Friday, December 26, 2014

Mythoard Review

I wanted to wait a little bit before reviewing this so that I didn't ruin the surprise for anybody else.  Soon, though, the window for January subscriptions opens, so now seems like a good time to show an example of what to expect.

First, there is a double-sided one page introductory sheet.  It's always great to get a map from the wonderful Dyson Logos. The other side is a Newsletter, letting us know what's to come, etc.  Also, there is an OSR style table here that provides info about the suppliers of this Mythoard.  The table is cool, but my critique here is that it didn't include everything in the Mythoard (like the dice) and it wasn't exactly clear who supplied what.  (I e-mailed this feedback to Jarrod and it sounds like he may incorporate a checklist into the next one.)

Next up, what I consider to be the best part of this Mythoard.  The Stone Fields of Azoroth is a mini-setting with adventures by Tim Shorts, who's responsible for The Manor and other OSR greatness.  I'm pretty excited to get an exclusive offering from him!  Book 1 details the Village of Bad Water (37 unique NPCs), Book 2 and Book 3 are both sites to explore (near the village) and on the inside of the cover is a map of the locale:

I've never seen crayon utilized so well! [EDIT: I have since found out that this is color pencil - still cool!]  I'm looking forward to running this adventure for my group.  For me, this is the highlight of this Mythoard and is guaranteed to get used.

10+ Treasures is a professionally made supplement for Dungeon World.  Your mileage will vary here: if you play Dungeon World, then this will be a nice addition, if not, then you can still snag the ideas and convert them to your system of choice.  I hope to play Dungeon World someday, so this will probably wait on my shelf until then.  There's a QR code included so that you can also have the PDF copy of this book.

These are Blue Dungeon Tiles from Red Kobold.  I have mixed feelings here.  On the one hand, they're pretty cool - you can use dry erase marker on them, they're double-sided so you have more variety than what's pictured above, and they have an old school vibe to them.  On the other hand, you will get limited usage out of 3 tiles.  This is the one component from Mythoard that feels a bit incomplete - if you like them, you'll want to immediately go to Red Kobold and order more.  If you don't use maps, you're not going to get much use out of them.  If you're in the middle, like me, you'll be trying to figure out exactly how you can use them.  

Also from Red Kobold was a six-sided die with their Kobold symbol in place of the "1."

Jim Magnusson makes awesome creature postcards and sends them out to people.  This is a Crystal Stinger.  On the back is a description of the creature (stats free - so you'll need to adapt to your preferred system).  The art and style speak for themselves.  A nice addition, and my only complaint is: I want them all!

Here we have a poster from Baby Bestiary.  Much like the dungeon tiles, I'm not sure what to do with this.  No doubt the art is good, but what you want to hang up in your house is going to vary greatly from person to person.  I would have preferred a smaller piece of art with some monster stats (similar to the Magnusson post card).

Finally, there were two dice included from Chessex: a d6 and a d20.  Answering the age old question: "Can you ever have too many dice?" with "Absolutely not!"

Overall, I was happy with this first installment of Mythoard.  The Tim Shorts adventure was worth it alone.  Also, I love getting packages in the mail, so a monthly box of mystery RPG items is pretty much the best thing ever.

There are a few things here of limited use/interest to me, but I think that's the name of the game.  Not everything is going to appeal to everybody.  The subscription service is currently open to beta-backers, but will be opening up to everybody soon.  Jarrod is taking feedback and is already planning improvements for the next installment.  Get you some Mythoard by clicking below:

Finally, I'm interested to hear what other folks thought of their Mythoard (or what they saw of mine).  Do you love some of the things I wasn't as excited about?  Is there anything you're wishing for in future Mythoards? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The "Screw my Party" Contest!

The Quick:

In the comments below, post what happens to my party when they try to leave the dungeon via the lake and/or what happens if they come in contact with the water.

In that same comment, let me know if you want a copy of The Undercroft (shipped free to anywhere in the world) or, if you already own it, the Secret Treasure Envelope (RPG/game related things, also shipped to anywhere in the world) or "either."  I will pick two winners from all usable entries.

