01 September 2021

#RPGaDay 2021

RPG a Day 2021 image.

The year: 2021. The event: #RPGaDay. Here is the culmination of a month of tweets wrestling with daily prompts on the subject of... RPGs.


#RPGaDay2021 1. "Scenario": I think the best scenarios I have run are those that are half-written, half-improvised, whether I've written it myself (sometimes in the form of mere notes and drawings) or I've taken liberties with a published adventure.

First, make the scenario your own; then, make it your players'. It isn't an instruction manual. It's a guide to what might be out there and what might happen. The scenario is the starting point, not the finishing line.

When you don't have a scenario handy, let the PCs decide what to do. Let them engage in training, research, carousing, shopping, etc. Have a few NPCs on file just in case. Let the PCs get themselves in trouble. The scenario writes itself.

Players are often a reliable source of side quests, too. These can be brief interludes, or they can be woven into the tapestry of a greater adventure or even a campaign.

Unmodules, by the way, harken to the days when adventures were known as "modules." Modules are created for player characters to interact with. Unmodules are created by the player characters' interactions.

I explain the unmodule in greater detail here: A Very Happy Unmodule to You!.


#RPGaDay2021 2. "Map": Mapping per the old D&D standard, whereby one player is designated the mapper and tries to faithfully replicate on paper the DM's description of the player characters' surroundings, is a laborious process.

I recall one time in 1980-something being so frustrated with a mapper's inability to draw what I described that I took the map and drew it myself, not aware that the beauty of the process was its imperfection. Every inaccuracy has the potential for misadventure.

Instead of letting the players pay for their inaccuracy, I did the work for them. Soon, I was drawing the maps in front of them on Battlemats with wet-erase pens, and then on chalkboards.

I still resort to this method now and then, sometimes with a Noteboard (a portable dry-erase board), but often I just use verbal description and allow players to map if they wish by whatever means they find expedient.

What I really like to do (and don't do often enough) is give the players a hand-drawn map as a prop they can use. A good map can convey far more than the obvious for those who are clever.


#RPGaDay2021 3. "Tactic": If your go-to "tactic" is to send your henchmen into peril ahead of you to spring traps or act as decoys, find a different tactic. You can do better. Unless you are playing a comic book villain, in which case, treat those lackeys like cannon fodder.


#RPGaDay2021 4. "Weapon": Every magic weapon ought to be unique. Every magic weapon ought to have its own name, even if no one knows it (yet). Every magic weapon ought to have its own history, which could potentially be discovered. Some magic weapons might have a destiny.


#RPGaDay2021 5. "Gamble": I do not enjoy gambling as a recreation in real life, but I will gladly gamble as a character in a role-playing game. I played a gunslinging gambler in a game of Boot Hill back in 1980-something, and it was very enjoyable... even when I lost!

And if anyone accused my character of cheating (which he often did), there was always a nice gunfight to look forward to.


#RPGaDay2021 6. "Chase": How can I have role-played this long without experiencing a car chase? I think I was involved in a chariot chase once, but never a car chase.


#RPGaDay2021 7. "Small": Dear game publishers, please avoid using small fonts, overly ornate typefaces, and background images in the pages of your rule books and other publications. Never underestimate the importance of reading comfort. #RPG #TRPG #TTRPG #TTTRPG


#RPGaDay2021 8. "Stream": Timestream. Time Stream. In the 1980s, a system-neutral article about time travel appeared in a gaming magazine, and it inspired me to run an adventure based on the premise it presented. I used Chaosium's Basic Role-Playing as its base.

I can recall neither the author nor the title of the article, but I think the term "timestream" was prominent. I keep thinking the magazine might have been Sorcerer's Apprentice or Different Worlds, but a review of my copies has been inconclusive.

Issue 29 of Different Worlds has an article that seems similar to my memory of the Timestream article: "Godwar: How to Run a Multiverse Campaign" by Mike Sweeney. I even bookmarked it with a sheet containing the names of the players in my Timestream game and their characters.

