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Grave is a toolkit for soulslike fantasy TTRPG play built on the rules for Knave It's a short document with just enough material to make undead characters to run through existing old-school adventures published over the years. Adaptations to Knave include…

  • Ready-made "backgrounds" with starting stat arrays and gear packages
  • Stamina rules for more involved stunts and more frequent spell use
  • Rules for routine death and resurrection
  • 60 spells divided into wizardry, theurgy, and witchcraft
  • 50 magic items

Like Knave, it is available as both a PDF and as a Microsoft Word document with free fonts (Guerra Santa and Crimson Text), making it easier to hack for your own purposes.

Updated 22 days ago
StatusReleased
CategoryPhysical game
Rating
Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars
(61)
AuthorJason Tocci
GenreRole Playing
TagsDark Fantasy, Dungeon Crawler, roleplaying-game, Souls-like

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In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $2 USD. You will get access to the following files:

Grave 1.21.pdf
Grave 1.21.docx

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Development log

Comments

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hey, for my campaign, i built a google sheet that has drop down menus that populate the sheet with item stats. it feels unjust to release the sheet for free since it contains a lot of your spell and item descriptions. should i just simply not release it, or should i send you the link for you to distribute with attribution to my itch page?

Thanks for checking! Please email me the link at Jason at Pretendo dot games, or message me on Discord at JasonT#5564, and we’ll work something out. 

You should have just received a friend request from me (since your Discord is set to only accept DM requests from friends)

Very cool, Jason! Is your game also CC-BY licensed like Knave? I saw some things that I already want to "steal" for my hack (with due credits). ^^

(+1)

Grave is not CC BY licensed (long story why not), but feel free to message me at jason at pretendo dot games or on Discord at JasonT #5564 if you want to chat about using something. (If you’re just looking to use rules and phrase it in your own words, of course, that’s totally fine by me and entirely legal, and you don’t need any special permission!)

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Hi, I like this project and I would like to build a character sheet for Grave based on my Knave sheets.

Those are some nice Knave sheets. I welcome you to make a Grave version!

did you ever end up making those? if so, i'd love to see them!

Jason, I don't know how you keep releasing such great games, but this one is really something. The devil is in the details, and there are plenty of small things that make me want to play the hell out of this... and I have never even touched a souls game ever.

Aw, thank you! I hope you enjoy it!

Just a question: what do the bolded attributes for each background do? Why does the Noble have 6 and the Outcast none?

Ah, you caught an error, thanks! I have to fix that. Each background should have a +4, a +3, and a +2 (marked in bold so you can tell at a glance what they start best at), and then three abilities at the default +1. The exception is the Outcast, which has every ability at +2. I’m pretty laid up from covid right now, but I’ll fix this ASAP!

(+1)

Aiee! Get well soon Jason and thanks for the reply. I (obviously) started hacking the game as soon as I got hold of the Word file (thanks for that by the way, really appreciated. I should do this for my own game!).  I added an ability penalty for each Decay (had to change some of them to spread the love among all stats and to fit on a single line).

Decay

    1. Solid black eyes (-1 WIS)
    2. Rattling shiver (-1 DEX)
    3. Shedding dust (-1 CON)
    4. Translucent skin (-1 CHA)
    5. Forgetfulness (-1 INT)
    6. Constant tinnitus (-1 WIS)
    7. Gangrenous flesh (-1 CON)
    8. Putrid stench (-1 CHA)
    9. Rigor mortis (-1 DEX)
    10. Pulsating muscles (-1 STR)
    11. Flayed limb (-1 STR)
    12. Hallucinations (-1 INT)
    13. Black veins (-1 CON)
    14. Sleeplessness (-1 INT)
    15. Gaping wound (-1 CON)
    16. Tears of blood (-1 WIS)
    17. Maggots (-1 CHA)
    18. Frost-rimed (-1 DEX)
    19. Scuttling beetles (-1 CHA)
    20. Numbness (-1 STR)

    ooh nice addition

    (4 edits)

    Hey we're playing a long form campaign with this but are wondering about the "two-handedness" feature. In the "Items" body text it describes weapons as:

    Most weapons can be categorized as light melee (d6 damage, 1 slot, 1 handed), medium melee (d8 damage, 2 slots, 1–2 handed), heavy melee (d10 damage, 3 slots, 2 handed), light ranged (d4 damage, 1 slot, 1 handed) bow (d6 damage, 2 slots, 2 handed), or crossbow (d8 damage, slots, 2 handed).

