Friday 8 December 2023


A recent trip to Dragonmeet involving actual, face-to-face communication and the rolling of dice instilled a deep longing to get back to the gaming table. Sadly, sitting down with my partner to plan out the next few months it dawned on both of us that our lives are not going to be our own for a very long time. This is the price of having children in a declining former superpower, far from the embrace of a supportive extended family—an arrangement we entered voluntarily and could (in theory) escape at any time, so please don't send your sympathies. Nonetheless the reality remains fixed: no nights off for elf-games.

(Foot note: need an alternative semi-humorous shorthand for the RPGs I play: "elf-games" has the whiff of vanilla fantasy... one that springs to mind was "spirit-games" but that sounds like a Victorian parlour game) 

There's also the matter of this cover image, first shared in this post back in May last year:

City of Ghosts cover image by Jef Cox

In short, I have a lot of material ready to go but I want to explore it at the table before releasing it to the world. Fortunately, inspiration was at hand in the form of Ben Lawrence's megadungeon podcast, in which Luke Gearing was interviewed. Turns out that Luke's only gone and been running a weekly online game in his one hour lunch break. Having said that, special mention must go to Pat Eyler aka Foot of the Mountain who has previously shared details of his (face-to-face) lunchtime campaign on his Patreon, which undoubtedly sowed the seed for this latest venture...

Core Principles

I think it's good to start with some over-arching structure concerning how the game's going to operate. Sort of meta to this is the process of these principles being shared, embellished and elaborated on the blog parallel to campaign reports, so consider this a work in progress:

  • The game is about exploration and interaction with a fictional world that emerges in the shared imagination of its players: while maps, character sheets and other audio-visual cues all contribute to the construction of this world, the “core mechanic” is dialogue

  • Mostly this dialogue occurs between the GM and the other players, but OOC (out of character) discussion between players is actively encouraged. 

  • Dramatic role play is appreciated but is not essential to play the game: 3rd person description is equally valid

  • To paraphrase Frank Menzer: Pariah is a game that is FUN! However player safety is paramount and we will work together to establish the lines and veils defining the boundaries to that fun

  • This does not absolve character(s) from consequence! It is assumed that a big part of the fun is witnessing the consequences of character actions play out in the game world, both positive and negative

  • The weekly, one hour voice chat games focus on exploration of the apparently abandoned Neolithic *City of Ghosts*, an expedition and will aim to return to camp by the end of the session, though sometimes the party will be unable to do so…

  • in the latter case, the following session will pick up where the last left off, with changes to the PC roster handwaved…

  • If PCs return to camp at the end of the session it is assumed  “in-world” time between expeditions passes at the same rate as real world time between sessions

  • Players can have pariahs carry out downtime activities between expeditions: this will be done in text chat between sessions, if desired

  • Player-facing mechanics are taken from pariah vol 1 with some modifications, as outlined below

Lines & Veils

In the past I’ve stated that I prefer to run a PG-13 game: while running a game of Heart: The City Beneath I reflected on that statement, and think it’s probably truer to say that my games have a “15” certificate in that there is likely to be strong language, risky behaviour, violence (though not extreme injury detail) and strong themes of threat & horror

Within that context, I offer the following lines and veils as starting points and invite players to add to this. I encourage players to do this via private message if anonymity is preferred.

  • LINE: sexual assault 

  • VEIL: violence against children (not expected to be a feature of the game)

  • VEIL: extreme injury detail (horrible injuries might occur, but we need not dwell on it)

  • VEIL: sex “scenes” will fade to black, if they occur (not expected to be a feature of the game, this is basically a dungeon crawl but who knows)

Player facing rules

Players generate characters using PARIAH volume 1, with the following amendments:

  •  Attribute modifiers are reduced as follows:

    • 3-5: -1

    • 6-15: -

    • 16-17: +1

    • 18: +2

  • The previous DC/target number system for skill/attribute checks is jettisoned: I’ll probably start off flitting between D20 saving throws and a World of Dungeons-esque 2d6 #

Outside of the voice sessions the downtime/community building aspect can be explored in text chat: this area represents a WIP and I’m interested in what the players want to contribute to this. 

Player Quorum

I’m happy to play games 1-1, especially if the player is running multiple characters, but I think it’s important to allow players to opt out of this without any consequences if they’d prefer not to be the only one running a PC.

Regarding maximum number of players… I’m not sure. I’ve run fairly large face-to-face games before but I’m not so happy to do this online, as the inter-player conversation really suffers: it can turn into a host of players communicating with each other through the GM. But for now I’m not setting a top limit on it, I’m just keen to get as many people on board as possible!


First session is next Friday (15th December), I'll aim to get a report up before the following session. I'm quite keen to discuss the meta-elements of running the game in this series of posts: this is a first for me in a number of ways and I'm looking forward to sharing the discoveries made along the way.


City of Ghosts cover image

Into the Megadungeon podcast with Luke Gearing

PARIAH Volume 1

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