Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Blind Bats and the Elephant


A metaphor for Subjective Reality...


"Once upon a Time, there were seven blind bats. Or 13 . . . I forget. Anyway, they were a bit hungry for fresh blood, because they were Vampire Blind Bats, so they looked around for something to bite. Except they couldn’t look around, as they were blind, which you should have

realized already. But their unerringly keen senses of smell led them to a plump, juicy, blood-filled elephant - which in this story stands for all of reality. Got it?

The Gangrel bat bumped into the tail and said, Aha! This elephant is really a twitching animal! That is what I shall become.

The Brujah broke his fangs trying to bite the hoof and said, Aha! The elephant is like a hard, stony, insensate pestle that crushes all beneath it with pitiless abandon! That is what I shall become!

The Nosferatu flew into the elephant’s butt and said, Aha! The elephant is really a wrinkled, stinky, puckered, desiccated mass that lives in a dank cave! That is what I

shall become!

The Tremere bit the head and said, Aha! The elephant is really a puny little brain struggling to control a vast and powerful body! That is what I shall become!

The Ventrue felt the legs and said Aha! The elephant is really a powerful, upstanding pillar that can bear all weight with strength, but with very little suppleness or resilience! That is what I shall become!

The Toreador felt the trunk and mouth and said, Aha! The elephant is really a great, firm shaft or a warm, moist hole! That is what I shall become!

And the Malkavian bat, blinder than all the rest, swooped down and managed to miss the entire elephant. Aha! said the benighted Malkavian, as it flapped past.

The others are making a huge fuss over an elephant that is really a big lot of nothing! Well, that is what I shall become!

And so, I say unto you, flap on!"

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Legacies of Exera: Session 5


After the party collects themselves, divides the treasure found after the defeat of the Warlock, and finds their way safety out of the mountain stronghold the party comes across odd tracks in the ground. After a quick discussion, the party decides to follow the tracks as the tracks were leading down the mountain anyway. After sometime, the party realizes that the woods of crown silent and the party notices that there are strange looking animal statues and some humanoid statues around that all appear to be carved with faces of fear.

As the party was discussing what this could mean, they are ambushed by a large multi-legged reptilian creature. During the ensuing battle, Helenista and Claren feel their limbs start to stiffen after meeting the creature's gaze but are able to resist whatever magics was going on. The fight started to drag on longer the party anticipated and some of the members were fighting gravely wounded as it became impossible to tell who's blood was whose and how much of it belonged to the creature. In an act of desperation, Gareth using all of his focus to grab the creature by an unseen force and fling it straight up in the air. The party took cover by the nearby tries as the flailing creature came back down and landing on the ground with a sickening crunch. After making making sure the creature was dead, the party knew that did not want to be in the woods after dark and limped back to the village they stayed in before their journey to Firetop Mountain.

When the party returned to the village, they are greeted as heroes and are given supplies, food, and drink for their efforts. The party enjoys the words of praise and free food well into the night as Harl and Shaleera make their way upstairs to celebrate the victory properly. Sometime later, Gareth goes outside to go to make water and notices a small cloaked figure outside who takes off running when the figure notices that the figure has been seen  by Gareth. Gareth quickly takes chase and ends up capturing the figure which turns out to be a Kobold and after some aggressive negotiation, the Kobold admits that they are all doomed. Gareth knocks out the Kobold and runs back to the tavern to warn everyone that there might be an attack coming as Gareth thinks he caught the forward scout of an attack party. 

The commotion rouses Harl and Harl assists rallying the townsfolk to defensive positions as the village is swarmed by Kobolds. Harl helped direct the village folk to put out fires the Kobolds started as the rest of the party helped with the physical defenses. At the break of dawn, the party was able drive off the few remaining Kobolds which scattered in the woods. In the aftermath, there was only handful of injured villagers and a couple of charred 1/4 burnt buildings. In the hemorning light and during cleanup, the party decided to stay in the village for a couple of days to help the village clean up and to make sure the Kobolds do not come back.

The party found no more traces of the remaining Kobolds in the woods and premised that they are long long. It was also discussed and the party came to the conclusion along with the village that Kobolds attacked the village in some type of revenge plot because of the death of the Warlock. 


PLAYER'S NOTES: I have no notes as I was not at the session due to other obligations. I was given the information of what happened during the session second hand by other players and the DM.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Vampire: The Masquerade Timeline


Below is the timeline for Vampire: The Masquerade that has been updated into the Modern Nights, This is part of my attempt in keeping a lot of the relevant information in one place. 


  • Tremere and his inner circle become Vampires


  • The Crusaders sack the city of Constantinople, starting a fire that burns for eight days. During the sack, the Inconnu destroy Gregorius Dimities. Michael lets Peter the Humble lead Mary the Black to him, where he is finally diablerized. The Byzantine Empire is torn asunder and divided among the Crusaders.

14th Century

  • The First Anarch Revolt was spurred on during the days of the Inquisition. Vampire neonates were appalled by their clan elders who were eagerly sacrificing their young to the Inquisitors. The neonates were perishing at alarming rates during this period. A voice on the Ventrue council was the Brujah named Patricia who expressed to Hardestadt and the elders that they must stand up and fight against the mortal humans. However, Hardestadt and the fellow elders rejected her notions. They felt it was better to hide, create a masquerade, and form rules that would later be known as Camarilla. Disgusted with inaction, Patricia left the council and sided with rebellious neonates. To drive her point across to the elders as to what she felt was best for vampire society, she donned the name Tyler, formed a resistance of Brujah, and marched right into Castle Hardestadt. A huge battle ensued. Though she suffered heavy losses, she successfully committed Amaranth on Hardestadt.



