Sunday, December 15, 2019


I'm working on something for Apocalypse World

Coming soon!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Fate RPG

If I'm playing a game and my character is a super badass who is really good at one thing then I shouldn’t be left rolling the dice and feeling like I have a completely average result.

The first time I played in a Fate game it was a science-fiction setting and I made my character to be this ace pilot. I had the maximum skill that I can possibly have in flying my space fighter, and I remember rolling the dice (A LOT OF DICE) and the result that I got was completely average. I didn’t even successfully complete a basic maneuver. It wasn't so much that it was a very bad roll, it was just that it was not a good roll. I looked at it at the dice and asked "doesn’t this mean this is always going to average out?" and the GM said "yeah it pretty much always averages out" and I said "then I'm not an ace pilot, it doesn’t matter how good my skill is, I’m always going to be average and everything I do is going to be average"

There was a lot of hemming and hawing from the players around the table who loved the concept of this system, and somebody said "that’s not exactly the way that it works because you have other things to draw upon" and I said "I don’t think I should have other things to drop upon, I should have the skill, and then I should roll the dice and do something cool, or do something skillful, or at the very least competent"

I wasn’t even competent

The other thing I don't like about Fate is that there's no character progression.

I asked about experience points at the end of the session and was basically told there’s no leveling up, there’s no buying more skill points, you basically just spend experience to move points around or shuffle your skill levels around. That doesn't appeal to me, either as a player or as someone who enjoys fiction. If I’m playing an ace pilot in the first session then I should still be an ace pilot in the 14th session, regardless of anything else. Just like Walter White is a chemist in the first episode of Breaking Bad, he's still a chemist in the last episode of Breaking Bad, but he's definitely picked up some other skills along the way.

I asked "I'm a pilot, I’ve maxed out my skill, what is stopping me from just moving all those points from being a pilot into becoming a neurosurgeon?" and I was told "you have to justify the changes, so it would very unlikely that you would be this great pilot and then all of a sudden become a great neurosurgeon, because you have to explain why" and I said "you mean, an average pilot becoming an average neurosurgeon" but I went a bit further with this inquiry too and said "well it’s in the rules that I can just move these things around, so if I can find a way to become a neurosurgeon you’re telling me that’s all I need to do, contrive a way to connect it?" and the GM said "yeah, it's highly unlikely you'd have a character that is a great pilot who becomes a great neurosurgeon, but if you really want to find a way to do it then you just need to explain it"

Well, that's my only goal with this character now: to become a great neurosurgeon who dies while flying because he's forgotten how to pilot his ship.

I remember somebody saying that character growth is not tied to skills, and my response to that is "But it is!" I'm a completely different person today than I was when I played Fate. I'm not only a different person but I've picked up new skills along the way. That's what's key about character progression, you not only have to progress but you have to feel like you're progressing. I feel stale and stagnant if I stop doing new things but the great thing about progressing through life is that I can still do the old things that I haven't done in a long time. Accounting, bartending, making a latte, I still remember how to do all of those things alongside being able to write a joke and drive a semi. I'm not an ace pilot or a top notch neurosurgeon, but I definitely still think Fate is a dumb system.

2 out of 5 stars, for this years-late review of the Fate RPG

Friday, October 25, 2019

Dark Souls the Role-Playing Game

tl;dr You don't want to play Dark Souls the RPG.

What would a Dark Souls tabletop role-playing game actually look like? I think it would be a d20 rip-off. One of those 3rd edition open game license d20 fantasy heartbreakers that just has some new cover art but is a game you've already seen, already played, and probably already own. The rules were written on the back of a napkin. Somewhere buried back behind the "new" feats and prestige classes is an appendix with the original concept for an alternative way of treating D&D modules, and that's the true heart of the Dark Souls RPG.

It’s basically a way of modifying existing D&D modules and the entirety fits onto one page, but this company paid for the Dark Souls license and that's why you had to wade through a 300-page cookie cutter d20 rulebook with recycled artwork from the Dark Souls Design Works hardcovers to read this one page.

You would start at 1st level and the first time your character fights anything, whether it’s a skeleton and or an orc, they need to roll a 20 to hit. There’s no attack modifier, there’s no armor class, each PC tracks what their numbers to hit different creatures are, and they all start at 20 as the default. Your character sheet starts just as your Level and what weapon you're carrying.

The first time you fight something you don't roll initiative, you get to go first, but you need to roll a 20 to hit. If you miss your roll then your number to hit that creature decreases by one permanently. Example: If you fight a skeleton you need to roll a 20, and if you don't roll a 20 then that number decreases to 19, and then the next time you attack if you miss that number decreases again, perpetually, every time you miss, until you just always hit the skeleton.

That skeleton you're fighting though? It ALWAYS hits you. And you have as many hit points as your level.

You don't roll damage, instead it is a reflection of your level versus your opponent's Hit Dice. You need to hit them a certain number of times based entirely upon their Hit Dice divided by your Level, plus one. Example: If a skeleton is 1 Hit Dice, then at 1st level you need to hit that skeleton twice in order to kill it [(1÷1)+1=2]. Dividing always rounds to the nearest, so at 2nd level you still need to hit a skeleton twice (1÷2=0.5) but at 3rd level you only need to hit the skeleton once (1÷3=0.3). All of this means that combat in the Dark Souls RPG is very tedious and boring.

You can probably have a simplified version of this where PCs only track their To Hit numbers versus the number of Hit Dice a monster has. Thus, instead of tracking what you need to roll against a skeleton, you track what you need to roll against any creature with 1 Hit Dice, but your character sheet would just be a list of what it takes to hit creatures of different hit dice levels.

And death, every time you die the module resets and you return to where you last rested. The GM would have to either include bonfires in modules or just have designated resting areas. An entire party of PCs could work, if they are able to avoid a Total Party Kill (which repopulates the whole map) and at least one PC survives the battle then the other characters could be "summoned" back, but only survivors receive XP.

If you have a spell instead of attacking then you can avoid rolling dice to hit, but you’re still going get hit, especially by ranged attacks.

How do you level up? I don't know, probably the usual D&D way. I didn't think that far ahead. The point being: Dark Souls makes more sense as a video game, it doesn't make any sense as a tabletop RPG.

That’s pretty much the whole idea, but this sprung out of the idea that if you’re playing a role-playing game and you’re taking on a particular role you should be really good at that, right? You don’t want to play Dark Souls the RPG because it is as boring as it sounds.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Dark Souls magic

The series starts with three kinds of magic: sorceries, miracles, and pyromancies.

Sorcery is a form of magic that is implied to have been created by Seath, the "grandfather of sorcery," the scaleless dragon who betrayed all other dragons for a chance at immortality. Anyone with a high Intelligence and a catalyst (usually a staff of some kind) can cast a sorcery. There are less than 28 sorceries in the first Dark Souls and that number only grew to 39 by the third installment.

Miracles are stories retold so many times that they have become a form of magic, the story evokes an effect. Though miracles do require both a Talisman to cast and a high Faith score. The first Dark Souls has 23 miracles and that number exploded to 38 by the third game.

Pyromancies originated as flame sorceries that only the Witch of Izalith and her Daughters of Chaos knew. When they failed to recreate the First Flame, pyromancy was one of the resulting side effects of their failure. Within the lore of Dark Souls, learning to wield a pyromancy flame requires that you produce the flame from your own body. There is no stat requirement for casting a pyromancy spell. There are only 20 pyromancies in the first Dark Souls, but by the third game there are 30 of them.

(In the second Dark Souls game they introduce hexes, which originate as a subset of sorcery from the Abyss that deals Dark damage, but it is implied that this same Dark magic has tainted some miracles as some hexes are cast the same way that a miracle would be.)

Suppose you apply these forms of magic to D&D. Sorceries are the domain of wizards, miracles would apply to clerics, and pyromancies would most easily fit with druids. Bards would, predictably, dabble with all of them. But a magic system that only requires the proper stat requirement and the tool to use it appeals to me more than a class-based system. The lore behind each spell usually explains where it originates within the game's backstory. Consider the in-game description for Fall Control, the Dark Souls equivalent of feather Fall:

"Sorcery developed by a certain surreptitious sorcerer at Vinheim Dragon School. Reduce damage and noise from fall.
This sorcery, along with Hush, explains the extravagant cost of hiring Vinheim spooks."

What if Mirror Image was just a spell you could find out in the world? And you knew it was developed in a city called Riverport? So if you want it, you'd venture toward Riverport to look for it, right?

These are all things I want for D&D: Lore for spells. An origin of magic. Smaller spell lists.

Monday, October 7, 2019

October 2019 - summer ennui

We haven't played D&D in almost 2 months. This seems to happen to me every year, around July or August we take a break and then we just never return to gaming or it's such a huge break from the table that I wonder if we should continue with the game we had going in the first place. Christmastime seems to have a similar break, but players are always eager to return. Probably has something to do with the weather.

