Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Ask The Stars Microsettings

In the recent post containing Chris McDowall's solo RPG, Ask The Stars, he uses the oracle table within to create small 3-point settings. This seems like the most interesting use to me (mostly because of my constant drive to make more settings), so I gave it a try here, creating a few microsettings of my own.

Setting 1: Never Go Home

First roll: Traveller, Exiled (wandering/chance, guilt/autonomy). So, we have a group of people leaving their homes. Our first question is that guilt/autonomy split - were they driven away, or did they choose to leave?

We roll - were they banished? A Hard Yes. But why? Another roll on the symbols and positions gives us Legion, Rooted (unification/identity, stability/plenty). Someone else moved in, trying to subsume their culture. But they wouldn't let go, and they were banished for it. 

Now we know what's happening, but I want to know when. Is this the near future? A Hard No. Is it earlier? A Soft Yes. 1800s imperialism would be the obvious answer, so I want to skip it. Instead, it's a Cold War equivalent. Two superpowers, dragging smaller nations into their proxy wars. Our travelers are the losing side of one of these. 

But what can the exiles do now? I roll Traveller, Twinned (wandering/chance, intimacy/dependency). A pretty easy answer, then. This has happened before - the whole region is up in flames. You could run, taking advantage of your good position with one superpower. Or you could band together, gather up members of other communities, and strike back against your common enemies, pulling your home from their sphere of influence.

Setting 2: What's Mine is Yours

For the first roll, I get Hand, Entombed (creation/misdirection, memory/death). Creation of memory, misdirection of death. Transhumanism? Immortality?

How are they doing it? Is it a science? Hard Yes. Some new technology has made this possible. Is it accessible to all? Another Hard Yes. 

What else is there? I roll Eye, Exiled (judgement/secrets, guilt/autonomy). There's something being hidden here, possibly by the technology's creators. What kind of secret? I roll Elder, Waning (authority/tradition, hunger/decay). No secret of the technology itself, then, but of ideas surrounding it. The powers that be, grasping at it, thinking they can fit the genie back into its bottle. It must be new, then. But are they right?

Hard No. They are only selfish.

Setting 3: Immortal King Anshia

My first roll is Cage, Crowned (protection/obligation, ambition/ruin). A would-be tyrant. I roll again, to get more detail, and get Fang, Entombed (hostility/fear, memory/death). So, he is already a ruler over man, now, hoping to conquer their final fear - death itself. 

Immortality seems to be common in these settings. But how can the tyrant reach it? Is this the past? Hard Yes. This is the furthest past, all the way back to the stone age. Do the players support their rule? Soft Yes. They are ministers of this desperate, dying leader, sent on quests to hunt and deliver the alchemical ingredients the tyrant believes will keep them alive. However, the rest of their time is spent in attempts to scheme their way into a better position when the tyrant dies.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunless Horizon Beta 2.3 Release

Commissioned from Scrap Princess

excited screeching

I've been posting about Sunless Horizon for about a year, and after finally getting it playtested, have it ready for a wider release. Since this'll be the landing point for new people to the game, I've also put together a setting recap.

Sunless Horizon Beta 2.3

Despite all the stuff I've said about Sunless Horizon, I've never talked about the system.

Sunless Horizon is classless and levelless, with character progression entirely through equipment. Its core is a die step system, where your stats determine Check Dice that rolled against static target numbers.

Combat is working off a simultaneous resolution system, and instead of HP or an abstract wound system, damage for the PCs goes directly to a large Wound Table, similar to the GLOG's Death & Dismemberment.

Most of the rules are exploration-focused; a pointcrawl base expanded with rest actions, pathfinding, and a Difficult Terrain system for adding more gameplay to climbs and crawls. 

The game is currently mechanically complete (hopefully), but is missing content such as generators. Currently, there is a 4-entry bestiary and 2 d6 Obstacle tables, mostly for use as examples. Later releases will be focused on patching holes and developing these tools.

Click on the cover to take a look, and feel free to tell me what you think in the comments.


Sunless Horizon is a SF-horror RPG set on the worldship Ein Sof; the last sanctuary of humanity at the end of time.

The worldship's AI, Keter, has created new creatures to serve it, working deep in the most inhospitable corners of Ein Sof to slow the machine's decay. Some of them have escaped, creating new societies far from Keter's eyes. 

