05 December 2022

Passive Mutations During Level Progression Alternative Rule

In Mutant Crawl Classics RPG, there is a rule on page 42 stating that a mutant character may choose to re-roll a passive mutation upon gaining a level and may burn Luck or use glowburn in the process. In practice, this gives a slim chance of improvement made somewhat greater only at the expense of Luck, which does not regenerate for mutants or manimals, or physical abilities (Strength, Agility, or Stamina), which regenerate slowly and probably not in time to prevent a character from suffering severe disadvantages during an adventure. In addition, there is a significant chance that a character's passive mutation will worsen.

The question I ask myself when I think about a rule is: Is this fun? ("Is this fair?" is another question I ask and is often linked to the first.) Is it fun to survive long enough to achieve the next level just to see one's passive mutation devolve or see it improve at the expense of one's general ability to survive? It seems contradictory. I can understand the risk involved in radiation exposure, which might be to the mutant's benefit or detriment, but that risk is part of the adventure itself, not a rule pertaining to levelling up. It wouldn't be as much of an issue if mutants and manimals could at least regenerate Luck even if it were only 1 point per day. For me, this rule is neither fun nor fair.

So, here's my house rule...

Each time a mutated character gains a level, the player may opt to re-roll a passive mutation. If the roll exceeds the current result, the character's passive mutation improves by one step. If the roll is a 1, the passive mutation regresses by one step. Otherwise, the passive mutation remains unchanged. Neither Luck nor glowburn may be used to alter results.

19 November 2022

Idle Musing on Imagination

Some months ago, a friend bemoaned the fact that she had no visual imagination, which is to say, she found it impossible to visualize anything she read, which is why she avoided imaginative fiction such as fantasy and science fiction. In contrast, I find it so easy to visualize what I read that I typically feel as if I have been transported to another world and lose all awareness of my real world surroundings. When I am immersed in a book or an article, I can't even hear someone speaking to me until they tap me on the shoulder or cover what I'm reading with their hand. As it happens, these extreme experiences have names. Apparently, my friend has aphantasia, whereas I have hyperphantasia. It doesn't alter anything, but I find it interesting that a name exists for something I have always — in my case — taken for granted.

23 October 2022

Table: Small Talk

Here is a meaningless little table for randomly generating topics of small talk, chit-chat, and casual conversation when the need arises, whether the adventurers are eavesdropping, actively participating, or overhear it in passing. How these topics may or may not lead to (or evolve into) adventure seeds is left to the reader's discretion. (I probably ought to have saved this for April of next year, but perhaps I can post a suitable variation when the time comes.)

Small Talk

Roll 1d20

The topic is...

1. Aches and pains.
2. Animals.
3. Astrology.
4. Conspiracies.
5. Crime.
6. Foreign lands.
7. Home remedies.
8. Illness or injury.
9. Legendary flora or fauna.
10. Love.
11. Luxury goods.
12. Relatives.
13. Religion.
14. Scandals.
15. The supernatural.
16. Tall tales.
17. Taxes.
18. War.
19. The weather.
20. Work.

03 September 2022

#RPGaDay 2022

RPGaDay 2022 calendar image.

Behold my #RPGaDay of 2022 in all its glory, having originally appeared on Twitter in the month of August.

#RPGaDay2022 1. "To whom would you like to introduce RPGs?": I would like to introduce anyone who is interested, willing, and considerate. Those are my only three criteria.

(I thought my answer would be longer, but that sums it up. I can provide elaboration or clarification on request.)

#RPGaDay2022 2. "What is a great introductory RPG?": I don't believe in "introductory RPGs." I believe in great RPGs that are as enjoyable for beginners as they are for experienced players.

#RPGaDay2022 3. "When were you first introduced to RPGs?": My first exposure to a role-playing product was the Monster Manual (for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) c. 1977, but the first time I played an RPG was probably early 1981 when I was 11 years old.

#RPGaDay2022 4. "Where would you host a first game?": In my home or in a park. If the latter, a picnic would be mandatory, and a cookout would be ideal.

#RPGaDay2022 5. "Why will they like this game?": Too vague. I can state why I like an RPG, and the main reason is that it facilitates role-playing from the point of view of a character. If an RPG hinders this activity, I will not like it as an RPG.

#RPGaDay2022 6. "How would you get more people playing RPGs?": If I were a genie or other being with godlike powers? By magically enabling everyone to coordinate their schedules on a regular basis.

#RPGaDay2020 7. "Describe a cool part of a system that you love.": The standard trait ladder of Fudge, using adjectives instead of numbers, enables anyone to use the system without resorting to out-of-character game terminology. It's easy, intuitive, and universal.

The trait ladder is: Superb > Great > Good > Fair > Mediocre > Poor > Terrible.

Creative Reckoning: What Is Fudge?

#RPGaDay2022 8. "Who introduced you to RPGs?": My friend David H., whom I have known since I was in 3rd grade. For more information, see my answer for Day 1 of RPGaDay 2019.

#RPGaDay2022 9. "What is the second RPG you bought?": Probably Gamma World 2nd edition at Hobby Center or a tie between Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu at Gen Con (when it was held at the University of Wisconsin — Parkside in the early 1980s).

To be pedantic, though, AD&D 1st edition would be the second RPG I bought if it's considered a separate RPG from Basic/Expert D&D.

So, the true chronology is
1st: Basic/Expert D&D
2nd: AD&D 1st edition
3rd: Gamma World or Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer

#RPGaDay2022 10. "When did you start Gamemastering?": 1981 or 1982.

#RPGaDay2022 11. "If you could live in a game setting, where would it be?": My first instinct is to say the setting of Ghostbusters, because I'd really like to be a Ghostbuster as my day job (or night job).

The Ghostbusters about to save the world.

#RPGaDay2022 12. "Why did you start RPGing?": Because it fulfills a gaming desire that is not met by any other form of gaming.

#RPGaDay2022 13. "How would you change the way you started RPGing?": A thread.

By 1) sticking with the B/X D&D rules and using the AD&D books for inspiration when playing D&D,

2) reading even more of the AD&D 1e Appendix N books and B/X D&D Inspirational Source Material (p. B62),

3) resisting the temptation of Monty Haulism,

and 4) trusting myself and my friends to try the games we weren't sure we were ready for. I had some difficulty wrapping my head around how to run Gamma World and a few other RPGs, worried that I might do it wrong, and I ought to have just plunged in. Why worry? It's a GAME.

#RPGaDay2022 14. "Roll 1d8+1, and tag that many friends and suggest a new RPG to try.": Or I'll just suggest a new RPG to try for everyone who reads this. Try Zorro: The Roleplaying Game!

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game (Gallant Knight Games)

I wrote something about it here: How to Create a Swashbuckler in Zorro.

#RPGaDay2022 15. "Who would you like to Gamemaster for you?": Park Eun-bin. She's my first choice.

