Saturday, November 30, 2013

Encounters on the Sea of Fish

Because I want to eventually put together a Land of Flowers campaign, I probably need some tables for the Sea of Fish, which you'll probably be sailing back and forth across to reach the Land of Flowers.  It's a big, subtropical sea comparable to the Caribbean, and full of interesting shit.

You'll forgive me if I don't detail the dangerous sea creatures too much.  I don't want to ruin the surprise.  (You think you know what an octopus monkey is?  You have no idea what an octopus monkey is.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Map of Centerra

I like maps.  Not everyone does, and that's cool.  Have you ever looked at all the different types of projections there are?  Doesn't Cahill's butterfly map look sweet?  Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as the Mississippi's meander maps?  Or the reductionist perfection of a good subway map?

Here's the 15th version of my map of Centerra (one of my settings).  Every place on the map has at least a couple paragraphs for it (even if they're not technically written down) and many places have a couple of pages.  I also have about a half-dozen detail maps at 3x or 4x magnification of all the little interesting bits and bobs that look more interesting up close.

It's just a functional map.  Something I can edit easily, and without any adornments.  It's tough to see on small monitors, but if you're curious enough to zoom in, there's a lot of stuff down there.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

OMFG Weapons

This is another post where I owe a lot to all the other rulesets that I've read and quietly assimilated.  Thank you +Wil McKinnee +Brendan S +Logan Knight +Jeff Russell +Paolo Greco and honestly like five other people that I'm forgetting.

Your blogs and discussions have guided the sulci of my misshaped brain into more potent configurations.


Any adventurer is proficient with any weapon (except for really weird ones or improvised ones).

There are three kinds of weapons.

Quick: This includes daggers, small clubs, and pistols (if you use 'em). Little one-handed stuff. Quick weapons deal 1d6 damage. This is not modified by STR. Most can be thrown with a 10' range. You add your DEX mod to attack rolls. Additionally, daggers can be used while grappling or swallowed, and small clubs can deal non-lethal damage without any penalty (normal weapons get -2 to hit if used to attack non-lethally).

Balanced: This includes swords, maces, axes. Also 2-handed staffs. Big one-handed stuff. Shields count as Balanced weapons when you attack with them, but they also get -2 to hit.  Spears can be thrown.  Balanced Weapons deal 1d6 damage, modified by STR bonuses if it's a melee weapon. You add your DEX OR STR mod to attack rolls.

Powerful: This includes greatswords, long spears, giant hammers. Huge two-handers. Powerful Weapons deal 1d8 damage, modified by STR bonus. You add your STR mod to attack rolls.  Reach weapons let you attack over your ally's back, from the second rank, and also let you ready an attack against a charge, letting you make an automatic attack roll against a charging enemy before they reach you.

Bows deal 1d6 damage and let you add your STR mod, but crossbows deal 1d8 damage. Firearms are expensive, loud, unreliable, and rare, (think of them as magic wands that anyone can use) but pistols do 1d6 damage and rifles deal 1d10, and each bullet fired (including the first bullet) gives +1 to hit and +1 to damage, up to the magazine capacity of the gun (still only one attack roll, though). Ranged weapons can fire up to 10x their range increment (usually 20'), but they get a -4 penalty for every range increment beyond the first. You add your DEX mod to attack rolls.

Thrown weapons can be thrown up to 5x their range increment (usually 10'), but get a -4 penalty for every range increment beyond the first. You add your DEX mod to attack rolls.

Improvised Weapons like shields and frying pans all get -2 to hit, but otherwise function like whatever weapon category they are most similar to. Unarmed attacks are Improvised Weapons that deal 1d4 damage (no modifiers) that is always non-lethal.

It takes a negligible amount of time to draw a weapon from fast inventory, except for Powerful weapons and then it doesn't matter because you're walking around with them in your hands anyway. There no scabbard for a halberd. However, sheathing stuff usually requires an action.

Normal weapons don't work underwater unless they're piercing weapons (you can thrust with them), and even those get -2 to hit.

As long are you are holding a weapon (even a dagger or a stewpot) you get +1 to AC.

Design Notes:

Since strength doesn't affect quick weapon damage, weak characters with negative strength modifiers are actually better off with a dagger than with a sword. Neat. I know bows are built around a certain pull strength but fuck it.

Ranged Weapon penalties for firing at big ranges is harsh, as it should be. Note that archers can still hit groups of people at 200', they just can't hit individual ones.

