Sunday, April 26, 2020

I revised the Landshut Troika! rules: now – better, faster, simpler

The Landshut Troika! adaption has gotten a whole lot better. A huge big thankyou goes out to Jared Sinclair. His suggestion is responsible that I WANT TO play Troika! again. Yes, it's that serious :)

Yesterday, on the Troika! discord, I asked:

And then, the suggestions rolled in:

So, if you're interested: go there.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Darkworm Colt is now on Patreon!

It took me a long time to make up my mind about publishing on Patreon… and now, I finally convinced myself to do it. is the address, and I'd be glad if you joined. There's only one tier (The Mighty Darkworm), and it's $1 for each creation.

Thank y'all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Free Abenteuerspiel

I'm feeling my way back to my roleplaying roots: freeform gaming. I started refereeing in 1984, but my way of GM’ing changed only seven years later, when Amber Diceless was published. A little later, Theatrix was born. These two games, and later, Everway, catapulted me into the world of diceless (and sometimes, randomlesy) gaming. Or group's best and most enduring memories have their origins in diceless freeform. 

Some of you may know the term "Free Kriegsspiel". I fun this way of freeform gaming, either with or without randomizers, "free Abenteuerspiel". 

Today I would like to look at a typical conflict from the perspective of Theatrix. How does it handle fights? 

Theatrix has, besides Amber and Everway, the most comprehensive tips for a diceless game.  One of the ingenious innovations of Theatrix were flowcharts, with which the (beginner) GM could quickly and reliably determine whether actions of player characters succeed or fail.  A while ago I extended this flow chart by the aspect of RANDOMNESS, in case the gamemaster wants to include dice or cards (Everway) in his decision.  The graphic above is this extended decision diagram.

Let's get started!

The situation:
The player character is in Naples, somewhere in the shady thicket of alleys.  It's lunchtime, the sun is burning from the sky, and whoever can, has sought shelter in the shadows.  Everywhere in the city there are chairs outside, people are enjoying their coffee, fruit dealers have put out their small stands, tourists are buzzing around.

Our character turns the corner, overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle, and suddenly a huge guy in a dark suit and sunglasses is standing opposite him, with clearly hostile intent.  The character turns around and wants to run away, but behind him there is also a broad-shouldered man with sunglasses.

Our character is ex - special forces. He has no tools (not even a car key) with him that he could use to his advantage. 

The two gangsters represent a roughly equal threat to our character.  They are a clear challenge.  A direct attack against them would not end well for our ex-wife forces guy.

As the game master, I now take a look at the flowchart l. 

First box:  Does the plot line require some particular outcome?

No, I didn't plan anything like that as game master.

Second box:  Do you want to evoke some randomness?

No, I do not want to use random generators for this conflict.

Third box: Skill vs. Difficulty.  Are they capable of the action?

As the game master, I can now decide whether to treat the conflict as a single, entire scene (and therefore use the flowchart only once), or whether I judge each individual action of the character.  I go for the second variant.

Game master: So the two guys are in front and behind you.  The whole alley is full of people, all close together.  What are you doing?

Gambler (grabs his heart, gasps, lets his tongue hang out, slurs out loud, then:)  I stagger like this towards one of the thugs.

Gamemaster (notices that the player is acting really well for his circumstances - that's one of the criteria in the decision making process:  How well does the player act?  If he acts badly by his own standards, his character's action is considered a failure.  But with this rule, we have seen many a player transforming from wallflower to actor in the long years of our game):  The guy recedes, irritated, and perhaps a little disgusted.

Player: Cool!  When I am very close...

Game master: Yes, now you are very close to him.

Player: ...then I grab his balls and squeeze with all my strength.  (gestures) My other hand grabs his throat and squeezes.

Again, the box: Skill vs. Difficulty.  Are they capable of the action?

Definitely.  The character is experienced in combat.  Dirty tricks are part of his standard repertoire.

Next box:  Release the Tension and tell them now?

I choose "more tension".  The corresponding box is "Give them reason to Doubt.  Let Victory be Uncertain.  And the victory is not yet in the bag - the other gangster is still around.

Game master (acting out the futile resistance of the gangster against our guy's technique, gasping for air, flailing around with his arms, and finally collapsing onto the ground):  The guy collapses lifelessly in your arms.  You hear some terrified screams from bystanders.  The other thug is leaping at you.

Player: Oh! Oh! I push the one I just KOed into him, with full force! Let's get out of here!

And again the box: Skill vs. Difficulty.  Are they capable of the action?

Are they capable of the action?  Any normal-built adult can shove another normal-built adult anywhere. So, yes. 

Next box:  Release the Tension and tell them now?

Again, I decide to let the player sweat a little more.

So the next box is, again: "Give them reason to Doubt.  Let Victory be Uncertain.

