When I started developing my idea for an all dwarf RPG, I decided that the entire system should be approached from the viewpoint of a dwarf. I felt this was the only way to really evoke the sense that the game was all about dwarfs. If you’re gonna go demi-human, you gotta go full demi-human.
At the same time, Saving Throws appear to be the most malleable of sacred cows in D&Dish-inspired games, so I went full throttle on re-imagining saving throws for Dwarf Lode just as I did with Ability Scores. Here they are:
Instead of the usual saving throws regarding poison, death, and dragon breath, the saving throws in Dwarf Lode are designed to better reflect the stuff that life throws at a dwarf. Below is a description of each type of saving throw and examples of situations in which a dwarf might be called upon to roll such a save.
|Level||Fire!||What Ails Ye||Grudge||Curses||Gettin’ Outta the Way|
It’s hot, it burns, and you can choke on the smoke, it’s fire! A dwarf will be called upon to roll this saving throw whenever he’s avoiding being set on fire, resisting the choking or irritating effects of smoke, or attempting to put out his beard after he got too close for comfort to forge or campfire.
What Ails Ye
Dwarfs are, by tradition, if not genetically, a gloomful and surly people, and as such among their numbers are the greatest complainers in the annals of history. A dwarf might be called upon to save against What Ails Ye whenever he’s at risk of catching a disease, been poisoned, or suffering from madness. To be certain, dwarfs are stouter and meaner by far than other races, but What Ails Ye isn’t only for catching disease or being poisoned, it’s a save against the psychosomatic aspects of being diseased or poisoned such as wailing and carrying on about one’s impending doom. Basically, it’s a save against grumbling. Fortunately, dwarfs are masters at concocting the perfect remedy for What Ails Ye: booze!
Whenever a dwarf is wronged, or at least, more importantly perhaps, perceives himself to have been wronged, he may be called upon to roll a save against Grudge. (Players can request a save vs. Grudge, as well, if they feel their character perceives himself to be wronged. ) Success would mean that he’s the bigger dwarf (ed. Sorry!) and forgives the slight, but if he fails the save, then BY THE SURLY BRAIDED BEARDS OF MYRRG AND DOOG THE RAUCOUS THEY SHALL FEEL YER WRATH! Whenever a dwarf fails a save versus Grudge, he is overcome with a need to seek revenge against those who have (allegedly) slighted him, and for a dwarf, revenge is so deeply rooted, so infused into their bones, so epigenetically entwined with their seminal fluids that if the dwarf does not have immediate means to exact his vengeance, the grudge risks becoming ancestral. Treat having a grudge as being under the effects of a Geas spell or the like but less severe, initially. Eventually, the grudge becomes seething. Unlike other saves, a dwarf finds it more difficult to pass a Save vs. Grudge as he attains levels. This is because a dwarf has to maintain his respectability in the face of perceived wrongs the more famous he becomes; otherwise, other dwarfs will start saying things to his face normally reserved for behind his back.
[Note: Grudges play a larger role in Dwarf Lode for calculating experience points and determining the fate of the dwarfs’ clan, part of the domain-level phase of Dwarf Lode campaigns.]
Anything and everything magical is, to a dwarf, a curse. Of course, there are potentially “magical” things that dwarfs don’t consider magical, such as magic weapons and armor and potions at least of 4.6% alcohol by volume (saves called upon to deal with the effects of alcoholic potions are handled under What Ails Ye, but everything else is a Curse and saves against such sorcery (and non-alcoholic potions) are rolled as such. The other exception to this is when magical fire is involved, at which point a save against Fire! must be rolled.
Gettin’ Outta the Way
A dwarf makes this saving thrown when he, well, needs to get out of the way of anything he doesn’t otherwise believe he should stand his ground against.
Put down the pipe-weed and pin on your badge. You’ve got a job to do.
Nearly two years since I was first approached to put together what, at the time, would be a small, OSR-style adventure set around the bumbling investigations of a team of halfling sheriffs, Southfarthing Confidential is taking tangible, publishable form!
Starting out as a heavily house-ruled Labyrinth Lord adventure, my halfling police procedural morphed into an ongoing campaign for 5th edition. The adventure I ran at North Texas RPG Con in 2017 now looks to become four books: a setting/rule book and three adventures. Soon, I’ll be revealing more details on those adventures, including titles.
So, what we have here is the first in a series of previews from the Southfarthing Confidential setting/rule book. If you enjoy what you see, please consider supporting my work on Patreon, where you’ll get access to each chapter of the book as the drafts are completed.