The players are members of these societies, sent out into Ein Sof's halls to hunt for needed resources.

Peoples of the World

The people of Ein Sof come in many forms.

Kaiva are tall and thin, with large faces and knotted, bulging veins. Their skin is translucent - under it is a shimmering silver second skin, which absorbs radiation to balance out their tremendous food requirement. In times of stress their veins pulse, and they discard tremendous amounts of energy in a single fast movement, damaging themselves in the process. However, the energy stored for these actions leaves little for the body to use to repair itself.

Seeleh are heavy and strong, with their bodies arranged radially - 3 faces, 6 legs, and 6 arms, all emerging from a reinforced central spine. They can carry more than other phenotypes, and their multiple lungs let them last longer without air. However, they are more susceptible to Keter's words than the other phenotypes.

Iklen are strange and graceful. Their ridged skin changes color constantly - some of these patterns force eyes to slide off them, as if they didn't exist. Those ridges are covered in small scales, that shed from the Iklen and drift through the air. If inhaled, they change the emotions of the sufferer. Iklen move slowly and inefficiently, as if dancing. When surprised, this dance ends, and they must consider their next moves.

Ayir are small and fragile, with gargantuan eyes. Their light weight and small size helps them navigate difficult terrain, but make them more easily injured. Even when they sleep, some of their brain stays active, letting them move and act.


Keter's only goal is to keep humanity alive and safe in their Empyreans while He works towards the completion of the Ishtar Program - opening a gate to a stable new universe, where humanity will rise once more.

However, the Program may take tens of thousands of years of technological advancement and failed attempts, and Keter's machines would fail someday. But, while He can run out of metal, living servants could sustain themselves indefinitely.

But despite Keter's best efforts, Ein Sof is still collapsing. Many of the biotech bays used to create these new servants now lie abandoned and unreachable, following their old orders. These lost thousands formed their own societies, and now live in the ship like parasites. 

Those were not His only followers, however. The machine Disciples of this silicon god still stalk through the halls, staving off the ship's failure and hunting those who have escaped His grasp.

Societies of Ein Sof


The Navigator Houses

The Houses are an industrial state, led by hereditary nobility. They have only just arrived to this part of the worldship, after being driven from their homes by the Disciples. 

In their territory, peace is kept through force. Holes are burned through walls, lights are strung up across new roads, and dissenters are strung up with them.

They trade with the Oasis Kingdoms, but plan to soon solidify their influence. If things go their way, tanks will roll through the Kingdoms' streets within months. 

Of course, there's no guarantee things will go the Houses' way. The Lord Navigators, each head of a House, are only held apart by a Regent. Border skirmishes are becoming more common. 

The Houses will go to war. The only question is who it will be with.

The Oasis Kingdoms

The Kingdoms were here first. They have control of most of this region, with each kingdom built on top of an important resource, whether that's power, water, farmland, or rare resources. Their authority was unquestioned - there has not been war for generations.

But now the Houses are on their doorstep, and the Kingdoms are forced to trade food and art for guns and time. 

Minor Factions

Ghoul Nests

Ghouls are born from human stock, meant for the Empyreans. Some stage of the cloning process was, when viewed through Keter's unknowable perceptions, deemed a failure, and they were released into Ein Sof to survive on their own.

Some nests turned to raiding towns and attacking traders. Now, both the Houses and the Kingdoms see them as a threat; that they are to be shot, and their nests are to be burned.

People of the Sea

Sea People shelter in the remaining towers of the Coolant Seas, farming the meager food that can be grown in its blighted water. This resource leaves them targeted by other groups, including the Navigator Houses. 

To protect themselves, the People of the Sea have turned their home chambers into trap-webbed nightmares. Despite this, outsiders are still more than happy to throw themselves into the grinder in the hopes of finding food.


Skinborne groups avoid Ein Sof's internals for its cold, sterile skin. They travel nomadically, floating through space in improvised voidcraft. The rare times they enter the ship are for violent raids, gathering food and components before fleeing. 

All these resources are being gathered for one purpose - completing the Ark, an escape ship made from a single engine of Ein Sof. They say the Garden World is passing by soon, and the Ark can bring them there. 

