Friday, 23 September 2022

BECMI Intelligent Swords

During a recent discussion on the NSR discord server the subject of intelligent magic items popped up, and I was immediately reminded of the rules for generating intelligent swords in the Frank Mentzer Expert Set.

Drawing of a  magical—possibly intelligent—sword by Larry Elmore

There are other, similar rules for intelligent swords in Moldvay. Seeing as this is the go-to old-school ruleset (and likely the basis for any similar rules in OSE or Basic Fantasy), I'm ignoring those. Likewise—as with my [positively ancient] post about dwarf clerics— this is a paraphrasing of existing mechanics. I'm not adding anything original here.

...and yes, it's swordtember, so I suppose the timing is germane.

Sunday, 18 September 2022

Villainous Sidekicks


A villainous sidekick if ever I saw one

This was supposed to be several 1d100 tables spliced together, but I ran out of time. Enjoy my villainous sidekick generator, available below.

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Friday, 16 September 2022

What I write about when I think about Zedeck Siew (a poem called pome)


The image above is a spread from Mr Kr Gr (Zedeck Siew, Centaur).
Illustration by Munkao

The people of the old world made these as prisons for their gods. They made them beautiful, so captivity would sting.

Wear your gold bells, o Lord of Dances, and leap for our pleasure! Cherish your ruby garlands, o Lady of Loves, chained to our bed!

The old world was drowned by the river. But its slaves could not be set free. So they wander buried hallways and vine-choked pavilions – maddened, hateful, plotting.

- Mr-Kr-Gr (Page 20) by Zedeck Siew

Friday, 9 September 2022

What has that wise one got on their head?

Wise-ones and witches, sorcerers and summoners, ghost-talkers and spirit-walkers...

...they've always got something on top of their head.

Text from wikipedia: The Sorcerer is one name for an enigmatic cave painting found in the cavern known as 'The Sanctuary' at the Cave of the Trois-Frères, Ariège, France, made around 13,000 BCE. The figure's significance is unknown, but it is usually interpreted as some kind of great spirit or master of animals. The unusual nature of The Sanctuary's decoration may also reflect the practice of magical ceremonies in the chamber.[1] In his sketches of the cave art, Henri Breuil drew a horned humanoid torso and the publication of this drawing in the 1920s[2] influenced many subsequent theories about the figure.[3] However, Breuil's sketch has also come under criticism in recent years.[4] A single prominent human figure is unusual in the cave paintings of the Upper Paleolithic, where the great majority of representations are of animals.
Sketch of a drawing of The Sorcerer, a 13,000 year-old cave painting

(Even as I write this I realise masks would be much more interesting, but I don't want to jump on the bandwagon of the latest psychedelic mesolithic RPG, Maskwitches of Forgotten Doggerland CW: images are "AI generated")

* * *

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Atop the Wailing Dunes: A PARIAH adventure for Zine Quest 4

Since the publication of GENIUS LOCI in June, I've been "teasing" hexes from the sandbox adventure ATOP THE WAILING DUNES.  However, this has been something sitting in my slushpile since last autumn, and I think it now comprises enough material to publish as a complete set.

Partially completed hex map of the sandbox

My original intention was to have PARIAH: CITY OF GHOSTS ready in time for Zine Quest 4, but owing to the commitments of my collaborators it won't be ready in time. However, with so much work already complete on Atop the Wailing Dunes, I thought it would be a good chance to release my little sandbox.

Here's the link to the Kickstarter, now live:

Monday, 25 July 2022

The Ikau Mangrove (a hex for PARIAH)

A four-page pamphlet mini-hexcrawl, part of an ongoing series.

This will be the last of these small-format individual hexes: I'm finding that I want to go into more detail with the actual hex features, but can't because space is being taken up by information repeated from elsewhere. When I put them all together in ATOP THE WAILING DUNES I'll be able to avoid this problem!

If you want a PDF of this to print at home or to use with a text-to-audio programme, it's free to download via

If all goes to plan, all 24 hexes (with additional notes for sites of interest) will be compiled into a zine for Zinequest 2022. Hope to announce that soon!


Blogposts in this series:

All the PDFs:

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Valley of Mui Eiru (a hex for PARIAH)

 I've been working on making the larger map for Atop the Wailing Dunes more legible, as well as building it up into a more comprehensive sandbox. As I go through, 6 mile hex by 6 mile hex, I'm sharing them here as A4 double-sided zinis, which you can fold enough to make a 4-page pamphlet.

