Friday, December 31, 2021


Some thoughts about setting. Also, last post of 2021. Hope you are having a good New Year!

The gazetteer of the Known World from X1: The Isle of Dread is a little over 1,200 words. At the time of this writing, the gazetteer portion of Doomslakers B/X is a little under 1,200 words. I am not sure what this means. How much is too much? How much is too little? When it comes to campaign setting material, this is a matter of taste and often strong opinion.

My opinion has always leaned into less-is-more. I buy RPG books based on a few criteria and one of them is that they not be overwhelming. If the book is thick enough to deal 1d6 hit points of damage I probably won’t pick it up. My sweet spot really is the saddle-stitch realm of 32-96 pages, with a very strong (irrationally strong) love for 64 pages. If you can’t fit your idea into 64 pages then you might need to do some brutal editing. Just my opinion, for me personally.

Why? Because my time is limited, my attention span is limited, and I don’t enjoy treasure-hunting for a rule or reference in a 300 page monster of a book. I like succinct, but with style. I like brevity, but with character. The Basic and Expert rule books are excellent examples of brevity and usefulness, especially Expert since it also includes much from Basic. Star Fronters’ Expanded Rules is another classic example of delivering the goods in 64 pages.

(Aside: I do enjoy massive catalog style books, though. Here I’m really just referring to core settings and/or rule books. But if you make a 500 page monster catalog I’ll be into it. I don’t have to read it all, I can find inspiring bits and use them as I wish.)

X1 describes 16 distinct areas on a single page and includes a cool drawing of The Broken Lands by Jeff Dee. X1 gives us bare-bones descriptions. It's a beautiful little gem of world-building because it is so simple. A map coupled with some descriptions of entire nations that clock in at 100 words or less… enough to get any campaign started, with a little imagination and elbow grease from a dedicated DM. That’s pretty much the heart of old school gaming.

Of course D&D took the Known World much farther with the publication of 14 Gazetteers and a box set. Probably hundreds of thousands of words in total. Too much? Yes. Way too much, for me. I appreciate that those books exist and I own a few of them but I wouldn’t use them in any campaign. I’d steal from them though. And I have.

But I think you can do more complex settings than what is in X1. I mean, 1,200 words is perhaps a little too bare-bones. I was thinking of Yoon-Suin as a great example of a rich and complex setting that is at the same time very simple and easy to use. Because the book is composed almost entirely of random tables, it means the book isn’t prescriptive. You don’t have to know all the history and lore because you are generating it each time you use that book. I love that approach.

Another example of excellent world-building is found in Barrowmaze. The setting is small and laser focused on tomb raiding. The book is well organized and gives you all you need to run a campaign. It fits into an existing world easily or you can run it without referencing the outside world at all. Meaty and lean.

The setting of Mork Borg is a good example of image-first world-building. The details are less important than the vibe. This is the kind of setting you can pick up and run without having spent more than ten minutes examining it first. Bare-bones, but highly evocative. As if you took the text of X1’s gazetteer and reformatted it with art and layout to make it look sick.

For Doomslakers B/X there will be a lot more than 1,200 words. The book is a campaign setting, after all. But I’ll still fit the rules tweaks, new content (spells, monsters, magic items), and gazetteer into 64 pages – with art.



Umbrashade, +2 Sword: User can see clearly in any darkness. Infernals take max damage on every hit. 1/day, user can cast Darkness of dispel it. If sword exposed to light more than 3 rounds in a row, user must save vs. Wands or the sword crumbles to dust.

Perhaps a million years ago the great Shadow Knight of Darkmirth, in their war against demons, drew Umbrashade from the obsidian mountain far beneath the city and imbued it with the Knight’s own will. The sword remained true and hard for centuries until the city fell to ruin. Now Umbrashade itself is falling into ruin and must be kept hidden away in darkness, locked in a magically sealed tomb somewhere in that black city.

Thursday, December 30, 2021


Gootmaul, +1 war hammer, +2 vs. reptiles: User can cast Fear, Snake Charm, or Hold Person 1/day. Weapon speaks a Contact Outer Plane spell 1/week, but user must make an offering to strange gods first. Speaks its mind when it chooses.

Deep in the Ovens of the Earth, where orcs are spawned on the regular from the passing of demons, there roamed a pack of giant snakes. These snakes were called Igg, Zind, and Broo and other than being smarter than the average serpent they were self-assured of their dominance. Though few mourned the swallowing hole of many orcs, some orcs took issue with the situation. The little-known Orc hero Bant Brashlin, an accomplished metalworker, took to the forge and, with the help of unknown magics, emerged a year later brandishing Gootmaul. Within three weeks the three dreadful snakes of the Ovens were smashed to pulp.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021


 Battlevolf, +1 mace, +2 vs. Lawful: Smashes doors open on a 1-4 on 1d6. The mace’s head speaks with Chaotic creatures and bites Lawful creatures trying to wield it. It vomits acid as a Magic Missile once per day. The user suffers -1 on Reaction Rolls except with Chaotics.

