Breaking Bard

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Mom, Dad, is that you?


A classic among classics; the original Citadel Noise Marine.

A different bard, who rocks so hard.

Star Bard, once the front man for the space-poc metal band Man’sLaughter, now tours solo. Ever since that night. The night the show went horribly wrong; he and his manager were the only survivors. Now encased in his encounter suit he travels the levels, bringing the MetAl!


He calls for(th) the …



Bards of the School of Rock are hard-traveling thrashers. They seek to leave their audiences drenched in sweat and exhausted at the end of each performance. And they wanna have a good time! Their favourite venues are taverns and caverns; the crowds and the acoustics are just better. These entertainers are unfazed by trivialities like demographics or chamber size. Each pursues and produces his own unique ouevre; some sing about abuses of power, some bark out anthems to angst and doubt, others compose grand sagas about heroes of their own imagining. Whatever the style and material of the individual bards there are only two reactions to what they do, love it or hate it.

On occasion a gathering of Rockers will form an adventuring party — a band — and travel across the land — they call it going on tour — bringing their unique blend of styles, lyrics and rhythms to a wider audience than they might reach as individual entertainers. [The band can include a number of members up to the highest Proficiency Bonus among them.]


When you join the School of Rock at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with carousing*, heavy armour and one other skill of your choice. Alternatively, you can forego heavy armour and the skill of choice and gain the Tavern Brawler feat instead.

[*: You can add your Proficiency Bonus to both the GP/XP roll and the poison saving throw.]


Also at 3rd level, you learn how to use your instrument as a melee weapon without damaging it. One-handed instruments strike as a handaxe; two-handed instruments hit as a battleaxe.


At 6th level, you can use your instrument as a ranged weapon. One-handed instruments have range and damage equal to a dart; two-handed instruments have range and damage of a javelin. All damage is thunder obviously.


At 14th level, you can cause (your CHA + Proficiency Bonus) sentient creatures within earshot of you to either (50/50) recoil in despair, disgust and terror or slam, bang and throw horns for (your CHA + Proficiency Bonus) rounds. Creatures closest to you are affected first, then those further away. Divide each group, type or race of creature (e.g., half-orc thugs, bullywugs, human watchmen, githyanki, dwarf peasants, etc.) present in two; one half move away at their base speed while the other half stop everything to rock out. PCs, and NPC bosses and solos get to save as though you were attacking them with a bard spell; if they succeed they can act as they wish, if they fail they will (50/50) take off or thrash on. You can do nothing but play your instrument, sing and move at your base speed for the duration of the performance.

Non-sentient creatures are unaffected by your licks and kicks. [Alternatively, DMs may decide some animals attack because of the noise while others cower from the racket.]

You can do this (your Proficiency Bonus) times before needing to recharge with a long rest.

A band of Rockers can affect (highest CHA + highest Proficiency Bonus among them) x (highest CHA + highest Proficiency Bonus among them) sentient creatures within earshot. Saves against a band’s Shock and Awe use the highest spell save DC in the bard group. They can do this (lowest Proficiency Bonus in the band) times before needing to recharge with a long rest.


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This world is the creation and plaything of unknown and petty gods.

A while ago I was rereading Secret Wars and this frame caught my eye and stuck in my mind as it never had before:


Around the same time I saw this map over on Jeff’s Gameblog.

I bought the download of that image, ‘shopped off all the details, spun it 180°, made some geographical changes, marked down the five main parallels and covered the whole with a hex grid. The hexes are 300 miles across; basically Romania:


Also around that time the OSR crowd was putting together Petty Gods. I got an idea.

I dug out my early-print copy of Deities & Demigods (with Melniboné and Nehwon in it) and Judges Guild’s Unknown Gods.

The original conceit was this: each hex of the world is an expanse of a single terrain type plucked and placed by a different god. I picked up seven digest-size moleskin notebooks and labelled them Green-and-Pleasant, Bog, Bad(land), &c.


Each booklet details the various facts, features, flora and fauna of the hex in question; they’re essentially a sandbox’-worth of info. The god that put the hex there — and that is therefore tied to it — is also noted. The divinities are playing a game as-yet beyond the ken of mortals on the Hexworld.

I still haven’t decided if the different world-fragments are copies or actual chunks torn from the originals Beyonder-style or what. It hasn’t come up as important yet.

Each hex contains a city — Haven, Waterdeep, the Citystate, Hexopolix, &c. — or a megadungeon (Barrowmaze, the ruins of Mor, Tegel Manor, the Anomalous Subsurface Environment, and so on). In some cases both are present; for instance the city of Dolmvay and Dwimmermount are co-located.

Later — since I’m an inveterate game-switcher and rule-kludger — I decided to open Hexworld up. While many of the hexes are still of the mountains or forest or desert variety, some are areas of different games (like Dungeon Crawl hex, and Lamentations hex and Gamma World hex) or magazines (classic White Dwarf hex, classic Dragon hex and Crawling Under a Broken Moon hex). Boot Hill, Jorune and Arduin are there, as are The Manor and Crawl!. Santicore too.

I’ve also put in hexes inspired by books and comics. The Crimson hex comes from Borges’ Books of the Crimson Hexagon (and conflates into it pretty much everything you’ve ever read that involves the colour red. Hmm, Red and Pleasant Land is soon-to-be; I’ll ponder that). Then there’s Xeonzoic hex (because The Valley of Gwangi) and Okko hex (because combat bunraku; here’s the best one I’ve found for 28mm).

How “the world” works is different in a lot of the hexes, one-from-another. These are the manifestations of the various rule sets and magazines as they affect the physical and metaphysical laws of their world fragments. Crossing a hex boundary is like stepping through a membrane. The very fabric of reality changes hex-to-hex.

And now I present to you, Hexworld: