D4 Gamemaster Guide
Rules for the GM:
- If rolls are called for and the target number is unspecified, assume TN=3 (or 4).
- Stock trap: TN=4 to spot / disable / bypass, dmg=d4
- Stock NPC for random encounters: use d4s or d6s for Str/Dex/Wits, HP=3, Move=4, Def=3, and d3/d4 for dmg. Assume that stock NPCs have no Luck, Magic, or Armor.
- An effect targeting a single character is usually treated as an attack roll against his Defense stat.
- An area effect (e.g. fireball, poison cloud) requires a saving throw vs Str/Dex/Wits vs a target number. Make only one damage roll. A successful save can either halve or negate the damage.
- The GM gets 1 Luck token for each player at the table, that can be used with any NPC.
Dirty little secret: Officially there are only two free-form descriptors on a character sheet: 'Motivation' and 'Trouble'. Unofficially there is one more: the line at the top that gives the race, class, and name. If a player does a good job roleplaying this line, they've earned a Luck token.
Brief adventure design: This is a format that works pretty well for planning adventures. It's a pretty traditional "hero quest" format. Completing one step takes them to the next.
- Hook: They hear a rumor about strange "goings on".
- Legwork: Gather rumors to point them in the right direction.
- Travel: Journey through wilderness, with accompanying hazards.
- Dungeoncrawl: Explore fortress/cave/dungeon full of monsters & traps.
- Showdown: "Throneroom battle" with the Big Bad Evil Guy.
- Return: Go back to hook-giver & report on the completion of their quest, get reward, etc.
Types of encounters: A good adventure should have a variety of encounters that give each player a chance to use the unique features of their character. Here are some types:
- Free-form RP: Talking with NPCs (often when doing the 'Legwork' step).
- Skill challenge: Using stat rolls to overcome an obstacle / threat
- Combat: Fighting with monsters!
- Trap: Man-made contraption designed to harm / waylay intruders.
- Hazard: Naturally occuring peril that adventurers run into during travel.
- Puzzle: A problem / mini-game that the adventurers need to solve in order to proceed.
Legwork: Most of the time, this consists of talking to NPCs, visiting libraries, eavesdropping on conversations, and searching for other clues. Rumors they find should answer the six interrogative questions (5 W's + 1 H), all of which eventually combine to give them all the pieces of the puzzle. Here's a sample:
- who: "I heard there was some crazy wizard up to no good..."
- what: "Word on the street is that he's working on some ritual..."
- when: "On the night of the full moon, something big will happen..."
- where: "Up in those mountains is where he's been seen..."
- why: "He wants to awaken a great dragon to exact his revenge..."
- how: "He's going to break a spell that put the dragon into a magical sleep..."
Dungeon design: For the "dungeoncrawl" segment (step 4), I like the "Five Room Model":
- Room 1: Entrance And Guardian - This is the "bridge" between the "Travel" (step 3) and the dungeoncrawl proper
- Room 2: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge - A trap, a word / number puzzle, a room with a chessboard floor, etc.
- Room 3: Red Herring - Typically there is a "fork" with paths that lead to either room 3 or room 4. The adventurers might think that Room 3 marks the end but they should suspect that they've missed something...
- Room 4: Climax, Big Battle Or Conflict - This is the same as the "showdown" (step 5) above.
- Room 5: Plot Twist - An additional room (or feature of room 4) that hints at a connection between this adventure and the next or suggests that there may be something deeper going on...
Sample monsters: These all use the outline given at the beginning of this doc and add some embellishments.
- Kobold: Str=d6, Dex=d4, Wits=d4, HP=2, Move=4, Def=3, spears: dmg=d2
- Goblin: Str=d6, Dex=d4, Wits=d4, HP=2, Move=4, Def=3, knives: dmg=d2
- Lizardman: Str=d6, Dex=d6, Wits=d4, HP=2, Move=5, Def=3, Armor=1, spear dmg=d3
- Wolf: Str=d6, Dex=d4, Wits=d4, HP=3, Move=5, Def=3, bite dmg=d3. Pack tactics: A wolf has +1 to hit for each ally attacking same foe.
- Elemental: (Water/Stone/Wind/Fire) Str=d8, Dex=d6, Wits=d4(or N/A), HP=5, Move=4, Def=3
- Baby dragon: Str=d6, Dex=d8, Wits=d6, HP=8, Move=7 (fly), Def=4, Armor=1, claws=d4 dmg, fire breath=d6 dmg (recharge 25%).
- Shambling Mound: Str=d8, Dex=d4, Wits=d4, HP=5, Move=4, Def=3, branches dmg=d4. Special: can entrap 1 foe at a time, contested Str rolls to escape.
- Ooze: Str=d6, Dex=d4, Wits=d4, HP=3, Move=2, Def=3
- Small Black Dragon: Str=d6, Dex=d8, Wits=d6, HP=7, Move=7 (fly), Def=4, Armor=1, claws/bite=d4. Breath weapon: acid: Dex to hit, d6 dmg
- Giant Scorpions: Str: d6, Dex: d4, Wits: d4, HP=3, Move=5, Def=3, Armor=1, claws: dmg=d4. Special: poison DoT inflicts 1 HP dmg/round while poisoned. Healing spell/potion cures.