Maybe "Godwar" was the article and "Timestream" was what I named the game. Maybe. 1983 was a long time ago. If anyone knows of another "Timestream" article from that era, please let me know.

Meanwhile, this is what was written on that sheet I had used as a bookmark (real names redacted):

  • Martika the Councillor
  • Lord Rodgers
  • D___: Magus Claudius
  • A_____: Dod Bodgers
  • M_____: Sir Thorremme
  • 11 3

Mysterious, eh? The "Godwar" article is useful and interesting even if it isn't the article I was looking for (and it might be). It's short, but it's worth reading if you can find it. #Timestream


#RPGaDay2021 9. "Role": I think everyone ought to spell it "rôle."

"Oh, don't mind me! I'm off to play a rôle-playing game!"

(Apologies to the late Graham Chapman.)
#GrandPiano #MontyPythonsFlyingCircus


#RPGaDay2021 10. "Advantage": Please note well, it is to everyone's advantage to take notes during a game. #NotaBene


#RPGaDay2021 11. "Listen": I don't require players to roll to listen or see or use any of their senses. I want to describe their surroundings as vividly as I can, so why would I sabotage that with a stupid roll?

And if players are engaged enough in the game that they are actively using their senses in specific ways to try to learn more, what purpose does it serve to leave it to chance? Reward them with more information!


#RPGaDay2021 12. "Think": Non-player characters ought to think and not just react. They have their own motivations and ought to act accordingly. And since they think, they can also have a change of heart. At least, it's possible.


#RPGaDay2021 13. "Pool": In January 2013, I posted an article in Applied Phantasticality about mystical pools, which featured a table enabling one to generate a magical effect for these enigmas. Here is the link: Table: Mystical Pools.

The table is designed for use with D&D and early D&D-compatible retro-clones, but I think it might be useful to post alternate versions of tables like this for DCC RPG, Savage Worlds, and other systems. And/or I could just make system neutral versions.

This could be a good source of fodder for some of my other gaming blogs when I need a topic and my monthly deadline is drawing near. A reservoir — nay, a pool, if you will — of potential blogging material. Any reworked articles will, of course, include links to the source.


#RPGaDay2021 14. "Limits": I do not support level limits in RPGs that have character levels.
EXCEPT when there is a logical and consistent reason for them, e.g. Law and Chaos and Level Limits.
BUT I still prefer the absence of level limits.

AND, to be honest, I prefer it when role-playing games do not use character levels. They don't provide anything I need in a game.


#RPGaDay2021 15. "Supplement": My favorite RPG supplements (and I'm not including system neutral books here) are the Stormbringer Companion, the Ringworld Companion, the Cthulhu Companion, and the Judge Dredd Companion.

Cover of the Stormbringer Companion, published by Chaosium.
Cover of the Ringworld Companion, published by Chaosium.
Cover of the Cthulhu Companion, published by Chaosium.
Cover of the Judge Dredd Companion, published by Games Workshop.

I'm not including any D&D books here, because who is to say what's a core book and what's a supplement in that game? Besides, D&D gets more than enough attention. I'm far more interested in the great role-playing games that get overlooked.

Honorable Mention goes to Demon Magic: The Second Stormbringer Companion. Just look at that cover art.

Cover of Demon Magic: The Second Stormbringer Companion, published by Chaosium.

#RPGaDay2021 16. "Move": I'm not interested in any RPG combat system that reduces a fight to standing still and exchanging blows. I want to see combatants move: dodging, blocking, parrying, feinting, tumbling, rolling, leaping, swinging, running, crawling, tripping, grappling.

In other words, I have a preference for swashbuckling. I even have a blog on the subject: Theoretical Swashbuckling.


#RPGaDay2021 17. "Trap": A good trap has someone with a motive behind it, the potential to be detected before triggering it, and a consistent mechanical or magical logic. You can interact with it. You can learn from it.

