Friday 31 December 2021

Creatures of the Fruit Patch for Romance of the Perilous Land

It occurs to me that I've not posted this month, so here's one for the last day of the year. Creatures of the Fruit Patch is for use with Romance of the Perilous Land, detailing several folkloric beings who haunt the places where fruits grow. 

Awd Goggie

Taking the form of a great caterpillar, Awd Goggie hides among the gooseberry bushes to ambush unsuspecting pickers (mainly children). When it rears up, it's the size of a large dog, with a slavering maw and twenty roving eyes. The creature makes its lair underground, where it drags its poor victims to later munch on their flesh and bones.

HD3, TN13, HP13, AP3, AT Bite (d6+3), No Appearing 1-3, Special: After damaging an opponent, Awd Goggie can wrap around them. They must make a Might Save or become restrained. 

Churnmilk Peg

A wicked spirit who guards all manner of nuts, Churnmilk Peg usually appears as a crooked old man or woman with a pipe in their mouth. They jump from the undergrowth and set a fire under their victims to force them to flee. 

HD2, TN12, HP9, AP2, AT Stick (d6+2), No Appearing 1-3, Special: Three times per encounter, Churnmilk Peg can set an opponent on fire within 50ft. They must make a Con Save or take d4 fire damage. 

Apple Tree Man

The oldest tree in the forest is given life as a nature spirit called Apple Tree Man. A wise and altruistic being, those who offer him a mug of hot cider on a cold winter's day will be rewarded, perhaps with directions to buried treasure, or a clue to the giver's quest. 

HD4, TN14, HP18, AP4, AT Special, No Appearing 1, Special: Those who harm Apple Tree Man are cursed by him. He summons d6 fairies in the orchard to attack his assailant each time damage is done to him. 

Saturday 6 November 2021

Glimmerwine (Against the Darkmaster)

 My lady fair was she

When dappled light caressed

Her hair of gold, her dress so fine

As she danced at Glimmerwine

- Folk song, The Lady of Glimmerwine

Tucked away beyond the foothills of Torvul and nestled beside the Sleeping Wood lay a village where soft lamps glow when the sunlight fades. Glimmerwine, as called in the tongue of Men, sits by the meandering river Evenstrun whose source traces back all the way to the Veiled Peaks some two hundred miles away. The water is crisp and cold, even on hot summers days and they say nothing is sweeter than tasting the cool riverwater after a long journey. The halfling mayor Tolly Brumble wears a scarlet hat with a wide brim and his dashing smile cuts from cheek to cheek. Daily he can be seen walking the village, singing a merry song and wishing the people well. Visitors are pointed to The Hare and Anvil, a cosy public house famous for its sweet mead with eremora spice. Fat cushions greet a sore back in the common area where a delicate fire crackles and Molliver Jupe, a local storyteller, regails patrons of tales of lost loves and terrible phantoms. 

A stone's throw to the west are the ruins of Tomen's Watch, a once pristine white tower where the Swords of Welleren held their station in darker times during the Blackwar. These rangers were driven out by the orcish servants of the Darkmaster and the tower razed. Some day that on the night of a full moon the rangers can be seen entering the tower and a horn sounding on the air. Now the spider Urzgud (use Great Spider template) has made its home within the ruins, guarding the bones of the dead and secret treasures lost to time. 

During High Summer the Festival of Little Fires sees bonfires lit and lanterns floated down the river in a luminous procession thanking the True God for the gift of warmth. Musicians play joyful tunes of old and children dance with ribbons around the shepherd's stone on the green. In the deep winter the villagers walk to Star Hill to watch the stars fall while they sing of lost years and fallen friends. Of late news of orcish warbands, their drums heard on the wind, has prevented the observation of this tradition. Tolly desperately looks for help to make these lands safe again. 

Encounters in Glimmerwine:

1. Tarbuck Hobfoot, the village drunk, berates some youths before passing out on the green.

2. Bree Tangleshoot, a travelling wizard, brings news of giant bats that have moved into the wood. 

3. Molliver Jupe desperately wants an adventure for new story material. Will you help her out?

4. Bardun, son of Dardul, a bitter and blind dwarf hunter who wishes to slay orc

5. One Giant Bat per party member attacks

6. Tolly Brumble explains a child has gone missing. They were last seen near the old tower. 

Giant Bat

Level 4 Common

MR 50F


DEF +25

TSR +30

WSR +15

HPs 60

1st attack Bite +70

Special Blood Drain


Rog +60

Adv +20

Lor +0

Blood Drain: Creatures who suffer a critical strike from the giant bat's bite must pass an attack level 4 TSR or suffer 3 Soul damage. 

Darkvision: Giant bats can see in Dim Light and Total Darkness as if it were Bright Light.

Crepuscular: Giant Bats are active at dusk and night.  

Tuesday 5 October 2021

Darkmaster Passions: Senjutsu Edition


One of the many things I really like about Against the Darkmaster is that the rules explicitly advise you to use metal to inspire your Passions. So with Iron Maiden's 17th outing, Senjutsu, recently released (it's ridiculously good), I thought I'd pull out some Passions based on the lyrics within.

Must be steadfast, must be patient, must believe we can win

I try to find my way back home to feel the same again

Holy fury locks me in, imprisoned by my deadly sin

Open your heart and I'll open your soul

Pity me none at the gates of our hell

For I am but a messenger, one

Sent to do reckoning what must be done

Just remember that patience is no sin

I wish I could go back

Will never be the same again

Bled for all upon this hell on earth

Sunday 3 October 2021

Lastwatch, an Against the Darkmaster adventure site

 While this is an adventure site for Against the Darkmaster, it's easily repurposed for any fantasy game. Feel free to drop Lastwatch into any location with plains and contested borders. 

Lastwatch once stood proudly on Beacon's Hill surveying the verdant Westerland Plains and the sprawling Fingrod Forest to the east. The watchtower was the first line of warning against incursions from the Ashlands beyond the border, where tusked invaders crossed into the king's lands with broadaxe and scythe blades. Now the structure barely stands, a crumbled husk of its former splendor, claimed by the creeping vines and knotted weeds of the encroaching forest. 

Two of the four stone reliefs remain. Once proud high man warriors perched on the surface, their gaze meeting the oncoming enemy. Now only Theoran and Eremor still stand, cracked and weathered from the tides of time. Once these would come alive as stone guardians, surprising the enemy and charging into the fray. These guardians were controlled through a circlet, now lost beneath the rubble. They now stand, waiting for their next master.

Recently a redcap encampment has sprung up within the broken watchtower, led by the Fear Deag Anklin who paints his face blue and yellow and sports a jester's cap. Anklin has heard the songs of the magic circlet and covets the item. After days of digging Anklin finally unearthed a battered silver circlet. Placing it on his head he willed Theoran and Eremor back to life with murderous glee. His first act as master was to set the guardians on a local hamlet, driving its inhabitants out so the redcaps could rush in and take the spoils. 

After scuttling orc encampments and more small villages, Anklin has gained followers who have sworn fealty to him. Redcaps, orcs and dark mortals now serve Anklin as King of the Westerland under the banner of the Fool's Cap. Now his sights are set on larger towns where more treasure can surely be acquired. But this rests on his ability to broker a deal with the wild trolls of the Fingrod Forest to help decimate Farduin. 

Rumours on the Westerland:

1. Men of stone have been ransacking villages (T)

2. Bands of orcs, redcaps and men have been seen travelling together. (T)

3. Lastwatch burns with fires and echoes with the din of chanting and screeching song (T)

4. A powerful sorcerer has returned from the Ashlands for vengeance (F)

5. Two of Westerland's greatest heroes of old have returned in the thrall of evil (F)

6. Redcap spies have been spotted near the town of Farduin to the northwest (T)

Anyone making a hard Songs & Tales check will have heard of how the stone guardians were used in the watchtower and that some sort of magical item was used to control them, but what it was is debated (a ring, a circlet, a brooch, a harp). 

Anklin knows Chanting and Mind Control spells up to the second weave. 

