Dwarf Lode – Saving Throws

When I started developing my idea for an all dwarf RPG, I decided that the entire system should be approached from the viewpoint of a dwarf. I felt this was the only way to really evoke the sense that the game was all about dwarfs. If you’re gonna go demi-human, you gotta go full demi-human.


At the same time, Saving Throws appear to be the most malleable of sacred cows in D&Dish-inspired games, so I went full throttle on re-imagining saving throws for Dwarf Lode just as I did with Ability Scores. Here they are:

Saving Throws

Instead of the usual saving throws regarding poison, death, and dragon breath, the saving throws in Dwarf Lode are designed to better reflect the stuff that life throws at a dwarf. Below is a description of each type of saving throw and examples of situations in which a dwarf might be called upon to roll such a save.

Level Fire! What Ails Ye Grudge Curses Gettin’ Outta the Way
1-3 12 13 7 12 14
4-6 11 10 10 10 12
7-9 10 7 13 8 10
10-12 9 4 16 6 8



It’s hot, it burns, and you can choke on the smoke, it’s fire! A dwarf will be called upon to roll this saving throw whenever he’s avoiding being set on fire, resisting the choking or irritating effects of smoke, or attempting to put out his beard after he got too close for comfort to forge or campfire.

What Ails Ye

Dwarfs are, by tradition, if not genetically, a gloomful and surly people, and as such among their numbers are the greatest complainers in the annals of history. A dwarf might be called upon to save against What Ails Ye whenever he’s at risk of catching a disease, been poisoned, or suffering from madness. To be certain, dwarfs are stouter and meaner by far than other races, but What Ails Ye isn’t only for catching disease or being poisoned, it’s a save against the psychosomatic aspects of being diseased or poisoned such as wailing and carrying on about one’s impending doom. Basically, it’s a save against grumbling. Fortunately, dwarfs are masters at concocting the perfect remedy for What Ails Ye: booze!


Whenever a dwarf is wronged, or at least, more importantly perhaps, perceives himself to have been wronged, he may be called upon to roll a save against Grudge. (Players can request a save vs. Grudge, as well, if they feel their character perceives himself to be wronged. ) Success would mean that he’s the bigger dwarf (ed. Sorry!) and forgives the slight, but if he fails the save, then BY THE SURLY BRAIDED BEARDS OF MYRRG AND DOOG THE RAUCOUS THEY SHALL FEEL YER WRATH! Whenever a dwarf fails a save versus Grudge, he is overcome with a need to seek revenge against those who have (allegedly) slighted him, and for a dwarf, revenge is so deeply rooted, so infused into their bones, so epigenetically entwined with their seminal fluids that if the dwarf does not have immediate means to exact his vengeance, the grudge risks becoming ancestral. Treat having a grudge as being under the effects of a Geas spell or the like but less severe, initially. Eventually, the grudge becomes seething. Unlike other saves, a dwarf finds it more difficult to pass a Save vs. Grudge as he attains levels. This is because a dwarf has to maintain his respectability in the face of perceived wrongs the more famous he becomes; otherwise, other dwarfs will start saying things to his face normally reserved for behind his back.

[Note: Grudges play a larger role in Dwarf Lode for calculating experience points and determining the fate of the dwarfs’ clan, part of the domain-level phase of Dwarf Lode campaigns.]


Anything and everything magical is, to a dwarf, a curse. Of course, there are potentially “magical” things that dwarfs don’t consider magical, such as magic weapons and armor and potions at least of 4.6% alcohol by volume (saves called upon to deal with the effects of alcoholic potions are handled under What Ails Ye, but everything else is a Curse and saves against such sorcery (and non-alcoholic potions) are rolled as such. The other exception to this is when magical fire is involved, at which point a save against Fire! must be rolled.

Gettin’ Outta the Way

A dwarf makes this saving thrown when he, well, needs to get out of the way of anything he doesn’t otherwise believe he should stand his ground against.


Southfarthing Confidential (Preview) – Hairfoot Halfling Subrace and Halfling Family Background

Put down the pipe-weed and pin on your badge. You’ve got a job to do.

