Monday 26 December 2016

King Arthur in Romance of the Perilous Land

If you've read through the RotPL book, you will note the tie to Arthurian lore. I would hesitate to call the game an Arthurian one, but I couldn't ignore the massive folklore impact the stories have had on Great Britain.

However, rather than talking explicitly about Arthur, he and his Knights are alluded to throughout the book so I wanted to make some clarifications about how he fits into the Perilous Land.

Here, Arthur still reigns over Camelot, which lies to the south west in the Perilous Land. Both he and his Knights of the round are the pinnacle of chivalry, their stories told throughout the land. Arthur is a famed monster hunter - with some saying he single handedly slayed a questing beast. In this way, Arthur is a knight class at the peak of his form at 10th level. He carries Excalibur (details in the rules) and wears chainmail.

In the Perilous Land there is no grail legend because there is no Christianity. That isn't to say in your game Arthur can't go hunting for a mythical artefact, but it just wouldn't be tied to Christ. Here, Arthur is a 'pagan' king. I will get into the Perilous Land pantheon at a later date, but he is in fact a follower of traditionally Welsh gods like Cerridwen, Dylan and Elaine.

Using Arthur in your game is pretty simple. The party could be on a quest from Camelot on the orders of the king to span the country looking to right wrongs and slay monsters. You could have Arthur become a legendary character that is only heard about but never actually seen.

I'll be detailing more about the Knights of the Round Table later.

Sunday 25 December 2016

Revenant for Romance of the Perilous Land

Merry Christmas one and all. I wanted to get a series started on new bits and bobs for Romance of the Perilous Land, my British folklore OSR game.

Today we have the Revenant - not the bear erotica flick with DiCaprio, but the walking corpses from middle ages lore. The Revenant is really a catch all term that covers many undead beings - from the aptrgangr in Norse mythology to the vampire of south-eastern European lore. In the Perilous Land revanents are commonly corpses that have risen from the grave to cause terror on the living. They do not necessarily drink blood or devour brains - they are evil, deceptive beings who would sooner psychologically torture someone than outright kill them.

Revenants arise through either black magic from a witch (a particularly powerful witch can catch Resurrect the Recently Deceased), or, one may arise if they die from being wronged - though this is much rarer and would likely happen in a location where magic is centered, such as a ring of standing stones.

HD 6 (16)
Attacks: Claw
Special: a Revanent is able to regenerate all HP after resting for 6 hours in their grave (or equivalent). In the daylight, halve the Revenant's HD and HP.

Sunday 18 December 2016

Get USR Sword and Sorcery in print

Just a quick one to say that Jay Murphy has released his excellent USR Sword and Sorcery book into print.

Discover more at the Vanishing Tower.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

God generator

Time for some random deities for your game.

God name (d20)

1. Druth
2. Arcturan
3. Silpha
4. Pukk
5. Thunna
6. Gorgob
7. Neveressa
8. Jinn
9. Adoleise
10. Wendolyn
11. Oster
12. Yigg
13. Roth-honna
14. Dursten
15. Malikk
16. Trendor
17. Soone
18. Ulparthia
19. Quentillia
20. Borron

God domain (d20)

1. Fog
2. Dark places
3. Sexual pleasure
4. Terror
5. Bravery
6. Whispers
7. The hearth
8. Art
9. Cookery
10. Spoiled milk
11. Itching
12. Sleep
13. Transportation
14. Bells
15. Ale
16. Mischief
17. Cheese
18. Moss
19. Dead birds
20. Lakes

Holy symbol (d10)

1. A yellow raven
2. A shattered anvil
3. A one-eyed doe
4. An orc toe
5. A skull within a skull within a skull
6. A gourd
7. An upside down pine
8. A rotting apple
9. A fork
10. An ear of corn

Appears in the mortal realm as... (d10)

1. An old woman
2. A large fish
3. A floating harp
4. A disembodied arm
5. A wolf face
6. An oak tree
7. A young boy
8. A three-eyed rabbit
9. A purple cloud
10. A mace

Saturday 10 December 2016

Gazetteer generator - random table

Extra, extra, read all about it! Or so the cliche's 1940s saying goes. In an era of fake news, why not create your own for your fantasy campaign gazette? Grab some dice and get rolling.

Newspaper titles (1d10) (feel free to insert a relevant location name into any of these)

1. The Blind Guardian
2. The Cursed Mirror
3. The Daily Black Star
4. The Far Rider Express
5. The Hammer
6. The Weekly Clover
7. The Merchant Times
8. The Owlbear
9. The Shining Herald
10. The Crown

Headline (1d20)

1. Murder! Gnome aristocrat found dead on his roof
2. Prince kidnapped by teleporting cloaked riders!
3. Councillor revealed to be demon from the netherplane
4. Rigged! Magic voter fraud in local by-election
5. Local man raised from dead - family says he's "different" now
6. Orc bandits steal priceless tiara from actress
7. Mystery shadows stalk the night! What do they want?
8. "Disembodied eyeballs" seen floating in the Loam Woods, says hunter
9. "The earth swallowed my mum" says girl, 7, as house disappears
10. Revolutionaries executed for crimes against the crown
11. Faceless woman opens world's first "Dark Circus"
12. Abandoned caravan found full of jade hands
13. Serial killer wizard escapes from custody
14. Angel reveals herself to priest, speaks of coming plague
15. Socialite found in basement eating butler's face - claims the Ivory One told her to
16. Residents ask where glowing blue monolith came from
17. Gob Tossing Cup: Brevvin's Beards beat the Mugskulls 7-3
18. Steel cavern discovered beneath pub
19. Gallery opening sends visitors into psychotic rage
20. Duke plans to "build great wall" to keep out Northlanders

Advertisement (1d10)

