Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Cellars, Crypts & Catacombs


A new pamphlet for GRAVEROBBERS, my rpg system of stealth and sedition. Containing therein, amongst other things: a miniature sandbox of sidequests, a haunted graveyard, a secret laboratory, carousing rules, a playable in-world parlour game, cockney innuendo, and A Bear.

Available for download here.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Friday, 8 July 2022

electric palace bloodbath

On Monday I made a Mothership zine from scratch in 24 hours. Mainly as a challenge to myself to see if I could do it!

I’ll likely do a postmortem on here about how I feel it went etc, but for now you can download it for free on my online shop.

Happy gaming! x

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Extradimensional Research Facility Theta

 ERFϴ is a private building on the Meridian city satellite. According to the satellite’s owners QGC, the facility researches the gate anomaly with the aim of improving their service.

This is where the mysterious persons in black aboard Meridian work. Investigating or tailing these individuals will lead the players here.

Anything locked can be opened only with a keycard.

1. Lobby. The only entrance. White tile, marble counters, healthy potted plants. Stylishly curved sofas that look as though they have never been sat on. There are security cameras in the upper corners. As with the rest of the building, there are no windows.

The unmanned reception has a computer, not connected to any network or containing any data. Files and folders behind the desk contain hundreds of blank pages. To either side are doors marked Research and Administration.

2. Research. A sterile, stock-photo laboratory. Brand new microscopes, empty flasks, Bunsen burners with no gas. Otherwise empty.

In the far wall is a large mirror, reflecting the lab. On the other side of the glass is Observation.

3. Administration. Spotless cubicles, each with a QGC branded mug and the same framed family portrait. Cabinets of blank files, unopened packets of stationary. Nobody here.

Anyone inspecting the cabinets notices a slight draft from behind the rightmost. Moving it aside reveals a door marked Observation.

4. Observation. Grey tile, floor to ceiling, and a single bare bulb. In the wall is a large window, the other side of the two-way mirror in Research. There is also a small door to Administration with a filing cabinet on the other side.

In the centre of the room is an adult female goat. White pads arranged about its head attach with twisting copper wire to a little machine, the size of a VHS player, sitting on a metal folding chair. The machine is on, lights flashing, but does not appear to actually do anything.

The goat is docile and unperturbed by visitors. Doors on the opposite side of the room are labelled Containment and Intelligence. The latter is locked.

5. Containment. A spacious corridor, bright white lights, spotless. At either side, glass specimen tanks are set into the walls, lit in ultraviolet. Several contain biohazards, one contains a crop of glowing mushrooms. Some are empty. All are locked.

A chute, torso-width, leads down into The Pit. It is unmarked except for various esoteric hazard signs. Next to it are black sacks, each containing an unconscious person in a smart black suit, drugged, bound and gagged.

At each end of the corridor is a door, marked Development and Observation respectively.

6. Development. A large cuboid room, neutral earth tones, soft lighting. The floor is slightly springy, faux tatami. The sound of gently trickling water plays from speakers in the upper corners, a repeating clip only a few seconds long. Beside the speakers are cameras, watching and feeding back to Intelligence.

In the centre of the room is a giant ivory chess piece, like a knight but with a ram’s head, over 10 feet tall. It is made of solid stone, or something equally heavy. Two persons in black stand either side of it, appearing to be in deep thought.

If anything distracts them from their training, they attack. [C:55 Subdue 1d10; I:55; W2(11), holding only a chess piece with a ram’s head containing a listening device]. One is holding a keycard.

The door to the right reads Containment. A door to the left reads Accommodation.

7. Accommodation. Dull cream walls, mottled green-brown carpet. Bunk beds, khaki hammocks taut on scaffold frames, enough for twenty or so. Each bed has a small, dense pillow containing a listening device which feeds back to Intelligence. 1d5 persons in black are asleep here, still in their suits and dark glasses. If one wakes, they all do.

The doors here are marked Development and Extraction.

8. Extraction. A long, wide hall. Occasional large, grey smudges on the otherwise pristine tile. The centre of the floor is a large grate with a hatch, locked from this side. Below is The Pit, a trench full of some slowly writhing gelatinous mass.

There is equipment here set up to extract elixir from the slugs below. This substance can be injected into the bloodstream to induce psychic awakening, though the results are unreliable.

Either side of the hall are exits to Accommodation and Intelligence. The latter is locked.

9. Intelligence. Cramped, musty, unlit except for banks of monitors and bleeping machine lights. Monitors show feeds from any security cameras in the facility. Banks of headphones, like a phone operator’s desk, monitor audio from any listening devices here or elsewhere on Meridian.

3 persons in black sit at the monitors here, wearing crisp white lab coats over their suits. They all have the PSI 1 skill and will use it in self defence, though they are largely unaware of its limits and may overextend themselves. Each has a syringe with a single dose of fast-acting knockout serum and a keycard. They may exit Intelligence to investigate if they notice more than one unusual occurrence.

The computers here contain files detailing the facility’s operations, scientific research mixed in with pseudoscience and veiled references. Agents are trained and tested here for psychic abilities. Candidates who react poorly to the tests are disposed of as food for the grey slugs, as are any interlopers.

The slugs are extradimensional aliens found through gate travel, as are the other life forms here. The ultimate aim of training these psychic operatives is unclear, but QGC’s research into extradimensional travel seems to be entirely predicated on mastering and understanding these abilities.

10. The Pit. Dank, dark, completely filled with forearm-sized grey slugs. Dim light from an overhead grate in the floor of Extraction, as well as a chute from Containment.

The slugs attach to the temples and consume brainwaves. Anyone not in an airtight suit must make a Body save in their presence or take 1 Stress per round as the slugs feed. A failed Panic check during feeding always results in a loss of 1d10[+] Sanity. Reducing Sanity to 0 this way results in brain death.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Mothership character names

 This sneak peek at a bit of Another Bug Hunt (the starter module that will come in the Mothership 1e box set and the reason I haven’t been posting here much lately) got me thinking about character names.

I think naming things in general is something I’m good at, and I know it’s something other people struggle with sometimes. And it comes up quite often in this hobby as a thing that needs to get done.

But unfortunately like most times when people are just kind of good at a thing I don’t think I can really explain how or why I can do it. I just find it easy. (That’s what “style” is by the way, in creative work, leaning into the things that come naturally. If you don’t think you have a style, get lazier.)

I thought maybe if I wrote a bit about my thoughts, those ramblings might be useful to someone? I don’t have a process but if you see something you want to take here, take it. It’s what a lot of this blog ends up being, haha.

And since we’re talking about Mothership characters, here are some I’ve named. Minor spoilers, maybe.

The Haunting of Ypsilon 14

has maybe too many characters, but you know I had to fill out that sweet d10 table. Plus they don’t really serve “character” functions so much as being like… hit points.

I tried to include names from different parts of the world. Since there wasn’t enough space or any real need to detail character appearances, this would suggest that these people each looked a bit different from each other. But again, part of a new whole. Ypsilon was intended as an “introductory” module (to players, if not necessarily to Wardens), and that bit of cultural mish-mash is a good setting shorthand.

Thinking of cohorts of colleagues I’ve worked shitty jobs with myself, and with an image in my head similar to the crew of the Nostromo all sitting round and eating in that early scene, I tried to suggest what Mothership’s future looks like. Basically, a lot like now.

I also made sure to get differently gendered names in there, as well as at least one that could be read as either masculine or feminine. Like how the Alien script was supposedly written gender-neutral, because these things both matter and don’t.

Other than that I didn’t put a lot of thought into each specific name. They’re not references to characters or anyone I know. If I’d had more time maybe I would’ve done that, but I don’t know that it would’ve added anything. If the meme had been meme’d already I would’ve called Mike Dave.

Dr Ethan Giovanni is the only character with a first and last name given. This and the title makes him seem more important, so hopefully the next question, even if it’s subconscious, is “important to who”. Why is this guy written with a family name, a lineage, and the others aren’t? Spoilers: it’s classism.

Speaking of the good doctor and names, on his personal cassette he refers to someone, probably Mike, by a number rather than a name. Worker number something-or-other. Again, the question of who “gets” a name, an identity, and how much, and in whose eyes. In the corporation’s eyes, Mike is a blip on a spreadsheet.

Oh, and Prince. I think that was probably a reference to, y’know, Prince, but also I was likely thinking of that bit in The Simpsons when Santa’s Little Helper has puppies and one is “the puppy formerly known as Prince”. Prince is just a good solid pet name. (My rule for dog names specifically is that it must sound good when shouted across a park.)

One last thing - Kantaro, one of the workers. That’s a surname, not a first name. I think maybe in the back of my mind I thought “oh yeah, at this workplace, there’s probably that one guy everyone refers to by their surname”. American Office vibes, i don’t think there was a character like that in the show but that’s a thing people like that would do. “Hey it’s Johnson, hey Johnson”.

But now I think maybe that’s not something i should’ve expected the average reader (I assume, perhaps uncharitably, white and North American) to pick up on? So maybe it just confuses things. Then again, on those cool fan computer things I’ve seen people do, they list it as his last name. People get it. I’m probably just overthinking.

So next up was

Hideo’s World

Which, as a module itself, was named by Sean. Because as I recall I think I literally just forgot to name it. So maybe I’m not so good at this after all!

There’s only one character with a person name and that’s Hideo, and I didn’t name him - he’s an NPC from A Pound Of Flesh. So go bother someone else about that. I’m guessing he’s a reference to that one guy.

Mr Goodnight is the only other named character I believe. I’m pretty happy with that name. It sounds ominous enough while also sounding like a thing you’d actually call a mascot character, friendly and silly. For a pepsi that makes you sleepy lol. Yeah Hideo’s World is a bit chaotic overall but I’m very happy with the way it does setting.

And, to me at least, there’s something very unsettling about how his name is trademarked in the text itself! I don’t think anyone but me thinks of that as “horror”, but personally that’s one of the most weird and existential things I’ve come up with for MoSh, at least it effects me that way! I think he’s a very good baddie

Piece by Piece

Contrasting Ypsilon, everyone* in Piece by Piece has a first and last name. That’s because this is a murder mystery style adventure, like an episode of the X Files. And the police going over the case in that kind of film or show will always call people Firstname Lastname. Nobody stands over an establishing shot of a crime scene and says “yeah this is the victim, Brian”.

*except Curtis. This isn’t a tie-in to Gradient Descent but it came out around the same time-ish as i recall, and I was thinking about those themes, and the role of the android in MoSh. I like to play with the baked-in setting elements when I can, because it’s cheap, good grist, and Mothership has Androids. An android character playing through this adventure is going to have a very separate experience, I think. I wanted to emphasise that separation.

And “Curtis” specifically because in the Alien movies the androids are named alphabetically, and this was my third pamphlet.

As for the human names, I had a similar tack from Ypsilon. A bit of cultural variety makes it feel more specific and real, and at this point more Mothership. But still just normal people names from real life.

I think I tried to go in on the metaphor layer a bit more this time, not aiming for a “hidden meaning” just adding to a vibe. There are the surnames Nishida, Flores, Fuentes, Dragavei, all plants or Spring- or plant-related words. Growth, life. Human lives being the only(?) living, sentient things in this cold, sterile lab, the contrast between the organic living world and the not. And then we can blur those lines.

