Saturday, April 25, 2020

Resource Spotlight: 2-Minute Tabletop

"Snake Den" by Ross McConnell, © 2020 2-Minute Tabletop.
Used with permission.
2-Minute Tabletop is a website run by Ross and Troy McConnell, brothers from Western Australia who have spent four years creating some of the most clever encounters, useful articles, and beautiful maps that it has been my pleasure to peruse for TTRPGs. While their work is definitely geared toward D&D5e, quite a bit of it is system neutral, or easily adapted to other games.

I first ran into 2-Minute Tabletop while hunting for battle mats for a DCC game I am running on Roll20, and fell in love with Ross's maps. In fact, I spent hours hunting through his work for just the right dungeon map to use as the background for this blog. I started at 10pm, and suddenly looked up to see 2am on my computer screen. I got lost in them.

Troy's articles are just as engrossing. I have especially enjoyed his articles on specific environments like oceansjungles, caves, and deserts: he breaks down not just what the real world concerns are, but also which ones make for good play, and which ones will just slow you down.., and how to make them feel important. Discussing how to make terrain engaging has also been a big part of the series,

For each of these environments, they have 10 or 20 interesting encounters that bring the environment front and centre, and a map or two by Ross that bring the environment to life,

Troy has done the same with classic D&D villains such as goblins, kobolds, mimics, and hags.

Just as their name suggests, their work allows any GM to get inspired, grab a map, and put some encounters together to put in front of their PCs in just a couple of minutes.

"Fire Temple" by Ross McConnell, © 2020 2-Minute Tabletop. Used with permission.

"Snake Den" by Ross McConnell, © 2020 2-Minute Tabletop. Used with permission.
"Fire Temple" by Ross McConnell, © 2020 2-Minute Tabletop. Used with permission

Game Review: Death is the New Pink

Game Review: Death is the New Pink

Cover, Death is the New Pink, by Angie Groves
© 2017 DIY RPG Productions 
Author: Mike Evans
Publisher: DIY RPG Productions
Game Engine: Into the Odd
Marketplace: Swordfish Islands

Death is the New Pink is a role-playing game based on the Into the Odd Engine, which is D&D stripped down for fast play and maximum Lethality. Other examples of Into the Odd, aside from ItO itself, include Super Blood Harvest by Dirk and Silent Titans by Patrick Stuart.

It is a minimalistic D&D-based system where characters have three stats: Strength, Dexterity, and Will ranging from 3-18, along with Hit Points. Almost all rolls are 1d20 trying to roll under an appropriate stat like in Basic/Expert and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. In DitNP, these stats are renamed to the more Apropos Badassery, Dodging some Shit, and Moxy.

What I love about Into the Odd is that attacks in combat automatically hit, characters have piteously few hit points, and overflow damage goes to your STR stat... the same stat you then have to roll to not die. It makes combat beyond lethal. Generally, if you go toe-to-toe in combat, the first one to attack wins. Which means only an idiot goes into a straight-up fight. PCs who want to live ambush, sneak, sabotage, or do just about anything to turn the odds in their favour. In true OSR style, PCs win by thinking things through, stacking advantages, and treating direct combat as a last resort. There are no heroes in Into the Odd.

And that is what makes it the perfect engine for this particular game. Death is the New Pink is a post apocalyptic survival game inspired by such gloriously loud and blood-drenched titles as Borderlands, Fallout, Tank Girl, and Mad Max, as well as the music of KMFDM and White Zombie.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Mini Adventure: The Skull's Request

The Skull's Request

An Adventure for Any Level


When Death is coming, some are brave, some are cowardly, and some, some are inventive...

...This is the tale of a wizard that saw his end coming, and how he prepared his final request.


This is a simple hook with one encounter to resolve it. The PCs encounter an enchanted skull imbued with a couple of Magic Mouth style spells. The skull conveys the last request of the mage who once occupied it, promising a reward if that request is honored.

This adventure can be put into just about any large dungeon setting or hex-crawl in a place with lots of ruins.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

1d100 Things to Find in Buried Ruins

1d100 Things to Find in Buried Ruins

Version 1.0

Random city map I used as my guideline for
A subterranean ruin of an ancient city.
Made with Medieval Fantasy City Generator
In a recent adventure that I ran, my players discovered a city partially buried in volcanic glass and sandstone beneath their home city. Ancient streets and waterways became corridors, while houses, plazas, and marketplaces became dungeon rooms and chambers.  It was a survival story where light, edible fungus and water were the most important resources around.

I quickly discovered that my players were curious about what they could find in the various small houses and huts that could be broken into that were meant to be scenery more than locations. I had to think on the fly as my players explored the city map I was using block by block looking for lost lore and riches.

