Art by the fantastic DiTerlizzi

In reading Marcia's review of her experience with Shadowdark, I contemplated on how I run my own OSE games. This is also fresh on my mind because I am running Miranda Elkins' fantastic Nightwick. Its all about distilling things down to the interesting choice and eliminating the non-interesting one.

Basic Equipment: I am thinking about charging my players a flat rate for all basic dungeoneering equipment that is rolled into weekly expenses-- so 7sp a week for expenses plus ~3-5sp for pick of equipment

  • Not interesting:  Cost of equipment, especially down to coppers
  • Interesting: Scarcity (what if there is no 50' rope this week?) and how many slots PC dedicates to basic equipment

Light: Due to torch cost and number per slot, it is easy to carry a lot of torches.

  • Not interesting: Carrying enough light to last 12-24 turns- easily done
  • Interesting: When torches extinguish-- like in the middle of a fight or when the goblins you are negotiating with get mad; how many hands in the party are occupied by torches
This is why I prefer to use the overloaded encounter die to simulate inopportune moments when a torch is snuffed out- gust of wind, dripping slime, bucket of sand thrown by a sneaky goblin. And with regards to hands, holding a torch potentially lowers AC, removes a weapon, or makes spell casting delayed (need both hands). One saving grace: torches are an improvised weapon that do 1d4 dmg and are on fire.

Stuck Doors: I now commonly interpret the 2-in-6 chance as a basic surprise roll. If they players fail it, they make a loud noise and alert anything on the other side of the door, but open it next round.
  • Not interesting: Rolling a d6 over and over again to see if PCs finally break down a door
  • Interesting: Seeing if PC get surprise on whatever is on the otherside; if additional equipment is brought to deal with doors
I usually like the idea that a crowbar allows and additional 1d6 rolled per individual with one.

Rations: This is similar to the situation with light, its easy to carry enough food/water for 2-4 hours which is more likely the time frame of a dungeon delve-- not a camping trip.
  • Not interesting: Tracking both food and water separately for nominal circumstances
  • Interesting: How many PCs carry rations; will rations be used for other things (like distracting monsters) or saved to avoid fatigue
For me the nature of rations are both food and water abstracted. So if a player want to use food as a distraction, mark off 1 rations. If a player wants to douse a small fire, use 2 rations as you frantically empty out a water skin and try to put out the fire consuming the spell book.

Secret Doors & Traps:  Two dungeon features that are opposite sides of the same coin. Really I think Chris McDowall has written some of the best bits on this that boil down to "traps are puzzles" and not really "gotcha".

  • Not interesting: Situations where the PCs have to pick the exact right spot and roll a 1-2 in 6
  • Interesting: Adding in environmental clues or other sources of information that allows discovery by players investigating the fictional environment
Now, I will keep both rolls as a back-up for either PCs not having a good idea and/or a back-up for perhaps me being unable to convey the fictional environment properly in the moment.

Weapons: I've yet to find a really good way to do weapons simply outside of 1d6 damage for all types. I don't mind BX's variable weapon damage. And I do like some old rulesets sorta "first strike" if your weapon is larger than an opponents other wise smaller, lighter weapons strike first in subsequent arounds.

So here is what I have got so far: Using a weapon two-handed is a +1 to damage, using an off-hand weapon is +1 to-hit, and a shield is of course +1 AC. I do like that fighters with bows can shoot twice if they did not move and the "cleave" ability.
  • Not interesting: Weapon factors that are so extensive they require a separate rules discussion, trigger player obsession, and/or orient the whole of gameplay to combat
  • Interesting: What PCs chose to do with their hands: more armor, more weapons, or more light
So that is it for now, if you'd like to see more of my house rules here is my post on the Serpent Song Hymnal. I hope to have a sorta player version created sometime soon but I'm still trying to dial-in what my go-to "french vanilla" D&D is like.

NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 85

Previously in Nightwick...

This week's adventurers:

Blossom (Rogue 6)
Mechtilde (Fighter 5)
Mayfly (Magician 5)
Liminal Space (Changeling 4)
Krupe (Cleric 3)
Thekla (Magician 1)


With a "smaller" party of 6, the group decided to hire on two woodsmen and one too-pleasant peasant. The two woodsmen are hired to occupy the front lines to carry Mechtilde's tower shields. And the too-pleasant peasant will be our link-light. Assman (Fighter 1) joins as well.


THE EVER-SHIFTING ABBEY: The party's first challenge is not from the creatures in the Abbey, but the Abbey itself! After stepping through the 3rd level mausoleum doors, the sunlight that normally filters in is cut off. Instead when the party looks back the exit out is instead another hallway. "Damn." The party decides to do a recon of the surrounding area just to get a better sense of the extent of the reorientation (PC NOTE: This was due to some last-minute cleric casting to save the party during their last delve).

CRYPT OF THE GUARDIAN STATUES: The party realizes they are in a familiar room that once contained two animated stone statues, now destroyed, but the dungeon section leads somewhere else when moving west. The goal is still to find (1) pieces of the golden skeleton and (2) steal the crown of Valax. The party heads south and finds themselves again in familiar territory: two double doors lead to a large room where they once roasted several cultists. Good news! The party decides to gamble and turn east to see if the rest of the dungeon has remained the same.

STAIRS TO LEVEL 4: Through ossuaries, the party crawls and finds themselves back in front of the entrance to level 4- huzzah! It would have been terrible to lose knowledge of that entrance. With a little more treasure hunting in the adjacent ossuaries, the party finds their first objective- a golden right arm! Now we have another piece of the golden skeleton to Mayfly's delight and the rest of the party's general unease.

HALL OF SINNERS: The party travels a little further east and hits a "T" junction that might indicate they are close to their goal. They travel through a south door and enter a room covered in murals. Most of the party has been here before, however, with Mayfly in tow they notice a new image on the wall. The party is treated to a scene where Mayfly is being handed a rat with a human-looking face.

Liminal: Oh! Let's test the potion of Rat Control that Halfdan gave us!

Mayfly: NO! <slaps the potion to the ground shattering it> NEVER DO THAT!

Rest of the Party: ...

Mayfly: ...anyways...um...nothing to see here we should move on...

The party turns south and moves through another familiar room with a well-worn path leading west and knows that by moving southward it should be the chamber of Valax.

THE CHAMBER OF VALAX: The party listens at the door and hears a beckoning. The party kicks open the door to reveal a small chamber containing a hovering statue, with green-floating eyes, and a floating crown. Blossom checks for traps and finding none, the party proceeds forward with confidence. 

Liminal is the first to cross the threshold only to have the Abbey floor open up beneath him! Landing hard (PC NOTE: 12 dmg!), our changing is then met with gushing blood at the bottom- the party scrambles to throw him a rope just in time. Laughter can be heard coming from the statue which heralds a swarm of scarabs- the party retreats, Mayfly casts Fireball (PC NOTE: 24 dmg) and Mechtile quickly dispatches the rest. More laughter from the statue.

The party ponders how to cross the pit and get back quickly. Luckily, Mechtile has had two hirelings carry tower shields the whole time through this delve and the party constructs a bridge involving the shields, 10-foot poles, and blood-soaked rope. The party crosses the pit, snatches the crown, and retreats as alarmed cultists come through the eastern door!


The net total for this session is: 554xp each & 400sp each (which includes collected silver coins and the crown).

Nothing really to do with this delve,
but just want to show off my miniature efforts