1. Miracle beard balm! Made by dwarves for YOUR face!
2. Visit Miss Miggins' Pie Shoppe - delicious treats filled with meats!
3. Do you suspect your husband is cheating? Hire Dex Dolton, investigative sorcerer
4. Scrolls scrolls scrolls! HUGE sale at Sentar's Scrolls during the 1000 year eclipse
5. Dragon-Be-Gone - special jewels keep dragons away from YOUR home. Works 100% of the time
6. Worried your baby might be from hell? Little Rascals Holy Water is for you!
7. Rat infestation in your basement? Send a letter to DELIVER-AN-ADVENTURER to get your pest problem under control
8. Gentleman's tincture - get your charisma back
9. Kobold on a Stick - delivered hot to your door
10. Love a prank? Come to the Cursed Item Emporium and make them SCREAM

Wednesday 7 December 2016

The great 2016 retrospective

It's that time of year once again where I take stock and look back at the achievements of the year. 2016 has been pure roadkill globally, but for Trollish Delver Games it's actually been the best year to date. Here's what's happened:


In January I had some weird inspiration and decided to publish a solo game about writing letters. Quill quickly became one of my bestselling games, rocketing in sales in the first week and staying in the top 100 games for most of the year. People seem to like it!

Quill: Love Letters

Naturally for Valentine's Day I released a new scenario book.

The Pulp Hack

No doubt the most influential game in the OSR this year was The Black Hack by David Black. Having want to create a pulp-based game for years, I saw a chance using these rules.

In Darkest Warrens

This was a bit of an experiment, attempting to create a full ruleset in just 2 pages. It worked better than I thought and there's a little community building itself around the game.

Magnificent Artefacts

A supplement for IDW full of magic items.

An Adventurer's Guide to Excavation and Plunder

More rules, races, classes and monsters for IDW.

Romance of the Perilous Land

This was my biggest project of the year. Combining my love of British folklore and roleplaying, RotPL is a new OSR ruleset with some unique mechanics. There are big things potentially happening with this, so watch this space.

All this and more behind the scenes have kept me insanely busy this year (I'm still getting through an email backlog).

Other cool stuff

Quill: Coal and Parchment

Derek Kamal released this fantastic supplement set in his Homes universe. See also: The Dig.

All the things by Jay Murphy

If I can name one person in the industry I'm super grateful for it's Jay. He's a USR machine, releasing USR Sword and Sorcery, Shrine of the Keepers, Western USR and Fear and Loathing USR this year. What a champ.

Next, I'll be talking about what I'm planning for 2017. What a time to be alive.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Goat Kin of the Shindarian Coast (Tunnels & Trolls)

The Shindarian Coast is known for two things: it's unwillingness to let travellers find their way and the Goat Kin.

Goat Kin
MR 24 (3+12)
Spite: 1/1
Special: Horn blow - Goat Kin within 30ft gain 5 combat adds next turn.
Treasure: Gusk Horn (10gp), Szit Spear (2d6).

Goat Kin hunt in herds of 3-6, moving quickly over open ground and using the reach of their spears to overcome their quarry. The leader of a Goat Kin herd is called the Gruff, identified by having the largest, most gnarled horns.

At the break of spring, the Goat mother's gather at the megalith ring called the Loom where they hope to give birth to warriors, or Hoofgord. It is said only the blessed goats birth Hoofgord, who become the most respected and richest members of the herd, some even worshipped.

The Gruff invokes the Goat god Baathonet, the grazing god through elaborate chants called trots. They must have specific ingredients, including the roots of the spinnet flower which are found across the doomswamps to the east. Chewing on these roots triggers a trance that allows the Gruff to dance for days straight. The longest trot on record is four weeks.

Reaction table (d6)
1-2 They pay no heed, having sated themselves on a recent kill
3-4. They menace the party, but are open to bribery
5-6. They assault the party with the idea of roasting them over a spit

Monday 5 December 2016

Of Cinderplane Barbarians

As the third sun skims the blurred horizon of the red dust expanse and the Thirk lizard coughs it's morning song, a caravan of riders are an hour into their hunt. Their quarry? Blue Basilisk. Nana Mog whispers of sweet nectar from their calcified eyes, a prize sweet enough for a dawn pursuit.

Cyana Bloodmorrow, High Garg of the Cinderplane Barbarians is inked with the Skorn tatoo, a sign of her ranking and a message to all who may stand against her that she has spilled blood on the sand more times that the sun Vesp has arced the sky. Her man slave Virl rides by her side, clutching a brace of Zenfarr spices his mistress enjoys so much. Crushed into Basilisk bladder, it creates a most delicious soup.

Few children survive the harsh Cinderplane, with its infinite dust storms and desert shriekers that stalk the cloak of night. As all children must do, Cyana was thrown into the fiery crucible of this untamed land and forced to track to the Ebon mountains, retrieve one of the wretch totems from its peak, and return. Her first run in with a Sharn Spider released the barbarian inside and she still carries the carapace sword to this day.

A movement in the dry distance. Cyana halts the party and licks her sore lips. "Bas tund kild," she barks. A Basilisk rears its head and flicks out a darting tongue. "Dren yond kun lo, sintar," she grunts, dismounting. She admires the bright blue streak that runs down the creatures temple and down its back. Virl, sensing an opportunity to impress his mistress, lurches forth with kondi spear in hand. Within seconds he is on top of the creature, thrashing madly with squeals of delight. The High Garg watches her man slave's body become grey and cracked. The statue falls to the dust.

A whip of the neck and the lizard is sprinting at her. She avoids it's gaze and vaults the beast, landing near its tail. She drags her blade down its back and cries a curse of her ancestors. Blood flows like honey from the wound. She cups her hand and takes a drink of Basilisk nectar, finding it pleasing to the palette.

Time to put those spices to work.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Random tavern generator

By 'eck, lads and lasses, it's been a while. I've been neglecting the blog in lieu of creating lots of new game content, but I thought I better get back to it with a new random generator.

Let's make some motherfuckin' taverns.