Game night is Tuesday, so only entries in by Monday (whenever I get off work and start planning for the game) will be valid - so get them in this weekend!

The Long:

I'm currently running Psychedelic Fantasies Module 1: Beneath the Ruins for my players.  This is one of the few dungeons my party has encountered since my campaign consists almost entirely of LotFP modules.

Here are some important notes that relate to this contest:

The party walked down a set of humid, cramped stairs and found themselves on a beach of black sand, surrounded by hot fog.  

An underground lake is before them, and a man in a small boat is floating near shore.

He offers to take them across the lake to the "deep halls" in exchange for a gold and their true name.

After about 10 minutes of rowing through thick fog, the shore on the other side of the lake becomes visible.

The boatman was crazed, and didn't provide them much info.  When asked how they'd get back, he said something like, "I'll be here...when you're ready."  

I described the water as inky black with a slight odor of sulfur.

The party is nearing the end of the adventure and are discussing their plight - "How are we going to get across the lake?"

Your challenge:

1) What happens when my party travels across the lake (via makeshift raft or the boatman)?
2) What happens if they touch the water?

I'm going to create a randomized chart of all usable responses and roll on it - such will be the plight of my party.

Here's what I have so far:

What happens when they row through fog?
1) They make it safely back to shore and continue on with their campaign.
2) They end up in Carcosa.
4) They end up on Razira.
5) They end up in Narcosa.

What happens when they touch the water?
1) Nothing (it's just creepy).
2) They gain a random mutation from The Metamorphica.
3) They slowly transform into a Random Esoteric Creature.

The Why:

I ordered a copy of The Undercroft back in August, but after many weeks it hadn't arrived.  Daniel Sell kindly sent me another copy which arrived in a matter of days.  Yesterday I finally got that first copy!  It's an awesome 'zine, and I highly recommend trying to win one here if you don't already own it.  I'm only offering up the second "Secret Treasure" prize for those who already own a copy (and I thought it might be nice for Daniel Sell to have a chance to win something, too).

Some people already provided some "free" responses on G+.  I will automatically count them as being part of this contest, although if you are one of them and want to update your response, feel free to post it here. 



Thank you for your participation!  First off, here's a word document with a table of my ideas and the entries from here and G+:

What happened to my players?

Since one of them had their foot shot off by a laser blast (when a monster rolls a crit in my game, I roll on a body part location and that body part, if unarmored, is permanently destroyed - no healing can help it) the players decided they really needed to get back.  I could tell that they meant it this time (at a previous time they just tried calling for the boatman "to see" if he would come back, but they didn't actually want to leave the dungeon yet...) so I rolled on the table and got:

The boatman is frantically rowing towards the shore. As they approach, the fog rolls closer on a cold draft. It gives a scent of faint electricity, as if the air is charged and burnt.
"Hurry!" the boatman says "the dreams are coming!"

If the party rushes (requiring a character to roll under their dexterity score if they are more than lightly encumbered in order to make it in time), they make it onto the boat in time, and the lantern's light keeps the fog away.

All players made it into the boat except for our unlucky M-U (who already has a gopher mouth, checkered skin, crippling constipation once a day and leaves a trail of white slime wherever he walks).

Any characters who don't succeed have a dream from the following table (all have the same dream)

M-U's dream:

4. The characters are standing in an empty temple of grey marble with a large golden dish on a pedestal. Inside the dish is a reflective liquid. When the characters look at it, their eyes vanish from their head, floating in the pool, providing them with a view of their own screaming (or eerily calm, DM's choice), eyeless faces. The characters awaken flailing, giving a chance of upsetting the boat.

When he awoke, he capsized the boat, knocking everybody into the water.

Lucky for the players (although they don't know it yet) they received one of the few good things from the list for touching the water: "A spell-like ability."


Now, for the winners!

