Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Quick Dolmenwood Loadouts for Bastionland

After reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell I was enchanted all over again by the dark and quasi-creepy folklore of the British Isles and Northern Europe that I grew up hearing. Clarke nailed the eerie otherness of faerie, and proved for modern audiences that concepts like neverland are not, in fact, streaked through with rainbows and pixie dust. 

Pauliina Hannuniemi

There is one RPG setting that has perfectly captured this strange, disturbing-at-the-edges folk feel, and that's Gavin Norman's Dolmenwood as made popular through the Wormskin zines by Necrotic Gnome. As I type this, there is a Kickstarter for the setting somewhere on the horizon. Could be this year. Could be five years from now.

Who knows? But I want to know... pssst, Gavin!

I like Old School Essentials, but I tend to houserule it to pieces so that it's smoother to run, cutting out initiative and changing encumbrance and this and that and whatever. Basically, I admire the feel and flavor of OSE and B/X classic fantasy, but I simply prefer Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland if I'm going to pick a system and feel at home right off the bat. To that end, I've put together quick loadouts in line with Bastionland for use with the Dolmenwood setting.

Given that Bastionland is essentially a classless family of games, the "classes" below are not hard and fast. I like to look at them and their related style of play as "class = background + items," that is, what you're holding and why you're holding it informs me as a referee to understand how you can reasonably interact with the world. "Oh, you're a hunter so you would be able to track this"/"You want to talk to the priest? Well, you're a friar so you should have no problem getting a word" etc. 

Pick one or roll 1d12, grabbing the Dolmenwood background (modeled after the eponymous OSE class) and the small suite of items that goes with it:

1. Cleric
- Warhammer (d10, bulky)
- Chainmail (+1 armor) 
- Heavy cloak 
- Holy symbol 
- Gauntlets 

2. Dowser 
- Sickle (d6) 
- Patchwork doublet (+1 armor) 
- Dowsing rod 
- Wand (random spell) 
- Bottle of ley-touched water 

3. Elf 
- Elegant sword (d8) 
- Recurve bow (d8) 
- Rune (random spell) 
- Golden fae flute 
- Gilt clothing 

4. Fighter 
- Battleaxe (d8) 
- Shortsword (d6) 
- Shortbow (d6) 
- Splintmail (+1 armor) 
- Tobacco pouch 

5. Friar 
- Divine stave (d6) (random spell)
- Censer 
- Bottle of holy water 
- Jug of honey wine 
- Folk songbook 

6. Grimalkin 
- Curved knife (d6) 
- Hex stone (random spell) 
- Pouch of catnip 
- Spangle (psychoactive compound)
- Blackberry pie 

7. Hunter 
- Longbow (d10, bulky) 
- Hatchet (d6) 
- Padded leathers (+1 armor) 
- Animal trap 
- Bloodhound (2 HP, Bite [d6]) 

8. Knight 
- Longsword (d8) 
- Shield (+1 armor) 
- Platemail (+2 armor, bulky) 
- Heraldic cape 
- Manacles 

9. Magic-User 
- Arcane stave (d6) (random spell) 
- Spellbook (random spell) 
- Spellbook (random spell) 
- Simple robes
- Half-empty potion 

10. Moss Dwarf 
- Prickly root (d6) 
- Pinecone lattice (+1 armor) 
- Trowel and tongs 
- Jar of forest ants 
- Poisonous mushroom 

11. Thief 
- Two daggers (d6) 
- Hooded jerkin (+1 armor) 
- 50’ rope 
- Bag of caltrops 
- Bag of marbles 

12. Woodgrue 
- Cudgel (d6) 
- Sling (d6) 
- Gourd ocarina or panflute 
- Flask of moonshine 
- Drake (psychedelic)

When I run Bastionland I typically give players ten inventory slots, counting bulky items as two slots and tiny items as no slots. I also like to use the expedition resource concept from Scones Alone. Finally, magic in this setting is very much like Knave--arcane items in slots allow for spellcasting--as opposed to typical Bastionland arcana/oddities.


  1. I've been thinking about the Use Die more and more; I find it ver charming, and it also constitutes its own take on expedition resources. What do you think?