  • Despite the formation of the Camarilla and the Sabbat, self-proclaimed anarchs would continue in isolated groups. During the French Revolution, prominent anarchs used the opportunity to fight the traditional claim of the Toreador to France. Despite intentions to take the fight to the rest of Europe, the mortal revolution soon fell apart, allowing the Camarilla to move in and restore order.

    Afterwards, many of the remaining anarchs made their way to the United States and from there to the West Coast. As Los Angeles quickly increased in prominence, the Camarilla established Don Sebastian as prince with the hope that he would curb the growing number of anarchs in the region. He largely ignored their presence, however, and over the next few decades, several famous anarchs made their way to the city. Finally, in 1944, Don Sebastian realized the full extent of the discontent in his city and ordered the savage beating of one such luminary, Jeremy MacNeil. Instead of instantly rebelling, MacNeil lead the anarchs in locating and studying the havens of the local Elders over a period of six weeks, and on December 21, 1944, the Second Anarch Revolt began.

    The prince was killed and those Elders that were not destroyed fled the city, making it a strong victory for the anarch movement. Soon thereafter the anarchs moved south to San Diego and then attempted to liberate San Francisco. They were repelled by the then-current Prince of San Francisco, Vannevar Thomas, but in those three months they had claimed everything from the border of Mexico to San Jose. This region would come to be called the Anarch Free State, ruled under a set of principles entitled the Perfect State.

    Despite such ideals, the Anarch Free State soon became little more than a region dominated by roving gangs that were often at each other's throats. Whatever the reasons for the inability to create their perfect society, the invasion of the Cathayans and their efforts to turn the anarchs against one another resulted in several anarchs eventually joining the New Promise Mandarinate, with little remaining of the Free State by the year 2000.


  • Kindred debate when exactly the Week of Nightmares fell, with some claiming it landed just prior to the turn of the millennium, while others conflate it with the supposed commencement of Gehenna. In truth, the “Week” of Nightmares sprawled across years, sweeping up several thousand vampires in its wave. During the Week, an impossibly ancient vampire arose and purged its own clan: the Ravnos. Thin-blooded vampires emerged with omens and portents as the Red Star, Anthelios, blazed in the night sky. The Ravnos Antediluvian met Final Death in July 1999 at the hands of parties unknown, armed with advanced weaponry and the power of the sun. Before he died, he drained vitae from all his clan, driving them to frenzy and cannibalism in his death throes. Thick, sentient ropes of his vitae stained the ground in Bangladesh where he fell. The noonday sun did not destroy it all and some can own a small vial containing the Blood of the Ravnos Antediluvian.


  • Admiral John Poindexter takes control of the Information Awareness Office. He greenlights a number of DARPA initiatives intended to help expose and combat supernatural threats.


  • Felicity Price of the C.I.A. heads up project FIRSTLIGHT.
  • The Camarilla feeds information about the Sabbat to government agencies, using them to help burn out the Camarilla's rival sect.


  • The Red Question releases the first version of their manifesto.


[Conjecture - the Sabbat begin the slow migration to the middle east that will be known as the Gehenna Crusade. The year was chosen to coincide with Gehenna from the Revised edition and from contextual clues. Sabbat cities slowly empty out over the span of the next decade]


  • Anarchs Unbound is officially banned by the Camarilla, and dire warnings are issued about sect members mingling with the Red Question.
  • British anti-terror unit SO13 begins the sterilization of London. This will continue for the next seven years.
  • Camarilla elders begin to feed information about Anarch holdings as well Sabbat in an attempt to deflect attention from their own domains.


  • The Red Question deal directly with Camarilla Justicars; the next day, the 2007-08 financial collapse begins.
  • Marcus Questor becomes the agent in charge of the Special Affairs Division, and his ties to the IAO aid in securing intelligence of the blank body phenomenon.


  • Anarchs take the opportunity to conquer several weak Camarilla domains.


  • Video leaks to vampire websites showing a member of the Red Question poisoning a Tremere rival in 2001. It is the last highly publicized act of the Red Question.
  • The Camarilla of Milwaukee fend off a Sabbat invasion from the north.
  • Rafael Obrero, a medical examiner from Minneapolis, loses his wife Maria after a "Jane Doe" they were dissecting turns out to be a torpored vampire. Driven by revenge, Obrero goes on to form the Mortician's Army.



  • Juggler surreptitiously produces a Hollywood zombie movie filmed in Gary, Indiana. The film is heavily coded with pro-Anarch messages. The Anarchs of Hollywood recognize his handiwork, and back his claim to become the Baron of Gary.
  • A group of Kindred led by an infiltrator compromise Second Inquisition operations in the Midwest across three states, disrupting a city-clearing operation in Detroit.


  • Queen Ann is decapitated in London, effectively concluding the sterilization of the city.
  • The Camarilla meets with the Banu Haqim and the Setite Ministry on the same night to weigh the merits of admission into the Camarilla. The Ministry meeting ends prematurely when a bomb levels the hotel where the dignitaries are convening. The preferential optics of the Banu Haqim selecting a discreet, small-town kitchen in Denmark as their venue likely results in their admittance to the sect. Facing rejection, the Ministry instead moves to align themselves with the Anarchs.


