The Moon and the Gray Maze

At the end of May I ran an adventure in a Fallen Moon setting using my Murderhobo Remix. You can see the prep for that here.

The adventure was a failure. I thought the setting would be evocative, but it felt flat and empty. The players were game to try, but could not engage. The combat felt like a boring series of easy math problems. I thought I had worked the system to be light and fast and fun, and the setting to be tripping the light fantastic, but damn… it crashed and burned.

I mean, it sounds good on paper. They went up to check out the UFO crashed in the mountain above, and first fought some bandits. Got in, messed around, figured some stuff out, got nailed by a repair bot (reinforcement with the same stats and name came in) and then saw a space giant hit by lightning and reanimated, and they ran with no desire to return.

So we did some arena fighting with monsters. No? We hunted some centipedes through the living area. Not a twitch? Ugh. We quit an hour and a half early and will not return to the setting or rules. Crunch.

One of my players backed “There’s a Game in This Book.” I find the title of the game to be annoying, so for my working purposes I shortened it to “Game in Book” or GiB. I don’t normally have players asking me if I’ll run a game they found elsewhere–this is the first time.

As I looked through it, the game is clearly someone taking a White Wolf premise, adapting it from dice pool to d12, and running some customizing tweaks until it’s a very different system. I spent some time with it and figured out how it worked. Since I was planning to run a one-shot, I gave the two players a list of options I’d be willing to do, and “picaresque Vornheim” won out.

I had no idea what characters my players would make. Imagine my surprise when they both make golems with magic casting ability! I’m not sure we all understand what “picaresque” means. Still, my basic plan called for them to be trusted bodyguards of an aristocrat, so fortunately it was easy enough to make it work. I had spent my time figuring out combat (and plugging some holes with house rules) and figuring out the skill/attribute interaction. “They won’t make wizards,” I told myself. “No need to brush up on the magic.”

Well… I crammed on it while they were finishing up the characters at the table, and ran it without a hitch. So an easy magic system is a big plus.

In preparing, I used the delightful aristocrat generator and relationship generator in Vornheim to make four interlinked aristocrats, then looked for the hooks in that pile that would drive my adventure. One was a vain woman, bedecked in jewels, rival to another who had an art collection. And she sneaks out to be a masked dancer in a tavern. Perfect. Also, I decided she’s trying to branch out into cat burglary.

I used an asylum breakout, a wizard’s son with control over big rats, a wizard who was old and decrepit but who had the object they were going to steal, fun with dwarves and summoned creatures and granary cats… It was very Vornheim, and my players had a great time! We ended early because we came to the end of what I had set up for a one-shot. But their response was VERY positive.

I will strip-mine GiB for a few useful notions, but I won’t play it again. Vornheim is another story. These two players want to go back, most likely in Fictive Hack. (We all miss spending Awesome Points.)

Let’s check the scorecard for setting and system for these two experiments.

  • Fallen Moon: D.
  • Murderhobo Remix: F.
  • There’s a Game in This Book: C-
  • Vornheim: A.
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Fae Noir Races

I got the Fae Noir .pdf in RPGNow’s 10 year anniversary bundle sale. I decided to use their versions of the fae for a Storium game. As a reference for players of that game, I reproduce them here.

Properties of all Fae.

  • They detect glamour (fae illusions) more easily.
  • They do not physically age past the point of physical maturity, never die of old age or suffer from age-related infirmity.
  • They resist some physical damage.
  • Takes fey twice as long to suffer from lack of food and water.
  • They are impulsive.
  • Cold iron hurts them more. They are uncomfortable around iron, are sick if they touch it for more than a day, die after 3 days of contact. Recover from the sickness over about a day.

BROWNIE. About 2 feet tall, about 50 pounds. Rounded ears. Darker complexions, they wear brown clothes. They like to work themselves into human society, trading work for food and a place to sleep. They must be of service to someone, or they may go mad.

ELF. Between 6 inches and 1 foot, under 20 pounds. City elves tend to make tiny cottages and fit in. Wild elves take on the traits of nature. Both are very social, and highly skilled at glamour. They take their homes and communities very seriously, and protect them with curses, tricks, and traps.

FAIRY. Still 6-12 inches tall, but half the weight, with wings (usually insect-like.) They like elves and hate trolls (who eat them.) Their social structure is feudal. They tend to go nearly nude, and use glamour to generate fanciful clothing.

FAUN. Usually 4-5 feet tall and about 100 pounds. Top half is Tuatha, with sharply pointed ears and frizzy hair and short sharp horns. The bottom half is goaty. Males outnumber females 9-1, but they can interbreed with a variety of races and are very lusty. They don’t like work, they have a temper (it rarely flashes) and hold grudges. They love most of all to romance and drink and dance. Above average musicians, and many have glamour skill.

GOBLIN. About 4 feet tall, about 120 pounds. Barrel chest, long thin limbs, big heads, terrible posture; some are impossibly hairy. They are very strong. Some have powerful glamour skill. They are sadistic. All of them are Unseelie. They are cowards who fear a fair fight or fire. They are responsible for changelings; stolen babies become goblins.