Dr Ojo was a more specific choice, she has a Yoruba name. Where I’m from there’s a huge West African population and in Yoruba culture you typically name a child based on the circumstances of their birth.

Anyway, Abidemi means “born without the father”, which ties into themes of parenthood, fathers failing their children and cycles of trauma in the adventure. As does Daedalus labs. (Also the map is a circle, did u notice. Also there’s a bit of a circle/eye/camera thing going on oh ok you’ve stopped reading, that’s fair)

The only other character is ABI i guess. Which is a robot-y name, and also a short form of Dr Ojo’s name. So it implies maybe she made her. Themes innit.

The only other one out right now is 

The Horror on Tau Sigma 7 

which I wrote for Magnum Galaxy games. Another one I didn’t name, because they already had a name for it. It sounds like The Haunting of Ypsilon 14, which btw I named that because it seemed like a good mix of pulp horror and pulpy sci fi. I think every game needs adventures with names Like That. The Thing of the PLACE.

Anyway, Tau Sigma 7.

… oh there’s no named NPCs in this one! :D

I specifically chose to not use any, because I thought that would serve it well as an introductory thing. One less thing to worry about whether running or playing.

And so we’re done.

Again, don’t really know what anyone is supposed to learn from this, but hopefully you got something from it. There will be more adventures with more names to come!

Btw, normally when I’m coming up with names for sci fi characters they’re absolutely terrible. Everyone sounds like the worst cyberpunk bounty hunters you’ve ever heard of. Things like Jimmy Lobster and Dusty Marie. I literally just made those up while writing that sentence. I’m doing a stream of consciousness thing. Here’s another one, wonder what it’s going to be, Ronaldo Ballsack.

So if anyone ever wants names like that, hit me up. I bet I could do d100 of em. Wenceslas the Viper. Artificial Ron. Marjorie “Good Grief” Golightly. I’m going to stop now.

(There’s one character with a silly cyberpunk-y name in an upcoming module, actually. He’s an asshole.)

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

The Gutter

 The high street that runs the length of the residential quarter on the Meridian city satellite. Only the locals get to call it that.

Priced out of prefab QGC condos, the majority of the population live in a sprawl of shacks and shipping containers that grow up the slopes of the station’s artificial valley. Deep in their shadow, the city’s heart still beats.

What’s That Sound?

1. Sports fans gathered round a radio. You get all kinds of signals through the gate, if you have a machine that can handle them. Tune in from the other end of the galaxy.

2. Cassettes are a way of life for teenagers here. Expect to hear the same song copied and played until the tapes wear out, unless a spacer stops by with the next big hit.

3. The main way in which the Gutter’s myriad stall owners and street vendors compete is by being louder than the next person. Booming cries, tinny jingles, sizzling pans.

4. Excuse me, have you heard the good news? Pamphlets promise peace and prosperity. Flavour of the month is Godman Richard, a local healer nobody’s actually seen in years.

5. Screams from a back alley. Petty thugs, teen pranksters, community doctors, unlicensed casinos and sex workers all have their own ways of getting those noises out of a person.

Make Way!

1. The old street sweeper bot. Its AI is off, so it has no set schedule and doesn’t quite register people as obstacles. Can’t detect graffiti, either, but still does an ok job overall.

2. A bunch of kids playing a game. The one at the front has a big stick. Parents call them in from windows up above, past the laundry lines and lanterns.

3. Someone got a bike from Miracle Cycle and hasn’t figured out the brakes yet. Bicycles make a lot of sense on a station that’s one big circle. 100cr new, or plenty old and going spare.

4. Street performers. Nobody wants them, but nobody wants a Gutter without them. Lion dancers, musician troupes, folding tables for card tricks or the occasional honest game.

5. Some folk just aren’t used to the crowds. Spacers, stall owners, stray dogs, the high street’s always moving. Got to learn the flow or you’ll tread on someone’s toes.

Food and Drink

1. The Bent Spoon does the best bad coffee in town for 1cr a cup. Their herbal teas cost up to 5cr, but some are said to have medicinal properties.

2. Ragpickers flog whatever truckers bring through the gate. Even basics are expensive when imported, so get ready to haggle or you’ll be spending 10cr on a Goo-Chew bar.

3. Of all the busiest food stands, most agree that Mr Son’s Meat-Filled Buns are worth the queue. 2cr for a big mutton buuza. Mr Son’s smile, however, is priceless.

4. The food at The Golden Ass is surprisingly good for a strip club. Get a pitta platter, 10cr. TGA also donates old clothes, which explains some Gutter fashion idiosyncrasies.

5. Don’t get caught up in an argument over which unnamed kebab stall is the original. A lamb kofta box meal costs 4cr at either. They taste identical, but keep that to yourself.

Local Businesses

1. Giga Potato have all kinds of second-hand tech. The other stores get their neon signs and radios here. The owner Ellie also does tattoos and android repairs on the side.

2. Everyone knows that “Little” Jimmy Kozlov sells knock off weapons. Nobody says it to his face. 75% market price, break apart on a critical failure.

3. The fortune teller Madam Galkin is a charlatan, but her customers either don’t know or don’t seem to mind. 10cr for a reading and a weak cup of tea.

4. The Black Dog just opened and is already attracting unsavoury types. Just about the only place to get a drink around here, though.

5. Ratcatcher Keith retired when his dog Percy died. People say the old mutt must have trained the local strays to follow in his pawprints, though, because you rarely see a rat around.

