Sunday, January 31, 2021

Hellion Cross

I might be hitting the critical mass or event horizon on a new Troika! romp kit. Working title is "Hellion Cross", third in the Cozmos series that includes such ancient classics as Supercalla and Cozmic Metal Heads.

For this one I'm presenting a seedy little backroads location called Hellion Cross and the 36 scoundrels, wanderers, barbarians, and wayward robots who might be there. This one is a little less laser-focused on a theme or setting as the Hellion Cross location is only loosely sketched in. Mostly this is about the 36 backgrounds and will include some random tables for running romps through the Coz along the old Supercalla Highway.

I'm working from existing backgrounds that I had on the cutting room floor plus new ones inspired by various pieces of art. The art is mostly coming from existing sketches and little drawings I had lying around that were unused in a publication. Like... if I have a cool looking robot sketch then I'm finishing it up and turning it into a background. Because this shit is fun and honestly I need to make a book because I'm having withdrawal.

Priest of the Upper Ocular Cavity

Priest of the Upper Ocular Cavity

Two middle fingers up and you are favored by the Cavity. But if the devil horns are brought to bear then woe to you and yours, for the Cavity's Eye will be upon you until your dying days.

-Coif of the Mind (blocks mental probings)
-The Ocular Habit (hard, course, armour 1)
-Cavity Staff
-Sack of Vitreous Fluid

2 Upper Eye Sees You
1 Spell (Cavity Staff): Know Intentions
2 Spell (Cavity Staff): Obscure Vision
1 Spell (Random)
1 Spell (Random)
1 Spell (Random)
1 Staff

Alcohol, tea, and the juices of fruits and tubers are prohibited, as are most pleasures of the flesh. Life is hard. Cavity staff spells can only be cast with the cavity staff, naturally.


Lightning Monk

Petty Thief

Friday, January 29, 2021

The RPG Folder I Caught in the Act

Part of this amazing ongoing series!

How it works: I randomly click on an RPG PDF, check it out, and maybe write a little mini-review. I usually write about it while I'm looking at it.

Oh snap! I clicked on an OD&D referee's screen. And it's a damn good one too. Trouble is I'm old and I don't remember who made it or where you can download the thing. Someone help me out in the comments. Don't hold out on me.

EDIT: StuRat in the comments came through with the link. This is from a blog called Smoldering Wizard. Check it.

Darkfast Dungeons by David Okum. Man I am such a wank. I love David Okum's paper minis and I follow his posts and Patreon. But I have never really looked at this book. SHAME ON ME.

So first of all, I'm a sucker for anything that emulates that classic TSR trade dress. If done well, it's just delicious to me. It can be stale, it can be overplayed. But anyone who says it is a dead art can suck it. This cover looks good.

Ok, so this appears to be a full game. Again, color me a dumbass because I didn't actually know that. I just thought Darkfast Dungeons was a series of paper minis.

I love that this is written and illustrated by David. I love ventures that are single-creator visions. Now, don't get me wrong here. Obviously there's nothing wrong with collaboration and group efforts. I'm just saying that I have a special place in my black heart for these kinds of singular vision projects.

This one appears to be compatible with or based on other games of David's. Interesting. It's definitely inspired by the classic 1981 D&D game. Natch.

Nice looking character sheet. Cool art, of course. I wanna play a Corvian.

Chronicles of the Spacejammer! by Richard Ruane is one that I just don't remember picking up at all. I might have snagged it on a bender* and never opened it. It's a book with 36 space-based backgrounds for Troika!, the other world's favorite RPG.

So this appears to be something that fits snuggly into Troika!'s aesthetic, which is kind of spacejamming to begin with. Just spot-oogling these I find the Chronomancer's Ex to be interesting. A person who hopped a ship with a chronomancer, ended up in a bad relationship, broke up, and is now kind of wayward in the stars perhaps trying to make their way back home.

Isn't that wonderful? This is the power of the game's backgrounds scheme. It's world building and character building all rolled into one. Not much more to say about this one. It's literally a book of 36 backgrounds. And they all seem pretty damn cool to me.

Legacy: Life Among the Ruins (2nd Edition)
by Minerva McJanda and Douglas Santana Mota. Hey it's only 55 pages! I might be able to say more about... oh no... that's just the handout document. The main game is 305 pages.

So this appears to be a post-apoc game, judging by the cover. It's a nice cover, I dig it. The art by Tithi Luadthong is pretty dope. Oh... hey. This is published by Modiphius? Huh.

Oh, ok. This is Powered by the Apocalypse. So the mechanics are gonna be similar to many other PbtA games such as Dungeon World. You know, to this day I don't actually know the rules for these games. I've read some bits and listened to a bunch of podcasts about them but I haven't quite grokked the concept entirely. Here's my uneducated idea of what they are: You have character abilities, called Moves, and you roll 2d6 when you want to use one. If it's like 4+, you did it. Or something. I know it's not that simple. There's a range in the middle that is "yes, but". I dig it.

Anyway... the game has a decent look. I don't love it. I think the artist is pretty rad and lots of the art is killer but a lot of the art in this book has the look of photo-manipulation - which is not my cup of tea. It's a turn off for me. But it does capture the post-apoc future world vibe so maybe you'll love it.

Colours of Melestrua: Ragnar's Keep by Ian Brockbank is a setting for RPG adventures in a working medieval castle. So this guy's name is Ian and he says "games master"... I'm betting this is a British publication. I'm so smart. I guess the spelling of "colour" didn't give it away. I love the Brits!

This is what it says on the tin. It's a very detailed castle with lots of rooms, all of which are described. There are some drawings of the castle and maps for each level plus the cliffs and river around it. There are detailed descriptions of the castles' important occupants plus their 5th edition stats. Overall, it appears to have everything you'd need if you are into historically accurate medieval gaming. Which, of course, I am not. So I am a terrible judge of this book.

The trade dress is nice because, I think, it is an aesthetic callback to old RPG resource books such as Harn and Role Aids and others. I'm probably wrong on that, but it strikes me that way. Actually, now that I think about it, this reminds me of a 90s RPG resource book akin to ICE's Campaign Classics.

*Aside: I use "bender" casually to indicate some event where I spend all day making memes or listening to obscure 1982 metal albums. But it dawns on me as I type this that "bender" might be a term fairly exclusive to heavy drinking. I don't know. I don't mean heavy drinking, for the record. My heavy drinking consists of 2 tequila sunrises on a Saturday night.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Dyson Logos: Centaur Class


One thing I don't do enough is reflect on the cool art and gaming stuff I've discovered since returning to RPGs in 2012. When I tried to think about something cool I remember from way back, the Centaur character class from Dyson Logos immediately popped into my head.

I like how the class gives the character hoof attack damage that isn't fantastic at first and never becomes overpowered. This means you won't have to make a painful choice between "hoofing it" all the or using that awesome two-handed sword you got your eye on. But with a d6 damage as you level up, you'll be eager to stomp a goblin or two.

If you love BX D&D, this is pure gold right here. If you're running a game set in a forest, woodsy area, or maybe some plains, toss this class into the mix of player choices.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Kill, Steal, Repeat

This is a ranty post, so skip if you don't have time for bullshit. I have a few of these in the tube. I must be in a mood today.


I think it's not controversial to say that D&D is a game about killing things and taking their stuff in order to get better at killing things and taking their stuff. And that's fine. Hell, we've been playing it that way for decades. That's what it is.

Yes, you can play it differently. As someone once prickishly pointed out, you can roleplay Monopoly. But the rules of Monopoly do not facilitate roleplay. The rules of D&D facilitate combat, theft, and the gaining of power. You can play entire sessions of D&D without combat or theft... but I god damn guarantee the rules are not helpful to you in that endeavor and you're fooling yourself if you argue otherwise.

(Cue that one guy who has an incredible story of an entire campaign in which the only dice rolls were Reaction Rolls. Bravo! You used one table in the entire game book. D&D is good at everything.)

This little rant was inspired by having read a few times recently how some people like to "role play vs. roll play". I thought that cliche died at -10 hit points in 1999. It's a game with 6 different dice. Fucking use them.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Meme Me Merry Myrmidon #8

Been a little while since I tarnished my blog with my stupid, stupid memes. So here's a little batch of the bloody bastards. These are Bernies. I'm sorry. Never again.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Lesser Gods of Rone

I recently completed a short BX D&D romp called Lesser Gods of Rone. Well... the campaign is called that, but this was just one adventure. Let's call it The Sleeper.

Here in these posts I talk about this whole island campaign concept:

First Post

Second Post

Third Post

The game ran for 7 sessions of 2 hours each. The characters were searching for the father of the party's wizard, Vonz. Vonz' dad had allegedly joined the crew of a wizard's ship in search of an ancient treasure. They explored 3 islands and ultimately had a standoff with a wizard who was locked in mental combat with a giant monstrosity beneath the waters. In the end everything exploded, like it does.

My incredible maps were a huge hit.

One of the main ideas behind this setting is that Lake Rone isn't mapped. It's amorphous. The positions of islands are not rigidly fixed. Or rather, the physics of space isn't fixed. To navigate between two islands you need to understand the path and it's not linear.

I invented a Mariner class just for this setting. Their trick is they "get it". They intuit the ways of the Lake and they are privy to secrets.

I tried to make navigation procedural in the tradition of basic D&D. You roll a die to determine how many hours a journey might take. You roll every 4 hours on a navigation table to see how well you're doing. The journey could become shorter or longer and hazards could be encountered. For example, in The Sleeper the PCs ran into a magic whirlpool created by some underwater villains. This was a fun bit because it let me introduce a little bit of the lore of the Lake to the party that they might later revisit and unpack.

I feel like the navigation rules worked pretty well. I worried that they would become tedious but I feel like with some variety in the tables this would be fine, not unlike the various procedures used in most hexcrawling campaigns.

The idea is that you would island-crawl. You'd randomly determine an island, then explore it. From there you might randomly visit another or the DM could establish detailed island locations as desired. It allows for individual islands to be highly detailed and mapped, if that's what you want. But the Lake itself would never be mapped in that way.


Here's what I'm thinking right now, in terms of what this project looks like.

Drawing the islands is fun. I will do more. I'd like to publish them eventually as a deck of cards where each card simply shows the image on one side and has some simple details about the island on the other side. Name, key features, inhabitants, special stuff. We're talking bullet point lists, not much text, and no stats. So this is utterly system neutral.

Accompanying the cards would be a PDF with the rules for navigating the Lake, a few classes such as the Mariner and Lake Thing, and maybe some new monsters and spells. A simple, short thing written for BX (OSE) rules, free to download.

That's the idea. I don't know exactly when I will do it. My habit is to back away from a project after running a playtest and give it time to stew. We're in the stewing phase.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Red Sonja

I post most of my pinup art over at Blood Red Pinups. But that one exists so I can be unfiltered and post nudes if I want. I also post pinup art here sometimes as long as it would be fitting to hang in your church.

Thus: Red Sonja!

Funny thing about this character is I have no real understanding of her history. Since I haven't read every Robert E. Howard story (shameful), I always assumed the character was in some Conan pieces I hadn't encountered yet. But actually she was almost entirely invented for Marvel Comics during Roy Thomas' legendary run on the Conan comic. There was a Howard story about a character named Red Sonja but it's utterly unrelated to the Conan saga and is actually set in historical Vienna.

Most of the recurring female characters of modern Conan stories are based on characters who appeared in maybe one or two of Howard's yarns. Belit and Valeria are famous examples, with Red Sonja being closely tied to Conan only through the comics.

Very interesting, don't you agree?

Monday, January 18, 2021

Conan and the Low Level PCs

For fun. I sketched this and started inking it while playing D&D the other night. Added the figures last as I wasn't sure WHO was gonna be on the stairs. I couldn't decide between a part of D&D noobs or Conan. So why not both?

I believe this will be the centerpiece of Black Pudding #7 with the stats for the helligators given in that white space above the carnage.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

BX Character Sheet Landscape

Here's a BX character sheet I put together by taking elements from various other sheets and Black Pudding pages plus new elements. It's landscape, which is not my usual thing. But you know in actual use a landscape sheet is more practical from what I've noticed. I did a bunch of pregens in landscape for a Nerdlouvia con and it saved table space.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Demon and Key

I drew this demon today and it turned out kinda cool. I'm shit with drawing chains so I really tried to do them some justice. Still not perfect but I think better than previous attempts. Chains are hard!

So this guy will go into Black Pudding 7 and I'm not sure exactly in what context yet. The issue is still very wee and hasn't grown into itself so I will probably set him to the side and see where the other pages go before giving him a role. He might be a monster entry, part of an adventure, or art for some cool magic shit. Not sure yet.

I actually have two themes at work right now. The cool wizard cover idea suggests an issue filled with wizardly stuff and this demon on a chain goes nicely with that. But the thing I've worked on the most is a mini-setting for an all-Thief campaign called Low Downs. So who knows...

Here's the doodle that spawned the demon.

Demon Sketch

Working on a demon drawing. Kind of out of the blue, definitely could end up in Black Pudding 7.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Black Pudding 7 Cover Sketch

Here's my cover sketch for Black Pudding #7. A crazy wizard climbs out of a mystic well, dripping wet, smoking his pipe. I love that idea. Hopefully the final version will be boss.

Thought Eater Returns

Good to hear from Froth over at Thought Eater blog! Welcome back.

Go check out Froth's blog because there's a lot of cool stuff to find there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Rat Bastard

This is the Rat Bastard, a class I scribbled long ago in the early days of Black Pudding. I honestly don't remember why this class wasn't in any issue of the zine so far but I assure you this bastard will be in issue #7.

And what else will be in issue #7, you ask? Well that's a good question. My process for this zine is fairly organic, meaning I tend not to play too much of it ahead. What tends to happen is I do little bits here and there and then I'll chew into something bigger (such as an adventure like Vault of the Whisperer from issue #2, using a sweet map from skullfungus). Once I get something significant finished it's as if I hit critical mass and I just continue to hammer away until I have an entire issue completed. That's pretty much how all my projects go, honestly.

So for #7 I have a few finished pages, such as the Rat Bastard and a character sheet or two, plus a metric ton of notes. Which of those notes will become parts of the zine I am not sure. I've got my eye on this mini-setting called Low Downs (welcome to the Days of Low Adventure!). But also there's a lot of material that I have created for GOZR that, honestly speaking, is absolutely BX compatible and could be presented in Black Pudding. So I might go that route since GOZR is coming along so damn slowly and I really have no idea when I'll be ready to publish it.

Translation: Be ready for some random tables!

Saturday, January 2, 2021


It is well known that because OD&D did not have an explicitly-named skill system many grognards are opposed to games having skill systems. I get it. I jumped the ship from D&D in 1990 and landed on GURPS. I get skills. I get why they can be sort of... blech.

(I am not a fan of GURPS, though I was super into it for a few years. Love all the books, though.)

D&D had skills embedded in the classes and equipment and there were a few nods to skills, such as AD&D's Secondary Skills. In BX, a fighter was able to use all weapons and armor. Those are some mad skills! A thief, of course, had an explicit list of skills (which which they suuuuuucccckkkeeeeeed.) A magic-user had the skill of casting spells and being able to create new spells and magic items. Etc.

Equipment also granted a skill-like ability to PCs. If you had a 10' pole you had the skill of being able to prod at a trap from a safe distance. A PC with a lantern had the skill of lighting a dark room - a huge benefit.

AD&D, and also BECMI's D&D line, had lots of weapon skills.

The thing that I believe grogs have a problem with is when a player says "I roll Perception. What do I see?" Instead of saying "I look around the base of the statue. Has it been moved recently?" and so forth. The former represents reduction of the fiction to a straight mechanic while the latter represents clever puzzle-solving and more immersion in the fiction.

Of course both can exist together. After examining the statue, the DM might ask me to make that Perception roll. Maybe they already know that I'm gonna see the scrape marks but maybe there's something else to be seen - such as a trap switch - and the dice roll will indicate just how closely my PC looked.

BX D&D gives the advice of using ability saves (we call 'em checks nowadays) for those moments where there isn't an established mechanic. This is a default skill system wherein the ability scores coupled with the class determine what types of skills you are good at. The party magic-user, with their high Intelligence, should to a better job of recognizing weird items and knowing esoteric lore. The cleric's Wisdom should let them know more about obscure cults and shrines. And so forth.

One way that the use of ability checks (and default skills in modern D&D) can frustrate players is when a character who isn't the party's authority on a topic is somehow just better at dealing with that topic. For example, maybe the thief has a particularly good Intelligence and the wizard is only average. If the DM allows the thief to make Int checks for every weird thing they encounter, the player of the magic-user might feel slightly useless. "Oh, Niff the Nimble rolled well under their Int so they know a good deal about this weird order of Purple Wizards. But Jan the Sorcerer failed that Int check and knows nothing. Again."

The solution to that problem is don't let Niff the Nimble make Int checks for things in which they have no expertise. And when you do allow it, follow Moldvay's advice and give them a -4 penalty. Let that middling wizard have a moment to shine and maybe even forgo the Int check now and then. "As it happens, Jan has heard of the Secret Society of Super Wizards."

A bit of ramble here as I basically think out loud about skills. More to say, but I'll do it later.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Fawn Fanart

Ed Heil has been in the RPG art circles for a long time knocking out some cool stuff. Check out this wonderful rendition of my Pan-Gea character Fawn Rainchild!


A random Dyson map.

Dyson Logos has, in addition to many other things, drawn a map or two. And they're quite good. So good are they that his name is basically synonymous with maps in the RPG circles. When I'm running a shotgun game and I need a quick map I just google Image his name and I'll have what I need in minutes.

If you google image my name and add "map" you get some maps but none of them are mine. It's because I don't draw a lot of maps. Why?

I mean, I love a good map and I've done a bunch of them. But I tend to do world maps more than dungeons and then I don't like to share them until I have a world to share... which is a pretty big hurdle to get over. So I have lots of world maps laying around for worlds that were merely a name or idea.

I have a love/hate thing with maps. I have always been attracted to things that invite me to create. Pens and papers and RPGs invite one to create. A map has the capacity to invite creativity as well, but it is also by definition a bit of fixed real estate. Once you map an island then it is "known". If the map is reliable, of course. I think this idea of fixing something firmly in place fucks with my psyche and I resist it.

Still, a lovely map is a lovely map and inspires you to step into it. Maps are a net good.

A literal sandbox map for Goodman Games.

A region of Yria, my D&D world.

Early idea for Pan-Gea.