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[Discworld] …And A Thousand Elephants!

Well, more or less at least.
Remember all the posts I had, oh, years ago, regarding modding some variant of D&D for a Discworld game? Huh, looking over them there were A LOT. I even statted out Death.

The reason being, I have had GURPS Discworld since the 90s and never felt any inclination to play a game with it. Somehow it always felt like, you know, the writers of that book had kind of missed the point. Not that I knew the point better. My idea for a Discworld RPG was one which emulated the sword and sorcery high fantasy parody of the early books, maybe with some stuff from the later ones. For some reason the world that was described in Mort, and Guards Guards seemed to be so big and interesting as a fantasy setting. Much more interesting than the Forgotten Realms for sure. And so I was on and off working on a D&D variant set on the Discworld.

Well, I just finished that one yesterday. Or at least I finished a very first draft. It’s about 60 pages long, and should technically work. No, I haven’t tried it out yet. But at one point, maybe even this coming weekend, my players might experience the joy of eating Dibbler’s products, well, second hand.In fact, now that I am finally finished with the draft I will have to think about some scenario to throw at them. Hmm.But anyway, here a short description:I used my Harnic game system as the base, the one I was talking about lately. Which means it is Labyrinth Lord at it’s core, with an extended LotFP skill system. I replaced the old Saving Throws with the D20 categories (Fortitude, Reflex, and Will). I changed negative AC into positive.I used spells taken from Gorgonmilk’s Vancian Magic Supplement (because at least in early books magic seems to be very Vancian on the Discworld), supplemented with a few spells from the books, the GURPS Discworld book, and the Discworld MUD. Not all of the latter ones really work, but some of the names are great.I created a troll and a zombie class (which I might publish here soon), the latter mostly because my players asked for it and really, there are a lot of zombie protagonists in the books. I use the LotFP Specialist, but remade him into a Guildsman. I nerfed the cleric but decided to give some additional powers to get over the lack of flavor this class normally has.I am using a Death and Dismemberment table. Mostly as a Wound table actually, where some of the wounds are instantly fatal (except for zombies). I already noticed that my players will have to get used to it, especially because there won’t be much healing magic (the cleric being nerfed somewhat). Oh, and there are ideas like the Shields Shall Be Splintered! rule that actually will help a bit there.Ok, lets see how this will actually play.

[Circumflex] Social Status as a new ability

I think I am overdoing this whole thing a bit. The whole project was supposed to be a clone of basic D&D with Harnic furnishings. And I am still working on it.

To be fair, right now I am mostly trying to figure out the details for spells and invocations. I converted the spells from the HarnMaster rules, even though in some cases I had to really put them through the wringer to make them fit. Some of them basically are completely different spells, aside from their names. And well, I mostly was converting them for the names anyway. Still, it is kind of a bitch figuring out all those small details like range or duration.

It doesn’t help that sometimes I get other ideas that I then put in. Last week I decided to use the whole idea of starting money as social status in the game. So I now have a new ability.

It makes more sense to me, because the whole society in the setting is stratified and sees things like that as important, but I now have to integrate this ability in the rest of the rules. And already I encountered a problem with one of my players. I tried to bounce the idea of him, and he was generally for it, but then expected SOC to be a variable quantity. Which also makes sense, but not if I treat it as a D&D-like ability. SOC in the case of my rules needs to be static and show the heritage of the character instead of his current social status.

In other words, SOC is the social class the character starts with, and it modifies how much money he/she receives at the beginning and… well, yes, then what?

There should be effects that are based on this quality. It might modify reaction rolls in certain situations. An Earl is more likely to be favorable to a character if that character is of noble birth. As will an innkeeper.

And even if a low born character raises through the social strata, he/she still might be stuck with the disadvantage of a low birth.

“Yeah sure Sir Ered is the champion of Olokand, but he was born a commoner! We don’t associate with commoners!”

But well, that is one effect.

Some other ideas:

  • Social Standing determines the caller/leader of the group (from Planet Algol)
  • social standing gives access to better weaponry (specifically knightly weapons can only be purchased by people of sufficient standing)
  • SOC might also allow for bonuses on other social interactions, it might give bonuses on training rolls (because people might want a noble client), and on carousing rolls.

Speaking of that… I might have to create my own Harnic carousing table. Oh, and speaking of tables, I have to create a “random extremity” table which I already referenced on my “Death and Dismemberment table”.

Sometimes it feels I started with a 30 piece puzzle, only to find at piece 100 that the puzzle has grown and not even halfway done.

Ancient Star Trek/D&D crossover

Have I mentioned that I love the Wilderlands of High Fantasy? Especially when they are odd and weird and full of errors? From Tegel Manor:

Room M7: Voluptous maiden is wereworf...


Does the fact that the module came out in 1977 preclude a literal interpretation of this entry?

Also, what the hell is that maiden doing with that huge forked tongue? Where did that even come from? How big is it that a were…being needs aid slicing it?

Glorious Free Stuff


The last few days I somehow ended up delving into the free and pay what you want sections on rpgnow and drivethrurpg (what exactly is the difference between those two actually?). And there were some treasures to be found.

newsies-and-bootblacks-roleplaying-gameNewsies and Bootblacks

In which players play children having adventures in a world not unlike ours at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century.

230 pages, rather simple mechanics, and free. Link






quillQuill: a letter-writing roleplaying game for a single player

This one takes the whole play-by-mail idea to the top. You aren’t even supposed to have another player, you are just supposed to write letters and see how well you do with them.

Created by Trollish Delver, 16 pages, multiple supplements, can be had for free (well, Pay What You Want) on drivethrurpg




190792Romance of the Perilous Land

And another one from Trollish Delver. This one is basically a stripped down OSR system, with the Britain as the setting of choice. Magic is rare, as are monsters. If you were looking for a low-fantasy/chivalric RPG…

52 pages, for free on drivethrurpg






crusader-statesCrusader States – Hex Grid Map

Exactly what it says on the tin. A map of the crusader states circa 1135AD. And some additional color plates with the coats of arms of the states in question.

4 pages, but detailed map. Pay What You Want on drivethrurpg.






convictsConvicts & Cthulhu

Roleplaying cthulhoid horror in the Australian penal colonies of the 18th century. As if dealing with cthulhoid monstrosities is not bad enough, you gotta deal with Australian wildlife as well…

98 gorgeous pages by Cthulhu Reborn, either as Pay What You Want, or as a softcover book, drivethrurpg.

Bonus: a fillable pdf character sheet for the setting, for CoC 7th ed.

[Circûmflex] HP dynamics

Sometimes it is quite interesting what comes out when I just change something small, and then think it through again.

I added one version of the Death and Dismemberment table to the game as an alternative to the original rules. Neither “Death at 0hp” nor “At Death’s Door” really seemed to work for me.

My players naturally gravitate to At Death’s Door. Most of them have played Baldur’s Gate before. They would feel cheated if I told them they died at 0hp. But I think it is cumbersome.

Of course then I replaced it with a whole table and a roll instead of a simple bleeding out rule. Go me.

But adding this table gives an interesting dynamic to the game.

So lets have a look at it. With the rules as I currently have them:

  • hp indicate how much fight a character has in him/her; a character is fine as long as he has positive hp, damage at this point does not cause wounds.
  • if a character falls to 0 hp or below a roll on the Death and Dismemberment table is in order. The character then suffers the consequences according to the table. This can be instant death. Or a very serious injury/lost limb. [I still need to rewrite the table for my own game]
  • A character can use his/her shield to soak up all damage from one combat turn at the cost of the shield (the Shields shall be splintered! rule)
  • A character can use his/her helmet or sturdy hat to turn a fatal blow into an injury instead, at the cost of the headgear and being taken out of the fight by unconsciousness (the Helmets shall be shattered! rule)

There was another idea I found, in that one could use the damage dealt under 0 as a modifier for the roll on the table. Meaning that a good roll from an opponent might make a fatality much more likely.

Here’s the thing though: this idea basically turns hp into stamina; and it provides some interesting player agency (sure you can soak that hit with your shield, but the next one might be worse…). Death on the other hand, only comes when either a roll says so, or when abilities are so degraded that life becomes impossible.

Still working on this one.

[Shadowrun] Run 1.1: Speakeasies, Devil Rats, and lots of Pizza

So, we had our first session of Shadowrun 5th edition today. It was a bit of a surprise for me. I had the rules beforehand (only as a pdf though, which was hard to read from), but I did not actually plan to do anything with it. Then my players actually asked if we could play some. It seems they didn’t play the pen and paper game yet, but they did play Shadowrun Returns.
It went ok, I guess.