Sustainer Cells 

To the Sustainer Cells, everything is temporary. They say that someday, no matter how far in the future that is, the world will be safe. To keep themselves alive over this vast gulf of time, they commandeered many of Ein Sof's cryobays.

Now, most of their population rests, while those still awake struggle to keep them alive. This lack of manpower has forced them to focus their society on efficiency, creating a 4-caste system. Personality has been eroded, with Sustainer society expecting newly-awoken members of these castes to act identically to those they've replaced.
To keep themselves safe, the Tribes stay on the move. Their cities were uprooted and retrofitted into sealed walkers, each one hiding a secret - a functioning seed AI the Tribes hope to grow into a weapon to topple Keter from His throne.

However, the seed must be kept safe. Infohazards and hacking attempts can (and have) possessed them, and sent cities marching off cliffs.


Many tiny groups, unassociated with any faction, hide within Ein Sof. Runaway nobles from unknown nations, dragging their servants on a doomed quest for independence, strange cults following dream-quests from decoded transmissions, quiet villages, and a thousand thousand other mysteries, all (eventually) randomly generated.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Mystery Cults of the Hive Cities (GLOGtober Day 8)

It's GLOGvember now, get off my case. Part one is here. Also technically counts for GLOG WEEK, no matter what Oblidisideryptch says.

Day 8 - Mystery

Travelers in the Hive Cities would be remiss to think the dry-eyed people of that land have no religions. They have many, all hidden from the view of outsiders.

These Mystery Cults share some traits - baroque social orders, complex rituals, and an effect. Unlike the other religions of the world, the Mystery Cults work, contacting something out there that helps them.

1d4 Mystery Cults of the Hive Cities

The Mystery Cults use the format of A Distant Chime's Shrines and Saints.

Uncle Rainmaker

Patron of the desperate and the dying. Saves those who deserve it. Those uninitiated call to him frantically, to help themselves. Those of his Cult save their prayers for others.

Shrine: A pair of scales, one side filled with water.

Cult: Largely composed of judges and other agents of the state, although they will accept anyone. Aspirants are locked in a room in pairs, then abandoned. If they cooperate to escape, they are accepted. If they attempt to save themselves, they are abandoned.



R: 100' T: 25' radius D: [sum] minutes

Clouds form in the sky, flooding an area with enough water to survive for [dice] days if collected. If 2 or more dice are used, you may also strike the area with [dice] bolts of lightning, each doing 1d8 damage.


1. Save the dying, no matter their allegiance. 

2. Eat and drink only when necessary.

3. Be just in all your decisions.

Cousin Birdcatcher

Hopes only to be free.

Shrine: A string knotted with feathers, tied to the highest point accessible.

Cult: Cousin Birdcatcher's worship is favored by those who want change. While many join as a symbol, assassins and rebels often leave prayers to Cousin Birdwatcher for more direct reasons. Initiation is simple - climb to the nearest shrine, and take it. The rest of the cult will try to stop you.



R: 0 T: self D: until landing

Shoots you [sum]*2 feet into the air. You fall at 1 foot per minute until you land. You can still act while falling.


1. Support the shrine with one feather each day.

2. Lead everyone deserving into the cult.

3. Always have an open route between you and the sky.

Father Farseer

Killed the first dragon, freeing the Hive Cities.

Shrine: There are no shrines, only totems - tiny sculptures of a dragon's skull, which only work if broken.

Cult: Hunters and their families make up most of the cult. There is no initiation - the cult will come to you if they feel you deserve entrance. This tends to lead to nepotism and other unfair influences.


True Strike

R: Touch T: one projectile D: instant

Bless an arrow or stone with Father's sight. The next attack with the projectile gains [dice] damage and always hits. The attack can accomplish impossible feats, like curving around corners.


1. Never hurt that which could not hurt you.

2. Never hurt something, then leave it alive.

3. Be the last to eat from what you kill. 

Mother Firetaker

Took the sun from Brother Bricklayer after he dropped it, burning the world.

Shrine: A piece of glass, pulled from the desert after the storms end.

Cult: Hide in plain sight. 3 people walk past, each wearing discs of hammered metal on your forehead. If you ask what they are, they respond "Oh, you're so clueless!", then walk further. 