Rumours and Gossip

1. That new pub, The Black Dog, used to be a club. It just suddenly closed down. The new dancer at the Golden Ass used to work there, I think.

2. Someone saw the men in black around that club that closed down. The Rabbit Hole, I think it was called. Anyway, the basement is all sealed off now for whatever reason.

3. You’ve seen them, right? The men in black. Always carrying those briefcases, but you never see them open. I bet they work for QGC. Some secret division. Keeping an eye on us.

4. How do QGC even know the gate is safe? I mean, think about it. Who really knows what that thing is? We could all be getting blasted with radiation, like, right now.

5. Aliens! It’s all aliens. They run the gate, they run QGC. Open your eyes, people!

Thursday, 7 April 2022

the graverobber’s guidelines

Excerpts from a (hypothetical (probably never(can’t be arsed))) GM’s guide for GRAVEROBBERS


If players are ever stumped on how to overcome a challenge, remind them of the COIN in their pocket - their Crime, Odds, Inventory and Notes. Something written on their criminal record may give them an answer, or the beginnings of one. (This means good note-taking may be necessary!)

If more than one of these four facets of a character lean towards their succeeding, rule in their favour. For instance, a convicted Burglar with rope and a grappling hook in their inventory most likely has enough skill and the necessary tools to scale a wall without rolling the bones.

The Hangman’s Rule

Your role as Dealer is a lot like the popular game of Hangman, in which one player chooses a word which the others must guess letter by letter. Choosing an easy word provides no challenge or fun, while too obscure a word makes the game unfair.

When setting challenges for your fellow players, aim for somewhere in the middle, and remember that while the fun of the game is in them figuring out the answer on their own, you are the only one in the know. Guidance or corrections will be required when you misjudge a challenge.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Can I retroclone a game that isn’t real and also makes no sense help

 So you may or may not have heard of Yu-Gi-Oh, as one of the Big Three trading card games along with Magic the Gathering and Pokémon (I think they’re still the big ones?), and/or as a cartoon from the early 00s about teenagers playing said game for Stakes.

(Also while we’re on the topic i vaguely remember someone, I think it was Scrap Princess, doing a post about yugioh monsters a while ago? Like statting them for B/X or maybe even just talking about them based on the art. Anyone got a link?)

We’ve been rewatching the anime Chez Graverobber and having a great time. I decided to try the manga as I know it’s meant to be “”different”” and being a Shonen Jump title it’s included on their app.

(the Shonen Jump app releases all its comics, professionally translated, simultaneously with Japan, for free?? And anything older than the past 3 issues is archived and available for $2 USD a month?? It’s a ridiculously good deal, even if you’re just there to read One Piece. Anyway.)

The manga is indeed, uh, different. The cartoon many folks my age grew up watching is based on the second “season” of the manga and beyond, albeit restitched and sanitised for a Saturday Morning audience. Before that point the manga wasn’t about the card game much at all, but gaming in general - each chapter pretty much had a new game, Duel Monsters was just their MtG analogue that appeared once or twice.

Then it took off, they made the game a real thing kids could buy, it made money and became the focus. But yeah, for the first 60 chapters they play all sorts. Dice games, card games, yo-yos, an escape room, one where they’re manacled to a serial killer… the tone varies.

(Are either the manga or anime worth it? For camp value and nostalgia yes. If you’re not in it for those then probably not. Tone is all over the place - which I found charming. And the manga is interspersed with little games for the reader, like mazes or spot-the-difference all the way up to whole solo or 2P board games. Which aren’t great but - fun!)

We all caught up? Ok.

For the last 10 chapters of the manga’s first run, we’re introduced to a new character, Ryo Bakura, who brings with him plot development and homoeroticism and a new type of game.

The kids play a ttrpg! It’s called Monster World.

So I’m going to see if I can retroclone this fake game because of course I am.

To be clear - this is not an actual game. While Duel Monsters eventually got turned into actual cards with actual rules, Monster World never did. And the author, Kazuki Takahashi, is uh… notorious for not really following any kind of design logic in his in-world games’ rules.

(In an episode of the cartoon, a player declares their aquatic monster cards are invincible because they’re playing the game on a beach, only for the protagonist to play a card that’s just The Moon, draw the tide in and… yeah.)

So my task, which I have apparently set for myself, begins with reading these 10 chapters, noting down anything somewhat concrete I can learn about how the game supposedly functions, and see if I can get a rough image of what an actual RPG might look like featuring as much of that as possible.

Or at least that was the idea - as you can see from the notes below, I somewhat lost my mind in the process. There’s really no logic here at all. If I come back to this I’ll have a lot of work to do...

Monster World - notes:

- a “combination board game and role-playing game”.

    - “you know, like Hobgoblin or Mazes and Monsters!”

- standard GM and players setup - GM is called the Dark Master

- Dark Master has a Boss Monster, defeating the boss is the explicit end goal. Interesting I guess

- you can buy terrain tiles to join together and make your world map, cute. But not something i can do here

    - board is gridded, game uses minis.

    - bakura’s board is about 10x20 squares for the whole world - fields, mountains, town, forest, dark lord’s castle. Scale is like an over world map inf Final Fantasy, but uses that same scale for positioning in battles. Locations open up to reveal interiors, but still at the same scale(?)

-now referred to as an “adventure board game”

- the rules overview is very normal rpg stuff. The GM plays the world, players make characters and face challenges.

- explicit win condition for the GM too - defeat adventurers. Definitely more of a board game.

- now yugi’s saying it “combines elements”. I guess I’ll focus on the RPG bits.

- they have a “what is a tabletop roleplaying game” section lmaooooooo

- “it’s the original virtual reality!”