The powers of Chaos give rise to many faces, many weapons of war. Battlevolf, an agent of Chaos, is one such weapon and its willingness to serve the cause is unquestionable. It will tell any who listen that it was forged a million, billion years ago and that it desires to wade through gore.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021


Wingsbane, +1 battle axe, +2 vs. flying: On a Critical Hit vs. a flying target, the target is grounded for 1d4 rounds and must Save vs. Paralysis or their ability to fly is destroyed. The user can understand the languages of flying creatures.

Forged on the peak of Old Gnarly in the Rock Hardy Mountains, this axe was made for the purpose of killing wyverns. According to legend, the dwarfs at that time were engaged in a massive war with an army of wyverns lead by a cunning and powerful wyvern master. With the aid of Wingsbane, the wyvern master was brought down and since that day wyverns have not been prone to or receptive of organization and are merely flying, meat-hungry pests.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

River Tickler

River Tickler, +1 sword, +2 vs. aquatic: The user of this flamberge can swim like a fish and can breathe water for 6 turns 1 time per day. Aquatic monsters will always attack the wielder of this sword first.

The Wizard known only as The Dolphin used this blade for many years on her exploits along the Waving Wyvern River before she was eaten by the terrible Helligator.


Saturday, December 25, 2021


Slowpoke, 1+ short sword: Each round the user waits to attack, add +1 to hit or to damage. On a Critical Hit, the target must Save vs. Poison or take 1d6 damage per round for 1d6 further rounds.

Among the Goblin peoples, patience is not a virtue. But the Goblin hero Gog the Looming (he was almost 5' tall) prided themselves on being a patient warrior. After Gog aided the wizard Gim, the old magician repaid him with the gift of a sword with patience to spare. Unfortunately for Gog, he waited too long in a battle with the Elf assassin Lier Landor and died a mere month later.


I have a Redbubble storefront I set up rather quickly and haven't given much love. You can check it out if you like. I'll try to give it love later.

I ordered some of the prints and they came out not bad. Seems like decent quality.

Here is the link.

Ho Ho Ho

Happy Merry Holicheers to all!

Friday, December 24, 2021



Cascade, +1 Sword: Each consecutive hit after the first deals +1 additional damage. Any missed attack deals 1 point of damage to the user. 1/day, the user may speak to the sword's devil spirit as if by the Commune spell (1 question, 20% chance it is a lie).

Stormdriver Thornheart, one of the greatest of the old dwarf forgers, was challenged by a powerful and mysterious hero to make a weapon that could contain his dark soul's fury. He then heaped sacks of gold upon the table and added "If it is within your skill to do so." Thornheart, being a proud artisan, immediately agreed. When the forging was finished and the dweomers sealed, the dark stranger marveled at the blade's beauty. "And now" said the dark hero, "let us see if it can contain the fury of my soul." The dwarf's final payment was the full length of Cascade in his heart. The sword drank, the eyes of the pommel glowed, the enchantment was complete.

I Fight!

The Fighter.

I haven't posted as much about this class as others, mostly because they are pretty cool as is. I did post some simple house rules here though.

Of all the basic classes, the Fighter is perhaps the most meat-and-potatoes. The B/X Fighter's benefits are basically this:

1. Best attack values, along with Dwarfs and Halflings of course*

2. No weapon or armor restrictions

3. Can use the fuck out of magic swords

4. Best hit die, along with Dwarfs of course

For Doomslakers B/X I have really struggled to articulate this class. Because there are two competing things going on. First, you can add tons and tons of house rules to make Fighters much cooler. But the aesthetic of B/X leans toward simplicity and I'm trying to embrace that way. So I do not want a ton of fiddly bits. I want Fighters to be as unchanged from the original game as possible. They need to be simple.

That being said, here's my fairly simple additions to the B/X Fighter class for Doomslakers B/X.

Weapon Bonus

Fighters are particularly good with a single type of weapon, gaining +1 to hit and to damage when using weapons of that type. Choose between: axes, bows, daggers, swords, or other.

At every fourth level (4, 8, 12) the Fighter gains the same bonus in a different category.

Crits & Momentum

Upon scoring a Critical Hit, a Fighter can immediately attack again if there is a target within range. Also, when a Fighter slays a target they can immediately attack another target that is within range due to their killing momentum.