R: 0 T: Self D: [dice] hours

Project an orb of light, as bright as a torch, from your hand.


1. Shun fire and its glow.

2. At dawn, bow to the sun in public.

3. Expose secrets, except those that would cause harm.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

OSR Interviews 3 - Xenophon of Athens

 This is the continuation of a series, where I interview members of the OSR community. 

A: So, introduce yourself - name, blog, social security number, etc.

X: Well, I'm Xenophon of Athens (not the real historical one, of course... or am I?) of https://xenophonsramblings.blogspot.com/, and my social security number is 000-00-0000.

A: Huh, I thought that was mine. Must've been mistaken. 

What have you been playing and running recently? Anything you've enjoyed?

X: I've been running a GLOG campaign in my own (unfinished) GLOG hack, Carolingia. I'm running Patrick Stuart's Deep Carbon Observatory, which is a fantastic module, and it's been great fun. I'm also in a GLOG campaign of deus ex parabola's G20 hack/Unfinished World setting, which has been going for a while now. Finally, I have been playing in a "bucket list" group where we play one- to three-shots of various games we want to play but haven't yet. Vayra DMed Sailors on the Starless Sea in DCC, and next week is Esoteric Enterprises run by Erika.

A: Deep Carbon Observatory was the first RPG book I bought in print, but I've never run it - it's good to see it's gone well.

I'm excited to see Carolingia when it's finished - what's going to make it different from other GLOG hacks?

X: Well, the basics are that it's a roll vs DC system rather than roll-under, and it is very thematically/aesthetically tied to the Early Medieval period in Western Europe (specifically ~800-840 CE). It's also got some slight differences in skills, and weapons deal class-based damage with weapon-defined to-hit bonuses. I'm planning to write some fairly in-depth domain play and mass battle rules, although those might be a while in the making, and religion rules similar to the ones Arnold K and Lexi have made recently.

It's also got its fair share of classes, some of which I'm currently very happy with and some of which still need some polishing.

A: I have a feeling you'll think some of them need polishing until you're dead.

I don't think we have any GLOG hacks with domain rules - that'll be good to see. Other than Carolingia, do you have any large projects?

X: I've got three other projects that I want to make, although none of them have anything substantial put to paper as of yet. A hard sci-fi RPG about being a mercenary with a spaceship in this solar system about 2-300 years in the future, an Earthsea-inspired RPG about being wizards with some sort of freeform magic system (somewhat like Mage: The Ascension but hopefully not bad), and an OSR adventure about journeying through the wilderness to a dragon's lair beneath a mountain.

A: Back to the classics, I guess.

And speaking of back, how'd you get into RPGs?

X: I've only been into RPGs for, what is it, three years now? Something like that. A friend invited me to play D&D 5e, I happily joined with a character that is in retrospect very cringeworthy - an attempt at making Gandalf a 5e character, using the Unearthed Arcana Mystic class (which was a terrible choice for a first ever character) and literally named Olorin. 

I played 5e for a couple of years, then got linked to Goblin Punch somehow, I think from a Reddit post about the False Hydra. From there I got into some other OSR blogs, and then eventually clicked on the link to the OSR Discord on Chris McDowall's blog about 7 or 8 months ago, and here we are.

A: ... that's exactly what happened to me (minus the Gandalf)

Which other OSR blogs would you recommend?

X: That's a hard question. There are far too many good ones. Goblin Punch and Coins and Scrolls are of course the biggest and most popular GLOG blogs, and are always excellent. Every GLOG blog run by someone on the OSR server is worth recommending, but I'll give a particular shout-out to As They Must, Mad Queen's Court, Caput Caprae, and of course Archon's Court, among many others. As far as non-GLOG blogs go, there are once again so many worth reading, but BASTIONLAND, Cavegirl's Games, and Throne of Salt are ones I read often.

A: What books (RPG or otherwise) have you enjoyed recently?

X: I haven't had too much time to read recently, but as far as RPGs go I've just read a fair bit of Cavegirl's Esoteric Enterprises in preparation for an upcoming game I'm playing in. It's a really fantastic game, and even though I'm not generally a fan of urban fantasy it really captures it perfectly and compellingly. It's also got a ton of excellent random tables that could work in any game. There's Deep Carbon Observatory, of course, since I started running that, and as I said before, it's a really good adventure. 