Tuesday 28 September 2021

D&D is an imposter in the RPG world

It occurs to me that despite originating the tabletop roleplaying hobby, D&D sits outside of most design conventions that have come after it. 5th edition does at least. When you look at most games, they're designed to emulate or do something quite specific, whether that's pulp steampunk Victoriana adventure or creeping dread in an uncaring cosmos. D&D 5th edition, though, seems to be an emulation of D&D, but not any sort of D&D. Rather, it's an imagined D&D plucked from the halcyon days of the hobby and harvested from the more story-driven editions of the 00s onwards. This isn't a value statement on the game, but it's intriguing that the most popular RPG in the hobby is a weird jumble of identities yet one that doesn't quite retain one of its own. 

If you go back to OD&D and the basic rules that followed it, the design told players what the game was about. Namely, delving into deadly dungeons, avoiding getting slaughtered and escaping with level-boosting loot. There were processes and procedures to it. Random encounters and hexcrawls were baked into the design. It was a picaresque game emulating the pulps, a smorgasbord of ideas including everything from Leigh Brackett and ERB to Vance and Moorcock. The designers weren't completely explicit in what they were trying to achieve, but it's all there. 

If that were still the case now, I believe D&D would be the dungeon crawl game. But the game evolved to become iterations of itself - a mirror image spell cast on its own form where each reflection wasn't quite like that last. 4e put its card on the table (literally) as far as design intent went: this is superpowers heroic fantasy where you go from defending minor mortal locations to zipping through the ether in impossible sailboats, whacking tendrilly psychics. 

Then came the ridiculously popular 5e, whose success could never have been predicted by the dollar-flipping big bods at Hasbro, whose designers creating a veritable pick n mix of old and new. But what is D&D now? A game like Alien is designed around tension as you try to survive insurmountable odds, and the Yellow King is reality horror that has players play through multiple eras and realities. D&D on the other hand eludes me. Of course, it's a fantasy game about heroes (but also maybe not heroes) going on adventures. The core rules allude to the Forgotten Realms being the default setting but we don't learn a whole lot about it (maybe it should be termed 'low setting'). Its mechanics don't give much away. We know there are dangerous places full of dangerous things, maybe if you want and we know characters get more powerful as they grow, but what IS the game? I'm sorry if I seem obtuse and I might not be explaining this properly, but I can only surmise that D&D is a D&D game. It seeks to emulate some form of D&D, but not like the old editions. Just an amorphous idea of D&D. 

This doesn't mean it's not a fun game (it wouldn't be popular if it weren't) but it seems to me that it sits outside of the rest of the tabletop sphere. Its amorphous nature is also likely one of the reasons why some players try to bend it to fit new design goals: a cosy exploratory game, a cyberpunk game. Truthfully I don't think this makes sense at all - it's like using 40k rules for Napoleonics. Technically you could do it, but the experience won't be half as good and there would be a lot of effort involved to crowbar it into shape. Sure, I could gank D&D to play in Age of Sigmar, but Soulbound is leagues better for doing that. 

It's also one of the reasons I find D&D infinitely interesting. Yesterday Wizards announced a refresh of the rules in 2024, or a new edition or something. That will have been a decade since 5e launched, bringing it close to the lifespan of AD&D 2e. No doubt this will end up running for another five years before 6e rears its head. Personally the only D&D I enjoy is BX and Basic, and the games based on those, along with 4e. All different iterations but all with their own distinct flavour. 

In the 2024 update or the new edition it would be good to see Wizards designing around the three pillar elements that they retrofitted into the game. Interesting mechanisms for exploration and social situations, rules that underpin the D&Dness of the world. A better understanding of its own identity. Personally I'd like some more weirdness which was prevalent in early editions if I were ever to be interested in the game again. 

The appeal of D&D 5e is that it's open to interpretation, and not in a way that a generic system like Genesys is. While each game of Call of Cthulhu is certainly a cosmic horror session with the tropes you expect, players fill the void of identity that 5e lacks. A silly comedy about a band of bards, a serious sword and sorcery against frost giants, a science fantasy intrigue in Ravnica. It's a generic system without being truly generic - doing enough to servicably run all these different types of games but not doing any one thing really well. 

So will Wizards eventually relook at the design and decide what they want the game to do, like in 4e? No chance. They've got the alchemy now to print money, so D&D is set to sit in its own bubble eternally. 

Sunday 26 September 2021

Witch bottle for Romance of the Perilous Land

 Witch bottles are pretty gross, but an effective apotropaic means of warding off witches and malicious spells. A witch bottle is a glass bottle filled with iron nails, human hair and nail clippings. Importantly the latter two must be from the one who needs protecting from magic. 

The witch bottle can only be prepared by a cunning folk, who must take 10 minutes to prepare the object and make a regular magic knowledge check. If successful, the witch bottle is imbued with the requisite powers and the cunning folk can't make another for a day. The power of the witch bottle is fleeting and lasts a day, after which the magic evaporates. If the check is unsuccessful it can't be attempted for another day. 

Someone with a witch bottle on their person gets an edge on saves against spells by witches, hags or crones. Attacks from witches, hags or crones take a setback against the owner of the bottle. 

Sunday 19 September 2021

Blood Gorge Marauders for Romance of the Perilous Land

Blood Gorge is the colloquial name given to the twenty mile long rocky valley that carves through the north of the kingdom of Gore. Some stories say the gorge was carved by Gogmagog himself during the Galesh uprising, where the giant was said to have scooped up the land and thrown it at an oncoming horde of giants. Others tell of a great worm having snaked through the land creating the gorge itself. Aside from frequent rock slides, travellers must be aware of the marauders that make the gorge their home. Clad in the skins of wolves and mantles of gore-soaked ram's horns, this barbarian clan is no friend of travellers, rushing down from the rocks to slay their prey with their mighty blades. Villagers in the area call them the Horned Wind, as like a deadly wind they show no mercy in tearing homes apart in their sweeping raids. 

Their current leader is Galia the She-Beast, a seven-foot behemoth of a woman whose horns are far larger than her followers'. She's known for ripping out still-beating hearts and devouring them. Some say she is the spawn of giants and humans, while others believe she is the embodiment of nature's wrath. 

If you want to use the Blood Gorge Mauraders in your game, have the heroes come across their savage destruction before they meet the barbarians themselves. Villagers all have different tales to tell, of Galia's cat's eyes to the stench the marauders bring, like rotting meat. Perhaps the Black Lance are trying to strike a bargain with the mauraders to join their ranks. 

Blood Gorge Maurader, HD5(15), HP22, AP5, Atk Sword (d8+5), Special: Unaffected by difficult rocky terrain.

Galia, the She-Beast, HD7(17), HP30, AP7, Atk Sword (d10+7), Special: As an action Galia can use her intimidating glare at anyone within 50ft. The target must make a Cha save or become paralysed until the end of their next turn.

Saturday 18 September 2021

Zealots of the Black Stone

 The Kingdom of Corbenic is in a bad place right now. The wounded Fisher King sits decaying on his throne while his once glorious land falls into chaos. If you've ever wanted to do Arthurian post apocalypse, this is the place to set it.

The Zealots of the Black Stone are a religious sect from the farmlands, led by High Priestess Ruana. They believe that an obsidian menhir, the Black Stone, holds the key to moving Corbenic to a new golden age. The Zealots are less inclined towards going back to the way things were, but instead ushering in an age where Corbenic is ruled by the cryptic teachings of the stone. Ruana has nightly prayers by the stone and each dawn reveals a new proclamation the stone has made, from where they should plant new crops to who their next sacrifice should be. And that's human sacrifice - ragged villagers being ripped from their beds and murdered on the menhir, the blood channeling into the stone's etchings. 

In actuality the stone doesn't speak. It was erected by the giants in their time as a marker point, its cryptic etchings revealing the names of the giants who lived in the area at the time (those who speak giant and make a tough history check can figure this out). Ruana served as chaplain to the Fisher King and believes that he has been cursed by the gods and forsaken. 

Her group is likely to take up arms against anyone who attempts to disprove the rock's sentience. Ruana herself is a cunning woman who specialises in scrying. 

Friday 27 August 2021

The Dullahan for Romance of the Perilous Land

The Dullahan is a headless rider who carries their grinning head under one arm and a whip crafted from a human spine in another. They are harbingers of death, emerging from the soil to reap the souls of the living and carry them to the underworld. If the Dullahan calls your name, your fate is sealed. 


