Thursday, December 29, 2016


Fighters don't need much. Their great strength is in their lack of limitations. They can use any weapon, wear any armor, and they have the best attack rolls in the game.

But hey... here are some bennies for fighters that kinda make sense to me.

Cleave or Combat Dominance: Kill a bastard, make another attack. Limit equals level.

Attack and Attack Again: At level 9 you get 2 attacks per round.

Weapon Focus: You practice your ass off and gain +1 to hit and damage with a single type of weapon.

The Vera Rule: You can forgo the weapon focus advantage and pick an actual, single, specific weapon item that you love oh so much and oil it and clean it and lick it... and gain +2 to hit and damage with that specific weapon. You MUST use a weapon for 1 full level before you can rightly name it as your Vera... so don't lose it.


Ye olde cleric suffers from but one underlying problem. It is a class that screams out for religious specificity but it is generic as hell. Are we seriously to believe that priests of Kindheart the Good have the exact same restrictions and spell lists as priests of Cutheart the Wicked? I don't think so.

And sure, the text of some versions of the game will tell you to use your common sense and limit spells that might appear to be evil to those clerics of evil deities. And that's fine and dandy. But what about this ban on edged weapons? Clerics of Slitty the God of Knives can't use knives?

Like the thief, the cleric has has its fair share of debate and house rules over the years. And this is another example, in my opinion, where the Second Edition of the game really seemed to address the problem and kinda got it right. If you haven't read the 2e description of the Priest in a while you should check it out. The whole thing about spheres of influence is a bit fiddly for me and kinda restrains things but it's a valiant effort to make priests more interesting to play (for the record, the “cleric” is the generic priest class of 2e... the good old class we all know and love).

I'm not breaking new ground here. But this is how I handle clerics and how I'll be handling them moving forward. The stuff I'm rattling on about below is not always clearly defined. This is because each campaign may have a totally different set of gods or a different way of interacting with divinity, if at all. If the thief is a specialist who is self-determined, the cleric is a specialist who is utterly constrained in their choices once they make the choice to follow a path of worship and service to a higher power. Those constraints should be tailored to suit the campaign if you want the reveal a fuller range of the cleric's great potential as a character class.

Anyhow... this is what I do...

PRAYER ROLL: Clerics have to pray for spells. I allow them to choose any spell from their list without preparing them ahead of time. Instead, they pray in the heat of the moment for miracles! This is a huge benefit. It turns your spell list into a Swiss Army knife, though you still have the same number of spell slots.

The catch is you have to pray for the power in order to cast it. So the player rolls a d6 and on a result of 1 the gods are deaf, ambivalent, or downright snobbish and refuse to grant the power. The spell does not work.

I fooled around with fiddly rules that would account for falling out of favor, changing the die type up or down. But in the end I think that sort of thing works best if left entirely up to DM fiat. If the cleric is acting obviously out of alignment with their god, then the DM could change the failure range to 1-2 on a d6 until the cleric atones and corrects their behavior.

In the first campaign I ran using this rule I had a situation or two in which the cleric was in very good favor and I either waived the prayer roll for one or two spells or I had the player roll a d8 instead. But those rules are not codified and I don't think they should be.

SPECIFICITY: If I'm running a one-shot at a con or something like that I'll just use the cleric as-written (with the prayer roll). But when I'm doing a campaign or I have more time for prep I want deity-specific clerics. What makes the priestess of Jeff the God of Chairs functionally different from the priest of Bonan the God of Beheading? If there's no functional difference then the religions become all color... kind of meaningless in game terms.

So I'll usually do one or two or all of the things below in order to define a cleric of god X vs. a cleric of god Y.

  1. Change the turn undead power to something else. Maybe it doesn't make as much sense for a priest of the god of machines to turn undead. Instead, maybe they control golems and automatons using the same rules. In my home campaign, the clerics of Frimm the War God can summon the spirits of slain warriors to fight with them instead of turning undead.
  2. Change the banned weapons. It makes sense to limit weapons and armor if it seems like the god in question would care about those things. So play with that idea. I have one cleric sub-class who worship an evil deity that only allows them to tote specially cursed ritual daggers. Another sub-class worshiping a god of tricks and thievery may only pack small weapons that are easily hidden.
  3. Limit the spell list. This one seems simple but can lead to more work than you expect. Depending on how vast your cleric spell list is, you might find it hard to come up with appropriate spells in the right numbers. You might have to... invent new spells! I heartily encourage you to do so. After all, doesn't it make sense that Jibber the God of Babbling has a handful of spells related to talking? And why would a priestess of Rikki the God of Mongooses have any interest in turning sticks into snakes?
  4. Set requirements for the cleric that aren't related to spells or combat. A cleric is not a priest of the temple required to be in attendance day in and day out but they ARE a representative of the god abroad. So they MUST show people what their god is all about. That might require proselytizing, preaching, and cajoling for new converts. Or they might belong to a secret order and might actually hide the fact that they are a cleric at all. They might merely be required to spend x turns per day making a sacrifice or reading a sacred text. If you feel like you've given the cleric a few too many bennies in other areas you can hit them hard with daily requirements and restrictions on behavior. See the classic paladin class or maybe even the cavalier for examples of that. Of course it CAN get silly if you go too far... a cleric of Jeff the God of Chairs should not be required to sit in every chair they find... right? Hmmm....