As with previous issues, there is a small map with key to the front, and several paths crossing the hex. The back page contains additional flavour for wilderness exploration, and might provide a template for additional hexes. This is designed to printed on two-sides of A4 and folded in half to make a zini.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Pariah character classes for OSE or Basic Fantasy

Made by Igor Gadreaud 

If you prefer to explore the implied setting of PARIAH with a more faithful old-school system (as hinted at in my previous post, a design analysis of my own game, it's perhaps worth giving the players something they can sink their teeth into. I'm more than a little wary of doing this, but in the words (paraphrased) of Skerples of Coins and Scrolls:
Writing a... class is easy. It meets what I'd call the "minimum creativity threshold". To write a wizard you just need about 20 decent ideas. To write any other kind of class you need between 4 and 10. It's not difficult to make a class based on any random idea you've ever had. It's also a lot easier to think of elements of a class than it is to, say, a fill in a d100 table or write a dungeon.  
It is known.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

PARIAH design notes (part 1)

On 22nd May I posted a still image of the prospective cover for PARIAH: Volume 2 and I'm sorry to report that I don't have any dates for when that crowdfunder is going to happen. However, I did * hint * at posting "a long-winded post explaining the major changes to my RPG design philosophy"

Hyperbole aside, I thought it might be useful to reflect upon PARIAH Volume 1 and the lessons learned as I prepare for the next crowd-funded project.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Spire... in 24XX?

Jason Tocci's 24XX SRD is probably the most fun rules-light frameworks around and has led to a proliferation of superb games that can be played with practically zero prep. For my sins, I released my own interpretation of the format (obviously with a Pariah spin) which is free to download here:

Combining my new-found obsession with the format with my ongoing 3-year fixation on Rowan, Rook and Decard's Spire: The City Must Fall, I thought I'd produce a 24XX interpretation of the game as a design exercise, Flèche (/fleɪʃ,flɛʃ/):

There's also a back page:

Monday, 27 June 2022


Having recently shared an additional hex for the Atop the Wailing Dunes sandbox (title: randomly generated) it occurred to me that I hadn't posted the second hex in the series, despite it being up on itch already. Anyway, here it is in JPEG format:

Sunday, 26 June 2022

I heard a rumour: seeding a sandbox


3 panel meme showing scenes from Umbrella Academy. panel 1, Number 5 says: "The World's Ending in 3 days!" Panel 2: Allison replies "I heard a rumour that it's not." Panel 3: end credits, entire series concludes thanks to Allison's reality-altering powers
A very silly superpower, now on Netflix. You might be better off playing Molotov College by WH Arthur

This post has nothing to do with Umbrella Academy, and everything to do with how to randomise rumour-mongering in a TTRPG sandbox. Sandbox in this context refers to any open-world campaign where narrative is emergent rather than plotted, though writing that maybe it's better to say it's "character plotted" rather than "player plotted". Anyway, another discussion, for another post.

Saturday, 25 June 2022


 A fortnight ago I shared GENIUS LOCI, a wilderness exploration procedure based around territory-as-spirit. I included an individual hex to a) demonstrate how the procedure could be further "fleshed out" and b) to provide a bit of "gameable" content to PARIAH fans and readers.

Here's another hex: a volcanic spirit-mountain protected by the guardian EBUA.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Review: Gangs of Titan City Quickstart

THE BEST THING RPG bloggers can do to support RPG creators is to make additional gameable content for those games—especially adventures.  The second best thing to do to offer one's support is to review their content, bring it to one's readership and allow them to make a judgement as to whether or not it might be for them. Over the next few months I intend to do a little bit more of both, starting today with a review of  the Gangs of Titan CityQuickstart which is available to download for free, now:


  1. This game is published by SOULMUPPET, who currently distribute the print edition of PARIAH Volume 1[a game I wrote]. I have no other commercial stakes in this house however...
  2. ...the game is currently being kick-started, I backed it, and part of the reason for me posting this review is that YOU back it and get it over the line so I can get my hands on the hard copy.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Index Update June 2022

Nearly a year since my last update to the index. This is now done and can be read here:

Looks likely I'll have published 300 posts before the year is out. Any ideas for what I could for a milestone?

