Monday, 21 January 2019

Café Princess (an OSR Class)

The Basics

Level/HD as Thief

You cannot use heavy weapons or wear heavy armour.

You can learn spells as Rituals only.

The Essentials

You run/rule/live in/work at/are a small café.

You can detect poison in food and drink by smell or taste. Creatures of wealth and/or taste regard you with general favour.


The cafe is stocked with: 20 china cups, 20 saucers, 20 teaspoons, 10 sugar bowls, 4 teapots and 2 kettles.

You may access these items at any time. If they are broken, sold or otherwise lost, mark them off like ammunition.

If you hold more than what you can easily carry by hand, you are Encumbered. The café accoutrements do not count to this total.

Upon levelling up in this class, you may restock your café, restoring 1dX of each item where X is the number you started with.

Using Your Accoutrements as Weapons

Using these items as weapons works, but breaks them immediately.
-cups/saucers deal 1d4 damage and have range as throwing stars, throw both as a set for 1 action and deal 2d4 damage
-spoons deal 1 damage or can gouge an incapacitated or unready foe
-sugar bowls are thrown, deal 1d8 and cast sugar in a 10ft radius, which has all the normal magical properties of ordinary sugar
-teapots pour scalding tea, enough for the party, which can be blessed if the Princess is devout
-kettles are 2d4 melee clubs and do not break but on a crit they are irrevocably dented

Tea Time

You may take 10 minutes to make and serve tea for your party. You and any others who take no further action during this time (other than for the purposes of healing) are cured of mental ailments or curses.

If it is raining outside, you are in a literal café, or it is currently the afternoon where you and your group are playing, all participants also heal 1d4 HP.

All participants not versed in etiquette must save vs clumsiness or break one of your teacups.

If you do not have enough of the relevant accoutrements you may not use this ability.


Each level you gain in this class, including taking this class at level 1, you learn how to make 1 new type of cake or dessert (roll for a new type, reroll types you already know).

You can make 1 cake a day for each level in this class. Each cake bestows an effect on anyone who consumes it entirely, and cakes last for 2 days before losing all potency. You may also create ordinary versions of each cake this way if you wish.

Each cake is a small, physical item, enough to serve 1 person, can be eaten in mere moments, and counts as a ration for elves or fairies.

Scone: Your words can be understood perfectly by any creature(s) you choose. This effect lasts until you have spoken 20 words total.
Eclair: You can foresee storms and run on water or similar surfaces for 1 hour. Éclairs last only 1 day.
Sponge: Royalty and nobility will believe you if you claim to be of their class. This effect lasts until the sun next sets or rises.
 Chocolate Cake: You are incapacitated as if in a drunken stupor for 10 minutes after eating.
Apple Pie: You can turn invisible when in shadow. This effect works once and lasts until you move elsewhere or the shadows disperse.
Rock Cake: Deals 1d4 damage when thrown, then breaks. Deals 2d4 if it was made more than a day ago.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

God's Head

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!
Hail th'incarnate deity!

God's Head is a small mountain village. The locals worship a God who watches over them - both figuratively and literally, as it sits cross-legged on the village border, roughly 100ft tall.

(Imagine the Angel of Death from Del Toro's Hellboy, pictured above, on the scale of a Japanese Daibutsu statue, such as the one in Ibaraki pictured below.)

The God:

- controls the weather and climate in the immediate area, and has no other apparent power
- is immortal and impervious to any damage less than God-Killing scale
- is an actual God, if that distinction matters in your setting
- sits and watches
- is silent

The God has Rules (some specifics you might find gameable are noted in parenthesis):
- do not murder (murder means killing other people who don't deserve it; define "people" and "deserve" harshly and with immense bigotry)
- do not steal or cheat (institutionalised economic imbalance such as charging extortionate rent does not count)
- do not have the wrong kind of sex (the "right" kind is for making babies and/or if you're married and the man wants it - marriage being between a Man and a Woman, of "The Gritty" variety)

If the God sees any of its Rules being broken, it will alert the Church authorities with a vision, or simply smite the offender with a lightning bolt if the instance of rulebreaking would cause large-scale unrest or dissent.