Here's the list:

1 Joshua
2. Onno
3. Marc G
4. Venger Satanis
5. lumacca
6. Jess Newman
7. Samwise Seven RPG
8. Timothy Franklin
9. Forrest Aguirre
10. Reroll

Winner of The Undercroft = Jess Newman
Winner of Top Secret Prize = Marc G

Final Update

Prizes have been sent - thanks to everybody for your participation, and I highly recommend picking up an issue (or three) of The Undercroft!

Monday, August 25, 2014

What does NSFW stand for?

This is a mini-pre-review for No Salvation For Witches, written by Rafael Chandler and published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

First off, there isn't any reason for you to not throw a few bucks at this project since it's Pay What You Want.

Yes, if this is your first time hearing about this campaign, you can pay whatever you want to get a full color, hardcover, 64 page book (and its PDF).  Okay, further clarification, the minimum is 1 Euro (about $1.32) and you do have to pay shipping (about 5 Euros).  But if you're smart, you'll be picking up one or all of the other 4 books that are being released at the same time and that shipping won't matter much.

So, this book must be some piece of shit that the publisher just wants to get rid of?  Or it's a marketing gimmick and will basically be a half-assed advertisement for the company, right?  Obviously, something good can't be practically given away for a few bucks.  If it's not being sold at a standard rate, there must be something going on here, eh?

Well, the thing is, James Raggi is kind of nuts.  He put out a 96-page book for Free RPG Day.  Google "review + Better Than Any Man" and you will see how much people love that adventure that he gave away for free.  He did it again with Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children.  I'm here to tell you that NSFW is worth the 20 Euro that I chose to pay for it.  (Yes, I could have paid 1 Euro, but I paid 20...)

What is it?

Well, it's actually hard to describe.  It's sort of like taking a historical fiction short story about witchcraft, mixing it with the most excellent horror movies you've seen, and creating a sort of mini-sandbox/adventure arc.

Have you run Death Love Doom?  Were you sad when your players took one look at the first twisted victim and booked it out of there?  Well, imagine Death Love Doom except the players can't run away.

So in this book, you've got a setting, including a map, a few villages, a woods, and the area that's central to the story (The Priory).  The players will walk around, exploring these locales, running into horrorshow after horrorshow.

You have a variety of NPCs.  All of them are terrible.  Very few of them want to purposely hurt the PCs upon first meeting them.  That means the PCs can take sides, help various NPCs (who are still terrible people, remember), and make decisions that affect everything that's happening around them.

There is treasure to be gained, much of it risky, all of it interesting, most of it cursed.  One example is the Tract of Teratology, a sort of mini-summon spell combined with a mini-Esoteric Creature generator.

There is innovation here in how the events of the story unfold.  Many things depend on the actions of the players, however, the players could cower in the woods and just let everything happen around them.  Both cases result in something happening in the campaign world.  And while I think some LotFP adventures can end with a complete unraveling of the world (requiring a reboot), in this case, it just permanently alters the political landscape in a way that will have far-reaching effects.  It doesn't end the campaign, it just changes it (in possibly a more interesting direction, actually).

Some random thoughts:

There are Easter eggs here.  Do you like it when Lloyd Kaufman makes a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy?  Or how Vince Vega and Victor Vega seem to exist in the same universe?  You might enjoy the hunt here, too.

There are many women central to the story.  And they're hardass.  Think Death Proof, You're Next, Descent.  This module passes the Bechdel Test and subverts the Male Gaze in an interesting way.

All of the art and maps are amazing (and useful).  You might be reading about something horrific and are struggling to comprehend how awful it might look, and then there it is, right on the next page, ready to haunt your dreams.

There's an isometric map (I love isometric maps), there's a player handout (I love player handouts), there's plenty of sweet tables to determine random effects, a variety of interesting ways that characters can die (or a variation of such), and there are multiple opportunities for players to come up with what happens to other player characters (which many groups will enjoy, especially mine).

Click on the Tract of Teratology to buy your copy of NSFW!
NSFW - get you some!

I Have No Class!

Inspired by a variety of posts/discussions on classes (Zak Smith and Daniel Sell more recently, but there are a half dozen others), I have decided to abandon class altogether.