Battle Moves

A Fighter can declare a stunt or special battle move before making an attack roll. If the attack hits, no damage is dealt but the maneuver succeeds. For example, a Fighter can disarm their opponent, kick a brick loose to topple some stones, or some other equally cool stunt. The GM will consider the difficulty and utility of the stunt and apply an attack roll penalty as they see fit.

If a Battle Move causes a ruckus that could cause damage to foes, the GM may grant Saving Throws vs. Paralysis for the affected enemies. The damage dealt should be modest (generally 1d6). For example, knocking over a large statue into a throng of charging guards might deliver 1d6 points of damage to any guard failing to make the Save.

(Battle Moves were presented in Black Pudding #4. Clearly this is inspired by DCC RPG's Mighty Deeds mechanic, but also it flows naturally from game mechanics such as Feats, which are quite common. The genius of Mighty Deeds is to disentangle the idea of a Feat from it's spell-like clarity into a more creative outlet.)

*Though it does SUCK MUCH that all PCs attack with the same values for 3 levels. It would have made more sense and been more elegant if Fighters started with a slight advantage in this area. For a one shot game, this means playing a fighter is not the best pick, even if you wanna fight. Better to choose Elf. Sure, the hit points are SLIGHTLY less but you have the exact same fighting prowess otherwise AND you get a magic spell. But I digress...

Thursday, December 23, 2021



Straightedge, +1 sword, +2 vs. chaotic: Lawful blade cannot be drawn by Chaotic users. User can repair mundane item or heal 1d6+1 damage, 1/day each.

No one knows the origin of this perfectly straight, pristine blade. It’s first recorded use was in a great battle between Nylar and Skyler just before their fall. Since then, stories abound of heroes tiring of theft and murder in their homelands and taking up Straightedge to deal out justice. Then, as quickly as the sword appears, it vanishes again. Could it be that the sword has a purpose known only to itself and uses Lawful warriors to its own ends?

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Cutting Lass


Cutting Lass, +1 sword: Re-roll 1s when rolling damage. Cuts bonds such as chains or door hinges in 2 rounds. On a hit, deal max damage automatically, 1/day.

No Elf of Summertop was quite as well-known as Misty Morn Nighthand, a steadfast defender of The Great Stump. Neither aligned with Law or Chaos, Misty was known to cut through the manure of diplomacy with a steely edge. During the invasion of Summertop by the menacing army of dark Wizard - and former lover of Misty Morn Nighhand - Thrall Omvar, Misty and her trusty blade disappeared. Even as his head was removed from his body, Thrall Omvar merely smiled when asked what became of her.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021



Whiplash, +1 sword: Target gains no bonus for shield or cover. Can be thrown like a hand axe and will boomerang at end of round on a miss. Mirror blade reflects invisible things and allows user to see through a door or wall, 1/day.

This elegant blade was not forged, but was formed from a whirlwind of supernatural origin. It was the weapon of the infamous Seapath crime chief Krolton the Many Storied. He used the blade to slay a dozen crag demons in a long lost hall of pillars. The demons thought hiding behind the pillars was a good strategy. It was not.

Monday, December 20, 2021


Kneebiter, +1 Two-Handed Sword: 2d6 dmg vs. giants. On a critical hit, target is knocked prone 1d4 rounds and suffers -3 Morale until regaining their footing.

Kneebiter was used by the giant-slayer Uuldskol of Red Peak to defeat the master of giants, Zeektara the Cloud Rider, along with their nine sons and daughters. The battle lasted 3 days and leveled 3 great giant halls. At the end of it Uuldskol unbuckled his magic belt which granted him supernatural strength, placed Kneebiter gently in its sheath, and promptly died.


Friday, December 17, 2021


Part of the Doomslakers B/X project.

Fang, +1 sword: User can speak with serpents at will and transform into a pit viper once per day for 3 turns. Snakes will not strike the user.

Fang's history is obscure. It seems to have started life as a fairly mundane scimitar that was perhaps used to slay various foul beasts roaming the darks of Underwood. It seems to have gained notoriety when a particular hero named Low Hill (so named for she hailed from a low hill) wielded it on many an adventure, many of which involved the slaying of giant snakes. She hated snakes, apparently. Low Hill was known to run with three wizards named Bo Zun, Tala Dulak, and Epizidimus the Wary. Perhaps one or all of them conspired to enchant their companion's sword as a special gift. Low Hill was eventually swallowed whole by a purple worm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Thief: +25%

After posting this Thief thread recently I had another couple of little thoughts of only miniature merit.

My Double Dexterity house rule puts a huge premium on the Dex score. For my own games, this is fine because I let players put their scores wherever the hell they want. If you're gonna play a Thief, you'll almost certainly put your best score in Dex. And I think that's perfect for my campaigns.