Nearly two years since I was first approached to put together what, at the time, would be a small, OSR-style adventure set around the bumbling investigations of a team of halfling sheriffs, Southfarthing Confidential is taking tangible, publishable form!

Starting out as a heavily house-ruled Labyrinth Lord adventure, my halfling police procedural morphed into an ongoing campaign for 5th edition. The adventure I ran at North Texas RPG Con in 2017 now looks to become four books: a setting/rule book and three adventures. Soon, I’ll be revealing more details on those adventures, including titles.

So, what we have here is the first in a series of previews from the Southfarthing Confidential setting/rule book.  If you enjoy what you see, please consider supporting my work on Patreon, where you’ll get access to each chapter of the book as the drafts are completed.

Now to the meat: Below are a couple examples of what you’ll find in Southfarthing Confidential. The first is the hairfoot halfling subrace, a return to the traditional furry-footed small folk of yore. They are the standard race for the setting. The second is a example halfling family background, the Thudbelly clan. Instead of the usual occupational backgrounds found in 5th ed., in Southfarthing Confidential halflings will pick a family to determine features, personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws.

(Neither of these examples really focus on the police procedural half of the genre mashup, but instead provide material for players to build halfling characters who will become sheriffs. The police procedural side of things will be fleshed out when players take feat-like abilities I’m calling “tropes,” for the time being. Examples of these, such as “Hardboiled Halfling,” “Loose Sling,” and “Too Fat for This,” will be appearing a future preview.)

Enjoy! And of course, feedback is welcome and encouraged.

Hairfoot halflings

A subrace for Fifth Edition halflings.


Artwork not officially associated with this book but blatantly stolen from Tony DiTerlizzi

As a Hairfoot Halfling of the Five Farthings, you are a creature of comfort. You’re hefty, round in the belly, and likely easing your way, breakfast by second breakfast, toward a respectably fat middle-age.

You forgo the wearing of shoes, for the leathery soles of your fur-tufted feet offer protection from the elements.

You are not prone to wander far from the village where you were born, and in fact, you look down upon those rare members of your race who seek out adventure alongside “queer folk” and foreigners. You belong to a dearly suspicious and judgmental people.

Hairfoot halflings are the most populous halfling subrace in the Five Farthings.

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.

Creature of Comfort. You have Advantage on hit die rolls to regain hit points during a Short Rest every day your Lifestyle Expenses are Comfortable or higher.

Names of the Southfarthing

Male Names: Arbuckle, Arlo, Bogar, Creevy, Griftoe, Harliment, Odo, Riley.

Female Names: Ada, Carmen, Clara, Edith, Gilda, Mona, Sherry, Vera, Vivian.

Family Names: Thudbelly, Stook, Gummyhocks, Hairysacks, Butterburbuck, Ficklebum, Wettletoes, Burrowback.



You were born to a proud family whose lust for life has fattened its heirs and issues to inspiring proportions in body and purse alike. The Thudbellies hail from the delving of Hearthoven, a many-chimneyed hole with more kitchens than bedrooms up near Curly Bend. Your family built its wealth through bread-making and its reputation for kindness providing alms to the poor, destitute, and even dwarven. Thudbelly feasts and parties are plentiful and draw hundreds of friends, relatives, and uninvited halflings from across the Five Farthings.

Delving: Hearthoven, near Curly Bend.

Skill Proficiencies: Medicine, Persuasion.

Tool Proficiencies: Cook’s utensils.

Languages: Big Folk or Dwarven (your choice)

Equipment: A set of cook’s utensils, an hourglass, set of fine clothes, five loaves of gourmet bread and a pouch containing 15 gp.