KOBOLD. About 4 feet tall, about 200 pounds. They are powerfully muscled. Not very skilled craftsmen (they resemble legendary dwarves) but they are good miners. They have a basic sense of honor and decency, and they feel close to humanity as fellow miners.

LEPRECHAUN. About 2.5 feet tall, heavy drinkers with huge personalities, loud mouths, and thieving fingers. They love to play games. They make shoes, and all of them are gifted cobblers who need to make shoes to blow of steam in their down time.

OGRE. they are huge, with no glamour capacity at all, just massive muscles and a tough hide and the ability (and inclination) to eat anything that doesn’t want to be eaten, or that holds still. When it comes to humans, they feed equally well on their terror and their flesh.

TROLL. Smaller than ogres, wiry, and capable of using glamour. They have a hunched posture at over 7 feet, and are extremely wiry and gnarled. Trolls can be far more social than ogres.

TUATHA de DANAAN. Human size, capable of tinkering with human magic but not glamour; taller than humans, more beautiful, unearthly in their perspectives and form. They are the most common that humanity will deal with. Their ears come to a slight point. Their governing structure is feudal.


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Use Stuff.

I love the blogosphere for its inspiration and for its gifts of developed RPG stuff.

The people who put these things out WANT you to use them. They WANT you to be inspired. They are eager to see how you take what they’ve done and use it in ways they may not have expected. If they didn’t feel that way, they wouldn’t put their work and their thinking on the internet.

When you enjoy their work, you are supporting them. When you actually  use their work, that’s a validation of their decision to share.

So if people share their maps, and you find them inspirational, stock them! Use them! Share the results! When people post free or cheap game systems, think them over! Try them out! Hack them to fit your sensibilities! Share the results! When people host contests, enter if you are at all interested! Be part of the fun!

I have tinkered with contributions from a dozen or more bloggers, and that kind of tinkering enriches what I offer and is a form of gratitude for what they offer. As someone who puts things out on the blog, I can say that it feels really good when people take the time to look it over, think it through, and use it as-is or with some experimentation.

There is generosity in receiving with gratitude. You honor the gift and the giver. You say to the creator, “You inspired me. You made something useful.” That is a message bloggers love to hear, and love to see in action.

My thanks to Kirin Robinson, Jack Shear, Matt Jackson, Simon Forster, Telecanter, Justin Alexander, Kevin Campbell, Brent Newhall, Brendan S., Fr. Dave, Erik Jensen, Ian Johnson, Mike Nystul, Fred Hicks, Patrick Stuart, Rafael Chandler, Jason Sholtis, Courtney Campbell, and the countless others that have inspired me.

Thank you for sharing with me, and for letting me share with you.

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Edge City Summit 2014

Just had three players over for lovely grilled fajita lunch and strategic discussion about a campaign. Rather than taking up game time at the table talking about prioritizing challenges and planning how to take them on, the group met to do that in a separate session. The fourth player was not invited because he’s swapping out characters, his old one doesn’t care and his new one isn’t here yet.

The players talked through delegating some tasks to trusted NPCs, back story that informs the current situations, and step by step planning to take on some challenges. Some things were moved to the top of the list, others shuffled to the bottom or left out.

I took lots of notes, as I use this sort of player thinking to prioritize my prep. When I know what they want to tackle, then I focus on those obstacles and weave it all together to be a good rousing session. While I am an excellent improv GM, there is a lot of super-powers and investigative detective work in this game, so having some prep really helps.

One of my players for that game has spotty availability in June, so we’ll play Edge City in July. For June, we’ll keep on with Fantasy Masks in Dweredell; we are all surprised at the staying power of that game with my players. I think part of the reason for that is I have not over-thought Dweredell. I put together maybe a half page of notes every two sessions, and kind of run things loose and off-the-cuff. That’s a serious antidote to Edge City, where the players have to have a goddamn summit to sort challenges and figure out what they’ll do next. Perhaps the simplicity and expectation of violence are two factors that make the setting so attractive. I will honor that by injecting violence and simplicity at every opportunity when we play there.

I will only have 2-3 players for Murderhobo Remix on Friday. My group doesn’t like one-shots, because my group doesn’t like new things, and one-shots are new things.

I will keep working on my Edge City resource document and session summaries, and on the scenario for Murderhobo Remix on Friday. Feels kind of strange right now to not be working on a rule set. That time will come around again.

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Fallen Moon setting

Here it is! A Fallen Moon setting, dreamed up by Jason Sholtis in Dungeon Dozen and developed for game play a bit more by yours truly. It is for my Murderhobo Remix, based on Murderhobos by Brent Newhall.

Fallen Moon

This setting would be great for any OSR game, ideal for an Old School Hack game, great for original Murderhobo, fine for any number of other rule sets.

Need a cool base town in a wild setting? Or a site to attack? An encounter area for a hex-crawl across the fallen moon? A little light reading for when you want to see neat game stuff? Well… here it is.

This document even features a map by Kevin Campbell as posted on Dyson Logos’ blog, adapted to be an underground compound on the moon that was taken over by a strange cult. That’s some good stuff, there.