- ah here we go, concrete info! Races: Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Hobbit, Pixie-Fairy, Dwarf, Birdtail. We get a bit of info on each

    - it mentions the classic D&D stats, like elves have “high wisdom and charisma. Good magicians. Low strength.” But when we see the stats later, they’re different.

- Classes: Warrior, Beast Tamer, Magician, Bard, Priest, Enchanter, Martial Artist, Diabolist, Magic Gunman, Illusionist, Merchant, Thief.

- some of those sound cool! I don’t think they match 1-to-1 with any existing game? Maybe Sword World or some Japanese D&D clone? Probably just a selection the writer liked.

- we get character sheets for our four characters (and bakura has made them all minis). Entries for character name, race, class, weapon, equipment, abilities, level and HP.

- a couple of notable bits. The equipment, which seems tied to class for some characters and race for others - a throwaway line mentions that you need money to buy starting gear.

- The magic gunman has bullets listed, and also “6 special thunder grenades”. Bullets have no ammo count.

- and the numbers. Abilities are not in fact the Big Six, but Speed, Wisdom, Strength and Courage. Looks like the numbers are in the range we’d expect from a D&D-alike, nothing higher than 20, mostly 11-18, the occasional 8 or 9 dump stat.

- All characters are level 1, and hit points range from 18 for the squishy magician to 25 for the warrior.

- bakura is using a program on his laptop to do some calculations. The game is “too complex”

- you start on “start”

- “monsters will appear depending on the players’ actions… or sometimes, by random chance!”

- they “take five turns to enter the village”, seems to be referring to the overland travel it takes to get there.

- they chat with the barkeep in a very normal D&D conversational way (the bartender’s mini contains the trapped soul of a former player, but I feel that’s an impractical design goal)

- confirmation that the GM controls NPCs

- in dangerous areas, there’s a “Judgement Roll” to determine random encounters.

- dice! D100 system!

- encounter rate is 30, bakura rolls a 21, they encounter a level 3 goblin. D100 roll under.

- the warrior rolls a 13. bakura says that “based on the warrior’s level, speed and weapon”…”kills the goblin on a roll of 40 or less”.

- 1 hit kill, no HP or stats given for the enemy.

- “the closer you roll to 00, the more damage you do to the enemy”. So they have HP, and damage is based off the to-hit roll.

- 99 is a fumble! (And in the manga that means yami bakura traps your soul in a mini forever)

- encounter with an unconscious figure in the road. No roll apparent, bakura appears to be reading from or just checking his laptop, maybe just for notes

- encounter plays out in rp, side quest for treasure an a magic sword in the forest. They’re not sure to trust the NPC. Normal rpg bits

- forest encounter rate is 80%. Bakura rolls an 05. “The closer to 00, the stronger the monsters that appear!”

- 5 monsters. Fight!

- roll under “attack success rate” to hit, the closer you are to “critical” (00), the more damage you do. Same as before.

- warrior rolls 82, but needed a 30 to hit. For some reason. He trips and falls

- a bit of detail given on the gunman class - deals “magical damage” from the gun.

- gunman’s attack rolls a 21 - a hit, no reason given. The monster is defeated - again, 1 hit 1 kill, but I guess we can assume that that’s a coincidence or monsters are just generally weak because we know there’s HP and damage systems.

- well, we can’t really assume anything because this isn’t a functioning system. but

- the beast tamer (starts with no weapon, could be by choice though), uses his “magic hands” to make monsters into allies. 50% success rate given, it’s shown later that this varies but no metric as to how.

- “Hand power! The evil disappears from Poki!”

- the magician is “still an apprentice” at level 1, but sometimes “magic is more powerful than expected”

- immediately proven - she rolls 00, which is a “super critical hit” now. “That means she can use the top level magic for an apprentice magician!”

- Apprentice Final Big Bang!!! big explosion spell kills 3 monsters

- the quest giver NPC was actually Zorc, the Dark Master - the GM’s boss monster. the GM says that since the players were deceived and caught with their defences down, sorcerer takes the first attack. He rolls a “super critical hit” with a 00, so I guess that’s what they’re called from now on.

- ok at this point Zorc targets the player not the character, because of the manga’s plot, and seals her soul in her character mini. Also bakura claims that his “godlike game mastering techniques” allow him to roll crits whenever he wants. Unsure how much of this I’ll be keeping.

- a bit of plot, next player rolls to attack and immediately fumbles lol. But Bakura does state a rule here, or possibly just “gaming etiquette” as he refers to it both ways - rolling the dice without the GM’s permission is not allowed! I like this guy

- Players can roll for their friends whose souls are currently unable to roll dice. One of those edge case rules.

- Ok, back to the game. Zorc has a powerful aura, meaning that the magical gunman has to roll Courage or Zorc can preempt his attack. Basically a fear save, and we get a use for the courage stat. Those D&D stats are very much forgotten by this point lol

- “I’m not afraid of you!” “That’s for the dice to say…”

- fail, Zorc goes, gets another Super Critical. Still targeting the mortal souls of the players at the table rather than the characters though so no mechanical insight.

- Explicitly stated - if characters’ HP reaches 0, they die. Bakura is too hardcore for death saves

- btw they’ve mentioned a couple of times that the minis are made of lead. There are little hobbyist details like this for a lot of the games in the manga. In one chapter they go step by step through buying a figure, clipping the spruce, washing the resin parts, assembling and painting. Idk it’s cute.

- Bakura now has everyone’s soul in their minis, but yugi has two souls so he’s still playing. It’s a thing.

- Gunman rolls an 03 which hits, uses his Thunder Grenade. It blasts off Zorc’s hand! Not just cosmetic damage as it comes into play a few times, so possibly a hit location table… ok enough speculation, I’m just here for the FACTS goddammit -

- zorc’s hand turns into monsters, sure

- zorc flees. “Jerk! Creep! Power gamer!”

