24 December 2018

Sci-Fantasy Extraterrestrial Race - Secret Santicorn for wr3cking8a11

The entire race was struck by poverty, once. For this reason, etiquette is often built around the idea of hiding whatever luxuries exist in one's life, even if most people share in those luxuries.

Race name

The aliens call themselves planet-ers, in their own language.
The word for "planet":
  1. Scrin
  2. Hird
  3. Plett
  4. Plor
  5. Sand
  6. Lith
The suffix for "er":
  1. -nat
  2. -ar
  3. -ho
  4. -che
  5. -anan
  6. -ip


  1. Blood alongside a door marks that a child has recently moved out of the house or died.
  2. Reverence is shown to a guillotine symbol, but no actual guillotines seem to exist.
  3. Wiping sweat from the brow is the standard ranged greeting (like waving.)
  4. Emptying one's pockets in front of someone else is a (usually offensive) sexual gesture.
  5. Inhaling a deceased loved one's ashes in full is considered proper. Inhaling incompletely or not at all is frowned upon. (Contributed by wr3cking8a11.)
  6. There's an insanely popular canon of plays that were almost a hundred hours of performance time in total. People frequently communicate using only lines from these performances. (Contributed by Spwack.)


  1. Children are raised by the parents until the parents have something better to do. Then the children are raised by whoever has been assigned to nursery work.
  2. Maintaining or safekeeping ancient Tech is the most vital task one may aspire to.
  3. You are expected to grow a bonsai tree trimmed in exactly the same ways as everyone else's. If the shape is improper or if the plant looks unhealthy, neighbors will involve local authorities.
  4. When asked "How are you?" the polite response is "starving, but we'll be fine" or anything similar, regardless of the availability of food.
  5. Wearing clothing with a noticeably different color than the clothing worn on the previous day is a show of luxury and therefore a rude act of hedonism. It brings attention to the fact that the wearer is not wearing the same clothing two days in a row. To avoid this appearance, one must slowly transition to other colors or never transition at all. It's perfectly acceptable to have hundreds of outfits so long as three different colors aren't seen in the same week.
  6. Adults don't wear pants because kids wear them. Adults wear shorts, skirts, dresses, etc.
  7. No one has pockets. Wearing backpacks is weak and suggests deviant sexuality in the stronger sex. Carrying things in a bag is the norm.
  8. Speaking kindly of the dead makes elderly people very upset. They make religious signs in response and huff or sigh or swear.
  9. Working on an even day of the week is taboo. "Working" refers to minor labors like lifting objects from the ground, not real work like cooking or farming.
  10. The elderly act as if they are unwise in order to boost the confidence of the young.
  11. A tip is expected for service before service is rendered. The tip amount seems to have no effect on the quality of the service.
  12. Applause is rendered by way of a single clap in unison. Nearly everyone seems to know the right moment to clap, though a few claps lag behind in larger groups.
  13. Guests are always offered a bath just after arrival. A "bath" is a wet towel and a bar of soap prepared for you in a private room.
  14. Anything that might be personal, private, or valuable is handled by non-owners delicately with two hands and closely examined with false awe.
  15. Different colors of flat objects (traditionally flowers or leaves but paper or cloth may be used) may be left at a person's place of residence (with a signature marking) or handed to them to communicate basic messages interpreted by context.
    Add blood to any of the following to make the communication very serious/demanding/threatening. (Roll once and read across or roll twice until all colors are assigned.)
    1 ApologyYellow
    2 RequestWhite
    3 GratitudeBlue
    4 OfferGreen
    5 ChallengeRed
    6 InvitationBlack
  16. They treat all juices as delicacies and drink them socially. Juices are highly concentrated and sipped slowly over a one or two-hour conversation.
  17. Drinking milk is as offensive as forgetting to cover yourself.
  18. Used to offer virgins to the god of Cracks, Fissures, and Pits but now everyone regards this as barbaric and dumps undesired food in such places instead.
  19. Unlucky number only referred to by euphemisms: roll 1d10.
  20. Chewing food whilst in the streets is a symbol of prosperity and good health.


  1. Those born in space have lesser intelligence and are likely to be physically weak.
  2. Nut butters enhance the following, but only for this race
    1. thinking
    2. strength
    3. speed
    4. pheromones
    5. subtle urges sent by the dead and other spirits
    6. lie detection
  3. When anyone burps or farts, it's polite to say "wash your hands" but the young say "curses off" to make the saying more relatable to the younger generation who don't believe in the old "Hygiene"superstitions.
  4. [I need more. Please submit more ideas in the comments.]