HP 36

AP 10

Attack: Spine whip (melee) or Call name (ranged, 100ft)

Damage: d10+8 (melee)


- If the Dullahan calls a victim's name, they must make a Mind save or be marked for death. A character marked for death takes double damage from the Dullahan. The Dullahan must be aware of a victim's name to be able to use the call name attack. 

- The Dullahan can move 40ft per turn 

- When the Dullahan reaches 0HP it returns to the ground where it takes 2d6 nights to fully regenerate it's HP. 

- The Dullahan is weak to gold. If struck with a weapon laced with gold, it takes an extra d10 damage. 

Thursday 26 August 2021

The Nut Nan for Romance of the Perilous Land

 Today I'm injecting some Mancunian folklore into the Perilous Land, with the Nut Nan. This fey creature resembles an old woman smoking a long pipe and wielding a constantly hot poker. She sits in trees to stop youths from taking her ripe hazelnuts. While she never goes so far as to use lethal force, she doesn't mind giving someone a whipping with her poker, much to her glee.

Nut Nan 

HD2, HP 9, AP 2

Attack: Hot poker (melee)

Damage: d6+2

No. Appearing: 1-4

Special: The Nut Nan is treated as being invisible while sitting in a tree.

Saturday 21 August 2021

Gawain for Romance of the Perilous Land

Sir Gawain is a young and headstrong member of the Round Table. He's fiercely loyal to Arthur and his companions and his passions have been known to run so high to obscure his better judgement. A charming, handsome man, Gawain is known for taking male and female lovers (they say he can talk the feathers off a hen, whatever that means). With his horse Gringolet he rides the Perilous Land on special quests, wielding the enchanted sword Galatine, Excalibur's twin. Merlin himself taught Gawain healing skills, though the knight could never reach the mastership of the old conjurer. 

Sir Gawain 

Class: Knight 

Background: Outrider

Faction: Knights of the Round Table

Level 8

Might 21, Reflex 17, Charisma 20, Mind 15, Constitution 17

HP: 47

AP: 18

Skills: Riding, Perception, Athletics, Survival,  Persuasion, Bluff, Intimidate

Talents: Charming, Jack of all Trades, Master Healer, Shield Expert, Swift Recovery 

Weapon: Galatine (shortsword) d8 (after noon but before dusk becomes a d10 weapon). 

Armour: Plate 12, Tower Shield 6

Art: Alan Lathwell for Romance of the Perilous Land.

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Quill: Shadow & Ink scenario - City on Canvas


This is a free scenario for Quill: Shadow and Ink.


You are living in the heart of Paris in 1889. Recently you have moved into a commune where you've become good friends with a group of like-minded painters, sculptors and poets. Every week you correspond with your old friend, Pierre Duchamp, who is a confidante.

One day one of your new found friends, a painter called Marie, shows you her new piece in secret. It's a photo-realistic image of a world beyond our own, beyond anything. A city of yellowing towers reaches like crooked fingers towards a black sky. Marie told you that ever since moving into the commune she had been dreaming about this city, each night revealing itself bit by bit. A mix of awe and revulsion washed over you before you gave your leave. 

The next day you dared to look upon the painting again. This time a figure was standing at its gates, one you swore you hadn't seen before. The same day the sculptor Jean had vanished without a trace. As days went by you checked on the painting and more figures began to appear, all the while members of the commune were vanishing. Now Marie is nowhere to be found.

You are writing to Pierre to try to explain what is happening, and hopefully get your friend to pay a visit to stop this madness once and for all.

Rules of Correspondence

- The Artist gains a +1 to language tests when describing the painting 

Ink Pot 

Picture/ Watercolour

Stars/ Hyades 

Room/ Chamber 

Looked/ Scoured 

Scene/ Cyclopean vista 

Lovely/ Elegant

Wood/ Timber 

Secret/ Clandestine 

Bony/ Osseous 

Torch/ Flambeau 


Fewer than 5 points 

You receive a teasing response from Pierre who asks if you have been on the green fairy (so what if you have?). Your friend doesn't have time to travel across the channel to see you. Soon you begin to dream of the city in the painting, the black stars and a gaunt figure in flowing tattered robes. A week later you awake in a sweat. Only, it's not a sweat. Your skin is like oil, leaking off your body and staining your bedclothes. You feel the need to see the painting. No, to be one with the painting. You reach inside the canvas, your body flowing away from you, becoming part of the painting. You stand before the gates of the city surrounded by the smiling faces of your commune friends. Marie approaches you, but she answers to Cassilda now.

6-8 points 

Duchamp responds with a half-mocking letter, but admits it has been too long since you last saw each other so agrees to visit. Between his arrival you begin to dream about the city, the black stars and the gaunt figure wrapped in a flowing tattered robe. You decide you can no longer sleep, staying awake for nights on end until your friend arrives. Seeing you in a state of exhaustion he grows increasingly concerned. You show him the painting, but his response is indifference. He says that because you're sleep deprived your mind is playing tricks on you. He has you drink a concoction that puts you right to sleep. When you awake, Duchamp is nowhere to be seen. You creep into the room with the painting and scream when you see a new addition to the canvas.

9+ points

Knowing you to be a rational person, Duchamp is clearly intrigued by your story. He decides to visit and help you investigate these strange events. Between his arrival you begin to dream about the city, the black stars and the gaunt figure wrapped in a flowing tattered robe. You decide you can no longer sleep, staying awake for nights on end until your friend arrives. Seeing that you're in despair, Duchamp reviews the painting, scraping the paint with a knife. He tells you he would like to destroy it, whether it is haunted or not - it's clearly having an adverse effect on your psyche. Thanks night the painting is burned and the ashes scattered into a field. Miraculously the dreams subside and your nights become peaceful once more.

Thursday 29 July 2021

The folklore of Faerun: Lathtarl's Lantern

I've been thinking about writing something like this for a while so I thought I'd take the plunge. This is potentially the first in a series of posts where I speculate and create folklore around regions of Faerun, likely just the Sword Coast, since that's a big part of where 5e is set so it's going to be useful to more people. The idea here is to present some rich folktales, legends, art, songs, foodways and other types of folklore into the setting to add a new element to the D&D game. Also D&D is more popular than anything at the moment and I want the views.

Today we start in the tiny fishing village of Lathtarl's Lantern. The village was founded by the pirate Lathtarl, who attracted various slavers, pirates and brigands to the location. 


Every year in the winter the villagers come together to recreate the crashing of Lathtarl's ship against the rocks in the bay. A procession led by a lantern-carrying 'captain' wearing a false beard and bells parades through the streets all the way to the cliff where the ship crashed. Children are dressed as 'rapscallions' in paper hats, representing the sailors who survived the wreck. At the end, a bonfire is lit with driftwood representing the old ship and the children throw their hats into the flames.


The traditional fishing nets are crafted from strong seaweed found along the shore, spun carefully by older artisans who worry the craft is dying out. Each net is given a blessing before it's sold in order to ensure a bountiful fishing haul. The blessing involves sprinkling salt over the net, followed by a splash of vinegar wine called Kalut (a strong delicacy here) and a prayer said to Umberlee. In game terms, the chances of a good catch are increased by 50% with a blessed net. 


A type of dark crusty bread sprinkled with salt. To finish, a copper piece is baked into the middle of the cob to represent good fortune. Salt cobs are a popular food to bake in the summer months when the waft of baking bread wafts through the village, almost enough to mask the smell of sea and pilchards. 


The village is often overrun with a thick fog, making fishing impossible without the aid of magic. Pebble fogging is a tradition where three concentric circles are painted onto pebbles from the beach and tossed into the sea as an offering to Umberlee. The circles are said to represent the sun that has come to burn away the fog. 


As a result of the number of shipwrecks around the coast there is widespread belief of a large hoard of treasure belonging to the legendary halfling captain Old Yoney. The treasure is said to be enough to make a king or queen of anyone able to carry it, but the story goes that should you escape with the treasure in tact you will be hunted by the ghost of Old Yoney and her crew. 


At midnight of a new year many villagers head out to wade in the freezing cold water, believing the act to bring prosperity for the year ahead. The custom has grown less popular due to lizardmen attacks. Sometimes out of towners are hired to protect the waders from would be attackers. 


