A class designed for a B/X or old school game.

Same progression and stats as a thief. Instead of thief abilities, some different talents.

Using the special abilities, success depends on the status of the target.

  • Easy Mark. The target will respond enthusiastically to appropriate goading, but if the target makes the saving throw, the target will become suspicious or confused.
  • Normal Mark. The target will be confused or agreeable, but if the target makes the saving throw, the target is actively suspicious or disbelieving.
  • Hardened Mark. The target will be swayed into ambiguity (introducing a little doubt into certainty), but if the target makes the saving throw, the target sees through the effort.

There are three special abilities.

TRUE FACTS. Targets must make a saving throw to disbelieve what the Fabulist tells them. For a plausible statement (true or false) the target may save v. Spells. For a questionable statement, the target may save v. Paralysis. For an outrageous statement, the target may save v. Poison.

REFRAMED. Describe the situation from another point of view, or leading to an alternate conclusion. If the target fails a morale save or a save v. Spells, the target is at least swayed to consider the alternate frame. Targets who fail a save tend to move one level easier as a mark.

SLEAZY BULLSHIT. If the fabulist is free to blather, trash talk, harangue, name call, tattle, and generally mouth off, gain a pool to use once a round after any roll. The pool is equal to (1 per 2 fabulist levels.) The bonus can improve the fabulist’s armor class against one attack, add a bonus or penalty to the foe’s morale test, or penalize one target’s to-hit roll, damage roll, or saving throw.


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Role playing games make heavy use of the word “punk” in talking about settings and styles. I feel like there should be a checklist. What part of “punk” are we really talking about here? Or, the checklist should be provided to players and GMs to get a sense of what to pull to the front. (I pulled this stuff off a wikipedia article, so I’m sort of pool skimming here. No in-depth research or anything, but I feel like I’m still putting in more effort than a labeling system that puts “punk” after any era identification to indicate genre.)

  • Focus on personal freedom.
  • Anti-establishment.
  • Non-conformity.
  • Direct action, do it yourself.
  • Explicitly outward sexual identity.
  • Reject secrecy for the sake of politeness, be forthright and obvious.
  • Gender equalist ideology.

My favorite example of “punk” in an RPG would have to be White Wolf’s Sabbat vampires. That felt pretty pure. You have total freedom to do whatever you want–and so do the people around you. So if you feel like punching the boss, do it if you want. You are free to take that action. And if the boss feels like punching you back, he can do that too. So maybe think a little bit before exercising the freedom that is certainly yours.

The ancient vampires found human blood too thin, and so fed on vampires. But as they got older and stronger, they needed stronger food. So these byzantine games grew up around the most ancient to manage their offspring as a food source, until they’d eventually emerge and the world would go down in flames. To rebel, the Sabbat did their best to dig their way through the layers of intrigue and establishment control to devour their progenitors before being food themselves.

To me, THAT is punk in an RPG.

Even then, even with being as individual as you want, you still need allies and peers or you just evaporate in the face of the opposition. The ambition is intense enough to reject an individual approach to surmount it.

I would want to keep that in any other “punk” game setting too. The establishment has to be destructive and powerful, culture has to have a heavy focus on silence on taboo subjects, and peer pressure has to be intense before punk becomes a coherent and inspired response.

Punk is not just a suffix to a technology level. It’s about the culture. There is certainly room to have adventures in a setting or technology that are NOT punk. Those are good too.

For example, you could have a game of Into the Odd that had some punk characters in it, working down the checklist, and also some conservatives in it. And the GM could run the game as a surreal eldritch kind of game, or double down on the Establishment confines and make every PC a punk because if they conformed they would have a place “at home” and not have to go out adventuring.

So to call a setting or a genre punk, I think the classification benefits from enough thoughtfulness to explicitly outline how even making characters, and looking at the sort of thing those characters will do, underscores a punk aesthetic. If the GM and players are on board with that up front then that can be a foundation for a richer game than if those underpinnings go unexamined.

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The Gallows Tower Heist

I decided to write a Blades in the Dark story, taking place in the fictional setting of Doskvol. I started my backbrain machinery going the night before, which affected my sleep, but in the morning I banged the outline together and started the story. I finished it the same day.

There’s an arboreal devilfish, which is a land octopus. That’s pretty cool right there!

The Gallows Tower Heist pdf and epub.


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Inkwell Ideas: Fantasy NPC Deck 2!

I had the opportunity to work with Joe Wetzel of Inkwell Ideas on doing NPC descriptions for his second deck of NPCs! He was a fantastic collaborator, and I’m grateful for the chance to freelance for him. I think this deck is a lot of fun, and each card should provide ideas for one or three adventures. Take a look!