Architecture (d6)
1. Created from an ancient giant's skull
2. Fungal
3. Hewn from the side of a mountain
4. A pyramid
5. Chock full of non-euclidian geometry
6. Mega-tavern

Quirk (d6)
1. Patrons with beards get 20% off drinks
2. The tavern is a byproduct of a wizard's dream and only exists at night when she sleeps
3. the elk head on the wall occasionally asks for a drink in return for a rumour
4. The place is run by ghosts
5. Part museum dedicated to a local dungeon, exhibiting donated items (some dangerous) and monster taxidermy
6. During an eclipse, the tavern's beer becomes the most valuable and sought after in the universe

Prized beer (d6)
1. Basilisk's Bollocks
2. The Old Spotted Grell
3. Burley's Brown Beard
4. Elf Tears
5. Black Beholder Stout
6. White Wurm Ale

Tavern name part 1 (d6)
1. The Drunken
2. The Brawling
3. The Slaughtered
4. The Frisky
5. The Noble
6. The Laughing

Tavern name part 2 (d6)
1. Mind flayer
2. Mushroom
3. Corpse
4. Ettin
5. Lamb
6. Illusionist

Thursday 1 September 2016

The Adventurer's Guide to Excavation and Plunder

I've got another supplement for In Darkest Warrens coming out very soon called The Adventurer's Guide to Excavation and Plunder, which contains advanced rules for overland and sea travel, weather, traps, new classes, new monsters and more. All of that in 2 pages - what the what?!

Since IDW was released its minimalist approach to fantasy roleplaying. Here's what people are saying:

"I will be getting all products in this line" - Stuart L

"Simply awesome" Perfectly P

"The system is magnificent in its simplicity" Ulrich H

It's pay what you want, so give it a download.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Magnificent Artefacts has arrived

Everyone loves a magic item, which is why you can now download Magnificent Artefacts for In Darkest Warrens today.

This little supplement stays true to the minimalist nature of the game, filling two pages to the brim with 33 new magical items for your game, from the Helm of Voice Alteration to a Harp of Doom.

WTF is In Darkest Warrens? I hear some of you cry from your dank lairs. Pure minimalist fantasy fun, is what it is. Go check it out and pay what you want for the pleasure.

Friday 15 July 2016

All the good stuff

I've been a bad blogger recently, haven't I? To be fair. It's because I've been working full slog on a number of different projects that sap my extra time away. What's this guy chatting about? Let me tell you.

In Darkest Warrens

The latest launch from Trollish Delver Games is a minimalist fantasy role-playing game. Two sides of A4 for the rules minimalist. Not only do you get the rules, but you get a character sheet, adventure and bestiary all included. It's also pay what you want, so you can't go wrong. Get it here 

Romance of the Perilous Land 

This is role-playing based on British folklore. It's OSR, made with a mish mash of inspirations and is currently in playtesting. Expecting this to launch in the next couple of months.

Magnificent Artefacts 

The first sourcebook for In Darkest Warrens covering sweet ass magical treasure. Expect a release of this by Sunday 17th July.

USR stuff

USR never sleeps, but for once it's not been me putting the books out. Jay Murphy is a stalwart member of the USR community and has produced a heap of great 'hacks' and an adventure in the past month.

USR Sword and Sorcery 
Fear & Loathing USR
Western USR
Shrine of the Keepers

I'm also working on Wolves of Armageddon, a mutant apocalypse game based on USR.

So lot's happening in Trollish Delver land. Big thanks to all you supportive people out there who play my games and aid with playtesting. Maybe next year TDG will make the ENnie fan favourite publisher ballot.

Sunday 5 June 2016

The Pulp Hack is available now, pay what you want

A mad scientist has used old schematics from Nikola Tesla and a Peruvian demon stone to create an army of Rasputin clones. A group of robots from the far reaches of the galaxy have landed on Earth to study the brains of prominent composers. A fascist group has uncovered the lost scroll of the deathweaver in the Amazon forest and plans to hold the United States to ransom. These are the deliciously insane plots that you will be dealing with when you play The Pulp Hack.

The Pulp Hack is powered by the amazing rules-lite OSR game The Black Hack, created by David Black. Instead of fantasy, The Pulp Hack plunges your players into a world of spies, private, eyes, masked heroes and mad scientists. If you want a simple ruleset for your pulp game, this is the place to be.
  • Six pulp classes: Adventurer, Masked Avenger, Jungle Master, Scientist, Mystic and Private Investigator.
  • Rules-lite pulp goodness based on the popular The Black Hack
  • Lots of enemies to punch - from fascist soldiers to cyber dragons
  • Resources: forget money, heroes have access to new resources when they level up, unlocking new goodies as you progress
  • Crits just got better - Heroic Surges offer new benefits 
  • Pay what you want!

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Nazi Captain America is a sucky stunt that won't last

No doubt you'll have seen the mainstream media fall right into the hands of Marvel's PR machine and editor Tom Brevoort after it was revealed that Steve Rogers has been a member of Hydra for the past 75 years.

The latest gimmick Marvel has spunked out to increase profits had the internet  in uproar, which isn't surprising considering Captain America is a well-loved character and a role model for many. It's a dumb story arc, but no doubt it'll be good for business. 

For those who have been away for a whole, Steve Rogers has been a wrinkly old codger for a while, with Falcon taking up the mantle of Cap. Now All New All Different Marvel is here, Steve is back and apparently a fucking fascist. Good oh. 

Look, if they decide to tell a great story then fine, but this is another reason why I'm really turned off by the Big Two publishers at the moment. Valiant is able to consistently produce incredible comics without resorting to gimmicks, same with 2000ad, Image and many others. 

Thing is, ths won't last. Not at all. It's comics. Remember when Cap died. Remember when all fucking characters died? 

Monday 23 May 2016

Why dungeons should be like the New York Stock Exchange

Wilhelm Schubert van Ehrenberg -Dungeon Interior (Wikimedia Commons)

Imagine, if you will, stepping into the trade floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Conjure the frantic voices of the stock brokers on their phones, the pacing across the floor, the bright lights and blips scrolling on the large screens that hang above the suited rabble. It's a scene of excitement, of high energy and of potential.