- Whistling on a boat 

- Taking a pig or mule on a boat 

- Three ravens 

- Spilling Kalut 

- Stepping on a net

- Keeping the smallest fish of the catch 


Romance of the Perilous Land background: Sword Dancer

In Norhaut the Rapper Sword is a folk dance that requires dexterity, mental awareness and rhythm. Dancers wear percussive footwear to create a drumbeat while dancing with flexible steel blades, often hooked together in a star-like pattern with their fellow dancers. One wrong move can have a dancer's ear off...or worse. 

Recently the Rapper Sword has been outlawed under Mordred's rule in Norhaut, but some dancers still gather in secret to carry out these culturally important dances.

Skills: Acrobatics, History

Equipment: Dancing sword (ceremonial), percussive shoes, dancer's jacket, long socks, 2gp

Saturday 24 July 2021

Hand of glory for Romance of the Perilous Land


The hand of glory is a grotesque but useful magic item, particularly sought after by thieves and scoundrels. The left hand is cut from the body of a hanged murderer, squeezed of all its blood and pickled in a mixture of salt, pepper and nitre for two weeks. A candle is prepared using the fat from the murderer's hand and set within the gory grasp of the disembodied appendage. Lighting the candle upon entering a household acts as a potent sleeping spell, which is the reason a burglar would go to great lengths to get their hands on it. 

Preparing the hand of glory in a fashion that the magic will work requires a tough magic knowledge check at the end of the two weeks of preparation. If you fail by 5 or less the magic is retained but to a lesser potency. Failing by any more and the hand is entirely inert. 

When the candle is lit anyone within 100ft who is currently sleeping will not wake unless physically harmed. With the less potent version the range is reduced to 25ft. 

Order your copy of Romance of the Perilous Land from Osprey Games.

And hey, you can now grab the Map of the Perilous Land for free.

Wednesday 7 July 2021

So many ideas for Romance of the Perilous Land

 I'm percolating, Jerry. I mentioned on Twitter that I had something like 19 releases for RotPL planned over the coming years. It's stupid how much I want to do with this game, so I thought I'd share with you some of what I'm thinking. These are by no means final, but could be released in some form or another:

- Sacred sites: basically the natural sacred places in the world. I'll probably fold this into the Gods of the Perilous Land book.

- City books: probably for the key cities, but it feels like at least Camelot needs something. My next favourite is Ascalon, so I'll probably do something there.

- Faction books: a more in depth look at each faction.

- Book of the Otherworld: I've only really hinted at what's in the Otherworld, but it would be really cool to explore.

- Book of Valour: I want to do a full courtly knight thing. Codes, tournaments, how Knights operate. 

- Book of Beasts: there are SO many more creatures of British folklore to write about, so I'll definitely do that. 

- Campaign book: I don't like the idea of writing a big fat campaign, but I'd like to do a book of 20 short adventures that somewhat tie together. Maybe I'll check out the Prince Valiant campaign book for inspo.

I've got a Google Keep file full of monsters, locations and NPCs. A lot of these get posted here, but I'd imagine most will also make it into a book or two. 

Sunday 4 July 2021

Hearts and Scales out now


My brand new Romance of the Perilous Land quest Hearts and Scales is out now on DTRPG and Itch

This 16 page full colour adventure sees the heroes venture to a village terrorised by a foul worm. But with a rumour of a witch in the woods all may not be as it seems. 

I've based the quest on a real folk ballad, which features at the end of the adventure in a behind the scenes page that goes into a little detail about how the actual folktale plays out. 

I've included art by the wonderful Dean Spencer along with some lovely public domain illustrations. Enjoy your adventure in the Copperwood!

Tuesday 22 June 2021

May your oaths be unbroken: Gods of the Perilous Land

The Perilous Land is overseen by a pantheon of major deities, all outlined in the core rules. Currently I'm working on a new supplement called Gods of the Perilous Land, which goes into detail about these gods and goddesses, but also includes minor deities (demigods), Sacred Items, shrines, chapels and temples and new Oath Talents. 

The new guide is designed to bring daily belief to the forefront of the game, offering new abilities based on your patron god. These Oath Talents can be taken whenever a regular Talent could be acquired, giving your character a tangible connection to their deity.

The Oath Talents you can choose depend on your class, with different Aspects of each god bestowing divine gifts to different classes. For instance, Gofannon may gift an Oath Talent to a knight that blesses their weapon, while the same god will give a thief a set of divine lock picks. The more a character devoted themselves to their patron deity, the more abilities they unlock. 

Temples, shrines and chapels allow PCs to gain Blessings based on their patron. A Blessing from Epona may increase your travel speed, for instance. 

Finally demigods are introduced in this supplement, the mortals born of the gods themselves. Each demigod has their own domain, like Arawn, King of the Underworld and Gwydion the legendary trickster. These might be quest givers or antagonists in an ongoing campaign.

Look out for further announcements and details.

Sunday 20 June 2021

Romance of the Perilous Land: War Griffins

 As a rule, any type of Griffin is almost impossible to train. Hundreds have had their limbs torn off just trying to get one to calm down. But Queen Eleanor of Eastland has managed to not only have a group of trained Griffins in her eyrie, she also uses them for battle. 

With her recent allyship with the Sisters of le Fey, her court has been joined by Delice, an enchantress of Dragon's Forest, who was able to tame five forest Griffins using magic. Eleanor's Griffin Knights rode by her Black Knights are a terrifying sight, swooping from the skies like lightning and tearing their enemies apart. 

Saturday 19 June 2021

Romance of the Perilous Land: The Night Ward

 Today we're taking a trip to the City of Lions, the splendorous capital of Lyonesse. The rule of King Meliodas divides the populace, with his hard line opposition to any form of magic use. While The Burning Chapter seeks to undermine the king's rule with the use of violent magic, an equally as sinister organisation haunts the city streets: The Night Ward. 

Cloaked in black and obscured with obsidian masks resembling the faces of lions, The Night Ward is a small vigilante group whose aim is to root out and destroy magic users in Lyonesse. No matter if you're a spell casting terrorist or a homely healer, anyone who taps into the Wyrd is fair game for the Ward. Frequently city folk will awaken to a body swinging from a rope, brutally beaten by the Ward's maces. 

Officially, Meliodas denounces the actions of what he calls 'common thugs' but privately he appreciates their work and fails to crack down on their activity. 

And perhaps little would change if he were to discover that the leader of the Ward is none other than Lady de Vance, noble mistress of the High Houses of Lyonesse whose family has ever been a supporter of the crown. While her public demeanor is that of a haughty, stuffy aristocrat with only her own interests in mind, in reality she is cunning, devious and well trained. Meliodas wouldn't have to look far to find out exactly how she has become a dab hand with the mace as Sir Rains, one of his most respected courtly knights has been training her for years and is a member of the Night Ward himself. 

In fact, most members of the group are of noble bloodline and loyal to Meliodas. With power and resources comes the ability to buy their way out of tight spots with the guard and access to the castle's own armoury. 

With The Burning Chapter raising the stakes in the City of Lions, the Night Ward become even more cunning and more brutal. Their shadow war has spilled into the streets, taking collateral damage and people are beginning to ask Meliodas to step in.

Friday 18 June 2021

Have I thrown the baby out with the bathwater?

Nearly a week ago I said that I was done with T&T, the game I love. I didn't expect it to cause the stir that it did. A tonne of people came out in support of my decision, which was nice to see. Of course others declared me "trash" and performativity woke (people who have never spoken to me before).  

Since then I've spoken to T&T creators over email and via DM and I've had more time to think. Do I think I was wrong to be angry with what Ken said? No, not at all. He has since apologised on Twitter, which I'm glad to see. Ken has always been a polemicist, seemingly taking the opposing position just for the sake of it. I've ignored this for a long time, but his thoughtless around the subject of anti-racism was awful.

But the last thing I want to do is punish everyone else who creates T&T. I also recognise that Ken has apologised and I want to say again that I don't think Ken is racist - he's just boneheaded.

Will I put my T&T adventures and supplements back up on sale? Not sure, maybe. I genuinely love it - I'm passionate about it and I'm under no illusion that I have Ken and every other creator to thank for that. 