The Held Weapon AC rule is sort of a compromise between LotFP base 12 AC and other systems' base 10 AC. It also gives a player another good reason to avoid fighting unarmed, and helps reflect that even a stick can help you defend yourself. Using this, a player with full plate and a shield will have 18 AC. . . yeah, that feels about right.

Your Offhand

An Empty Hand can be useful. It lets you catch thrown things and use items from your Fast Inventory, among other things.

Torches need no explaining.

Two-Handed Weapon Grip does +1 damage. Powerful Weapons require this, and therefore do 1d8+1 damage (plus Strength bonus, if applicable).

A Paired Weapon gives +1 to hit. This is either a dagger or a matching 1-handed weapon.

Shields give you +1 to AC.

You've seen these rules a dozen times elsewhere, I'm sure.

Weapon Breakage and Decay

Whenever you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll, you get a Ding on the weapon.

Whenever you get a Ding on a weapon, look at the damage roll (just the naked roll; don't add any mods). If the damage roll is less than the number of Dings, the weapon gets a Break. (Any Dings remain.)

Whenever you get a Break, the weapon gets -1 to hit and does -1 damage. However, firearms become unusable as soon as they get their first Break.

After one or two Breaks, you're better off using an improvised weapon or even a crappy goblin sword or something.

Weapons can be repaired. Give it a baseline of, say, 1gp for a Ding and 10gp for Break? It'll take a couple of days, though. Keep track of Dings and Breaks by writing little “X”s and “-1”s beside your weapon.

Shitty Weapons get a Break whenenever you roll a natural 1 (all Dings become Breaks).

Masterwork Weapons only get a Ding if the damage roll is an odd number.

Magic Weapons are masterwork weapons that only get damaged when fighting demons, dragons, and other epic shit.  However, they can only be repaired by equally epic blacksmiths.

Design Note.
This is the fastest way I can think of to model weapon damage with the least work. It doesn't introduce any additional rolls, and keeps an element of chance, while at the same time, the first Ding never leads to a Break, so players always get a warning before the tip snaps off their favorite sword.

Weapon Mastery

This is a thing that only Fighters can do. With a specific weapon, (like sword serial number 283743) you must begin keeping track of your kills. This uses up one of your skill slots. Once you achieve a certain number of killing blows against challenging opponents. You get a degree of mastery with the weapon.

10 kills give you +1 damage with the weapon.
30 kills let you use a weapon's fightmaster ability (see below).
100 kills give you an additional +1 damage with the weapon.

This incentivization means that fighters will be aggressively practicing with weapons that they want to master, and fishing for killing blows. I like to keep a strict cap on damage inflation, and this is the only way for a fighter to model swifter lethality compared to a thief, short of a magic weapon. I'm also a fan of uncoupling player advancement from the strict XP/Level system when possible. Also, tracking kills is fun! So hopefully the fighter won't mind tracking the number of kills they get with each weapon, and other classes won't even have to bother with it.

Fightmaster Abilities

Fighters get additional bonuses from using weapons. The following stuff applies to fighters only, and only once they've gotten 30 kills with that unique weapon.

Swords get +1 to hit humanoids.

Axes do x3 damage rolled on a critical (instead of just doing max damage)

Bludgeons do x2 damage to prone creatures, and little flat creatures, like snakes and small turtles.

Flails ignore shields and automatically give armor a Break when they do 6 or more damage.

Staffs give you +1 to AC when wielded defensively*, and can be used like any class of weapon (quick, balanced, or powerful).

Stabby Polearms (spears, lances) let you deal 2x damage on a charge or when readied against a charge.  (Other polearms function as swords or axes with reach.  Glaives are like swords and halberds are like axes, for example.)

Shields ignore the -2 penalty to hit for non-proficiency (they become proficient in it). If you've killed 30 dudes with a shield, you can wield it as well as a rookie wields a sword.

Thrown Weapons and Ranged Weapons let you reduce all range penalties by 4 points (effectively doubling the range at which you have no penalty).

Design Note:

Weapons are designed to tempt a fighter into carrying one of each kind. Swords are good against orcs or in duels. Daggers are pretty essential. Axes are a good multipurpose weapon, but are unreliable. Big bludgeons are good if teamwork is employed and possible, and are balanced by the fact that it usually takes an ally an action to trip an opponent. Flails are good for bad guys (as they should be!) because they will absolutely shred your PC's armor. Sneaky types might want a small club to knock people out. Staffs are versatile, and can be good for fighter-caster types. Polearms have their niche, as always, and shields have their place, as well.

