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.

Wednesday 13 May 2020


A single stone out of place is all it takes. A tendril of darkness will worm it's way in, and coil itself around the corpse like a lover. Such a tether denies the spirit rest. Beneath the barrows, they forget who they were. The honest mistake of a twisted stone becomes a deliberate betrayal.

Draped in their funeral panoply they emerge under cover of night - seeking those who denied them rest. Sunlight banishes them to their tomb - and opening that to the sky would destroy them utterly.

They are careful to never be seen emerging - and to open all of the barrows is sure to invite more restless dead.

Those they slay are bound to them as thralls, and will rise with them every night - a poor imitation of what they were promised in death.

HD 2* / AC as Unarmoured / Damage as Weapon, applied to Constitution.

*Incorporeal - Cannot be harmed bar by Silver Weapons (Quadruple price, -1 to hit corporeal foes) and Magic.

Tuesday 12 May 2020


The only art left to the giants is self mutilation.

The ruins they haunt are filled with blacksmiths, poets and sculptors, trapped in bronze cages. All eventually starve.

HD 10 / AC as Unarmoured / Damage 2d6

Monday 11 May 2020


There is never an orc.
There are always orcs.

Within the belly of each is a burning nugget of iron. Carve off a limb and embed a slug of iron. Wait a week as muscle forms, cramping in agony around a splinter of white-hot pain.

Their black blood ruins metal, corroding it beyond repair. Arms and armour used against them will be useless in 3 days.

Left in the Sun, they die in hours.       

At night they slink from the mountains for meat and metal.

HD 1 / AC as Armour / Damage as Weapon

Friday 8 May 2020


our mouths are full of soil
hands beneath these hills
grasping flint and barrow


the woods are deeper than
maps and dreams and empires

HD 2 / AC as Unarmoured / Normal Damage - 1 Spell from Vivimancy or Cunning Craft

Spell schools from 'Wonder & Wickedness' and 'Marvels & Malisons' respectively.

Wednesday 6 May 2020


To make a minotaur, start with clay. Form a pot in the shape of the head of a bull. The mouth must be wide enough to scrape the temples as it is pushed over the head.  

Once donned, the wearer cannot eat. Their moans of hunger will echo through the pot, distorted into braying and roars. As they grow more emaciated, the remaining flesh becomes harder, turning all but the surest blows. They will be able to tear men in half.

They cannot see through the pot, and so swing their clay heads left to right, listening for you.  

Now loose them into your labyrinth to stumble and squat and hunt in the dark. 

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

HD 4* / AC as Unarmoured / Damage with Advantage

*Supernatural HP

Thursday 16 April 2020

A Weapon is not a Tool

fuckin about with a heavily houseruled OD&D for no particular reason.

No thieves, no clerics, magic users powered by Wonder and Wickedness, also stealing this idea b/c it slaps

the issue is this leaves only 2 classes, and only 1 getting unique stuff on a per character basis.

so - give Fighters a reason to not just wear Plate:

Fighters wearing Leather armour add 2 to their saving throw rolls vs Wand/Ray & Breath Weapons

Fighters wearing Plate armour subtract 2 from their saving throw rolls vs Wand/Ray & Breath Weapons

and then give them choices to make with weapons - obviously, this doesn't have to be mechanical, but i think it helps some players. they're all meant to be broadly comparable and useful in different situations.

All weapons deal 1d6 damage - light weapons with disadvantage, heavy weapons with advantage.

