Saturday, 12 January 2019

5e: The Explorer 2 is now on DMsGuild!

The Explorer 2 is now available for purchase on DMsGuild!

The Explorer 2. Cover Art © Jack Holliday. Licensed for use.

Late last year I released the Explorer: a complete rebuild of the Ranger designed so that the entire core class has no magic, and instead has feature called Exertion, a a short rest recharge resource they can spend to accomplish great feats. Thus the Explorer satisfies my desire for a nonmagical Ranger, which I know is shared by many others. Two of the class archetypes cater to this demand: the Avenger and the Watchkeeper cater to this demand. Yet magic can also be introduced back into the class through your choice of archetypes, allowing the Explorer to be the best of both worlds! The Explorer contains two magical archetypes: the primal-powered Ranger (which is the closest to the original Ranger class, naturally) and the arcane-using Delver, an expert dungeon explorer.

With the release of The Explorer 2, four new Paths are available to your Explorer:

The Bounty Hunter

A bounty hunter dedicates themselves to the risky business of pursuing dangerous criminals such as deadly killers, corrupt priests, and lunatic mages.

Many are former soldiers and scouts who seek to make use of their wartime skills. Bounty hunters are fundamentally mercenaries, but while some are simply in it for the money others see their career as an honourable calling. A few even work full time for law enforcement agencies or guilds, and must conduct themselves in a manner befitting their employer’s image.

The Canary

The original canaries were dwarves who accompanied workers in the mines specifically to watch out for environmental dangers. Should the work break through into other tunnels, the canaries were the first to scout ahead. It was (and still is) an extremely dangerous profession, but canaries are accorded great respect among the dwarves for the important role that they play.

As a canary, you know that the underdark is a perilous place, and have made it your business to guide those who would dig deep or wander in the dark below. Hopefully with you present they will be forewarned and forearmed against any dangers, and more likely to emerge safely once more into the light.

The Gravewalker

Some gravewalkers train to be the ultimate undead hunters, whether that be to take vengeance against them or to free their trapped souls. Other gravewalkers see death as merely another great adventure and aren’t prepared to wait until their life is over to experience it. Whatever their motivations, a gravewalker takes inspiration from the undead to learn powers that are beyond the usual understanding of the living.

As a gravewalker, you are an expert on all things undead, capable of communicating with them, breaking the chains that bind them, and fighting them on equal terms.

The Guerilla

A guerilla is an expert at unconventional warfare, employing hit and run tactics and other tricksy methods to overcome a force which, on paper, may seem superior. Some guerillas specialise in fighting in the wilds, while others may employ their cunning in the narrow winding alleys of a city.

Guerillas are forged through necessity in the fires of war. You may have belonged to your home nation’s army, where you served as a scout. Or perhaps you joined a desperate rebellion against a tyrannical authority?

Guerillas are always self-sufficient and like their independence. Whether they respect authority or mistrust it, they always prefer to keep a distance from it.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

David Bowie: a Hero of Song

David Bowie was one of my personal heroes. Today is his birthday, and the 10th January will be the anniversary of his death.

In honour of the great entertainer, I've put my product Heroes of Song on sale. Usually $1.99, you can now get it for only $0.99!

This flash sale will end at midnight (GMT +0) on 10/01/2019.

About Heroes of Song

Dance to your own tune with this collection of six music-themed archetypes!

In the many worlds of D&D, words and music contain actual, exploitable power. Those in the know can harness these mysterious, ancient forces, drawing forth the magic of music to bring tangible change into the world around them.

Bards are the archetypal hero of song, but they aren’t the only heroes to tap into the raw power music. Heroes of Song introduces six new archetypes, two for the Bard class, and four which introduce the power of music to other classes!

Heroes of Song includes the following archetypes:
  • The Battle Skald, a Barbarian Primal Path. Warrior-poets, battle skalds keep the verbal and musical histories of their people, and sing songs of victory in battle to ignite a fire in the hearts of their war band.
  • The College of Choristers, a Bard College. Giving themselves and their musical talent over to the service of the divine, choristers lead their congregation in worshipful song, and channel the power of their faith through their voice.
  • The College of Creation, a Bard College. Bards of this college comprehend the musical underpinnings of reality, and can use their music to channel and shape elemental forces.
  • The Clarion, a Warlock Patron. An insubstantial being of pure music that hops from creative to creative as their muse, inspiring frenzies of creation uncaring for its current host's physical needs nor health. A Clarion-pact warlock can summon a pact instrument whenever they wish, and can use their music to inspire changes in the mindsets of their audience.
  • The Warsinger, a Fighter Archetype. Warsingers learn bardic secrets, channeling music and magic as tools of war. In battle a warsinger is able to perform battle anthems to inspire their unit.
  • The Way of Splendid Song, a Monk Monastic Tradition. Sometimes known as Chanters, monks of this tradition learn mantras, activated by spending ki. While continuing to focus on reciting a mantra, the Chanter gains special strengths associated with the mantra being performed.