Other choices include Rowan Atkinson, Richard Ayoade, Jack Black, Brent Butt, Lorne Cardinal, Felicia Day, Phyllis Diller, Brother Theodore (a.k.a. Theodore Gottlieb), MC Bat Commander (a.k.a. Christian Jacobs), Phil LaMarr, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Elvira (a.k.a. Cassandra Peterson), Andrew Phung, Vincent Price, Rod Serling, Orson Welles, and "Weird Al" Yankovic.

#RPGaDay2022 16. "What would be your perfect game?": Perfection is impossible and the pursuit of it leads to madness. That being said, my optimum game would be easy to learn and teach, have rules that increase fun at the table, and enable players to reach their objectives by using creative thinking rather than min-maxing.

#RPGaDay2022 17. "Past, Present, or Future? When is your favourite game set?": It depends on which of my favorite games we are discussing. I enjoy all three.

#RPGaDay2022 18. "Where is your favourite place to play?": In my home or in a park that isn't crowded. I've also learned to enjoy playing in game parlors.

#RPGaDay2022 19. "Why has your favourite game stayed with you?": Because I never discard a game I enjoy.

#RPGaDay2022 20. "How long do your games last?": Sessions usually last four hours. When I was in junior high and high school they lasted about eight hours — sometimes twice a week! Those were the days...

#RPGaDay2022 21. "Share an intriguing detail from a game setting you enjoy.": A sentence from A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, p. 25: "The Despotrix of Hardby now pays tribute to Greyhawk to avoid being absorbed in the growing city state once again."

I wonder how many despotrices there are in the world of Greyhawk.

(The World of Greyhawk boxed set for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st edition.)

#RPGaDay2022 22. "Who is your current character?": Smiley, a Healer in Mutant Crawl Classics RPG based on Wanda from Corner Gas played by Nancy Robertson. She wears a hard hat, jumpsuit, heat resistant gloves and boots, and gets mistaken for an employee by security robots.

Nancy Robertson as Wanda Dollard in Corner Gas, reading a book entitled Scientific Probability.

My previous character (also for MCC RPG) was a mutant gibbon Manimal named Barry Gibb-On. He could throw balls of electricity and, due to a mutation he acquired later, looked exactly like Barry Gibb (except when he was asleep).

Barry Gibb.
A gibbon.

#RPGaDay2022 23. "What situation is your character currently in?": Smiley the Healer is trying to decide whether to try the random unidentified medical drugs she found in a space station or donate them to a charity. (See answer 22.)

Nancy Robertson as Wanda Dollard in Corner Gas.

#RPGaDay2022 24. "When did you start playing this character?": Earlier this summer. (See answer 22.)

Not the most thought-provoking RPGaDay question (or answer), but there you are.

#RPGaDay2022 25. "Where has that character been?": Postapocalyptic Albuquerque and a space station. (See answer 22.)

#RPGaDay2022 26. "Why does your character do what [she does]?": To better challenge her towering intellect, which belies her diminutive stature. (See answer 22.)

Wanda threatens Hank in Corner Gas.

#RPGaDay2022 27. "How has the character changed?": She became a Healer and acquired a yo-yo of the Ancients, which is now her most prized possession besides her medipac. (See answer 22.)

Nancy Robertson as Wanda Dollard in Corner Gas. Monochrome image.

#RPGaDay2022 28. "Roll 1d8+1, tag that many friends with your favourite RPG cover art.": Again, I shan't be tagging friends, but my earliest favorite cover illustrations were by Erol Otus for the Dungeons & Dragons Basic and Expert Sets.

Cover art by Erol Otus for the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set.
Cover art by Erol Otus for the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set.

Another early favorite is the cover of Stormbringer by Frank Brunner.

Cover art by Frank Brunner for the Stormbringer role-playing game.

#RPGaDay2022 29. "Who would you like to see take part in #RPGaDay?": Dirk the Dice (@theGROGNARDfile) and the rest at The GROGNARD Files.

#RPGaDay2022 30. "What should #RPGaDay do for its 10th Anniversary next year?": This is the hardest question yet. Perhaps visual prompts?

#RPGaDay2022 31. "When did you first take part in #RPGaDay?": 1 August 2017

27 August 2022

Exploding Natural 20s

What if instead of dealing double damage, maximum damage, or a random injury from a critical hits table, a natural 20 means the character gets an extra action (that may be used for an extra attack if so desired)? If that action results in a natural 20, another extra action is granted, and so on. In this case, each natural 20 offers a choice and the potential to make combat more interesting.

I think it's worth playtesting.

07 August 2022

Some Random Topics

RPGaDay situation: My answers for this year's RPGaDay are succinct enough that I decided to continue my tradition of posting them daily on Twitter and collecting them into a single article at the end of August or the beginning of September. If you wish to read them on Twitter, my handle is @Cuparius.

RPG I've played most often in the last year or so: Mutant Crawl Classics RPG

RPGs I've GMed most often in the last year or so: Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and Ghostbusters 1st edition

Board game I've played most often since the beginning of 2020: Don Quixote

RPGs I most need to run in the very near future: Ghostbusters, Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, Teenagers from Outer Space

Other RPGs I want to run as soon as possible: Savage World of Flash Gordon (Savage Worlds), Awfully Cheerful Engine! RPG, Zorro: The Roleplaying Game.

Thing I need to adapt to RPG for a friend: Tron

Missed deadline due to annual forgetfulness: One Page Dungeon Contest 2022

Ironclad goal for this year: Publish my first zine.

16 July 2022

Last Minute DCC RPG News

Happy DCC Day! For those fortunate to live near participating stores, DCC Day is a Goodman Games holiday celebrating Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. And it's today!

Today is also the last day to support the 2022 Purple Sorcerer Games Free Tools Pledge. It's a free resource highly valued by the DCC RPG community. You, too, can be a supporter, so act now!

10 July 2022

Seeking a Squad Leader Lead

Sometime this millenium, somewhere on the blogosphere or elsewhere in the wonderful world of the Internet, I read a very entertaining tongue-in-cheek article about Squad Leader and Advanced Squad Leader that made me laugh quite a bit. I can't recall who wrote it and I seem to have lost the bookmark, so I am humbly asking if anyone who remembers it can please direct me to it or at least share the author's name and/or the article's title. Thank you in advance.

02 July 2022

Contemplating RPGaDay Again

RPGaDay2022 is around the corner (a corner named August), and this year I am trying to decide whether I should follow my method of the last few years (posting my answers daily to Twitter and then compiling them all into a single blog article at the end of the month) or my original method (posting my answers daily to Applied Phantasticality as individual articles). I know there are those who used to complain about the latter method back in the Google+ days, but I don't know if any of them even read my blogs. Twitter is more convenient, but I am disenchented with it (especially since its possible new owner was announced). As far as reach goes, I have no idea. I have a month to decide, though.

RPGaDay 2022 graphic.
[Click image to enlarge.]

20 June 2022

Free RPG Day and Mutant Crawl Classics Playtests

Tim Snider of Savage Afterworld is reminding everyone that the 25th of June is Free RPG Day and that he is running two Mutant Crawl Classics playtests (also free) via Zoom. Read the details here. Be there!