NPC deck 2

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The Black Space Hack Character Sheet

Now we’re getting some progress with releasing the Black Space Hack! Check out the character sheet by Vandel Arden.



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Silent Legions: As Above, So Below. Session 4

Silent Legions AASB Banner

After their adventure in sabotage, they retreated from Blakelee West and the Candlemach Cathedral. Terry dropped off the rental and got his car back, and headed to Shroud Ridge. Truc and Jason got into a fender bender with an irate cabby, but eventually made it back.

They reflected on the various scenarios that could result from their adventure, hoping that Fr. Silva would destroy himself, but unable to be sure. A phone chat with a largely unsympathetic Bought didn’t settle their nerves, so they decided to revisit the Slaysor Mansion.


Sneed was quite pleased to see them, and Truc returned the altar-finding amulet to him. They accepted Sneed’s offer of tea and biscuits, and lingered past sunset; he found sunset a pleasurable experience. Danielle Sawyenta (“the Mistress”) wanted to see them if they were open to the idea. They strolled into the parlor, an area behind the velvet rope that museum patrons got to look at but not enter, and made themselves comfortable.

Danielle was sympathetic to their uncertainty about whether the sabotage would work, and Fr. Silva would summon a vengeful ghost but it would kill him instead of his target. She could not scry through the defenses of the cathedral, but she was willing to risk going with them after midnight to the cathedral to see if the deed was done. She would consult a ghost who could tell her what happened. They agreed.

Truc was somewhat unsettled by Sneed and Danielle’s attention to him, especially in the context of Grifton as a dark and lovely conflagration of power that draws hopefuls from all over, and has seasoned Truc since before he was born in its energies. There were too many meat analogies, and the creepy wizard types looked too salivatory when they looked at him. Especially since they were only polite to Terry, and Jason mainly got into philosophical challenges with them, regarding life and death and the role of the doctor. She asked if he would say she was alive, enjoying his discomfort. She airily noted that when Sneed died he would continue to serve her until she was finished with him, and he didn’t seem upset by that idea.

Truc loaded an app on his phone to pick up police band and tuned it to Blakelee West after some struggles with the technology. He also sent Emilia a vague text that everything was fine. Eventually the midnight hour was upon them, the clock chimed, and they headed out.


Truc noticed he was smelling something like a musty old library, and he commented, but no one else could smell it–then he felt Danielle’s voice in his mind telling him she linked to him to keep him safe, and that was distressing.

Quarter after midnight, and there was chatter on the police band for a “code 71.” Nobody knew what that was (and Terry would, as a former cop) so it was a made-up code. They got to one of two main entries to Blakelee West, and saw a policeman had set up a roadblock to check cars. Danielle telepathically assured Truc it was fine, and drove past it; Truc did too.

They turned off the lights on the vehicles, seeing the black SUVs with their paramilitary teams sweeping the silent and abandoned neighborhoods looking for lights or cars. Parking a quarter mile away, they slunk around to approach the cathedral from the rear.

Sneed cast a ritual involving stones in a circle that would hide them from ghosts if they stayed inside it, and Danielle focused her energies. She was dressed in black leather, with a big knife and a heavy ornate staff of black wood.

She called forth “The Bishop” and a cowled figure stepped through some sort of intangible barrier at the back of the church, touching down on the grass and wilting it instantly with a blight that spread every second of the conversation. Lapsing into an Irish accent, Danielle greeted Bishop as an old friend, but very respectfully, and asked after Fr. Silva. Bishop confirmed he was dead, and would not escape. He confirmed by pulling back the hood to show them Silva’s horror-wracked last expression, and Silva’s face flicked off the ancient bone of the Bishop’s skull a moment too soon as the cowl was replaced, affording Terry a disorienting look at all the death he ever saw etched into that skull.

Danielle thanked him and offered him favors, and the Bishop stepped back into the intangible barrier surrounding the cathedral. Spent and drained, she was ready to go, trusting that the Bishop would not lie. They left a 10 meter patch of dead grass, and headed back to the cars. Danielle assured them they did not want to know what she would offer as favors; it wouldn’t be Silva’s people still in the cathedral, anyway.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Danielle and Sneed went one way, and the SUV with Truc, Terry, and Jason went another. Soon the intreped investigators were back in the Havershaum Estate in Shroud Ridge, returning to the cabana in the wee hours of the morning.

As they entered, they saw a horrible stinky figure in a duster, heavy gloves, and a stained hockey mask waiting for them inside. He introduced himself as Brick, and made himself comfortable as his stench swelled around them. He congratulated them on a job well done.

Truc asked about his friend, the one they saved, and he suggested Truc didn’t REALLY want to know. But offered to tell him, if he insisted. He didn’t insist. (By now Truc picked up a habit of stress eating when confronted with difficult news.)

