Thursday, September 29, 2022

She Who Lurks


There is a challenge going around on Twitter to write an interesting role-playing game in 20 words or less.

I came up with a simple d6 system, highly abbreviated given the word count limitation.

I took some inspiration from RPG Pundit's Gnome Murdered and decided that one result on the table would kill a character and turn whatever game you were playing into a horror game.

In the name of creating an implied setting, I had the death result be caused by something called "She who Lurks", and hoped that would make it maximally interesting.

Russ from Yum/DM said he likes the notion, but I would do it as a 2d6 system. So, for an additional Lark today, I'm going to create an "Advanced" She Who Lurks, just for the fun of it. I have constrained myself to a single two-sided piece of paper. 

The game is very much borrowing its ideas from the storygames genre, and like most rules-light games, it doesn't offer a lot in the way of history. It presupposes you know what "3d6" means and how to narrate the game.

But, as far as it goes, I am pretty happy with the outcome:

She Who Lurks

Monday, September 26, 2022

Game Review: Low Fantasy Gaming: Deluxe Edition

 Stephen Grodzicki
Publisher: Pickpocket Press
Engine: Low Fantasy Gaming (OSR-Compatible)
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG

One of my earliest reviews was of Steve Grod's Low Fantasy Gaming: a system I have used on a weekly basis as a player and frequently as a GM to boot. You can check out LFG for free, and it is definitely worth your time, as it remains in my top 5 OSR games consistently.

After enjoying LFG, and his Cyberpunk & Sorcery derivative Lowlife 2090, which he kindly sent me for review around its release, I decided I wanted to make sure to show my appreciation. I picked up the Low Fantasy Gaming: Deluxe Edition in hard copy when I had a little extra cash from sales of my adventure modules.

I have been meaning to review it for over a year now, and I feel that I have definitely gotten a solid handle on the merits of the system.

Low Fantasy Gaming: Deluxe Edition is an upgrade from the free edition in a lot of ways. Or contains several extra classes: the Artificer, Cultist, Monk, Ranger. It also includes rules for sea battles, mass combat, sample unique character abilities, special rules for black powder and tavern brawls, and information about the Midlands campaign setting. It's spell list is also revised from LFG.

It is designed as a premium product. the layout and art are redone to make a more pleasurable reading experience.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Adventure Review: The Abandoned Estate of Moonweaver Hall

: Albert Lovasz
System: Dungeons & Dragons 5e
Marketplace: DM's Guild

I downloaded this module out of a sense of pure bloody+mindedness. It's author was treated in a way that made me so angry that I had to do something to give him a boost.

The Abandoned Estate of Moonweaver Hall is a module for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons published on DM's Guild. It is the first effort for the author, and met with a very cold reception. The kind that made me genuinely angry.

He was attacked on Twitter by a mob of DM's Guild creators who identified themselves as "professional game designers" who lambasted him for taking eyes away from their products. They implied that DM's Guild was an exclusive community for professionals, and new "hobbyists" were hurting their sales.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Game Review: Mörk Borg

Mörk Borg Cover art by Johan Nohr
©️2019 Ockult Örtmästare Games
& Stockholm Kartell
Author: Pelle Nilsson
Publisher: Ockult Örtmästare Games & Stockholm Kartell; Free League
Engine: Mörk Borg (OSR Compatible)
Note: I am reviewing a game here with very dark themes and subject matter. If you have trouble with blood, gore, violence against children, etc. I suggest you read no further.

Mörk Borg has been a phenomenon on the osr scene for almost 2 years now. It's a game that people like to talk about and often have strong opinions on. It certainly is unique in its design and tone.

Mörk Borg is inspired by Scandinavian Doom medal aesthetics, and has a list of suggested musicians to listen to for inspiration at the front. Many of which I was already familiar with. I am the kind of guy who is definitely the game's target audience: former goremonger, metal head, arts fan.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Let Me Tell You About My Fantasy Heartbreaker

So now that it is out into the world, I want to tell you all a bit more about the creation of Deathtrap Lite.