Now imagine that the trading floor was occupied by silent, static people who just stared into the middle distance. The screens are blank. Nobody is speaking and not a single phone is to an ear. This is what a poorly made dungeon looks like. It's soulless.

So how do you create the New York Stock Exchange dungeon?

Activity happens in spite of the players

How often have you played or read an adventure where the hobgoblins are just standing around in a non-descript room and only act until the PCs enter? It happens and I'm guilty of this shit too.

It's a very old school videogame way of level design. Walk into a room and some skeletons are just...there. Standing. There's no excitement to be had - just a room with some more monsters that need punching.

Dungeons are alive. They should be thriving hubs of activity where monsters scheme, get into trouble and actually talk to each other. As a GM you should decide what the inhabitants of the dungeon are doing when the players aren't around? Are there rival goblins who are trying a game of one-up-manship? Is an orc teaching an apprentice how to muck out the boar stables?

This is a huge help for when the players are listening against doors. You'll have a much easier time describing the sounds of a specific activity than a bunch of dudes sitting around a table staring at each other until the PCs enter. Think of all the activity that happens on the trading floor and use iy as inspiration for your dungeon.

Show, don't tell

Suppose you had no idea what the stock exchange was and you were transported right into the middle of the trading floor. Seeing the prices on the screens, the frantic buying and selling, the company names, you would soon be able to piece together a semblance of what's happening bit by bit. This process is intellectually rewarding and it's no different in a dungeon. Instead of telling the players that "a sinister rat person stands there, intending to kill you with its blade" actually show them the scene and allow them to piece it all together. "A rat person with a twisted snarl fresh blood dripping from its unsheathed blade" is much more effective in conjuring an image and allowing the players to fill in the blanks.

Build competition in your dungeon

Just like stockbrokers looks after the interest of their own clients, your inhabitants should have their own interests and goals, some of which will be at loggerheads.

Factions offer a wealth of role-playing potential for the players. A faction should have a goal of their own, which is often at odds with a rival faction. This creates a pressure cooker environment where PC intervention can set off a chain of events that effect both factions, and that's fucking fun to see.

I've already talked about how forced combat is a pile of crap and how role-playing offers a much more nuanced game. Competing tribes can really help create amazing memorable moments in your game.

A dungeon doesn't need to be rational, but it should make sense

What happens on the trading floor is a weird thing. It's its own little bubble with its own language and traditions. To someone seeing it for the first time, everything would seem quote alien. But within that world everything makes sense.

This applies to your dungeon. I call it Internal Dungeon Logic. It's nothing new but it's worth bearing in mind. A dungeon can live in its own little bubble where up is down and doors flirt with you. It's important to make sure that this weirdness has its own internal logic, that the rules you set out in your dungeon don't contradict each other. This way, the players will start to put together a picture with of how the place works, giving smart players informed decisions and the ability to play around with the environment.

A living dungeon is one with soul. It's a playground for the players, a pressure cooker of ideas. Having activity in your dungeon, or city or wherever, will help the players feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves and where they can influence and be influenced. It's the New York Stock Exchange, but with fewer evil NPCs.

Sunday 22 May 2016

How to make magic weird again

When did magic stop being so...magical? I'm talking about how in new D&D and Pathfinder magic items are often little bundles of mechanics. A medallion that gives the wearer a plus three to Fortitude, some boots that allow you to make a 5ft step in difficult terrain, or the heap of boring that is the plus one sword.

Many items are suited specifically for combat, which makes them an attraction to min maxers who want to reach peak character. I'm not saying that min maxing is the wrong way of playing, but I personally find it tedious.

Because of this focus on mechanics and combat, players often discard magic treasure that doesn't fit their character, which is fair enough but it leads to uninteresting role-playing. Magic needs to be weird as fuck.

The difference between boring magic and wonderous magic

As I mentioned before, the plus one sword is probably the laziest piece of crap magic item out there. There is no difference in saying that the sword gets a bonus because it's magic or because it's a bit sharper than regular swords. While not all magic items are like this, many share 'sword plus one' traits.

Here's the thing: mechanics are the bane of magic.

If you create a magic item with the goal to increase dexterity then your item is going to be dull and uninspired. If instead you think of a cool effect, regardless of mechanics, then you're on your way to making something worthwhile. This is the difference between making something boring or something wonderous. Which sounds better: Elven boots that give a plus two dex bonus, or Elven boots that allow you to leap as high as an adult oak in a single bound?

Magic is a toy that can be used at any time

The best magic can be used in a multitude of scenarios. It can be combined with other magic to make something truly special. Magic should not only bend the rules, but annihilate them.

Even the most subdued magical effects can add to the role-playing experience. A blow gun that lets you snuff out a torch from a mile away. An eyepatch that makes people see you as an old childhood friend. A ring that causes anyone who shakes your hand to fall sick in the next 1d4 hours. These aren't your min max bow of firefucks, but they're the items that will pepper your game with great, memorable moments.

By far the worst magic items are the ones that only offer anything good in combat. Those whose mechanics only apply when fighting rather than when role-playing. A good magic item can be used by crafty players no matter what the scenario.

Nobody gives a shit about the 'how'

If you want to make magic seem mysterious then don't treat it like a science. Magic needs no reason - it just 'is'. The effect is the only thing that matters - not the item's history, who made it and how. Magic should be a bizarre, irrational thing that shouldn't need an explanation.

So let's stop littering our dungeons with 'plus one swords' - min max collectables that are only useful in combat. Instead, let's make magic weird again. To hell with balance. To Hades with mechanics. Let the bizarre reign supreme in your game. Let's make magic magical.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Why rules are the shitty commercial breaks of RPGs

It's happened to all of us at some point. No matter how great our brains are at absorbing information, we've had to pause the game in order to look up a specific rule. The game grinds to a halt and the storytelling goes out of the window, like a commercial break about personal injury lawyers interrupting your favourite show.

Well my favourite show is role-playing games and that chunky ruleset is my ad break. Fuck rules.

