The OSR, indie games, and chaff-of-use

So I read a couple posts lately: and They made me immediately think of this section at the end of Patrick Stuart’s Veins of the Earth:



There’s a lot going on there in that mechanical analogy – I haven’t played a ton of indie games, but from what I’ve seen of them “in tight configuration” is an appropriate descriptor: all the rules are there for a reason, and they generally intend to have a much more focused arena of play. I’m thinking of how Fiasco is often described as a “Coen Brothers simulator” or Monsterhearts as a “Baz Lurmann/Jennifer’s Body simulator.”

There’s been a lot of words in the OSR about “how the domain game works” when this was clear to the original players of D&D – “Now it’s turned into a series of large-scale battles! We’re all wargamers: agree to rules, bust out the minis, and proceed.” Similarly, it feels like there’s a real sense in the indie space of “why houserule that? We’re all game-makers here- pick the exact rules you want to set the mood you’re looking for!” I’d even note that “does it do what the designer set out to do?” isn’t included in Paul’s list of How Indie Games Are Judged: “Is this tight? Is it novel? Does it break new design ground? Does it advance the state of the art? Does it answer interesting questions?” (Apocalypse World/Dungeon World are an obvious exception here, there are tons of variants.)

There’s a trend in OSR materials to go system-free – it’s easy enough to translate a generic description like this into your system of choice:



Saving this

Resharing this session report before G+ dies.


This is Why you Can’t Have Nice Things.
After events and treasures form the last session of HMS APOLLYON:

A quick looting of the rusted out machine bay where the overlarge Feral Engine known as “Old Smokey” used to nest the scavenger’s discover the following.

1) A suit of ornate silver and alchemical jade plate mail, heavy armor (AC 17 -1 Initiative) of unknown origin.  The silver chased jade plates are sandwiched between layers of quilted leather, painted and engraved with scenes of peasant life amongst a fecund marsh, cranes in flight and water lilies.  It is absurdly valuable as an art item, but better, it’s a magical item of considerable power, infused with a great reservoir of life magic.  The jade will absorb the first 20 HP of any magic missile attack (the specific spell), and provide a -2 damage reduction per die to all necromantic magic, as well as a +3 to all saves vs. necromantic magic or life drain.

2) A spellbook, written on green felt, with heavy wooden covers, mostly rotted but containing three Vivamancy spells of various level.

A) Rejuvinanting Bloom – LVL 1– Caster’s touch revivifies and rejuvenates for (1D6+Level) rounds.  Each round caster’s touch will heal 1HP of damage to target.
B) Life Syphon – LVL 2 – The touch of the Vivamancer drains vibrancy (1D6 HP per tier of proficiency) from the target (attack roll necessary vs. hostile targets) and either adds it to his own life (HP) on a 1 to 1 basis (up to maximum HP for level) or to a third party touched the next round at a rate of 1 to 2 HP drained.
C) Meadow of Bliss – LVL 4 – A hallucinatory meadow, covering a 20’ x 20’ area, filled with bees, sunshine, flowers and tall gently swaying grasses. Staying within the meadow for 1 turn (after which it will dissipate) heals 2D6 + caster spell tier of damage and any temporary negative effects.

3) Scroll – written on black cracked devil’s parchment, this hellish scroll is written in black ink, making it impossible to read unless A) caster is a summoner/devil B) read magic is cast the round before.  It contains the 4th level spell Wall of Flame – creating up to a 40’ long wall of black crackling hellfire.  The wall does 1 HP to any who come within 10’ per round, and 4D6 to any creature who crosses it (1/2 damage if a devil, fire resistant or save vs. spells and 0-damage if immune to flame).  The spell lasts for two “spell exhaustion pips”.  Spell is written in the language of the pit, and cannot be copied without a permanent loss of 1 CON point and the development of a diabolical mutation/ affliction.

4) Molten lumps of electrum, silver and gold, perhaps jewelry or coins at one time – 3,500 GP

5) Molten lump of Platinum – 600 GP

6) 2 small vials of “Red Mercury” a dangerous chemic capable of providing untold amounts of explosive power if properly made into explosives, very dangerous to work with, and in its raw form an odorless, tasteless, near instant poison if eaten – 500 GP each.
4,600 GP/XP assuming you sell the Red Mercury.

All is not good news however.

The Frozen hatch slammed shut the night after you left, magically locked from within by something that no sorcerer available to the Shrine of the Ship Spirits could budge.   The screaming and sounds of violence within went on for three days, when the hatch flipped open.  The area is trashed, unusable, the elemental power core plundered and even the walls sagging like rotten wood.   It is a dead zone of foul magic, where the a visitor’s twitching shadows seem to mock her and whispering spirits fill her ears.

