13 December 2018


Each of these conditions should be important to modeling issues of survival in harsh environments, but mechanics for them are usually much more complicated than I would ever enjoy as a player or as a referee.

Making conditions simply occupy inventory slots is a meaningful, appropriate mechanic, and you could really just stop there, but I added a bit more for some conditions.


Fatigue, Soaked, Cold, Overheated, Starvation, Famishment, and Thirst use 1 Inventory slot each.


Fatigue is gained as a result of exhausting activity. A character may have more than one Fatigue.
Fatigue applies a Bane to all rolls. (this effect does not stack.) A night's rest only removes one Fatigue.
Fatigue can be caused by:
  • getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep in a day.
  • traveling more than 12 hours in one day (+1 Fatigue per additional hour. A player character may check Constitution to resist gaining Fatigue from travel.)


Soaked is caused by being very wet. Soaked things are not on fire and may not be lit.


Cold is caused by exposure to a very cold environment.


Overheated is caused by exposure to a very hot environment.


Every 24 hours without food, gain one Famished and lose one Constitution point.


Lose 1D6 Con per day (or per 12 hours if overheated) without water. Assume there is a water source available nearby whenever characters are outdoors unless the environment would indicate otherwise.

11 December 2018

Retrieving Items from Inventory

UPDATE: rule greatly improved due to the comment below!

Another simple rule that probably hardly seems worth posting about, but I really like it, and it's my own.


To retrieve an item from your inventory in combat, roll 1d4. If you roll a 1, you've found it. Otherwise, you've wasted your combat round. If you want to look again, you find what you're looking for if you roll a 1 or a 2. Chances increase to 3 in 4 on the third attempt and on the fourth attempt, you find it immediately.

Outside of combat you may place an asterisk next to one item which you can place in a handy spot; you will find it without making a roll, though you will still spend a combat round to retrieve it.

06 December 2018

Grappling should be simple, advantageous, and risky

UPDATE: I no longer like the rules I placed here and have now deleted them. I am replacing them with the following:

Yes, every oldschool RPG blogger eventually seems to make a post about grappling. Here's mine.

I tried to keep mine as simple as it possibly could be while still giving players clear access to some important choices to make before entering combat, not just during it.

I also made grappling risky instead of just a way to automatically remove an enemy from combat. It's a tactical decision, not an easy out.

Combat Maneuvers

Instead of attacking, a PC may attempt a combat maneuver against an enemy.

  1. Roll a Check (usually Dexterity, Strength, or Attack.)
  2. Add a Boon if the enemy would find it difficult to prevent this Maneuver or add a Bane if the enemy would be likely to prevent it. 
  3. If the Check succeeds, the maneuver occurs.
  4. If it fails, the enemy prevents the maneuver, putting the PC in a disadvantageous situation if possible.


  • Shoving
  • Tripping 
  • Disarming
  • Grappling
  • Breaking through enemy lines to engage in melee beyond the first rank.

Notes on grappling:

  • When a grapple is in progress, the grappler must follow the combat maneuver procedure again each combat round.
  • Anyone involved in a grapple who is armed with a close weapon (a dagger, brass knuckles, a derringer, fangs, claws, etc.) is granted a successful attack each combat round.

05 December 2018

Improve your game with bits of OD&D

I've acquired a lot of the best elements of my game from the OD&D school of design.

OD&D (Original Dungeons and Dragons) isn't just a worse version of B/X (Basic/Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.) It's a different thing. The two systems have a lot in common, but they're different.

Reading List

In order:

0. Mentzer's Basic Dungeons and Dragons Player's Guide and DM's Rulebook (so you can learn what an RPG even is. Probably every last one of you reading this can skip this one.)
1. Philotomy's Musings (so you can see the kinds of design choices OD&D is likely to push you toward)
2. Delving Deeper (so you can read OD&D without reading those messy little brown books, Greyhawk, Chainmail, etc and mash them together as best as you can)
3. White Box: FMAG (for a somewhat interpreted/altered OD&D)
4. Dungeon of Signs blog (For some of the coolest stuff I've ever seen anyone do with OD&D, especially the player's guide and this post which contains some updated rules. You can browse through the player's guide tag to find more classes and such.)
5. Into the Odd (for a modern game that feels like OD&D might have been if it had been written a few years ago. The blog posts are some of the best blog posts anywhere too.)
6. Necropraxis (a blog with a lot of good OD&D-related theory and house rules.)

