Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Church, The Old Ways, Cults and Their Loathsome Gods

Follow this link to what you should listen to while reading this article

Author's Notes: This is likely the longest post I've written so far, please bear with me. In this post I mainly talk about THE CHURCH and THE OLD WAYS. These are essentially a monolithic abrahamic faith that the cleric class is a member of and polytheistic pagan/folk religion faith which would be more inline for a magic-user/druid/shaman class. I also mention CULTS towards the end but I think most people know what those are when I mention them. 

Dynamism of Faiths

a.k.a. Why your clerics should belong to a monolithic centralized faith

I think there is an inherent issue with the incompatibility of the OSR cleric and Polytheistic Faiths. There are two large components to this based on the nature of the priesthood in polytheistic faiths and the implicit function of the OSR Cleric.

In polytheistic faiths the function of clergy and priests is to oversee worship and supervise rites, essentially insuring that invocations of aid to their deities are successful. They function as a middle man between mortals and their gods. There is a fundamental difference between the metaphysics of abrahamic (I use this term loosely) and polytheistic faiths. Th abrahamic faith has a singular covenant which creates a standardized contract of moral righteousness in return for salvation and protection while polytheistic faiths involve offerings order to receive a benefit in turn. The function of the clergy, in polytheistic faiths, is then to officiate these offerings on behalf of people for their benefit. Polytheistic clergy do not go out and proselytize, the covenant of their gods are not open to admission and exist merely as a consequence of gods power over existence.

The implicit function of the OSR cleric is to essentially lengthen the amount of time their party may explore a dungeon/a hexmap without returning to a safe place to heal. Clerics are essentially Magic-users with different spell lists, the ability to turn undead, and weapon restrictions. The spells of OSR clerics function to mainly heal HP, remove curses or poison, raise the dead, and are defensibly and reactively cast rather than the combative or dungeon circumvention which is proactively cast. Firstly these spells fit a deity which holds power over life and death, such as a supreme abrahamic deity, be the origin of a cleric's powers. Polytheistic clerics facilitate invocations to a multitude of gods and I really don't see, outside of Vancian influence, why gods couldn't grant Magic-User spells to clerics. Why not simply combine the spell lists and fluff priests and wizards as the same class. Clerics have a unique relationship with the undead which is the result of the history to their creation. But it further complicates their existence as members of a polytheistic faith as why would Mars/Thor/Nagaynezgani turn undead? It fits it stronger thematically that a deity which holds power over life and death, such as a supreme abrahamic deity, be the origin of a cleric's powers. I believe that the weapon restrictions are merely a result of balancing gameplay as blunt weapons dealt less damage then edged ones and magic swords wouldn't be usable by clerics. As such I think they aren't necessarily relevant.

I would then say that OSR clerics and Polytheistic Faiths are incompatible due to the dissonance of the mechanics of the cleric and the generally polytheistic nature of most OSR settings. I would say then that there IS precedent that Clerics in OSR settings should worship a supreme abrahamic/cthonic deity and I will now list other reasons why you should have a singular monolithic church that characters who are clerics follow in your OSR games.

Contrast and Conflict Sources

If you have a singular monolithic church in your setting you can create multiple sources of contrast as well as conflicts. A large component of culture is the theological/existential/philosophical beliefs they share and most players of OSR (whom I assume are familiar with/from western cultures and traditions that are heavily steeped in abrahamic and monotheistic notions) would have an intuit understanding of THE CHURCH. Through cultural osmosis they would be familiar with THE CHURCH and I would wager that most would be unfamiliar with non-occidental religious practices and have a less intuitive understading of those cultures. Familiarity of THE CHURCH then allows you to create contrast with other cultures or races your players interact with and creates  a source to create conflicts from as THE CHURCH has a long history of heresies, religious wars, pope stealings, excommunications, witch hunts and the like. You have a strong tradition to draw from and can even steal things wholesale such as mythologies about demons and other apocrypha.

Further if you have THE CHURCH you have cause for multiple relics to be recovered from dungeons (they sued to be cathedrals and churches). Further you likely have saints and from them a source of multiple magic items be they real items the saints used or relics.

Religious Beliefs as Alignment

I think that Tabletop RPG's and OSR especially so are simply a continuation of the mythic Chaoskampf. There are a few points of civilization (Law) which are surrounded by sprawling wilderness (Chaos). There is a massive duality between Primordial Darkness and the Civilized Light and players take the role of the Law-Bringer striking down the Serpent. What's great about this is this already fits into the OSR alignment chart. Further this fits into the theme of ruination inherent to OSR. Great calamities bring doom and recycle the Lawful Civilizations into dark dungeons. I don't think I can emphasize how strongly the idea of a "points of light" setting fits into this Chaoskampf. The civilized areas are points of light and law and so having a monolithic faith, THE CHURCH, as an aspect of law underscores the metaphysics of OSR.

I greatly advocate for extremely humanocentric settings and in this you are able to use faith as an alignment system. THE CHURCH is lawful, THE OLD WAYS are neutral, and CULTS are chaotic. This works pretty similarly to alignment in OSR games especially so with the cleric spells of Protection from X and  Circle from X as these spells become Protection BY X. Rather than a magic circle against evil you have a Circle of Protection by God. Rather than asking the "metagaming question" of what alignment is he, you could simply ask what faith does he believe. This further ties in with the alignment nature of creatures. Lawful beings such as Angels are servants of the of THE CHURCH's God. Neutral beings such as animals arise from nature's existence. Chaotic beings then are the spawn of some CULT'S worshiped diety. I think the last aspect especially significant as it explains the existence of every dungeon denizen as supernatural and circumvents questions such as "what do orcs eat?". The next section of this post deals with the nature of THE CHURCH, THE OLD WAYS, and CULTS as alignment systems and their fundamental differences.

The Faiths

I didn't want to stop using Black Metal Album Art so here's another good album 


So THE CHURCH is essentially the veneration of The White God so revealed to his prophets by Covenant and Miracles. There are two important parts here the Covenant and Miracles. Unlike THE OLD WAYS or CULTS central to THE CHURH's theology is the concept of The Covenant which is essentially a spiritual contract made by the prophets with The White God on behalf of the nations of man. The Covenant is extended to all those inducted into the Church by the rite of baptism. Those people are now Protected and Preserved by The White God but must follow the rules of the Covenant as written in the Holy Writ.

