Saturday 28 October 2023

Lantern Man (Romance of the Perilous Land)

A spirit related to the corpse candle, the lantern Man appears as a shadow figure carrying an ethereal lantern. He wanders the marshlands and swamps, ensnaring wanderers who go towards his light. As they slowly sink into the marsh waters the spirit lets out an eerie cackle before fading into the night. Many can be found close to the lairs of hags, knuckers and others water-dwelling creatures. 

HD 4 

HP 18

AP 4

Attack: Lantern Lure (ranged 60ft) or Cold Grasp (melee)

Damage: d8+4 

Number appearing: 1


- After dealing damage with lantern lure, the target must succeed a mind save or move their full movement towards the lantern man. This includes moving onto or through hazardous terrain. 

- The lantern man gains an edge on rolls to find hidden or stealthy travellers.

- If a creature lies face down prone, they are immune to lantern lure. In addition, the lantern man doesn't get their edge on rolls to spot hidden creatures in this position.

Sunday 1 October 2023

Three-point plot clocks

 Now say that twice as fast.

In OSR games we often talk about prepping situations, not plots, which means having a bunch of locations, NPCs, motivations and hooks ready. 

This is half right, since plots should totally be part of your game - just the plots of NPCs rather than one to lead the PCs by. This simply means knowing that over time your voidcalling necromancer is always hard at work in the background fulfilling her ungodly ritual and will complete it if the players don't intervene. 

Too many modern modules are like the observer effect in quantum physics - if the players aren't interacting with a part of the world then it just remains static. In my mind, your campaign world should be in full bloom - a rainforest eco-system of cause and effect. 

This brings me onto three point plot clocks.

The idea is that you have three plots running at once. Raiders are sweeping in from the mountains looking to torch three named villages and kidnap the mayor for random. A wizard is looking for the ancient orb of Garnash to open a portal to the nether realm, unleashing the Beast Who Walks in Dreams. A queen is mustering an army of volunteers to make a last stand against the red orc army.

For each plot there are three points (based on three story acts): activation, escalation and fruition. 

Activation is the plot's beginning - its first act. The raiders are seen on the mountain pass. The wizard hires a band of miscreants to steal a map from a noble.

Escalation is the middle. There's a problem that needs to be solved or a change in situation, or things simply heat up. The wizard gains the help of a bronze dragon in exchange for a sacrifice.

Fruition is the end. This is what happens when the plot resolves without intervention. The red orcs overrun the queen's forces. The raiders are paid the random and the mayor becomes both destitute and wildly unpopular. The key here is that things should change drastically but it should never preclude adventure. 

Each point should have a hook for the PCs. The wizard can't spend a point just researching the orb in their tower since that has no impact on the game and no visible threat for the PCs. They should always be doing something that constitutes an adventure hook.

Now, for each plot assign a die type. For a short plot a d6 or d8 would work, or for a longer plot use a d20 or even d100. You will want a mix of die types across plots. 

Write the three parts to each plot on cue cards and put the die on Activation at 1. Each number on the die represents a day by default. For each day increase the die by 1. Once the die reaches the halfway mark move it onto Escalation. Continue doing this until it reaches the highest value and move to Fruition. 

So for my raider plot, I might make it a d10, the wizard a d12 and the red orcs a d20. 

This is just a simple way of tracking the dynamic plots happening in your campaign at any given time. Once a plot has come to Fruition just create a new plot. This might be a follow on from a previous one - the destitute mayor is exiled from his village and now needs help securing money.

Of course there's no reason not to have two plots rather than three (it's just a good number), or add in more plots. Obviously the more you have the

 more complex things become. 

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Back to basics

 It's been a bit of time since my last post, and now I'm off Twitter (find me on Blue Sky) I wanted to kick the blog back into gear by taking it all the way back to basics. That is to say, old school gaming and inspiration. 

I've found myself digging back through OD&D, T&T, Dragon Warriors and a bunch of other yellowing, foxed game books and I'm inspired to write more about the OSR/traditional games than anything more modern, for the sake of focus. 

See you soon!