So while the other dudes are content with a sword and a dagger, the fighter has an incentive to hang a few more weapons on his belt. Also remember that some monsters are vulnerable/resistant to other damage types (bludgeoning/slashing/piercing).

I've tried to give each class slightly different mechanics to play with, and this is what the Fighters get.

In some cases historical usage has been sacrificed at the altar of convenience.  Apologies.

I know that some of these mechanics yield fiddly little +1 to attack/damage shit (which is usually the least interesting and significant of all proposed rules) but for main weapons the player will only have to calculate it once, and then the significance of that +1 will be magnified across hundreds of uses.

Attack Options

Available to anyone.  I'll do grappling/tricky shit in another post; this one is already too long.

Attack Aggressively: +1 to hit, -2 to AC

Attack Defensively: +1 to AC, -2 to hit

Total Defense: +2 to AC, make no attacks.

Magic Weapons

Firearms are basically magic weapons, even though they aren't magic.  Even though they're loud, rare, and unreliable, they're still better than most other weapons.  Lots of demons have auras that prevent combustion, though, which stops engines, torches, and guns.

Most magic weapons (+1 to hit and/or damage) are just non-magical weapons that have been made with exquisite craftsmanship from exotic materials.  Adamantine, chargale, alabaster black, tectoric materium, moon spittle, etc.  So they aren't really "magic" weapons, I guess.

True magic weapons are made by legendary blacksmiths possessed by demons or angels, immediately before their deaths.  You'll probably never find one.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Religion, Loosely

Once there were many gods.  There was Toranga-lusus, the god of creation and destruction, who created the world from the air and then destroys it with fire and waves.  There was Boru-galalan, the god of war and peace, who created humans and animals to make war upon each other and then find peace.  There was Mogo-vatika, the god of law and chaos, who gave us names and the madness of old age.  Then there was Toa-Makakang, the god of fertility and starvation, who invented sex after one hundred years of confusion.

All of our gods had two names and two faces.  Two genders and two domains.  They are all dead now, but we still remember then.

When Toa-Makakang gave birth to the Leviathan, the sky was torn asunder and the stars fell to the earth.  The earth spat venom, to kill the Leviathan, and from the cloud-mansions there issued lightning to strike the creature dead.  Finally, all of the waters of the earth came and piled atop Balalang, to drown the Leviathan.  We all drowned then.

Monday, November 18, 2013


I don't think Nalta will play much of a part in a Land of Flowers game, but whatever.

Nalta and the Glimmering Isles

Seven Years Upon The Fish

The greatest ocean in the world is the Sea of Fish, and the men who sail upon are the greatest of sailors.

The Sea of Fish is sometimes also called the "Fishy Blue" or sometimes just the "Fish".  A sailor might say something like, "aye, I spent seven years upon the Fish, an watched her swallow me mates and me son, though I still love her, I do".

It is said that the gillmen call it the "Sea of Apes" because of all the humans sailing on it.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Part of my plan to flesh out Centerra, the setting for the Land of Flowers.  I can't show you the dungeons, but I can show you a few of the more relevant places around the Sea of Fish.

Brynth, the Land of Doglaw Nakedsword:

Brynth, and capitol city of Patra

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Armor and Inventory Jr.

Alright, wow.  People are interested in inventory systems.  (I'm so glad I'm not the only one.)

First, I probably should apologize.  Yesterday's post was the synthesis of a dozen other brilliant inventory systems that I've seen and osmosed.  And since attribution is important, thank you +Logan Knight +Brendan S +Jack Mack +Jack Shear +Thomas Fitzgerald +Erik Westmarch +Scrap Princess +James Raggi (and all the people I'm forgetting) for sharing my derangement for armor and inventory systems, and then writing about it.  I'm sorry I didn't attempt to credit you all (although you can see why I didn't).

I also apologize in advance for if I ever write about weapons.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Armor and Inventory

You've already seen most of these rules in some form or another, but I wanted to write them all down here because GODDAMMIT encumbrance and helmet-scavenging don't have to be complex and they can even be fucking FUN.


You have a number of inventory slots equal to your Strength score.  So, if you have Str 13, you can carry 13 things.  (This may seem low, but I don't like to think of adventurers clanking around like thrift stores or hoarding newspapers like old ladies.  Leave the rolled-up paintings on the donkey.)

If this your inventory slots are exceeded by 1-5 items, you are halfway encumbered (you struggle to swim  and move a little slower).  If this number is exceeded by 6-10 items, you are fully encumbered (you sink like a stone and move at half speed). If you want to carry more than that, you're just staggering around, like a dude trying to carry all his groceries from the car in one trip.

