Saturday, June 15, 2024

Five Parsecs From Home: Campaign Turn 5

Last time we saw our crew, they had to make a decision as to whether or not to stay on Zindox 20 and continue to nurture the relationship they had started with Nethercorp. The problem was that not only were Pirates and K’Erin Outlaws hunting them, but reports of Unity losses to Converted forces seemed to indicate an invasion was immanent. As a consequence, they decided to change scenery, avoid a war, and possibly shake their rivals off their tail.

The trip to the planet of Bargol 3 was relatively uneventful. The random travel event indicated that the crew had time to reflect, which seems to suggest that they took a couple of extra jumps to try and hide their destination from anyone attempting to follow. This stratagem worked, because both the Pirates and K’Erin Outlaws failed to follow the crew to their new port of call. Borgol 3 is a Hospital Planet, which means that any injuries the crew sustains will require less time to heal. This also resulted in Skins managing to Stragically Transfer some Equipment to an Alternate Location in the form of a damaged Pain Suppressor Implant.

The rest of the crew focused on either training or finding work. The latter proved fruitful with two jobs: the first from the Astra Coalition and one from one of the local Hospital Groups. The former was both urgent and better paying, so the crew decidied to do that first.

The crew was tasked with securing a crash site and to determine whether or not there were any survivors. The problem was that the crash happened at the edge of the property of a Unity-controlled facility. The grounds were heavily guarded by merceneries. With lives possibly in the balance, our crew blasted by the mercenery check points and a fire fight ensued. Maggot and Skins tried to get to the crash as the rest of the crew laid down cover fire. While Wither managed to get the first casualty, wounding one of the mercs, both Maggot and Skins found themselves pinned down and Maggot was dangerously close to having to melee with a merc Bruiser armed with a Power Claw (highest damage of any weapon in the game). Cinders rushed forward and managed to get to the crash unscathed. Determining that there were indeed survivors in desperate need of help, he cried out to let everyone know.

Once the mercs realized that our crew was not there to kill them or steal something from the facility, the firefight ended and the survivors were evacuated. Among them was a child which both endeared our crew to the locals (+1 Story Point) and allowed Cinders time to reflect on this new phase of his life as the “dad” of the crew (+2 XP).

We shall have to see if this new notoriety will gain the crew unwanted attention…

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Five Parsecs From Home: Campaign Turn 4

This Campaign Turn saw our crew preparing for a raid on a remote space port which had fallen out of use due the relative difficulty of landing and shipping goods in and out of the location. With other more optimal choice on the planet, the port caught the attention of smugglers and pirates.

According to the data the crew has accumulted, this port somehow has ties to the Sector Government and possibily beyond. Thus, the mission of this turn was to acquire some kind of data storage unit which could expose those involved.

Upon arrival, the crew found themselves badly outnumbered. Additionally, the pirates had been tipped off that the crew might be coming and a Bounty Tracker had been brought in to bolster their numbers. Fortunately, our crew was more resourceful than expected and they were able to Seize the Initiative. In game this allows the crew to take one action before the beginning of the battle, usually to make a move so as to have a tactical advantage. I interpreted this as our crew getting ahold of some old blueprints and exploiting a feature in the port to get much depper into the facility than expected.

Things started slowly, as each side maneuvered into better tactical positions. By the second round, however, the crew’s positional advantage proved fatal. The bounty tracker was the first casualty and when more followed, the pirates began to panic. While they did get a few shots in, none of the pirate’s efforts were able to penetrate the crew’s toughness. In the meantime, Skins was able to secure the data storage device without issue and made his way off the board.

In the end, the pirates were driven off and the crew found more than what they were expecting. The data they managed to secure revealed a syndicate of various criminal organizations (including the K’Erin Outlaws responsible for the deathe of Wither’s family). Currently, this syndicate is targeting Nethercorp, a sector-wide corporation with a local headquarters. While there is enough evidence to suggest that the power behind this syndicate is somewhere in the Unity Government, more investigation is necessary.

After some deliberation, the crew decided to share some of their findings with Nethercorp, giving them another Patron, at least on this world (Zindox 20). Unfortunately, news feeds are full of high casulaties of Unity Forces tasked with protecting the system from invasion. In game this means any future rolls for Invasion will be at +2. In addition, they have also heard rumblings that the pirates they fought this turn are out for revenge. Thus, the beginning of next turn will bring with it some serious choices.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Five Parsecs From Home: Campaign Turn 3

Note: I am going to lean a little more into mechanics with this post, because the mechanics played such a key roll in determining the narrative of this Campaign Turn.

