Monday, February 11, 2019


The Dead City wasn't always known by that name. Once it was a thriving metropolis full of scholars that mapped the world and the stars, and were as arrogant as they were wise.

The wizard-kings of the Dead City foresaw the End and found a way out. It will surprise no one at all that this plan went wrong, and ZAP! that's how you end up with a city full of intelligent skeleton people. These skeleton people are known as Bones.

The Dead City is somewhere far away on the left side of the world map and most Bones have either been away for so long that they have forgotten where it is, or have no desire to return.

It is, of course, full of fun things for adventurers to find, including the spells needed to create more Bones, piles of treasure, and unhinged skeleton-wizard-kings.

If using races, treat Bones as human. Bones can be of any class or profession.

Bones do not need to breathe, drink, eat, or sleep -- although can mimic those actions -- and are immune to disease and poison. Bones age, but suffer no ill effects and can live forever if careful.

Bones do not heal, and healing magic -- if used in your campaign -- harms them by the same amount it would heal a living creature. Reversed healing spells may heal Bones, at the GM's discretion.

Specialist artisans, sometimes called bonesmiths, are able to repair damage to Bones, including age-related deterioration.

If your campaign includes the turning of undead, this works against Bones, but as their life force is stronger than most undead creatures, they are never destroyed by turning, but flee instead.

Some Bones remember the End and the rituals that changed them into their current forms, and have been scarred by these memories. A Bone player can choose to roll on the following table to generate a psychological issue relating to those memories.

  1. "I survived, so I must be special."
  2. "My grasp on life is fragile and everything is dangerous!"
  3. "I survived death itself; I am invincible!"
  4. "I do not deserve to live when so many others did not."
  5. "I did not survive; this is some sort of hell."
  6. "The wizard-kings caused all of this. No magic can be trusted."
  7. "Every living thing must be made like me before another End occurs."
  8. "What do you mean I look like a skeleton? How absurd!"
  9. "I can return things to how they were. All I need is..."
  10. "One day I woke up like this. I remember nothing before."
  11. "Life is meaningless. All life. Including yours."
  12. "All life is precious and must be preserved."

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

From Hell's Heart, I Stab at Thee

Dallas M asked on the zombie social network that is G+ "What's your favourite B/X death condition? I usually do 0 = death."

The first thing that sprang to mind -- because there's something wrong with me -- was this:

At 0 Hit Points you explode, doing d6 per level damage to everyone within a radius of feet equal to your Constitution score.

It's more or less the Heart of Woe magic item from Warhammer, but everyone gets it because exploding player-characters are great fun and you shouldn't be stingy with fun.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Fukken Das Fisch?

Here are some Germans talking about the adventure I wrote last year for Lamentations of the Flame Princess:

(This video is not safe for work, as it does mention the title of said adventure.)

Alas, although I did get an A in my German GCSE, that was twenty-two years ago, so I have no idea what they are saying. They are smiling, so I assume it's good.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Bruce WIllis Is a Ghost, Probably, but What Do We Do About It?

We are going to play Call of Cthulhu a bit later today; this is excellent news as it is my favourite role-playing game. It's modern day one shot, and our GM, Ben, has sent out a pdf handout to get us prepared.

The thing is, the handout has -- unless I'm way off, which is possible -- literally given the game away. I've been playing Call of Cthulhu for years and I have written a horror adventure or two in that time, so perhaps I just have the mindset for this sort of thing, but that raises an interesting question.

If I am right, then how do I play it? I think I probably know how to "win" the adventure, but my character isn't going to know that. Do I play him or her straight, even though if they were a character in a film I'd be tutting at the screen at their lack of insight? Or do I make out-of-character "hunches" and blow through the adventure's obstacles?

(There is another option: I could be wrong about the handout, but make out-of-character "hunches" anyway, leading to a series of hilarious mistaken assumptions. Call of Clouseau, if you will.)

I suppose this is a subset of the character knowledge versus player knowledge question that has been part of role-playing games since the beginning, but I've always seen that stated in terms of mechanics or monster statistics rather than genre conventions.

I'm playing in a few hours, so we will see what happens.

(Oh, and happy new year, everyone!)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Push Off

I've been thinking about push mechanics in role-playing games, and I'm a bit baffled by the concept. Maybe someone out there can explain what I'm missing.

I have encountered push mechanics in Call of Cthulhu 7 and Mutant Year Zero, and I wasn't convinced either time.