Holy Writ
Thou shalt have no other gods before The White God
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt no commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness

In terms of alignment the Holy Writ ends up as the following rules. Worship and partaking of only THE CHURCH's faith. Do not use murder as a means of solving conflicts, in extenuating circumstances this may become lose but essentially it means you can't just kill someone for disagreeing with you. Marriage is an important institution because it comes not from joining bloodlines but because it is allowed by The White God. Do not purjer yourself when people seek to attain justice.

Those who holds the Covenant and it's precepts in highest regard walk the earth as saints, idols of charity to the less fortunate able to preform miracles. Those who can perform these miracle in the name of The White God are viewed as saints (these are the cleric characters).

If you are a member of THE CHURCH/are Lawful you are devout in practicing your faith.


In contrast to THE CHURCH which has a singular covenant, the old faith is predicated on offerings made to one of many deities in order to illicit certain result. The church has a firm and established relationship while the Old Faith is in a state of constant flux. Rather than following a code of conduct and receiving benefits, you make sacrifices/offerings and in turn receive a benefit.

Types of deities often found in polytheism generally include:
Culture Hero: Hercales or Cu Chulainn
Death Deity (Chthonic Function): Hades or Orcus
Life-Death-Rebirth Deity: Osiris or Mitras
Political deity (such as a king or emperor): Imperial Cult
Sky Deity (celestial): Wakinyan or Perun
Solar Deity: Sol Invictus or Amaterasu
Trickster Deity: Loki or Anansi
Water Deity: Neptune or Susanoo no Mikoto
Gods of Endeavors: Athena Palas or Inari Okami

In terms of alignment THE OLD WAYS are essentially the ethics and code of conduct which predates THE CHURCH. The important aspects in "pagan" or "tribal" cultures tend to focus on the following things which were held as supremely important as they indicated one could trust you.

Our Ancestors Had:
Honor - Honor is a reflection on the merit of your word and ability to hold oaths, you would lose honor by being unable to do what you say. In ancient times your word was vastly important and if someone has no honor then they cannot be trusted.

Courage - While this does tie in to Honor, your ability to act in dangerous situations is an indicator of your trustworthiness. If you breakdown when scared or are easily shaken then why should people trust you.

Hospitality - In the ancient world there was massive importance on being a good host and on being a good guest. The outside world was cruel and dangerous so those who acted upon the politeness of hospitality risked much by offering aid. Those who would go against hospitality go against kindness offered by total strangers and as such could not be trusted.

Perseverance - If a person falters when they encounter difficulties then how can you trust them. If however they can keep struggling until they achieve their goal then they are to be noted for their actions.

If you keep THE OLD WAYS/are Neutral you may merely be a member of the church who isn't devout or you may keep the faith that your ancestors did making offerings to the old gods.


This should be the standard for the aesthetic of  every "evil" cult in OSR games

In the darkness of a dungeon many work awful rite in order to obtain promised power to fulfill their deepest desire. They worship forgotten gods which whisper from the darkness asking for sacrifice. These are literally every antagonist from the Conan books. By partaking in such anti-social rites you are rejected by much of society and aren't necessarily trusted by them. Flip through a monster manual to determine which creature you venerate.

If you are in a CULT/ are Chaotic you do not care about the horrible nature of what you may be praying to as long as it aids you no matter how it does so.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Plague O' Both Your Houses: Curses and Mutations

So while traps within a dungeon are rather straightforward the majority of my dungeons end up gaining spiritual or religious significance. I think curses are a rather easy  way to provide trap effects in a dungeon and further can be thematically connected to the dungeon itself. If you have a dungeon up in the mountains the Curses of Death by Falling, Mistrust: Commit Betrayal, and Fear of Heights would serve to emphasize it's location elements. These curses are designed to be put on PC's with the idea that the curses effects would be long-lasting and force the PC to reevaluate his choice of doing something and possibly invest in some ways to avoid getting curses.

Yeah, its the same symbol as what I use in the blog but that's mainly because it's a cool hex and I like hexmaps
I couldn't figure out a good picture for this post so here's my tattoo of an old Ukrainian symbol used as protection from lightning strikes

Merciful Curse Table

1Hated: -2 to reaction rolls and you are prioritized by enemies in combat
2Woe: Every time damage is rolled against you and 1's are ignored and instead re-rolled
3 Death Roll on the Death by Curse Table. That source of damage deals double damage to your character
Death by  Curse Table
4Abandonment: You only receive 95% of the XP you would have per session
5Misfortune: You lose all games of chance and attempts in gambling
6Mistrust: Roll on the Mistrust by Curse Table. If you have the opportunity you must save or commit that action
Mistrust by Curse Table
2Reject Mercy
3Commit Betrayal
4Ruin Beautiful Thing
7Phobic: Roll on the Fear by Curse Table. When in the presence of phobic object you must save or gain a pentalty of -3 to all attributes until  the phobic object is out of sight.
Fear by Curse Table
2Watery Depths
4Objects in Groups of 2d10
7Being Alone
8Loss: 1 in 6 chance of losing the contents of a random inventory slot/random object per day.
9Doom: The next 1d20 times you would roll a 1d20, You instead treat the roll as a failure the curse ends afterwards.
10Dire: Roll on the Cruel Curse Table or thrice on the Merciful Curse Table

Cruel Curse Table

1Dismemberment: Rather than roll a 1d12 for Severity Rolls, roll a 1d20
2Wasting: You can only regain HP by magical healing
3Fragility: Any time you would take damage you further take an additional 1 point of damage
4Incompetence: Instead of rolling a 1d6 for X in 6 chance of success rolls you instead roll a 1d8
5Outnumbered: The number of Wandering/Wilderness Monsters encountered increase by 50%
6Bable: Your speech limited to only 2d20 words. Determine the words you may speak forward from this point.

Avoiding/Removing Curses

The next post which is currently 65% drafted is about the the interplay of the church, old faiths, cults, and lost gods in OSR settings and will go into depths about this.


So while Curses are always be awful, Mutations can either benefit you or choose not to. The following table lists mechanical effects devoid of superficial changes like growing horns or skin changing skin color that I often see in mutations tables. There is a interplay of benefits/costs to a mutation associated with the visible changes it causes. You could simply use mutations as an analog to curses in a dungeon with a harsh visible change as no PC likes getting uglier.