04 June 2022

A Moment of Phrustration

In our hobby (fantasy role-playing), we've seen high fantasy, low fantasy, grimdark fantasy, and science fantasy. And in those sub-genres we've seen characters depicted in various garb: traditional pseudohistorical, pulp barbarian, dungeonpunk, Renaissance Fair cosplay, anime/manga cosplay, etc. But how often do we see medieval fantasy role-playing characters depicted in actual historically accurate clothing? If I'm supposed to immerse myself in a fantastic analogue of the Middle Ages, I want to see fashion no later than that of the 14th Century. Why? Because I find the alternatives boring. That's all. A modicum of historical accuracy would represent an exciting and radical departure from mainstream popular culture fantasy. I crave it, because I am bored of the banality of most mainstream commercial art. It doesn't inspire me, it doesn't transport me, and it doesn't make me want to buy or play whatever game it illustrates. I am tired of uninteresting, unimaginative fantasy art. I'd rather have a product with no art than uninspiring art.

This concludes my rant.

Game on.

18 May 2022

Return of The Savage Afterworld

Tim Snider's post-apocalyptic gaming blog, The Savage Afterworld, has reawakened, so bookmark it and add it to your blog roll.

30 April 2022

Table of the Quasi-Answerable

As a bonus to Random Generator Month 2022, readers may notice I added a few random tables after the completion of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table, which are now part of the...

Table of the Quasi-Answerable

Roll 1d6 if you dare!

1. Roll on the Magic d20 or Oracular Icosahedron? Tables!
2. Roll on the Universal Resolution System Table!
3. Roll on the Variable Resolution System Table!
4. Roll on the Low Impact Reactions Table!
5. Roll on the High Impact Reactions Table!
6. Roll on the Player Character Reactions Table!

28 April 2022

Table: Player Character Reactions

Why should monsters and non-player characters have all the fun with reaction tables? Why can't players make random decisions for their characters with their own reaction table? Now they can with the Player Character Reactions table! Let the dice decide!

Player Character Reactions

Roll 2d6

The player character responds by...

2Fleeing (which is uncommonly wise).
3-5Checking stuff (spells, weapons, equipment, did I mention spells?).
6-8Fighting (as usual).
9-11Sneaking (e.g. attempting to backstab in full view of everyone).
12Parleying (or, to be more specific, lying).

[The above is a table of the Table of the Quasi-Answerable.]

27 April 2022

Table: High Impact Reactions

Are you weary of the same old reaction table churning out the same old reactions regardless of extenuating circumstances? Would you like to break up the monotony of casual adventuring with a bit of bloodshed? Then perhaps you need High Impact Reactions. Whenever your adventurers encounter a monster or nonmonster with an inclination for violence, roll on the High Impact Reactions table for an action-packed role-playing experience. Enjoy!

High Impact Reactions

Roll 2d6

The being's reaction is...

2Berserk. Attacks anything and everything.
3-5Furious. Attacks with unbridled ferocity.
6-8Ambivalent. Alternately attacks and apologizes.
9-11Excited. Wants to go killing and/or carousing with you.
12Bonded. Wants to make a blood oath alliance.

[The above is a table of the Table of the Quasi-Answerable.]

26 April 2022

Table: Low Impact Reactions

Are you tired of the same old reaction table churning out the same old reactions regardless of extenuating circumstances? Would you like to break up the monotony of hack-and-slash adventuring with a bit of conviviality? Then perhaps you need Low Impact Reactions. Whenever your adventurers encounter a monster or nonmonster who might not fit the stereotypical profile, roll on the Low Impact Reactions table for a relaxing role-playing experience. Enjoy!

Low Impact Reactions

Roll 2d6

The being's reaction is...

2Exasperated. Politely requests some time alone.
3-5Dismayed. Asks to discuss it over tea.
6-8Unsure. Asks to discuss it over coffee.
9-11Interested. Asks to discuss it over alcohol.
12Enthusiastic. Invites you to a party.

[The above is a table of the Table of the Quasi-Answerable.]

25 April 2022

Table: Variable Resolution System

The premise: Each time a player character attempts an action with an uncertain outcome, roll on the table below to determine the method of resolution.

Variable Resolution System

Roll 1d12

1. Roll equal to or lower than stat.
2. Roll and add stat (or stat modifier) to beat difficulty.
3. Roll number of dice equal to stat to beat difficulty.
4. Roll and consult combat matrix.
5. Stat and difficulty are rated by die-step. Highest roll wins.
6. Stat and difficulty are rated via Fudge trait ladder. Resolve with 4dF.
7. Compare relevant stats and/or difficulty. Highest value prevails.
8. Flip a coin. Heads = success; tails = failure.
9. Throw darts. Player gets number of darts equal to stat; GM gets number of darts equal to difficulty. Highest score prevails.
10. Play Rock-Paper-Scissors. Player with advantage can call for best two out of three.
11. Play tiddlywinks. Victor prevails.
12. Break out the nerf guns.

[The above is a table of the Table of the Quasi-Answerable.]

24 April 2022

Table: Universal Resolution System

Whatever the system, whatever the situation, you, too, can use the Universal Resolution System if you have an eight-sided die. Use it for combat. Use it for diplomacy. Use it for skills, stunts, feats, saving throws, or anything else that seems appropriate.

How Does it Work?

If you are at an advantage, roll two eight-sided dice and pick the highest result. If you are at a disadvantage, roll two eight-sided dice and pick the lowest result. If neither apply, just roll 1d8.

Go On...

Developed using the latest improv technology, the Universal Resolution System ensures that decisions are left to you... and chance... and really a combination of chance and your interpretation of the result... and what your GM allows... or what your players allow if you are the GM and you give them that leeway.

Try it!

Universal Resolution System

Roll 1d8

1. Critical: Extreme No
2. No And... No Way
3. Yes, But... Not Really*
4. Perhaps
5. Definite Maybe
6. No, But... Yeah, Sure**
7. Yes And... Yes Way
8. Critical: Extreme Yes

* Also known as "Yeah, No."
**Also known as "No, Well, O.K., Fine."

[The above is a table of the Table of the Quasi-Answerable.]

23 April 2022

Magic d20 or Oracular Icosahedron?

Can I ____?

Sometimes a player asks, "Can I [blank]?" Maybe you know such a player. Maybe you have been that player. There are many ways to answer that question, some helpful, some not so helpful, but if ever you wish to allow the supernatural to offer a guiding hand, here are some tables with the answers you just can't be bothered to formulate.

One table is based directly on the Magic 8 Ball, but requires the use of a magic d20 instead (although a nonmagical d20 will suffice). The other table requires an oracular icosahedron (although, again, a nonmagical d20 is an acceptable substitute). Choose the table that best serves your needs, but if indecision strikes, you may always resort to a random method, e.g. roll any die — if the result is an even number, roll the magic d20; if the result is an odd number, roll the oracular icosahedron.

Magic d20

Roll 1d20

The answer to your yes-or-no question is...

