Monday, 12 October 2020

Catacombers: a GLOG/ItO hack

After months of dibbling and dabbling, I have a working copy of my Goblin Laws of Gaming/Into the Odd RPG hack: CATACOMBERS. Get the PDF here. 

Design Notes

This game is designed to be played in a medieval-esque fantasy world, where human beings are the norm and other races & monsters are strange and mysterious. You could probably jam in whatever gonzo weirdness you like along the way, but player characters start off fairly 'normal.' It has a lot of generally-accepted OSR contents, like XP-for-gold, exploration turns, and encounter dice. It also has lots of GLOG-type stuff, including the magic and class templates. The combat is taken wholesale from Into the Odd with just some minor adjustments. 

I now will go through the whole document, section by section, just rambling about why I made certain decision. 


I spent a lot of time writing a concise player-facing introduction. I took a lot of inspiration from Skerple's GLOG hacks, Rat on a Stick and Many Rats on Sticks. Skerples is a skilled writer and obviously puts a lot of hard work into making rulesets that are digestible. I wanted to have something that could introduce a brand-new player to the game, even if they've never played a role-playing game. I also wanted something that would speak to an experienced role-player to let them know what kind of game this is. 

The main concepts I wanted to express for this game were the situations in which dice are rolled, and the lethality. For me, roleplaying games are about playing roles. I want the game to take place in a shared imagination. Rolling the dice has its place, and that place is rarely and only when called for by the Referee. I want players to actively avoid rolling dice, so I just straight up tell them that: "avoid rolling the dice if you can." I explain that the odds are bad, and that you should be planning and scheming, rather than looking for what checks to make. 

The other thing is the lethality. I want players to know what to expect. And in this game, you should expect your character to die. It's right there on the first page. 

I also stole The Lamp from Moonhop, Type1Ninja's GLOG hack. This is a succinct player advice text shaped like a Lamp. Moonhop is amazing, and was a big inspiration for combining the GLOG and ItO. 


Catacombers has no checks. Only saves. You roll a saving throw when "you attempt something where the risk of failure has interesting and irrevocable consequences." This is very important, in my opinion. There's nothing more boring than making a die roll, failing, and having nothing happen. See: 90% of perception checks, climb checks, lockpick checks when no danger is present, etc. A save is made to avoid danger. Sometimes the referee will call for a save from something outside player control (Dragon's breath), and other times you're making the choice to jump across the chasm. 

Abilities are taken from Into the Odd (with the swap of Will to Charisma just like in Electric Bastionland). Charisma is your general catch-all magic save. Sorry Save VS Magic Wands VS Rod, Staves or Spells, etc. 

I took the Item Slots = STR idea straight from Knave. So brilliant. 

For initiative, I wanted a simple side-based initiative where character ability still came into play. I haven't really tested this out so it might change. 

Combat basically works exactly like Into the Odd, with attacks hitting automatically and armour reducing incoming damage. Morale checks are basically as per B/X, as is Reaction. 

I also put a lot of work into writing a simple explanation for Exploration Turns and the Encounter Die. I feel like I landed on a good mix of gaming rules and natural language. Knowing for a fact that your time in the dungeon matters and is being kept track of vastly improves the game. 

I also included very simple wilderness travel rules. Basically I like hex crawling for the simplicity it can offer, so I don't want to complicate things too much. For me the fun of travel is the encounters along the way, not the actual tracking of movement. 


I stole the Usage Die from Black Hack. 

I tried to write up some basic Hireling explanations and took the pricing list from Knave. 

I also included a simple price sheet so players can know what to expect when shopping in town. I like roleplaying a weird shopkeeper as much as the next person, but I also like the option of just saying "you spent the morning shopping, everything on this list is available somewhere, tally up what you buy and let me know" and then moving on. We'll save the blow-by-blow roleplay for the crab-seller they find in the dungeon, or the 1000-year old elf wizard running a curio shop in the big city. 


The spread of 4d4 for abilities is nice. Keeps things in the middle more. I am a huge fan of 50/50 odds for player rolls, so I like keeping things tight on the bell curve, so that most of the time no saving throw is too far off those odds. 

