Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Whence Monsters? And Wherefore?

Where do monsters come from? I've thought of a few generators over the years.

Drunk gods: Gods have too much ambrosia ale and mate with things all the time. This creates ur-beasts, immortal monsters that sire many progeny in turn.

Mutations: In the last few æons, tech evolved to the point where someone smashed atoms (usually the harbinger of that æon's end). Slow mutants are a common result, but Godzilla style beasts are out there.

Death: Humanoid souls are ridiculously hard to keep asleep. There are multiple aspects to a soul, BTW. The egyptobuddists warned us!

Underworld spontaneous generation: Some of the most common dungeon baddies seem to sprout this way. Orcs, goblins, slimes, &c. Maybe a spore-based phenomena.

Sin: Many is a mortal whose outer form comes to represent their dark heart. Dwarves know the wages of sin. Great evil doers may get their own domain. Evil people make for evil dead.

Wizards & Mad Scientists: They love a good hybrid. Or robot. Or cyborg hybrid. Most lose control of their creations.

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Monday, December 27, 2021

Retroactive theivin' in elfgames

You don't want to narrate tapping sticks throughout the whole tomb of horrors


This is not going to be a long post. It's just a little tip.

The following is usually my default rule. Instead of having the player declare that they are checking for traps, I just wait until a trap is sprung and have the PCs roll retroactively to see if they noticed the trap ahead of time and so were able to dodge it, roll to disarm it, &c.

When I notice that PC paranoia is slowing things too much, I often restate this procedure for the players.

This procedure is best for trapped chests, nefarious doors, cursed treasure, Arduinian hallways, and the like. It's probably good to have obviously dangerous areas in most situations. For instance, a swinging scythes hallway is something to solve, not to detect. Give big ol' clues. Players will die in entertaining ways anyhow, and it won't be the DM's fault.

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Monday, December 6, 2021

Feels good thief skills

One of my players of our Arduin hack said I should post about how the thieves work. As the rules are currently written, any class can attempt any mundane action within reason. To do so, they just have to roll their check number or higher (each class has one and it gets one smaller each level up)*. The thieves get +1d to do a litany of thievy things though. +1d means at least a d24, but species or whathaveyou can bump that up to a d30 or more.
Any class can try skullduggery, but thieves do it better.

And that's it. But actually, I have been thinking of doing something similar with the other three classes. For instance, fighters have the worst check number to reflect that they are mostly focused on killing. But I've been thinking that instead of a better Base Attack Bonus, maybe I shouldn't have BAB in the game and instead just let the fighters get +1d to combat... not to mention bending bars, kicking in doors, intimidating infants, and so on. 

Yes the temptation to hack my hack is rising. You'd best make a copy of the google doc before I do if you like it as it is.
*: Think I heard this was a Swords and Wizardry thing. But maybe you roll low in that game? I dunno. This ABAM game is an unholy alliance between Dave Hardgrave's books, old DnD, and DCCisms. You can even find mighty deeds kinda hidden in the variant classes.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

When You End the Session Still in the Megadungeon

Roll 2d6+Hubris. Hubris is the difference between your level and the dungeon level you're on. It is negative if your level is lower. For example, a level 1 PC ends the session on dungeon level 3. They roll 2d6-2.
  • Snake eyes/1 or less: You died, and your possessions  and body were atomized somehow.
  • 2-3 or less: Vaporized body; each item may be somewhere that can be found.
  • 4: Died. Items on body 50% of time. 30% chance of body destruction each day.
  • 5: Kidnapped for ransom or enslavement. Items gone. 50% chance of hobblement.
  • 6: Lost, in need of rescue. One session before you die. 50% chance you are in wilderness.
  • 7: Changed: Mutated, bodysnatchers-ed, maimed, curst, &c.
  • 8: Naked, but alive and out of dungeon.
  • 9: Take a crit. If you live, you get out.
  • 10: Escaped. Make a luck check for each item you have to see if it got lost.
  • 11+: Escaped. Give up one item of your choice.
  • Boxcars: Got out with a random item!

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Saturday, October 2, 2021

On the Procreation of Dwarves

It is a little known fact outside of dwarf communities, but dwarven kind do not reproduce by anything as silly as mingling gametes.* 

When a community decides they need a new dwarf, they start the great chiseling. They find a rock worthy of dwarfiness, such as good marble, and begin to carve away until a statue of a dwarf is made.

You may have noticed there are no dwarf women, or heard speculation that their females are bearded. This is because there are also no dwarf men. There are just dwarves. It's a species designation, and gender is a somewhat alien concept to them. But most people use male pronouns because dwarves don't correct them.

So the statue looks a lot like any other dwarf. Many clans have developed tribal embellishments over the years. Mohawks are a popular "mutation" for example. But all dwarves have beards, and usually mustaches. The statue will not become a flesh and blood dwarf without treasure. Gems, silver, gold, et cetera are added. Runes are inlaid with diamonds. Ancient words are chanted, and blessings intoning the names of the fourteen dour dwarf gods are muttered. The dwarf statue glows brilliantly, and is transfigured into blood and sinew. The newly born dwarf blinks and is handed a hammer, battle ax, or ale. This is the way. 