A bad trap is the sort common to solitaire adventures and certain "killer dungeons." You have a choice: Open the door or move on. If you open it, you die. No chance to detect it, deactivate it, or dodge it. You picked Door Number One, and your reward is insta-death.

The method of insta-death may vary — it could be an arrow, a spear, a spiked pit, a death ray, a 16-ton weight, etc. — but the result is the same and cannot be appealed.

Only two kinds of adventurers survive the bad trap: the kind who force henchmen to take all the risks (highly implausible), and the kind who refuse to adventure. Don't include bad traps in your adventure. Be better than that. I know you can.


#RPGaDay2021 18. "Write": Back in 1980-something, I wrote to an RPG publisher to ask for their submission guidelines. Sometime later, I received the guidelines, but there was a note attached.

In this note, I was thanked for writing to them, I was told how much they enjoyed our conversation at Gen Con, and I was asked if I would be interested in writing a Narnia RPG for them.

This sounded like a wonderful opportunity, but I had no recollection of the conversation, and I was convinced the publisher had me confused with someone else. I had many conversations with publishers at the previous Gen Con, but surely none remembered me.

Furthermore, I had not at that time read any of the Narnia novels. I think at most I had seen the animated version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It certainly didn't qualify me to write an RPG based on it.

Nonplussed, I never replied and gave up the idea of writing for that company. The thought of having to write a cover letter explaining that I was not who they thought I was, but here's a submission anyway killed my motivation.

So be it. I was disappointed with the Chronicles of Narnia once I finished reading them and would not have enjoyed adapting it. Nor can I imagine deriving much joy role-playing in such a setting.

Sometimes I wonder, though, what would have happened if I had played along and said, "Why yes, I am interested in designing your Narnia role-playing game for you!"

I also wonder who they thought I was...


#RPGaDay2021 19. "Style": I admit I usually prefer minimalism in my rule books. I want clarity and simplicity in both the rules themselves and their visual presentation.

If a rule book looks cluttered and disorganized or even hyper-organized, I begin to wonder whether it's worth the trouble to read. Usually it isn't. Sometimes it is, but I'll complain about it and harbor a certain amount of resentment.


#RPGaDay2021 20. "Foundation": The foundation of a good role-playing experience is mutual respect and trust between participants. Nothing in the game is as important as this.


#RPGaDay2021 21. "Simplicity": Simplicity of game design enables ease of use by every criterion. Ease of: learning, teaching, playing, GMing, adventure-writing, house-ruling, improvising. It saves time and allows one to concentrate on what makes role-playing fun.

I know there are those who prize complexity for whatever reasons. I prefer to save the complexity for the role-playing rather than the rules. I'd rather actively play the game than waste my precious gaming time consulting rule books at the table.

Simplicity enables one to internalize the rules more quickly, and that is a hallmark of superior game design.


#RPGaDay2021 22. "Substitute": A game of #TeenagersFromOuterSpace in which the players play substitute teachers instead of students would take it to another level of challenge and comedy. #SubstitutesFromOuterSpace for the win!
#TFOS #RPG #TRPG #TTRPG #TTTRPG

Naturally, the substitutes needn't all be from outer space. Faculty as well as students can be a mix of Earthlings and extra-terrestrials.


#RPGaDay2021 23. "Innovation": There is constant innovation in RPG design. The role-playing game itself is an example of astounding innovation.

Sometimes, though, RPG enthusiasts are unaware that a thing they think is a new innovation is really a rediscovery of something introduced decades ago.

Many were introduced in such games as Tunnels & Trolls, Bunnies & Burrows, Ghostbusters, Call of Cthulhu, James Bond 007, Prince Valiant, and others.

There is value in studying history, even the history of a hobby. A toast: To the innovators, past, present, and future.


#RPGaDay2021 24. "Share": One of my favorite ways that RPG enthusiasts share their love of the hobby is through starting blogs, regularly posting to them, and linking to other blogs they find interesting. So much can be shared with a blog: knowledge, creativity, inspiration, news.