Monday, 12 November 2018

5e: Using Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica Content in your Forgotten Realms Game

Yes, yes, I know. I'm supposed to be on hiatus! The fact is though, that there really wasn't much extra work involved in this post, since I was already thinking about how to make use of the Ravnica guide in my own games.


The Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica introduces 5 new options for player character species: Centaur, Loxodon, Minotaur, Simic Hybrid, and Vedalken. Also of note is the Goblin, first printed in a section of Volo's Guide For Monsters called Monstrous Adventurers which took pains to tell us the species therein might not actually be balanced. Therefore, its inclusion as a core option for Ravnica with nary an alteration makes it slightly more official than it was already. Goblin just made the big leagues.

Of the other five mentioned, you might think only two could fit into a game set in the Forgotten Realms: the Centaur and the Minotaur. But you'd be wrong.


I'm not a historian of Magic: The Gathering, but I believe Loxodon were in Dungeons & Dragons before they were in Magic. Certainly, they existed in D&D before the world of Ravnica was introduced in 2005. You won't find them if you google, though, because the version printed in 3.5's Monster Manual II (2002) were called the "Loxo". They would later be inserted into the Realms in the Shining South (2004) setting book. There is one physical difference between the Loxo and the Loxodon: the Loxo have two trunks. Still, the stats of the Loxodon are pretty perfect. For the purposes of game mechanics, assume a Loxo character uses both trunks for any task that a Ravnican Loxodon would use one trunk for, and the feature remains the same.

Simic Hybrid

To my knowledge there is no Realms equivalent of the Simic Hybrid, or indeed the guild known as the Simic Combine which created them. But let's look at what the Simic Hybrid actually is: the result of a magical experiment to merge a person with an animal. It's not really out of the question that such a character could exist in the Realms. Perhaps there's not an entire species of Hybrids, but a small group or unique individual are certainly not impossible. You could be the result of experiments by an arcane group of your invention, whether in pursuit of an ideology similar to the Simic Combine or for nefarious ends. Or you might be the creation of a powerful being. You might, for instance, have been created by a cult of a Great Old One. Or you could be touched by the "blessings" of such a creature. Either concept that would work particularly well combined with the class features of a Great Old One Warlock.


Vedalken don't exist in the Realms, at least canonically. However, if you decided to insert them into your version of the world you'd be in good company. Plenty of new races have been added to the Realms after the fact. If you want some kind of explanation for their presence, particularly in an established game, there's always the option of the Vedalken arriving from another world or plane (whether this means their entire species, a small group, or just your character). This sort of thing is very common in the history of the Realms, where many of the races were not actually native to the world but migrants who arrived and settled long ago. Indeed, the Loxo are one of many examples, having arrived in the 12th Century.


The new Cleric Domain of Order and Druid Circle of Spores will fit in just fine in the Forgotten Realms without any need to explain their presence.


Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica introduces ten new backgrounds, one for each of Ravnica's guilds. These are obviously highly specialised to the guilds in question. Does that render them unusable in other settings? Not quite, but we have to do some work. Here are my takes:

Azorius Functionary

This background is about being an authority figure and wielder of the law. In the Realms, this background can be converted to make you a representative of whatever the local authority is. In the North, a good choice would be the Lords' Alliance. The background could be renamed Alliance Functionary.

You are or were a representative of the Lords' Alliance. If you still are, you receive automatic membership in that Faction (you start with 1d4 Faction renown). If you are no longer a member, the circumstances behind that change will impact relationships with other members, should you meet any. The following changes apply:

Equipment: The azorius insignia becomes an insignia or mark of the Lords' Alliance.
Feature Changes: Substitute Lords' Alliance whenever Azorius is mentioned. You have the authority to act on behalf of the local Lord, provided you introduce yourself to that Lord or a higher ranking member of the Lords' Alliance whenever you arrive in one of the free states of the North. You are intimately familiar with the laws of your home city, but may need to refresh yourself on the local laws when you arrive in the domain of a Lord where you have not previously visited and learned the local laws. The local Lords' Alliance chapter are happy to help you do so over the course of a week of downtime.

Boros Legionnaire

This background is about being a warrior in a holy order. When you get right down to it, I don't think it's that different to the Knight of the Order background published in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, and I recommend simply using that background for a character with such origins..

Dmir Operative

A Dmir Operative is a spy. Technically, we have a background for this already (a variant of the Criminal), but I feel that there is value in having a background more dedicated to the specific concept, particularly since the background feature is very useful in supporting the fiction. This background might be renamed Undercover Operative.

