Sunday, September 16, 2018

Gods of Man, Great Powers, Blessings

Stephanie Chan

The gods are created by man. This is a plain truth of the world, acknowledged by all. Their nature is human, their domains are the domains of humanity, they are inextricably linked to the hopes/fears/longings/beings of man.

There is no god of the sea, but there are a thousand gods of sailors.  Domains overlap, shift, are endlessly subdivided and rejoined. Time wears on; the gods change as man changes, but man is also shaped by the gods.

The Church, in common parlance, refers to the casual confederacy of religious traditions among most gods, barring the Lords of Hell and some fringe deities who do not play nice with others. You are all brothers and sisters, after all - even if you hate their guts, they're still family.

The domains listed below are not exhaustive in the slightest. Major gods can be guaranteed have regional variants in name, appearance, and domain. The primary divine family listed consists on those most widely agreed upon - certain traditions extend the children of Ama and Baba beyond the agreed-upon six. They will be marked with a (*) on the table.

The Gods of Man

Ama Adimatha, Mother of Multitudes

  • Mothers, wives, childbirth, fertility, protection, trickery

Baba Tubalkhan, All-Father

  • Craft, labor, patience, wise council, protection, fair judgement

DOG, the Greatest Friend

  • Loyalty, love, friendship, being a dog

Do-yo-da-no, the Twins

  • Emesh Diyu - Herding, hunting, fishing, tobacco smoking
  • Enten Daetgah - Farming, brewing, building, metallurgy