Sunday 23 April 2023

Ruins of the Dread Bishop Out Now for Heartseeker

In ancient days the Veiled Bishop demanded tithes of treasures from his subjects, all of whom worshipped him like a god. When riches became scarce the Bishop would instead take their very souls, trapping them in a reliquary. The tides of time would claim his flesh, but his foul reliquary stayed his malignant spirit, wandering the church ruins in search of new souls to steal. 

Ruins of the Dread Bishop is a 4-page pamphlet adventure for use with Heartseeker, but is easily converted to other OSR games. 

Saturday 22 April 2023

Scratching the Itch: New RPG Hotness 22/4/23

 It's time for another creamy dollop of new games I see on itch that hit my brain just right.


by Feral Indie Studios

Now here's an interesting one. It's a grimy-looking fantasy skirmish wargame with roleplaying elements, with part of the draw being its compatibility with OSR scenarios. It plants its webbed feet firmly in the domain of dark fantasy, with characters like a mutated Decrepit Magus and a Noble Duellist fused to their armour. It's co-operative and competitive too, which I assume means can require a GM if you want. Looks great! 

Vyrmhack is Itchfunding now, so go throw money at them.

Magpie by Moonlight

by Anna Anthropy

Evlyn Moreu's art is always going to catch my attention, and I love magpies so how could I resist? Magpie by Moonlight is a one-page solo journaling game where you "collect" (nick) things and make your getaway before noting all your new curiosities in your ledger. I enjoy a one-page game with a bunch of flavour, so MBM was an instant buy for me, and maybe you'll like it too.

Elfland: Beyond the Fields We Know

by DragonPeakPublishing

While I'm not a DCC player (yet, I want to rectify this at some point) I have a soft and squishy spot for Lord Dunsany. Elfland is a setting size detailing the titular environ made famous by Dunsany's King of Elfland's Daughter and later a DCC module The Queen of Elfland's Son. Basically, six adventuring locations also written in a way to service the solo player.

Runecairn Bestiary

by By Odin's Beard RPG

Another Itchfunder and this time for a bestiary for the wildly popular Runecairn, which I finally picked up at Dragonmeet. The art by Kim Diaz Holm in this look incredible, holy moly! It's 100 new monsters for the game, with conversion rules and ways to create your own wee beasties.


by Rémi Töötätä

My last pick is a cosy little number called Souvenirs, part of the Tiny Keepsake Jam. Lookhow adorable this is! I love the art and of course I love a pamphlet. It has a similar theme to Magpie by Moonlight but here you're going on a week long holiday and bringing back nice trinkets, including gifts for your friends. I'd definitely play this with a mug of coffee and some lo-fi hip hop on in the background.

Friday 14 April 2023

Scratching the Itch: New RPG Hotness 14/4/23

 It's time for another slab of sizzling new stuff that caught my eye on Itch this week.

Throne of Avarice

by SoulMuppet Publishing

Aright, full disclosure that Brian Yaksha is an online chum of mine and a Very Good Game Designer. I've had my eye on SoulMuppet's Throne of Avarice when Zach was throwing out some development bits on Twitter and it looks super sweet. Created for Best Left Buried, this is what the blurb says:

THRONE OF AVARICE is a setting book and procedural generation toolbox for adventuring in the fantasy horror game Best Left Buried. The tools and tables within present Doomsayers with the means to generate the citizens, victims, regions, and reprehensible rulers of the Grand Duchy of Calmyn - a nation struggling to reclaim its dominion over the known world.

It's, like, full of factions and the bizarre shit that Yaksha is known for. 

Casket of Fays #9
by Red Ruin Publishing

This was quite a nice little surprise, not least because I had totally forgotten there was a zine for Dragon Warriors. But there is, and it just came out. The latest fanzine for the British RPG stalwart looks like a chocolate box of DW thingies that sort of speak directly to my heart ventricles. Fairy knight? Check. Some sort of gibbet? Double check. Venom and bites! Ok, I'm less excited about that, but I'm sure the content is good. 

Heads Frozen in Vaults Enduring
by Exeunt Press

This one caught my eye because it's inspired by urban legends about celebrities getting their heads frozen. This is a one-shot heist for CY_BORG in the shape of an a4 pamphlet. Here's what the gubbins says:

Escort a live streamer into the G0 wasteland in search of an underground cryovault! More action means more viewers, and viewers are creds. So remember to smile for the cameras while the nanophreaks shred your face!