    But weapons listings in the "Weapons" section look like "10 Saber d8 damage, 2 slots 100" without specifying handedness (which medium melee weapons can vary with).

    Further, the pre-built character builds include weapons like "Makeshift club d8 damage, 2-handed 2 slots" and "Ornate rapier d8 damage, 1-handed 1 slot". We're wondering if there was a way that we were meant to infer the handedness of the weapons listed in the "Weapons" section or if maybe they were just accidentally left out.

    This game is amazing btw! Thanks for making it!!!

    (+1)

    Sorry, I can see how that would be confusing! The weapons that take 3 slots require 2 hands; the ones that only use 2 slots only require 1 hand, unless they specify otherwise. (“Makeshift club” is an intentionally inferior weapon.)

    (1 edit)

    I have been using this for a souls like campaign over discord with my friends and I really like the stamina system and how lethal combat is, even though I'm not really good at dark souls story improv, my friends are all having fun! I also like the preset classes and loadouts, I'm gonna implement that into my other knave hacks that I play!

    Thanks so much! That's so nice to hear!

    anything i've read from you was pure gold and i'm very partial to anything soulslike so...


    💖💀💖

    Nice, however its nature so linked to Knave and OSR is probably its weak point (at least, for me).

    For example, the morale rule, or the corruption one, are mechanics different from the standard ones; inelegant, imho, for a 2022 game. Also, could be useful to have at least 20 common enemies, and 10 bosses, useful as starting points, better if created with dark-ish elements, to set a better mood.

    (+2)

    I appreciate the feedback.  I must confess that my first reaction to your feedback was that sounded like someone walking into a motorcycle dealership and saying they wish the cars had more wheels — but then I realized that if the motorcycle dealership doesn't explicitly say "we only sell motorcycles," that would indeed be disappointing.

    I would like to make a longer and more robust soulslike game in the long run, but in the meantime, if you're curious about some of my less D&D-ish (but still intentionally very short) takes on the genre, feel free to grab free community copies of Exhumed (a one-page pamphlet with a short intro scenario) and 2400 (which has one installment, Data Loss, as a sci-fi soulslike scenario with a few example boss fights).

    (+1)

    Sure, sorry for the "dry" feeling of my feedback. I partially blame my (obvious) lacks in English language.

    I loved what you did with 2400, and I appreciate all the various 24XX games spawned by it. While it's a micro-game, I surely prefer that kind of rulesets. Aside my preferences for more "modern" systems, I still think that Grave should benefit from the addition of a bestiary, and a set of GM useful tables (in the vein of those found in 24XX games) with inspiring quest seeds, noble names for the bosses, etc.

    PS: about this part: 

    > Once per round, the killed PC’s player adds their CHA bonus (or a d6, their call) to any roll made by another player, before or after the roll.

    I like the "spirit" boon bonus to the still-alive allies, but I think that the d6 part doesn't to justice to the CHA ability. You already spelled out that "Wisdom and Charisma are often ignored as “dump stats” in favor of abilities with more combat utility, but now feature uses that should help keep PCs alive." Removing the d6 part will make CHA shining a little bit more.

    PS: did you tested the game with at least 3-4 characters on the field? If two or three of them dies during a big showdown, that means that the last one actually can add 2 or 3d6 to one roll, every round, hypothetically boosting it a lot. Can he sum all those spirit bonuses to the same roll?

    (+1)

    I playtested with 4–6 players each session. They were very cautious players, and you can often flee from danger to regroup (and get your friend back in the game even sooner), so I don't think we ever saw multiple characters get killed in a single fight. If multiple characters did get killed, though, then yes, you could see them both boost the same roll. I don't really see a problem with that, personally.

    The option to roll a d6 instead of CHA bonus was added because some players don't feel like they don't get to participate if they're just saying "I help them" and don't get to roll a die too. I encourage you to modify the rule at your table, though!

    (1 edit)

    A nice house-rule could be: you gain xd6 each turn, where x is your CHA (min. 1). So you still enjoy rolling those d6s, AND you maintain CHA importance. 

    Of course, with the caveat: max 1d6 for roll.

