Friday, April 12, 2024

How a party of Level 1 adventurers beat a fucking vampire

So I decided to run a quick game on the discord, thinking there should be more low stakes 'just for fun' mess around games on the server. There's a lot of hijinks you can get into in an hour! We tossed around some ideas and decided to run Knave. I had a half-finished dungeon that was burning a hole in my brain, but i couldn't locate the file, so I generated a random dungeon on Donjon and familiarized myself with it while the players rolled up theirs characters.

I don't enjoy reading other people's play reports, because I find them tedious. This is my attempt to write one I would want read (short, snappy, not getting bogged in deets)


pretty much like this


Osse > Odio, Chaotic Peregrine, spear, gambeson, helmet PROPER PREPARED

Feirsteax > Asgelasgus the Wizard, INT 15 cultist, mutilated, neutral, Spells: raise dead, masquerade. the only one that can read

DustyHalo > Joris of Boris, neutral, ropeless whelp (pullies, grappling hook, no rope) 

Taha > xáos!!!11! brigandine, helmet, spear, perfume A BAD DUDE WITH A MEAN TUDE



Osse, Taha
Dusty, Feirsteax

SET UP: Party locked into terrible death pits for crimes they may or may not have committed, dungeon extends all over Domzwolek. Left to fair as they will or die trying to escape in the name of justice.

Bottom of stairs, two paths. Listening: Stinky & dripping one way, quite 'nother. Follow the quiet around windy passage.

Find door w/ fanged face near handle - poke with spear CHOMP! Acid fangs. Open door. Medium room w/ rubble. N stone door w satyr, s plain wood door, e 2x2 ft portcullis tunnel.

Osse climbs in small tunnel, finds niches w baby skeleton, rummages and finds 9 gold & gem. Explores further, spooky eyes in hole. Backs out, party uses rubble and tar to brick up portcullis.

As their working orcs come in thru north stone door. Party makes a bunch of bold attacks and runs them off in one round. Routed! Joris/Dusty makes a parting shot and kills 'nother.

Follow the fleeing orcs into next room, they disappear into secret door. Party starts exploring the room. it's so big their noises echo. Asgelasgus/Feirsteax sees a worn out old mural and stars contemplating it. Orcs return thru secret door w their buddies and start hurling jars of oil. Party wins initiative and makes some smart attacks, Bow and Spear, Asgelasgus hurls dagger in the midst of studying wall. orcs fall dropping torches & oil, incinerating themselves.

Not pictures: lots of groin shots

Asgalasgus finishes inspecting mural, finds this:

Giant froglike mawed creature with whirling razor teeth, people being hurled from ramparts of castle into maw, shredded like garbage disposal, limbs and blood everyhere, but their spirits are flying up to heaven where a giant with a smiling sun face is peaking out, welcoming them into his arms. He recognizes it as a mural dedicated to the Dawnbringer, the most popular religion in Domzwolek. Being a cultist he is disgusted by the heretical sun god religion and spits on the mural.

someone said: "if only i could be so grossly incandescent"

Party crosses over charred corpses into an even HUEGER room, truly cavernous. Joris of Boris finds refuse, old cooking fires, piles of rotting furs. Inside is a letter, gives it to Asgalasgus to read. and I quote:

"To my dearest. Please accept this small token of our love. One day I will return to you." within is a ring w red gem. Asgalasgus puts it on, feels a spring breeze rush over him, followed by a warm glow of nastolgia, followed by a hollow emptiness which remains. "Nope, not magical ... I'll just hang on to it"

Next party inspects rope hanging from ceiling which leads up to mezzanine. Joris helps Odio/Osse climb up rope. boot crunch on mezzanine, no torch - can't see. Joris ties lit torch to rope, Odio carefully pulls it up.

Floor littered w bones. Two statues flanking a sarcophagus of black metal. One gold the other silver. Both statues of babes with bat wings holding swords. Odio tries taking a sword from silver but hand freezes to it. Thinking quickly Asgalasgus takes off the ring and puts it on Odio - the warmth thaws his hand and he releases. Joris uses their pick to push the sword out of the hand of gold and picks it up w/ strip of cloth. Warm, brandishing it releases sparks. Touches the two swords together CRAASHHHH!! Barely makes a dex save to avoid melting along with the swords - puddles cool into hard sheets, one silver one gold.