There are times when a tribe will fill a great need by crafting specific traits into a dwarf. Genetic engineering by another name. Usually it is to fight a threat. Other times it is to fulfill a task. Such creations often turn out to not be dwarves at all. Some tribes call them mulls. Others might use the word golem. And many think them abominations that shouldn't be created even as a last resort. There are rumors that these creations sometimes escape and become monsters capable of reproducing somehow. Dwarves don't talk about it to outsiders though, and their runed walls don't ever record this shameful secret.

The need to gather treasure is instinctual--nay holy--and pleasing to dwarvenkind. But this desire gets perverted into greed all too easily, especially if the dwarf is not around his own kind. If dwarves don't reproduce and instead hoard their wealth, they start to undergo a blasphemous transformation. They grow scales, wings, horns. They turn ravenous and consume great quantities. They become ogres, giants, and even dragons. They all guard their hoard jealously. So if you see a dwarf muttering to his treasure and hissing at anyone that gets too close, beware! 

*: Now, non-dwarves that discover these things are mighty curious about certain facts of dwarf anatomy, but I'd rather not get into that. They eat and drink. They go to the bathroom. They don't like to peeped at in the bathroom. So don't. 


I need a preview image for this post, so I'm going with a pic of a drow take I did previously on the blog. If you want to read on what's up with the drow on my world, you can't, because the pic is all I really need to say on that topic (old post will tell you much the same).


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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

No levels follow up: Experiences, not XP

This is a sequel to my ramble on levels. One could expand or transplant the following idea into a full RPG.

There are no levels. Whenever you can claim an experience with something, you roll twice and take the better result. You know, the advantage mechanic.

Fought porcs before and are now in a porcine-humanoid fray again? Advantage! 

 The sphinx has demanded a fashionable makeover and you were a barber in your backstory? Advantage! 

Have to peruse De Vermis Mysteriis and majored in French in college? D'advantage! ----
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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Leveling is a Disease

Leveling is an Abomination 

This skreed probably won’t be long. But I’ve been wondering what could happen if we bucked the trend that a vast majority of RPGs follow. As far as I know, may only a few games don’t have leveling outside of the storygames (Powered by the Apocalypse’s decendants these days?). I think Traveler doesn’t. But maybe it should, let me promise to get back to that thought and then break the promise. 

 So, what’s so bad about leveling? Well, it kinda makes the game about getting better. The game becomes about the game? Eh, it’s not so bad. Well, anyways, I want to challenge myself to see what could be good about gaming without levels. 

Imagine, if you will, a different kind of campaign style. The DM emails her nerd crew with a message like this:

 Dear dorks, 

Congratulations on your theft of the 39 girdles. Everybody roll your Luck, and if you pass, your fence has not gotten tortured to the point where he sells you out and you are not in jail during the next leg of the campaign. 

Now onto the next adventure. Rumor has it that a gnome has been subtly probing patrons at the Howling Grognard Tavern & Cockfighting Ring. Seems the gnome is looking for some bad enough dudes to infiltrate the Baron’s Mistress’s cousin’s boudoir and make off with a specific necklace. There may be turtles involved, and a few theify types might be good for this one. What characters heed the call? 

So now the players have a choice: Do they make a brand new character--something that some players do on the regular to pass time anyways-- or do they bring an old character, risking one of their favorites? See, in a game without levels you don’t get new HP, you just get scars. And maybe an ignominious end. 

But there are plenty of nominious ends out there too. See, without levels, a character is kinda freed up to have an arc and and a well-earned retirement. They don’t have to worry about finally gaining the level where they learn to punch three times instead of two. Leveling is not particularly realistic. Which is fine, I mean, we are talking elf games here. But maybe without HP and ability inflation gumming up the mechanics, the players can actually experience some dadgummed stakes? 

And the DM doesn’t have to think, “When my players gain a few more levels, I can finally run them through The Tomb of Whores.” I got news for you, players don’t want to risk their level 11 characters. They’ve grown too attached! Nah, you can have your PCs face anything in a game where there are no levels (the trick being to use rules that give them a fighting chance) and the PCs are a rotating ensamble. So, how bout it?

Ah, so wait, the post is over, but I remembered what I heard about Traveller. Without levels, things get a bit dull. Reportedly. But I think the way of doing campaigns I described above would work well for that. Or imaging playing Star Wars without levels! Each mission could let a different person play a Jedi (everyone wants to be Jedi when you Star the Wars). One other aspect that is a bit of a fix to the traveller issue is having the achievements be in-world as opposed to on the character sheet. This is not the campaign style I’ve been thinking of, but gaining land, money, and spellbooks could be a fine play style. 

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Epic Humble Beginnings, a tale of starting a campaign

I need to break out of my cowardice as a DM. Namely, the fear of running without a module in front of me. But that doesn't mean I'm going to free-ball it. So here are things to help me plan.

The campaign starts in the town. The town is slightly isolated. There is a great empire ruled by the Underlord. The empire is evil, but since the Underlord wants to rule humanity instead of destroy it (for now), the village isn't much bothered most of the time. There is a mayor who collects grain from the townsfolk to give up as tribute to the Baron's collector or the occasional garrison that comes up from the city-state of the invincible underlord. 

The first line of the campaign will be, "your loins are being girded by the white girdle of novice cubs. As they cinch your nethers a bit too tight, the guild receptionist-slash-bartender mutters,  'Be sure to write your name on this, so they can identify your remains.' Then he moves on to the next member of your party. Now then, who is our sole demi-human?"