  • Modius is deposed as Prince of Gary, Indiana after a ghoul lets slip that it is he who is responsible for the deaths of numerous Kindred in the city after sending Sullivan Dane a box full of intelligence. With the blessing of Annabelle Triabell, Modius is placed under arrest by the Anarchs.


  • A progressive mayor is elected in Gary, Indiana.
  • The Sub-Ministerial Level Consultation Program to Address Stochastic Crisis Events (SMLCPASCE), an operation of the Second Inquisition, is formed.


  • Massive slaughter in Berlin stretches the Masquerade to the breaking point. Berlin becomes an Anarch domain after the Prince is destroyed in the street.


  • The initial jumping-off point of the timeline, as of the publication of the V5 Corebook.
  • Vannevar Thomas claims praxis over Los Angeles. The city's Anarch barons quickly negotiate a truce with the Camarilla in order to avoid an immediate, highly destructive war.
  • Antwerp, Belgium is taken over by the Anarchs after centuries of Camarilla rule. Storming Elysium at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts under cover of the city's ongoing gilets jaunes protests and riots, the rebels crush in the skull of Toreador Prince Delphine Gaël, who was trapped in a trance. He meets Final Death being stuffed into a barrel and burned next to a police barricade.


  • Clan Lasombra is granted formal membership in the Camarilla after a vote in Chicago, following a diplomatic campaign by the Amici Noctis. The ritual sacrifice of Malenkov and other high-ranking Sabbat members are among the notable concessions rendered. Most other cities accepting of them begin following the general rule of thumb that one Lasombra must be sacrificed for every one who is to join the sect.
  • The domains of Boston, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut merge into one under the praxis of Hazel Iversen.
  • The torpored body of Zelios is discovered in a labyrinth hidden deep within the sewers beneath Griffith Park in Los Angeles. He was eventually recovered and awakened by Maximillian Strauss.
  • Baron Isaac Abrams of Hollywood leaves Los Angeles to answer the Beckoning.
  • The M. F. Sumtsov Historical Museum in Kharkiv, Ukraine hosts an exhibition on Ancient Egyptian artifacts, including among other items an intact enameled sculpture of Set that dates back to at least the 15th century BCE.


  • A devastating Second Inquisition offensive, spearheaded by the Society of Leopold, roils the vampiric population of Los Angeles. The Camarilla, finding the situation untenable, withdraws from the city once more as Prince Vannevar Thomas and his court abandon the city. The L.A. Anarchs quickly regroup and attack the Society, decapitating their leadership and crippling their operations in the city. Victorious in the moment, they redeclare the sovereignty of the Anarch Free State and pronounce the Camarilla persona non grata.
  • New York Anarch baron Douglas Callihan is unexpectedly found dead in his office. Prince Hellene Panhard sends Lasombra clan representative Julia Sowinski to investigate on behalf of the Camarilla.



  • Augustus Giovanni is murdered, staked, or otherwise driven into involuntary torpor. His personal menagerie of wraiths and spectres are unleashed from captivity.


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

A Great Campaign Experience


Over the weekend I was looking through one of my gaming bookshelves to see if my physical copy of Engine Hearts. Sad to say, it looks like my copies of that game did not survive the great purge of 2018. But I digress, during this search I came across my copy of GURPS Riverworld and seeing that book triggered memories of one of my favorite role playing experiences I have ever had. GURPS Riverworld is based on the book series by Phillip Jose Farmer. For those of you that are interested in playing in campaign and do not want anything spoiled, do not click on the previous link about the books or read any of the books.

So, this campaign happened about twenty years ago and the group and I were in-between World of Darkness games. One of the usual Storytellers of the group called up myself and a few other players and pitched an idea for a campaign. The only direction we were given was that we are going to use the Storyteller system from World of Darkness and we needed to create mortal characters. Our characters could be from any time in history and they could have any background we wanted (royalty, secret agents, ninjas, knights, pirates, etc.). I was not aware of what the other players created but I created a modern day over the top secret agent and our storyteller ran solo sessions for for each of us where our characters ended up dying at the end of the session (which we had no idea that was the goal). My secret agent survived a lot of near death experiences throughout the session to only meet his untimely end as the church the secret agent was hiding in roof collapsed. It was kind of a deus ex machina moment of "rocks fall and everyone dies" situation but it was fine.

Our Storyteller scheduled a game where everyone was going to be there and thus, the campaign begun. All of our characters woke up naked, in a grassy field, a bucket with a lid attached to the the wrist by a string, and the characters could travel south and come across a giant river or north and run into a dense forest. There a gigantic stone stable with holes in the legs off in the distance as well. This information was not presented to us up front as our characters had to explore to find out about the obvious landmarks. 

Our characters also explored the food and other items inside of our buckets, the mysterious stone tables, the dangers in the forest, the dangers in the river, and the interactions of the other people who were resurrected (the societies they created). Some of the people our characters ran into were famous people from history. It was also interesting to learn how the rules of death were different in River World. 

Yes, I am being vague on purpose and why? Because I do not want to spoil it for anyone who may end up as a player in this world. If you are interested enough, then grab the book or watch the miniseries - though full disclaimer I have not seen the miniseries and I cannot vouch for its quality or accuracy. 

Anyway, I am getting lost in the weeds. There was countless reasons why this campaign was such a great experience and something out of the norm that I have not experienced since or I think a lot of people do not experience. I will try to codify a handful of them.