Visible Changes

I would just suggest that every time you gain a mutation you link the visible changes to the source of the mutation be it thematically caused, superficially absent, or wild. Thematically caused mutations may perhaps be the result of exposure to some form of arcane radiation or vile magic. I would argue to add superficial effects similar to the source such as a dark serpent cult causing more scales to grow or someone to causing their tail to fork. Superficially absent mutations are simply unseen and have no visible effects. Lastly for wild causes of mutations I would simply roll on the wilderness encounter table and use that as the thematic cause no matter how strange the result. If you roll bandits then perhaps the reason your damage increases is because any dagger you hold grows longer and sharper.

Mutations - 
11d4 Changes occur to attribute scores. For each change roll a 1d12
1+1 to Strength
2+1 to Dexterity
3+1 to Constitution
4+1 to Intelligence
5+1 to Wisdom
6+1 to Charisma
7-1 to Strength
8-1 to Dexterity
9-1 to Constitution
10-1 to Intelligence
11-1 to Wisdom
12-1 to Charisma
21d4 Changes to derived scores. For each change roll a 1d8
1+1 to Attack / To Hit
2+1 to Defense / Base Armor Class
3+1 to Movement / Movement/Speed Category
4+1 to Stealth/ Chance of being Stealthy
5-1 to Attack / To Hit
6-1 to Defense / Base Armor Class
7-1 to Movement / Movement/Speed Category
8-1 to Stealth/ Chance of being Stealthy
3Different Damage (Roll a 1d4)
1Weapons you wield use a smaller damage die
2Weapons you wield use a larger damage die
3Attacks against you use a larger damage die.
4Attacks against you use a smaller damage die
4HP Change (Roll a 1d6)
1+1 HP
2+2 HP
3+3 HP
4-3 HP
5-2 HP
6-1 HP
5Flip a Coin:
Heads: Roll on Merciful Curse Table (Ignore rolls above 6)
Tails: As Heads but opposite effect from Curse
6Flip a Coin:
Heads: Now able to cast 1 random spell once per day
Tails: If you can cast spells then you now cast 1 less per day, if you don't have any spells then you gain a -4 to saves against magic

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Perishing and Perdition Table

Below is a table to add gruesome effects and a death spiral for when characters reach 0 hp. Rather than dying, they see what horrible effects happen upon their character. Mechanically this characters a greater chance of surviving combat, but still discentivizes getting into combat recklessly.

Art by Caravaggio

Hit Points are not "meat points" instead they represent your ability to survive blows that are potentially lethal through luck, skill, or toughness. When your HP reaches 0, you are unable to defend yourself properly, and any blow is a potentially lethal one. There are no mechanical effects for being reduced to 0 HP.  However, any damage in excess of this is potentially lethal and incurs a Severity Roll on the Perishing and Perdition  Table and may result in you gaining Fatal Wounds. Fatal Wounds are what kill a character. Unless you can get rid of one, a fatal wound kills you three rounds after you receive it. 

If you have a Fatal Wound your character is still conscious but is moments away from death and is likely screaming as they bleed out. You may continue taking actions as normal or you can instead attempt to remove a fatal wound. If you choose to get rid of a Fatal Wound you have a 1 in 6 chance of removing it, succeeding on a roll of 1. The only other way of losing a Fatal Wound is having other characters performing surgery (see Author's Note) or receiving magical healing which removes 1 Fatal Wound for every 2 points of damage healed. 

Author's Notes: In my games there is a surgery skill which works on the basis of a X in 6 chance of success. If you roll greater than your X in 6 when attempting surgery you deal that much damage to some one, but if you roll equal or less to your X in 6 chance you heal that much damage.

Perishing and Perdition Table

Severity Roll: 1d12 + Damage Taken

If the damage source is not from Burns, Eldritch Effects, or Surgery you must roll a 1d10 for hit location. Each severity scale is cumulative so if you roll a 13 on a severity roll you'd gain both the effects of the 11+ and the 1+ Severity Roll.

Value RolledHit Location
Severity Roll of 1+Effects
SkullAutomatically lose initiative for a number of combat rounds equal to Severity Roll
NeckMust spend a round to recover yourself before you can perform any other actions
ArmsDrop weapon/shield held in hand and cannot use that arm for a number of turns equal to Severity Roll
Torso-2 to Attack and Defense Scores / To Hit and AC until you spend a round recovering your breath
LegsFall prone and cannot use the leg to support your weight for a number of turns equal to Severity Roll (reduce movement score by 6 / base movement speed by half)
BurnsGain only half the Defense /AC bonus from your armor for a number of days equal to Severity Roll
Eldritch Effects-4 to Saves for a number of combat rounds equal to Severity Roll
SurgeryHalf Maximum HP for a number of days equal to Severity Roll
Severity Roll of 11+Effects + 1 Fatal Wound
SkullSave else randomly lose 1 point of intelligence, wisdom, charisma, or an eye (roll a 1d4) permanently
NeckLose 1d10 teeth and Save else mute permanently
ArmsSave else lose either the left or right arm
TorsoSave else randomly lose 1 point of strength, dexterity, or constituion permanently
LegsSave else lose either the left or right leg (reduce movement by 6 permanently / base movement speed by half)
BurnsSave else permanently lose 1d6 points of charisma and 1d2 points of dexterity
Eldritch EffectsSave else gain a curse
SurgerySave else permanent +4 bonus on all further severity rolls
Severity Roll of 16+Effects
Any SourceGain Severity Roll - 15 Fatal Wounds

Sunday, September 3, 2017

An Account of 6 Cities

Art by El Greco

Originally, I had planned to make the list of 6 cities an expanded version of the Towns post. But I was inspired by this post to instead procedurally generate each city.

Authors Note: I've been drafting this post since July and have torn much hair out about it. I'm well aware that the purchasable clockworks lack descriptions, but I have no idea how to properly write them up so that can be up to you as a referee.

Procedures to Make a City

Every City has 3 Base Districts alongside 1d4 Unique Districts

Base Districts
1. Great Markets - This is where you can buy everything found on the equipment table
2. City Castle - This is the fortified structure where the High Jarl of the City holds court.
3. Defining District - This is the unique district always found in that city.

The Unique Districts are a set of 5 possible districts from which the contents of the cities are drawn. Each city is constructed in a hex-wise manner, with the Great Markets District at the center. As shown in the image below, in a clockwise manner the unique districts are added in a random order and the City Castle is added last. The hex on the edge of  the city and on the opposite edge to the City Castle is where the gates of the city allow entry into the city.


