Tuesday, April 30, 2019



Demons invaded the world! Great warriors gathered from every kingdom to drive back the infernal forces!

They died.

15 years passed.

The demons erected a Citadel. A week ago, it began firing jets of green flame into space—a sickly omen. The brave rot in the pale light, but bravery never ensured survival. Scheming hope springs up amid the mud and flame. When heroes fall, HELLWALKERS rise.

I played the modern Doom and thought it was pretty good. Haven't played the original but I hear it's good too (Doom)

HELLWALKERS is a hexcrawl/setting/campaign I’m going to write and run in a few months. The Player Characters grew up after demons invaded their world, Asphodel (a moon of the gas giant Charybdis). Adventurers—known as Hellwalkers—journey out into the burning wastes to try to learn why the demons invaded, and, ultimately, save the world from its demon occupation. After the Demon Citadel began firing jets of green flame into space, the player characters took on the Hellwalkers’ quest themselves. If they can survive the hellish environment, if they can save the world, they’ll become true HELLWALKERS.

I just finished running the first campaign that really achieved the goals I set out to achieve at the start (a medieval fantasy pastiche hexcrawl featuring feudal politics and taxes). I might post about it in the future, but today what matters is that I am ever-ambitious, and I have lofty goals for this next project.

I am excited for the sequel. It is going to have Dark Souls style multiplayer. Also this lightsaber (Doom)


Focus on the hexcrawl. In my last campaign, the party spent several sessions’ worth of time sticking inside of single hexes, mostly dungeons and towns. It was great! But I would like to focus my next campaign much more on the hexcrawl part of gameplay, meaning less time delving dungeons and scheming in town and more time traveling overland. There will still be tombs to rob and civilized areas to visit, but there won’t be as much depth to them. The interesting bits will be in the relationships between spread-out locations.

Make a bigger map. The last map was just 8x10 hexes, and the players stayed in a very small area within it, only 6x3 hexes. They were always easily within a days’ travel of town, which reduced the pressure to gather supplies in the wilderness and heal STR damage in town. This time around, the map will be bigger, there will be fewer towns, and there won’t be as many roads.

Run an investigation. This has been sort of a nebulous goal of my last few campaigns. The players wandered around learning things, but it didn’t have any large impact and it wasn’t particularly guided. This time around, there will be major mysteries to uncover. To begin with, the players will be investigating why the demons invaded in the first place, and then, later, what they can do about it. I’ll spread known important locations and NPCs around the map to get them moving.

Run a more challenging (deadlier) game. I am a total wuss. Moonhop’s injury system is good because it removes me from the process—if the players take injuries or die, it will be mostly their fault. At some point, however, I do need to put actually-dangerous things on the map, things that the players won’t outsmart on their first try. Victory is sweeter when it comes after legitimate failure.

Give in to my gonzo science fantasy instincts. Medieval pastiche is fun, but I suspect that I am, at heart, a science fantasy person. I like cyborg, wizards, and cyborg wizards, and I intend to put all three on the same hexcrawl. I’m also going to tap into the OSR favorite Aesthetics of Ruin and try to make a really grand setting for the players to marvel at.

Watch a ragtag bunch of misfits rise to heroism or fall in a blaze of glory. My players definitely played misfits, but they accumulated power a bit more quickly than I’d like and there wasn’t ever much chance of the blaze of glory. I’m going to be more direct with this goal by setting the player goal at “Save the World” and putting deadly obstacles in their way.

On my last map, numbering started at 0, and let me tell you, that was a really dumb idea


I don’t know what all of the stuff on the map means yet. A big part of my process is putting down hexes that I think look cool and then thinking of things to put in them. I’ll try to blog about that process here. Arnold has some good words about the deep comfort of mapmaking.

I used Hex Kit to make this; it’s $15 for the program itself and a little more money for the pretty colored hexes. I recommend it. If you’re strapped for cash, I recommend Hexographer, which is clunkier and not as pretty but perfectly functional.

The seed of this campaign: “Joan of Arc and Doomguy
team up to kick ass.” (Courtesy of Dan at Throne of Salt)

DOOT (by Storm Wolf

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Conduit for Poor Decisions (GLOG Wizard Foundation Class)

Unquestionably a GLOG Wizard. The skull is probably a familiar. (Darkest Dungeon: still cool)

So, GLOG people like Wizards. Here’s my basic template for them, rounding out my Primary Class Trio. It’s adapted primarily from this Coins and Scrolls Class.