Now I can, for instance, add a wild chase through the city, if I want to. But regardless: our character will be successful. 

How Erick Wujcik gamemastered Amber

I am particularly grateful to Erick Wujcik for three things.

First, for writing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (among so many other books). I grew up with the real Turtles comics, not the child-oriented, pizza-eating funny green turtlemen on television. The game gave me so many ideas. Thanks for that.

And second, I'm grateful for Amber Diceless. This game has influenced me like no other. This game brought me to free-form role playing. This game, in its more than 250 pages (almost all of them with tips for gamemasters), introduced me to Amber – I discovered the books after the game, in 1991.

In a rather interesting discussion on an Amber Diceless forum I asked the question how gamemasters use the rules in-play. While I either play it by the book or totally freeform, the question came up how Erick actually played Amber.

Finarvyn, an Amber Diceless (and OD&D) veteran who often played with Erick, responded (emphasis added by me):

Well, in my experience Erick didn't ever look at a rulebook. Heck, he hardly ever looked at our character sheets. 
I think he built a general "character concept" in his head - this guy is good here but bad there, that kind of thing - and then just let us play. It seemed like he would simply decide based on if we tried clever things or not when we had the chance to act out our actions. When I talked to him about rules I got the impression that he bent or broke them on a whim if it made the storyline progress better and made the game more fun. He always seemed to put the story above the mechanics.

All the more reason why I feel so connected to him.

Kowloon Walled City: documentary

An old, German-language (with subs, tho) documentary about the legendary, lawless city of Kowloon. A MUST-SEE for hong kong action roleplayers.


Cyberpunk: Why Hardwired is the real 2020 for me, part 2

The title is misleading. Hardwired is set 131 years later than Cyberpunk 2020, but still, at least to me, the setting seems more coherent and "realistic" than that of 2020:


The desiccation of the soil is forcing farmers worldwide to use more and more water to extract any food at all from the land. But the sinking groundwater table is destroying virtually all traditionally cultivated plants.

Fossil fuels are running out or can no longer be used without massive additional costs due to their impact on the environment. Meanwhile, operators are shifting heavy industry into orbit in order to circumvent environmental protection regulations. The "orbitals", as the corporations based in space are called, are growing more and more, a lucrative business. On Earth, on the other hand, the foundations of life are deteriorating daily. Tensions between "dirtside" and "orbitals" arise. These escalate to such an extent that the orbitals begin to attack the Earth with their mass drivers (electromagnetic cannons that fire nickel-iron mixtures into orbit to create radiation "screens" for future generations) by firing 10,000 tons of rocks at it. This attack, known as the Rock War, lasts 12 hours. Now the planet resembles more of a lunar landscape in places, while other formerly poor continents are flourishing. "The United States is a Third World country," notes the source.

The USA is splintering into its individual states. The government in DC can only stand back and watch powerlessly. Independence turns many former US states into secure lands with fortified border crossings. This in turn brings smugglers into the picture. In self-built armored hovercrafts ("tanks"), they bring coveted goods to where they are needed.


In contrast to 2020, where cloning was still outrageous (we remember "Land of the Free", a complete boxed adventure that was all about the first successful human clone), cloning technology in Hardwired is possible, but very expensive and still buggy.

The Net

There isn't. In Hardwired, it's the "Face" (short for "interface").


There isn't. The "consensual hallucination" of Gibson, the "matrix" of Shadowruns, the three-dimensional virtual space, which in a way stands as an icon for cyberpunk, is completely missing in Hardwired. In its place is something that I find far more interesting in the game: a hacking system. A player who plays a hacker, or "(Console) Cowboys" or "Crystal Jock", as they are called, has accounts of varying degrees of influence in various networks, has to write programs in a very oldschool way (in a "programming language" called "Evolved BASIC", or eBasic), exchange or guess passwords, or cheat or buy, and do all the things hackers do (or at least what I, as a non-hacker, think they do).

"Black ICe" does not exist - simply because the author Jon Williams does not believe in the technical possibilities that so much juice could ever flow over a data line that it would fry a person's brain. A nice quote about that:

Nobody dies in the Net. Dying because of what one does in the Net - that's different.

So the really dangerous thing in the Net are not just any programs, but the SysOps that monitor your system. They are the ones who locate intruders and possibly send troops. This makes hacking exciting again.

I already mentioned above that the player who embodies a Decker writes small pseudo programs in a pseudo programming language called "eBasic". From experience, this also hits the nerve of contemporaries who are interested in this role, but at the same time have no current programming experience. One of my former players spent joyful hours writing "programs" that his Decker could use during the game. An example from Hardwired:

(...) a crystaljock wishing to break into a secured computer and steal a file while simultaneously providing himself an alibi could write the following program:
CALL 786-7787 (Korolev)
The crystaljock tells his deck to run this program, then heads out to spend a night on the town, making sure he is seen by a number of people during the next three or four hours. The deck obediently waits two hours, then logs on to the Korolev computer and downloads the desired file while the crystaljock is establishing his alibi.
 Case closed.

