Thursday, June 27, 2013

In The Shadow of the Black Giant: Character Primer

Today, we return to a Campaign I'd Like To Run, In The Shadow of the Black Giant. Using the BLUEHOLME rules with some minor modifications for the setting, the campaign takes place in a sleepy valley in the south of the German state of Bayern (Bavaria) in the later part of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation era (in the early 17th Century, just a few short years before the outbreak of the 30 Years' War). If you need a refresher since it's been awhile, check out the first post on ItSotBG, since today's post it going to focus on building characters for use in the valley that sits In The Shadow of the Black Giant. 

Ability Scores

Ability scores are the same as normal in BLUEHOLME, but rolled slightly differently. Instead of the "3d6 6 times straight" method of ability score generation, characters will use a "3d6 12 times sliding" scale. To generate a character, a player rolls 3d6 12 times and records the results in the order that he rolled them. Then, he picks a consecutive set of 6 generated numbers to serve as his ability scores, filling the slots of each ability in sequence (the order of the ability scores being Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity & Charisma). Here's an example:

Too small to make out? Click me!

The first set was prioritized as a Fighter (Fighter #1) and has a good Strength (13) and a high Constitution (15) as well as Intelligence (14). His Dexterity is good (12) which is important for Initiative in BLUEHOLME. Wisdom is average (9) and Charisma is slightly lacking (8). This set of scores could be a good straight-up fighter or an elven-type multiclass fighter/magic-user. The second set of scores, prioritized for a Magic-User, takes advantage of the highest score on the board (the 15) by prioritizing the MU's prime requisite around it (Intelligence). Wisdom remains relatively high (12), but everything else pays the price for the high Intelligence (Str 9, Con 8, Dex 8, Cha 7). The third set is a thief with a high Dexerity (15, again), a good Intelligence (13), Wisdom (14) and Charisma (12), with Constitution (9) and Strength (11) being around average. A cleric fills out PC #4, with a high Wisdom (15), Strength (14) and Constitution (12) and significantly lower Intelligence (9), Dexterity (8) and Charisma (8). Just for fun, I statted out one more fighter-type (Fighter #2) with a high Strength (15) and decent Intelligence (12), but a whole lot of dump stats (Wis 8, Con 8, Dex 7, Cha 7).

The idea here is less to give the player the advantage of higher stats and more to give greater variation so they can (by and large) build the character that they want to by making (potentially) difficult choices and opting into poor scores to get the good ones that you want. Ability scores may be adjusted as per the rules found on page 6 of the BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules.


"der Erlkonig" - ~perfect-tea @ DeviantArt
The races found in the BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules are the races available in ItSotBG, and the rules found there are the ones that apply to them (level limits and all). It is worthwhile to note, however, that the standard fantasy races don't fit terribly well into the ItSotBG campaign and that the campaign is terribly humanocentric.

Elves seldom concern themselves with the affairs of men, whom they regard with disinterest (at best) or as victims of their myriad whims (at worst). All elves are subjects of the Elf King (der Erlkoenig), whose penchant for stealing the souls of children does little to ingratiate his species to the race of men. Although men often find elves bewitchingly beautiful and fascinating, the wise know the dangers of trafficking with otherworldly creatures and encourage all their kin to keep elves and their ilk at arm's length. Elves and the fae races cannot be trusted, but must be appeased, lest they wither crops, foul cattle or kill children in their cribs.

Dwarves labor deep within the mountains that surround the valley, coaxing ores and gems from the earth the way humans coax crops from their fields. Craftsmen without peer, dwarves occasionally trade with men, but their eternal warfare with the gnomes and kobolds of the Alps prevents much desired trade. Nonetheless, dwarves take immense risks to bring their goods and treasures to mankind's lands where they can obtain many of the luxuries that they can't (or don't) make for themselves such as wheat beers, hard liquors (Dunkelweizens and Brandies are especially prized), smoked sausages and preserved meats (ham and bacon in particular). Human merchants looking to trade in foodstuffs for dwarven treasures make occasional pilgrimages into the Alps; they are unmolested by the dwarves' foes until their carts are laden with dwarven goods, gems and metals, when they become targets of gnomish or koboldic aggression.

Halfling farmers labor alongside human ones in the valley, and even have one small community all to themselves near the valley's western edge. While their numbers may be plentiful in the valley, their natural and cultural identity makes them very unlikely adventurers. Wandering and exploration are widely frowned upon in halfling society and those who take up an adventuring life usually do so after apostasy or exile from halfling communities or out of a bloody-minded rejection of traditional halfling values. Once a halfling has rejected his cultural background and become an adventurer, it is nearly impossible for him to regain his place in halfling society, meaning that few ever choose a life of adventure among the Tall Folk.