This may be more of a personal thing, but I'd imagine some of you reading feel the same way. Too many niche little rules are a barrier to fun at the table. They suck you out of the action and back into reality where there are electricity bills and Donald Trump.

But as a GM you have the ultimate power to protect your players from entering this mundane ad break that is reality.

Forget the rules: make rulings

Ironically the advice built into the foundation of many games is that the rules are a guideline - fun comes first. But this is usually forgotten as soon as you've got to the second page. This is the golden rule. If the rules are getting in the way of your enjoyment then douse them in kerosine, light a fucking match and watch them burn. Figuratively of course. Unless you're playing FATAL.

The rules should be an inspiration for the GM. They should help rulings. The GM is the arbiter and it's their job to interpret the rules as they see fit as long as they aid with the enjoyment of the game. This is very important. If you're changing the rules just to be a dick to your players then step away from the table, you don't deserve to be there.

Follow the rule of cool

We play RPGs to take a break from reality and to become larger than life. Think about how you've described the hobby to the uninitiated in the past. It's likely that the fact that you're able to have total freedom to do anything you want was something that cropped up.

Fiddly mechanics can damage this. When a player wants to do something awesome, like descend a burning rope, firing flaming bolts into a barrel of gunpowder surrounded by orcs you COULD hinder the player by telling them the rules limit this. Or you could go by the rule of cool and say "hey, that's a great, memorable idea that everyone around the table will enjoy - do it."

Similarly, the rule of cool doesn't have to be about the players. The GM can bend the rules to produce a great, memorable effect. The rules may not say this monster can speak common or have telepathy but it would sure as hell make the encounter more interesting for everyone involved.

Rules lawyers are pointless

A player who is also a stone cold rules lawyer can be a burden on the group. Say you, as a GM, follow the rule of cool and let a player do a great thing that they will remember for years to come, and then the sanctioned rules lawyer says that this can't and shouldn't be done, it bricks the game. They may mean well, but the prick has commissioned his own ad break right in the middle of a great scene.

To prevent this, kindly remind them of that golden rule - rules are advisory and shouldn't get in the way of anyone's fun. If another player doing a fun thing that technically breaks the rules hurts their fun, then they should go and play a videogame.

There are some cases in which they are justified. For example, if you made a biased ruling - allowing one person to do something and not allowing another who wanted to do the same or similar thing. Don't do this - your rulings need to be fun for everyone involved.

By making great rulings you are using your power as a GM to keep everyone's favourite show going, rather than cutting to a commercial break. Mechanics should take a back seat when they would directly affect the enjoyment of the game. Fuck rules.

Friday 20 May 2016

Here's why combat is probably holding your game back (and how to fix it)

Wikimedia commons
Edit: it has been raised that my previous title was clickbaity. I don't want to lead you guys on, so I've changed it. Peace. 

In a recent game the paladin of my group crept into the foisty cavern where a disease-ridden Ash Giant was sat munching on the bruised flesh of a tribal barbarian. The giant paid him no heed, just happy to devour his supper. The paladin, taken aback by the creature's nonchalance, curiously cast detect evil in the area. The giant wasn't evil. "Erm, guys, I don't know what to do now".

Now, this isn't because the player is stupid. Quite the opposite. Instead, this scenario was revealing of what a lazy GM I had previously been - one whose players had just grown to expect me to throw a series of evil creatures at them to battle to the death. The paladin could justify slaughtering his enemies and that was that.

I discovered that this was a shitty way to run an adventure.

Combat should be a choice (most of the time)

One thing that forced combat does is take agency away from the players. Sure, some times it totally makes sense for enemies to attack the players in cold blood, but this rarely ends up as a memorable encounter.

Think about it. How many times have your players reminisced about a good combat? Probably not a tonne. But how many times have they talked about a fun role-playing encounter? Likely a tonne.

The thing is, emotion is memorable. When you throw a forced combat at them, your players rarely have the chance to roleplay the scenario. They already know the enemy's intent: to kill them, which leaves them with limited options.

Consider instead if you offered players the ability to meet the encounter their own way. They could try and aid the enemy, parlay, trick, or a host of other tactics that don't include twatting them with a sword. I guarantee that giving them agency will make for much more interesting encounters. At the end of it, if they choose to attack them that's their perogative.

Fighting to the death is a drag

Your players have exhausted their role-playing options and have decided to get their murder on. Great.

Hands up if you usually have your bad guys fight until they're all dead? I see a few. It's easy to forget that your monsters or brigands or whatever they are actually have lives. Personal preservation is hardwired into most living creatures, so when the chips are down they're probably unlikely to keep fighting if they've had the shit kicked out of them.

Have your enemies surrender, flee, or try to bargain if they're being decimated. Show the players that these are emotional beings - doing do will open up another avenue for role-playing and that all important player agency. This is particularly useful in crunchier games where combat tends to last a lot longer.

Make your baddies chatty

It's a lot more interesting to roleplay a conversation with an enemy than to roll a bunch of dice until its HP drops. This usually means making sure that your enemies speak common or its equivalent in your game of choice. Remember how interesting Smaug was in The Hobbit? This was because he talked. He was able to cover his thoughts, share his motives and have a two way dialogue with Bilbo. This makes for an infinitely more fun encounter than a red dragon that just attacks the players.

If making you monsters talk throws out the rulebook, so be it. Fuck rules (more on this in a later post). You're all going to have a better time if your players can converse with a creature.

Don't get me wrong - combat can be really fun. You can get some really dramatic moments in combat - real nail biting stuff. But player agency is key to great role-playing and forced combat is a real hindrance to this. Making your enemies more interesting and more inclined to have a dialogue will create memorable moments that combat can rarely capture.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

The Key of Hell printable game aids and demonic item

They called it Clavis Inferno, The Key of Hell. This 18th century manuscript was penned by an unknown author under the moniker Benjamin Breen in a mix of Latin, Hebrew and a cipher, detailing various black magic rites. The scans also make pretty sweet aids for your game.