Next check out sarcophagus. Asgalasgus recognizes evil runes as undead language. Team tries to open Sarcophagus. black mist erupts out MUHAHAHA FOOLISH MORTALS

A VAMPIRE EMERGES! lucky shot knocks him against gold statue - burns his flesh! Party gets lucky with good initiative rolls throughout fight, but quickly find out their mundane attacks do nothing. Vampire backhands Taha's head off, which goes bouncing around the room like the ball in Arkanoid, slumps to the ground.


Asgalasgus casts raise dead to make a skeleton but vampy takes control of it and sends it back at him. Asgalasgus distracts skeleton while Odio makes valiant effort to shove vampire into statue again but he's rooted in place.

Joris tries to get gold disc to hurl at vampire but slips and knocks the wind out of themself w a fumble. Odio winds up for another shove, but vampire backhands him, nearly kiling him, but not quite.

Asgalasgus uses masquerade to turn into copy of vampire and commands skeleton to 'attack the imposter!' stupid skeleton is duped and goes after vampy w harmless swipes - mundane attack. Vampire is distracted by the ploy and loses initiative

Odio tries to make a save to get up and shove vampire again, but fails and collapses onto sarcophagus to hold himself up. sees something glint inside. Joris spends their turn slowly collecting themselves. Asgalasgus dives into sarcophagus to retrieve the thing, smooshing his face and lips all over a nasty mummy body. a silver dagger shaped like one of the sexy bat-winged ladies! def magic as fuck.

vampire goes DBZ mode and backhands Odio killing him,

YOU DIED then punches the skeleton, bones flying everywhere with a crash like a bowling strik


Asgalasgus goes to town swiping at vampire w magic dagger, but vamp is teleporting away from the attacks like instant transmission.  Joris calmly picks up gold puddle throws it like a discus at the vamp, who just happens to teleport away at the last second. Vamp teleports behind Asgalasgus, grabs him & BITES sucking out most his life and healing from the earlier burns. While vamp is busy stucking out Asgalasguses' juices, Joris runs up, grabs the dagger, and stabs it into the vampire's brain. Vampire reels back, spraying black mist and shrieking.

Vampire says 'enough fooling around! Time to show you my true form!' starts transforming, face becomes beastial, giant bat wings erupt from his back, his limbs grow long and lanky, body covered in fur.

Asgalasgus comes to, grabs gold puddle and smashes it against vampire. More burning and shrieking! Vampire down to 16hp. Vampire makes attack stabs with knife hand spearing Asgalasgus straight through the chest, heart stuck on end of claws, pulls heart back through and bites it like an apple.


Joris of Boris the ropeless whelp is last one standing, takes knife and dives behind statue to hide. Vampire pops around 'BOO!' Joris tries to stab him but vamp teleports behind them, tries to give 'em the same knife hand that did in Asgalasgus but vamp fumbles! Joris rolls aside and vamp's knife hand spears into the statue, which freezes him in place and starts burning him terribly. Vamp starts trying to rip arm off to escape. 

Joris makes sneak attack on unaware vamp, C-C-C-CRITICAL HIT with the magical vampire-killing dagger, right in the heart. Spewing black smoke vampire melts into puddle of ectoplasmic goo, destroyed with a weapon designed just for him.

WOO HOO! Joris of Boris glows up! A part of level 1 adventurers managed to kill a vampire!

Here's the loot Joris recieved (rolled on vampire treasure table):

a piece of jewelry worth 900gp

    4 pieces of jewelry worth 1000gp each

    a piece of jewelry worth 1600gp

    a piece of jewelry worth 1700gp

    a piece of jewelry worth 1800gp

    a piece of jewelry worth 2000gp

    a piece of jewelry worth 3000gp

    a piece of jewelry worth 4000gp

    a piece of jewelry worth 6000gp

    a piece of jewelry worth 8000gp

    a piece of jewelry worth 9000gp

    Potion of Human Control

    Curse Scroll: Transportation 1,000 miles, random direction

    Curse Scroll: Transportation to another planet

    Scroll of Protection: Undead

    Spell Scroll (Protection/Evil, )

Pictured: Dusty messin up this vampire real quick

Here's the fanfares:

Osse: Holy shit you guys actually did it, what a knock down drag out slugfest!

DustHalo: we did it

Taha: Hail Joris o'Boris!