Is it better to leave the game or use it to forge a new path? 

I'm leaning towards the latter.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

10 things I love about Against the Darkmaster

Right, it's a listy post. I should mention that I have written an official adventure for Against the Darkmaster, The Silence of Dawnfell, which you can get here. So I wanted to talk about some of the reasons I love the game and why I think it's worth checking out. 

1. Creating a Darkmaster rules

In VsDarkmaster every campaign has a dark overlord (or overlords) in the form of a Darkmaster. The rules allow you to create your own, either through choice or entirely at random. Think Sauron, but it could be an extra-dimensional witch queen who lives at the bottom of the sea. You roll for the Darkmaster's epithet, like 'Horned Champion of Death', the artefact they covet (think the One Ring), their servants and where they reside, along with choosing powers for them. It's suitably epic to randomly create an all-powerful Darkmaster from scratch and a lot of fun. There are even rules for characters who succumb to the dark taint, corrupting their passions and driving obsession with darkness.

2. Magic Resonance

You know when Frodo slips the ring on and Sauron's gaze can see him? This can happen to spellcasters if their magic goes wrong. I love this mechanic - if you roll doubles when casting a spell, you may have unwittingly drawn the attention of the Darkmaster. The more powerful the spell the more likely this will happen. This is modified by whether the caster is in a location where the Darkmaster has power, or if they are in a Safe Haven. The higher the result, the worse the consequences. These could be anything from the Darkmaster being slightly aware so the caster must take care the next time they cast, to the Darkmaster sending out their elite forces to the location the characters are in (like Sauron and the Ringwraiths). This makes magic use tense and thematic.

3. Safe Havens

I mentioned these above, but Safe Havens are basically your Lothloriens or Rivendells. These are places characters arrive where they can rest, be healed and take part in some downtime activities. When things get bleak in the wilderness (and they will - limping around with a crushed knee and broken ribs is no fun) then characters can try to find a Safe Haven, with the difficulty modified by where they are. Finding one is great but getting to them won't be easy, plus they are generally hidden and heavily guarded. Once there, PCs can do anything from learning a new language to honing their skills in battle. 

4. Passions and Drive

Taking cues from games like Burning Wheel, VsDarkmaster uses a passions and drive system to help reward roleplaying tough decisions. Every character has a set of passions, which includes their nature, motivation and allegiance. The rules explicitly says to use metal lyrics to help with these passions, which is such an incredible idea (it even has a table of examples, with everything from Iron Maiden to Manowar). Passion feeds into Drive, which are points players get for using their passions to get themselves into a bad situation. Drive can be spent on rerolls and bonuses. In some games that would be enough, but here for every 10 drive spent a PC gains a Revelation - something outside of levelling that improves them somehow. This is called their Heroic Path and if that PC dies half their Heroic Path will transfer to the new character.

5. Advancement tied to setting

Speaking of advancement, at the beginning of a campaign the group can decide on specific actions and goals that will count towards xp. These Achievements can be tied to the world, but also a specific vocation (class) or passion. This might mean for the Animist they will aim to turn the tide of overwhelming odds in their favour, or a Rogue might trick a powerful NPC. This means no two campaigns will be the same and it offers even more impetus for roleplay.

6. Spell lores and Weaves

The game emulates well a caster's focus on learning new spells and mastering their art. There's a tonne of spell lores, which are categories of spells, to choose from. As PCs advance they unlock new spells within that weave - so someone who has the Master of Animals lore can first just put animals to sleep. Then they figure out how to communicate with animals, until eventually they can control plagues of insects. This perfectly mimics a magic user learning their craft, starting small and logically working up, rather than selecting new spells that are more powerful but completely different from what they already know.

7. Magic item Affinity

I could be wrong but I think this rule was inspired by D&D 4e. In the game there are Items of Power, which are intelligent magic items with their own motivation and purpose. For instance, the Windblade is trying to unite all of elvenkind under a single banner. The wielder gains or losses affinity points based on whether they're acting towards this motivation or not. The more points, the more powerful the item becomes. In Windblade's case it starts to get more balanced and eventually the wielder has access to the Haste spell. Go too low and it becomes a mundane blade and eventually vanishes, seeking a new owner. I remember this in 4e and thought 'damn, this is such an incredible idea for intelligent items' so I'm glad they used it here.

8. The art

Oh my god the art. Artists like Heraldo Mussolini, Andrea Piparo and Tommaso Galmacci have really hit the old school MERP vibe with these incredible black and white illustrations that bring the world to life so well.

9. Travelling and hazards

Epic fantasy is about epic scale, which usually means there's a lot of travelling involved. The game simulates this with rules around hazards that the GM zooms in on while the group travels. There are a series of random tables based on the type of location they're in, from woodland to desert, which offer lots of ways to create complications for the group. Comprehensive rules for foraging and camping mean that their actions while in the wilderness very much count, and with such a brutal combat system it pays to know what you're doing.

10. Lots of optional rules

Scattered liberally throughout the book are various notes on optional rules. This could be advice for changing parrying to make it more simulated, making new cultures, using hordes or creating level zero adventurers. Hell, there's an entire section on optional skills to enhance the game's flavour. It's clear the game wants you to create your own bespoke rules based on your group's preferences. That's awesome.

Atlaclara: Sword of Constantine

Type: Longsword

Damage: 1d10+1

Special: While atlaclara is drawn, the wielder's speed increases by 5ft. Gains an additional d8 damage against giants.

Atlaclara was the legendary sword of the first king of Camelot, Constantine, forged from meteoric iron. Known as Giants' Bane, the blade was used in the fight against the cruel giant Malduit after the beast invaded Hill Castle and began a campaign of terror over the nearby villages. Constantine's young advisor, Merlin, told the king of a forge crafted by the fairies known as Glimmerforge. If Constantine offered the fairy smith a single hair from his head, a sword would be crafted that could help slay the giant.

And so Constantine commissioned the crafting of Atlaclara at the Glimmerforge with a single payment of hair. While this won him the battle, the fairy was treacherous and used his hair to forge a new blade - Kingslayer. This dark sword would go on to wound Constantine, causing the grave illness that would end his life and reign.

Saturday 12 June 2021

I'm done with Tunnels & Trolls

Update: I've turned off the comments for my own mental health. It's worth me noting that at no point have I said that Ken is racist, but I believe his thinking is harmful, especially for not addressing the comment.

This is really hard. Trollish Delver started as a blog celebrating T&T, a rules lite gonzo game that I adored. Since then I've published my own T&T stuff and amassed a sizeable collection of books. But I'm done.

I've been a fan and a acquaintance of Ken St Andre for almost a decade. I even thanked him in Romance of the Perilous Land for inspiring me to make games - which he absolutely did. But what I and many people saw on Twitter this week was inexcusable. 

A post was made by a POC, coming after the devastating murder of four Muslim people in London, Ontario, saying that it's not enough to not be racist - we must be actively anti-racist and hostile to racists.

I hope you'd agree this is a sensible stance.

So why Ken decided to go out of his way to respond with "why? What gives you the right to tell others how they must be" I have no idea. It was asinine and shows utter contempt for Muslims and people of colour. 

Rightly he got a tonne of flack for it but has yet to respond to any of it or show any sort of introspection. This is a ludicrous and dangerous mindset and if it's any indication as to who he is then I want nothing to do with him. 

I understand that T&T is more than just Ken, but it's his creation and has his DNA all over it. I'll be taking my T&T adventures down from sale. 

We must all stand against racism in all its forms and that involves being hostile to racists. It's not difficult to understand. Some might see this as an overreaction, which it isn't - this is exactly how important inclusivity in gaming and life is. So fuck my favourite game.

Saturday 15 May 2021

Free Romance of the Perilous Land adventure: The Dread Below


I totally forgot to post when this was released, but Osprey has put up my free quest, The Dread Below, on their site. 

It's a short adventure for first level heroes that should fill around 3 to 4 hours, so a good evening's session. Here's the blurb:

On a dreary October night in the quiet village of Millet, a farmer shivers in fear, staring out into the inky blackness beyond his window pane, eyes searching around desperately. Something has been taking his livestock. It started with chickens. Then it had been the sheep. Within days the young farmhand had vanished without a trace. 