The cities marked with an asterisk are on the sea.



Above the cliffs of a cold cove rise numerous towers and walls. Waves lap at the base of fortifications as rains pour down. Lightning repeatedly casts dark shadows amid the cityscape as innumerable figures scurry away from sight underneath dark cloaks.

Defining District

Cliff Bridge: A lone cliff leading out towards the sea ends in a thin iron bridge which leads to a craggy isle out into the sea. Upon the rock rises a lone stone tower, beneath this tower lies a vast gallery from which the ocean floor can be seen. Often people gather before the vast walls of glass and stare at the contents of the sea.

Unique Districts

1. Valkyrjaholl - A relic of the Old Faith, amid the new buildings stand carvings of ancient warriors and their exploits. Few church-folk wander the streets here, instead the old holidays are kept and old traditions followed. Spirited away are conclaves of those who would prepare for the end of days, sharpening spears and hoarding supplies. Men choose to have their throats slit and are buried armored with sword in hand to await the upending of the sky. [Unique Purchase - Einherjer: As hireling but with a morale of 18 and 2 HD. Costs 100 silver to first have them join you]
2. Azurgate - The High Jarl's rule is lacking here, instead a mob [the Grafa] finds itself in control of what occurs here. Occasionally venturing to the other districts by the sprawling sewers built underneath they tunnel into the dwellings of the rich and steal from them. The Grafa are led by a trio of sisters, each named after a color.
3. Ancient Gearworks - A few old clay buildings contrast against many other gray stoneworks. Here aged artisans toil above magnifying lenses conjoining minuscule gears and cylinders. Several apprentices mimic the few remaining masters and craft their own minor clockwork constructs. Those privy to the interiors see tall massive stones etched in bronze from which all their knowledge is derived. [Unique Purchase - Intricate Clockwork:  Costs 400 silver]
4. Traitorous Holdout - There is no love lost between the Jarl and a plotting faction [the Logberg]. Due to Jarl's inability to rule they seek to depose of the Jarl and replace him with their preferred alternative. Most in the city are aware and fearful of the impending doom of their uprising. The Logberg are led by council of gray bearded men each a grandfather to many children.

Ruling Jarl

Fyrtarn -  Currently locked in a dungeon below the castle. He bears a cruel curse, his body and limbs contorted into a series of spirals. He still bears his sentience, but howls in constant pain from the deformities inflicted on him. Several cube like spires of brown crystal emerge from both side of his neck and reek of boiled soil. His howls can be heard at night and many in Hringepi erroneously believe that a monster from the sea haunts the streets after nightfall.



Immaculate and imposing, the pale stone structures glisten with ancient glyphs. Each street is kept pristine and a few trees stand flowering and manicured. Iron-wrought streetlamps cast down soft lights on figures in bright prismatic clothes swaggering in multitudes. A few ancient statues still stand upright, their original purpose lost to time.

Defining District

Polished Forests - A vast botanical garden stretches out through the center of the city. Mosaics of stone and shrubery spell out spirals only visible to the clouds. Many gather at these gardens on moonless nights and the iron trees at the center of the gardens are lit aflame and rituals are invoked. Smoke mixes with the night sky and obscures those involved from any eye.

Unique Districts

1. Ivorigate - The High Jarl's rule is lacking here, instead a gang (Reykr) finds itself in control of what occurs here. The Reykr have figured how to make smoke bombs and often will throw them through the windows of a buildings before rushing in and assailing those disoriented within. They are led by four captains each named after a cardinal direction. [Unique Purchase - Reykr Smokebomb: fills a 10 foot cube with billowing smoke hampering sight and requiring a save else coughing for 1 round. Costs 80 silver]
2. Modern Gearworks - An industrial citadel rises above the surrounding houses. Furnaces billow as workers cast standardized gears and cogs and set them onto an assembly line. Men align parts in a repeated ritual creating a singular product. Run by an apprentice once mangled within the Ancient Gearworks who now seeks to be the forefront of clockwork crafts. [Unique Purchase - Standardized Clockwork: Costs 300 silver]
3. Etched Plain - A vast field of stone is measured by stone pillars. Every three days there are tournaments to determine the greatest athlete, many waste most of their wealth betting on these games. [Unique Purchase - Games Ticket: Allows one to enter the games. Characters may advance in the games by making attribute checks with a penalty equal to the number of rounds of games you have won. The winner is determined by a tournament of numerous rounds of elimination with the winner moving on to further rounds. There are 1d6+1 rounds to the tournament with a number of contestants being equal to 2 raised to the power of the number of rounds. The winner wins no prizes except for the title of champion. The Costs 15 silver]
4. Maze Beneath - A portion of the city was built atop of a vast valley. The top was covered in a lattice work of wooden bridges and outcroppings but the depths still exist unseen. Criminal elements and outlaws hide in the shadows and some even set up storefronts for their black-market goods.

Ruling Jarl

Hvit-Ney -  A young maiden who took the title of Jarl when her father died, is clad in white armor and followed by a retinue of men clad in similar garb. She wears the sacred headdress of the bull and rejects the Church instead promoting the Old Faith. Few of the Church cardinals scheme to remove her from power and plot ways to show her incompetence and gain the support of the people.



Amid a vast plain of brown sand that abjures away the sea, numerous boulders stand insolent. The moon casts a calm light down upon rough masonry bleached by the salty air. Figures swaddled in tunics of white and blue traverse irregular cobblestone streets as bells echo from the center of the polis.

Defining District

Seaside Spire - A singular towering construct stretches upwards from where the waves crash to where the horizon converges. A spiral of staircases winds through galleries rising higher and higher. A series of open archways at the zenith shine as a bright flame twists within. Those traveling by see can see the light for leagues, a sign of safety and security.