The God can see through all walls or structures, illusions or disguises, and in any type of light or darkness. It is always watching every part of the village that it can.

The God has Dominion over all it can see - the powers of other gods (actual gods only) will not work or will work much less effectively within this range.

The God cannot see anything underground or outside the village boundary.

The Church

The Church is the law in God's Head. All Church officials are men.

The Church have powers gifted to them by the God (in D&D terms, Cleric Spells and Abilities):
- they can use invisible force to hold, push and pull objects or creatures up to and including the approximate weight of a PC, one at a time, within around 15ft of them.
- they can predict the weather while the God is content
- they can receive visions from the God
- they can make small paper certificates called Pardons - when written and signed by a Church official, the Pardon excuses the holder from 1 instance of rulebreaking in the eyes of the God, at which point it burns away to nothing.

Pardons do not work if written for oneself, but Church officials can write them for each other, often doing so in order to excuse their sexual coercion of impressionable younger members.

There is one physical Church building in town, the Cathedral (technically this makes God's Head a city but I don't really care). Demons and undead cannot enter it.

The Church's powers do not work on virgins.

The Angels

Angels are beings made of light that look like androgynous humans with wings and far too many eyes. They regularly appear, patrol the winding streets of the village in a pattern that has no logic but seems somehow important, and then disappear.

They will only stop if something occurs nearby them that warrants the God's attention, for good or ill. They will watch until the occurrence ends, then depart.


Nobody in God's Head is an atheist - God is right there. However most simply live normal lives that happen to abide by the God's Rules, infrequently attending Church events but otherwise acting incongruously.

Zealots are different. They may live on the streets and dress in rags or nothing, so as to be in plain view of their deity. They may eat only manna, the flakes of dead skin that drift down from the God's body. More unnerving are those who simply smile and ask if you'd like a chat. They obey all the God's Rules and the Church's decrees to the letter, and brook no defiance of the same from their peers.

A local has a 1-in-6 chance of being a zealot - unless they are in a position of power in the Church, in which case it is unlikely that they care much about the God at all, though they may act as if they do in order to keep up appearances.


Pardons are the only way an individual may safely escape the God's judgement, but the Church makes them expensive and keeps them mainly to themselves.

Most defiance happens underground, out of the God's sight.

This unassuming house's basement contains:
1. A party. Revelry is not against God, but these people find it hard to relax under the Church's austere gaze. Plus this way if they meet someone they like they can fuck in the next room.
2. A gambling den. Friendly games, the stakes never particularly high. Just blowing off steam.
3. A meeting of a different religious group. Rituals (spells in D&D terms) are being carried out in secret - they can heal your wounded.
4. A sex dungeon.
5. A secret store of smuggled supplies. Stolen elsewhere, nobody wants to risk selling them above ground. Contraband, interesting items.
6. Church officials discussing shady dealings. They will offer to write Pardons in exchange for your cooperation.

Quest Hooks

1. Steal a holy relic from the Cathedral.
2. Help an underground cult to rebel.
3. Get a Pardon for a friend's specific indulgence.
4. You are all employees of a cool underground casino in town - do your jobs and protect the establishment.
5. Replace the head of the Church.
6. Assassinate the head of the Church.

Saturday, 5 January 2019


GRAVEROBBERS is a tabletop RPG I've been working on for, hm, a while now.

It's a stealth-based system rooted in OSR design principles. Players plan and enact heists and espionage missions in a GM-governed fictional world, achieving their goals while evading the ever-watchful Authority.

The full starter kit comes out later this year.

You can read the rulebook right now and start playing early, as well as give direct playtest feedback, by joining the Graverobber's Guild for just $1 USD a month. Ooh look, here's a link!

Also still to come from this blog in 2019...

- More OSR/DIY supplements! Like Bastard Magic, my favourite thing I made in 2018.
- More adventures for your games! I did all these ones last year.
- All kinds of other content and classes and places and things.
- Games! Not only Graverobbers, but a bunch of other weird stuff!
- Rambling nonsense about game design!
- A secret project I can't talk about yet!

Follow me on Twitter, or G+ while it lasts. Talk to me about games, or let me know if you want to work with me or hire me for things, I'm very nice.