When I created the game, it was a sudden brainstorm. I was tinkering with the 7-UP system Stephen Smith had created for his World of Weirth setting. At the time we had been playing the campaign for a year, as an add-on to Low Fantasy Gaming. The idea was to have a skill system that was robust, freeform, and that could allow a character to develop organically outside of the leveling system.

It was a good system, but it had a few bugs.

We'd agreed that the system needed an overhaul, because my fellow players were cautious about using it in many circumstances. The probabilities it produced were less favorable than ability checks, and we were often confused about when it would be used.

While I was writing up my recommended tweaks, I saw that I could build a whole role-playing game system out of the engine without too much difficulty. It just needed even more tweaking... (I wonder how many man-made horrors started with this line of thought.)

I began doodling up a rules-light system with a single unified mechanic based on Stephen's 7-Up system, and renamed it "Over Six" after it started to deviate quite a bit from source. It was like a compulsion. I couldn't stop tinkering with this engine, and at the end of a week and a half of scribbling in my spare time, I had a complete game system written.

Once I had the game engine, it seemed a shame not to have a game. So, I decided to write an OSR-inspired game with it. I rearranged the combat system a bit to work using standard OSR monster stat blocks. I replaced my NPC interaction rules with something that strongly resembled the 2d6 NPC reaction rules used in B/X clones.

By the end of the second week, I had a game that was compatible with almost all OSR adventure modules, monsters, and spells, but was mechanically distinct.

But, why on Earth would you want to play it?

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Game Review: GROK?!

Cover to GROK?!
Art by Matias Viro

: Lester Burton 
Publisher: Self-published 
Engine: Custom rules-lite table-based system
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG

I picked up GROK?! recently for a $1.69 on DrivethruRPG. If had been showing up in my personalized recommendations a few times, and I thought it looked interesting from its spiel.

GROK?! labels itself as an Old-School tabletop role-playing game, It doesn't derive from older systems, but it It subscribes very strongly to Matt Finch's "four zen moments of Old-School tabletop." It relies on rulings not rules, and trusts actors and directors (players and GMs) to come up with narrative results that makes sense.

Structurally, it blends a lot from more modern tabletop role-playing games like Overlight with elements from story games such as Fate and Numenéra. Knave and MotO figure very strong in it's DNA. 

The System 

Grock uses an oracle-like system like Talisanta or VSD6 where characters roll a die and consult a table. A roll of one or two is a failure with additional consequences. A roll of three or four are a success result; a roll of six or higher is a result that is both successful and beneficial to the player character in an additional, unexpected way.

In other words, it uses the basic structure of improv. With "no, and...", "yes", and "yes and..." being your possible die result

EDIT: Lester Burton reminded me on Twitter that 3-4 is a Success in GROK?! Not an indifferent result.

Characters have three attributes that are rated as die rolls in a similar Overlight. A low stat is expressed to the d4, average stats are d6s and d8s, and exceptional stats are expressed as d10s.

Characters roll a single d12 during character generation to determine which of several possible stat arrays they start with.

Characters otherwise have a selection of traits and assets. They have seven slots for traits, of which five are occupied by personality or backstory elements, such as their place of origin, motive for adventuring, occupational background, and greatest virtue.

Assets are a series of slots for contacts, hirelings, equipment, magic spells, or anything else the player character might use to their advantage during an adventure.

Filling all your assets slots not only causes your character to be encumbered, with appropriate penalties, but also is extremely risky to their health (see below.)

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Deathtrap Lite goes live

I have posted my first iteration of Deathtrap Lite up on and DrivethruRPG for sale!

This represents nearly two years of play testing and tinkering with the system. I designed it to be plug and play. Sometimes I use parts sometimes I use the whole system. And I have thankfully had Stephen Smith use it to fill in the gaps in his own 7-UP system.

So, here's how it works:

The Engine 

Deathtrap Lite is cobble together from some of my favorite elements of the osr games I have reviewed over the last few years.

Everything is handled by a simple, straightforward mechanic. Whenever you need to make a determination for a character action where the outcome is uncertain and as a big impact on the narrative you roll a task check.

Tasks are an open list of skills. There is no one definitive long list of tasks your character might perform. Their descriptions are open-ended, and so, if there is a task in which your character has experience on the character sheet, you can advocate to make that the one you use.

You roll a die based on how experienced you are with that particular task, and add in a few modifiers, such as bonuses for high ability scores and penalties for low ones, bonuses for excellent quality gear or penalties for not having the right gear, etc. The goal is to roll a number over 6.. Thus the name Over Six Engine.

If you have no clue what you're doing, you roll a d8 and hope for the best.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Silver Gull Campaign Update: Dickering with Dragons

The Blue Book cover to the Holmes
version of Basic Dungeons & Dragons
C 1978 TSR Inc. Art by David C. Sutherland

 I have no idea if anyone reads these, but I'm sure enjoying writing them.

As I wrote about in a previous article, the dice led to the generation of a rival group of NPC adventurers in the town of Orhan, which have been picking up the slack where the player characters have been ignoring local concerns. These adventurers managed to put themselves to the cusp of fourth level before they went into a ruin and woke a dragon.  Three of these NPCs were killed, two captured, and only one managed to escape the dragon. This dragon, Arenax, is the focal point of my two most recent sessions.

August 22nd

Having slain the Demons of the Oracle of Inkandus, the PCs returned to the holy Mesa where cactus people draw on the Water of Life to gain visions. They are warned by the talking Crow, which serves as the guardian to many local holy sites, that they have come at a bad time: The Behir that guards the Mesa is hunting. The PCs get under cover just in time, as the Behir wanders into the entrance to the mesa. The Crow lies to it it says it is not seen any humans.

The PCs wait for the creature to leave, and then ask the Crow some questions. First about the Djinni that guards the oracle, and whether it can be trusted to allow the PCS to pass now that they have done as it instructed. She answered "yes" to those questions, but with warnings to watch for wordplay.

They also asked the Crow about herself. They already knew that she was a polymorphed and immortal sorceress, but the rest of the details were hazy. She introduced herself as Razia, a sorceress who lived in the earliest days of the Empire, and who had been variously friend, enemy, lover, and rival to another wizard they had encountered from that same era, Sandivh. Razia had done something so wicked and sinful that she had been cursed by a group of demigods from the region. She was polymorphed into a crow and forced to eternally protect the sites of the Cult of Malek from fools and fell sorcerers until such time as the evil of the city of Imran was no longer a threat.

Having discovered a bottle that turns any creature into a human when properly prepared in the demonic liquor cellar of Inkandus, Finch offered to turn her back into a human. They suggested that perhaps the gods had arrayed things so that the PCs could purge the oracle, slay some of the Achaierai, and drive off other monsters left over from the era of Imran. That they, in fact, had fulfilled the conditions of the curse, and have the means to lift it by holy design.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Honoring the Dice and Letting the Game Run Away With You


This is a bit of a callback to an older article on how Chaos makes TTRPGs more fun.

This long weekend, my wife and I are finally able to get a game running after a long vacation where we had little privacy and a lot of expectations on our time. After a discussion of a plot of my son's favourite cartoon awhile back she challenged me to write a campaign with the premise "Mutiny & Mind Control."

What I came up with was a blend of elements from Delve 2e, Pirates of the Caribbean, Path of Exile, the original Tomb Raider games, and the Sorcery! series of Fighting Fantasy games. And decided on playing the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for a system. Just because I can.

The Setting

My premise is this: The uncharted island of Nadalia, a week's sail to the West of Xen is home to an immortal Witch-Queen, who has lived to see multiple civilizations rise and fall around her. She lives in the ruined splendor of her second fallen empire as she seeks the final steps to true godhood. To keep her in slaves and test subjects, she has seeded the mainland with crystal hypnosis balls that allow her to capture the mind of heroes, power-hungry magicians, and aristocrats and turn them into pirates and slavers on her behalf.