Unique Districts

1. Butchers Bay - The stench of blood has become embedded into the very stones here.  Legions of thick arms swing heavy knives splitting open carcasses. Flanks and chops are wrapped in wax paper and stacked among each other. A rampart of numerous butcheries stands a monument to the carnivore nature of those inside. [Unique Purchase - Vivisectionist Manual: If in possession it allows corporeal and visceral monsters to have a 1 in 6 chance of being able to be butchered into consumable rations equal to their HD. Costs 50 silver]
2. Allalms - A tall cathedral is swarmed by a field of slums and lean-toos. Processions of monastics meander through canopies of beggars arms. Missing limbs and scarred faces linger under a starving sun, a few under the shadow of the cathedral. Every hour the bell tolls and echoes. [Unique Purchase- Donation to a Beggar: Every 2 silver donated to beggars grants a single point of XP. Cost is variable]
3. Kwizling - There is no love lost between the Jarl and a plotting faction [the Brimsker]. Due to their hate of the Church they seek to depose of the Jarl and replace him with their preferred alternative. Most in the city speak of rumors of the impending doom of their uprising. The Brimsker are led by a pair of brothers, one branded on his face as a priest slayer.
4. Portyards - Brash voices coalesce into a cacophony near the sea here. Merchants transfer their wares and have their ships repaired. Men toil in crafting new vessels and some come together in investments to seek further fortune. [Unique Purchase- Shipping Investment: A character may invest money into a merchant venture. These investments are resolved as a reaction roll a month after the investment is made. Negative reactions represent a loss of investment, neutral reaction rolls represent investments no undergoing significant change, and positive reaction represent a windfall of a 100+2d20 % growth accumulation. Cost is variable]

Ruling Jarl

Stala -  By tragic means a Nun of the Church has become the Jarl. Once the eldest daughter of a Jarl, she was sent away to a coven. After his death she returned and now acts as a bastion of the church in the political sphere. Few are able to speak to her as Jarl and many share glimpses of her about in the streets, amid dirt and grime, delivering charity to others.



Innumerable thin buildings long for the height of the sky reminiscent of frail fingers reaching out for love. A panoply of gold, bright green, and crimson tiles stain the roofs of each building into a shimmering mosaic. Chimes hang from corners, meekly shaking in the wind, as hordes of monastics intermingle with resolute hedonists.

Defining District

Belfries Two - Two Gargantuan towers fill the sky. One stands immaculate of silver and alabaster, a shining exemplar of what beauty may be  stacked towards the heavens. The other is a ruin. Mere fragments which strain to remain composed into a single entity. The immaculate belfry is the site of mirth and veneration its bell spreading joy while the ruined belfry is abandoned, the occasional echoes which emerge from within merely reminiscent of some great melancholy.

Unique Districts

1. Garden of Crom-Lechs - Houses and shops are built among complexes of standing stones etched in runes of ages past. Scholars trace their shapes seeking to divine knowledge now lost to the past but most are unsuccessful. Most who live here take solace in the ancient carvings around them and some even speak of a ring of standing stones hidden away somewhere which holds an entrance to the realm of ages past. [Unique Purchase - Pillar Translation: Reveals location of dungeon 2d10 hexes away. Costs 100 silver]
2. Disirholl - A relic of the Old Faith, amid the new buildings stand carvings of ancient warriors and their exploits. Few church-folk wander the streets here, instead the old holidays are kept and old traditions followed. Honey harvested from beehives within the rib cages of dead men is steeped in their blood. This dead man's mead is said to let those who drink it see the spirits of the dead. [Unique Purchase - Totenmjod: Allows one to see dead spirits for 1 hour. Costs 45 silver and takes up 1/3 of a inventory slots]
3. Argengate - The High Jarl's rule is lacking here, instead a warband (the Bana Hog) finds itself in control of what occurs here. The Bana Hog wield enormous martial prowess, once being a famed mercenary company. They are rather antagonistic to those who would pass through this portion of the city and seek to tax each for 15 silver. [Stats as Bandits but with HD 3 and Def 5, each has a shield and may splinter it]. They are led by a man known as Verja [Stats as Bana Hog but with HD 5 and Def 7, has a shield and may splinter it]
4. Vichpike - Three towers, each matching like the fingers of a disfigured hand arise from a steep hill. A few boroughs surround the hill but otherwise leave them a great deal of space. Inside live five witches each clad in singular shade whose name they share, each etches pernicious gifts.  Rumors speak of Carmine stealing air into her lungs and walking beneath the waves. Rumors speak of Ceil binding an iron ring to a lover so that she would never succumb to another's charms and compulsions. Rumors speak of Citrine tasting the blood of her enemies and seeing what they see. [Unique Purchase - Witch Talisman: As described above, each lasts for an hour. Costs 150 silver and takes up 1/3 of a inventory slots]

Ruling Jarl

Dodsen - A powerful Occultist who controls legions of the dead. Once an oprhan child Dodsen was found wandering the in the remains of the ruined belfry seemingly speaking with imaginary friends. Each corpse-spirit whispered his secrets into the child's ear and promised him servitude if he would exhume their shells from underneath the rubble. After a few years of solitary excavation Dodsen amassed a population of servitors. Fearing his power turning cruel, the heir-less Jarl adopted Dodsen as his own child.



A mountain in the distance, aqueducts cast long shadows from their arches, creating irregular spheres of light and shadow along the roofs of the city. Each stone was placed with intent and each building was wrought of an artisan's obsession. The few figures, who pace among the complex, bear open arms at their waist and speak in exasperated tones between themselves. The air is cool and is easily breathed in somewhere a waterfall roars.

Defining District

Upturned Lake - An excess of aqueducts sprawl outwards from a singular lake elevated above most buildings. A cage of stone elevates the lake above the city but below the roaring waterfall. Water from the mountain above spreads through out the town, still icy from the snowy peaks above.

Unique Districts

1. Nornirholl - A relic of the Old Faith, amid the new buildings stand carvings of ancient warriors and their exploits. Few church-folk wander the streets here, instead the old holidays are kept and old traditions followed. Trios of maidens draw water from ancient wells and divine portents of the future from the way it falls. [Unique Purchase - Oracle Reading: Roll a d20 [don't say a numerical value] and a player is able to replace a future roll that they have to roll with that value instead of rolling for it. Costs 60 silver]
2. Gullgate - The High Jarl's rule is lacking here, instead a mafia (The Masfrekr) finds itself in control of what occurs here and in 1d4 other districts. They have spies everywhere and trade in debts and information. They are led by a single figure, but no one knows his identity.
3. Gambling Houses - Innumerable dens of ill repute border each other. Inside men wager against each other and lose themselves to lust and gluttony. Men trade fortunes on the outcome of a dice and others still barter in potent drugs. If not for the crowds one would think it easy to find a knife between their ribs. [Unique Purchase - Narcotics: Give temporary 1d6 hp and penalize initiative by 4 for 2 hours. Costs 40 silver]
4. Treacherous Halls - There is no love lost between the Jarl and a plotting faction [the Hirsteinn]. Due to the singular ambitions of their leader they seek to depose of the Jarl and replace him with their preferred alternative. Most in the city reject the possibility of the impending doom of their uprising. The Hirsteinn are led by Bayonet the Bastard.