Skin colors

  1. pale gray
  2. light gray
  3. medium gray
  4. dark gray
  5. black
  6. no light is reflected at all
The young have a blueish tint. Those in puberty often have blue spots. The elderly often have raised blue spots, like moles.

Mirror race

There are creatures living beneath the settlements.
They're referred to only with phrases like "our miserable cousins."
A watch is kept near the local passage to the underground, built by this race, long ago. The underground is a ruined city, never really used by the mirror race. They respected their deviant, nearly-mindless brethren enough to build a place for them, but public sentiment favors their destruction now, if a way is found.
  • They cannot survive in sunlight.
  • They act stupidly, but always in tandem, for they share what appears to be a simple hive mind. This means they will attempt to surround and flank but won't use complicated tactics.
  • Number appearing: d20. Unless they are all killed by the end of round x (roll 1d4), d20+3 more will appear from the d10x40 that are nearby.
  • AC [12]
  • Move 12
  • HD 0 (1 HP)
  • Morale 12
  • Attack: Claws or bite 1d6. (I'm assuming that all attacks do 1d6 damage as in OD&D.)


  • Only two people can fit in a 10x10' space.
  • Only one boilermail* can fit in a 10x10' space.
  • Every passage is very narrow but connected to many other passages like a maze with few dead ends.
  • If you use a published dungeon, each square is now 5' per square except when only one square wide (those are still 10'.)

Encounter table for expeditions underground:

  1. One of them has d6+1hp.
  2. One of them has 3HP.
  3. One of them does d6+1 damage.
  4. One them does 3 damage instead of d6 damage.
  5. Half of them are behind you and half are in front.
  6. One of them makes a stealth attack against whoever is in back at the start of the encounter.



20 December 2018

Hired Hands and Henchmen


  • Hired Hands are worthless in combat and aren't likely to be targeted by enemies.
  • Henchmen do pretty much whatever the players want, so long as they're not treated worse than a PC.
  • Henchmen must succeed at a morale check or seek other employment at the end of an adventure, but they stop checking morale at all once they've passed two morale checks.
  • Henchmen take only a half share of the entire party's loot and XP.
  • Henchmen are rare and usually sought for hire from factions whom the PC must have gained favor from.

Hired Hands

  • Hired Hands are ordinary, level 0 folk, not adventurers.
  • If forced to do anything dangerous, check their Morale. Regardless of success, remove one point from their Morale score afterward.
  • A Hired Hand is usually an incompetent outcast, such as a street urchin, addict, or bum. They're not willing or able to meaningfully contribute to combat, nor are opposing combatants likely to pay much attention to them.
  • Standard wage: 5 SP (silver standard) per day plus living expenses.
Example Hired Hand jobs:
  • Hold a torch or lantern
  • Carry treasure
  • Manage pack animals

Default Hired Hand

HD: 0. Grit: 5. ATK: 10. AC: 10.
Morale: 6. ATR: 10 each (roll 3D6 if needed.)
Random Profession + associated gear and dagger, club, or other minor implement of self-defense.


  • Henchmen require one half-share of the party's loot and XP.
  • A Henchman can replace a dead employer as a player character.
  • They obey fair orders and act at the same time as their employer (a single PC.) They are bound to their employer and will not leave in order to complete long-term orders.
  • Check Morale when the situation becomes nigh-intolerable. (Participating equally in a fight does not require a Morale check.)
  • Check Morale at the completion of an adventure (such as a return from a dungeon). Any failed Morale check results in abandoning the party, never to risk their employment again, at least not without very special circumstances.
  • After a Henchman has passed two Morale checks, they do not make any more unless mistreated/misused.
  • A Henchman is generally hired from a faction or while adventuring.
Note About Half Shares
When a party contains only PCs, everyone has a full share. 4 PCs get one share each. If they're sharing 400 SP, they each get 100 SP. If they brought one Henchmen along, she gets a half share. The result of this is that each PC has 2 shares and she has 1. This makes a total of 9 shares. Divide 400 by 9 to determine the size of a share. It's 44. This means she gets 44 SP and each PC gets 88 SP.

Default Henchman

HD: 1. Grit: 5. ATK: 11. AC: 10.
Morale: 7. ATR: 10 each (roll 3D6 if needed.) 
Random Profession + associated gear and weapon.

