Sunday 31 January 2021

Vayra's Questions

Being an individual of advancing years it's often some time before I catch up to the latest trends currently entertaining the kids, and when I do it's embarrassingly late. So here I am, some TEN WHOLE DAYS after the original post, attempting to answer the ten setting questions posed by Vayra in her recent post:

The setting being interrogated is the implied setting of PARIAH.

Saturday 30 January 2021


These events continue from the TWENTY-FIFTH session but also picks up the characters not seen since the NINETEENTH SESSION. The real world session took place on Saturday 9th and 16th January 2021 on the Atelier Hwei Discord.  


- Eugene  as Nervously Rides the Grave 
- JFur playing as Fallen-far-from-the-Wind
- Mister Kent as Beautiful Other-far-from-the-Lake
- Oisín playing as Earnestly Wooded
- Semiurge playing as Witheringly Footed at the Point

The Temple of Water

28th Day of Crow Moon

Beautiful Other was joined by Antelope, the old ally of the founding pariah band in hope of tracking down the mystery surrounding the irrigation temple and the apparent disappearance of Wither, Rides-the-Grave and Earnestly Wooded. The latter resolved itself fairly soon after leaving the settlement...

Thursday 28 January 2021

Interview with W.H. Arthur, RPG Designer/Maker

Arthur's RPG design work is available at

During last year’s COVID lockdown/Zine Quest crossover special it came to my attention that fellow RPG designer/maker W.H. Arthur lived in the same town as me. We arranged to meet, face-to-face out in the real world in real time: summer was in full swing and government guidelines had relaxed substantially since the beginnings of the pandemic.

If someone had told us that our next meeting was going to be nearly 6 months later and under full lockdown conditions it is doubtful either of us would have believed it. Nonetheless,  last weekend we found ourselves on either end of a discord call, catching up on the intervening period… a period which has been particularly busy for Arthur.

Sunday 24 January 2021

Exploring Space: Procedure in Different RPG Environments (Part 2)

Part 1 of this 2-part post special can be read here:

In a previous post I look at play procedures in different environments, in the hope that this might somehow "unlock" the secret to running a city encounter. For many readers I'm trying to solve a problem that isn't there, and I'm not going to argue with you: I think this is probably about my own obsession with cities and what they mean. Hopefully something good can come out of it.

Lilith, Anselm Kiefer

Before digging into the urban environment I want to examine the final play procedure: delving. In producing this text it occurred to me that my issues with cities in RPGs is that they can offer the same high risk/high reward scenario that dungeons and other discrete locations can offer, but the procedure for exploring such sites is entirely unsuited for the majority of play within a city.

Anyway, here's my breakdown of dungeoneering. Again: this is not didactic, merely how I interpret old-school style play at my table, ymmv:

Friday 22 January 2021

Reaction Rolls and Reputation

As usual thinking about ability scores was keeping me awake at night, and—after yet again unsuccessfully trying to square the circle OF STUPID ABILITY SCORE MODIFIERS—I started thinking about reaction rolls. One may well assign the notion of ability score modifiers to the status of "only for the combat mini-game", but then you miss out on the UNADULTERATED POWER of having an 18 charisma character getting involved in this murky business:

None but a nincompoop would deny the beauty of the 2d6 table: indeed, many have tried to use it as the basis for whole systems. I am certainly a fan of the above interpretation (taken from the red box), as there's it runs the whole gamut of monster emotions! In all seriousness, I enjoy that it suggests multiple stages of negotiation, with charisma perhaps playing second fiddle to other circumstantial modifiers.

Thursday 21 January 2021

Exploring Space: Procedure in Different RPG Environments (Part 1)

Constant's New Babylon Nord. It is upside down, courtesy the internet.

Work for PARIAH VOLUME 2: CITY OF GHOSTS continues apace. There is no way I am going to be able to have this ready for Zine Quest 3  unfortunately, but I have at least settled on a format. The nature of the space is closer to a dungeon crawl than a city crawl, so there will be a somewhat granular approach to the space... by which I suppose I mean a keyed map with defined locations and routes around.

However, I'm still thinking about a bigger, more urban setting for another project, but feel the need to really define the procedure for exploring an urban environment, as it's the least defined in old school play. To get there I'm first going to have a look at some traditional play procedures with additional commentary regarding how this manifests in PARIAH.