A number of your inventory slots are fast inventory, equal to half of your Dexterity score.  These are items that you can reach instantly--hanging from your belt, in a scabbard, whatever.  Draw a box on your character sheet (top of the inventory, maybe) to indicate this.  So, if you have Dex 11, you have 5 items that you can draw/use at a moments notice.  Everything else is in your backpack, and takes 1d6 rounds to dig out, or 2d6 rounds if you want to avoid scattering shit all over the floor.

You can buy a fancy backpack that gives you +2 inventory slots, or you can buy a fancy bandoleer that gives you +1 fast inventory, but you can't wear both at the same time.  Your players will be fighting over who gets the pocketed belt and it will be awesome.

The Goblin Library

In order to promote literacy, I wrote a couple of pdfs.  They're books of monsters.

Both books have been slightly updated to versions 1.1.  It's mostly styling bullshit that no one will ever notice, but I added a few paragraphs to the Book of Tigers and the Book of Mice got three new (minor) pieces of art.  So now you can see what a popkin looks like.  Yay!

Here are the downloads:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Taming the Mouse

We're all such fools.

If you take a step back and look at all of human history, we've been mostly wrong about mostly everything most of the time.  At least, a lot of the natural science stuff.  The best authorities used the best available methods and still came up false.  And I firmly believe in atoms and the Bernoulli effect and the tectonic plates, but what if I'm wrong.

It's an infantile train of thought but it is good for cultivating unconventional trains.

Anyway, there once was a time when people thought that mice grew out of riverbanks.  They knew mice had babies like other animals had babies, but mice totally just popped out of the mud ever summer as a secondary way of making mice.  How else can you explain how come there's no mice in April and fucking gazillions of them in May?

And while this sounds stupid nowadays (lol at pharaoh) it was the best explanation available at the time.  And there's certainly no reason why this erroneous delicacy can't be the god-given truth in a fantasy setting.

So here's a book of mice.  Low HD monsters (usually 1 HD) that are formed through mundane magic.  That's not an oxymoron.  The processes that generate mice in a riverside are as mysterious and as logical as plate tectonics.

You can download it here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yet Another Damn Skill System

A few days ago, I got into a small discussion--barely a chitchat, really--with +Paolo Greco about our mutual love for diminishing returns in dice systems.  (He has a elegant example over at his blog.)

I've come to realize that there are a lot of ways to generate different trends with dice.  This is because I think about dice a lot.  I walk around with a couple in my pocket.  I fall asleep with dice in my bed.  Once I drank too much at a party and vomited, and that was like, 30-40% dice.  I think I rolled a 23.

Anyway, here's a diminishing return system for skills.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Another Damn Skill System

It's like a big smash up of Burning Wheel, BRP, and every single skill system I've ever read, all at once and forever.

You have skill slots equal to your Intelligence score. You can pick up as many skills as you want, but once you run out of skill slots, you need to start overwriting them.

There is no skill list.  You're grown-ups.  If you want to be good at using a rope, then just write it on your character sheet.

  • “Thievery” is too broad of a skill. Use “burglary”, “pick-pocketing”, etc.
  • “Wizard knowledge” is also too broad. Use “necromancy”, “dead languages”, etc.
  • There is no "diplomacy" skill.  Roleplay it and/or roll under your Cha.
  • There is no "search" skill.  Tell the DM where you are looking.
  • There is no "perception" or "bluff" skill either.  
There is some wiggle room. Can “mountaineering” climb a wall? Probably. Ask your DM.

Every skill you have can be represented by a number from 1 to 16, called the rank. To attempt a skill, roll a d20. If you roll on-or-under your skill rank, you succeed. If you succeed by 10 points or more, it is a critical success, and you can choose an adjective to describe exactly how you succeed, like “irreversibly”, “reversibly”, “quietly”, or “impressively”. If you roll a natural 20, you have rolled a fumble, and the DM will invent some dire consequences.

The highest you can raise a skill is 10 + character level.  Or 16.  Whichever is lower.

Assumed Skills and Untrained Ranks
You are assumed to be literate, proficient in basic physical skills (running, jumping, climbing, swimming), familiar with your own background (the culture of your social group, the geography of your homeland, and the language of your people) and anything else that makes sense. For these skills, you have an untrained rank equal to whatever the most relevant stat is.

For skills in which you are non-proficient, you have an untrained rank equal to half of whatever the most relevant stat is.