There is one demi-human in the party to start. Other races can be unlocked by encountering and befriending them. But otherwise, this is pretty anthropocentric beginning. Also ask who has the highest charisma-like stat. They are the de facto leader of the party. 
The guild is in a public house. Joining is one coin. Beer is one coin. A night with the village sex workers is one coin and a lot of shame. A sniffer of blue-mold is one coin. Everything is, except weapons and armor. We don't even have a dude that knows how to make armor yet. Maybe you could unlock that by doing a quest for the dwarves, who are in some nearby mountains working on their glory holes. 
How did you feel when I did a little blue humor just now, players? Let's talk about lines an veils.

There are a few quests on the guild bulletin board. Most people in the village can't pay much though. Maybe you have to find your own fortune. Can't clear rats out of basements all day.

The town is not too far from some manse reputed to be haunted. This is mega-dungeon one. It has 666 rooms, each more haunted than the last. Lots of cursed treasure too.

The town is also not far from some standing stones, which are rumored to be a gate to The Zone. This is mega-dungeon two, but it is more of a hex crawl through a parallel world with many ruins. 

There is a forest between here and Hinterville, and the forest is a forest-crawl. People say that the druish people there had great treasure. This is an odd rumor, maybe a bit racist. Anyways, people say barbarians and bandits are constantly in those woods, coming down from hyperboreal mountains to the north. The woods have an underground network below them full of dinosaurs and mushmen. This is mega-dungeon number three. 

Hinterville is said to be a lawless place under dispute by three wizard siblings and their subhuman creations, the slow mutants. But it might be worth going there to learn a spell or two. 

To the south are the Thousand Misty Islands in the Four Lakes. People say that the are used to not be a sea, until some great disaster made a huge crater there. Traders, slavers, pillagers, and the dead live on those islands. The Necromancer has her great keep somewhere amongst the islands.

A table of nasties for The Zone

  1. Bark! d6 bloated waste-hounds. Infective bites, explode if critted.
  2. Clatter!d4 headless knights. All non-critical damage they take becomes one damage.
  3. Rustle. A phage-tree. Save when you smell its blossoms or go berserk-mad.
  4. Ootini! Ten jawas. Have blasters that only they can recharge. Their mobile fortress may be nearby.
  5. or 6. Homage! Just steal something from Beyond the Black Gate. Cuz there are none better.

What follows is a map. Plan B. Based on some old Judges Guild stuff.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

What if an RPG but only 2d6?

Edit: The version written (not embedded via Google docs) won't change, but after some actual playtesting, I now invoke my duty to update the G-doc rules...

Recently, I've been going through my massive games Claytonian made folder, polishing turds and gilding lilies. Today I found 2d6 RPG and I was digging it. This looks fun and simple! And check out the BUT ACTUALLY SYSTEM. The monster wagers system is also something I want to see in play. In case you are wondering, I think this game is a riff off of Barony, rather than any Powered by the 2dpocalypse game. Barony came first!

I've made so many games I forget what was up with them. I'll embed the google doc at the bottom of the post (it will be the most up to date version), and input the text of the game above that for ease of reading.

2d6 Everything

by Claytonian

To dice your way thru life, roll high as you can on 2d6.

Difficulty Number needed (roll this or higher)

Simple Nae rolls, mate (you succeed)

Tasking Seven

Daunting Nine

Yikes This one goes to eleven

Combat is a bit special. The number you roll is the number of damage you or the foe takes. You have to roll at least seven damage to hit them (if you roll six or lower, you take the damage), unless you are fighting more than one foe, in which case the minimum number to roll goes up by one per additional opponent. Low roll spells hurt you too.

The But Actually System

For each level you gain, you get a Freebie checkbox. When you would take damage, you can instead check off one of these boxes and describe how you evade the hit, at some credible narrative cost. For instance, by saying "Actually it sunders my shield" or "Actually I duck down and get a bit of a haircut."

You can also check off Freebie boxes to add mighty deeds to your successful rolls. For instance, “Actually, I shove my hammer down the dragon’s throat, and it lodges in there, choking her!”

Freebie boxes, once checked off, are gone until you level up.

Char Gen

Each PC gets 2d6 HP. Each time you level up, you reroll this and take the new roll as your new HP if it's higher (this is not accumulative; the max HP any PC will ever have is 12).

Swords and Sorcery

After you roll starting HP, choose if you will be able to use magic or not. If not, you may gain one level straight away.


PCs have 2d6 shticks (talents/backgrounds/traits/&c). Make them up as part of character gen. When a shtick applies, a check's difficulty is one step easier.


0 HP characters are unconscious and will bleed to death within 2d6 rounds (rolled secretly). It is a daunting task to staunch the wounds.


You get all HP back at dawn each day. This does not heal narrative wounds though, so if you have a broken leg, it’s going to affect you for six weeks.


After a jolly good outing, the Two Dee Master (2DM) will announce a Leveling check. You can roll 2d6 and try to roll over your current level. If you succeed, you level up. 

Remember, when you level up, you gain a Freebie checkbox, uncheck all Freebie boxes you have, and get a chance to have more HP than before.


You start with 2d6 items. This is also your Load score. If you would pick up more items than Load, you will have all checks be one step harder. Put something down, maybe?


During a round, you can perform one action or move 2d6 hexes (not both unless you use a freebie). Initiative is not really a thing. If you don’t take care of monsters, the DM will have them dispatch you. 


