Thursday, July 30, 2020

Make Players Choose To Be Kind

One big advantage to an assumed amoral style of play/setting that not many people talk about is how it forces players to actively have to be kind. 

In other play styles (notably WotC "heroic fantasy") the "goodness" of the heroes is usually treated as default. The players and their actions are "good" because they are the "heroes" and this is part of the reason that such extreme murderhobo behavior can be found in such settings. When players just are the "heroes" not dependent of their actions it can create a disconnect to the reality. 

This often is further worsened by NPCs just ignoring players actual behavior and other railroading problems. It makes players want to have an impact on the world so they start going to extremes, classic murderhobo behavior. 

So instead assume amorality. Treat players and NPCs like their people. Complicated and ultimately ever changing. If players are to do good then they must actual actively do good. 

When good deeds arise naturally out of the players choices, especially when players rejected other options that were more beneficial to them, it is immensely satisfying. Far more than if players are just assumed to be heroic by default. It gives agency and meaning to player choice.

It also teaches and reinforces that fact that kindness is something that takes effort which can be an important moral when playing with younger players.

An important thing to remember when putting this to practice, though, is that even if being unkind, cruel, or selfish would net the players more benefits they should still get rewards from the kind option. Just adjust accordingly. Save the thief's life? Brand new best friend. 

Rewards for kindness should be in the relationships the players build within the world.

I think ultimately the key advantage to this is just that it is so much more satisfying for players to decide to be the heroes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Queerness, Worldbuilding Culture, & Ursula K. Le Guin

So this post was prompted by my love for Ewa's wonderful Worldbuilding Notes YouTube channel which you should defiantly go check out, like right now. I'll wait.

River Basin | Getting Dressed by Worldbuilding Notes
From The River Basin: The Queens and their King

So, one of the big influences Ewa cites is Ursula K. Le Guin, a favorite author of mine as well. This got me thinking about how we worldbuild culture in our games (as well as more broadly in speculative fiction). And how we depict and include queerness and diversity in our works.

Ursula K. Le Guin - Wikipedia

The most common method I have seen (both in game worlds and story worlds) is the "Everyone" style, where gay, trans, non-binary folk, and all are included and fully accepted in the world. Essentially the no prejudice, no hate model.

Now, and let me be clear about this, There Is Nothing Wrong With This Way Of Doing Things, it creates a more diverse setting and incorporates queer people into the fiction. As well, for many, it offers a safe refuge from real world hate. People can and should still make worlds like this.

But for the purposes of this post, I'd like to explore a different method of doing things

When endeavoring to make stranger, more interesting cultures it is important to keep in mind that much of what we consider as normal is utterly baseless and only a symptom of our culture, not necessarily a universal. This applies to almost all matters from gender to warfare. What is and isn't considered obscene. What is and isn't masculine or feminine. All of these things are potentially points to vary and change in pursuit of a more unique culture. 

However one must also consider the ways in which the environment will shape a culture. Things do not exist in a vacuum after all. It is here where I would recommend watching Ewa's videos again for they contain many examples of how environments, and especially magical or supernatural influences, can shape how a society develops. Also they are just a delight to watch.

So, when making cultures for fictional worlds one should take the time to consider ones personal bias and cultural norms and decide how this cultural may differ to those. Is weaponry obscene? How does marriage work? 

Now back around to queerness. It should go without saying that modern (and especially "western") ideas about gender and sexuality are far, far, so very far from being universal. In many real societies across the globe queer people have often been deeply tied into cultural practices.

Essentially the point I'm making is to Include Queerness In Your Cultures As Integrated Parts Of That Culture. Consider how sexuality and gender tie into spirituality. Consider how they don't tie into spirituality. How does gender work? Do people stay the same gender over time? How does this tie into what work people do? Are there groups that are marginalized in this culture?

So this post was a bit ramble and probably not as concise or clear as it should have been. I'll probably do a followup sometime. If you have any questions about my reason please feel free to ask!  (also go watch Worldbuilding Notes. Dooo itttt.)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Mister Slip


You can find him fishing off the end of a pier down in the Red Quarter on sunny days. Elsewise you can find him selling his catch down at the fish market. 

