Welcome once again to the weekly Nerdarchy newsletter. This week our topic is Blood and bone. Before we jump into it I want to apologize. For the last couple of weeks haven’t been able to run our Saturday Live Chat sessions. The Nerdarchy streaming laptop went down and failed its death saves. Fear not! We got it to the temple and had a team of clerics work on it. They were able to resurrect it. This past Saturday we were back at and talking about Critical Role’s The Legend of Vox Machina Kickstarter and what it means for our beloved hobby.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
I’m feeling inspired by Nerdarchist Ted’s NPC below. Perhaps here are a couple of items they might have in their possession.
Blood and bone-inspired magic items
Vial of Angel’s Blood
Wondrous item, rare
This sealed vial contains a golden, luminescent liquid.
- As bonus action shaking the vial causes it to glow as the light cantrip.
- When you utter the name of the angel the blood belongs to as an action, you cast bless on up to 12 creatures you can see within range. This ability can used once per day. It resets at dawn.
- You can use your action to hurl the Vial of Angel’s Blood up to 30 feet. It explodes upon impact. Each creature of your choice in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on that point must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 42 (12d6) radiant damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. This destroys the Vial of Angel’s Blood forever.
Femur of the Fiend
Weapon, rare (requires attunement)
A battle axe that’s been carved from large single piece of femur bone. It is a yellow grey with veins of scarlet and black running through it. The haft is wrapped in gut from the same creature the bone came from.
- You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.
- When you hit a creature they must make a DC 14 Charisma saving throw or suffer the effect of the bane spell. It lasts for 1 minute or until you effect another creature with this effect.
From Ted’s Head
Kelzine is a tiefling who operates with a bizarre set of merchandise. Their shoulder-length black hair is unable to conceal the ram-like horns on the side of their head. The pale green skin stands out in any crowd, which is why they never like to be in a crowd. Their yellow eyes are bright and stand as a contrast to their pale skin.
Kelzine buys and sells all kinds of magical ephemera, but the more gruesome it is the better. Blood, bones or any parts of sentient or magical creatures can be used in dark rituals, ceremonies or the creation of magical items and they are a purveyor of it all.
Kelzine operates as a wanderer relying on those who know their business. They wear a magical cloak with an unlimited amount of storage space that also keeps items fresh from spoilage. Kelzine never conducts business out in the open.
Medium humanoid (tiefling), neutral evil
Armor Class 15 (mage armor)
Hit Points 65 (10d8 + 20)
Speed 30 ft.
STR: 10 (+0)
DEX: 16 (+3
INT: 14 (+2)
WIS: 14 (+2)
Saving Throws WIS +5, Cha +7
Skills Deception +7, Persuasion +7, Arcana +5
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages Infernal, Abyssal, Common, Draconic
Challenge (1,100 XP)
Spellcasting. Kelzine is a spell caster of 7th level and can cast the following spells. Their spellcasting modifier is Charisma and has a +7 to hit with spells and spells cast have a DC of 15.
1st: (3 slots): expeditious retreat, cause fear, mage armor, shield
2nd: (3 slots): alter self, blur, hold person, misty step
3rd:(2 slots): blink, counterspell, haste
4th: (1 slot): dimension door
Multiattack. Kelzine makes three melee attacks: two with their scimitar and one with their dagger. Or Kelzine makes two ranged attacks with their daggers.
Scimitar. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) slashing damage.
Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4 + 3) piercing damage.
Parry. Kelzine adds 2 to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the captain must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
That was my first thought when Nerdarchist Dave chose Blood and Bone for this week’s newsletter topic. I’m very squeamish. Anything from Stephen King’s visceral descriptions of harm to films like Saw and the absolutely revolting House of 1,000 Corpses is anathema to me. So I thought it would be a challenging assignment this week. My Dungeons & Dragons games don’t feature blood magic or even very many nasty undead with their rot and decay and bones sticking out everywhere. Yuck.
Instead, there’s two different tracks to explore as regards blood and bone in D&D. The first one comes from one of the very best historical fantasy films ever — Excalibur. The 1981 movie is amazing and as a young boy getting into D&D in the mid-80s I watched Excalibur so many times.
In a pivotal scene, when King Arthur first encounters Lancelot, the knight from across the sea who has yet to find a king worthy of his sword they engage in an incredible battle. (Incidentally, this is a terrific example of the abstraction of hit points in D&D. Check it out sometime.) Lancelot is the superior fighter, and Arthur calls on Excalibur’s power to overcome him. Afterwards Lancelot pledges himself to the king.
Arthur : Thanks be to God you’re alive.
Lancelot : I, the best Knight in the world bested! This is a great day! For my search is over, my King. Make me your champion.
Arthur : But your life and lands are far from here.
Lancelot : I gave up my castle and my lands. This is my domain. Within this metal skin. And I pledge all that I still own. Muscle, bone, blood and the heart that pumps it.
Arthur : And a great heart it is. Sir Lancelot, you will be my champion.
Kinda reminiscent of the adventuring life, yeah? When characters follow the adventurer vocation, their journeys often take them far from home and everything they have is with them wherever they travel.
It also speaks to the adventuring life as one of bold action. D&D adventurers, while very frequently concocted elaborate plans to approach challenging scenarios, are people of action. Their own muscle, bone, blood and hearts drive them onward.
The second avenue my thinking went is that blood and bone can represent the guts of a campaign, illustrating the very basic structure and agents that keep the whole thing alive and moving.
My home game is fresh in my mind since we just played last night. We’re five sessions in and what I thought the analogous blood and bone turned out not to be the case at all. Instead, the emergent campaign’s bones are random events and the blood is the party’s reactions to them.
Whisked across the sea as new recruits in an adventuring guild to find adventure, they slowly get to know the people in town, explore a little bit farther into the wilds and learn more about the unknown lands where adventure awaits.
Without a narrative to follow, the players took the random encounters and began to weave their own story. If I’m honest it’s fascinating to watch unfold — and I’m the Dungeon Master! Given a small coastal village’s residents and no pressing concerns, the players continue to concoct a complex version of interconnectivity. Essentially the muscle, as a nod to Lancelot. I love it when the players do the work for me.
Hey, we did it! Take that, splatterhouse fans — an exploration of blood and bone in D&D without any gore.
Until next time, stay nerdy
— Nerdarchy Team