Monday, September 23, 2019

my Appendix N

In 1979 when Gary Gygax first compiled his list of literature for Appendix N, he was drawing upon literature that he had grown up with and read for decades. The earliest stories were written by Lord Dunsany and he was published as early as 1905, but from what I can gather the most recent story on that list was published in 1978 (The Pirate of World's End by Lin Carter), though some of the series mentioned were still having stories written after 1979. My experiences with fantasy and science fiction are far removed from much of this literature. If I were to compile my own list of inspirational literature it would be ironic that I would end up listing several D&D books as my inspiration for playing D&D. Additionally, so much of pop culture and nerd culture is wrapped up in movies and video games, it would be impossible for me to write an Appendix N without including these cinematic and interactive media, despite the fact that much of it is likely also influenced by the existence of D&D.

Caveats in place, I give you my Appendix N:

Alexander, Lloyd: Chronicles of Prydain
Barker, Clive
Findley, Nigel: Into the Void; GURPS Illuminati
Howard, Robert E: Conan series
Jackson, Steve and/or Livingstone, Ian: the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series
King, Stephen
Lewis, C.S.: Chronicles of Narnia
Lindsay, David: A Voyage to Arcturus
Lovecraft, H.P.: At the Mountains of Madness
Maitland, Karen: Company of Liars
Martin, George R.R.: Saga of Ice and Fire
Matheson, Richard
Pratchett, Terry: Discworld series; SMALL GODS
Tolkien: The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings
Weis, Margaret & Hickman, Tracy: Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy; Death Gate Cycle

comic books
Conan (anything published by Marvel or Dark Horse)
Heavy Metal magazine
Lone Wolf and Cub
Swamp Thing (volume 2)
Usagi Yojimbo

film & television
The Dark Crystal
Doctor Who (both series)
John Carpenter's The Thing
Mad Max; Road Warrior; Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome; Mad Max: Fury Road
Time Bandits
The Twilight Zone

video games
Dark Souls and it's sequels
Dwarf Fortress
Elder Scrolls series
Fallout series
The Legend of Zelda series
Ultima series

Saturday, September 21, 2019

what I think I want in D&D

  • the gods are physical beings, existing within the world and can be talked to and/or killed
  • there is no turning undead
  • spellcasting doesn't even use levels or slots, spells just work or require an expenditure of HP or ability score loss (draining STR or CON) or something that replenishes with rest
  • spellcasting is something anyone can do if they have the right stats
  • there are no classes
  • only humans
  • static DCs for d20 rolls
  • equipment and gear more important than stats
  • exploration is more important than fighting
  • combat as war
  • leveling up is an explicitly magical THING that you have done to yourself, it doesn't happen often but could be something characters work towards
  • lore is baked into the world, if the Magic Missile spell exists then people know who created it, where it's been used, and how they might find it

    I have no idea if any of this is doable, but I'm going to try
  • Monday, July 1, 2019

    July 2019 - clerical error

    I've changed my mind about clerics: they shouldn't have the ability to turn undead.

    This decision has upended everything I've been working on!

    I have more options with undead creatures now, but also don't know how to revise clerics to compensate for the loss of class ability.

    There's a concept in Dungeon World that a PC cleric is THE cleric for the world, so you wouldn't be seeing them in large groups unless they were "very important" NPCs or, more likely, villains and opponents. I'm thinking about taking this concept into OSRenstein and saying there are very few clerics overall, but they end up being leaders or chamopions of their faith.

    Where does that leave PCs?

    I don't know yet, but I'm working on it.

    Sunday, June 30, 2019

    Hey Dave! this is Dark Souls

    My brother asked me to explain Dark Souls to him, I told him I'd make a video explaining the basics - here it is:

    Monday, June 17, 2019

    some Hot Springs Island bullshit

    I never explained who the players' characters are:

    Zora is a Chaotic Human Fighter, she signed up as a mercenary with the Martell Company to spy on their operations and she wants to find some precious elven relics before she tries to leave the island

    Allmah is a Neutral Human Thief, she was sentenced to work for the Martell Company to pay for her crimes back in the city (a 9 year sentence), she and Zora kept each other alive during the war and Zora helped her escape her chains when their ship wrecked upon the island, she hopes she can leave the island with enough wealth to never work another day in her life

    Diera is a Good Human Magic-User, she signed up as a mercenary with the Martell Company because her cousin, Zora, had as well, she she hopes to find powerful magic on the island which she can claim for her own use

    One of our "heroes," Zora, decided she wanted to burn down the glade of pine trees swarming with bees. She snuck off in the morning with her Lava Rug to burn the glade down and immediately stumbled across a nest of vyderac seekers and swarmers. She used the Lava Rug to roll over the swarmers and it protected her from the seekers well enough, but she still got bit through her boots and the seeker dust made her hands go numb, causing her to drop the rug as soon as she made it to the glade. She soon learned the bees will extinguish fires fairly quickly, and they can overwhelm vyderac seekers. After reconnecting with the others, they decided to move their camp closer to the glade.

    During the hours of traveling back and forth between the shoreline and the glade, Allmah crossed paths with an earth imp named Gode, who seemed very curious as to why humans have returned to the island. She answered all of his questions and explained about the Martell Company and the lizardmen and salamanders she had encountered. Gode corrected her, "Well, actually, those are the Goa and they're very unfriendly." and "Well, actually, those are the Fuegonauts and they're really stupid."

    Zora insisted on exploring around the glade and they found a ruined hilltop that Gode was reluctant to approach. He claimed there were more elementals like him living there and they were cheats and liars. Zora ignored his prattling and walked down the only stairwell amongst the ruins to find a gambling den filled with steam and fire creatures, all drinking and gambling, and being super annoyed that another earth imp, Gode, had arrived. The bartender bet each of the humans one gold bar that they wouldn't be able to get the earth elementals to leave, and Zora took the bet. She talked to the other earth imp, Grine, for a very short period of time before he agreed to follow her. As they left the gambling den, they found there were already steam imps at the top of the stairs with gold bars. This was not so much a bet as it was a payoff. The steam imps helped construct a ship for the humans to sail of the island and then returned to the den, asking the humans not to return with their two "friends."

    They moved the second ship, a very simple but large rowboat, closer to their pirate skiff along the shore, then proceeded back into the jungle where they found a copper arch standing in a pond of white lilies. Allmah swam through the pond and found an ornate golden box with a strip of perfectly preserved and tattooed skin inside - nobody could read the runes etched into it. Diera proceeded to study the archway, and they were soon approached by lizardmen who held their hands up peacefully. Some tense conversation led to an understanding that these were Arva, "good lizard people" as Diera put it, and they wanted to know what the arch did. When Diera concluded her study, she shared her knowledge with them: a teleportation gate that required a chime to operate.

    "I bet that chime is in the gambling den!" said Zora. The party returned to camp resolved to explore the gambling den, and at the very least attempt to steal the elemental core that dominated the archway over the bar.

    Some DMing note:
    At first the players thought that Gode was cute, but I emphasized that his questions are tedious, never stop, and are potentially hazardous. "So your hair just gets longer every day? Can you feel it? How can you not feel your hair? are there other parts of your body you can't feel? Does it hurt when I poke you like this? How about here? How about like this?"

    Describing the gambling hall, the House of Tranquility, was difficult but I think I pulled it off well enough for the players to understand that this place is part of an elemental society built upon elven ruins. One of Diera's INT checks revealed that these imps weren't summoned, they came here on their own - now she's wondering if there are portals to find on the island. When I described the gray core in the bar, table talk immediately turned to "how can we steal this thing?!" and it became a focal point for returning to the den.

    While reading the description of the Arva I realized that their motivation of not wanting "any non-Arva to know who or what their leader is" was not going to work. There didn't seem to be any other way for me to have the players hear the name 'Damadar Deodan' so I ignored this motivation and had them be very open about it, even bragging about how powerful he was. I also really like the character of Damadar Deodan so I placed him in hex 19-03, because why the hell not? It gives the Arva a place to congregate to after they explore, and it's close enough to the bathhouse that Damadar might ask some adventurers to go find the source of power the Arva sense there.

    Monday, June 10, 2019

    Kamutra, the Umbral Drake

    Kamutra was once an ancient dragon, obsessed with extending his own life he explored every possible avenue to fins the secret to immortality. He imprisoned his own kind and discovered ways of inflicting magics and curses, documenting the effects they had. Kamutra pursued the only method he knew to extend his own life, by consuming the blood of his fellow dragons, though this had despoiled his body and he found himself growing more despondent with each passing year.

    Kamutra was fortunate to cross paths with and befriend Sanglorious'es child, Aspehnen, and they discovered the two shared a connection within dreams, able to converse whenever both were asleep. With the help of Aspehnen and her brother Verlamm, Kamutra developed advanced magics and skills within dreams, researching a way to transpose his physical form into dreams in order to become truly immortal. There was only one catch: in order to live forever Kamutra would have to ensure that there were always dreamers.

    After toiling for an age, Kamutra finally achieved his goal of immortality through the creation of dreamwalkers. However, the transposition did not come without a price. As the dragon retreated into dreams, his desires and passion became muted and insubstantial, his mind became as mercurial and unfocused as a dream. Kamutra would probably have tried to escape, but he had so committed himself to traversing dreams that in the end he became one. Eternally trapped within dreams, Kamutra flew far and wide across dreams to teach the art of dreamwalking to any who might dream deeply enough to catch his attention.


