22 June 2012


 No real content today- nothing about The Odds Are Against You, being a Dungeon Master, ONI PUNCHER, no theories, no complaining, no nothing.

Just a picture of a chimera, because they're one of the coolest mythological creatures that doesn't get any love. Sure, people fucking love elves and dragons and stuff, or even goblins or orcs, but never chimeras. Even the Minotaur gets love, and it was just the one guy, once, that somehow got turned into a semi-intelligent race of native american analogues! But whatever.

This picture is from the God of War digital artbook. It got a lot of things screwy about mythology, but it got the actual mythology part fairly correct. Things look like they should, feel like they should, and generally act convincing, and that's really all you can ask for in an action game.

17 June 2012

Dreams of Aftermath

I had another dream about zombies last night, but it was a peaceful dream, oddly enough. It was a dream of the aftermath of zombies, of learning to survive through hiding, running, and generally being cannier than the other zombies. It was a dream of stewardship, and of patience. 

For example, I needed a thing from an electronics store. I needed to get something off of one old device I had, and onto another. You know how dreams can be- what's important at first is the goal, and then before you know it you've been looking for so long the search is all that matters and you almost forget exactly why you're doing what you're doing. 

In this case, I went with my brother to the store, and my father was opposed because it was a waste of gas. They were probably all taken up by now, and besides, it'd draw attention to our hideout in the wrecked building we'd created hiding holes and sneaky spots in. But I wouldn't listen. 

I ran out to our old car, but he was right- zombies. By this time, we'd long since run out of ammunition for weapons, so I didn't bother. I just picked up a rather thick stick and smacked the zombies around. These were Romero zombies, the slow, lumbering kind, so it wasn't so bad. 

I got to the store and it was mostly looted, but it was ok, because there were houses near here. Even though the sun was setting, they looked mostly undisturbed, which meant maybe the looters had left most of the things around. My brother decided to stay with the car. I decided to forge onwards.

I'll abbreviate the rest: I found where the Canadian army was offering extradition to safe Canada in exchange for enlistment in their foreign legion. I was tempted, but decided against it. What would my family do without me? And besides, I hadn't told anybody that I was going. But I did find a woman there, who started talking to me. She was charming, and she seemed to like me just fine, so we explored the dilapidated houses together. She lived near there but I couldn't stay, so we parted ways and I went back to the house to try and improve it. Materials were hard to come by. It was stressful- my father wanted us to stay safe, but I wanted to live in a better place, so we argued a little. I don't know who won.

Remind me not to live in the total collapse of society.

16 June 2012

ONI PUNCHER Adventure!

One of the first things I want to do for ONI PUNCHER is similar to what I did for Aim For The Head; namely, an introductory adventure to show people what I was thinking about when I made the rules.

One of the reasons, I think, that oD&D took off so strongly was that it was possible, through the adventures and modules and ramblings of the creators, to see exactly what the first DMs were getting at. You get a very good sense of what Gygax was like when you read what he produced. You get a very good sense of what Arneson was like when you read through his material, as well. It's not quite as good as having them sit down and play a game for you, but it's pretty close.

And so that's something that I plan on doing. I have a lot of ideas for a one-page module for Oni Puncher, as well as some nifty extra rules for it. I think you'll like it. It features a very dangerous Oni named Hideaki, a luminescent demon that's causing some serious problems among the westland farmers. Will you be able to defeat him, or will you yourself be defeated?

(That reminds me, I never included rules on how to lose in Oni Puncher, or how your Punchers might be defeated. I might have to add something in!)


Here's a sweet-ass PDF of ONI PUNCHER, the game of punching Oni in the face while being a badass samurai. It's a single page, and includes all of the basic rules of the game. Will there be more advanced rules? Will there be sample adventures, and lists of magic items or bad guys for you to use, or of NPC samurai and shamans and sorcerers for you to use?

There might be. Why do you ask: Isn't this game good enough for you? You haven't even played it yet. Don't be like that.

15 June 2012

Oni Puncher: The One Page RPG

I was sitting one day, fighting off a headache that even aspirin and a really crappy smoothie I'd made myself couldn't fight off, when an idea forced itself through my brain. It latched on to the part of my brain that loved samurai, and found a fertile nesting ground.

My fingers raced across the keyboard, at lightning speed. Sparks flew from my fingernails. Steam bellowed from my brain! My computer screamed for release from the terrible torment I was putting it through, begging me to slow down my superhuman feats of speed and typing accuracy, pleading from release from the suffering!

I didn't listen. I had a game to write. So I wrote it.

