STRANGE BREW: 100 potions for old-school use

Not surprising that Goblin Punch can whip up awesome potions for use in-game. One of Castle Xyntillan's charming features is that standard dungeon potions are remixed as various vintages of wine, ale, and spirits found in the castle.

I've been wanting some off-standard potions to help enhance the castle's strangeness; Goblin Punch:

ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH: Are NPCs an underutilized "overlay" for choice in RPGs?

My previous Into The Breach post here, where I harp on the beauty of objectives:

Here is Chris McDowall on the same game:

In the video, Chris points out the supremacy of choice in Into The Breach. There are multiple, often easy to understand, choices that are provided at all layers of the game starting from the first screen. As you move from mech selection to environment selection, to objective selection, to combat screen, a player is given choice with obvious information or provided additional information just a mouse click away.

Choice is important because it gives players agency. If something goes wrong, they generally will blame themselves not the DM, system, or (lesser still) the die. This is why Call of Cthulhu's "push" mechanic, where you can re-roll a skill check but failure is now even worse consequences, is quite nice. Players get a simple, open, and easy to understand choice: do you want to try again with the stakes for failure raised?

But Chris asks a very important question, what's the best interface to present layers of choice to players in a similar manner to Into The Breach? As he states, if you had three small dungeons: 

How do you communicate that choice?

This is not trivial given Barrowmaze & Forbidden Caverns of Archia, both are megadungeons with a lot of choices in the form of several mini dungeons, but little of it obvious until PCs undertake the travel to the respective sites and break open the respective entrances, which have differences, but they don't appear to be linked to any definite contents.

So what is the solution to the paucity of information in Barrowmaze & Archia and can act as information overlay a la Breach? I think tavern NPCs.

Roll 1d6 for what an NPC at the tavern knows (& wants):

1 | Dungeon location (can be hired a guide)
2 | Dungeon treasure (will tell the legend for libations)
3 | Dungeon monsters/traps (has related injury)
4 | Location & Treasure (looking for a  cut to give out both; more if expected to provide aid)
5 | Location & Monster (looking to get rid of the monster(s))
6 | Monster & Treasure (haunted by a defeat from the former & still in need of the latter)

While a rumor table could perform the same function, more life is given to the world and the time spent to build the NPC is not for naught. Additionally, it gives NPCs a reason to also go missing, die, or not always be at the PC beck and call because they go off looking for these things themselves.

I think rumor tables are better for seeding knowlege when PCs start a campaign. Give them additional goals to pursue and topics of conversation to bring up to NPCs.

Combining the dungeons above and the NPC knowlege table:

Red: Rolls 1: Knows the location of the dungeon known as "Wood's Hearth"; a dungeon entrance that is perpetually warm year-round (location of Bronze Golem); will lead PCs there for 20 GP.

Fish: Rolls 3: With enough red wine (every glass provide a +1 to a RxN check), will tell the PCs about how their leg was injured in a spiked pit trap; high quality wine will yeild knowlege about how to avoid the entrance trap of the "Red Door in the Hills" (location of the dungeon of traps).

Fetch: Rolls 5: A local thief who is looking for PCs to remove, bless, purify, or remove curse to eliminate the skeletons infesting the "Gray Arch" an old tomb on the outskirts of town off the main road; exact reasons are kept secret, but will pay 10 GP per skull +100 GP if nothing else is touched in the dungeon

CARCOSA: Moons & Seasons

This is a good post about the seasons and moons of Carcosa. I like the post because I don't think enough is done with seasons and astronomy in RPGs. They are some of the strongest representations of the passage of time. Their inclusion can really make a world feel alive and really doesn't require much work.

Angry Films Working with Frazetta on "John Carter of Mars" | WIRED

AMBER SORCERERS & ARCANE ANDROIDS: Put More Crystal Living Statues in Your Game


And like that amber-encased mosquito in Jurassic Park, my little idea's DNA spawns a monster by Patrick's Jon Hammond-like hand. Behold Amber Golems

I think there are a lot of hidden gems in the BX (via OSE) monster line-up or at least their concept. For instance, in the realm of golem/construct/statue, I think most D&D adventures cycle through wood, stone, & metal. "Bone construct" is really just a giant skeleton and really already covered by Giant Skeleton.

But I think there are other good ideas:

1 | Amber Golem- 10 HD monster that tracks unerringly? I'd split it into 2x 5HD monsters and have them be the only thing in a level. Or as the previous link, insect sorcerers driving mech bodies.

2 | Crystal Living Statue- 3 HD; Treasure that fights back. Low HD, but I think these things would spice up a lot of low-level campaigns. Cool to encounter, tough enough, but made of tempting treasure

3 | Bronze Golem- 20 HD; spurts fire when damaged by an edged weapon. Big enough to take on an entire armor. Could make a cool mid-level problem. Enemy unleashes this thing on a kingdom like a smart bomb. Players need to stop it or take advantage of the distraction

4 | Iron Living Statues- 4 HD; metal weapons get absorbed. Again, not too tough by smart players but I think creates an interesting situation when all your weapons are slag while in the middle of a dungeon.

Here is another interesting bit:

Golems are immune to charm, hold, & sleep. While living statues are only immune to sleep. 

So what if "living statues" are more akin to arcane androids who don't know they are such. A whole Ghost In The Shell situation. Immune to sleep but vulnerable to the other spells because they think they are people or are the trapped memories of people.