    Prime Requisite: Charisma (minimum 9, opt.)
    Hit Dice: d6
    Weapons: Any
    Armor: Any
    Saves: as Fighter

    Dream Magic
    Spells must be selected when the character first enters sleep. The maximum number of spells active is equal to the Dreamwalker's charisma modifier (minimum of 1). Spells have effects upon waking the next morning.

    connect to others through dreams

    Effect: The Dreamwalker can link to a number of PCs and NPCs dreams equal to their level, these connections must be made with people the Dreamwalker has at least met face to face. While awake, the Dreamwalker can recall knowledge of or have communicated with the PC or NPC. This knowledge can be used to receive bonuses for skill checks, or supplant the character's knowledge with information they might not have access to in the waking world. For example, linking to a priest from a secluded monastery might bestow knowledge of the layout inside the monastery.

    acquire skill in waking world from dreams

    Effect: The Dreamwalker can learn a skill, at the maximum for their level, for use in the waking world. The knowledge of this skill is lost upon entering sleep again, unless the Dreamwalker continues to use this spell to acquire the same skill.

    Armor of Sleep
    dream-realized armor in the waking world

    Effect: In the waking world, the Dreamwalker's body manifests a shadowy armor that pushes away enemies and protects the Dreamwalker from harm. Any damage received is reduced by a number of points equal to the Dreamwalker's level, to a minimum of 1 damage.

    Umbral Ally
    summons dream ally into waking world

    Effect: Upon waking, the Dreamwalker has a shadowy ally that follows them obediently and without question or hesitation. The ally has half the HP of the Dreamwalker (round down), but otherwise has the same stats for combat purposes. The ally disappears if their HP are reduced to zero or when the Dreamwalker sleeps again.

    Dreamed Weapon
    conjures dream weapon into waking world

    Effect: The Dreamwalker awake with a shadowy, wispy weapon of their choosing. It cannot be broken and leave their hand unless the Dreamwalker wills it. As soon as the weapon is put down it begins to fade into nothing (in 1d6+1 rounds) unless the Dreamwalker picks it back up.

    Mass of Nightmares
    surrounds dreamer with nightmares pulled from dreams, can be used as weapons or armor

    Effect: Upon waking a number of Nightmares equal to their level hovers around the Dreamwalker's head, these wispy orbs of darkness can only be seen by someone who gets within 15 feet of the Dreamwalker, otherwise it appears as if an aura of darkness surround the Dreamwalker, though actual light around them is unaffected. Each Nightmare has 1d6 HP, and the Dreamwalker can dispatch one as a weapon to inflict damage equal to it's HP. A single Nightmare can be sacrificed to bestow Disadvantage to an attack against the Dreamwalker.

    Sunday, June 2, 2019

    Hot Pirate Island

    The players in this game are all women. I feel like I should point that out before I mention that the first thing they did in the second session is seduce the last surviving pirate into having a lesbian orgy with them. It feels like not a lot happened in this session, but there WAS quite a bit of character development. Its difficult to remember in-game conversations, but they definitely spent a lot of time discussing what they wanted to do and what their goals are. My players also don't have a lot of experience with rules so I'm sort of keeping the nuts and bolts rules secret but just offering a lot of options and trying to make "Yes, you can (do that) if you (do this) first" statements. I'm essentially using an Apocalypse World 'success/partial success/miss' kind of roll for everything, but the players always roll a d20.

    They had dumped the bodies of the dead pirates into the water of the cove, and the blood attracted some salamanders - Fuegonauts. The salamanders attempted to capture them, but the magic-user in the group, Diera Fireflame, cast a spell called Song of the Poisonous Memory. Diera Fireflame has been having bad luck with her magic, she keeps failing to cast a spell and the magic twists and warps into ways she doesn't intend. So far she has inadvertently and unintentionally possessed a magic club, sent a charm spell backwards in time to convince a hive of bees that she's their queen, turned her eyes into black inky portals to the Abyss (she can still see with them), turned all insects within 100 feet into geniuses, and that's just what I can remember. She finally cast a spell successfully, and infected the salamander brains with brain aneurysms, causing them all to die instantly. Later, she would do the same to a swarm of giant centipedes.

    They spent a few days resting, brewing poison, identifying magic items, and converting the pirate cove into a base of operations, then sailed around the southern tip of the island in search of elven ruins. Their surly and rude warrior, Zora Lieng, had come to the island in search of elven relics and their new ex-pirate lover indicated that ancient elven ruins could be found in that direction. After landing on a centipede-infested beach, they made camp and explored for a few hours, finding a grove of trees with massive beehives. Zora has decided to destroy the trees, but it's getting late and so they returned to camp.

    1st-level spell
    Song of the Poisonous Memory
    range: 30 feet
    Wisdom saving throw negates
    failure = target takes 2d6 damage, damage ignores armor and cannot be reduced in any way, only affects creatures with brains
    1st-level spell, cast at higher level to affect more targets (each level adds +1 target)
    if rolling for spell, a critical success turns the spell into an area effect (a DCC spell might also increase damage or be able to affect non-brained creatures with a high enough roll!)

    Saturday, June 1, 2019

    June 2019 - writing is editing

    My job has been exhausting and I have ended up having less time for my hobbies. I only play video games about once a week, and I don't even check my email until the end of the week. I've also run into the problem of constantly trying to reschedule my own tabletop gaming due to everyone's conflicting work schedules. I don't really know how to simplify some of these complications, and I'm inclined not to think too hard about them. My job pays well, and when I'm asked to do extra work I jump at the chance, for now.

    I have been writing scant new material, but I have been rewriting a few things I posted on this blog over the years. I guess the correct word is editing. I should have called this blog Rough Draft, because I usually just spout off a bunch of ideas or nonsense that I come up with and I only check to make sure it's coherent before I hit the publish button. Lately I've been going through old posts about Kosranon and editing them.

    For example, I looked at this:
    The Masadhi are an oddly private race of grotesquely misshapen mystics who feel compelled to constantly travel from one place to another. They are revered for their insights by most of the other cultures they come into contact with.

    and it became this:
    The Masadhi are a race of grotesque nomadic mystics, revered by most others for their prophetic insights.

    There were unnecessary words, and I end up keeping the description while leaving more open to personal interpretation.

    The edit of that first sentence looks like this:
    The Masadhi are an oddly private race of grotesquely misshapen mystics who feel compelled to constantly travel from one place to another (replace with nomadic). They are revered for their (+prophetic) insights by most of the other cultures they come into contact with.

    Stephen King says that he cuts about 10% of everything he writes, and I'm definitely no Stephen King because I'm cutting about half of my words.

    Aos talks about self-publishing here and I have to admit that right now, I have no art budget. I've been handwaving it in my head that I will start commissioning art when I have a finished draft that I'm comfortable publishing but I'm also not saving money for it. I have bills to pay and debts to eliminate before I can consider putting any of my money aside. I set up a patreon page before they hiked their pricing, but I don't know if I even want to use patreon. For now I'm just focusing on writing and drawing maps when I have the time and energy to do so.

    Sunday, May 19, 2019

    Hot Springs Island

    I ran a session and started with a shipwreck, as per the module's suggestion. We started with a Fiasco-like background starter that allowed me to tie their backgrounds together as well as connect them all to the Martel Trading Company. The players instantly started scavenging from their dead shipmates and the flotsam washing up on shore (hex 13). They found boar along the shoreline but didn't venture into the island interior. One of the players has a geology degree and she immediately pointed out that the black sandy beaches shouldn't be there with the volcanic activity.

    They tried to build a shelter and were ambushed by two Goa sneaking around the ship wreckage, then found copperbacks and a magic hammer (Rockcracker) amidst the remains of a scorched battlefield (hex 18). I created a group of pirates who were also looting the wreckage, and the PCs followed them and learned that these pirates had brokered a peace with the Goa and were enemies of Martel. The PCs ambushed the pirates and killed all but one of them, the only survivor a mute and disfigured woman who always wears a mask depicting a white demon. They looted the pirate's cave (along the rocky shoreline of hex 22) and found a couple more magic items (a vest of jungle vitality, see below, and Lava Rug).

    As the session progressed I introduced rules, rather than spelling them all out at the beginning or during character creation, such as time passing in-game and measuring the day/night cycle using colored poker chips. Overall, a productive session, and everyone wanted to keep playing! I'm getting pretty good at GMing.

    Vest of Jungle Vitality
    While the wearer is in a jungle environment they have no need to eat, drink, or sleep.

    Monday, May 13, 2019

    Expanded Tool Proficiency rules

    Alchemist's Supplies.
    Anyone with proficiency can use Alchemist's Supplies to craft any of the following items: acid, alchemist's fire, antitoxin, candles, ink, oil, perfume, soap; any kind of process that might require distillation (liqour) or calcination (the creation of oxides) can also be performed with alchemist's supplies. Typical DC to successfully make any of the above is 15. Proficiency checks are made when the alchemist wishes to study a new substance or plant. Typical DCs are between 15 or 20, and it takes one hour. Magical substances that are studied would have a DC of 25 to correctly distill and analyze without spoiling the substance (or blowing up the alchemist).

    Poisoner's Kit.
    Anyone with proficiency in this tool can craft poison as per the crafting rules. Any poison listed in the DMG (page 257) can be crafted with a poisoner's kit and the gold piece investment required to craft a poison is half of the market value listed for the poison. Carrion Crawler Mucus, Purple Worm Poison, Serpent Venom, and Wyvern Poison are the only exceptions, these poisons require harvesting from a dead or incapacitated creature. The gold piece value of harvested organs from carrion crawlers, purple worms, poisonous snakes, or wyverns is left to the DM's discretion. When harvesting poison from a creature, a character uses their Proficiency bonus with a Poisoner's Kit but if they are proficient in the Nature skill then their Proficiency bonus is doubled.

    Half of the market value must be invested in making an item, one hour per gold piece market value of the item must be spent to make the item, and a minimum of one gold piece must be spent.
    Examples: Acid takes 25 hours and costs 12 gold and 5 silver to make, this includes the cost of a vial to put it in; candles take 2 hours to make and 200 of them can be made at a cost of 1 gold; a suit of plate armor takes 1500 hours (94 days minimum) and costs 750 gold.
    Time is invested consecutively and the project is ruined if the character is taken away from the project for more than one day.

    Saturday, May 11, 2019

    Quick and dirty potion requirement

    So your uppity wizard wants to make a potion and you want the wizard to work a little bit without handwaving it away as a monetary cost but you don't know what to tell them for what they need. Simple. The spell level of the potion effect determines what ingredients are needed.
    Level 1 = 2 common
    Level 2 = 3 common
    Level 3 = 4 common, 1 obscure
    Level 4 = 5 common, 2 obscure
    Level 5 = 5 common, 3 obscure, 1 rare
    Level 6 = 5 common, 4 obscure, 2 rare
    Level 7 = 5 common, 5 obscure, 3 rare
    Level 8 = 5 common, 5 obscure, 4 rare
    Level 9 = 5 common, 5 obscure, 5 rare

    Common ingredients are easy to come buy, usually for a single silver or gold piece each - not even worth mentioning what it is - and these can be found in any market.

    Obscure ingredients require a little bit of work, are not easily found, and may require a bit more money if they are available in a marketplace.

    Rare ingredients require a great expenditure of effort and attention to acquire, and can almost never be found in a marketplace.

    First roll on COMPONENT Table, then add result from either OBSCURE or RARE Tables

    COMPONENT 2d20
    02 genitals
    03 hip
    04 heel
    05 ankle
    06 knee
    07 tail/rump
    08 vertebrae
    09 nails/claws
    10 hands/paws
    11 elbow
    12 jawbone
    13 skull
    14 larynx
    15 kidney
    16 saliva
    17 lungs
    18 stomach
    19 liver
    20 ears
    21 eyes
    22 knuckle
    23 tongue
    24 heart
    25 blood
    26 lymph node
    27 brain
    28 intestine
    29 anus
    30 pancreas
    31 spleen
    32 gallbladder
    33 muscle tissue
    34 mouth /lips
    35 bladder
    36 esophagus
    37 fur/hair
    38 nose
    39 skin
    40 veins

    OBSCURE 1d100
    01 aardvark
    02 albatross
    03 alligator
    04 anteater
    05 antelope
    06 ape
    07 armadillo
    08 baboon
    09 badger
    10 bat
    11 bear
    12 beaver
    13 bison
    14 boar
    15 camel
    16 caribou
    17 chameleon
    18 cheetah
    19 coyote
    20 crab
    21 crane
    22 crow
    23 deer
    24 dolphin
    25 dove
    26 duck
    27 eagle
    28 elephant
    29 emu
    30 falcon
    31 ferret
    32 flamingo
    33 fox
    34 frog
    35 gazelle
    36 giraffe
    37 goat
    38 goose
    39 gorilla
    40 hawk
    41 heron
    42 hippo
    43 horse
    44 hyena
    45 ibex
    46 ibis
    47 jackal
    48 jaguar
    49 kangaroo
    50 koala
    51 komodo dragon
    52 lemur
    53 leopard
    54 lion
    55 llama
    56 lobster
    57 magpie
    58 manatee
    59 mole
    60 mongoose
    61 monkey
    62 moose
    63 narwhal
    64 nightingale
    65 opossum
    66 ostrich
    67 otter
    68 owl
    69 panther
    70 parrot
    71 panda
    72 partridge
    73 pelican
    74 penguin
    75 pigeon
    76 porcupine
    77 puppy
    78 quail
    79 rabbit
    80 raccoon
    81 ram
    82 rat
    83 raven
    84 rhino
    85 salamander
    86 sea lion
    87 seal
    88 sheep
    89 skunk
    90 sloth
    91 squirrel
    92 swan
    93 tapir
    94 tiger
    95 turkey
    96 turtle
    97 walrus
    98 weasel
    99 wolf
    00 zebra

    RARE 1d20
    01 ankheg
    02 basilisk
    03 centaur
    04 cockatrice
    05 dryad
    06 ettin
    07 harpy
    08 hippogriff
    09 hydra
    10 lich
    11 lycanthrope
    12 minotaur
    13 owlbear
    14 remorhaz
    15 roc
    16 sphinx
    17 troll
    18 unicorn
    19 vampire
    20 wyvern

    Wednesday, May 1, 2019

    May 2019

    I got a job! With money coming in I can finally stop being anxious about paying bills, but now I get to be anxious about not having enough time to play games and write. Writing has continued, but sporadically. Between my new job and the social freedom supplied by the changing seasons I haven't spent much time sitting down and typing. (also, I started playing Dark Souls 3 and that is a HUGE distraction!) I finished everything I planned to write for last month and I suppose I should keep making a checklist for myself. The things I want to accomplish over the next month:

    Re: Kosranon
    I drew up a crude map of my campaign world, and I want to make a hex map version. I've written a few scenarios for different areas and I want to re-write those to fit with how the setting has changed.

  • make a hex map
  • write encounter tables
  • build factions for both city and countryside

  • Re: OSRenstein
    The playtests have been very helpful, and what I was hoping would be a good balancing factor for skill tests has turned out to be a near-impossible penalty. Mathematically, the PCs would only end up succeeding on skill tests against NPCs 15% of the time, and this isn't an outcome I wanted. As for magic, we have one wizard and I'm thinking of changing wizards dramatically, again. The point system works well enough, but after reading about GLOG wizards last month I can't stop thinking about the dice roll mechanic and I want to implement something similar. Definitely something I want to experiment with!

  • write up monsters
  • write a GLOG class

  • Re: Dark Souls
    I cannot describe to you how terrifying and exhilarating it is to explore new areas of Dark Souls 3. Every time I turn a corner I think I'm going to be ambushed or worse. If you want the OSR experience in a video game, this is the series that has it!

    Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    OSRenstein: cleric megapost!

    Divine miracles are fueled by Favor, a measure of the cleric’s divine standing with their pantheon. A cleric’s maximum Favor is increased as they level up and also by their WIS modifier. A 1st-level cleric has a base Favor of 0, but with a WIS of +1 would have a maximum Favor of 1.

    Favor fuels divine miracles. Whenever a miracle requires Favor, you spend one point from your total. One Favor is restored to the cleric every day, at what time of day is subject to the deity worshiped and is called Observance. To regain more Favor quickly, a cleric must perform a Communion.

    Divine miracles are divided into spheres. All clerics are bestowed the spheres of Divination and Healing, but each deity has their own sphere that only their dedicated clerics can cast miracles from.

    Divine spheres of magic have seven levels of power. A cleric cannot cast miracles higher than their experience level. For example, a 3rd-level cleric can use 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-level miracles but cannot access miracles of 4th-level or higher.

    Divine Power is equal to the cleric's HD plus their WIS modifier. Several miracles also rely on this Divine Power to work effectively. Most Sacraments and some Miracles require a Spell Check, this is done by rolling 2d6 and adding the cleric's Divine Power.

    All deities have a specific time of day when their clerics are renewed and refreshed, this is called Observance. Clerics receive 1 point of Favor, and all of their day-long miracles expire at this time. Clerics who have Sinned do not have their Favor renewed, and any active miracles also end at this time.

    All deities have a collection of 3 to 5 commandments that a cleric must adhere to. If they break one of these commandments, or fail to perform it when the opportunity arises, they Sin against their deity and lose all access to Divine Powers until they Atone.

    When a cleric casts a Miracle, they spend 1 or more points of Favor. Some Miracles require a Spell Check when there is some chance that another person could resist the Miracle.

    Sacraments are Divine powers similar to Miracles that all clerics have access to. These include Atonement, Blessing, Bolster, Communion, Sanctify, and Turning. Sacraments can be performed by any cleric that has at least 1 or more points of Favor. However, Sacraments require a Spell Check and if the result is 10 or higher then the Sacrament doesn't cost Favor.

    If a cleric has zero Favor and they perform a Sacrament, all deities consider that a Sin. Some Sacraments will activate Favor costs, and if the cleric has no Favor to draw upon then they have Sinned twice! In both cases, the Sacrament is performed but the cleric has Sinned.

    This Sacrament can be invoked for a cleric who has Sinned and must restore their deity's Favor. If the cleric seeking Atonement committed the Sin by accident or via magical compulsion, the Atonement can be performed by the cleric in question. However, for clerics atoning for deliberate and willful Sins, an Atonement must be invoked by another cleric of the same faith.

    The Atonement is unique, and should be tailored to the Sin committed. Many times this requires the atoning cleric to fulfill a quest for their deity, but the deity may call for a sacrifice of some kind in place of a quest.

    This Sacrament takes 1 hour to perform and must be invoked within a Sanctified space.

    A Blessing is bestowed upon another person or creature (never the cleric themself) or upon a vial of water no larger than 1 pint. Blessings take one minute to perform (or 10 combat rounds), and the cleric can take no other action while the Blessing is made - no movement and no defending.

    Performing a Blessing upon an NPC grants them a +1 bonus to Armor and Attack scores.

    Performing a Blessing upon a PC grants the player a bonus 1d4 which they have until the cleric's next Observance. This bonus 1d4 can be used at any time before or after a roll. It can be used with a Saving Throw, Reaction check, Surprise check, Skill check, Attack roll, Armor roll, or damage roll. The character can only have one Blessing at a time, and if the character Sins, as defined by the deity's commandments, then they lose the Blessing immediately. While a PC has an active Blessing, all of their followers and any hired retainers have +1 to Morale.

    Performing a Blessing upon a vial of water makes Holy Water. This is permanent but always requires a point of Favor, no Spell Check is rolled. Otherwise, and in general, Blessings last until the cleric's next Observance.

    Holy Water can be used to store a single Divine Power, either a Sacrament or a Miracle, which is activated when drunk. The person or creature that drinks the Holy Water becomes the target of the spell. The spell must be cast into the Holy Water after it is made.

    Holy Water also causes 2d4 damage to Un-dead or Demon creatures.

    Clerics can bolster their own health by spending 10 minutes kneeling and praying with both hands on their holy symbol. A cleric cannot move or take any other actions while Bolstering. At the end of this prayer, the cleric recovers Hit Points equal to their HD plus CON modifier (same as a Rest).

    This Sacrament has multiple functions. The most common use is to provide funeral rites for a deceased person or creature. At the completion of the Communion, the body cannot be raised as Un-dead.

    Communion is also used to bring new clerics into the service of the deity. At the end of the Communion, the character abandons their old class and becomes a cleric. Any PC wishing to undergo this change becomes dual-classed.

    Finally, a cleric may wish to seek guidance or counsel directly from their deity, and Communion also allows them to do this. At the conclusion, the cleric can ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, or one-word answer. The cleric can ask a number of such questions equal to their Hit Dice. Answers given are correct within the limits of the deity’s knowledge. In cases where a yes-no answer would be misleading or contrary to the deity’s interests, a short phrase (five words or less) may be given as an answer instead.

    Communion takes 2 hours to perform and requires a Sanctified space.

    This Sacrament allows a cleric to create a holy space, suitable for other Sacraments. Typically, Sanctify is performed at a cleric's time of Observance as the holy space created by Sanctify expires at that time. If a cleric spends 5 Favor while performing Sanctify, the space continues to remain Sanctified for as long as the cleric lives.

    A Sanctified space is very beneficial for clerics in service to the same deity, allowing Miracles to be performed at +1 Power and bestowing a +1 bonus to reaction checks. Un-dead and Demons whose HD is equal or less than the performing cleric's Divine Power cannot enter the Sanctified space, and if they manage to make it inside their Attack, Armor, and Morale are all reduced by the cleric's Divine Power. Also, clerics within Sanctified spaces have Advantage while attempting to Turn such creatures.

    While they remain inside the Sanctified space, clerics in service to the same deity can see when another person within the Sanctified space is cursed, charmed, poisoned, or under the effects of a Geas, no roll or Miracle is required.

    Sanctified spaces are required for Atonements and Communions.

    Clerics can Turn wild beasts and unholy creatures by holding their deity's holy symbol aloft and commanding the creatures back. This is the only Sacrament that never costs Favor to use!

    At any time the cleric may use an action to make a Turning attempt. Clerics can attempt to Turn any creature with the Animal, Un-dead, or Demon trait. This Turning check uses 2d6 and adds their Divine Power. Unlike a Spell Check, this roll doesn't suffer penalties for wearing armor. The base roll needed is 8 or higher to turn Animals, 10 or higher to turn Un-dead, and a 12 or higher to turn Demons. The HD of the target is added to the number needed to successfully Turn them. For example, a Demon with 3 Hit Dice will only be Turned on a roll of 15 or higher.

    Animals and Un-dead that are successfully Turned will try to flee from the cleric until the cleric is out of sight. If cornered or trapped, the Turning ends and the creature will likely attack the nearest opponent. Demons that are successfully Turned are not compelled to flee, but cannot willingly approach the cleric. If forced to approach the cleric, or cornered by the cleric, the Turning ends and the Demon may act as it pleases.

    An attempt to Turn a creature that has already broken free from being Turned will automatically fail. Failing a Turning attempt doesn't count as breaking free from being Turned, and the cleric may attempt to Turn a creature (or creatures) as many times as they wish.

    Sphere of DIVINATION
    1st: Detection

    The cleric names something to detect. This could be poison, disease, gold, food, magic, un-dead, life, heat, etc. Anything that could be defined as a substance, whether it is a material or energy (illness, disease, or secret doors could be detected, but deception, emotions, or "evil" could not).
    The cleric can sense the presence of this chosen substance if it is Nearby even through walls or barriers, as long as they are not magically concealed. The cleric detects it as a glowing aura. This Miracle lasts for as long as the cleric concentrates on it.

    2nd: Augury
    The cleric is gifted with a supernatural sense of what is about to happen for certain situations of their choosing. The cleric rolls dice equal to their maximum Favor - they can be of any size. Until their next Observance, the cleric can use these dice rolls to replace any rolls of the same size dice. For example, a cleric casts Augury and rolls 2d20, these results can be used later to replace rolls that used d20s but wouldn't be usable for rolls made with d4s, d6s, etc.

    3rd: Read Minds
    The cleric can read the surface thoughts of creatures as if they were clearly visible signs. The cleric can only Read Minds of creatures with Hit Dice equal to or less than the cleric's Spell Check. This Miracle lasts for as long as the cleric concentrates on it.

    4th: Clairvoyance
    The cleric can see and hear at a location they have already visited. The ability to see and hear in this location is limited to whatever the cleric's former movements were (if the cleric had only walked around the western steps of an arena then their Clairvoyance is limited to that area of the arena).
    For Clairvoyance to work the location must be within a certain range of the cleric equal to their Divine Power in miles. Anyone trying to detect magic or living beings will see the luminous form of the cleric using Clairvoyance. This Miracle lasts for as long as the cleric concentrates on it.

    5th: Espy
    The cleric describes or names a specific kind of animal, plant, person, or object that is familiar to them, and the cleric becomes aware of how far away and which direction they are in. If the subject of their Espy is moving, the cleric is aware of the speed and direction of movement as well.
    For Espy to work the subject must be within a certain range of the cleric equal to their Divine Power in miles. This Miracle lasts for as long as the cleric concentrates on it.

    6th: Revelation
    The cleric names or describes a person, place, or object and a brief summary of significant lore is brought to the cleric's mind about the thing named. The lore might consist of current legends, forgotten stories, or even secret lore that has been destroyed or concealed. If the thing named is of no importance, then the cleric may learn nothing. The lore learned is always accurate but may be framed in obscure language ("the wraiths resist their descent into darkness and persevere along an honorable path" or "only a child of light may awaken the true power of the axe").

    7th: True Sight
    Until their next Observance, the cleric, or another creature they touch, gains the ability to see all things as they actually are. Anything concealed or hidden with magic and the true forms of polymorphed creatures are revealed, illusions appear as obvious outlines of what they are.
    True Sight doesn't penetrate solid matter, and won't reveal things hidden by mundane means such as cover of fog, disguises, someone hiding in shadows, or a secret door that is concealed through nonmagical means.

    Sphere of HEALING
    1st: Heal Wounds

    The cleric touches a subject, not themself, and instantly heals them of hit point damage. The amount healed is equal to their WIS modifier multiplied by their HD.

    2nd: Death Rite
    The cleric touches a subject, not themself, and until the cleric's next Observance the subject has advantage on all death saving throws and drain attacks. While this Miracle is active the subject, whether they died while the Miracle was active or were dead when the Miracle was bestowed upon them, cannot be raised as an Un-dead - this effect is permanent.

    3rd: Mass Heal
    The cleric forms a circle with their subjects, usually a ring of hands, and instantly heals those in the circle of hit point damage equal to the cleric's Divine Power. This miracle will only affect a number of people equal to the cleric's maximum Favor, and attempting to heal more than that won't work - and is a Sin.

    4th: Restoration
    The cleric touches a subject, not themself, and instantly heals them of illness, disease, poison, or impairment. If the subject is blind, deaf, crippled, or missing a limb, this miracle restores their vision, hearing, or abilities.

    5th: Magical Restoration
    The cleric touches a subject, not themself, and instantly heals them of drained Hit Dice, ability score damage, and any curses affecting them are also removed. If the subject is under the effect of a Geas or magical compulsion, this miracle also removes those.

    6th: Heal Body
    The cleric touches a subject, not themself, to instantly heal someone of all damage. The subject recovers their maximum total hit points, and if any diseases or poisons are present those are also removed.

    7th: Raise Dead
    Upon performing the Miracle, the subject is restored to life as if their death never occurred but in a weakened condition. The subject must have died recently, within a number days equal to or less than the cleric's Divine Power. The subject's body must also be whole with their heart and brain intact. All of the subject's ability scores are at -1 and they must Rest to recover them, magical healing will not restore this loss.
    The cleric permanently sacrifices a point of Favor to perform this miracle. Using this miracle on an enemy of the cleric's faith, or a body that doesn't have an intact and connected heart and brain, fails outright and is also a Sin.

    Thursday, April 18, 2019

    OSRenstein: illusion magic

    Illusions have a special kind of resistance. When a person or creature overcomes the effect of an illusion, it does not Misfire. A Misfire can only occur when the illusion is first cast, but creatures can "see through" the illusion later.

    When a PC is first confronted with an illusion, they must make a Saving Throw to see through the illusion. The Saving Throw uses an ability based upon the kind of illusion they see, and this requires GM judgement. The illusion of a collapsing ceiling might use Constitution, but whenever in doubt about which ability to use the default is Intelligence.

    If another character tries to assist a PC in seeing through an illusion the PC may add a +4 to their Saving Throw, but only if this is communicated effectively.

    Often players will deduce when something in the game world is an illusion, even when their characters fail their Saving Throws. Remind yourself, and them, that this is an ideal time to role-play as if the illusion were real.

    NPCs who view illusions only see through them if their Hit Dice exceeds the Spell Power of the illusion. Another character could try to get an NPC to see through an illusion. If this happens, add the character's Hit Dice to the NPC's Hit Dice. If the combined total doesn't equal or exceed the Spell Power then the NPC can't see through the illusion and may believe the character is affected by their own magical illusion, delusion, or mental illness.

    Illusions that "kill" characters put them into a trance-like coma that only ends when the spell ends, or the magic affect on their body and mind is dispelled. Illusionary attacks and affects always use the creating wizard's Abilities and Skills to determine their effectiveness. Thus, a wizard who has created an illusionary minotaur to fight a group of goblins uses his own Attack and Armor scores when determining how well the illusion fights.

    Un-dead are immune to all illusions and their effects. Some creatures, especially Demons, have natural resistances as well. In general, illusions with Power high enough to affect them will modify the behavior of NPCs and monsters.

    I don't know if I'm taking the "bite" out of illusions by ruling it this way. Illusions were definitely more prominent in 1st edition AD&D, but I think they required a lot more arbitration on the GM's part. I might have to write guidelines for how illusions work, but for now the comparing of Hit Dice will have to do.

    Wednesday, April 17, 2019

    the Ghost Tower

    This tower sits like a teetering stack of broken bricks on Hush Island, which has no bridges to cross to or docks to park boats. The tower juts out of the mouth of the Crowkut River in Marakāven, a thoroughfare which splits the city into northern and southern sections. Despite its central position in the river, captains and sailors give the island a wide berth. Nobody knows who the wizard was that built it and presumably lived there, but everyone assumes it was a wizard because the tower is infamous for swallowing up anyone who dares to explore the structure and never regurgitating them back out into the world. A few brave explorers have set foot on the island itself, but anyone who steps foot into the building is always lost. For this reason, Bellhaven's courts do not have a death penalty but instead sentence the most loathsome of criminals to enter the Ghost Tower.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2019

    OSRenstein: learning new spells

    When a wizard wants to learn a new spell, they must first find the spell they want to learn, then spend several hours studying the arcane formula.

    The level of a spell is the number of hours a wizard must spend in secluded study with the formula, and this level also represents how difficult it is to learn. At the end of their study, the wizard rolls 2d6 and adds their HD and INT modifier to the roll. If the result is 10 plus the level of the spell or higher, they learn the spell. If they fail to learn the spell, they can try again after leveling up.

    This was something I looked forward to and simultaneously dreaded when I played wizards in 2nd edition AD&D: rolling to learn new spells. In this system, higher level spells are more difficult to learn, but accomplished wizards learn lower spells more easily. I like the idea that wizards have to study to learn their spells, even if I don't like the Vancian style of daily studying.

    Monday, April 15, 2019

    James Smith memorial fund

    In case you weren't aware, James Smith recently passed away. He ran the Dreams of Mythic Fantasy blog and every week posted a "OSR News" update which exhaustively detailed new gaming releases as well as reprints and updates to already released books. He was one of the first people in the OSR that I started following online.

    He didn't have life insurance or any kind of real savings, and his family are trying to raise $700 to help cover the funeral costs. Considering the heavy costs of most funeral parlors, this doesn't seem like a lot. Unfortunately, I'm unemployed right now and I felt like I could only spare $10 to help out. However, according to blogger's analytics, if every person reading my blog donated $5 then they should be able to reach their goal of $700. It's not much, but it could really help them out in exchange for everything James gave the OSR blogosphere.

    The link to make a donation is:

    Thursday, April 11, 2019

    OSRenstein: healing & rest

    When characters spend at least 6 hours without strenuous activity of any kind (walking, fighting, casting spells, etc.) they recover Hit Points equal to their level + CON. Recovered Hit Points can be reduced by a negative CON modifier, but characters always heal at least 1 Hit Point. This recuperative period is a Rest, and is often used for sleeping, especially in dungeons.

    Characters cannot receive Hit Point recovery from more than two Rests in a single 24-hour period. Each Rest must be a continuous six hours. It can be interrupted briefly, but must be returned to immediately for the Rest to take affect.

    After a Rest, wizards also recover Magic Points equal to their level + INT. Unlike Hit Points, a wizard can recover Magic Points from multiple Rests in one 24-hour period.

    Ability scores are sometimes lowered from traumatic injury or through arcane sacrifice. These lost points can be restored at a rate of 1 point per day, except three Rests during the course of the day are required. Some ability score losses cannot be recovered except through magical means.

    Another of my attempts at simplifying something that is often complex, or turns complex in play. I wanted to codify exactly how long PCs need to rest to recover, and I wanted that period to be defined in regards to hit point and ability score recovery. The way magic points work hasn't been playtested yet, so this description might change in the future.

    Monday, April 8, 2019

    trans-dimensional mimics

    Zaos might have been the first god, nobody is sure if the brittle parchments etched with the name are true accounts of a divine being or if they were forgeries meant to mislead seekers into misadventure and folly. Nobody is even sure if Zaos is male or female. Dragons call Zaos the first primordial serpent, elves refuse to utter his name for fear of drawing his attention, and dwarves laugh that Zaos is a clever myth designed to reveal the treachery of magic. The truth is Zaos is a god of time and space, it doesn't matter if Zaos was here first because he/she/they are everywhere.

    Not everyone calls Zaos by the same name: 1) Zaos the First, 2) Mimiclord, 3) Hidden King, 4) Key Master, 5) Satan the Serpent, 6) Spy Master, 7) Father of Lies, 8) Demon in Darkness

    Zaos has plans and plots that extend beyond anything the PCs could even imagine. Trying to fight Zaos is pointless, because anything you know about him is what he wants you to know. If you're fighting him, it's because he wants you to fight him, it's part of his plan. He might offer you a deal to give you something you want, but most of the time he's watching and waiting. He does this with mimics.

    What are mimics:
    1) Mimics are his loyal servants. All mimics worship Zaos as their god, for he did create them. If they fulfill their duties, they believe Zaos will embrace them into the folds of time and space in which Zaos lives.
    2) Zaos is all mimics, they are physical manifestations of his divine self. Wherever a mimic appears, it is part of Zaos'es sensory apparatus into the plane of reality.
    3) Mimics are akin to golems, designed and constructed for a specific purpose. Zaos, in his madness, has made so many mimics for so many contradictory reasons that he has often forgotten what a mimic was for. The ones in our world are the ones he has forgotten about and left behind.
    4) Every mimic is a time machine, acting as a bridge between one specific time and place to another, it only requires the right key or password to activate and recognize a servant of Zaos.

    What does Zaos want today:
    1) Knowledge, and also to keep it away from some people. Mimics will appear around wizards and schools of magic. Most of the time they only spy on the arcane arts, but any wizard who attempts to study time or manipulate it through magic will be drawing a target on their own back. Only Zaos can know the secrets of time travel!
    2) He's a teacher, fond of challenging his unwilling students. Mimics will appear to test the PCs' ability to find them, the mimics will ambush the PCs when they can. Mimics who are spotted will feign surprise when spotted and try to flee. Lone PCs will find themselves in one-on-one duels with mimics. They never kill, but if the PC is defeated the mimic will leave a note on their unconscious body, written in one of the oldest languages, and all it says is "get good."
    3) Even he's forgotten. In his struggle to remember he gets bored and distracted easily. He wants to see how far he can push these adventurers around, every chest and container they encounter will be a mimic. Every time a mimic manifests it will giggle and laugh maniacally. Mimics will keep appearing until somebody dies from one, then the final mimic gets sad and weeps before it dies of its own accord. Mimics will never appear for these characters ever again.
    4) Endless and perpetual war. He hates the living, for he was the first god and everything that came after is an affront to his existence. He wants to destroy everything and everyone. He's using mimics to try to replace everything in the world, and these damn adventurers and spelunkers keep finding his first experiments. He's going to start branching out, mimic ladders and mimic doors and mimic chairs. Soon after that it will be mimic carriages and mimic fences and mimic chandeliers. He wants the living to fear the world they live in. Once he has perfected mimicry of objects, he'll move onto mimicking animals and then people. The more paranoid he can make the living, the better.

    inspired by a combination of playing too much of Dark Souls and reading Michael Raston's glorious post about mimics

    Sunday, April 7, 2019

    OSRenstein: playtest 1

    We playtested some of the combat and magic yesterday. I've already started to change a few things. The Luck system seems to work adequately, but I'm thinking I made skill checks too difficult. I could probably simplify combat even more as well. Back to the drawing board I think.