Hiring Hired Hands and Henchmen

2D6Hiring Reaction
12Refuse, insulted*
6-8Roll again
2Accept, impressed**
*Insulted: Reactions of other potential employees in area/Faction penalized by 1. **Employee's morale gets +1 bonus.

Morale Adjustments

  • if housed
  • if living expenses provided for
  • if given more than their share
  • if provided extra comforts
-1 per
  • insult to them
  • unnecessary danger faced
-2 for
  • harm that could have been avoided

18 December 2018

Death and Injury

Before you read the table, you need to understand Flesh, Grit, and how damage effects them. If you're already familiar with the concept, feel free to skip ahead to Death and Injury.

  • I first learned about the concept of Flesh and Grit from Logan Knight, though my version isn't 100% the same.
  • If you're not into my system, here's my favorite system other than my own.
  • The goal of this system is to be specific, deadly  and minimal while still giving players meaningful decisions to make, generating tension, and encouraging narrative variety for the referee. 



Every Damage roll removes Grit from the victim in an amount equal to the result of the roll. When there is no Grit, remaining damage is applied to Flesh instead.


  • Grit is derived from HD. It's basically the same thing as HP, just renamed.
  • Grit is an abstract measure of a PC's well-being and fitness for combat. Losing Grit represents bruises, scratches, dented armor, torn clothing, aching muscles, depleted breath and so on.
  • Sneak attacks ignore Grit and apply damage directly to Flesh.


  • Flesh loss represents broken bones, torn and punctured flesh, blood loss, et cetera.
  • You have 1 HD of flesh. You never gain more.
  • When a character loses any amount of Flesh, use the Death and Injury system below.
  • Rest heals 1 Flesh per week.


Death and Injury

If any Attribute drops to 0, the character is dead.

Flesh Loss

When your character loses any Flesh, make a Saving Throw. Success indicates Injury. Failure indicates death. Additionally, if the Save is succeeded by a margin of only 1 or 2 points, gain a Scar in the affected area (see below.)

When Gaining an Injury, roll 1D6 for anatomy and 1D6 for severity, below. Your character will also lose consciousness.

Injured characters may be revived after combat with 0 Grit. Any further damage to an Injured character results in immediate death.

Injuries may be treated in a settlement.

Injury Table

1Head13D6 days to recover
2?23D6 days to recover
3Arm33D6 weeks to recover
4Leg4Permanent injury (partially disable anatomy or reduce related Attribute by 1D6+1)
5Hand5Severe bleeding
6Foot6Permanent horrible injury (maimed, severe bleeding)
maimed body part is no longer functional. It might be removed or crippled.

Severe Bleeding

Severe bleeding causes -1 CON per Turn until the bleeding is stopped. (This Con may be healed at the usual rate for damaged Attributes.) Also roll 1D4 each round that the bleeding continues: on a 4, you die. At the moment battle ends, anyone may attempt to stop the bleeding. If they fail to do so, you die.

Anyone may Check INT, once per round, to attempt to reduce the bleeding (so you will only have to roll 1D4 once per turn) and then anyone may Check INT to attempt to stop the bleeding.


When you gain a Scar, gain 2 max Grit, and roll 1D6.
  • 1: Just a dent.
  • 2-4: Quite a mark.
  • 5-6: Disfigured.
Your scar can be used to impress or intimidate. If it's more than a dent it can be used to disgust and will also modify some reaction rolls (sometimes negatively, sometimes positively) if it's visible.

Death and Debilitation

If a player's character is dead or temporarily debilitated, the player should create a new character or take control of a Henchman, Hired Hand, or neutral character.

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?

Time spentDice rolled on table below
1 hour1d6
3 hours1d6+1
6 hours1d6+2
9 hours1d6+3
2 days1d6+4
4 days1d6+5
1 week1d6+6
2 weeks1d8+6
3 weeks1d10+6
4 weeks1d12+6
Roll on the following table before asking a question you believe might be answerable by the book(s) you're consulting.

You may add 1 to the roll if you pass an INT test.

You may add 1 to the roll for each additional relevant book consulted.

Penalties might be imposed if the reader is of very low Intelligence or doesn't have sufficient background to easily understand the book.
2One word
3One word and roll again
4Three words
5Three words and roll again
6Full sentence
7Full sentence and roll again
8Detailed explanation
9+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.