Might be cool to have a dungeon room that is a dinner party of crystal living statues all carrying out a mimicry of humanity. Or maybe the royal family is nothing but crystal living statues, but they don't know that. Not divine beings as the state religion demands, but the result of an accident people have forgotten.

THE OTHER "CORE FOUR": Essays on Alignment, Asymmetrical Encounters, Reaction Rolls, & Factions

Gus L. of Dungeon of Signs fame wrote four short essays on aspects of older editions of D&D (Alignment, Reaction Rolls/Morale, Asymmetrical Encounters, & Faction Intrigue) that can be used to remove moral absolutes and combat as a primary means of resolution which tend to manifest as a linear adventure supporting a narrative of "the good heroes kill the bad, evil orc because they are orcs even if it is never clear why there is conflict in the first place".

As Gus puts it:

Beyond any desire not to include disturbing, uncritical echos of colonial history and subjugation in ones game, or even for hobbyists who reject this argument (please still consider it and remember that you might not see what isn't a threat to you)these mechanics are fun and support a specific play experience. They encourage more complex roleplay, player planning, and non-combat solutions to obstacles.  With these chnages classic social mechanics and design principles make for a better open world games, and generally promote player engagement with the setting because role play and negotiation themselves become paths to mechanical success, combat becomes more risky and 'fluff' or 'lore' become useful for understanding NPC/Monster motivations and goals.

I collected these essays because they are a good discussion of each of these aspects or mechanics, how to implement them, and the potential impact on play. Here are choice quotes that I pulled out:






DOWN & OUT IN CASTLE X: A downtime sheet for my Castle Xyntillan campaign

 In an earlier post, I outlined the character sheet that I created for my Castle Xyntillian (great module) online-game. Like the character sheet, I wanted this one to be focused on aspects that are important for an old-school game AND promote character engaging with the fiction of the game.

LEFT: Domicile/Money/Inheritance

Domicile: I think I like tracking town time in "weeks" unlike overland travel which is in "days" and dungeon movement which is in 10-minute turns. Since it's "ye olde fantasy land", players have to wait for things- people are out, goods are in limited supply, someone could be off with nobility; shops don't keep completely regular hours.  As such, I need to know where the players are staying per week and how much they are paying.

Wealth: Different graphic to also remind players about storing this stuff in a chest somewhere and where is it. Also might matter if their BURDEN limits them from carrying a lot of stuff. They might want to switch things out.

Inheritance: I like the idea of leaving one item to a new character in the advent the old ones dies. Helps also create a little additional backstory to the new character and the player doesn't feel like they have lost everything.

LOWER CENTER: Activities

Adornment: Is a way for the players to invest up to 200 GP in a week to gain equal XP. They will write that change on the center wheel (more on that later).

Magical Research: A couple of rules on scroll making and learning new spells for the magic-users of the group. Two pretty important functions in a mega-dungeon downtime situation.

Martial Improvement: Something for the fighters

Hire a Sage: Certainly good for the players to invest in if they want a true answer from the DM. Cost a lot of money, but its a direct, true answer about the game world.

Pray at a Shrine: I like the idea of religion being a more active component of the world. There are many gods and while there is a general conflict between ORDER and CHAOS, an individual might pray at a shrine for all sorts of divine intervention.


Underrated. My players mostly don't use them, but I don't know really why unless it's just they don't want to track another thing or pay them. But I do think hirelings can play an important part in old-school adventuring, so I've tried to give them a prominent position. I've also listed cost for leveled and un-leveled hirelings and dogs.

CENTER: The wheel of improvement

The center wheel is for the player to list prominent or adorned items/things in their possession that are a part of what the character has on display or often talks about in public. The idea is for the player to paint a better picture of the character so we understand how they look to the NPC public at large. I have three groups: weapons/armor; art/literature; clothing/gems/jewelry/icons

Often players say very little about the look of their character other than the new magic sword they got. So when players come off the road from a dungeon, they would be grimy, blood-covered, and wrecked. Certainly not a little for polite society. Also, what about non-magical art or tomes they are reading and quoting? That should have a place too, especially for bards, magic-users, clerics, or other scholarly classes.

Per each downtime session in town, players can work on improving these areas. If they improve two areas they will be invited for a drink by a specific society or guild in town. If they improve all 6 areas, they will be invited to a salon by the nobility. The intent is to create a direct link between how the character carries themselves and who notices them.

JUNK: 100 items for old-school use

What is old is new to someone else, especially if you are a new blogger in the old-school D&D scene.

Great post from Against the Wicked City outlining 100 items for old-school games:

This is a perfect collection for my Castle Xyntillan game.

"KITCHEN SINK" RANDOM TABLES: Provide everything but context & description

Last time I wrote about the overloaded encounter die (OED) and "dungeon weather". Another reason I like the OED is that once a DM completely fleshes it out, you have a pretty good description of your adventure. Of course one of the biggest parts of the OED is the "Encounter!" result on a 1.

But as Delta points out in his very excellent post, the "random" in random encounter should mean "procedurally generated" and not "whatever". Delta outlines the mistake Gygax made in expanding the random encounter table from a terse 8-10 entries based on what you'd find in Greyhawk Castle in OD&D to every monster in the book in AD&D.

