30 December 2020

Runes in RuneQuest:Glorantha

I have already blogged about the canonicity, appearance and disappearance of the various Gloranthan Runes throughout the various editions of RuneQuest and HeroQuest (see my post here).

Today on social media, Jason Durall has posted the list of the Runes that player character adventurers would be “likely to use” in an average RQ:G game:

I am happy to see my beloved “modified element Runes” back, and elated to see that the Issaries Rune is still there (the question is: why would a player invest Rune affinity points in the Issaries Rune since it won’t provide access to any Rune spells?).
Not sure about the usefulness of the Undead Rune either, since there aren’t any Rune spells fuelled by the Undead Rune (according to the Cults preview, vampiric magic works differently).

The Condition Runes Infinity and Luck are missing from this table; however, this is consistent with what is written about their use on p15 of the core rules, and with the fact that there isn’t any Rune magic spell fuelled by the Infinity and Luck Runes.

I am puzzled by the presence of the Dragon and Law Runes though. They are not used in the Red Book of Magic, not used in the Cults preview. Also, even though they are extremely important in the East and in the West of Genertela, I doubt any adventurer from Dragon Pass would use them (or even see them!).

Last but not least, I miss the Ice Rune and the Shadow Rune.

28 December 2020

Analysis of the Red Book of Magic - Part Two, Spirit Magic

I hope you enjoyed the analysis of the Rune magic spells in the Red Book of Magic that I posted last week. Today, I would like to share a few thoughts about the Spirit magic spells in the Red Book of Magic. The first very noticeable thing is that Spirit magic spells are much less numerous than their Rune magic counterparts; “only” 69 Spirit magic spells vs 448 Rune magic spells.

Even the increase itself is much less spectacular: whereas the Rune magic spells increased almost threefold from the core RuneQuest book, the Spirit magic spells only increased 30%, from 53 to 69.

This is as it should be: ever since Cults of Prax (1979), the Gods’ protection over their worshippers has translated into Rune magic rather than Spirit magic: as written under the Sleep spell in Chalana Arroy’s cult write-up in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax:

No non-cult person can be taught this spell. Befuddle was once a special cult battle magic spell as well, but unwise teaching of it beyond the cult led to its use in attacks, perverting its merciful origin. That cult mistake will not be repeated.

Exactly! Battle magic (i.e., Spirit magic) can be disseminated, Rune magic, being linked to the cult’s runes, is much less likely to be taught beyond the cult.

Statistically, here is the distribution of the spells in terms of magic point cost:

1-point spells: 26 (38%)

2-point spells: 13 (19%)

3-point spells: 5 (7%)

4-point spells: 2 (3%)

5-point spells: none

6-point spells: 1 (1%)

Variable spells: 22 (32%)

Let us now go back to the individual Spirit magic spells. 41 of them are straight from the original RQ2 rules, 27 of which being practically identical. The differences are as follows:

The spells Befuddle and Demoralise have had their cost raised from 1 to 2 magic points.

The variable spells Bladesharp, Bludgeon, Dullblade, Ironhand, Multimissile, Shimmer and Vigour, which were limited to 4 MPs, have no upper limit in the Red Book of Magic.

Extinguish was a fixed-cost spell; it is now a variable spell. The 2-point RQ2 spell would extinguish any fire, now the cost depends on the size of the fire.

Fanaticism used to be a variable spell, with one person affected per magic point. That was way overpowered; I am glad the current rules have you cast one spell per person.

Farsee was a fixed-cost spell; it is now a variable spell with a finicky explanation as to why it is variable. I prefer the RQ2 version.

Repair is another fixed-cost spell that has become variable, and much less interesting than it used to be: a 2-point spell repairing 20 points of damage. Now each point only fixes 1D10 points of damage.

Slow has merely undergone a name change – it used to be called Binding.

Some RQ2 spells have been removed, viz.:

Detect Detection, which I found useful, even though to be honest I can’t possibly remember having ever used.

Detect Gems – unless it falls under the umbrella of Detect (substance).

Mindspeech. I can see how it may have been considered overpowered, but it enabled good infiltration-style games.

Xenohealing has become useless since Heal now heals any target and not only your own species.

Some other RQ2 spells have become Rune magic spells: Detection Blank, Harmonise, Invisibility. Honestly, I can see why, as someone who has abused their Invisibility spell for years.

The same has happened with two Spirit magic spells from the very first RQ2 supplement (Cults of Prax): Stone Biting and Tree Chopping Song.

Let us have a look now at the “new” spells, those that were not there at the time of RQ2.

Binding Enchantment is from the RQ3 rules; way cheaper now, since its cost used to be 3 MPs.

