I CAST FIST!: Brawl Arcane 28 A Perfect Intro To Kit Bashing And Skull Smashing

From the Gardens of Hecate


"Inquisition 28" is a term for a family DIY-games in the wargaming scene and akin to "Moldvey Basic" in the dungeons with dragons scene. 

The Inq28 space, to me, is characterized by (1) a pamphlet 'zine of simple skirmish rules outlining battles between small groups (~4+ figures) with Warhammer-like stats and (2) a huge emphasis on kitbashing (i.e. frankensteining your existing miniatures into something that is your own). 

A fantastic example is the blog Gardens of HecateEven Chris McDowd got into the act with his DOOMED.  If you want an amazing magazine then look no further than 28 in particular I'd recommend this issue. One of the most delightful efforts in this scene is Turnip 28 (although its a little larger army size than I like). And this spirit doesn't have to be physical, Maleghast is initially oriented as a digital experience but lacks no less the punch of other games.

While poking around, I came upon Brawl Arcane 28 --a small skirmish game that pits one (1) wizard and their three (3) minions against a similar force. Each wizard band is individualized by generic but highly flexible templates that outline a wizard and minion's stats, abilities, and spells. I might have been drawn to Brawl Arcane 28 because I am a huge fan of Wiz-War.


BA28 certainly carries the spirit of DIY28 I could easily just use the wraith figure below as my wizard and the three skeletons as the minions and combine them with the template "Necromancer". Easy, cheap, and low-effort. You could easily use dice or even chess pieces (bishop + 3 pawns). Or if you have an online app like Owlbear Rodeo, you could easily mark out a grid and use the included generic tokens.

You've seen these guys before maybe

And I just happened to have a random "cannibal" miniature and three dire rat minis so that makes a pretty good "Flesh Transmuter" band-- Necromancer vs. Cannibal is certainly a matchup with flavor!

Unpainted & maybe I should kitbash the rats
to have grub-heads (below)


Its simple. You start with a wizard ("you") and each turn you roll 1d6 on a common pool of action- 2 of which are "Summon Minon" and 1 is essentially "Faction Spell". So, you slowly build up your band throughout the game (occasionally losing minions) and don't have to memorize a lot of moving parts all at once. Therefore it is also very easy to teach.

Its flexible. While a lot of the other systems have a very strong and delightful world, Brawl Arcane is pretty generic and could be adapted to anything. Several of the provided warbands are as adaptable as the word "wizard" itself. Wanna go post-apocalyptic? Easy enough to do with "Astral Warlock", "Blood Mage", or "Flesh Transmuter" bands. Want to use a Hieronymus Bosch painting to theme your warbands? Sure! Brawl Arcane can adapt to that. And again, its not that other systems couldn't- I just think its easier with a system not tied strongly to other IP. Plus units being more simple- you could most likely eyeball some homebrew powers.

Its focus on kit-bashing. Its a goal of mine to improve my painting capabilities so I'm gonna (hopefully) have a lot of miniatures sitting around- painted. Mini painting obviously blends well with D&D another focus of mine so there is synergy there. So Brawl seems to be more a system designed to show off your creative models and battlefields than a hardcore game itself. And that is exactly where I want it. Focus on my mini- not learning deeply another game. It matches the feel of the OSR and gets me excited creatively in a way that other games don't. 

Maybe its the focusing on self-expression. Turning something you craft into something you play. Into something you share.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? That Which We Call A D&D By Any Other Name Would Delve Just As Deep

The OSW: Old-School Wizardry

Like the rest of the greater D&D collective, I too have been reading, and then watching, the very good Delicious in Dungeon. And like many, I too, was struck at just how faithful it is to "old-school" dungeon-delving D&D. Dumb-struck when I learned the creator, Ryoko Kui, had no prior exposure to D&D, much less some old-school version like Moldvey BX.

It was actually hard for me to believe given how faithful the trappings (and traps) of Delicious in Dungeon are to AD&D in particular. Miranda of inplacesdeep suggested to me that the videogame Wizardry (1981), whose popularity outlasted Japan's introduction to Dungeons & Dragons*, could be one of the inspiration sources.