Monsters get to do horrible things to you if you roll snake eyes to hit them. For instance, snake eyes against a giant may mean that it pounds you into the ground like a nail. Monsters have 2d6×Awesome HP. An underworld rage corpse probably has Awesome 1. A god may have Awesome 10. 

Quick, while it’s winded!

Monsters can wager 2d6 HP to do special moves at the top of a round, like breathe fire. This never kills them. If they are not damaged before the next round, they gain these HP back!

Character Sheet


Level: HP:


Freebie boxes: ❑❑❑❑❑ ❑❑❑❑❑ ❑❑

Load # ______ Inventory:          Encumbered?


Read on google docs here
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Thursday, July 8, 2021

d66 Loot the Body (refurbished)

d66 things in this unlucky stiff's pockets

This post is getting remade. Tweaked a little, but mostly being redone so you can read it on a mobile device without having to substitute one of Venca's eyes for your own.

When you loot a body, first roll a d66% for location on the body where this dude kept their good stuff: 11~34: Purse 
35~41: Inner vest pocket 
42~51: Boot 
52~56: Hat 
61~66: Britches. 

Second, roll a brace of sixers. I have some sub-tables for the items marked with *.
11 1d4 rations                                                    
12 PC level in copper*                                         
13 PC level ×1d6! (exploding d6) copper*                   
14 PC level in copper, one silver*                    
15 PC level in silver*                                    
16 PC level ×1d6! (exploding d6) gold*
Coinage sub-table (1d66): 11~34: shmeckles, 35~41: CHUD currency, 42~44: devil lucre (blasphema franca), 45~51: obols (good for deals with Charon, so maybe leave a couple for this poor stiff?), 52~54: coin of the next realm/kingdom over, 55~56: coins from the future, where one of the PC's royal visage has been minted, 61~66:1990s USA currency (pennies, nickles and quarters).
21 a statuette*
22 a bonito log 
23 a lump of purest green    
24 a robot's battery
25  a map to a dungeon
26  a Tijuana bible
Statuettes sub-table (1d8): 1) cat god; 2) unknown woman; 3) eldritch entity (sanity check!); 4) a member amongst the PCs!; 5) an unknown gods god, preferably a known one; 6) a pontiff; 7) a king, 8) duck on top, key on bottom

Statuettes sub-sub-table of materials (d10): 1) dolomite, 2) gold, 3) pewter, 4) lead, 5) wood, 6) crudely carved wood, 7) wax, 8) copper, 9) brass, 10) melted coins
31 a fan with a faction symbol
32 a very small "shower" spell scroll
33 someone (known)'s undies
34 an I.O.U. from "Big Paula"
35 a deed to Tegel Manor
36 scrip: a demon's secret name
41 an ear and a lizard 
42 a wand (might backfire)
43 a hymnal
44 a kung-fu manual
45 a prophylactic 
46 matryoshka dolls
51 faerie in a jar
52 oil lamp (empty)
53 jewelry* 
54 a key
55 a court summons
56 spool of thread  
Jewelry sub-table (1d12)(roll a d6×10×danger of acquisition to find monetary value): 1) earring, 2) earrings, 3) eye-patch, 4) nose-ring, 5) necklace, 6) torque, 7) diadem, 8) sheriff's badge, 9) rapper's grill, 10) blinged knuckle-dusters, 11) codpiece, 12) a band (a ring).
61 letter from this dude's love
62 intercepted scandalous missive
63 note on where a cult is meeting next
64 a monogrammed handkerchief
65 letter written in PCs own hand?!
66 last will & testament of "Bad Bob"

Hey, maybe the players discover something before they even get to that pocket.

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Record of Record of Lodoss War Campain Idea in Recorded Form


I'm thinking about when I run Lodoss again. I Fanslated the Companion Rules a while back, and ran the players through eight or so adventures. Now I'm eying translating a scenario book which has scenarios from both the past and present. I want to introduce a few houserules while I'm thinking about it.

Lodoss time trippin campaign

PCs will start 40 years in the past, right when the age of the six heroes was getting started. Eventually, they will play the descendants of the survivors of the first part of the campaign. The Descendants will adventure in the Record of Lodoss War era.

PCs will not know their HP or MP totals nor their current score. When they take damage to these, they don’t know how much it is. As HP and MP are abstract, the GM only has to give a few hints. 

PCs can attempt a concentration check any number of times per day, but it will cost them 1d6 MP damage each time. Level plays no part in how many concentration checks you get.

The GM does a lot of work, and will need to have a sheet of paper ready to record everyone’s FS, DE, and soak. The players can roll d100s, but the GM just needs their shit together so that they can just look and see if the PCs do the things they need to.

All those spells that lasted 10 rounds before? They can go any number of rounds now, but each round beyond the first will cost you an MP. Decide whether or not to pay when your team’s initiative comes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Best role-playing prompt in all of elf gamedom


Someone else came up with the prompt--who wazzat? Imma just add some spice.

Prompt, to be answered at char-gen: 
(person) won't give me (thing) because (reason).

It's a great way to establish character traits, connections, and lore. (Person) has the right to say they are not comfortable, BTW. Use your safety tools.

Spice: what follows is a list of things. Show it to the players to inspire them.

Actual things: A cursed book, the ten gold they owe me, his father's sword, my house, my boots,  a locket, a map to a place.

