rules here aren’t final. I may flip it around a bit and instead make the Social Standing a passive check, and recast this as a 2d10 or 3d6 roll for a “reaction” with relative standing as a modifier (so it’s a single, player-facing roll instead of a contest). A passive score will also allow a quick comparison: “no, you’re more than 20 lower than Lord Robert; the best way to get the hajarl’s ear is to approach Lady Alina, the newly-appointed jarl of one of his vassal towns; she’s a jarl, but of lower standing and might treat more equally with you, and SHE can bring your petition before Robert.”

None of the concepts below should replace good roleplay, but they will help guide things. I may yet flatten things out a bit; pretty much anyone could step in front of the Thing/Althing to speak, and the kind of disparity in social standing was a continental thing more than a viking thing. But the core is there, and this basic concept is easily portable into other games: apparently this works out fairly well using ACKS’ native level tables as well.

So there we go. Here’s the Dragon Heresy version of “XP for gold.”

As the Kickstarter winds down, today I’m going to write rules for “flyting,” a ritual poetic contest of insults. That will complete the “alternate rules work” that I want to do to provide options for conflict and conflict resolution that don’t involve pointed sticks. Between flyting and grappling and access restrictions found below, there are plenty of ways to challenge the party without relying n always breaking out weapons.

From here, I will get busy with writing “Identify Fiend or Foe” advice for my monsters, and ensuring that some of the “I’ll do this later” parts of the ms are finally complete.  Continue reading “Dragon Heresy Rules Excerpt: Social Standing”

I thought it was worth explaining in more detail what’s actually in the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set.

Other Updates from the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter

  1. Welcome to Dragon Heresy! (blog/KS link)
  2. A Great Beginning: the first 24 hours (blog/KS link)
  3. Hail to the Shield-Guard! The Skjald-hirð carries the day! (FUNDED!) (blog/KS link)
  4. Designer’s Notes, and Shields with at least 12% more Viking (blog/KS link)
  5. The Established Facts Podcast (blog/KS link)
  6. Progress Report: Things moving along well (blog/KS link)
  7. Page Count, Cosmology, and first review (KS link)

I’m targeting a 3-5% wordcount reduction in the overall text during the editing stage to try and keep the book at 256 pages once the front matter, maps, Index, and ToC go in, so pages might shift a bit. But this will be a good guideline.

Not Exactly a Table of Contents

  • Introduction (1 page)
  • Core Mechanics (9 pages)
  • Generating Characters (1 page)
  • Character Races (11 pages)
  • Character Classes (11 pages)
  • Character Backgrounds (7 pages)
  • Beyond 1st Level (1 page)
  • Equipment (12 pages)
  • Campaigns/Adventuring (14 pages)
  • Rewards and Treasure (3 pages)
  • Magic Items (5 pages)
  • Combat (18 pages)
  • Damage, Rest, and Injury (6 pages)
  • Conditions (2 pages)
  • Magic (8 pages)
  • Spells by Class (25 pages)
  • The World of Etera (14 pages)
  • OGL (1 page)
  • Foes (100+ pages)

So that’s what’s in the book.

Cosmology Preview

There are a few things I’ve yet to do with this that will change a tetch by final entry, but here’s a brief glimpse into Etera and the Nine Realms.

The World Tree and pathway between worlds, Yggdrasil maps the ever-shifting flows of magic through the nine realms. One can move through the realms by tapping into and following the flows of magic, by being transported by Heimdallr’s Bifrost, or by stepping through a dimensional rift. The nine realms touched by Yggdrasil, the World Tree, are described below.

The branches of yggdrail run with the sap of magic, and touch all Nine RealmsRealms of the Gods

The highest branches of Yggdrasil reach into the heavens, and touch on the realms in which the most powerful beings in the universe dwell.

Asgard. The home of the Aesir, and the seat of power of Woden Allfather. Not all of the Aesir are on the level of Ziu, Donnar, Valfreya, and Skadi (to name but a few), and travelers can meet Aesir of varying power (See the Aesir section of the Bestiary). Transit between Asgard and the Realms of the Field is achieved via the Bifrost—a powerful teleportation circle over which Heimdallr of Asgard stands eternal watch.