Sometimes it seems as if the art of blogging is waning, but it endures. Blogs and home pages preserved our hobby at a time when it seemed as if it might disappear, and I believe blogs (and zines and podcasts) are the hobby's ultimate lifeline.

Whatever happens to the industry, blogs, zines, and podcasts will keep the hobby alive by keeping us connected. The more we share, the richer we all become.

How can you share? Start a blog, zine, and/or podcast. Share links to the ones you like. And leave comments. Engagement is the easiest way to ensure their continuation. People like to know their work is appreciated. It's a powerful motivator.


#RPGaDay2021 25. "Box": The best example of a box for an RPG boxed set is the bookcase or bookshelf game. Designed to stand vertically, they are easier to store, less prone to damage than the flimsier traditional boxes, and roomier.
#LordsOfCreation #HeroesOfOlympus

Two bookcase games: Heroes of Olympus and Lords of Creation.

#RPGaDay2021 26. "Renew": For years I've been thinking I need to run a Logan's Run RPG based primarily on the 1976 film and, to a lesser extent, some of the elements from the television show.
#LogansRun #Renew

The Carousel scene from the movie Logan's Run.

I would probably create my own system for it, or convert one that doesn't use levels such as The D6 System, Fudge, or Basic Role-Playing. I think it has possibilities.


#RPGaDay2021 27. "Practice": Playing or GMing a role-playing game becomes easier and more enjoyable with practice (like most activities). Please don't be discouraged by mistakes, and don't take it too seriously. It's a game to be played, not a bomb to be defused.


#RPGaDay2021 28. "Solo": A solo RPG adventure involves one player and one GM. A solitaire adventure involves one player and no GM. The two are often confused by members of both the hobby and the industry, but the distinction is clear.

I have run solo adventures using Tunnels & Trolls, Marvel Super Heroes (TSR), and Doctor Who (FASA). I've also played solitaire adventures using T&T. I haven't tried Fighting Fantasy yet, but the books are on my wish list.


#RPGaDay2021 29. "System": The best systems are those that can be easily memorized and taught. That's all I have to say about this topic at the moment.


#RPGaDay2021 30. "Mention": This topic is too vague. I refuse to mention it. A better topic would be Baron Munchausen.


#RPGaDay2021 31. “Thank”: Thank Crom I made it to the end of this year’s #RPGaDay.

15 August 2021

Perceive It

Perception rolls are fine in certain circumstances, but I find it's best to use them rarely.* When player characters are actively using their senses, describe it. If they say they are searching the north wall and there is a secret door, describe the secret door (although they might not recognize it as such). If they say they are listening at the door and someone is talking in the room on the other side of it, tell them what they hear. If they are casually walking through a room, describe the room generally. If they take a closer look at anything in the room, describe it in greater detail. If the party includes a being with especially keen senses, describe things beyond the normal human capacity. In fact, nearly the only occasion I call for any kind of perception roll is when player characters are not actively using their senses. As I see it, perception rolls are a last chance to spot a clue, not a first resort. If you tell me you are scanning the floor, I'll tell you if you notice something suspicious like a tripwire. If you just stride across it without any precautions, I'll give you a chance to notice it with a perception roll (possibly made in secret by me).

So, will I give that perception roll to spot a secret door to anyone who casually walks by it? I will if the player character has a special ability to detect secret doors (like elves in D&D) or if clues are present, but otherwise no.

Description is one of the key elements of a role-playing game. It enables us to imagine everything in the game, and it gives us our tools for making decisions in fictional worlds and situations. Don't withhold opportunities for player characters to interact with their imaginary environment. Tell them more, not less. Let perception rolls be another chance for interaction, not an obstacle to it.



* A perception roll, in this context, refers to any skill, ability check, or other rule that governs a player character's ability to perceive something in any role-playing game.