With the villagers suspecting foul magic, the local healer Everdene is facing the hangman's noose. It's up to a group of heroes to find out exactly what's behind these disappearances before it's too late.

Those who joined me for last year's Gen Con sessions will be familiar with the adventure. I've had a lot of fun with several groups over the past year, each approaching the quest in a slightly different way (sometimes with hilarious results). 

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Romance of Perilous Land fiction: The Seedling


Anna had never been allowed in the woods without her father, a woodsman. He knew all too well of what lurked in the dark of the Wytchwood. Still, fires needed lighting and houses needed building so it was an occupational hazard for her father, a broad shouldered man with a full grey moustache. He'd taught her about the mushrooms, which ones were good to eat and which would bear your soul to the underworld. He'd explained how to track animals and how to create shelters if she became lost. Her father had also told her stories of the blackhearted witch of the wood, the one who ate little girls and ground their bones to make bonebread. 

Anna froze at the sound of a snapping twig echoing in th crisp November air. To her relief it was her own boot that caused the noise and with a sigh the child continued deeper into the wood. Mortimer had said that the golden ash wasn't too far, that she wouldn't have to go beyond the stream. But the more time passed the less sure of where she was. Her father had told her that moss grows on the north side of the tree, but the trees here were completely enveloped in a jacket of green. Finding the golden ash would be worth it, Anna thought, though she wasn't sure how convinced she was of that. Mortimer said that a single leaf from that sacred tree could fetch a handsome price, enough to pay the local cunning woman for her services. She saw the pale image of her father in her mind, his face ashen and eyes sunken. He'd deteriorated over the last two months, becoming weaker by the day until he could no longer swing an axe to ply his trade. 

Something rustled the leaves not a hundred yards away. Anna found a thick stick and weilded it like a blade, pretending she was Guinevere on a quest. Something was moving closer, she could hear the crunching getting louder. Then she saw it, a monstrous grey wolf, its face contorted into a vicious snarl. The girl's heart was close to bursting from her chest the way it was beating. Another noise came from behind. Anne wheeled around, grasping her sword stick until her knuckles turned white. Two more wolves emerged from the undergrowth, bearing their dreaded fangs. "Come no closer," she commanded, her little voice wavering. The beasts circled her and she knew it was only a matter of moments before they pounced and ripped her body to shreds. She pictured her father wasting away in his bed, alone and helpless. She reprised her grip on her stick, "I'll give you a bloody good thrashing if you come any closer," she threatened. Ignoring her pleas the largest wolf darted forward with a sound like tearing sheet metal. Anna drooped her rudimentary weapon and covered her eyes, hoping her death would be swift. But her death never came. 

Removing her hands from her face she looked around to see the three wolves sitting like obedient hounds, their heads cocked. One yawned before resting its chin on the ground placidly. Anna could feel a presence with her, standing right behind her. Slowly she turned her head to see a tall woman clad in a dark green dress, vines wrapped around her arms and shoulders. Her hair was wild and knotted but her dark face was pristine. She seemed at once as young as the spring and as ancient as the oak.

  "You're a little young to be out here on your own," she said with a lilting cadence, "What brings you here?" 

  "My pa," Anna stuttered nervously, "He's sick." She cleared her throat, "Who are you?" The stranger knelt so her eyes met Anna's.

  "You're a brave one aren't you?" She asked, ignoring the question. "This world needs women of courage like you, women who are willing to fight against the wolves at our door." Anna had no idea what she meant by that, but her voice was comforting. "Your pa, what are his symptoms?" The woman asked with a concerned frown. 

  "He's always shivering. His eyes are practically black and his skin is ever so pale," Anna said. She noticed that even the wolves were hanging onto this woodland stranger's every word. How did she do that?

  "It sounds like blight fever," the woman said, "It's difficult to treat, but it is curable." Anna's eyes lit up. 

  "Can you help him?" She asked in a mouse like voice. The woman smiled warmly.

  "I can, my child. But I must first create a draught," she stood, appearing even taller than she was before. "Meet me at the edge of the wood at dawn. I'll have the cure for your pa." Anna finally had hope, but she was still lost.

  "How do I get out?" She asked. The stranger uttered a few incomprehensible words and the large wolf padded forward. Anna's instinct was to lurch backwards, but she realised the creature wasn't going to hurt her. 

  "Calibar will take you to the forest's edge," the stranger said softly. "Don't worry, he's a friend. Go now." 

Calibar and Anna emerged from the ancient woodland into the cloud-veiled twilight. To her surprise, Anna realised that she wasn't afraid while travelling with her new companion. It was as if she'd known him for years. After thanking her escort, she made her way home as rain began to spatter. 

 When the frosty sun rose over the forest Anna was already well on her way to her meeting place. True to her word the tall stranger, wrapped in autumn golds and browns, waited by a yew. "Good morning my young friend," the woman said with a smile. "I have a gift for you. She reached out clutching an emerald vial sloshing with a dark liquid. "Two drops at sunrise and two when the stars reveal themselves. It should take three days to take effect," she folded the vial into Anna's hands. 

 "Who are you?" The young girl asked, slipping the concoction into a pocket.

 "My name is Morgan, and you are Anna," she replied. Anna was slightly taken aback. How did she know her name? "Don't worry, I've been around for long enough that not much gets by me," Morgan winked. 

 "Can you teach me how to make potions?" Anna asked bashfully. Morgan crouched to look into her eyes. 

 "I will teach you potions and more. The world is changing, Anna. Strong girls like you will need to learn all the skills they can to weather the coming storm." Anna furrowed her brow, wondering what storm Morgan was talking about. "Once your father is better, come here each dusk and I will help you fulfill your potential." Morgan placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, "Today we become sisters, Anna."


Monday 3 May 2021

Elves of the Perilous Land

The elves of the Perilous Land are unsurprisingly much more akin to the diminutive creatures found in British folklore than traditional fantasy elves or even those found in Scandinavian mythology. That said, they're not entirely different - they're innately magical and live in forests and meadows, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. 

They stand on average 4ft tall, though female elves tend to be taller with some reaching 5ft. Male elves have a crooked visage, not unlike an old man - long pointed noses, drooping ears and lots of wrinkles. Females are radiant beings, beautiful and graceful - at odds with their male counterparts. Of course some elves present themselves as both, altering their looks daily depending on how they feel. 

Elves are fairly good natured, even hospitable at times. As long as you approach with no ill intentions and perhaps a gift or two elves will welcome strangers. That said, they're incredibly wrathful beings. Those who wrong an elf will find themselves at the mercy of a brutal revenge campaign. People have been known to be dragged from their homes into the forest screaming, only to turn up later with their heart ripped out. Some elves kidnap children, but usually let them go once they think the parents have learned their lesson. "Never cross an elf" is a common expression in the Perilous Land and it would be wise to take heed. 

Most all elves carry bows with stone tipped arrows, also known as elf-shot. Many carry staves crafted from yew or ash (the latter to ward off snakes), carved with fey runes. Despite staying out of the machinations of humans, the Sisters of Le Fay have brokered pacts with some elves who have since turned to darkness, becoming night elves. The leader of the night elves, Nessa, is part of Morgan's inner circle of enchantresses, plotting a campaign against Camelot. 

Monday 19 April 2021

Romance of the Perilous Land for Beginners

Romance of the Perilous Land: A Roleplaying Game of British Folklore is a fantasy game based around the mythology, traditions and folkloric personalities of the British Isles, published by Osprey Games. In the Perilous Land, where the game is set, Robin Hood rubs shoulders with Sir Lancelot, the machinations of Mordred are met with the valour of the Knights of the Round Table and boggarts, fairies, knuckers, bogies, banshees and other beings from the Otherworld run amok. I've written this primer to help newbies to the game or people who might be thinking about getting into it. 

The Heroes of the Age of Valour

In Romance of the Perilous Land the players take on the role of knights, thieves, bards, cunning folk, barbarians and rangers during the Age of Valour - an era when King Arthur is attempting to unite the kingdoms of the Perilous Land under his banner in order to take on the forces of The Black Lance led by Mordred. 