Hong Kong action: film titles

In the old HKAT! game you could roll action movie titles with a wonderfully simple generator. Very often I start with the movie title and then use it as a springboard for further adventure ideas.

A special feature of Hong Kong film titles is the translation of the Cantonese original into Mandarin. The Mandarin titles usually have nothing to do with the Cantonese original.

Snake in the Snow (Cold Fingers to Stop a Murderer)
Wuxia: Heroes hunt down notorious assassin who hides in the mountains.

Secret Fist (Garage Blood)
Modern Martial Arts: Ultra-secret agent force used for difficult missions. Secret Ultimate Fights that go to the death, identifying the heroes.

Hong Kong Kung Fu Force (Fool's Come Running)
Modern Martial Arts: Foolish Kungfu students witness an attack and decide to find the culprit on their own.

Black Evil (Man with Eyes of Fire)
Superhero: Heroes are superheroes and fight against a powerful opponent: Black Evil. Lots of SFX.

Mighty Red Shadow (To Fight for Freedom)
Modern Martial Arts: At the time of the Cultural Revolution, or when China allowed Great Britain to keep Hong Kong for another 99 years. Chinese secret service groups are letting British businessmen  jump over the blade by the dozen in order to have as few "capitalist elements" in HK as possible already now. Heroes fight against injustice. Picturesque clubs, HK in luxury.

Storm Triad Brothers (Cat's Meow)
Heroic Bloodshed: Siblings, working together in their father's company. One or more of them slowly slide into the Storm Triad. At some point, a conflict arises in which they have to decide where their loyalty lies: to their own family, or to the Triad.

City's Revenge (Boots the Largest Size)
Bizarre: Real estate moguls tear down venerable, old buildings everywhere in Hong Kong and plant high-rise buildings. When they start to tear down the old horse race track as well, the heroes appear on the scene. They accidentally uncover a large-scale fraud: The buildings were listed and should not have been demolished. But the construction companies continue. Even the small shop of a relative is to be demolished, the owner was beaten and threatened. Time for the heroes to intervene. They get support from City - the incarnated Hong Kong that doesn't want to be wounded anymore.

The King, the Monkey & the Cop (Throne War)
Heroic Bloodshed: Young gang leader (Monkey) makes life difficult for a triad boss (King). As revenge he tries to commit horrible crimes against the police and to make them look as if they had committed Monkey. Monkey on the other hand becomes even more insane in his actions against King. The heroes are either police officers or relatives of the victims of the gang war.

Fearless Sword (Screams Banned into Steel)
Wuxia: The heroes are in search of the legendary demon sword Huet Pan Chuen (Blood Source) to destroy it forever. Other groups try to get their hands on it before it comes to that.

octaNe, and old love of mine

octaNe. A true storygame classic. I bought the book as soon as it hit the shelves, and I was never disappointed. octaNe uses "scene resolution" most of the time. That means, conflicts are resolved with one roll of the dice. Hm.

How can I resolve octaNe conflicts in a way that keeps them exciting for the players? In a nutshell, conflict resolution in octaNe works like this: A threat has a hazard rating. Each Hazard Point neutralizes one of the player's dice, always the highest one. The dice left after the Hazard determine who gets control of the scene.

For example: A T-Rex controlled by a mad dwarf scientist sitting in a bulletproof cockpit welded onto the dinosaur's head is, say, Hazard 2. The T-Rex attacks a completely surprised Lucha Livre wrestler. The player rolls the usual 3d6 and comes up with 2,4,5. The two highest roll results, 4 and 5, are "eaten" by the Hazard, leaving only the 2. In octaNe, a 2 means the gamemaster has complete control over the scene - exactly the constellation found in the traditional game. Now everyone involved in the game would play the whole thing out.

The scene would, at least in my eyes, lose tension.

If, instead of subtracting the Hazard Rating from the players' dice results in one go, I were to tell a short back and forth with the player for each single Hazard point before subtracting the next point of Hazard, it would considerably increase the tension for the players. In comparison to the example above, a Hazard 2 would have two scenes, "snapshots", of the wrestler's fight against the T-Rex.

And most importantly, the player doesn't know the opponent's Hazard Rating. Does the fight already stop after one scene? After two? Or does it last even longer?