01 August 2021

#RPGaDay 2021 Begins

RPG a Day 2021 image.

This year, I am participating in #RPGaDay2021 in the same manner as the previous two years, i.e. tweeting my daily responses throughout the month of August and publishing them here as a single article on 1 September. If you wish to follow my progress on Twitter, my handle is @Cuparius. To follow the conversation at large (or to participate in it), use #RPGaDay2021 for this year's topics. Visit the RPG a Day Facebook page for more information.

04 July 2021

First Place: Fleeting Luck

It may sound like the name of a racehorse, but fleeting Luck is a rule from DCC Lankhmar that is so good I shall be using it with all future games of DCC RPG and MCC RPG I run. I was never fully satisfied with the Luck rules in DCC RPG, but fleeting Luck solves the problem I had.

What problem? The problem is threefold.

  1. For the price of 1 Luck point, all you get is a +1 modifier to one roll.
  2. For non-thieves and non-halflings, regaining Luck occurs rarely.
  3. Luck is capped at character generation. If you are awarded Luck, but you are at your maximum, you get nothing.

If the judge awards Luck sparingly, the cost of using Luck is too great to justify unless you are a thief or a halfling. If the judge awards Luck generously, then only those who spend Luck will ever benefit from it, and those whose starting Luck is low will not be easily persuaded to spend what little they have when Luck may be all that saves them when it comes to "rolling the body."

I think the problem could have been avoided by separating Luck from other ability scores in the first place. Luck isn't an "ability." It's just something you have. It ought to be fluid, with no upper limit, and it ought to be spent freely to a point. But that issue is moot. Luck is entrenched as an ability.

Luckily... DCC Lankhmar introduces the concept of fleeting Luck, which is a compromise between Luck as a mostly static ability and Luck as a fluid resource. To summarize, player characters have the traditional Luck ability, but they also start with 1 point of fleeting Luck. Fleeting Luck is gained far more easily and often, but if anyone in the party rolls a 1 during an attack, spell check, or ability check, then everyone in the party loses all of their fleeting Luck, which must be gained anew. Every player character starts each new adventure with 1 point of fleeting Luck as it cannot be saved.

This makes Luck far more interesting to use. It still carries risk, but it also makes it worth the risk. It also enables the player characters cursed with low Luck scores to take riskier actions when necessary without hobbling them for the rest of their adventuring careers.

So, fleeting Luck will be standard in my games from now on, but I do have another alternative, which I may or may not use, but I'll save it for a future article.

03 July 2021

DCC Dying Earth on Kickstarter

Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories, adapted as a setting with expanded rules for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, is currently in progress as a Kickstarter project. This new boxed set promises to be as glorious as the Lankhmar boxed set, and has already surpassed it in pledges. For more details, see the DCC Dying Earth Kickstarter project.

26 June 2021

Fly, You Fools!

The wisdom of knowing when to fight and when to flee in a role-playing game is of paramount importance in those games that eschew the concept of "balanced" encounters, and of this matter I am in complete agreement. It is an elementary aspect of strategy that is as true in a game as it is in fiction or life. Why, I must ask, do those very same games then punish player characters for availing themselves of this legitimate tactic? Let us examine their ways. First, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide (p. 70) has this to say:

At such time as any creature decides, it can break off the engagement and flee the mêlée. To do so, however, allows the opponent a free attack or attack routine. This attack is calculated as if it were a rear attack upon a stunned opponent. When this attack is completed, the retiring/fleeing party may move away at full movement rate, and unless the opponent pursues and is able to move at a higher rate of speed, the melee is ended and the situation becomes one of encounter avoidance.

From the 1980 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (p. B25), we are given this version:

RETREAT: Any movement backwards at more than 1/2 the normal movement rate is a retreat. If a creature tries to retreat, the opponent may add +2 to all "to hit" rolls, and the defender is not allowed to make a return attack. In addition to the bonus on "to hit" rolls, the attacks are further adjusted by using the defender's Armor Class without a shield. (Any attacks from behind are adjusted in the same manner.)