Comprehension and Pamalt’s Touch are from the write-up of the cult of Pamalt in the RQ3 supplement Gods of Glorantha, with no change (they are still restricted to the cult of Pamalt).

Conceal Item, Face of Lanbril and Forget are from the write-up of the cult of Lanbril in the RQ2 supplement Pavis; Conceal Item’s cost has been reduced from 2 to 1. The two other spells are identical. And all three spells are still restricted to the cult of Lanbril.

Control (entity), Magic Point Enchantment, Second Sight, Spell Matrix Enchantment and Visibility are from the RQ3 rules, with no change.

Cool is from the write-up of the cult of Norag in the Book of Drastic Resolutions, volume Darkness, with no change in terms of its cost but with a big change with regard to its accessibility: it is now a non-special spell that costs 250L or less, i.e., it is among the most common of the common Spirit magic spells (see p107 of the Red Book of Magic).

False Healing is from the write-up of the cult of the Black Sun in the RQ3 supplement Troll Gods, with no change in terms of its cost but, again, with a big change with regard to its accessibility. I am truly unhappy with this change… False Healing used to be one of the big surprises of the Ignorant cults of the Black Sun and of the Blood Sun.

Food Song is from the write-up of the cult of Aldrya in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax, with no change in terms of its cost; as for its accessibility, it is unclear… the spell is not amongst the ones listed on p107 as being restricted to a certain cult; however, the spell description sort of makes it look like it is restricted to Aldryami.

Heat Metal is from the write-up of the cult of Lodril in the RQ3 supplement Gods of Glorantha, with no change in terms of its cost but, again, with quite a change with regard to its accessibility.

Hotfoot is from the write-up of the cult of the Trickster in the RQ3 supplement Gods of Glorantha, with no change (it is still restricted to the cult of Eurmal).

Jumping is from the write-up of the cult of Kyger Litor in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax, with no change (it is still restricted to the cult of Kyger Litor).

Lantern and Seek Sun Dome Temple are from the write-up of the cult of Yelmalio in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax. Lantern used to be a variable spell with a duration of 10 melee rounds per point; now it is a 1-point spell, which I think makes perfect sense. Seek Sun Dome Temple has not changed. Except for this change, they are still both only available to Yelmalio cultists.

Meteor Swarm (unless I have missed my Library Use skill check) is the only truly new spirit spell in the book. It is also the one and only Spirit magic spell with a cost greater than 4; we may consider it as a kind of “anomaly” brought upon us by the Lunars and their constant meddling with the fabric of Glorantha. In the context of the Hero Wars, I really like this addition— especially since the use of the spell is limited to the Lunar cult of the Crater Makers.

Parry is from the write-up of the cult of Humakt in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax, with no change in terms of its cost but with a big change with regard to its accessibility since it is now available to any player characters.

Preserve Herbs is from the write-up of the cult of Chalana Arroy in Cults of Prax, with no change (it is still restricted to the cult of Chalana Arroy).

Rivereyes is from the write-up of the cult of Zola Fel in the RQ2 supplement Pavis, with no change in terms of its cost but, again, with a big change with regard to its accessibility.

Sleep is from the write-up of the cult of Chalana Arroy in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Prax. Much like Fanaticism (see above), it used to be an overpowered variable spell, with one person affected per magic point. Luckily, it is still only available to Chalana Arroy worshippers.

Sneeze is from the write-up of the cult of Mallia in the RQ2 supplement Cults of Terror, with no change (it is still restricted to the cult of Mallia).

Solace is from the write-up of the cult of Xiola Umbar in the RQ2 supplement Trollpak, with no change except for its accessibility.

Summon (entity) is from the RQ3 rules; it used to be a 1-point spell but is now variable although it is only a difference in how the spell is presented.

22 December 2020

Analysis of the Red Book of Magic - Part One, Rune Magic

So the Red Book of Magic for RuneQuest is out. The funny thing is that, as a by-product of the Cults of Glorantha books, it should probably have been published at the same time as the two Cults books, or slightly later, but then because its illustrations were ready, whereas the art for the other books is still underway, it happened the other way round.

One annoying consequence is that the Red Book of Magic does not say which spells are learnable by whose cultists. Obviously the gamemaster is the sole arbiter at their table and they may decide that a given spell becomes available in their game but I can understand those who have complained on social media. Also, it has been explained to us fans that spell-to-cult correspondence tables would probably have taken up too much space; however, given how the Cults books are late, I reckon a free PDF would have done the trick.

Anyway, I have been perusing the book a good deal since I purchased the PDF, and I would like to share some analyses of the Rune spells.