- Giant Beetles: Str: d6, Dex: d4, Wits: d4, HP=2, Move=4, Def=3, claws: dmg=d2.
- Flying Skulls: Str: d4, Dex: d8 (use for atks), Wits: d4, HP=2, Move=7, Def=3, bite/slam: dmg=d2.
- Mummy Lord: Str: d6, Dex: d6, Wits: d8, HP=6, Move=4, Def=3, Armor=1, staff: dmg=d6. Spell: Acid Orb: Wits vs. Def, dmg=d6, Armor helps.
- Skeletons: Str: d6, Dex: d6, Wits: d4, HP=3, Move=4, Def=3, sword/bow: dmg=d4
Sample hazards: These are naturally-occurring perils the adventurers may encounter while traveling through the wilderness or through a natural-terrain dungeon (like a cave).
- Slippery stone bridge: Dex TN=4 or slip & fall! (Might be able to grab onto the side after the first failed check and get a second check to climb back on.)
- Avalanche: Dex TN=3 or trigger rockslide that does 2d4 damage (armor helps). (A second check could be used to halve (or even avoid) the damage.)
- Shaky stalactites: Dex TN=3 or make stalactites fall, dealing d6 damage (armor helps).
- Quicksand: Wits TN=4 to spot, Str TN=4 to get out. Teammates can help.
- Sunstroke: Wits (survival) roll (-1 to roll if w/o water) or d4 HP loss / -1 (fatigue) to rolls.
Sample traps: These are man-made perils that the adventurers may encounter while spelunking thorough a dungeon.
- Pit trap: Wits TN=3 to spot (TN=4 or 5 if covered), or else Dex TN=3 to avoid falling in. 1d4 damage. (2d4 if spikes are in the pit.) armor helps.
- Spring-loaded bamboo spikes: 1d4 dmg, Dex TN=3 halves.
- Spikes on ceiling (d4 dmg) plus (invisible) reverse gravity trap on floor. Wits TN=4 to resist magic effects.
Sample Skill Challenge: Imagine a nefarious sorcerer is trying to raise a giant purple worm from the desert to destroy a city. Here are some of the things the adventurers could do to try to overcome the challenge. Each test is TN=4 and they need to get 5 successes before 3 failures.
- Defend against the worm: (worm might escape on its own)
- Wits: spot / figure out way to distract worm (tipsy statue).
- Str: push statue, & knock it over.
- Dex: pull teammates away from falling rubble.
- Find means to dispell the worm
- Dex: unlock cover of book.
- Wits: find dispelling charm in book.
- Str: pick up (heavy) worm statue. need to touch it to worm, which will dispell it.
- Wits: spot magic carpet leaning by wall
- Dex: snatch it before it falls into sand!
- Str: power through the rubble as you escape!
- Construction: assembly from pieces (overlaps with manipulative, tiling & mechanical). Exs: stick puzzles, Bridge Builder, The Incredible Machine, Pipe Dream
- Cryptograms: decrypt message. Exs: substitution, transposition, word jumble
- Logic: use clues to find answer, eliminate other choices. Exs: figure out which color potion does what thing, etc.
- Manipulative: move / alter pieces to make a solution. Exs: matchstick puzzles, coin puzzles, matching cards, folding, chess / checker puzzles
- Mechanical: interlocking, disassembly, combination. Exs: Rubik's cube, Puzz-3D, Megaminx, towers of hanoi, peg solitaire
- Number: use math in some way. Exs: sudoku, nonograms ("pixel puzzles" / "griddlers"; squares in grid colored or left blank based on numbers on sides), kakuro, impossible puzzle.
- Picture: form picture or notice details (mostly for children). Exs: connect the dots, spot the differences, optical illusions
- Riddles: give answer based on cryptic clue. Exs: the "what am I?" variety are most traditional
- Tiling: assemble flat shapes into larger shape w/o overlaps ("2-dimensional packing problem"). Exs: Conway puzzle, Domino tiling, tangrams, jigsaw
- Tour: make a trip around a game board. Exs: Knight's Tour, maze, mizmaze, logic maze
- Transport: push boxes around to achieve goal (reach exit, etc.). Exs: sokoban, cube puzzles, sliding puzzles (15 squares), Traffic Jam
- Word: find / form words based on clues. Exs: crossword, anagram, word search, quotation puzzle, acrostic
Treasure Guidelines: When giving out treasure, you want to give out cheap / disposable stuff frequently and good / quality stuff rarely. Treasure you should give out are listed here from most to least frequently:
- (most often) single-use (magic) items (scrolls, potions, holy water)
- permanent mundane items (tools, non-magic weapons)
- coins / gems
- semi-permanent magic items that eventually expire:
- when the ammunition runs out (e.g. quiver of 20 +1 arrows)
- after a certain # of charges are spent (e.g. wands)
- when a die roll is hit (e.g. rolling a natural 1 or rolling max damage destroys item)
- permanent magic items with conditions attached (e.g. only usable on undead), or limited to X uses per day (e.g. sunburst staff usable 3 times/day)
- (rarest): permanent magic items that grant a constant static bonus (e.g. +1 longsword)