From the 5th printing of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (p. 95), we are given this version:

Once a character is engaged in mêlée, he cannot back away without opening himself to attack. If a character or monster withdraws from an active melee — whether to retreat, move to a new position, or attempt some action — his opponents immediately receive a single free attack.

Granted, there is a distinction to be made between retreating from combat versus choosing not to engage in it in the first place, but I would suggest that breaking off from a fight ought to have only two possible negative consequences: either the opponent will pursue or the opponent will attack with a ranged weapon (and the character in flight will have no ability to dodge, parry, or block such an attack). No special rules are needed. Combatant A chooses to retreat. Combatant B, when her turn comes up, may choose to give chase and make a mêlée attack if and when she is close enough, or make a ranged attack where she stands. It's a natural result that requires no intervention.

What is served by ignoring the rules above? Besides not having to commit them to memory, it preserves a viable tactic that one can see in fiction and reality. Sometimes combatants retreat. Not every fight is to the death. The rules as written would have you believe otherwise, however, as combatants are forced to consider opening themselves to attack in order to avoid attacks.

And how exactly does one achieve this seemingly magical "free attack" when an opponent is literally moving out of range of close combat? All it does is enforce static — and therefore unrealistic and boring — fights. And none of us wants that.

So, in summary, my house rule on free attacks against retreating combatants is that there are no free attacks against retreating combatants. Follow the normal flow of action.

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.

18 April 2021

Table: Staves of Juxtaposed Potency (Expanding Unknown Table)

"And so it was that the Staves of Juxtaposed Potency were compared unfavorably to their counterparts..." (From The Guide of the Masters of Dungeons.) This is the fifth table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Staves of Juxtaposed Potency

Roll 1d6

1. Staff of Curing Meats: Instantly cures any meat.
2. Staff of Demand: Enables the wielder to issue demands understandable in any language or form of communication.
3. Staff of Powder: Emit a cone of powder of a type specified by the wielder, e.g. baking, itching, sneezing, talcum, etc.
4. Staff of the Lungfish: Transforms into a lungfish or summons 5d20 lungfish.
5. Staff of the Mage Pie: Conjures award-winning pies.
6. Staff of Striking Poses: Enables the wielder to strike a pose, thereby stunning all witnesses with amazement.
7. Staff of Withering Remarks: Enables the wielder to deliver scathing comments that demoralize the recipient.

17 April 2021

Table: Rods of Approximal Impressiveness (Expanding Unknown Table)

These are the noble Rods of Approximal Impressiveness, noted for the likeness they bear to certain other rods, which shall remain nameless. This is the fourth table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Rods of Approximal Impressiveness

Roll 1d6

1. Rod of Be-Gilling: Enables the wielder to bestow gills and the ability to breathe underwater to any recipient.
2. Rod of Gourdly Might: Renders any gourd indestructible or gigantic. Enchanting the same gourd twice causes the staff to explode.
3. Rod of Lordly Blight: Ruins the crops of any aristocrat.
4. Rod of Resuscitation: Restores life to someone who has been apparently dead or near death for no longer than 12 minutes. Can be used once per week.
5. Rod of Ruler Sip: Enables the wielder to identify any liquid by taste with no risk of ill effects.
6. Rod of Smiling: Enables the wielder to force anyone in the presence of the rod to smile.

11 April 2021

Table: Rings of Adjacent Power (Expanding Unknown Table)

These are the fabled Rings of Adjacent Power, so-named because of their similiarity in name to other enchanted rings of legend. This is the third table of the Expanding Unknown Table. Be impressed!