Gourmet Breads
Thudbelly breads are known far and wide across the Five Farthings, and even beyond the Borders in the nearest countries of the Big Folk. You can select what staples of your family’s bakery you’re carrying from the Gourmet Breads table or roll randomly.

d8 Bread Type Quality & Recipe
1 Dwarf cake Dry bread Hard, made from goat’s milk and barley flour
2 Out-’n’-about loaf Leavened, sourdough Braided, brushed with egg yolk, made with buckwheat flour, to be eaten on journeys
3 Thudbelly bun Yeast Bread Sweet, made with buttermilk and whole wheat
4 Hearthoven Tack Flatbread Flaky, hard biscuit often slathered with honey
5 Fore-after tea muffin Yeast bread Round, hand-sized and dusted in cornmeal and served after lunch/before supper
6 Hole loaf Yeast bread Thick, fluffy made of two loaves with hole punched through middle, often filled with butter or curds
7 Elf biscuit Flatbread Infused with honey and butter, very filling, wrapped in leaves for flavor and presentation
8 Full Farthing loaf Sweet bread Stuffed with fruit, practically a cake.

Feature: Break Bread
You can always attempt to settle grievances and disagreements between parties, even those involving yourself, or forge temporary or lasting alliances by sharing a loaf of your family’s famous bread. However, parties may be unwilling if the squabble between them has already come to blows.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I have a bread-making or baking proverb handy for every situation.
2 I seek to taste all the breads, cakes, and muffins of the Five Farthings.
3 I’d rather be in the kitchen.
4 I make new friends wherever I am.
5 As a halfling of station, I supervise the labor of the lower classes and do not get my own hands (and toes) dirty.
6 I never need an excuse to throw a party or serve a feast.
7 I am a baker and an artist, bread my paint, the belly my canvas.
8 There’s nothing worth doing you cannot take your time at.


d6 Ideal
1 Warmheartedness. The heart of every home is its oven and every heart must be warm. (Good)
2 Alms. If any are starving, then all go unfed. (Neutral)
3 Tighten the belt. Lean times have come to the Five Farthings, and while we must all pull our weight, some of us need to lighten the load. (Lawful)
4 Plentifulness. All should share in the bounty of the harvest. (Chaotic)
5 Gluttony. My own pleasure at the breakfast, dinner, and supper table comes before the needs of others. (Evil)
6 Festivity. Enjoyment of life rises above all other needs. (Any)


d6 Bond
1 I believe that breaking bread and talking things over is the best way to heal the wounds brought upon the Five Farthings by the Recent Inconveniences.
2 I will not allow my companions to go hungry or taste of lesser morsels than I may bake!
3 I aim to discover a new recipe that will become a staple of Hearthoven’s kitchens.
4 I will defend the peasantry with my life, for without their harvest we’ve got no bread.
5 The reputation of my family’s bakeries must be upheld at all costs.
6 I want to make bread, so I find the best choice is always the most lucrative one.


d6 Flaw
1 I cannot pass up any opportunity for a meal or even a snack.
2 I eat only the finest, most expensive, and carefully prepared meals.
3 I will step in to take over any and every kitchen I feel doesn’t measure up.
4 I deserve a life of leisure, not one of work.
5 I am not afraid to criticize others’ or their cooking.
6 I refuse to do anything on an empty stomach.


Dwarf Lode – Ability Scores

One of my current projects is the all-dwarf roleplaying game Dwarf Lode, which I describe as a a game of drunken exploration, ancestral guilt, and engineering disasters.  

Although, at its heart the game is built upon the skeletal framework of B/X, I’m building the rules system for Dwarf Lode from the ground up. In this post, you’ll find Ability Scores/Attributes re-imagined through the viewpoint of dwarfish culture. (I’ve done the same for Saving Throws, which are referenced throughout the post below.)

In future posts, we’ll look at saving throws, the dwarf class, armor, and beers. Armor and beer is where the game really sets itself apart from others. How a dwarf arms himself for battle and what libations he drinks determine his abilities.

Ability Scores

 Included is a description of each Ability is an explanation of its uses within the game.


A dwarf’s Brawn determines how strong he is, how easy it is for him to crack skulls, tumble boulders, carry treasure, etc. Brawn applies to To Hit rolls and Damage rolls. A dwarf may attempt an Open Kegs check for minor tasks of Brawn, such as opening stuck doors or kegs, etc., or Tumble Boulders/Crack Skulls for more weighty, if not impossible-seeming, feats of Brawn such as bending bars or lifting portcullises.