I guess the trick is to play an intuitive balancing game with the cleric if you're going to make each one god-specific. Personally, I TRY to keep the standard cleric XP table intact no matter what I do. So all clerics advance at the same rate and have the same number of spells. Then I just try to make sure each one's special strengths are balanced against the others. You don't have to do it that way, but that's what I choose.

And ain't that the great thing about screwing around with this game?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Disclaimer: This is not the first time I've talked about thieves nor is this topic a rarity in the OSR community. It seems there is something about the good ole thief that begs for attention.

So the B/X thief sucks. In fact, all the versions of the thief sucked. Somebody didn't want a first level thief to be any good at sneaking around and stealing things. Oh sure, the XP is cheap, but those 15% and 20% skill ranks are not going to make anyone swoon.

Second edition made a valiant effort to address this glaring problem by granting players the ability distribute “discretionary points” between the various skills at each level. I believe second edition's method is leaps and bounds better than any other early edition. It made playing a thief far more interesting as each PC felt personalized. I would actually use the 2e thief over any of the others any day of the week!

But my flavor is basic. And thus Labyrinth Lord. So naturally I house rule it.

I'm a bit of a stickler for keeping as much of the original intact as possible and adding as few new things as necessary. For the thief, I added more than I normally would. But the thief is the original skills-based class so why not indulge a little?

Here are the two rules I apply to Labyrinth Lord and B/X thieves. The first rule actually applies to ALL old school thieves, in my games at least.

ONE: The General Rule of Thief Skills is Skills Bypass Risk

When the thief makes a skill roll they are attempting to do the task so well that there's no possibility of failure.

If Dirty Durk the thief rolls a 5 against his crappy 20% Move Silently skill guess what? He makes no noise. At all. Nothing can POSSIBLY hear him.

But if Dirty Durk fails that roll what does that tell us? He failed to avoid risk. He wasn't successful at using his skill. He wasn't SILENT. It doesn't mean he was actually heard. What you should do then is follow the normal protocol you would follow for any other class. Maybe make a hear noise check for monsters or just wing that mother. Whatever works for Nadia the Scarlet Mage in this case also works for Dirty Durk.

Don't be a dick and say “You failed your Move Silently roll. The trolls heard you coming down the corridor like a falling piano.” Unless, maybe, Dirty Durk rolled a 100 or something like that.

TWO: I Give Thieves Bennies

I have a short list of thief specialties. I will let thieves pick 2 to start with and 1 at every odd level (3, 5, 7, etc.). It makes each thief different in significant ways by giving the player meaningful choices. It makes thieves sexier... as other games figured out (DCC, Lamentations, etc.).

Here are the thief's specialties. Some may be selected multiple times (stacking). Also note that I do use the elegant Advantage/Disadvantage system from 5e. In case you have been living under a rock, this is just shorthand for rolling twice and keeping the better or worse roll, depending.

Acrobat: Dex check to do stunts or leaps and avoid being slowed down by terrain or being pinned.

Arcane: Can cast Read Magic once per day in order to read and cast spells from arcane scrolls. Must pass a saving throw vs. Spells to successfully cast. Stacking adds one more casting of Read Magic.

Assassin: Backstab damage is increased by x1. Stack for additional x1 each.

Blades: Damage with daggers and knives is increased to d6. Can stack one time to gain Advantage on dagger and knife damage.

Fast Talker: Advantage on Reaction Rolls.

Forgery: Copy any normal document or mimic handwriting with Dex check. Attempt to copy arcane spell scroll by making a save vs. Spells minus the spell level per spell to be copied. Takes 1 week per spell per spell level. Failing a roll with a 1 indicates some nasty mojo and ill luck to follow.

Goon: Advantage on hit point rolls at each new level.

Knife Thrower: Range on thrown knife, dagger, or shuriken is doubled. Stack for +1 to hit.

Lucky: Advantage on two rolls per day. Stack for additional Advantage roll.

