Monday 23 October 2023

The Old Graving Dock

When the House closed down the docks, they scuttled the cargo ship Gilt Fawn and left her here to rot. By day, folk still congregate in search of work, forcefully dispersed by the local House guards. By night, the abandoned shipyard falls silent.


The ship has settled into the silt, its upper deck six yards up. A hole in the hold is too choked with muck to fit through.

A winch controls the dock’s huge sluice. Roll a die to see how many rats are about. A grate leads to Smocklehythe sewer.


Six yards above the dry dock dirt. Bare masts, one lifeboat. Doors leading to the captain’s cabin and crew’s quarters.


Locked. Vial of rum (6d), hand mirror (£1&1d), spyglass (£6).


Cramped. Amongst old rags are six yards rope (1d/yard) and a dagger (£2). Door to upper deck, stairs to lower deck.


Long since looted. Stairs to the crew’s quarters and hold.


Corpse in fine clothing (£2), a key around its neck and dagger in hand. It is haunted, attacking if any dare take its treasures. A half-filled hole to the dry dock, stairs to the lower deck.


I hope you’re already listening to Ben L’s excellent ongoing podcast Into the Megadungeon, in which he interviews great writers and GMs about how they do All That. Latest episode with Luke Gearing is here.

One of the original and still one of the best megadungeons, Caverns of Thracia, was of course written by the legendary Jenell Jaquays, who is currently raising funds for medical treatment. Please help if you can.

This Mothership module on Kickstarter has a crack team behind it and less than a week to go. A sci fi adaptation of the Demeter chapter from Dracula, so pretty much the platonic ideal of MoSh.

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Red Moon Generator

Sounds like a good Mothership adventure, doesn’t it? No dice, we’re back in Lanton town. ‘Tis the season for Graverobbers, and while I plan next moves for the Pocket Guide I’m thinking about the best way to include a starter adventure. This is an adventure game, so no adventure would be like cutlery without soup.

I honestly hadn’t considered randomly generating a starter adventure as an option. I love bespoke, playable spaces put together by level designers. It’s most of what I do and a lot of why I love this hobby in the first place, and while randomly generating a dungeon is fun in its own way you undoubtedly lose something.

However! Let’s consider our needs in this specific instance. We want a quick, introductory adventure. Quick is important - even the six-room dungeon I had been working on for this has branching paths, sticky decisions and potential pitfalls that could easily see a group, especially a new one, delving for hours. It’s easy to underestimate play time when writing one-shots - I wrote The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 for quick convention play and I’ve heard stories of folk getting multiple session mini-campaigns out of it. I ran a second session of it Sunday night and we’re still not done.

So, quick is good but we can go quicker. Why not a simple series of randomly generated obstacles? One or two things in the way of some treasure, a half-hour maximum of play to get to grips with the world and the basics of the game. And if a session does run longer, that lets the players experience the Black Market / Red Moon loop as well, win-win.

This also keys in to the “introductory” aspect, as a Dealer who wants to run this multiple times will be able to keep things fresh. Could even be done with the same group. Plus a bunch of random tables is one of the best ways to describe an adventure game setting - plus plus, that’s a bunch of material to pull from for other sessions, even more easily than from something more structured. An adventure comprised solely of random tables almost functions as a GM screen in this way, and I’m all for material pulling double duty.

Anyway, it’s an idea I’m toying with. Below are some tables, the likes of which you may be seeing in the upcoming final version of A Pocket Guide to Smocklehythe. As always, remember to pick up this “early access” release, and you’ll get the full version free when it comes out and avoid the price going up.

Tonight, beneath a Red Moon…


On the Smocklehythe riverbank is an old graveyard, surrounded by…

1.     A six-foot, old brick wall

2.     A jagged, rusting iron fence

3.     An old, low dry-stone wall

4.     Thick, thorny hedgerows

5.     A shallow, stagnant moat

6.     Badly mended wooden fences


The night guard wields a hooded lantern (£1), official truncheon (£13) and…

1.     A hungry bandog (£10) on a heavy iron chain (6d)

2.     A pistol (£13), powder and shot for one firing (1d each)

3.     A silver whistle (£1&6d)

4.     A vial of good whiskey (6d)

5.     An accomplice, walking in step

6.     A hot meat pasty (2d)


You know that somewhere here lies your prize, a grave…

1.     Within a mortsafe, the guard has the key

2.     Beneath a great stone statue

3.     Unmarked, therefore conspicuous

4.     In one of four identical vaults in the crypt

5.     Under a worn headstone, nearly unreadable

6.     Yet to be buried, six feet down in a freshly dug plot


The treasure in the coffin turns out to be…

1.     Only the usual, two large funerary coins (£1 each)

2.     A solid silver ring in the shape of a serpent (£1&4d)

3.     A gold tooth in the skull, sharply pointed (£1)

4.     A little stone talisman, protects against possession (6d)

5.     A vial of deadly poison tucked in the inside pocket (£3)

6.     Nothing. Old bones, black fungus eating at the coffin


But you are not alone…

1.     An incompetent rival bumbles about nearby

2.     A mourner has snuck in to keep vigil by candlelight

3.     The beleaguered old gravedigger whistles as they work

4.     A fox in the undergrowth, watchful and wary

5.     An adder in the grass, quick to strike if disturbed

6.     Roll a die to see how many rats are about


And in the darkness stirs…

1.     A roaming spirit, a chill on the wind

2.     One final scream as the spirit of your quarry departs

3.     The bones and sinew in the coffin grasp hungrily

4.     An imp dedicated to mischief, eating candle-flames

5.     A grim, the local warden spirit, bark without bite

6.     The graveyard cat

Tuesday 10 October 2023


Everyone seems to be doing newsletters these days. I know I always enjoy reading them. But I knew if I did one of my own it’d have to be something a bit different, fun enough to keep me writing, and most of all useful to the folks who subscribed. I waffle on long enough already here - I wanted this thing to be like a monthly injection of succinct, practical game material.