It's important to know that only human PCs are allowed in my campaign, since I'm adhering to the LotFP Early Modern Era/Low Fantasy/Mundane-World-Seasoned-with-Unimaginable-Horrors Motif.

There are a slew of house rules and ideas taken from various blogs mixed with my own.  Most of them are all referenced in earlier posts with links to their sources.  I will link to James Young here because much is based on his house rules document.

Here is the complete character sheet PDF.  (I will provide editable word documents upon request.)  Explication below...

First, I designed a new character sheet:

On the right side:
-All saving throws are replaced with a single "Luck Save."  Players use their ability scores, skills, special abilities and ingenuity to modify their saving throw for each situation.  I no longer say, "save vs breath weapon" I say, "save vs. falling rocks!"

-Much on this page is inspired from James Young: Weapon and Armor Quality and Notches, Ammo tracking using a decreasing die, Backpack & 3 Pouches, etc.

-I think it's important to know where PCs are keeping their shit.  Sometimes a random item is destroyed, sometimes someone picks their pocket, sometimes they desperately need an item buried in their backpack.  Anything that doesn't fit here has to go on the back (see below) and becomes encumbering.

-The numbers on the body are critical hit locations.  If there's armor, it's damaged, if there's no armor, the body part is ruined.  (This is why handedness stats are on there - you'll get a bigger penalty if your primary limb is chopped off.)

Critical Hits
Rt. Hand
Lt. Eye
Rt. Eye
Lt Ear
Rt. Ear
Lt. Leg
Lt. Arm
Rt. Leg
Rt. Arm
Lt. Foot
Lt. Hand
Rt. Foot


The Left Side:

-I took out a lot of "noise" here and boiled it down to Titles (which replaces classes) and Skills (which assist with problem-solving or to provide advantages for other rolls).  Note that wisdom and intelligence modifiers provide more skill points.

-Special Abilities are what make PCs unique.  This is how I can make classless PCs interesting.  In fact, it allows me to use virtually any class ability, racial ability, or any other special characteristic from any edition or RPG.  I can even put this in players' hands - if they see a cool ability somewhere, they can propose it for their character and we can make it work.

Players have 2-3 special abilities at creation depending on: their title, a random ability associated with their headgear (my own silly thing), and something related to their character concept.  From then on they gain special abilities as they gain titles.


Back Page of Character Sheet:

Current XP
Next Level at

Default Alignment:
Luck Save:
Attack Bonus:
Parry AC:
Press Attack:
+1 AB / -4 AC
Defensive Attack:
-4 AB / +1 AC
Skill Points:
Minimum HP:
Base Movement:

Choose one at first level and when leveling up:
+1 Attack
+1 Luck Save
+2 Skill Points
1 Spell Point/Level
1 Spell Point/Level

2,000 XP is required to reach Level 2.  Each additional level is reached upon doubling the previously required amount of XP.  At each level, choose a new title.

The first chart indicates the basic stats for all beginning characters (taken from GDF#5).  The second chart includes the choices each player  makes when their character levels up.  The Focus dictates the allowed Title choices.

Titles are my way of providing a variety of character classes but not limiting player choice.  If someone wants to be a traditional cleric, there are a couple of title paths they could follow to accomplish this.  If they have their own ideas, they can choose titles that allow them to realize their vision (or create their own).

I feel like this is more realistic because in real life we have a variety of titles, but rarely do people consider themselves a single "class."  Think of all the titles that could describe you (or me), like: Teacher, Blogger, Gamer, Husband, Nerd, etc.  Each one has associated experiences, skills and knowledge.  (Also, note that absence of titles indicates a lack of skills/knowledge, I couldn't call myself: Mechanic, Chef, Sister or Jogger...)

Here's an example of the Titles available when someone takes a Faith Focus (W = wisdom modifier):

Choose a path:
You can cast the reverse(*) of cleric spells.
Replace W spells on each list with a M-U spell.
All cleric spells have a reverse, which you can cast.
You may cast the summon spell as a M-U W levels higher.
False Prophet
You must summon a monster with HD twice your level to gain this title.  This is your God.