Technique: Pidgin Adventures

  • Take a short synopsis of any published rpg module. For instance, I, being German and all, choose the German old school (1985) fantasy module “In den Fängen des Dämons” (roughly, “In the clutches of the Demon”). 
  • Write down or copy the plot segments, a few sentences for each. 
  • Write down the npcs and their relationships to each other and the player characters 
  • Draw a couple of maps, if you like maps 
  • Stat your npcs and anything else that is important 
  • Go play 

Mixed successes in The Landshut Rules

So you'd like to have mixed successes in your Landshut game. I get it. So please let me introduce the Dilemma Die. I've been using it for many years, in all kinds of games. The Dilemma Die is also a rule I use in minimald6, my other freeform rpg.

How does it work?
The DD is a d6 with 5 blank faces and 1 face showing a flash symbol. Roll the DD with your other dice. When the flash side comes up, something goes wrong, independently from success or failure.

For instance:
I try to leap across a wide pit. My character is pretty heavy and wearing armor, so the ref says, 'subtract 2 from your roll, please'. I roll my 2d6 and my DD, and the dice come up as 1,6 and a dilemma. 7 minus 2 is 5, the dilemma stays. Now, the ref rolls his dice, and he rolls a total of 8. What happens? My character does not make it across the chasm, and his backpack opens, with all the contents falling into the bottomless pit.

There you go. pbtA in a nutshell ;)

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Sorcerers & Sellswords: Hacking the rules II

My last post hacked the game rules of S&S by introducing two new attributes, and switching the dice system to roll on-or-under.

Now, let's go one step further and simply drop the stats. Sorcery is gone, and Swords is history, too.

Creating a character now means choosing a Style and a Calling, a Goal and a Name. Don't pick a skill number. Instead: in a few words, describe your character – history and abilities.

Let's try this with the character we introduced in the first post:

Galgad O'Karrt, Shrewd Psion.
He's been through a very rough patch. Lost his belongings in the fire when they started hunting people "not like them". Hopes his brother is still alive. He managed to survive a few street brawls, but was injured pretty badly each time. His weapon is the mind.

AND NOW use Grant Howitt's brilliant little system for his Retrograde game.

Situation: Galgad tries to PSI Blast an ignorant town guard. He's in pain from a deep fall the day before, so the GM says the outcome of the blast is in doubt. I roll 3d6 because he is a Psion, he uses his mind as a weapon. I get a 3, a 4 and a 5. That's two successes (die result 4+). Galgad succeeds, and I get to dictate what happens.

Cool! That's even simpler and easier than the original system. I don't have to compare a stat number or several stats to my roll. I simply roll the dice and hope for at least a 4 on every die. That's it.

Sorcerers & Sellswords: hacking the rules I

Ray Otus is creating beautiful games. One of them is his weird-fantasy hack of John Harper's Lasers & Feelings, called "Sorcerers & Sellswords". You know I'm a total sucker for rules-lite games, but something always kept me from fully embracing the awesomeness that is S&S, or the source, L&L.

It ISN'T the fact that all dice rolls are player-facing. I've made my (uneasy, but hey) peace with that. The culprit is the way the character stats are expressed. I really don't like it.

So how do they work in L&L, and in S&S (and the dozens of other hacks out there)?
It simple. You pick one Skill number between 2 and 5. "A low number means you will be better at Sorcery (weird powers, ancient/alien artifacts, intuition, persuasion, passionate action) and a high number means you will be better at Swords (mundane tools and weapons, logic, diplomacy, calm precise action)".


I don't know about you, but Sorcery, to me, SORCERY, does not mean passionate action. That's definitely, absolutely, and undoubtedly Swords to me. On the other hand, SWORDS, to me, does not mean diplomacy or calm precise action. Not at all.

That's the first thing that doesn't sit right with me. And it's NOT Ray's fault. It's the "fault" of the original system that only presented two stats that should represent what the game was all about.

Let's recap real quick: You pick the Skill number, a number between 2 and 5, and the lower is, the better you are at "Sorcery", and the higher it is, the better you are at "Swords". Something comes up, you pick up between one and three d6, and roll them.

And now, it gets... too complex for my tastes: "For Sorcery, count the dice OVER your Skill number. For Swords, count the dice UNDER your Skill number. So I have only one number on my page, but I have to roll under or over, depending on the stat I'm using. But: why? Wouldn't it be more practical, at the table, to have a stat number for each stat, roll under or equal to, and that's it? I understand John Harper's design behind it, it's pure reduced elegance. But to me, easily amused and easily confused country bum that I am, to me, this is… impractical and a bit confusing.