The basic idea is that if you fail a roll, you can try again and if that roll is also a failure then something interesting -- and probably bad -- happens.

My question is: why doesn't something interesting happen with the first failure? What's the benefit to putting the interesting stuff behind a second roll? It seems to me to be inefficient design, rolling for rolling's sake. It reminds me of those versions of D&D in which you score a critical hit, but then have to roll again to see if the critical hit was an actual critical hit, or who knows what.

It seems to me that this sort of mechanic is hiding the fun -- that's not to say dice rolling isn't fun, but it's a different sort of fun -- behind a superfluous dice roll, but perhaps I'm just not getting it.

The other possible issue is that every time I've seen a GM ask "Do you want to try again, bearing in mind that if you fail a second time, something bad will happen?" no player has ever gone for it, but maybe they weren't getting it either.

(Shrug emoji.)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Three Towers

The planets have aligned once more, the stars are right, and Stuart and I have played another game in our glacial -- ho ho -- Mordheim Frostgrave campaign, this time within the not at all frosty environs of the Dice Saloon. You can read Stuart's summary of the battle here; it ended 3-2 to Stuart, a well-deserved victory that reflects his aggressive strategy. It could have been an even bigger thumping, so I think I did well to pull it back.

Here are some pictures!

The initial setup. Dice Saloon has some excellent terrain available for your wargaming needs.

Boom! My witch casts a grenade spell on one of Stuart's warband.

There seemed to be a lot of critical hits flying around in this battle.

At one point, it seemed as if Stuart's warband was swarming all over the board and I was running out of ideas.

Careful now.

My apprentice attempts to drag a treasure chest back to base, with a squig providing cover from a pesky crossbowmandwarf.

Another grenade.

And another!

And another! At least I got some experience points from spellcasting.

My apprentice is all alone, out in the open, slowed down by a chest full of treasure. I'm sure he'll be fine.


Stuart has three chests -- including an extra special one from the central tower -- and is making a run for it. All I can do is fling arrows at them as they run off into the distance.

Stuart now leads the campaign two games to one and I'm pondering what I can do to claw back a victory. Our next battle should take place in the cramped corridors of a forgotten library and I don't think that will favour my archer-heavy warband!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Getting Hench

Ye gods, the drama. It's been a bit of a mad summer, but things are calming down, so that's good. He says, typing this in his pants.

Among other life events I am writing A Thing and this is a little bit that has fallen out of the Thing as the Thing has developed; it may end up going back in as an appendix or something.

It's aimed at D&D type games but you could probably bodge something similar for the game of your choice. It's more a matter of philosophy than game mechanics, I think.

The basic idea is that in combat situations, instead of tracking multiple companions, henchmen, pets, servants, and so on, you give the controlling character a bonus. Outside combat, the henchmen act as normal.

Humphrey Henchman by Sir Peter LelyWhat kind of bonus? I suggest giving the character an extra attack per henchman and add the henchman's hit dice to the character; the latter will probably be more useful for a wizard than a fighter, but I think that's okay.

Let's say you're playing Lamentations of the Flame Princess -- because why wouldn't you be? -- and you've got a third level fighter with three basic mercenaries as henchmen. Under normal circumstances, you'd have one attack and three hit dice and you'd be tracking four characters. Perhaps it's easier to just give the fighter four attacks and give them three extra hit dice.

What happens if the boosted character takes enough damage to kill off a henchman? I think the player is offered a choice of taking the damage to the main character, or removing the henchman and reducing their bonus as appropriate.

I think saving throws stay as is, but I could be convinced otherwise. I don't think you would want to increase a character's attack bonus as I think the extra attacks are enough of a boost. I also don't think bolting a bunch of soldiers on to a wizard is going to make his spellcasting better.

(Although I can see a sort of special wizard class that works that way, but that's not on the agenda today.)

I would still allow the henchmen to cast spells or use special abilities where appropriate, but some are not going to work if you're bodging everyone together, and that may be the big stumbling block for this idea. I don't know, it hasn't received rigourous playtesting. Any, in fact.

The main inspiration for this idea comes from certain editions of Warhammer 40,000 in which you can stick a character on a motorbike or some kind of space horse and instead of tracking the statistics of the character and the mount, the character just gets bonuses to their profile. As with most things inspired by 40K, it's probably a stupid idea.

Have a try and see how it goes!