But what if you run games a little bit more close to rules-as-written? Meaning, what if you do the whole 3d6-in-order thing? Then it is probably going to be the case that only players who happen to roll a good Dexterity will choose to be Thieves. In that case, perhaps an even simpler house rule would suffice: Thieves add +25% to all skills other than Climb Sheer Surfaces and Hear Noise.

I mean, this isn't a genius move or anything. It's a blunt instrument. The Thief skills are too low, we all agree*, and this is just a brute way of addressing that fact.

Another idea for the 3d6-in-order crowd (or anyone, I suppose) is to give Thieves a randomized bump. The player rolls dice for each skill at the point of character creation and adds the result to the skill. This one just hit me, actually. And I kinda like it, in principle, because it makes all Thieves very unique in their skill sets. So let's explore this by looking at some ways to randomize it.

1d100: Just roll 1d100 and add the result as your bonus. Uber swingy! You might start with Hide in Shadows 21% and Pick Pockets 105%. But what an excellent reflection of individual thievery.

1d20: Far more modest, low key. Blah.

3d20: Now this is interesting. You'll have an average bump of 30 points, which puts your skills around the 40%-50% range that the Double Dexterity rule gives you. But it disentangles skills from your Ability score, if you like that sort of thing.

3d6 Exploding: Hmm... average of 10 or 11? With the exploding bit I'm not sure how to do that math. I suppose the average would be higher than 11 but not by too much. Yet you have the potential for a huge skill bump if you luck out and roll a lot of 6s.

Off the cuff... out of all these ideas I actually like the +1d100 one the best. It's super swingy but that really adds some flavor to your PC right out of the gate. Like why is Sniffle the Sneak total shit at picking pockets but he can melt into the shadows like a magic ninja? Perhaps he gets nervous around people.

Ideas and shit.

*We all agree.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Doomslakers Project

I've been posting quite a bit about doing a B/X style 64 page book, ala the B/X 64 Challenge. This is part of a continuum of ideas dating back years on this blog. An early example of this project in action was Black Pudding #4 with the OSR Playbook. I was calling it the Yria OSR Reference here.

More recently, The Rock Hardy Book of Dwarfs idea has been on my plate and it is that concept that morphed into the current Doomslakers B/X Playbook. This is how my brain works. One idea evolves until it is a different idea and eventually the cascading ideas coalesce into a book. I've just been a bit slower at it of late. Ideally I like to finish a few books a year but if I can make 1 book happen I'm happy about it. At least I'm not dead yet.

Right now I have a small barrage of commissions I've agreed to do so I don't know when the Doomslakers book will be finished. But progress is happening. I have written some satisfying bits about the 7 core classes that form the backdrop of the adventuring scene in the world of Yria. They are, currently, and in order of frequency among the adventuring population: Fighter, Thief, Dwarf, Goblin, Elf, Wizard, and Botten.

All classes get some kind of tweak from their B/X roots. Dwarf might be the least altered. Goblins are very similar to the version of the class that appears in Black Pudding #4 but with a few tweaks. Botten are machine people who I have written about before and used in a few games.

I'll write more about the classes later. In the meantime, why not do your own B/X 64 Challenge? Create and publish a B/X based book within 6 months. Hashtag it #bx64 and share the process online. It doesn't have to be 64 pages.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Thief Me Baby One More Time

Given how many times I've written about how to fix the B/X Thief you'd think it was my favorite class. Not true. If I'm sitting down to play B/X at a con or whatever, I'm probably picking Elf. POWER GAMER.

Anyway... thieves.

This is a shit or get off the pot kind of moment. I've noodled Thief fixes for years but since I'm cementing my B/X house rules in a printed book forever I need to pick a path, right?*

TL:DR: Thieves add double Dexterity to most of their skill ratings and they get 7 new skills.

The current draft includes these fairly simple tweaks:


Thieves add double their Dexterity score to all Skills except Climb Sheer Surfaces and Hear Noises. When trying to Find Traps, they add Intelligence x2 instead of Dexterity x2.

Let's talk about it.

First of all, the exclusions. I exclude Climb Sheer Surfaces because those skill ratings are already quite good. I suspect the designers didn't want to subject the lowly Thief to dying from a fall multiple times per session. Because while it's logical to say that failing to Move Silently does not mean you were heard it is harder to logically argue that failing to Climb means you didn't fall. I think I get it. Anyway, you don't add double Dex to that skill.

