Love the system. Is there a reason why WIS or CHA are not related with Theurgy/Witchcraft spell slot? Would it be okay to change it?
A downloadable game
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
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They are indeed used for that — WIS for theurgy, CHA for witchcraft — but that explanation is a little buried in a lengthy spell casting section near the end.
But also, of course you can change the rules to suit your purposes! I tried to explain in the design notes why I made certain design choices, but it’s quite normal to season to taste with D&Dish hacks like this.
Does anyone know if a character sheet for this exists?
I have typically used a slightly modified Knave character sheet, but you inspired me to release a version of a newer one I've been working on! You can download it now from this page.
dumb question probably, but can you explain how the ring of the archmage works? I have no idea what it means stating that it targets anyone who breaks the seal, what seal? How would you get anyone to "Break the seal"? not sure i have any idea what the seal is lol
Wax seals are an old-fashioned way to seal envelopes and documents so it’s obvious when they’ve been tampered with. You melt wax over paper, then use a small stamp to press a symbol into it. Only easy way to read the thing is to break the wax. When the symbol belongs to somebody powerful, like a king (or an archmage!), and you get correspondence from them with the seal intact, you know you’re getting an important message for your eyes only.
These days you mostly see wax seals on fancy wedding invitations — but in a fantasy setting, you have more options!
Melt some wax over the edge of a closed door, stamp it with the archmage’s seal, and prepare your Cosmic Binding spell, and the next person who opens the door is frozen in time and space.
Melt wax over the edge of a treasure chest lid, store your Miasma spell in it, and whoever tries to steal your stuff gets a face full of foul smoke.
Melt wax over your wedding invitation, cast your Charm spell on it, and people will want to come to your wedding! (Until the spell wears off.)
Hope this helps!
Hi, love the game. Is there a reason Cleric starts with an extra stat point?
I’m a little confused about how carry slots work, primarily because all of the starting classes have a higher slot count than they should be able to use
Hm, it's possible the game this is based on, Knave (CC BY Ben Milton) explains it more clearly:
PCs have a number of item slots equal to their Constitution defense, and items they carry must fit into available slots. Most items take up one slot, but some take up more. Some small items can be bundled together into a single slot. Ask the referee if you are unsure.
So, as an example:
Let's say you make a Wizard, which starts with the lowest possible carrying capacity — 11 item slots.
(Carrying capacity is based on your Constitution score; the Wizard has a +1 CON bonus, which means a +11 CON defense — it's just the bonus plus ten — which determines how many item slots.)
The Wizard has an academy robe, which takes up 1 slot, and a silver-pommel cane, which takes up another 1 slot. Their spells live in their mind, and so take up no item slots. (This is different from how spells work in Knave.) As such, the wizard is carrying 2 slots worth of items to start. This means they have 9 slots free — they can pick up 9 more items before it starts to penalize them.
In addition, for each unused item slot a character has, they have 1 point of stamina. Stamina is used to cast spells and pull off stunts in combat. If you're a Wizard, this is a major incentive to not carry around lots of heavy weapons and armor; traveling light means being able to cast more spells. (This is another difference from Knave; there's not much reason to leave slots unused in that game, except to avoid erasing one thing to write in another every time you find a new item you want to carry around.)
(As a side note, it occurs to me that it may be confusing you — and possibly other readers — that this game and Knave use same term, "slot," for both inventory capacity and item weight. It might help to make a distinction between slots as carrying capacity, and weight as how many slots an item takes up – as in, a dagger with 1 weight takes up 1 slot in your inventory.)
I hope this helps!
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.
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). ^^
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!)
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!
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).
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!!!
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.)
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!
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.
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).
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?
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
One of the best Knave hacks/breakers out there. Evocative stuff right down in the mechanics!
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This is the first time I've seen item sizes described using the capacity of a mouth.