He's an older, well muscled man, skin turned a deep brown from decades of sun. An ancient unkept beard obscures his near constant frown. A loincloth and a bright, golden-yellow turban are his only clothes. His fingers are long, gnarled, and incredibly quick.

Mister Slip's customers respect him well for he sells the finest fish this side of the Old Wall and does not take kindly to rudeness. 

He is a kind man though despite his omnipresent frown and little tolerance for insult and often gives gifts to struggling customers.

Mister Slip is also one of the finest thieves ever born.  

A lifetimes worth of practice has honed his skill to a point. He is far more agile than his age would imply and if so inclined can contort his way through the narrowest of gaps. Picking your pocket is a trivial matter to him, you won't even notice an item is gone till he's holding in front of you.

He does not thieve often, and frankly finds the whole matter tedious nowadays. He much prefers to spend his time fishing in the sun. 

Mister Slip
Dex 18, Cha 16, A Well Placed Smack (d6)
- Wants to peacefully fish and help his neighbors
- Says he is "far to old to fight" but can and will still beat your ass

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Salt Mummies

Those who in eternity serve the Salt God, he who Preserves, become Salt Mummies and are set to guard the ancient temples and preservation tombs of their faith. So long has it been since they were mummified that little of their faith remains. Yet they soldier on.

Ancient Iranian Salt Mine Mummies - Ancient History Encyclopedia

A Salt Mummy is created by first either drowning the volunteer (and they must be willing) in salt water or suffocating them. No blood must be spilled. Once deceased the body is carefully cut open and all the organs are removed and preserved in a canopic jar full of salt. Then the body itself is placed to mummify in a barrel or pit of salt. 

On the third month of this process the body blemishes and wounds will began to knit and be filled by cysts of salt. When the entire body is intact the newly reborn Salt Mummy will awaken for eternity.

Despite their shriveled, papery form a Salt Mummy is very much alive and aware of their surroundings. They are lucid and usually well-spoken (seeing as only the most prestigious would be interred) and more often than not are polite and welcoming to visitors.

However they will fly murderous rages and easily butcher the unwary if you seek or have disturbed or profaned their sacred places.

As long as their canopic jar is intact a Salt Mummy cannot die. Any wounds they take will knit themselves over with salt cysts. Some of the more ancient ones have almost completely been replaced with salt. The others greatly honor these sorts for they have been replaced almost entirely with the truest essence of preservation.

Salt Mummy-
Str 12, Cha 13, HP 6, Clawing (d6)
Any injury will heal at 1 Str/1 hp per round if not actively prevented.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Elephant's Revenge

Philadelphia Museum of Art

A smooth, elegant flintlock pistol carved from ivory. To it is bound the tortured, ill-content ghost of the very beast killed to make it's polished white stock. The gun's shot echoes with the death wails of that elephant and its bullets gouge victims like tusks.

The pistol's maker died not longer after its completion. They flung themselves under the feet of a local circus elephant. The client who commissioned it was said to have acquired a disturbing love for dueling afterward. Not many realized that she would consistently pick fights with hunters and poachers. Particularly those of big game. 

The pistol has since wound its way through many hands till it ended up in the private collection of the Duke of Violets, noted collector of esoteric weaponry. There it sits in a locked glass case only occasionally emitting a low mournful trumpet for its terrible fate.

The Elephants Revenge (flintlock pistol)
- does d6 dmg normally, d8 dmg against hunters and poachers
- owner recognizes hunters and poachers as such on sight
- owner feels the urge to kill these sorts
- if the owner is such themselves on a 1 they suffer a misfire and later that day they will suffer some tragic mishap while cleaning their weapon

Friday, July 17, 2020

HP as Exhaustion

Now I know that abstract HP versus meat-points, HP as fighting skill and etc has long been covered by a variety of folks. But I think I'll throw in my probably not so novel idea anyway.

How about HP as breathe, as stamina, as your HP winds down you become more exhausted. You can't dodge anymore. You can't move fast enough anymore. 