  • The entire premise of the campaign and the source material was kept completely secret. The Storyteller even had brown butcher paper folded over the cover of the book so we could not see it. 
  • The players created characters from any era with any background in a vacuum. The other players did not know who the other characters were until the characters met in game. If I remember correct we had my secret agent, a Samurai, a cowboy, a person from the future, and a teenager form the 80s. We all got to know each other characters and about them in game and it was glorious. 
  • It was sandbox to the max and it was truly up to us to explore, figure out our surroundings, interact with people, and watch the various societies grow and change. 
  • Due to the lack of character and player knowledge, the setting and the world became real as the characters explored it and we actually drew maps/kept notes. 
  • It was honestly surprising to learn how death and time worked in River World. 
  • Our characters had to learn just about everything from trial and error and sometimes those errors were huge. 
  • When we uncovered secrets of the world, it was awe inspiring. 
  • It was fun as the players would talk between sessions and think of all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories and try to make all kinds of outlandish connections. The campaign just inspired so much talk outside of the table which I think is just rad. 

I think those are all the important points anyway. I feel lucky that I got to experience such a campaign and I hope to do so again. 


Monday, October 23, 2023

Legacies of Exera: Session 4


When we last left our heroes they were being charged by a gaunt figure who ends up bottle necking them into the hallway. Harl is able to spear the creature a few times and being able to narrowly shake of the paralyzing chill that almost froze Harl's bones in their place. Gareth and Helenista were able to squeeze into the room and Gareth sliced the gaunt figure from the back as Helenista was able to set the creature ablaze with a firebolt which finally put at end to the creatures existence. 

After the creature was dispatched, Gareth opens the chest that was on the table and finds some gold in it. The party then continues through a roughly carved tunnel and passes a door on their left as they continue on to find themselves where the tunnel ends in a door. Harl opens the door and finds a handuf a skeletons that are working on building some boats. The skeletons notice them and start to head towards the party as they armed themselves with various tools. Harl tries to reason with the encroaching skeletons but they just chatter their jaw bones and do not stop. Harl quickly shuts the door and after a few tense moments it sounds like the skeletons return to work. The party back tracks and discover a storage room full of rotting food and the continue on following the sound of tools working and a humming of a song. As the party follows the noise they come across a sign that stated "Work in Progress" and as they rounded the corner they come across countless mining tools working by themselves to expand the labyrinth on seemingly on their own free will and accord. 

The party then backtracks through the maze of tunnels and finally decides to transcends the stairs where the intense stench of rot is coming from. After every member of the party takes one last breath of fresh air as they march onward. After sometime on a tight winding staircase the party find themselves in a wide open chamber with a couple of bodies laying on the floor. As Claren takes lead and enters the chamber, the bodies start to move and they party makes quick work of them before the bodies even have a chance to stand up. Once the party makes sure more more bodies littered around the floor are going to decide to rise the party continues on to the staircase leading up on the other side of the room. When the party reaches the top of the stairs they come across a giant stone archway with two thick stone doors set wide open and as soon as A'nari (who is the last member to cross the threshold) steps across the threshold the giant stone doors slam shut and throws the party into darkness. Enama activates the light from her belt and a few other party members light up some lanterns. 

Harl takes lead and they party winds themselves through various twists and turns until they come across what appears to be a rather well made door with iron banding. Harl opens the door and finds a group of four Dwarves drinking, smoking, and gambling at a rather large table. One of the Dwarves stands up and lets out a stream of obscenities and that Dwarf eventually stammers out "What are you doing here? Doesn't anyone have any manners and can't even knock." Harl attempts to engage the Dwarves in conversation and to try to get any useful information about the labyrinth from the dwarves. Most of the conversation leaves the party rolling their eyes as the Dwarves spend a lot of time arguing among themselves about which way is the right direction through the maze and one of the Dwarves mention that the pet drake is a cute little fellow that likes scratches behind the ears. The dwarves then try to convince the party to bring them back more ale and eventaully Harl realizes that any more conversation is going to be pointless and with a shrug and a defeated look to Harl's companions, the party wishes the Dwarves well and closes their door. 

The party continues to explore the maze of hallways and eventually comes across a large wide open cavern with stalagmites. Before the party can even gain their bearings, they notice some movement in  the shadows an instance before a gout of fire lights up the cavern as a red scaled dragon like creature come into view an instance before it charges towards the party. 
Enama reacts first and grabs one of Gareth's enchanted stones, moves forward, and throws it at the dragon-like creature. As Harl moves forward and blasts the creature with a bolt of crackling black and purple energy. A'nari connects with a bolt from Shadowgrumble as Helenista steps forward with her hands raise as a deep frost grows over the creatures scales. The creature responds to these attacks by breathing more fire which catches Enama in it and as the fire scorches her flesh, she screams out "bad drake!" Claren's crossbolt flies wide and Gareth's stone throw suffers the same fate. Enama then charges the creature at full speed and slaps it with both hands which causes the creature to pause in surprise as Harl charges and leaps in the air and with both hands, drives his spear directly between the creatures shoulder blades, pinning it to the ground, and slaying it at the same time. Enama laments about how she did not want to kill it and make it her pet as Enama scratches the dead creature behind its ears. Enama continues on about how she is going to make this supposed Warlock to fix it or teach Enama how to make on. 

