Monday, November 28, 2022

Yes, You Can Resolve Action Without Dice and Do It for Years

A few days ago on the OSR subreddit, a user asked "Why Play B/X?" in the context of many modern games like Into the Odd, Knave, and Mork Borg being excellent at what they do. I had no skin in the game as I have a high regard for B/X and Old School Essentials (though I don't run them), but I got involved in the conversation when the predictable "Sure but you can't sustain an actual campaign" criticism was leveled against the so-called ultralight games currently vogue in the scene. 

It continues to blow my mind how often I hear this about rules-light games.

The specific discussion began like this:
  • User 1: "OSE feels like it has more depth and is more suited for campaign play whereas stuff like Mörk Borg seems to struggle with anything that goes beyond one- or few-shots."
  • User 2: "I ran Mork Borg for three months."
  • User 3: "But can you run Mork Borg for 6 years, like our longest AD&D campaign?"
  • Me: "I've been running a diceless campaign for five."
I was met with skepticism:
  • User 4: "Rolling dice is one of the best parts of role playing though!" 
  • Me: "I don’t disagree, but you don’t need them (or much infrastructure at all) to facilitate engaging, meaningful, and long-term play." 
  • User 4: "How do you handle the aspect of randomness/chaos that dice offer? Or how do you facilitate as being impartial when things happen if you don’t use dice? Also how do players hit or not hit then?"
In response, I realize I wrote effectively a blogpost to cover these questions, so I figured, why not just memorialize the conversation as a blogpost? So here we are. Consider this a sequel to How I Run and Play an Ultralight Game.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Nephilim Rising - Tables for Generating Mythohistorical Demigods

Mood Music

"Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in mortals for ever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterwards—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown." 

~ Genesis 6:3-4

The concept of a mythical giant is present is nearly all world cosmologies, folktales, and spiritual lessons. Somewhere, somehow, primeval man contended with, was usurped by, and watched perish the "heroes that were of old." The Hebrew Anak, the Austrailian Yowie, the Sumatran Orang Pendek, the Celtic Fomorian, the Norse Jotun, the Māori Maero, the Greek Titan, the Hindu Rakshasa, the Japanese Oni, the Lenape Allegwi, the Brazilian Mapinguari... look around in nearly any primeval history or mythological account and you are likely to find a reference to a race of giants closely descended from the gods, set loose in their own ambition to lord over men and rule or harass the natural order established by higher creator deities.       

Frankly, we are sleeping on the primeval, antediluvian history of our own planet as what is probably the most hardcore Sword & Sorcery setting for our use in game worlds. We're talking occult cabals, spiritual ritual inhabitation, sorcerer-kings reigning in mountaintop garden strongholds, megalithic architecture, time-lost technology, the fuel of heaven for machines on earth, underworld uprisings, and copious amounts of hybrid godlings running amok and creating culture and empire on a whim...

Simon Wong - Artstation

"Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways."

~ Enoch 8:2  

So it came to pass that the mighty men of renown, hybrids of the spiritual and mortal, consumed the land, ruled it with unquestioned might, and dominated the mere humans who were their lessers. In all races, across all lands, bound up in the epoch which predated judgment by divinity itself, the giant Nephilim of all stripes reigned and conquered and despoiled humanity with heavenly secrets not meant to be shared.

"And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day..."

~ Jude 1:6  

Saturday, September 3, 2022

GloryHammer as Weird North Canon

I once assumed the chaotic and majestic musical universe of GloryHammer was the default setting of Dungeon Crawl Classics, but the more I think about it, the more it could reasonably fit in the Weird North canon without issue.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Shadow Appalachia: Logan Barrow Hills

The moundbuilders fell like a dying star out of time when they came to these wilds. Banished and dispossessed, they fled from their stolen lands in the East and washed up among the beeches and maples of these parts. They set to work quickly, establishing themselves as the new world order from the Great Lakes to the bayou deltas, keeping a special interest in the hillocks and hollers from Chillicothe to Tobaccoville. The Lenape and Shawnee remember, and try not to dwell on the episode. It was a bloodbath.

In history's irony, the moundbuilders perished. Their sorcery and industrial warfare were formidable, but their numbers were too few to last. Tribes came and went. They minded the barrows of their elder enemies to ensure nothing crawled out of the earth. Then settlers shuffled in and laid timbers. The natives were pushed out. Roads were paved and bulldozers flattened the old mounds. Strip malls were erected in their place. As a sleeping lion ought to be left to his rest, this time-lost dirt should not have been disturbed, and now an ancient epoch is coming back to life along the Guyandotte River.

Tianna Palmer - Artstation

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Shadow Appalachia: Boone Saltwoods

The salt came first, even before the coal. When the hollers were not yet born, the Iapetus Ocean covered everything. Some say the ancient blanket of buried salt keeps what shouldn't be out of the woods. Others say it subtly whispers to the Old Things, inviting them to the gullies and high places across West Virginia.

Down south of Charleston, past where the Kanawha River branches off into the trickle of Loop Creek, are the deep woods cramped-in around nowhere towns like Kinkaid and Artie. This was wild land even before I-64 was abandoned and fell apart under the forest canopy, and now it's all but primeval landscape, peppered with cabins and hunters and things best left alone.

Felix Riano - Artstation

Friday, July 15, 2022

Weird North is now available IN PRINT!


With the excellent aid of Jacob Marks, Weird North is not only formatted for print (finally, I know, I know) but already available for purchase from as a high-quality stapled softcover digest book. It's quite nice. As always, "WELCOME15" should work as a discount code, or the other various-and-often discount codes which Lulu spits out on the regular.

Storefront Link

Friday, April 29, 2022

Three Statlines for All NPCs

Jack made it clear that you can just use bears

I utilize this all the time in general handwave fashion, but when I specifically run Into the Odd/Weird North/Cairn/Monolith etc, I've landed on a three-tier measure of NPC power so as to better represent varying tactical levels of possible encounters. It's not rocket science, and it's not perfect, but it's what I do and it's been nigh-on effortless for me for years now.

There are three NPC statlines, and that's it. Ever.

Obligatory image because blogpost. Also because Stepan Alekseev. Artstation.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Star Wars Faction Write-Up, Inspired by a Board Game

 Mood Music

This, right here, is one of my all-time favorite board games, packed so full of chrome and drama that you can rewrite the Original Trilogy with a single play. This is not a post, however, about the board game, nor the similarly-styled and eponymous computer strategy game which came before it. This post is about how my friends and I played this video-game-turned-board-game in order to inspire the setting for our tabletop adventure game campaign. Layers

The same new Galaxy Far Away campaign which I mentioned last time (including the example of real play therein) came about when I pitched "Star Wars D&D" to some guys I mentor on a regular basis. Both of them have played Rebellion against me many times, so one of them said "hey, what if we play again and whatever the outcome of the end-game state is, that's the prompt for our Star Wars RPG setting?" It was a stroke of brilliance, and it led to a near-five-hour haul to reach the natural conclusion of play. And hoo boy, did we end up with a compelling springboard.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Fantasy Flight Dice with Galaxy Far Away (and other thoughts)

For as often as I run my games diceless (or nearly so), I do really enjoy dice. I promise.

I started up a new local Galaxy Far Away campaign just over a week ago, and I realized I did not take a liking to the standard opposed 2d6 resolution that I originally penned for the game. Maybe it's because using d6 in Star Wars should belong with West End Games' timeless take on the genre, or maybe because I tend to find traditional opposed resolution less and less compelling these days. 

I have grown stale on finding out if something happens or not. Instead, stuff always happens. The question is not "does it happen?" but "how?" and I'm finding that said qualitative result generation is much more interesting than pass/fail. I'm not reinventing the wheel here, as the whole "yes, and" or "yes, but" style of adjudication easily traces its origin back to many storygame oracles and even further back into the distant, halcyon days of the hobby and its adjacents. 

Look at all of those silly symbols.

The point is, I am really quite taken with Fantasy Flight Games' "narrative dice" which they first debuted for Edge of the Empire and later more generically with their Genesys system, and I want to adapt them for Galaxy Far Away. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

d6 No-Hands Character Concepts

It's that time again--secret jackalope! Magos of the Mind#1349 wants "Beyond Humanoid: or guidance for playing something without hands I guess. Can be something like the "Really Good Dog"* glog class or something more original/alien."

We take it for granted that we have two average human hands. You can eat a sandwich, fold your clothes, and stare at your smartphone for much more time than is necessary with typical hands. Take those away, and you get all sorts of curious different conceptions of everyday ambulation and motor control. 

So what do you do without hands? Are you like Zacian, from Generation VIII Pokemon, who is a superpowered dog that holds a straight-up legendary sword in its mouth? That is, admittedly, quite rad.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Meta NPCs - Reusing My Favorites Across Game Worlds

I have found, as an evergreen referee, that I'd much rather pilot NPCs than play a proper character in an ongoing campaign. I've mentioned this before, but as I consider today's topic, it is especially relevant. 

NPCs are skeleton keys to the campaign world for referees. They are direct representations of tropes, themes, needs, and wants that you (if you're running a game) want to convey to the players to make the setting come alive. I'd rather spend three hours playing a dozen+ NPCs than a single, titular character. I've learned this over time. It remains my staple experience in adventure games. 

This is brief preamble for my sharing with you my Meta NPCs. That is, my favorite NPCs that show up in just about all of my games regardless of genre or setting (tailored to fit, as necessary). I've lived with these characters in my head for years now, and they always bounce around when I daydream some idea or another. Some were spawned originally in my 5e games, and others elsewhere. All of them have been a blast to drop in and out of my various tables.