I wrote a quick d20 list of starting items, called an Inheritance. This is something I LOVE doing. My goal with these starting objects are that they are a) NOT consumable, i.e. they're something that can be used over and over; b) they're unique and make characters feel special; and c) they have many possible uses, especially outside combat. This is also a great opportunity to inject some setting details. If I wanted to run a more science-fantasy game I would add some laser mirrors or electric boots or something. 


My central departure from the GLOG core is my classes. After tons of deliberation and many different versions of classes, I decided to only run with two classes: Martial and Magician. A Martial character is sort of a blend of Fighter, Thief/Specialist, and the Ranger. You have opportunity for customization at Level 1 and Level 4 because you get a choice between some of the Powers. But you also get the fun of some randomization, just like you would with a magical character rolling for their spells. As games go on, I might add to this power list. I also run my games with lots of in-game benefits, like magic items, special equipment, and curses/blessings, so there's lots of ways to add to characters outside the base rules. 

My Magician is basically the same as the classic GLOG wizard; I just changed the name to get that sweet alliteration with the Martial class. I have two schools of magic, of which my first version I've talked about at greater length before


I wrote a few new spells, and took a lot of other ones from Arnold Kemp and Skerples. I love spells. 

Overall Notes

I put a lot of work into the layout for this game. I love monospace fonts and therefore used Roboto Mono for the body text throughout. I used PT Mono for the sub-headings, and Berry Rotunda for the main headings. I love the medieval feel of the font, but also that it is immensely readable. 

I wanted to keep this game short. I know lots of people have this goal, but for me I can't stand a longer game. I want new players to be able to spend 5-10 minutes reading and be able to grasp anything I throw at them. The PDF above is 16 pages long but I also worked in a two-page spread layout mode. That means this game can be printed landscape on regular 8.5x11 paper and folded into a booklet. This would use only 4 sheets of paper. This is really important for me for my home games, because I like to be able to look at a real paper copy, and I also like being able to give out a copy to each player. Plus, with only 4 sheets of paper and minimal ink usage, I can afford to let my players keep their copy. 

I used simple black and white public domain art throughout. The cover art is mine alone, and despite how simple it looks I'm actually super proud of it. The black doorway arch just feels so inviting and ominous. Really plays off the title: you're about to go into this black door, where light and life are strangers. Darkness and death shall surround you, and try to take you for its own. 

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Parson: GLOG Class

This is my attempt at a Cleric-type class. 

A Parson can fight, just like most classes in most GLOG hacks. The Parson has religious magic available to them. The Parson can be a powerhouse against undead, demons, or other unholy creatures. They fill a niche while still remaining generally skilled. 

I didn't want to rely exclusively on the Magic Dice mechanic for the abilities. I love spells but for my Cleric-type I wanted the feeling of miracles and prayers to come through, rather than spells like a wizard casts. I wrote this class for the fantasy medieval-esque GLOG hack I'm working on, which is heavily derived from Moonhop/Into the Odd, so the mechanics are geared towards ItO-style combat. This class is also aligned for a heavily dungeon-based campaign. An ability like Purify can be very valuable when managing food/water resources are an integral part of the game. Same for the Light ability, which is basically a free torch every day. Those kinds of things can be important in the dungeon, but totally limp when you're in civilization or a high-fantasy adventure campaign. 

A Parson worships the Lady of Light, or any other generic good-aligned deity. The Lady of Light loves life, light, family, nature, and appropriately-timed death. She is opposed to the Duke of Darkness, who loves darkness, solitude, machines, blood, and undeath. A Parson knows that the Lady of Light has many goals and desires, so no Parson feels obligated to follow some strict dogma set out by an organized church. Sure, some follow very clear scriptures and head out on adventures that explicitly further goals of their church. But many others have similar motivations as any adventurer—find treasure, get rich, seek glory. They just also like to think of their dungeon delves as bringing a little bit of light to the darkest places. And if they find a goblin cult worshipping the Duke of Darkness? Great! Time to squash some heretics. 

Class: Parson

You are a priest of the Lady of Light. You don’t necessarily need to follow the doctrines of a specific Church, but people recognize you as a holy figure. You love life, nature, light, family, and friends. 