Misdirection: Sleight-of-hand tricks with cards, coins, rabbits. Can confuse 1d6 onlookers on failed save vs. Spells, causing them to lose an action. Can confuse opponent in combat on failed save vs. Spells, allowing backstab damage on hit (once).

Skill Focus: Advantage on one thief skill. Stack for more skills.

Slippery: AC is improved by 2 for one round if employing defense only. Stacking improves by 1.

Spider Climber: Can climb across horizontal surfaces such as ceilings same as any other wall. Also, Advantage on climbing rolls.

Thug: Knock out target on blunt weapon backstab. Save vs. Paralysis negates. Knockout time = margin of the failed save times thief level.

Ventriloquism: Throw voice up to level x 10'.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


OK Ookla... play it cool...
OSR games are mostly about exploration, combat, and acquiring treasure. Mostly. And let's be honest. People who enjoy playing Labyrinth Lord are pretty much in it for the adventure, not the realism. And they damn sure aren't there for love.

But it could be loads of fun to inject some romance into the game, right? I mean we joke about it all the time. My players are constantly running these little background arcs in-character in which they have crushes on NPCs and even other PCs. It is usually played up for comedy.

But in the last post I mentioned the Big Nasty Table of Messy Stuff. On that table could be a simple line such as “You are madly in love.”

You get that result, and there's a sub-table. Maybe it has stuff like “In love with noble or princess.” or “Your love interest is a paid killer.” or “You are mad for a wizard but too scared to reveal it.”

I would allow such a player to opt out of the sub-table and choose to be in love with an even scarier person: a fellow PC. By choosing a PC to be in love with they would earn maybe 500 bonus XP. Not a bad thing for a starting character. If you're a thief, you're nearly halfway to level 2 already!

Of course, you gotta check your context. What kind of players do you have? If you're gaming with all kids, it's a crush. Puppy love. “Oooo... you LIKE him.”. If it's all adults it can be more than that. If it's a mix of adults and kids, don't use romance at all. I would substitute something deliberately funny like “You are in love with beer.”

And how might a lovestruck PC act? You could KISS it (keep it simple stupid). When the player acts toward their love interest in a way that seems less than charitable ("Eh, I let her get eaten by the grue while I try to find a way out.") you could require the PC to pass a saving throw vs. Spells. On a failed roll, their actions cannot go against the other character. If they are in trouble, the PC has to help.

Yeah. So now I'm probably going to write some of these ideas up for Black Pudding. And do the Big Nasty Table of Messy Stuff.

This is what happens when I have a week off from work.

Character Perks

When running Labyrinth Lord or B/X I like to allow players to choose one thing that is special about their new PC. This could be a special item, contact, spell, power, knowledge, or just about anything else they can dream up. I don't quantify the quality. We haggle over it. I have in mind the kind of limit I want. It should be something that I don't think would break my game. They tell me in words what they want and they make suggestions on how it should work, mechanically. I consider it, make any necessary tweaks to the mechanics, and roll with it.

This has a few awesome benefits. First, it gives players a really fast buy-in to their new PC. But it isn't oppressive. It doesn't require a backstory novella, just a single line or two about one thing. That single line or two gives me windows into the new PCs' world that I can use in building the campaign. And if one of them dies, so what? That tidbit of information that helped guide the campaign is still valid. It still stands. We don't have to abandon it because the character to which it was originally attached is no more. If there was a kingdom of rat people beneath the city before the PC died those rat people are still there.

Here are a couple of examples from the last campaign I ran.

-A PC witch who as actually three witches. The Strange Sisters. The player's idea was that the sisters would always be holding hands and would act as one. So he still got one attack per round, casting one spell per round, moving at the normal rate, and so on. In fact, in hindsight the “benefit” didn't really confer any benefits. It was just cool. Like gaming with the three witches from DC comics.

Now, near the end of the campaign the Strange Sisters died. I believe they were crushed by a giant worm, if I remember. BUT... I decided that their trinity should have an impact and I tweaked things until it was revealed that one of the sisters – the eldest – lived. Sure, she was a bit flummoxed that that her sisters were gone but she was still around. With a catch... I didn't tell the player this at first, but the witch had essentially cheated death and was living on borrowed time. Each time she was hit with any attack from that moment forward she would have to save vs. Death or die.

-A PC with a weird luck power. I can't remember exactly how it worked. But basically he had a 50/50 chance of getting “lucky” in a given situation once per day. That allowed him to enact his luck power when he knew his chances were crap. It really didn't come up very often in the campaign, but it was cool.

-A PC with a cloak of fireflies. Sort of. He was surrounded by glowing bugs that acted as a soft light and could potentially have some other benefits. Again, those didn't really come up very much. But they added ambiance.