This is a problem because as Delta puts it:

The fundamental problem here is that the random monster tables have become disconnected from any specific adventuring environment, such as Castle Greyhawk. Rather, the tables' primary function has become an encyclopedic index to list every monster in the game (and also indicate their power level). Encountering a particular monster from these tables likely tells you nothing about the ecosystem around you; there's no reason to think an associated lair exists, and chances are basically negligible that you'll ever meet the same type a second time (so no preparation or strategic response will help you). If you were adventuring with these tables in use for wandering monsters, actually, yeah -- there would seem to be no rhyme nor reason to what was happening. 

I think understated by Delta is that: players no longer can use the knowledge gained from random encounters to learn about the environment, meditate risk, and plan optimal future incursions. It's just all risk- boring, potentially punishing, and unfun.

Let's make a random encounter table. Are 6-10 entries too small? I think no. Because once you throw in encounter reaction checks, morale rolls, and objectives other than kill everything, then you have a lot of variety. Let try an example:

I want to create a random encounter table for the bailey of The Black Keep. So levels 1-2. In my head, I picture it in a "vanilla" D&D setting as a gathering place for evil forces of Chaos. But let us see if we can keep it human-centric and limit it to 8"monsters" as per the original OD&D tables. Eight also lets us roll a 1d8 or 2d4 (but 7 entries).

Here is what the BX encounter table gets us:

So... yes to 1-3, but 4-8 I will remove because they are fairly standard. Keep 9, 11, & 16. Stirge is good but used a lot. Finally 20... naw, let's substitute with 13 because giant shrews are weird (and actually have a lot of cool abilities). So that gives us a total of 7- great 2d4 it is.

2 |  Acolyte           Lead by a cleric of higher level
3 | Bandit              Trickery
4 | Fire beetle        Underground, bite 2d4
5 | Killer bee         Poison, fly
6 | Giant Gecko    Cling
7 | Crab Spider      Poison, cling
8 | Giant Shrew    A bunch of things

The table needs to be re-ordered, but two groups brought together in The Black Keep bailey. One is insect cultists (Acolyte, beetle, bee, spider) and the other group is sorta bandit sappers who use giant shrews like war dogs? Maybe the gecko is odd man out or could be ridden by the leader of the bandits. With a little re-skinning, the shrews could become something else: "dwarven wolves".

But the point is now the encounters of the Keep have more focus because of this distillation.

DUNGEON WEATHER: For your overloaded encounter die



I really love the "overloaded encounter die" mechanic described by Necropraxis. 

When the party moves into a new area or spends time on an exploration activity, roll the encounter die and interpret the results as follows.

  1. Encounter
  2. Percept (clue, spoor)
  3. Locality (context-dependent timer)
  4. Exhaustion (rest or take penalties)
  5. Lantern
  6. Torch

In particular, I think the entry for "Locality" (if used in the outdoors "weather") is a great way to further add personality to a dungeon. But what would typical "vanilla D&D dungeon weather" be?

I say "vanilla" because I guess it helps me think about what are the typical environmental changes I would want in a dungeon and what are typical dungeon PC actions complicated by this change (or helping; after all some days are sunny). It also reinforces the idea of the mythic underworld; the dungeon as a being unto itself. Here is my list:


1 | SLAM! All doors slam shut; 3-in-6 if staked; all doors now a flat 1-in-6 to open
2 | FOG: A gray fog rises from the floor, ankle to knee height, obscuring the ground; -1 to detect traps
3 | SLIME BLOOMS: Green slime oozes from the ceiling on all hallways leading from the current room
4 | DUNGEON RIME: Armor ages unnaturally; -1 AC to non-magical armor & shields
5 | DARKNESS EXPANDS: All light operates at 1/2 strength
6 | SHADOW of DEATH: -1 to all Save rolls
7 | SPONTANEOUS GENERATION: Each PC roll d10; 5+ rations are spoiled by maggots
8 | ALTERED PERCEPTION: Secret doors +1 to locate
9 | EUPHORIC SPOOR RELEASE: +1 to all rxn encounter checks; divination/illusion spells enhanced
0 | TOO STILL: Dungeon weather effect ends

Of course, if your dungeon has a strong theme, I think it better to tailor the above list to fit the aesthetics.



The Party

Quiara- Bard

Choncho- Bard

Slyther- Underworld Beastman (Dwarf class)

Cairo- Selenic Descendant (Half-elf class)

CULLED MONSTERS of BX: A ~30 min of effort response to a Twitter post

The below are 40 monsters I think are the most interesting monsters in BX straight from the list. I think oftentimes the best monsters are those you make up yourself, but sometimes I enjoy the exercise of working with specific constraints. For comparison, here is False Machine's Top 10 Emblematic Monsters of D&D