Abstract things: Respect, love, candor, justice, my sister's emancipation, freedom to do something, the time of day.

Actions: A kiss, a nod of "well done", first blood, a handshake, returning my eye contact.

What you won't give me (?): a comment with more ideas... 
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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Homebrews: Gygax vs Arneson

No Zocchi hack?

In recent weeks, I made a couple one-page treatments of OeD&D based around rumors of how Arneson and Gary played D&D in both ancient times and the later aughts, when they both leveled up to the basement in the sky.

Which would you rather play? I want comments on that.

Roll a d2 to decide which to read first and control for bias. They are both linked below, available on Googydocs. 
Hargrave link because it's Arduin week BTW

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Adventure Hook: Spiders of the Purple Mage by Phillip Jose Farmer for Thieves' World or Whatever

Very few people have the courage to go near the Isle of Shugthee.

‘All I know,’ she said, ‘is that they say that the mage came here about ten years ago. He came with some hired servants, and many boxes, some small, some large. No one knew what his native land was, and he didn’t stay long in town. One day he disappeared with the servants and the boxes. It was some time before people found out that he’d moved into the caves of the Isle of Shugthee. Nobody had ever gone there because it was said that it was haunted by the ghosts of the Shugthee. They were a little hairy people who inhabited this land long before the first city of the ancients was built here.’

Spiders of the Purple Mage is very good. It would make a good adventure, especially on a world like Lankhmar. Or heck, TW has its own out of print RPG, right? And I suspect Harley Stroh may have been influenced by this one when he wrote the module The Jeweler that Dealt in Stardust.

Hook: Have a solo scene with one of the PCs. They are walking through a bad part of town that is dark and pretty locked up. They are passing a house so reputed to be haunted that it hasn't even been scavenged. Ask the player who the poor youth is that just staggered around the corner and just about gave the PC a heart attack. Though the PC gets the sense that the youth is being pursued and it is best to stay out of things, they also hear the youth mutter something about a jewel before collapsing. 

If the PC ignores the boy, that will be that for the most part. Probably. Soon creepy sandpeople looking dudes come in. If the youth is alive at this point, they look briefly at the PC and continue to him, grab him and interrogate him in their strange donkey language. He dies within minutes. The sand-people will then start searching the area and want the PC for interrogation. The PC could fight them, even kill them, that's fine. But they will soon be scared off by hearing the whistles of the town guard in the distance (a coincidence, but they don't know that).

The PC of course will probably help the youth, who will mutter things about dying and getting into the maze of the purple sorcerer and stealing a jewel. Spiders. Pain. Ow. Urg. Dies. If the PC has dragged the youth into the haunted house, the sandpeople will come in, but the PC will be saved by the bell.

At this point I would do something akin to in medias res narration and be like, "that was two months ago. Since then, the town somehow got word of what happened that night and got it into their heads that [youth name] dropped a jewel and a rat ate it, so everybody hunted rats for a couple weeks, then moved onto cats, and now finally dogs. You've been dragged before constables, gang-leaders, the holy-mafia and the governor to tell your story, but everyone in power seems to be unwilling to mess with the Purple Mage. Nobody speaks sandpeople language, and they seem to have stop coming to town for supplies during the day anyway.

If the PC has a family, threaten that next. Have them be kidnapped. But the whole party will probably start getting anxious about going out there without this step. Eventually, sandpeople will come for the PC that witnessed thing if they are being passive. Then other servants come if the sandpeople are beaten or the Purple Mage can't find another way to get leverage.

Appendix N:
Now, not only would I mix in a little Lankhmar or Punjar (DCCRPG), but I'd try to find a way to get some good old Clark Ashton Smith involved too. I dunno, the henchmen remind me a bit of the priest-things from The Charnel God. And if you are going to include a mage maze, you got to get some Maal Dweb in there, son!

This story also reminded me a bit of running an old old old White Dwarf adventure,  Halls of Tizun Tane. Fond are my memories of making the faction-head-brothers Sega and Super Nintendo. Then I made the monkey creatures be neck-less things with upside-down faces in their chests. Man, I love this hobby. 
‘The fur trappers and hunters who’ve gone by the isle say they’ve seen some strange things. Hairy beast-faced dwarfs. Giant spiders.’ She shuddered.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Lankhmar Bundle of DCC Holding

Continuing from where I left off, there is a BoH going through May 10th for the Lankhmar material made for DCC. TLDR is buy this. But let's get some words about why.

For all intents, purposes, and intensive porpoises, I consider DCCL to be DCC's second edition. Well, I say that, but you probably need DCC core rules to play it. Luckily, the quick-start rules should be somewhere in the bundle. Here are some interesting DCCL innovations:

  • Benisons and Dooms: Often, these pull you into the setting and give little tastes of it.
  • Languages: More world-building. Everyone at least knows pidgin Black Toga-ese. No more of PCs speaking generic monster languages in an RPG that was supposed to have only special monsters anyways.
  • Spell restrictions: Mercurial magic is often a bit too jarring, so having down to earth magic weirdness is a nice change of pace. Yes, that sentence was ironic.
  • Sing this new corruption to me: Our freak wizards are home grown. Man, there are a lot more of these than in DCC.
  •  Magic gets split into black and white (or just normal).
  • No clerics, hobbits, dwarves, or elves: PCs will be different thanks to their backgrounds, but these things are out, and it's kinda refreshing to have humans that either stab or get stabbed (that's what wizards are best at).
  • Healing without clerics. You use up luck to heal, but that's okay, because
  • Fleeting Luck and Carousing can keep your Luck tank full. Most of the adventures have luck rewards too.