1. My reply is no.
2. My sources say no.
3. Outlook not so good.
4. Very doubtful.
5. Don't count on it.
6. Better not tell you now.
7. Cannot predict now.
8. Ask again later.
9. Reply hazy, try again.
10. Concentrate and ask again.
11. Outlook good.
12. Most likely.
13. Signs point to yes.
14. As I see it, yes.
15. Yes.
16. Yes definitely.
17. Without a doubt.
18. It is certain.
19. It is decidedly so.
20. You may rely on it.

Oracular Icosahedron

Roll 1d20

The answer to your yea-or-nay inquiry is...

1. Fool! The answer is no, and all your ambitions are as dust!
2. Fool! The answer is yes, though you be ignorant of its implications!
3. No! And woe to you and your descendants!
4. Yes! And woe to you and the reputation of your ancestors!
5. No, for mortals such as you can never attain such lofty aspirations!
6. Yes, though you shall wish it otherwise!
7. No, if you don't mind offending Nature!
8. Yes, if you would offend the gods!
9. Not as mortals perceive it, no.
10. As mortals perceive it, yes.
11. The answer lies within you.
12. The answer is all around you.
13. Quest and you shall know.
14. Know and you shall perish.
15. It is known that there is no known answer.
16. Those who utter such a question draw the attention of alien gods or demons.
17. Not at this time.
18. Yes, but not for long.
19. Never.
20. Always.

[The above are tables of the Table of the Quasi-Answerable.]

22 April 2022

Random Generator Month

April is Random Generator Month at Applied Phantasticality, and I have taken care to add that link/label to every April mega-table including the one I retroactively created for the first satirical tables I posted in 2013. Thus far, we have the Table of Tablecentric Tables of 2013, the Table of Many Tables (Contains Tables) of 2020, the Expanding Unknown Table of 2021, and the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table of 2022. Apparently, it's a self-imposed tradition now, so I thought it deserved a name. Happy Random Generator Month, readers!

21 April 2022

Table: Royal Gifts for Loyal Subjects (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Those few adventurers who have been of particular service to their rulers may be surprised with rare and usual gifts that befit the gratitude and, shall we say, eccentricity of their royal personages. This is the twentieth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Royal Gifts for Loyal Subjects

Roll 1d8

1. An adamantite paperweight engraved with the recipent's name.
2. A "chair that rocketh" fashioned from mammoth tusks.
3. A lifesize origami paper golem folded in the likeness of the recipient.
4. A magnificent stuffed horse on wheels.
5. A painting entitled Still Life with Turnip and Severed Head.
6. A pair of Slippers of Heavenly Comfort (nonmagical, but convince your feet of that).
7. A pet miniature purple worm, which, if not kept in its terrarium will soon become considerably larger.
8. A rare homing pigeon capable of breaking the sound barrier.

20 April 2022

Table: Misspells 4 (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

There seems to be no limit to the ways in which Mis-Spells can manifest thanks to spells misheard, mispoken, mistranslated, or even misspelled. This is the nineteenth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Misspells 4

Roll 1d30

1. Bemuse Nurse
2. Bump
3. Carnation
4. Comprehend Luggage
5. Delayed Bliss Glitter Globe
6. Drawmij's Instant Cinnamon
7. Eerie Waiter
8. Firebowels
9. Fire Traipse
10. Gas
11. Hold Hamster
12. Hold Turtle
13. Legend Bore
14. Leomund's Tarp
15. Liar Shield
16. Lungs
17. Mirror Damage
18. Mordenkainen's Fainting Hound
19. Otiluke's Frozen Pear
20. Passwaffle
21. Power Word: Grill
22. Power Word: Shun
23. Score
24. Snow
25. Spittlerack
26. Time Stamp
27. Wader Bleating
28. Waste
29. Webbed
30. Wreath Magic

19 April 2022

Table: Birth Status (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

The professional adventurer may prefer to wear a cloak of mystery, but even the mysterious stranger came from somewhere. This is the eighteenth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Birth Status

Roll 1d20 or 1d30

1. 1st child
2. 2nd child
3. 3rd child
4. 4th child
5. 5th child
6. 6th child
7. 7th child
8. 8th child
9. 9th child
10. 10th child
11. 11th child
12. 12th child
13. only child
14. adopted child
15. foundling
16. changeling (alleged)
17. twin (roll 1d12 to determine order for both)
18. triplet (roll 1d12 to determine order for all three)
19. quadruplet (roll 1d12 to determine order for all four)
20. quintuplet (roll 1d12 to determine order for all five)
21. raised by 1) wolves, 2) werewolves, 3) wolfweres, or 4) dogs (roll 1d4)
22. raised by 1) apes, 2) monkeys, or 3) proto-simians (roll 1d3)
23. raised by 1) squirrels, 2) raccoons, 3) opossums, 4) rabbits, 5) hedgehogs, or 6) capybaras (roll 1d6)
24. raised by chickens (or the poultry of your choice)
25. raised by 1) dolphins, 2) whales, 3) squid, 4) carp, 5) merpeople, or 6) plankton (roll 1d6)
26. changeling (for sure)
27. born of the union of divine and mortal flesh (i.e. a demigod)
28. created by act of spontaneous generation
29. reanimated from the tissue of a variety of corpses
30. began as a puppet carved from wood

18 April 2022

Table: Misspells 3 (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Is there no end to the number of Mis-Spells that arise due to instances of caster error, syntax error, or other phenomena? This is the seventeenth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Misspells 3

Roll 1d30

1. Affect Normal Accent
2. Audible Glazer
3. Burning Hams
4. Cacaodemon
5. Clairannoyance
6. Clairavoidance
7. Console Elemental
8. Control Feather
9. Daze Floor
10. Delayed Blast Folderol
11. Detect Upheaval
12. Ice Stork
13. Incense Dairy Cloud
14. Infeasibility
15. Levitaste
16. Limited Fish
17. Magic Gar
18. Mass Infeasibility
19. Nystul's Magic Error
20. Protection from Upheaval
21. Reed Magic
22. Rolypolyform Other
23. Rolypolyform Self
24. Schlep
25. Shop Change
26. Serten's Spumoni
27. Teleknees
28. Trap the Vole
29. Water Bothering
30. Wizard Rye

17 April 2022

Table: Magical Hats (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Those who are fashion forward about their headgear will not hesitate to place these hats upon their pates. This is the sixteenth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Magical Hats

Roll 1d6

1. Beret of Insouciance: Renders the wearer invulnerable to stress and mental or emotional attacks.
2. Bicorne of War and Peace: Turned one way, the wearer causes any interaction to escalate to immediate violence or threats thereof; turned the other way, the wearer causes any interaction to de-escalate to light conversation or sing-a-longs.
3. Fez of Residency: Will, when tossed and the command is uttered, expand into a fully furnished luxury domicile.
4. Mortarboard of Might: Will hold any amount of weight stacked or placed upon it with no harm to the wearer, who may stand, sit, or walk without fear of losing balance whilst so burdened.
5. Skull Cap of Thinking: Enables the wearer to ponder completely free of distractions; produces a lit candle hovering above the wearer's head when an idea is conceived. (Candle may be used normally.)
6. Wimpled Hennin of Electrical Spectacle: Enables the wearer to redirect electrical energy without sustaining injury, but at increased risk of static cling.