But I don't know anything, so please comment to tell everyone what else is great.

04 December 2018

Consulting a Book

The following is almost entirely stolen from James Young. I added the bit about INT MODs and slightly simplified the result table.


  • Player characters start hauling a library around in a cart.
  • You know what to do when players want to do research.
  • You know what to do when players try to read a book and you have to make something up.
  • Intelligence is now a more interesting Attribute.


How many books do you have and how long will you spend researching your question?
Number of relevant books consulted + hours spentDice rolled on table below
11d4 + INT MOD
21d6 + INT MOD
41d8 + INT MOD
61d10 + INT MOD
Roll on the following table before asking a question you believe might be answerable by the book(s) you're consulting.
3One word
4One word and roll again
5Three words
6Three words and roll again
7Full sentence
8Full sentence and roll again
9Detailed explanation
10+Detailed explanation and roll again
Note: the Referee will say "your question isn't relevant to the text of this book" if you've simply wasted your time.

30 November 2018

Boons and Banes

This idea is not my idea at all. However, I'm posting this for reference since I'll be mentioning the mechanic in other posts.
If you don't want to use boons and banes, you may
  • replace the word "boon" with "bonus of 3" or "advantage"
  • replace the word "bane" with "penalty of 3" or "disadvantage."


Boons and Banes

  • Each Bane or Boon is 1D6.
  • Banes and Boons cancel each other, so only Banes or only Boons will be added to a roll.


  • When making a D20 roll (only a D20 roll) in an advantageous circumstance, the player gains a Boon. 
  • Of all the Boons rolled, the highest number is subtracted from a roll's result.


  • When making a D20 roll (only a D20 roll) in a disadvantageous circumstance, the player gains a Bane.
  • Of all Banes rolled, the highest number is added to a roll's result.

Minimal Chase Rules that Retain a Small Variety of Outcomes

I've been rewriting rules for chases for a long time. I don't really want to use anything else I've ever read, but I like this. I haven't been able to playtest them yet, but Luka Rejec is planning to try them out soon, and I hope to do so in my game in a week. They borrow heavily from Gus L's Appolyon  Player's Guide Part 1, which is a document I've returned to again and again, always gaining inspiration.

If you'd like to have a look at other good chase rules, here are my recommendations:


  • Fast.
  • Not a minigame.
  • Allows a round of missile fire in some chases.


  1. Determine how far the Chased move away from the location of the original encounter: 1D4: 1. near. 2. far. 3. very far. 4. distant. *
  2. To flee or to chase the party rolls 1D6+modifier of slowest party member (-6 to +6. See chart below.) 
    • The slowest party member may drop an item held in their hands to +1 to this roll. 
    • If the party is far before they begin to flee, +1 to this roll.
  3. The non-player party rolls 1D6+modifier (-6 to +6 according the referee's discretion - see chart below.)
  4. Compare the results.
    • If both roll results are the same, each side may exchange a round of missile fire. Then return to step 1 of this procedure.
    • If the Chased roll result is higher, check the enemy's Morale to determine whether they search for the player party. If the Chased dropped something the Chasers desire, add 2 to this Morale roll.
    • If the Chasers's roll result is higher, they catch up to the chased and gain Initiative in the resulting encounter.

Chase bonusCreature
-2Injured or Encumbered
0Heavy armor wearer
+1Medium armor wearer
+2Light armor wearer
* Define these distances however you like. You may wish to make them less abstract by using a multiple of 10' for each, for example. In a dungeon, I would define far as 30'