Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Titan-Scale Mass Combat

I threw this together to adjudicate the End War - the final battle to save the world.
It went fucking great.
Since it was a one-off (for now...?) I was intending to paper over any weirdness with the rules on the fly, but it ended up working pretty good on its own!

The actual scenario is very my-campaign-specific, but maybe it'll be useful if you need a one-off EPIC BATTLE or as a starting point for better mass combat rules.


When I say Titan-Scale I mean Titan-Scale.
You're not ordering around individual units, you're dealing with entire armies clashing. I'm going for adjudicating a Lord of the Rings clash of thousands rather than a more cerebral tactical battle where you counter cavalry with pikes or whatever.
This means that combat is necessarily abstract.

There are Horde-Scale units. These are units of hundreds, if not thousands, of troops.
There are Titan-Scale units. These are the size of mountains, truly titanic, unassailable by even the mightiest hero.

Combat at the standard encounter scale is ineffectual and fruitless. If the PCs wish to impact the battle directly it will be in the realm of surgical strikes, diplomacy, or perhaps classic PC bullshit.

The Battlefield


The Battlefield is a hex grid. Each hex is as big as you need it to be.
Here's what I had:

In this case, the hexes are approx 2-3 miles across.


Each Turn is about 1 hour.
Titan-scale units lumber across the landscape, while the Horde-Scale units practically zip around underneath their feet.

The Basic System


A Horde's Power dictates the die they roll in combat. It's 1dX, where X is their Power.
eg. a Horde with Power 10 rolls 1d10 for combat, a Horde with Power 6 rolls 1d6.

Slow Hordes (eg. zombies) move 1 Hex per Turn.
Standard Hordes (eg. human armies) travel at 2 Hexes per Turn.
Fast Hordes (eg. winged dragon-cultists) can move 3 Hexes per Turn.

Horde on Horde Combat:
Each side rolls their combat die.
The Loser loses 2 Power, dropping down a die size.
The Loser may retreat a hex, if able.

Killing a Horde:
If a Horde is at 4 power (ie. uses a base d4 for combat) and loses a combat, they are destroyed.
Survivors may flee, if possible, as a useless noncombatant unit.

Horde on Titan Combat:
Hordes cannot harm Titans.
The best a Horde can expect to do against a Titan is to slow it down so that their Titan can get involved.
Some Hordes might have a special ability that allows them to harm a Titan-Scale Entity.
(eg. in my End War, the Tentacle Cult could summon forth a titan-scale Tendril if left unmolested)

Technically Wun Wun is Horde-Scale, despite being fairly big


Titan-Scale damage uses Hit Locations.
Each Hit Location can be Unhurt, Hurt, or Maimed.

Here are some example hit locations for an Apocalypse Dragon, the walking city Battlefortress Fate, a big Prime Tentacle surrounded by 3 Sub-Tentacles, and an extremely huge humanoid.
If a Hit Location is Hurt it can't be used to attack. If a Hit Location is Maimed it has been mauled to pieces and cannot be used at all.
It's up to you to adjudicate what this means.

Titan-Scale units all move at one hex per Turn.

Titan on Titan Combat:
Each Titan automatically hits and hurts the other - roll for a hit location to see what each hit.
If the Hit Location is Unhurt it becomes Hurt.
If it's Hurt it becomes Maimed.
If it's already Maimed, damage another Hit Location - Titan controller's choice.

Killing a Titan:
Usually impossible, but you can Maim it enough that it's useless.
In my End War, there were enormous horse-sized Rot Grubs that would fuck up a wounded Titan. Luckily this never happened to the players' Titans!

Titan on Horde Combat:
The Titan wins automatically and takes no damage in the fighting.
The Horde loses 2 Power and may retreat if they wish.

Titan-Scale combat for sure

The Turn Order

Each Turn is an hour.
Each Turn goes like this:
  1. PCs Give Orders
  2. Horde Movement
  3. Titan Movement
  4. Horde Combat
  5. Titan Combat
  6. PCs Do Stuff
1. PCs Give Orders
Write down what the PCs want the entities under their control to do.
You can't really change your orders once they're given on this scale.

2. Horde Movement
Horde-Scale Entities move according to their Speed.
If there's any question of who goes first, fastest choose.

3. Titan Movement
Titan-Scale entities move.
If there's any question of who goes first, choose what's coolest.

4. Horde Combat
If two enemy Hordes are in the same hex, they fight!
Follow the Horde-Scale rules above.

5. Titan Combat
If a Titan is fighting a Titan, or has a Horde attacking them, they fight!
Follow the Titan-Scale rules above.

6. PCs Do Stuff
After everything's moved and rolled for and all the rest, it's the PCs turn to take independent action if they wish.
We had things like "fly to a dead city to try to raise an army of survivors", "dive into the Tentacult to destroy their leader" and "chug a bunch of wizard drugs and cast a Titan-scale Force of Forbidment".
It was good shit!

The End War

You can check out my original sheet for the End War here.

The goal was simple.
Kill Shub-Niggurath.

The PCs had, over the course of the apocalypse, united pretty much every other apocalyptic threat against this one true enemy.
They controlled the Apocalypse Dragon Ninhursag - the Earth Dragon - and had equipped it with the most virulent poison known to man. Any living organic matter that was touched by this noxious Omnipoison would be catalysed into more of the toxic gas.
If Shub-Niggurath was successful it would undergo planetary lysis, cracking the world like an egg and spreading itself far across the cosmos.

