Thursday 23 November 2023

ICFTB mini

 Over on Mindstorm Press, Ty posted a whole setting module, with art and cartography and even more updates to come. This is definitely going into my next game of Journeylands.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you about Mythic Bastionland. There’s still time to back!

Scrap has d100 of my new favourite ever character names 

Sean blogged!

Just found out about this upcoming miniatures game with a killer premise - vampires competing to drain the most blood in a night. Maybe I should get back to work on my own miniatures game…

Speaking of, if you’re not following me on bluesky yet you’re missing out on pictures of my badly painted skeletons. over there, hmu x

And finally, since it’s Black Friday I’m doing a special sale on my store! Everything is the same price. You need games, I need to eat, it’s a win-win.

Peace ✌️

Thursday 16 November 2023

Dungeon Immune Responses

 aka reactive dungeons, aka Dungeon No Likey

This is a type of adventure game location I’ve done a few of, and there are many more out there. The basic idea is that the more the players delve, the more the space itself reacts to their intrusion.

Most dungeon crawling games loosely mechanise this to some degree. Spend too long exploring in classic D&D and you’ll trigger a wandering monster encounter. My own Graverobbers makes characters lose the game’s HP equivalent when they make too much light or noise.

Right now though I’m thinking about more specific ways in which individual adventures can model reactions and some of the possibilities for fun and interesting play you can get out of them

For instance, we can consider what triggers might cause the response in the first place. Graverobbers is a stealth game so one of them is being un-stealthy. And I feel like the general default trigger is “being here”, which is a good one when you’re delving in places where people Were Not Meant To Tread.

Stuff that adventure games tend to disincentivise, like combat, make good triggers. In my Mothership adventure The Horror on Tau Sigma 7, the dungeon reacts when damage is done to the structure itself (like breaking through a door instead of unlocking it) or its inhabitants. The forest from The Postbox in the Woods likewise reacts to violence and destruction.

Thinking up more specific triggers can help flavour a dungeon and force creative solutions. Maybe the wizard who built this tower despises the colour yellow, or the titan whose navel you’re exploring is allergic to gold.

The dungeon’s response should be clear, even if it starts subtly and builds over time like in TS7. Players have to be clued into this being a cause-and-effect or they won’t be able to use the information practically. A low rumbling sound or cold wind every time a player starts to unsheathe their sword that abruptly cuts off when they put it away again would be easy to understand, even if the specifics haven’t been discovered yet. The response, like the best traps, shouldn’t shut off options but force new ones

Like all the best curses and mutations though, the response doesn’t have to be all bad. If there’s an upside the players are encouraged to use the information creatively and game the system. In the most recent episode of Into the Megadungeon, Miranda Elkins talks about how there are places in Nightwick Abbey that are inaccessible without triggering the dungeon’s geomorph rearranging mechanic.

You could even reverse the concept, have specific actions or events the dungeon wants and rewards. If players figure out the right offering to bring they can open secret doors in the cultists’ lair, for instance. These kinds of interactions are more like typical lock and key, call and response mechanics, but having a sliding scale of just how appeased the dungeon is could be interesting.

These kinds of dungeons benefit from being large, thereby encouraging exploration and letting the response build or even ebb and flow over time. For smaller dungeons a pitcher-plant structure can be useful, or a simple depthcrawl, where players want to go deeper for cooler stuff but going further makes coming back that much harder.

Anyway, just a concept I’m thinking over at the minute, trying to see if there are new fun places I can take it. If you haven’t used something similar in an adventure before I’d recommend it, and if you know any great adventures that do this well then let me know!

Friday 10 November 2023


 New issue of MNKRM out now! Read free here.

New issues come out on the 10th of every month. You can subscribe for free to get each one sent to your email when it comes out, or if you want to tip me a few quid a month you can do a paid subscription.

If we get just 10 more paid subs in the next couple of weeks, I won’t have to worry about rent this month which hasn’t happened in a while! So tell ur friends, see you in the next one x

Sunday 5 November 2023

Lockpick Solitaire

 Happy Bonfire Night! To celebrate this most Graverobbers of holidays, here’s an in-world card game I’ve been working on. Like all card games in Lanton (you can get the rules to Pauper’s Crown as part of the starter adventure The Bell of Blackside, and I’m tinkering with a third game called Third Eye’s Folly) it uses a single suit of cards. I like the feeling playing with one suit gives you - the more predictable range gives the average player gets a taste of being a suave, card-counting gambler

(I’m also working on new rules for Graverobbers itself that supplant the standard mechanics of deck, dice and coins with just a suit of cards - it’s fun but I do think it loses something from the Bare Bones so will only ever be released as a variant rather than any kind of second edition. Characters from each version will work with the other, too.)