Oni Puncher is nothing like what I thought it was going to be when I first talked about it what, a year ago? Or longer? But the basics I talked about (not so much what inspired Oni Puncher or what my initial ideas were, or even what insanely creative and totally awesome resolution mechanics I wanted to use) are nowhere to be seen. They all ended up in Rodiel after having been mixed around in my brain with all of the Terry Pratchett, ancient Middle Eastern mythology, and druidic symbolism.

In the very basic vein of Aim For The Head (the one page zombie roleplaying game based heavily off Dead Meat), comes ONI PUNCHER, a game about oriental styled warriors (or otherwise, if you choose) who gather together to punch demons. It's a very simple, player-oriented game that supports players doing pretty much whatever they really want to do. The mechanics are simple, and totally unsuited for the basic D&D-like type of play of run around, kill things, take their stuff, repeat. Instead, it's built around a nearly Chainmail-like level of play, a pseudo-oD&D sort of level-less system. You get no mechanical advantage for magical items, and nobody cares about what sort of battlemat or grid you've set up to put minis on. It's totally abstract, and totally awesome. It's a really fun beer and pretzels game, and I'll release it either tonight or tomorrow RIGHT HERE for your perusal and enjoyment.

It just needs some last minute editing of the PDF and then that's that!

14 June 2012

The Wizard's Shotgun

Really nothing else to say. I've been screwing around, playing video games and having headaches instead of actually writing the sort of stuff I was supposed to be writing, so you get this silly comic instead of updates. Enjoy!

11 June 2012

Wandering Monster Tables

One of the most fun things, conceptually, about my retroclone of the HeroQuest system from earlier this year is the wandering monster tables. I know: wandering monsters? Really? How is that exciting? Well let me tell you!

In the original game, wandering monsters were handled by a short stack of cards, which you pulled from when the players searched around. They had a large chance to find a random trap or wandering monster, and a smaller chance to find actually useful treasure. If you drew a hazard of some sort, you put the card back in and then shuffled, but if you got treasure, you kept it out. This created an elegant solution to both pacing and treasure distribution. In the beginning of the game, when Body Points and resources were greater, it was easier to find treasure, and even if you pulled a hazard out of the deck, it was ok. No big deal. So you lose one or two health- you've got plenty, and you probably have a couple of potions hanging around. It's ok.

On the other hand, later on in the game, when your heroes are limping across the floor and narrowly staving off defeat, the treasures are mostly gone and when you can't afford to face yet another damn zombie, it's time for you to get out. No more searching for treasures, no more poking around the rooms- it's time to run. It doesn't matter if there's a chest in the corner, or if there are loose stones in the wall. You can't afford to find out today. You just need to get out of here!

How many times are they going to stick a zombie in fake treasure chests?

So I took the same idea, and put it into dice terms. I'm not interested in printing out cards for every dungeon that I'm going to design (although I might, at some point, for those of you with fancy cardstock printers). Since the game only uses six sided dice, I'm restricted a little in the random table- but not as much as you might think at first. Between using the sum (d6+d6), or as a fake percentile dice, you're more than spoiled for choice. Here's how it works with the second option.

When your players search an object (or even just in general), roll 2d6. The first die tells you what table to look on. The second die tells you the result. Cross off results of "Treasure" and "Events," but don't cross off any other result. When you get a result you'd crossed off, reroll the first die to select a new table. If that's already crossed off too, just pick something. Don't forget to tailor the result to fit the situation. If it blatantly doesn't fit, just remember it for later and add it in as soon as you can.

Here's some sample tables so you can see what I mean.

Table 1: Treasure
Cross these off after rolling.
1: Stuffed into a fraying cloth bag is a handful of bluish gems. Together they're worth 50 gold.
2: What looked like worthless trash was actually ancient silver! 50 gold.
3: A statue made entirely of jade, with gorgeous rubies for eyes. 100 gold.
4: Some scummy gold coins that smell faintly of feet. 25 gold.
5: What appears to be a ceremonial helmet, although it could be a very fancy kettle. 50 gold.
6: Jackpot! Platinum from an age gone by. 200 gold.

Table 2: Events
Cross these off after rolling.
1: Orcish warband on its way out stumbles upon you. 2d6 orcs appear, fully armed and hostile.
2: The room you are in rotates 90 degrees clockwise, doors and all.
3: A statue in the center of the room comes to life. It's not very friendly.
4: A fountain in the middle of the room. What appears to be water is acidic ooze. Drinking deals 2 damage.
5: A pot of really hearty stew. No game effects, but it's delicious.
6: This room's doors are on its ceiling, except for the one you just came in through.