(BTW, index also accessible from the top of the blog)

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Sunday, 12 June 2022


I think I've managed to distil the ideas of previous posts concerning landscape/hex/environment as NPC into a much neater package. Given that I've been enthusing the virtues of Michael Prescott's MOSAIC Strict I thought it would be a nice challenge to see how much of the concept could be squeezed onto a single spread:

The concept being that as a party of travellers moves through an unfamiliar territory, there actions and conduct impact the environment: the spirit-of-place responds to their presence.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

The word "shaman"

Today I updated two of my games on itch and DTRPG, removing the word "shaman" and replacing it with alternatives. Henceforth, materials published on this blog and by Atelier Hwei are not going to use the words shaman or shamanic and — it is my intention to update the rest of published material so those words are no longer used. References within previous blog posts will remain.

For clarity: I have taken this decision for a number of reasons, all which pertain to real-world cultural sensitivity rather than aesthetic or game-related reasons. Apologies if you clicked on this hoping for a post about a "word-shaman" character class, but I think this is important.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022


Towards the end of last year I found myself fantasising about playing face-to-face RPGs again, and toyed with the idea of rocking up to a FLGS with a copy of PARIAH, a mini-hexcrawl and my winning (if somewhat crooked) smile. It did occur to me that the character sheet and the rules might be daunting for a new player... and wanted something lighter. 

Prior to that point, also last year (or the year before? Time is bendy) JFUR explained she'd made a game  called 17XX as part of a micro RPG jam all using the same SRD, which happened to be Jason Tocci's SRD 24XX. This was hot on the heels of my interview with Jim Parkin and a growing.. murmuration...about the FKR scene.

It took me until last week to finally bring these facts together and produce a lo-fi version of everyone's favourite psychedelic animist proto-Neolithic RPG...

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

HEART: Delving into the world of story games

Here's a shift in.. well, certainly not tone, but... game philosophy? Regular readers will know that my main frame of RPG reference is the OSR, meaning that the mechanical chassis to which I default is 1980s D&D. However...

Heart: the City Beneath is available to buy

...I am aware that other systems exist. 

This is a post about how and why I came to run a Heart: The City Beneath campaign, and all the people I had to kill along the way. 

Sunday, 29 May 2022

ANIMA: MOSAIC Strict Spirit Magic

What's This?

I'm fond of the free-form magic system that was included in PARIAH Volume 1 and have written multiple posts about using hit dice in a similar way to GLOG magic dice, a number of ritual magic posts (including this one) and an attempt at summarising free-form spirit-magic for the post-kickstarter crowd

Fond, yes, but not in love... and perhaps it's time to take some advice from Jim Parkin (via William Faulkner) and kill my darlings...

Sunday, 22 May 2022

PARIAH VOLUME 2: City of Ghosts

I had planned to write a long-winded post explaining the major changes to my RPG design philosophy and other nonsense that would not be fun for me to write and possibly much less fun for you to read.

Given that a picture paints a thousand words, please take this image instead:

City of Ghosts cover image, WIP by Jef Cox

We'll be launching a kickstarter for this at some point next month.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

Interview by Weird & Wonderful Worlds

I was simultaneously honoured and humbled by Maxcan7 (of Weird and Wonderful Worlds) offering to interview me last month. That interview is available NOW via the following link:

Be warned: it was conducted via instant message, so my tendency to ramble was indulged. 

Hope you enjoy it.

Check out the whole series, there's some great interviews including ScrewHead McDuff, Spwack, Semiurge and some other people whose names don't begin with "S" — including Patrick Stuart.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Demi-Humans & Alignment: Dwarfs

Continuing my extrapolation and twisting of original material to create a new chassis to run old school modules I'm jotting down some notes about so-called "demi"-humans. 

This was originally meant to be part of the "alignment" post. Likewise my post about elves (forthcoming) was supposed to go on the end of this one, but I started to ramble...

Previous posts in this series:

Image courtesy The Internet


What is a Demi-Human? 

Dungeons & Dragons has always taken a Tolkien-esque approach to "demi-humans" and "humanoids":  dwarves [sic] and elves are treated as "races" rather than the magical spirits that appear in our myths and folklore. This treatment is extended to orcs, goblins, gnomes etc. The clue is in the terminology used: they are human-like or human derived, or variations (or corruptions) of humans.

Folding that back on itself, what if they became "in world" what they are outside the fiction: projections of human ideals? These are spirits rendered flesh: they exist because of our stories and folklore, and our belief in tales of ancient kingdoms in forgotten mountains or slender gender-fluid aliens materialising in dark forests.

They do not have economies and cultures and taxonomies, they are archetypes.

Demi-Humans and Alignment

When I first started to think about alignment again, may brain did this:

  • Law vs Chaos
  • Clerics vs Magic-Users  
  • Dwarfs vs Elves

As with other binary pairs, there are (multiple and interesting) exceptions, but I like this set up as a foundation.