Score To Hit Damage Bonus Open Kegs Tumble Boulders/Crack Skulls
3 -3 -3 1-in-6 0%
4-5 -2 -2 1-in-6 1%
6-8 -1 -1 2-in-6 2%
9-12 None None 2-in-6 4%
13-15 +1 +1 3-in-6 8%
16-17 +2 +2 3-in-6 16%
18 +3 +3 4-in-6 24%



One’s got a knack if he’s deft at something dwarfs aren’t usually good at, like being nimble on his feet or sneaky, climbing without the use of pitons and rope, ducking from a swing as opposed to letting the helmet take care of it, etc. Knack applies to Armor Class, firing missile weapons, and saves versus Fire! and Gettin’ Outta the Way.

Score AC Mod Missile To Hit Bonus to Saves
3 +3 -3 -2
4-5 +2 -2 -1
6-8 +1 -1 -1
9-12 None None None
13-15 -1 +1 +1
16-17 -2 +2 +1
18 -3 +3 +2



A dwarf’s got Heft to him if he’s robust, stout, or otherwise endowed with bit of extra meat about the belly. The more heft the harder he is to knock over, the more beer he’ll drink, the harder you have to hit him to bring him down. Heft applies to Hit Die rolls, all healing rolls from rest, saves verses What Ails Ye, applies save bonus as a negative to Gettin’ Outta the Way, and helps a dwarf hold his liquor and resist drunkenness.

Score HP Bonus Bonus to Saves Hold Liquor
3 -3 -3/+3 -3
4-5 -2 -2/+2 -2
6-8 -1 -1/+1 -1
9-12 None None None
13-15 +1 +1/-1 +1
16-17 +2 +2/-2 +2
18 +3 +3/-2 +3



It’s a nicer way of saying that dwarfs are stubborn. Once a dwarf has set his mind to something, it’s his Tenacity that determines how he sees it through. Tenacity determines how likely (or unlikely) a dwarf is to resist holding a Grudge and how determined he is in his engineering.

Score Bonus to Save Engineering
3 +3 -3
4-5 +2 -2
6-8 +1 -1
9-12 None None
13-15 -1 +1
16-17 -2 +2
18 -3 +3


Most dwarfs are are as narrow-minded as a boulder heading downhill. Once they’re set on a path, it’s hard for them to imagine getting where they’re going any other way. It’s not Tenacity, this, or even stubbornness, but a simple lack of imagination. But some dwarfs are wily. They see things less literally than other dwarfs. They’re devious, they’re cunning, and even capable of thinking in the moment. Wile determines whether dwarfs can read or write, determines the number of bonus languages, and their ability to resist Curses.

Score Reading & Writing # of Bonus Languages Bonus to Saves
3 Unable to read or write, broken speech 0 -3
4-5 Unable to read or write 0 -2
6-8 Can write simple words 0 -1
9-12 Can read and write native languages 0 None
13-15 Can read and write native languages 1 +1
16-17 Can read and write native languages 2 +2
18 Can read and write native languages 3 +3



It’s what gives a dwarf his zest for life, for battle, for ale! A dwarf with a lack of lustiness is dour and grim, and so a respectable dwarf. Dwarfs with too much lustiness are troublemakers, at best, or inspiring warriors who lead other, more impressionable dwarfs  across the wastes of the world to seek the (allegedly) stolen treasures of their ancestors.

Score HP Bonus Reaction Adjustment Bonus to What Ails Ye
3 None -1 -3
4-5 None -1 -2
6-8 None None -1
9-12 None None None
13-15 None None +1
16-17 +1 +1 +2
18 +2 +1 +3



A dwarf with Clout knows how to throw his weight about. This might be through influence, honor, or respect gained on the field of battle, or it might mean literally his willingness to clout another dwarf over the head to get him to listen.

Score Reaction Adjustment Max # of Clansmen Loyalty/Morale
3 -2 1 4
4-5 -1 2 5
6-8 -1 3 6
9-12 None 4 7
13-15 +1 5 8
16-17 +1 6 9
18 +2 7 10