03 June 2021

Setting Nomenclature II, or, More Dumb Names for Campaign Worlds

Previously, I mentioned the name change of one of my more recent settings (wherein The Sundered Land became Some Dread Land). Now I would like to describe the folly of my earliest campaign worlds.

Murdundia (q.v.) was, I believe, my first original setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Unlike most role-playing fantasy settings, it reflected a monotheistic culture to make better use of paladins, clerics, demons, and devils. I think the name itself might have been inspired by "Mundania," the nonmagical land in the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony, but there the similiarity ended. "It's the world of... uh... Murdundia."

Cyclica was a setting dominated by a vast, circular megalopolis reminiscent of Constantinople and Lankhmar, but far more orderly. It was the only significant city in the known world, and the rest of civilization was feudal. I created the world of Cyclica as a setting for the adventures of a player character who was a saint, which was a class that appeared in DRAGON Magazine and was strictly intended for non-player characters. (Ludicrous, I know. We were junior high school students at the time, so that's our excuse.) "Cyclica" was meant to evoke the idea of a circular structure expanding gradually, but it always sounded contrived.

The World of Chickenhawk was my most detailed setting, a parody of a certain popular campaign world complete with sophomoric puns. I even ran an adventure at Gen Con set in Chickenhawk when I was a high school student. And I still have the world map and the adventure and the pregens! Chickenhawk is just, well, silly.

02 June 2021

Setting Nomenclature, or, Dumb Names for Campaign Worlds

Unless I come up with the title or name of a thing first, I find coming up with titles and names of things to be the hardest part of creating a thing. Oh, I can have a very vivid idea of the thing, but giving it a name that is both a.) good and b.) not already taken is a herculean task for me.

This is all just to say that I have changed the name of the setting I created when I started actively gaming again in 2014 after a long hiatus. (See session reports.) That setting was originally called "The Sundered Land," but after seeing that same name, or variations thereof, used for other fantasy settings (oh, the shame), I decided a moment ago to change it to "Some Dread Land." I will not, as I tend to do, agonize at length to find the "perfect" name. No, it's just Some Dread Land (sometimes rendered Somedreadland), which is simple, somewhat descriptive, and somewhat sounds like its previous name. I think it serves its purpose.

If only I could think of a name for that other project...

29 May 2021

The Burden of Adventuring

Encumbrance has been a thorn in my side since the dawn of my gaming experience, and with the exception of the Ghostbusters role-playing game (with its carrying limit of three pieces of equipment — that's pretty much the entirety of its encumbrance rules), I inevitably resort to that old hand-waving standby: whatever seems reasonable. There ought to be consequences for overburdening oneself, but if calculating the weight or encumbrance units of every item carried is the price, I'm not willing to pay it.

There is a solution. In Aeons & Augauries, JDJarvis introduces the idea of Save vs. Encumbrance. I have vowed to try it in the next session of DCC RPG I run, with a few additional rules. I have codified it thusly:


A character can carry up to 20 items, which are listed numerically on the character sheet. Backbacks, pouches, bags, and the like (and their contents) count as one item each. Armor worn counts as one item.

Whenever a character attempts an activity that would be hindered by a character's encumbrance, a d20 Encumbrance check must be made. The difficulty of the check is the total number of items carried. If the check is successful, things proceed normally. If the check is unsuccessful, then there is a complication.

Complications could take the form of outright failure, partial failure, a -1 fatigue penalty (that is cumulative and affects all d20 rolls until eliminated), or the loss of (or damage to) the item in a character's inventory corresponding to the number rolled for the Encumbrance check.

N.B. One carried item is always protected from loss or damage in an Encumbrance check: the last item on the list. Since a check succeeds when the roll is equal to or higher than the target number (i.e. the total number of items carried), the item corresponding to the target number is automatically safe.

Example: An adventurer is carrying eight items:

  1. sword
  2. backpack (containing food, cooking gear, a blanket, extra clothes, a waterskin, a tinderbox, a knife, and a mirror)
  3. shield
  4. pouch (containing coins)
  5. hand axe
  6. lantern
  7. flask of oil
  8. scroll case (containing maps)

The adventurer attempts to leap across a crevasse. Ordinarily, this would not require any kind of roll because the crevasse isn't that wide, but since the adventurer is being pursued and is carrying equipment, an Encumbrance check is deemed necessary. The player rolls 1d20 and gets a 4. The GM can rule that the character fails and falls into the crevasse; partially fails and is hanging on the edge (requiring a further roll or help from a comrade); succeeds, but now has a -1 fatigue penalty to further rolls; or succeeds, but drops the pouch of coins (item #4) into the crevasse. Had the player rolled 8 or higher, the adventurer would have made the leap with no complications.