    (3 edits)

    Great game Mr. Tocci, thank you so much for making it available to all of us, sir. Grave will be incredibly robust if combined with Knave.

    Mr. Tocci, i have a question. When a PC gain a level, how many bonus do a PC get to their Ability Bonus and Defence through Ability Increase?

    Is it +1 for each of the 3 different abilities?

    (+2)

    Thank you so much! And yes, as you say, when you gain a level you can pick three abilities, and add +1 to each. 

    Thank you so much, Mr. Tocci. I understand.

    Best of luck on all your future projects, Mr. Tocci. Best regards.

    (1 edit)

    I am also particularly fond of how elegant "Immortality" is achieved in Grave, on paper and theoretically, you can always hunt for Souls to level up quickly and raise Your PCs CHA defense so it won't be exceeded by their number of deaths..

    But it will still risks you of becoming the boss monsters quickly.

    Very sharp, Mr. Tocci.

    (+2)

    Thanks! When playing Dark Souls games, I often wondered, "Why is this dude so big? He's even got big clothes, so clearly this is something the people around him recognized they'd need to account for. And why is it only the bosses who are so dang big? What if…"

    True sir.  I completely agree, Mr. Tocci.


    The thing is if the PCs with maxed out CHA Defense are indeed becoming NPCs bosses because of the corruption,


    that explains the bosses adamant but twisted world view and morale too! Not only their big stature but their twisted arrogancy translates really well as having maxed out CHA defense.


    Grave is real real great, Mr. Tocci.

    Looking at this i think with just a few quick and easy item adjustments this could also run sekiro or bloodborne beautifully

    Thanks! My own project list is kind of long right now, but if you end up tweaking for that, I’d love to hear how it goes!

    So I've gotten to test this twice in two short sessions mainly to see if it could run souls Like beyond Dark Souls. Happy to report that as long as you're good at improv absolutely no rules need to change. Simply changing the names of items and classes allowed me to change the setting in any way while maintaining the soulslike feel. 10/10 this is great!

    That's great to hear—thanks!

    This is great. The stamina system, spellcasting and spirit form add that wonderful little bit extra to knit things into the setting. I tend to add a dice role houserule to the check for soul death, since I don't want players thinking they have X lives left, and don't want death to be predictable.

    (+1)

    Thanks! And that sounds like a good house rule to keep death scary. I had an earlier version where each death had something like a soul-death save too, but took it out … and fittingly enough … I can't remember why.

    "Stamina has two uses: casting spells (1 stamina per spell level), and ... "

    I can't find the level of each spell, it's an errata? Or the numbers of the list are the levels so Wizardry Warding Spell is a 20 level spell? I don't think so but..

    I look at the Knave spells but there are no levels for the spells. They are level-less.

    Thx

    (+1)

    Sorry, I should post a reworded version for clarification. Like Knave, the spells are all "level 1" but can scale to higher levels. Unlike Knave, instead of scaling with PC level, they scale with how much stamina you spend to cast them. So if you spend 1 stamina, you're casting a level 1 spell. If you spend 3 stamina, you're casting a level 3 spell. Spells that say something like "+ L" in them mean you add the level of the spell to the effect, which in this case means adding stamina spent. 

    I thought about writing it as "+ S" for clarity, but I wanted it to match Knave's notation in case you ditch the rest of the game and just use the spell list for some other OSR game. That might've been misguided!

    (+1)

    Read through this last night and now I'm working on adding it to a rotating one-shot night. Seriously good stuff in here, I love the character creation system. Solid work on items and spells as well, there's enough in here that I could run a whole campaign if I wanted.

    (+1)

    Thanks so much! If you haven't seen Ben Milton's Knave yet (the game this is based on), I recommend it. It has a bunch more mundane items and a list of 200 spells!

    Yep, I'm a big fan of Knave! This is a fantastic adaptation of those rules to a soulslike setting. Gonna round up some players and give this a shot very soon.

    (+3)

    One of the best Knave hacks/breakers out there. Evocative stuff right down in the mechanics!

    (+7)

    Itch.io gives me options to delete, report, and ban this comment, but not to give it a million little heart icons, which is what I would prefer to do. Thank you.

    (+1)

    This is the first time I've seen item sizes described using the capacity of a mouth.

    (+2)

    Then feast your eyes on where I stole it from: The GLOG!