Add W to healing rolls.
Subtract W from the number of hours needed to sleep and pray.
Store W cure light wound spells in your Holy Symbol.
W times per day, heal all non-chaotic beings within 10’ of you 1d6 hp.  Chaotic beings take 1d6 damage.
You gain Commune and must cast it daily.

Add W to your hit points at each level (including first).
+W Attack and Damage vs Chaotic beings.
Gain W Pilgrim followers.
Automatic Bless each morning upon self (1d6 + level allocated to future rolls).
Hand of God
Destroy Chaotic beings by spending 1HP per HD.  You can never gain these HP back.

Can cast Detect Evil W times per day.
Can automatically detect M-U within 60’ and determine relative power level.
Witch Hunter
Can cast Dispel Magic or Dispel Evil W times per day.
Can cast Exorcism or Protection from Evil W times per day.
Grand Inquisitor
Can cast Protection from Evil, 10’ radius or Tongues W times per day.  You are obligated to destroy all M-U and other Chaotic Beings.

+1 AC for each: empty backpack half, no pouches, no clothes, no armor.  Gain +W AC if you are empty-handed and are carrying/wearing nothing.
You may go W days without food or water.  +2 natural animal reaction.
Receive Dreams & Omens W times/day.
May cast a minor miracle W times/day.
Can Levitate W times per day.  You no longer gain XP for treasure or carousing.

The following chart is based on the alternative advancement system from GDF#5.  However, instead of this being the way characters advance, it's a way for them to gain bonuses when they experience in-game horribleness.  Players (not characters) gain Raggi points when one of their characters dies, when they trigger Adventure 10, or if I want to intrude with some real fuckery (like Numenera on crack).

Raggi Points
+d6 hit points
-character death
-Adventure 10
-Referee Fuckery

Spend 1:
-roll 1d10 on chart
-reroll any die
Spend 2:
-roll 1d12 on chart 
-choose a die result
Spend 3:
-choose bonus (1-10)
-prevent death
+1 attack bonus
+1 luck save
+2 situational luck save
+1 parry
+2 skill points
+1 Faith or Magic spell point
+1 press attack bonus
+1 defensive attack AC bonus
+1 random ability score
Choose 4 even numbers
Choose 4 odd numbers

(Note that when spending Raggi Points, it's either to get something from this chart, or to get a temporary in-game effect like re-rolling a fumble, choosing a die result before you roll it, or preventing death...)

Next, we have space for adding encumbering items (those that don't fit on the front page) and simplified rules for encumbrance.  I allow con mods to cancel the penalties from encumbrance.

The assumption is that most PCs will bit lightly encumbered and won't experience any penalties.  Those with high constitutions might choose to wear heavier armor.

Encumbering Items

No armor & full backpack; light armor & empty backpack; etc.
Movement: 40’
+5’ per Con. Mod.
Lightly Encumbered
Light armor, full pouches and backpacks, & standard weapons.
Movement: 30’
Heavily Encumbered
As above, except medium armor or carrying encumbering items.
Movement: 20’
-1 to Dex. Mod. & Skill Tests*
Severely Encumbered
As above, except heavy armor, or medium armor and carrying encumbering items.
Movement: 10’
-2 to Dex. Mod. & Skill Tests*
*Con. Mod. cancels the penalties to Dex. Mod. and mvt.

Players can track focus and titles at each level:





















  These spaces are for additional flavor and notes about the character.  This is the area that will be most subject to change as I continue to tinker.

Friends, Foes, Followers & Familiars

What is the character’s motivation?
(how you gain bonus XP)

What makes your character unique?

What is your dark secret?



Finally, there needs to be an insert if someone takes a Focus in Faith or Magic.

Alignment: Lawful
-If you have Magic spell points, you must relinquish them, or you remain Chaotic and it is assumed you are worshipping a dark god (what you will have to do to appease it will be more distasteful…)
-You may also try to haggle with the Referee for a different solution.