Again, this was inspired by Save vs. Encumbrance by JDJarvis.

01 May 2021

Table: Scrolls of Profound Deja Vu (Expanding Unknown Table)

Behold the Scrolls of Profound Déjà Vu! Do they not remind you of something? This is the twelfth table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Scrolls of Profound Déjà Vu

Roll 1d12

1. One spell
2. Two spells
3. Three spells
4. Protection from Logic (Invokes a potent invisible sphere of anti-logic in a 4 cubit radius from the reader, preventing any form of logic from passing in or out of its confines for 1d30 minutes.)
5. Protection from Possessions (Causes all of one's possessions to fly from one's person instantly. Prevents the gathering of any possessions for 1d30 hours. Affects only the reader.)
6. Protection from Unfun Dead (Creates a barrier with a 6 cubit radius against all undead who do not embrace fun. Has a duration of 2d6 hours.)
7. Protection from Verification (Prevents anyone from verifying the reader's identity for 3d4 hours.)
8. Protection from Weevil (Destroys any weevil that enters its 8 cubit radius with an accompanying clap of thunder. Has a duration of 1d30 days.)
9. One misspell
10. Two misspells
11. Three misspells
12. Four misspells

28 April 2021

Table: Tavern Encounters (Expanding Unknown Table)

Ah, taverns. Ah, encounters. Encounters in taverns. This is the eleventh table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Tavern Encounters

Roll 1d8

1. A fortune teller offers to foretell your future in exchange for a drink. (The fortunes are surprisingly accurate if a bit meandering and slurred.)
2. A troubador asks to sit at your table to listen to your tales of adventure. (The troubador is prone to extreme exaggeration, and will recount any tale with at least twice as much danger and bravado.)
3. A rat scurries from under your table, and you could swear it paused and winked at you before it disappeared through a hole.
4. A mysterious individual in a hooded cloak sits alone and unmoving at a table in the corner, seemingly listening to everything, but uttering nothing. (It's a trick of the light. Someone just put their pack on a chair and hung their cloak over it. It isn't Strider.)
5. A fight erupts between two identical individuals who claim they are the same person. Each will accuse the other of being an imposter. (In fact they are two drunk doppelgängers fighting over who gets to impersonate the person they may or may not have killed.)
6. A guard bursts through the door and demands to know if the quiz has started yet. (It hasn't.)
7. A lutenist and a singer perform a very sad song, creating a melancholy atmosphere in the tavern until someone tosses them a coin and tells them to play something more cheerful. They perform the same sad song, but with a faster tempo and smiles on their faces.
8. The tavernkeeper's cat — a lynx, really — curls up on your lap and falls asleep, flexing its long, sharp claws as it dreams. (Sudden moves are inadvisable.)

27 April 2021

Table: Words of Rejection (Expanding Unknown Table)

Are you being pestered by unwelcome advances at your favorite local [anywhere]? Do courtiers try to court you? Do your suitors not suit you? Are you tired of saying the same thing day after day and night after night? Then try these random words of rejection. This is the tenth table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Words of Rejection

Roll 1d10

1. "Are you through with that so-called proposal? Well, I propose you back off before I run you through!"
2. "Death is a likelier outcome. Your death, to be precise."
3. "Do you need a pantomime to explain it to you?" (Rude gesture.)
4. "Fare thee in Hell."
5. "I'd rather succumb to the plague than spend an evening with you."
6. "I'd sooner clean stables than continue this conversation."
7. "Marry you? No, but I'm willing to bury you as soon as you like."
8. "What? I don't speak oafish."
9. "You call that a sword? Looks more like a pig-sticker to me."
10. "Your offer is as tantalizing as a pit full of dung."

25 April 2021

Table: Character Middle Grounds (Expanding Unknown Table)

That which lies between the background and the foreground is obviously the middle ground wherein one can plumb the innermost depths of the psyche. This is the ninth table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Character Middle Grounds

Roll 1d12

This character...

