Saturday 18 July 2020

Navigating Complex Environments

If you look at Blighttown in Dark Souls, it'd be really boring to run as a dungeon.

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The interesting parts of Blighttown arise as the result of a bunch of smaller micro-decisions you make as you navigate the complex environment - not only would mapping this out take a long time, in play it's unlikely to be interesting - many smaller choices without much information to go on.

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I think we're better off looking to use the aggregate result - the interesting bit where rubber meets road whilst also allowing players to meaningfully input into the end result. To do this, we can abstract these choices into a system.
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As I see it there's one main decision players are making from this high-level view - how do we balance speed (i.e. splitting up and examining multiple routes to go forward) and safety (not doing that, and exploring only as a group).

First up we have an objective - either to explore some designated amount or to use the complex environment to get from point A to point B. Either way, we assign them a number. This number needs to be reached by rolling dice and keeping a cumulative score - when it is, you did the thing you were trying to do. We'll workshop some hard numbers later. Important note - once a route is known, it's known. Characters don't need to explore again.

So what dice do we roll, and how many?

Roll dice equal to the number of search parties - each search party being a distinct group. Two groups exploring? Two dice.

The sides of the dice we roll depends on how dangerous the environment is - we use the dice to trigger encounters as well as increase our score. The smaller the dice, the less progress you'll probably make per exploration, because stuff keeps happening and slowing you down.

Each roll of these dice represents a chunk of meaningful time. In traditional dungeons, this is about 10 minutes - an hour feels intuitively right for this. You could try extrapolating this up for weird 'problem-space'-crawls where each turn is a day but I don't think it'd work.

Whenever the maximum roll on an exploration dice is achieved, roll a normal encounter - but use the surprise and encounter distance rules from your retroclone of choice for each search party and the monsters. (Currently, that's Delving Deeper for me - so 2d6 x 10 feet distance without surprise, 1d6 x 10 with surprise)

If that number -1 is rolled, roll a d4 or d6 (depending on cruelty) on  the following chart for some consequences.

  1. Lost - characters will have to explore to discover the route back.
  2. Separated - Search parties lose contact - yelling etc. will cause normal encounter checks...
  3. Circular path - negate the gain on this dice.
  4.  or more - no consequence

Okay numbers:

Really Fucking Dangerous - d4
Dangerous  - d6
Adventuresome - d8
Baby's Day Out - d10

To work out the score needed, I'd just multiply the rough number of hours it could take by five.

Thursday 11 June 2020

Running a Game

This is everything I can think of/remember doing when I run games without focusing on stuff like encounter tables and whatever - more the social aspect and prep rather than why a 2d6 bellcurve encounter table is superior or how to do a hexcrawl. I'll update it with anything good that gets suggested. Obviously everything is JUST MY OPINION but I'm not gonna type that out a whole bunch

maybe we can talk about those tools later

also everything is opinion when you think about it gang

Caveats -
 I run for a group of friends online and have done for like 6 or 7 years, transitioning from IRL games due to geography and life.
Sessions are about 1.5 hours to 2 hours and mostly in the 'Old-School' tradition.
Most campaigns run for 1-2 years, some going on for 3.
I use a mix of improvisation for most details and prep for tactical and major structural elements.

This said, when I've run in-person one-shot games for longer with new people, the sessions have been fun and feedback good

Tuesday 26 May 2020


Flay the poet and roll them in sand.

Leave them to bake in the sun.

When the vultures come they will drink their blood and borrow their wings.

This is one of the paths a man could walk to leave mortality behind.

HD 4* / AC as Leather / Damage 1d6 

*Supernatural HP

Thursday 21 May 2020

1836 - Half Finished Game

 I started work on this late last year as I was reading The Sabres of Paradise - Lesley Blanch (which is great). I'm never going to finish this but there might be stuff you want to loot. Enjoy

The Mission
You play as hand-picked soldiers of the British Empire. You are attempting to forge a path
through the Caucasus Mountains to meet with the Imam Shamil, delivering weapons and
supplies to support their war against the Russian Empire.


Most humans have 4 HP.


Characters have 3 saves. Each of these is equal to 7+1d6.

The saves are:
Reflex - used for reaction and dodging.
Physique - used for strength and toughness.
Will - used for mental fortitude and bravery.

The rules will call for these to be tested. To do so, attempt to roll under them on a d20.
Rolling above the value is a failure.


Select one of the following.

1.Trooper - Begins with 5HP and has a +1 Duel modifier.
2.Sharpshooter - May negate any one factor halving the Accuracy of a ranged weapon.
3.Surgeon - Using one dose of medicine, may heal a character by 1d6 over the course of an hour.
4.Cavalry - May reroll one or both dice used for Horsemanship checks.
5.Officer - Adds +1 to Morale tests for Group Combat and improves Will of allies by +1.
6.Engineer - 

Troopers begin with a Musket, a Bayonet, a Knife, Ammunition and Tent & Sundry.
Sharpshooters begin with a Rifle, a Knife, Ammunition and Tent & Sundry.
Surgeons begin with a Musket, a Bayonet, a Knife, Medicine, Ammunition and Tent & Sundry.
Cavalry begin with a Carbine, a Sword, a Warhorse, Ammunition and Tent & Sundry.
Officers begin with a two Pistols, a Sword, a Warhorse, Ammunition and Tent & Sundry.
Engineers begin with

Wednesday 20 May 2020


Amongst woods visited too-often they lurch between their erstwhile siblings.

They have seen one man kill another in anger.

They have watched the hunters.

They stalk.

Trees take a long time to burn.

HD 6* / AC as Leather / Damage 2d6

*Supernatural HP. If set alight, they take 1d6+3 rounds to burn to death.


The Ian Miller ents are very firmly lodged in my brain. You should take the time to look at them.

Saturday 16 May 2020


To create a troll, take up pliers and empty the head of teeth.

Into each bleeding socket insert a talon of glass. Many will break - this is why most trolls cannot speak, tongues a mess of ruined scraps.

Remove the finger-nails and replace them with blades of glass. Many will break - this is why most trolls cannot use tools, fingers rent apart.

As the glass cuts them, they grow. As they grow, the glass cuts them.

This is why their wounds close in minutes. This is why they always hunger.

This is one of the paths a man could walk to leave mortality behind.

HD 4 / AC as Leather / Damage 1d6

Re-rolls HP at the beginning of each round.

Thursday 14 May 2020


All took the mask willingly. To those not understanding what it entails, the mask is inert. It is made of thick stone. It depicts a snarling dog.

Once donned by the willing, it cannot be removed. One wearing the mask is utterly loyal to the one who offered them the mask. If this chain is broken, they are free but retain their subordinates. All await this day, but are powerless to hasten it.

Domesticated animals and crops despise them, and wither in their captivity.

This is one of the paths a man could take to leave mortality behind.

HD 1* / AC as Armour / Damage as Weapon

*Supernatural HP - the body is as loyal as the mind, unwilling to die despite horrific wounds.