You don't add it to Hear Noises because that's the only Thief skill that isn't a god damn percentage.** 

Second of all, the skill ratings are famously and monumentally shitty. We all know it. Some of us like to make rational arguments to justify low scores but in the end we're just wrong and grasping at straws so we can idolize the most perfect TTRPG ever published. The Thief skill ratings are just too damn low. It would have been far better to start them around 50% and just slowly raise them by 2 or 3 each level or something like that. But nooooo. Fucking 10%.

Sorry, ranty moment.

Doubling your Dex and adding to the skill ratings brings your chances up towards 50% to start. For example, you have a 20% chance to Move Silently at level 1. Let's say you roll up a Dex of 14. Your Move Silently would be 20+14+14=48%. Not bad. It's on par with the chances of a first level PC hitting a target with AC 9 [10]. It makes some fucking sense, if you ask me.

"But James, this places a lot of weight on the Thief's Dexterity score. The original game didn't emphasize stats this much. Are you sure about this? What if the player rolls a really shitty Dex score?"

Yes, I'm sure. B/X gives us the well-loved roll-under-Ability mechanic, after all. Clearly the game was realizing that Ability scores aren't just window dressing and a bonus to XP isn't as super sexy as they thought it was. Also, I made 4d6-drop-lowest and place-score-where-you-want canon in my games. It's statistically unlikely that the Thief player will not have a good Dexterity score. As it should be.

"But James, then the 9th level Thief has a 103% chance to Move Silently! That seems very high to me."

Yes, 103% is very high. But consider these points. First of all, and let's be honest here, the lion's share of B/X play happens in the 1-7 level range. If you're running con games, you're doing level 1 or level 3 or something like that. If you do a campaign, it'll likely peter out by name level. But OK... let's say it doesn't. So second of all, who cares? The 9th level Thief is a Master Thief according to the level titles. Let them be mutherfuckin' masters. The DM can always make the situations harder and apply penalties. That's kinda how this game works. And it's especially ok when you're not playing with 36 levels.

"So, James, if these pathetically low Thief skills irritate you so much why not just house rule an entirely different skill system?"

Because when it all comes down, this is a B/X fan production. If I wanted to make a whole new dungeon game I'd do that instead. But I'm making a B/X inspired RPG supplement. I wanna preserve as much of the original spirit as I can. I want as few changes as possible. Simple as that, see?


When I went to Gary Con I met Frank Mentzer. This was like meeting a rock star for me since it was his red box that was the first RPG that I ever owned. I used it so much that eventually the box fell apart completely, long lost to time and the trash bin. So I asked Frank one question that always bugged me. In B/X's Expert book under the Thieves section for higher level play it says that in the fabled Companion rules the Thief would gain skills such as ventriloquism, distraction, and climbing upside down. I asked Mr. Mentzer why he didn't include those in the official Companion rules.

He said they were silly so he didn't want them in there.

Major points lost, Frank. Major points lost. My man... climbing upside down, scurrying across a ceiling like a fucking demon ninja? Hell yes.

So I added these skills to Thieves in the world of Yria, where Thieves are somewhat like assassins in that they have secret signs, secret guilds, and highly specialized training. I didn't add these to any Thief XP table because, again, I wanted to preserve the original spirit. So each of these skills simply uses the ratings of existing skills (in parenthesis).

-Evasion (Remove Traps)

-Climb Upside Down (Move Silently)

-Ventriloquism (Hear Noise)

-Mimic Voice (Hear Noise)

-Disguise (Pick Pockets, adding Intelligence x2 instead of Dex, and modified by the target's level in the same way as Pick Pockets)

-Forgery (Pick Pockets, adding Intelligence x2 instead of Dex, and modified by the target's level in the same way as Pick Pockets)

-Use Poison (Open Locks, adding Intelligence, not doubled, with serious risk)

Thieves are the original skill class, after all.

*Of course this is not true. The Doomslakers B/X Playbook is but one iteration of B/X campaign house rules and setting notes. Many more could follow! I can dream.

**WTF, designers? Did you not realize in 197x that in 202x people would be critiquing your work? Anyway, I'm kind of OK with the Hear Noises ratings. If anything I'd bump it up by 1 to start. So maybe that Wis modifier could play a role. But I'm thinking just leave it alone.

This One Goes to 14

As you might have noticed... I have some B/X D&D on the brain these days. I was worried... for a time in recent months I simply did not have it on the brain. Burnout? Probably not. I don't really "burnout" on something. I get distracted.

OD&D is a beast with which I am familiar only through the osmosis of reading blogs, FB posts, Twitter, and listening to a bazillion podcasts about the OSR. I understand what it is, I know it's rules, generally, but I'm unfamiliar with it intimately and have no nostalgia for it. I never knew much about its existence until much later in life, to be honest. No one I knew who was into gaming back in the 80s ever mentioned it or owned it.