Having just been reprimanded by Maggot for being duped into making him an assassin and tool for the corruption rampant within the Unity government, the rest of the crew has decided to rally around what brought them together in the first place: their common belief that they can make a difference.

Over the course of character creation and the first two turns, the crew has gathered several Rumors and Quest Rumors. The former determine whether or not Quests are available as options during Campaign Turns and the latter determine how close you are to completing the Quest. I rolled that a Quest was available for Turn 2 but decided to opt for the Sector Government job because it had good pay, allowed the party to automatically avoid an unplanned fight with K’Erin Outlaws (a Rival), and there was a time frame within which the job had to be completed. The narrative consequence of Maggot being unavailable this turn happened due to a post-battle roll.

So, the crew is going to pursue the Quest this turn and their pre-battle choices reflect this. The major occurrence during this preparation stage was what I am going to call the “accidental” recruitment of Pint:

While in game I chose to use Wither’s pre-battle turn to recruit a new crew member so I had five characters to go on the mission, the result of the rolls provided for an interesting way of describing how that came about. Pint is a modified human called a Hulker. The game describes them as

Bulging with muscles and rage, these Human gene-mods are perfect for hauling, crushing, and breaking. Or hauling things that need to be crushed or broken.

Additionally, Hulkers are unable to grasp the more technical aspects of the game. For example, they cannot have Technician, Scientist, or Hacker as Classes and their Combat Skill cannot be applied to shooting, only brawling.

The planet that the crew is currently on has a trait called “Technical Knowledge” which allows a +1 on all Repair rolls. Thus, it didn’t make much sense for a Hulker to be present. So I rolled up a Motivation from charcter creation. This isn’t normally done with recruited characters, so there was no mechanical benefit. I was just looking for some narrative clarity. The result was Loyalty. This suggested that Pint was on this world because of his loyalty to a company, a contract, or a person. Since he was available to join the crew, that means this loyalty was abused.

Narratively, I imagine that Wither committed a random act of kindness, buying a meal for what looked like a down and out guy who had been shafted by the system. This triggered Pint’s need for loyalty, which he immediately shifted to Wither. Like a stray dog, he started to follw her around. Initially creeped out by this, Wither tried to lose him in a crowded bar; however, in her hurry to get away from Pint, she bumped into the drink of someone who was perfectly happy to enetrtain themselves with some fistacuffs. It was at this point that the “accidental” recruitment happened. Pint caught up with Wither and assessing the situation declared that anyone wanting to fight Wither had to have a conversation with his fists first, because Wither was his friend. Thus, Pint was now officially part of the crew whether or not anyone wanted it.

The mission for the battle of this Campaign Turn was Defend. This seemed odd until I rolled up the opponent: Security Bots. Thus, I interpreted that the mission as a raid on a secret government facility. In process the crew had to hold their position long enough to download the information they needed to find out the location of the final step of their Quest. In addition, there was a Deployment Condition (Brief Engagement) that suggested that they further had a limited amount of time before overwhelming reinforcements arrived.

It was a rough battle. The Security Bots have a high Toughness and an Armor Save. So, they survived several hits. On the flip side, our crew also got hit several times, but their Toughness proved to be enough. In the end, the superior weapons of the crew proved too much, punching through the Toughness of the Bots when weapons with less damage would not. Pint proved his worth by going toe-to-toe with one of the bots for a couple of rounds, finally getting the better of the exchange on the last turn. Thus, the crew got what they came for.

Satisfied by what the crew accomplished during the turn, Maggot is now motivated to get back to what the crew does best; however, in the post battle part of the turn, Cinders was put into the Sick bay and will not be available next turn. Apparently, he was doing some upkeep on the ship and something went catastrophically wrong. The ship took 1 Hull damage in process.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Five Parsecs From Home: Campaign Turn 2

After last campaign turn, the Astra Coalition managed to get Unity forces to move into system to hunt down the Converted Fleet. In the meantrime, our crew found themselves broke. Ship maintenance was far more expensive than expected. As a result, when an agent from the Sector Government approched them with a job offer, most of the crew were willing to entertain the idea. Maggot ended up being the lone dissenter. When no other job offers presented themselves, the rest of the crew pressured their captain into accepting the job.