Here's to 2019! Let's make good shit x

Friday, 14 December 2018

"It Came from the Blogosphere!" #1

(I'm still on holiday, I promise!)

I'm reading RPG blogs, as always. There's always good stuff on the blogs.

cowboy bebop at his computer
I think that, what with G+ going under, it's worthwhile sharing things I'm enjoying around like this, so I'm considering continuing to do so next year in monthly-or-thereabouts installments.

To that end...

Artpunk RPG juggernaut Patrick Stuart has his already-well-beyond-funded Kickstarter for Silent Titans running right now. Back it.

Meanwhile over on his blog, my heart has been captured by an adventure he's been writing in pieces this year called The Stolen Skin of Sun. It's a mystery of fairytale manners with Rossetti nods throughout, and I've been longing to run it since I first set eyes on it. Part one is here, it's tagged so you can peruse the rest and devour the whole thing like I did.

Everyone's raving about Mothership, and rightly so. I found Zedeck Siew's review/read-through particularly good, informative and as knowledgeable and insightful as one can expect the man to be. So check that out here. (Look at those layouts! Dang.)

Dan D continues his prolific output with some adaptations of SCP creatures, those weird short sci-fi creepypasta things, into monsters or items for Emmy Allen's Esoteric Enterprises. Something in there for everyone, whether you're doing fantasy or modern weirdness. The Interdimensional Vending Machine is so very much my thing that I feel, as the kids say, attacked.

Speaking of OSR luminary Emmy Allen (she's basically a figurehead for all this in my mind, at this point, her shit is Top Tier), her new game project is a pseudoscience secret-agent OSR thing with a whole system based on your heart rate and I love it. Check out the player-facing information here and tell me you don't want to play right now. This is the Hot New Game for me, 100%, I'll be following it all with eager anticipation.

I was unaware of this blog before now, but gosh darn if I don't love me some food. Here's Dunkey Halton's Brigade de Cuisine, like a mountain-sized food court directed by Miyazaki or Watanabe or both somehow. The chef in me appreciates the restaranteur detail and the whole thing has a very effective sense of atmosphere, plus my favourite kind of adventuring - exploring nice, weird places and interacting with nice, weird people. There's a link in there to a food generator too for some D&D menu items.

Ben Milton and Brendan S's OSR survey got a pretty decent level of response, and Brendan continues to analyse the findings in a hugely professional manner on his blog. Useful insights, suspicions confirmed, all that.


That's that then. I'll be back after the season's festivities with... geez, a whole bunch of stuff(?!?!).

Here's to next year.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Adventure Collection 2018

The first year of this blog is coming to a close. Here's every adventure I wrote and put up here for free during 2018.

A Road On a Hill; A Forest in a Valley


Something may go amiss in a sacred forest as the players pass by.

Style: A side quest. Exploration and investigation.
How To Use It: Make the road one the players go back and forth on a lot, let them see things changing. The actual inciting incident is up to you. They'll probe further if they want to.

The Wyrmling Hive


Dragons are bees, gold is pollen. Kobolds stole the town's treasure to feed their queen.

Style: Dungeon, investigation.
How To Use It: Makes for a good one shot. Map the caves on hex paper if you're desperate for maps. (Btw this is still the most popular post of all time on this blog? People like the bees.)

Hell On the Moon

Link to Part One.
Link to Part Two.

A fly-thru diner sits on a lonely moon; nearby, a crashed spaceship is infested with bugs, aliens, untended house plants and a bunch of very odd demons.

Style: Dungeon delving for treasure and exploration, overwhelming odds.
How To Use It: Serves as a great bridge into space fantasy. Best over multiple sessions, making several trips into the dungeon. Play up the NPCs: especially Gramps, Nadia and the archdemons, but also the visitors and astral anomalies.

The Postbox in the Woods


Monkeys, forest spirits and wooden priests watch a folk hero while he sleeps, tired of magnanimity.