If it is explicitly stressed in narration and the description that HP grinding down is the player getting exhausted and losing their breathe than I think it would add an extra layer of immersion to the world that really only books and a few movies I think have managed to capture well. Players would probably be able to relate to characters who also get exhausted and tired and sore in a way that you don't really get from unstoppable murder machine people. 

It also ties in really nicely to overall aesthetic and play-style of 'gritty' dungeon crawling.

As well abstracting HP into exhaustion allows you to neatly create a mechanic to deal with fatigue/encumbrance. HP just drops as you become fatigued.

Now this of course works best with Into the Odd's style of low hp auto combat that quickly wears you down and then is quickly replenished.

Not necessarily that groundbreaking, but maybe it'll give some one a good idea.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Fleshcrafters Guild and Anekang the Parts-Demon

The Noble Guild of Fleshcrafters, Barber-Surgeons, and Physicians
    Also known as the Cutters, Stich-Me-Ups, and Organleggers Guild

Principled students in the art of surgery and the meatier side of medicine. The Guild's repute is both honorable and vile. Many a life has been saved by their hand but they are still looked upon with suspicion and accusations of foul deeds done to the body. 

Aftermath: Marston Moor, 1644 1: Pikeman, Marquis of Newcastle's Regiment 2: Musketeer, Earl of Manchester's Regiment 3: Surgeon

Not all of these accusations are illegitimate. Many a guild member will gladly pay gravediggers, corpse thieves, and back alley muggers to supply them with fresh samples for study. And their experiments are far from ethical.

But the Guild's services are vital and they have a monopoly. Would be freelance surgeons tend to have deadly encounters in back alleys with folks with names like "Bad Steven" and "Toothbreaker John." The Guild ensures that if fixing up is what's needed only they can provide. And so their more illicit practices are tolerated or ignored.

A licensed guild fleshcrafter can provide such services as...
  • Shaves and haircuts
  • Bloodletting & tooth pulling
  • Stitching and closing wounds
  • Amputation (they will ask to keep the appendage)
  • Removal of cysts, organs, arrows, etc...
  • Surgery done on major organs
  • Other related services
Prices tend to resemble such (all are guild mandated)...
  • Shaves, haircuts, and bloodletting -- 1cp (5p to 10p)
  • Stitches and minor surgery -- 20cp (20p)
  • Amputation -- 5sp (50p)
  • Major surgery -- 2gp (200p)
  • Specialized surgery -- 5gp (500p or higher)
Those seeking remedies for headaches, bad stomachs, or other such ills would be better off seeking an apothecary, hedge-witch, or like.

Anekang the Parts-Demon
If you do not feel at home in your body or greatly desire to change your face, you may try to seek out a particularly little shrine at the end of a particular back alley. Or a particularly forest path. Or particularly mountain cave. 

There at a humble little candle lit shrine insulated and warm and disconnected from the outside world, you will meet a moving conglomerate of eyes, ears, faces, organs, countless appendages in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and colors. This is Anekang the Parts-Demon. 

It is always polite and will offer you hot tea and a seat and will make conversation asking you about your life and family and interests. Eventually it will ask what you wish to change. It is always kind and understanding no matter how rude you are.

When you answer (and you always will) it will smile with its too many faces and it will show you its selection. It will not have everything you could possibly desire, but it will have a reasonable assortment. 

When you make your choice (and you always will) it will present you with a hand. Shake it and the deal is made. The next thing you know you are different and Anekang is discreetly tucking your parts away in its collection for some other soul to use. It will offer you a mirror for your use.

And when all is done it will bid you a good day and you will leave. If you were particularly polite it might give you a parting gift of sweet smelling tea leaf that will always put your mind and body at ease.

The Fleshcrafters Guild has placed a bounty of 2000p to kill or capture the Parts-Demon in every place they ply their trade. They claim that the demon is disrupting and stealing business. Or perhaps they merely wish to study it. No one has yet claimed the bounty.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Too Many Spiders In A Set Of Clothes

Too Many Spiders
You are a writhing, tumultuous mass of arachnids stuffed into a pair of ill fitting pants and an overcoat (optional hat). You could be mistaken for a human at a distance or in the dark, but anyone who draws close to you realizes you're actually a great big pile of spiders. 