So, instead, I do two things:

  1. Two new stats: Intuition and Charisma. Sorcery now really means "weird powers, and ancient/alien artifacts". Swords now really is "weapons, the ability to fight (also unarmed)". Persuasion? Use Charisma, please. Logic? Use the player's. 
  2. A new system: Distribute 6 points between Intuition and Charisma, and another 6 points between Sorcery and Swords. No stat higher than a 5. No stat lower than a 1. If you save against a stat, roll under or equal to it. No Insight rolls. Everything else remains just as Ray wrote it.
So, for instance, this is a new S&S character:

Galgad O'Karrt, Shrewd Psion
Intuition 3
Charisma 3
Sorcery 5
Sword 1

Galgad tries to PSI Blast an igorant town guard. Galgad has prepared the attack and rolls 2d6 (1d6 standard, plus 1d6 for the preparation). PSI Blasts are Sorcery, obviously. I roll a 2 and a 6. So, one success (2), and one miss.

Galgad barely manages to PSI Blast the guard. Instead of knocking him out silently, the guard grunts loudly and crashes against the gate with a loud thud. 

Yup. Now I like it. Now I really like it.

Expanding Landshut games: add cards

The Landshut Rules are rooted in fiction-first gaming – even if their grandfather, the Braunsteins and Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, were invented by wargamers. My role model for gaming is Prof. MAR Barker, the inventor and author of Tekumel, and his way of roleplaying or refereeing:

The "Perfected Rules", Prof. MAR Barker's roleplaying rules, are at the heart of my Landshut Rules. THAT's what they boil down to.

And that's also the reason why they're so stable and sturdy. They can take anything you throw at them. For instance: You can glue on randomizers. Like the cards from Matthijs Holter's fantastic Archipelago III storygame.

A few days ago, I posted an article about playing Warhammer with the Landshut Rules. You could add the Archipelago cards. For instance, when someone is casting a spell. What happens? Replace the die roll with a draw of the cards. The riskier the spell, the more cards the player has to draw – and you, the ref, pick the one you like most.

Let's say a wizard casts a Battle Magic spell. I'm the referee and say, 'okay, Ben, draw four cards and give them to me" – or I could draw them myself, of course.

So the player draws these four cards:

And because my players know magic in a world that's losing to creeping chaos is REALLY, REALLY dangerous, I pick this one here:

Oh, shoot.


I could use the Everway fortune cards. They're similar to tarot and have a positive and a negative orientation. Let's say I draw one card, Knowledge, but upside down:

Not good. Falsehood. So I let my creativity flow and say, "Ben, you got one tiny detail in the spell wrong. Maybe the spell has changed itself, you just don't know yet. But the spell fizzles. And you... burst into flames. WHAT DO YOU DO?"

See, in games with lots of rules, I'd have to look up the rules for fire, and my players probably would start calculating the chances of the wizard to survive. In storygaming, and in storygaming-adjacent rules like Landshut, it's the story that counts. Immersion, baby. I want you to sit on the edge of your seats, biting fingernails and/or shoving popcorn in your mouth to somehow cope with the tension. What will happen? If the wizard survives, will there be long-term effects? What do you mean, snakes seem to love him?

Regarding: the Landshut Rules

Art: You know who (John Blanche)

So, my Landshut Rules are picking up speed, and I LOVE that.
And you guys are houseruling away, which is also cool.

Personally, I'd keep it very simple: Handwave, and handwave a lot. Not sure how much damage a dragon does? Well, do the player characters know? Of course not. So, feel free to knock the entire party out with a hit. Or, if you're really mean, hurt them ALL, and hurt them bad. It's a dragon, after all.

And one dragon is not like the other. To hell with Gygaxian realism, make the world fantastic again!
My recommendation would be to play Landshut as story-oriented as Prof. MAR Barker did back in the days: handwave damage, guesstimate a lot, and stay consistent.

The "hits" in Landshut are only a suggestion. Hey, if someone lands a solid blow with a longsword, and the victim is only wearing clothes and no armor – if it fits, if it's dramatically appropriate, let him have it.

That might be too loosey-goosey for some of you. I don't blame. All I'm saying is, this is the way the grognards played before D&D was even born.

Have fun!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Campfire stories

The more 
- I'm tinkering with OSR systems 
- I'm adapting different systems to Arnesonian gaming 
- I'm thinking about what module or sandbox to run next,

... the more I'm picking up and reading (or re-reading, or re-re-reading even) storygames. pbta. Over the Edge 3rd edition. Itras By. Everway.


I know it's *entirely* possible to run, say, Warhammer or Shadowrun or D&D with them. Because I ran a five-year Shadowrun 1e campaign diceless (meaning randomless) or using the Everway fortune cards.

And then.

And then I'm asking myself, 'why do you bother with hit points, modifiers, all that mechanical sh...tuff? Why don' tcha go full frontal freeform again?'

You know, it's my 36th year of refereeing rpgs. And the majority of those years, we played freeform, diceless, or later, with Everway cards. And now, with ample time on my hands, I'm starting to wonder what happened. What happened?