Now to the meat: Below are a couple examples of what you’ll find in Southfarthing Confidential. The first is the hairfoot halfling subrace, a return to the traditional furry-footed small folk of yore. They are the standard race for the setting. The second is a example halfling family background, the Thudbelly clan. Instead of the usual occupational backgrounds found in 5th ed., in Southfarthing Confidential halflings will pick a family to determine features, personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws.
(Neither of these examples really focus on the police procedural half of the genre mashup, but instead provide material for players to build halfling characters who will become sheriffs. The police procedural side of things will be fleshed out when players take feat-like abilities I’m calling “tropes,” for the time being. Examples of these, such as “Hardboiled Halfling,” “Loose Sling,” and “Too Fat for This,” will be appearing a future preview.)
Enjoy! And of course, feedback is welcome and encouraged.
A subrace for Fifth Edition halflings.
As a Hairfoot Halfling of the Five Farthings, you are a creature of comfort. You’re hefty, round in the belly, and likely easing your way, breakfast by second breakfast, toward a respectably fat middle-age.
You forgo the wearing of shoes, for the leathery soles of your fur-tufted feet offer protection from the elements.
You are not prone to wander far from the village where you were born, and in fact, you look down upon those rare members of your race who seek out adventure alongside “queer folk” and foreigners. You belong to a dearly suspicious and judgmental people.
Hairfoot halflings are the most populous halfling subrace in the Five Farthings.
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.
Creature of Comfort. You have Advantage on hit die rolls to regain hit points during a Short Rest every day your Lifestyle Expenses are Comfortable or higher.
Names of the Southfarthing
Male Names: Arbuckle, Arlo, Bogar, Creevy, Griftoe, Harliment, Odo, Riley.
Female Names: Ada, Carmen, Clara, Edith, Gilda, Mona, Sherry, Vera, Vivian.
Family Names: Thudbelly, Stook, Gummyhocks, Hairysacks, Butterburbuck, Ficklebum, Wettletoes, Burrowback.
You were born to a proud family whose lust for life has fattened its heirs and issues to inspiring proportions in body and purse alike. The Thudbellies hail from the delving of Hearthoven, a many-chimneyed hole with more kitchens than bedrooms up near Curly Bend. Your family built its wealth through bread-making and its reputation for kindness providing alms to the poor, destitute, and even dwarven. Thudbelly feasts and parties are plentiful and draw hundreds of friends, relatives, and uninvited halflings from across the Five Farthings.
Delving: Hearthoven, near Curly Bend.
Skill Proficiencies: Medicine, Persuasion.
Tool Proficiencies: Cook’s utensils.
Languages: Big Folk or Dwarven (your choice)
Equipment: A set of cook’s utensils, an hourglass, set of fine clothes, five loaves of gourmet bread and a pouch containing 15 gp.
Thudbelly breads are known far and wide across the Five Farthings, and even beyond the Borders in the nearest countries of the Big Folk. You can select what staples of your family’s bakery you’re carrying from the Gourmet Breads table or roll randomly.
|d8||Bread||Type||Quality & Recipe|
|1||Dwarf cake||Dry bread||Hard, made from goat’s milk and barley flour|
|2||Out-’n’-about loaf||Leavened, sourdough||Braided, brushed with egg yolk, made with buckwheat flour, to be eaten on journeys|
|3||Thudbelly bun||Yeast Bread||Sweet, made with buttermilk and whole wheat|
|4||Hearthoven Tack||Flatbread||Flaky, hard biscuit often slathered with honey|
|5||Fore-after tea muffin||Yeast bread||Round, hand-sized and dusted in cornmeal and served after lunch/before supper|
|6||Hole loaf||Yeast bread||Thick, fluffy made of two loaves with hole punched through middle, often filled with butter or curds|
|7||Elf biscuit||Flatbread||Infused with honey and butter, very filling, wrapped in leaves for flavor and presentation|
|8||Full Farthing loaf||Sweet bread||Stuffed with fruit, practically a cake.|
Feature: Break Bread
You can always attempt to settle grievances and disagreements between parties, even those involving yourself, or forge temporary or lasting alliances by sharing a loaf of your family’s famous bread. However, parties may be unwilling if the squabble between them has already come to blows.