There are 448 Rune magic spells in the Red Book of Magic. That’s a lot — there were 166 Rune spells in the core RuneQuest book, so that’s almost a threefold increase.

The cost of each Rune spell varies between 1 and 6 Rune points. Here is the breakdown by percentage:
1 Rune point (267 spells): 60%
2 Rune points (107 spells): 24%
3 Rune points (68 spells): 15%
4 Rune points (7 spells): 2%
5 Rune points (2 spells): negligible
6 Rune points (1 spell): negligible

This doesn’t tell us much, except that Rune magic is really readily available to all cult initiates, since they usually only have 3 Rune points.

A more interesting breakdown is the number of Rune spells per Rune affinity. Here it is:
Darkness 61
Water 39
Earth 51
Fire/Sky 58
Air 40
Moon 31
Harmony 40
Disorder 17
Stasis 8
Movement 26
Truth 14
Illusion 26
Fertility 39
Death 44
Beast 56
Man 18
Plant 11
Dragonewt 0
Spirit 0
Chaos 42
Mastery 0
Magic 19
Infinity 0
Luck 0
Fate 1
Variable/cult-dependent 4

I hate to say this, but I believe the above is good input for “munchkin” players to choose how to distribute their Rune affinity values during Step 3 of the character generation process. This is particularly true for the Power and Form Runes.

23 September 2020

HeroQuest becomes QuestWorlds

Big news! The narrative role-playing game known as HeroQuest becomes QuestWorlds as Chaosium sells the name to Hasbro, who wants to re-release the famous 1989 boardgame that bore the same name as the Gloranthan role-playing game.

Here is the full story.

18 July 2020

Griselda Stories Time-Line

The following time-line has been collected by Daniel Fahey, Gloranthaphile extraordinaire.
I have added some bibliographic notes:
the edition hereafter referenced to as ‘CG’ is the Complete Griselda by Oliver Dickinson published by Issaries Inc, ISS 4502, 2001
the other stories are from the Kraken chapbooks published as fundraisers for our favourite con and are hereafter referred to as ‘CB’

Griselda stories Time-line:
'A Tasty Morsel' (CG p32) ends early in Dark Season 1613
'Lucky Eddi' (CG p17) Earth Season 1616
'Griselda Gets Her Men' (CG p21), 'All in the Family' (CG p37) ran through into Dark Season.
'Shamus Gets a Case' (CG p26) occurred some time in late 1616
'Down Among the Dead Men' (CG p54) ~1616
'The Great Chart Caper' (CG p44) took place in Sea Season 1617
'Devil's Play' (CG p72) shows how they actually redeemed themselves, following the events of 'Wolfhead's Story' (CG p61) and 'Carving Up Carver' (CG p64)
'Bad Example' (CG p80), 'Holding the Baby' (CG p84) and 'This Love Business' (CG p89) happen in Fire Season, following Griselda's return from the Rubble, and precede the action of 'Red Hot' (CG p113)
Ditto for 'Serious Money' (CG p95) and 'Worlds Apart' (CG p106).
'The Matchmaker' (CG p144) must take place some time after the Garhound Contest (Truth Week, Earth Season), which Griselda's involvement in 'Ogre Hunt' (CB) must follow by a week.
'The Hero Bit' (CG p138) would make sense in Illusion Week, Earth Season, ending in Truth Week.
'The Trouble with Nephews' (CG p155) took place in Stasis Week, Dark Season 1617.
'Respect' (CG p184) was told in Dark Season 1617
'Different Shades of Red' (CG p172) takes place in Dark Season 1617.
'Meet the Parents' (CB) happens in Storm Season 1617
'A Day at the Races' (CB) probably 1618
'No Way for a Lady to Behave' (CB) certainly in Sea Season 1618
'A Brief Return to the Rubble' (CB) happens not long after this, probably still in Sea Season
'Hafufa's Little Sister' (CG p50), 'First Class Protection' (CG p130) and 'Happy Anniversary' (CG p124) all happen in Earth Season 1620 according to Soltakss
The Cradle scenario began Fireday, Harmony Week, Sea Season 1621, Griselda and co. joined Wildday, main action on Godday.
In the interview with Carina (CG p195) she stated that she was thirty-five, so the interview should fall after her birthday in 1627
Olaf met them again in the earlier 1630s: 'The Lady of Alone' (CB)

18 June 2020

Last Faction Hero WHO Donation

Thanks to everyone who purchased our boardgame, Last Faction Hero, while it was available as a Pay-What-You-Want title for charity during the month of May. As promised, Chaosium is donating some USD 1579.50 (less itch.io fees) to the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Fund!