  1. Ape, White - four-armed scary bear
  2. Basilisk- Tomb of the Serpent King & Mork Borg make them cool again
  3. Giant Vampire Bat- maybe tackles PCs like a linebacker; sucks blood
  4. Oil Beetle- acid; minus HP and AC
  5. Tiger Beetle- underground predator
  6. Berserker- a better “orc”
  7. Caecilia- just feels kinda weird and maybe intelligent
  8. Cave Locust- more bizarre “alarm creature”
  9. Chimera- always feels fun; just put anything together
  10. Giant crocodile- better than a lazy dragon; weirdly will feel more fresh than one
  11. Cyclops- a classic and more interesting than giants; bigger too at 13 HD!
  12. Doppelgänger- always fun
  13. Dragon Turtle- better than a dragon really
  14. Driver Ant- weird cave insect
  15. Giant Rockfish- fun to put in shallows dungeon lakes
  16. Cloud Giant- live in cloud castle, maybe harries earth-bound cyclops for fun
  17. Amber Golem- maybe the “armor” of insect sorcerers inside
  18. Bronze Golem- molten fire for blood is fun
  19. Griffon- don’t see enough, eats horses and hirelings
  20. Harpy- also fun
  22. Invisible Stalker- whoever rolled that “sack of flour” as a starting item will be the hero
  23. Killer Bee- put them in a temple farmed by monks
  24. Crystal Living Statue- something I don’t see a lot; monster AND treasure
  25. Devil Swine- these are actually really good; capable shapeshifting, satanic, hypnotizing Ganons
  26. Wererats- only “armed” were-creature; better goblins
  27. Manticore- talky monster; also flys
  28. Medusa- talky monster; threatens the players
  29. Minotaur- better as a true cursed human
  30. Mummy- not often used undead; hurt by normal flame but did you bring enough
  31. Ochre Jelly- divides into smaller jellies, latch onto players
  32. Octopus, Giant- awesome since childhood
  33. Purple Worm- better dragon
  34. Rhagodessa- like the Caecillia; weird cave thing; intelligent; maybe trade hirelings for magic weapons
  35. Robber Fly- sounds fun
  36. Rust Monster- should be used more, bear sized, destroy weapons
  37. Salamander- better than fire elementals
  38. Crab Spider- spider things are fun
  39. Thoul- 2 for 1 troll and ghoul
  40. Wraith- alternative to litch or vampire; AND killed PCs come back!

Special mention: I like all the oozes, puddings, and jellies

LET THERE BE LIGHT: Making Light More On/Off

The Problem: Generally drawing a dungeon map as you go only to the extent of the light source radius is a pain. And other players tracking who has the torch is "meh" as well. Most players don't like to track torches or give up a weapon or shield. The actual benefits of using a torch or lantern are pretty vague in BX as are the detriments of darkness (the below taken from Old School Essentials). 

  • Darkness: Characters will usually want to bring a source of light with them on underground expeditions. Typical light sources enable normal vision within a 30’ radius.
  • Torch: A torch burns for 1 hour (6 turns), clearly illuminating a 30’ radius. Torches may also be used in combat (melee, 1d4 dmg).
  • Light and Surprise: Characters or monsters that carry a light in a dark environment are usually unable to surprise opponents because the light gives their presence away.
  • Suprise in BX D&D: 

    • Each side that is not already aware of the other’s presence rolls 1d6.
    • Monsters: The referee rolls for monsters. PCs: One player rolls for the adventuring party as a whole.
    • Results: A result of 1 or 2 means the side is surprised.
    • Effects of Surprise: Both sides surprised: There is simply a momentary confusion—neither side has any advantage. One side surprised: The side that is not surprised gains a one round advantage. The surprised side cannot act that round.
I think we can also infer a few other things about sight, light, and darkness from spells and monsters:
  • The Light spell: "Blinding a creature: By casting the spell upon its eyes. If the target fails a saving throw versus spells, it is blinded for the duration. A blind creature cannot attack."
  • Invisible Stalker: "Surprise: On a 1–5, unless target can detect invisibility."
  • Pixie: Invisible: Naturally invisible, but may choose to reveal themselves. May remain invisible when attacking: cannot be attacked in the first round; in subsequent rounds, maybe attacked at –2 to hit.
But anyone whose ever been in a cave, unlit alley, or dark basement knows that the need and desire for light is strong. So I would like to compress the above rules into a sort of toggle: With Light or No Light. This I think makes it easier to judge and incentivizes the PCs to use light sources:

Vision: as normal up to the strongest light radius
Search: +1 in 6
Suprise: on 2 in 6; can't surprise others
Encounter: begins at the radius
Combat: as normal up the radius

Vision: vague impressions, large features
Search: impossible
Suprise: on 5 in 6; can surprise others
Encounter: begins at 1d6 (1-2 10', 3-4 20', 5-6 30')
Combat: cannot attack only grapple (or maybe -4 to-hit)

1 Light source results in the above
50% of the party has light, surprise 1 in 6
75% of the party has light, initiative +1

DAVID WESELY: The Godfather of RPGs

Darwin's finches by Gould.jpg
Finches by Chuck Darwin

Despite what you read on the internet, D&D was NOT birthed from a wargame*. D&D arose when Gary Gygax was invited to a game Dave Arneson's Blackmoor which was a spin-off of David Wesley's Braunstein game.

Here is an old post from Pits Perilous who interviewed Wesley about the Braunstein game. Which is a great companion piece to the documentary The Secrets of Blackmoor and the book, Playing at the World.

* Its combat system certainly was, but not the idea of roleplaying individuals delving a dungeon under a castle. You switch any skirmish-size combat system into D&D and it will still feel like D&D.

THE CHARACTER SHEET: A Framework For Your Players


The above picture is of the character sheet I created for my BX Castle Xyntillan game. The images are from Nate Treme's awesome Highland Paranormal Society Patreon.

Because the players for my Castle Xyntillan game have come from 5e, I really wanted to make sure I had a character sheet that would, in part, convey the focus of BX (and old-school) play in my eyes and have all the numbers they would need to assess risk or perform actions.

