Editor: Russ from YumD
Marketplace : YumDM.comEngine: Edition Agnostic Dungeons & Dragons
D12 monthly issue 2 is the most recent offering in the d12 monthly series by YumDM. It covers how death is approached in a campaign world, how to approach player character death, some alternatives to PC death, and deities, magic items, and DMing advice - all built around the theme of death in Dungeons & Dragons.
This issue includes both some familiar columns and some new ones:
- On the Ropes introduces new (non-) magic items fitting to the magazine's theme, in the same vein as Oils Ain't Oils in Issue #0.
- Location, Location, Location offers an adventure site or town for the player characters to explore. In this issue we have further expansion of the town of Dolfar, which has been developed through issues zero and one.
- Dramatis Personae returns after being absent in issue 1 offering us new and interesting NPCs to use in a home game.
- Corner Table is replaced with a set of end tables at the back of the zine.
The feature articles are
- Death Rites an article on different ways cultures in a Dungeons & Dragons setting might deal with the dead, given the reality of monsters and undeath.
- Different Ways to Die is a review of how hitting zero hit points and dying were handled in different editions of Dungeons and Dragons from OD&D and B/X through AD&D, as well as 3rd through 5th editions.
- Death Defying Injuries offers a new take on the lingering wounds as an alternative to a PC or important NPC dying.
- Death in TTRPGS is about communicating with your table when a player character dies and how to handle it both as a problem to be solved in the game and an emotional event for the players involved.
- Ullarl offers a detailed look at a god of death used in UmDM's campaign world and who might come up in a Dolfar adventure, including a discussion of the roles and rights of a cleric of that deity.
- Death Dealing Artifacts offers a series of powerful magic items that kill targets, but at a serious cost.
- Spirited Away offers a plane of existence called the spirit world which covers a liminal space between life and death.
- Resurrection Risks offers ways in which to make getting a dead character raised more complicated to keep death feeling like an important event in the game.
What I loved
Death in TTRPGS
The writer of this article, Dungeon Theory, asked me to give a take when this issue came out. The short version of what I posted on Twitter was that it was a good reminder. Here is a much deserved augmentation:
I'm a very old school player. I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons in some way, shape, or form constantly since 1986. Player Character death in the era where I learned to play the game was frequent and often permanent. I not only have been required to be very tolerant of my PCss dying, I learned to enjoy it. I like seeing a character die either a good or ignominious death. I am only disappointed if I lose a character in a pointless and mundane fashion.
Clearly, however, I am in the minority. And as the meaning of the game has changed from being a fantasy burglary simulator to a heroic epic, player character death is taking on a different cast. Nor does everyone value resilience in the same way that I do.
Death in TTRPGs discusses the way various players deal with the death of their player character and gives some advice on both how to lay the groundwork for dealing with character death when a campaign is starting, and how to potentially soften the emotional blow that some players may experience from the death of their characters.
I found it very valuable to be reminded of this, as I know I have come off as a bit callous towards some players when it comes to character death. I simply don't feel the way they did about their Player Character.
I enjoy a character, and I try and play them to the hilt, complete with voices, personality, and motivations. But at the end of the day I retain a layer of separation. I realize they are a pawn in a board game. A complicated one, granted, but still just a playing piece. It is helpful for me to both look at how some other players might perceive it, and how I might be able to help them grieve for their lost character.
I have always thought it strange how Dungeons & Dragons does not offer a means for characters to suffer from loss of limb rather than loss of life. Over the years I have played with several game systems where that is a likely occurrence, such as Shadowrun and GURPS and feel that I had a richer experience for it, although both those systems suffer from excesses of complexity.
The lingering injury system in d12 Monthly issue 2 is nice and straightforward. I think I would have a hard time choosing between it, the DCC RPG, and The Dozen Dooms methods.
One of the things that I appreciate about d12 Monthly's approach is that they are trying to build a bridge between OSR and 5e players. Having an article that compares all the different death mechanics from Original D&D and BECMI through the Advanced and Wizards of the Coast editions is a great way of getting a perspective on the whole.
In the case of AD&D they present a more popular optional rule rather than the original RAW presentation. This is fair. Discussing how people played rather than what the core book has to say is important in providing a retrospective.
On the Ropes
Issue zero of d12 Monthly (then called d8 Monthly) had an article with a range of Alchemical oils with useful properties and effects. This month it was ropes made with unique and fantastical (but non-magical) substances. I like this trend. I think that the idea of creating a range of cool fantastical objects like these in every issue or two has a great deal of potential.
I know a few undertakers. They are an interesting group of people. The one thing they are not is bleak and taciturn. To be grim is to make it more difficult for a person who is grieving to accept their loss. It is through compassion and communication that a person best helps another cope with loss. I would think that a god of Loss would have clerics that serve almost as therapists.
Shaba Wood... Tell Me More
The shaba wood described in the rope article is fascinating. It can be used to make fireproof rope, as well as fireproof paper. I would be curious to know if it can make fire-resistant roofing or building structures as well. In fact, I'd like to know exactly how that material is used by spellcasters and architects. Giving us just the rope made from the bark fibers seems like a missed opportunity, given how interesting the concept is.
We are told that there is a schism between two sects of the clergy of Ullarl. The article introducing Ulalrl references The Dramatis Personae section, gives us a snapshot of a cleric of the new schismatic sect. However, no details are given about what makes the newer splinter sect different from the main religion. Aside from a vague idea that they are trying to become more appealing to the public, (which hardly seems important given that they have a global monopoly on funerary rite,) all we are told is the name of the new sect. This really needed to be expanded.
Missing Graveyard Information
In Location, Location, Location there's a hidden dungeon beneath the dilapidated Church in the local cemetery. The article mentions that this undercroft was created in secret for the "alternate worship" performed by the original creator of the Temple, but we are not told anywhere what is constituted. Whether it was heretical Ullarl rituals, or if he worship some darker deity.
Given that there is a new cleric of Ullarl in the area, I would have liked to have known what he is doing about the sorry state of the local church and graveyard. It would give a hook to explore the Dungeon below the church.
This edition of D12 Monthly is so information dense that I am only scratching the surface here. There are a lot of articles that are worth the read, especially if you are building a new world, or starting a new campaign and looking for some food for thought.
We are seeing Russ making the best possible use of the zine's concept. He is using the articles to present has his game world, and using his game world to give him fodder for writing articles. As of next issue, he is moving beyond Dolfar to a different region of his game world. I am really looking forward to seeing what there is to discover.