06 June 2020

Eternal Con 2020– Jeff’s Panel

So the organisers cancelled the 2020 edition of the Eternal Con, but some people (who live in Germany) did travel to the Schloss, staying there as ‘individuals’ since there was no way an official con could be seen as happening.

Amongst these individuals, Jeff Richard from Chaosium who broadcasted his usual ‘ask me anything’ panel on YouTube. Luckily the broadcast was captured; here it is for your enjoyment.

Short summary:

(the recording missed the part about the Cults of Glorantha book)

Q: What happens to HeroQuest?
A: Announcements soon, but people may have noticed QuestWorlds already!

Q: Will there be a Lunar supplement?
A: We are putting together the right team of writers.
But the huge size of the Lunar cults chapter within the Cults of Glorantha book, plus the Lunar material within the Guide of Glorantha, should already enable you to run Lunar campaigns.

Q: Are there any differences (in content) between the English-language edition of Call of Cthulhu or RuneQuest and the translations? Is any of the original stuff written for the translated versions going to be published back into English?
A: We are translating some Polish CoC material into English and we are really excited by the additional French-language material that Philippe Auribeau is putting together for the French edition of RQG.

Q: Next RQG book in print?
A: Starter Set, similar to the CoC starter set. It will have everything needed to run RQG games, with a focus on Jonstown with two adventures.

Q: Pavis & Big Rubble book
A: Robin Laws has finished writing the Big Rubble book, it is currently being used as the in-house Chaosium RQG campaign. It takes place after Pavis has been raided and it really changes the feel of how it’s played— it’s not under Lunar occupation any longer: YOU are the occupiers!

Q: Glorantha East & West
A: We actually have a fantastic Kralorela manuscript, but I think it’s not the best time to publish it, because there is no good way for a party of characters from Dragon Pass or Prax to travel there, which means it is an entirely new setting. I would prefer to wait until we come out with the Nochet book, which opens up the rest of the setting more broadly [because characters can then travel by boat from Nochet].
About the Malkioni and the Invisible God... the Invisible God is not in the Cults of Glorantha book because it is too different and so big... it would be the tail that swallows the dog, so it’ll end up being its own book, that’ll also include Sorcery.

Q: The Nochet book?
A: A team is putting it together, with encounters and adventures based on the beautiful map that we have made available.
The manuscript isn’t final yet, though. But I hope to have the book out in 2021.
Nochet is a very important city, it’s the biggest and most cosmopolitan city in the world.

Q: A revision of HQG?
A: No.

Q: A book about how to better narrate stories for CoC?
A: The Keeper Rulebook already has some great tips on how to be a good keeper. But it’s an idea worth looking at.

Q: The Ring of the Nibelung as a Pendragon setting?
A: Great idea, but how to combine the historical elements and the myths to create a kind of ‘monomyth’ like Greg Stafford did for Pendragon?

Q: What is the Sartar book going to feature?
A: How to make a Sartarite character, how to create a clan, how do tribes function.
Complete and detailed gazetteer.

Q: Status of Barbarian Town?
A: This is a book that Sarah Newton started drafting and putting together. Alas she’s had a lot of personal stuff going on in her life, but it is definitely a book I’d love to get moving again!

Q: What is the God Learners’ Secret?
A: It’s a secret.

24 May 2020

Eternal Con 2020– Cancelled!

Contrary to what I wrote a few days ago, the 2020 edition of the Eternal Con has been cancelled after all. On 13 May, the government of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate has banned indoor events, and this has obviously led to the cancellation of the con, since the town of Bacharach is located in Rhineland-Palatinate.

12 May 2020

A New Gaming Podcast

Steve's profile picture on twitter...
My online RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha gamemaster, Steve aka Orlanth Rex, has taken advantage of the lockdown period to start a role-playing games podcast. His main idea is to capture the thoughts and the afterthoughts that occur to him during or after our fortnightly online games; as he explains in his introduction, online sessions are much shorter than face-to-face ones and usually get to the point (i.e., gaming) so there’s no time left to discuss meta-gaming stuff.

Note that we do tend to discuss what happened during the adventures on Twitter with Steve and the other players, both publicly and via private messages, but I reckon the aim of the podcast is really to take a back seat of sorts and mull over this little obsessive hobby of ours.

The first episode is available here, anyways, if you are interested in such matters (and you probably are, if you’re reading this).

Games featured in Episode One:
  • RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha
  • D&D 5th edition
  • Liminal
  • Würm - The Ice Age Roleplaying Game
  • Swords & Wizardry
  • The Fall of Delta Green
  • Old-School Essentials

10 May 2020

Eternal Con 2020

I have just received an e-mail from the organisers: the Eternal Con 2020 is taking place as scheduled, from 29 May until 1st June at Castle Stahleck in Bacharach.