This table is the resource that I wished that I'd had. A table for finding things in sunken, buried, or long-overgrown ruins.  If your PCs ate nosing into houses that have not seen the sun for a thousand years, this is a great way to let their curiosity be satisfied, lead to paranoia, or kill the proverbial cat.

d100What's in here?
00An amphora of wine stoppered with wax that has turned to vinegar. 
01An elegant hookah containing hallucinogens.
02A grove of glowing mushrooms.
03Ancient bones - gnawed.
04A bat colony.
05A giant bat colony.
06A campfire from 50-100 years ago, abandoned.
07An ancient house shrine to a forgotten god with a taper that burns but is not consumed on the altar.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Resource Spotlight: The Glatisant

"Glatisant" wood cut image
courtesy of The Camelot Project,
Robbins Library Digital Projects,
University of Rochester
One of my favourite resources to keep up with OSR Gaming is Ben Milton's newsletter, "The Glatisant".

This email comes put every few weeks with links and short descriptions of a range of articles from the OSR community; everything from tools and adventures to complex theoretical essays on games. If Ben found it compelling,  he shares it through the Glatisant.

Part of the reason I got into OSR Gaming is that I no longer have time to spend poring over dozens of blogs looking for ideas. Having the most compelling content curated for me is an invaluable service.

Thus far, I have not been disappointed with Ben's choices. Every issue of The Glatisant has had several articles I have enjoyed, discussions I have wanted to participate in, etc. It is well worth your time!

Accelerated Adventure Planning (Using Emoji)

This is a primer on a method I used to cut way back on time spent planning adventures using a few established tools and a journaling method that makes writing out an adventure on a tablet or phone quick and efficient. By the time you have finished running through this method, you should have a relatively sophisticated adventure that feels like it has taken a lot more prep time than it actually has.

Not all of these ideas are mine! I owe a lot of my planning strategy to the GMing tools presented in Tracy Hickman’s XDM: eXtreme Dungeon Mastery, and the peerless GMing section of Hankerin Furnale’s Index Card RPG. I have systematized applying them in a system-neutral way. Likeise, I draw a lot of inspiration from the “Five-Room Dungeon” and “One Page Dungeon” styles of adventure planning. And an article entitled “Writing Your First D&D Adventure” by Wolfgang Bauer published by Wizards of the Coast in 2006.

The system you use will have an effect on the results you get with this tool, as well. I developed this tool as a part of a push to make sure I spent less time on prep, rules-wrangling, and note-making as a part of a push to get more gaming in while life has provided me less time to do it in. I personally prefer a relatively light and quick OSR or rules-light game for using this system. I use Dungeon Crawl Classics and Index Card RPG as my go-to games, because they are light, easy to plan for, and easy to create content for,

STEP 1: Steal a Map

While I sketch rough maps, I just as often run a search on Pinterest or Google for a Map that will serve my purpose. There is an amazing variety of beautiful, evocative fantasy maps to be had on the Internet. Wizards of the Coast used to offer a “Map a Week” during the early days of D&D 3rd Edition that were excellent. If you are not planning on publishing the adventure, grab or recycle any map that will fit your purposes.

STEP 2: Set Aside your Essential Encounters

When I plan an adventure there are a few encounters that I consider essential to making every player feel like they have had a part to play in the adventure. To represent this, I put a few emoji at the top of my document:

They each indicate a type of encounter or event that will make for a satisfying adventure.


Each of these symbols represents something I want to include in my adventure. They need not be the entire encounter, and they can be combined into a single encounter as well.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Game Review: Knave

Game Review : Knave

Questing Beast logo
© Ben Milton
Ben Milton
Publisher: Questing Beast Games
Game Engine: OSR Dungeons & Dragons
Market: DrivethruRPG

I am a huge fan of Ben Milton. When I first started looking at ways to make Dungeons and Dragons faster and more enjoyable, he quickly became one of my favourite sources for both RPG theory and product reviews for small press role-playing games. I have bought both of his games, Maze Rats and Knave because I appreciate his channel and want to support it, even though I don't have the funds to become a patron.

I wasn't sure what to expect of Knave, because I honestly didn't like Maze Rats. It wasn't a bad game, just not my cup of tea. So, I was not sure if I would be getting a product that I would use, or if I was just giving back to Ben. It advertised itself as an OSR compatible game, however, and so I was hopeful that I Knave would be my speed. Not only was I not disappointed, but Knave impressed me with its innovations.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

1d100 Bad Omens

1d100 Bad Omens

Version 1.0

Sometimes foreshadowing events in your campaign with a strange occurrence,  wierd event, or terrifying unsolved mystery can set a tone for adventures,  change the way PCs respond, and build up immersion.