Gosh, this is getting to long again I could have gone on. Anyways, it's a great take on DCC. I ran a campaign that took us to the desert, where a PC led a tribe of pillar men thanks to carousing too much.  We met Ningauble and Sheelba. Fun was had, and a lot of strange wines.

So, let's go down what the bundle has now.

  • The Boxed Set: This has a ton of DCCL books in it. I kinda question that some of it got split up into separate books, because there were a few times I was like, wait, what book from the three main ones is that rule addressed in? The group did play through the included adventure No Small Crimes, and it was pretty good for setting elements. You gotta see the map of Lankhmar the Doug Kovacs did.
  • Gang Lords: This low level adventure is good for learning how to slum it. I like how NPCs give information hoping to call in favors later and research is largely about greasing palms.
  • Land Of Eight Cities: Lots of good information on this area to the north of the usual adventures, but when running it I got frustrated that though the political leaders of the cities are described a bit, there is no information I could find on which cities are whose, but in retrospect I am kinda dumb and I think this was by design, to let Judges make it their own. Included is an adventure which had a fun, odd antagonist.
  • Dozen Locations: If your PCs need to hit up a temple, you can just pull out the temple from here and adjust a few knobs on the fly. The thing is filled with plug and play buildings, maybe even 12 of them total, but don't quote me on that.
  • The lower-level adventures: Are all new to me. I'll just say the authors are very good at delivering the goods.
  • The higher-level ones: Ditto. It seems there is a lot of fun to be had fighting glowing, undead things though. 

Well, I think the main takeaway it that I need to get another Lankhmar campaign going so I can experience some of this material. To add some ballast to this post, I should say some critical things. I found the original boxed set overall a bit rushed-feeling. I think the artists and writers worked hard to get that Kickstarter out the door, but it feels like it needed some playtesting, time, and room to breathe. And most of the art is not by my usual DCC favorites, but that's a pretty subjective opinion that doesn't affect gameplay at all. 

As long as I'm being honest, I'm gonna admit that--because I didn't feel confident running the DCCL modules without lots of mental prep and so needed some lazy Judge padding-- I pulled a couple of one or two page adventure ideas from the reviled TSR-era materials, specifically Wonders of Lankhmar. Michael Curtis will be pissed if he ever finds out about that.



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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Hit boxes, not HP

Ran across this in a Roll20 note I made. I think it has great potential. I guess I was using it in my homebrew Quest Ferrit a few years back.

When you are hit, check off one of the following (replenish once per level each day, between fights):
☑You dead. Dramatically pulling the villain to hell with you optional.
☑Your shield is splintered.
☑Your armor, helm, or jaunty hat saved you this time...
☑'Tis but a flesh wound!
☑Monster rolls on a crit chart (you take injuries; ignore damage rolls generated by this).
☑Monster does something typical for its variety (melts your face off, burns you, ages you 7 years, etc.)
☑You roll your HD & armor die; not rolling a one on either of them means you survived this blow (everyone has at least a d3 armor die).
☑ You suffer an injury of the Judge's choosing.
☑ Lucky dodge! Your luck score goes down by one.

☑ (hobbits only) Another PC you name jumps in to save your bacon .
☑ (fighters only) The pain helps you focus; +1d to your next to-hit roll.
☑ (dwarves only) The foe tosses you into your allies, who toss you right back.
☑ (elves only) Demoralizingly deft dodge and dudgeon. +1d to next intimidation or taming check.
☑ (barbarians only) Rage! +1d to damage and crit charts this fight.
doesn't usually have one.


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Jump on the DCC Bundles of Holding while you can

Bundles plural. There are two bundles, so I'll talk about what I know about each one.

The DCC bundle has the core rule book, Thakulon, a Judge's Screen, and Sailors.

  • Core rules: For 15 bucks, the core rules alone are a bargain. If you have only ever played 5e, you need to give DCC a shot, and this is a good way. Since this version has a funnel (zero level adventure) called Portal Under the Stars, I recommend you break yourself into the game on that one.
  • Thakulon the Undying: Has a couple things going for it: Harley Stroh is involved and he is one of the best DCC writers. The set up of three levels for the three DCC alignments seems it would be a good way to see how DCC handles this DCCism differently. I recommend getting ahold of Court of Chaos (not in the bundle) for alignment shenanigans as well. Anyhoo, I'mma run it instead of a funnel the next time I start a DCC night, which is, thanks to the Bundle, very soon.
  • Judge's Screen: I mean, better to have printed on cardboard somehow, but okay.
  • Sailors on the Starless Sea: The most famous funnel. I've run it once, but do prefer Portal. It's pretty good, but very lethal, so prepare your players with warnings.