If you want to bring the Clavis Inferno into your OSR game, here's the effect:

Upon reading the book cover to cover you have 1d6 nights of nightmares about devils cavorting in an infernal garden. On the final night the devil Vepar scratches you with the infernal mark. This shows up on your body in the morning, burning and oozing. The mark will cause you great pain should you enter a holy site to a non demonic God, causing 1d6 damage for evey day you remain tgere. Should you enter a demonic place of worship regain 1d6 HP for every day you remain.

Courtesy of The Public Domain Review

Sunday 15 May 2016

You can now publish your own material for The Black Hack

You may have noticed quite a few third party products springing up using The Black Hack name, from supplements to core rules. Creator David Black certainly has and has decided to announce the process in which anyone can publish material for the game.

Over at Tenkar's Tavern, Black explains that he's totally cool with people using The Black Hack's OGL engine, but the use of the name and logo could have been problematic. But being the cool, DIY-spirited guy he is Black is officially opening the game up to the world. If you want to find out more, head over to the Tavern.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Review: The Black Hack

Being the guy who wrote Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying, you can probably tell that I'm a fan of simple, minimalist rules. Swords and Wizardry White box is my favourite version of D&D because it's simply the boiled down essence of what that game is. Now The Black Hack has arrived with much fanfare and whooping, presenting a new era of micro rules for OD&D. Oh, and it's super.

Erupting from the British OSR scene, The Black Hack is both a 'hack' in the more traditional sense and a ruleset in its own right. It ain't hand holding new players into what role-playing games are - it assumes the audience is already familiar with the game, which is a fair one to make. I can't see to many new GMs picking out The Black Hack as the first game they run.

That said, the main rules have everything you need: classes, weapons, monsters, spells and more. All within its slight 20 pages - quite a feat. But like Salt & Shake crisps, Black Hack sacrifices some flavour for DIY goodness. Flipping to the bestiary you will find pages chock full of monsters, all slotted into single line stat blocks. It's distilled D&D - you're not getting any evocative descriptions - it's cut and dry. This brings me back to the point that this should probably be used in conjunction with another game, like S&W.

Mechanically, there are several adjustments to what you might already be used to. AC has been replaced by reductive armour, the way Tunnels & Trolls works. Other mechanics have been nabbed from 5e of all places. You've got advantage and disadvantage, allowing you to roll again on an adventure and vice versa for disadvantage. Dedicated saves have been chucked out of the window - instead you roll a save on an attribute like dexterity or strength. It's beautifully elegant. As is the fact that everything is roll under. Want to climb a cliff? Roll under strength. Want to shoot a guy with a bow? Roll under dexterity. Oh yeah, enemies don't roll to attack, which could have been an inspiration drawn from Dungeon World or the Cypher System. Instead, the player rolls under a given stat. Miss the roll and take damage, which is dished out in d8s. This may tick some GMs off, but personally I like it. It feels like it lifts a burden off the DM. Your experience may differ.

We've not yet touched classes, of which there are four. No races - just your typical fighter, wizard, thief and cleric, although with some name swaps. Each class has its own hit dice and set abilities, with one class per page taking up minimal space.

It seems fairly easy to convert an existing OSR adventure for use with The Black Hack, so your current modules won't go to waste. The only real issue I have is that it seems to be set out all over the place, with no clear logical layout. It's not a biggie, but it was something that stood out.

So should you get The Black Hack? I'd say so. If you're an S&W fan then this is a great little ruleset that lives by the code 'no muss, no fuss'. If crunch is your thing you may still get something out of it, but it's doubtful. It's an inexpensive book with great mechanics and already quite a bit of community support.

Monday 9 May 2016

Review: 2000AD Prog 1981

It's been a while since I reviewed a prog, but I'm getting back into the swing of weekly prog and monthly Meg reviews.

2000AD is well on its way to prog 2000, a massive comics milestone that shows the staying power of excellent stories. No doubt 2000 will be a BIG issue, but until then we're reviewing 1981. HERE BE SPOILERS!

Cover: After the reveal of the last issue, we now know that The Law Lives. This is a nice cover, and one of the rare times Dredd is holding his helmet (face obscured by shadow, obviously). He looks pissed.

Judge Dredd: The Lion's Den Part Four - Joyce has been extradited to Brit-Cit and is on the run. The plot thickens more, with the Judges that form Team C on the hunt for Joyce, with orders to capture him by any means necessary. There's a lot of running and, unfortunately despite the cover, Dredd doesn't make an appearance. Back in Mega City One, Texas has joined with the Meg to make up its law enforcement numbers. They're not too thrilled that citizens aren't allowed to carry fire-arms (Texans, lol). It's a good installment and the conspiracy is getting to a boiling point, but it's a shame we didn't find out anymore about Dredd.

Survival Geeks: Lord of the Ringers Part Four - Oh guys, you had me at the Fighting Fantasy reference in the first panel. Honestly, I didn't see myself liking Survival Geeks when I first started reading it. It's chock full of nerdy references, which can be a little annoying, but thankfully Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby are decent storytellers. We're at the conclusion of this story, which saw weird Kev weasel his way into the gang's lives, holding a weird power over them, pretty much solely to have them play Star Wars Monopoly with him. Kev goes full lich and we discover a lot about the shortcomings of our protagonists - including how Rufus is a secret Brony. The ending is unexpected and fun - I look forward to Survival Geeks returning.

Slaine: The Brutania Chronicles - Psychopomp Part Three - This is by far the most beautiful art in the Prog at the moment. Simon Davis is a bloody god - his monochromatic, chaotic style is just wonderful. After the Gort/Slaine slog out last time, both warped ruffians have turned on Lord Weird, but Gort draws the short straw and get boffed early on. The warp doesn't last for long as Slough Thruc has carried out a ritual to prevent the Earth Power from reaching the two. Bummer. There's some good slogging and a lot of "I'm going to despoil you after death" talk. I can't help but think not a tonne has happened over three Progs, so let's hope we have more next week, but the art alone is worth the price of admission.