If you wish, this background can also confer current or past membership in one Faction of your choice (you start with 1d4 Faction renown), or you can belong to a small guild or be an independent contractor. If you are no longer a member of a Faction you used to belong to, the circumstances behind your leaving either or both groups will impact relationships with other members, should you meet any. The following changes apply:

Equipment: The dmir insignia becomes the insignia or mark of your Faction or guild, if any.
Feature Changes: Substitute your Faction or guild whenever House Dmir is mentioned. Your False Identity can apply to any other group or Faction, to which the false identity is considered a member with all that entails. If you select a Faction, your false identity begins with 1d4 faction renown and can gain or lose renown as normal.

Golgari Agent

The Golgari are fairly specific to Ravnica, a plane which is one sprawling metropolis. There isn't really a neat, pre-existing role you could slot them into; you'd have to create your own faction.

Gruul Anarch

Similarly, the Gruul Anarch are a unique product of their setting. They make sense in a world where wilderness is a rare sight in a world of urban sprawl, but less sense in a world that's the other way round.

Izzet Engineer

This background is about creating magical technology. We can definitely find space for this in the Realms. It might be renamed simply Engineer.

You likely belong to an appropriate guild, or perhaps the church of Gond. The following changes apply:

Languages: Choose one of Draconic, Dwarven, or Gnomish.
Equipment: The izzet insignia becomes an insignia of your guild or holy symbol of your faith, if any. Otherwise, you don't receive one.
Feature Changes: Your access to blueprints requires you to visit local civic authorities or guilds, as appropriate for the city you are in. Members of other guilds are happy to speak to other professionals but understandably wary of giving guild secrets to rivals, and in such instances a small bribe of 5gp is enough to secure access.

Orzhov Representative

Members of the Orzhov Syndicate are criminals in the guise of clergy. Consider using the background essentially as written for a Priest of Mask. Alternatively, strip out the religious trappings and this background makes a good option for members of the Black Network, which we might rename Zhentarim Agent. The latter is described below.

You are or were a representative of the Zhentarim. If you still are, you receive automatic membership in that Faction (you start with 1d4 Faction renown). If you are no longer a member, the circumstances behind that change will impact relationships with other members, should you meet any. The following changes apply:

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Intimidation.
Equipment: The Replace the equipment entry with the equipment of a Faction Agent (see the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide).

Rakdos Cultist

This background is another which is very specific: Rakdos Cultists are part anarchist, part demon-worshipper, part entertainer. I can't think of a parallel organisation in the Realms. However, their concept is not so intrinsically tied to the geography of their setting, so it it is a lot easier to imagine equivalent groups within the Realms. You'll likely have to come up with such a group yourself, for which you can use the background essentially as is.

Fortunately, I've done a lot of research into powerful entities in the Realms so that I can provide a big list in an upcoming Warlocks supplement, and I can provide three examples of Realms-friendly Demon Lords who might create a cult such as this one:

  • Barbu, Lord of the 307th Layer. She delights in sowing discord and ruining peace.
  • Lynkhab, Lord of the 297th Layer. She tempts mortals to self-destructive behaviours and ultimately leads them to suicide.
  • Socothbenoth, Lord of the 597th Layer. He concerns himself with plumbing the depths of deviance.

Selesnya Initiate

This background is all about harmony between nature and civilisation, and is an easy reskin from the Selesnya Conclave to the Emerald Enclave. It could be renamed Enclave Initiate.

You are or were a representative of the Emerald Enclave. If you still are, you receive automatic membership in that Faction (you start with 1d4 Faction renown). If you are no longer a member, the circumstances behind that change will impact relationships with other members, should you meet any. The following changes apply:

Languages: Choose one of Elvish, Gnomish, or Sylvan.
Equipment: The selesnya insignia becomes an insignia of the Emerald Enclave.
Feature Changes: Substitute the Emerald Enclave whenever Selsnya Conclave is mentioned.

Simic Scientist

This background is perfect for any "mad scientist" or "mad arcanist". You might rename it to either of those, or perhaps a more general term like "Pioneer of Progress".

You are trying to push the boundaries of your field, possibly without consideration of the safety and moral and ethical implications of your work. You may have membership in an appropriate guild, though if so you likely hide the extent of your work from your more conservative peers. The following changes apply:

Equipment: The simic insignia becomes an insignia of your guild, if any. Otherwise, you don't receive one. The rest of your equipment from the background remains the same, except the items you receive don't have to be derived from sea creatures. For instance you might simply have oil and acid, not blubber oil and stomach bile. Similarly, you may if you wish replace the vials of fish weed, seaweed, and jellyfish stingers with similarly curious materials of little to no financial value derived from other sources of your choice.
Research Options: You are likely not part of a Clade and most likely independent, though your being a current or former member of a larger organisation is possible. If you are independent you can still randomly determine your research focus if you wish. Or you can select one of the six options, or come up with your own.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Join Spilled Ale Studios for AetherCon this coming weekend!

Hi everyone, just a reminder that Spilled Ale Studios is taking part in the online convention AetherCon this year! AetherCon is an entirely online convention with everything you might expect from a con: games to join, panels to sign up for, merchants, and competitions. Best of all, you can take part in the con for free.

Fifth Edition Fallout: Roach Motel

I'm running a Fifth Edition Fallout one-shot!

"The youngsters of Grace Fields were carried off by radroaches, and the townsfolk were driven back by the swarm when they attempted to recover their children! They need the help of professional mercenaries. Why were the children taken? Can they still be rescued? Or are they doomed to a permanent residency at the Roach Motel?"

Want to take part? You just need to register on AetherCon's site and register for a ticket, which is free.


Date: Saturday 10th November 2018.
Start: 2:00 pm GMT / 9:00 am EST
End: 7:00 pm GMT / 2:00 pm EST
Minimum Players: 2
Maximum Players: 5
Registration: Get your free ticket here.

Four on the Floor and Six in the Chamber - Post Apocalyptic RPGS

On Sunday 11th November, I'll also be taking part in a panel on the topic of post-apocalyptic rpgs! My fellow panelists are Vincent Baker of Lumpley Games (Dogs in the Vineyard, Apocalypse World), and Scott Davis of Happy Monster Press (Children of the Apocalypse, a Savage World setting).


Date: Sunday 11th November 2018.
Start: 6:30 pm GMT / 1:30 pm EST
End: 8:00 pm GMT / 3:00 pm EST
Registration: Get your free ticket here.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

5e: The Explorer is now on DMsGuild!

The Explorer is now available for purchase on DMsGuild!

The Explorer. Cover Art © Bartek Błaszczeć. Licensed for use.

Conceived as a nonmagical rebuild of the Ranger, the Explorer has several advantages compared to the original class. The Explorer's primary strengths are:

  • The core class isn't magical... I know I'm not the only one out there who likes the concept of being a rugged wilderness venturer but could do without the divine magic. Now you can!
  • ...yet retains the magical Ranger. If you like your rangers magical you're covered too, and you might find a lot to like about the Explorer's alternative features! Ranger is one of four Paths available to an Explorer, granting access to spells from the Ranger spell list alongside other new mystical powers stemming from nature.
  • Arcane Explorers are possible. By stripping divine magic from the core class, it opens up the possibility for arcane Explorers and even psionic Explorers once we have rules for that. The archetypes includes in this pdf include the Delver, a professional treasure hunter with abilities themed around dungeon exploration and the ability to cast Divination and Abjuration spells
  • Accomplish heroic efforts through grit and gumption! Explorers survive the dangers they face with the aid of Exertion, a resource that refreshes on a short rest. Exertion is also used by the magical archetypes: such Explorers may meditate during a rest to convert as much Exertion as they wish into spell slots.
  • Existing Ranger archetypes are compatible. The Explorer gets Path features at the same levels Rangers do, so you can use an archetype made for the Ranger with the Explorer with very little fuss. Guidance is provided for handling archetypes with bonus spells.
  • Works as a replacement for the Ranger, or as an accompaniment. If you like the Explorer and want to make it available instead of the Ranger, great! But you can also make them both available to your players and let them decide based on whether they want divine magic and which features they prefer. You could even have both in a party quite comfortably: an Explorer (Delver) plays very differently to a Ranger (Hunter), for instance!

Interior Spread. Interior Art © Vagelio Kaliva. Licensed for use.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Announcement: Temporary Hiatus

Hi all, just a quick bulletin to advise that I won't be posting to the blog for a while, except perhaps to let you know what other people in the growing Fifth Edition Fallout community are up to. I have quite a bit going on in my personal life that I really need to direct all my focus towards for the time being. Thank you for your understanding! Hopefully things normalise soon!

Friday, 5 October 2018

AetherCon VII News

Happy Friday all!

Regular readers can't have failed to notice the AetherCon banner that has flown up top of the blog lately. I'm about to tell you why!

AetherCon is an entirely online convention with everything you might expect from a con: games to join, panels to sign up for, merchants, and competitions. Best of all, you can take part in the con for free. And this year, Spilled Ale Studios has a couple of events!

If you'd like to play Fifth Edition Fallout with me, head over to ticket registration for "Roach Motel"! The game will take place on Saturday 10th November, 9am EST (That's 2pm GMT to those of you more local to my own time zone). Five tickets are available.

I'm also honoured to have been asked to join a panel on the topic of post-apocalyptic rpgs alongside Vincent Baker of Lumpley Games (Dogs in the Vineyard, Apocalypse World), and Scott Davis of Happy Monster Press (Children of the Apocalypse, a Savage World setting). I'm excited! I hope you are too. Visit ticket registration for "Four on the Floor and Six in the Chamber - Post Apocalyptic RPGs" to sign up for the panel.