Becoming souls-like (plus sample monsters)

Digitally warped art from my brother, to whom Adventure Hour! is dedicated.

In response to the news about Dark Souls 5e and the subsequent jams (there’s two?!), Skorne is getting a full layout. I’m re-upping the design (AKA letting it breathe) and adding more advice and tables. I’ll be adding content from recent articles written, more advice on how to setup and follow-through with Tyrants. This post from KingBim got me finally interested in doing this again. In there, he lists some qualities of Souls-like:

  • Story-light, lore-heavy
  • Map exploration with loops (Jaquayed dungeons)
  • Deliberate and punishing combat
  • Gameplay mechanics that interact with death
  • Boss Fights
  • A dark/grim overall tone
  • Git Gud – player skill/knowledge increase more important than gear/levelling up

What Skorne already has

Deliberate and punishing combat. Absolutely. Diceless violence and decisive combat. I’ll be adding a shortened form of these articles to this new iteration.

Gameplay mechanics that interact with death. Yes. When you die, your party loses a “stock” so to speak. Run out of characters, you LOSE. There are only so many characters and you might not even get to use them all, depending on where the dice fall.

A dark/grim overall tone. Skorne is the devil prince. He’s Sauron, but a version of Sauron that won. You’re Minas Tirith that’s been destroyed and now lives under the thumb of absolute evil. Yeah, it’s dark.

Git Gud, player skill. There are few rolls in the game. Combat has almost none. There are no levels. There are a few items, but you don’t have attunement slots or anything. You certainly will not look like a Christmas tree of magic items. Player decisions are the main force.

What needs shoring up

Story-light, lore-heavy. While you may start with a prepared situation, do not prepare a “plot” or “story.” That’s about all on that topic so far.

I spent about 30 minutes looking for a blogpost someone somewhere wrote about creating “souls-like lore” but I gave up. Basically, you write a full lore outline in bullet points, then just begin removing bits until it’s all very vague. Keep the discarded bits and add items and monsters that *hint* at these nuggets of lore, but never confirm it.

Anyway, outlining a procedure like that for Skorne could be cool.

Map exploration with loops. I’m unsure about this one. This seems a heavy section of development that I’d rather handwave, make a dice procedure for, or POUR DETAIL INTO (seems tiring).

Boss fights. This topic was getting play on The Cauldron forum and that reminded me of this Coins and Scrolls post, which reminded me of the dozen or so boss fights I drafted up for the original Skorne campaign as a result. These could be the sample Tyrants in the book…

I’d like to detail and stat these for Skorne and include them.

This is a topic for next time.

But until then, here are some example monsters for Skorne. They’re simple. 🙂

Seer Troll 

• Tough

• Dangerous (stone club)

• Strong, Brilliant

The grasp of a troll causes the affected area to turn to stone. Beware its grapple.

Soldier of Toil

• Weak, Shielded

• Trained (shortsword)

• Nimble, Dimwitted

This boned warrior can see with glowing eyes through darkness, stone, and metal. A “form” of soldiers refers to a grouping of six that died in the same battle.

Muted Firebird

• Tough

• Masterful (fires)

• Feeble, Swift

Its fires burn without sound, making it a subdued scorcher of its victims.

Carapaced Leech

• Hulking, Armored

• Dangerous (teeth)

• Monstrous, Slow

It attaches itself directly to the chest of its host, often knock the target on their back.

Impish Wriggler

• Pathetic

• Untrained (bite)

• Feeble, Nimble, Clever

A wriggler uses pink, fleshy ropes of worms to strangle foes, preferring to hide such nooses around dark corners to snag those fleeing their fears.

Eternal Wolf

• Dangerous (bite, claw)

• Powerful, Swift

The eternal wolf can only be impaired or imprisoned. Its hunt can never end, but only redirected.

Devil Boar

• Hulking

• Dangerous (tusk)

• Powerful, Dimwitted

An impaled victim will begin to change form into a shadow, stopped only by ingesting the boar’s horn in powdered form.

Grundwyrm

• Massive

• Lethal (swallow)

• Monstrous, Clever

The tunnels it creates shifts the cities on the earth above into faults and sinkholes.

Decayed Titan

• Titanic

• Heavily armored

• Masterful (boulder fist)

• Monstrous

This giant often detaches an arm to lob at escaping renegades.

Fallen Valkyrie

• Tough

• Armored, Shielded

• Trained (lance spear)

• Strong, Blurred

A “glory kill” for the valkyrie involves slicing their opponent with their bladed metallic wings.

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