Announcing MNKRM!

1000 words of sci-fi horror resources, new issues on the 10th of every month. The first issue just went live, you can read it and subscribe for free right here.

This month’s theme is BASICS. It’s pretty much all the stuff you need to get you game started - a hub location, micro-adventure and some sources of inspiration. We’ve got bioengineered bullet beetles, a conversation with eyeball soup, and - because it’s me - a playable in-universe gambling game.

The idea behind MNKRM is that once a month you’ll get this concentrated shot of game juice directly into your inbox, all ready to take to the table, and hopefully there’s at least something in there you want to steal or take inspiration from for your next game.

Things like stats and item prices will be written for Mothership, because that’s what I run and have experience writing for, but there’s not reason you can’t adapt MNKRM material for a game of Alien or Death In Space (which my MoSh stuff tends to be a good fit for totally anyway tbh).

Anyway - it’s totally free to subscribe, so please go ahead and do so! I’ve also added an optional paid tier at $5 USD a month, which is the lowest amount substack will accept. People who pay don’t get anything special or extra, but it’s a great way to support this project specifically, or you can think of it as a tip jar if you like this blog or my work in general.

Anyway, that’s all for this month from MNKRM. Don’t forget to subscribe, and I’ll see you next time.

Monday 9 October 2023


 With all the Weapons Test 023 zines well on their way to backers and my desk and head finally clear I thought I’d do a little post-mortem update on where things are at for my projects. I’ve talked about some of this but the gist is this. If you’re not concerned with how the sausages get made skip to the end for what’s next.

At the start of this year I posted about how this year was going to be a bit of a turning point for me, transitioning from hobbyist into full time rpg guy. I’ve had some lucky breaks already and figured that I might as well make a go of turning this into a career - despite all the doom and gloom about the industry, much of it warranted, I know many people who do ttrpg and adjacent work for a living.

The plan was to take savings from previous jobs and projects, put those into a new project up front, then take the profits from that and pay myself a wage, using any additional funds to start the next project, repeat, etc, and so on.

And it worked! I had a successful KS campaign for zinequest, and was on track to use that money to get everything out to backers but also slipstream into the next thing. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly as all that!

As well as general delays (to be expected with any project, especially working with more people than I had done before and doing a physical release for the first time), I found out in July that my Universal Credit (the UK’s super fun catch-all benefit for people who need help with housing, disability, etc) for the month would be zero. Never did find out the reason, but while I scrambled to get rent together the current project had to take a back seat, and some of the funds meant to get the next thing going had to go on bills. I was lucky enough to get some work and help from friends which meant I still had a place to live, but I still had zines to print and ship, and once I finally got signed back on to UC the algorithm decided I’m now eligible for a whole lot less.

So, a couple of months of bad luck later I can say the project is finally done, but it’s left me in a bit of a sorry state. The next thing I had lined up, my Pokémon Go style rpg Demon Watch, as well as the new updates to GRAVEROBBERS that I’d hoped to get out around Hallowe’en/Guy Fawkes Night, as well as some Mothership stuff I had in the pipeline with some cool folks, are all shelved.

Not all bad though! I do have some work to keep me going (but am very much looking for more still, graverobbersguide(at)gmail(dot)com), and despite this year’s setbacks I’m still hopeful. The brief taste I had of doing this full time convinced me that I really don’t see myself doing anything else.

So, what does all this mean? Well, don’t expect many blog posts or updates on projects for a little while. I’ll be working in the background, seeing what I can get done by myself and doing some very cool paid projects for other people that I hope you’ll be hearing about soon.

In the meantime I’ll be launching a kind of side thing, a way to keep the juices flowing and get some cool regular game stuff out to you all. Far from feeling burned out, I’m energised and ready to do some good shit 💪 So that’ll be coming out tomorrow, pay attention to this blog and my socials if you’re looking for free Mothership compatible stuff! I’m also still working on the Odai 57 ashcan, and looking at ways to get low-budget Graverobbers releases out too.

Social(s), yes, I’m on Bluesky now. Had avowed myself away from new platforms but if I’m going to keep in touch with folks, up to date on cool stuff I can’t afford and able to broadcast what I’m doing this seemed like the best bet. I’m on Twitter a lot less as well. You can follow me there,

Anyway, that’s all! Just keeping you all abreast of what I’m up to. I appreciate all the support, it really does mean the world. This hobby and this little blog has, without hyperbole, changed my life, and I’m very grateful to all of you who like my stuff, whether that’s pledging to crowdfunding things, offering jobs, sharing and posting about things I make, leaving nice comments - or, most importantly of all, playing my games and having fun.

Onwards and upwards! Fun new MoSh-y thing tomorrow.