After a short rest and finding nothing else of note in the cavern, the party discovered a narrow passage where Harl takes lead and after what feels like an eternity comes across a ornate door that is left ajar. As Harl peers through, he sees a very ornate decorating and well lit room with an old harmless looking man sitting at a desk playing cards. As Harl gathers his thoughts to converse with the old man Enama forces her way through the line of the party members dragging the drakes dead body and drops it in front of the old man's desk as Enama demands "Fix it or teach me how to make a new one." 

The old man stands up and in a flash of light transforms into a well dressed young man and in a booming voice, "You killed me beloved pet and then make demands of me? You will never leave this mountain alive!" The party charges into the room as Harl tries to flank the Warlock and landing his spear point in the Warlocks thigh as Helenista misty steps into the room. The warlock then unleashes a deadly explosion of fire the drops Helenista and Claren. The remaining party members attempt to surround the warlock to prevent any escape in desperation as the Warlock yet again, sets off an additional explosion of fire that badly scorches the surviving party members before the Warlock succumbs to additional attacks as the Warlock attempts to escape. 

After the fall of the Warlock, the remaining party members quickly searches the room for any more dangerous as Harl heals Claren and Helenista, bringing back from the brink of death. The party finds a door on the far end of the room which leads into a large storage area filled with supplies, some treasures, and a large chest with multiple padlocks on it. The party is able to solve the puzzle using various keys and some brute strength to discover an impressive cache of resources. Eventually, after taking what they needed and searching the body of the Warlock, the party finds a hidden passage that leads them out into fresh air and daylight...


PLAYER NOTES: This was the last session of the "belly of the beast" adventure and I found it highly entertaining. There was a lot of things that we encountered that I was not expecting. One of these being basically finding the back door to the boat house of where the skeletons were building doors. It is to bad they did not take to kindly of being interrupted but it was quickly decided to leave them where they be. Then there was the interactions with the drunk Dwarves and after they calmed down for being interrupted, it was like talking to the doors in the scene from the movie The Labyrinth and was almost maddening. A few other character's threw in their two cents into the conversation as Harl tried to get help or any other useful information out of them. I was entertained about this whole interaction but after a lot longer in real world time dealing with this situation then probably should have passed (but there was a lot of fun that was had), we left them alone and moved on. 

The Guard Drake combat was fun and I am surprised it was dealt with in such a quick manner even though Enama had an instance bound with the guard drake and wanted to try to knock it out to attempt to tame it. The slapping of the drake did not knock it before the guard drake met its end. 

When we finally met up with the Warlock, I think some of us were hoping for some diplomatic interaction before combat broke out but Enama had different ideas and wanted the guard drake revived or to learn how to create one. This obviously did not end well, as the Warlock was pissed off and attacked the party. This combat had more worried as the first fireball took out two of the characters and the second fireball left a lot of the other characters under 10 HP! I think Harl was at 6. I was worried about a TPK or death of at least a few of the characters but the Dice Gods had other plans and I think we won the combat by the skin of our teeth. 

After the session, I had a conversation with the DM and he used a conversion of the first Fighting Fantasy Book, Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I have to say, this is one of the funnest dungeons that I have ever got to play through. The dungeon had a lot of personality and there were some many unique encounters that had nothing to do with combat that was a lot of fun. I really liked the interaction with the merchant and the dwarves. I am bummed we did not do more exploration and I am curious how the interaction with the werewolf would have went. 

The end of these session gave everyone enough experience to reach Level 3! In addition to the level ups, all of the characters items of power increased in effectiveness. 



  • Garvangr (Harl's Spear) - Gained +1 enhancement bonus.
  • Goujian (Prince Claren's Sword) - +1 enhancement bonus.
  • Bag of Three (Gareth's Belt) - Bag of Holding Qualities
  • Shadowgrumble (A'nari's Crossbow) - Enhanced Critical Hit: On a critical, this eapon deals an additional 2d6 piercing damage. 
  • Pia's Belt (Enama's Belt) - +1 to saving throws & DC's to Ki abilities. In addition, a bonus action can be utilized to regain Ki points equal to the roll of the Martial Arts die, this feature cannot be used again until the next dawn.
  • Feyshadow Boots (Helenista's Boots) - The footsteps of the wearer make no sound and the wearer gains advantage on Stealth Checks that rely on moving silently.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Review: Mydwandr


Mydwandr is the most recent release by Olde House Rules and it sits firmly in the FKR realm with a dash for OSR/NSR for a little extra flavor. This build up to this release was pretty silent except for a handful of comments that something is in the works from the author. Then this game dropped and it took off - it did not take long to hit Copper on Drivethrurpg and it has already spurred some fan projects. This game came off of the heels of Gaming Primitive and the release of PP IV: The Divine Spark. So, lets take a deep dive and see what Mydwandr is all about. 

Presentation: Mydwandr clocks in at 60 pages of single spaced words that are cleanly laid out which captures the DIY feel of the 70's and 80's. The layout is supported by a full color cover, 14 full page black and white woodcut style images with some spot illustrations for support. The art and layout makes it feel like a manuscript from the Middle Ages.