Starting Equipment: Gambeson cloth armour, Hammer (d6 damage), Censer.
Starting Skill: Dogma, Literature, Medicine. 

You gain +1 HP for every two Parson templates you possess. 

A: Ordained, Light, Turn
B: Heal
C: Purify, Command
D: Greater Heal

Ordained. You can perform weddings, conduct funeral rites, bless holy water, give sermons, and other clerical duties.

Turn. Present your hammer or censer: all undead, demonic, or otherwise unholy creatures within 30’ of you are burned by holy light for 1 damage and repelled. After 1 round, you must save CHA to continue repelling them each round. You can Turn as many times per day as you have Parson templates.

Light. Once per day, your censer or hammer are blessed and shed light like a torch (Ud6). 

Heal. You or anyone in your party may touch an ally and roll 1d8, healing that many HP (or 1 point of STR). If the die shows 1-3 it can be used again later. If it shows 4-6 it cannot be used again until the next sunrise. If it shows 7-8, the prayer fizzles and has no effect, but may be cast again later.

Purify. Once per day, you touch spoiled, rotten, poisoned, or stagnant food and/or water, purifying enough to feed and water as many creatures as you have Parson templates. 

Command. Twice per day, you may shout a one-word command at a hearing person within 50’, who is compelled to obey. After 1 round they save CHA to resist on each of their turns.

Greater Heal. You gain a second d8 to be used for Heal. You may use both at once, but another member of your party casting Heal may only use one at a time. 

Friday, 11 September 2020

d12 Original Magic Items

The Horn of Diminishing Plasma

  1. Emperor's Topaz. When this fist-sized topaz gemstone is held it enchants all the holders' clothes and other held items to be invisible and immaterial. When the gem is let go all reappears. 
  2. Elephant Paperweight. Sextuples the weight of any object upon which it is placed. 
  3. War Banner. This finely wrought cloth has an embroidery depicting mounted men defeating a stone troll. Whatever this banner is draped over turns to stone. When the banner is removed, all returns to normal. 
  4. Window Shield. A square window with four panes which is worn like a shield. Once per day it can swallow an incoming missile attack, like an arrow or cannonball. Additionally, once per day the window can be placed against a wall or other solid surface, where it will meld into and create a real window. This window can be looked through, and opened to crawl through. When the window is first placed, any swallowed missile weapons will fire back out, straight into the one who places it, with no chance to dodge or block.
  5. Beef Scented Knock-Out Candle. Within one minute of lighting, this candle gives off a strong smell of cooking beef. Anyone breathing within 5 feet of the candle is knocked out for one hour. 
  6. Immovable Flute. When you play any note on this thin metal flute, the flute becomes fixed in place. Until someone blows into the flute again, it doesn't move, even if it is defying gravity. The flute can hold up to 8,000 pounds of weight. More weight causes it to deactivate and fall. 
  7. Levitation Staff. When this black ash staff is held in two hands, the wielder can command it with their mind to levitate straight upwards. The staff cannot levitate downwards, and you have to hold on really tightly or else you'll fall off.
  8. Person-Dog Hat. When you put this hat onto a dog it turns into a person. They cannot speak, but do know how to operate their human body (e.g. they can walk properly and manipulate objects). They have their same personality as before. 
  9. Sunflower Oil. This sealed glass bottle is mostly full—half with thick yellow oil and half with water. When allowed to sit undisturbed for a few minutes, the oil and water fully separated, and the oil glows like a torch. When the bottle is touched or moved, the oil and water begin to mix and the light goes out. If the bottle is opened the oil goes rancid and stops working. 
  10. Horn of Diminishing Plasma. All who hear this horn blown lose a dose of plasma from their blood. Dehydration, dizziness, and fainting can occur. 
  11. Runic Riprap. Throw this handful of engraved gravel and it enlarges into a pile of jagged boulders that take up 30 cubic feet. They fill the shape of the container they're tossed into—a pit, corridor, room, etc. One use only. 
  12. Glass Flowers. A dozen blown-glass flowers in a little porcelain vase. Crack one flower in your hand and the scent of you and all your companions (plus anything you carry) disappears for 24 hours. This destroys the flower. 