16 April 2022

Table: Misspells for Illusionists (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Mis-Spells (like these and these) happen to illusionists, too, and here is the table to prove it. This is the fifteenth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Misspells for Illusionists

Roll 1d20

1. Blandness
2. Blurt
3. Ciaos
4. Continual Delight
5. Dankness
6. Detect Quizability
7. Distil Exhaustion
8. Duffness
9. Frog Cloud
10. Gazelle Deflection
11. Mist Direction
12. Moss Suggestion
13. Naan Detection
14. Paralegalization
15. Phantasmal Thriller
16. Prismatic Mall
17. Quizability
18. Shadow Puppets
19. True Sigh
20. Veal

14 April 2022

Table: Misspells 2 (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Our thaumaturgical troubleshooters work round the clock every day to uncover more Mis-Spells like those compiled here from the Table of Many Tables. This is the fourteenth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Misspells 2

Roll 1d30

1. Airy Wafer
2. Animate Bread
3. Blizzard Bye
4. Crowdkill
5. Conjure Sentimental
6. Detect Bevel
7. Dimension Boor
8. Doo-Wop Dimension
9. Explosive Runs
10. File Charm
11. Fire Crap
12. Flame Marrow
13. Flu
14. Hallucinatory Terrarium
15. Infantvision
16. Leomund's Secret Vest
17. Leomund's Tiny Hat
18. Massage
19. Meteor Shawarma
20. Mime Stop
21. Minor Glob of Vulgarity
22. Paste
23. Power Word, Fun
24. Prismatic Spore
25. Protection from Normal Missives
26. Rary's Pneumatic Depantser
27. Slop
28. Telepork
29. Wall of Irony
30. Wall of Rice

13 April 2022

Table: Wandering Monsters 2 (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Once upon a time there was a Wandering Monsters table that dwelled in the Table of Many Tables. It was lonely, however, so it was introduced to a new friend: Wandering Monsters 2. This is the thirteenth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Wandering Monsters 2

Roll 1d20

1. Aerial Shirker. Frequency: More common than you would think
2. Ankleg. Number Appearing: 2
3. Beeholder. Armor Class: 10 [9]
4. Bissellisk. Move: Almost average
5. Carnivorous Silverfish. Hit Dice: 1 (subject), 10 (aristocrat)
6. Cloud Gerbil. Treasure Type: Nil
7. Dire Aphid. % in Lair: 0%
8. Eye Float. No. of Attacks: 1
9. Grape Ooze. Damage/Attack: 2-16
10. Grin Slime. Special Attacks: Uncontrollable smiling
11. Lungfish, Wild. Special Defenses: Disarming personality
12. Mint Flayer. Magic Resistance: 34%
13. Phase Earwig. Intelligence: Non- (as far as anyone knows...)
14. Rambling Mound. Alignment: Chaotic neutral
15. Rumorhazit. Size: L (quite L)
16. Slumber Hulk. Psionic Ability: Considerable
17. Tapioca Pudding. Psionic Attack Mode: Nil
18. Thought Snacker. Psionic Defense Mode: A variety
19. Wazzit. Note: Often employed as a familiar by absent-minded wizards
20. Wereweevil. Description: Resembles an ordinary weevil except for its palpable aura of malice.

12 April 2022

Table: Pointless Cantrips (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Why do a simple thing easily when you can marshal the tempestuous forces of magic to yield the same results by vastly more complicated means? Cantrips are the answer! Avail yourself of these fine feats of subwizardry to accomplish what nearly everyone can do with less effort. This is the twelfth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Pointless Cantrips

Roll 1d12

1. Blow on Some Soup
2. Darn a Sock
3. Empty a Chamber Pot
4. Light a Candle
5. Pour Some Water
6. Sharpen Some Cutlery
7. Shine Some Boots
8. Stir a Pot
9. Sweep a Floor
10. Tap Someone on the Shoulder
11. Wash a Garment
12. Whisper to Someone Nearby

11 April 2022

Table: Interesting Aromas (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Those who are truly appreciative of appendices are aware of a little table called Odors on page 217 of the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (1st edition) Dungeon Masters Guide, but as any good DUNGEON DRESSING aficionado knows, it lacks several examples of olfactory stimulation. To these discerning delvers I offer this unofficial table. This is the eleventh table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Interesting Aromas

Roll 1d20

It smells like...

1. Blood.
2. A carrion crawler buffet.
3. Chlorine.
4. Death.
5. Despair.
6. Frankincense.
7. Glazed doughnuts.
8. A harpy spa.
9. A hill giant's undergarments.
10. A kobold lavatory.
11. Lemon zest.
12. A little too much perfume.
13. An odor out of space.
14. Patchouli.
15. Pumpkin spice.
16. Regret.
17. Sunbathing troglodytes.
18. A veritable musk factory exploded.
19. Victory.
20. Wet bugbears.

10 April 2022

Table: Unusual Sounds and Ominous Noises (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Here at last is the long-awaited yet unrequested (and completely unofficial) sequel to the Unexplained Sounds and Weird Noises table found in the hallowed pages (p. 217) of the Dungeon Masters Guide of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (1st edition). Enjoy all new sounds and noises presented in glorious Unpredict-O-Bubblevision using state-of-the-art d30 technology! This is the tenth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Unusual Sounds and Ominous Noises

Roll 1d30

1. beeping
2. belching
3. boinging
4. bonking
5. bubbling
6. burbling
7. flapping
8. flopping
9. flumphing
10. flushing
11. guffaw(ing)
12. gurgling
13. hacking
14. hiccupping
15. honking
16. jangling
17. pitter-pattering
18. sizzling
19. skittering
20. snicker(ing)
21. snogging
22. snort(ing)
23. soliloquizing
24. squeeing
25. squelching
26. squirting
27. stage-whispering
28. wheezing
29. yodelling
30. zapping

09 April 2022

Table: Foreign Attitudes (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

If you happen to find yourself in an unfamiliar land, try to learn as much as you can about local customs and attitudes before introducing yourself. This is the ninth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Foreign Attitudes

Roll 1d12

In this land, strangers are...

1. Acknowledged by extending one arm, palm outward, and looking away.
2. Acknowledged with a condescending breaking of wind.
3. Acknowledged with a limerick of dubious appropriateness.
4. Acknowledged with a spit take.
5. Attacked instantly with whatever is at hand.
6. Ceremoniously distracted and unceremoniously robbed.
7. Greeted with a bow followed by a headbutt to the abdomen.
8. Greeted with an elaborate salute that requires practice to master.
9. Greeted with spontaneous song and dance.
10. Greeted with uproarious laughter.
11. Offered a ride on one's back to the nearest drinking establishment.
12. Offered as sacrifice to the local dragon, pit beast, cult leader, or godling.

08 April 2022

Table: Rumors at the Tavern (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

The rumors are true! Or false! Only the GM knows for sure... This is the eighth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.