I started reading Robert McFarlane's Underland, which is a non-fiction book about, well, everything under the ground, and specifically the human relation to the underground. I only got a couple of chapters in before school and such made me put it down, but what I did read was excellent. It definitely should be suggested reading for a Veins of the Earth campaign. 

And since rereading things takes less brainpower, a severely limited resource for me currently, than reading them for the first time, I've reread Ursula Le Guin's truly classic novel The Dispossessed and started rereading Lord of the Rings for the 27th time or so.

A: Alright! Thanks for coming, and I hope you have a good night.

X: Thank you as well! I enjoyed this a lot.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Hermit of the Blood-Knots (GLOG)

Fractal Meadows of Reality is a new blog, started last month. It's already excellent. Their second post, on the demiplane of the Glass Fields, has a few references to Blood-Knots - strange assemblages of blood and glass, that whisper secrets - and the hermits who live around them.

Immediately, those words leapt off the screen and beat me over the head, crying "make a GLOG class".

Hermit of the Blood-Knots

The blood whispers to you. It speaks of sacrifice and preservation. Remember its secrets.

Perk: You can survive indefinitely by eating glass.

Drawback: Your teeth have changed shape (because you keep eating glass). Your speech is slow and incredibly distinctive. Anyone who hears it will recognize you.

  1. Lose 1 HP worth of blood to give someone else 1 HP.
  2. You can step through your shadow. Normally, this lets you move an extra 5 feet. Being tricky with bright light and long drops will let you extend this.
  3. After you drink something, it suffuses your blood. You may take 1d4 damage to create another dose of the substance.
Spell List

1. Sent to Seek

R: 100' T: N/A D: [dice] Rounds

You can peel off one of your shadows and send it hunting for a specific object. It uses your Wisdom score + [dice] for search rolls, if those are required.

2. Draining Needle

R: 30' T: [dice] creatures D: [dice] rounds

You conjure the life-draining glass flora of the Fields, throwing them like knives. Targets take [most] damage each round of the duration. You regain [dice] health each round.

3. Listen to the Blood

R: N/A T: Self D: [dice] rounds

Your blood whispers to you. It can answer [dice] questions from this list, or others.

  • Where is the person you like most?
  • Who hates you the most?
  • What is the most threatening thing in this area?
  • How does this person feel?
The blood does not know facts - it cannot tell you what 2 + 2 is, for instance. It knows feelings - fear, hatred, love.

4. One is Preserved

R: Touch T: one creature D: Instant

A creature gains [sum] HP. Any dice used in this spell are automatically exhausted.

5. Another is Sacrificed

R: Touch T: Self/1 wizard D: Instant

Recharge [dice] MD. You may recharge another wizard's MD if you wish. In exchange, you or a willing participant lose [dice] max HP, permanently.

6. Raise the Pillars

R: 100' T: N/A D: Instant

[dice] pillars of glass, [sum] feet high, rise up from the ground. They move slowly, carrying people up rather than impaling them.

7. Heat Glass

R: Sight T: [dice] pounds of glass D: Instant

Glass shies away in fear of your gaze, and melts. On contact with a person, molten glass does [dice]d8 fire damage.

8. Silent Message

R: Sight T: [dice] creatures D: Instant

Send a message to [dice] creatures you can see. If you spend 2 or more MD, they can respond.

9. Silence

R: 40' T: 20' radius D: [dice] minutes

No sound can be emitted in the radius. This prevents most spellcasting.

10. Stallion's Path

R: 30' T: 30' line D: instant

A line in front of you is parted, shoving everything off to the sides.

1 [dice]: shoves people

2 [dice]: shifts trees

3 [dice]: splits buildings

4 [dice]: parts small lakes

11. Into/Out of the Fields

R: 500' radius T: N/A D: [sum] minutes

You and everyone else in a 500' radius are thrown into or out of the Glass Fields. NPCs who do not expect this transition must immediately make a Morale check.

12. Blood to Glass

R: Touch T: one creature D: Instant

The target's blood turns to glass. They must make a CON save - if they pass, they take [sum]*2 damage. If they fail, they take [sum]*[dice] damage and one part of their body is turned to glass permanently.