- warrior rolls a super critical and uses his Energetic Slash, which was vaguely mentioned before as being a special move. Unsure if that’s triggered by the low roll, as with the magician - could also be why the gunman used his grenade? Why am i looking for logic here

- beast tamer is gonna attempt another beast taming. The dragon was part of zorc’s arm until a few minutes ago which apparently makes the chances of brainwashing him 10%. Yugi rolls an 02.

- btw, if you think wow that’s a lot of criticals - turns out there’s a “technique” of rolling the 10s die like a spinning top and then using the other d10 to like… beyblade it into a lower roll. And jiggling the table with your leg to control the path of the dice. i should remember this for Mothership.

- Follow Zorc to his lair. the castle diorama is sick

- there’s an absolutely bullshit trap that isn’t really worth going into. And it doesn’t even damage the characters’ HP but the minis themselves, which are robust enough to last exactly 3 turns? Oh Takahashi, never change

- “Instant death traps are the tool of amateur game masters! A good game master prolongs the torture as long as possible!”

- 30% chance on the judgement roll of Zorc showing up since it’s his castle. He shows up. His attack success rate is 95% while the characters are stuck in a trap

- he rolls a 41 - Yugi’s HP goes down to 13 and Joey’s to 15. I don’t think there’s any real maths happening here

- they escape the trap by rolling exactly 33. What kind of tomb of horrors bullshit

- zorc’s turn, rolls a 12. But since the PCs have “much higher speed”, they have already moved behind him! And because they’re behind him, they get a surprise attack! A 15 hits!

- if any of that makes sense to you, no it doesn’t

- next chapter opens with the characters’ HP and levels in a little HUD, which is at least consistent from last time, and we also get Zorc info - he’s LV15, with 205 HP

- Yugi channels his friends’ anger into the dice (we’ve all been there) and rolls an 09 for the gunman’s attack, which bakura calls a “critical”. So I think 01-09 is a crit and just 00 is a super crit? For now anyway!

- gunman uses thunder grenade, lends credence to that crit theory from before. But am I just seeing consistency because i want to at this point? Does anything mean anything any more?

- the magician “gets a free attack too”, a 13 to hit, uses “Apprentice Death Blaze”

- beast master rolls 08 (a “critical”!) and all his beasts attack

- “Fools! You are still apprentices, level-one adventurers! You don’t have enough experience to defeat Zorc!” Experience is in bold. Tells us something about the campaign structure i guess.

- GM goes on a power trip here. Also gets out some special d10s with a human soul in them or something. Rolls a super crit. This attack can apparently “kill characters with more than 50 hit points in an instant”.

- Bakura uses his laptop to crunch all the variables because there are to many! But all the PCs survive with 1hp each! Because his left hand is being controlled by his real self- ok we can skip this bit

- warrior gets 05, hits, no more detail given. Oh but now it takes out his left eye? Idk

- i guess when all the rules of your game are about combat etc etc

- the magician’s level is too low for resurrection spells, but she can use “healing magic of luona”!

- but will she be able to do so before zorc’s next attack? Roll off for tied initiative apparently! Lowest wins

- Some plot happens. The healing spell goes off, heals everyone by An Amount

- zorc can now hit all of them if he rolls 80 or less

- why am I doing this

- who knows any more

- zorc fumbles and hits himself, now at 125 HP if that means anything to anyone

- the castle terrain is made of “durable poly-resin”! We know this because bakura impales his hand on a gothic spire

- beast master rolls a crit 05 to tame zorc, but he can’t at his level, but some plot happens and a new character appears, level 13 white wizard. No that wasn’t one of the classes. NPC apparently

- white magic lowers defences i guess

- gunman hits on a 15

- why am I doing every turn like it’s a play report, we all know this doesn’t make any sense by now surely

- zorc is at 81 HP. Changes form to Last Zorc. Rolls a 00 to hit but the white wizard can defend by converting HP to MP. Yes that is the first mention of MP so far

- they’re all still down on 1-3 HP. But after last zorc attacks his weak point is exposed, an eye on his torso. One of the beast master’s beasts tries to hold it open and sacrifice himself but they won’t let him. So the beast tamer uses his training hand to punch right through the eye hole (jet stream punch!), rolls an 02 (crit).

- the warrior rolls an 01 for an explosive energetic slash, whatever that is, and they win the battle

- no wait, they didn’t for some reason

- reroll initiative i guess? And the same roll is also to determine attack success, because stakes

- bad guy rolls a super crit but the dice explode from friendship

- Magician uses Final Big Bang, and the battle is finally over

- I’m so done

- There’s one more roll but it’s to restore a player’s soul.

So, uh, that’s as much game as I could find in the Monster World arc. Supposedly there’s more RPG action later on, and I’m morbidly curious so maybe I’ll report on that too. Whether or not I can retroclone this mess is another question… I do like a challenge, though. Who knows.

[To Be Continued…?]

Sunday, 13 March 2022

The Bell of Blackside

THE BELL OF BLACKSIDE is the first adventure for GRAVEROBBERS, my adventure game system of stealth and sedition.

The pamphlet features:

- a complete starter adventure for the system, perfect for a one-shot or to begin your campaign

- new rules to flesh out the Bare Bones, including a progression system

- three shops and a rumour table to help the Dealer run the Black Market phase, plus prices for every item of interest

- a playable, in-world card game

- an edible, in-world recipe

Good luck, graverobbers…

Monday, 7 March 2022

1d6 Magic Ceramics

 Notable finds in an antique pottery shop:

1. Ceramic Armour. Light enough for any class. Good defence against magic, fire and arrows. Meagre against melee attacks. Shatters on a critical.

