Serpent Men carving out Stone Halls

I’m currently editing, doing some minimal design, and finishing the gods-damned bestiary in my Old-School game system, Stone Halls & Serpent Men.

The elevator pitch is: A small role-playing game for running Old-School adventures.

The keys there are small: About 20 pages, with everything. I’ve made smaller, of course, but not that can run a long-term campaign of old modules.

Old-School: The Old-School Renaissance for me was entirely satisfied by Supplement V: Carcosa, Swords & Wizardry, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. But Carcosa’s a super deviant SF/Lovecraft setting, and the latter two are somewhat long, discursive, full of optional rules or details you don’t need if you’re creative enough to Referee in the first place.

New, less trashy, more flexible game designs, with no page of OGL legalese gibberish, don’t accomplish the goal of rolling characters in 10 minutes and crawling, desperate and dehydrated, into B4 The Lost City.

In Jeff Rients’ threefold model, SH&SM is Retro, maybe Retro-Stupid. I’ve done one thing I think is really clever, and the rest is a functional listing of the absolute minimal rules needed to play.

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Surveillance: Lasers & Feelings, Scrolls & Swords

Surveillance is my category for not-quite-reviews of other games. Often I get a game, read it, mine it for ideas, but never get around to playing it.

Lasers & Feelings from onesevendesign, and the fantasy variant Scrolls & Swords. Go read them now, they’re 1 page each, you have time.

This is beyond “lite”, yet a little crunchier than my old SIX WORD RPG (“Describe character. Roll dice. Gamemaster decides.”). The style & role descriptors are used to get more dice for actions. I’d probably require that everyone choose different ones, maybe put them on cards? The cards could be face-up, and everyone fights for the card they want, or dealt at random. At first a Sexy Doctor and Sexy Engineer and Other Sexy Engineer sounds fine, but the catfighting over who’s sexiest or senior engineer? Don’t need it.

The ship in Lasers & Feelings, and the comatose Captain Darcy, are kind of boring, like if it has powerful Fightercraft, the Pilot is enabled but nobody else really is. The Bond with fellow characters in Scrolls & Swords is much more interesting.

The basic mechanic is clever. Using your number to represent two traits, and adding extra dice for circumstances, works perfectly. However, the “Laser Feelings” (exactly your number) coming up so often might be annoying; maybe only if ALL rolled dice match your number you get Laser Feelings?

I think I don’t like the lack of combat tracking. “It goes wrong” and “inflicts a complication, harm, or cost” really isn’t enough for me. Perhaps -1d per injury?

Now the awesome bit: The Space Adventure! While this is a very short table, only 6 mostly vague ideas for each, the mix-match results still generate a reasonable variety of adventures. Rolling 6, 5, 3, 3: Alien Brain Worms want to Build the Star Dreadnaught which will Enslave a Planet. Fair enough. Why aren’t they brain-worming? Maybe this planet has brain-worm scanners. Obvious plot hook is to sabotage the construction, or evacuate the planet.

So steal that idea, but with many more specific entries.

Nightmare Eve

Some years ago, in a fairly foul mood at the “wacky Halloween” festivities, I got to thinking about what a real All Hallows Eve would be like.

The dead or demons come into the world; from where? That leads to my version of the Underworld. Why only this day? That leads to ripping off Prince of Darkness. They must be shapeshifters, given the costumes. They like playing with us, given the “trick or treat” choice. So they’re predatory, but at the higher level they’re herding us, they need our fear.

The first time I ran this was in Eden Studios’ Witchcraft/All Flesh Must be Eaten, but it really cried out for a less heroic game, something with a horrible downward spiral. The 3d6 system in this is unkind, to say the least. Damage makes you less and less competent to escape or accomplish anything. Pretty soon you’re just throwing your dead meat in the way of a monster to let someone else escape. Note the Tech rules. That’s your closest thing to magic, the only advantage you have.

Of the 3 groups I’ve run it for, one of regulars, two pick-ups, nobody’s made it to the next day, so the long-term campaign ideas are ludicrous and untested.

Happy nightmares.

Raise Dead

The first try at this blog sputtered out because I was focusing on work, and already had my old KUOI blog. Or I’m just lazy. Anyway, this is back on. New style, new content.

I’ve got all these little RPGs I’ve made for one-shots, or none-shots in┬ácases where I never got to run them. I’m still full of piss and vinegar about games, may as well rant here. Shooting for once a week, maybe even once a day. Will see.

Addenda: Theming is hard. “Lovecraft” theme which I tried first is +1: an awesome name, +2: looks great, but -1: has a menu you can’t remove from the title.

“Colinear”, which I’m trying now, +1: lets me put up a single banner image without a menu, +2: sidebar looks better, but -1: has a dumb name for a single-column blog, -2: doesn’t box each post

I may have to pay actual money so I can add a goddamned ruler line between posts, and maybe use real Futura titles instead of a shitty clone font.

(Yes, obviously as a former web developer I could give a damn and write my own again, but I hate everything about the web so it’s easier to be a consumer.)