The crew was informed that a data relay in a remote part of the planet had gone down. They suspected spies of sabotage and were handed a dossier with information on one such spy with a bounty on his head. Their job was to deliver a new hard drive for the relay, fight off any opposition, and collect an extra bounty if the person of interest was on scene. When asked (by Maggot) why the Sector Government couldn’t handle such a thing, they were informed that all available assets were currently hunting down the Converted Fleet.

The job went down much as expected. There was resistence led by the fellow in the dossier. Maggot took him down with his plasma rifle and the hard drive was installed into the relay. It was then that they realized that they had been duped. While they did get paid, the job was not what they were told. The group they had just fought were a group of disgruntled Unity soldiers who were trying to help other soldiers who were being neglected or persecuted by the Unity Government. The bounty ended up being one of their leaders and the new hard drive was used to pinpoint other cells in the group.

Disgruntled Soldiers, not Spies

Maggot was furious. These disgruntled soldiers were the people he wanted to help, not murder. He turned on his crew and gave them the riot act. In game, Maggot will refuse to participate in any battle next turn. I have interpreted this as an ultimatum: you guys can take any job you like, but if you continue to prove yourselves pawns of Unity he’ll have nothing to do with them.

This display was a bit of shock for the rest of the crew. Realizing that they were too focused on money, rather than the ideal that brought them together as a crew, they set about chasing down some rumors about who this Sector Government Agent really was.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Five Parsecs From Home: Campaign Turn 1

As an aside, I am opting to not get too much into mechanics (save for the occasional high drama rolls) because I frankly don’t know if anyone reading this either cares or has played the game. Let me know if I am wrong.

As expected, the first Campaign Turn saw a job offer come in from the Astra Coalition. Someone had recently caught their attention and was up to something in an abandoned factory. The crew was tasked with securing the site and incapacitating the person of interest if possible.

When the crew arrived in a disguised transport provided by Astra so as to not attract undue attention, our crew found the factory occupied by Converted Infiltrators. The Converted are a “Nightmarish cyborg race that replenish their ranks through captives and corpses, enhanced with bolted-in weaponry and control circuitry.” Infiltrators are scouts and spies sent in to prepare for invasion.

The fighting started with Wither taking aim with her Hunting Rifle. She sniped what looked like the leader with a shot that barely penetrated the cyborg armor, but nonetheless took it down.

Converted Infiltrators charge across the factory...

The Converted answered with some automatic fire, finding a target in Skins. Had it not been for a Combat Armor save, he would have been the first casuality for the crew. In response, Maggot and his prized plasma rifle took over. In short order, half of the Converted (and all armed with automated fire) were downed. All that were left were melee focused foot soldiers who fearlessly charged our crew.

Only one survived long enough to actually get into melee. To his misfortune, he found himself fighting Cinders. Although the initial rolled indicated a clear win for the Converted, Cinders was armed with a boarding sabre — an elegant weapon that allowed a re-roll. The second result saw Cinders feinting and buring the blade home.

The last of the Converted was pinned down by fire from Skins and finally finished off at close range by Lance.

In the aftermath, the crew found a transmition device and an analyzer. The former was set to call in an inasion fleet (I rolled an 8. Had the crew not won the day, that roll was enough to indicate I was going to have to run an invasion scenerio next round!) The Infiltrators had been stopped just in time and the evidence of a planned invasion was just the type of thing Astra needed to get Unity to do want it is supposed to.

The analyzer was installed on the Hyperion and will make finding the location of the K’Erin responsible for the destruction of Wither’s family much easier than previously expected…

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Meet the Crew

A note before I get into each character: While I did randomly generate a list of names, I chose these. They all represent nicknames that harken back to a moment of embarassment or failure. They all stuck because folks in their lives kept using them. Whatever real or legal names the crew had in their previous lives are either too dangerous to use or officially belong to a legally dead person.


The captain of our ship does not have a home planet because he was born into and grew up in a Frontier Gang. Hopping from system to system to avoid the law, Maggot learned that he could make more money as a scavenger than as a petty criminal. It was this side hustle that allowed him to not only spot but also purchase the Strange Alien Vessel Hyperion and gain his freedom from his former life.

I chose Maggot to be the captain because not only did it fit his backstory, but it also fit nicely with his motivation of Faith. It reminds me of Firefly’s Mal and his struggle with Christianity, his desire for freedom, and the responsibility he felt for his crew.


Next we have what I consider to be the main protagonist. Growing up on an industrial world, Wither had a loving family and life worth living. That all changed when K’Erin Outlaws raided her home planet, which had been left undefended by Unity forces. Her whole family was killed in the raid, her home destroyed, and everything she held dear is gone. All that is left is a desire for revenge. She took up with mercenaries to learn how to fight. In the meantime, she has been trying to find out not only where the specific K’Erin that killed her family are, but who was responsible for leaving her home undefended.

Wither is the youngest member of the crew and has been adopted as a kind of kid sister by everyone else. Despite the fact that she is one of the crew’s best shot, there isn’t anyone who wouldn’t go out of their way to protect her.


The oldest member of our crew hails from a world that regressed technologically because the Unity government approved trade routes to systems too far for the locals to deal with. Cinders is a scoundrel and a bit of a womanizer; however, he knows his best days are behind him.

Curiously, his main motivation is Romance. I have interpreted this as a need for a family he never was able to have. He knows he will die a bachelor, but in this crew he sees the children he might have had if his life hadn't been so rough. This is especially true of Wither, of whom he is particularly fond and protective of.


Hailing from the same industrial world as Wither, he and his family avoided the same fate; however, the economic collapse in the wake of the attack forced Skins into the life of a petty criminal. When they later met, he and Withers became fast friends and have a tight bond over their shared experience. Unlike Wither, Skins is much less interested in revenge. Rather, he is more politically motivated. He has contacts within a private organization called the Astra Coalition, which seeks to fill in the gaps when the Unity government fails to hold up its end of the deal in the Fringe. I expect that the crew will be working closely with Astra as the campaign begins.


Our last crew member comes from what is euphamistically called an “Isolationist Enclave.” In reality, Unity quarantined the planet when it was discovered that the local population had a significantly high number of birth defects. Rather than pour money and time into figuring out why, the Unity government simply cut them off. As a consequence, locals do not have the proper supplies to deal with defects. Lance was born without much of his face. He found it difficult to belong and ended up joining a gang. With a motivation of Glory, I imagine that he wants to make enough money to get himself a new face, a new start, and a new life. In the meantime, Maggot has sold Lance on the idea that he can better realize that dream with this crew rather than his old one.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Now for Something Completely Different

For awhile now, I have been focusing my hobby time mainly on miniature wargaming. As such, I have been exploring various solo-games that scratch the miniature wargame itch, since I haven’t got access to a large pool of fellow players. The game I have enjoyed the most is called Five Parsecs from Home (FPFH). In the Appendix, Ivan Sorensen (author of the game) specifically sites three of my all-time favorite sci-fi movies/tv-shows: Blade Runner, Soldier, and Firefly. Personally, I think Ivan’s musing on the latter is an understatement:

Most “space adventure” games owe a debt to this show. The worn-out look, and the premise of spaceships-as-freedom in the face of an overbearing government fits Five Parsecs perfectly.

Prior to my experience of playing FPFH, I would have argued that Traveller was the closest experience I have had to playing a game that felt like Firefly. In terms of RPGs, Traveller still holds that crown, but I would be sore tempted to figure out a way to use the combat rules of FPFH in Traveller or, at the very least, use the random tables in FPFH to help me Referee a campaign.

I am ready to start up a new campaign in FPFH, and wanted to try recording each Campaign Turn on the blog. My hope is that it pushes me to make the game more of a narrative than an excuse to put miniatures on the table and roll some dice. To that end, let me introduce my crew as whole:

Figures primarily come from The Maker's Cult and their Cyberzerker faction.

There are a couple of tables at the end of character creation called “Flavor Details.” I haven’t really used them before, because I already had a good idea about the crews I have played in previous games. I decided to actually roll on these tables because not only does it up the ante for narration, but virtually the entire crew comes from some kind of criminal background and I needed a better idea of how to proceed.

The crew met through “a common cause or belief” and can be best characterized as “hardened rebels.” This seems rather contradictory for a bunch of products of scum and villany, but their ship (Strange Alien Vessel) reminded me of another old favorite sci fi tv-show of mine: Blake’s 7.