|1||I have a bread-making or baking proverb handy for every situation.|
|2||I seek to taste all the breads, cakes, and muffins of the Five Farthings.|
|3||I’d rather be in the kitchen.|
|4||I make new friends wherever I am.|
|5||As a halfling of station, I supervise the labor of the lower classes and do not get my own hands (and toes) dirty.|
|6||I never need an excuse to throw a party or serve a feast.|
|7||I am a baker and an artist, bread my paint, the belly my canvas.|
|8||There’s nothing worth doing you cannot take your time at.|
|1||Warmheartedness. The heart of every home is its oven and every heart must be warm. (Good)|
|2||Alms. If any are starving, then all go unfed. (Neutral)|
|3||Tighten the belt. Lean times have come to the Five Farthings, and while we must all pull our weight, some of us need to lighten the load. (Lawful)|
|4||Plentifulness. All should share in the bounty of the harvest. (Chaotic)|
|5||Gluttony. My own pleasure at the breakfast, dinner, and supper table comes before the needs of others. (Evil)|
|6||Festivity. Enjoyment of life rises above all other needs. (Any)|
|1||I believe that breaking bread and talking things over is the best way to heal the wounds brought upon the Five Farthings by the Recent Inconveniences.|
|2||I will not allow my companions to go hungry or taste of lesser morsels than I may bake!|
|3||I aim to discover a new recipe that will become a staple of Hearthoven’s kitchens.|
|4||I will defend the peasantry with my life, for without their harvest we’ve got no bread.|
|5||The reputation of my family’s bakeries must be upheld at all costs.|
|6||I want to make bread, so I find the best choice is always the most lucrative one.|
|1||I cannot pass up any opportunity for a meal or even a snack.|
|2||I eat only the finest, most expensive, and carefully prepared meals.|
|3||I will step in to take over any and every kitchen I feel doesn’t measure up.|
|4||I deserve a life of leisure, not one of work.|
|5||I am not afraid to criticize others’ or their cooking.|
|6||I refuse to do anything on an empty stomach.|
One of my current projects is the all-dwarf roleplaying game Dwarf Lode, which I describe as a a game of drunken exploration, ancestral guilt, and engineering disasters.
Although, at its heart the game is built upon the skeletal framework of B/X, I’m building the rules system for Dwarf Lode from the ground up. In this post, you’ll find Ability Scores/Attributes re-imagined through the viewpoint of dwarfish culture. (I’ve done the same for Saving Throws, which are referenced throughout the post below.)
In future posts, we’ll look at saving throws, the dwarf class, armor, and beers. Armor and beer is where the game really sets itself apart from others. How a dwarf arms himself for battle and what libations he drinks determine his abilities.
Included is a description of each Ability is an explanation of its uses within the game.
A dwarf’s Brawn determines how strong he is, how easy it is for him to crack skulls, tumble boulders, carry treasure, etc. Brawn applies to To Hit rolls and Damage rolls. A dwarf may attempt an Open Kegs check for minor tasks of Brawn, such as opening stuck doors or kegs, etc., or Tumble Boulders/Crack Skulls for more weighty, if not impossible-seeming, feats of Brawn such as bending bars or lifting portcullises.
|Score||To Hit||Damage Bonus||Open Kegs||Tumble Boulders/Crack Skulls|
One’s got a knack if he’s deft at something dwarfs aren’t usually good at, like being nimble on his feet or sneaky, climbing without the use of pitons and rope, ducking from a swing as opposed to letting the helmet take care of it, etc. Knack applies to Armor Class, firing missile weapons, and saves versus Fire! and Gettin’ Outta the Way.
|Score||AC Mod||Missile To Hit||Bonus to Saves|
A dwarf’s got Heft to him if he’s robust, stout, or otherwise endowed with bit of extra meat about the belly. The more heft the harder he is to knock over, the more beer he’ll drink, the harder you have to hit him to bring him down. Heft applies to Hit Die rolls, all healing rolls from rest, saves verses What Ails Ye, applies save bonus as a negative to Gettin’ Outta the Way, and helps a dwarf hold his liquor and resist drunkenness.
|Score||HP Bonus||Bonus to Saves||Hold Liquor|
It’s a nicer way of saying that dwarfs are stubborn. Once a dwarf has set his mind to something, it’s his Tenacity that determines how he sees it through. Tenacity determines how likely (or unlikely) a dwarf is to resist holding a Grudge and how determined he is in his engineering.
|Score||Bonus to Save||Engineering|
Most dwarfs are are as narrow-minded as a boulder heading downhill. Once they’re set on a path, it’s hard for them to imagine getting where they’re going any other way. It’s not Tenacity, this, or even stubbornness, but a simple lack of imagination. But some dwarfs are wily. They see things less literally than other dwarfs. They’re devious, they’re cunning, and even capable of thinking in the moment. Wile determines whether dwarfs can read or write, determines the number of bonus languages, and their ability to resist Curses.