Table 3: Wandering Monsters
Do not cross these off after rolling.
1: 1d6 zombies
2: Specter
3: 2-4 orcs
4: A winterbog riding a large pig
5: Frogman
6: Ettercap

Table 4: Traps
Do not cross these off after rolling.
1: Pit opens up underneath the searcher. Roll 1d6- anything but 6 falls in.
2: Mechanical crossbow shoots an arrow. Make an attack with 3 dice.
3: Contact poison! Roll 1d6- result of 5 or 6 reduces maximum Body Points until the end of the adventure.
4: Magma trap! The entire room is flooding with lava. Failure to escape in time spells immediate doom.
5: Rolling boulder, Indiana Jones style. Anybody in the path rolls 1d6- 6s suffer 3 Body Points as they're crushed.
6: Explosion trap. 2 damage to the searcher, 1 damage to anybody nearby.

Rolls of 5 or 6 indicate nothing was found, and nothing happens (but roll the second die anyways, keep the players on their toes.)

Something like that. Really, this was just an excuse to write about my HeroQuest project, and get some time writing up random tables. I like random tables!

10 June 2012

How To Be A DM

Saruman, the master of dungeons

Apparently there's a lot of confusion, because people are always asking for advice on how to be a DM. But it's actually easy. Look at that picture up there. That's Saruman, the White Wizard. He's famous mostly for being a dick, for being a thorn in the side of the heroes and massing a gigantic army that, while threatening, never really did much aside from make the important people (the Fellowship, if you haven't heard) basically get really nervous and keep them on track.

To be a decent DM, Saruman needs to be you. Setting aside the old debates of how much you should prepare (however much you need based on your ability to improvise), or whether you should run a premade adventure for your first couple sessions as a DM (probably), or even what system to run for your first games (who cares?), you need to be able to give the players something to do, and make them earn it. That's it.

The Lord of the Rings wouldn't have been even half as good as it was if the Fellowship walked to Mordor by hacking their way through a horde of impossibly inept orcs, found 1d10 x100 gold in a cave, six magic swords and a greater artifact and then casually tossed the ring into the volcano while the realm cheered would it? The characters, instead, suffered their way through the world. They squabbled, split up, snuck around, got stupid and got captured, talked with elves and tried to figure out Mr. Gollum. They wandered through hellscapes, had their fingers bitten off, got poisoned, lost one of their friends, nearly got eaten by a giant spider, and so on and so on and so on. It was difficult. It was deadly. It was interesting.

And that needs to be you. I've read a lot about how to be a DM, and I've read about both good DMs and bad DMs. I'll be honest- some of the successful sessions that people report online seem like the most boring sessions in the world, full of melodrama, or hours of endless tactical combat, or whatever. But it works for them, and do you want to know why? Because they're giving their players (who aren't me) what they want, and they're making them work for it. That's it. Take your player's goal, and put it on the other side of the world. Put it inside a volcano, through a cave filled with spiders and trolls. Put another good guy in between them, and have them have an honest misunderstanding. Just do something. Make them sweat. Make them wonder if they'll win or if they'll lose.

The Mouth of Saruon, sweating a bit

My advice? Get ready because this is hard for new DMs: Really let them lose if they mess up. Make their mistakes matter. Make there be consequences. You want to see them really sweat? Make your players understand that if they do mess up, there aren't any Deus Ex Machina waiting in the corner to save them. There aren't any DM-controlled characters ready to rush in to help them along. There isn't any "You failed but it turns out it doesn't matter anyways! Yay!" There's no better way to cheapen victory than to make defeat hollow.

On the flip side, don't make losing so harsh that the game might as well be over. So Frodo dies on the way to destroy the ring and now Gollum has it. So now what happens? Does Sauron come back? What do the players do about it? Do they rally the kingdoms of Men? Do they reforge Narsil (the sword that sliced Sauron's hand in the first place) and find a champion to wield it? Do they help in the defense of the remaining keeps and castles? Make the consequences of losing almost as fun as what happens if they win.

Remember: You're Saruman, not Gandalf. You're the evil mastermind plotting against them. It's not quite a perfect analogy, since you're the DM, not an opponent. You could easily win if you want ("Rocks fall and you all die. Game over."), and you could make the players win if you wanted to ("You walk from the Shire to Mordor. Nothing happens on the way. You throw the One Ring in and you win. The realm hails you as its champion. Game over.") So don't do either. Let the players do it. 
It's kind of what they're playing the game for.

If you remember one phrase from this post, let it be that: Let the players do it.

Take this knowledge, go forth, and have fun. That's how to be a DM.

Now go DM.

09 June 2012

Magic Makes You Weak

Magic is addictive. It's raw power as no human in the real world can understand it. It's the ability to reshape existence itself according to your willpower. It's difficult, complex, hard to control, and absolutely addicting the way only power can be.