LEFT: Character Description
Pretty standard. The usual lines for name, level, class, race, etc were left as one big blank box because I agree with the idea of leaving as much white space as I can for doodling. Likewise instead of trying to somehow anticipate all the background information that too is a big white box.

Background: Now the one thing I did change was adding a 2-in-6 roll for "use of background".  The Advanced Genre Rules of OSE provides a table of possible character backgrounds similar to those found in the 1e DMG. Players seem to like to have descriptors of their lives before adventuring, so the die roll helps define what they can do with it. Not high because if they were successful, then they wouldn't be adventures.

So between class, background (2-in-6), WIS, and INT, a player has a good assessment of what a character knows and to what extent they know it.

RIGHT: Equipment & Burden
Slot-based equipment tracking is my preferred method. And at the top of the sheet, I've tried to include broad categories of how many slots weapons, armor, treasure, and equipment take up. I think equipment, its standard, and imaginative use, are core to the old-school experience. Equipment defines us in the modern-day and I am very sure even more so in "ye olden days". As mentioned, equipment assists in imaginative play because it gives a player additional tools to resolve encounters.

A big problem handing out a party Bag of Holding, a common practice of 5e, is that individual players lose track of the variety and number of tools they have. The only things left in front of them on their character sheet are weapons, magic, and character abilities. With 5e, these are often all 80% combat-focused. So combat is 90% the answer. But if you realize you have a 50' rope, marbles, a bell, and rations? Well, an alarm, distraction, or ladder could be created. All very interesting.

But I did not place it in the center because it would be too much blank space. However equipment, and here "BURDEN", needs to be thought of first before combat. So it has a far more prominent place. I switched equipment and encumbrance to "BURDEN" because I wanted the character to be weighed down by the literal and metaphorical. Both treasures and sins are heavy. And because we have a slot-based system its easy to make those equal.

The hands at the top are to give the player a couple of "free slots" but also to reinforce a basic and important choice about what you are carrying in your hands. Light is important, but so could a weapon or shield. Kinda prevents that "juggling" were players have 2-4 items almost floating around them.

Finally, for new players understanding that equipment is important and what is needed can be daunting so here is a "fast pack" determined by Gygax to be the basic equipment a player needs:
"Gax" Pack (9 slots total)

CENTER: Exploration, Save Throws, Health, and Combat
In the end, this section is what I want players' eye to wander to the most and to consider the most. And I want players to also consider each "module" in that order. As a player in BX D&D:
  1. Exploration is performed at a certain rate hindered by your armor and BURDEN
  2. Exploration Actions can uncover important features: traps, secrets, and enemies
  3. Save Throws are often a result of exploration actions and "Death" is put at a high position
  4. Heath is affected by Exploration, Exploration Actions, and Save Throws
  5. Combat can occur, but it should not be the first thing considered in an encounter
So, exploration is front and center for the players. They see that armor and BURDEN affect that and its an important choice: heavy armor (4/6 slots) is more protective but cuts hard on speed and how much you can carry. This also (hopefully) encourages hireling use. Hirelings can spread the weight of equipment, treasure, and be extra hands in a fight.

Exploration Actions are an attempt to unite all the various "sensory rolls" in BX: force doors, hear, and find things.  I hope it immediately prompts players to investigate the space specifically, beyond "I roll preception/INT". Again, I hope that actions also make players think about how they can improve their chances. Space was also left for additional exploration actions or extra sensory perceptions.

Save throws are a classic in D&D and players, especially new ones, to old-school play need to be made aware of their prominence in the game. Saves personify risk and truly occupy a game space between exploration and combat. They are free-form like the former but often result in damage or death like the latter.

Health is at risk with all of the above and even before a player gets into a combat situation, their health might have been modified by a poison needle, pit trap, or magic ward. Why crowns? I don't really know. I wanted some variation of the flaming heart, but this weirdly works. I did want hit dice to be a more prominent number because I use it for grappling: PC HD roll vs. Opponent HD roll; modified by STR/DEX; highest wins.

SUMMARY: In short, I want players to focus on what their characters are doing in-game; that cause and effect and less how all of their character parts work like a Swiss watch. So I tried to create a character sheet that helps that by focusing on in-game actions.

SHRINES: Clerical power on a budget

Mea Culpa | Blasphemous Wiki | Fandom
Mea Culpa Shrine from Blasphemous

In response to my Twitter post on Castle Xyntillan, The Byzantine chimed in to comment and through the magic power of the internet, I was lead to their very nice post on shrines. This is used in their Xyntillan campaign and I think I will add it as well.
  • Beautific Sun (Rakehell setting)
  • Brass Sun (Rakehell setting)
  • Selenite Host (Rakehell setting)
  • Wheel of Fortune

The basic idea is that a person or party makes a sacrifice (5/10/15 gp) at a shrine and the party (or at least all the believers of that deity) gain a first level spell (and more) (in D&D terms; in GLOG terms its 1 spell die). Now the only person who can cast that spell is someone who worships the deity, but they can bestow it to anyone in the party. Should the party want more than one, well they will have to split along religious lines.

Or you could organize your deities along oppositional lines and you can only blessings from several shrines as long as none of the deities are not in opposition to each other.