|Score||Reading & Writing||# of Bonus Languages||Bonus to Saves|
|3||Unable to read or write, broken speech||0||-3|
|4-5||Unable to read or write||0||-2|
|6-8||Can write simple words||0||-1|
|9-12||Can read and write native languages||0||None|
|13-15||Can read and write native languages||1||+1|
|16-17||Can read and write native languages||2||+2|
|18||Can read and write native languages||3||+3|
It’s what gives a dwarf his zest for life, for battle, for ale! A dwarf with a lack of lustiness is dour and grim, and so a respectable dwarf. Dwarfs with too much lustiness are troublemakers, at best, or inspiring warriors who lead other, more impressionable dwarfs across the wastes of the world to seek the (allegedly) stolen treasures of their ancestors.
|Score||HP Bonus||Reaction Adjustment||Bonus to What Ails Ye|
A dwarf with Clout knows how to throw his weight about. This might be through influence, honor, or respect gained on the field of battle, or it might mean literally his willingness to clout another dwarf over the head to get him to listen.
|Score||Reaction Adjustment||Max # of Clansmen||Loyalty/Morale|
The wizard is running experiments in here on human and demi-human test subjects; he’s got apprentices, no doubt, but the research is probably not IRB-approved.
A portion of a megadungeon I’d created for a short-lived campaign called Ruins of Wengemerlin. Included are some (incomplete) notes!
The Lair of the Basilisk
After the basilisk Zzazzafrig crawled up into the Netherhalls of Ogo the Brainless, it has since enjoyed cultivating its sculpture garden composed of the luckless spelunkers and creatures who have dared enter the lair. As a being of some power, Zzazzafrig enjoys a life of relative ease in the Netherhalls. Most of the other dwellers in the Netherhalls avoid Zzazzafrig’s lair at all costs, but rumors of the treasures of her victims draws spelunkers into her lair on a regular basis. Zzzazzafrig is also intelligent enough to allow some to escape and spread tales of her lair and its riches.
Reaching the Lair:
There are three primary means of directly reaching the Lair of the Basilisk: 1) Entering the underhalls through the basement of the House of Skins, an luxury tannery that deals in the exotic pelts and hides of creatures who dwell in the Netherhalls and the Dungeons of Castle Wengemerlin; 2) Through the sewers, which are inhabited by a plague of Rat Bastards and other unsavory creatures; 3) down The Well in the Reconnoitered Deathtrap Taproom, a tavern in the Doomsditch Neighborhood on Spelunker’s Square. Entering any of these ways will lead to its own issues.
Zzazzafrig the Basilisk
Treat as normal basilisk except Zzazzafrig is much more intelligent and will stalk spelunkers through her lair in an attempt to get them into a position where they offer the most aesthetically pleasing addition to her sculpture garden. She can also speak. She has a voice that’s slightly refined, like the aesthete she supposes herself to be.
A: The Entry Stair
This 20’ broad stair and platform leads into a large cavern across which stretches a bridge leading to the Lair of the Basilisk. There are several statues along the platform and the stair. Random Encounter chance is a 3-in-6 in this chamber. Additionally, there is a 2-in-6 chance that the clan of Bat-winged Cave Dwarfs who live in the chasm will notice anyone’s arrival and begin stalking them in order to attack on the bridge.
This open chasm drops off to the Great Lichen Plain far below. In the air above the chasm float particulate spores from the plain below. Peering down into the chasm, one can see the faint glow of the lichen plain several hundred feet below, but it is too murky with spores to make out with any clarity. Random Encounter chance is 3-in-6 here and the Bat-winged Cave Dwarfs are have a 3-in-6 chance of noticing anyone’s presence in this area. Natural stairs lead off into the cave systems underneath the Netherhalls, eventually taking spelunkers onto the Great Lichen Plain below.
C: The Basilisk’s Bridge
This crumbling stone bridge crosses the chasm to reach the broken doors of what has become Zzazzafrig’s lair.
- There is a 1-in-6 chance the PCs encounter Zzazzafrig on the bridge. Her ability to climb, though, means she will be lurking underneath the bridge and she will follow the PCs in an attempt to pick them off one by one. She will not attack a well-armed party outright but will attempt to flee.
- On a 1-in-6, a rival group arrives.
- Monsters: 3d3 bat-winged cave dwarfs will attack the once the PCs reach the bridge.
D: The Dripping Gallery
This large chamber was once a gold-domed gallery of some sort covered in nonsensical frescos. Over the years, though, the spores from the Great Lichen Plain have embedded here and grown into a riot of colorful rock-eating platlife.
- The spores abound herein, forcing a Save vs. Death or a living creature will contract a lung disease. The moisture in this chamber has pooled on the ground and the floor is a squishy mush of plant and fungal matter that seeps up to the ankles.
- Scraping away the growth reveals that the gilded embellishments on the walls is intact; they can be scraped away so that 25 gold worth is uncovered per 1d3 turns.
- The statues herein are also overgrown with lichen, making it difficult to determine their identity. The lichen, being lithophagic, has also eaten away at them.
- Monsters: A swarm of Blooderflies (3d4+2) emerges from the lichen (New Monsters).
E: Hall of Statues
This long hallway remains intact and only bears some lichen growth at its northern end. Statues abound in this hallway in all sorts of poses of horror and obliviousness.
- Two glass doors bound with bronze along this hall are shut. They cannot be opened except through magical means; however they can be easily broken, but doing so results in a curse.
- This hallway is a likely place for an attack by Zzazzafrig. There is a 3-in-6 chance she will attack in this chamber.
- Monsters: Growing on several of the statues in this hallway is Mephical Mold (New Monsters). One of the “statues” is actually a Mimic that will attack when someone approaches; it is the only one in the hallway not covered in lichen.
F: Interdimensional Webway of the Grandmother of Spiders
This chamber is filled with entangled webs that make it impossible to see the farther end of the room. In fact, peering into the web gives off the impression that the room extends an impossible distance. The web isn’t sticky enough to hold anyone in place. Several strands of the web are massive, reaching 5’ to 10’ in width and appear to extend into the distance through the tangled webs. These webs are part of the Grandmother of Spiders’ interdimensional webway that connects various locations in Wengemerlin, the Netherhalls, and Castle Wengemerlin. Traveling along this route is dangerous for those who are no “in the know” with regards to the spiderkin.
- Breaking down the door to enter in this chamber results in a curse. Roll on Dungeon Curses
- The fresh corpse of a warrior lies about 30’ along the webway and can be seen from the room. He’s wearing a suit of +1 chainmail, carrying a broadsword, and on her corpse is a fancy shaving kit wi/trimmers, fine whale bone comb, and mustache wax (50 gold); a smattering of 4d10 gold coins spilled from her pouch; and 3 gems worth 10g, 1,000g, 50g, and 100g.
G: Vault of Broken Statues
Within this stone chamber Zzazzafrig keeps the shattered pieces of statues. These pieces are random body parts of her victims that are shattered to the point they no longer please the basilisk’s eye.
- Putting together a randomly constructed body from these pieces and casting any sort of Stone to Flesh spell will create a flesh golem-like creature with the intelligence of the original head.
H: Collapsed Hallway
The walls and ceiling of this hallway have partially collapsed, leaving only a narrow crawlspace by which the rest of the hall can be reached. Beyond this point is the Basilisk’s actual nest. Zzazzafrig will guard her nest with viciousness. If she has been following the PCs up until this point, she will attack. If she has not noticed the PC’s presence, there is a 7:12 chance she will be found in the nest.
- A single statue of a strongman is found in the tunnel. He is in the position of holding aloft the collapsing ceiling but caught in the middle of looking up which was when he saw the basilisk.
I: Zzazzafrig’s Private Collection
Within this portion of hallway, the basilisk keeps her most treasured statues. These include the following:
- A well-endowed woolly Neanderthal club-maiden named Zarooga. She stands holding her club aloft, a primal scream of fury upon her face.
- Two dastardly hobbits, one standing on the shoulders of the other, both wielding two axes; they were a pair of acrobat-warriors.
- An impressively plumed knight upon a steed, lance at the ready, horse and rider both turned to stone.
- A man in voluminous robes, his arms thrown out, a staff in hand, who has one eye shut tight and the other peeking out. This is Bazzlethorn.
J: Basilisk Nest
This cavern connects to the tunnels that run through the tunnels that run through the lair. The bottom chamber of the cavern is filled with 1d3+2 basilisk eggs. There is a 1:6 chance that 1d3 of them will hatch while the PCs are in the chamber or if they carry them. The basilisk eggs can be sold to the right buyers for 2,500 each.