The only sign of the 32 Ship Spirit warriors, technicians and explorers trapped within is a huge sigil in dripping red blood on the floor of the chamber where the shaft leading below is located.  It is in the shape of a crow, and know to be the mark of Jana Khrae, one of the ten dread Plague Queens, masters and mistresses of the Ash Plague.

Brazen Gear and Brother Conduit reek of suppressed fury as they hand you your 2,000 GP bounty for the “death” of the necromancer, they are otherwise silent, but Conduit spits onto the gold.  You now effectively have a -1 reputation with the Shrine Ship Spirits. Sarin will have to build her own shrine somewhere as an apostate.  2,000 GP/XP.

Curiously a note arrives from in heavy stationary marked with a seal of a hanged man, in pearl dust infused yellow wax (worth 5 GP). The small note within says

“Report to the Golden Exile, promptly, you will receive assignment – D.I.”

Note you also have a +2 reputation with hull faction JK now.

Rules for Drauger as a playable class to follow (they are CL/SPC).

Maine Coons DMing


I’ve been following the OSR on blogs and as it moved to G+ since 2008 or so. It was a refreshing alternative to the 3E I was playing at the time – simpler rules, the emphasis on player skill, and higher lethality all combined to make something that was just more fun. With the imminent shutdown of G+ coming, I decided to open a blog to move the small amount of gameable content I posted there, and maybe to post some reviews/recommendations. Gameable! “Beginning in the late 19th century, a bounty of textile artifacts came to light in archaeological excavations far from Rome, often in Egyptian cemeteries from Roman times. Many people recycled their best tunics, ones with patterns like bird-and-vine lattice motifs or more artistic embellishments, as their burial shrouds. The arid desert climate was kind to the textiles through the centuries.”

Some lovely, fragile treasure that skips the usual solution: “We wrap the porcelain in a bag, smash it, take it back to town, and cast mending.

Gus L
I hate to say it – but that’s such a +Eric Boyd solution to fragile china.
Ramanan S
Yeah, in what world is that the “usual” solution? Ha!
Eric Boyd
+Chris H​ deserves credit for the abuse of mending detailed here.

Game of Thrones was very D&D last night:
*Disguising a corpse by smashing in its head with a rock
*Problem solving via flaming oil arson

JOESKY TAX: What if, instead of rolling vs. Con to see if you make it, you had to roll against wisdom when resurrected, or your character wakes up as an NPC haring off on some DM-selected goal?

Ruminations on a theme, inspired by these posts:

Anthony Picaro has suggested that “normal” humans should max out at 3HD/ level 3 – you have to become a vampire or join a mystery cult or bind spirits to yourself. “Must select an alignment to progress” would be interesting too.

At-cost paperback versions of Santicore 2011 and 2013: – with a sweet Scrap Princess cover. This is the three PDFs joined into one volume, with the “but wait, there’s more coming!” pages stripped from vols. 1 and 2 so the even and odd numbered pages are on the right sides.


A Bushcraft/Survival check can be used to modify or avoid a random encounter in the wilderness. Whoever’s scouting or in the vanguard should roll one, and say how many points they made or missed it by. The DM will secretly apply the following modifiers to the target number:

+1 10-99 creatures
+2 100-999 creatures
+3 1000+ creatures
+1 to +3 for opponents who are naturally or deliberately loud/otherwise hard to miss (this covers huge creatures)
+1 is a bard singing
+2 is an elephant tromping along
+3 is Godzilla
-1 to -4 for creatures skilled at stealth in the wilderness. Ranger level / 3 would be a good figure here, or 1/2 Bushcraft round down.
Adverse weather or light don’t modify this, unless one party can see in the dark and the other can’t and it’s dark. That’s worth +2 or -2 as appropriate.
Roll the check exactly: you can dictate the circumstances of where you meet. If this needs adjudicating, DM will draw up a little map with an arrow showing how the encounter moves through that area, and players can choose where they are and when the encounter happens.
Roll over and you can avoid it entirely.