What I did have intimate experience with was B/X, BECMI, 1e, and 2e. That's my era, due to the age at which I bought my ticket to ride (13-14). The first one I played was B/X. The first I owned was Red Box. It was all glorious, of course.

Anyway... levels.

Peeking into OD&D I can see that Fighting Men were given levels through 9, Magic-Users through 11, and Clerics through 8. I don't believe there was any sort of level cap or anything, it's just that they only included those levels. Those books are a shit show of organization - a beautiful shit show, of course. I am an old school zine kind of guy so you would think that I'd be all over OD&D's gritty photocopier aesthetic. And I do admire it! But it's not my D&D so it's hard to get a boner about it.

Add to that the fact that even though B/X is far better organized, cleaned up, and codified it is still a fairly crude book by today's standards, right? Who the fuck uses that garish Souvenir font anymore?? (hint: I do).

So what was my point here? Oh yeah... this one goes to 14. And I think that's super important.

Going to level 10ish is fine. Going to 18 or 20 (AD&D's range, from what I remember, and the range of 5e) is fine and dandy too. Going to 36 is BONKERS. What was Frank Mentzer thinking? (well, the 36 level range had already been promised so it wasn't his idea... he was just fulfilling it.)

14 levels is basically perfect. You have your sweet spot at lower levels, some access to real power, and a nice place to say "We've done it. Let's roll up some new level 1s."

There are other reasons, though. It's hard to hold 20 levels in your brain. What does 14 mean in the context of 20? But 14 fits nicely. I know that getting past 7 means you're a big fuckin' deal. Getting to 14 means you're a god damn existential threat. After all, even though 7th level spells aren't in B/X (and maybe they fucking should be), given the logic of the Magic-User's XP table, they should be slinging 7th level spells at level 13. Mass Invisibility... Charm Plants... bring it.

There are 7 classes in B/X. Characters can get to level 14... 14 is 7 x 2. This means something.

Ok. Time to wrap this up. I'm rambling. Next up, the B/X 64 Challenge! Write and publish a 64 page (or 32, or 48) book for B/X within a year. Stop just thinking about it. Do it.

Saturday, December 4, 2021


Part of the Doomslakers B/X project. 

Hawkhead, +1 sword: User can see through the eyes of a passing bird for 1 turn (10 minutes). During this time they cannot see anything else.

This sword was forged in Nylar before the city fell to ruin. It was made at the behest of the legendary hero Makkus the Mark whose clarity of vision and steadiness of hand was unparalleled. Perhaps this blade currently rests in a pile of treasure in some forgotten tomb or in the hands of some troll or scoundrel haunting Hill Country. Where the famous bow of Makkus rests is a mystery.

Some say the voice of Makkus may be heard by worthy warriors who heft this sword in battle.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

BX Wizard Revised

I posted about this before. I've used a version of this class in play and I feel like this iteration is closer to what a B/X wizard should be. So for my B/X games I'll be using the Wizard to replace the ole Magic-User. Why?

More cool options for low level play - which is where most of my gaming takes place.

How is this different from the standard MU?

1. An extra spell at level 1.
2. More versatility in spell levels you can memorize.
3. Ability to use weapons and armor in a sensible way beyond "you can't use that".
4. Putting magical research and potion making front and center so the players will actually USE them.
5. Some immediate weirdness... a minor magical item, reaction roll penalty, etc.
6. Combining MU and Cleric spells because I honestly don't care about Clerics at all. I don't need them.

Note that this Wizard can only memorize a spell once at a time. So they cannot be a healbot with multiple Cure Light Wounds.

I'm open to arguments for why this iteration of the Wizard is broken. I might have a blind spot so I appreciate feedback. This will likely end up in whatever Yria setting book I end up publishing.

Some of this was inspired by Stuart Robertson's old B/X Witch class, which I really adore.

EDIT: A hero in comments pointed out some errors so I fixed 'em. Hopefully better now.


I haven't been using the OSR label in a long time. I don't recall taking a stance on it in any particularly strong way at any point. I just sort of moved away from it a couple years ago because let's face it... so many shit shows.

But I'll probably start using it again as a hashtag because let's face it... so god damn useful.

The Expert Dwarf

I drew this Bill Willingham D&D dwarf while playing Top Secret. Go figure.

You'll know this guy from the first page of 1981's Basic D&D book. He's smacking a dragon around with his adventuring pals. I don't know if Willingham named him, but I like to call him Zipsmasher Busterchops.