Nike, the Elder Sister

  • Achievement, athletics, sport, competition, sportsmanship

Calliope, the Younger Sister

  • Poetry, art, music, melodrama, theater, emotional highs and lows

The Stillborn

  • Loss, grief, mourning, mortality, empathy to the suffering of others   

Quisest, the Strangeling

  • The marginal, the stranger, the hidden, change, deviance

1) Abeona (*)Exploration, travel, leaving and returning home
2) AhuiateteoExcess, pleasure, gluttony, drunkenness
3) Aisling (*)Artists, dreams, inspiration, madness, imagination
4) AnachroniaBeing too late or too early; out of place and time
5) AnansiStorytelling trickster
6) AtzaliniStorytelling, friendship, hosts and cooks
7) Aza-ThothLibraries, secrets, hidden knowledge
8) AzadCraftmaster of the Néandr
9) Baron SamediGraves, smoking, drinking, obscenity
10) BluebeardThe killer you know, gory secrets
11) BokkaHumility, acceptance
12) BramblejohnPaths untaken, places returning to nature
13) BrendanSailors, whalers
14) Browning & ColtFirearms, gunpowder, explosives
15) BrukkitIdiot bravery, the dunning-kruger effect
16) CalibanMadness, eccentricity, rages, passions
17) Ceo-Coo-ExeInvestors, advertisers, marketers; Lord of Hell
18) Chain-BreakerEmancipation
19) CloacinaSewer systems, hygiene
20) CoprolaliaLies, libel, brags, smears, shit-talking
21) Crab-CrusherPaleolithic food-gatherer; context forgotten
22) CrocanaLazy afternoons; recreation, fishing
23) CthonJourneys into unknown places
24) DadaNonsense
25) Darvatius IConquest, empire, oppression; Lord of Hell
26) DhurumEndurance, laconism, straightforwardness
27) DordDensity, stupidity, being slow on the uptake
28) Double-TongueHypocrisy, liars, cheats, grifters
29) Dustfoot (*)Poverty, rock bottom, beggars, hobos, cripples
30) DyeuzTyrant-kings, rapists, abusive fathers
31) EbonikilCross-cultural exchange (food and art)
32) EkwensuBargains, trade, trickery
33) GaneshaThe placer and remover of obstacles
34) GordianosPuzzles, brute force solutions
35) Goth-AmokRebellion, catharsis, chaotic noise
36) GuanyinMercy, compassion
37) HachimanAgriculture, warfare; conscripted soldiers
38) Hain (*)Rhetoric, logic, scholarship, natural science
39) Hammu-Amun (*)Law, order, the written word, kings
40) HasturShepherds, the Lake of Hali, the city Carcosa
41) HestiaHospitality, hearth and home
42) Hi'iakaGolden Goddess of Pa'O Pa'O
43) HoteiGregariousness, good cheer, abundance
44) IndahontenTeachers, mentors, bookmakers, writers
45) JabimBroken things, repaired things
46) JanusBeginnings, doorways, endings
47) KentMundane life, ordinary folk, small acts of kindness
48) Know-NothingMalignant ignorance
49) Limpang-TungMirth, melodies, minstrels
50) LlaroDrums, pipes, song-writers, bards
51) Lu BanBuilders, carpenters, construction workers
52) MammonGreed, gold, coin, corruption; Lord of Hell
53) MaraAttachment, passion
54) Maya DiogenesCynics, swordmasters, noodle-makers
55) MenhitMindless violence; "she who massacres"
56) MithrasMystery-cult
57) Mmou-ShaubSlothfulness, restful sleep, patience
58) Moloch'Who Rapes the World"; Great Lord of Hell
59) MungDeath, silence, secret signs
60) NeirnnenThe socially inept and ostracized
61) NodounForgetting the needed; remembering the trivial
62) OannesEsoteric wisdom; kinship with Deep Folk
63) Old Jim BrookHard times, necessity and invention
64) Old ScratchCorruption, temptation, cutting bad deals
65) OnanVictims of disproportionate punishment
66) Orang-UtanApe-god
67) OxomocoAstronomy, calendars, study of the stars
68) OxossiHunting, contemplation, meals, crafts
69) Pan-PongoApe-god
70) Papa LegbaCrossroads, communication
71) Phobos & DeimosFear and terror
72) PikanpeExuberance, free-spirits, excitement, expectation
73) Postmaster FennicMail and the postal service
74) Pyrrhus Gradivus (*)Soldiers, veterans, scars of mind and body
75) PythagorasMathematics, triangles, sacred geometry
76) Red-CapAnarchy, tearing down the powerful
77) RokeshSwift and decisive victory, forward with speed
78) SapphoHomosexual women
79) Shi Yang (*)Pirates, sailors, prostitutes, fishermen, trade
80) Ta'xet & TiaViolent death, peaceful death
81) Temazcalteci Steam baths, doctors
82) Temu SchannSecrets we cannot utter, dark places in the heart
83) The Forge BaronIndustry, enslavement; Lord of Hell
84) The Sable MaidProtection of the weak
85) The Tolling, TicitokThe measuring and loss of time
86) The WormWar unending; Lord of Hell
87) TlazolteotlFilth and purification, usually sexual
88) Tūmatauenga Hunting, fishing, cultivation, war, cooking
89) TurusPrisoners of mind and body
90) Uastyrdzhi Monster-slaying, traveling, oath-keeping
91) VellamoFishermen of the lakes and rivers; water travel
92) VennJournalists, muckrackers, activists
93) Whiskey JackBartenders, alcoholics
94) XochipiliHomosexual men
95) YamaDeath, justice, moral ethics
96) YhewenVengeance, war, jealousy
97) ZangobatNecromancers, gravediggers, bonesetters
98) Zanni (*)Fools, comedy truth, nostalgia, fernweh
99) ZorkoIneffectual, comedic villainy

Great Powers Among the Folk

These are those whose names are known far and wide.
  • Akerbeltz - The Black Billy Goat. Consorts with witches, gives questionable advice.
  • Ao Akupara Zaratan - The Great Turtle, has lived in this form longer than anything else.
  • Bast - Queen of All Cats
  • Br'er Rabbit - Trickster in the East.
  • Cernunnos - The Horned One, the Wild Man, the Big-Foot
  • Coyote - Trickster in the West.
  • The Four Goblin Kings - Masters of music and dance, missing now and foretold to return.
  • The Four High Courts of the Álfar.
  • La Fata Turchina - Blue-haired collector of puppets. Fascinated by the art of parentage.
  • La Fée Verte - Intoxicating muse of wormwood and anise.
  • Mab - The Midwife of Dreams. 
  • The Mountain King - King of the Dwarves, host of the great Feasting Hall.
  • Mundo - Magnificent Mundo, silky bastard!
  • Orca - Lady Leviathan, Queen of the Northern Seas
  • Pan - The Black Goat, bringer and embodiment of chaos and madness
  • Pangur Bán - The White Cat, the lurker in libraries.
  • Pele - Flying Fire, Queen of the Burning Mountain
  • Raven - Trickster in the North, creator, thief of the sun, an old friend of Mother.
  • Rainbow Serpent - Shaper of the world, bringer of the rains.