For every Wizard template you have, gain 1 Mana Dice (MD).

A: Wizard Features, School Features, +2 Spells Known (1-6)
B: Spell Breeding, Call Familiar, +1 Spell Known (1-8)
C: Wizard Vision, +1 Spell Known (1-10)
D: Arcane Communion, +1 Spell Known (1-10)

Wizard Features

Mana Dice (MD)
You get 1 per Wizard template. They are d6s. Whenever you cast a spell, you choose how many MD to invest into it (minimum 1). The result of the spell depends on the number of [dice] and their [sum]. If a MD rolls a 1-3, it returns to your pool to be used again. Otherwise, you lose it until you get a night of sleep. You can’t cast without MD.

They’re stored either in your mind or on scrolls/spellbooks, in “Spell Slots.” Spells stored on scrolls/spellbooks can be cast once per day. Spells stored in your mind can be cast as many times per day as you want. You can move spells between your mind and your spellbook every morning. There are two ways to acquire spells: levelling up, and stealing them from the spellbooks of other wizards.

+Spells Known
Every time you gain a Wizard template, you gain a new Mind Spell Slot and a new Spell, rolled randomly on your school list (more on that later). You start out with two Mind Spell Slots and two Spells.

By licking an object, you can tell whether or not it is magical.

School Features

Spell List
Every Wizard School has a list of 11+ spells associated with it. You roll randomly for them each time you take a Wizard template: 1d6 for the A template, 1d8 for B, and 1d10 for C and D. Later spells are Emblem spells that you must quest for.

A passive bonus/penalty.

Minor magical abilities you can use as often as you like.

Mishaps occur when you roll doubles on your MD. They’re potentially dangerous magic accidents. Dooms occur when you roll triples. There are three, and they occur in order. They will end your wizardly career or kill you if you don’t quest to avoid your Doom.

Level 2+ Features

Spell Breeding
With a night of work, you can breed (destroy) two spells you know or have on scrolls to learn a new spell, rolled randomly from your school spell list.

Call Familiar
You may call to a familiar, a magical spirit. The familiar will appear in 1d20 hours. You must then bargain with it for its service. They like ambition and valuable sacrifices. Roll under INT (bonus/penalty depending on bargaining); if it fails, no familiar will ever appear for you in this location again, but if it succeeds, the familiar agrees to a mutually binding magical contract. Your familiar will serve you to your last drop of ambition.

Familiars can provide a Service once/day. For each Service, you owe the familiar one Favor. They can be pretty nasty tasks, but failing to fulfill them incurs a Breach of Covenant, which are nasty for you. Everything else dealing with familiars is GM-facing. You are not required to call a familiar.

Familiar Services

  1. Detect Magic (for free, ask nicely)
  2. Teach you a new spell from your school’s spell list (1d4+1 max, first is free)
  3. Allow you to cast a spell from a scroll or spellbook twice in one day
  4. Grant you one free MD
  5. Exercise its unique power
  6. Save you from death, once
  7. Anything else you can think to ask of it. Just remember that it will count for a Favor. 

Wizard Vision
You always see invisible things as a faint lensing of light, and can tell roughly how big they are. By making eye contact with someone, you can tell if they are possessed, undead, protected by divinity, or a spellcaster.

Arcane Communion
You can pool your MD with other wizards (including lower level and NPC wizards). Mishaps and Dooms affect all of you.

Ohoho, you thought we were done with Venom, did you? You thought WRONG! (by Mike Hawthorne)

Design Notes

I really like to condense things. It’s fun, I think I’m good at it, and it makes things easier to understand. I’ve been condensing the wizard class since I first played the GLOG; I think this result is good.

I’m not going to talk about school design; Skerples has a good post on the subject over at Coins and Scrolls. I’m also not good at writing wizards—I don’t have any I’m happy with yet, and they’re not very high priority. I’m already spoiled for choice with existing GLOG wizards.

Now, on to the actual notes. Identify is great. It’s simple, it gives players just enough information to freak them out but not enough to help, and it encourages your wizards lick dangerous things. What’s not to love?