We did not actually get far, despite the fact that I consciously had my players choose archetypes from the books instead of creating characters by the priority system. But then it turned out that one of us had to go on a spontaneous business trip in the morning, and another had to be home earlier. So, we managed to get the meeting with the fixer, the meeting with the Johnson, a single fight, and some legwork in.
On the other hand we want to meet next week again, which would be a record for our group.
The group consisted of a Chinese Ork gunslinger with triad ties (the archetype from 4th edition), a covert ops specialist (also from 4th), a black dwarfish decker with an online persona modeled on the Ms. Marple novel (the archetype from 5th ed.), and an occult investigator with an alcohol problem (also from 5th). I considered properly converting the archetypes from 4th edition to 5th, and then realized that the ones from 5th edition are wrong anyway, so I just did some basic conversion stuff to be able to get going and left it at that (well, I calculated the limits for the characters). If they get hooked on the game I might be able to create proper characters with them, so far those were mostly just so I could show them what was possible.
I also made pizza and salad, and one of my players brought tiramisu brownies, so that should have helped keeping the mood up.
I should have studied the combat rules more intently. I wanted to do some test fights against some opponents, but in the end I did not have the time for that. And that was after I had a week more to grok everything. Basically I only grokked most of the rules on Thursday. We were supposed to play last Saturday but had to reschedule, so that was not possible. So, after another week I now felt able to do it properly. It was a partial success. The Shadowrun 5 rulebook is slightly obtuse.
The characters met up (the decker only as an icon) in a dingy pizza place in Seattle Downtown, some dive that mostly was kept alive as a front for the owner’s fixer business. In a sort of emergent gameplay the characters all ordered a pizza and demanded to see the manager, which we established was the way to get an audience with the fixer. We soon came to the conclusion that that this also was the only reason why this place made any money to begin with.
The owner, a huge ogre called Mario, told them about a job. They were to meet their Johnson in The Speakeasy, a 1920s styled bar with some period-appropriate backrooms, and some less period-appropriate jukeboxes in the entrance hall. Hey, its all 20th century, ain’t it?
The Johnson was a mousy type who clearly was nervous. The job was simple: a datasteal from a small soda factory in Tacoma. The runners even managed to fret out the guys motivation, which either means I was playing the role really well, or just way too transparent.
After a few initial investigations the runners met at some dive bar in Redmond (The Crash) the occult investigator knew. She knew the bartender and asked if they could use the attic. Sure, the bartender said, if you don’t mind the rats. They did, but they agreed to take care of the rat problem, found out that the Ms. Marple-like icon they met at their fixer was actually a tough black dwarf, and then tried to take care of the rat problem.
And here I encountered the problem that I A) underestimated how tough devil rats are and B) did not completely figure out the combat system until 3 rounds in.
The combat took longer than expected, especially because I had to revise the rules constantly.
It took me nearly the first round before I noticed that yes, devil rats have a physical limit of 3, so they actually can’t have more than three successes in unarmed combat and defense rolls, even though I nearly burned a hole into the table with my successes.
The players on the other hand rolled mud. Most rolls they had did not even hit enough to start hurting the rats, and the ones that did glitched out at the same time. In the end it took 3 rounds until the decker finally managed to hit one of them by sheer luck. Two of the rats were finally killed by a spirit the occult investigator summoned, and that more because I couldn’t find the rules for spirits and did not want to bog down the game too much. Also I wanted to get on with things and at least I did roll successes for the spirit.
So then they had some planning and some legwork. After a short planning session one of them went out again to investigate further, he broke into an nearly abandoned property next to the factory and did some reconnaissance.
And then we had to stop.

Lets see what next week brings.

I remembered again what I liked about the game back when I played it more often, around 2000. The adventures are easy to do, the system is maybe not intuitive but easy to understand, and the background allows people to do a lot with their character. The world is just close enough for them to get into their roles properly, but far enough to have some really great worldbuilding in the game.

Drakar och Demoner

Drakar och Demoner... and yes, that is artwork from the Stormbringer RPG, I guess they got some deal

Drakar och Demoner… and yes, that is artwork lifted from the Stormbringer RPG, I guess they got some package deal with Chaosium

Drakar och Demoner (Dragons and Demons, confusingly abbreviated D&D) is the Swedish standard fantasy RPG. This is where the hobby started in that country back in the 80s and where most Swedish gamers come from. It is not actually very close to D&D at all, being instead based on Runequest.

Specifically in the beginning it was a translation of the Magic World supplement from the Worlds of Wonder RPG, which was based on the Basic Roleplaying System, which in turn was originally based on Runequest. That reminds me of the fact that the first game to be translated into German was Tunnels & Trolls. Now that was a squandered opportunity. Although DSA at least got the same rhyming spells in the beginning.

Where was I?

Oh yes, Drakar och Demoner. It just got a new edition (the 7th!) a while ago. Fancy book with nice layout and in a language that I only understand partially. German and Swedish are rather close linguistically, but that doesn’t mean much. Although like with scientific languages I can guess a lot of the meanings of words from the texts anyway. I nearly bought the book when we were in Stockholm last year*, just to have it standing on the shelf. It’s not like I would have played it with anyone.