Anyway, the plan was to have a big update to A Pocket Guide to Smocklehythe out today, but I’ve had to shelve those plans for now. Still, if you download it now you’ll receive the current version of the rules with some lovely art and a nice character sheet, and you’ll get the full Guide as a free update when that does finally emerge.

(The last couple of posts on this blog are free adventures that go perfectly with the Smocklehythe rules, if you’re looking for a fun, seasonal one-shot heist!)

For now, though, here’s Lockpick Solitaire. I’ve caught myself playing a few hands now and then when i should be working, hope you enjoy.

Lockpick Solitaire


A game to while away the hours or practice one’s numbers. For one player with one suit of cards.


Cards are played directly from the top of the face-down deck into face up positions. First, the player plays two cards side by side in a “lock”. Then, the player must make a choice to “pick the lock” or move on.


To “pick the lock”, the player plays the next card in between the two played cards. If the value of the third card lies between those of the first two, the lock is picked and the player scores a point.


Alternatively, if the two cards played are subsequent in value, the lock is picked if the third card is either the next or previous in sequence.


To move on, the player continues by playing the next two cards to create a new lock.


Play ends when the player plays a card incorrectly, or when the entire suit is played without any locks having been successfully picked. If the entire suit is played and play has not yet ended, or if at any point there are not enough cards in the suit to continue play, played cards are collected and reshuffled and play continues.

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Shadows in the Sewer

 “Right, here’s the job. There’s this old crypt we used to smuggle goods through from the graving dock. Trouble is, now the House has closed down the Smocklehythe warehouses, there’s no getting into the tunnels that way.”


“As luck would have it, though… Turns out there might be another way in. Through the sewers.”


“You need to find a passage through to the crypt, grab the loot that’s lying there and bring it back here. You do that, there’s a pound apiece in it for you. That and you can keep any tosh you find lying about.”


“Oh, and do yourselves a favour. Don’t get caught.”


1.     Entrance. A huge stone face in the riverbank wall, its mouth agape with fetid dribble. Inside, pitch black and foul. Roll a die to see how many rats are about, and another for how many lost pence are scattered across the grimy floor.

The tunnel is just wide enough to walk single file. Waste trickles from skull sized holes that line the walls.

From one such hole, the Rat Queen beckons. A spirit of the sewers, she asks that you deal with the monster who has corrupted her halls, rewarding any who expel the snake in the sewer depths (2) with a bite mark. Those who bear this scar can be understood by all rats.

2.     Depths. Further in from the entrance (1), the stench thickens. A side tunnel (3) leads out of the muck while the main sewer continues, eventually ending in a wide, shallow cesspool.

The monstrous snake that dwells within attacks any who disturb the water, fangs dripping deadly venom. Glinting from amongst the bones below the surface are a die roll’s worth of pence, a black athame knife (£2), and a vial containing a potion of hiding (£3), which conceals the drinker for as long as they can hold their breath.

Beyond the pool, the sewer adjoins the crypt (6).

3.     Tunnel. Connects the sewer depths (2) to the crypt (6) via a gate (5). Laying around are an empty vial (2d) and a long wooden pole (1d). Roll a die to see how many rats are about.

In an alcove a stone serpent bares its fangs, dried blood caked on its forked tongue. A fresh offering causes the secret door it guards to open, revealing the sanctum (4).

4.     Sanctum. A small, square chamber, rough-hewn pillars holding up a low, cobwebbed ceiling. In its centre sits a hunched grotesque, older than even the chamber itself.

The statue offers a deal. Player characters may pay 1 Luck and learn how to vomit up a venomous serpent. The snake obeys none but the Devil.

5.     Gate. Black iron bars block the connection between the side tunnel (3) and the crypt (6). The hinge is rusty and screeches loudly if opened. Rust has also eaten a hole in the gate itself, wide enough for a person but lined with jagged metal.

A coffin is stuck in the hole. Its lid, sprouting black fungus, bears the inscription “let none who stir my bones know peace”.

The skeleton within inflicts terrible visions on anyone who open it. Also inside are two funerary coins (1d each) and a silver ring (£2&6d) in the likeness of a snake, engraved with the words “silver for blood”. Its bearer may open the sanctum (4) without sacrifice.

6.     Crypt. A vaulted catacomb paved with gravestones, its many sepulchres long since looted. In one is a heavy, padlocked chest holding twelve vials of rum (6d each). An archway borders the sewer depths (2), and the gate (5) leads to the tunnel (3).

From the far end of the tunnel come echoing footsteps and a blood red glow. A uniformed House guard patrols the crypt, carrying a hooded lantern (£1) and official truncheon (£13).