Character Creation: Character creation follows a simple flow that provides some key choices. Though, I feel like it is important to post a quote from the book under the header "Characters" as it just provides foundational vibes for the rest of Mydwandr:

"Campaigns matter; but they need characters to occupy their spaces. These are the heroes of the story, and adventures, however enthralling, are just a thought experiment without the brave souls who undertake them. But character creation is likewise important to a campaign’s referee, who may be tasked with crafting their cast of non-player characters; for enemy humans remain the deadliest of all, even in a world of dragons, giants, and dark demons from the pits of Hell."
With that being said, character creation provides some important choices:

  1. Choose a Kindred (Dwarves, Elves, and Humans)
  2. Choose Abilities (Non-humans choose one while Humans choose two)
  3. Record Hit Points (Non-humans start with 10 while Humans start with 15)
  4. Note movement - Unarmored movement is 50' and armored movement is 30
  5. All characters start with a 100 Silver (SP) to buy gear and supplies

Resolution: When the dice need to hit the table for any reason, roll 2d6 and if the dice show 8+ it is considered a success (skills, saves, etc.). If an Ability or fictional situation provides advantage, the roll 3d6 and choose the two highest. 

Abilities come in two types: Common (CN) and Special (SL). Common (CN) Abilities provide extraordinary skill to things everyone can do which translates into Advantage using that Ability (for example: Footman, Mighty). Special (SL) abilities are unique abilities that require training to even attempt the skill. Special Abilities allow the attempt with throwing 2d6 (for example: Exorcist, Backstabber). 

Combat uses the core mechanic with a few nuances and it is important top note that all characters can wear armor and use any weapons. Before combat breaks out initiative is decided by both sides throwing doubles and whoever has the highest total goes first and the initiative is kept  the combat (ties favor the enemy unless fiction dictates differently and elves act on their own initiative due to their ability). There is advice where the Referee can forego initial initiative if one side or the other has a clever plan or ambush. 

Combat is divided in 30 second rounds where each participant gets to move and attack/cast a spell/etc. When it is a characters turn the player rolls doubles usually (unless advantage is acquired) and consult the totals for damage:

2-7: Miss/No Damage 

8-9: 1

10-11: 2

12: 3

Two handed weapons add +2 to damage but shield use is impossible and crossbows add +1 damage but takes a round to reload. 

When a character is reduced to 0 Hit Points, the character dies unless the character is wearing armor. Armor allows a death save and if it is successful, the character is revived to 5 Hit Points but the armor is broken and needs to be repaired or replaced. Carrying a shield provides an Armor Save as well. If a character has both armor and shield they can save verse death twice. 

Finally, Magic in Mydwandr takes on a free form approach.  Magic is covered by the Abilities Healer (heals a set amount of Hit Points per level per day) and Spellbinder (Enter the ye old Magic User - charms can be cast one per level per day. These charms can only be used against one target within 60' either scoring hits or manifesting a different effect with a duration of 3d6 rounds. Characters also cannot cast in armor or with shield as magic takes some serious movement). Outside of these parameters magic is free from and players create their own spells and effects. It is also important to note that magic is powerful and their is no "to hit" rolls or "saving dice" allowed - the charm just takes effect.

Final Thoughts: The reading of this book has more of a unique flow akin to a novel compared to the standard player handbooks that are out in the wild. In addition to the vibe of this book from cover to cover sets a tone of the type of game it wants to run from movement rules (Outdoor/Overland movement is 12 miles per day while underground movement is 500' per game play hour), how all characters can use weapons/wear armor, low focus on treasure and money, to how it is inspired by Hawk the SlayerChronicles of Prydain, Dragon Slayer and Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings Animated Film

(Not in the Book but from Olde House Rules Social Media)

Other aspects of the game to give the game structure and assist the Referee are as follows (some of these reference the vibe or style of Mydwandr):

  • Money and Gear: Mydwandr provides a basic list of items that include weapons, armor, and basic traveling supplies. Prices for everything else are created by the referee with the guidelines of small/basic items cost a roll of a single die, medium items cost 2d6 x 10, large items cost 3d6 x 100, and extravagant items such as an entire ship could cost tens of thousands silver. 
  • Encumbrance: Characters can wear armor, carry a shield, bear a single favored weapon, and carry 25 items that can feasibly fit in a backpack or hang from a belt. 
  • Languages: Non-Humans speak their native language and the common tongue. 
  • Advancement: Experienced is gained from completing major quests, engaging hostilities, and recovering valuable treasure. More experience is given for the quests and valuable treasure the engaging with hostilities. Every 15 experience points gained, the character acquires a new level and will gain additional hits and abilities. 
  • Hazards: This is a section that lumps together monsters, NPC's, traps, ans environmental situations as "Hazards." Each of these hazards uses the same stat line so it is seamless for the Referee to run any hazard the characters come across. One of the numbers on the line is Level which when appropriate, translates as hit total as the Referee times the level by 1, 2, or 3 depending on how difficult the encounter is.
  • Darksight: Nothing that the PC's have access to have Darksight, not even Dwarves! 
  • Miniatures: Quick advice if the group wants to make use of miniatures - every inch squares 5' of movement. This removes the need for grids/hexes. 
  • Treasure: Formula for determining treasure based on treasure type in the stat line and chance for magical items. There are lists of magic item, 
  • Enchanting: Items are created by none player characters only and a PC that posses the required Abilities can write their own scrolls.
  • Towns/Wilderness/Dungeons: Advice, random encounters, and prices for services found in most towns are listed. 

Mydwandr also has approximately 8 pages of setting information regarding the lands, people, and history of Mydwandr. The entire game has a smooth flow and even though it reinforces a certain vibe for a campaign it is nowhere near locked into that idea. There is unlimited flexibility but enough structure to make the Referee's job easy and gives enough setting prompts that a Referee should be able to build off of that or drop adventure's inside the known world without much trouble. 