The most learned and ancient wizards jealously hoard their tomes of lore and their magical items like another man would guard his children, or his life's love. The lesser wizards look upon the treasure troves with avarice, and spend their nights dreaming of more power. It becomes all-consuming. They can't resist.

What once started as a healthy, hale, friendly young man becomes a bearded, angry delver, little more than a knowledge thief. Their backs are twisted from compulsively reading into the night, their hair goes grey from the sheer strain of learning more and more magic, of learning to summon and bind creatures from another world. They spend their life force, their very vitality to learn more. And it's still never enough.

It's never enough power.


In Rodiel, the more magic you have, the weaker your character is. It's not the other way around (although it can look like it, at character creation.) If you have even an inkling of magic, you are a wizard. The magic calls to you, and your character is helpless before its call.

In game terms, it means that even a wretched role on the dice has hope. You may be a weakling in comparison to the Achilles standing next to you and the Hercules next to him, but you're a wizard. In more basic terms, you have magical talent if your ability scores are all fairly low, with your magic being stronger the worse the rolls were. Somebody with rock-bottom stats has incredible magic, for example.

I think it could be fun.


Designing slayers was fun. They're bloody, brutal, and mean, and their design really bears that out. Their backgrounds (presented here) really reinforce the idea that Slayers don't have a place in society. Whereas Sentinels make excellent guards and heros for the city-states of Rodiel, and Rangers are specialists, guides, foresters, and spies, Slayers live entirely to kill people. They're the Gilgameshes, the larger than life heroes that people really wish would go away until it's time to kill another monster. They generally fight with little armor and with whatever weapons are handy, although when it's time to choose they usually select an impossibly heavy weapon that only people of their calibre can bear to use.

More Slayer backgrounds should be forthcoming, but for now, just take a peek at these. I feel these really help to get a feel for the way Rodiel works. There's nothing wrong with imposing a little bit of setting on your players' characters- it's the easiest way to remind them that their characters are very much a product of their society.


Red-Handed: You are a member of a mystic order of warriors who ritualistically tattoo one hand bright red, an agonizing process that takes days. But your faith in your mysticism allows you to recover one fatigue when you slay an enemy. If you do not consume the flesh of your enemies at the end of every battle, you lose this benefit, as the God of Blood you worship demands this.

Enormous: You are significantly larger than the average man. While your equipment costs half again as much as a normal man, you can carry twice as much on your person.

Motivated: A being of incredible vitality and spirit, you can deplete your fatigue past zero, towards a negative amount equal to your normal fatigue total. However, pushing yourself past your own limis means that you have to sleep an extra hour for each negative point until you have equalized your sleep debt.

Savage: You spit on effeminate and cowardly sorcerers- you know that with your lucky charms and observances of taboos you cannot be harmed by their ways. Your will counts for 1.5x normal when resisting magic- for as long as you follow a stringent and conspicuous taboo.

Demon-limbed: One of your arms is actually a hideous, begrimed demon parasite that's grafted to your chest. It is supernaturally strong and functions as an excellent example of the weapon of your choice of light or medium type. For obvious reasons, you cannot hold anything else in that hand. In addition, the parasite is not entirely under your control, and may decide to do its own thing at inopportune moments.

07 June 2012

It's been a long couple of months!

I've had a lot on my plate: my wife came back from her year-long training in the Navy, and that meant that it was time to move across the country!

Between moving everything we own, dealing with the military (if you've never had to play a week-long game of phone tag only to find out that you need to contact five or six different people at different departments, count yourself lucky,) a pretty decent car crash that ended up totalling our poor Altima, and actually getting our asses into a place that wasn't a hotel on base, it's been a long, busy, weird time to be this guy.

But don't worry- I'm still doing some pretty cool stuff. I've got Rodiel, my fun-tastic setting almost penned in its entirety- all that's left is organizing it so that somebody less crazy can make sense of it, and then maybe try and wrangle together some playtesters online or offline who are willing to help me make it into more than just a heap of half-congealed ideas.

Horse points got worked out early, unfortunately

Also, I've started playing Magic the Gathering: Online, which seems fun so far. The pauper-style deckbuilding means that all I use are commons, and that means that I can build a deck for less than a dollar and even have it be moderately successful, even! No more $20 decks, worthless booster packs, or scrambling over mythic rares, thanks. I'll just play with my silly commons for now.

It's weird having internet after all this time, I'd gotten used to putting around the house and bothering my poor, patient cat and writing in notebooks, and now I have the entire internet in front of me again and I can't for the life of me remember what I used to do on it. Your loss, I guess!