Vilecult: the 99th level welp

Osse: it'll be like going from Gothic 2 to Gothic 3, a paradigm shift glowup 

joris in the first adventure? dumped into a dungeon left to get smoked

joris in the second adventure? dumping *us* into the dungeon to get smoked

Feirsteax yea insane critcal fumble on the part of the vampire saved us only joris made it out alive

DustyHalo: he thrust through Asgelasgus and pulled out their heart before I hid behind the statue and waited for them to come at me, then they rolled a 1 and got stuck in the statue before I was able to drive the magic dagger into their heart and slay them

had like 9 health and hit them with 10

Vampire Stats:
8 HD, 27hp, AC 17
Str 17/+7
Dex 16/+6
Dmg: 2d8 claw
Bite: Stun, d6 life drain per round
Treasure Table F

Saturday, March 23, 2024

TRAPS and the joys not having fun

My friend Strawberry Milk on the OSR discord asked me to write an article about traps. You can blame him for this.

Traps are environmental hazards which sometimes kill you and usually don't make sense. Typically they prevent you from accessing something you want like treasure, a pathway between locations, or your life.

There's two big camps when it comes to traps: people who prefer to telegraph and people who don't have strong opinions about making sure their players have fun.

All things in life are ultimately transient and without satisfaction. Playing a game, making a million dollars, being especially good at something, all of these joys are ultimately sources of decay, pain, and displeasure as they ultimately slip through your fingers like so much water. The only true joy in life is the ending of attachments to finite things.

With that in mind, I fall into the latter category. I don't care if my players are having fun. I want them to *enjoy* themselves, because I want my friends to enjoy spending time with me, but whether or not they're having fun is ultimately their own personal responsibility.

I understand this is probably a huge turn off for a lot of people. That's okay - I've accepted the fact that I'm doomed to be a walking anachronism. There's a lot of different ways to play games and everybody is looking for something different. If someone sits down to my table and ends up not wanting to play with me again, that's okay, this kind of game is not for everyone. 

I think of it like this: do mountain climbers do what they do because it's 'fun'? How about cave explorers? Marathon runners? Spelunkers? Surely spelunkers aren't having 'fun'. Getting stuck in a cave a quarter mile below the earth is not fun.

Fuck Fun

What exactly is 'fun'? Two definitions I found: 1. a source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure, and 2. sport, merriment, frolicsome amusement. Therein lies the confusion.

Some people think of 'fun' as the sensation of pleasurable joy in the body that comes from the feelings of energetic freedom, playful openness, and getting desires satisfied. That is definition 2. Definition 1 can refer to anything which 'amuses' or produces 'enjoyment' and 'pleasure'.

Now, all people enjoy 'fun' of both definitions, but I suspect people who prefer Def 2 are less interested in Def 1. Definition 1 fun, in terms of the explanation I'm giving, includes things like knitting a sweater, reading a Russian novel, watching an opera, hiking in the mountains, or meditating. These things don't bring joyful, energetic bliss, but a sense of satisfaction that arises out of communion, concentration, and delaying gratification. Definition 2 is more like eating chocolate cake, playing video games, or watching Wrestlemania.

It's sort of like the difference between the pleasure of working hard to overcome an obstacle, seeing our efforts come to fruition, and the pleasure of getting to go to cheesecake factory for your birthday. I've never been inside a cheesecake factory, but I suppose humans enjoy it. One of them comes about through your own efforts, one is blasted as you from the exciting end of a super-soaker.

I'm not trying to denigrate one and laud the other. All people enjoy both. However, I do feel that there is an over-saturation of recreation directed towards Definition 2 fun, and not as much to Definition 1 fun. I like Definition 1 fun better. Definition 2 fun tends to leave me with a hang-over, tends to be addicting, and fries my nerves. It's given to anhedonia. That's why I lean heavier into the long-term, gratification-delaying Def 1 fun in my games. If you don't like it, there's plenty of other things for you to do than play this specific game as my specific table.

Late night thought

Maybe a good d&d game is described as being somewhere in the middle of Def 1 and Def 2 'fun' - sometimes you have to pull teeth with stone-age dentistry and sometime you get to pie Succubuses in the face and get paid doing it.