Ruling Jarl

Branblomst - A maiden who rejected her royal blood and instead fell to blood-lust, Branblomst traveled the land as an outcast. Infamous for her berserk rage, dozens ended their journey's coughing blood up at her feet. Years passed and she returned home challenging her father for the throne, running him through with her sword in a duel and ascending to his throne still stained in familiar blood.


The last City is one of tremendous size and contains every unique district not found within the other cities. If you want, you can make this city the capital of the kingdom and write up your own court intrigue and politics. Alternatively, if you want a more fractured/frontier/dark-ages aesthetic it's just a very large city and there is no central king. Nothing says you cannot encounter Urborg early and then instead simply roll for which Unique Districts are in each city and place the others here.


Enormous and sprawling, Urborg is massive and dark.

Unique Districts

All Unused Unique Districts

Unique Purchase

Every item purchasable in any settlement may be purchased in Urborg, but any Unique Purchase will cost double the price.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Blessings Fall Like Rain: System for Weather and a System for the Effects of the Moon

Art by Hiroshige Ando

So this post describes how one could potentially use the reaction roll in order to determine the weather. I disagree with the notion of rolling what the the weather is multiple times a day, but what I think is really cool and useful, is that it turns the weather into a singular entity that may occasionally harass the party. Further it lets us use a 1d6 to also see how often the weather changes (when the entity shows up and the reaction roll is made).

The essentially distribution is 2-5 as negative, 6-8 as neutral, and 9-12 as positive. It's pretty simple to assign different effects on the weather. I've also added the categories of Double Negative and Triple Negative for the effects of rolling multiple negative reactions in a row. For Double Negative and Triple Negative weather treat further reaction rolls of Neutral and Positive reactions as a reset into Neutral Weather. Every time you roll for the weather also roll a 1d6, the value of that die determines how long the current weather situation lasts.

SeasonPositiveNegativeDouble NegativeTriple Negative
SummerCloudyHotDroughtFlash Fires
Spring/AutmunClearRainStormsFlash Flooding

Weather Mechanical Effects Table for Those Traveling Outside or Without Shelter
Positive+1 to Wilderness Traveling Skills
Negative-1 to Wilderness Traveling Skills
Double Negative-2 to Wilderness Traveling Skills
Triple Negative-3 to Wilderness Traveling Skills
HotSave or gain the Fatigue Encumbrance
DroughtSave or gain the Fatigue Encumbrance with a -3 penalty
1 in 6 
Flash FireGain the Fatigue Encumbrance
1 in 6 chance of  Flash Fire: Save or 3d10 fire damage
RainSave or gain the Damp Encumbrance
StormsSave or gain the Damp Encumbrance with a -3 penalty
1 in 10 chance of Lightning Strike: Save or 3d6 electric damage
Flash FloodingGain the Damp Encumbrance
1 in 6 chance of Flash Flooding: Save or swept away and begin drowning
SnowSave or gain the Cold Encumbrance
HailSave or gain the Cold Encumbrance with a -3 penalty
Save or take 1d6 damage from Hail
BlizzardGain the Cold Encumbrance
1 in 6 chance of Blizzard: Save or Freeze to Death

Author's Notes: The Encumbrances and Wilderness Traveling Skills are fairly system agnostic but here are my current rules if you want to read more about them.
For particularly awful environments, you could alter the distribution or use harsher weather effects.

Lunar Calender

So the effects of weather changes based on the season and we have a way to track the days so why not simply combine the two into a calendar. Each season is composed of three months and each month is composed of 30 days. This gives us a year with 360 days, and is honestly good enough for me to use in game as a referee. Many cultures used lunar calenders (in Ukrainian the word for month is literally the word for moon) and is a useful heuristic for making a gameable calendar. So in real life the moon changes from New Moon to Full Moon over 14 days. I'll use 13 days between the New Moon to Full Moon 1 day of New Moon and 3 days of Full Moon. You can start every month on the New Moon which causes days 15-17 to This gives us a 30 day cycle and three usable states of the moon the effects of which are detailed on the table below.

Moon StateEffect
FullMonsters get +2 HD and Undead treat each HD as having rolled an 8
NewComplete Darkness at Night 100% chance to be suprised
ChangingNo Effects

Author's Notes: I'm a big fan of the Full Moon being an awful thing in a mystical setting so that's why I gave it that effect. Also I'm a fan of the changing moon being in effect for 13 days is neat!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Forest Wilderness Encounters and Bestiary

Author's Notes: Monster Statistics are given in the following notation:
HD – This refers to how many Hit Dice a monster possess and accordingly it’s bonus to hit
Def – This refers to the bonus a monster receives to its base armor class or defense rating 
Dam – This refers to how much damage a monster deals with one of its attacks
Movement – This refers to the distance/speed with which a monster moves a score of 12 being equal to an unencumbered man
Save – This refers to a monster’s chance to ignore magical or mundane effects out of 20. This would be ignorable if your system of choice does not give monster saves if not for a Save statistic of 20 meaning a monster is immune to magic.
Morale – This refers to a monster’s likelihood to flee from combat in 20. Monsters who are able to roll below their morale value remain in combat after first blood drawn, one of their number slain, and the tide turning against them. Adjust accordingly if your system of choice uses a 2d6 roll for morale.
Art by Chippy

When you're traveling through the wilderness of the forests you may encounter many dangerous and weird things. When ever you travel through a hex there is a 1 in 6 chance of encountering a monster but for each other possibility you either find a lair, spoor, tracks, or traces of a monster as shown in the Wilderness Anecdote Table below.