But this shrine idea got me to revisit the concept of slot-based encumbrance as "BURDEN" which could also measure the weight of sin. So what about piety? The most slots of BURDEN you devote to a god, the more rewards you receive from them.

You could carry multiple gods around, resulting in a wider range of spells, but all lower levels. Or you could become a devotee to one god and gain deeper more powerful access to spells.

Maybe druids would be those who devote slots to a particular element and gain spells and powers based on a shared keyword like "fire" or "water".

BEGINNING SPELLBOOKS: Get Wizard's Going Quick

I think second to picking equipment, spell selection is the second thing that slows character creation down. So I looked through the level 1 spells and created themed spellbooks. I tried not to repeat any of the spells so each book is unique. The addition of the level 2 spell is to incentivize getting there.

Interestingly, while Readings on Astral Combat contain the most combat-oriented magic and therefore the most powerful, I think the other three books actually solve problems that might stimy level 1 BX PCs or lead to the greatest reward from an early dungeon.

Its might also be interesting to write a dungeon using obstacles implied by level 1 spells.


Ultra Violet Grasslands (now ENnie nominated!) by Luka Rejac is a wonderful book that distracts you so much with beautiful evokative art that you might miss some of the awesome rules tucked away in there. One of my favorites is below: SPELLS ARE INVENTORY TOO


A character in UVG can carry about 10 significant items. So spells can take up slots just like any other item, tool, or weapon. Spells carry a psychic weight which encumbers the character. And this makes sense in my experience. One can be so occupied with a problem that it literally weighs you down. But riffing on that, why stop at magic? 

Magic items could also take up extra encumbrance due to the psychological weight of carrying them despite their size- like Frodo and the Ring at the end of LotR. Elric's Stormbringer might be another. A good candidate might be the Deck of Many Things- just a deck of cards, but the weight of its potential fate-changing power is great.

More mundane items could do the same thing. For instance, if your PC is carrying the decapitated head of a ruler. A head might take up 1 slot, but the psychological weight could make it greater. Extending this further, what about sins or breaking of oaths? 

Every time the PC sins or goes against some aspect of their background, oath, or pledge- they have slots taken up. It's an additional tangible way the player can understand and experience their choice without resorting to taking negatives on to-hit and skill rolls.

This I think is quite interesting.

EDIT: Also would be good for "obligations" the PCs might pick up. Non-trivial things they know they should do but aren't getting around to doing. This might be particularly useful in a hex crawl.

EDIT2: Could also be used for curses like lycanthropy or ghoulification. Each aspect of the curse would be listed as its own set of 1-3 slots. Again representing the burden of the knowlege the PC carries about thier inner desires.

Well, if you can't get rid of it you can make it smaller via compartmentalization. Options include:
  • Complete your obligation (removal)
  • Seek holy intervention to pardon your guilt (removal)
  • Undertake a quest (removal)
  • Wear an object or talisman or keepsake (compress from X slots to 1 slot) but NPCs know your sin
  • Give in to the desire or curse (compresses from X slots to 1 slot) but DM controls your actions
SUMMARY- I think I really like this idea. It is a way to add player choice in how PCs manifest and deal with psychological guilt/curses/desires/transgressions/sin etc. It promotes its exploration without putting it at the center of the game. And it has a real meaningful (but not intrusive) game impact.

TREASURE: GP = XP; but value come in a lot of forms

Cyril Van Der Haegen is the artist
of one of the best 5e images


This is some of my musing about how I like to do XP in my BX games. Two other great ways: This article by Ben L. of Through Ultan's Door fame. And the below tweet.

Who the "crown, local lord, and guild" might be will change according to the lands the PCs are in. What follows is human-centric, but one can (and should) imagine a Fey lord will want something completely different as would a Death Knight or Ghoul Guilds.

Players might raise objections to a lot of the below and want a better arrangement. That's absolutely fine and expected. Remember (1) In accordance with GP = XP, they will receive XP for "gross" treasure recovered (pre-tax); (2) only the value they receive in GP is taxed; (3) If they want a better deal they should argue using the in-game fiction.


Flora & Fauna
Biles from animals
Nectars from plants
Salts from minerals

Rare Raw Goods

Gems & Jewelry
Gems- raw, imperfect, perfect, cut; type associated with a metaphysical/mythic property
Jewelry- magical individual pieces or sets that project power/honor an event
Candleholders, cups, silverware, china- denotes status


Professional organizations will want raw materials to manufacture various goods. Biles, Nectars, Salts, Cloth, Gems, and Rare Raw Goods.

Religious organizations will want artifacts lost to the church, the locations, and or bodies of important figures. They will also want to capture the same items of religions antithetical to their beliefs for destruction. Art, Books, Cloth, Statues, Icons, Emblems, and Weapons.

Nobelity will value display above all and want to track the latest trends. Art, Jewelry, "Perfect" Gems, Luxury Objects, and Weapons.

Illicit or Secret Organizations will want items of power that align with their agenda: Books, Weapons, Artifacts, and Magic Items.


Crown- will take 30% at the door

Local Lord- will take 20% at the door

Guilds- will take 25% of any sale within the confines; 10% from members (membership esoteric)


Develop standings and status among those who want items and control wealth exchange 

Thieves guild- will smuggle and help you avoid all the above for 25%

Fences will sell goods quickly, quietly, and/or maximum value (pick two). Not quickly means PCs will have to wait (one complete adventure maybe); not quietly means PCs will draw attention from Illicit or Secret Organizations; not max value means PCs will get less gold.


Fighters: Building a castle and raising troops takes gold, but before that it requires status, and for that, you must look the part and been seen as nobility.

Thief: The guild will require payment, but status in the guild will require increasingly more daring heists and increasingly rare items.

Clerics: Tithes and shrines must be built. Also, holy symbols made from various material symbolically connect to the gods will increase spell casting and the chance of miracles.

Wizards: Spell components can increase casting power, duration, and prevent spell slot loss. The component must have a symbolic, mythological, or alchemical connection to the spell being use. Each component takes up 1 slot of encumbrance as it has to be preserved and easy to reach.

Elves: Similar to Fighters and Wizards, but value magic items above all else.

Dwarves: Much the same as Fighters, but value relics and symbols like Clerics. Gems prized, pearls hated.

Halflings: Like Guilds, value rare and raw goods. Value books, fine cloth, luxury goods, but gifts given above else as a symbol of experience and community.


The wizard, Mayfly, is trying to work out how to bypass a lake horror that guards the bridge to Black Keep. Mayfly decides to create two potions of Flesh to Stone but add bile from a cockatrice and salt from the ground marble of a medusa-made statue

EFFECT: Since Flesh to Stone gives a save throw, the DM rules the inclusion of the bile and salt causes that save to be made at a -4. 

The thief, Fetch, wishes to receive divine protection against misfortune on her next sojourn to the Black Keep. Fetch prays at the temple of the Crow, god of the Wheel of Fortune & thieves & Kenku, and offers a jade ring and a ruby ring (both stolen). Jade is associate with the lost Serpent empire and ruby is associated with the heart.

EFFECT: The DM gives a positive sign to the thief (murder of crows swirls around them) and (secretly) gives them +4 to their next save (heart) vs. Poison (Serpent empire) roll from any source.

The fighter, Redd, has decided to entreat the local lord for the land around the Black Keep. After all no one is using it, what with all the death. They decide that because the lord is known for his strict adherence to protocol and formality, they will spend gold to: commission a new shield, clothing, and buy a quality horse & tack. Redd also brings a gift for the lord's high consort & seer: a book of astrology from the Black Keep.

EFFECT: Reaction roll is low: Because the fighter carries themselves in a manner befitting of a knight, the lord denies the land but agrees to confer a title on the fighter. However, they are approached later by the high consort, because of the gift, who has some information about the Black Keep.

The cleric, Fish, is concerned about the demons hold the throne room of The Black Keep. Fish decides to sanctify two bells in order to ring them when demons are speaking-- potentially breaking spells of corruption, lies, and charm. One pure silver bell is made from the silver rosary worn by the head Abbess (but Fish has to go on a quest in repayment) and the other two-handed great bell is made from the wood of a pulpit Fish saved from destruction.

EFFECT: Both bells are made of materials that reinforced the theme of Fish's diety. The DM rules the small one maybe be rung to remove a spell cast by a low-level demon. The larger, because its made from a pulpit, must be rung continuously but also the player of Fish must make sermons every round (CON check) to counteract a spell.

LAIR OF THE LAMB: At least 1/3rd of all PCs Escaped

A visual summary of the party's experience in Arnold K's Lair of the Lamb.
The players started with 9 PCs and ended with 3, plus the NPC, Akena, who they picked up in their escape from the clutches of the Lamb. One of my players did take some pretty extensive notes during the session and I'll have to get those on the blog at some point.

As a party, the players were very focused on getting out and generally did not spend too much time trying to find the various secrets. However, I was overjoyed when one of the players finally decided to eat the little green mushrooms they came across and received a vision from the god Shendormu.

The classes in italics above represent what each player picked once they leveled up from a 0-level to 1.

The Lair of the Lamb, I think, is a new classic in old-school gaming. It is based on a universal fear, being hunted in the dark by a monster, yet in the context of a highly interactable swords & sorcery setting which yields strong, strange rewards for player's who take a risk! The module demonstrates through play, how much players can do and have fun with 1d6 HP, a knife, a background, and a goal: escape. The dungeon revitalized.

In addition to a great module, Arnold as written fantastic DM advice, notes, and justification for choices in the module. This provides new DMs and those new to old-school play a solid foundation to understand the goals of the scene and how to ensure a good time. But he doesn't stop there, he has a section of advice for the players as well. Then to top it all off, the factions and setting a described juuust enough a DM can easily spin another 2-3 sessions out as the players move into the location were the dungeon is housed. Perfect. And as much as I love Tomb of the Serpent Kings, I think Lair of the Lamb pulls ahead. But play both- they are free and far better than 90% of what's out there.

THE LOST SERPENT KING: Goals, Feasts, and Classes

Related to this idea seed

Ruleset: B/X is easy, Bluehome for fun?

* Serpent King left many things untold and now suitors and debtors come to collect. PCs must seek out things in the Forest of Ynn before an allocated time (quest).
* Random table full of goals
* Each set of levels denotes seasons
* Suitors & Debtors: The Dead, The Suitors, The Seliee, The Unseliee, Star Emisary, The Elements (four winds, the sea), Demons & Devils.

* At the end of the quest, the PCs may tell of their deeds to gain more XP on top of the non-magical bounty they bring back to the castle
* Any unused magical items must be turned in to a particular faction to gain XP
* Carousing, Feasting, Duel, or Poetry

DM NOTE: I think the above is pretty strong. I don't know if the class stuff below matches it. Maybe the Half-children should just be the alternative classes in the Old-School Essentials.

Character Gen: 3d6 down-the-line

Character Class:
* Half-sibling (Fighter)
- Animal head/human body- senses of that animal
- Animal body/human head- stats of that animal;
- Animal organs, but mostly human- the ability of that animal
- Monster abilities are 1/day

* Bearer of an intelligent weapon (Cleric/service of higher power)

* Errant Betrothed (Thief)
- Every level you are promised more fortune you can promise to others
- You are constantly pursued by your past

* Witch/Warlock (Magic-user)
- You can use poison
- You can make potions
- Use Druid spell list

* Shade (if dead)

MOONBASE BLUES: After-Action Report 2 of 2



Part I Here

<!-- Let's switch fonts again for fun-->
  • Marine Cmd. Dukes
  • Scientist: Archeology Ysuko
  • Scientist: Roboticist Iko
  • Teamster: Nips <!--NEW-->

OBSERVATORY: PCs are able to break away from the fight in OBSERVATORY now with 1.0 hr to go until the strange meteor researches its zenith. They decide to retreat back to SECURITY.

By this time our PCs meeting Nips who is a new player in our game. Born high, but brought low by scandal, dropped off to pay a debt, XXX demanded someone else carry her bags. On the plus side, PCs got a new loadout.

<!--It was interesting to me that the PCs did not go to the downed drop pod for extra supplies -->

GREENHOUSE & MED BAY: Because of the strange blue light coming over the horizon, the completely transparent done of the GREENHOUSE was going to prove a problem. All prior characters were already at Meteor Psychosis Stage 1. Further exposure would not be good. So the PCs decide to hit the floor and crawl on their stomachs. Halfway across the room, Nips is intercepted by two of the light-touched Beloved. Punches were thrown, eyes were gouged, and the PCs were about to make it to SECURITY.

SECURITY: Back through the barricade, but a check of the SECURITY interior revels on floating, giggling light-touched Beloved. Furthermore, the rising blue light reveals clear-epoxy filled holes in the dome that are letting in blue light.

Iko makes a fast break for the computer terminal to insert the emergency protocol card. But in his haste, Iko didn't properly protect his eyes from the blue Truth and was overtaken by Psychosis Stage 2, blackout, but kept inserting blue pens into his body.

Yusko seeing her friend endanger charges into the room only to be overcome by the blue Truth like Iko. Both now have Meteor Psychosis level 2. Yusko blacks out but grasps and scramble for any blue object- becoming increasingly stressed that no objects can be found.

Cmd. Dukes was able to push the blue-light deranged strange away from the group and secure the area. By that time, Nips had returned with the dropped loadout equipment.

Back to the GREENHOUSE & MED BAY: The group intends to travel back across to the GREENHOUSE then up the middle to the OBSERVATORY. It is here that Nips eats the strange fruit in the GREENHOUSE and while not succumbing to the effects of the Blue Truth, does gain an altered perception. 

<!--The player rolls a "0" & "00" on that save so I figure it would be nice to reward the player-->

Alas, the group's plans were cut short as they slithered by through the GREENHOUSE. The "beloved" captured Nips and Yusko and brought them to the OBSERVATORY for conversion by exposing them directly to the blue light via the telescope eyepiece.

<!--Forcing a person to look into the eyepiece immediately causes them to gain 2 levels of Meteor Psychosis-->

OBSERVATORY & GEOLOGY LAB: With the meteor at its zenith, things quickly collapse for the survivors. Surrounded by the blue-obsessed "Beloved", Nips tries to mimic there chants and speeches temporarily earning freedom. She then slinks off to put on a vac-suit without notice to try and escape outside. Iko who hid successfully in the GREENHOUSE has gone unnoticed. Also tries to slip on a vac-suit quietly and without notice (and training)...mostly gets things correct. 

Its then Cmd. Dukes swings into action with a two-pronged plan, his left & right fists, to help by charging the Blue Prophet! Hell breaks loose but Ysuko is able to slip away to don a vac suit too. No zero-G training so she thinks she did everything correctly...maybe.

OUTSIDE THE DOME: The truest of blue fills the landscape bathing it in Truth. Iko and Yusko both have their vac-suit hold seal despite not correctly adjusting it for fit. Nips' is perfect.

<!--I had each player roll a d10: Evens = suit put on correctly; Odds = seal is poor and they start venting oxygen-->

But unfortunately, it is not their physical being that each has to worry about-- for the Blue Truth streaming from the meteor overtakes their souls. All three undo their helmets, join hands, and widen their eyes to know the Truth. Because they have seen the light and it is good.

But Cmd Dukes only sees red! Red is the rage he feels at this terrible situation. Red is the blood from these blue freaks and the smashed head of the Prophet. Red is color that pours forth as he's torn apart in a rage by the remaining Beloved.

<!--To end off the final stand, I had the player roll a d10 and the result was the number of cultists he killed in the last stand each death narrated differently by the player-->


  • Marine Cmd. Dukes (deceased)
  • Scientist: Archeology Ysuko (questionable)
  • Scientist: Roboticist Iko (questionable)
  • Teamster: Nips (questionable)