My system for spellcasting is sort of the opposite of Vancian casting; instead of having a limited number of more convenient memorized castings and less limited clunky book castings, my wizards can cast their “signature” memorized spells until they run out of MD and scrolls/books are for niche situations. It’s a bit more video-gamey and makes more sense to me. At some point, I might try real vancian casting, but I’m happy with this for now.

Familiars are great. Arnold says it better than I do, so if you want more detail and GM-facing information, head to his post on the subject. I’ve taken his rules and condensed them down to just the player-facing parts. Familiars hit a core theme: wizards are a class for making Poor Decisions. Free MD every day? Nice! Salvation from death? Cool! Horrible demon favors? Ye—wait, uh, what? The biggest issue with this is that I am a total wimp and I’m bad at thinking of good horrible demon favors. (Also I use CHA instead of INT for the roll since I don't have INT as a stat.)

Wizard Vision is another neat Arnold idea I’m formalizing as a wizard class ability. Arnold’s original version involves losing either WIS or CHA, but because I run with STR/DEX/CHA as the only stats and roll them with 3d6-drop-lowest, I don’t do the stat drain.

Arcane Communion is another conduit for Poor Decisions. At 4 MD, the chance for a Mishap is about 70%, and the chance for a Doom is about 10%. It’s not hard to get 8 MD with this ability and a couple first level shmucks, but—while it is very strong—it's also a colossally stupid idea since they’ll all have sparks shooting out of their eyes as the magic goes haywire. It’s perfect. As a side note, Monsieur’s Witch foundation has this ability at first level, but since I find it a bit complex for my tastes, I just decided to move it here.

Wizard Teeth

When a wizard casts a spell, sometimes the magic words get stuck in their teeth. Mostly, this makes them yellowed and crooked, but after a long enough career of magic, serious magical residue builds up. If you—ahem—acquire a set of wizard teeth, you can grind them down to get an iridescent ivory dust. Each charge of Wizard Teeth grants 1 temporary MD to cast with (it still returns on a 1-3, but once it’s gone, it’s gone for good). If you harvest all the teeth from one wizard, you get one charge for each level they had. Non-wizards can use Wizard Teeth to cast from scrolls. This is also the system I use for Moonhop, which is classless by default. I place charges as loot, mostly, but in theory my players could buy Wizard Teeth in a market place or try to find them in the wild.

Alternate Doom Events

Normally, Mishaps occur on doubles and Dooms occur on triples. It's very elegant. It also means that Dooms are impossible until 3rd level, though, and then only when your wizards really let loose with their magic. You can see the chance of Mishaps and Dooms with various amounts of MD in this handy chart, provided by magnificentophat:

I don't have any other pictures of wizards to show you but math is basically magic so

That leaves the chance of Doom too low for my taste, so I'm experimenting with a different system. Every wizard has a stat, let's call it Sanity, that starts at 20. Every time a Mishap occurs (on doubles, as before), they reduce their Sanity by 1, then roll a d20. If it's under their Sanity, all is well! If it's over, they experience a Doom.

I started using this system in my last campaign, and, for the first time, actually had a wizard experience a Doom (he got unlucky and rolled a 19 at Sanity 18). I think it really cements the inevitability of Dooms since any number of MD greater than 1 could bring your fate closer, and I think I've provided enough tempting options to boost MD to make it happen. I haven't done the math on how likely the Dooms actually are, but they'll definitely occur more often at later levels than normal Dooms.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Anything Not Nailed Down is Legally Mine (Thief GLOG Class)

If I can pry it loose, it's not nailed down (if you want to buy this thing do it here I guess)

Next in the Primary Class Triad: Thieves!


For every Thief template you have, gain +1 Stealth.

A: Wall Crawler, Scrounge
B: Pick 1 Skill, Roll 1 Skill
C: Roll 2 Skills
D: Pick 1 Skill, Roll 1 Skill

Starting Equipment: Roll on Scrounge Table

Wall Crawler
You climb just as well without climbing gear as with it. If a climb would be trivial using gear, you don’t need to roll, even if you’re free-climbing. If a climb would be impossible using gear, you can roll anyway.

Once per session, digging through trash, you can get an item rolled on the Failed Career Table (or another starting item table).