Time to return to where I came from. It's time.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Warhammer with… MoldHammer

(art: John Blanche)

I've sung the praises of Rattlemayne's MoldHammer rpg before (here, for instance), and I'll do it today, again, as well.

To regular readers of this blog, it`ll come as no surprise that I'm a Warhammer fan. And OF COURSE, after writing a Warhammer hack for Risus and a Warhammer hack for the Landshut Rules,  I'm also thinking about how to run the best British game ever with MoldHammer rules. This should be as straightforward as anything – Warhammer was one of Rattlemayne's inspirations when he wrote MoldHammer. (The other one being Moldvay D&D, which explains the name)

  1. Either use Warhammer 1e (the one, the only, and the best) to roll up a character. Disregard the WH attributes and simply pick one exceptionally high and one exceptionally bad stat and write it down. If you want more than one good stat, you have to pick one bad stat for each good one.
  2. OR you can use the Warhammer rulebook for inspiration – IF you do that, create your character with "Adventure Points".
  3. Download Rattlemayne's MoldHammer, if you haven't already. Your character starts with either <3<3 (all ranger, rogues and academic careers), or with <3<3<3 (warrior careers).
  4. If you're down to zero <3, use Mike Evans's "Deadlier Dying" tables. I know, they're forgiving, but seriously, I never liked the ultra-lethal approach of low-level old school games, I never played that way, and back in the days when we started roleplaying, we never knew anyone who played that way.  
  5. Leveling Up: Use Arnold's brilliant popcorn leveling. Increase your <3 – if your ref is okay with that.
  6. Monsters: Forget about a literal translation from WH to Moldhammer. It can't happen. So, translate the feeling. Give it a to-hit, armor, and damage (regular weapons do <3 damage, bigger or better ones do <3<3). If you want variable damage, consider rolling  a d2 (coin) or d3.
  7. Magic! I have to admit, I got carried away a bit by the brilliant magic system of the GLOG.  Suddenly, all types of magic were inherently dangerous. That's not only NOT true in real life, but also in Warhammer.

    The only wizards facing great dangers are Demonologists, Necromancers, and Evil and Chaotic magicians. They gain Insanity Points and Disabilities, or increase the chances of contracting Tomb Rot (necromancers, I'm looking at you).

    I also don't want starting wizard characters with one measly Petty Spell – because we're playing way too infrequently to make this fun.

    That's why our MoldHammer Warhammer magicians start with (level+1) spell points.
    When you cast a spell, make a save (see MoldHammer), it get's tougher the higher the spell level is. If you roll successfully, you cast the spell, and it costs you zero spell points. If you fail the roll, you still cast the spell, but it costs you (spell level) spell points.
    This is Warhammer, so I'll allow wizards to sacrifice <3 to gain 2 spell points.
So there you have it. Warhammer, played with MoldHammer.

An example character, rolled up with Warhammer 1e:

Name: Franz-Joseph Krauthuber
53-year old Human Wizard, Level 1

Skills: Sixth Sense, Identify Plans, Magic Sense, Rune Lore, Scroll Lore

To-hit: 10

Spell Points: 2

Learned Spells:

  • Cause Animosity (Battle Magic I): cast against creatures that are normally subject to animosity. Targets must save or attack each other
  • Fire Ball (Battle Magic I): one fire ball per level per combat round. If fired into a group, it hits (level)d3 creatures and causes <3<3<3 damage. Flammable targets suffer an additional <3. Can be dodged for <3 damage.

Trappings: decent suit, soft shoes, knife tucked in belt, 27 gold crowns, ceremonial dagger, Wizard's staff, Boots Leaping (+1d6 yards on any leap)

Friday, April 10, 2020

RANT with pics: And a no-glitz elf for me, please

I DO have an intense dislike of 'high fantasy' in general. It all reminds me (maybe with the exception of Tolkien, but only because his work was the first work of fantasy I encountered) of bad fanfic and bad kitchen sink rpgs.
I DO have an intense love for pulpy, action-packed, tersely written, sword &... literature and games.
Instead of high concept fantasy with dark elves that are nothing more than good-looking bad boys with goth makeup, instead of dwarves that are nothing more than short, grumpy master blacksmiths, instead of magic that's as predictable as a happy ending in the latest boring Hollywood flick:
Give me Conan! Give me Tarzan! (and maybe a bit of Elric)
Give me evil witches and wizards!
Give me immense treasure!
Give me glorious violence!
Give me elves that are as alien as the elves of folklore!
Give me insatiable hunger for adventure!

The fuck? Issat supposed to be a barbarian or something? With a 20-kilogram maxi broadsword ("paddlesword", I'm told, is the right nomenclature here; thanks, guys!). Sure. Why not. After all, everything's possible in La-La-Land, right? Right?

Now that's a warrior. Notice the difference? This one here has seen battle. The one above has only seen the mirror. A million times.