Alfheim. This plane or dimension is the realm of the Archfae, and the home of at least the Winter Court. The Summer Court, if it exists at all, might be here as well. This plane is not the realm of the pocket dimensions of the lesser fae (svartalfheim), though access to that realm is much easier from Alfheim than other places.

Jotenheim. The “giant’s home” is the demesne of the elder dragons, where they undertake their journeys of mind and spirit as they slumber on their hoards. Even in their sleep, they are active—and very dangerous—in Jotenheim. Encounters with ancient and elder dragons can be expected, and their power is as great as their motives and desires are mysterious. It is called Jotenheim because that’s what the Aesir call it . . . and they were greatly disturbed when the Elder Dragons drove the giants from their Realm.

Realms of the Field

The middle branches of Yggdrasil contains the realms in which the powerful lords of creation play their games—the playing fields of the gods. This includes the world on which Etera sits, and possibly many others.

Midgard. The home of Etera and the physical world. The sun, moon, and the world are considered part of Midgard. The Astral plane, the realm of pure thought, interconnects the Realms of the Field like vines weaving through the branches of a tree. It is formally part of Midgard, as it cannot exist without the thoughts, perceptions, and guidance of the living minds of the world to create it.

Vanaheim. There is some mystery and argument over Vanaheim. The association of some of the Aesir, such as Yngvi Lifegiver and Valfreya with magic, nature, and the cycles of winter and summer are cause for debate over whether Vanaheim is the realm of magic itself, or if it is related to the spirts and natural phenomena of the world. The animating spirits of places and things that can be called forth that are not souls and elementals. Others—a distinct minority—feel Vanaheim consists of parallel worlds, similar to Midgard but different in some ways. The ethereal plane, the realm of alternates and interconnectivity between the physical and other, is part of Vanaheim.

Muspelheim. The plane of fire, and home to fiends. The Gods are much more powerful than even the lords of the tyrann and kvoldomur that rule over Muspelheim—at least on an individual basis. The fiends of Muspelheim are far more numerous than the Aesir, Elder Dragons, and Archfae, and pose a real threat to Midgard.

Realms of the Spirit

Here are the ephemeral planes and universes that stand in for archetypes and non-physical journeys.

Hel. The realm of death, over which Halja has dominion (but she commutes to work, and most often resides and can be found in Asgard). Here you may find the souls of the departed not selected to dwell in Asgard awaiting Woden and Valfreya’s need. This is also the realm necromancers contact and touch to create undead.

Niflheim. The realm of “ice,” so named after the first journeys to this plane found a cold and inhospitable space, filled with creatures of ice and frozen stasis. The name held, even when it was discovered that other elemental essences also were found here. This is where the fire, earth, water, ice, air and other elemental forces and archetypes originate.

Svartalfheim. The “home of the dark elves,” this is where the base fae create their pocket dimensions and personal realms. It is also an ethereal plane, and from here, a traveller may reach most other realms and worlds.

First Review

Follow Me and Die! posts reviews, discussion about gaming, and more

Larry Hamilton over at Follow Me and Die! likes reviewing my stuff. I like it when he reviews my stuff. It’s a good match. This is the first review published, but more are pending. So check out FMaD!’s review below


Well, the Dragon Heresy Kickstarter has funded. So that means that even with some “oops, I had a financial crisis” type stuff, we’re far enough in with long enough to go that I felt comfortable getting stuff moving.

Layout and Editing

As such, I have initiated the editing work. I’ve hired Vince Harper, who has worked extensively with Broken Ruler Games‘ Todd Crapper, to edit Dragon Heresy. He has all of the files.

(Todd did my layout on Lost Hall of Tyr, and we have become friends and collaborators.)

Anyway, that’s going on right now, during the Kickstarter. Speed is good.

I also got some nice work back from Michael on new layout for monsters, and I think I’ve got what we need.

This first one is a snapshot of the entry for Goblins. We’ve got smallish goblins, larger hobgoblins, and hobs bred for nothing but war and battle. The left column can support some art, as well as what will be a recurring theme in each entry: Identify Fiend or Foe.This will cover using the various skills (Nature, Religion, Arcana, Survival, History, etc.) that might provide tactically useful information, so that GMs and players can resolve some of that. These sorts of tidbits also provide insight into unique things about each creature.