Heroes are quick and simple to create, but maintain enough depth to have some of the customisation you might be familiar with in games like D&D 5e. Your class gives you a range of proficiencies and skill choices that determine the types of weapons your character can use and what they're particularly good at. Players can select a range of talents, skills, a faction and a background to customise and flesh their character out. There are no races - everyone is human, reflecting the heroes of folklore who were rarely of another origin.

A Simple, Familiar System

The game is somewhere between 5e and the old BX edition, taking inspiration from The Black Hack, Tunnels & Trolls and 5e. If you're unfamiliar with these comparisons, that's cool - all you need to know is that the rules are easy to learn. The main mechanic is to roll equal to or under a given number, usually modified by a difficulty number. 

A World on the Precipice

The rulebook contains the Perilous Land setting and a short history. There are 11 kingdoms inspired by Arthurian locations, each roughly corresponding to a real place in Britain. While Mordred plots the invasion of Camelot from the kingdom of Norhaut another front reveals itself in the form of Morgan Le Fay of the Wytchwood and her Sisters of Le Fay who seek above all else to destroy civilisation and bring about a new age where magic and monsters can roam free. The Black Lance has networks of spies throughout the kingdoms while sympathisers of the Sisters are entrenched in even the highest of courts. Other factions like the Red Magister's and Burning Chapter draw their blades against all that is good, making Arthur's quest to unite the Perilous Land a tough one. 

Monsters, Monsters

British folklore is home to both familiar creatures like redcaps, bugbears and kelpies, and more obscure beasts such as pech, knuckers and fachans. Doors to the Otherworld were opened during the Age of Doom, letting fey creatures run wild, terrorising the populace. The wars of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of fairies have spilled into the mortal world, catching regular people in the crossfire. Legendary beings like the ancient giant Gogmagog, the terrible Questing Beast and the foul dragon Telerax all provide problems for the allies of Camelot to contend with. I've designed monsters in RotPL to be almost instantaneous to create if you want to stray beyond that roster in the book. A single HD number determines all their scores, including attacks, armour points, hit points and magic points meaning making an enemy on the fly is a simple process. 

Faction Play

Rather than having something like alignments, RotPL has a range of factions players can join. Whether it's the monster hunting Iron Hawks, the spellcasting Fellowship of Enchanters, Robin Hood's own Merry Men of Sherwood or the Knights of the Round Table themselves, each faction has its own goal and ways that it expects their members to act. For instance, the Order of the Fisher King is always seeking magical items that could cure their ailing king, while the Merry Men route out corruption wherever it stands and gives a share of money to the needy. 

Folk Magic

Magic can be used by those who have a natural aptitude. We often call these people cunning folk, enchanters or Wizards. Magic in the game is based on spell points which are spent to prepare or cast certain spells. Cunning Folk can cast any and all spells in the game - there's no learning a spell. However, there is inherent risk in casting spells above your level - go too far out of your experience and things can go badly. Magical effects are more subtle than in most fantasy games to emulate folk magic. This also extends to items, taking inspiration from mundane folk magic items that were actually used, whether you're nailing a kingfisher to a mast for smooth sailing or using a salt pouch around the neck for luck. Legendary items also feature in the game including Excalibur - but it's likely the heroes will get their hands on one of these just once in their lives. 

Valorous Art

Full colour art by John McCambridge and Alan Lathwell brings the Perilous Land to life. It's all pretty stunning.

Top art: John McCambridge. Bottom art: Alan Lathwell

Friday 16 April 2021

Chapalu for Romance of the Perilous Land

 Chapalu are similar to mountain cats, but are the size of bears and their hind quarters resemble fish fins. They're sleek and as ferocious as they come, leaping great distances and clamping their jaws around the jugulars of the unfortunate souls who come across the beasts. Most are solitary creatures, defending their territory with a vicious blood thirst, though it's been known for several chapalu to hunt together. Their coat is as black as coal, shimmering all the colours of the rainbow in moonlight.


HD 5 (15)

HP 22

AP 5

Attack: Bite (melee)

Damage: d6+5

No. Appearing: 1-3


- Pounce: The chapalu may move twice in a single move action.

- Climber: The chapalu isn't affected by difficult terrain.

Sunday 11 April 2021

10 quest hooks for Romance of the Perilous Land

 1. A local artist has created a sculpture garden and is being praise for their lifelike sculptures. Problem is that people in a nearby village are disappearing and the sculptures look awfully like them. Turns out the artist has trained a cockatrice from birth and is using it to create their 'sculptures'

2. A beggar has come upon a hoard of gnome treasure and has quickly become Camelot's latest wealthy noble. Problem is the gnomes of the unseelie court are out to get their treasure back, wherever it's been spent, with brutal results.

3. An Escosian local is selling pech potions on the black market. But when the customers begin transforming into rampaging behemoths, people start dying.

4. A group of Knights accompanying a diplomat to Ascalon when they're attacked in the forest by spriggans serving Morgan Le Fay. The diplomat wakes up underground, lost, being hunted by a group of duergar

5. A small group of shaggy haired people have opened up an inn. Turns out they're bugganes who take on their monster form at night to dine on customers.

6. A couple whose child went missing two years ago get a knock at the door. It's their child, but now a fully grown adult. They've been stuck in the fairy otherworld and have been sent back to kidnap other children to serve the unseelie court.

7. The King of Cats visits a village and gives an omen that a giant knucker is going to destroy the village in a month. The knucker needs to be found and destroyed before it can wreak havoc

8. A Knight of the Round Table attempts to assassinate Arthur. While they're waiting to be executed, it turns out an enchanter of the Black Lance is taking control of Knights with gifts they're recieving from a 'secret admirer'

9. The Boar tribe of the Algaard mountains have contracted a strange disease. They blame a rival tribe, but when they start becoming werewolves they have bigger problems - as do the mountain villages

10. A warlord is raiding villages, despite having being killed a month ago. The Burning Chapter have raised them as a revenant to cause a distraction while they infiltrate the palace to slay King Meliodas

Saturday 10 April 2021

Bullbeggar for Romance of the Perilous Land

 Folklore is full of spirits and creatures whose existence is based on tricking lonely wanderers and frightening the hell out of children. 

The bullbeggar appears as an injured traveller by the side of the road. When a good Samaritan goes over to help the creature reveals its true form, growing to three times the size, its face contorting into a skull. Sometimes it will stalk travellers for hours invisibly before revealing itself with the intention of frightening its quarry to death. 


HD 7 (17)

HP 31

AP 7

Attack: Barge (melee) or Scream (special)

Damage: d8+7 (barge)


Scream: Once per encounter a bullbeggar can let out a terrifying scream. Anyone within earshot must make a Mind save. If they fail, they drop whatever they're carrying and become restrained for 3 rounds.

Transform: As an action the bullbeggar can transform into the form of an injured human traveller. While in human form it can use an action to turn into its bullbeggar form.

Invisibility: As two actions the bullbeggar can become invisible. 

Stalk: The bullbeggar gets an edge on checks to move stealthily.

Baobhan Sith for Romance of the Perilous Land

 If you were to wander the wilds of Escose there's a chance you may run afoul of the sinister baobhan sith. This vampire appears in the form of a woman with deer-hooved feet (usually obscured by a dress). A group of baobhan sith may appear when a party is camping, asking to stay with them out of fear of the wilderness. They may entertain the group with songs and dancing, attempting to separate everyone so they can tear their throats and drink of their blood. 

Once sunrise comes they transform into ravens and fly off into the safety of the trees, their beaks caked in gore. 

The baobhan sith are attracted to magic, smelling spells being cast. 

Baobhan Sith

HD 6 (16)

HP 6d6+6 (34)

AP 6

Attack: Bite (melee)

Damage: d8+6

No. appearing: 2-6


Blood Drain: After a successful bite attack the target makes a Reflex save. On a failure, the baobhan sith regenerates 3 lost HP. 

Raven-form: During daylight the baobhan sith must turn into a raven as an action. If they can't, they begin to scream and set alight, taking 2d6 damage per turn. 

Spell-scent: Anyone casting a spell in the Escosian wilderness has a 1 in 6 chance of attracting a group of baobhan sith.