I should do more fanart from the old game. It's fun to explore how another artist works and when you're drawing one of their characters you pick up on a lot of details. Willingham and Jeff Dee, for example, both obviously had tremendous super hero comic book inclinations. I actually like that they both had their stamp on this version of D&D because as an old comic book guy myself it resonated. I saw D&D characters as larger than life and not just pond scum struggling to become epic. While I love the zero to hero aesthetic that the OSR has cultivated (see DCC RPG), I also know it sucks to sit down to play an adventure game and be virtually powerless (reminds me I might need to do another Magic-User rant soon).

The original Bill Willingham art kicks much ass, natch.

I made a character sheet for Zip. I figured he was a strong dwarf, so 14 Str seemed realistic, assuming the player rolled 3d6. I could have went higher... maybe I should have. Ole Zip's got guns.

Here's a timelapse of the drawing for those who enjoy that sort of thing.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Zarp in Pan-Gea (color)

Here's the finished art for the new Zarp piece. Zarp hitchin' a ride across the broken lands of Pan-Gea on the back of a duck-skulled tigerlope with his friend Shullaroo.

Here's some B/X stats for ya bones.

Duck-Skulled Tigerlope

AC: 6 [13]

HD: 8 (36 hp)

Move: 150' (50')

Atks: 2 claws/1 bite or 1 gore

Dmg: 1d6/1d6/1d10 or 2d6

No. Enc: 1d6

Save: F8

Morale: 9


Align: Neutral

Big, loping beasts with long horns. Can be tamed for riding. Will charge for x2 damage if 60' or more space is available.

Hump back stores fatty milk to sustain the beast up to a month without food.

Zarp in Pan-Gea

Lately I've been thinking about comics again. I used to be a comic guy, not an RPG guy. I was an active small press creator, self publishing an array of titles such as Anomalic, Blacksheep, and Random Order Comics & Games (which represents a transitional phase for me from all comics to mostly games).

Comics is hard fuckin' work. This is why I probably stopped doing them. The insane amount of time you pour into it may or may not pay back. It's fine, of course. Nobody owes me their attention and I learned decades ago that I'm an underground guy forever, not a highly successful artist in terms of doing it for a living. So I'm cool with screaming into the void. But I gotta be passionate about a thing to scream with comics.

Anyway... Zarp! I was thinking about doing some new Zarp comics. Which lead me to doodle the little devil more and more lately. Now he's showing up in works that were meant to be pure pinup. This one started out as a sexy bit and morphed into a cool Pan-Gea bit. And I'm super happy about how it turned out. This is the vibe I hit in the mid-2000s with Pan-Gea and is, I believe, my most authentic, unfiltered self.*

So this might end up on a comic cover or it might end up in an art book. I'm giving serious consideration to publishing a collection of my favorite art and putting it out there for those that might like to have it.

*Well... sans the naked bits dangling out. Which I'll happily draw as well.

Saturday, October 16, 2021


The vampiress... Jubella Equinox!

Check out the post over at my Blood Red blog for more variations.

Intuos 4 Love Bomb

In 2009 the Intuos 4 graphics tablet was released to the masses and I got one. It was my second tablet after starting with a small Bamboo. Since 2009 I have used two tablets: the Intuos 4 and an XP-Pen Artist 16 pen display tablet. My experience with the XP-Pen is shitty. The hardware was OK but the drivers... holy shit they were terrible. Constantly crashing, freezing, losing pressure sensitivity, etc.

After using the XP-Pen for less than 6 months I said fuck this piece of shit and I dug out my trusty Intuos 4. It felt like an old friend returned to me in a time of need. This tablet is a god damn workhorse. I have used it for a solid decade to create almost every piece of art you've seen from me during that time and it shows no signs of slowing down. No dead spots that I can detect, the pen is absolutely pristine, no worries at all. I assume the buttons on the side still work but honestly I'm a keyboard guy so I don't even touch those buttons. I have my work habits and I'm a bit unwilling to change. Insert old man yells at cloud meme here.

The Intuos 4 never crashes. It works seamlessly with my ancient machine. Losing pressure sensitivity is extremely rare and seems to be more related to my drawing software than the tablet. And look at those nibs! They are all in perfect condition. Hell, I have used the same nib on this damn thing for years at a stretch. I mean... they don't really wear down, do they? If your nibs wear down maybe you're murdering your tablet?? Ease up.

Anyway. Love my tablet. I will eventually upgrade, probably when this machine finally chokes up its last gasp. But for now we're good.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Pyramid Gooz

I doodled these dudes while playing GOZR, which Andy is running for our Monday group. We are currently entering Gooz York!

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Bean! Fan Art

I did a bit of fan art for J. Freels' Bean! the d2 RPG. I love that game and I love Freels' cartoon art style. Go check it out.