2. Pot of Hands. Halfling-sized amphora. Upright, items can be put in and taken out as normal. When inverted, the items inside do not fall. What pours out instead is a grasping mass of human hands, emerging to the wrist. The pot uses its fingers to crawl, crab-like, and can be sent grab more items to store within itself. The hands are reasonably dexterous but cannot fight or use bastard magic.

3. Pot Golem. Good for a gardener.

4. Plate of Fond Memories. A meal eaten from this plate will taste exactly like the last meal eaten from this plate should have tasted. (The first thing eaten after buying tastes like stewed prunes.)

5. Fool’s Jar. Bears a gurning, gargoyle-esque face. Stick a hand into its shadowed interior and you’ll find you can reach deeper than the pot looks from the outside. Roll 1d6: On a 6, pull out a mundane item that will serve you well in whatever predicament you find yourself. On a 2-5, find a random mundane item (GMs, consult the best starting equipment tables), and on a 1 find yourself unable to remove your hand until next sunrise. (You could break the pot, but then… no pot.)

6. Model Tower. Actually an accurate 3D map of a nearby dungeon, pawned by an old adventurer. Would serve you well in finding secret doors and planning escapes.

Friday, 4 March 2022

ONSLAUGHT playtest 0.1

 The playtest for ONSLAUGHT has been updated to version 0.1. Download free here.

Patch Notes:

- changed Caged Fairy’s effect to limit exponential damage increase

- changed Bastard Sword to Great Stone Sword, new effect. Bastard Sword may make an appearance again later on.

- changed Lord of Chains’ Spring action. Now more lethal.

- minor text changes

Sunday, 20 February 2022


 The deadly “soulsborne” inspired game of duelling sad and ancient knights has a new name:

Welcome to ONSLAUGHT

You can download a playtest document here. It’s free, but if you want to support the project or my work in general, please consider making a donation.

As this is a playtest I will be accepting feedback! You can leave a comment here, or email me (graverobbersguide at gmail dot com), or get at me on twitter.

The kind of feedback I’m not looking for: “I found a typo”, “this is good”, “this is bad”, “i don’t get it”

The kind of feedback I am looking for: “the most interesting thing that happened while playing was…”

For more info on development, check back at posts tagged “The Green Knight”.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

OUTBREAK (a Mothership adventure)

 The Meridian gate is in lockdown. A potential biohazard has been detected at the abandoned Yefimovich Hospital on the city level. Until customer safety is confirmed, Qilin Gate Corporation protocol withholds all transport rights.

A 10kcr reward is on offer to any freelancers willing to inspect the site and contain any potential threat. Otherwise, QGC officials will handle the matter within 6-8 weeks.


What really happened? A secret document and alien specimen were stolen from QGC by one of their own agents who intended to hold them for ransom. In retaliation, the corporation remotely opened the biohazard containment briefcase that held the alien, knowing it would attack its captor.

The theft was of little concern to QGC. The alien is replaceable and they can easily deny any connection to the document, a training manual which contains no traceable information. QGC executed the traitor on principle and now only want the alien returned as an afterthought.


Biohazard [W: 4(10), C:70 Suffocate, I:50] Scabby little blood-black blob. Surprisingly agile.
- Haemoform. Can absorb exposed blood to restore a Wound. Immobilised by blood thinners.
- Self-preservationist. 
Attacks in retaliation only. Flees immediately upon taking a Wound.

1.     Lobby
Sealed hospital doors, 100cr entrance fee. Inside, dusty grey tile and flickering light. Empty benches, looted reception desk, wrecked bathroom. The air filter still works but can’t mask that pervasive, stale smell.

In the middle of the floor is a corpse in a black suit. No identification or records. Traces of blood around mouth not victim’s own. Cause of death, suffocation.

Beside the body is an expensive-looking briefcase, its interior caked in blood. The case hermetically seals and can be open or shut remotely, though no controller is present.

Signs over the doors ahead mark the pharmacy and ward. To the left, a door opens onto the upper level of the operating theatre, while a wide vent connects to the lower level.

2.     Pharmacy
A mess. Almost entirely ransacked except for 1d5 each:

-        Eight-Treasure Decoction. [+] to next attempt to stymie user’s bleeding.

-        Calm In The Sea Of Life Teapill. Promotes menstrual health.

-        Hidden Tiger Pill. [+] to next Body Save.

-        Seahorse Combination. Strengthens sexual potency.

-        Free And Easy Wanderer Plus Teapill. -1 Stress once per day.

Signposted doors to the lobby and ward.


3.     Ward
Thin curtains separate rickety bedframes. What remains of the medical equipment could be jury-rigged into a functional bioscanner.

Stashed in a pillowcase:

- roll of gauze
- stim-pak
- bottle of liquid blood thinner
- old syringe
- bag of O- blood

Doors to the lobby and pharmacy. Corridor to the lower level of the operating theatre.

4.     Operating Theatre
The upper level, accessed via the lobby, is a ring of plush seating overlooking the surgery through a skylight. No way down here except breaking the glass and climbing.

Below, on the brightly lit surgical table, the biohazard distractedly picks at bloodstains on an old scalpel. The lower level also has a washbasin in the corner, and a vent allows air to flow down from the lobby. Doors at either end lead up to the ward and down to the morgue.

5.     Morgue
Beneath the operating theatre. Cold, dim light on grimy chrome. A hundred freezers line the walls.

Working incinerator. Ejects remains into space through airlocked disposal chute. Inside, unscathed, is a small booklet in unadorned type: “PK-1 Training Manual”.