Roll 1d12

1. "That wench there fancies you."
2. "The moths here scream with human voices when they die, so light no fires at night."
3. "The ghost of the tavernkeeper's wife haunts the cellar."
4. "The monkfish is delicious, but the bishopfish is divine."
5. "It's supposed to rain frogs tomorrow. Again."
6. "They say the old crone who lives in the hut at the edge of the village is not a witch."
7. "The king and his jester sometimes switch places."
8. "Invisible dragons migrate there for the mating season."
9. "Something about a hoard of treasure guarded by a monster."
10. "Pudding is prohibited in this land."
11. "Pudding is mandatory in this land."
12. "There are no laws or customs pertaining to pudding in this land."

07 April 2022

Table: Garden of Earthly Frights (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Every wizard's garden is known for its rare and unusual specimens. Roll as necessary on the table below to determine the prized plants of a particular practicioner of the magical arts. This is the seventh table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Garden of Earthly Frights

Roll 1d12

In this wizard's garden, one may find...

1. blizzard peas
2. blood leeks
3. brain cabbage
4. catapultatoes
5. fell beets
6. garrotte carrots
7. hell melons
8. motile hogweed
9. murder thistle
10. parsely*
11. quivering lentils
12. razor lettuce

* The "p" is silent.

06 April 2022

Table: Exotic Pole Arms (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

No fantasy milieu is complete without an exhaustive list of medieval and renaissance pole arms... Try these! This is the sixth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Exotic Pole Arms

Roll 1d20

1. beck peck
2. fauxrichard
3. filk
4. geezerama
5. glaize
6. halibutt
7. lopper axe
8. lucy hammer
9. ow pike
10. partipan
11. radiche
12. ransewer
13. sputem
14. vogue
15. willy hook
16. fauxrichard-filk
17. fauxrichard-geezerama
18. geezerama-vogue
19. glaize-geezerama
20. willy-geezerama

05 April 2022

Table: Demihuman Variants (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Insofar as there can never be enough playable demihuman options to satisfy players, here are a few more! This is the fifth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Demihuman Variants

Roll 1d14

1. Achromatic Dwarves
2. Mound Dwarves
3. Achromatic Elves
4. Coniferous Elves
5. Deciduous Elves
6. Dim Elves
7. Isthmus Elves
8. Neurotic Elves
9. Sober Elves
10. Garden Gnomes
11. Hothouse Gnomes
12. Philosophical Gnomes
13. Brandy Halflings
14. Lager Halflings

N.B. If a d14 is not available, use a d20 instead and reroll any result above 14.

04 April 2022

Table: Demon Nobles (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

A table of random archdevils must, of course, be followed (if not preceded) by a table of random demon nobles for the same obvious reasons, which we need not delve into at this juncture. This is the fourth table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Demon Nobles

Roll 1d4 for MM or 1d10 for MM-MM!!

1. Demogorgonzola
2. Jelloplex
3. Orcustard
4. Yeahnohoo
5. Atcosttchotchke
6. Barphonit
7. Frat-Herb Lou
8. Grr'ziti
9. Pazoomazoomazoomzoomzoom
10. Roflolth

03 April 2022

Table: Archdevils (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

There are so many uses for a table of random archdevils that they need not be enumerated here. This is the third table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.


Roll 1d4 for MM or 1d12 for MM-MM!!

1. Cosmodeus
2. Dis Tater
3. Garyindiana-on
4. Wazzupbub
5. Ainton
6. Bae Elle
7. Belly Al
8. Gin Hut
9. Mammajammon
10. Missystoppuhleeze
11. Plexiglasya
12. Schmoloch

02 April 2022

Table: Wandering Cosmic Entities (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Here is a table of wandering Outer Gods, Elder Gods, Great Old Ones, and other Beings of Sanity-Shattering Significance for your average random encounter needs. This is the second table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

Wandering Cosmic Entities

Roll 1d8

1. Cthaooga
2. Gnarlihotep
3. Schlub Blubberwrath
4. Shystur the Unlitigable
5. Spitooloo
6. Tsafrogyaknow
7. Yo Gurtsothoth
8. Zappathoth

01 April 2022

Table: Peculiar Marriage Rituals (Unpredict-O-Bubble Table)

Roll on this table once or twice to generate unusual customs of a matrinmonial nature in phantastic lands. This is the first table of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table.

[This is an altered and expanded version of the table previously posted here. Since it's my wedding anniversary, I thought it might be appropriate.]

Peculiar Marriage Rituals

Roll 1d20

In this land, weddings are...

1. Conducted at ley line intersections.
2. Conducted in astral form.
3. Conducted in darkness.
4. Conducted whilst standing on one foot.
5. Conducted with no participant closer than 4 cubits* to any other.
6. Followed by a moment of flatulence.
7. Followed by mob foot-balle.
8. Followed by potion-imbibing.
9. Followed by swimming.
10. Followed by tug-of-war.
11. Officiated by a beekeeper.
12. Officiated by a jester.
13. Officiated by a magician.
14. Officiated by a shouter.
15. Officiated by a spirit.
16. Preceded by a donnybrook.
17. Preceded by a hunt.
18. Preceded by a moment of choral humming.
19. Preceded by a moment of primal screaming.
20. Preceded by planting a tree.

* 2 m or 6 feet.

31 March 2022

Unpredict-O-Bubble Table

'Tis April Fool's Eve, when the Ghost of Random Generators Yet To Come appears, presaging the visitation of an unknown number of tables by which various oddities of the universe can be divined. With dice in hand, let Chance guide thee via the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table!

Unpredict-O-Bubble Table

Roll 1d20

1. Roll on the Peculiar Marriage Rituals Table!
2. Roll on the Wandering Cosmic Entities Table!
3. Roll on the Archdevils Table!
4. Roll on the Demon Nobles Table!
5. Roll on the Demihuman Variants Table!
6. Roll on the Exotic Pole Arms Table!
7. Roll on the Garden of Earthly Frights Table!
8. Roll on the Rumors at the Tavern Table!
9. Roll on the Foreign Attitudes Table!
10. Roll on the Unusual Sounds and Ominous Noises Table!
11. Roll on the Interesting Aromas Table!
12. Roll on the Pointless Cantrips Table!
13. Roll on the Wandering Monsters 2 Table!
14. Roll on the Misspells 2 Table!
15. Roll on the Misspells for Illusionists Table!
16. Roll on the Magical Hats Table!
17. Roll on the Misspells 3 Table!
18. Roll on the Birth Status Table!
19. Roll on the Misspells 4 Table!
20. Roll on the Royal Gifts for Loyal Subjects Table!

N.B.: Results of the Unpredict-O-Bubble Table (resulting in more tables) are being added daily (more or less). [And that's a wrap for this year's Random Generator Month mega-table.]

30 March 2022

Table: Variable Experience System

The premise: Each adventure, roll on the table below to determine how experience points will be gained.