Brink Part Four - I love Abnett and I think Brink is a really nice concept, but the last installment pretty much put me to sleep. Thankfully, we're in full investigative mode as Brinkmann and Kurtis move into Ludmilla Habitat on the hunt for the sect. There's a funny scene where they're choosing bunks, one of which is covered in topless women and Kurtis says that the "nipples follow you around the room". We get to learn a little more about the sects as an unknown informant gets in touch with Brinkmann and explains how all the cults are essentially worshipping the same god. I really like the world building around The Brink and its habitats and how everyone eats synthetic food while keeping dosed up on drugs.

Tainted: The Fall of Deadworld Part Nine - The sprawling Deadworld story comes to a close this issue with an explosive and somber ending. This has been a great series that has cast a new light on what a zombie apocalypse story can look like. Kek-W is an outstanding scribe and Dave Kendall's art is dripping with a grim, dirty look that fits perfectly with the story. I won't go too much into this, you'll just have to read the entire thing yourself.

Overall, a fantastic Prog.

I was provided a copy of this publication for review. All thoughts are my own. 

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Why we're excited about Rifts for Savage Worlds

Clearly Rifts and Savage Worlds are meant to be because right now it's sitting pretty at over $221,000, obliterating its $8000 goal.

There's a good reason why people want to throw their cash at Rifts for Savage Worlds - it looks so damned cool.

For those not familiar with Rifts, the game first came out in the 90s by Palladium Games. It was totally unique -  a big fat gonzo universe where genres collided in an insane and beautiful way. It was a game where a magic-user could come face to face with a cyborg trooper and where hi-tech samurai could exist in the same place as dragons.

The idea of Rifts is that each continent of Earth has been warped by rifts in space-time caused by ley lines. Alien beings and supernatural evils make their way into a post-apocalyptic Earth, shaping countries into what are essentially self-contained genres of their own. England has become a medieval realm complete with a New Camelot. North America is split into magical Coalition States, full of psychics, mages and military types. China is overrun by demons and Japan has samurai battling Oni demons.

It's bloody insane.

However, one of the problems the game suffered from was its imbalance with certain weapons doing a crazy amount of damage, and the system can be a bit complex. This may be one of the reasons why a Savage Worlds version is in high demand. Savage Worlds is noted for its simple, elegant system that should make Rifts much more accessible and more balanced to play.

The Kickstarter is gathering money for three main books - the Tomorrow's Legion Player's Guide, Game Master's Handbook and Savage Foes of North America. There's also an adventure called The Garnet Town Gambit available on release.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War - Review

It's difficult not to be biased when you're talking about your favourite Marvel character, but this can often swing both ways. Fortunately, Marvel has done a true service to Captain America - from its two-fisted pulp adventure in The First Avenger to its techno-thriller sequel The Winter Soldier. Both are great flicks in their own right and they've been handled with aplomb, so I went into Civil War with high hopes, especially knowing that the Russos were at the helm. Fortunately it exceeded my expectations.

Civil War has been referred to as Avengers 2.5, on the count that it's riddled with a host of heroes (minus Thor and Banner, which is mentioned), but make no mistake - this is still a Cap story. This is the part I was most worried about - giving Cap enough screen time without being drowned out by this enormous cast. I needn't have worried as there are essentially two plots running simultaneously: Cap and Bucky's adventure and the whole civil war side of things involving the rest of the crew reluctantly boffing each other, culminating in an astounding and varied fight scene in an air hangar.

I don't want to spoil anything, but it's common knowledge by now that this entry sees the addition of Black Panther, who takes on the mantle of vengeance dealer - with his sights firmly set on Cap. Chadwick Boseman is a fantastic T'Challa, bringing a sense of gravity to the story and it's difficult not to root for him just a bit in what it one of the finest chase scenes put to screen. The other new face to the Marvel Studios movies is Tom Holland as Spider-Man. How on Earth do you slot such a popular character into an already established cast? Well, the Russos do it, and they do it so very well. Spidey is an absolute highlight - Holland plays the nerdy, smart-talking web-head better than any previous actors have played him. He delivers punchy lines right in the heat of battle just as the character should and it's genuinely funny. Laugh out loud funny. He could have easily been relegated to the sidelines, but Spider-Man actually plays a pretty key role in the film under Tony Stark's guiding hand.

Overall, Civil War is perhaps the finest and most mature entry in the Marvel series to date. Once seeing this you may look back at Whedon's first Avengers and call it child's play compared to this. We're at a point where superhero movies have peaked and we're starting to get introspective, much like the comics did in the 80s. While the first couple of Marvel's phases were about heroic hijinks and building a universe, we're at a point with Civil War where we're examining the role of the hero in this universe. While some commentators are saying that the supers bubble will burst in the next couple of years, it's hard to see whether this is actually true if more films are like Civil War.


Monday 2 May 2016

Horse personality generator


More often than not, PCs get a bunch of generic horses, ride out and inevitably leave them outside of a dungeon to get eaten by wandering trolls. My gaming group has lost a tonne of horses because, well, they're pretty expendable. But what if the horses became characters in their own right? Maybe the PCs would be more inclined to treasure them forever, or until the characters are super hungry.

So I give you the Horse Personality Generator. Roll 1d10 to get your horse name and 1d6 to get its personality. Simple.

Horse Name

1. Smoke
2. Thundermane
3. Gabriel
4. Master Wensleydale
5. Petunia
6. Li'l Sebastian 
7. Lady Darkwater
8. Horace
9. Lighthoof
10. Midnight Star

Horse Personality

1. Noble Steed - This horse is like the Samurai of horses. If you fall off, it will try its best to help you, or at least warn the rest of your party that you're hurt. This horse is a leader and others look up to it. It's selfless and brave and the first into the action. It will also protect its rider from harm where possible.

2. Mad as a Brush - Not quite psychotic, but super unpredictable. It has that look in its eyes that it doesn't know what the hell its doing most of the time. Sometimes it will charge a group of ogres (even when its rider tries to stop it) and sometimes it will hop into a trained dance routine at the sight of a wyvern. When you get into an encounter while this horse is with you, roll 1d3. 1) The horse obeys your command, 2) The horse charges into the fray, no matter what the danger, 3) The horse throws up and runs off at full speed.