All that is worth the money. Then you have the extras for basically doubling your donation. Are they worth it? Let's see what you get (the three low level adventures are described first):

  • Moon Slaves of the Cannibal Kingdom: This is a good one to push the gonzo, one of DCC's best merits. This is science fantasy elfgames complete with a talking ape and three moons. Looks promising, but have not played yet.
  • Queen of Elfland's Son: The DCC take on faerie folk. I dunno, it includes goblins and most of the monsters have that unjustified (?) D&Dism where elven creatures are immune to sleep and charm, which is a bit bog-standard DCC for me, but it does have some new, weird fey and a monster unicorn. I think this one may be a good way to get PC wizards interested in getting patronage from the King of Elfland. Patrons are one of the best things about DCC. Oh, and it has a curse. Curses are a cool part of DCC that don't get used enough.
  • Star Wound of Abaddon: Science fantasy and Clark Ashton Smith gets a name-drop, so I'm pretty interested. And you gotta do this point crawl to experience the Cosmic Perversion table. 
  • Beyond the Black Gate: The rumors tables for this one are very nice, as they are different for each race/class. Also, they don't do that BS where they tell you which rumors are true or false (let's find out together, yo). This one explores multiversalism, which is another important aspect of DCC. Also, there is a bonus adventure with a crashed spaceship in there.
  • Emirikol Was Framed!: The eponymous wizard calls the party imbeciles and whoresons. I like this guy. Seriously, looks like a good fun-house dungeon module.
  • Imprisoned in the God-skull: This one has a lot going for it, what with ancient, epic history of a wizard so badass he had to be sealed away by a god's sacrifice, and wormwood aliens. Very much want to run this one.

So I think the takeaway is this is well worth the cash. You have years of gonzo gaming potential here. I've run DCC since the beta days and even written a third party adventure for it, so you know I'm a fan. Heck, some would say these books are worth it for the art alone. I'd say the biggest strike against the bundle is that it doesn't include Courts of Chaos, but jump on the bundle while there is still time!

 This has run long, so I'll cover the second Goodman Games bundle in my next post. You can still check it out though: DCC Lankhmar bundle.

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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Charismatic Party Leaders Houserule

Who's in charge here?

This idea might be best introduced in session 0 or one.

The PC with the highest Charisma or Personality score is the natural leader of the group, and should be role-played  as such. Maybe even have them be the one that recruits the other PCs.

If two people are tied for highest score, let there be a friendly rivalry. Emphasis on friendly. Maybe one should get the edge for achieving a heroic character arc.

If a new PC comes along with a higher score, there can be tension there too, but eventually, the lower character should realize that the new guy or gal is alright and cede the position (their player will probably like a break from the mental exhaustion of leadership around this point as well).

This is just the musing of someone who has seen a lot of TV shows and movies.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Sympathetic Magic

Been musing. So here's a magic system.

The wizard can do anything, but there has to be a cost and let the punishment fit the crime. 

For instance, the party lacks a thief and they have a locked gate in their way. The wiz steps up and... well, there are several spells they could improvise.

Timeline One wizard demands to be bound in chains. They will be all tied up for the next ten minutes.

Timeline Two wizard is no Hoodini. They opt to trepanate their own skull to unlock a perspective where the lock is like... an illusion, man.

Timeline Three wizard plunges a key into their own palm, digging down until blood is drawn. That wound will take the hand out of comission.

Timeline Four wizard shrugs and says, we should find the key, yeah?

Timeline Five wizard read another of my posts and is considering another, inventory-based, solution...

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Friday, February 26, 2021

My Carcosa Hack

Though it has been mentioned before, I've never actually put this RPG in an embedded form on this here blog. We've been playing for months, using Roll20 to make rolling all the dice ever at once very easy. In fact, I outdid Geoffrey Mckinney by making us roll all the things for skill checks too. Here is a Googdocs link if you can't see/print what's below.

These rules make it so you don't have to have any other elf game rules to run a Carcosan campaign. I use the beautiful dead tree version put out by the Lamentations group a decade or so back. If you want more Carcosan goodness, check out my last post!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

2d6 Carcosan encounters

These follow the rules laid out in a previous post. I'll recapitulate that the intention is to not roll for a chance of an ancounter, but to see what the inevitable encounter is. Once done, that cell of the table is empty, resulting in nothing if rolled again. 

If you want a pretty version that is easy to modify, follow the link in this post. And let me also share my Carcosa hack RPG while we're at it! 

An aspect of Yig. 30 hit dice. If it is not autumn, he will likely pause and lift his ophidian head to wait for worship. If non-such is coming, he will probably not be pleased. Yig also won't brook the torture of serpents. If it is autumn, Yig will be hungry, but may possibly be driven off by drumming.
The greys are driving a tank with a clone-beam. The tank ignores all damage below a threashold of 12. If a PC is hit with a clone-beam, they will spend three rounds splitting into two-beings, 90 scifi Poison Ivy style, and their clothes/armor will be ruined. One of them is an NPC that attempts to kill the other.
A sorceress
She has an entorage of slaves, all of whom she has seduced thanks to the Roofies of Relore. She will trade a ritual for one she doesn't know.
A mercenary band
The Crimson Company is camping. They really want a strong, crimson leader, if the party happens to know any. They are otherwise only interested in work for hire.
The carnosaur ate a party with some fun equipment and treasure last week. Search its poop and you will find these.
Apatosaurus vs Brachiosaurus vs Brontosaurus
The impossible fight is happening!
A robot
Buckaroo bob. Buckaroo is a personality downloaded from a parallel timeline, where Carcosa is a pleasure planet divided into zones called worlds. Buckaroo is from Wild West World. He resembles a human, but has silver eyes. He has a pistol with exploding damage, and shoots very fast, doing three attacks per turn.