Thus, the “criminal activity” of this crew is either trumped-up charges or a life that was forced upon them due to the overbearing bureaucratic nightmare of the Unity government. As such, the common cause of these hardened rebels is a desire to right some of the wrongs Unity has wrought upon the galaxy.

Next Up: Meeting Individual Crew Members

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Why the Weird Wizard Garb

Which is the Wizard and which is the Apprentice?

I recently started painting these 3D prints (part of a set called Civilians Pack 2 from The Makers Cult) to pull double duty as Casters for Grim Dark Future and as a Wizard and Apprentice for a warband in Frostgrave. As these sculpts bear some resemblance to the burka, which is a garment women are required to wear in public due to social and religious reasons in certain Islamic countries, it got me to thinking about a world-build in which arcane spell  casters wore clothing that covered them head to foot.

While it would be easy to simply hand wave it away by saying it is a traditional garb of wizards or that it is required by law, I am much more interested in why wizards would choose to wear such garb. To that end, I offer six reasons (so that one can roll a d6 to allow some randomness in a world-build):

1. The ritual to obtain the ability to cast arcane spells badly burns/scars the recipient. In order to avoid such scars from hindering everyday interactions with other people, they choose to cover themselves to hide the burns/scars.

2. In order to gain the ability to cast arcane spells, a caster must get various tattoos all over their body. While not necessarily something that could cause a disruption to social mores, visible tattoos would give other casters the ability to cancel spells without having to use a spell slot.

3. Wizards are an alien race. While they are similar enough to pass as human (or whatever race the PC/NPC pretends to be), any close contact would reveal the reality and cause trouble. So, they wear the coverings to avoid such discovery.

4. The process of memorizing spells requires that the spell be written on the skin of the wizard. Should another spell caster see this writing, they could cast the spell as a scroll and the original wizard would lose that spell slot. Wizards took to wearing this garb to prevent that from happening.

5. The nature of arcane magic causes the caster to see a mirror image of themselves in the targets of their spells. This can cause enough of a disruption (epecially with offensive spells) that the spell fails. Wizards took to wearing such garb to dehumanize their reflections so as to be able to successfully cast their spells.

6. The casting of arcane spells is an intentional subversion of reality that physically manifests in the person of a wizard. Should someone who is not trained to deal with such things witness a wizard cast a spell, the experience can cause a rift in the soul of that witness. Such rifts risk the possibility of a demon being able to step through. Therefore, in order to prevent their craft from wrecking havoc on the general public, wizards strictly police themselves — especially in the wearing of garb which covers them head to foot.

Have any others we can add to the list?

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Christ is Risen!



[Hades] received a body and encountered God. It took earth and came face to face with heaven. It took what it saw and fell by what it could not see. Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are overthrown. Christ is risen and demons have fallen. Christ is risen and angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life rules. Christ is risen and not one dead remains in the tomb. — Paschal Homily by St. John Chrysostom

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Arneson’s version of Challenge Rating

One of the more fascinating bits of information to be gleaned from Tonisborg is a section which reveals Arneson’s methodology of stocking dungeons. For those of us who have used Moldvay as our go-to guide for creating dungeons, we might expect an Arneson dungeon to have monsters in about one third of all rooms. If you are exploring dungeon levels 3-6, this is exactly what you would find; however, only 1-in-6 rooms on dungeon levels 1 and 2 have monsters and half of the rooms on dungeon levels of 7+ are occupied.

Each room that has monsters is assigned what are called “Protection Points” — a randomly determined amount of hit points that are used to “buy” monsters with. As described in Tonisborg, the number of Protection Points are based on an average party size of 4 to 5 PCs. Unfortunately, I found the table provided to be a bit confusing, but was able to take the concept and the described math to provide a very simple metric for determining the number Arneson’s Protection Points:

(1d6+1)(Dungeon Level) per PC*

*This assumes that that HD are based on a d6. This die would shift depending upon what the standard HD is according to the edition used.

Thus, if I were stocking the second level of my dungeon, I would be rolling 2d6+2 Protection Points for each PC in the party. So, if my party had 3 PCs the total number of Protection Points would be 6d6+6.

Additionally, Arneson had a “one sixth principle of monster variation.” On top of the dice rolled above, an extra d6 is rolled. Should that d6 result in a ‘6,’ there is a 50/50 chance that the number of points are halved or doubled.