    I'm not sure when I'll get to play again.

    Thursday, April 4, 2019

    OSRenstein: Load & Encumbrance

    If characters carry too much weight they can become encumbered. Being encumbered slows you down and limits what you can do. You track this with your Load stat.

    Everything you might carry or wear has a Weight assigned to it, and if the total Weight exceeds your Load then you are encumbered. While you are encumbered you can only move OR act in a combat round, and outside of combat you only move at half your regular speed. If you travel for more than four hours in a single day while encumbered then you require twice as much water and food.

    Your Load is 5 plus your STR modifier. The most you can carry and still move is 10 plus your STR. Characters with negative STR carry less!

    Armor and weapons all have weight, and many items can be stowed with only minimal additions to a character's Load. Worn items, such as cloaks, jewelry, shoes, etc. do not have weight for encumbrance purposes. The GM doesn't track the PCs' Loads, but can call for an audit at any time. Violating encumbrance means you immediately "lost" something along the way. Likewise, not having something written down on your sheet means your character isn't carrying it.

    This is my attempt at simplifying a system that is often too complex and filled with too many numbers. Load is a term that comes directly from Dungeon World, but a fair bit of inspiration for this came from Lamentations of the Flame Princess as well!

    Tuesday, April 2, 2019

    April 2019

    Work continues on OSRenstein, which I might end up calling something else. I hate naming things! It's coming along though. I'm at 50 pages, and decided to codify some divine magic things this week. Playtesting begins this Saturday!

    I should have written this update yesterday, but I've been tired and forgetful. Moreso than usual. I'm training for a commercial driver's license and I failed the road test last Thursday, which means I need to practice a little more and re-test. I find out the new date and time tomorrow. I'm anxious and distracted because I need this license, and I need to go back to working and having income for food, and rent, and paying bills. I've been unemployed for five weeks now, mainly to go to truck driving school, and I can't afford to be unemployed for much longer. If I fail the re-test I'll have to get a job somewhere while I plan to retake the test a third time. Like I said, I'm anxious.

    All of this has been distracting. I haven't written as much as I would have liked. Right now my 'to do' list for OSRenstein looks like this:
  • expand Divine magic, need deities explained and universal spells (partially completed)
  • clarify contested skill checks
  • explain Backstab ability
  • define Game Time
  • add falling damage
  • get some monsters written up in here!
  • revise arcane spells? = spell power affects potency of spell, not duration
  • undead are mindless and hostile, afraid of the sun/bright light/fire
  • make mutation chart for spell misfires and consuming spell crystals

  • Hopefully I can get most of that done before Saturday. Meanwhile, more excerpts are incoming... or outgoing... expect at least one thing every week.

    Friday, March 29, 2019

    20 questions about OSRenstein

    Somebody pointed out this post to me and suggested I should answer the list. Some of these have been covered already, but who cares? Let's go!

    1) Ability scores generation method?
    Roll 3d6 and record the sum result for each Ability in order: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and finally Charisma. If none of your rolls is 13 or higher, then raise your lowest roll to 13. You may swap two Ability scores. Notate your Ability score modifiers under STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, and CHA.
    You have two derived stats: Luck and Load.
    Your Luck score is 2 + your highest Ability score modifier.
    Your Load is 5/10 + your STR modifier (ex: a +2 STR generates a Load of 7/12).
    Players also choose a few things for their characters: race, background, class, and class kit. These are all from more extensive lists than I can reproduce here.

    2) How are death and dying handled?
    NPCs reduced to zero Hit Points are either dead or mortally wounded, GM's call. When a PC is reduced to zero Hit Points they fall unconscious and must make a Constitution saving throw or die. Similarly, if a PC suffers more than half their total Hit Points in a single blow they must make a Constitution saving throw or die.

    3) What about raising the dead?
    There are no Raise Dead or Resurrection spells.

    4) How are replacement PCs handled?
    When a character dies, the player can make a new character with half of the XP total of the previous character, round up.

    5) Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
    PCs act before NPCs. If two PCs are fighting each other, then the one with fewer Hit Points acts first - if they're tied then their actions are resolved simultaneously.
    In combat scenarios with large groups of enemies or a major "boss" villain use a shuffled deck of cards. Each NPC combatant gets a single card draw, and each PC draws a number of cards equal to 1 plus their DEX modifier, minimum of 1 card. Once everyone has their cards, the GM counts down using the card values starting with Ace then King, Queen, Jack, 10, and so on. For tied cards, PC actions happen before NPC actions. Unless PCs are fighting each other, tied actions are simultaneous. Players still only act once, but high-DEX characters get more chances to act earlier in the round.

    6) Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
    Fumbles, no. Hits, Yes. When a player rolls a result 10 points higher than what they needed to hit with their Attack roll, and when a player rolls a 20 on their Attack roll - the only exception being that when a player needs to roll a 20 to hit, no Critical is possible.

    7) Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
    Helmets are situational to some critical hit effects. Wearing a helmet by itself gives no bonus, but not wearing a helmet with heavy armor reduces your Armor by -1 (because you've given your opponent an exposed target to aim at).
    EDIT: I changed this in my rules. Helmets give +1 Armor now, with the exception of heavy armors like Plate (described above) because those have helmets.

    8) Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
    No fumbles, and as a GM I find this boring, as a player I find it frustrating. No.

    9) Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
    Talking is always preferable to fighting, running is always better than fighting to the death, and some opponents shouldn't be engaged at all.

    10) Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
    Yes, but they drain Hit Dice, not levels.

    11) Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
    Yes, definitely.

    12) How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
    Players are responsible for tracking their gear and Load, but the GM can call for an audit. Anything not written down isn't there. Carrying too much has immediate consequences.

    13) What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
    The PC has to have enough experience points to attain the next level and then conduct a Rest, no strenuous activity for 6 hours. No training costs, though learning to speak or read a language takes time. Learning wizard spells takes time, and the spells need to be "found." Leveling up can happen whenever the character can Rest.

    14) What do I get experience for?
    A successful encounter. The GM determines success but shouldn't obfuscate the conditions of success. An encounter that can't end in combat or hostility should be clearly stated as such. At the end of the session, the GM multiples the number of successful encounters by the number of players present and this is the base XP award. Every time during the session that the GM was impressed, entertained, or genuinely surprised by a PC action should also be tallied and added to this encounter calculation. A session with 4 players and 4 encounters where the GM was surprised or entertained 3 times would be worth 19 XP, or (4x4)+3.

    15) How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
    Any character can potentially find a trap. If a PC is actively looking for one this might require a description of how they're looking to automatically find one, but a Skill Check could be called for if the player or GM is more interested in moving things along. Activating a trap would require a Saving Throw.

    16) Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
    Yes, retainers are suggested and followers are given to every class once they reach 9th level. Morale and reaction both are 2d6 rolls, higher rolls are better than low.

    17) How do I identify magic items?
    Wizards can identify magic items at 1st level. They must spend 6 hours with the item without interruption, no spells or material components required. If you don't have a wizard in your group, you may need to hire one!

    18) Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
    Potions and scrolls might be the only magic items you could purchase since they do not require a great expenditure of power from their creators. Hedge wizards and sorcerous academies would sell these. More powerful magical items would likely not be sold unless the person didn't know what they had.

    19) Can I create magic items? When and how?
    Any wizard of 5th level or higher can make magic items. The more powerful the item, the more time and money is needed to create the item. At minimum, a wizard can make a 1st level scroll for 25sp after one day of work. Potions take weeks to make, and more powerful magic items take months.

    20) What about splitting the party?
    There are no rules for it, but if you're the player you can have your characters do whatever you want them to.

    Monday, March 25, 2019

    OSRenstein: Curses

    Curses are meant to be horrible, twisted magical effects that imperil a character and steer them toward removing the curse. I don't know how many cartoons I watched and books I read when I was younger where a character was cursed and they did everything in their power to release themselves from the spell. In AD&D, curses have always been lame in comparison. Usually a Curse spell bestows a -1 to hit, not good but pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things. If I'm playing a wizard, I might not even care that I am cursed.

    Of course, the problem with curses in literature is that they're always unique and they always affect characters in such a way that their life cannot move forward unless they remove the curse. This is difficult to pull off with a gaming group, you would always need to tailor a curse for individual characters, or maybe even players. The other type of literary curse is the one where the cursed character is going to die from the curse. The two stories that come to mind when I hear the word curse involve dying characters: Thinner by Stephen King, and How Spoilers Bleed by Clive Barker. This is easier to pull off.