3. The Psycho - This horse has seen things. Terrible things. It's probably been in a war or two and witnessed its brethren get massacred. Every day this horse is with you, roll 1d3. 1) The horse is triggered at the sight of blood today. If it sees or smells blood it will buck any rider off its back and go into a galloping frenzy, potentially stomping on the prone rider. 2) The horse just freezes and refuses to move. 3) The horse is fine - for now.

4. Scaredy Cat - This horse shivers constantly and is easily spooked. If it is present during an encounter there is a 20% chance it will bolt away at full speed.

5. No Man's Steed - This horse is as independent as a horse can get. It will only let a rider mount it 20% of the time, otherwise it will just buck them off. A rider may only try to mount this horse once per day. At night, there is a 10% chance the horse will leave if it's not properly secured (it will chew through rope pretty easily). 

6. The Racer - This was originally bred to be a racing horse, so it's super fast. This horse travels at 1.5x the speed of a regular horse.

Monday 18 April 2016

Have you played: Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

Ok, so this is the second time I've written this because stupid Blogger stupid deleted the post, and it was a pretty long one. Needless to say I'm angry with Google and will be taking legal action against them.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by the sexy bods at Fantasy Flight. For the uninitiated, LotR: TCG is a game for one or more players who are on a mission against the deck, fighting off nasties and completing quests. Each player has three heroes who must travel to various locations, undertake quests and keep the threat level down by gutting orcs and such. The higher the threat level, the more likely stronger enemies will notice and automatically attack you. It's a delicate balance of managing the number of enemies in the staging area and committing your heroes to quests.

Also, it's hard as balls. Ball hard, if you will. In the core game there are three quests, each having multiple parts. I've only been able to beat the first quest and the first part of the second quest. I've heard that the final quest is like being repeatedly kicked in the face except, you know, with cards.

But dammit, I love this game. I love the fact that Fantasy Flight release expansions every month (although I don't love that I can't buy them all). There are even Saga Expansions that let you play out an RPG-like campaign through the Lord of the Rings story. Right now, they're somewhere at the second part of the Two Towers.

Oh, and you can play the game solo, which is a huge bonus. It plays really well solitaire, although it does tend to be harder when you're on your own.

So, have you played it and what were your experiences?

*Fantasy Flight didn't pay me a penny to write this, but if anyone from there is reading and wants to send me sets to review, go ahead ;)

Sunday 14 February 2016

Quill: Love Letters, Out Now

It's been just over a month since I released Quill and, I have to say, I've been overwhelmed with the positive response its receive. Now, in time for Valentine's Day, you can download Love Letters, five brand new scenarios for Quill all based around, well, love.

As with the original game, Love Letters is pay what you want, so what are you waiting for? Get writing!

Saturday 16 January 2016

Comic Review: Trans-Planetarium #1

How would you feel if you lost everything because of who you are? In Trans-Planetarium, we immediately find protagonist in the midst of her answer to this question - bleeding out into a bathtub. It's a powerful image to kick off a book and it's that hook that grabs you and thrusts you into Alice's story.

Alice was born 'Alex', but from a young age realised that he was a female in a male's body. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, a young guy dressing in girl's clothes is going to be a to be a target for bullying and ostracization. As Alice is losing blood, we're given a glimpse of the past that led her to where she was right then.

Just as all hope seems to be lost, Alice is visited by what seems to be an angelic savior. It's not made entirely apparent in this first issue who this character is, aside from Alice's self-proclaimed 'teacher'. She works similarly to Ebeneezer Scrooge's ghosts, revealing a window of time to Alice to show all of human history- the sadness, the joy, the death and so on. Through this, we see that Alice was assaulted by a guy she met in a bar once he realised that she was transgender. We see various scenes where Alice is given a pretty raw deal through the shunning of her peers and even the loss of her job. Ultimately, the angel explains to her that through the challenges we find the beauty in life - a positive message and an important one.

Trans-Planetarium is written by Phillip "Flip" Knox, who can convincingly structure an effective narrative, although the dialogue does feel slightly rough around the edges at the moment with some clumsy phrasing - but it still works.

The artwork by John Abiera is composed well, with some genuinely good character expressions. While the colours are a tad flat, they are still nice and vibrant, making the book pop.

Trans-Planetarium ends with a good cliffhanger, but also works well as a stand-alone piece. The thing that really stands out is that it's a book with a trans protagonist dealing with trans issues. This isn't something we necessarily see in mainstream comics, so it's great to see a trans-positive book out there. Although it can come off a little heavy in parts (there's a particular scene where a doctor refers to Alice as 'it' that feels slightly forced) it's wonderful to see that this kind of comic exists and the creative team must be applauded for it.

Thursday 7 January 2016

Quill: A Letter-Writing Roleplaying Game for a Single Player

I've been thinking about solo roleplaying a lot recently, which led me to create Quill, a roleplaying game about writing letters.

Yes, instead of thwacking orcs, in Quill your aim is to write the best missives, with characters like the Poet, the Monk, the Knight and the Aristocrat. Rather than attributes like strength and wisdom, in Quill you have Penmanship, Heart and Language.

In a game of Quill you will be writing a real letter, so crack out the parchment and ink - it's time to scribe!

Quill is pay what you want on DriveThruRPG right now

Monday 4 January 2016

Random Starship Name Generator

One of the best parts of a sci fi game is the ability to fly your very own ship, which holds true for Somnium Void too. Below is one of the random generators found in the new setting book - just roll 2d10 to name your ship.

First Name  

1. Dread
2. Black
3. Silent
4. Moon
5. Flash
6. Century
7. Ace
8. Shock
9. Red

Second Name  

1. Goliath
2. Striker
3. Bandit
4. Cobra
5. Runner
6. Star
7. Nebula
8. Vulture
9. Leviathan
10. Hunter

Pay what you want for Somnium Void today.