Style: Maze-ish dungeon, focus on non-violence.
How to Use It: Works as a one-shot or the start of a campaign. Encourage creative thinking - don't send 'em in guns blazing. The crossword thing means the prep is done for you.

d6 by 6d6


A coastal region. Colonial rule with murmurings of criminal insurgency. Wave giants, pterodactyls, salt skaters, lion people, antlion people, pirates, the boogeyman, ancient ruins, a massive staircase, the fabled Crab King, ghosts, goats and two types of mermaid.

Style: Hexmap. Bare bones.
How to Use It: I ran it as-is, Graverobbers works well but it can go high fantasy too. There's sea, mountains, grassland and multiple desert types so most dungeons you might want to add will fit.

The Mysterious Village of the Fishfolk


A secluded town of mutants hide their shame.

Style: Investigation and interaction.
How to Use It: Written for Journeylands but would fit anywhere weird enough. Not much to it - the town is a secret to uncover, with the reward for uncovering it being knowledge and fictional positioning, so it only really works in the context of a larger world.

The Kingpin's Getaway


The ruined jungle hideout of a drug lord. Snot sloths, skeleton staff and a race for glory.

Style: Short dungeon crawl.
How to Use It: Rewrite the ending if you're not using Journeylands, the rest is pretty self-explanatory.

Dead Gods Make Little Deserts


A god crashed into the ground. Now his guts are a desert, home to a city of fabric and nomadic earwig riders. Find his head, mine his brains and plant his teeth to grow magic castles.

Style: Small area, exploration.
How to Use It: Pop it on a map somewhere. Another weird place for your players to go and check out if they're interested.

The Witch's List


A cosy autumnal village misses their witch. Do her chores while she's away.

Style: Small-scale exploration and problem solving.
How to Use It: One shot, or a good low-stakes quest. Good if you want to reward players who think creatively and like investigating.


Here's to next year x

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Marrying Off Your Player Characters for Fun and Profit

Marriage doesn't really come up in "standard" D&D, outside of occasional, memorable stories of old games in which characters developed and naturally grew closer over time. Or maybe when you think of the kind of D&D game that might involve a wedding, you think of the visual-novel-esque, tiefling-heavy 5e games that people play on Twitch, and all the fanart that comes with them.

Here's a quest hook for you though, no matter what kind of game you run: an NPC proposes to one of your player characters.

...who, me?
A marriage proposal is pretty much the ideal D&D encounter - it forces player characters to interact and engage with the world, it's immediately understandable and the stakes are clear, and all outcomes are player-driven, with basically any choice they might make opening up new complications and situations.

There are several ways to go about this, I've gone over some below. In all cases, make sure the person proposing is an interesting character with ties to your world - this raises the stakes no matter the outcome. Use your favourite NPC.

"The Gritty": Marriage is a patriarchal institution by which men can trade in their daughters for gold, land and oxen.

Adventurers, assuming they survive at least a session, have more gold and treasure than they know what to do with. As your PCs gain in wealth, they will garner interest as potential suitors. What enterprising fellow wouldn't want to marry his family into that? And if they die on their next excursion, his daughter will be a wealthy widow.

Of course, if the player doesn't die immediately after the reception (or during, go full Game of Thrones), they'll have gained access and influence in one of your world's factions, however minor, with ties to NPCs and some small slice of your world.

Or, with marriage as more of a commodity, maybe treat it as a prize, the "treasure" at the end of a quest: with the dragon slain, the barbarian king acknowledges your strength, and gives you his heart and the service of he and his warband - as is tradition.

Do bear in mind, those of you who love your "gritty, realistic" worlds, that there are a lot of popular myths about medieval marriage. F'rinstance, women marrying young was not a thing in medieval Europe outside of royalty - who, let's face it, were just generally pretty messed up anyway.

(A wife was for housework and childbearing, and she couldn't do either effectively - especially not the latter, which risked the life of both mother and child - until she was at least twenty-one or so. So things were still shitty for women, just not quite child bride levels of shitty.)

I think I actually watched this movie
"The Romantic": Marriage is a public declaration of love.

Check your players' CHA scores. Chances are they are, by and large, more attractive than the average person. OK, CHA doesn't mean hotness, but they're certainly more interesting than most. Why wouldn't someone equally interesting, or perhaps even more so, be intrigued? The court wizard, perhaps, or a faerie prince.