Monday 18 January 2021

HEARTH SPIRITS: Neolithic House Ghosts

Discussing the etymology of hobgoblin on the discord server was a reminder that the idea of a "kitchen ghost" or "hearth spirit" is common to many cultures across the globe. Hob is used by a lot of British people to describe their stovetop, an evolution of the hot plate that once kept pots simmering on traditional stoves. Goblin, of course, was a type of fey creature rather than a rat-faced runt with green (or orange) skin and a selection of  pointy sticks. The hobgoblin was thus a kitchen-based domestic spirit and not the larger kinds [of orc], as suggested by Gandalf.

They used to be fun, now they're just another "proud warrior race" trope.

In protestant Europe (and in many of the lands the countries of that cultural sphere once occupied) belief in this spirit and the practice of honouring it has largely died out over the last few centuries along with many of that culture's folk traditions. The guilty party in this case being the religiosity of the reformation and the "rationalism" of the later enlightenment period. 

Sunday 17 January 2021

The Knife: the very last skills post (until the next one)

I had the unusual pleasure of playing in a pariah game that someone else (specifically Louis from So Much Game) was running. One of the other players (specifically Nye of the internet and Garblag Games) expressed frustration at the lack of opportunities for his character to be useful: he seemed to have a lot of social, charisma-based abilities that weren't of use in the wilderness scenario Louis was presenting.

I did a pretty terrible job of explaining tactical infinity in old school games, and how this can work alongside a skill system, but I stand by my words: I know a lot of old school RPG enthusiasts would say that this is because character skill always detracts from the application of player skill. I want to address that supposition—it in a non-confrontational way—with the notion of skills as tools.

Neolithic flint knife blade.

First among tools is the adventurer's friend, the knife.

Saturday 9 January 2021

More Neolithic Settlements—City of Ghosts/PARIAH

 A confluence of currents, including but not limited to...

...has lead me back to this idea that cities and settlements could do more (or at least could feel more interesting) in the implied PARIAH setting.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this 9,000 year old Neolithic dwelling is better than my house.

So: using (and augmenting) the tables in this post:
....I've assembled a generator for four different types of settlement: RURAL (the kind that should number in the dozens-per-agricultural-hex), MAJOR SETTLEMENT (the home of a chieftain or regional leader) SACRED SITE (what it says on the tin) and the CITY.

Thursday 7 January 2021


These events continue from the TWENTY-FOURTH session. The real world session took place on Saturday 2nd January 2021 on the Atelier Hwei Discord.  


- Mister Kent as Beautiful Other-far-from-the-Lake
- Oisín playing as Over-Hollow-Hills-Flies-the-Cuckoo
- JFur playing as Fallen-far-from-the-Wind

Mercifully-Wasted-from-the-Tribe and Mortally Garnished-of-the-Fallen were NPCed.

There are 2 things to note ahead of this session report. The first is that these reports take a very long time to write. Secondly, judging by the views and comments, they are the least interesting to site visitors. I've said it before but I'm going to try and take a less narrative approach in an attempt to address these issues. 

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dali. Love can do strange things to people.

Monday 4 January 2021

The Others— Pariah, City of Ghosts

PARIAH, in the early stages of its development was known as City of Ghosts, as it was imagined that the principal focus of play would be around haunted cities in a fertile river valley abandoned by a precursor civilisation known as The Others. Originally beginning as an exaggeration of the our elves are different trope cross-fertilised with the sidhe of The Gardens of Ynn and with a little bit of spire's aelfir thrown in... but they took a turn.

Besides, everyone's redoing elves now:

All images by Kylli Sparre/Sparrek

The Others are young spirits, though they have existed longer than humanity. The possess powers that can only be ascribed to the Dawn or even the Beyond, yet they dwell in the Here and Now. Once they built great cities but, having solved the problem of subsistence and needing nothing, found there was nothing left that they wanted.

All that they have left is the Work.

Saturday 2 January 2021


These events continue from the TWENTY-THIRD session. The real world session took place on Saturday 19th December on the Atelier Hwei Discord. Today is the 2nd January 2021. You can listen to an audio summary of this session here:

(note: this podcast omits some information)

- Mister Kent as Beautiful Other-far-from-the-Lake
- Oisín playing as Over-Hollow-Hills-Flies-the-Cuckoo
- JFur playing as Fallen-far-from-the-Wind

Mercifully-Wasted-from-the-Tribe was NPCed.

Some bonobos.

DAY 25, CROW MOON FINAL QUARTER (still the same day!)