Lumbrik Class for The Black Hack

For use with The Black Hack

Plagued by dreams of mechanized humanoids descending into green cracks in the Earth is what originally inspired me to create the Lumbrik class for DnD 5e. I liked the idea of robotic or robotic adjacent heroes in a fantasy setting but I found the Warforged of Eberron to be a little mechanically bland – I suppose without the context of Eberron they just feel like any other race in DnD 5e to me. Due to the incessant violent coughs and ejection of blood from my throat caused by contact with Dungeons & Dragons – yes, I know I should have it looked at – I decided to port over my custom class to The Black Hack so that I could use it again.

The Lumbrik are actually a worm-like species that are about the size of a human forearm. They live in underground tunnel networks as small groups who feed on the knowledge contained in the DNA of organisms. In an effort to gain more knowledge they designed mechanized suits that would interface with them called Exoframes. This allowed them to travel the surface of the world to consume more knowledge. You can find the untested custom class below. If you like the look of this, have suggestions, or a play report then let me know below. Enjoy!

Starting Stats

Starting Hit Points (HP) : roll 1d4 + 8
Starting Hit Dice (HD) : 1d10
Usable Weapons & Armour : None
Attack Damage : 1d4 unarmed, counts as a Large Weapon

D6Exoframe Insignia
1A purple worm bursting out of the ground
2Bold, flaming text that reads: “Global Worming”
3A lantern overflowing with glow worms
4A raven with worms for eyes
5A large, open book with indecipherable text on it
6A worm with a throbbing and disproportionately large brain

Equipment

Every Lumbrik starts with a special ‘Crank’ function as described below. Also choose to start the game with either A or B:

  • A – 2d8 coins and purse, built-in large shield (+1 Armour Die), a shopping list of exotic fruits and vegetables
  • B – 2d8 coins and purse, built-in one-handed weapon instead of one arm (Replaces Attack Damage with 1d6), a kill order with a body quota

Hardened Frame

The Exoframe is made of hard metals and provides protection from attacks (AV2). Also when rolling Broken Armour Die a Lumbrik rolls with Advantage.

Subterranean

Due to your familiarity with the world underneath you do not suffer from Panic! due to a lack of light. However, an abundance of flashing lights may cause you to Panic!

Crank

Each Exoframe is constructed with a unique mechanical function that requires cranking for use. For every Action spent cranking increase the Usage Die for the given crank function up to a maximum of Ud12. In addition to downgrading the Usage Die when a 1 is rolled, you also lose 1 HP.

Function NameFunction Effect
LightYour Exoframe sheds bright light from a glass bulb with thick copper wire in it to allow Nearby creatures to see. This light lasts until the Usage Die has been depleted.
StompTwo large hammers extend out from your Exoframe and begin hammering on the ground around you. A number of creatures equal to your that are Nearby become Stuck. Attribute Tests to remove this Hindrance are made with an additional die equal to the Usage Die used for this. This occurs immediately after the cranking actions have finished after which the Usage Die is depleted.
MagnetA large chunk of metal in your Exoframe begins to rapidly spin. A number of metal items equal to the rolled value of the Usage Die are violently attached to your frame. When the Usage Die has been depleted, every attached item is then violently ejected outwards dealing 1 HP of damage to a number of Nearby creatures equal to the number of items ejected.
ShieldA large sheet of metal erupts from your Exoframe and rests into the ground after the cranking actions have finished. It provides cover for all Close creatures that stand behind it. While standing behind this, a creature has access to a shared pool of Armour Dice equal to the highest face value of the Usage Die. This effect can be stopped with an action after which the shield retracts itself into the Exoframe.

When You Gain a New Level

Acquire and share a number of Experiences equal to your current HD to advance a Level. When you gain a Level:

  • Roll a d20 once for each Attribute – if you roll over, it goes up one point, make an extra roll for one Attribute of your choice.
  • Gain 1HD – Roll 1d10 – gain that many additional maximum HP

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Lessons Learned Hitherto: Dread and DnD 5E

I have found that the role of the Game Master is a challenging but rewarding one. It can be a stressful job which requires forethought preceding – and an agile mind during a game. However the joy of developing this skillset can be felt every time I play. The smiles, laughter, and expressions of disgust or horror on the faces of my friends are good – but I could not tell you if that outweighed the satisfaction and excitement I feel when I finish exploring a new roleplaying game.