Making an appropriate offering at the shrine of a god or fulfilling their rites will grant a bonus until sunset for rolls within their domain. For general OSR games, just use Bless. Use a Boon if it's Shadow of the Demon Lord.

Shrines can be found just about anywhere (dungeons will be loaded with them) and you could raise your own without much trouble (especially if you have a priest).

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Magnus Archives Post

A while ago I purchased Emmy Allen's Esoteric Enterprises, and that is as good an excuse as any to finally do this big post on the Magnus Archives that I've been meaning to do.

(For those who haven't heard me rave about it yet, The Magnus Archives is a horror serial podcast that I will give a double gold star recommendation to anyone and everyone even remotely interested in that sort of thing. It's remained engaging for well over a hundred episodes, the metaplot is rock-solid, there's a planned ending - by those metrics it's top percentile in that genre before you even start listening. Go check it out.)

I'll be doing this post in two parts: the first will be a big table of creepy things from the series that you can plug in to your games whenever you need a bit of creep. Part 2 will be after the break and contain some spoilers about the series' connective tissue, and how that can be used as building blocks in games.

50 Entries from the Archives

  1. "There is a wasps' nest in my attic..."
  2. A cheap wooden coffin, chained and padlocked. 'Do Not Open' is scratched into the lid.
  3. The man upstairs is hammering away at the walls, and the smell is getting worse.
  4. A woman in a red dress wanders the suburbs at night with a syringe full of worms.
  5. Exorcist-turned-cannibal, serving a double life sentence. Declined the interview.
  6. Grifter's Bone, the band so bad they need to sneak into shows.
  7. There is something at the foot of the bed.
  8. A pale man in an alleyway, asking for a cigarette. He bobs a foot off the ground.
  9. Homeless man trades in heroin for vampire-hunting.
  10. Two sisters gone missing in Lost Johns' Cave.
  11. Need something delivered, taken or broke? Call the two Cockney fellas at Breekon & Hope.
  12. "As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn't there."
  13. "Enjoy sky blue" the old man said, as he threw himself from the plane.
  14. A plaque on the calliope organ: "Be still, for there is strange music."
  15. Mr. Pitch has come to take us all away to Ny-Ålesund. It's been 300 years' wait.
  16. 41 hearts in a garden shed, all a-glowing blue.
  17. Death remains a fan of games.  
  18. Billboard advertisement: "Sleep is overrated."
  19. Some of the men hear a distant piping. They climb over the trench and never return. 
  20. The crew of the Tundra has not changed in 10 years, all the cargo's rusted in place.
  21. Ivy Meadows Care Home has burnt down, and that is for the best. They'd taken ill, you see...
  22. Those tunnels had always been underneath the place, no one noticed them until now.
  23. The tiger isn't finished yet.
  24. The lights keep going out, the taps keep running brackish.
  25. There's a house on Hilltop Road, it pulls you in and reels you back.
  26. Hot item of the hour: a Carthaginian gorilla skin
  27. Spiders pour out of the wound.
  28. "Come meat, by my guest, and let thy gifts to me be blessed."
  29. Raising the spirits of the dead to commit bank fraud.
  30. The mummy plunges the knife into its own chest.
  31. Seventeen hours of UshankasDespair.exe
  32. There's a pit in the middle of town, they walk down into it.
  33. An old copy of The Boneturner's Tale, from the library of Jurgen Leitner.
  34. She orders a coffee every day, but never seems to drink it.
  35. Private Amherst is such a restless man, let not the gangrene stop him.
  36. DIG down, DIG down...
  37. A pile of Bibles, a pile of tea cups, a pile of severed fingers.
  38. An old man who knows just enough to be wrong.
  39. Mr. Spider loves guests, but only when they are polite.
  40. The police have killed five vampires in the last nine years.
  41. Everyone dumps their trash on old Maggie's property. Go deliver some food to her, will you?
  42. Self-immolation, in front of her own girlfriend.
  43. When threatened with death, give them a job instead.
  44. The mold 'round the drain can't be scrubbed away.
  45. A cave stacked deep with the corpses of soldiers.
  46. Black sand pours from his mouth.
  47. Eventually, they buried the monstrous pig in concrete.
  48. The Mechanical Turk drove a sword into the chessboard, and then began to dance.
  49. A pot that steals from the world.
  50. Privately-funded space-isolation experiment.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Super Smash Classics!

Everyone is here!
I recently discovered (and then ran a session of) Judge James' Disney Crawl Classics. I loved the idea of backgrounds-as-characters, so here's my take on it, which conveniently fulfills a secondary purpose of fulfilling a lot of accumulated "what if X was in Smash".

All those indie games ported to the Switch really helped matters.

A Challenger Approaches!Trained WeaponTrade Good
1) MarioHammer (d6)Weird Mushroom
2) Donkey KongFist (d8)Bongos
3) LinkSword (d8)Glider
4) SamusCharge Shot (d6)Grapple Beam
5) YoshiEgg (d4)Annoying Baby
6) KirbyInhale (I)Strawberry Cake
7) FoxBlaster (d6)Reflector
8) PikachuThunderbolt (d6)Lucha Mask
9) LuigiVacuum Cleaner (II)Captured Ghost
10) NessBaseball Bat (d6)Yo-yo
11) Captain FalconFalcon Punch (d6)Racing trophy
12) JigglypuffMicrophone (d3)Permanent Marker
13) PeachUmbrella (d4)Basket of Radishes
14) BowserClaw (d8)Snazzy Tuxedo
15) Ice ClimbersMallet (d6)Comfy Parka
16) SheikThrowing Needles (d4)Smoke Bomb x3
17) ZeldaLight Arrows (d8)Shekiah Slate
18) Dr. MarioScalpel (d4)Bottle of Pills
19) PichuShock (d4)Stylish Goggles
20) FalcoBlaster (d6)Injured Pride
21) MarthRapier (d6)Wedding Dress
22) Young LinkShortsword (d6)Ocarina
23) GanondorfSword (d10)Horse
24) MewtwoPsychic Crush (d6)Dark Pokeball
25) RoySword (d8)Spare Bandana
26) Mr. Game & WatchHammer (d6)Juggling Balls
27) Meta KnightBarbed Sword (d8)Shadowy Cloak
28) PitBow (d6)Eggplant
29) Zero Suit SamusStunner (III)Hi-Jump Boots
30) WarioPipe (d6)Bag of Garlic
31) SnakeSilenced Pistol (d8)Cardboard Box
32) IkeGreatsword (d10)Tattered Cape
33) Pokemon TrainerThe Team (IV)Rare Candy
34) Diddy KongPeanut Popgun (d6)Jump-Pack x3
35) LucasPK Spark (d6)Snake Whip
36) SonicSpindash (d4)Chili Dog
37) King DededeGreathammer (d10)Waddle-dee x3
38) OlimarPikmin (V)Whistle
39) LucarioAura Punch (d6)Focus Sash
40) R.O.B.Laser Eye (d8)Hover Jets
41) Toon LinkShortsword (d6)Chu Jelly
42) WolfClaw (d4)Scouter
43) VillagerAxe (d6)Butterfly Net
44) Mega ManMega Buster (d4)Energy Tank
45) Wii Fit TrainerYoga (d6)Granola & Yogurt
46) RosalinaWand (d4)Luma follower
49) Little MacBoxing Gloves (d6)Water Bottle
50) GreninjaAqua Jet (d6)Mystic Water
51) Mii FighterGeneric Weapon (d6)Strange Face
52) PalutenaStaff (d4)Mirrored Shield
53) PAC-MANFist (d3)Power Pill x1
54) RobinSword (d8)Book of Magic Lore
55) ShulkMonado (d10)She-Hulk Comic
56) Bowser JrBomb (d10)Propeller Chair
57) Duck Hunt DogBite (d6)Brace of ducks
58) RyuFists (d8)Duffel Bag
59) CloudBuster Sword (d10)Pretty Dress
60) CorrinSword (d8)Fire Paper
61) BayonettaPSR&T (d8)Lollipop Stash
62) InklingSplatgun (d6)Paintbucket
63) RidleyClaw (d10)Metroid in a Jar
64) Simon BelmontWhip (d6)Holy Water
65) King K. RoolCannon (d10)Stolen Bananas
66) Dixie KongElectric Guitar (d6)Glider Ponytail
67) Shovel KnightShovel (d8)Fishing Rod
68) SolaireLightning Spear (d8)Estus Flask
69) BlobespierreTwin Daggers (d4)Spider Rune
70) The KnightNail (d6)Dreamnail
71) ReynauldGreatsword (d10)Battle Standard
72) Wonder RedUnite Hand (d8)Unsold Game Disks
73) GuzmaFist (d3)Sunglasses
74) Monster HunterInsect Glaive (d8)Nullberry
75) Travis TouchdownBeam Katana (d8)Body Pillow
76) TerraRapier (d6)Ether Potion
77) NekuAttack Pin (d4)Fashionable Outfit
78) CadenceShovel (d8)Heavy Gloves
79) IsaacKitchen Knife (d4)Guppy's Corpse
80) LinkleCrossbow (d6)Golden Butterfly
81) ImpaGiant Sword (d10)Silk Rope 50'
82) The KidHammer (d8)Bull Brandy
83) AmaterasuSolar Disk (d8)Fertile Feet
84) IsabelleAccount Book (d3)Pot of Coffee
85) MidnaShadow Hand (d6)Cool Helmet
86) ChronoSword (d8)Hair Gel
87) ShanoaSpear (d8)Back Tattoo
88) Chun-LiMighty Thews (d8)INTERPOL Badge
89) TingleSack of Rupees (d3)Balloon
90) UrbosaScimitar (d8)Thunder Helmet
91) Prince SidonTrident (d8)Fish Stew
92) Dark SamusPhazon Blast (d10)Ingling Servant
93) RookAxe (d6)Token from Odd
94) H'aanitBow (d6)Snow Leopard
95) Captain ToadShroom Cutter (d3)Headlamp
96) Rabbid PeachBlaster (d6)Smart Phone
97) Shield KnightShield (d6, +1 AC)Cursed Amulet
98) AshleyWand (d4)Creepy Stuffed Bear
99) Doom SlayerShotgun (d12)Action Figure
100) WaluigiTennis Racket (d4)Mustache Wax

(I)Successful attack roll gains you the target's weapon.
(II) No damage, but can immobilize an enemy smaller than you.
(III) Target must make FORT save or be stunned for a turn. Always does 1 damage.
(IV) Squirtle (d6), Ivysaur (d6), and Charizard (d8) - one out at a time, takes turn to switch.
(V) Damage die is randomly selected per attack. d4 (1-3) d6 (4-6) d8 (7-9) d10 (10)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Play Report: I Come From the Land of the Ice and Snow

Previously, on the Danscape: A cult is joined and a war is inadvertently accelerated.

Tonight's episode stars the original crew from the Kadesh Club:
  • Waterblossom, eladrin magelander nee organ farm escapee (Michael K)
  • Blake, a face-stealing traveler and former gigolo (FM Geist)
  • Gavel, a traveler who just oozes everywhere. (Martin O)
With Waterblossom returned from the cult retreat house (head full of mindworm knowledge) and Gavel and Blake returning from the mother of all drug benders (heads full of drugs and drug accessories), the trio of the Divided Survival Power return once again to Lady Sidris' station.

Outside, the Aboleth has been raising dead and disrupting travel all throughout this corner of the cosmos. It seems dead-set on attacking and destroying old mindworm facilities and stations - a lucky break for everyone else, at least those not mind-slaved and zombified in its war effort.

From this chaos Blake receives a message from Salamander Lady. She has made quantum leaps up the social structure in the fashion world and has been utilizing her newfound wealth in philanthropic charity efforts to aid those fleeing the aboleth's warpath. As part of this, she has a task for the trio: retrieve a mindworm weapon from the old war, tucked away on a frozen shithole of a planet.

To aid the group, she provides the group with survival supplies and a cloning chamber for the ship. After some discussion they decide to clone Gavel's spell tumor and head off towards the Devoured Planet (because I just got Frostbitten and Mutilated and wanted to try it out.) Their target is an ancient tower of mindworm make.

What follows is a terrible trek up a frozen river, across wind-blasted icy hellscape. Gavel plays the world's worst game of I-Spy. Further incidents as follows.
1. Blake steals the severed head of an alien goat off the desecrated statue of an ancient king. He tries talking to it multiple times throughout the adventure.

2. An island in the river is revealed to be a giant bone sticking out of a mound of fatty flesh. Blake steals samples for potential cloning, and grabs a magical charm-shard to boot.

3. Crossing the river, the group sees a bluff with a gigantic monolith. At the base, a herd of boars: two large males, some females, and a bunch of boarlets. A standoff occurs, and turns to violence.

3a. Blake is gored with a critical hit while trying to stab his boar in its blind eye. He miraculously survives and manages to put a plasma bolt through its head. The boar's death throes drop Blake below 0, leaving him with a damaged eye (according to Emmy Allen's Horrible Wounds)

3b. Waterblossom attempts to stun the boars with Washington's Laugh. Both resist the merriment, but their teeth are turned to wood.

3c. Gavel realizes too late that he forgot to calibrate the rail-rifle that had been bolted onto his hover chair. Waterblossom offs the other boar by launching a selachian torpedo via Moses' Shark.

4. The boars defeated, the crew converse for a moment as to whether or not they should loot the grave goods buried beneath the monolith and potentially clone one of the ancient warriors. They decide against it. Blake fashions a boarhide eyepatch.

5. An hour's pause is made to avoid a trio of amazons passing by on wolfback.

6. The crew enters a forest near nightfall. With wolves howling in the distance, the crew takes shelter in a nearby cottage, which contains a young girl who is remarkably non-plussed by the fact that wolves killed her parents.

7. Blake climbs up to the roof through the chimney and takes potshots at the wolves for a while after sundown. The rest get fitful sleep as the wolves prowl and howl just outside.

8. Come morning, the trio head out. Girl (for that is what her parents called her) is renamed Lantern-Boy by Blake ("Oh hurrah, I am overjoyed, clearly this is not a portent of awful things to come." and given a lantern.

9. The tower is reached. The group enter and are swiftly separated in the darkness.

10. Blake glimpses a confused Donson the golem in the gloom, but rushes to aid the friend crying out in the darkness. Waterblossom likewise avoids temptation. Gavel beats the shit out of a little troll thing with a monomolecular greatsword. Eventually they all meet up with Lantern-Boy in the central chamber.

11. In the final chamber, they see mounds of treasure, an ancient mindworm crone, and the weapon. Blake is volunteered by Gavel and Lantern-Boy to partake in the challenge.

12. Blake attempts to seduce the amazon he is to fight with. She says 'after we fight'. Blake successfully grapples her, knocks her axe away, and puts a plasma bolt directly through her skull, tragically cutting many hopes and dreams short.

13. Blake and Waterblossom are granted vials of holy water by the crone. Gavel is transformed into a space wolf. The ship is called in, the weapon is retrieved, and there is great wonder about whether or not they should even bother breaking Gavel's curse, because now they can load up a space wolf with spell tumors. Blake sells boarmeat for a decent price and makes fancy leathers out of it.

Even as a space wolf, Gavel is able to smoke space opium.

I love this group.

Beloch's Questions

  1. The wolves of the Devoured Planet have become Blake's major rivals. That his close friend and drug buddy is now a wolf is deeply traumatizing.
  2. They managed to get to the tower without attracting the attention of the amazons. This may or may not last.
  3. Lantern-Boy is benefiting for the moment. Her future remains uncertain, but she is currently not being eaten by wolves.
  4. No major NPC deaths.
  5. News of the weapon's successful recovery was passed on to Salamander Lady, which means it will become major news in the near future.
  6. See above: as soon as this hits newstands, people will be having opinions. Mostly positive, considering what the aboleth is doing.
  7. Gavel's wolf-curse  and whether or not it will be broken; Blake's hatred of wolves and trauma over killing the one woman horrible enough to understand him, plus fixing up his gaping chest wound.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Lamentations 2 Playtest and Knave

Lamentations 2

I don't hate it. I've heard plenty of grumblings about it so far, but I don't hate it.

I'm fine with having nearly everything be bundled into attributes. I'm fine with the change to saves. I'm fine with weapons all being one die. I'm okay with all that to some extent. But I have a pressing question:

Why are there still classes?

With clerics and demihumans gone, only fighters, specialists, and magic-users remain. With VAM/EC magic in place, the only actual difference between these classes is whether they get +1 attack bonus, +2 skill points, or +1 spell slot when they level up. That's it. Daniel Sell's scoundrel class allows people to pick one of those three very things, my traveler class is much the same, except clumsier, Maze Rats is built around that system, and I don't see why that shouldn't be the default method. You could go straight down the line in either of the three ways, but if that's the only differentiation, go classless.

When looked at that way, as the baseline for a classless OSR game, I go from not hating the rules to actually kinda digging them. The ease of class creation was a major part of what brought me to the OSR / DIY scene to begin with, sure, but a big list of backgrounds a la DCC is just as good. In terms of avoiding confusion and choice paralysis among new players, even better.

Luke Thompson's recent posts on adapting the playtest rules for space have me very excited to see where that line of thought leads, as well. I never much liked classes in space.


Moving from "should probably be classless" to "actually is classless", we've got Knave. Mechanically, it's a lot more tweaks to the formula than a complete reworking.

 I'm picking up some Shadow of the Demon Lord influences (always a plus) with how stats and modifiers are determined (modifiers are stat - 10, for example. Stats are lowest of 3d6 + 10) and with how there is a standardized roll-to-beat (15 rather than 10, in this case). Advantage and disadvantage rather than boons and banes, but hey, that's cool too. Could add boons and banes easily enough.

Everything here is based around managing your inventory slots (which are just "equal to your strength", which I like far more than LotFP's encumbrance points). No skill system, but it doesn't need one (again, a big old background list is just waiting to be used.)

Some interesting diversions from tradition in which stats apply to what: ranged weapons are now effected by WIS, pickpocketing is INT.

Level-less spells, also a good move and good call.

Grand props given for adding even more good tables to use with those found in Maze Rats, and for making it Creative Commons.

No one has yet adapted it to space. This shall be remedied by some party in due time.

Extra thoughts

You know how Camus said that we must imagine Sisyphus to be happy? Apply that to fiddling around with RPG systems for me. Doesn't matter that there's no destination, the constant pursuit of just right is fine enough for me. House rules are like shoggoths: amorphous and perpetually mutating, always on the hunt for new genetic material to assimilate. Good stuff to be had here to that end.

I've got a RL game night upcoming and I heard some whispers that Star Wars was a hit when I last ran it. Perhaps I will test out Luke's hack with that...

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Taking a Look at Video Game Megadungeons

I've been returning to some of my favorite video games recently, and surprising no one there's a lot of dungeon-delving involved. So here's a comparison of maps for those who want to sneakily stock a large dungeon that's already set up.

Darkest Dungeon

Starting with the simplest here. This is the megadungeon by means of just having multiple separate dungeons in the same general area. There aren't any real connections between areas in the game as-is (a situation easily rectified in adaptation) which brings with it the core gameplay loop of returning to the Hamlet after every delve, no matter where you choose.

Enter the Gungeon

Straightforward, the Gungeon is. Town on top, five main chambers beneath, three secret levels with access requirements, and a hidden sixth level for masochists. No major choices, no loops, no crossing paths.

Bonus points for the end goal: find the Gun That Kills The Past. Perfect for setting up a bit of character drama. no one comes to the Gungeon without some ghosts in the closet.

The Binding of Isaac

Still pretty simple stuff: two columns that you can cross between with a fork at the bottom. The  weirdness between floors four and five turned out nicely symmetrical, and provides the main real choice in the delve: Spend time and resources fighting the Hush in ???, or skip ahead to the fork? Cathedral or Sheol?

The b-series levels are taken from the Antibirth mod, on the grounds that it's better than Afterbirth+. They all have entry requirements, so you might be able to get into one of them and then kicked back into the main column when you clear that level.

Nuclear Throne

Again, pretty linear design. The main shifts from the norm are the Crown Vault and IDPD HQ, both of which can be accessed from any other level (the latter is only accessible after the game has been looped), and the fact that you can loop yourself back to the beginning after defeating the Throne.

Dead Cells

With all that out of the way, it's time for the good shit. Forking paths, multiple paths, paths that meet back up, a layout that maps itself to a real space way easier than the others on this list. (Prison on an island, town on the coast with a clocktower, castle on the hill above). Notable on this list in that it is primarily lateral in layout rather than vertical.

Hollow Knight

I lied, this is the good shit. A tangled, interconnected mess of tunnels and caverns to wander through. The occasional friendly face or traveling merchant. Stag stations to unlock and make inter-area transit easier. Lots of optional areas completely separate from the critical path. Absurdly complex, lots of effort required to translate to tabletop, but worth it if it can be managed.

Final Thoughts

  • I would be most likely to adapt the Dead Cells or Darkest Dungeon maps.
  • The "single descending column" format seems to be pretty standard for roguelites.
  • Dark Souls 1 goes without mentioning, which is why I did not mention it.
  • Darkest Dungeon as megadungeon is the easiest to throw together by far.
  • Mark Brown's Boss Keys series is a super-good and far more in-depth look into video game dungeon design. Season 1 is Zelda, Season 2 is Metroid.
  • Hollow Knight is so good, people.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Some thoughts about Kings of the Wyld

Kings of the Wyld is, as far as my experience has yet taken me, the epitome of post-D&D fantasy. Normally I would use that phrase as a signal to run for the hills as if the Martians themselves have arrived, but here I bring it up in the less pejorative sense: It is a book about Dungeons and Dragons.

A fitting end to a month that began with "Lean Times in Lankhmar" and ran on through The Hobbit with great enthusiasm. From Appendix N to an OSR love-letter.

The premise: four old grognards (two fighters, one thief, one wizard, one barbarian), long-retired from days of monster-slaying, treasure-hunting, and rolling on the carousing table, are back for a final gig: the rescue of one of their daughters from a besieged city. I can picture the character sheets in my head, scattered across the table where miniatures roam.

There is not a single original bone in the entire body of this book. Not a one. Put your hand on the core AD&D books, inhale deep your memories, and you will have Kings of the Wyld. Add two or three bits from Final Fantasy to taste. There are owlbears and ankhegs and legally-distinct murlocs, for heaven's sake.

OSR loveletter it might be, a paean to the DIY ethos it is not.

If there is a single original bone in the book's body, it is this: the mercenary bands of Kings of the Wyld are treated as we in the mundane world would treat rock bands. They go on tour, they take gigs, they have managers. They dress up in face paint and play in arenas and have band names. I was quite fond of the idea.

Don't take this all as particularly damning criticism of the book. It kept me engaged and entertained, and it is a very swift read regardless. I always give bonus points for works that know what they are and attempt to do as best they can, and by that criteria I'd judge the book is a success.

There are some jokes that fall flat, quite a few moments of clumsy exposition, some plot points a touch too convenient, some references clunky in their bald blatancy, some moments that skimmed too close to weird modern tweeness that will date them hard. But never enough to where it wobbled in the danger zone - the book is much too swift for mis-steps to do that much damage.

As an aside here, I feel like I should mention a particular bias of mine: I normally can't stand modern fantasy that is so blatant with it's D&Disms. Bring the topic up and I turn into some bizarre parody creature; half grog longing for the old days, half a weirdo desperately demanding something novel and new. Mentioning litRPGs will most likely send me into foaming paroxysms. 

Aside over, all you really need to take away from it is that I'm getting to my finale.

Kings of the Wyld copies D&D whole cloth, but I found myself enjoying it because it is about D&D (and specifically OSR D&D at that), a category of mine that currently only holds Dungeon Meshi.

Dungeon Meshi is a series about Dungeons and Dragons through the lens of the characters interacting with a complex, reactive dungeon environment. Kings of the Wyld is a book about Dungeons and Dragons through the lens of getting together with your friends and having a good time, until you're scraping the upper levels, your characters are going grey, and your players are moving away and getting married and having kids.

This is the strongest aspect of the book, the part where there is sincerity and heartfelt emotion underneath really come through. Rough as it is, credit where it's due. It ain't high literature, but it's honest. I like honest.

Now then, off to the next book. Shall the Lord of the Rings re-read continue? Or shall it be The Princess Bride? Or more LeGuin? Who knows? I certainly don't!

An indecisive bastard, am I.

Addendum: There is one point that gets muddled over the course of the book, and that is the treatment of the "monstrous" beings. Here and there I ran across moments brushing against that barrier, where the conflict is presented in terms more equal and humanity is stripped of its self-righteousness (the arenas where monsters are enslaved and murdered in mass in the arenas, the besieged city-state of Castia rose to prominence by, you guessed it, murdering and subjugating the locals who were there first, the several allied monstrous side-characters, even Clay's constant questioning if he is to be the monster or the man), but those moments are fleeting, passed over for big climactic action. Emmy Allen this is not, and the book is weaker for this part of its faithfulness, to point questions at this aspect of the D&D experience but to not follow through.