Alas, alas, even though the lockdown is gradually being lifted starting tomorrow 11 May, the French government has forbidden any travels abroad until 10 July, so I won't be able to attend the con. My heart bleeds.

08 May 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 26: Star Wars REUP

Star Wars REUP
My son is watching the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series, which takes place in the Star Wars universe between episodes II and III of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Despite my dislike for the prequel trilogy, I must say what little I have seen of The Clone Wars (mostly seasons 5 and 7) is really, really good. The writers have managed to take all the most fascinating and underused elements of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and have built several riveting and intertwined story arcs around them. There is also much more insight into the history of the Star Wars universe, and in particular into what the Force is, into the history of the Jedi–Sith confrontation; you get to know how the clones were programmed to carry out Order 66; you get to know a lot about the history of the Mandalorians… It’s a smorgasbord of Star Wars trivia and obscure knowledge weaved into gripping 22-minute episodes.

As a true-blue Old Schooler, I have always considered that the one and only role-playing game to play in the Star Wars universe was West End Games’ role-playing game based on the D6 engine. I thought it was long dead and buried and then I found out that an active group of fans under the collective name Womp Rat Press had been keeping the game alive… Their work is available, free, improved, and beautifully illustrated under the name of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Revised, Expanded and Updated– or “Star Wars REUP”.

So here’s my character created in the Rise of the Empire era. Shakta is a young, naïve padawan, always ready to follow her master in the most extreme situations and irrespective of how reckless the plans are!

Character Name: Shakta Hiago
Gender/Species: Female Togruta
Age: 17
Height: 1.73m
Physical description: Tall, slender but relatively muscular. Brightly-coloured head-tails with alternating tangerine and slate stripes.

  Lightsaber 5D
  Intimidation 4D
  Search 4D
  Stamina 4D
  Droid Programming 3D
  Droid Repair 3D

Force sensitive?: Yes
Force Points: 2

Force Skills 
Control 1D
Sense 1D
Alter 1D

Force Powers
Control: Enhance Attribute
Sense: Life Detection
Alter: Telekinesis

06 May 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 25: Ryuutama

Ryuutama is a Japanese TTRPG that has been translated into a number of European languages. The fun thing with Ryuutama is that not only do players get to choose their character class, but the GM (the Ryuujin) also gets to choose hers! She can be a green dragon, a “standard” GM; an azure dragon, a character-interaction-oriented GM, a crimson dragon, a battle-oriented GM; or a black dragon, a harsh GM. I may be mistaken, but I believe Ryuutama is the only role-playing game that officially differentiates between various GM personae. The Ryuujin also has a level and may die! Since I’ve never played Ryuutama I have no idea how all this translates into the game, but I find it fascinating.

Anyway, back to ‘normal’ player characters– called travellers. I could choose between the following seven classes: Artisan, Farmer, Healer, Hunter, Merchant, Minstrel, Noble, and I have chosen to create an Artisan, the kind of character concept ‘regular’ role-playing games seem to ignore.

Stats are not rolled but chosen as even numbers whose total is 24 (the scores must be even because each score will translate as a type of die to be used). The four stats are STRength, which is actually more like a mix of Strength and Constitution, DEXterity, INTelligence, and SPIrit (a mix of Power and Charisma).

Name: Benidama
Age: 32 years old
Gender: Male
Favourite colour: Red

Class: Artisan
Level: 1
Job: Baker
Skills: Trapping, Crafting [Food], Repair
Type: Technical

STR d4
DEX d8
INT d6
SPI d6

Hit Points 8
Mental Points 12
Carrying Capacity 7

Mastered Weapon: Bow
Accuracy 12
Damage 8

03 May 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 24: Pendragon 5th edition

Pendragon is a mainstay of fans of Chaosium role-playing games and of the works of Greg Stafford, yet for some reason I think I’ve only played it twice, and always at conventions hence as one-shot adventures, whereas it is well-known that Greg Stafford’s labour of love shines in a campaign game. Oh, well.

The current and latest edition (unless I’m mistaken) is the 5th edition by Nocturnal Media, although it is rumoured that Pendragon is returning to its original fold!

I’ve created this character using the 5th edition character generation rules, which limit the choice of the starting region to Salisbury. My young squire is a Pagan Welshman, more interested in courting ladies and hearing the tales of mysterious Faerieland than jousting. He relies on outmanoeuvring his foes on horseback rather than directly confronting them.