1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours

2. Take 1d6 damage

3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then make a save. Permanent if you fail.

4. Lose 1 MD for 24 hours.

5. You must sacrifice 1 HP per MD you regain for 1d4 days.

6. Your blood solidifies and slows down. On a successful CON save to avoid an effect, you must succeed on another CON save on your next turn or be affected.


  1. Your blood shifts, and begins to whisper. It wants whatever you want, but more. 
  2. One of your limbs turns to glass. It is completely under the control of your blood.
  3. The rest of you turns to glass, and you become an NPC.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

GLoGtober - Week 1

For GLOGtober, I've decided to make a setting, one week at a time. I don't know if this is a good idea, but it's certainly... an idea. 

Note that this is done in sections - I haven't read any of the prompts past week 1, so the setting may shift as I take later prompts into account. Buyer beware, Saturn reigns, etcetera.

Day 1 - Guns

Guns are a modern invention, their use spreading from the Sunset Isles and across the lands of the Empire. Currently, there are only two: heavy, long cannonets, and light single-shot derringers.

These are both wheel-locks, limiting their use by the Empire's military due to their expense. However, this makes them more useful for the few that own them, as armor hasn't advanced enough to protect its wearer.

Both have been made illegal throughout the Empire after a spike in assassination attempts, including one on the Empress herself.


4d6 damage, one slot, all enemies and hirelings must make Morale saves. 20' range, advantage to hit. Illegal.


4d6 damage, 3 slots, all enemies and hirelings must make Morale saves. 300' range, disadvantage to-hit within 30', advantage past that. Illegal. 

Day 2 - Blood

Blood is the seat of the soul. Without it, the body is only a husk. When someone dies, their blood pulls itself out of their body and ascends to Heaven, as the body hopefully reduces itself to dust. 

Of course, sometimes the body does not. Then, it reverts, driven only by the base impulses written on humanity's bones. These Geists stalk the wilderness like animals, hunting for humans. (Just stat them as zombies, minus any infection chances.)

Some magicians of the Lamb's Continent have managed to die, releasing their blood, then control it, pulling it from its path to Heaven and using it as a tool before returning it and living again.


Starting equipment: a pendant token of your order, a katar (light), ritual equipment (six candles, a vial of sparrow's blood), a short magnetic bar (used to test the iron content of blood, which is thought to correlate to moral purity)

A: Motility

B: Condensation

C: Blood & Bone

D: Twist the Path

Motility: Through a short ritualized "death", you convince your blood to emerge from your body in an angelic form, bringing your consciousness with it. The blood can move at twice human speed, and fly. While your blood is gone, your body cannot move, and you take 1 damage each minute. The blood is too diffuse to move anything more than a pound, and too condensed to move through walls.

Condensation: You can shift the blood, making more or less condensed. When condensed, it is solid enough to hold as much a person or even attack, but cannot fly. If hit, it will dissolve. When diffused, it can slowly move its droplets through walls, but cannot hold anything. You must choose how dense your blood is when you release it.

Blood & Bone: You have reached inwards, reinforcing the instructions carved on your bones. When you release your blood, you can also raise your body as a Geist.

Twist the Path: When you die, your control continues, counting down from full health. When time runs out, you're dead. You can't return your blood during this time - it won't let you.

Day 3 - Goblins

Goblins do not exist. Despite this, it's normal to see about one a week. They are emanations from the noosphere, said to be responsible for bad luck. They knock over shelves, hide things, trip people, and all the other things that would be caused be random chance.

Hobgoblins and Bugbears are manifestations of even worse luck - a Hobgoblin will break your sword over its knee, then run into the forest. A Bugbear will burn down your house.  

Day 4 - Swirling Rainbow Vortices

Above the world is a gateway. It does not circle the world like the Sun and Moon. It sits, perfectly still. When the sun crosses it around noon, this is the Short Night, where work ends and people return to bed. When the moon crosses it around midnight, this is the Witch Hour, where monsters meet under unnatural darkness.

This is the gate to Heaven, where blood crosses into that prismatic city. The observatories of the Guild of Astronautics have peered through it, and now plan to build a great machine with which they can shuttle themselves (and their patrons) into Heaven without being judged.

