Friday, July 23, 2010

Nephrym's Claw

This is going to be an ongoing struggle for me. When I play D&D with adults, I run a much darker game. Maybe too dark for my kids.

For example, the dungeon the kids are in now has this little gem hidden in it:

Nephrym's Claw

The following is Open Game Content according to the Open Game License.

Nephrym's Claw is a black talon the length of a dagger. It's a poor weapon (-2 attack bonus), but that's not what it's for. The Claw allows you to do damage to yourself (1d6 + your level), during which it takes some of your blood. It transforms your blood into an elixir which you can then use to heal your friends for three times the damage you took. You cannot heal yourself with it, although you can be healed through any normal means...

...but the Claw is hungry, so it keeps one of your hit points permanently for itself. For example, if you had 20 hp and took 10 hp of damage to heal your friends with, and then found some other healing for yourself, the most hit points you could get back is 9 for a total of 19. You can still increase hit points when you gain levels, but you'll never get that one hit point back.

I considered making it take a constitution point instead, and still might, but that's not the point of this blog entry. The question is, is this thing too dark for a kids' campaign? It's my three girls (11, 9, and 6), and the next door neighbors' kids (boy, 9, and girl, 7).

My gut says yes, but I really, really like Nephrym's Claw. So much cooler than saying, "You find a potion of healing and a +1 magic dagger." And don't even get me started on who or what Nephrym might have been. That could go anywhere.

I'm sure I'll waffle on this decision right up until they get to the room it's in. You know, the one that has the talking skull in it.


  1. Talk to me. I really don't think that is too dark. Let's see: if you are willing to hurt yourself a little, you can help your friends a lot. The currency involved is blood, but doesn't involve writhing in agony. And this alchemy costs you permanently in vigor.

    I think that is totally understandable and fine to a kid. Of course, the average body count of ballads I sing to Ev is higher than many American military engagements, so you can't trust me.

  2. Nephrym's Claw turned out not to be too dark. In fact, it turned out to be needed (see post to come soon). S actually used it to revive her fallen comrade. Permanent hit point loss, even just a point, can be discomforting to a player (most characters never face such a threat), because hit points are like a security blanket. She definitely considered the the use of the Claw and its consequences carefully before acting.

    I guess the imagery in my mind's eye about what happens when the Claw is used is rather too dark for the kids, but in the end I didn't have to get all gruesome with the description. So for my daughter, it turned into a simple mathematics and probabilities exercise.

  3. @William Yeah. I had a bit of an issue where I had no outlet for my more adult ideas...and all my ideas were more adult because I'd forgotten the kinds of things that made games fun when I was their age. Got an outlet now with some guys from work I play with, and I'm getting more and more attuned with the kids each time we play, so the kids' stuff has gotten tamer. Maybe this is a topic I should blog about.