Friday, 28 August 2020

Stocking dungeons with one die roll

Some History

In OD&D, Gygax lays out his procedure for randomly stocking a dungeon in "Section 8: Referee Information," beginning on page 68 (Single Volume Edition from 2011). 

  • "Thoughtfully place several of the most important treasures, with or without monstrous guardians."
  • Roll 1d6 for each remaining room: 1-2 indicates a monster.
  • Roll 1d6 for all rooms again: 1-3 on "those rooms or spaces with monsters in them indicates some form of treasure is present." A 1 on a "room or space which is unoccupied indicates that there is some form of treasure there."
He then provides monster tables for stocking level-appropriate monsters, and treasure tables for level-appropriate treasure. To me, this procedure feels a bit clunky because of the multiple die rolls. The percentages don't map out exactly to any standard die sizes. 

Result (d6)%total
1. Monster16.67%33.33%
2. Monster16.67%-
3. Empty16.67%66.67%
4. Empty16.67%-
5. Empty16.67%-
6. Empty16.67%-

But with a little difference it can be mapped to a d10. 

Result (d10)%total
1. Monster10.00%30.00%
2. Monster10.00%-
3. Monster w/ Treasure10.00%-
4. Monster w/ Treasure10.00%-
5. Empty10.00%60.00%
6. Empty10.00%-
7. Empty10.00%-
8. Empty10.00%-
9. Empty10.00%-
10. Empty w/ Treasure10.00%-

So we have some appropriate treasures and monsters placed by the referee, and then 50% of remaining rooms are "empty." Overall we have two-thirds or 66% of all rooms empty (aside from the ones placed by the referee at the beginning). This feels like a lot of empty rooms. I know that "empty" doesn't necessarily mean EMPTY, it simply means no monster, no treasure, no traps, and no special things. Courtney Campbell's On Tricks, Empty Rooms, and Basic Trap Design is a brilliant reference to make your "empty" rooms shine. They don't have to be boring. But they're not very interactive. And interactivity is fun. 

The procedure was simplified to a single roll in some later editions. In the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide (pg. 171), we find this table:

Table V. F.: Chamber or Room Contents
1-12 Empty
13-14 Monster Only
15-17 Monster and Treasure
18 Special
19 Trick/Trap
20 Treasure

This simplifies the stocking procedure to one die roll. This method provides 60% of all rooms to be "empty." So slightly fewer empty rooms than before. But we also see the addition of "Special" and "Trick." Not sure what exactly that might mean to all referees, but I sure do like the idea of "Special." Special can be anything I want. Extra creatures, something weird to play with, inspiration to add something odd and wonderful. 

In 1981 Moldvay Cook Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (page B52) we find these tables:

First Roll: CONTENTS
1-2. Monster
3. Trap
4. Special
5-6. Empty. 

Second Roll: TREASURE?
1. Monster = yes. Trap = yes. Empty = yes. 
2. Monster = yes. Trap = yes. Empty = no. 
3. Monster = yes. Trap = no. Empty = no. 
4-6. Monster = no. Trap = no. Empty = no. 

Here are the percentages:

4Monster w/ Treasure5.56%16.67%
5Monster w/ Treasure5.56%
6Monster w/ Treasure5.56%
9Trap w/ Treasure5.56%5.56%
18Empty w/ Treasure5.56%5.56%

With a little tweaking this can be mapped to a d20. 

5Monster w/ Treasure5.00%15.00%
6Monster w/ Treasure5.00%-
7Monster w/ Treasure5.00%-
10Trap w/ Treasure5.00%5.00%
19Empty w/ Treasure5.00%10.00%
20Empty w/ Treasure5.00%-

If we write it out in the same format as the 1st Edition AD&D table, we see some differences. 

Chamber or Room Contents
1-5 Empty
6-9 Monster Only
10-12 Monster and Treasure
13-14 Trap
15 Trap and Treasure
16-18 Special
19-20 Treasure

Now we only have 25% of rooms truly empty. That's way less. And now it feels like too few maybe? I'm not sure. Older editions of D&D really seemed to love the d6. Maybe because it's common and familiar. They seem equally fond of the d20. Excellent spread, I'll admit. We all have personal feelings of different dice and their combinations. 

My Dungeon Stocking Die

For my personal use, I decided to go with the d12. This allowed me to still work with the common fractions from the d6, i.e. 25%, 33.33%, and 50%. I kept Special but I dropped Trick. I also like to use the term "Creature" rather than "Monster" because I feel like it encompasses more, like neutral factions and potential allies. 

Linden's Dungeon Room Content Die
1-4. Empty
5-6. Creature
7-8. Creature with Treasure
9-10. Trap
11. Special
12. Special with Treasure

I love this d12 I have from Chessex. 

And here are the percentages:

Result (d12)%total
7Creature w/ Treasure8.33%16.67%
8Creature w/ Treasure8.33%-
12Special w/ Treasure8.33%8.33%

I ended up with 33.3% of rooms being empty. This feels like a good point for me. Enough to make dungeons feel expansive and realistic (why are there goblins in every single room?), while not having too much empty space with no interactivity. On average, the party should travel through no more than two empty rooms in a row before stumbling across something fun. That feels good to me. 

I also like having very populated dungeons, so fitting Creatures into 33.3% of rooms feels good too. In a similar figure, on average, players should get a break from social/combat encounters after no more than two rooms. 

I ended up putting two "Special" entries—one with Treasure and one without—because I love Special. If I'm keying a themed dungeon, this will often be something interesting to do with the theme. For example, in a seasonal-themed dungeon a room enchanted to have snow fall from the ceiling. Not quite empty, but also not really a Creature, Trap, or Treasure. It's something interesting, thematic, and interactive (snowball collection, source of clean water, etc.)

Something I'll have to decide about is the amount of Treasure. Is having Treasure in only 25% of rooms enough? I think it is, but maybe not. It will force me to make treasure caches a little bigger than others might. But I don't mind that. I'm not a fan of parties mowing through gnoll after gnoll simply to collect the 3cp per pocket that they can find. I'd rather slog through nine treasure-less rooms and finally end up with a golden necklace dripping with rubies the size of my eyeball. Much more satisfying. 

Where We Go From Here

How do you stock your dungeons? Do you do it all by feel, or keep it random? Are there other tables you use for stocking dungeons? I know that Papers & Pencils made their own table for stocking their Two Week Megadungeon. Are there any others our there that you know of? I'd love to hear about it. 

Monday, 24 August 2020

GLOG: Town & Country Wizards

For my fantasy medieval-esque GLOG hack I don't want to overwhelm players with too many class choices. I'm designing my hack with my friends in mind, because I'll be the one running it, and they'll be the ones playing. And I know that if there are too many choices they'll focus on those choices too much, or not read them at all. So for wizards, I wanted to distill it down into two schools, both of which are appealing for different reasons.

Instead of an Orthodox wizard and then other themed schools, I decided to go with the Town Wizard and the Country Wizard. This feels to me like a good social division in a medieval-esque fantasy world. The Town Wizard has some more social spells and classic D&D wizard spells, whereas the Country Wizard has some more nature-based spells, including some of the custom ones I designed for my one-stat GLOG hack Sword Ferns & Salmon Flesh. Some of the material is taken from Skerple's Garden Wizard, which was a big inspiration for the Country Wizard. 

*only spells with asterisks are new and listed with full descriptions. Anything else can be whatever GLOG version of it that you prefer. I've definitely seen at least three different versions of Light floating around. 

School: Town Magic

Set up shop in a clapboard storefront, charge a pretty penny for charms and potions, and you've got yourself a career that mommy and daddy will most certainly not be proud of. You love walking through market stalls, seeing the whispers and pointed fingers, as you flick your long robes here and there. You love the city and the city loves you back. 

Granny by Nathan Park

Starting Equipment

  • Spellbook
  • Quill & Ink 
  • Dagger (d6 damage)
  • Blank scroll
  • Red robes


You always know where the best and worst inns are in every town you visit. 


To regain your magic dice, you must meditate for 10 minutes each morning somewhere indoors. Even a tent or lean-to counts. You must describe this to the other players.

Spell List

  1. Lock
  2. Knock
  3. Feather
  4. Floating Disk
  5. Grease
  6. Gutter Snipe*
  7. Light
  8. Sleep
  9. Illusion
  10. Levitate
  11. Charm Person
  12. Wall of Fire

Spell Descriptions

6. Gutter Snipe

R: 200’ | T: creature | D: instant

A pile of alleyway garbage conjures in the air and flings itself into the target creature, dealing [sum] + [dice] damage. (this is basically Magic Missile)


  1. Your Magic [dice] only return to your pool on a result of 1-2 for 24h. 
  2. Cough up soot. Take d6 damage
  3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds. Save CHA or permanent.  
  4. Brain lobe smoothens. Lose 1 Magic die for 24h. 
  5. Lungs convulse from soot. Agony for 1d6 rounds. 
  6. Cannot cast spells for 1d6 hrs. 


  1. Your face is marked with a painful brand. Take d6 damage. Members of civilized organizations (e.g. trade guild, city guards, wizard college) shun and mistrust you.
  2. Cannot cast spells for 1 day. Speaking to civilized folk is straining. Your brand grows and you lose 2 CHA. 
  3. Flames erupt and burn all your hair away. Your scalp and hands are marked with painful brands. Take 2d6 damage. You are wanted. Members of all civilized organizations, openly and secretly pursue you for debts, arrest warrants, and vigilante justice. There is no escape.  

School: Country Magic

Relax in your rural cottage; the customers respect you and your craft. Plenty of time for knitting and drinking tea when only bumpkins bother you for crop advice and sheep sorcery. Stroll through bucolic landscapes along dirt roads, and breathe pure forest air near riverbanks and lakes. 

Crone by Lane Brown. Her hut looks like Shrek's swamp house. 

Starting Equipment

  • Spellbook
  • Quill & Ink 
  • Staff (d6 damage)
  • Waterproof boots
  • Green robes


You can identify mundane plants and animals by sight.


To regain your magic dice, you must meditate for 10 minutes each morning within sight of natural beauty. Even mold growing on a rock counts. You must describe this to the other players.

Spell List

  1. Fog*
  2. Weave*
  3. Tree Talk*
  4. Locate Animal
  5. Woodbend
  6. Black Beak*
  7. Light
  8. Smoke Step*
  9. Battering Beam*
  10. Levitate
  11. Wall of Stone
  12. Uproot

Spell Descriptions

1. Fog

R: 30’ | T: self | D: [dice] hours

You breath out a bunch of fog. Everything up to 30’ away from you is obscured. Sunlight, wind, or heat dissipates the fog in 10 minutes. If you cast this spell with 3 or more [dice], other casters cannot cast spells within the fog.

2. Weave

R: 50’ | T: plants or rope | D: [dice]x 10 minutes

You weave plants into a rope [dice]x 30’ long. The rope animates and you can move it [sum]x 10’ in any direction, including levitating in the air. It will tie itself into knots, pull itself taut, etc. You can target existing rope, provided they’re made of natural materials. 

3. Tree Talk

as Dendrigraphy from Skerple's Garden Wizard

6. Black Beak

R: 200’ | T: creature | D: instant

A sharp black beak conjures in the air and flies into the target, dealing [sum] + [dice] damage. (this is basically Magic Missile)

8. Smoke Step

R: 100’ | T: self | D: instant

You teleport to some place that you can see, leaving behind a puff of wood smoke. For each [dice] above 1, you can take someone with you.

9. Battering Beam

R: 30’ | T: object, creature | D: instant

A beam of light pushes target [dice] x 10’ straight away from the caster.


  1. Grow fish eyes (blurry vision) for 1d6 rounds. 
  2. Salmon roe hatch in your belly. Take d6 damage. 
  3. Grow fins for 1d6 rounds. Save CHA or permanent.
  4. Weak fish flesh. Lose 2 STR for 24h.
  5. Gills. Agony for 1d6 mins as you cannot breathe.
  6. Gain a fish mouth for 1d6 hours. You cannot speak properly or cast spells. 


          1. Cannot cast spells for 1 day. Permanent scales. 
          2. Cannot cast spells for 1 day. Permanent fins and weak fish flesh (lose 2 STR).
          3. Permanent gills, eyes, and fish mouth. You are a salmon.