Wilderness Anecdote Table

1Lair of something
2Spoor of something
3Tracks from something
4Traces 1 of something
5Traces 2 of something
6Monster encounter

Wilderness Forest Terrain Encounter Table

13d6 Bandits
2As Forest Terrain Polite Lands Encounter
33d10 Goblin Shadows + 1d4 Stilt Walkers
4 2d4 Man-Eater Spiders
51d6 Stormwulfs
61d4+1 Bagmen
71d6 Giant Elk
81d4 Krovkulaks
91d8 Boars
101d4 Bears
111d12 Ghosts
121d8 Wights
131d4 Krovososes
14Floral Maw
151d4 Watchers in the Woods
19The corpse of a (Roll Again)
20Conflict of two (Roll Twice)

Forest Wilderness Bestiary

Name: Bandit

HD: 1
Def: 2
Dam: 1d6 or 1d6 ranged
Move: 12
Save: 6
Morale: 6

Lair: Crude encampment inside of a cave lit by few torches
Spoor: Poorly made traps now broken
Tracks:  Bootprints leading deeper into the woods
Traces1: Corpse with it's throat split, long since looted and now tucked behind a tree
Traces2: Trees with broken arrows embedded in their trunks
Name: Goblin Shadows

The shadows coalesce into yellow eyes. Then into grey flesh riddled with archaic symbols. They are many. Each mishappen and wretched. None taller than your chest, and each equally pathetic. They hold crude instruments of war, a kid's attempt of picking a prop that resemble swords. They mutter and shriek to one another, fearful of the torch light. None have shadows, neither do they have fine details. Perhaps they are not worthy of those yet.

HD: 0
Def: 0
Dam: 1d4 (Per Group)
Move: 12
Save: 6
Morale: 5 or 1 in bright light
# encountered:

Photophobic: Goblin shadow will run from bright lights unless cornered.

Lair: Underneath the shadows of the remains of a long abandoned structure, the air hangs standstill
Spoor: Crude etchings of angular figures cover stones, tree bark, and the ground
Tracks:  None
Traces1: Yellow bile covers a singular etching of a angular figure
Traces2: Dust pile showing signs of a fight now concluded
Name: Stilt Walker

It stands a little taller than you, the figure's meager chest puny in comparison to the length stretched out for its limbs. Bones clearly broken and lengthened outwards. What may have once been a mouth full of few teeth has been replaced by a maw of iron nails, each rusted. Similar to the etchings of the goblin shadows the flesh of the figure is marked. Symbols archaic but easily understood. Torture, death, and woe to onto others. Two yellow orbs each without a pupil stare back at you filled with envy and loathing; of joys you have had, of friends you had made, of smiles shared in confidence. Each something this creature has never enjoyed. It snarls unafraid of the light and raises its hands to evoke eldritch power.

HD: 2
Def: 0
Dam: 1d6
Move: 12
Save: 6
Morale: 5
# encountered:

Steal Light: 1/day may make light source extinguish itself. Light source must save as character holding it -4.

Lair: The shadows of the looming stonework seemingly menace
Spoor: Soft whimpering meekly finds its way into your ears
Tracks:  Miniscule and irregular disks create a set of followable tracks
Traces1: Numerous stones scattered as if all into a single area, many covered in now dry ichor
Traces2: Crude impressions of what a hand would be along several trees made out of what appears to be black ink
Name: Man-Eater Spider

HD: 3 ATK: 1
Def: 1
Dam: 1d6 + save for poison dealing 1d4 points of damage
Move: 9
Save: 7
Morale: 12

Lair: Massive funnel web spotted by mushrooms other fungi leads into the mouth of a cave
Spoor: The air here is humid and sweat slicks across your brow
Tracks:  A thick trail of spidersilk covers debris
Name: Stormwulf

HD: 4
Def: 4
Dam: 2d6
Move: 19
Save: 14
Morale: 20

Lair: A gape in the trees opens into a cave
Spoor: A shrill howl rises reverberating among the trees
Tracks:  None
Traces1: A single black hair lies on the ground, thorn-like
Traces2: A fragment of a pale claw is stuck in a tree stump
Name: Bagman

Before you hulking shapes of giant men crawl like beasts. From the corner of your eye you see an arm darting out from shadows to pull you in. Form a glint of torchlight you see hungry eyes and huge, yellowed teeth.

HD: 4
Def: 3
Dam: 1d8
Move: 12
Save: 10
Morale: 11

Horrible Prowess: Each set of Bagmen encountered wields a malevolent power. Roll a 1d3 on the Horrible Prowess Table below.

Horrible Prowess Table:
1 Turn to Mist: These Bagmen can transform into mist at will. It takes them 1 round to do so.
2Control the Desperate: Anyone suicidal/depressed/miserable must save or else commit any action these Bagman makes of them.
3No Death Upon the Earth: While these Bagmen are in contact with the earth no attack may reduce their HP to less than 1. 

Lair: Ropes of gore hang from the ceiling of this cave while mangled corpses lie in the shadows.
Spoor: A naked and dismembered corpse lashed to a tree by it's own intestines slowly drips blood.
Tracks:  Vicious grasps and footprints litter the earth as if some great tulmut passed by
Traces1: A fragment of burlap flutters snagged on a set of thorns
Traces2: Thin strands of some red ichor hang from the branches of a tree above :
Name: Giant Elk

HD: 4
Def: 2
Dam: 1d12
Move: 11
Save: 8
Morale: 13

Lair: A depression within the glen before you seems to be a resting place for something
Spoor: Numerous marks as if made by dull knives mark the trees here
Tracks:  Thick cloven hoof prints trace the ground here
Traces1: A portion of a dark horn sits embedded in a tree
Traces2: A broken piece of a dark horn lies in the dirt
Name: Krovkulak

A nearly emaciated figure reeks of rotting flesh. It stands on two legs each bent backwards rising up on it's toes like a dog.  It's two hands end in massive claws that dragging it's knuckles on the ground. Two small yellow eyes rise atop it's bald leathery skull as it snorts from it's distended snout. Saliva falls from between it's irregular teeth as it's maw spills open unleashing a wild howl.

HD: 6
Def: 4
Dam: 1d8/1d8
Move: 13
Save: 11
Morale: 14

Regeneration: Krovkulak's regenerate 1hp/round of combat unless damage is dealt by silver.