Rings of Adjacent Power

Roll 1d10

1. Ring of Dinner Summoning: Can manifest a meal for the wearer and any number of guests once per day to the exact specifications of whoever orders it. The wording of the order will be taken literally.
2. Ring of Divisibility: Will, upon command, instantly divide any countable thing into however many equal amounts the wearer desires.
3. Ring of Feather Filling: Can cause a container of any volume to be filled with feathers. Can produce up to six featherbeds worth of feathers per day.
4. Ring of Fee Action: Enables the wearer to exact a fee from any action, once per day, which must be paid before the action can be completed. The fee is always 3d6 coins of the lowest denomination.
5. Ring of Fife Resistance: Provides unlimited protection against wind instruments.
6. Ring of Multiple Fishes: Will, upon command, instantly multiply any fish seen or touched once per day into as many fish as the wearer desires.
7. Ring of Smell Storing: Can store any scent smelled by the wearer and, if so desired, release it on command.
8. Ring of Spell Churning: Transforms any spell directed at its wearer into butter.
9. Ring of Swilling: Enables the wearer to guzzle any amount of liquid with no harmful effects.
10. Ring of Water Waltzing: Enables the wearer and one dance partner to dance across the surface of any body of liquid. Ability lasts only as long as both partners are dancing.

10 April 2021

Table: Wandering Spinsters (Expanding Unknown Table)

Lo! There are wandering spinsters one might encounter in one's travels if one's GM happens to roll on this, the second table of the Expanding Unknown Table.

Wandering Spinsters

Roll 1d6

1. Anita Plum. Detests plums. Will fly into a rage if offered one. Otherwise saintly.
2. Hazel the Blade Sharpener. Itinerant tradeswoman and sword priestess.
3. Sybil the Far Seer. Champion archer. Unable to see anything closer than 20 yards (18 m) away.
4. Maggie the Interstellar Sorceress. Usually available to meddle.
5. Triona Trews. Known for her comically large trousers and feats of strength.
6. Marigoldilocks. Reputedly able to discern any lie, disguise, trap, or surprise. Has ruined many birthday parties.

04 April 2021

Table: Magical Wearables (Expanding Unknown Table)

Behold the magical wearables to be found, perchance, in the closets of dragons who cannot wear them or the wardrobes of wizards who will not wear them because they are never invited to social events. This is the first table of the Expanding Unknown Table. Beware!

Magical Wearables

Roll 1d20

1. Amulet of the Plains: Will transport the wearer and any companions in close proximity to the grassland of the wearer's choice — or a random grassland until it is mastered.
2. Boots of Elevation: The soles and heels of these boots will increase or decrease to a maximum height of 30 feet (10 m) at the will of the wearer.
3. Boots of Elven Kindness: Will always predispose elves to regard the wearer as someone worthy of handouts.
4. Boots of Escalation: Enable the wearer to ascend or descend any ramp, stairway, or ladder by means of floating through the air.
5. Boots of Prancing: Permit the wearer only one means of locomotion (prancing), but anyone who observes the wearer moving thusly will also be similarly restricted for the duration.
6. Boots of Straddling and Swinging: Enable the wearer to straddle two separate surfaces with no chance of falling, and to swing from any rope, vine, chandelier, or any similar suspended and swingable thing without fear of failure.
7. Brooch of Yielding: Protects the wearer from being accidentally struck by anyone or anything.
8. Cloak of Elven Kindness: Will always convince elves to look the other way so as to spare the wearer shame.
9. Cloak of Predilection: Encourages the wearer to indulge in every unwise urge; lowers the wearer's wisdom to the minimum; and makes the wearer more prone to physical attack.
10. Gauntlets of Gesturing: Give the wearer the ability to use (and understand) any gesture from any culture and be perfectly understood when so gesturing.
11. Gauntlets of Ochre Power: Give the wearer the power to change the color of anything they touch to ochre.
12. Girdle of Ant Strength: Gives the wearer the strength of an ant. (Useful if wearer is the size of an ant or smaller.)
13. Girdle of Giant Ant Strength: Gives the ant who wears it the strength of a giant.
14. Helm of Fully Understanding Verbal, Nonverbal, and Written Communication of a Magical or Nonmagical Nature: Also functions as a normal helmet.
15. Medallion of Migraine Projection: Enables the wearer to share the pain of a migraine headache with anyone the wearer can see.
16. Necklace of Implausible Adaptability: Grants the wearer the ability to exist in any environment completely unharmed.
17. Phylactery of Tall Beers: Enables the wearer to refill any beverage magically until closing time or sunrise, whichever comes first.
18. Robe of Blending In: Enables the wearer to be mistaken for a member of whatever group the wearer mingles with or lingers around.
19. Scarab of Sanity: Restores sanity and even common sense when displayed.
20. Scarab of Upsetting Family: Will instantly cause melodramatic familial distress when displayed.