My favorite aspects of the game are how light sources are important as even Dwarves do not possess darksight, money is spent and acquired in low quantities (with XP only being awards for major treasure or artifact level discoveries), the take on elves, and how initiative is paramount in combat situations. 

With that being said, I wish there was more information or explanation regarding Balance as the paragraph under that section could be interpreted various ways such as all encounters need to be balanced but I do not think that is the intention of the design. I would have also liked to see a play example outside of the included combat example and the inclusion of 4-6 regenerated characters for a group to hit the ground running.

In all Honesty, I hope Olde House Rules rules writes an entire setting book for Mydwandr. Maybe it should be called the Chronicles of Mydwandr?

You cam find Olde House Rules and Mydwandr here:


Monday, October 9, 2023

Powered By Sword and Backpack


I have had this idea for a long time to attempt to create a Powered by Sword & Backpack movement. Something akin to a game jam that does not end. Since my previous post about my invisible rule book for Orthodox Sword & Backpack (some of the things in my invisible rule book has changed) and discovering that the game was removed off of itch but still exists in an old Tumblr blog has made me redouble my effort. This information made me paranoid that Sword & Backpack my vanish to the sands of time like TWERPS, Dinky Dungeons, and countless others. This is something I want to prevent as I think Sword & Backpack is an important touchstone to the table top role playing game scene. 


With that being said, this is more then just historical preservation and a call to arms because this is a CHALLENGE! As James George of Olde House Rules recently stated:

"I've always said crunchy systems are easy to write. It's the minimalist stuff that's challenging." 

I am already working on a hack that is lovingly titled "Arsenic & Old Lace" and I am hoping that it will be ready to be released into the wild sooner rather than later. Though, that is a minor note as a challenge needs rules. I know what you thinking but having some rules will create some uniformity and help keep the original spirit of Sword & Backpack alive. 

Without further ado, here they are:

1. How to Play and Storyteller section

2. At least three "Jobs"

3. Strong Implied Setting

4. Only a Single d20 for Resolution 

5. Invisible Rule Book 

6. Use of the Powered By Sword & Backpack Logo

7. Keep the Spirit of the Dungeonpunk Manifesto alive!

The Sword and Backpack logos were amazingly re-imagined by Luke Herbert (you can find him on IG @herbertappleseed). In addition, you can find the hi-resolution versions of all three styles here!

Monday, October 2, 2023

Glyphs of the Hobo


In my research for The Knights of the Road, I came across Hoboglyphs. These symbols were used by the homeless in the depression and dust bowl era. A lot of the information about them is second hand or from Hobo-Camp-Fire-Tales. A-No. 1. Hobo-Camp-Fire-Tales. Cambridge Springs, PA. The A-No. 1 Publishing Co., 1911. Though, it has been determined that a lot of tales were exaggerated but we will never have all of the information due to it being lost to the sands of time.

I think this would be a great reference and source material for people running The Knights of the Road.

"Hoboglyphs is a fascinating system of symbols understood only by the hobo community back during the Depression era. They would inscribe these symbols using chalk or coal as a way to leave or send a message for the next hobo. Their code features elements like circles, arrows, and more that made up the directional symbols. Hash marks usually meant danger, but many of the signs were cryptic and nearly impossible to understand outside of the hobo community. One example is the symbol for a courthouse nearby; a curly line inside a circle."


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Review: USR Sword & Sorcery Deluxe


Keeping with my theme of Sword and Sorcery from last review, I am finally getting around to reviewing USR Sword and Sorcery Deluxe by Vanishing Tower Press. This game is a hack of Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying by Trollish Delver.

This is a game that has been on my shelf since its first edition iteration which has been replaced by the Deluxe Edition for sometime now. I have ran various one shots using the first edition of the game and ran a single into adventure using the Deluxe version. The Deluxe version is split into two books - the first book contains everything the players and the Crypt Keeper needs to make Characters, Conquer Challenges, Fight Stuff, Carouse, and much more. The second book in the Deluxe series contains the rules for Mass Combat and Magic.


Presentation: USR Sword and Sorcery Deluxe provides approximately fifty pages of a clean easy to read two column layout. with 27 pieces of art. Some of the art is full page which is always nice. The art is black and white and captures the Sword and Sorcery spirit with a dose of weird. The books are well organized with a table of contents and some end papers that could be printed out for quick player references or a Crypt Keeper's screen. The physical product is a print of demand via Drivethrurpg and it is a softback A5 tome. The two books are listed separately so if you do not plan on using Mass Combat or Magic you do not need the second book but it is great for reference and to be used for villains. 

Character Creation: Characters are initially defined by three attributes and "Hits". The three attributes are Action, Wits, and Ego. Hits is a characters stamina and an abstract measure of how much punishment they can take before falling unconscious or dying. Characters are created with the following steps:

  1. Name
  2. Choose which attributes (Action, Wits, and Ego) to place a d6, d8, and a d10 in.
  3. Calculate starting Hits. Hits are calculated by rolling Action and Wits die, then adding the total. Hits cannot be less then 5. 
  4. Roll on the Background Table
  5. Roll on the Background Details Table 
  6. Choose Three Specialisms
  7. Roll 3d6 x 10 for Starting Silver. These are the funds to be able to equip your character with food, gear, weapons, and maybe armor. 

Resolution: The core resolution mechanic is rolling the corresponding attribute dice plus a related Specialism (if applicable) vs. a set target number. 