    Curses should be debilitating and should hang over the player's head, making them fear the death of their character, and the easiest way to do this is restrict their character's Hit Points. Thus, a Curse reduces a character's maximum Hit Point total to half (round up) and while affected by the Curse the character cannot regain Hit Points from non-magical healing methods. A major Curse might slowly reduce the character's maximum Hit Point total as well!

    This part of the rules isn't written yet. I just wanted to share this idea before I write it definitively.

    Thursday, March 21, 2019

    OSRenstein: the XP formula!

    At the end of the session, multiply the number of players by the number of successful encounters. This is your base Experience Point award total for the session.
    A successful encounter is one in which you challenge the players' characters. Taking opportunities that you can't possibly foresee doesn't necessarily count as an encounter. For example, spontaneously deciding to assassinate an important NPC isn't a successful encounter but escaping alive from any guards or militia protecting the NPC could count as one.
    During a game session, keep a tally of all the times a player does something you enjoyed or does something inventive you didn't account for. At the end of the session add this tally to the formula.
    In this way all characters increase in level at the same pace. The only way a character might go up in level slower than someone else playing in the same group is if they miss a session, or their character joined the group at a lower level.
    A session with four players and three successful encounters that had two things you liked would be worth 14 XP for everyone playing, or (3 x 4) + 2 = 14.
    Always be honest with your players about the XP Formula and how you are applying it. If an encounter would only be successful if the characters avoid combat, tell them before you even introduce the encounter otherwise they'll feel cheated in the aftermath.

    Leveling up
    When a character rests, if they have enough XP to reach the next level then they receive all the benefits of the new level.
    Before 10th level, characters increase their Hit Dice each time they level up. The player rolls their new Hit Dice to determine their new Hit Point total. Their CON is applied for each level of the character. Thus, a 4th level wizard with a +1 CON who has just attained 5th level rolls 5d4+5 to determine their new Hit Point total. If the new total is less than the old, the character can add their CON once to their old HP total. This way a character’s Hit Points always rise when they go up in level.
    After 9th level, Hit Dice doesn't increase and Hit Points don't always go up - but they still never go down. When the player rolls their Hit Dice they begin adding a bonus number of Hit Points to their final total. For example, 10th-level wizards receive +2 to their Hit Dice. The same wizard above would roll 9d4+11 (+9 for CON and +2 for 10th level).

    New characters
    When a character dies, the player can make a new character with half of the XP total of the previous character, round up.

    The XP Formula is something I created to incentivize moving the plot forward. This is derived from the number of players because large groups sometimes don't allow every player to have equal time - I played a game with 7 other PCs for years and some weeks felt like I accomplished nothing because my character didn't have "screen time" - and on top of this, the formula also allows the GM to track how fast they're progressing their own game. With only 2 or 3 players, if you're not progressing through encounters fast enough than it allows you to self-correct and push the players to act more. Additionally, a GM might decide they've bloated their game with too many incidental encounters and now they can look at the formula and decide to cut the fat from their role-playing banquet.

    Leveling up when resting comes directly from Dungeon World and rolling Hit Dice to determine your new Hit Point total is another mechanic from Stars Without Number.

    Monday, March 18, 2019

    the combat of Dark Souls

    Something a friend told me years ago was that he hated Armor Class because it doesn't make sense in a realistic manner. Thick heavy armor wouldn't make you more difficult to hit, in fact the opposite, and it would be worn to lessen the damage when you do get hit. Something that Dark Souls doesn't always do very well, but it does follow the idea that heavy armor slows you down. Armor is only a marginally good thing to have, especially if your character is kitted out for speed. This is why you see so many people play Dark Souls wearing little to no armor whatsoever. A lot of armors give different benefits however. Some provide bonuses against magic damage or poisons, while doing next to nothing for physical damage. By comparison, armor in Dungeon & Dragons just gives a static bonus to your Armor Class.

    Combat in Dark Souls is pretty straightforward, but still has a lot of depth. When confronted with an enemy's attack you can choose to block, dodge, or parry. Blocking is pretty easy, and is the default method of handling most attacks. You get hit and your shield or weapon takes some of the damage off. Dodging requires a little player skill because you have to dodge away from the attack, and that's not always in the direction you might expect it to be. A successful dodge avoids all damage, but failure means you get hit and more often than not your armor only takes off a little amount of damage. Parrying negates the attack completely, but can only be performed on certain attacks and is difficult to pull off until you "git gud."

    To Parry a Boss

    If basic combat in D&D is a question of blocking, dodging, or parrying then I think traditional Armor Class would have to go away. Armor would continue to be rated as light, medium, or heavy in order to see if/how movement is affected but would do nothing to evade being hit. In fact, the heaviest armors would make it quite easy to be hit. But armor would negate some amount of damage based on its weight.

    Here's my game theory ramblings now.

    By reducing the die type of damage dice you effectively hobble the damage coming in and still keep it relatively random. Light armor would reduce damage by one point, medium armor would reduce the damage dice by one size dice (i.e. a d8 becomes a d6), and heavy armor would reduce the size of damage dice twice. An attack inflicting 1d10 damage normally would do 1d10-1 against an opponent wearing light armor, 1d8 against medium armor, and 1d6 against heavy armor. If an attack does multiple dice of damage then it could lose dice once being reduce to d4s but no damage could be reduced below 1d4. Shields would act like medium armor, but actively blocking with one would require a save or else you can't do anything else this round like attacking or drinking a potion or casting a spell. In other words, the force of the attack staggered you momentarily and you have to wait until next round to recover.

    Dodging would be a Dexterity-based roll against the opponent's attack roll, and maybe the size of the weapon would act as a modifier. Small weapons are easy to dodge, large weapons are harder to dodge. A successful dodge would negate damage and set you up to act first in the next round.

    I don't think I've ever seen good rules for parrying, and in Dark Souls a successful parry riposte can be a devastating attack. Parrying would have to be an attack roll against the opponent's attack roll, and of course could only be performed against a traditional weapon like a sword, ineffective against claws or bites or anything weird or unusual. A successful parry would give you an opportunity to attack and your opponent gets no ability to react, which means some opponents could do it to you too.

    I'll have to think some more about this.

    Friday, March 15, 2019

    OSRenstein: skills and saves

    Saving Throws are used to evade some immediate danger or avoid some perilous hazard. If you need to know whether or not the scorpion’s poison overwhelms you, or if you can dive away from a Fireball spell, you make a saving throw. The GM will tell you when you should be making one.
    In general, Saving Throws apply as reactions to events that are happening, and are not used to overcome obstacles that need patience or applied knowledge.

    In order to succeed at a Saving Throw, the player rolls 1d20 and adds their character's relevant Ability.
    Strength for muscle or power saves.
    Dexterity for speed, reflexive, or agility saves.
    Constitution for resistance or endurance saves.
    Intelligence for thinking fast saves.
    Wisdom for willpower or concentration saves.
    Charisma for personality or charm saves.
    Rolling 20 or above indicates success and that the danger is avoided or the action goes as planned.

    When failure happens, the GM will narrate the outcome of the failed Saving Throw describing how the characters are affected.
    A GM never rolls dice to resolve NPC or monster actions, or negative elements of the environment such as traps - if they involve a PC, the player rolls. Otherwise the GM will make a swift and fair judgement call that moves the story forward and abides by the logic of the unfolding fiction.

    Skill checks determine whether your character succeeds at a field of expertise. Failure at the roll means that your character either botched it outright, succeeded in a way that was unhelpful, or was foiled by some unexpected outside influence. The GM will describe the results of failure.
    To make a skill check, the player rolls 2d6 and adds his character’s relevant Skill level and Ability modifier. If the total equals or exceeds 10, the check is a success.
    Awkward circumstances or bad tools might apply penalties, though usually not more than -1 or -2. By the same token, exceptionally good equipment or a favorable situation might grant bonuses of up to +2 to the roll, or even more if the stars align perfectly. If you lack even level 0 in the relevant skill, you suffer a -2 penalty to your roll.
    The relevant skill and attribute modifier will usually be obvious in the situation; attempting to bluff a lone bandit would involve Deception and Charisma, while trying to roll underneath the falling bars of a portcullis would rely on Acrobatics and Dexterity. When in doubt, the GM will tell you what to apply.

    If a character needs to overcome an obstacle that isn't covered by a Skill check or a Saving Throw, then the GM will ask for an Ability Check. This works exactly like a Skill check, but the character only adds a relevant Ability modifier, decided by the GM based on circumstances.

    There is a gradual level of difficulty associated with each of these checks.

    Saving Throws are easy to make, most players are going to succeed at these more than 50% of the time. Saving Throws are always reactions, and failure always leads to injury or harm.

    Skill checks are a little more difficult, they require the character to be a little specialized in an area before they can be attempted and most skill checks start with less than 50% chance of success. However, a truly specialized character with a +3 ability modifier and a maximized skill level will succeed at a skill check 99% of the time. Skill checks are always actions.

    Ability checks are the most difficult as they almost always only succeed with less than 50% chance of success. Ability checks can be either reactions or actions, but as a rule of thumb failure does not injure or harm the character.

    The Saving Throw mechanic is taken from the Black Hack, and skill checks and skill levels were inspired by Stars Without Number.