Here’s a second one, on some undead:

You can’t really do Norse mythology without Vaettr and Raiðr. The Vaettr are dangerous, CR 3 foes, and that’s all by their lonesome. If they show up in groups, worry. If they show up in groups, with additional zombies they’ve created . . . run.

More Podcasts

I’m currently setting up two more podcasts and interviews. One with Matt Finch, who invited me on his show during the Tavern Chat yesterday.

The second . . . may be more interesting. No promises yet, but I’m working with the Delve Podcast guys and trying to see if we can do a short actual-play example.

Mostly, I want to try and kill ’em all. With Dragon Heresy, if they decide to just wade into the fray, I will certainly be able to do so.

Mwa. Ha. Ha.

Talk to y’all later!

. . . it’s real.Hall of Judgment, an adventure conversion for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG by Steve Jackson Games.

I asked for permission to convert Lost Hall of Tyr to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. As Andrew Hackard indicated, the negotiations were painless. For now, though, plans only include the single item.

More details and cool stuff will be discussed as things develop, but I can confirm:

  • The adventure will be mildly de-Norse’d, in keeping with the generic nature of the DFRPG
  • There will be 8 pre-gen characters
  • The wilderness travel rules I wrote will be converted to DFRPG
  • The short section on grappling will also be converted to DFRPG, and will reap the benefit of years of play and learning
  • The bestiary will be converted to DFRPG; I’m already working on some thoughts and layout options
  • The map will be modified to give an actual location and travel direction to the Lost Hall

The original Lost Hall adventure was designed as a demonstration of the Dungeon Grappling rules for 5E. It was also designed to be jammed into a single, one-shot, two-to-three hour game at GenCon 50. Certain liberties can be taken with a design like that that are not appropriate for a modular adventure to plunk into an existing campaign.

So it’s going to get better.

That’s all I have to say about it for now . . . but I’ve got the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set Kickstarter to launch at 10am Central today. That’s an entire game in the same world as Hall of Judgment, and you can also imagine that I will be needing to focus and write more support material for that.



The keys to the lost hall have been found . . .

Deep in the glacial peaks northwest of Isfjall, past the northwest border of the realm, a band of adventurers is deceived and nearly destroyed by a powerful Alfar sorceress as they pursue raiding hobgoblins. Through bravery and sacrifice, they deny her possession of a lost holy relic. The Tiwstakn: key to finding the legendary Lost Hall of Judgment.

Hall of Judgment is an adventure scenario designed for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game. Inside this PDF, you will find:
  • A brief introduction to the town of Isfjall in the barbarian north, and its surrounding territory
  • Advice on modifying the scenario for other settings
  • Rules for wilderness survival
  • Dungeon Fantasy Grappling™ Quick-Start
  • A bestiary containing every creature encountered in the adventure
Survive the journey. Vanquish your foes. Rediscover the lost hall. Claim your reward.
The Hall of Judgment opens August 2018.

— Douglas Cole



Been head down for a bit. Kickstarter April 2.

Once the gawrsh dang video is in the can (tomorrow I hope), I can start actually breathing again.

Assuming my marauding cat doesn’t eat me. She’s hankering for some vengeance after the claw clipping, I think. She’s circling like a (Cat) Sith Lord.

Soon, I breathe again. Talk to y’all on the flip side.

And pledge to Dragon Heresy, because it’s going to be awesome.

Slowly but surely, it’s taking shape.

I’m pretty happy with the bulk of the text of it. I want to add an image of reward levels so folks can see what they get, and I want to cut down the verbiage about shields and show rather than tell for what folks are getting. I’ve got three in build right now, so there will be a montage of the process.

Then the video.

And that’s it. I’ve heard from Michael on progress on monsters, and from Vince on editing (once the thing funds he’ll get the manuscript).

Backers will get a working, playable PDF the day the funds clear in Kickstarter. Then I will assimilate feedback over the following four to six weeks, make any changes needed, and finalize the print and PDF files.

Delivery of a game y’all can play is assured. The only real question is how awesome it will be, and how many of you want it (which  really is a “first, read rule #1” kind of statement).

This is looking real, folks.

Today I posted a bit on the Discord channel and got some interesting feedback about what some folks want to see as part of a Kickstarter. One comment – fairly easily accommodated – is that they liked graphical pictures of the rewards. Links were provided, he said in passive voice.