01 April 2021

Expanding Unknown Table

This is the time-defying Expanding Unknown Table, posted on the first of April from the future world of the 20th of April, so that readers of the present may watch it unfold before their very eyes, and readers of the future can use it as a convenient reference. How long will it be? Only time will tell. [Edit: Time says 1d12.]

Expanding Unknown Table

Roll 1d12

1. Roll on the Magical Wearables Table!
2. Roll on the Wandering Spinsters Table!
3. Roll on the Rings of Adjacent Power Table!
4. Roll on the Rods of Approximal Impressiveness Table!
5. Roll on the Staves of Juxtaposed Potency Table!
6. Roll on the Wands of Comparative Wondrousness Table!
7. Roll on the Bazaar Encounters Table!
8. Roll on the Phantastical Cures Table!
9. Roll on the Character Middle Grounds Table!
10. Roll on the Words of Rejection Table!
11. Roll on the Tavern Encounters Table!
12. Roll on the Scrolls of Profound Déjà Vu Table!

31 March 2021

Expanding Unknown Table Is Imminent

Last April, I celebrated the month (starting on the 30th of March for some reason) by posting daily installments of the Table of Many Tables. Each result instructed the reader to roll on another table, and one link went live each day until the table was fully functional. This year, I am planning something similar, but instead of posting the master table first, I will be posting it last. Who knows how long it will be? It could be anything from a d4 table to a d30 table. It could even be a table with an odd number of results. (I have all the odd-numbered dice from d3 to d19 after all.) I hope to start posting the results of this expanding unknown table on the 1st of April, but I shall also be attending an important wedding on that day, so we shall see. I'm not forcing myself to adhere to a regular schedule this time, but I hope to have a very productive April.

When this project has been completed, I will post the link to the master table here.

Let the month... BEGIN!

28 March 2021

Cargoes & Castaways Back in Progress

After far too long a period of uncertainty, I have made a decision about Cargoes & Castaways. As I mentioned previously, it was initially written for Swords & Wizardry White Box, and I had considered adapting it for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (and some other systems), but the more I thought about how I envisioned the game being played the more I became convinced that the only way to do justice to the original concept was to create a dedicated system for it. I think it will make the game more fun to play and design. I'll decline to offer a prediction as to when it will be finished (because predictions are inevitably doomed to be disproven), but I am now more optimistic that it will be finished.

07 February 2021

Cargoes & Castaways & Persistent Indecision

My biggest struggle with finishing Cargoes & Castaways, the game I originally designed with Swords & Wizardry White Box in mind, is that I no longer know what system would be the best fit for it. Do I keep its connection with Swords & Wizardry? Do I rewrite it for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG? Do I adapt it to D6? Do I design a new system for it? And most importantly, would anyone care? Does it hold interest for anyone but myself? I just don't know.

30 January 2021

Nothing to See Here

It is already a month since I wrote about my modest New Year's resolution, and have I made any progress? Not in the least. I have neither played, nor run, nor written about role-playing games all month. Thought about them? Yes. Accomplished anything? Not really. The closest I've come to doing anything remotely gaming-related was to buy a portable stand for my green screen (for online gaming purposes). I've thought about gaming, and I will game, but today I'm just trying to fulfill that permanent goal of posting at least one article per blog per month. Does this count?