This table offers you 100 possible events (most inspired by European folk lore, literature,  or pop culture) to give your PCs a little forewarning about upcoming events... or to serve as inspiration for your next adventure.

00Lightning splits the altar of the local temple.
01Dead songbirds rain from the sky.
02Face on a nearby holy icon screams for 1d4 minutes.
03A herd animal gives birth to young that is covered in scales and has a forked tongue.
04Nearby trees develop boles in the form of screaming faces.

Monday, April 6, 2020

My 5e Temple of Elemental Evil Adaptation

Six years ago, when Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition was new and fresh, and I still had time on my hands, I decided to put my gaming group of the time through the entire Temple of Elemental Evil experience. I was also, at the time, a regular at several mainstream D&D fora as Goon-for-Hire, and had a reputation for coming up with creative ways of resolving problems that other DMs were having. I wanted to share insights on the conversion of older D&D material to modern D&D.

I took a few weeks and carefully went through the module room by room, looking at each encounter, and painstakingly rebalancing them to use the modern CR system. I believed at the time that just using the module as is would never work given the significantly different hit point and action economies of D&D 5e.

Moreover, I made detailed notes about the hows and whys of the conversion choices that I made. This conversion was made as a road map for the conversion of AD&D / OD&D material to D&D 5e. It certainly has been popular, with on average over one thousand file accesses per month last year and several translations to other languages.

You can download it here.

(File location updated Sep. 25, 2021)

Let the Shield be Broken, Let the Mail be Rent!

I wanted to share some of my custom house rules in this Blog for people that might be interested in new ways to approach D&D style games.

Most OSR rules hackers are probably familiar with "Let the Shield be Broken". It has appeared in a number of OSR games like Delve 2e and ICRPG. Here is a quick summary, if you are not.

Let the Shield be Broken

In combat, if you are using a larger shield (i.e. not a buckler) and take damage, you may instead choose to let your shield be destroyed and take no damage.

It is an exciting, cinematic rule that doesn't slow down combat very much, and makes shields way cooler.

Delve 2e, has a detailed system for defending yourself with your armour, and has rules for gear degradation as a cost for doing so,  It serves a similar function to Let the Shield be Broken; you trust to your mail, letting it be battered, dented, and torn so that you can focus on the offensive.

The idea of a warrior charging forward, heedless to his armour being reduced to scrsp seems equally cinematic and exciting.

I decided to hack the rule into my current DCC RPG campaign. Here is the result:

Let the Mail be Rent

In combat, if you are wearing armour and take damage, you may choose to take half damage, and reduce the AC value of your armour by 1d4. If it reaches 0, the armour is destroyed, but you still suffer armour check penalty and reduced movement until you take 1d4 rounds to temove the ruined gear.

Damaged armour takes time, attention, and resources from a blacksmith equal to 10% of the armour's cost per point of AC.

This rule is not quite like the armour rule in Delve 2e., in fact, it is barely recognizable from the source material. I simplified it by removing armour hit points, and instead let the AC bonus the armour provides serve as its sole resource to be sacrificed. If you let the armour suffer the damage for you, it protects less - possibly a lot less.

What it does do is essentially the dame: make armour more useful, while offering the PC a Devil's bargain: "You can avoid getting hurt now, but if you do, it will be easier to hurt you more later."

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Game Review: Delve 2e

Game Review: Delve, Second Edition

Author: "Monochrome Monkey"
Publisher: Feral Gamers Inc.
Game Engine: Custom (d100-based)
Market: DrivethruRPG


Delve 2e appeared in my "recommended for you" section of DrivethruRPG back in in the middle 2019 and caught my interest thanks to its sales pitch:

You awaken on a beach surrounded by the debris from a wrecked ship, you are not alone as others seem to be also awakening from their ordeal. You had no time to pack and all you have is what is in your pockets or what you can find amongst the wreckage. This begins your adventures on the island of Cragbarren.
It advertised itself as being quick and easy to learn: both high priorities for me. I added it to my wish list... and then forgot about it. 

When the COVID-19 outbreak suddenly had me entertaining my family full time, I decided to hunt for some fresh material. I logged on to DrivethruRPG and discovered that Delve 2e was being offered for free temporarily,  and snagged it. I read it in an afternoon, took some furious notes, and I was glad that I did. This is a game with a lot of good tools to pirate.

Welcome to the Deathtrap!

This is a blog dedicated to old-school table top fantasy role-playing games. I will be sharing ideas, tools, resources and adventure hooks here, that that I hope other GMs and players will pirate for use at their table.

I will also review OSR and TTRPG products that have crossed my desk, and share thoughts in what I hope will be a useful format.

I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1986, and it is a hobby that has brought me a lot of joy, good friends, and skills I have used in my personal life and my career. I want to help other people get as much out of the game as I have.