1. Thinks about fields of grain whenever possible.
2. Remembers (misremembers?) being raised by rabbits.
3. Is tormented by nightmares of having a happy and fulfilling life.
4. Is jealous of orphans.
5. Has an irrational fear of soup.
6. Has an irrational fascination with falling.
7. Had a stable upbringing.
8. Daydreams about being a thespian.
9. Can smell danger.
10. Cannot see the color blue without becoming emotional.
11. Cannot hear music without criticizing it.
12. Believes everyone is a werewolf. And is a werewolf.

24 April 2021

Table: Phantastical Cures (Expanding Unknown Table)

You have a most unusual {condition, curse, disease, illness, malady}. You are wise to consult the {doctor, learned elder, physician, sage, scholar, Wise One, witch, wizard}. Heed the advice... if you dare... for this is the eighth table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Phantastical Cures

Roll 1d12

You will surely be cured by...

1. Drinking one tear sincerely shed by a demon or devil.
2. Applying two giant leeches until nearly dead, followed by a ritual of purification and a hearty breakfast.
3. Bathing in a waterfall by the light of the moon for three nights.
4. Immersion in a vat of kraken sepia for four minutes.
5. Collecting five gold rings and distributing them to five who are truly in need.
6. Swallowing six eels during a rainstorm.
7. Taking and honoring a vow to remain silent every seventh day for a year.
8. Eating eight spiders within the span of eight hours.
9. Tickling your feet with a cockatrice feather once a day for nine days.
10. Wearing bandages woven from the silk of a legendary spider for ten days.
11. Imbibing a potion consisting of eleven rare ingredients gathered by you and your comrades.
12. Resting, drinking plenty of water, and slaying the twelve infernal guardians of madness.

20 April 2021

Table: Bazaar Encounters (Expanding Unknown Table)

If there is a word that could describe the encounters one could have at a bazaar, it is lost in the mists of something-or-other. This is the seventh table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Bazaar Encounters

Roll 1d8

1. Bim. Thief-in-training. Will politely ask if he may try to pick one's pocket. If successful, he will return anything he steals.
2. Cantrip the Cloth Merchant. Sells fabric that allegedly cannot be torn. Such merchandise is too fine to display at a bazaar, but the shop is not far...
3. Enid the Dancer. Dances aggressively at anyone she sees until they pay her to stop, move along, or converse with her about anything except dancing. Her favorite topic is philosophy.
4. Gluum the Skulker. Avoids direct light. Always whispers. Eager to share rumors in exchange for other rumors.
5. Kazzandra. Witch. Brewer. Hostess of the best festivals in the region.
6. Luthos the Magician. A wizard at fixing things. Possibly an actual wizard?
7. Sturbo the Wretched. Often mistaken for a vagrant, but is actually the head official in charge of the bazaar. Friendly, but every utterance sounds like his last.
8. Thorlip. Compulsive gambler with a lisp. Fast runner.

19 April 2021

Table: Wands of Comparative Wondrousness (Expanding Unknown Table)

For the magic of a Wand of Comparative Wondrousness to take effect, the wand must either tap or be pointed at the target as the magic words (if any) are pronounced. This is true whether the recipient of the magic is the wielder or someone (or something) else. All such wands have a limited number of uses, so discretion is advised. This is the sixth table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Wands of Comparative Wondrousness

Roll 1d12

1. Wand of Enemy Defection: Causes enemies to reconsider their choices and join the opposing side. Duration depends on how they are treated.
2. Wand of Gyration: Imbues the target with legendary skill as a dancer and an uncanny ability to dodge attacks until the current song ends.
3. Wand of Lightening: Decreases the weight of the target by 1d100% for 1d4 days. Subsequent castings on the same target cancel previous castings, i.e. the effects are not cumulative.
4. Wand of Magic Distraction: Will redirect an incoming spell to another target.
5. Wand of Metal and Mineral Delectation: Enables the target to safely consume and enjoy the flavor of metal and mineral substances.
6. Wand of Negotiation: Causes the target to be willing to negotiate (although the terms may or may not be agreeable to both parties).
7. Wand of Pear: Multiplies target (if a pear) by 12d12. Transforms target (if not a pear) into a pear.
8. Wand of Polly-Forming: Multiplies target (if a parrot) by 6d6. Transforms target (if not a parrot) into a parrot.
9. Wand of Pyre: Causes any targeted wooden construction to be engulfed in flames.
10. Wand of Relaxation: Soothes muscles and eliminates stress.
11. Wand of Roast: Instantly roasts any suitable food item.
12. Wand of Secret Vocation: Reveals the identity of spies, charlatans, assassins, criminals, doppelgängers, etc.