As a budding Game Master of a meagre 100 hours I want to catalogue my reflections of each RPG I ran for any significant amount of time – which is anything excluding a single one-shot. So far I have found that the many techniques or tools that I have spent countless hours reading about take on a new light once I see them expressed in some form during one of my games.

For the sake of posterity and brevity this post will be in two parts and briefly reflect on my experiences with Dread, Dungeons & Dragons 5E, Blades in the Dark, and Mutant: Year Zero.

Dread

Dread was the first system that I ran a game for and it only had two players while a third person sat in the room and pretended to be better than us. In spite of this odd atmosphere and my inexperience, the game had players pacing around with worried expressions on their face minutes into the game and we all had a great time.

This was by no means a feat of mine. I have since learned that I made countless novice mistakes while running this game such as forcing my hand as a GM to ensure players experience a particular scene how I felt it should be. Embarrassing. Instead, I owe this good experience to my friends with a penchant for wild imaginations being supportive people and the system itself.

Dread is a game that has the players pulling blocks from a Jenga tower to determine success in a stressful or unknown situation. If the tower falls, their character is removed from the game in some way which could be anything from death to having mad diarrhoea. Whatever works for the narrative. Pulling from a Jenga tower is already suspenseful and then Dread pairs this with horror narratives resulting in a feeling of dread for the players.

If people feel a certain way then they may act in accordance to these feelings. Dread leverages this to support the telling of scary story. As a Game Master, I barely had to do any work other than describe the scene and then tell the players to pull a block. By providing room for the players to breathe and find their characters while being able to know the stakes (by looking at how unstable the tower is), Dread works without requiring mechanically diverse player characters or a massive book of rules.

Dungeons and Dragons 5E

Dungeons and Dragons 5e Core Rules Gift Set

If anyone asked me if I regret anything I wouldn’t say it was that time a friend of mine tricked me into picking up a snot-covered piece of bark in kindergarten or even those many times I thought I would be okay if I had just one more slice of pizza. No, they’re not good examples. Instead I might tell them about the pit that is DnD 5e.

From what I have seen many people find great enjoyment in playing this game but I did not and I did not realise that until much later. I would argue that DnD 5e is not a very good game for people new to the RPG scene and at best, is mediocre for experienced players and GMs. This is because it is a bloated incomplete toolkit system that is misrepresented by each person with the book($).

Working together, the group might explore a dark dungeon…

Dungeons and Dragons 5e Player’s Handbook, page 5

A toolkit system is a type of game that has distinct and modular sub-systems that do not necessarily interconnect. Such as Combat and Downtime in DnD 5e. Toolkit systems can work really well as a GM and the players only need to focus on the subsystems that they are interested in, however DnD 5e does not supply all of the tools required in the base game yet it promises them on page 5, “Working together, the group might explore a dark dungeon…” The Player’s Handbook (PHB) does not include rules for exploring a dark dungeon or anything for that matter, instead players are given pages describing things like how high they can jump or how long it takes for them to suffocate. No procedure exists in the Dungeon Master’s Guide either and if it did then it should be in the PHB because the players need to make decisions too. DnD 5e is repeated offender of empty promises like the one described above.

Everyone runs DnD 5e in their own way but not always for the same good reason people do with other systems – to adjust for tone or familiarity. No, people try to fix DnD 5e because the subsystems provided are clunky, the classes are imbalanced, it’s missing pieces, etc. At my table, this lead to a culture of people not taking the time to learn the rules and to adopt the rules that they were told by others. At first it is not a bad thing but when someone tries to run a game with people that are not familiar with these homebrew rules then that becomes a problem because suddenly people are not playing the same game. I could rant about DnD 5e for a long time but I’ll end it with this: It reminded me that I could say no. If I am not having fun, if a game is just causing tension and confusion, then I can just not play and that’s okay.

Closing Thoughts

There is a reason why there are so many different systems available to play. That is because people want money to tell different types of stories. A system can have a great impact on the tone and genre of the collaborative narrative being spun by the Game Master and the players.