Skills d20

  1. Acrobat: You can move an extra 15’ per round (45’ total). You can jump 20’ instead of 10’. Treat your falls as 20’ shorter. You can easily maintain your balance on a taut rope. 
  2. Cat’s Eyes: With a little bit of light, you can see 30’ in darkness (no color). 
  3. Coward: Cover grants +1 Armor from normal (Low: Armor 2, High: Armor 3)
  4. Divine Grunt: 1/day Issue an irresistible one-word command. Only affects: d4 1 Undead, 2 Animals, 3 Plants, 4 Furniture
  5. Dog Whisperer: You start with a dog. Dogs you train can DEX Save for stealth with advantage, communicate if an area is obviously dangerous, and track a week-old trail by scent without fail (barring magical concealment). 
  6. Fashionable: Fancy clothes provide Armor 1 but don’t take up any Inventory Slots. 
  7. Getaway Horse: You start with a horse. Horses you train can DEX Save for stealth with advantage, understand abstract directions, and follow a schedule to the minute. 
  8. Lucky: 1/day, reroll one of your d20 rolls. 
  9. Opportunist: When you have a situational attack bonus, deal an extra 1d6 damage. 
  10. Pack Rat: +3 Inventory Slots. 
  11. Quick Fingers: You have advantage on DEX Saves to pickpocket people. You can steal things directly out of someone’s hands with a regular (no advantage) DEX Save. 
  12. Recorder Crow: You start with a crow. It can make and play auditory recordings. It responds to Record, Stop Recording, Play, Pause, Rewind, and Fast Forward. Max storage: 1 hour. It’s very smart. 
  13. Redirect: Once per round, when an enemy attacks you, you can make a DEX Save to redirect their attack to another enemy they can hit. 
  14. Second Chance: Once per lifetime, cheat death. 
  15. Square Meal: Lunch heals you to full HP provided you pair it with alcohol. 
  16. Tongues: 1/day Speak with d4: 1 Weapons, 2 Doors, 3 Birds, 4 Clothing
  17. Tricky: Advantage on Gambits. 
  18. Urchin: A street rat demands to learn. They’re a very sneaky hireling that doesn’t ask for pay. If you lose your urchin, you can recruit another wherever urchins are plentiful, but it will be difficult if you have a reputation for getting them killed. 
  19. Watchful: You have advantage on DEX Saves for initiative. You can’t be snuck past. 
  20. Wizardly Initiate: By tasting an object, you can tell whether or not it is magical. You have 1 MD that regenerates overnight. (You can’t memorize spells). 

They are also thieves (You can buy this as a shirt)

Design Notes

Thief should be, I think, the best class for new players. It should be as simple as possible, encourage shenanigans, and have room for variation in case multiple new players pick it. This class system—unique to my thief—hopefully does all three of those things.

Wall Crawler is a permission slip to get anywhere you like. It’s dead simple and fairly strong. It was inspired by a single passage in Veins of the Earth saying basically “let specialists [thieves] climb without rolling,” which I’ve turned into the core of the class. Scrounge is a consistent way to provide players with an extra tool for free: my first thief found 10 Hallucinatory Berries on their first use of the ability and they have proven incredibly useful for wizard-sabotage and bishop-assassination already.

The other abilities are invented or collected from various other thieves and thief-like classes. Every thief gets a unique combination of them, depending on what they pick and what they roll. My current thief player chose Dog Whisperer and rolled Second Chance; neither has seen a ton of use yet, but she was happy with both.

Lexi’s Thief and Scholar for Mimics and Miscreants at A Blasted, Cratered Land are based on this Thief, if you want to see two more takes on this concept. She posted hers before mine because I’ve been sharing GLOG classes on the OSR Discord for a while now for people to use and modify, but I’m only just now beginning to post them here.

I am a huge fan of knife+gun. It is just so cool (Darkest Dungeon is rad)
Just a real cool design (Darkest Dungeon is rad)
I don't have huge problems with bards as a class but this guy is knifey enough to count as a thief, too (Darkest Dungeon is rad)
Pretty clearly a thief who picked Dog Whisperer at template B (Darkest Dungeon is rad)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Concentrated Early 2000s Energy: Klyntar (GLOG Class, Parasite Challenge)

I hope you're ready for some really dumb comic stuff because Venom is absurd and I love it (Venom #4, cover illustrated by Mike McKone)

I wrote this class as an entry in the informal Parasite Class Challenge on the OSR Discord! It's a hub of GLOG activity; a real buzzing, twitching lump of creativity. There are more events like this to come.