Name: Gwynn
Homeland: Salisbury
Culture: Cymric
Religion: Pagan
Father’s Name: Rhŷs
Title: le blanc
Father’s class: Vassal Knight
Son Number: 1
Liege Lord: Sir Roderick, Earl of Salisbury
Current Class: Squire
Current Home: Durnford
Age: 21

Personality TraitsChaste 7 | Lustful 13
Energetic 13 | Lazy 7
Forgiving 10 | Vengeful 10
Generous 13 | Selfish 7
Honest 13 | Deceitful 7
Just 16 | Arbitrary 4
Merciful 11 | Cruel 9
Modest 7 | Proud 13
Pious 10 | Worldly 10
Prudent 9 | Reckless 11
Temperate 10 | Indulgent 10
Trusting 10 | Suspicious 10
Valorous 15 | Cowardly 5

PassionsLoyalty (Sir Roderick) 15
Love (Family) 15
Hospitality 15
Honour 15
Hate (Saxons) 9

AttributesSIZ 11
DEX 13
STR 13
CON 13
APP 13

Damage 4D6
Healing Rate 3
Movement Rate 3
Total Hit Points 24
Unconscious 6

Non-Combat SkillsAwareness 5
Boating 10
Compose 1
Courtesy 3
Dancing 2
Faerie Lore 1
Falconry 3
First Aid 10
Flirting 3
Folklore 2
Gaming 3
Heraldry 3
Hunting 10
Intrigue 3
Orate 10
Play [harp] 3
Read [Latin] 0
Recognise 3
Religion [Pagan] 2
Romance 10
Singing 7
Stewardship 2
Swimming 2
Tourney 9

Combat SkillsBattle 10
Horsemanship 15
Sword 10
Lance 10
Spear 6
Dagger 5

29 April 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 23: Machinations of the Space Princess

Machinations of the Space Princess is a clever little science fantasy/science fiction role-playing game by James Desborough. As implied by the name of the game, Machinations of the Space Princess has transposed the mechanics and the spirit of Lamentations of the Flame Princess to a science fantasy/science fiction milieu… and it works surprisingly well! In but 239 pages, this role-playing game covers everything needed to play in a science fantasy/science fiction campaign; there is even a whole chapter about customising one’s body using cybernetic enhancements.

Name Ss’ssk’a
Race Ophidian
Class Psion
Level 1

Charisma 14 (+2)
Comeliness 9 (−1)
Constitution 11 (0)
Dexterity 13 (+1)
Intelligence 12 (+1)
Strength 17 (+3)
Wisdom 15 (+2)

Race traits
Infrared vision
Natural weapon D6
Narrow body (may enter gaps)
Skin is of a highly visible hue

Hit points 4
Psi points 4

Everyman Skills
Climb 1
Languages 1
Search 1
Security 1
Sleight of Hand 1
Sneak Attack 1
Stealth 2
Structure 1
Survival 2
Tinker 1

Psi Skills
Psychic Training 1
Ravaging Intellect 1

General Skills
Web of Contacts 1

Psi Talents
Beguile (lvl 1)
Luck (lvl 1)
Mindbolt (lvl 1)
ESP (lvl 2)

Saving Rolls
Charm 7
Looks 5
Toughness 6
Reflexes 7
Logic 8
Power 9
Will 8

Movement 10

27 April 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 22: The Motherland Calls!

The Motherland Calls!, subtitled ‘a role-playing game of courage and resolve in defence of the Motherland’, is a historical role-playing game that I worked on between June and September 2016, in which you play the role of a member of one of the rifle corps of the Red Army during the fateful days of Operation Barbarossa. I have only GM’ed the game once, at THE KRAKEN convention in Germany in October 2016. For some reason, WWII has inspired writers of fiction, designers of wargames and boardgames, but not of role-playing games — and before someone should mention Night Witches: yes, I know and I own the game, but at the time I was aiming at something more Old School.
Alas, the session I GM’ed at THE KRAKEN wasn’t particularly successful, mostly I think because the system itself wasn’t really suited to the genre… too much detail in some areas, not enough in some others. The Motherland Calls! is still on my “will re-work one day” list, and I think I’ll definitely move away from Old School and towards something more narrative, more character-driven.