The plan:
1. Get Ninhursag to the largest closest tendril of Shub-Niggurath - the Prime Tentacle.
2. Blow a hole in the Prime Tentacle.
3. Send Ninhursag plunging down the hollow inside of the Prime Tentacle until it reaches the centre of the planet, then unleash the Omnipoison into Shub-Niggurath's frothing core.

My intention for the push-pull of this battle was it to go something like this:
- Titans get into battle.
- When a Titan is wounded, they are vulnerable to the Parasite Grub Hordes that want to dive into the wounds and eat them.
- Wounded Titans need to be protected from the Parasite Grubs by their Hordes.

Instead we also got some of the most metal shit that's ever happened in the campaign, including a PC becoming a Titan-Scale monster and throwing a fucking Apocalypse Dragon at the Moon.
It was rad as hell!

Titan-Scale Foes

The Prime Tentacle
- Immobile.
- Surrounded by 3 malformed ancillary tentacles which can also attack.
- Regenerates each Turn: Maimed > Hurt > Unhurt.

Apocalypse Dragon Ereshkigal
- Unknown agenda.
- Airborne, but wings are Maimed.
- Gravity well will, if not stopped, pull down the moon.

The Black Sun Ultrademon
- Coming in from the north, Black Sun between its horns.
- Trailed by a wave of impenetrable darkness.
- Surprise! It comes in peace. Wants to rescue its constituent demons by entering Fortress-City Fate and turning into obols.

Horde-Scale Foes

Power 6. Speed 2.
- Protect the Prime Tentacle.
- Can summon a Titan-Scale tendril to damage Titans.
- Won't summon tendril if they're in battle with an enemy Horde.

Ereshkigal Drakencultists
Power 10. Speed 3.
- Defend their dragon at all costs.
- Can open Space Warp between two points anywhere on the battlefield.
- No clear agenda

Power 6. Speed 1.
- 1d4 hordes spawn per Turn near random Titan.
- Spawn new 6 Power Horde in front of them if they win a battle. Insta-killed by Titan damage.
- If a Horde get to a Titan with a Maimed and undefended Hit Location - drill in, hitting another Hit Location (internally...) every Turn.

Titan-Scale Allies

Apocalypse Dragon Ninhursag
- Armoured in bone: each hit location starts off with armour that resists one hit.
- Carrying the Omnipoison around its neck.
- Obeys the mental commands of POWERLAD

Bone Dragon
- Currently Ninhursag's armour, could potentially become own entity again.
- Head contains Ossuary of All Bones, allowing control of all Undead. Could be damaged.
- Controlled by Galaxy RJ

Fortress-City Fate
- Walking City. No Titan-Scale melee capability.
- Every round choose: Fire Macrocannon to deal ranged Titan-Scale damage or raise Shields to resist one incoming Titan-Scale hit.
- Controlled by Styx

Orbital God
- Ranged Titan-Scale attack - can strike with impunity from above with god-beams.
- Distracted by urgent matters across the globe.
- Will listen to Styx and/or POWERLAD.

Horde-Scale Allies

Ninhursag Drakencult
Power 8. Speed 3.
- Defend Ninhursag at all costs.
- Overgrowth reduces speed of foes within 1 Hex.

The Dead
Power 8. Speed 1.
- Defend Ninhursag at all costs.
- Gain +2 Power if they defeat a Horde with bones.
- Obey Galaxy RJ

The Army of Fate
Power 6. Speed 3.
- Mounted on Guber-brand hovercrafts
- Good at hit and run - bonus +2 to power if they didn't attack last Turn.
- Obey Styx

Power 8. Speed 2.
- Can be deployed at Styx's request.
- Can freeze a combat they're in - stalling it for one Turn.
- Obey Styx, via the Orbital God

my clearly v cool notes while i was working on this

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Santicorn 2018 - The Powerglass

Mini Santicore ripoff from the OSR Discord!

This one's for Catalessi of Unreal Star.

Catalessi asks for:
"a sandglass-based monster, location or tresaure. all three if you manage"

I was gonna try to do all three but I've been travelling across the world for the past week, sorryyyy!
I did a monster though, and at least it's illustrated I guess!

HD5 AC varies ML10
One ranged sandblast attack for 1d6 damage + blast target into the future.

A large fat sandglass filled with pure white sand, encased in a spinning rings like an orrery. Pearlescent hands formed of bands of coloured sands reach out from around the sandglass and spin the orrery mesh.
It floats through the air, softly spinning, the armoured orrery-case opening itself more and more as the timer runs down, allowing the nacreous sandy limbs a better chance to blast at foes.

The sandglass itself flips every 30 seconds.

On the first round after it flips, it has 18 AC and +1 to hit.
As the sand trickles down, it loses 1 AC but gains +1 to hit at the end of each round.
On the 5th round it has 14 AC and +5 to hit, and the sand has trickled into the lower bulb. At the end of that round the Powerglass flips, deals 1d10 damage to anyone in 20’ as the hoops of the energy-mesh blast out and fly around and reconfigure, and becomes 18 AC and +1 to hit again.

It attacks with blasts of temporal sand from its writhing hands. 1d6 damage and the target disappears - blasted forward in time. They will reappear when the Powerglass next flips, possibly very confused.

Ideally the Powerglass wants to blast a few people into the future, then get close to where they’ll reappear so they get hit by the AoE when it flips.

The Powerglass is summoned by time-thieves to support their temporal endeavours. The Powerglass is a unique creature, but time-thieves often have a few that they’ve stolen from other timelines.
Time-thieves can appear in any place at any time, usually in groups of themselves. Getting the Powerglass to blast people into the future tends to give ample time for them to grab whatever they’re stealing and go.