Battle-Axe - Medium - May sacrifice 3 damage from an attack to attempt a weapon/shield strip. Roll a second attack - if successful, a weapon or shield can be ripped from the grip of the opponent.
Club - Light - Forgo damage to attempt to stun - after a successful attack, target attempts to save vs paralysis - failure results in them losing their combat round. Further strikes against them are at +2.
Crossbow*- Medium - Ignores armour, 1 round reload
Dagger - Light  -Throwable, usable in grapple situation.
Flail - Medium  - Ignores shields
Greatsword - Heavy - Upon a killing blow, the wielder can roll another attack. This effect can be triggered multiple times.
Hand-Axe - Light - Throwable. If 4+ damage is dealt, the Hand-axe bounces, 'attacking' again.
Polearm*† - Heavy - Grant a nominated adjacent ally -2 AC
Javelin - Medium - Throwable
Longbow* - Medium - +1 to hit per round spent aiming
Mace - Medium - Increases AC of those struck by 1 to a maximum of 7
Quarterstaff* - Light - Opponents must save vs Breath Weapon to approach, failure resulting in an automatic hit with this weapon
Shortbow* - Medium - Can split move and fire (i.e. move fire move)
Shortsword - Light - Riposte twice
Sling - Light - Can be used to launch grenades
Spear† - Medium - Wielder may chose hold their attack until someone tries to approach them - they then roll an attack first.
Sword - Medium - Riposte once
Two-Handed Axe* - Heavy - If a 6 is rolled for damage, roll another d6 and add the result. This effect can be triggered multiple times. Increase the wielders AC by +1.
Warhammer* - Heavy - Those struck are thrown backwards if unable to make a save vs paralysis. Use the damage rolled to determine distance.

† denotes a weapon with reach, being able to strike from behind another
* denotes weapons requiring two hands
Riposte: Attacks against the wielder which score below 7 (before AC is applied) result in the wielder being able to attempt a counter-attack, resolved normally.

Saturday 8 February 2020

Things Goblins Do

cw: sadism, violence, cruelty to animals and children,
basically if you didn't like the elves you'll really not like these goblins

goblins aren't cute. goblins aren't fun. goblins are fucking horrible.

they live in trash and build scrap-iron shivs. they lurk and crawl and titter in sadistic glee. a goblin can fit through a hole the size of a shilling given enough time. a goblin will stab another to see if the growth on it's face bleeds differently.

ac as armour
damage as weapon
morale 6
2d6 appearing

roll d66 (2d6 with the first dice being the tens and the second being the units)

d66What Goblins Do
11Steal the clothes from your children and pretend to be them.
12Kill the family dog and nail it's face to your door.
13Put poison in the fireplace whilst you sleep and stab you whilst you escape the poison smoke.
14Hamstring the horses whilst they sleep so you can't go and get help.
15Shit in your well.
16Put razor-blades in fruit still on the tree.
21Breed rats for violence and make them fight.
22Steal your baby and wear them as armour.
23Capture birds and snap their beaks.
24Collect the genitalia of their victims.
25Crawl under the floorboards and stick needles through the gaps.
26Slither down the chimney, steal a hammer and nail your ankle to the bed.
31Kill the prize bull, slit open it's belly and wait there for you.
32Ring your house in lantern oil and set it ablaze.
33Leave one alive to tell you what they saw.
34Strangle you six or seven times before getting bored and smashing your skull in.
35Eat your fingers, toes, ears nose and eyes and cauterize the wounds.
36Tie you to the corpse of your friend with barbed wire.
41Fill a bag with cats and bludgeon you with it.
42Skin your back and your feet and throw you in the ocean.
43Remodel your face after their own with a knife and a hammer.
44Worm into the space between the walls and listen to you at your most intimate.
45Ejaculate in your books so the pages are ruined.
46Hide from everyone but you until you are isolated and distrusted.
51Smear pigs in pitch and ride them towards you, holding a torch.
52Tattoo your face and hands with their goblin scrawl.
53Replace your dice with weighted ones and mark your cards.
54Hang the weakest of their band from the rafters of a church, waiting above for you to cut down the corpse.
55Leave the corpses of animals on your doorstep.
56Set dogshit alight and throw it at you.
61Piss in the alecask.
62Leave your chicken coop open for the fox.
63Pull moles out of their holes and hide in their burrows.
64Hold tadpoles in their mouths until they grow legs - and then eat them.
65Scream every night to stop you sleeping.
66Give your child a knife.