Make the proposal come from someone powerful so that both rejection and acceptance will carry with them a cost and a benefit - the gaining of both new influence and allies but also responsibilities, or keeping one's freedom at the cost of incurring wrath. Rejecting a demon queen is campaign-changing stuff; nobody will remember the time your fighter turned down a starry-eyed milkmaid.

(Unless, of course, a djinn or demon hears the milkmaid's lonely sobs, and offers comfort, or even revenge... Kind of a dick GM move imo but sure, fuck their shit up.)

"The Politician": Marriage is a means of social positioning.

This is for those Masked Ball kinds of games. Maybe someone has something your player wants, and they'll happily give it up in exchange for their hand. Maybe your PCs already have some influence, or gain some through questing, and that makes them desirable.

You'll need a succinct but tangled web of NPC motivations, and players willing to investigate and learn. Whose family wants what, and who in that family wants something different? Brush up on your Shakespeare, and mire the whole thing in ulterior motives.

"A Rose by Any Other Name": Not marriage at all, but the same idea.

Of course, nobody necessarily needs to propose, it's just a clear, immediate and dramatic version of the real plot hook at work here - an NPC puts themselves on the line and offers to start a relationship with a PC.

Take that however you choose. A flirtation leading to a possible one night stand, even a business proposition - anything that will make the player's situation more complicated than it was before, no matter how they react.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

The True Elemental Planes

Mike Schley's map of the Elemental Planes for 5th Edition. Very pretty - ALL LIES
There has been much chatter and debate on the nature of the planes of existence over the centuries. Now that we can send helldozers and golden barges across the cosmos, and the brave and/or foolhardy souls who pilot them can, on occasion, safely return, we know the TRUTH.

The (Prime) Material Plane

A convergence of all four elements, with People as the ultimate expression of their confluence. Not a place of harmony, but one of such perpetual roiling imbalance as to create a perfect storm. The spearhead of reality, its potential draws the attention of the gods and its life is the purest expression of such that we can conceive (Editor's Note: grossly short-sighted but ok, sure).

Planets suspended in phlogiston, orbiting stars that extend for light-millenia in all directions. A Universe.

(not mentioned here are other dimensions, such as the plane of Faerie and several of the Hells - these exist on something of a metaphysical Z-axis, while we concern ourselves here chiefly with the X and Y of it all)
The Elemental "Planes"

Fire, air, earth, water. Not planes at all, but concepts - pure expressions of the four base realities that form the Material.

These are, contrary to the old wisdom, not Places one can Go. They are mathematical and alchemical constants, a sphere of pure existence that binds our universe.

The "Elemental" Planes

If the Material is where all four elements collide, then these are the other places within the Inner Planes in which they make contact. Pairs of concepts butting up against one another to form realities. They are remarkably similar to the Material, even if they lack all the base components.

Within each there exist areas where matter, time and space flow in such a manner to make them habitable to life as we understand it, almost like the planets of the Material realm. When we discuss the Planes, we speak of these areas specifically.

The Plane of Ash (Fire & Air)

A place of wild passion, the heat and smoke making the air unbreathable. Perhaps the least habitable of the planes - although helldozers, by complete happenstance, are ideal for traversing it.

Colour Palette: Pitch black, hellish red, vibrant orange, smoky grey.
The Wildlife: Sky-things, like fish and dragonflies. Beautiful and in a constant dance.
The Locals: Ethereal wisp-people of wild, joyful energy. Try to resist their calls to come outside.
Why Are There No Maps: Pure whim and passion without the stabilising natures of water and earth make for a directionless mess. There is no up or down here, only a whirling storm.
What Might Bring You Here: It's been suggested as less gruesome route for hellholes. Some wizards are showing up to places covered in ash rather than blood now - very hip.

The Plane of Ice (Air & Water)

A vast cold sea, almost entirely frozen. Nearly unerringly calm, its nights and days are each ages long.