Monday, 17 December 2018

TFP DMG: How To Run Combat

To my surprise and delight, there are people out there running my rules as-is!
This is wonderful, but also made me realise that I've got a lot of assumptions about how to run a game that don't necessarily come through!

Getting in Fights

The classic OSR rhetoric is to say that "combat is a failure state".
That is, the optimal tactic is to avoid combat at all costs.

This is true but let's be honest - violence is both inevitable and interesting.

Let's get into it!

Real Basic Assumptions

Let the dice run the combat.

Congrats! You've become a part of the audience with your players!
It's not your show any more, you're here to be an interpreter.
Sit back, relax, and get worried with your players when it looks like they're at risk.
Remember: It's not your fault. It's the dice.

Roll in the open.

Roll monster attacks and damage and everything in the open. It's fun, means you can't fudge, and shows newbies more examples of how the game works.
Plus the players get to celebrate or despair when they see what you just rolled with a big baddie.

Explain what you're doing.

Get into the habit of saying "this guy has 14 AC because his skin is like leather" or "this thing has a +4 to hit because it's got a whip-quick lashing neck like a snake" or "the poison bite gives you bleed poison equal to damage".
Not only does this help people understand how the game works under the hood, but their character can probably tell that a living statue will be harder to hurt than a robed tentacle cultist.

Simple initiative.

Simple, aka side-by-side initiative, is when each side (DM and player) has all their turns, then the other side has all their turns.
Roll 1d6 per side, highest wins, players win ties since I'm nice.
Not only does this speed up the actual game around the table and allow greater player cooperation, rerolling initiative each round has the added bonus of occasionally letting one side have two turns in a row.
Truly the easiest way to chuck balance out the window and watch it splatter on the pavement below.
There's little more nail-biting than an initiative roll when someone's about to die and facing down a massive hit from a big monster.

Be lenient.

Combat is messy. It's easy for a player to have a different idea in their head of what the situation is compared to you.
If someone says they're doing something, make sure of two things:
- The intent. What is the outcome they're hoping for?
- The consequences. What happens if it doesn't work out?
These are usually pretty obvious, but if you notice somebody trying to do something exceptionally stupid or impossible make sure you (and they) are on the same page.

Justify results retroactively.

Whatever you rolled, make up a reason why it happened! Or even better, work with the players to work out why it happened.
"These massive dragon jaws, this huge mouth comes down, about to bite you in half, and holy shit a fumble wait wait ok... it's stunned!?... what even happened here?!"
Divining meaning from randomness is the heart of this game after all!

Read this.

It's half a decade old but this post about simple combat from Zak is still fucking solid.

I give this handy combat option summary to Fighters, so they can be the ones who tell people how best to fight

Fuck it I stab him - Adjudicating Players in Combat


I've got three ways to resolve PC violence:
- Attack. Your classic roll to hit then roll for damage.
- Wrestle. For when they get in close and grapply.
- Gambit. Combat manouevres and other cool moves.


Any time someone simply wants to make something die with their weapon, it's a regular Attack.

1d20 + modifiers vs AC. On hit, roll damage.

Players have got a fair few options for messing with the attack roll, mostly centred around weapon type modifiers (see Fighter handout above).
Also if multiple PCs are Flanking an enemy, they can roll Backstab on hit to upgrade it to a crit.
Most PCs only have a 1 in 6 chance of this, but Specialists and people who chucked in a point or two for Failed Career might bring their chance up.

One good thing about an Attack that might not be obvious is that you're not opening yourself up to immediate repercussions. If you Wrestle or Gambit you might get hurt on your own turn!


Usually comes up when someone says "I want to stop her from attacking" or "I tackle them!", very useful for resolving PC-on-PC conflict where nobody actually wants to hurt each other.
Monsters love to wrestle too, so another common reason is "I want to get this off me!"

Contested d20 roll, melee bonus applies. Winner chooses Hold, Disarm, Brawl or Kick Away.
Hold: Try to pin them. Three Holds in a row makes them pinned and helpless.
Disarm: Snatch something from them, or throw something they're holding away.
Brawl: Deal damage with Small, Minor or natural weapons.
Kick Away: Kick them back in the direction of your choice.

One interesting thing to note is that since it's a contested d20 roll, wrestling effectively bypasses armour. The only exception is that Shanky weapons like daggers get a bonus Brawl attack if your Wrestle roll beats their AC - win or lose.
Sometimes it's better to wrestle an armoured foe and shank him in the ribs rather than keep plinking away at his armour, especially if he's got a larger weapon that can't be used to Brawl.

Since starting your go in a Wrestle means your only choice is to roll to Wrestle, it's also a real good option for locking down an enemy that might otherwise run away or attack a friend.

Once the Wrestle gets going you effectively roll twice a combat round - once on each wrestler's go. Since they're both at risk with every roll it makes things feel much more intense.


If they want to do something that's wacky/interesting/otherwise not covered by Attack or Wrestle, it's time to go to Gambit!
My table fucking loves Gambits. They're exciting!

Roll to hit twice.
Two hits - it works like you wanted it to!
Two misses - Ironic reversal, often the thing you wanted to do happens to you.
One hit one miss - partial success or success at cost (I tell you the options, you get to choose).

The advice above about intent and consequences is most important here.
Make sure you're clear on their intent. What happens if they succeed?
Make sure you're all clear on the consequences. What happens if they fail?

Once you're on the same page, say something like "ok so you'll do this if you succeed but this happens if you fail. Still want to do it?"

Sometimes there's a situation where you could adjudicate it as a Wrestle or a Gambit.
An easy example is a disarm - you could do that via a Wrestle (roll off, if you win you can choose to disarm) or via a Gambit (roll to hit twice, on success you've disarmed them).
In a case like this just ask them what they'd prefer, telling them the difference and the stakes.


There's a ton of stuff people can do that doesn't directly hurt, hinder or otherwise mess with the agency of others.

Much of the time you can just say "yea that happens". If someone wants to run away or use an item or whatever, just let them do it.

If it feels like there should be some chance of failure, like they want to do something super quickly or while they're in melee or are otherwise in direct danger, make them roll an appropriate skill.

I use Climbing for this fairly often. If there's a real difference in elevation, like you're on the street and want to get up to the fighting on the roof, I'll have you roll Climb to get up there in a hurry.

Even if it's something that seems impossible to do in a single round, like grab an oil flask and stuff a rag in it and light it, feel free to say it takes a few discrete rounds of actions.
In my game this often results in "fine I'll throw the oil and then someone else lights it" which is legit. Teamwork innit!
Also remember - Sleight of Hand to quickly do fiddly things is a legit way to use that skill.

Don't make it too much of a ballache to do non-violent stuff in combat!
The worst thing that can happen is that someone goes "oh fuck it whatever it's too hard, I just stab him" and just attacks instead of doing something more interesting or memorable.

It leaps at you! - Running Monsters in Combat

The main thing with running enemies is that generally you want to run them as quick as possible so the players can get back to making decisions.

What do they do??

You get all sorts of monsters with all sorts of bullshit abilities.
Make sure the powers are easy to adjudicate! Sometimes I'll make a monster and give them some cool fiddly power and oh no turns out I made them come in packs of 2d10 what was I thinking!?

I know Spwack has success with letting monsters use Gambits, but I don't do it personally.
That means monsters are either Attacking (probably with some bullshit monster ability) or Wrestling (monsters love wrestling, especially if they have teeth and claws and/or can jump great distances).

Don't be cagey about why monsters are doing what they're doing.
"It's protecting its master!" or "you hurt it last time!" or whatever.
Hell, if they're tactical enemies have them talk to each other about their tactics!
"Hit the wizard before she casts that spell!" or "stay at a distance from the one with the greatsword!", that sort of thing.

I'd reiterate a bunch of stuff about how to make "simple" monsters fun in combat, but again, Zak did it better long ago.

Sidebar: Monster Wrestling

If multiple monsters gang up on one PC, they could be in trouble!
Since everyone rolls at once and the winner chooses what to do to one of the losers, it's hard to win and hard to kick them all off even if you do win!

Tying a PC down with a few little baddies is a good time, and if they've got Shanky weapons like knives they can all potentially deal damage by beating the PCs AC.

Who do they kill??

Sometimes you know exactly who an enemy is going for, like they're in deadly melee with a PC or they always go for the person with the least HP or they hate goblins.

Other times, I roll and decide why they did what they did after rolling.

A common phrase at my table is "high or low?", meaning that there are two potential targets and you've got to choose whether you're attacked on a 4-6 or a 1-3.
Roll the dice, see who they go for.

Sometimes I weight the results. "Ok you're down and no threat, but they might come to finish you off anyway because you killed their best friend. How about on a 1-2 they go for you and on a 3-6 they go for your friend nearby?"

If someone goes "hey no why are they attacking me?! Why don't they attack that guy?" then rolling to see who they go for is a good shout.

When do they stop??

When you:
- Kill them
- Make them stop
- Run away

Kill them!!

The obvious one! Kill them before they kill you!

I roll monster HP on Xd6+X, where X is HD.
Not necessarily for mechanical consistency reasons, I just have lots of d6s and the bell curves line up. If you've got enough d8s by all means use them!

I've got a couple of gimmicks with monster HP too.

If it's a gang of small enemies, like humans, I'll roll HP in the open after an attack hits them. If they survive, I put the die I just rolled on that enemy to show how much they've got left. (This is easy because I use pennies or other flat tokens for baddies).

For big beefy boys I roll all their HP behind a book or something, then as they're damaged I chuck the dice back into the box behind the screen to show how hurt they are.
It's fun to throw a few back when someone hits with a particularly meaty blow!

Make them stop!!

Morale is the main one! Roll on first death, when there are half left and/or when shit's starting to get slow and it's obvious the PCs are going to win.

Otherwise this is because my players have tried to initiate negotiations or something. If this happens just keep in mind what the enemy probably wants ("not to die" is a common one) and what they've got to bargain with.
I love a chatty baddie, so I'm usually open to this sort of thing!

Run away!!

When the going gets tough, the tough get out of there!
Chase scenes use the snakes and ladders minigame. I've got this on the back of the laminated marching order sheet, so I can flip it for chase scenes!

All you've got to do is work out how fast the baddies are on a scale from 1d10 (fast and light) to 1d4 (slow and clumsy). Since the maximum for an unencumbered character is 1d10, extra super fast enemies might roll on a 1d12.

Since the minigame is intentionally fairly abstract make sure to tie it into the fictional events! If the someone rolled really poorly or particularly well, make up why!

THE BEAST COMETH - Boss Monsters

I don't often use boss monsters. It's a lot of work for something that, if all goes to plan, dies and can't be used again.

But hey, I do them sometimes! Most recently with Elemental Dragons, and usually one-shots end with a big baddie.
Like that one time versus Santa Claus.
And that other time versus Trump.

Basically boss battles work best in a one-shot railroady format, so they turn up a lot then!

What I do use sometimes is a powerful foe with fiddly abilities - and isn't that what a boss monster is when you get right down to it. You don't want to have more than one or two fiddly foes in a battle!

The main thing to remember is that the players have almost always got way more actions and agency and attacks than a lone baddie, and mine have enough alpha strike potential to nuke a single target to the ground in the course of a single turn. Unintuitively, boss monsters are more vulnerable than a mob.
A boss monster that's just a big lone guy with lots of health is going to die.

So how to run them? Be aware of this. Give them abilities that allow them to be a threat outside of turn order. Make sure it's not just one meaty boi in a room - have them call for help.
Sometimes this can be a bullshit aura. Sometimes this can be immunities or resistances to certain attacks. Maybe they fuck with terrain, or have weird abilities that fuck with the players instead of the characters.

On their turn, try to change the battlefield a bit.
Smash characters around with a huge and powerful monster, pounce on the back rank with a fast and leaping monster, command the troops intelligently with a smart and tactical monster.

While your usual rabble might just act at random, give a bit of extra thought to boss monsters and other more complex creatures.
If they're chatty and can negotiate with PCs while they're carving them up, so much the better!

A Final Note on PC Death

Sometimes, a character will die.

For a PC death to feel legit it has to be:
- a consequence of player agency, and
- a known threat

If it feels like the PC had no choice in the matter, or couldn't have done anything to prepare for it, it feels cruel and arbitrary.

Look at Jon Snow up there. He made some dumb fucking choices and deserved to die for those choices, but they were his choices.
If it feels like you've railroaded a PC into a situation where they had no choice but to die, it's bullshit.
If the PC just dies out of nowhere and couldn't have discovered the thing that killed them, it's bullshit.

This is why it's important to telegraph traps, or at the very least telegraph that this is a place where traps are possible. 
It's also why my Death and Dismemberment rules are so complex, it means that you can survive a poorly telegraphed attack better!

Basically, make sure that if a PC dies it's their fault!

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Crits and Fumbles 2018

Crits and Fumbles document is here.

If you roll a natural 20 on an attack, roll 1d20 on the Critical Hit table.
If you roll a natural 1 on an attack, roll 1d20 on the Fumble table.
I know, revolutionary.

click to embiggen

click to embiggen


If you've read my house rule doc or saw one of the previous versions this will be familiar.
For those who haven't, here's an explanation!

Notch Weapon
A weapon that takes a Notch drops a die size for damage. 1d10 > 1d8 > 1d6 > 1d4 > 1
When you hit with an attack, you can sacrifice your weapon to roll its original un-notched damage die. If you do this it falls apart and is irreparable.
This is generally more worthwhile when your weapon is so badly Notched it’s not worth using.

Notch Armour
Armour that takes a Notch gives the wearer -1 AC.
If your armour takes so many Notches it’s worthless, it falls apart and is irreparable.

Repairs cost 10% of the cost of the weapon per Notch.
Dwarves can fully repair an item given a day and simple tools.
The Mending spell fully repairs an item.

he's just a high level fighter whose DM thinks HP is Meat Points

Ongoing Effects

Hopefully these are self-explanatory.

If you're affected by something, save at the start of the round to end the effect.
Remember that your Wisdom Modifier applies to saves vs mundane effects!

If you want a guideline to the mechanical impacts I'd apply -

Blinded: Can't see (obviously). Melee attacks at -4, ranged attacks don't work.
Helpless: Melee attacks automatically hit a helpless target for max damage.
Prone: +4 to hit prone target in melee, -4 to hit prone target at range. It takes a move to stand up.
Slowed: Moving requires an action instead of being a free move.
Stunned: Can't do anything on your turn.
Surprised: AC is 10+Armour only. Attackers can roll Backstab for potential extra damage.

textbook gambit, I should have saved this for a combat post


This isn't so different from the tables I've used for years, it's just those were four years old and needed a bit of a redo.
As before I've kept the effects fairly generic so you can describe them in a way that fits the fictional situation.
Crits and fumbles are a fun time to let the player narrate what just happened too! Mix it up a bit!

Choices for the common case of inhuman foes
Several crits now have a choice. eg. Sunderer gives a choice between shattering target's weapon or disabling a natural attack until they Save vs Stun.
This is because I fell into the classic trap of considering only armed person on armed person combat, when much of the fighting in this game is against monsters.
Fighting a knight? Shatter their sword. Fighting a giant snake? Disable its bite.

Theatre-of-the-Mind Slowed Condition
Movement-based effects were kinda lame because it's been nearly a decade since I last used a battle mat, nowadays anybody can move anywhere (within reason) and the biggest limitation on movement is Opportunity Attacks a la 5e.
Instead of the worthless-in-context "halved movement", being Slowed means you've got to use an action to move.
Cute mechanical impact - this means you can't Parry and Move to disengage. If you want to get away you'll have to take a hit, or maybe gambit.

No Quality
I used to have a Quality rule where better weapons would notch less often, but in practice people just paid the cash for the best weapon and/or just plain forgot.
Weapon/armour damage on crits and fumbles comes up enough to be interesting without being a real drag.

there's a bit in this scene where a guard's laser knife mysteriously disappears which I was going to call a fumble

To all the haters out there

Some people will tell you that crits and fumbles (usually just fumbles) are bad for the game because a Fighter will roll more fumbles than a Wizard just because they're rolling more attacks or some shit.

Those people are boring and haven't discovered the rad as hell solution called "Fighters get a +1 bonus to crit and fumble rolls per level".
Wow would you look at that, now Fighters recover from fumbles and do multi-overcrit instant kills a whole lot more. Wild!

Now this is just for Fighters, other classes in the melee combat niche like Barbarians will still roll a bad fumble every so often, but that's because Barbarians are sloppy and Fighters are OP.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Putting G+ to Death

It's here. The death of Google+. Long prophesied.
To jump on the back of Chris' post here, even though I doubt I've got as much reach as him, here's some options.


We've got an OSR Discord. It's pretty chill.


There's a possibility that the scene gets more blog-heavy again, just like old times!
There's an OSR Blog Roll building up in Sheets, add your blog there. Contrary to what you might believe, the OSR blog scene is still pumping and there are new authors all the time, so get on it!
My blog roll on the sidebar there has a bunch of blogs, but it's hard to keep up!


There's a possibility that there will be a migration towards MeWe, another obscure social platform nobody cares about.
Is another obscure site the real way forward? Should we be worried about the weird free speech bent to the site? So many questions!
Anyway, I'm there as James Young for now.


A number of people are on Facebook, but the signal-to-noise ratio in facebook groups is fucking abysmal. Either way, I'm James Young there too.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Dungeon Masterchef - A Cooking Subsystem

As my campaign world slips ever-closer to its inevitable end, a very mundane question has arisen.

What the fuck do we eat?

With the precipitous decline of the human population as a consequence of a third of all plants dying and all water being fucking poison and, you know, all the demons and undead stalking the land, a fundamental pillar of the standard D&D game has been shattered - the humble home base.

No longer is there a convenient village within walking distance of the dungeon entrance where you can flip open your equipment list and buy some rations and ropes on the cheap. Because everybody's fucking dead.

And so my players huddle in a cave just inside of Dwimmermount, hoping that they'll be able to obtain the azoth they need to maybe stop the apocalypse, their supply of iron rations slowly dwindling, hoping that the various dungeon creatures here will be edible enough to stave off starvation.

A perfect time to become a DUNGEON CHEF!!!

- Rules Summary
- Deliciousness table
- Dinner Perks table
- Known Recipes
- Known Ingredients
- Exotic Ingredient Side Effects


The world's smallest taco

Hors d'Oeuvres

The key concepts in tl;dr:

You can eat food to heal.

Take a break. Minor HP recovery during the day.
Long rest. Major HP recovery overnight.


You can eat food for buffs.

Dinner Perks. A delicious dinner grants you a boost until your next long rest!
Exotic Ingredients. Monster flesh and other weird stuff can grant strange powers and mutations!


There are two types of food.

Iron Rations. Basic bitch adventurer food. No use-by date. Calorie-dense but unappetising and you'd never eat this if something else was available. Dry nuts, chewy meats, hard cheese and stale biscuits. The Huel of the D&D culinary world.

Proper Meals. Now we're talking! Fresh ingredients cooked into a hot meal, from fortifying and hearty stews to tender brisket and leafy greens! A good chef can concoct a delicious meal from even the lowliest of ingredients, filling adventurers with good health and good cheer!

Stackable wheat crisps topped with soft cheese and chorizo

A Quick Bite

Eat food to heal during the adventuring day!

Taking a break takes a ten minute Exploration Turn and involves eating food, adjusting your bags, hyping yourself up, and treating minor wounds.

Iron Rations
Heal 1d6 HP.

Proper Meals
Heal 1d6 HP by default, but get improved healing up the dice chain based on how many unique Ingredients the meal has and how Delicious it is.

Dice chain:
0 > 1d2 > 1d4 > 1d6 > 1d8 > 1d10 > 1d12 > 1d12+1 > 1d12+2 > etc

The primary means of improving the meal's Die Size is to add more ingredients:
+1 Die Size per unique ingredient.
The secondary means of improving the meal's Die Size is to improve its Deliciousness.
Up to +3 Die Size based on Deliciousness (see Get Cooking below)

Food takes the place of standard Healing Potions in my game.
Cheap mid-delve healing at the risk of a Random Encounter.
Iron Rations are perfect for this because you don't need to cook them. Bringing a lunchbox of cooked food in the dungeon is even better though!

Crumbed chicken with salt-tossed sweet potato strips

The Main Meal

Eat food to regain HP rapidly overnight, and get a boost the whole next day!

A Long Rest is a night of peaceful sleep.

Overnight Healing
As per my house rules:

Importantly, if you have food and shelter you upgrade from Vagrant to Comfortable conditions.
Tents and food are important on wilderness trips - tents are easy shelter, rations are easy food.

Iron Rations
Easy but uninspiring. With shelter, upgrades you to Comfortable conditions as above.

Proper Meals
A sufficiently delicious meal unlocks an additional Dinner Perk!
These range from further improving overnight healing rates to temporarily boosting an ability score.
Dinner Perks last until your next Long Rest, so you get them for the whole next day.

This has already led to players getting back to their base camp and cooking up a nice meal for all their friends, which I really dig.

Naturally it's also led to one player becoming obsessed with harvesting meat from dead creatures to taste their exotic flavours. Just as planned...

I was going to illustrate with amusingly nicely arranged oven food, but I was legit proud of this salmon with balsamic glaze on quinoa salad.

Get Cooking!

Now that you know the benefits, you'll want to know how to cook!

Ready Steady
Cooking a meal requires fire and half an hour.
In a dungeon, cooking doubles the chance of random encounters
Enterprising gourmands might use this to their advantage.

Each Ingredient is a standard ration. You make as many servings as standard rations you put in.
Iron Rations can be used to bulk out a meal - an extra serving per Iron Ration - at the cost of flavour.

Don't Ask How the Sausage is Made
If you're a player, this is all you need to tell me:

1. What Ingredients are you using?
2. Do you apply any modifiers?
3. Tell me the final deliciousness and we'll see what happens!


Here's the backend.

A unique combination of ingredients is a Recipe. If you're the first to make it, name it!
Each recipe has a Base Deliciousness (2d8). Some dishes take more work to make them tasty.
Each recipe has a Dinner Perk (see d100 Perks table). You'll get the same perk each time you make this recipe.

Anyone can make a tasty meal with a well-stocked kitchen and a bit of effort.
Those without the proper equipment will just have to do their best.

Take the Base Deliciousness and apply these modifiers:
Then look up the result on this table:
The more delicious the better!

Dinner Perks
The big gimmick, Dinner Perks.
Have a tasty or delicious meal for dinner and you get a Dinner Perk.
Eat a truly superb meal for dinner and you get an upgraded version of the perk!

The big one for chefs is the bonus per time you've cooked the meal before. The more you cook, the better you get! 
The good part is that we've got one person who's bang into this cooking system now and they're doing most of the cooking... but the downside is when they're not there everyone's like "fuck we don't have our chef!"

Halflings are naturally better cooks. Obviously that's why they have so have so many elevenses and second breakfasts.

Yes, there's a 1/100 chance of taking minimal damage from fire because you ate something yummy for dinner last night. It'd be amazing if that's the recipe that involves a lot of risky exotic ingredients!

You may have seen "weather effects" in the 21-30 result and wondered what those are.
Fog, rain, high wind: Half overland speed, double chance of getting lost off-road.
Extreme heat: 1 Con damage per four hours of travel.
Sheer cold: 1d6 Con damage per four hours of travel unless wearing cold weather gear.
Four hours of travel lines up with the time between encounter rolls.
These feel a little boring so if someone has better weather mechanics out there I'd love to see them!

The apocalypse might go six-dimensional weather soon with Raining Blood and Lacerated Sky and shit on there so it'll get more interesting soon I promise!

I actually ate this bad boy - legitimately delicious cooked, like a bacon sausage.

Experimental Dishes

Exotic Ingredients are those from strange sources.
Living plants, mutant beasts, the flesh of sentient beings.
There are even rumours, some say, of a Fifth Meat...

Monster Mash
Exotic Ingredients have weird and wonderful effects, unique per creature.
When you eat an exotic ingredient, roll 1d10 on the respective table (See: Exotic Side Effects) and see what happens...

I want Fugu!
Some creatures can be prepared properly to reduce the risk or get some extra bonus - like boiling Green Slime to make it edible or grinding up dried Fire Beetle glands to make Beetle Spice.
Such things are noted in the Ingredients section.

This is straight from the Monster Menu-All, obviously.
Eat monsters to get weird powers.

Black mole best mole

Local Produce

Last but not least - hunting and gathering!
Now that fresh food grants boons and healing, it's beneficial to go hunting for fresh food even if you've got iron rations to spare!

When you spend the day foraging, roll Bushcraft with a modifier based on terrain.
On success, gain 1d4 Standard Rations of the following type:
These are broad categories of Ingredient, but you can choose exactly what it is you found if you like. 
Common forage could include nettles, dandelion leaves and berries.
Special forage might be plump mushrooms or wild onions.
Small game includes hare, grouse, duck and other small animals.

When you spend the day fishing, roll Bushcraft with a bonus equal to your Sailing score.
On success, gain 1d4+Sailing score Standard Rations of fish.

Every ten minutes spent butchering a creature yields 1d6 Standard Rations.
Maximum butchering rolls are based on the size of the creature.

Terrain table directly from LotFP.
I was going to do a Foraging table but it's so season- and biome-dependent that it didn't seem worth it, especially since I've got no experience of foraging myself! I figure if a player is into it they'll be able to do a better job of saying what they found than I ever could!

LotFP has a thing where you reduce your overland speed if you're hunting... but in practice people only bother hunting for food if they're waiting for their friends to heal up so they tend to come back to base camp anyway.

Fishing gives some ROI on Sailing score - mostly because I feel guilty about that skill being so very niche. People tend to put "Sailing" as one of their skills if they roll a fisherman Failed Career so this works for me.

Butchering takes some time if you want to use the whole beast, so you're best lugging corpses out of the dungeon and butchering them at the camp.

Battered goujons with tomato reduction schmear


Last but not least, the chefs who inspired me.

This subsystem owes most of itself to the Unified Food Theory post by Dan (aka Dandyman on Discord) over at Throne of Salt. Drawing together a multitude of food-related posts into one place is what made this happen!
Primary amongst these is the Eating Good in the Dungeonhood post at Occultesque which has the more-ingredients-mean-more-healing bit.

The other big hitter is the Monster Menu-All  over at Coins and Scrolls. Of course it's Interesting to eat monsters! They're monsters!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Class: The Extras

I'm putting this up here because I occasionally need to search my own rules at the table, it's almost exactly identical to the original by Joseph Manola which you can find at Against the Wicked City

Alright so, the Extras character class.

Main gimmick - instead of being a single character, you're a gang of unnamed background characters whose collective efforts more or less add up to that of a "real" player character.
Very silly, very meta, lots of fun!

The Extras

Be this if
You want to be a bunch of super meta slapstick background characters.
Being the Extras
Some people are born to be Someone. Singular people, people whose stories will survive long after their deaths. Whether they’re good, evil, or somewhere in between, tales will be told of their trials and tribulations. Their triumphs, their tragedies, their rises from obscurity and their falls from grace.
They loom large in the history of the world. Heroes! Villains! Legends!
But this is not you.
You’re the other guys.
Collectively, you detect as Neutral.
All for One
Your mob of nameless Extras act mysteriously like a single character in many ways.
They have a single HP pool. They have a single action per round. They can carry as much as one man.
They also consume rations and ammunition like they were one person. Very strange.
One for All
In other ways they are very different.
They take up four times as much room as a single character. They count as ten men when doing menial labour like digging and rowing.
They also count as ten men when buying equipment – you have to buy ten swords or armours or whatever to get the mechanical benefit of just one. Bulk equipment like this only counts as a single piece of equipment for encumbrance and breakage though…
If you’ve got less than ten of a thing, each takes encumbrance and the Extras can benefit from the item only once per scene, like the magic sword guy takes a swing as the camera pans past.

Named Characters
At level 1, give one of the Extras a name. This is your mob’s leader who gets a few lines!
Once per scene, they get an extra action independent of the rest. Essentially you get two actions that round. Afterwards they get absorbed back into the general mob.
Each level you get another Named Character with the same ability, albeit you can only use the extra action ability of Named Characters once per round.
Death of a Mob
At 0HP, your Named Characters look around and realise they’re the only ones left, all the other Extras are dead! The Leader survives as a half-health Fighter one level below the Extras’ level, and the other Named Characters are simple 0-level mooks with 1d6 HP.
If they make it back to civilisation, they can gather more people and turn back into the Extras! If any of them die before then though, the survivors sorrowfully remain ordinary characters forever more.
Gameplay Stuff
1d12 – min. 8


As I say, this is all pretty much direct from the original Against the Wicked City Extras class and all of the reasoning there is intact.

There only minor differences:
The Magic for the Masses rules applies to anything the Extras have less than a full ten of. So if they've got ten swords and one axe, they can attack with swords as much as they want but only attack with an axe once per scene.

For Death of a Mob only one Named Character becomes a Fighter when the Extras hit 0HP, the others become 0-level minions.

-- The Extras in Play

We've had a few Extras characters in the game since they got introduced a while back, the first as a silly test gimmick in February last year and the first "proper" use by a visitor from Australia in October.

As they're such a silly character class, they've seen quite a few wacky interactions with the rest of the rules.

Two things that stand out most:
- "Death" at 0HP means they're much more vulnerable than other classes.
- Failed Career and Retroactive Backstory work real silly and great.

Death and Dismemberment:

The way my death rules work is that once you reach 0HP, you start getting hit for real. Instead of glancing blows and near-misses, the attacks start to draw blood and bruises.
The idea is that HP is all luck and skill that shields you from real harm, "hit protection" if you will.

But since the Extras split into a Fighter and a bunch of 0-level mooks when they reach 0 HP, they don't have that extra layer of protection. They've got a big 1d12 hit die, but once their health is gone that's it!
No minigame of sitting around holding in your guts hoping for help, at 0HP your Extras are gone (for now) and you're suddenly in control of several individuals.

The other side of this coin is that, on reaching 0HP, a higher-level Extras character suddenly goes from having one action per round to having many. Between your main Named Character, now a Fighter, and all their minion friends, there's a good chance that you can go nova on whatever "killed" you.
Even better, the damage that took you to 0HP doesn't carry over. The Extras can take a ton of damage, plummet to 0HP in one hit, and still survive as a Fighter and their minions!


At level 1, characters in my game roll a Failed Career.
With the Extras, it means that you've suddenly got a whole mob of ex-shepherds or ex-farmers or whatever. A proper mob!
And since an ordinary character starts with a repurposed weapon, the Extras start with enough of them for everyone to use.
An army of background shepherds all wielding shepherd's crooks and rooting around corpses for swords is the best.

The other gimmick is Retroactive Backstory.
For your regular character class, this is so that we the players learn more about a character's past as they level up.
For the Extras, the new backstory is for the new Named Character! This is great because it adds up to an Extras character being made up of a bunch of people with a shallow backstory, rather than a single person with a deeper backstory. Fitting!

Robin, Jr

Finally, an anecdote.

Due to wacky campaign shenanigans, we had a situation where one character (POWERLAD, superhero, only ever spelt in all caps) had "given birth" to a bunch of giant spider babies.
The demon spider mother is now dead and POWERLAD wasn't much interested in raising a brood of spiders, so they were adopted by another character (Sir Robyn, raccoon-appreciating lawyer wizard).

This was all very silly and the sort of thing a long-running campaign throws up organically.
We ended up with a rapidly growing horde of teenage spider-kids, born of a demon spider and an anime character, adopted by a lawyer.

This was all well and good until Sir Robyn's player decided to retire the character for a while, sending him off to research some time travel spells that could help reverse the apocalypse.
"Hey actually could I play as the Spiders?"
A perfect opportunity to play as the Extras!

And so it went for a while. Their leader, Robyn Jr or "RJ", is a weaboo spider who collects POWERLAD manga and has a shitty replica katana. Every level we met another individual shitty teen spiderkid with their own little backstory, and the little gang of spiders continued to grow!

All that ended when a bunch of giant mites devoured most of the spiderkids, leaving RJ and three of his siblings alive.
Only RJ survived...

Which means that suddenly my allegedly gritty low-magic game now has a giant weeb spider Fighter with a katana, who just so happens to be the quasi-biological son of one PC and the adopted son of another.
And it's all because of the Extras and a bunch of ridiculous emergent gameplay.

I love it!