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For my upcoming Murderhobo Remix scenario. These light-eating space plankton are almost the size of horses, they levitate along (albeit slowly) and can carry amazing loads. They are quite stupid, but docile and obedient. The main trick to teach them is to land, so you can mount. Otherwise there are hook harnesses that go into the eye creases, to pull them one way or another.

It is difficult to imagine what riding a space plankton would look like, so I drew a picture.


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Murderhobo Remix Adventure!

murderhoboes cover.jpgI will now make a scenario for my Murderhobo Remix (Based on Murderhobos) using “Dungeon Dozen” by Jason Sholtis! (Check out the blog.) While the entries in the book are fun to read, I am undertaking the challenge of using them to build a game.

Fun with Charts

Since it first posted on the blog, I’ve wanted to do something with his fallen moon setting. So I’ll roll 3 times on that table. (p. 81) Assume everything on the table is true of the setting, where the moon drifted into the earth, but pick three things to be relevant for this adventure.


  • Demesne of the currently inert moon god.
  • Molten pool of space gold.
  • Anaerobicitites: photon eating plankton of the moon.

I will use “How the Gang Got Together” (p. 77). Brought in separately by constabulary for a variety of petty charges.

“Haunting the Skies” (p. 76) because it caught my eye:

  • Unidentified flying discs: actually bioluminescent aero-mollusks.

Now, there are 5 pages of the index, so I’ll do 5 rolls to pick a page, and scan until I see an entry I like. Then roll on that page’s entry. Here are the results: DDcoverRPGNow

  • A colossal ancient UFO is anchored to the mountaintop. Inside are colossal spacemen inert upon their jump couches, and they may be revived by lightning bolt defibrillation.
  • Antediluvian relic: a disintegrator/reintegrator cannon, huge wheeled device that stores dematerialized creatures and objects for later deployment or permanent deletion.
  • In the base town, there is compulsory singing of the national anthem/fight song thrice daily, and the spectacle-addled society is addicted to staged giant monster combats.
  • A monster: hypno-jelly, it is demi-material and can pass through solid matter.
  • Magic sword awesomizer: shrieks obscenities in an ancient language, timed to disrupt the attacks of enemies.

I am always looking for excuses to use other peoples’ neat maps, so I’ll use this one from Kevin Campbell (trimmed WAY down because murder hobos have no patience) and this one for the base town, which is a fort that the locals took over (“cleared out”) and settled.

What can I do with this?

The Back Story

Eight months ago the Varna moon crashed into the world. Everything is still under a vast cloud of dust. An entire continent was slain. And their neighbors waited until the massive waves stopped raking the earth, and they climbed in their longships and sailed to investigate and see what loot may have fallen out, or what glory there was to be had. (A very Viking vibe.)

A few factions brought enough followers to found settlements. One of these was the temple of Lodron, God of the Moon, patron of lunatics and night-fighting. The PCs are among the number of settlers, so they (or their families) have at least a passing nod to Lodron. Failing that, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and by the time they sobered up they were at sea.

In any case, the settlement raided a fort built into the pale, dusty surface of the moon. Most of its inhabitants were killed in the crash, but there were massive horse-sized plankton that were relatively tame (or stupid, anyway) and ate light. It took no time at all for the enterprising settlers to fit them with saddles and domesticate them.

High Priest Farnum has sent three expeditions to the saucer embedded in the mountain above, and none have come back. All the volunteers have gone. So, now Farnum is making volunteers by making public service compulsory for all those who transgress against the rules of the community. That edict was put in place last night, and by this morning, the characters have fallen afoul of it.

Now they are sent up the mountain on leggzes (the nickname for the plankton) to see what they can find out, assess threats, steal what isn’t nailed down, and so on.

The Adventure

First scene: they are brought out before the crowd, celebrated, the fight song sung, and they head out on their leggzes as a big thunderstorm brews in the ever-present cloud cover above. The luminescent dust of the surface will reflect the light of the drifting aero-mollusks above.

The main treasure to be had: the warp core of the craft had a meltdown and turned to space gold, which grants a “magical” +1 to weapons and adds significant value (in the primitive economy available to them.)

The main monster is the hypno-jelly. If it is slain, the weapon that slays it gets awesomized, so it is +5  to Survive rolls against counter-attacks automatically (and puts out a hell of a lot of noise.) So, the hypno-jelly is going to have that ability, yelling at them in startling ways and therefore adding +5 to difficulties to hit it. I will simulate this with the most startling bursts of gibberish I can spew at them at the game table.

As they find the pool of space gold, I’ll have lightning rip across the hull, and dramatically wake a couple space giants (more or less) for them to fight.

I will make the projector require a “know” roll of +3 every time they view or use it, and I’ll whip up some monsters to pop out.

I still need some various critters running around the moonscape, and perhaps in the craft, to round out some more battle material.

  • Screams in the distance (p. 16) are courtship hollers of feral halflings the first time, and the second time, initiates being branded in to a bandit gang.
  • Not to crowd out the other stuff, I’ll put some wild leggzes in there that startle easy, and some repair robots to battle.

So them’s the bones. I’ll see about making a polished version to share. This is how I used the Dungeon Dozen to come up with an adventure outside my normal range.

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