Klyntar (Symbiote)

For every Klyntar template you have, increase your HP by 1.

A: Alien Biology, Fashion Goop, Powerful Grip
B: Internal Arsenal, Lose Control, Nemesis
C: Skullcruncher, Host Hopper
D: Extra Limbs, Improved Arsenal

Alien Biology
You play a goopy alien symbiote attached to a regular person. You take double damage from fire. You take 1d6 damage per round from very loud or high-pitched noises. You must eat raw meat for rations to heal from lunch. You must eat sapient brains, sedatives, or chocolate to heal STR damage (negative HP in the GLOG). Mental effects only affect one of your two minds—the symbiote or the host.

Fashion Goop
The symbiote can mimic any clothing, recoloring it to its own color scheme. It can’t mimic the effects of armor, but it can mimic its appearance, and all symbiote clothing counts as Chain armor.

Powerful Grip
You have advantage on grappling and climbing.

Internal Arsenal
You can reshape your limbs at will into any light or medium mundane melee weapons.

Lose Control
When you hit 0 HP, you lose control. You automatically heal 1d6 HP and your symbiote clothing counts as Plate Armor. You must attack every round. You are terrifying to look at. You may attempt to regain control with a 2-in-6 chance every round. You can’t lose control more than once per day.

Pick another member of the party to be your nemesis. When you lose control, you must treat them as a dangerous enemy—you can focus on other enemies first, but if you kill all other enemies before regaining control, you must attack your nemesis.

When you kill an enemy in melee, you can eat their head to regain 1d4 HP.

Host Hopper
You can separate the symbiote from the host, controlling both separately. The original host loses 1 HP per round without the symbiote. The symbiote can attempt to take control of another creature, which gets a Save to resist; if they fail, the Symbiote can control their actions. If they succeed, the Symbiote’s player still controls their actions, but they must work toward the temporary host’s immediate goals, which the DM must provide. They can do so inefficiently. The Symbiote must Save to disconnect from a host that passed their own Save. Success or failure, the symbiote can talk telepathically to the temporary host while attached. If the original host dies, the symbiote must Save or die every day, even when attached to a temporary host.

Extra Limbs
You can extrude up to two extra limbs. In Moonhop, when holding multiple weapons, roll damage dice for each and use the highest result.

Improved Arsenal
You can reshape your limbs at will into any mundane weapon (light, medium, heavy, melee, ranged). It still takes two limbs to make a two-handed weapon.

I mean, really, the sheer density of early 2000s energy in this image is enough to kill a small elephant
(Venom Vol 2 #38, penciled by Kim Jacinto and colored by Lee Loughridge)

Design Notes

Since it’s such a recent creation, this class is, of course, completely untested, and probably too powerful by the time you reach max level. To start with, though, you’re a well-armored climber, grappler, and fashionista  with several serious weaknesses—fire is common and dangerous, and long term healing requires special supplies.

At level 2, Internal Arsenal lets you smuggle weapons anywhere you like and switch your loadout to whatever best suits the situation. You also get Lose Control, a Rage-like ability that only activates in serious danger and carries a downside: enmity with your Nemesis.

At level 3, Skullcruncher grants unreliable in-combat healing and Host Hopper provides mind control, but with a downside—the potential death of your true host, the only one that can really sustain you. If you get “captured” by the temporary host, you can still hinder them and learn some of what they want, which is pretty neat. Other classes and items have abilities that could mitigate the risk to your real host.

Finally, at level 4, you really get dangerous: you double the number of weapons you can hold with Extra Limbs and greatly expand the categories with Improved Arsenal to become a walking cache of weapons. Notably, however, you don’t ever get a true Extra Attack, which I’m hoping will mitigate the power of being able to use two halberds or four pistols.

I mean, come on, isn't this just the coolest stupid idea ever? Don't you look at this, recoil a little, and then lean in? 
(Spider-Gwen Vol 5, cover illustrated by Khary Randolph) 

This. This is my favorite one. I own this comic and it is stupid, edgy, and ridiculous, and it is the best thing ever 
(Venomverse #1, penciled by Iban Coello and colored by Matt Yackey)
A fantastic OSR party if ever there was one (Venomverse #1 Variant Cover by Gustavo Duarte)