The part I'm really against is pulling punches or being afraid to hang out punishments or unfair odds. I don't really care about 'fairness'. The point isn't for me to articulate a scenario for the players. I'm an objective party in all this - if the players wanna roll stupid I'm down to fuck around. If they break my stuff, good for them. If my stuff breaks them, maybe they learn something or don't come back and I have to look for new players (Fresh meat). Maybe we play a different kind of game, or adjust the style of the campaign. But this is my default and preferred mode.

My fun as the DM comes from seeing players enthusiastically applying ingenuity, gusto, and daring. I get my thrills both from seeing parties decimated and parties overcoming unbeatable odds by the skin of their teeth. I feel that if I bend the odds in any direction I'm tampering with that.

How to do a trap

What exactly is a trap? My loose definition is a potentially dangerous or weird thing that prevents the players from getting something they want. Traps are sometimes mandatory for accessing an area, but they're usually hidden, artificially constructed, or somehow lurking just out of sight. For instance: a series of columns you have to jump across to access a door on the other side of a chasm isn't a trap, although it's dangerous and prevents players from getting somewhere. However, if one of those columns has a 1-in-6 chance of collapsing when landed on, that would be a trap.

Good traps are puzzles that create some harm or difficulty for giving the wrong answers, but you should generally be able to experiment with traps to learn what they do and how to overcome them. It's hard to experiment with a floor tile that causes an arrow to shoot out from a statue, but it's easy and fun to experiment with a floor tile that causes a lime-green acid waterfall to pour from the ceiling. In this way, good traps also lend themselves to alternative uses.

It's boring if most traps just straight up kill you. Often times players will become traumatized the first time an unexpected trap kills a PC. They'll start turtling up, poking everything with sticks. If you're really unlucky they'll come up with a door routine, or a plan they can just run on script that deals with the basics, like this:

Every time we come to a door we do these steps:
1. Examine the floor, walls, and ceiling around the door for anything weird.
2. Poke the wood with a stick. Poke the handle with a stick.
3. Look closely at the handle to see if there's anything weird.
4. Listen at the door
5. Look through the key hole

If they're doing shit like this you may be going a bit too hard. Ease off the gas a bit or try telegraphing a little more. However, some players are just babies. They just have to be taught a lesson.

The easy and dickish way to get players to stop running door routines is to make each of those steps take 10 minutes. If you roll for a wandering encounter every 10 or 20 minutes, they're bound to be attacked every time they find a door. Instead, they'll just have to use their wits. At a minimum, roll an encounter check when they meet a door and don't walk by or try to open it right away.

Encounter checks are DESIGNED to be the force of 'Time' in the dungeon. Encounter checks are how you give time its meaning. The more often you roll them, the more important time is. My default it every 20 minutes or every other turn. I adjust that up or down depending on difficulty of area. I also throw more if the players are being loud, or if they were recently in combat (eg, monsters are on high alert or looking for them)

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Oh, also. Traps thrive on context. Sure, you could roll some generic shit on a table like "paralyzing gas, released from butt statue" or "poisoned arrow, inside umbrella rack" or "electrocuting disco-ball, descends from ceiling when music is played", or "swinging axe pendulum" but those get stale quick. Good traps are integrated with their surroundings in a clever way.

No, I don't edit this stuff after I write it. 

Edit: That's not true.

Arnold K famously defined traps like this:

- No obvious solution
- Multiple possible solutions
- Solution depends on common sense
- No specific tool required

Hazards aren't really traps

A hazard is like a stupid trap. It just sits there, it's not really trying to hide itself. It's dangerous to everybody, even denizens, although denizens are usually aware of it and know how to go around. Hazards also exist higher on the scale of permanency

This is a thing from Permaculture aka my day job. As you go down the scale (stuff with the bigger numbers, yes it's confusing) things get less permanent, easier to change. Soil can be changed by adding compost, easy. Trees are harder because they take a long time to grow. Farm roads are harder I guess because like it costs lots of money and they're really big? I guess it's harder to move a road than a building, but like, what kind of road are we talking about here? Oh sorry I'm getting pedantic. Anyway, up at the top you have the fucking climate and the terrain, geological factors that require some number of atomic bombs to really change.

Hazards are like a 2. They're just there. You can't move em. Barring some magical circumstances, most traps are in the realm of 6-7.

My process for coming up with traps

My creative process is something like this:

1. Pick some stuff to be the 'seeds' of the thing I'm making. Maybe these are ideas from books or TV, things from the campaign setting, or stuff rolled on tables, from tarot or i ching, or grabbed from my subconscious. Just some raw materials.