Anyway, here is a character still generated using the 2016 rules:

Name: Nikolai Pavlich Berezov
Ethnicity: Russian Gender: Male Handedness: Right
Height: 1m62 Weight: 58kg
Age: 21                                                        
Description: Short, thin                                                                       
Distinctive Features: Freckled, Looks younger than his age                                                   
Role: Rifleman
Background: Member of the Komsomol

EDU 13


Cold weather

Political Profile

Orthodox 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3 Revisionist
Proletarian 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3 Bourgeois
Modernist 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3 Traditionalist

War Weariness 2

Hit points


- Model 1940 steel helmet
- Cloth peaked cap
- Rucksack with ration pouch
- Two cartridge pouches, each containing 20 rounds
- Two grenades
- M91 bolt-action rifle (5 rounds) with bayonet

26 April 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 21: John Carter of Mars

The PDF of the core book of Modiphius’ John Carter of Mars role-playing game is currently free on their web-site if you use the code BARSOOM upon checking out; the other PDFs are at −20% if you use the code VIRGINIA.
I have just downloaded the free John Carter of Mars PDF and it is thus unavoidable that today’s player character should hail from Barsoom (I seldom blog about planetary romance, but I am a big fan of the genre)!

Sculptos Sahl hails from one of the minor Red Martian city-states. He has heard about John Carter’s exploits, and he’d love to revisit the feats that the Earthborn has accomplished. Alas, his duties in the air force of his home city-state prevent him from adventuring in the footsteps of the Virginian explorer. But who knows? That might change one day!

Name: Sculptos Sahl
Race: Red Martian

Cunning 4
Daring 7
Empathy 8
Might 5
Passion 4
Reason 6

Confusion 8
Fear 7
Injury 5

Eye for Danger (Grade 1)
Find the Way (Grade 1)
Skilled Physician (Grade 2)
Suppressing Fire (Grade 2)


25 April 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 20: Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I like Old School gaming, everybody knows that. However, and contrary to popular belief, Old School doesn’t mean “D&D-like”; Old School actually means “Rulings, not rules!”. We Old Schoolers fondly remember a time when a role-playing game was OK even if it didn’t have rules for breathing in thick smoke or flying a different plane than the one you had been trained for. Or maybe said rules were printed in a module where you had to survive in thick smoke or fly an unusual aeroplane.

So I like Old School but have been mostly playing and refereeing D100-based role-playing games for 25 years or so. I still like, however, the odd D&D-ish adventure and my favourite system, in this case, is Lamentations of the Flame Princess, a D&D retro-clone that is technologically rooted in 17th century Europe rather than in a vanilla high fantasy pseudo-mediaeval world. Also where LotFP really shines is in its adventures, which are amongst the very best that have been published for the last 10 years. And it has consistently had the best art of any non-Gloranthan role-playing game.

Loot and wounds. How Old School is this?

I have chosen to roll a Magic-User because of the way LotFP presents this character class: “Most of the world lies sheltered from the existence of magic, encountering it only as it victimises them. They huddle in their churches for comfort and trade their freedom and dignity to a ruler as they beg for protection, all for the fear of the supernatural which they do not, and cannot, understand. Magic-Users choose a different path. Instead of cowering away from the darkness, they revel in it. They see the forces of magic as a new frontier to explore, a new tool for the attainment of power and knowledge. If it blackens the soul to equal that of any devil, it is but a small price to pay.”

Name: Jeroen Visser
Class: Magic-User
Level: 1
Alignment: Chaotic
Age: 37
Sex: M

Hit Points 3
Base Attack Bonus +1
Mêlée Attack Bonus 0
Ranged Attack Bonus +1
Armour Class 12

CHA 11 (0)
CON 10 (0)
DEX 12 (0)
INT 14 (+1)
STR 8 (−1)
WIS 9 (0)

Saving Throws 
Paralyse 13
Poison 13
Breath 16
Device 13
Magic 14

Architecture 1
Bushcraft 1
Climb 1
Languages 2
Search 1
Sleight of Hand 1
Sneak Attack 1
Stealth 1
Tinker 1

1 first-level spell

Starting money 90 sp

24 April 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 19: Adventure Fantasy Game and Chthonic Codex

Paolo Greco is an OSR writer who has published quite a few weird OSR gems. One of them is the Adventure Fantasy Game, the other is the Chthonic Codex, an OSR supplement chock full of cool ideas, additional rules, tables, twists and tweaks.

Here’s a Level One Caster:
Physique 9
Craft 12
Spirit 14

Hits 6
Mana 1
Spells: 3

One of the Chthonic Codex tables helps generating weird starting equipment for magic-users. Here’s mine:

•    A pint of children tears
•    Slug nails
•    A curious speaking tube that translates any language into whistles
•    Hydrometer for testing specific gravity of fluids, esp. Beer
•    Opera glasses that purportedly show all on stage buck-naked
•    A magnificent glass-topped wooden display case segregated into 256 compartments that contain the full spectrum of colours found in accumulations of navel lint

22 April 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 18: French Basic Role-Playing System

The Basic Role-Playing System System Reference Document (SRD) by the Chaosium is now also available in French, thanks to Jean-Christophe Cubertafon who did the translation.