Variable Experience System

Roll 1d12

1. Treasured gained.
2. Treasure donated.
3. Monsters defeated.
4. Monsters encountered.
5. Monsters befriended.
6. Puzzles solved/traps avoided.
7. Perils escaped.
8. Magic acquired.
9. Victims rescued.
10. Wrongs righted.
11. Plots thwarted.
12. Roll twice on this table. Re-roll duplicates.

27 March 2022

Applied Phantasticality's 10th Anniversary

As of yesterday, 26 March 2022, Applied Phantasticality has been in existence for ten years. In its first entry (Welcome to Applied Phantasticality), I stated that it was "devoted to the 'Old School Renaissance' (or OSR) faction of the role-playing hobby." At a time when many of us were just discovering that we were not alone in our enthusiasm for past editions of role-playing games (or role-playing games that were long out of print in any edition), it was a suitable umbrella term that helped us find one another. Eventually, I discovered that the lines dividing players of different editions and different games were not as clear and immutable as I had been led to believe. When I started actively gaming again with a mixture of players ranging from total novices to those who primarily played games like Pathfinder, I discovered that they adapted to my GMing style easily and with no objections. There were no "Edition Wars" in my real life gaming circles. There was no need to define terms to describe our gaming philosophies. We just did what came naturally. We gamed as friends. We accomodated one another's interests. We enjoyed overcoming challenges and we enjoyed one another's company. It didn't matter if I was an Old School gamer and several of my players were Pathfinder or Numenara fans. We were all role-players first, and the role-playing always came first. That's still how it is. Labels inevitably become more of a hindrance than a help to understanding, which is why I no longer classify this blog as overtly Old School. It's just a blog about fantastical role-playing in a variety of genres via many different games.

Initially, Applied Phantasticality was intended to provide a "narrow focus" on early D&D and retro-clones in contrast to the more general content of my other gaming site, Fudgery.net. After I ended Fudgery.net, I decided to start several other blogs, each more narrowly devoted to a different aspect of my role-playing interests: Theoretical Swashbuckling (for all forms of swashbuckling as a genre) in January 2014, Creative Reckoning (for Fudge and Sherpa) in March 2014, Decidedly Six-Sided (for d6-centered games) in April 2015, and Savage Arts & Sciences (for Savage Worlds and/or Flash Gordon) in September 2020. Would it have been better to fold everything into Applied Phantasticality rather than maintain five separate gaming blogs? I just don't know. But I do know of two benefits to keeping them separate: 1) I can organize my thoughts better and 2) readers don't have to sift through subjects that don't interest them (I hope).

All in all, I think active role-players of every stripe are proving every day that we have more in common than not, and that's a wonderful thing.

Thank you for reading.

Game on.

12 March 2022

Alternate Spellburn and Glowburn Rules 2

Suppose I wish to incorporate the incompetence spiral of spellburn and glowburn without resorting to the reviled recalculation of modifiers. How would I go about it? It's time to pull out the dice chain...

Whether you burn attribute points normally or use Burn points, each instance of burning causes you to suffer a -1d penalty to all physical actions, Fortitude saves, and Reflex saves until you rest. The penalty is cumulative. For example, if you spellburn twice during a battle, your penalty is -2d until you rest. Rest, in this case, means a cessation of physical activity for at least one hour per instance of burning. Or, to put it another way, the penalty is reduced by 1d per hour of rest.

So, if you like your spellburn or glowburn to reflect physical sacrifice or hardship, but you dislike taking the time to fiddle with a character's established modifiers, just use the dice chain.

Again, this may require some playtesting.

05 March 2022

Alternate Spellburn and Glowburn Rules

What would I do to improve my enjoyment of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and Mutant Crawl Classics RPG (besides using DCC Lankhmar)? I would change spellburn and glowburn. One of things I have always disliked about fluctuating attributes in games that do not utilize dice pools is that it becomes necessary to adjust modifiers and derived attributes (and their modifiers). This slows down the game (if the players even remember to do it) and I hate slowing down the game for the purpose of crunching numbers.

So, what would I do differently? I would create a separate characteristic called Burn, which is calculated by adding Strength, Agility, and Stamina and dividing the sum by 3. If you want to spellburn or glowburn, you spend Burn points, not attribute points. If you fall below 1 Burn, you may continue by directly spending hit points. Hit points thus spent may be regained normally. Burn points are regained at the rate of 1 point per day during which no burning has occurred.

This solves my problem with recalculating modifiers, but retains the significance of the physical attributes and transforms the risk of high intensity burning from an incompetence spiral to actual wounds.

I think this is worth playtesting.

01 March 2022

Magical Spell: Globe of Quietude

The idea for this spell may or may not have been inspired by a loud vehicle that disturbed my sleep last night.

Globe of Quietude

Spell Class: Magic-User
Spell Level: 3
Range: Special
Duration: 1 hour

This spell create a sphere of silence 8 cubits* in diameter centered on any being or object the caster can see or hear. If the target is unwilling, a successful saving throw will cause the globe of quietude to bounce to the next nearest being or object and so on until a target accepts it or fails its saving throw. Inanimate objects are not entitled to a saving throw. Once the globe hits its mark, it will move with its target, nullifying all sound within its area of effect. The globe of quietude persists until it expires, is cancelled by the caster, or is dispelled.

Unlike the clerical spell silence 15' radius, which prevents sound from issuing from its area of effect whilst permitting external sound to enter it, the globe of quietude is a barrier to all sound within its confines.

* 12 feet or 4 m.

27 February 2022

Table: Peculiar Marriage Rituals

Roll on this table once or twice to generate unusual customs of a matrinmonial nature in phantastic lands.

Peculiar Marriage Rituals

Roll 1d12

In this land, weddings are...

1. Conducted at night.
2. Conducted outdoors.
3. Conducted whilst standing on one foot.
4. Followed by a moment of flatulence.
5. Followed by mob foot-balle.
6. Followed by swimming.
7. Officiated by a beekeeper.
8. Officiated by a jester.
9. Officiated by a magician.
10. Preceded by a donnybrook.
11. Preceded by a fast.
12. Preceded by planting a tree.

22 February 2022

Everybody Rolls When They Come to My House

Who rolls the dice at your table? Does the Dungeon Master make all damage rolls per the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set of 1981? Does the GM make all rolls per the HarmonQuest interpretation of Pathfinder? Does the GM make no combat rolls per The Black Hack? Apart from the role-playing games that actually address the question of who rolls dice and under what circumstances, different gaming groups have their own dice-rolling traditions regardless of what the rules may or may not say.

As for me, I say everybody rolls who wants to roll. Players roll for their own characters, GMs roll for the non-player characters, and everyone makes their own damage rolls. It's just the way I roll.

N.B. The title of this article is inspired by the song, "Everybody Eats When They Come to My House" by Cab Calloway.

06 February 2022

Phantastical Anniversary Imminent

In March, this blog (my oldest surviving gaming blog) will be ten years old. I'm not sure how I will commemorate the anniversary, but it will probably involve a retrospective of some sort. I have a month to ponder the matter. In the meantime...

Game on.

24 January 2022

Dungeons & Dragons My Way

If I were to revise Basic/Expert D&D or Old School Essentials for my own purposes (and that's the "edition" I favor), these are the changes I would make:

  • The players roll their own dice for attacks, skills, and damage.
  • Alignment only exists for supernatural beings. These beings embody their alignment. Some supernatural beings are non-aligned. Listed alignments for monsters and NPCs reflect tendencies to side with the forces of that alignment, but are not mandatory.
  • Experience points are awarded for experiences in the adventure, not treasure and body count. (I'd probably use a variant of the system in DCC RPG.)
  • All classes advance at the same rate.
  • The value of precious metals is akin to that of Europe's actual medieval period. All price lists must change. (Also: coin sizes and weights are based on historical coins.)
  • Combat sequence: Each side rolls 1d6. The side that rolls highest acts first. Individuals on a side act in the order of their choosing.
  • Ascending Armor Class.
  • Classes use "To Hit" bonuses. No attack matrices. (See Swords & Wizardry.)
  • Unified saving throws with possible modifiers based on class or other factors. (See Swords & Wizardry.)
  • There is no total dark vision except via magic. Some creatures can see better in low light conditions, but none can see in total darkness.
  • Revise weapons and armor lists to be historically accurate in nature and nomenclature.
  • Weapons made for smaller folk (dwarves, halflings) are reduced 1 die step. Weapons made for giant folk are raised by 1 or more die steps (ogres, giants).
  • Any class can use any weapon, although clerics might be restricted according to their religion. Player characters may choose to specialize in one weapon appropriate to their class for which they get a +1 bonus to attack and damage.
  • Revise spell advancement.
  • Revise thief skills.
  • Class hit dice as follows: d6 for magic-users, thieves; d8 for clerics; d10 for fighters.
  • No level limits.
  • No minimum attribute requirements for classes.
  • Any player character kindred can be any class, but each kindred has both advantages and disadvantages. Some classes will be more common to some kindreds than others, e.g. thieves (or scouts) are the commonest class amongst halflings, whereas fighters are the commonest amongst dwarves, and elves have a higher proportion of magic-users than any other kindred. (Yes, I use "kindred" from Tunnels & Trolls to denote different species that can be played.)

O.K., this sounds almost like a completely different game (and a heresy to some), but tailoring the game to suit a group's preferences has been how many (if not most) people have played D&D throughout much of its existence. I spent most of my AD&D years resenting its limitations, but if I am to run D&D again, this will be the way I run it — part D&D, part Swords & Wizardry, part DCC RPG, part Applied Phantasticality. That's the way I like it.

(Incidentally, I made many of these changes a few years ago when I started running Basic/Expert D&D again and it morphed into a modified Swords & Wizardry White Box, but I'm just trying to organize my thoughts for my own optimal D&D.)

23 January 2022

Table: Variable Spellcasting System

The premise: Each time a spell is cast, roll on the table below to gauge its efficacy.

Variable Spellcasting System

Roll 1d12

The spell is cast successfully...

1. If the caster makes an oath never to cast it again.
2. But the caster lapses into a state of suspended animation for 1d30 days.
3. But the caster will be unable to use magic for 24 hours.
4. But requires the promise of a favor to a higher power.
5. But the caster's current health is diminished by 50%.
6. But requires a sacrifice of material value.
7. But is forgotten and may be rememorized later.*
8. And with panache, raising the morale of allies whilst lowering that of foes.
9. And is increased in potency.
10. And is doubled in efficacy with regard to range, duration, or area of effect.
11. And is tripled in efficacy with regard to range, duration, or area of effect.
12. And is retained in memory for future casting.**

Note that this system assumes the use of a "Vancian" magic system in which spells are considered to be successfully cast unless countered or disrupted. Magic systems that require skill rolls for spellcasting may use the table above if a spell is successfully cast.

* Alternatively: But the casting time is doubled.
** Alternatively: And the casting time is halved, permitting another action.

22 January 2022

Table: Variable Wound System

The premise: Each time a successful attack is made, roll on the table below to determine how damage is determined.

Variable Wound System

Roll 1d12

1. Roll damage and deduct from target's hit points, health, or the equivalent.
2. Roll on an appropriate critical hit table and apply the result.
3. Roll on a hit location table. That area is scratched.
4. Roll on a hit location table. That area is injured.
5. Roll on a hit location table. That area is destroyed or severed.
6. Reduce target's Constitution, Stamina, or the equivalent by 10-60% (1d6).
7. Reduce target's Dexterity, Agility, or the equivalent by 10-60% (1d6).
8. Target's movement rate is halved.
9. Target is tripped and/or disarmed.
10. Target is flung backwards and must roll to remain standing.
11. Target is stunned briefly.
12. Target is knocked unconscious.

N.B.: If you lack a hit location table, try Hit Location Tables for All Occasions or the Extendable Random Hit Location Generator.

12 January 2022

DCC RPG Thought of the Day 2022-01-12

I've mentioned my dissatisfaction with the standard Luck rules in DCC RPG and how I think fleeting Luck is a vast improvement (q.v.), but I can't shake this feeling that the Luck attribute itself needs to be modified. The simplest thing to do would be to allow Luck to regenerate for all classes. For thieves and halflings (and other classes in MCC RPG), the rules would remain unchanged, but all other classes would regenerate spent Luck at the same rate as spellburned attributes: 1 point per day. The only other solution I would consider would be to eliminate Luck as an attribute. Just pluck it right out and let luck reside where it truly always has — in every roll of the dice.

02 January 2022

What Is a Campaign?

Before we answer the question, let's first consider the dictionary definitions beginning with Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition:

1 : a connected series of military operations forming a distinct phase of a war
2 : a connected series of operations designed to bring about a particular result <election ~>

The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary is in agreement:

1. Series of military operations in a definite theatre or with one objective or constituting the whole or a distinct part of the war.
2. Organized course of action, esp. in politics, as before an election.

Before we can connect the "campaign" as it is understood in role-playing games with its more formal definition, we must first look at how it entered the hobby via war games. Dungeons & Dragons, as is well known, emerged from the war game hobby in general and from the medieval miniatures war game Chainmail specifically.

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide gives us this definition:

General term referring to one DM's adventures as a whole rather than individually. An ongoing series of games based upon a created milieu.

The D&D Basic Set (1980) defines it thusly:

A series of adventures taking place on the same fantasy world.

It ought to be clear that by any definition, a campaign is a series of activities comprising a greater whole. A single adventure does not a campaign make. Individual adventures can be likened to the chapters in a book — the campaign is the book itself.

I confess I've never been partial to "campaign" as a term to describe a series of adventures. The word is overtly military and suggests carefully planned strategy to achieve a specific objective, which I feel rarely describes the activities of player characters. I'd prefer to call it a "series of adventures" because that's what it is. Sometimes we, as human beings, are prone to classify and apply terminology to things that don't necessarily require either classification or unique (or not-so-unique) terms to be understood. I prefer clarity.

Although I'll admit "campaign" is slightly more succinct.