Arguably, you could do things like the bug cloak as mere color and have no mechanical benefit from it. I could describe my elf PC as being razor thin and having glowing eyes... but that's not going to get me a Light spell.

But I like letting the players be creative and also granting them some minor benefits from it. Of course, the context of the campaign matters too. If its low fantasy then I would limit these special perks to mundane things. You gotta think contextually.

All of this mental masturbation leads me to consider how to use other interactions in the game besides magic and combat. What I mean is, perhaps prices can be paid up front for special bennies. Complication tables, natch. You want to levitate at will because you're an awesome level 1 wizard? Roll a couple of times on the Big Nasty Table of Messy Stuff.

Which leads me to romance...

Hit Point Tracking Bubbles

The more games I run the more I learn about my own needs as a GM. One tool that I started using a few years ago and that has become indispensable to me is the hit point tracker, or hit point bubbles.

I want to say that I saw hit point bubbles many years ago in a module. But I honestly can't remember if that's true or not. I know that the adventures written for BasicFantasy RPG use hit point boxes and it is probable that I picked up the idea when I first started perusing the OSR in 2012 by checking out BFRPG materials. In any case, I used hit point trackers in my first module Howler and in every adventure since. And I use them at the table in any game I run.

The idea is simple. If the monster has 5 hit points you make 5 boxes, bubbles or some other mark. If a PC deals 2 points of damage you check off 2 bubbles. It's fast and easy and you can keep talking while doing it. There's no math involved, no drain on your brain even for a second.

Use a pencil, not a pen. Because trolls heal, right?

Here's an example of some hit point bubbles in one of the one-page dungeons for Black Pudding #1.

The Vexx is vexed!

You can also use the bubbles to remind you of events that might happen as a creature is wounded. Remember the “bloodied” condition from 4e? You can love or hate 4e but this concept is fantastic and truly useful. When a creature's hit points are reduced by 50% (bloodied) something special happens. They go all raging or they run or whatever.

The Vexx is getting scared...

This idea has proven so useful to me I started applying it wherever resource tracking is involved. I used bubbles on my one-shot and con game character sheets to keep track of spells, torches, or whatever else is needed. I didn't use them for PC hit points, but I definitely might start doing that.

Anything that keeps a game flowing and reduces downtime is a win. Ticking off some bubbles, to me, is far less mentally taxing than subtracting or adding numbers.

Quick Init II


In Black Pudding #1 I presented my method for dealing with initiative on page 23 (“Quick Init”). I adopted this method a while back because I was not satisfied with group initiative (no consideration for fast PCs) or individual initiative (too many rolls, slows combat down). The quick method is to just roll a die and the result is how many PCs get to act first. The GM would then decide which PCs get to go in what order, based on context.

This really works. But I'm finding that the method as presented in Black Pudding tends to grant a strong preference to PCs unless you modify the die roll or the die being rolled based on context. But I don't present much of a description on how to do that.

So here's a revision of the method I think I'll test on my players. This revision simplifies the rule even more by reducing it to a single die type and dismissing the idea of going up or down die steps.

  1. Roll 1d6-1. The result is how many PCs get to act before the enemies.
  2. Natural 1 = no PCs go first.
  3. Natural 6 = all PCs go first.
  4. +1 to roll if the party contains any rangers, hunters, elves, monks, or ninja types.
  5. -1 to first initiative roll if the party was preoccupied with another activity.
  6. -1 to all initiative rolls if party is outnumbered.

And that's it. Of course, surprise rules still apply.

If you happen to be running a game with a very small party, such as 2 or 3 PCs, you could use a d4 instead. But I feel like the d6 is fitting for typical party sizes and it gives a reasonable chance for either side to totally win initiative.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Ready, Set, Grapple!

Rasslin'! (clip art)
The grappling rules I've seen in the classic books left me scratching my head, so I ignored them. The ones from AD&D, if I remember correctly, read like an alchemical formula. That's when you shake your head and laugh sentimentally at Gygaxianism's funny moments (I'm looking at you, psionics).

In my games when someone tackles or grapples I have always used one rule: wing that mother. Normally I'll have them make a hit roll and if it's a good one then I'll have the target make Str or Dex checks to break the hold. Whatever seems appropriate.

I track non-lethal combat exactly like lethal combat, but the end game is subduing, not killing. So when hit points reach zero you are DONE fighting.

Another simple rule I would employ is this. When a successful non-lethal hit roll exceeds the target's Str or Con, they have to save vs. Paralysis or be immediately subdued (like a boxer being knocked out). This way you CAN have a one-punch dramatic moment.

Against monsters (traditionally without Str or Con scores), just use a target of 15.