I guess that new edition is the reason why it’s publishing house decided to publish the old books for the game online for free. So if you are interested in the history of RPGs in Sweden (and if you can read a bit of Swedish) this might be interesting.


* if anyone is stranded in Stockholm with a desperate need for RPG material or boardgames I would recommend visiting the excellent Science-Fiction Bokhandeln in Gamla Stan (the old town).

Day 1: I had to do it all by myself godamnit!

With the 40th birthday of D&D happening there have been a lot of blogposts about that lately. d20 Dark Ages called for a blog hop (whatever that is) celebrating the whole thing. And guess what? I finally caught one of these multi-blog-questionnaire thingies before the whole thing was half over already. Weird.

What started AD&D for me

What started AD&D for me

Day 1: First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first Character?
Hmm… I got into RPGs over the German entry drug Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye). Which I had to find out about all by myself. DSA back then was basically available pretty much everywhere because it was published by one of the biggest game publishers in Germany, so that is where most German gamers got their beginning. This also means that some of the standard trappings of D&D never really made it to Germany until way later: miniatures for example were barely in use when I started, only 3rd edition brought this aspect of the game into focus. Most people playing with miniatures were into Warhammer, if interested at all, and GW miniatures were the only thing one could get for a long time.

Although… there was HeroQuest as well. I had that, as did many other guys my age. But even though I knew that the games were similar we had this understanding that DSA was HeroQuest for adults, and that it didn’t need miniatures to play it.

Anyway, D&D was something that was mentioned in a PC gaming magazine which ran a special on Fantasy and RPGs, but that was way after I already had the starter set for DSA. A while later I bought a German-language Starter Set for AD&D 2nd edition. I had introduced some people to RPGs before, but my regular players were rather enamoured with a system closer to the computer games they were playing (I think it was Diablo back then) so we switched to AD&D.

The first character I myself played (instead of just made and never used) was a Chaotic Good Fighter/Cleric.

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About what happened last session

Illustration of a goblin

Illustration of a goblin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* the thief lies dying on the ground after an attack, slowly bleeding out, the goblin cleric was just hit with a critical and lost his ear. What is the most reasonable thing to do? Heal the ear first of course! Stupid human weakling is  not as important as a good goblin ear.

* they have cornered the wererat and his minions who have taken over the dwarven cave and killed all it’s inhabitants. What do they do? Parley of course. So they get another job: bring us one of the bouncing bears from the surrounding forests because we are hungry.

The end result: the orcish warrior now has a nemesis in a purple gummi bear who swore to avenge his brother. And I just wanted this to be a bit of comic relief.

* I dropped a deck of many things on them, and what does the thief do? Draw five. How bad did it end for him? Well, he is more dexterous now, more experienced, and got a treasure map and a magic weapon. So the goblin cleric tries the same. He lost all his experience but gained a bit more wisdom.

[Labyrinth Lord] The Unseen Shadow

I was going to use this in the PBEM game I was doing right now.

The Unseen Shadow
A strange phenomena appears to you as you investigate the workbench in the old forgotten dwarven smithy: situated in the middle of the large stone table, just over the edge, is a sword’s handle that by all means appears to be levitating in thin air, with a finger’s breadth of air between itself and the bench. As you investigate further it appears to be a whole longsword invisible to the eye, except for the handle and a barely noticeable disturbance of light where the blade should be.
The invisible blade is a weapon of duergar manufacture made as a tribute to the inhabitants to the castle above the dungeon. This one seems to have been forgotten or lost when the workmen of the smithy were driven off or killed. The blade is invisible (except via magic) and attacks as a +2 weapon. A small engraving in dwarven runes only traceable via touch proclaims this to be the “Unseen Shadow”.

This one is actually based, believe it or not, on a local legend from my home village. Or at least on something that claimed to be a local legend from my area.
I used to work in a cave that was situated right under a former castle/nowadays church, that had a genuine secret passage through parts of the cave.
We cave guides used to dig local history a lot (and all of us were kind of involved in it) and during one of my many exploits into the legends of the region I came upon an interesting book on local legends that claimed (in not even half a paragraph) that the existence of the secret passage (and the castle’s track record of failed sieges) was veiled by fabricated legends about a pact between the lords of the castle and the dwarves from under the hill. Obviously the dwarves gave the castle’s owners supplies and invisible swords.
That kind of stuck with me, mostly because it sounded so D&D to me, and because I grew up in the place and never had heard that story before, ever. I still think the author of that book might have totally fabricated the legend himself (not an unknown occurrence in local history) or heard it from someone with a very vivid imagination and some interest in old Germanic legends. Considering the cave was just 30km from Bayreuth, and with that from the place of the Wagner festival, I blame the influence of the Wagneranians.