Day 5 - Map

Here's an early map of the setting. I have no idea what any of this stuff is, but this'll remind me to figure that out later.

Day 6 - Food

1d4 Foods of the Empire
  1. A heavy meat stew served over dumplings - traditional during the winter holidays.
  2. Smoked fish, preserved and buried for emergencies.
  3. Pickled vegetables.
  4. Sweet wine, imported from the Lamb's Continent.

1d4 Foods of the Hive-States
  1. Small, bitter berries hardy enough to survive the droughts. Slight stimulants.
  2. A thin syrup made of those berries. Strong stimulant, usually mixed with water or wine to weaken the taste.
  3. Hard seeds, ground into a paste. Usually served on bread.
  4. Clams, pulled from the pools they hide in.

1d4 Foods of the Lamb's Continent
  1. Small soft cookies, shaped into spheres and stamped with (usually romantic) messages.
  2. A light salad of bitter greens.
  3. Raw fish, rubbed with hot herbs.
  4. Thinly sliced meat, seared quickly.

7. Adventure

1d6 Reasons to Adventure

  1. Your home in the Hive-Cities is suffering a drought. You want to find some way to alleviate it.
  2. The Imperial Guild of Astronautics has sent you to map the stars from all the corners of the world. You faintly suspect this is because they wanted to get rid of you.
  3. A border skirmish in the Lamb's Continent ended recently. Now you (and hundreds of other soldiers) have no work.
  4. You and the rest of your cell were caught on your way from the Bitter East, your assignment burned out of your heads. The Empire has given you a deal - work for us, or die.
  5. When your mother died, her blood streamed to the south. No one could tell you what happened to it.
  6. You want money. A lot of money.

Friday, October 2, 2020

On Depthcrawls + The Hundred Hands Depthcrawl

Part 1: The Depthcrawl

Depthcrawls are a new way to track space in RPGs, pioneered by Cavegirl's Gardens of Ynn. They are presented as a table, rolled on with an increasing bonus (the Depth), until a goal is reached.

Each of these rolls gives you a location. Each time the players pass through one of these locations, their Depth increases by one. This leads to them to the higher end of the table, and stranger environments.

For example, your players have just entered a depthcrawl, so you roll, and get a 13, which the table says is an abandoned tower. They are currently at Depth 0, because they just arrived. When they leave the tower and keep going, they would reach Depth 1, and you would roll on the table with a +1 bonus.

As well as locations, depthcrawls will usually have extra tables - Gardens of Ynn has an encounter table (rolled after the PCs spend time in a location) and a detail table. These tables are unaffected by Depth.

Players can also move backwards (returning to a location and decreasing Depth) or sideways (rolling a new location and not changing Depth).

Depthcrawls are very situational - generally, they're best used in environments that are either fluid (alternate planes like the Gardens of Ynn) or large enough to have wandering around seem sensible (an abandoned city).

Recently, depthcrawls have become more common, with blogs like I Don't Remember That Move creating new ones. After a discussion on Discord, Morgan (of no blog, sadly) and I created a framework to use for depthcrawl generation.

Part 2: The Template  

an epiphany

The template is made of three steps: the Aesthetic, the Threat, and the Goal.

The Aesthetic is the location of the crawl itself - the Gardens of Ynn are Alice in Wonderland-like, the Stygian Library is an endless repository of books, and Seraphim's Gate is a distorted assembly of cathedrals.

The Threat is something specific to this location - not just monsters in general, but something particular. In the Garden, the Threat is environmental, in the form of the Idea of Thorns. It could also be a particularly dominating group, like the Stygian Library's orders of librarians.

Finally, the Goal is the thing at the center, all the way at the highest depth. The Library's all-knowing computer, or Araquiel, the angel at the center of Seraphim's Gate. This should be something other than "a load of money" - it should be unattainable anywhere outside of the depthcrawl.

Template Example

We're going to use this as our example setting.

Our Aesthetic is winding tunnels of stone hands, interspersed with clusters of different stone organs - a room of eyes, one of stomachs, and so on.

Our Threat is the embodied sins. While you fight them as monsters, they are also influences, slowly affecting your mind as you spend time in the maze.

Obviously, our Goal is the ascended's brain, which shows you how to follow that long-forgotten person into the Final Heaven.