Geez. A tiefling. What the fucking fuck? Who wants to play that? Besides, everyfuckingbody knows that they're a spawn of Hell. Chaos Incarnate. What the fucking fuck. But that's high-concept 5e and glossy magazine, politically correct gaming to you.

See, that's what a Chaos creature really looks like. And yeah, bullet to the forehead, serves him just right. John Blanche.

Aaaaaaand another polished looking, swanky character.  That's the typically bland 4e and 5e look, and it's disgusting. Sheesh, look at the swag mini fireball hovering above his palm. Neat braided beard, you loser.

If you want to know what a real magician in a real fantasy world looks like, look no further than John Blanche, the master. This is a slinger of spells. This is someone who was borderline fucking crazy when he started the Dark Arts. Now, he's just a motherfucking abomination in human skin. Do you want to have someone like that in your party? Ha?

Ooooh. How cute. Mogogols. Frog men. A 5e player race. Much inclusive. Oh yeah, and roleplaying tip: "Always remember, when playing a Mogogol, they're incredibly optimistic"

In contrast: real frog-men. The Slann. Aztec-cultured monsters. You know, Aztecs. What do you mean, blood sacrifice? But ain't they, like, happy toads, or something? (Probably because they're licking themselves, but that's stuff for a future blog post)

Project Dwarven Runway. Neat little people, right? Just like humans, only stockier. That's what happens when you make everything, everything equal. Dwarves? They're vertically-challenged humans. Expert opinion: Fuck that outrageous lame-assery.

You know the drill. THAT'S what real dwarves look like. And see how... weird they look? That's because they ARE weird, compared to what's normal for us humans. Again, John Blanche shows the way.

Aaaw. 5e battle scene. So… dynamic. Look, Ma, no blood! Just the way the Committee for Decency and Clean Entertainmaint ordered it. My take on it: B.T.T. Bored to tears.

A battle scene in real, raw, down-to-blood-drenched-earth fantasy. That's what battle looks like. Nothing like the Saturday morning cartoon idyll 5e and companions offer us. You gotta be kidding me.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Thruuk, the Crocodile Warrior

I wrote about the awesomeness that is Moldhammer here and here. Today, just because I feel like it, let me create a Crocodile Warrior.

I reckon he's strong. I could, of course, roll for the traditional D&D stats, but I feel more old school today. So I'm writing on my index card, 'Strong". He also looks kind of agile, so "Agile" is what I'm writing on the card, too.

Level: 0
4 Adventure Points
Name: Thruuk
He starts with  (2 hp).
To hit: 10 or lower

Adventure Points:

  • Natural armor: seeing that in the Rules Cyclopedia, a Big Crocodile has the equivalent of platemail armor, this warrior has an 8 (roll equal to or lower to negate damage) (2 pts)
  • Argortr, Cudgel of Crocodile Honor: does  damage, and might return to its owner if lost (2 pts)

That's it. Have fun.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Playing Warhammer with the Landshut Rules

It doesn’t get any more British or European than that. Chaos beast men, tragic and dangerous magic, Warhammer has it all. Plus, Landshut is not only the title of my ancient school, free kriegsspiel rules, but also the name of my hometown, which happens to be… a medieval German town. Remember Altdorf, the city in the Old World of Warhammer? That’s a town about two miles from where I live. Just saying. Us Germans have bragging rights when it comes to Warhammer, right? 

Okay, so now Warhammer. How can we play it with the Landshut Rules? 

Like so:
You need the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game 1st edition. Because that’s the one and only. And please lose your copy of Zweihänder. Because it’s an abomination. 

Use 2d6 to determine Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill, Strength, Toughness, Dexterity, Leadership, Intelligence, Cool, Will Power and Fellowship. 

ONLY record a stat if you roll 2 or 3, or 11 or 12 for it. If it’s 2 or 3, write „low“ or „bad“, followed by the stat, and if it’s 11 or 12, write „high“ or good“, followed by the stat. 

2) CHOOSE a race: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling
3) Record your racial abilities
4) Determine your age
5) Determine your Fate Points
6) Pick your Career Class
7) Determine how many skills you have, your mandatory skills, and roll the rest on the appropriate table
8) Record your trappings
9) Roll for your Career
10) Record the career trappings and skills, just write them down
11) Humans start with 3 hits, elves and halflings with 2, and dwarves with 4. 