A robot
A humanoid with crab-like legs. Its percieved function is to skin people, so it has a giant carrot-peeler-like appendage that looks kind of like a scorpion's tail. Its lair, filled with rotting skin, is nearby.

Itenerate people
Roll a d13 to find their hue. These are simple hunter-gatherers. They worship Yig and other such beings, and will give info to nice parties: Yig can be driven off by drumming.
Spoor from a spawn or robot that the party has yet to meet. If they party is smart enough to try and avoid the encounter after that, they won't meet it. The party could find cowbody costumes, skinned bodies, a body with a hole in the back of its head, a glowing rock that causes headaches, etc.

Pilgrims of Yig
These mysterious verdent-hued people have serpentine mutations. One has snakes for arms. One has a hingeless jaw. One has scales. One is a sorceror who can summon five 8HD snakes per day. If the party is cordual, they may give a mission to go into a nearby cave system and search for a sperpentine torque they believe is down there, among the White Guardians and cave mummies.

Rainbow Mastodons
The buck of the heard can shoot rainbows out of its trunk that drain 2d4 exploding stamina and change your hue to a random one.

Travelling Caravan
The caravan enjoys the protection of the Rainbow-coalition, a group of mercenaries of all hues, and twenty in number. The RC has three ray guns, which they point at the PCs at all times from the central cart's tower. They will mention that a ruined city is nearby and offer to pay well for any valuable baubles that can be brought back from it.

A spawn
Glovorosto, she of many migranes. There is a 1 in 6 chance that Glovorosto is suffering a migrane when encountered. If so, the PCs will feel her pain to the point that the largest die they can use to attack or make checks will be one step worse. Glovorost looks like a giant brain with septiginal-radial simitry and fish tails jutting out of her skirt of phlem. Her touch will cause scanners-style head explosions unless the toucher rolls a d20 OVER thier INT score.
A spawn
This unnamed being takes up  habitation in shadows. What can be seen of it is its tendrils, which jut out of everyone's shadows. If a tendril is hit, the owner of the shadow where that tendril is found takes equal damage. The spawn is in the shade of a baobab tree when first encountered. If knocked to 1 HP, the spawn will rest for three days in someone's shadow, which takes on an ulfire hue.
A spawn
The puppeteer. It curretly resides in the brain stems of ten zombie-like azure people, who wander towards any movement or light they spy. These people have nails that are tipped with hollow needles, like hypodermics. If they scratch someone, that person needs to make a save or become possessed too.

Lotus dealer
Skeeve has three arms and robot bodyguard. Skeeve has a pouch of death-lotus dust (he is immune) and his robot has a dart-gun, the darts of which are loaded with death-lotus. Skeeve will be cool if you are.
Each one has been modified by a cyber-virus and has a little satellite-reciever dish sticking out of its head. Their eyes have been replaced by cylon-visors. Their legs end in spikes. They emit a field that neutralizes all lasers, beams, and plasmas within 60 feet.
They have jack-rabbit-like legs instead of fins. There is a 30% chance that some animal or people are tracking them and will also be along shortly, hoping for sweet dolphin meat.
Perpriatic hologram
The hologram is projected from within by a light-bee. It is cordial, changes its appearance to mimic whoever it is talking to. It will tell people about where to find one of the terrible carcosan items found in the core book, but wants a taste of exotic beam weaponry shot into it in exchange. There might be some such guns on that caravan it saw the other day.
A Cyborgess
Botness has a purple hue and is looking for adventurers to accompany her on a little mission to free someone's soul from torment (find Obregon's Dishonor somewhere if you can, or make up an adventure).
Geoffery  Mckinney
A mad man with glasses and stone-washed jean-shorts. He claims to have dreamed up this world. He has a set of plastic polyhedra on him. He has a 10 to 90% chance of remembering the answer to any question regarding the setting, provided the Carcosa Master hasn't already changed a detail or two (he doesn't know anything about this encounter table).
Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Give and Take Initiative

Imma give a surprise round to the monster tho.

It's a simple idea: There are no rolls for initiative. First, the players are given a chance. Any one of them may come forward and try an action, such as attacking. When that player is done, the GM has a foe attempt an action. Then it goes back to the players.

I suggest if your elfgame allows multiple attacks or spells or whatever, you resolve them all at once as your action. I also suggest that any movement allowed you be done on your go.

There are rounds. Each entity in the fight gets only one action per round. If one side runs out of able bodies, the other side gets all of its agents that haven't gone yet squared away in whatever order they like.

Three PCs confront a behemoth. The GM asks who's up. Ser Twitchy asks the other players if it's okay for him to go, and they nod. Twitchy has two attacks, and rolls them both now. The monster takes them like a champ. 

Now the GM will go. She only has the behemoth to worry about. It has three attacks, so she rolls all three now, one against each PC. Sheela the Forgotten falls dead. 

Now it goes back to the PCs. Bob the Resuscitative was going to go in for an attack, but decides to use his action to shove a life cookie into Sheela's wound. 

Usually, the round would be over at that, but the GM has a surprise up her sleeve: Dread Maggots are popping into play from a nearby corpse, and they are going to try to burrow into everyone's wounds. The round finally ends with everyone rolling maggot-saves. As you do. 

This system favors the players' side a bit, but they need a break sometimes. One merit of the this system is that it could be used in either DnDs or Dungeon World pretty easily.

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