Thus, in the example above, an average roll would result in 27hp; this would be halved to 14 hp or doubled to 54 hp with a ‘6’ on the variation die.

I have yet to try this method at the table, but in principle it does several things: 

1) It clearly sets up the expected danger of each dungeon level while allowing for some encounters to be surprisingly easy or hard. 

2) It despenses with the need to roll for the number of monsters encountered or for hit points. Both are simply assigned based on the number of Protectin Points avaible. In a way, it frees up the Referee to more exactly tailor their dungeon.

For example, our room on the second level has 27 Protection Points. This can be a typical encounter of 2HD monsters like 3 gnolls with 9 hp each. Or, it could be a bit more ridiculous with 27 goblins with 1 hp each. Or it could be a bit more chellenging with a single 5HD creature like a griffin with 27 hp. 

3) It allows for a kind of short hand when designing/stocking a dungeon. I can simple indicate the number of protection points each occupied room has and assign these points to monsters on the fly depending on whim, need, or random roll. It gives me the freedom to adjust some of the difficulty of a room by increasing or decreasing the number of potential attacks. For example, if I wanted to buy gnolls with my 27 Protection Points and my party needed a bit more of a challenge, I can increase the number of gnolls to 9 with 3 hp each; however, the overall deadliness of nine gnolls is somewhat mitigated by the fact that each will die from average hit from a PC.

This is an idea that seems far more practical than Challenge Levels and their equivalants in the modern game. It will also be something I will have to experiment with to see how it actually plays. Nonetheless, fascinating stuff!


Friday, February 23, 2024

What to Buy Instead of WotC's "The Making of Original D&D"

For several years I have avoided giving WotC my hard earned money. I have patiently waited for the rest of the world to wake up and do the same. Today, I wish to be much more specific and proactive.

WotC recently announced the publication of The Making of Original D&D in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Game. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon for about $100. Please do not order this product. In the years that followed my open letter to WotC about their warning label on legacy products, not only have they not removed their label, but have gone on to treat their customers, fans, and even their own employees with contempt and malice. We don't need WotC or Hasbro in order to play and grow our game.

If, like me, you are interested in a product that explores the origins of the game in fascinating and applicable ways, I encourage you to spend your money in a much more responsible way and be treated to a fascinating and highly useful book: The lost Dungeons of Tonisborg.

If you don't mind giving Amazon some of your money,
you can pick up a paperback edition for a mere $30. 

This book has history, facsimiles of a dungeon designed and played prior to the publication of D&D, an updated version of that same dungeon, a guide on how to play the game as it was prior to 1974, and (best of all) a set of rules based upon the way Arneson and Gygax ran the game. This is amazing stuff and a treat for anyone interested in the history of the game.

For those of you who have it, what is the rule that blew your mind the most? For me, it was the idea of rolling up a character's base saving throws randomly!

Again, let WotC rot and spend money on people who actually care about this game and its history. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Stocking a Moldvay Dungeon with a Deck of Cards

I was fiddling around with a deck of cards today, and it occurred to me that it might be possible to emulate the math of Moldvay's table for stocking a dungeon on page B52 of the his Basic Rulebook with a deck of cards. He has us rolling 1d6 to determine the contents of a room:

1-2 Monster 

3 Trap

4 Special

5-6 Empty

A second roll determines whether or not there is Treasure: 

Monster: 1-3 Yes; 5-6 No

Trap: 1-2 Yes; 3-6 No

Empty: 1 Yes; 2-6 No

If you include a pair of Jokers, a deck has 54 cards, which is dividable by 6. That means we can assign each of the four outcomes of our Room Contents Table to 9 cards. This comes out to 18 cards for Monsters, 9 cards for Traps, 9 cards for Specials, and 18 cards for Empty Rooms. With these groups, 9 of the Monster, 3 of the Traps, and 1 of the Empty Rooms would indicate a Treasure.

A deck of cards could thus be divvied up as follows:

2D = Empty with Treasure

3D-5D = Trap with Treasure

6D-AD = Monster with Treasure

2C-5C = Empty

6C-AC = Monster

2H-5H = Empty

6H-AH = Special

2S-8S = Empty

9S-AS = Trap

Jokers = Could indicate an Empty Room or Placed Encounter

Of course, all of this assumes that your dungeon has multiples of 54 rooms... but being a fan of the megadungeon, this is no real issue for me. 