Optional Rule: Gore Die

Remember how you roll attacks with 2d6. These two dice should have different colors. ONE die is the Gore Die. The higher that die, the messier, bloodier, gorier your hit is. Note that a gory, bloody, bloodspraying, disgusting hit will not kill the opponent if he still has Hit Points left – but it will definitely put negative modifiers on his next attack roll, movement, abilities, skills and so on. Only when Hit Points are reduced to zero, a character dies. To give you a few rough ideas for Gore Die results:

  • Gore 1: drop weapons, superficial wounds, hits that knock the wind out of you, stumble, bruises, stuns, knockdowns 
  • Gore 2: dislocations, shattered weapons, numb limbs 
  • Gore 3: incapacitated limbs, deep wounds, smashed teeth, broken bones 
  • Gore 4: severed arteries, internal bleeding, spine injuries, gouged out eyes 
  • Gore 5: half a limb lost, organs ruptured 
  • Gore 6: entire limb lost, body parts hacked in half 
  • Gore 7: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, flying body parts, fuck what a mess
Gore 7? How? This is another optional rule: When a character is down to 1 Hit, the next attack that takes him to his gods has Gore Die +3.

Magic is the offspring of Chaos. It's powerful, but dangerous. Spellcasters start with 1d6-1 Magic Dice (at least 1). Then, choose one of six Schools of Magic you belong to. Each school practices one general type of magic. 

Amethyst = death, undeath, entropy
Ruby = fire, hell, blood
Amber = animals, monsters,emotion
Gold = metal, industry, physics
Moss = plants, plagues, life
Sapphire = time, abyss/stars, thought

Casting Spells
Spells are freeform – describe what you want to achieve, and the referee will roll 2d6 or more against your Magic Dice. Roll your dice at the same time. Magic is a fickle mistress, you never know if you can surf the waves of magic – or drown in them. That's why the referee always rolls against you, instead of determining a target number you have to beat. For any spell, roll as many of your Magic  Dice as you like.

When casting combat spells, roll your Magic Dice against the 2d6 of your opponent, just as in regular combat (but you might roll more than 2d6). If your number is higher, the spell hits and does damage. A rough guide for damage might be the number of Magic Dice you rolled: the opponent loses that many hits. If you want harsher spells, ask your referee. 

Casting other spells follows the same logic. The ref rolls 2d6 (maybe more if it's really difficult), you decide how many magic dice you roll, then roll them and try to roll higher than the ref. If you roll higher, your spell is successful. If not, it simply fizzles.

Sixes explode: If you roll a Six when casting a spell, that Six explodes: roll that die again and add the new number to your total. If the new number you're rolling happens to be another 6, keep rolling.


Every 6 you roll opens a rift in the fabric of the world, and Chaos creeps in. This directly affects you, the spellcaster. One 6 might be a minor mishap, 2 mean minor mutations and inabilities, 3 are major consequences, and so on – but the more 6s you roll, the more gory and terrifying it gets. If you ever happen to roll six Sixes for a spell, you're doomed.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Quick rules for playing D&D, any edition

(c) Den Yang-Ho

So you want to throw together a new game, but it has to happen real quick, and maybe, just maybe, if y'all like it, you'll keep playing even without the books. I get it.

Let me make a suggestion:

  1. Surf over to Matthew's quality blog and read all about his GENIUS idea, "Adventure Points".
  2. Create your character. For cool skills, spells, abilities or equipment, pillage your game books.
  3. What kind of game do you want to play? Hardcore OD&D stuff where, at least for starting characters, one average hit means death? Or something more forgiving? Figure out how many hit points your character has. Each hit reduces your hit points by 1. Average early D&D-like games would have 2 hp for starting characters.
  4. If you're down to 0 hp, consider using Mike Evans's "Deadlier Dying" tables. They were written for The Black Hack, but you can easily adapt them.
  5. When you gain experience, do you get a new hp every time? Or is that something only the fighty types get?
  6. Now, armor. Light armor gives you armor class 1. Slightly better armor 2, and so on, up to 6. The absolute bestest armor you can ever have is around 10. When you get hit, roll equal to or under your AC, and you negate the damage.
  7. To hit is 9+HD. Roll on or under. 
  8. When not sure if something a character tries will work, roll a d6, higher is better. Interpret accordingly, and let the character's skills inform your decision.
  9. Leveling up? Use Arnold's brilliant idea: popcorn leveling.
  10. Make up cool stuff and go on adventures.

For instance:

Ansgar der Übelgelaunte
  • Carries the Cursed and Mighty Ax of Righteousness, a rune-inscribed dwarven instrument of destruction that collects the souls of slain foes. When Ansgar dies, those souls are set free in a dark and silent implosion that sucks everyone nearby into the abyss if they fail their save.  1 Adventure Point.
  • Nice armor (AC 5). 1 Adventure Point.
  • Earthshaker (1/day): When Ansgar stomps on the ground HARD, everybody within 30 feet has to make a save or be swept off their feet. 2 Adventure Points.
  • Starting hp: 3
  • To hit: 10

(A huge big thanks goes out to Rattlemayne, for his MoldHammer rules, and to Matthew Halton for his Adventure Points idea)