To celebrate this, I am going to create a player character in the world of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki Hayao’s dark yet sublime post-apocalyptic manga), using the guidelines that my friend GelWeo had published on her web-site many years ago.

Nom : Felwahr des MarchesDésertiques
Genre : F
Main directrice : droite
Description : petite mais élancée, Felwahr garde une énorme cicatrice au bras droit, souvenir d’un combat épique contre une courtilière égarée sur ses terres
Âge : 23 ans
Traits distinctifs : cf. ci-dessus
Occupation : Guerrière (archétype : bretteur)

FOR 13
CON 13
TAI 11
INT 13
PER† 14
POU 16
DEX 17
APP 12

†PERception, caractéristique supplémentaire ajoutée par GelWeo

DEP 10
PV 12
Points de Pouvoir 16
Bonus aux dégâts 0

Épée courte (1D6+1)
Fusil (2D6)
Armure : gilet matelassé (2), casque léger (+1)

Arme à feu (Fusil) 75%
Armurerie 15%
Art de la guerre 25%
Athlétisme 50%
Bagarre 75%
Botanique 40%
Cascade 40%
Connaissance de la Forêt Toxique 35 %
Discrétion 35%
Équitation 25%
Escrime 75%
Esquiver 25%
Langue (maternelle) 65%
Langue (tolmèque) 60%
Leadership 25%
Lire et écrire 25%
Renseignements 45%
Survie (Forêt Toxique) 30%
Vigilance 28%

21 April 2020

Lockdown Challenge Day 17: Wordplay: The Big Five

I am lucky enough to have regular gaming groups and to be regularly able to play, both face-to-face [well, that was before the lockdown] and on-line. I also regularly attend conventions where I also play a lot.
Despite all this table-top role-playing activity, I don’t play many different games. My gaming life revolves around D100-based games, with the odd Old School or novelty RPG thrown into the lot.

As a result, I have a lot of unplayed role-playing games on my shelves— what we RPGers call our ‘shelf of shame’. And amongst these unplayed role-playing games I do have a few favourites. I understand it may sound absurd to have a ‘favourite unplayed’ role-playing game, but I do read all the rulebooks I purchase, and I sort of can figure out whether I’d enjoy a game or not. And my favourite unplayed RPG is probably Wordplay: The Big Five. See, I am usually wary of narrative RPGs… they all look super interesting when played in a one-shot gaming session, but I suspect they break down at some point if played in a campaign, mostly because they tend not to handle scale well… This is why I do like HeroQuest – the Ш mechanics perfectly cover the change in scale, and you can use HeroQuest to GM a bar brawl or a mighty combat between demigods using the exact same rules. Well, there is something similar with Wordplay: The Big Five called the Scale Level and the Scale Effect, which explains why I like this RPG even though it doesn’t exactly correspond to my customary RPG ‘comfort zone’.

I also want to take advantage of today’s post to highlight the role played by Hungarian adventurers at the turn of the last century. In fiction, Hungarians are often portrayed as decadent Transylvanian nobles or similar outré characters but, in reality, many explorers and travelling scholars at the time when Europeans ‘discovered’ the most remote areas in Asia and Africa were Hungarian. Today’s character, for instance, is loosely based on Ferenc Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás.

Name: Pál Weörös de Nagy-Telep
Age: Middle-aged but still young at heart
Gender: Male
Concept: Scholar-cum-adventurer

1- Decipher the Voynich manuscript
2- Find the entrance to the subterranean kingdom of Agartha
3- Become the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Dextrous 5d
Handsome 4d

Keen-eyed 4d
Manipulative 6d

Ambitious 4d
Crave knowledge 5d

Bibek, my personal secretary, bodyguard, and lover

Wealth 5

QuestWorlds SRD

After the Basic Role-Playing System SRD, the Chaosium has made the Questworlds SRD available on their web-site! (Seems the Lockdown is beneficial for table-top role-playing...)

However, whereas the BRP SRD was a mere 23-page booklet that paled in comparison to the 2008 “Big Gold Book”, the Questworlds SRD, at 76 very dense pages, is a hefty, fully-fledged role-playing game.

I already hear you saying “But praytell, what on Earth is Questworlds?”. Well, Questworlds is the genericised version of HeroQuest that the Chaosium has been promising us for years — at least since October 2017. You can now publish your own QW-driven role-playing game, à la Mythic Russia, following the guidelines on Chaosium’s web-site.