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Dungeon Crawl Classics Level 0 for The Black Hack

Figure 1 The Black Hack hardcover placed with artistic apathy on top of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Egyptian Lich cover

The first time I read about level 0 funnel dungeons in Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) I was smitten. After years of playing in games where the backstory of a character was either non-existent, a re-telling of yet more murdered parents, or something of the sort I was ecstatic to try out the process of the funnel – just for something different at the very least. However, I prefer running games with the Black Hack (TBH) so like many others I decided to hack the Black Hack by incorporating level 0 characters into it for the purposes of running funnel dungeons.

The basic idea of the level 0 funnel dungeon is each player controls multiple characters (around 3 to 4 each) that are considered level 0 (they have less hit points and no class). Each of these characters has some randomly generated occupations and equipment, then are thrust into a deadly dungeon for any reason from greed to bad luck. Only the strongest, luckiest, or most cunning will survive and reach level 1. The modified TBH character creation steps and D12 occupations table are presented below.

Character Creation for The Funnel Hack

Step 1. Follow the “Roll Dice for Their Attributes” (step A) step of the Black Hack character creation process

Step 2. Roll 1d12 on the occupation table below and note any weapon (considered usable even after the funnel despite your chosen class) or gear that accompanies it. This counts as the character’s first background so write a sentence or two that contextualises it

Step 3. Roll 1d4 for the character’s hit points

Step 4. Attempt to survive the funnel with the following rule adjustments:

  • If the character’s HP is reduced to 0 or less, they die without rolling for Out of the Action
  • All damage is either 1d4 with a weapon or 2/1 for improvised weapons/unarmed

Step 5. Your sole surviving or chosen character now follows the “Swap Two Attributes” (step B) step of the Black Hack character creation process. Remaining surviving characters go about their lives or perhaps they can be recruited as hirelings

Step 6. For your chosen character follow the “Choose a Class” (step C) step of the Black Hack character creation process except when you determine hit points for your level 1 character add the following hit points based on the chosen class to your current maximum hit points instead of rolling any dice:

  • Warrior: +6 HP
  • Thief: +4 HP
  • Cleric: +6 HP
  • Wizard: +1 HP

Step 7. Venture forth into the great unknown as a level 1 Black Hack character with one scarring memory that haunts your dreams

Occupation Table

The table below was derived from the D12 Inspiration table in The Black Hack for the purposes of this post. You can roll on this or any other occupation table – just remember that an occupation likely gets a weapon and some useful or interesting gear.

D12OccupationWeaponGear
1HunterWorn light bowArrows Ud6, whistle that emits a deep note when used
2Escaped PrisonerCrumbling ShivFraudulent papers, broken shackles
3DeserterRusty short swordCloth Armour AV1, wineskin filled with something black and sticky
4GamblerShiny DaggerFlask, letter of debt, papers of prepared “I owe you”
5Fleeing NobleDull KnifeSignet ring that draws the eye, 10 coins
6Indentured Wizard’s ServantInscribed StaffLocket with a picture of someone you don’t recognise on the inside, torches Ud4
7Forgotten SoldierSharpened Short SwordShield with a forgotten insignia
8SmugglerBloodied DaggerSack of contraband that has a strong smell, 4 coins
9Town DrunkBroken BottleBottle of booze, stolen holy symbol
10Professional Clinical Trial Participant10 coins, green potion (Single use. Heals 1d4 upon use and one of the following effects: 1 – you are compelled to move left for a minute; 2 – the sclera of your right eye permanently changes to a deep yellow instead of white; 3 – A fuzzy feeling causes you to be distracted; 4 – you are weakened for 1 moment)
11FarmerSharp PitchforkHen that responds to a name, 2 coins
12WoodcutterHand axeBundle of wood, chalk Ud6, iron spikes Ud6
Occupation table derived form the D12 Inspiration table for character backgrounds in The Black Hack

I hope someone finds this a useful tool for starting a campaign in The Black Hack or at least found it to be a somewhat joyful read. I intend to use this as a tool for running Tombs of the Serpent King as a funnel dungeon for my upcoming Black Hack campaign. Leave a comment (if you can?) with any suggestions or thoughts below.

Interested in reading more?