A one-page dungeon for Yoon-Suin:

Poor Residential Neighborhood: “The Stranger Quarter” – on a massive sandbar, near the docks. Fancier bits are on an former island made into a peninsula by the sandbar, or on the mainland. Most of the social groups are here to take advantage of newcomers. There’s nothing keeping strangers from going off the island, except they may end up accidentally insulting powerful people: there’s a stiff reaction penalty elsewhere in the city until you’re acclimated. There’s a good market in teaching people how to speak trade tongue correctly and the general rules of etiquette. Malaba the slugman is the best teacher – he can get you up and running in 40 + 4d8 – (Int+Wis+Cha) days for 15 gp a day. Successful Charisma check needed for immediate enrollment – try once per downtime. Lesser instructors will charge 5 a gp day, but it will take twice as long. Full immersion via buying drinks and talking with old people costs 1gp a day, but takes thrice as long.

Players will hear of the following places:

Archive: The Magnificent Azure Chronicle: Historians, on the island – focus on the Azure Sea
Archive: The Ledger of Strangers: On the mainland- it’s generally accepted as the boundary of the Stranger’s Quarter. Will feed and house you (no HP penalty) if you spend your downtime action talking to them. They’ll do this once for anyone, thrice for those not from Yoon-Suin proper, possibly a lot more often if you’re really exotic.
Shrine/”Meekyal the Impetuous One”, aspect of a humanoid turtle – Harvest and the Seasons- desires bird sacrifice- sacred color orange- weapon is grain flail
Exploring Guild “Opalescent Geographic Society”: often hiring, but the inexperienced just get a quarter-share
Club fighting troupe “Ragma’s Bashers” : another source of money if you’re desparate
Place of learning, “College of Inmost Awakening”  opium : will ID exotic opiums for 5 sp, 95% accurate

There’s a market selling items up to 75gp, food hawkers with carts and stalls, a number of taverns and opium dens, and several crappy inns and boarding-houses.

Character creation and basic rules: OD&D as per Gus’ Apollyon game – use but plate is splint. AC 11 unarmored, AC 12 light, AC 14 medium, AC 16 heavy, AC17 plate. +1 AC for a shield. AC 18 is the maximum possible AC without heavy magic; AC 20 is the absolute maximum.

Encumbrance is Kevin Crawford style: half Str ready at hand, full Str stowed (if you have a good pack and some pouches) 2 daggers or 2 day’s rations count as one item. Stowed trinkets don’t use slots. 1000 cp = 100 sp = 10 gp = 1 pp, 100 coins are one significant item.
Labyrinth Lord urban price list, items up to 75gp, also carrier beetles, messenger beetles, and small hunting worms. Don’t forget adjustments for the area: opium and tea are triple list price, food and agricultural products are double!
Two weeks downtime between adventures- studying language and culture is definitely an option. I’ll have to figure out what to do for downtime events if there’s a second session.

Sleeping rough: 0gp/2 weeks 1 HP/HD
Cheap living: 5gp/2 weeks no adjustment
Living in comfort: 50gp/2 weeks +1 HP

So what if species had ghosts? Like, if a species is rendered extinct, and all of its remains are destroyed, then a totemic or essential or ultimate spirit of that species is released into the world. If you need a world with many unique dragons, then they’re all Dinosaur Ultraghosts. Who knows what might be unleashed on the world if you burn a museum of specimens? It could take effect thousands of miles away:

“In April 1856, Henry Clay Caldwell of the United States Navy found a large, fruit-eating bat on the Samoan island of Upolu. The specimen currently resides at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and details of the find are now scarce: a few faded, hand-written descriptors on a box, a skull and a fragment of discoloured skin. In 2009, Kristofer Helgen, a mammal curator at the Smithsonian Institution, held the skull up to the light and realized it was an unknown species. More than 150 years after it was first collected, he named the species Pteropus allenorum — the small Samoan flying fox. The species is already extinct on the island.”

Quick reskin of the mount spell: Hippoglyph. You draw the character for “horse” in the air so perfectly that you can get up on it and ride around on it for a while.

Here’s a “generic” Monk-type class for #labyrinthlord  and similar #OSR  games. An important design goal was to be able to play a less-idiosyncratic version of an AD&D monk, as well as, say, the Robot from Anomalous Surface Environment. I think it does a decent job being flexible and covering a lot of archetypes without being too fussy or “character build intensive”/”this is why we don’t use feats!”

+Shoe Skogen totally gets co-writer credits on this! She and +Gus L included the art that got used, too.

I posted this about a week ago; this is more of a final draft. I’d very much appreciate feedback or playtest notes if anyone cares to provide some! 

Proposed fighter ability: Get Up in that Monster’s Face.

Make a melee attack against an opponent, then take an AC penalty up to -5  until your next round. Give the same AC bonus (versus that opponent only) to one character within 60 feet for the same time period.

“The Evil Vizer starts to cast a spell as his squad of guards rushes forward, crashing into you with shields held high to protect their master…”