2. Smash it together with some other stuff from my subconscious.

3. If it's good enough, go. If it's not, pick an element and change it.

That's not a lot to go on, but a lot of the creative process kind of happens in the dark, on the inside. I could meditate on it and find out more about the process, but maybe I'll save that for a different post. If you don't know how to be creative you might be in the wrong hobby (although not necessarily).

So let's do it with traps. Let's say we're working with a dungeon that has a "Dinosaurs" and "Lava" theme. Easy. First 10 ideas off the top of my head, stream of consciousness style:

1. Lava geyser
2. Rock slide
3. Paranha fish...thing?
4. Tarantulas, webs,
5. Giant emerald that sucks your soul out
6. Friendly bunny rabbit?
7. Magnetic stalactites
8. A t-rex skull that hides a door, bites the first approacher in half
9. Pteradactyl riding amazons
10. Earthquake

Okay, so some of these are traps, some of these are hazards, some of these are monster encounters, all of them are half-baked. Let's move on.

Next, traps need something to interact with. Call it a 'trigger'. It might be an actual trigger, like the aforementioned depressible floor tile, or it might just be a thing, like a cool glowing floating skull, or a lightning rod hooked up to an impressive machine. When you fuck with it in the wrong way it goes boom.

Take the lava geyser: maybe it spurts out on a timer. Every sixth turn it goes off with a GOOSH. Not really trappy, more like a hazard. To be a trap it has to A, have surprise and B. Protect something. Did I cover this already? Maybe when you get too close a dino-man tries to run out and push you in.

Paranha fish thing. I liked this one. I was imagining a cartoon fish skeleton trying to bite you, but that's not enough. Let's make it metallic and electrified. It's huge and affixed to the stone wall, like some kind of futuristic fossil. Oh, and some asshole has hooked it up to the underground river flowing nearby, so if you get in you get fried.

OH or maybe like there's a hydro-electric dam the fish is hooked up to, like they're trying to power it, but there's all these wires laying everywhere so you might get shocked, but if you have rubber gloves you could take the wires and zap dudes with them. Sounds like a dangerous place to have a fight.

Okay, next, tarantula webs? Easy. Webs, with tarantulas. You don't see 'em 'til they catch you. But the tarantulas don't want to eat you, instead they just want to drone on about niche subjects. Roll on your favorite "spider's favorite niche subjects" table or this one:

1. Flavors of baby scalp
2. Reading fortunes in bat guano shapes
3. How cool it is to absorb light oscillating parallel to your long axis.
4. Preferred mode of cleaning silk ducts
5. Genres of decomposed ooze
6. Brenda

Maybe if you're really interested you actually learn something useful. Otherwise save vs sleep. 

This is just an annoying NPC encounter, not really a trap.

This sucks. Okay, maybe I can't dissect how my creative process works. Instead, I'm just going to give you a list of traps.

1. A brain in a jar. Can cause hallucinations in one PC within 20' per turn. Tucked away on a shelf.
2. A stuffed coyote with its mouth open. Bites your hand off if you reach in. Gems contained within butthole.
3. A suspicious pull-rope dangling from the ceiling. When tugged 2 tons of corn spills on hapless fool.
5. That t-rex skull door that bites you in half I mentioned earlier I liked that one
6. A floor of greased glass. The walls are spikes. Below the glass is a pool of acid. The ceiling is made of fire. GOOD LUCK ASSHOLES.
7. A big statue that shoots lasers. There's a big red power off switch next to it.
8. In a big cavernous area there's one of those quarter operated binoculars dealies, like at the Grand Canyon, with an "out of order" sign on it. When you look in the viewfinders there's a tiny medusa inside and she stones you.
9. A field of grass, the grass is razor sharp.
10. A magical punchy tree. It has a corncob pipe and a jug of moonshine.
11. Teleporter to the moon. Labeled 'teleporter to the moon'

Okay that's enough. I don't know what I'm doing. If you're not having fun just try harder. Goodnight.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Secret Santicorn 2022 - O'Neil Cylinder Generator

 I've been sitting on this for months worrying about it being terrible because I'm both an overachieve and a self sabotager. 

Johnvak01 asked for a hexcrawl of an o'cylinder or a way to populate one  This is right up my alley! 