Sunday 28 March 2021

Standing stones in Romance of the Perilous Land

In ROTPL megaliths, stone circles and standing stones created centuries ago by both giant and druid, are imbued with the power inherent in the land. Here I'll talk about some of the ways standing stones can be used in your game.

Giant stones

Back when the land was new the Worldspeakers used their new-found magic to craft impossibly huge standing stones carved with words of power. Generally these were to denote territory and ward off anyone who might attack the tribe, but others were made to heal after battle. In some cases stones are situated near baths crafted by Giant masons where warriors would lick their wounds in the presence of healing magic. Rugged giant runes are carved into every surface, though by now the magic within is latent at best. Reading these runes requires both an understanding of the Giant language and a severe History or Languages (Mind) check (runes are generally weathered away and really hard to read). Usually it's easier to get a Giant to read it for you, but that always comes with a bargain. Speaking the words activates the magic. Healing Stones usually will heal everyone standing in the circle 3d8 once per sunset. A cunning folk can spend 3 spell points to gain an extra d8 healing for the group by magnifying the magic through themselves (often leaving them a little frazzled).

Druid stones

Stones erected on the behest of the druids are much more recent than the Giant stones and serve different purposes, mainly to venerate the pantheon of the Perilous Land or to mark a magical treasure. These stone circles are much smaller, from 10ft stone slabs to 1ft rocks compared to the behemoth 20ft or more of the giants. Like the giants the druids carved intricate runes into the stone for various purposes. These runes are in the esoteric Druid language which requires a tough Language (Mind) check to read. The magic within is younger and therefore much more potent. Some singular stones have the symbols of the gods etched into them, usually coupled with offerings of mead, flowers and food depending on the god. Druids gather around major stone circles like the Ring of Drydych in Ascalon on feast days to perform ceremonies (coming of age, crowning). 

Doom stones

So called because many were created in the Age of Doom, Doom Stones were generally created by unfortunate souls being turned into stone, or evil creatures becoming stone after being defeated by the forces of good. Long Meg and her Daughters are Doom stones in Hutton, created when a family of witches was defeated by Merlin himself. While Doom Stones aren't magical (even if they're a result of magic), they can be reversed through powerful incantations and the right item. It's usually thought of as bad luck to camp near a set of Doom Stones. Anyone who does suffers a Setback on a single check determined by the GM until the next sunset.

Secondary effects of standing stones

Standing stones attract various denizens of the Perilous Land to them. The decaying Worldspeaker magic can only be felt by those of Otherworldly origin, so it's common to find fairies, bugbears, gnomes, bogies and pixies in and around Giant stones. Druid stones attract those who wish to pay their respect to the gods, as well as spirits who are accidentally tied to this world by the stones. Doom stones often attract black dogs, hags and werewolves. Witches and crones tend to stay well away from Doom Stones.

Quest ideas using standing stones

1. The bones of the Worldspeaker Vardan are believed to be buried near a Giant stone. They are said to contain properties to reverse death. When a knight falls gravely ill, the heroes must find and gather the bones on sacred giant ground. 

2. Every Yule a local village is terrorised by phantom riders tethered by the local druid stone.

3. A group of Doom Stones suddenly turn back into the villagers they once were. When integrating back into society others notice they've returned... different.

4. A recently reactivated Giant Stone has caused a rift to open to Otherworld. A mysterious Piper is enchanting the local children and leading them through the rift. 

5. Arthur wants to take a Giant Stone as a tactical position to use its healing properties. Mordred has the same idea.

6. A spirit appears at a Druid Stone pleading to be reunited with his love who is still alive. The problem is that they disappeared into the wilderness a year ago in their grief.

7. Pixies are hosting an annual Pixie Ball in a Giant stone circle. The heroes must magically disguise themselves as pixies and attend the ball and get hold of a pixie flute.

8. A thick dogs has rolled over a town. People are being taken by a group of hags, attracted to the Doom stone that a local cunning folk has taken into their home in order to reverse the spell.

Sunday 7 March 2021

RATKING BOSR business card RPG out now

 If you know me or have been following this blog for the last decade, you'll know I love tiny games. Restriction breeds creativity, which is why I wanted to get involved in the latest business card RPG jam over on Itch. 

RATKING (it always has to be shouted) sits in the realm of British Old School Roleplaying (BOSR), influenced by games like WHFRP and Fighting Fantasy. This is an entire ruleset on one side of a business card, and a full adventure on the other. 

RATKING uses a coin flipping mechanic (it has to be a grimy, crappy coin) as task resolution because dice don't fit easily into wallets along with the business card. You choose a gutterpunk career (no ability scores here) and head out into a murky world where Chaos and Order are in constant flux.

The Chaos/Order mechanic is my favourite part. Every day the Ratking (the GM) flips a coin to determine how the winds are. If they're chaotic the rules change. Enemies act before PCs in combat, enemies also may get stronger and NPCs react differently. I've taken inspiration here from Soulbound, which uses a Doom mechanic to similar effect. This adds a layer of uncertainty to the game. Do you really want to head into the crypt during a Chaos wind? What if you absolutely have to? What if the Chaos lasts for days?

On the flip side is GHOULFOG, a tiny adventure. A stinking mist rolls into town and things quickly go to hell. 

Business card games present some interesting design challenges, particularly if you're creating a traditional RPG. A fair few rules have to be implied or left to the players to houserule - obviously you can't cover all bases. For instance, RATKING only mentions when something is a success, implying the converse is a failure. Combat, too, has to be streamlined. There's no space to go into detail - there are no rounds or actions, so it's up to the players to decide the flow based on their judgment. 

I wanted three main elements. The game had to be an open, trad design that worked purely with the rules on the card. It needed to have mechanics that reflected the world and it also needed to have an adventure. The last one was important because an adventure could build a slice of the world while showing how certain mechanics like the winds worked. 

These are my favourite kinds of games to design because they present a puzzle. I ask myself what game I'd want to create regardless of size and figure out how to bring an authentic experience to a tiny format. 

Download RATKING here 

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Make your game

 Make your game.

Put it out there and make money from it. 

I've seen so many people who say they've been thinking about writing a game but they're too nervous to release it. 

Someone out there needs your game. Some people will say that any new game needs to be distinct, something they've not seen before, but no matter what your game is someone will probably love it. 

If making your game brings you joy, it's going to bring someone else, maybe a whole group joy too. 

Make your game.

Sunday 28 February 2021

Spotlight series open on Trollish Delver Games

This year I'm launching a new initiative to help give new, marginalised creators a leg up. The Spotlight Series will publish a game/supplement every 2 months on Trollish Delver Games Itch and DrivethruRPG platforms, with full proceeds going to the creator and a contribution going towards design software like Affinity Publisher. 

I'm not a big publisher, but I'm relatively established. The project will prioritise intriguing, creative ideas from those who are starting out, particularly where they don't already have funding or a platform (i.e. a sole creator who hasn't put anything out yet). Creators still maintain their property rights.

This is just for digital distribution. 

So if you're interested and have a game you'd like to put out, get in touch 

Re-evaluating this blog

 It's been a couple of months since an update, so apologies to those who follow regularly. At the end of last year and the beginning of 2021 I was dealing with my sick grandad who died in January. I took January off doing any game work and I've been slowly getting back to it this month. I've got a couple of things going on, including a Mork Borg x Quill crossover that excites me to no end.

I've been evaluation why I do what I do and what I should be using this blog for and what I make games for as a whole. I'm by no means a big player in the industry but I've had to recognise recently that I'm also not a tiny voice anymore. There's a bunch of people who listen to what I say and follow my career, and as much as that is strange to me, it also means that I feel I should be doing more. 

So why do I do this? Well, I've believed for a long time that stories can change the world and can make us better people. Human reality is forged from stories - we exist because of stories. Stories, then, are important. I make and talk about roleplaying games because they're a way for me to help people tell stories and even grow as people by building empathy. I make them small and affordable because I believe everyone should have access to games. 

One thing I've realised is that to push my belief forward and propagate I should be helping others, promoting indie designers, artists, streamers, cosplayers and everyone in the community who is doing good work. This is what Trollish Delver will do more of. Sharing ideas, new games, new designers, and help people tell stories. Because stories are important. 

Let's gooooo