So I recently went looking for a Wizardry game manual PDF to see what commonality there was given that I have never played the game. Here is the link to the 1990 NES release of Wizardry: Proving Ground of the Mad Overlord. If I am correct after my 30 min of internet surfing, Wizardry was first released in Japan on the FM-7, PC-88, and PC-98 in 1985.

And wow... there is almost no substantive differences with AD&D. In fact, most differences I see had to have been made so that TSR wouldn't sue Sir-tech Software the publisher. So if you've not really mapped this particular rabbit hole with your 10-foot pole, here are some screen captures from the 1990 NES manual:

Character's Race: Those heathen humans... someone needs to bring them the word of CANT!

Six Abilities: Strength, I.Q., Piety, Vitality, Agility, Luck (which is not different from the word charisma because charisma origins meaning "gift from the gods")

Classes: Of particular note is that Lord, Samurai, Wizard, and Ninja require particularly good stats in multiple abilities similar the paladin, bard, monk, and ranger of AD&D.

Goal: Explore a vast labyrinth that you the player need to be mapping with help from a 0-19 x 0-19 grid system. What does this maze look like?

Magic: I won't take you through every single aspect, I do think you get the point and the links will take you directly to the PDF if you'd like to read the details. But the magic does offer another striking similarity.

In D&D terms you are starting with Magic Missle, Shield, Sleep, and a more novel "Locate" spell which is in a similar spirit, but more practical given the audience might need to check their mapping work.

Delicious in Dungeon Is Increasing Mega-Dungeon Appetites And Taste For Old-School D&D

Maybe that subtitle is a bit...more than I can chew (!), but I don't think its too far off the mark. I do love dungeons as both an excellent place to begin learning D&D and as a campaign environment for sustained play. Especially in our more busy, entertainment-competitive lives. Dungeons are imaginative spaces that both young and old can relate to and understand. And I am glad to see other media pick them up as environmental space to tell a compelling story. 

I think far too long the idea of dungeon crawling was just a boring, pedantic shuffle through grey corridors waiting for an ignoble death. Certainly, the past ~10+ years of the old-school scene as provided many counter-examples to that viewpoint**, but now Delicious provides a solid cross-generational reference to orient too. 

Delicious in Dungeon's first levels

EDIT: Here is the way better-illustrated game guide to Wizardry

* The most popular pen-and-paper RPG in Japan is Call of Cthulhu

** Some unfortunate reinforcement as well

THE KNIGHTS OF THE (OD&D) TABLE: Application to Arthurian Myth

The Death of Arthur

I was recently reading Peter Ackroyd’s Sir Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (written 1470) and was struck how its collective tales when taken together matched OD&D’s wilderness setup when it comes to castles, NPC rulers therein, and jousting. Also, it helped provide a rationale in my head as to why the cavalier is a subclass in AD&D given so much of early D&D is oriented in dungeoneering- why bring a horse? The Arthurian tales seem more likely an inspiration for this section of OD&D than many of the books in the Appendix N such as Three Hearts, Three Lions which feature a knight, but still are more a LoTR-style adventuring party.

This blog post is less concerned about the origin of these rules in OD&D and whether they can be used to help a DM create a campaign that gives the same feel. Now, yes, perhaps Mythic Bastionland or Pendragon would be systems better designed to support this particular genre. But if you just want to attach this component to an existing campaign or maybe just pull off 3-5 sessions, why invest time, energy, and money into a completely new system? Heck, even if you wanted to start a fresh new campaign, why switch to a new system when your table’s familiarity with D&D could help? On a more contemporary note, If you’ve gotten the Dolmenwood pdfs, like I did, then you know the knight class and house outlines provide a ready-made setting outside of Mythic Bastionland or Pendragon. 

Let’s look at a very good tool already provided by OD&D- the stronghold rules.

Here are what I think are a few interesting points in this block of text that will serve our purpose:

  • The ponds on the Outdoor Survival Game map are now castles 
  • Those castle encounters will be 50% hostile or 50% “neutral” which means PCs will have to explain themselves a lot. So courtesy is front and center in our campaign in keeping with the Arthurian tales.
  • Castle owners who are fighting men will demand a jousting match which is in line with the Arthurian stories about gaining renown through the testing of arms. Magic users, including, clerics might send PC on quests via geas spells. Certainly in line with the machinations of Merlin and Morgaine.
  • It is also noted that Patriarch’s are always lawful while Evil High Priest are always chaotic.
  • And while not prolific, intermixed among human opposition, is a fair bit of superhuman/supernatural occurrences. Again Morgaine and Merlin are natural examples of wizards/necromancers. The Lady of the Lake (and her predecessors) I would consider patriarchs. 
  • While evil priests are never directly referenced, there are one or two stories involving some knights that seem to rise from the dead or other unearthly enchantments. In fact Lancelot du Lake and Galahad have a whole “side quest” involving their adventure to far off lands but “because these stories do not involve their quest for the Grail, they are not recorded in the old books.”
  • And as the inhabitants of the castles? Well, 3d10 x10 inhabitants will man the walls split between ranged units and heavy foot. And a mix of magical creatures which while not a central component of Arthurian myths they are there in the periphery. The Questing Beast is a well known example, but also Galahad’s sword, hilt, and scabbard are made of various parts of fantastical snakes, fish, and wyrms.

The Structure of the Stories

Generally, the setup is 1 or 2 named knights questions across a densely castled countryside and/or cutting through a mysterious forest in search of renown or to right a wrong or by request or for revenge. Knights are often waylaid by battles, other knights, magic, duplicity, and, occasionally, God. Eventually each knight to able to over come those obstacles through feats of arms and maintaining a strong adherence to Christian virtues and chivalric code. Mostly. Because while these stories are rather “simple”, the characters often display more complexity than pop cultural interpretations of them would let on.

Here Is How I Would Run Dungeons & (Pen)Dragons

A Campaign for 1 or 2 Players and a DM: I always think its interesting that a lot of these stories actually involve 1 or 2 of Aurther’s knights and 2-5 other characters a long the way. So let’s go with that format which helps explain the setup.

Knighted PCs: The knights in the Arthurian story are already individuals of some note, so I think a good way to kick-off the campaign would be to start them at third level. Yes, heresy by “ye olde scool” standards, but we are leaning a little more into genre “setup”. This would place PC right below “hero” level (Level 4) and so makes sense that not matter what is going on, the PCs are at least questing for renown.

And as we have established we are using only 1 or 2 players so this will help a little bit with survivability. If back-up characters are needed, perhaps the DM can roll up a “round table” of alternatives.

By OD&D standards this would also allow PC to have a multi-attack ability against normal man-types which again is a common occurrence than the main characters of Arthurian myths can take on multiple normal knights/horsemen/footmen.

The Code of Chivalry: I found the Dolmanwood Chivalric code a little too brief. So poking around on the internet to see if someone has previously enumerated the various rules of the Code I found one text looking at the code from the Song of Roland which is also a great list to help create conflict by simple having the antagonists do the opposite of:

  1. To fear God and maintain His Church 

  2. To serve the liege lord in valour and faith 

  3. To protect the weak and defenceless 

  4. To give succour to widows and orphans 

  5. To refrain from the wanton giving of offence 

  6. To live by honour and for glory 

  7. To despise pecuniary reward 

  8. To fight for the welfare of all 

  9. To obey those placed in authority 

  10. To guard the honour of fellow knights 

  11. To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit 

  12. To keep faith 

  13. At all times to speak the truth 

  14. To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun 

  15. To respect the honour of women 

  16. Never to refuse a challenge from an equal 

  17. Never to turn the back upon a foe

Save vs Change: I might change the 5 saves to more the 7 deadly sins or remove “sloth” and “gluttony” as those don’t quite fit as much as the other sins.

The Relm:  Below I have a 6 x 6 hex map (with 6-miles hexes) made with the ever-useful HEX KIT and just dropped as many castles as I could with about 20 miles apart (which is the amount of land able to be held by these building one). Another interesting thing is that Arthur’s England is far from depopulated in contrast to the old-school mindset. Most of the stories involve knights running into many different castles and having some sorta of conflict occur there. Finally, I drop 2-3 other features on there for fun especially woodlands which were ever present in the tales and a hotbed of questing/adventuring. Start small and build out from there. Don’t try to do too much at the start. If you have Dolmenwood, just carve out a 6x6 chunk from there and add in the already present factions and standards.

Quest Goal: An object of importance like a grail, a philosopher’s stone, a sword, a book, or a famed necromancer’s hand & eye could be the ultimate goal, but again in several of the stories simple adventuring for renown was good enough. So let’s also create a table for the reason for a lowercase “q” quest:

Roll 1d20 to determine why you are questing:

  1. To avenge another fallen knight, 

  2. evict unlawful owners, 

  3. avenge a maiden, 

  4. avenge a king, 

  5. rescue a maiden, 

  6. rescue another knight, 

  7. appear as another knight/unknown knight to perform X

  8. participate in a tournament, 

  9. lay siege, 

  10. break a siege, 

  11. A case of mistaken identity, 

  12. To settle an argument, 

  13. Because you were kidnapped or beguiled to a quest

  14. joust over who’s maiden is hottest/virtuous

  15. To atone for a previously committed offense

  16. Prove you are the toughest

  17. Remove bandits at X

  18. To capture/hunt a famous beast

  19. Just to see what happens to you

  20. Because GOD said to (Roll 1d20 again)

A “quest” whose objective is defined above might be worth something like 1000 XP. Now it might be that more or less XP could be earned by depending on how close to the Chivalric code a PC remains in the completions of this quest. XP still could be awarded for the value of objects recovered/given too, but in response to the code money cannot be a focus.

No Gold: Yup. A key here would be that PC should turn down monetary rewards for gifts or other forms of aid. Perhaps if they need to buy something it has to be bartered, a favor extended, or maybe roll a d8 vs their current level- if at or below, then the NPC has heard of their great deads and aggress to help them.

Your Princess [Brother, Cousin, Sister, Aunt, Uncle, Niece, Nephew, or In-Law] is in Another Castle: I would also make sure that a few of the other castles contain relatives of the PCs. Even in Arthurian stories, blood relations were always causing trouble for our “heroes”. This is a very nice gameable element and one that also might put a damper on always reaching for the sword.

Conflict Resolution the Arthurian Way: And how is conflict mostly resolved? A test of arms! Yes, there is a lot of jousting (mainly with a spear interesting) and often if a knight was unhorsed it was time to draw swords. Often the knight could be wounded severely enough they have to be dragged to the nearest hermitage on a litter. Enter OD&D jousting rules. But really you could use the more well-known combat rules as well. I might throw in a little something like “if an attack roll beats the opponent’s AC by 5+, the opponent makes a save vs. Paralysis or is knocked down.”

God: The almighty above always knows what is in the heart of a knight. So if the PCs have been bad or broken chivalric code they are going to be in trouble when the powers above (or below) start calling.

Final Word (?): Send me your blog links!

TORCHES (6): A RPG Microblog Collection 2


1HD MONSTERS ARE GREATER THAN THEY SEEM: Traverse Fantasy talks about how 1 HD monsters are a special case in that they often take effort to kill than their 1 HD indicates. The resulting math indicates that a 2 HD monsters for instance is not equal to two 1 HD monsters but instead two 1/2 HD monsters.

PORK FACES & ROMAN DARTS: In 2d AD&D, MU could use darts. In my pre-teens, I thought that was a silly weapon- a little throwing dart? Here is a video with a more accurate presentation of what these darts were. I like the use of pork shoulder to represent the size/density of someone's face.

RULES-AS-CLASS: Pretty neat here how this person had divided the player rules into little pamphlets for each old-school class; maybe I should do Serpent Song this way.

ABILITIES SCORES AS CHARACTER REACTIONS ACTS UNDER STRESS: Love this post by Zedeck where he talks about how DEX is more reflex than balance; maybe I should do Serpent Song this way as I have always liked the idea of save throws as prime stats.

PROCEDURE FOR BUILDING FACTIONS from Dungeonfruit. I especially like the note about giving factions specific & proactive goals.

SHARP "ESS" WORDS: Social combat from Amanda P over at Weird Wonder. This seems like a fun little system that could be employed in a lot of places or maybe as a sorta downtime activity too.