I Shot My RPG Folder

I haven't done any blind reviews in a while. Owing to my lack of focus, let's do this random ass shit. As always, I often do not know who the fuck makes these games so if you dislike any of the creators that's just on you, man.

I really have never heard of A.C. : After Collapse by Justin Oldham published by Shadow Fusion. I'm honestly not sure how I got this. Maybe a bundle? No shade to Shadow Fusion, but I would never buy a game like this. Even though I loved The Road Warrior and made my own post-apoc RPG called "Surivors" based on it when I was 15, I am just not into the militant post-apoc jam.

So this game says it is a d20-based system, classless, with detailed combat rules and rules about radiation, etc. Interesting thing: it says that there are three classes of RPGs in the Collapse timeline. There's B.C. (Before), D.C. (During), and of course A.C. (After). So you can play games I suppose in modern times while the world is still humming along and during the tumultuous collapse and then after it.

Shit, this is from 2019? That's pretty recent.

So my first impression is that this is too big and not my bag. It's 286 pages... about 200 pages more than I need or want, generally. But that's just me.

Oh no... there's Upper Body Strength and Lower Body Strength and there's an Attractiveness stat. And damn, the section on batteries takes up half a page of the table of contents! Batteries must be a big fuckin' deal.

The Collapse seems to be brought about by AI, perhaps inspired by Terminator? There's a bit about homeowners gating their communities and trying to ignore what was happening in the world around them. Seems familiar.

Ultimately, a game with an "Upper Body Damage Modifier" is just not going to be my taste. If you like crunchy systems and if you're into something like Twilight 2000 maybe this is your jam.

Way back in the old days, Palladium had the license to do Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG stuff. The original After the Bomb was a supplement for TMNT and Other Strangeness. I suppose since that license has probably lapsed, Palladium just made a whole separate After the Bomb RPG.

I picked up this book recently because I kinda dig funny animal RPG shit and I already owned several of the related supplements.

There's a weird disclaimer right at the front where Palladium says they do not condone the practice of magic, among other things. As if this game was gonna find it's way into the hands of little kids whose parents are Bible thumpers. This is 2021... Tik Tok exists. After the Bomb is really no threat, guys.

Looks like Erick Wujcik based this entirely on the house system. Cool. I don't have much to say here... I like that this exists.

Ok, I picked another monster of a book. This sumbich is 350 pages! Ehdrigohr, a game with precisely the right number of hs in its title, is by Allen Turner, published by Council of Fools, and is powered by Fate. Now, I'm not the biggest Fate guy. Which is weird because I mail ordered a copy of FUDGE back in the 90s and loved it. But I guess if I'm gonna do a FUDGE then I'll just do a FUDGE. No shade on Fate, I know a lot of folks who dig it.

Oh shit is that Papyrus font? Bold.

So the premise is that nine tribes of people dwell in a broken world of darkness where they struggle to maintain the light. There are chaos monsters or something roaming the land. You play someone who probably wants to keep the monsters at bay and protect reality. Cool.

I am not a big fan of the graphic design. It smacks too much of the high desktop publishing era. There's a border around each page and a lot of use of watermarks. We don't see any spot art until page 27. But I do like that that aesthetic is kind of Native American or Mesoamerican... I know next to nothing about this, so I'm not even sure what terms to use. But clearly from the art and some of the language of the book it is in this vein.

Though the art is kind of scant, it is pretty cool. Not all of it is my vibe but I dig it. I just wish they hadn't let the watermarks bleed through the art. Again... smacks of "I CAN do this so I WILL do this" desktop publishing. Just a pet peeve.

Ok. This looks like a true labor of love and I'm not gonna poo-poo it. There's a lot of worldbuilding in this thing. It's BIG. For me, it's just too damn much and I'm just not into Fate. But if you like Fate and you like the aesthetic then by all means dig in and see what's here.

Saturday, October 2, 2021


Not my normal blogging topic, but this is a nice place to put shit.

I haven't found a lot of scans of the old TMC guide. For a brief time in the very early 80s we had TMC and got this monthly guide. In total, it was probably only 2 or 3 months. I remember the movie Excalibur was on TMC at the time.

I have strong memories of sitting on the couch just looking through the guide. I was fascinated by it. There are movies I have never seen before that I remember fondly just because of reading their description and seeing little thumbnail images in these books.

The time period I'm talking about included the films Excalibur, 1941, and The Postman Always Rings Twice (good viewing for a 12 year old).

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Pirate Booty

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, lubbers.

And here's a timelapse vid of the drawing. Not sure if this will post correctly. Guess we'll see.

GOZR Doodle Drop

I have a lot of ideas about GOZR, my sci-fantasy RPG. One of them is to put together a GOZR sketchbook full of doodles from the various pages. I dunno... just an idea.