Monday, February 12, 2024

Dragon Events

Inspired by my last post, I decided to create some random tables to emulate the kinds of events the appearance of a dragon might be the harbinger of. What follows are seven tables. The first six are different kinds of events. I provide each with a number in case you want to randomly determine which table to roll on. Alternatively, each table could be assigned to a specific type of hybrid monster. The seventh table is a kind of narrative tool, where something is revealed. Whether this revelation is a cause, effect, or just happenstance is up to you. Enjoy.

1. Death

    1. King 
    2. Queen 
    3. Heir 
    4. Bishop 
    5. Guild Leader 
    6. General

2. Event

    1. Refugees 
    2. Shortage (equipment) 
    3. Shortage (food) 
    4. New taxes 
    5. Rise of a new religion 
    6. King goes insane

3. War

    1. Peasant Revolt 
    2. Massacre 
    3. Civil War 
    4. Invasion 
    5. PCs Kingdom defends another kindgom 
    6. PCs kingdom attacks another kingdom

4. Magic

    1. Arcane Magic effects halved dawn to dusk & Divine Magic effects halved dusk to dawn
    2. Magic effects double during New & Full Moon
    3. Magic effects are randomly normal, half-effective, or twice as effective
    4. Arcane spells with random effects are at advantage dusk to dawn & Divine spells with random effects are at advantgae dawn to dusk
    5. Magic does not work at dusk and dawn
    6. Recovering Spells takes twice as long

5. Natual Disaster

    1. Blizzard/Heatwave
    2. Avalanche/Mudflow/Wildfire
    3. Hurricane/Tornado
    4. Flood/Tsumani
    5. Earthquake
    6. Volcano

6. Stange Events

    1. Unending Fog
    2. Days shorten to 12 hours
    4. Days lengten to 48 hours
    5. Seasons last a month
    6. Seasons last 6 months


    1. New Ally
    2. New Creature
    3. New Race
    4. New Enemy
    5. New Civilization
    6. New Disease

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

That is a Dragon

I recently watched Jonathan Pageau and Richard Rohlin discuss dragons on their Universal History video series. It is a fascinating look at dragons from symbolic, pre-modern, and Orthodox Christian points of view (which in some ways can be understood to all be the same). I wanted to share here because Dungeons and Dragons is specifically referenced. This whole discussion is contrasted with what we old gognards might call Gygaxian Naturalism — if we narrow our view to that of the modern, as expressed by the naturalistic categorization of monsters found in the various Monster Manuals of DnD, we might not completely grok what Johnathan and Richard are talking about. This is an interesting parallel to the move I was made to make when exploring how Scripture might inform the megadungeon.    


For those who don't want to sit and listen to these two geek out for over an hour, here is a short summary of the general characteristics of dragons:
  1. They are serpents.
  2. They are hybrids — the serpent aspect is mixed with pieces and parts of other animals.
  3. As hybrids, they occupy a symbolic space of flux and can be understood as harbingers of change.
  4. They function as guardians (mostly of water). This guardianship can be understood as hoarding and water needs to be understood as an essential material for civilization to function.
  5. They have an enemy, often a thunder god symbolized by a trident (which is originally a symbol for lightening, not for a sea god/creature).
The aspect of this I find most useful and interesting is the fact that not all dragons exhibit all five characteristics. Thus, from this perspective, an owlbear is a type of dragon (as are many of the hybrid creatures found in the Monster Manual). From the perspective of a DnD campaign, the appearance of such a creature could signify a major event for the campaign world as a harbinger of change.

Personally, I would be tempted to leave all hybrids out of my placed encounter areas and only have them appear as Wandering Monsters. Once one appears, this could mean a roll on a major campaign event table with various types of catastrophes both natural (such an earthquake that reveals a subterranean civilization) and man-made (such as war).

This view also reinforces the mechanics of treasure from early DnD: the gold hoarded by dragons (monsters, especially hybrids) is the main means by which the PCs (both the enemies of the dragons and the defenders of Civilization) level up to become more capable of defending Civilization.

I highly recommend taking the time watching this episode. It is a fascinating (and I would say useful) discussion even for those of you who are not of the Christian persuasion. Enjoy.