Still, it is nice to see what you’re getting, so I hit the internets with the intent on finding some good Photoshop smart mockups, and found three or four good ones.

You can see various exports here, in black and white and color, of what I really hope the final product looks like.

Some notes:

  • The book looks really thick; that’s an artifact of the template. The real thing will be 256 pages, which depending on how it’s printed will be between 5/8 and 13/16″ thick including the covers
  • The templates invariably show a sewn binding; while I’d love (love love love) to do that, it depends on backer counts.
  • I’m still tinkering with pledge levels, since my goal is “a rising tide lifts all boats.” I want to ensure I can make and print the book, first thing. But as pledges get higher, I want the book to get better. Perhaps from softcover to hardcover to color hardcover to offset print run for US backers (if we get to an offset run, international orders will likely get DriveThru Color Premium).

In any case, I’m putting together graphics packages to show the rewards, and it’s both easy and a lot of fun.

More after the break!

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy: Way too much fun with Photoshop mockups”

Gaming Ballistic is pleased to announce that the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set will be coming to Kickstarter in April 2018.

Dragon Heresy is a Norse-inspired setting and supporting roleplaying game. It is built around a fantasy representation of the Nine Realms, where the Aesir, fae, dragons, and fiends all vie for control of Etera in the mortal realm of Midgard. The PCs are looking to become mighty heroes, and venture north into the ancient lands of the former demense of the Elder Dragons to find fame, fortune, glory, and magic.

It builds off of the excellent SRD5.1 game engine, but with adjustments and additions made to match the feel of the setting and provide more nuance to combat and struggle

  • Division of HP into wounds and vigor for a more coherent treatment of rest and injury
  • Shields are way, way cooler
  • Enhanced use of existing mechanics to add nuance and risk to combat
  • Grappling rules that don’t suck

The Dragon Heresy Introductory Set is a fully playable game, covering character creation, adventuring from Level 1-5, combat, gear, and challenges. In the book you will find:

  • Choose from Fighter, Berserker, Cleric, and Wizard classes
  • Humans, Dwarves, Half-elf, and Dragonborn available as races
  • Norse-inspired culture, cosmology, and mythology
  • Deadly and tactically interesting combat Rules refined from the 5th edition of the world’s most popular fantasty RPG

The book will be approximately 256 pages, with major sections for

  • Character creation – including races, classes, backgrounds, equipment, and spells from Level 1-5
  • Core Mechanics – what’s the same, and what’s different, from SRD5.1
  • Running the Game – example rules for survival and overland travel in a hostile wilderness, risks and rewards, a random treasure generation table suitable for the levels in the book
  • Combat – all you need to live and die by violence, including melee weapons, new rules for shield use, grappling rules that don’t suck, and more. Fights are not driven by attrition, integrating morale and the potential for sudden incapacitation
  • Injury, Rest, and Healing – Dragon Heresy differentiates strongly between wounds, vigor, and exhaustion to make resting vs. healing a meaningful distinction.
  • Spellcasting and Spell Lists from spell level 1-3
  • A brief introduction to the Norse-inspired world of Etera
  • Over 100 monsters custom-modified and rewritten to suit the mythology and cosmology of the Nine Realms

Read on for more details!

Continue reading “Dragon Heresy: Introductory Set coming to Kickstarter in April”

It’s taken a bit, mostly because I was working personally with two busy folks, but all Kickstarter rewards have now been delivered: the two character sheets with portraits were finalized and delivered for my Styðja-level backers last weekend.

It was a fun ride. As I noted before, I indulged in a bit of extravagance by splurging on a piece of art that took the project to date from break-even to a bit of a loss. However . . .

There’s more coming for Lost Hall of Tyr. I wish I could discuss it . . . but look for an announcement on my mailing list and blog in a week or two.

I’ve also been hard at work on the next voyage into Etera – a very important one. The core rulebook for the Dragon Heresy Introductory Set is in layout and final assembly. Sometime this coming weekend, I should have the chapters on Foes (80-125 pages and about 100 critters, depending on how it lays out) added to the 140-150 pages of core rules for level 1-5. That’s right down the pipe for what I wanted.

Here’s an image of a sample of interior layout:

And another WIP of the cover:

I expect you will see this in Kickstarter some time in April. Early April if things go well.

Thanks for joining me for Lost Hall of Tyr!