It comes with a free frozen head generator, which is a great deal in such price-conscious times. 

A Shrine for Something Forgotten
by Junk Food Games

This is a solo journaling game about collecting little bits and bats and creating a shrine out of them. A lovely clean concept created for the Tiny Keepsake Jam. 

Monday 10 April 2023

GORGON ROT brings heavy metal roleplaying to your table


I'm running my first Itchfunder! I've just released GORGON ROT, a new wave of old school fantasy RPG influenced by Fighting Fantasy and heavy metal. It's all packaged as a CD booklet, so I'm raising money for a print run. It features:

  • A simple 2d6 mechanic fans of old, yellowed gamebooks will be familiar with
  • A push-your-luck system: your Luck score gives you great power, but depletes as you use it, so use it wisely!
  • Designed for grid combat and hexcrawling
  • Find the secret apocalyptic spell!
  • Perfect for pulling out at the pub before a gig

This 12-page booklet contains everything you need to play, including a bestiary and pregen characters. You even get a bonus flyer called Foul Sorcery, which deals with necromancy.

You should go buy it 

Friday 7 April 2023

Scratching the Itch: New RPG Hotness 7/4/23

It's time to delve into a selection of new and popular games to pop up on Itch recently that caught my eye. 

Sworn by Crom & Mitra
by 3vandro

Describing itself as a minimalist randomised setting for the Hyborian world of Conan, Sworn by Crom & Mitra is designed for use with Ironsworn with a bunch of random tables and setting info. 

24XX Dying Sun
by TaTooka

Jason Tocci's 24XX system continues to prove its popularity with a new standalone game focused on emulating the world of Dark Sun in a tiny package. A post-apocalyptic fantasy world awaits players in Dying Sun, which changes up the usual 24XX armour rules in favour of the ability to equip piecemeal armour parts, as well as rules for defiling magic. 

The Lost Treasure of Granny Snake-Eyes
by rootdevil

Fans of short, weird dungeoncrawls might want to check out The Lost Treasure of Granny Snake-Eyes. The titular Granny is up to her eyes in debt, so naturally she needs your help to pilfer her late husband's tome of the riches within. The eight-page adventure crams in some evocative descriptions and memorable NPCs, along with a hat generator for OSR and 5e play. 

The Tombs of Agalosh
by Jamzilla

For an Age and beyond the wizzards of Agalosh have languished in their ancient halls, trapped there by the Gods they dared dethrone! Fearful of phantoms and breathless things, the wizzards fled deeper and deeper into their dungeon-tombs, hoarding in pits their spells and things of gold...

Honestly, the colour and font for this 16-page zine caught my eye. It's an adventure location for the game CYST which I've just discovered. Basically a game where you create a fantasy world and then play in it. 

Sunday 26 March 2023

14 years of Trollish Delver

 It would be remiss of me not to remark on 14 years of this blog's existence. I don't post on here enough anymore, mainly because I'm working on projects, but I'm proud to have kept TD going long enough for it to be a Gen Z teenager. 

A big thanks to all my readers over the years, particularly those who have been there right from the beginning. 

Sunday 15 January 2023

The Ultimate Newbie Guide to Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Image: Paizo

So you've decided you want to check out Pathfinder 2nd edition. Maybe you want a change of pace from your usual game, or perhaps you've been burnt by a corporation. Either way, Pathfinder 2e is an excellent roleplaying game - one of my very favourites. I've been playing Pathfinder since 1st edition and moved to 2e during the open playtest, so I'd love to share with folks who are new to the game a guide on what to expect. 

What is Pathfinder?

Pathfinder is a traditional fantasy roleplaying game created by Paizo in 2009 using the d20 system from the 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons. That means that if you're already familiar with how D&D works you should have little problem getting onto Pathfinder. The second edition, released in 2019 cleaned up a lot of the complexities of the original game and brought in more innovations. 

This is a big game of big heroes existing on the planet of Golarion, a kitchen-sink science-fantasy setting. Pathfinder relates to the in-world Pathfinder Society where adventurers can enroll to receive quests of exploration and discovery.