  • 2+ EASY (e.g. jumping a low wall, tying a knot, bartering for food)
  • 4+ NOT SO EASY (e.g. riding a horse, rock climbing, reading a book)
  • 7+ HARD (e.g. picking a lock, leading an army, smithing weapons and armor)
  • 10+ VERY HARD (e.g. deciphering ancient tomes, practicing alchemy, persuading Kings)
  • 14+ IMPOSSIBLE (e.g. resisting Silver Lotus poison, summon demonic beings)

Specialisms are specific skills that provide a +2 to an attribute roll. There is not list of Specialisms (as they are meant to be open ended by design) but some of the common examples given include Beast Riding, Melee/Close/Ranged Combat, Seduction, City Knowledge, Legends and Lore, Weapons Smith, Orate, Intimidate, Stealth, Tracking, Lock Picking, Chariot Racing, and Leadership. 

Contested actions happen when an action is being directly contested by another PC or NPC. Both parties roll the relevant Attribute, add a related Specialism (if any), and compare results. The highest total wins and the Crypt Keeper can decide if certain actions or attempts require additional successes. 

Combat on the other hand follows a slightly modified version of contested actions. Initiative basically follows the fiction as all combat happens simultaneously where all participants are both attacker and defender at the same time. Each participant in combat gets one attack action and one movement action. There is no defined parameters within these actions as the characters can get as colorful or creative as they want. The character or NPC can choose to give up one of these two actions for either an additional movement action or attack actions but all rolls for that turn have a -2 penalty is this double mirror action is taken. 

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT that once both actions are taken in a round, the character is unable to defend themself any longer and all subsequent attacks directed at said character for the rest of round are considered undefended and the attacker rolls an uncontested test at 4+.

The attacker is the winner of the contested roll and damage dealt is the difference between the two rolls with weapons adding a bonus to the initial contested action roll and armor providing damage reduction. Once damage is calculated, hit location is rolled (on a d20), damage reduction from armor is applied, and final damage total is subtracted from the targets hits. A critical hit happens when the attacker rolls max damage and the defender rolls a 1 or vise versa for Dramatic Failure. If this happens, roll on the respected tables for the results. 

Ranged combat is handled in an uncontested manner with the following difficulty guidelines: 

  • 2+ IMMEDIATE (Close Combat Range)
  • 4+ SHORT (Within 10-40 feet)
  • 7+ MEDIUM (41-70 feet)
  • 10+ LONG (Within 71-200 feet)
  • 14+ EXTREME (Over 200 feet)

When a characters hits reaches 1, the character is incapacitated but conscious, at 0 to -3 that character is unconscious and incapacitated, and at -4 or below the character is dead. Hits are restored at 1 or 2 points per day depending on medical care and carousing can restore an additional 2-4 hits per night of carousing. There may be magical sources of healing...

BONUS INFORMATION: BOOK 2 - MASS COMBAT AND MAGIC: Book Two contains rules for Mass Combat and Magic. The Mass Combat rules provides a concise step by step system in handling mass combat situations that even includes a random encounter table during a mass combat. 

Magic is split into three different disciplines that include Artifact Mastery, Sorcery, and Mesmerism. Artifact Mastery covers the use of powerful items and the book includes examples of 5 artifacts. Mesmerism covers techniques to bend other people to ones will and adjacent affects. Dusts and poisons are used to power these effects and examples of 4 are given. Sorcery governs the traditional style of black magic with the summoning of demons and other overtly magical effects. There are 8 "spells or rituals" provided as examples. 

All magic, regardless of form is dangerous, as high costs, takes time to cast or use, and have high target numbers.

Final Thoughts: The author has definitely read a lot of source material for the Sword and Sorcery genre and has taken the USR system for one hell of a ride to create an authentic Sword and Sorcery experience. The information provided as well as the games design reinforces this experience and the books also includes:

  • Critical Hit Table (d100 table)
  • Dramatic Fumble Table (d100 table)
  • First Strike Rule (For spears and only for the first round of combat)
  • Carousing Rules
  • Carousing Mishap Tables (d100 table)
  • Called Shots 
  • Character Advancement and Experience
  • Magical Mishap Tables 

It is interesting to note that that book discusses how combat is a central theme in Sword and Sorcery but hits are low with expensive armor and combat can quickly turn deadly with an unlucky roll or two, a critical hit, being ganged up on by multiple opponents, and a few other factors. Without some advancements, combat seems to be best avoided. 

The book also alludes to a more abstract combat that does not use hit locations as it provides alternate examples of armor in light/medium/heavy bonuses with weapon bonuses of light/medium/heavy. Each section is +1/+2/+3 respectively. I am grateful for this aspect or tool that is built in as the Crypt Keeper can choose to use hit locations for a more specific combat experience or not for something quicker and more abstract. 

One of my favorite things about this game is the carousing rules and the carousing mishap table. This really helps reinforce the genre and some results from the mishap table could spring board an entire campaign!

I personally found reading through the combat section slightly confusing and it took me a few reads for everything to fall into place. I also confirmed somethings with the author to make sure I understood everything correctly but your mileage may very. I also wish that the books provided a list of foes common and horrible. 

USE Sword and Sorcery Deluxe is slated to be released in three books to mirror the three LBB from a famous and common fantasy game. We currently have two out of three and third book is rumored to contain the authors home brew Sword and Sorcery Setting. I am really excited about this third book! It cannot come out fast enough.  

All in all, this is one of my favorite Sword and Sorcery games and you can find it here: