Wednesday, January 2, 2019


I've said before how the Marvel (FASERIP) RPG was my go to super-hero system for years, so much so that it nearly ruined percentile systems for me -- I probably passed on a lot of good games over the years simply because I was so sick of rolling percentile dice.  These days I don't care so much, whatever works.

The other two super-hero systems that I like are DC Heroes (Mayfair Games) and Heroes Unlimited by Palladium.  Notice a trend?  All three are old-school games.  I would love to encounter a modern super-hero game that I liked, but I haven't (Mutants and Masterminds isn't bad, so I suppose an honorable mention...)  Most modern super-hero games seem to be "story-based"-- not my cup of tea.  Some of the games do look like nice products, so I'll give them credit for that.

The last Marvel game (Marvel Heroic) was terrible, not trying to offend anyone, it just was.  It's flaws?  1.  Being forced to not only play Marvel characters, but, Marvel stories as well.  Stories, I might add, that you've probably already read.  2.  No robust character creation rules, though I think something half-assed was added later.  People ALWAYS want to create there own characters.  The Marvel (or DC) universe should simply be a guideline, a sample setting, something you can use or not use.  3.  Typical story-game nonsense made it possible for Dare-Devil types to even have a chance to defeat Thor types.  This reminds me of the "every one gets a trophy" nonsense.  Sorry, Dare-Devil, you can't beat Thor, I don't care how well you describe it.  I understand, they're trying to recreate those clever little comic-book moments where Ant-Man and the Wasp defeat the Absorbing Man and Titania,  Roll some dice, the story will tell itself.  4.  The dice-step system using only d4 - d12 is extremely limiting, they should have at least included the d20 to give the game more depth, but that still only leaves a 5 or 6 rank difference between normal folks and godlike beings.  I'm sure it can be done...  And to be fair, there is (subjective) dice-pooling involved.....which, I'm never a fan of dice-pool systems where you inevitably spend too much time making the case to include certain dice in your pool and then spend time "interpreting" your roll.  

Anyway, that's just a little rant, if you disagree with any of it, that's cool.  To each their own.  I always say, play the games you love and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

What this post is really about, is this:

More specifically, those dice.

I've designed several complete super-hero role-playing systems.  Or rather, I've designed my own system and redesigned it several times over.  For whatever reason super-hero games, up until recently, were my favorite to design.  Probably because no system out there truly satisfied what I wanted in a super-hero game.

Yet I keep coming back to FASERIP.  Those seven abilities (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, Psyche) perfectly describe super-heroes.  Add up the first 4 for Health, the next 3 for Karma.  Perfect.  I used to think the Talent system was lame and we craved more "skills," but now I don't.  The Talent system makes sense.  The Powers could have been better explained, and the character creation system could be better tweaked to include more detailed "archetypes," but should remain random.  There are ways to create randomly rolled characters without it being nonsensical.

Here's what bugs me about FASERIP:  No matter who you're fighting, your chance to hit remains the same.  Aunt May, who probably has Feeble (2) or Poor (4), Fighting, has the same chance to hit Captain America as she does a hapless child (not that Aunt May would ever attempt either.)  The system doesn't take into account the combat prowess of your opponent (unless they actively try to dodge, which rarely happened because it costs your turn.)  One thing that was beautiful about Mayfair's DC Heroes, is that your fighting ability (Dexterity) was directly cross-referenced with your opponents score to determine your chance to hit -- the height of logic.  But, you had to consult charts, and that can be a pain.  FASERIP has this chart flaw too.  Charts were big in the 80's.

Right, those dice...

I've often pondered how to play FASERIP  without using percentile dice and/or charts, or at least only one chart, and include a way to make the opponent's power-level relevant when you attack/manipulate.  Zak Smith came up with an idea on his blog (I can't seem to find the exact post.) 

It involved assigning a number (ranging somewhere between 7-ish and 18-ish, like a D&D saving throw) to the FASERIP ranks and rolling 3d20 to hit that number.  One hit is a green success, two is a yellow, and three is a red, so you still need the small results chart atop the Universal Table.  Example, lets say Amazing (50) would be target number 8, you would need to roll at least one 8 on 3d20 to hit.  Pretty cool idea.

Fast forward to my recent purchase of Dungeon Crawl Classics and the special dice needed to play that game.  I was toying around with these dice to see just how well they roll and they're not bad, though some will keep rolling forever unless they hit a barrier.  I was thinking, why don't the games out there with dice-step systems (such as Savage Worlds) use these dice to improve or broaden their systems?  Does Goodman Games own these dice?  I doubt it.

My mind quickly went to FASERIP, maybe because Zak Smith had made another post where he talked about designing a super-hero system using a d4 - d20 dice step system.  As a fan, I'm sure it will be good.  But I find myself thinking, why not use the extra dice?

Well, the answer's simple, you never want to force players to buy "funky" dice to play your game.  And OSR types (myself included) are plenty content with the dice we already have.  Still, it's too good an idea to ignore, so how about this?

Feeble  d3
Poor  d4
Typical  d6
Good  d8
Excellent  d10
Remarkable  d12
Incredible  d14
Amazing  d16
Monstrous  d20
Unearthly  d24
Shift X  d30

Don't worry about ranks above Shift X as they almost never enter the game anyway.  You could simply treat them as d30 with Advantage.

The numbers for Health and Karma are the dice numbers, so if you had all Excellent's, your Health would be 40 and Karma would be 30.

When you attack someone, it's an opposed roll, Fighting vs. Fighting, Agility vs. Agility, Psyche vs. Psyche, or a Power vs. any of these, there are multiple possibilities.  If you beat their roll it's a green success, if you beat their roll by 5 it's a yellow success, if you beat their roll by 10 it's a red success.  You obviously still need the effects part of the Universal Table, but that's just a quick glance, no biggy.

Damage could be a dice roll or a static number (static number would be better I think.)

Talents improve your rank by 1 or 2 as normal.

Higher level, Thor types would be prone to wilder results when they fight thus resulting in people getting "slammed" all over the city.  Regular humans would rarely "slam" anyone.  Perfect.

Feat rolls would be made against the GM's roll for the feat.  Example, jumping across roof-tops might be an Excellent level feat, so you roll Agility vs. the GM rolling a d10.  Certain feats might be automatic if they're below your level, unless your attempt is under duress.

Spending Karma equals to die type you're upgrading to, e.g., you have Incredible d14 and want to upgrade to Monstrous d20 would cost you 20 Karma, and you can never upgrade more than 2 steps.

I've run some samples based on some FASERIP characters, and this all translates very well.

I almost feel like writing up a rule-set, but beyond what I just did, there's not much more to it.  I might however, write up a new random character creation system for FASERIP, but that's for another time...

Meanwhile, I'm working on another OSR Dungeon and will be posting a preview soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Praise the Fallen

There were those demented powers that wanted to return all to naught, to become one with the Ever Slumbering Void.  Pantheons collided and the heavens shattered with war.  Untold cosmic powers were lost without their names ever spoken by mortal tongues.  Countless legions fell.  Defeated in their gambit of annihilation, they scattered across the universe.  Several of the Fallen, fell to this world, forever imprisoned at their point of impact...

Praise the Fallen is a one-shot dungeon where the players explore the lair of a Fallen Angel Cult.    It is designed to challenge low to mid-level characters.  It is a place where alignment matters and foolish decisions have consequences.  It is also a place where the players may find strange bed-fellows as they ultimately try to thwart the cult from resurrecting an angel of destruction.

Praise the Fallen is an OSR styled module compatible with most versions of the world's most popular role-playing game.  16 page PDF, (including cover and title page.)

 The main map.

A High Priest of the Cult.

View the PDF below:

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Photographic Interlude...

Getting too cluttered to actually draw there.

Avant Garde.  Want your OSR gaming mind blown?   Pic one.  

More mind-blowing books.  Medieval authentic?  You bet.

 It's shameful that I only now bought this game.   A few blogs have peaked my interest and the non-traditional dice aren't so bad, except the d5 and d7..... those are dumb.

 Love Palladium, don't care what you say.

 Having a great cover artist is a good way to make people buy books they will never use.  Will I buy Pathfinder 2?.......Yep.

 Just because.

 Been a backer from the beginning.  Gorgeous books.  Latest book, Yndaros the Darkest Star, arrives in about a week.

 Again, when you like a game, go big.  You can do anything with Mongoose Traveller and the 1st Edition Core Rulebook is perfect. The 2nd Edition books are sitting on a table next to that shelf, the rule tweaks within are great, but the interior color art is not.  Don't go full color unless you're getting the best, otherwise keep it simple.

 Dictionary-Sized Dungeon.  Hard to imagine actually running this behemoth, but the mere fact this book exists makes me smile.

Artesia.  Think, Conan meets Joan of Arc, Lingerie meets Plate Mail.  What could possibly go wrong?  Nothing, it's amazing.

 Other than Larry Elmore's BECMI paintings, this was my favorite D&D cover.

 Speaking of...this just arrived.

Not bad.  But here's hoping for an edgier 6th Edition.

 Dragonlance anyone?  It's a spear, I know.  If things got medieval, what weapon would you want? Most characters don't use spears, but in real life, I think it'd be a good choice.

Ending on a tangent.  Best comic cover ever.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Praise the Fallen: Preview

"There were those demented powers that wanted to return all to naught, to become one with the Ever Slumbering Void.  Pantheons collided and the heavens shattered with war...."  

Up until now, the adventures that I've posted here have consisted of experimental methods for running games, but thanks to the cool dungeon map drawings of one, Samwise Seven, (and others) over on MeWe, I decided to do a straight up dungeon crawl.  I've been working on Praise the Fallen for a couple of weeks and should be ready to post it in the next few weeks (there's more to it than I first intended; this always happens.)  I've thought about putting it up for sale on DriveThruRPG, but how much can you really make doing that?  Maybe next time.  I think I'll just post the PDF here for whoever might be interested.  It is about the cult of a fallen angel.

Here are some map studies I've done.  I sampled various hatching styles, water color, dots, solid black; I think I like the semi-solid black in the bottom sample.  Also, my plan is to put all of the relevant information directly on the map for ease of use.

Here is some of the art...

Back to work...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

New OSR Logo

I did not want to touch this topic with a 10' pole, but new OSR logos are all the rage these days.

This one came to me while driving around.  I don't know where it came from, maybe I was stuck in traffic just long enough for my mind to wander in that direction.  With I-75 and I-696 both under reconstruction, driving around Metro-Detroit has become a serious pain.  Anyhow, when I thought of this configuration I knew it was a winner and couldn't wait to work on it.

The OSR seems to be experiencing a schism right now.  I am not a major player in the OSR and I speak for no one.  RPGs for me are like Holy Ground, and thus, Neutral Ground.  I don't care who you are, what you believe, who you love or hate or vote for, you're welcome at my table.  I follow blogs by people who I know see the world differently than I do.  I buy products designed by people who's lifestyles are on the other side of the universe than mine.  Some of these products are mindbogglingly good, and I don't want their creators to change one bit, even if that means we are worlds apart.

D&D unites us.

So I'm making this logo available for anyone to use, unconditionally.

This logo is Neutral Ground.

Even the Kurgan behaved himself in church.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Quick Rules For Incarceration

So, your character was arrested and thrown in the dungeon.  Now what?

Being locked up in a dungeon is a common trope of fantasy fiction that usually leads to some clever escape followed by suitable revenge.  Entire stories can be built around the concept of incarceration.

But not many D&D stories.

When characters get captured they're expected to escape pretty quickly and rolls are often fudged to make that happen. fudging.  But those rolls can fail.  Then it's time for the Deus Ex Machina and here comes that faithful NPC to save the day....

D&D really isn't set up for PCs to be prisoners.  But if you want that kind of grit somewhere in your campaign, my suggestion is to handle it...between...adventures.  How exactly the PC's find themselves imprisoned is largely up to your campaign.  It's also a great way to start a campaign...

The tables below assume that the PC was in a captive state and recently gained freedom.  Follow the tables as needed and as makes sense to your campaign.  Some results may be contradictory, so use common sense.


Reason for capture/arrest: (roll 1d12)  All include a sentencing modifier to be used a few steps below (modify these as you see fit.)
  1. Theft:  You were caught stealing. (-3)
  2. Murder:  You killed someone(s). (+3)
  3. Heresy/Witchcraft:  You were spreading heretical views, worshiping the wrong deity, or blaspheming. (+1)
  4. Debt:  You owe large sums and time is up. (-3)
  5. Prisoner of War:  Doesn't necessarily have to happen during a war, but enemy combatants captured you. (+2)
  6. Arson:  This has always been frowned upon. (+1)
  7. High Treason:  You betrayed your King. (+4)
  8. Disorderly Conduct:  Covers anything from drunken behavior to brawling to vandalism.  (-3)
  9. Vagrancy:  Apparently homeless, unproductive people weren't treated so well in the Middle Ages. (-3)
  10. Assault:  This includes attempted murder / rape. (+2)
  11. Espionage:  You were captured in enemy territory and are considered a spy.  (+4)
  12. Debauchery:  Strict times; use your imagination. (+0)
Were you innocent or guilty?  You could simply roll 1d6 (1-3 guilty, 4-6 innocent) or you could roll 1d6 with the listed adjustments for alignment.  If you a roll a 6 or higher, you were innocent.
  • Lawful (good): +3
  • Neutral: +2
  • Chaotic (evil): +0

Were you captured near civilization or in the wild?  Roll 1d6 (1-4 civilization, 5-6 wilderness)

Did you have a trial? Roll 1d6 (+2 if captured near civilization) 1-3 no trial, 4-6 yes you had a trial.

What type of trial?  Roll 1d4.
  1. Trial by Manorial Court or Inquisition.  (some sort of jury or counsel)
  2. Trial by King's Court.  (I am the law!)
  3. Trial by Combat.  (in this case the PC loses the fight)
  4. Trial by Ordeal.  (usually some form of torture searching for a confession and for the sake of this exercise the PC survived)

Whether they were innocent or not, the PC was found guilty.

What was the sentence? Roll 1d8.
  1. Comfortable Confinement. (access to friends and family)
  2. Public Humiliation. (such as the Pillory, often you would sleep in a cell at night)
  3. Hard Labor. (crushing rocks, digging, etc.)
  4. Confinement. (a dungeon full of prisoners)
  5. Slavery. (roll 1d6, if you roll a 5-6 you were sold to a gladiatorial arena)
  6. Solitary Confinement. (your own dark dungeon cell)
  7. Mutilation. (such as losing a hand)
  8. Death. (hanging, beheading, etc.)
Other than Death and maybe Mutilation, how long was your sentence to be? (roll 1d8)  Add the sentencing modifier from above, no result can be less than 1.
  1. 1d4 weeks.
  2. 1d4 months.
  3. 2d6 months.
  4. 1 year.
  5. 1d4 years.
  6. 2d6 years.
  7. 2d6+6 years.
  8. Life.

How did you gain your freedom? Roll 1d6.
  1. Served your full sentence.  (Obviously serving 10 years (or death) could upend your campaign, so feel free to re-roll this result.)  Also, if your sentence was death and you want to be radical, you could make the character come back as undead. 
  2. You were granted mercy.
  3. Someone paid a ransom for your freedom.  (Perhaps an organization, church, or kingdom you are loyal too and they expect devotion for this...)
  4. You escaped.  (Once per session from now on, there is a 35% chance that hunters will track you down and try to recapture you.  This drops by 5% every session as they will eventually forget about you.)
  5. You were offered a shady deal in exchange for freedom.  (You are now tasked with something nefarious such as assassination.  If you don't complete this task, they will know...)
  6. Divine Intervention.   (Something crazy happened, earthquake, flood, your cell door just opened, or you simply woke up one day somewhere else and perhaps later received a divine mission.) 
Price paid for incarceration.  (Whatever ill effects you suffered will remain in affect until you gain a level, at which point you will be back to your regular self.) Roll 1d6.
  1. You contracted a Disease that has so weakened you that your maximum Hit Points are lowered by 15%.
  2. Malnourished.  You have lost 1d2 points of Strength and 1d2 points of Dexterity.
  3. Broken mind.  You lose 1d4 points of Intelligence.
  4. Physically scarred, lose 1d4 points of Charisma.  When you gain a level the scars remain, but you have learned to use them to your benefit.
  5. Infected.  You are plagued by a chronic cough.  Lose 1d4 points of Constitution.
  6. Defeated.  Lose 1d4 points of Wisdom.
Due to fines, legal fees, confiscation, bribery, or just plain old corruption, whatever wealth the PC had accumulated up until their incarceration is reduced by a % roll (eg., if you roll 27, you have lost 27% of all your wealth.)

Unexpected benefits from incarceration. Roll 1d6.
  1. After multiple escape attempts, you learned a little something about lock-picking.  Gain lock-picking abilities equivalent to a 1st level thief, or 1 level higher if you are a thief.
  2. You found faith.  Gain the ability to cast a 1st level cleric spell as a 1st level caster 1/day.
  3. You thought that you'd entered a state of insanity, but in fact, you have been communing with an outer intelligence.  Gain one randomly determined 1st level wizard spell that you can cast 1/day.
  4. You became used to grimy living conditions and now have a +2 bonus vs. poison/disease.
  5. After regular scraps with other inmates/guards your fighting prowess has improved by +1.
  6. Pain fazes you no more.  Gain 1d4 permanent Hit Points. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Ever Changing Rynath World Map and a Lesson

One of these days I'll settle on a map....

Seriously, I'm beginning to radically rethink my approach to drawing maps and world building.  All of the maps above are different versions of the same place.  And that's only half of them.  My last attempt at a redesign stalled out.  It's time to try something different, perhaps something less careful.  Not sure what that will look like...

The maps above are mostly mountains and names.  Ansagarus, Arbalon, Dawasar, Partusium, Myanthia, Makaria, Sepulvena, etc., cool names for sure, but only ever a vague notion of what they were.  Some areas were fleshed out; most were not.  And I could never decide on the exact shape of the world.  A shape that those who occupy it would never see.  Now, it's just a list of names for me to draw from and use from time to time.  Which is fine.  I'm far more creative now than any time before.

I see it now as too much map up front and all at once.  The unnecessary need to make sense of everything.  Having a "God's Eye" view of the world takes away the mystery for you.  And that is not solved simply by having your map disappear of the edge of the paper.

Start small.  Just one kingdom, wilderness, or wasteland.  Forget about the global politics and grand histories.  Build it as you go.  For those of you who enjoy a good hex-crawl, you already know this.  I'm leaning toward something in this direction.

I hearken back to the more pulpy days of high adventure.  One session our characters would discover a pyramid after being lost in a sandstorm only to find themselves, the following session, exploring some frigid wasteland.  Didn't matter how we got there.  It was simply the latest episode.  And it wasn't always with the same characters.  When all was said and done, an episodic story of a nebulous world was told.

It doesn't have to make sense.


I've said before how the Marvel (FASERIP) RPG was my go to super-hero system for years, so much so that it nearly ruined percentil...