Whereas D&D 5e was designed to be a more rules lite game, Pathfinder 2e contains more rules and options, particularly when it comes to character creation. That isn't to say it's a complicated game. At its heart you're still rolling a d20 and adding a bonus to meet or beat a difficulty score. But the rules it does have in place are there to do the heavy lifting for the GM. There is less emphasis on making up rules on the fly because chances are that there's a specific rule or process for a given action. 

So if you love customising your characters, having a toolbox of cool abilities and having an easier ride GMing a game, Pathfinder 2e is for you. 

Highly Customisable Character Creation

As stated, Pathfinder has always been about massive customisation when it comes to player characters. Personally I found 1e unwieldy, particularly at the end of its lifecycle. The designers realised that feat bloat, where the vast number of abilities ended up allowing for broken characters, was an issue so with 2e they made character creation simpler but with the same level of customisation. 

Characters are made up of ancestries (previously races), heritages, classes, backgrounds, feats, skills and optionally archetypes. 

Classes are very similar to D&D but there are variations and unique classes. While Fighter, Thief, Bard and Sorcerer will all be familiar, classes like Investigator, Thaumaturge, Swashbuckler and Inventor are all totally new. Each class has several different builds, so one ranger will play completely differently to another. 

The breadth of available ancestries is pretty ludicrous, from the usual dwarf, elf and halfling to huge shapeshifting spiders, mutated flesh people, conscious shards of cosmic force and androids. Mix these with versatile heritages that allow mixed ancestries, like a reflection, genie or dhampir, your character can be pretty much anything. This will be good news to 5e players who are used to a large array of racial options. 

You have the same attributes as in D&D, along with AC and the same Saves. It's all very familiar for anyone coming from 5e. One of the big differences is in your feats. Here feats fall into several categories: skill feats (cool extra things you can do with your skills), class feats (majorly cool abilities that define your class), and general feats (a wider pot of feats aiding customisation). This may sound overwhelming but you only get certain types of feats at specific levels, meaning you're never choosing from a huge pot of feats. 

When it comes to skills, you have five proficiency ranks: untrained, trained, expert, master and legendary. Each has a set bonus you get on your skills, which is you level plus 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 respectively. Simple.

Archetypes can help you hone in on a specific character concept. A sort of multiclassing, archetypes can be plugged into your class to open up a new branch of feats. For instance, my ranger has a Marshall archetype, which allows her to be a leader in combat, offering bonuses to others for attacks, damage and saves. 

It's genuinely difficult to make a bad character and apps like Pathbuilder (for transparency the guy who made this has been part of my group for the better part of a decade, but it's simply the best character creation app out there) make it easy to create a cool, unique character. 

Satisfying Combat with Tactical Crunch

Combat in Pathfinder is beautiful. Each class is designed to play in a specific way, so their role in combat is defined and satisfying. For instance, a ranger is designed to hunt its prey around the battlefield, while a swashbuckler dances around their foes to get the upper hand. Part of the beauty of combat is in the now-famous three action turn. Forget action types like full actions and bonus actions. In Pathfinder 2e you have three actions you can do anything with. Want to move twice and attack? Go ahead. Want to demoralise, run and stab? You can! Want to attack three times? Have at it, with a penalty for each consecutive attack. 

Combat and skill actions are the bedrock of a good fight, offering a host of options outside of just locking yourself to an enemy and wailing on them. You can disarm, shove, feint, demoralise, and more. These, along with your character's class features and feats, make fights dynamic and fun. It's still worth noting that combat does often last a while, depending on what you're fighting - in my experience it's common for fights to go on for an hour or more, but for me it never feels like a chore. 

Exploration and Downtime 

In game design you have a spectrum ranging from rules light games where rulings are more important than rules, to rules heavy games (or 'crunchy') where rules are more heavily codified. Pathfinder 2e is more on the crunchy end of the spectrum while D&D 5e falls somewhere in the middle. 