As mentioned in the BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules, clerics must be of Lawful or Chaotic alignment. However, clerics of Chaotic alignment tend to be in league with the dark powers of Chaos and thus aren't terribly conducive to being player characters. There is one typo to be found in the Prentice Rules that must be noted, however: when attempting to turn undead, the 2d6 roll must be equal to or greater than (not less than) the number shown on the table on page 8.

Fighting Man

Fighters act as described in the Prentice Rules, with one small addition: fighters with a Strength score of 15 or better may add +1 to his melee attack and damage rolls. A fighter who gains an attack bonus to missile weapons may add an equal bonus to missile weapon damage.


Some additional spells may be available to player character magic-users, but most of those will not be available at the start of play, but will be available to the PCs through adventuring. These non-standard spells will not count against the PCs' "Maximum Spells Per Level." While the magic books studied by magic-users are too large to be carried on adventures, it is important to remember that magic-users can (and probably should) make judicious use of scrolls not merely to cast a wide variety of spells on demand, but also to replenish their supply of memorized spells (a use of a scroll that does not consume the scroll).


Thieves act as described in the Prentice Rules, with the addition that a thief (and only a thief) with a Dexterity of 15 or better may subtract one from his armor class (thus improving it).



All classes are proficient in the use of firearms, the great equalizer of the In the Shadows of the Black Giant campaign. When shooting a firearm at an opponent, the ignores up to four points of the target's armor class reduction from armor. Thus, a target in chain mail (normally AC 5) has the same armor class as an unarmored person (AC 9), whereas both of those targets have a higher (worse) AC than a dextrous thief in leather armor (AC 8) or a fighter in full plate (also AC 8, 7 with a shield).

  • Pistol, Range 30/60/120, Cost 500 Marks
  • Musket, Range 50/100/150, Cost 750 Marks
A pouch of 10 lead shot may be purchased for 1 Mark, while a flask of black powder enough for 20 shots will cost 5 Marks. Taking a full round to aim a firearm will confer upon the shooter a +2 bonus to hit and allow twice the normal number of damage dice to be rolled. Other rules will be forthcoming.


The standard unit of currency (filling the role of the gold piece) in the valley is the Mark, a die-cast coin usually cast in silver but occasionally featuring small amounts of gold. Smaller than the Mark is the Pfennig, a stamped coin usually made from copper or bronze; 100 Pfennig (Pf) is worth one Mark (Mk). Other coins in between the Mark and Pfennig frequently are minted, but these can be largely disregarded for simplicity's sake. Larger than the Mark, however, is the golden Thaler, a die-cast coin that usually bears the likeness of Dukes, Duchesses, Elector-Princes and Emperors. Each Thaler (Th) is equal to 20 Marks. 


My absolute favorite feature of the game Dungeon World is the Bonds system which helps give mechanical benefit to the bonds between the characters as well as with their world. Each PC will have a number of available Bonds equal to the number players in the campaign. A player may decide to describe all of the Bonds available to his PC at character creation or choose to describe them over time. At character creation, the player must choose one Bond between his character and another PC and a second Bond between his character and a non-player character. The mandatory Bond between the PC and another PC must be chosen from a list of Bonds available to his class (as discussed in Dungeon World; I'm not about to reprint that data here because DW is totally worth the $10 for the pdf), whereas the Bond between the PC and the NPC must be one of those mentioned below. 

NPC Bonds

  • I'm trying hard to woo ______.
  • ______ was a childhood rival; we've never gotten over that.
  • ______ is an old family friend.
  • The curse that my family labors under was put upon us by ______.
  • I'm sure that ______ is a witch.
  • ______ is my godfather/godmother. 
  • ______ saved my life once and I owe him/her for it.
  • ______'s family is my family's sworn enemies, but he/she is my best friend.
  • ______ is my chief rival for the affections of my beloved.
I'm not going to make the "it's gotta be from this list" thing a hard requirement for the NPC Bond, and I'll gladly take suggestions. 

Using Bonds

As long as you have an open Bond with another PC or an NPC, you will gain a +1 bonus per level to all dice rolls made for actions that target the object of your Bond. Thus, a 2nd level cleric who casts Cure Light Wounds on a character with whom he has a Bond will heal 1d6+3 hit points of damage (1d6+1 from the spell, +2 from the Bond). If in the course of adventuring, both players involved in the Bond (or the player and the Judge involved in the case of NPCs) agree that the Bond no longer applies, the Bond is considered to be "resolved;" the PC who possessed the Bond gains experience points equal to 100 x his level as well as freeing up that Bond to be used for another connection. 

Final Word

Due to a few people expressing interest, the In The Shadow of the Black Giant campaign will be launching soon. This isn't "soon (tm) soon," it's "soon as in somewhere in the next month soon." Turns out that despite running 3+ games (2 online, 1 live) and playing in at least one other, I'm able to fit a little more gaming in my schedule. So, Shadow of the Black Giant will be coming to a G+ hangout near you! If you're interested in this game but aren't one of the folks I game with on a routine basis, drop me a line on G+ to get in on the Black Giant action!