Degenerative Infection: Anyone fighting a Krovkulak in melee must save or disease 1 point of intelligence (at 0 points turns into a Krovkulak)

Lair: Deep, dark hole in the ground from which a rotting stench eminiates
Spoor: Trees seemingly ripped out of the ground and eaten
Tracks:  Trail of two foot prints and a long drag mark on either side of the prints
Traces1: A pile of broken bones drenched in noxious bile
Traces2: Numerous tall trees pulled over at a weird angle

Author's Notes: Anything can be infected with a Krovkulak's blood eventually transforming into a similar appearance.
Name: Boar

HD: 3+3
Def: 3
Dam: 3d4
Move: 15
Save: 6
Morale: 20

Death Roil: Boars fights for 2 rounds after they reach 0 hp.

Lair: A thick musky odor eminates from a damp pile of leaves
Spoor: Felled trees are cracked and brittle as if crude axes attempted to split each
Tracks:  Cloven prints mark a ragged line
Traces1: Tusk marks along the base of a tree trunk
Traces2: A twist and fall, the taste of blood fills your mouth as you spilt your lip 
Name: Bear

HD: 4+1
Def: 3
Dam: 1d8
Move: 9
Save: 7
Morale: 8

Lair: Large cave
Spoor: The sickly sweet stench of honey fills your nostril
Tracks:  Thick paw prints at a lumbering pace
Traces1: Thick claw marks on trees
Traces2: Broken beehive spilling its contents, both bees and honey, everywhere 
Name: Ghost

HD: 2
Def: 0
Dam: 1d4 + 200xp drain per point of damage
Move: 0
Save: 9
Morale: 20

Lair: None
Spoor: Colors seem less vibrant here further there is no sound save for the wind
Tracks: A strain of cold air blows distinctly enough to be followed
Traces1: As you breathe out, you suddenly see your breath fog up in front of you
Traces2: A set of two indents like foot steps linger
Name: Wight

HD: 3
Def: 3
Dam: 1d6 + 100xp drain per point of damage
Move: 12
Save: 8
Morale: 20

Lair: Re-opened dirt grave surrounded by the 1d4 corpses of grave-robbers all desiccated
Spoor:  No sound save for the wind. Dead trees, shrubs, flowers
Tracks:  Trail of dead grass and wilted flowers 
Traces1: Small animal corpse completely desiccated 
Traces2: Ominous black clouds on the horizon
Name: Krovosos

First there is the sound of heavy breathing and ripples seemingly coming from nowhere then a brief glimpse of a  mockery of man runs past you as it rakes it's claws against your chest. Looking closer you see four tendrils in place of where a man way have a mustache below a pair of glowing yellow eyes. The last glimpse is at the segmented scales which cover the skin in shades of dark brown and black.

HD: 3
Def: 1
Dam: 1d6
Move: 12
Save: 6
Morale: 10

Hunting Invisibility: Krovosos are invisible unless a viewer is 3 feet away

Lair: 1d6 blood drained corpses lay before you in the darkness of a deep hole
Spoor: Heavy breathing and quick footsteps circle and haunt
Tracks:  Hurried footprints are joined by the atavistic scramble of two hands grasping the ground alongside them
Traces1: The dim outline of a figure looks at you with thin yellow eyes, you blink and he is no longer there
Traces2: You feel as if there is something watching you from the shadows 

Author's Notes: How you wish to deal with the visibility only within 3' is entirely up to you. Personally I would abandon initiative until the creature is within 3' of a character and have them then roll with a -4 penalty. If you have any other ideas let me know.
Name: Floral Maw

A series of massive bulbs lie amidst the empty valley. Vines as thick as your leg spread out from a central spiral each menacing with teeth-like thorns. As you get closer, you notice each bulb slowly moves and opens. Wide blood red petals full of fangs rotate and oscillate towards you.

HD: 10
Def: 4
Dam: 2d4 per head
Move: 0
Save: 6
Morale: 20

Stationary Hunter: Each Chromatic Maw has 10 heads, 1d4 awaken each round of combat. If you cut off a head (dealing more than 8 damage to the Floral Maw from a single source) it regrows as 2 heads in 1d4 rounds.

Lair: The air is moist and warm above the dark valley here
Spoor: Despite the haze of pollen, little vegetation grows here
Tracks: n/a Floral Maws are immobile
Traces1: A small red flower has been crushed into the ground here, it now lies mangled.
Traces2: The soil is soft here and your steps sink deep into the earth.
Name: Watchers in the Woods

A female face of hard angles and pale hair stares daggers through you. A cloak of crowquils spread from beneath her neck warding her from the ground and sky. A crown of iron thorns rests on her brow and a singular stiletto hangs on her hip.

HD: 4
Def: 3
Dam: 1d8
Move: 16
Save: 11
Morale: 12

Out of Sight: Any Watcher in the Woods may choose to fade away into the shadows if no-one observes them. Further a Watcher in the Woods who roll poorly on a reaction roll surprises the party on a 5 in 6.

Lair: None
Spoor: The sky is darker and heavier here, as if it is the distended belly of a pregnant beast
Tracks:  None
Traces1: Each shadow here seems darker as the clouds cover the sun from shining as bright
Traces2: A single crow's feather is embedded in the earth here
Name: Lindwym

A a crown of horns sits on a snake's head at the end of a body the length of a tree. Black scales shimmer in the light. The beast roars and slithers towards you.

HD: 7+1
Def: 6
Dam: 1d8 + save for poison 1d10 /2d6 constrict
Move: 13
Save: 10
Morale: 16

Lair: Wide circles cover the trunk of a aged tree like the bruises of a choked neck
Spoor: A  lumbering hiss echoes from somewhere nearby
Tracks:  A wide gash like a giant's ax leads from one set of trees to another
Traces1: A series of branches hang broken at odd angles from the canopy above
Traces2: A pair of heavy black scales hides underneath a few 
Name: Huldra

HD: 4
Def: 2
Dam: 1d6
Move: 12
Save: 10
Morale: 13

Lair: A cabin stands alone in a forest glen, soft smoke rises from it's chimney
Spoor: The bark of the trees here is thick and gnarled
Tracks:  Soft steps trace a lonesome trail
Traces1: Amidst a field of flowers are the marks of several flowers cut and taken
Traces2: A few strands of long hair hang upon a low tree branch
Name: Treant

HD: 12
Def: 7
Dam: 1d12/1d12
Move: 8
Save: 19
Morale: 18

Lair: The trees here are so tall that they blot out the sky
Spoor: The scent of soil fills the air overpowering your nostrils
Tracks: Massive gaping holes trail deeper into the woods
Traces1: An enormous tree has been ripped out of the ground by some massive force
Traces2: Your footsteps echo among the trees