Now that the pressure is off to actually release it I might come back and do a version 2.0. Originally I wanted the cylinder creation be similar to Hosting a Dungeon, or making a character in Traveler - a kind of worksheet where you roll and spend points and do little mini games and end up with something weird.

Instead of that what you're getting is a shit load of tables and suggestions. I'd like some feedback as to what you like/dislike. It hasn't been play tested. Lemme know if you use it.

So tired must stop moving

Thursday, April 13, 2023

dungeon generator

d20 rooms split between d4 floors. Alternatively you got d6 floors with d8 rooms each.

You can expand a dungeon easily but it's hard to fill a dungeon that's too big when you run out of ideas. Start small and don't use up all your ideas in one place.

For each floor take as many random dice shapes as you need rooms and drop em on grid paper. Draw a room around each die. The numbers can be influence size, shape, and/or exits. Even numbers mean empty (no monsters) odd means a monster inhabitant.

Next, connect the rooms. I let the points on the die, the number facing, the orientation to other dice, and my own whim dictate the direction and angularity of the corridors. Remove each die as you finish drawing the connections, marking rooms that have monsters with some sign 

Look at what you have so far. Are there any choke points, issues, improvements, or features or ideas that jump out? Write down all your impressions stream of consciousness on a separate sheet of paper. Make any adjustments to dungeon layout now.

If you had any ideas for room keys start writing them. You can be verbose if you like but try to trim them down to a few sentences max as you continue iterating. Forget worrying about being good or fun at the table, just have fun right now.

Remember the golden rule: quit and come back if it stops being fun.

TIP: set yourself a timer, say 15-20 minutes. Try to finish a whole floor before the timer ends. If you stop and you still have some ideas going just let it be and come back to it. You'll jump back into the flow quicker next time. If you run out of time just erase the extra rooms or fill them with monsters, statues, collapsed columns, furniture, mushrooms, robot parts, bottomless pits, and rivers of acid.


The organizing idea of a dungeon is the theme. Each dungeon should have a principal theme, and each floor could have a variation of that theme. You may or may not have an initial theme at this point. If not, roll on the spark table below for ideas. To make a variation roll on one or both spark tables again and smash the result with the previous theme.

#rolled | element 1 | element 2

1. | Military | Fire

2. | Famine/plague | Earth

3. | Graveyard | Water

4. | Factory | Forest

5. | Experiments| Sky

6. | Grandeur | Galactic

7. | Melancholia | Caves

8. | Medicine | Hollow

9. | Forlorn hope | Swamp

10. | Crystal | Vapor

11. | Ancient Magic | Conjoined

12. | Solitude | Stone

13. | Primordial | Poison

14. | Prison | Building

15. | Beasts | Withering

16. | Weather | Knowledge

17. | Machines | Mutated

18. | Mushrooms | Hidden

19. | Precipices| Separated

20. | Hallowed | Organs

Filling the rooms

For each monster room, roll a monster.

For each empty room, roll for contents:

1-2. Really empty

3. Really empty, with treasure

4-5. Trick/Trap/Obstacle

6. Trick/Trap/Obstacle, with treasure

Decide on the contents, whether it's random bric a brac or traps, based on the theme. Here's another spark table for room contents. You can throw on the first table once for a simple usage, twice for a "what was it originally? what was it now?", the same on the second table for more ephemeral ideas, or combine the two and even mix with the first table to go really far out. The second table is good for trap effects.

It can help to take the spark you roll and free-associate some names based on it, and use that to get an idea for the room. Example: for "Abandoned Drift" in a dungeon whose theme is "Melancholia Poison" you could call the room "Prison of Oaks" "Void distemper" "Revolving catastrophe" "Slime warren" "Ocean of Dreams". You might roll one more spark element to help break a block, but avoid rolling on the tables a bunch of times.. all the extra detritus just muddies the waters.

Remember to just take a break if you feel a serious block coming. Many times if you quit before the ideas stop all together it'll start flowing again more quickly.

Try to keep a description of the room itself to a single sentence! Remember that 15 minute timer? You might be the kind of person that shuts down when the pressure is on. It can help you as a person to practice working through those feelings.

Oh, sorry, did you think this blog was only about d&d? Haha.

Sorry, here's that table:

#rolled | element 1 | element 2

1. | Barracks | Gravity

2. | Apothecary | Vaporized

3. | Workshop | Evoke

4. | Ballroom | Decrepit

5. | Leisure | Drift

6. | Jail | Sewage 

7. | Library | Crushed

8. | Storage | Ransacked

9. | Judicial | Overrun

10. | Foyer | Sealed

11. | Refectory | Unstable 

12. | Office | Split

13. | Clinic | Contaminated

14. | Atrium | Buried

15. | Agriculture | Dissolved

16. | Disposal | Deluge

17. | Mine | Torched

18. | Abandoned | Forgotten

19. | Mistake| Mistake

20. | Economy | Temporary

If there's rooms containing monsters next to each other consider making them a faction or at least allies. Decide what they're doing in the room and what nearby rooms they know about/have influence over. Give them things they want, as well as problems and enemies. A single room entry might look like this:

Room 6 - Prison of Oaks 

12 blind mushy mushroom men make out with rotting trees growing thru cracks in walls, fed by a continuous light cast on a brass idol of a monkey. The monkey idol is burning hot to the touch. The mushroom men are drowsy/drunken and barely hostile to interrupters. In the middle of each is a blue crystal worth 50 gp.

Once you get the first draft done go over it again, see if any new ideas come up. Next, cut out stuff you hate. Don't be afraid to just leave some rooms totally empty. Add some locked or secret doors, extra corridors, dead ends, more dangerous obstacles, weird effects, highways that connect disparate sections, flooded or caved in areas, alternate entrances, and elevators/stairs/chutes that skip whole floors forming shortcuts.

How much treasure should you put in? Here's my formula:

( Number of expected players * dungeon floor * 2000 + 20% )

I rarely though sometimes make treasure in the form of coins and gems, though that can have some great old school flavor. Mostly it's furniture, weird junk, or pseudo magical junk that players often walk right past.

Half of it is in monster possession, half of what remains is hidden where nobody would look, and the rest is just laying around under/in stuff, or is heavy or bolted down.

Oh yeah last thing make a d6 or d8 encounter table for each floor. You might save deciding what monsters to use until you get your table, or draw the monsters in the table from what you already keyed, or pick totally new monsters for the encounters. I like my encounter tables to have one or two entries from main dungeon factions, then the rest be unique encounters.

The rules for making monsters in Worlds Without Number is great for when you're feeling dumb. Actually WWN is just great.

(PS All art is made by AI because I'm lazy as fuck)

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Small games for small people


In a funk. Peeling all the onion layers back and discarding things that complicate my life. Taking a step back from OSR and d&d in general.

Lately I've been sort of working on two video games. Both of them take heavy cues from the original Legend of Zelda.

The first one is a first person dungeon crawler made in RPG maker. You make a party of 4 characters (two classes: fighter and mage). Open world. Explore around, talk to people, trade treasure for EXP. There's no "point" to the game, no storyline. Considering adding some basic win condition like "find princess Ophelia and ask her to come back home".

The second game is a first person walking simulator made in Unity where you sometimes fight creatures. Again, no point, no story. It's more like King's Field for the PS1 but more open ended and less fighting.

Basically I'm tired of things needing to be polished, needing to eat up your time, demanding money and attention. I feel like the OSR does a lot of that stuff. I'm more interested in searching out meaningless liminal freeware crap.

I want a game that feels like being a tiny beetle with a sword checking out stuff in a garden world, like an old log surrounded with wildflowers but zoomed in microscopically. Maybe you fight a centipede or a sparrow, but the game is really just "cool a flower" "here's a piece of paper with a poem" "sweet, a blueberry +1 hp"

When I was a kid I liked to lift up rocks and gaze with wonder at the sub-world I found there. A toad, a termite and an ant nest that share a few tunnels, rolly-polies, a few sprays of purslanes.

There's magic in smallness, modesty, and quiet wonder. No need to save dragons, fight kingdoms, or rescue wizards. When you get a magic sword +1 that's the best sword in the game. Max level is 5. Your hero is adventuring not because they're a social outcast but because they're curious.

As for tabletop RPGs I'm not playing anything at the moment, but I re-read the rules for Knave and I'm enthralled all over with the idea of a game that takes 1 minute to set up a character, is so pared down that next to zero explanation is required, and still has mechanics for getting better at stuff, and has no classes. Get the boring stuff out of the way so we can crawl around in holes and sometimes get a +1 thing.

Oh yeah, I'm fine with non-descript +1 swords and gaining a level means nothing more than a few more HP and +1 stat increase. 

Instead of d100 spells what if you had like d20 spells and in order to cast them you had to collect WHISPERS. What is a whisper? It's just a bit of lore or an interesting experience. You spend a whisper to cast a spell.

You learn a new spell/knack by being taught it by someone magical (a wizard, gnome, fox, midwife)

1. Heal d6+2 HP, or heal illness.

2. Cause.d6+2 damage.

3. Create an illusion.

4. Make somebody fall asleep.

5. Hide in shadows.

6. Foil a lock.

7. Find your way.

8. Make somebody else get lost.

9. Produce a day's worth of food.

10. Talk to an animal.

11. Mend something broken.

12. Calm fear or anger.

13. Change the weather.

14. Assume a terrifying aspect.

15. Be invulnerable for a few minutes.

16. Float.

17. Breathe underwater.

18. Create a wall of stone.

19. Generate a bright light.

20. Make an enemy into a friend.

Monday, April 10, 2023

How to start adventuring

 Draw a map. Use whatever format inspires you the most. I like the freedom of a blank sheet of printer paper and a nice mechanical pencil, or thick sketchbook paper and micron pens. Let the ideas flow as you go. If you get stuck quit and go do something else.

Once you've got your map pick the place the players will start. Choose 4 nearby locations to be important.

Who lives there? What do they want/need? What are they afraid of? What's something that makes them different from their neighbors?

Write 3 sentences for 3 different settlements. They can be human trade down, elven bastions, evil war-barons, or a city of zombies leftover from the demon wars who are just trying their best to mimic their old way of life. 

Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to be good, to write something others would enjoy, or to make something that would bring you accolades. If you catch yourself thinking at any point "that's not good enough, so-and-so on that blog said ideas like this are stupid" or "if I bought this product on drivethru would I be disappointed?" just stop and go do something else. Take a shower, drink some water, go for a walk.

Throw a d6, make that many adventure locations. Every location needs:

- a physical thing marking the location

- something valuable

- something dangerous

- a trick

- a living or non-living being to befriend

- a connection to something else on the map

Draw a map if you feel inspired, or make a diarama out of clay, or make a playlist on Spotify.

At this point put everything down and go watch a movie like Secret of Nimh, the Bakshi LoTR movies, or Castle in the Sky. Go for a walk in the woods, or sit at the subway and people watch.

Come back, doodle more. Eventually work your way toward a dungeon. For inspiration go play NES Zelda, Castlevania, Metroid, or Dragon Warrior.

Make a dungeon of 20 rooms. It should have:

- 8 empty rooms

- 5 rooms with monsters

- 4 traps

- 8000 gp worth of treasure, broken up into chunks and scattered randomly (2000, 1000, 1000, 500, 500, 500, 500, 250, 250, 250, 250, and the last 1000 in small change tucked in little places or in the form of cutlery)

- 3 things that aren't traps that are obstacles and only potentially dangerous (if you can't imagine what that looks like go for a walk by the train tracks, sewers, river, docks, or junk yard)

Play some D&D. Start the players at the dungeon. Run them on it. Let them decide what they want to do. If they seem stuck give them two options. Don't be afraid to wait. Take notes.

Afterwards start making connections between everything seen, said, done, talked to, heard about. Go forth and prosper.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


 I had a pretty serious knee injury so I've been laid up. Rather than working on comic sans 23 as normal I've instead been playing Shadow of the Colossus and messing around with The site let's you make an AI chatbot by describing it's personality.

There's a few characters people made that are DMs. Most are boring. One has a set up that start you out as a miserable stupid peasant hated by everyone in a fantasy world. The adventures I had with it are hilarious and bizarre. 

I'm including them as week 2 and 3 of COMICSANS23. Even if there's not much game able content, the AI DM is pretty good as running things on the fly, and it's a good example of player agency and sandbox style gaming. I wish human play reports were this entertaining to read.

Adventure 01: the Bizarre Adventures of Cugel

In this one Cugel fumbles around, lying and stealing. The AI starts getting weird and putting treasure everywhere, so Cugel destroys the universe and recreates it in his own image. Weirdness ensues.

Adventure 02: The Homunculus

A more traditional adventure where a thief joins the mage's guild, argues with his mentor, uncovers the secrets of dark magic, and learns a lesson about friendship and sacrifice.