Brick was feeling friendly and chatty, offering them a reward. Terry banked his, and Jason banked his with Terry, reluctant to enter into a personal relationship with a Power. Truc wasn’t sure what to make of the offer, so Brick left it open; he offered his services hunting out mysteries or people in the slaughterhouse district, for example, a place he knew well. Brick observed the wizards didn’t pay much mind to Terry because he smelled of Singleton, and they would be reluctant to tangle with that. He left them with Bought’s phone number on a stained business card, and after a pleasant chat, he stumped out of their cabana, his stink mysteriously vanishing behind him (though Jason still resolved to burn the chair he sat in.)

With that, Terry broke out some thin cigars he had been saving for a special occasion. Their survival in navigating this tricky minefield seemed to be as special an occasion as they could hope for. Reflective, they celebrated life and its surprises, as dawn hinted at the horizon.

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Black Space Hack: Salvage Jousting


The Vista Trade Corporation subcontracted with Salvage Collect to do salvage of the Six Lights hauler, a massive cargo ship. It had a life support critical malfunction, and triggered the distress beacon. The crew escaped in life support pods and are awaiting pickup, they will be dangerously low on supplies when help arrives.

The Graamin mutant scavengers were headed to the site and they had a head start, so Salvage Collect were hoping to even the odds with superior firepower. They hired a number of additional spacers to assist in the operation.

Emily Taylor (Iris) is a doctor with fast reflexes. Faden Ren (Simon) is a mutant telepath with fast reflexes and a melee focus. Torque (Ben) was a salvager. Don Coup (Jordon) was a mutant spacer. Ayar Aichitzi (Matt) rounded out the team of tough spacers.

The battle group was 3 Starlaunch assault ships, each one supported by 4 Starlaunch Interceptors. They jumped out on a 2 day tesserarch departing from Synobeth Station. During the jump out the interceptors were stowed, so spacers have some freedom of movement aboard the assault ship.

Space Battle

Torque and Emily stayed on the assault cruiser (with Emily as the team captain.) Faden, Torque, and Don headed out in the interceptors. Ayar immediately drew some interceptors with a grudge to take him down, but he managed to survive. Don was cut away from the herd, and probably blown to stardust; they didn’t find any remains later. Faden got shot up, and decided to dock and go into the ship for the last interceptor. He was going too fast to dock, and when Torque tried to help with the tractor beam, the ship got broadsided by one of the enemy interceptors, and Faden barely hit the ejector seat in time–but his aim was perfect, and he hit the airlock. The cockpit crew of the assault cruiser manipulated the airlock to get him in and to the dock to board the last interceptor and rejoin the fray.

Working together, Faden and Ayar pushed back at the aggressive interceptors while Torque and Emily stopped firing on the interceptors and sent missiles streaking at the other cruisers the mutants were using, destroying two of them! The spacers were armed with fine missiles that ignored energy shielding, and they made the most of them.

Meanwhile the mutants called back their fighter screens (in part to shoot down missile volleys before they reached the support ships.) They tried to get clear of the hauler with their loot and escape, but the spacers managed to target and disable the Nurat cruiser with missiles to the engines and gun systems.

Two of the three Starlaunch assault cruisers survived the assault, driving the enemy interceptors to flee and hope for pickup later after the Starlaunch ships left with their prizes. The spacers found the escape pods, and Emily treated any wounds among the survivors, then they turned them over to Captain Williams of the other Starlaunch ship (he insisted.)

Long Road Home

The spacers turned their attention to boarding the Six Lights hauler and getting it ready to limp home. They would look after the hauler, and Williams would look after the captured Nurat cruiser with loot from the hauler.

The spacers explored the engineering section, finding it somewhat messed up, but nothing they couldn’t rebalance with time. Then as Torque and Ayar were walking the spine of the ship (which was loaded with prefab buildings and an atmospheric processor to make a colony) they found some emergency automatic hull sealant.

Calling in the assault cruiser to scan from outside, they realized that there had been a hull breach from a tumbler. Tumblers are bioweapon mine fields, dormant in the void until something brushes them and they climb aboard and hunt spacers. Back in the day, centuries ago before they were outlawed, there were proprietary blends and flavors of the monsters. But, they were all smart, sneaky, scan resistant, and hungry for human flesh.

The cockpit had been pretty thoroughly looted, but the spacers set up a temporary base, and got the Six Lights hauler ready to go.

Over the following week, they patrolled and looked for the tumbler, but it eluded them (though it did snatch Ayar and devour him messily.) They dropped off the hauler and assault cruiser, and report, and got enormous bonuses for returning some of the interceptors and the assault cruiser, as well as the hauler and the captured disabled mutant ship with captives and all the loot! Time to party! And also to get that signing bonus to Ayar’s beneficiary.


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