<image removed to avoid trauma>

As an amorphous blob of barely cooperating spiders you can create small amounts of silk at will (up to a garrotes worth in one sitting) you are not really damaged by slashing and piercing (though you can be torn apart or squished) and you can hide small objects among yourself/ves.

Start with a spider silk garrote (d6) and shabby clothes.

Geography of the Tidal Flats

The Great Tidal Flats
A massive mudflat, mostly submerged at high tide and revealed at low, stretching for many many miles. It is home to a myriad of crustaceans, various species of mollusks, a proliferance of sea birds, some starfish, and lots and lots of kelp. 

Korean Mudflats
Like this but really really big

The Flats
The low lying muddy areas that submerge at high tide. At low tide the area is picked by human and animal alike in search of mollusks and kelp to consume. Driftwood is also collected. This is where the families's great Siege Crabs do battle over territory disputes. Each family has a particular section of the mudflats claimed as their territory and hold the sole foraging rights to it.

The Rocky Shelves
Sparse, rock outcroppings ranging in size from a house to a ballpark. Here is where the families and their crab-steeds shelter at high tide. Rest is had and freshwater is collected. Many seabirds keep their nests here. It is a neutral space, little conflict happens here.

The Tides
Daily life flows to the tune of the tide. During the Morning High Tide people awaken, the great crabs stir, and preparations are made for the day's activities. During the Evening High Tide people rest and the night shifts awaken to ready for the nights low tide.
The families maintain baroque tidal calendars that measure the seasonal fluctuations.


Far from Bastion, on the distant mudflats roam mighty crustaceans blatantly defying the square cube law with their massive bulk. Atop their carapaces have been carved fortresses and cities for the families that rule this place. 

The families guide their beasts across the Tidal Flats foraging for mollusks, kelp, and pearls. And on occasion, the families FIGHT! Goading their fortress steeds into battle! Crustacean versus crustacean. Claw, cannon, and grappling hook! As the families do battle over territory.

spider crab fight | George Karbus Photography

SEIGE CRABS OF THE TIDAL FLATS is micro-setting loosely tied into the Bastionland 'verse about the distant land of the Tidal Flats and the strange culture that inhabit it.

It is currently in production.

Featured within will be the details of the High Crab Families and a guide to generate your own. Details about the culture of the Tidal Flats. Currency, Treasure, Trade. Unique monsters. Adventure hooks. And many, many random tables.

Coming soon.... To a crab fighting ring near you.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Thoughts On Verisimilitude

I don't seek realism in my games. It's a fools errand and a pretentious one at that. Rather I seek verisimilitude in my games.

Instead of chasing realism it does far more to seek to give a feeling of realism. 

So instead of creating complicated tangled rules to try and replicate the real world (old AD&D is particularly guilty of this) I prefer to work with simpler mechanics that can be used to give the world weight and a sense of reality, even if they do not necessarily simulate it.

Slot based encumbrance is a good example of this line of thinking. Whereas some versions of D&D have sought the (arguably) more realistic route of counting up all the individual weights of items and tallying them up, I instead use a slot based system where particular items take up one slot.

Sure its less "realistic" but mechanically its simpler, easier to use and remember and story-wise it has much the same affect.

Another example would be Dungeons that "make sense." Dungeons are a fantastical construct and so don't really adhere to the rules of reality quite well. To make a truly realistic dungeon would be to make a relatively boring one. But by still thinking logically about the fantastical environment. Where are the choke points? Where's water come from? You can anchor even a fantastical dungeon into the world and provide more ways for players to interact with it.

And at the end of the day, there is the matter that the game is fundamentally one of fantasy and the imagination. It does not necessarily need to operate under the normal rules of reality. After all we already have magic and it can be awesome to have a fighter cleave a foe straight in two even if that isn't the most "realistic." 

Ultimately verisimilitude or realism are merely tools to make our worlds feel more real, more lived in, to give weight and consequence. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Fighting Styles for Into the Odd

Each style must be learned from a master, depending on the style this may require going to great lengths, traveling to remote locations, and making expensive bargains.
Once learned they can always be used as long as the relevant criteria is meant.