PK-1 (Trained Skill): Manipulate Nearby physical matter, not exceeding the user’s mass, with the power of the mind.

Monday, 7 February 2022

High Tide Highway

 I hope everyone’s enjoying Journeylands #1 so far! Pick it up here if you haven’t yet x

High Tide Highway is 3 clicks long and goes exactly where you want to be. Reroll 1s if travelling by day.

1-2. Bandits! The Barracuda Gang have mouths to feed. #hit until someone fixes their food supply issues.

3. Clear sailing. Just you and the road.

4. Traffic! A lot of travellers taking this route today. Handling checks only.

5. Food truck. Stop here if you have time and get free samples. (Roll this with bandits about and they’ll be scared away!)

6. Crabbing contest. Anglers lower lines off the side of the highway into the coral canyons below. These crabs are gourmands - finely flavoured bait will catch a whopper and win the prize, a Crabshell Bumper [widget, negate #hit, 2 uses before breaking, repair uses at a garage or bait shop]

Monday, 31 January 2022



Journeylands #1 is out now!

Click here to get it for yourself. If you were a KS backer last year during ZineQuest, check your inbox on there for your discount code.

Happy travels x

Friday, 21 January 2022

At the Gates of Dawn

 “Due to the explosion of the Lunar Gate, all data from before 2022 has been lost” - Jet Black, Cowboy Bebop

I know this is not one of the gates from the show but it’s a Strong Visual

Meridian is a satellite in stationary orbit around the astral anomaly X-108, a transport-regulated wormhole. Owned and operated by the Qilin Gate Corporation, the station’s central hub is a port offering access to the astral gate.


Airlocked elevators over a kilometre long connect from the zero-G port to the outer ring, a city bathed in X-108’s constant, golden dawn. The centrifugal force of Meridian’s spin creates approximately 1G of gravity on the city section’s inner surface, allowing citizens to traverse its 5km circumference as if planetside.


Once a bustling port, the advent of ship-based warp drive technologies have seen a decline in travel and tourism. These days, only those unable to afford modern conveyance still make use of it, and only those too poor or stubborn to leave still live here.


Qilin take payment via a subscription plan, with members allotted 12 jumps per year through any of the company’s outer rim locations for a monthly fee of 11kcr. There is no cancellation policy.


Thanks to a privacy waiver at sign-up, QGC are able to locate customers exactly using hyperspace latency tracking. As stipulated in the contract, failure to keep up with payments will result in forfeiture of equivalent value in biomass from the offending party. Collector Drone [W: 3(15), C:70 Scalpel, I:80]

Welcome to Meridian babyyyy

So this is a mini setting I’m working on for a Mothership game and I thought I’d share notes so anyone can use it or take bits as needed. I’ll update as I go.

If this were a book I’d include something useful along with that blurb up there, like a d5 table of spaceships you can encounter at the port. But since the Shipbreaker’s Toolkit isn’t out yet I’ll do that another time i guess

That means for now all you’re getting is an intro, sorry! But I suppose this post is good to link back to for other stuff I do in this setting, like an overview.

Expect mystery, investigation, janitorial work, corpo-governmental conspiracy, fancy briefcases, robot butterflies, lamb dumplings and the side effects of psychic psychedelia.

(also right now blogger isn’t letting me make or reply to comments? Idk. But you can still comment if you’d like)

Wednesday, 5 January 2022


 Hey! You made it :)

This year:

- JOURNEYLANDS #1 will be released soon, backers should keep an eye on KS later this month for info on how to get your copy. I will try and post extra bits for players to use now and then (psssst anyone can do this)

- MOTHERSHIP 1E is approaching. How are you all liking the beta version? I have, uh… like, six? projects in the works for MoSh. Mostly 1st party but I’ll also be releasing my first 3rd party project in 2022, more on that in time I’m sure.

Basically, as if you weren’t already, expect big things from the Mothership. Like… just from the stuff I’m personally working on? Oh boy. You have no idea.

In the meantime have you seen Hull Breach yet?

- THIS BLOG remains a place for me to air notes, work things out and make games in public, ramble when I feel the need. Thanks for your continued attention. I try to only post things I think are potentially useful.

I feel like most people know me for MoSh now, and I haven’t really put much ~content~ on here for that, so this will be rectified. And probably less fantasy bits than in the past? Idk, I write stuff for me first and I’m not currently running a fantasy game so. But hey a year is a long time

- GRAVEROBBERS is still a thing, next stop is a starter adventure but there is no timeline on that. As and when. Free here, always will be.

- Other projects like the d6 duel-clock “souls” game and DEADLINE are still being worked on too, but practically speaking they’re lower on the priority list than things that make money.

- On that - as well as my continued work on Mothership stuff for TKG I would love to work on whatever else you’ve got cooking, get in touch. If you like what I’ve done you can literally just hire me. Graverobbersguide at gmail dot com.

If you can’t pay i will probably still take a look at any serious projects and help, for fun. Especially if you are from any group/identity not typically given platforms. Just hit me up and I’ll give notes on your Mothership zine or whatever it is you’re doing.

- Rebalancing a bit. Less-to-no twitter, everything anyone has ever said about games on there is boring. I’ve always aimed to put real life first and that’s going to continue. Games is just a fun thing to do with people I love, love comes first.

You also might see other artistic projects from me at some point I suppose, like other media, you can ignore those if they’re not interesting to you

I can’t think of what else to say but anyone can just ask me stuff if you have questions! I’m just some guy

I hope you’re spending time/money/energy on worthy causes, chiefly yourself. Let’s show 2022 what true power looks like. Peace and love to all xo