What is your Religion?
-The more foreign it is to the setting, the more prejudice you may experience, however, you may also have more exotic powers.
-Suggestions: Catholic, Anglican, Calvinist, Puritan; Jewish, Muslim; Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Pagan, Satanist, Folk Religion, etc.

What form is your Holy Symbol?
-Traditionally it is a cross or similar symbol worn around the neck that can be held while casting spells or performing miracles.
-You can create something that better represents your religion, such as a book, tattoo, brooch, hood, scepter, etc., but you must be able to use it when casting spells, performing miracles or conducting rituals.

What are your obligations?
-Traditionally, this means praying each morning (after a full night’s rest) for a number of hours equal to the highest level of spell you want to be able to cast that day.
-You can develop other methods that suit your religion and the manifestation of your spells.

You can cast spells from the Cleric Spell List below.  You must utilize your Holy Symbol as above, and have met the conditions to gain your power for the day.  Each spell costs Faith points equal to its level.  Spells that depend on level require additional Faith points equal to the level you want to cast them as.

You can also cast cleric spells using scrolls, write scrolls, create holy water, and research new spells.

Cure disease*
Cure serious wounds*
Anti-Magic Shell
Control Weather
Delay poison
Dispel magic
Detect lie
Cure critical wounds*
Find the Path*
Cure light wounds*
Magic vestment
Dispel evil
Holy Word*
Detect evil*
Heat metal
Remove curse*
Neutralize poison*
Insect plague
Part Water
Invisibility to undead*
Protection from evil 10’ radius*

Protection from evil*
Resist cold
Water walk
Spell immunity
True seeing*
Word of Recall

Purify food and drink*
Resist fire

Remove fear*
Silence 15’ radius


Turn undead

Faith Spell Points:

Using the above insert, the player creates their "cleric" from scratch.  Suggestions are there for the traditional cleric, but players are encouraged to come up with whatever they want.

Alignment: Chaotic
-If you have Faith spell points, you must relinquish them, or it is assumed you are worshipping a dark god (what you will have to do to appease it will be more distasteful…)
-You may also try to haggle with the Referee for a different solution.

What is the source of your Magic?
-Typically, spells result from knowing the correct words, manipulations and components.
-You can develop alternatives, like tapping into other dimensions, calling upon demons or spirits, or relying on science and parlor tricks.

What form is your Spellbook?
-Traditionally it is a book in which you scribe all of the spells that are available for you to cast.
-You can create something that better represents your source of power, such as tattoos, dark pacts, a familiar, potions, wands, etc., but you must have both hands free when casting spells.

What are your rituals?
-Traditionally, this means memorizing spells each morning (after a full night’s rest) for a number of hours equal to the highest level of spell you want to be able to cast that day.
-You can develop other methods tailored the form your magic takes and the manifestation of your spells.

Each time you gain Magic spell points, add a number of random M-U spells equal to your Int. mod. to your Spellbook.  (You choose the spell level list.)

You can cast spells from your Spellbook if you have performed the proper rituals for the day.  Each spell costs Magic points equal to its level.  Spells that depend on level require additional Magic points equal to the level you want to cast them as.

You can also cast M-U spells using scrolls, write scrolls, create holy water, and research new spells.

Read Magic
Read 1d4 magic texts.

Magic Spell Points:

Just like with the Faith insert, the above magic insert allows players to create any kind of magic-user they can imagine.  

Some important points here:

-I'm using the spell point theory suggested in GDF#4.  So if a PC becomes third level and takes their first focus in Magic, they gain 3 spell points.  If they have focused in Magic since first level, they will have 6 (1 + 2 + 3). 

-Magic trumps Faith as far as alignment is concerned, and generally a player can't have both Magic and Faith points.  That said, if a player is able to make a case (and take some penalties) it is possible to do both.


I'm always interested in hearing thoughts, suggestions, riffs, and other resources that have similar ideas/goals.  My next step is to fully develop my titles and to create a master list of unique abilities.