Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Perfectly-Timed Package from Meatlandia

My wife and I have had a terrible week. Two loved ones passed away, another has been battling illness (thankfully, he's doing a lot better at the moment), I came down with some kind of terrible stomach plague from outer space, Jessica's birthday party got postponed, some other annoying bullshit happened, and I was in a minor car crash.

But today has finally been a really good day. A lot of incredible people have helped turn things around for us. One gesture specifically stood out to me as something I should note here, since it's OSR-related.

Remember The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia? I had bought it as a PDF, but I didn't have a paper copy. Recently, I found myself lamenting this fact to Ahimsa Kerp, one of the book's authors, on Google+. I wanted to buy a physical copy, but I've been perpetually strapped for cash lately and distracted by various things, so I wasn't sure if and when I would get around to it.

So the aforementioned shitty week happened, and today I was feeling kind of depressed and scared and embarrassed and still just a little bit nauseous, and then I got a package in the mail. Was it the new issue of Vacant Ritual Assembly? No, that arrived last week. Didn't I back a few kickstarters last year? Yeah, but I don't think they've come out yet. What about that Vaginas are Magic book? Nope, that doesn't ship until at least June. Wait, there's no return address. That's weird. So I opened that sucker up and hey, wow, it's Meatlandia!

So yeah, I don't absolutely know for sure who sent it, but I have a pretty strong and overwhelmingly obvious guess. Then again, my prescient cosmic vision isn't foolproof, so I could be wrong. I need to start hitting the worm honeydew a bit more seriously, maybe undergo a sensory metamorphosis next time I stop at the All-Nite Transmute-U-Mart. At any rate, whoever you are, Mysterious Stranger, thank you so much! This came at the best possible time to help cheer me up. Little things like that really do make a big difference, cliche or no. So I'm really grateful, not only for the physical present, but also for the kindness of it, the perfect timing, and the morale boost. Seriously, thanks!

Ahimsa Kerp is the co-author of The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia, available at DriveThruRPG and at Lulu HERE and HERE. He's also the co-author of Edgar Rice Burroughs Adventures and (if I'm not mistaken) the Trancers RPG. Knight Owl Games is definitely worth checking out in general. He's also a pretty prolific fiction author, and I've barely begun to dig into his work. He's got a free collection of short stories on Kindle that opens on a neat sort of meta-story about RPGs and video games. Basically, he's doing the kind of stuff I should get off my ass to try to do aspire to do. So if any of that sounds interesting, please check out his stuff.

UPDATE: It turns out my mysterious benefactor is Wind Lothamer, co-author of The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia! Thank you so much!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Separate Race and Class in LotFP VERSION 2.0

Since I'm not entirely happy with how it turned out the first time, I decided to try again.

At character creation, the player chooses both a race and a class. Available races are Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. Available classes are the Fighter, the Cleric, and the Magic-User.
EDIT: I've added the Fool class and the Specialist class as well. I've also slightly altered the Fighter class.

  • Hit Dice: d8 (+3 HP per level after Level 9)
  • Minimum First-Level HP: 6
  • Saving Throw Table: As chosen class
  • Experience Table: As chosen class
  • A Human receives a +1 bonus to their Charisma modifier.
  • A Human gains and distributes skill points as the original Specialist class (i.e. 4 skill points at first level and 2 skill points per level after that).
  • Hit Dice: d10 (+4 HP per level after Level 9)
  • Minimum First-Level HP: 8
  • Saving Throw Table: As original Dwarf class
  • Experience Table: As original Dwarf class or chosen class, whichever is higher/worse
  • A Dwarf receives a +1 bonus to their Constitution modifier.
  • A Dwarf gains points in the Architecture skill as the original Dwarf class.
  • It takes 5 additional items for a Dwarf to gain the first encumbrance point.
  • At character creation, a Dwarf must roll on the Dwarven Curses table. Each time the Dwarf gains a level, they may choose to either keep their current curse or risk rolling on the table again for a replacement curse.
  • Hit Dice: d6 (+2 HP per level after Level 9)
  • Minimum First-Level HP: 4
  • Saving Throw Table: As original Elf class
  • Experience Table: As original Elf class or chosen class, whichever is higher/worse
  • An Elf receives a +1 bonus to their Intelligence modifier.
  • An Elf gains points in the Search skill as the original Elf class.
  • An Elf is surprised in combat only on a roll on 1 on a d6.
  • An Elf reacts differently to certain spells and holy water as per the original Elf class. Magical aging does not affect an Elf, but natural aging does.
  • An Elf who is not a Magic-User can cast a Magic-User-type spell from a wand, staff, or scroll as if they were a Magic-User of half their level (round down), but only if they first make a successful Saving Throw vs. Device; if the saving throw is failed, the spell is not cast, but the appropriate charge (if it is a wand or staff) or spell (if it is a scroll) is lost as if it were cast. A non-Magic-User Elf can cast spells in this way when up to Heavily encumbered.*
  • An Elf Magic-User can cast spells one-handed as per the original Elf class.
  • An Elf Magic-User has the same number of starting spells and the same spell progression table as the original Magic-User class (as do Magic-Users of other races).
  • Hit Dice: d6 (+2 HP per level after Level 9)
  • Minimum First-Level HP: 4
  • Saving Throw Table: As original Halfling class
  • Experience Table: As original Halfling class or chosen class, whichever is higher/worse
  • A Halfling receives a +1 bonus to their Dexterity modifier.
  • A Halfling gains points in the Bushcraft skill as the original Halfling class.
  • A Halfling starts with 5 points in the Stealth skill, and this increases to 6 points at Level 10.
  • A Halfling is physically small; they can generally fit into smaller places than Humans, Dwarves, or Elves, and they add less encumbrance to riding animals (see Rules & Magic p. 39). However, they cannot use large weapons, and must use medium weapons two-handed.
  • Generally, a Halfling must eat twice as much food per day as a Human, Dwarf, or Elf in order to avoid suffering the effects of starvation (e.g. 2 "days' worth" of rations per day). However, if a Halfling sleeps for at least 8 hours in a 24-hour period (instead of the minimum 4 hours needed to merely avoid sleep deprivation), the Halfling only needs to eat the normal amount of food the next day (i.e. the remainder of that 24-hour period) in order to avoid the effects of starvation.
Global Changes
  • The spell Read Magic is removed from the game, and is no longer needed in order to use spellbooks or scrolls. If you want to keep Read Magic, then all Elves should probably start with the spell and be able to cast it so that they can still use wands, staves, and scrolls.
  • Alignment is not officially restricted by race, only class, although based on the different ways that certain spells and holy water affect them, Elves are arguably still treated as Chaotic for the purposes of spell effects regardless of class. If you want to use racial alignment restrictions, then it might make sense to limit Dwarves to Lawful alignment and Elves to Chaotic alignment while allowing Humans and Halflings to choose any alignment. But honestly, you could probably ditch alignment entirely, as is my preference.
  • All races age at the same rate, namely that of Humans. If you don't like this, you can use the original aging chart (see Rules & Magic p. 35) or make up your own rules.
  • Magic-Users of all races can cast from a wand, staff, or scroll when up to Heavily encumbered, but otherwise can only cast spells when up to Lightly encumbered.
Notable Changes from the Last Version and Other Notes
  • Elf Magic-Users can no longer cast while up to Heavily encumbered, but only up to Lightly encumbered, unless they are casting from a wand, staff, or scroll.
  • Dwarf characters no longer continue to add their Constitution modifier to their hit points after Level 9. Their 10-sided HD, Consitution modifier bonus, and excellent saving throws already make them really hard to kill, so this additional trait seems like overkill to me, especially since I'm now giving them +4 HP per level after ninth and I've bumped their minimum starting HP to 8. I also dropped this trait because I don't like how it's a race-based (or originally, class-based) feature that doesn't actually benefit all members of that race - just ones who already have a positive Constitution bonus. I don't care for Intelligence-based spell limits or ability score-based XP bonuses and penalties in certain editions of D&D for a similar reason. I admit this is probably at least as much a matter of personal preference for me than a matter of gameplay balance or anything else.
  • Human characters are greatly simplified compared to what I originally wrote, and are now basically in line with the optional version I added to the last post on January 2.
  • I don't see the need to note that "Halflings receive a 1-point bonus to AC when not surprised," since as far as I can tell that would be the natural result of having a +1 bonus to their Dexterity modifier anyway. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
  • In order to make Halflings feel a little less under-powered in terms of skills, I decided to make their Stealth skill work as well indoors as outdoors (which I also did in the last version), and I decided to let them eventually reach a total of 6 points in Stealth.
  • Since I don't like the Search skill, I'm inclined to give Elves a different skill specialty instead. I'm not sure what the replacement should be, though.
*Edited on January 2, 2018. Originally, I only allowed Elf Fighters to do this, rather than all Elves who are not Magic-Users.

1d20 Dwarf Curses

In a previous post, I asked for weaknesses unique to the dwarven race for use in D&D and OSR-style games. I got a bunch of great responses in the comments on this blog, on this Google+ thread, and on the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Facebook fan page. Thank you, folks! I highly recommend checking out the answers I received, since there's a lot of cool material that I didn't end up using (at least not yet).

Eventually, I ended up reading this post by James Young at Ten Foot Polemic, which led me to a Secret Santicore 2013 entry by Erik Jensen called "Of Beards and Brew: Options for Dwarves." This and the aforementioned suggestions inspired me to make the following table.

Roll a d20:
  1. Direct sunlight instantly turns you into stone. In darkness, you return to your fleshly form. Dim, indirect sunlight (like moonlight, or the little bit of light on a very stormy day) does not change you either way, nor does light from other sources.
  2. Instead of normal food, you must eat an amount of precious metals and/or gems each day equal in value to your level in gold pieces (silver pieces in LotFP). Doing so will not physically hurt you in any way, but failing to do so will result in starvation as usual.
  3. If you see any gold and come within 100 feet of it, you will be irresistibly compelled to touch it for at least a moment. If you are removed from both the 100-foot area around the gold and your line of sight of the gold at the same time, the compulsion is broken (this probably cannot happen except by force or accident, since you cannot willingly avoid moving toward the gold to touch it). Otherwise, you have no choice but to keep trying to touch it until you either succeed or are rendered incapable of touching it (say, through unconsciousness or death).
  4. Your beard is extremely sensitive. Critical hits automatically injure your beard, causing double the amount of damage to you that they normally would. If your beard is ever completely removed, you must make a saving throw vs. poison or die.
  5. Merely resting does not heal you. In order to recover HP through rest, you must also "repair" your body with stone, metal, or gems worth 1 gold piece per level (silver pieces in LotFP) per HP healed. The materials used in these "repairs" are consumed in the process.
  6. If you say more than 7 words to the same person over the course of the same day, you must eat one of their hairs within 10 minutes or else take 1d10 damage.
  7. When you are not intoxicated, you take penalties as if you are. When you are drunk, you are treated as sober.
  8. You literally cannot fall asleep unless you are underground. Just being inside a building is not enough - you need to either be beneath what would be considered "ground level" in the area, or else have a great deal of loose soil and/or unhewn rock above you. (Covering yourself with a giant pile of dirt will do in a pinch, as will lying in a hole at least 5 feet deep.)
  9. If someone else touches a weapon which belongs to you, you must attack that person with it at least once within 3 rounds or else you take the maximum amount of damage that weapon can inflict instead (e.g. 8 damage if it is a medium weapon in LotFP). You do not have to successfully hit, but you must genuinely try to hit and inflict damage.
  10. If someone else offers you a drink of an alcoholic beverage, you can only refuse to drink at least one good-sized gulp of it if you succeed on a save vs. magic.
  11. If someone else cuts your beard, you are affected as if that person had cast Charm Person on you. If you cut your own beard, it grows back to its previous state within 1 minute.
  12. Alcoholic drinks sustain you like food, but you cannot willingly eat or drink anything else besides water, and if you do it does not provide any nutrition, and thus does not prevent starvation. Water still prevents dehydration as normal. Alcohol still makes you intoxicated, but you cannot die of alcohol poisoning.
  13. At the end of every day that you do not touch silver, gold, or a precious gem at least once, you take one point of damage per level.
  14. If all of your enemies are defeated and/or flee in combat, you must succeed on a save vs. magic or else begin attacking any allies or bystanders present besides yourself. The DM chooses who you attack each round. You may continue to make a new save vs. magic at the start of each round in order to stop attacking. Otherwise, you may stop attacking when you cannot perceive any more targets (living or animate NPCs or other PCs).
  15. Unless you are intoxicated while doing so, spending or giving away more than 1,000 gold pieces (silver pieces in LotFP) per level per day causes you to take your level in damage.
  16. If someone within 600 feet of you challenges you to one-on-one melee combat and you are safely able to reach them, you must succeed on a save vs. magic or else approach and engage in melee combat with them. You will fight to the death unless the challenger specifically offers a challenge of nonlethal combat. If the challenger cheats (by fleeing, allowing others to attack you as well, using a ranged weapon, luring you into a trap rather than attacking with their own weapons, etc.) or if anyone else physically interferes in such a way as to make the combat no longer count as one-on-one, you may make a save vs. magic to regain control of your actions. If you fail, you may thereafter continue to attempt this save at the start of each round until you succeed or until you or your opponent is defeated.
  17. Exposure to direct sunlight causes an unpleasurable form of intoxication. You are treated as if you are drunk, and in addition your vision becomes slightly blurry beyond 20 feet and extremely blurry beyond 60 feet.
  18. When you are above ground, your beard tugs you earthward. You move more slowly (in LotFP terms, you are treated as having 1 additional encumbrance point), and any falling damage you take is increased by 1d6.
  19. Flying and tree-dwelling creatures (except bats and cave-dwelling creatures) are compelled to attack and/or harass you, even when they normally would not. Birds especially seem to hate you.
  20. You are incapable of attacking or inflicting damage with any weapon that does not seem "dwarven enough." When in doubt about what is off-limits, the DM can refer to the following list of weapons: garrotes, mancatchers, nets, thin-bladed swords (like rapiers and similar slender thrusting swords like the estoc or tuck, as well as some slashing swords like certain sabres), whips, blowguns, bows (although crossbows and guns are okay), darts, throwing stars, throwing knives (melee attacks with knives are okay, as are throwing axes, thrown spears, and javelins), boomerangs, saps, scythes, sickles, claws, nunchaku, or war fans. Also, you receive no AC benefit from wearing leather armor or any other non-metal type of armor.
One possible use for this table: At character creation, a dwarf must roll on this table to find out what manner of curse they must contend with. Each time a dwarf PC levels up, the player can choose to either keep their character's old curse or risk rolling again and replacing the former curse with the new one. If the same curse is rolled again, too bad.

Additionally, these could be used as curses that dwarven magicians place on others. "You think it's easy being a dwarf, you pointy-eared tree-hugger? Let's see how far you can walk in dwarven boots."

Assuming that every member of the dwarf race suffers from at least one of these curses, it could explain an awful lot about stereotypical dwarven culture, as well as the dwarven preference for living underground.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Roundup 2016: My Most Popular Posts (and some personal favorites)

Please forgive me if this is self-indulgent, but I've just finished my first year of blogging, and I thought it might be nice to list some of my posts which I consider to be the most successful, either because a lot of people viewed them, because they seemed to bring people enjoyment, or just because I'm personally fond of them. Hopefully you'll find something interesting you missed.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions. And to everyone who reads my blog, and to everyone who has encouraged me and taught me and collaborated with me and made me feel so welcome in the RPG and OSR community, thank you very much!

Reviews and Read-Throughs

Sirenswail - A cool OSR adventure written by Dave Mitchell, creator of the unofficial LotFP Facebook page. Written with LotFP in mind, but should work fine with D&D and OSR games in general. Inspired by Early Modern English history and folk horror movies like The Wicker Man. Full disclosure: I did some proofreading on this project for Dave and offered some suggestions and criticism while it was in the works, so my name is in the credits, but I did so free of charge and bought a copy of the book myself. More recently, I helped with Dave's new game The Hateful Place in pretty much the exact same way - I need to get around to playing and reviewing it!

The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia - This has got to be one of the most underrated settings in the OSR. Absolutely nuts in the best way. Full disclosure: Although I had nothing to do with the creation of this book, after publishing this review I have gone on to help the author, Ahimsa Kerp, with his game Edgar Rice Burroughs Adventures in a minor capacity just like I did with Sirenswail above - again, free of charge, except that I got a free copy of the book in this case.

My Favorite LotFP Play Report Series - I love a good write-up of a game. These ones are especially entertaining and inspiring.

Holmes Basic D&D Read-Through - Here's part 1 of a 12-part series examining the good ol' "Blue Book" that got so many people into RPGs way before I was born. I found a lot of great stuff to talk about, and it was pretty eye-opening for me.

LotFP Playtest Document 0.1 Analysis Part 1 Part 2 Old vs. New - Doing my part to serve the public by reviewing an item from the pen of James Raggi that relatively few people have seen and fueling a future edition war.

Green Devil Face #5 "New Character Creation and Advancement Techniques" Analysis - What a stone-devil-face-sized mouthful. Exactly what it sounds like.

Sleepy Hollow (1999 Movie) - I guess this counts as a review. Anyway, this is a pretty gameable movie.

Shadowgate - Also kind of a review? Reminiscing about an NES classic and its intersection with D&D tropes.


Death Frost Doom Random "Encounters" - Why did you come here?

Ananke - A different spin on the magic clock in Death Frost Doom.

Death Frost Doom Playlist - Feel-good music of the summer.

The Devil is a Time Traveler - The greatest evil is the kind that undermines your reality.

Class Warfare

Elves vs. Magic-Users - Round 1...FIGHT.

Specialist vs. Thief - FINISH HIM.

Fighters=Thieves - Actually, it's more like Fighters+Thieves. You know, like Peanut Butter+Chocolate.

The Professional Part 1 Part 2 - A follow-up to the Fighters=Thieves thing, specifically for LotFP.

The Classic Class Trio LotFP Hack - A "Three-Fold Model" for the OD&D and Holmes Basic crowd.

Over-the-Top Carcosa Classes - Punch Cthulhu in his stupid face.

Final Fantasy 1 Classes for LotFP - I, Alice, will knock you all down!

New Class: Mutant - A class for gamblers. Based on Final Fantasy Legend.

New Class: Munchkin - How to min/max yourself into the ground.

New Class: April Fool - It's just a prank, bro!

Separate Race and Class in LotFP - For when a dwarf is more than just a dwarf.


Random Encounters in the Forbidden Forest - Spiders and wyverns and sloths, oh my!

The Bestower of Omnipotence - Don't wish you were an Oscar Mayer Wiener.


Annoyoid - nya nya nya nya nya

Magic Items

Yellow Lotus Powder - Nose candy for the adventuring crowd.

Glaive of Temporal Deferment - Put your weight problem off until later.

The Book of Deeds - All your sins remembered.

The Saw of Insight - I can read you like an open book.

The Bow of Sanguine Annihilation - Blood is the life.

Tinkering in the Lab

LotFP Disintegrate Spell House Rules Part 1 Part 2 - Chasing the white whale that is "game balance."

Advanced Summon Spell - Giving the Magic-User a little more control over what immediately turns on them and eats their face.

Wizard Duels - A weird idea I had about what might happen when two wizards really hate each other.

Random Furniture Just Tables, Really

1d30 Uncommon Suicide Methods - To quote Zak Sabbath, "yow"

My Blog Knows What You Did in the Dark - Roll for guilt trip.

So You Decapitated the Quest-Giver - Because "sandbox play" doesn't mean "consequence-free play." And "decapitation" doesn't always mean "problem solved."

"Huh? Radio? What's going on with that radio?" - Depends on who's asking.

How to "Myth" Up Your Next Adventure - Ripping off fantasy video games for fun and profit.

Hideous Laughter

Cards Against Humanity: The LotFP Expansion Pack - Swooping.

Proposal to the Conservator of Amative Coupling - A Carcosan ritual for lovebirds. (Lovebyakhees?) One of my players used it to marry a giant crab.

Sex in RPGs - Raunchy Playtime Giggles

Post & Link Assortment

Avarton - What's theirs is theirs and what's yours is also theirs.

The Mythical Joop van Ooms - My take on the famous Dutch artist. Includes a magic item.

Video Game Soundtracks - Background music.

Roll for Keepsies - Is there XP after death?

13 Interesting Campaign Settings - More of a to-play/to-read list than anything.

The Dream of Wyrd - The secret and terrible fate of my current campaign setting.

Appraising Treasure in LotFP - This tends to trip me up.

Briefing for an Online Campaign - An intro for players new to OSR-style games.

Campaign Starting Ideas - Some general types of adventure hooks.

Babbling in Common - Where did "Common" come from, anyway?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Dwarven Weakness - Any Ideas?

I'm trying to come up with a unique weakness that dwarves (or dwarfs, if you prefer) in D&D-style games could suffer from, as a way to differentiate them from humans, elves, and halflings. I'm trying to refine my house rules for separating race and class in LotFP, and I'd like something interesting to offset their various advantages a bit.

I've flirted with a few ideas so far: making them allergic to sunlight and/or open spaces, making them roll on some kind of Dwarven Madness table at character creation, making them near-sighted, making it harder for them to heal somehow...but I'm having trouble figuring out the mechanical details of how such things would work. Plus I bet there are people out there in OSR Land who will have some awesome ideas.

Preferably, the weakness would be biological, psychological, magical, or some combination thereof. Something that complicates the life a dwarf PC in a more in-depth and fascinating way than, say, a -1 wisdom penalty.

So, anyone have any suggestions?

EDIT: Results are HERE.