Gaining New Skills

You start the game with 2 skills at Rank 10. Roll one skill on your racial table, and another skill on your class table. Thieves roll twice on each table, and so start with 4 skills at Rank 10.

You gain new skills by announcing “I want to start learning this skill.” and then writing it down on your character sheet at a starting rank equal to your untrained rank (half the relevant stat for most skills).

You learn Int-based skills (lores) a little differently. You begin learning a lore when you start studying it in a school or library, or from a tutor. There are some exceptions to this. You can learn “wilderness lore” by living in the woods, or “goblin lore” by dissecting a lot of goblins. Use your common sense. All lores start at Rank 1.

Advancing Skills

You advance a skill by using it. When you use a skill and succeed, put a check mark next to it. When you have a few days to relax in town (usually between adventures) you can erase all three check marks and roll a d20. If that d20 roll is equal-to-or-higher than the current skill Rank, the Rank improves by 1. Note that Ranks are limited by level (Max Rank 11 at level 1, for example).

You advance a lore by studying it. You can raise a lore by 1 point when you either (a) studying a new source for a week, or (b) studying an old source for a year. A source can be a book, a library, a sage, or whatever.  New sources are much faster, and so it pays to travel to foreign libraries and seek out distant sages.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Centerra is my oldest campaign setting.  I've been wandering its weird hills for almost a decade now.  In that time, a lot of places have gone through a lot of revisions.

There was a weird little island in the south that I just labeled Carcosa as sort of a placeholder identity.  Because I already knew what Carcosa was: it was dangerous, at the very edge of the map, and with a strange culture that wanted to kill me.  But then Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa was released and I bought it and read it and it was excellent and then Carcosa meant something different.

Because of that, I couldn't just leave the little island named Carcosa.  Geoffrey will probably never knowof his spooky assholery that compelled me to remodel my Carcosa at a distance.  But sometime between when I rotated my map 180 degrees (why're the cold places always to the north?) and the 11th and 12th drafts of my globe (I've redrawn that map a lot), the ambiguous little island of Carcosa became the much more specific island of Charcorra.

Monday, November 4, 2013



On the southeast side of the Great Continent, there is a country called Noth.  They claim more land than any other nation, and have the second-highest population in the world.  They recently conquered their old rival, Kaskala, and there was much rejoicing.

Noth is young and rich and mad with their own success.  It's gone straight to their head.  In the space of a generation, this cultural hubris has given them a society that is very different than their neighbors.

Most people in Noth are gilean, but they aren't racist.  In fact, they're a very socially mobile society.  It's one of their strengths.  Anyway, gileans are pale white people with pale pink lips.  Their skin turns black when it gets wet, and most of them wear blush and train in martial arts.

The country is at a crossroads.  Everyone is using the word "empire" and Noth seems to be set up to become a world power, but it's not there yet.  What does an evil empire look like before it's ripe?

The Land of Flowers

I began enjoying world-building a lot more once I stopped trying to engineer it and starting using it as a place to just hang my monsters.

I really like learning about climate patterns and ocean currents.  I like biology so much that I went to college for it.  And I really like making maps (when I draw a good coastline, I'm happy all day).  But I don't like worrying about them.  Yeah, considering the interactions and ecologies can lead to some insights, but they might not be interesting, and your players might not care.  So, I guess my advice is to give a fuck or two fewer.

Hell yeah, I'd like to have a big awesome armoire, but awesome furniture isn't as important as the clothing inside it.  It's an honest joy to fill it up, too, because once you have it well-stocked you can start imagining all the adventures your friends can have in there as they pass from drawer to drawer.  Hopefully they'll find a way pillage the socks without getting eaten by the sweater-vests.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Inventing the Tiger

If you just want the pdf, you can download it here.


I love ecology.  It's organisms and their environment, acting on each other, everything all at once.  Did you know that things in ponds die and they sink and they rot and they release a bunch of CO2 that gets trapped in sludge on the bottom of a pond?  This CO2 is permanently subtracted from the environment.  Depending on the climate, the pond may "turn over" once or twice a year, releasing all the trapped CO2 back into the pond.  This has major effects for the pond-dwellers.

Yeah, that sounds boring, but then read about limnic eruptions.

The point is that pond turnover is an emergent system that arises from the interactions between critters and ponds.  No critters means nothing to rot.  No water means no CO2 entrapment and lake stratification. This fish-pond system is bigger than fishes and ponds.  The sum is more complicated than the parts, that sort of thing.