Colour Palette: Blank white, cloud grey, pale blue.
The Wildlife: Transparent fish, blubbery mammals. A few slow leviathans, some city-like in scope.
The Locals: Of the blubbery, mammalian variety. Diminutive, stoic but welcoming and wistful, changing with their world while holding true to their values of community and peace. They have an almost spiritual bent, despite the lack of gods tending to their realm.
Why Are There No Maps: Floes drift, icebergs crash and change. What was considered a continent sunders overnight with a cracking sound that shakes the sky and leaves a new crevasse.
What Might Bring You Here: The Great Hunt for a legendary and gigantic beast by day, or supposed visions of cosmological truth in the lights that pass over the night sky.

The Plane of Ooze (Water & Earth)

A wet marsh of life-stuff. Organs and membranes and plant matter without drive or purpose, stagnant and resolved to do little but grow slowly and die.

Colour Palette: Jungle green, bile yellow, mud brown, gore red.
The Wildlife: Resembling that of the Material realm, but in fits and starts. Like errors of creation, stupid and pointless. So many plants, bugs, things like bacteria.
The Locals: Varied tribes of meat-plant-folk, each adapted by the cosmic joke equivalent of evolutionary luck to be driven to one thing: eat, kill, fuck, build, destroy, etc. The most agreeable are the placid majority who simply exist to exist.
Why Are There No Maps: Too complex. One would need to produce anatomical diagrams-within-diagrams in place of maps or charts on a 1:1 scale to be comprehensive enough to prove useful.
What Might Bring You Here: If a particular part of a plant or animal is needed for some reason, chances are the equivalent has been spawned by sheer randomness within this primordial soup. The locals understand living matter at its basest level and can guide you.

The Plane of Magma (Earth & Fire)

Rock and molten rock. Terrible, unbearable heat. Spires, cliffs, valleys, the only light from below.

Colour Palette: Soot black and stone brown, sun yellow and shining blood red.
The Wildlife: Of stone. Biology like engines or clockwork. Violent, hardy, quick: pick two.
The Locals: It would be a mistake to call them golems, for they are self-driven. Large, loud, passionate but unchanging. Tribal tradition, feats of bravery and strength are honoured.
Why Are There No Maps: That's just not how things are done. The only thing you need consult for direction is your own heart and the will of the elders, brother!
What Might Bring You Here: These are staunch and fierce allies to have, if allies you can make of them. Plus, enormous crystals like nowhere else are buried deep in the rare colder caves, a source of energy as yet unharnessed.

The Plane of Steam (Fire & Water)

Humid. The air endlessly thick with vapour to the point of opacity in places. Dim orange light from a hypothetical sun-like source. Evaporating pools and geysers.

Colour Palette: Coral and dull orange, mist grey, stagnant green-blue, more mist grey.
The Wildlife: Salamanders. Olms, wetfish with vestigial limbs. Macaques and balloon-beasts. Lichens and algae.
The Locals: Attractive, with an affinity for gadgets and tools - technology here is made of stone and crystal and light, rubbery worksuits made of lichen fibres. Wanderlust is common, and all are nomads or explorers.
Why Are There No Maps: They're working on it! Load a geode disc into a projector and take a look at what this explorer's got so far - a half-done map drawn in light, beamed onto the vapour in the air.
What Might Bring You Here: These are an adventuring sort - planestrotters would be in good company. Join them on an excursion, and who knows what loot may be found?

The Plane of Lightning (Earth & Air)

Like an asteroid belt in a storm cloud. Always in flux. These elements cannot find balance - welcome to the crossfire.

Colour Palette: Storm black, lightning white.
The Wildlife: Small and wary, or hardy beasts of burden. Not much of a food chain.
The Locals: Deeply mysterious. They ride the storm.
Why Are There No Maps: Yeah, good luck with that.
What Might Bring You Here: There is a strange beauty to the ensuing battle. The locals have much to teach, if you have the time and skill to learn, and the wit and luck to survive.

The Outer Planes

Beyond the inner, the Elements do not govern existence. Here dwell unknowable things: aberrations, old ones, gods.

All existence is bound in the Astral Sea, but this far out that is all that remains. This is not something a mortal mind can fully grasp. It is the stuff we dream in, the plane of the soul. A phlogiston of the ethereal, a crossing-place, a dark matter. Some call it the fifth element, quintessence, and claim it to be the birthplace of magic itself.

Better to focus on that which we can reach, for now.