Part 3: Filling the Frame

Now that we have an outline, we can start to fill it in.

First, you want to determine how long you want the depthcrawl to be - this will decide how large of an environment table you need.

For short depthcrawls, make an 8-entry Environment table, and roll a d4. This gives you a minimum of 5 locations, and a maximum of 8.

Medium-size depthcrawls can use a 15-entry Environment table, rolling a d6. This gives you a minimum of 10 locations, and a maximum of 15.

Large depthcrawls should be of comparable size to the Gardens of Ynn - a 35-entry table with a d20 roll. This gives you a minimum of 15 locations, and a maximum of 35.

The last result of any of these is X+ - so for a short depthcrawl, the last result on the table is 8+, not just 8.

Now, you fill the table, with more mundane entries on the lower end, and stranger ones at the higher end. The Hundred Hands is going to be small depthcrawl (because I'm lazy and it's just an example), so this is my table.
  1. A cavernous, empty room made of hands all grasping each other.
  2. A bone of the ascended, full of holes. The wind slowly plays it like a flute, frightening spirits. Every turn you spend here decreases your Sinfulness by one.
  3. The ascended's lungs, slowly expanding and filling with lightly hallucinogenic incenses.
  4. One of the ascended's eyes, focusing any light in the room into a web of burning beams.
  5. The stomach, which is half-filled with acid. Stone sculptures of food float over the acid, unharmed.
  6. Petrification is slow. This room of hands still lives. They grasp blindly at anything touching them.
  7. The heart, the size of a house. It is crossed with rivers of pure, cold water, and rains constantly. These rivers cannot be forded without equipment. The rain makes the stone slippery - when under stress, characters must make a DEX check or slip.
  8. The brain, sitting on a stone pedestal. If you have a Sinfulness of more than 5, it prevents you from touching it. 
Aside: Sinfulness
Sinfulness is being used to track the PC's ability to ascend. At 2 Sinfulness, they must make a Wisdom save each hour or act according to their dominant sin (whichever one has dealt the most Sinfulness to them). On a failed save, they will still act, but they will act in accordance to their sin (someone dominantly Slothful will still set up a bridge over a chasm, they'll just be really lazy about it). At 4 Sinfulness, the PC must make a Wisdom save each hour or completely follow the dominant sin (someone dominantly Slothful will lie around and complain that they have to do any work). Past 5 Sinfulness, you are unable to ascend.

After you finish your main table, you should create an encounter table. This one is unaffected by Depth, but should be about the size of your environment table - you can expect to roll on both of them the same amount of times.

In this case, (because I'm lazy) each of the 8 monsters are a different Sin. Some are embodied, taking forms of hard stone. They can be treated as Golems, with an extra attack that provokes Wisdom saves or increases Sinfulness. Others are disembodied, floating invisibly through the air to whisper in your ears. They can be treated as Ghosts, except instead of level drain they inflict Sinfulness.

  1. Sloth (embodied) - an enormously fat, cheerful statue. Obstinately blocks your path, has a job it wants you to do for it - 1. move this heavy rock 2. find my lost ring 3.  4. nothing, it's just not moving.
  2. Pride (embodied) - a glorious marble sculpture. Automatically hostile unless praised.
  3. Wrath (embodied) - acts like a professional wrestler. Wants a challenge - it doesn't have to be you.
  4. Envy (disembodied) - wants the prettiest/most magic/otherwise superlative item you have. Can be tricked.
  5. Greed (disembodied) - will just start stealing your stuff. Runs if attacked.
  6. Gluttony (disembodied) - clamps on to the highest CON character and starts to drain them (1 CON per round).
  7. Lust (disembodied) - wants to go on a date. Candles, nice food, the whole thing.

Part 4: Depthcrawl Variations

One of the biggest problems with depthcrawls is a lack of player choice - they just go, continuing forwards until they hit the point where the game is done.

Morgan has made many complex variations on the depthcrawl in order to solve this (along with other problems, like the amount of time it takes to generate areas with detail tables). They're all great, and you should definitely take a look at them. 

Along with those, I have a simple variant of my own - a branching pointcrawl. To add more choice in the players' exploration, roll 1d4 locations each time, showing the players each one. When they move to one, then roll details and encounters for that particular location.

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