This means that exploration has specific rules to help the GM and players adjudicate what's happening, offering clear options for players who may otherwise not really know what to do when travelling the wide world, particularly something that's meaningful. Pathfinder tackles this with modes. The three modes of play are encounters, exploration and downtime, each having their own stakes and actions that can be performed in them. If I'm on the lookout for enemies tailing the party I could take the Scout activity, moving at half speed and offering a +1 initiative bonus to the entire party. Or I could put enemies off our scent with a Cover Tracks activity, causing anyone following to roll a survival check. The activity you're undertaking also impacts the skill you roll on initiative. If you're on the lookout you'd roll perception. If you were sneaking you'd roll stealth. In other words, what you do in exploration mode has a direct impact on everyone. Even if you're not travelling around you'll be using exploration activities. In an investigation you will probably want to ask around for information, so you can use the Gather Information activity that states specifically how that would work. It's all laid out to give the GM bandwidth to run the game. 

During downtime you'll be doing activities like Bribe Contact, Craft, Create Forgery, or Gossip, among many others. Again, everything you do here has a concrete impact on the game, whether it's a bonus, a new contact, or gaining money. Of course, players can do whatever they like, but having eventualities clearly spelled out is a real boon for everyone.

Pathfinder's Unique Setting 

Unlike D&D where there are many settings, Pathfinder has Golarion as a persistent science-fantasy setting, mixing dark fantasy, high fantasy and even science fiction in a fully realised and intriguing world. With its own gods, heroes, and legends, Golarion is not only a lore-lover's dream, it's also dripping with GM inspiration. From city adventures in the sprawling Absalom where mortals can ascend to godhood, to the steaming jungles of the Mwangi Expanse where rich cultures and strange creatures live side-by-side, Golarion is a setting that places wonder and exploration at its heart. 

To tell the story of Golarion, Paizo releases a series of books called Lost Omens guides. Each of these goes into detail about the locations, people and creatures within the setting. They're generally released quarterly so there's plenty to get your teeth into. They're also incredibly well written, filled to the brim with ideas and contain some of the best art in the biz. 

Adventure Paths

If you're used to D&D 5e's stable of infrequently released hardbound books, Paizo's schedule might take getting used to. Adventure Paths are campaigns split across multiple books over a year, typically taking players from 1st to 20th level, released twice annually. In the long run you'll be paying more for a campaign than in 5e, but you'll also get to level 20 and because Adventure Paths are released in stages there's less risk of your group isn't really enjoying the campaign. Some are also combined into hardback collections, bringing the overall price down. 

That said, most Pathfinder 2e Adventure Paths are very good in their quality of writing and artwork. If you enjoy a good old fashioned dungeon crawl then Abomination Vaults is for you. If you like investigative stories with actual coded rules for investigation try Agents of Edgewatch. If you're already a fan of magical schools like Strixhaven then Strength of Thousands is an RP focused powerhouse set in a magical college. And if dominion and kingdom building is your thing then look no further than Kingmaker.

The Supplements

Pathfinder 2e is a well-supported game with frequent supplements and accessories like maps and cards. The Lost Omens range builds out the setting and offers new character options. If you're wanting to run a homebrew campaign these guides are indispensable.

Core rulebook supplements like the Gamemastery Guide, Advanced Players Guide, Dark Archives and Secrets of Magic can take your game to the next level with new rules, classes, spells and feats. None of these are required though - Pathfinder is a modular system to include whatever rules and options you wish. Best of all, most are released in hardcover and softcover, the latter being much easier on the wallet. 

All material from every supplement is available online for free from Archives of Nethys. 

Organised Play 

The Pathfinder Society is a global organised play initiative that features an ongoing campaign. Each player enlists with a faction with their own objectives. You'll gather reputation with your faction as you play. At the end of the adventure you'll report back the outcome to the Society which can change the course of the global campaign. 

How to Get Started Playing Pathfinder 2nd Edition

If you're finding it difficult to understand where to start with Pathfinder 2e, the Beginner Box is the best place to begin your journey. While more expensive than the 5e starter sets, you get more in it at a premium quality, including a solo adventure, GM handbook, dice, pregens, 100 card pawns with bases, reference cards and a flip mat. 

If you want to jump right in then you'll need the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook, available in hardcover and a much cheaper softcover. You'll also want to pick up the Bestiary, though as I mentioned every rule and creature is available online for free. 

While people often recommend just using Archives of Nethys as a free starting point, I think it's a whole lot easier running through the core rulebook. Once you're more confident then Nethys is your number one friend for looking up rules. 

To take most of the effort out of creating a character, Pathbuilder is probably the most popular app available, but there's also Wanderer's Guide as a free character manager.