I know that grappling rules are a bit contentious and some folks love more complex rules. After all, a good grapple is a lot like a wrestling match, which is itself kinda like a mini-story. So it makes sense for there to be a desire for blow-by-blow rules. I just prefer to keep things moving in my games and try not to get bogged down in minute details.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Black Pudding #1 in Print has produced a lovely print edition of Black Pudding #1! Get a copy today! Get two!

Black Pudding #1 print

You can also get a Premium Bundle that comes with:

  • 2 print copies of Black Pudding Issue 1
  • 2 double-size laminated adventures from Issue 1 
  • 3 sheets of double-sided grid paper
  • 1 Pencil +1

Black Pudding #1 Premium Bundle

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Black Pudding #1

Black Pudding #1 now available! A zine of OSR RPG goodies such as chainmail chicks, catgirls, magic swords, and treasure-spitting monsters.

Black Pudding #1 Video

Matt Hildebrand made this kick ass video for the first issue of Black Pudding. Featuring the kick ass music of Old Wolf (used with explicit permission).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cover Art for Black Pudding #1

Here's the cover art for Black Pudding #1, an RPG zine that I'm putting together. No release schedule yet, no table of contents. I am currently sorting through my RPG junk and making decisions about what would go well in the first issue. It will have some character classes and monsters for sure. I'm not sure what else, but I seem to have lots of stuff to choose from. Probably more than enough to do a few issues, depending on page count.

And I'm not even sure about page count yet. This might be a beefy book, or it might be a series of slim ones. I don't know. The word "zine" has an amorphous usage, regardless of its origins. I think of a zine as a receptacle for ideas.

More later.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Monster: Cattarusk

The hungry, slimy cattarusk for your dungeon dweller needs.

#inktober #4. Yeah, these are out of order. Sue me.

PDF here.

Monster: Kettle Ogre

The noisy kettle ogre likes to eat you. A Labyrinth Lord monster for dungeon crawling fun.

Also, #inktober #2.

PDF here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Character Sheet: Thankfully I Was Wearing My Armor

Armor is important.

PDF here.

Character Class: Grizzard

Here's another class from my Deep Valley campaign. This one is also being currently played, rather like a Jim Henson character from The Dark Crystal. Since the in game PC is a bit of a collector/trader I added a little random items in pocket table.

PDF here.

Character Class: Djinn-Volgate

One of the classes I invented for my Deep Valley campaign is a kind of fallen djinn, and one of the players chose this class to play. So far, we're having a good time with it.

Here it is written up for Labyrinth Lord.

PDF here.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Character Class: Jack

I started a B/X campaign a month ago that I'm calling Deep Valley. The idea was to start fresh and design some things based on images only. So I spent a few days picking art that I love - such as paintings and drawings by Rodney Matthews, Hannes Bok, and Eyevind Earle to name a few - and writing short things inspired by them. I wrote a bunch of character classes and asked my players to choose from them instead of anything standard.

This class emerged from that idea. It's my riff on the sly Jack from Jack Tales stories. This class sort of stands in the place of the Thief in the Deep Valley setting, which has a strong faerie tale falvor (I hope).

Here's a PDF of the Jack class and screen shots below. This is formatted to digest size.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Rabbits & Rangers in PDF and Print

Bears? Tigers? Stoats? Fossas?

Yes to all.

Rabbits & Rangers, a Labyrinth Lord supplement, is now available in PDF and print. If you like funny animals and fantasy then I got you covered.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

B/X Bode: The Lizz Character Class

©I'm firing up a new B/X D&D campaign and I decided all the classes needed to be unique. No standard races or classes allowed. One of the classes the dripped out of my brain late last night was this. If you know da Bode, then this will make sense.

PDF is here.


You are a righteous one. You da boss.


Your Prime Requisite is spunk, but that don’t matter. You got all the juice. You fight like a Thief. You can use little bitty weapons like daggers, short swords, and little bows. You can wear armor what was made or modified to fit ya, but you ain’t no good at it and when you gets hit with a 20 or you rolls a 1 it falls off. You gots a 3 in 6 shot at makin’ any magic doohickie do its thing but if ya rolls a 6 something real bad gonna go down.


Lizard Luck: Sometimes da crazy universe has a heart an’ smiles luck down on ya like sweet rain. If things go south, you can petition the big ole ‘verse howevers ya like and if ya makes yer savin’ throw vs. spells somethin’ real good gonna go down. ‘Course… if ya was ta fail dat save real bad… well, you might get tossed about like a piece of cabbage.

Honey Magnet: You is not only da boss o’ adventure, you is da boss o’ the ladies. When you see a dew eyed sweetmeat of a mountain cantelope (a female, or whatever), you gotta save vs. spells or be compelled ta woo her wit witty words and witticism stuff. Roll a d20. If you happen ta gets a 20 she’s all into ya like a charm person done happened. Otherwise, who knows?

Naturally, this is a fan-fic post and the art and original characters are (c) copyright Bode.

B/X Bode: The Lizz Character Class

©I'm firing up a new B/X D&D campaign and I decided all the classes needed to be unique. No standard races or classes allowed. One of the classes the dripped out of my brain late last night was this. If you know da Bode, then this will make sense.

PDF is here.


You are a righteous one. You da boss.


Your Prime Requisite is spunk, but that don’t matter. You got all the juice. You fight like a Thief. You can use little bitty weapons like daggers, short swords, and little bows. You can wear armor what was made or modified to fit ya, but you ain’t no good at it and when you gets hit with a 20 or you rolls a 1 it falls off. You gots a 3 in 6 shot at makin’ any magic doohickie do its thing but if ya rolls a 6 something real bad gonna go down.


Lizard Luck: Sometimes da crazy universe has a heart an’ smiles luck down on ya like sweet rain. If things go south, you can petition the big ole ‘verse howevers ya like and if ya makes yer savin’ throw vs. spells somethin’ real good gonna go down. ‘Course… if ya was ta fail dat save real bad… well, you might get tossed about like a piece of cabbage.

Honey Magnet: You is not only da boss o’ adventure, you is da boss o’ the ladies. When you see a dew eyed sweetmeat of a mountain cantelope (a female, or whatever), you gotta save vs. spells or be compelled ta woo her wit witty words and witticism stuff. Roll a d20. If you happen ta gets a 20 she’s all into ya like a charm person done happened. Otherwise, who knows?

Naturally, this is a fan-fic post and the art and original characters are (c) copyright Bode.

Monday, August 15, 2016

B/X Bandits

Here's a personal piece I did as a bit of homage to Moldvay's D&D, riffing on the iconic art by Erol Otus and Bill Willingham.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Next Project Pondering #1

Rabbits & Rangers is finished and in the hands of the best layout guy I know. So now I'm thinking about what to do next. And what's been rattling in my head for a while is something that captures my love of B/X and allows me to use a bunch of material I've got lying around. So maybe, just maybe, I'll do a B/X setting book like I talked about doing last year.

The setting I've been using as a default for a little while is the city of Old Gnarl. This is an ancient place full of corruption and evil and other good stuff and its a melting pot of races and cultures. So naturally it makes a good launching point for any good old fantasy campaign.

Players in my Monday game will recognize elements of this idea because it is the same setting in which I ran the Frimmsreach campaign in 2014. But in their case, they never actually explored beyond one small area of the frozen north so the city of Old Gnarl never came on the radar.

I'm always nervous about attempting to write setting material. I always feel hemmed in if I do a big map with lots of detail. It makes the world feel smaller. But at the same time a world without boundaries feels limitless and unfocused. A bit overwhelming. I think a good compromise is a zoom-in on a setting. Just show a city and stuff around it. Hint at what might be beyond the map's edge. But don't lock yourself in too much.

I don't know. This is all still up in the air. If I end up not doing it then this barbarian chick won't have a home.

Saturday, August 6, 2016



AC 6 [13]; HD 2; DMG 1d6 or spell; MV 30; SV 15; ML 9

These black-garbed, frowning men are fixed points of moral authority in a world of sinful magic. They will always try to eliminate magic where it is found. They can detect magic within 20’ on a 3 in 6 roll. On a result of 4, they are convinced magic is present even if it is not.

Wytchfynders issue a divine decree that stuns the target for 1d6 rounds on a failed save. They may draw a magic circle trap around a subdued target. No one can break the circle from the inside unless they cast Dispel Evil or Wish, but it can be broken easily from the outside. The exorcism process takes 1d6 turns and deals 1 point of damage per round per wytchfynder. At the end, the victim must pass a saving throw or else be compelled to confess all sins (real or imagined) and be unable to use magic of any kind. By questing to reverse this damage and earning at least 1000 XP in the process the magical ban can be lifted.

Wytchfynders use sabers in combat and may cast 3 first level cleric spells per day. They are easily fooled by illusions and have a -3 penalty to save against them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


It took me a while, but I finally picked up Yoon-Suin and the first issue of The Peridot by David McGrogan. I’m sorry I waited so long. This is god damned good stuff.

I won’t go into much detail as Yoon-Suin has been reviewed elsewhere. But what you have here is a toolkit, akin to Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad or Vornheim, that allows you to create your own iteration of the world of Yoon-Suin right at your own table. And its balls out good. From slug men to crab men to opium dens this one has the ring of an ancient, pre-medieval world rife with Biblical vice and sin.


The Peridot is a nice digest zine with some Yoon-Suin material and lots of cool art. And speaking of cool art, Matthew Adams brings the goods with Yoon-Suin. Quirky, blotchy, quick, sketchy… utterly weirdly beautiful stuff.

One of the things I appreciate most about these books is that they are not married to a rules set. There is no logo for a given retroclone on their covers, nor is there any mention of any given game. D&D is mentioned in passing, and the sparse stats that are provided are clearly of the classic D&D variety. There is the OGL printed in the back of the book. But this stands on its own. It's clearly an OSR product, in the sense that it resonates with what the OSR community tends to focus on. But it is not beholden to it or any current game. It speaks to readers as adults who know what the hell they are doing. It explains what needs explaining and doesn't worry about the rest.

And it has sexy little stat lines for monsters that don't strain my aging eyes.

Highly recommended. This is the kind of book that makes me rethink what the hell I'm actually doing with my own work. And I like that feeling.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

DCC RPG: Wizard Character Sheet

This was inspired by Jeff Easley's iconic Dungeon Master's Guide cover. This is, I think, the first DCC sheet I've done for anything other than level 0 characters.

PDF here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Character Sheet

Doodled another OSR style character sheet. Enjoy. And let me know if you use it. Take pics!

PDF here.

Saturday, June 4, 2016



No. Enc: 1d6

Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: 1 punch
Damage: 2d10
Save: F7
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None
XP: 1140

These humanoid creatures are blue all over and have bodies like giant bears. Their muscular arms end in hammers, which they use to smash enemies to pieces. Hammerhands are not too bright but can be employed as guards. They rarely speak (most can’t) but communicate with each other by bashing their hammers together, a sound they can hear for up to 10 miles away. As magical beasts, they take only half damage from non-magical attacks. Because of their inability to employ subtlety, most employers avoid using these creatures as guards because they tend to destroy everything they touch.

A strike from a hammerhand fist will instantly smash wood, stone, and most other materials and normal items. Magical items and materials are allowed a saving throw to survive. Hammerhands are immune to charm spells.

Rabbits & Rangers: Sheep on the Borderland

My Monday group finished the first playtest adventure for Rabbits & Rangers, a Labyrinth Lord based guide to running cartoon animal campaigns. I cobbled the adventure together without writing much down. I decided to riff on B2: Keep on the Borderlands and I called it “Sheep on the Borderland” (naturally).

The gist was this. A band of adventurers called the Sheeple (all Sheep) went missing after making a journey to an ancient ruined keep northwest of the great city of Zyn Dweomer. The sister of the Sheeple’s leader enlisted the PCs to help her find her lost brother. Her name was Bree Arkus.

I took the map of the Keep and drew a ruined sketch of it. I put a huge rift in the earth next to the Keep, related to the dark magics that were at work in the area.

The PCs explored the surface of the ruin, where nearly all the walls and buildings were reduced to rubble. They fought hammerhands, who were responsible for most of the smashing of walls. It’s kinda like cats clawing… they gotta smash stuff.

Anyway, the culmination of the adventure was an encounter in the only remaining intact structure… the Chapel. So here’s a sketch of the Chapel layout.

There were stinky diseased goblins, Sheep, Monkeys, giant spiders, giant snakes, slithering snake people, and a half bull half sheep demon. It was fun. I learned a great deal about the tension between cartoon style mechanics and straight Labyrinth Lord play.

Next playtest begins Monday… In the Castle of Count Drake-Yulla! I hope to write this one up as a module to supplement the book.

The text for Rabbits & Rangers is finished. Right now I’m focused on playtesting and doing art for the book. I do not have a release date yet. It will depend on when I get the drawings done.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

OSR Character Sheet

Here's another OSR style character sheet from the sketchbook. These are so much fun to do.

And a PDF.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Character Sheet Snake!

Here's a new OSR type character sheet. Seemed like a good idea in the moment. PDF is here too.

EDIT: Fixed the sheet. I left off AC and hit points. Now they are there, just refresh the link.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rabbits & Rangers Update

Rabbits & Rangers is a game supplement for use with Labyrinth Lord. The book will give you the necessary rules to play cartoon animals in fantasy settings. It includes 50 animal races, each with unique perks and drawbacks, and it includes a small selection of optional rules that help promote the “cartoon” side of the idea.

The text is written and edited and playtesting has been going on for many weeks. I’m working on art and I hope to have the whole thing put together in a few months.As I get closer to finishing I’ll narrow that down to a more specific date.

I plan to follow the book up with further animal races and perhaps some adventure modules. We’ll see how that goes. I also want to invite others to publish materials compatible with R&R, once the book is “in the wild”.

I started thinking about this game years ago and I have written several versions of it using original systems, which I may or may not publish in the future. But this version is purely OSR and I wanted it to be firmly grounded in Labyrinth Lord rules. I tried not to add any extra baggage, though as a necessity there are a couple of rules that should be observed in order to get the flavor across.

For example, size really matters. So I include in the game a very simple way to deal with the mouse who fights the elephant.

I also include a “luck point” system inspired by the old Conan adventures published in the 1980s. This is the kind of system I use in all my OSR games and I felt it would be a good fit here too.

Animal PCs have a “nature” that reflects a strong emotion or other characteristic. This is a way to convey behavior similar to cartoon characters who have an exaggerated personality or physical schtick, such as being grumpy or greedy.

For the truly cartoony campaign, there is a whimsy rule. This can be used if you want those pianos falling from the sky or PCs painting doors on the sides of walls and walking through them.

All of these are optional. You can use all of them or none. The list of animal races, which is the meat of the book, can be utilized in any OSR game without the need for nature or whimsy. My goal was to make this book usable.

Here's an example animal from the game. The art is not final.

Medium mammal

AC Mod: no adjustment
HD/hp: d6 min
Move: 120' (40')
Abilities: +1 to any two ability scores
Tooth and Claw: 1d6 bite; 1d4 claw
Night Vision: 30’

From the scruff of your neck to the pads of your feet, you are the romantic subject of every Bard expressing her inner animal nature. Rightly or wrongly, you are seen as the original wild animal who can’t be tamed by the fineries of civilization.

Howler: You can issue a haunting howl from a distance, causing your enemies a -1 to hit for their first attacks against you and your allies. You shake their nerves!

Loyalty: You gain +4 to saving throws against magic or other effects that would cause you to betray your friends and allies. When acting in direct defense of an ally you gain +1 to hit and damage and +1 to saving throws for 1d3 rounds.

Pack: When coordinating attacks with allies you gain +1 to hit for 1d6 rounds. You must actively engage in coordinated attacks to gain this advantage, requiring at least 1 turn of planning prior to the battle.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Atlas Articularum

Check out Cyd Clark-Praxis' blog Atlas Articularum for some cool classes and OSR goodness. Got knights, satyrs, risen, paragons...oh my!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

April RPG Blog Carnival...Weird Weather

Mortaine over at Mortaine’s Blog is hosting April’s RPG Blog Carnival...and it’s all about weather. So here goes some weather related stuff. Because frankly I ignore weather too often in my games.

Your PCs are in a forest. You want something strange to happen with weather. Roll 1d6...

1d6 Roll
Weird Weather Event
Breezy with a faint smell of iron or blood in the air. The smell is coming from the west where a battle was recently fought and 13 bodies of ogre size are lying in a heap of ruin. One of them carries a scroll case that includes a map.
Drizzle. The rainfall is only heavy enough to be annoying. But the rain is a bit pasty...and smells a bit like honey. If a PC climbs to the top of a tree or flies up to look over the canopy they will see a giant beehive suspended in mid-air about 300’ above the trees. Giant bees can be seen crawling on its surface...and upon the backs of them are humanoid figures.
There is a heavy rain that falls in clumps and gets each PC wet right down to their privates. All paper products such as scrolls and spellbooks must pass a saving throw or be drenched, with a 2-in-6 chance of being ruined. This rain even seems to soak through metal! What wizardry is afoot? Perhaps the twisted spire of a ruined tower in the distance holds the answer.
Rain and thunder! The storm rages violently with a 1-in-6 chance every turn of a lightning strike. Each PC must save vs. paralysis. Those who fail are fried and knocked out for 1d6 turns. They awaken to recount visions of a massive, scaly monster awakening from a deep sleep in a watery tomb. He is hungry.
PCs start to feel the pitter patter of rain and the gusts of winds...coming from BENEATH them! Within 1 turn there is a torrential UP-pour of rain coming from the earth itself, tearing clumps of dirt and vegetation that are blown upward on raging winds. The winds scream and howl from holes in the ground, hollow trunks, and caves. Nearby the PCs spot the opening of one such cave from which can be heard sinister laughter.
The temperature drops suddenly. Within 1 turn the PCs can see their breath in the air. 1 turn later there is snow falling. And 1 turn after that the forest flash-freezes! All PCs must save vs. spells or be frozen in place as by a Hold Person spell. Only a Remove Curse spell can free them instantly. Otherwise they must be slowly warmed up with fire, in which case they will be free to move in 1d4 turns. While all of this is happening, a gang of 4d4 ice trolls come marching along, lead by a beautiful elf maiden with snow white hair. She is, of course, an ice witch.