There is theoretically no limit to how many styles can be learned however generally only one style can be used at a time.
Ex: Miriam knows the halfsword technique and the gentlemen's guard in order to use the first she must drop the second but can use once again next turn.

 Twirling Style  Always do blast damage when using a greatsword/montante/zweihander.  
 Urchin's Way As long as you are filthy you can dodge blows, take half damage.
 Zero Blades Style   Fight with nothing but sword hilts, do 1d4 dmg but take half.
 Halfsword Technique  Requires two hands, ignores one point of armour when used.
 Still Mountain Style If you do absolutely nothing for one turn you do max dmg the next.
 Gentleman's Guard If you have agreed to a fair & proper duel gain one point of armour.
 Eclipse Technique Incant the proper words and cut the shadows loose to darken the world.
 Hermans Ol' Special Execute this one move and break all of an opponents fingers instantly.
 Devil's Style Snort brimstone before battle and erupt in flame, 1d4 dmg too grapplers.
 Hidden Blade Art At any time a player may declare they reveal a hidden blade. Once a day.
 Carpenter's Style You can drive a nail/peg/or like completely in with one blow.
 Bare Knuckle Style Do 1d6 dmg when unarmed and using your bare fists.

(Many of these are extremely unbalanced. Use at your own risk)

Friday, July 10, 2020

Fancy Hats (and murder...)

I've been working on an Into the Odd hack for a bit now that I've tentatively titled Fancy Hats (and murder...) it's a game about fashion arms races, mercenaries, and gallivanting across war stricken worlds.

Albert Robida

The core premise is that the players start as the various charismatic leaders of a mercenary band and spend their time fighting for power, money, and hopefully an eventual retirement fund.

I think it will use a modification of Gundobad's mass combat rules with maybe some further stuff borrowed from Enthusiastic Skeleton Boys.

There will be rules for how stylishly players dress and it's affects on morale and charisma.

There will be rules for supplies and pillaging. 

I'll probably post some things on the various sub-systems in progress.

1d6 Things to Turn Trolls Into

1. Troll Fat Candles
        Burn smoky and give off poor light but can last days to weeks.

2. Limb Replacements
        Chop off a troll appendage and stick to the stump. Burn wayward growths.

3. Healing Elixirs
        Alchemists will pay top dollar for troll flesh bits to mix into what ever dangerous concoction they're selling this week.

4. Troll Oil Lamps
        Burns cleaner then troll fat and lasts just as long but can risk creating a ravenous troll ooze which will consume anything organic it can grab as it reconstitutes itself.

5. Endless Food Source
        Pros: never runs out as long as fed. Cons: tastes horrible and might try to eat you back.

6. Time Bomb
        Drop a troll chunk in your enemies sewer or grain store, by the time they find it it will have grown to dangerous sizes and probably run out of food.

1d20 Magnificent Hats

  1. Absurdly large and colorful turban, 12 daggers hidden within.
  2. A lobster-tail pot helmet with a beautiful meter long peacock feather plume.
  3. A shako with another shako balanced atop it.
  4. Jaunty commissars cap gilded in silver and purple of color.
  5. Colorfully patterned top hat with cockades about the brim.
  6. Great helm with antler horns and a miniature stags head crest wrought in ivory.
  7. A pickelhaube with built in earplugs and a tiny cannon.
  8. A galea with a veil and crest made of magical flames.
  9. Massive bicorne with its own spyglass armed monkey.
  10. A ushanka that is actually a tiny bear.
  11. Just Henry the Eighth's horned helmet
  12. Meter and a half tall wizards hat with built in compartments.
  13. Houndskull bascinet shaped to look like a pig snout.
  14. A sallet painted all the colors of the rainbow with a 'queer & here' sticker.
  15. A black and white checkerboard patterned kepi with a single red gem front-piece. 
  16. Bronze church bell with an eyesight cut into it.
  17. Straw sunhat interwoven with removable piano wire.
  18. An ulfire colored beret that is always warm.
  19. A metal sedge hat painted with scenes from Hieronymus Bosch paintings.
  20. Bowler hat with built in mechanical orchestra.

The Orrery Turns!

It has begun.
Let The Worlds Spin Anew!