Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Language for Wizards

This is a pretty half-baked one, sort of a corollary to my last post. Partial inspiration from Vayra and Arnold.


Is bullshit. There should be lots of different human languages in your setting. A singular "common tongue" is total bullshit, meant to smooth over difficult worldbuilding and actually challenging social encounters. 

There are about 8 billion people on the earth, and there are about 6,500 languages spoken, some of which by very few people. Even if with 100 times fewer, with a mere 65 languages, that's still about 64 more languages than are commonly spoken by humans in your average D&D game. 

(There's an argument that the common tongue is "fantasy Esperanto" or "fantasy Ithkuil," which is a very cool idea that I would love to see developed but thus far haven't, really.)

Point is, there are lots of lots of languages, and all of them are normal to somebody. That's not what this post is about. Merchants and couriers and diplomats will learn lots and lots of languages here in D&D-fantasyland, but those are all human languages.


Things can speak. This is known. 

On midwinter's eve and the heydays of high summer, when the traveling fairs and circuses and fair folk come into town, there can be sometimes found an elder traveling with them who speaks one of the old tongues. Perhaps run the riddling-contest, or they are the teller-of-tales, or they a watchful impresario. No matter which way, they will occasionally murmur words in those strange tongues, and send shivers down your spine.

What makes a wizard a wizard is their ability to speak to things that normal people can't. This is sorcery, witchcraft, uncanniness—speaking to things that shouldn't talk and then having them reply.

Things can speak. This is known. 


The language of trees, and woods, and ancient gnarled things.
Spoken by elves, faeries, elk, wolves, crows, pines, oaks, elms, roots, vines, creepers, fallen leaves, and acorns.
Wizards who speak sylvan are often called druids, witches, or greenseers.

The language of fire, and heat, and roiling changing things.
Spoken by phoenixes, dragons, djinn, salamanders, fireflies, fire, ash, charcoal, dead wood, stews, smelters, and summer haze.
Wizards who speak phlogiston are often called sorcerers, pyromancers, or conjurers.

The language of stone, and earth, and hard unmoving things.
Spoken by dwarves, giants, trolls, worms, moles, rock, stone, clay, shale, brick, iron, hammers, armor, ancient crusty bread, etched stone runes & glyphs, and cellars.
Wizards who speak terra are often called hermits, geomancers, or runecarvers.

The language of rot, and age, and decrepit dead things.
Spoken by ghouls, zombies, bones, carcasses, carrion, roadkill, tombstones, coffins, dead trees, ancient ruins, vacant houses, mildewing books, spoilt food, plagues, anything preserved in ominous fluids, and chrysanthemums.
Wizards who speak ruin are often called necromancers, haruspices, or heretical priests.

5. VIA
The language of roads, and bridges, and long traveling things.
Spoken by horses, mules, ponies, wagons, carts, wheels, way-signs and -stones, roads, bridges, cobblestones, inns, rivers, backpacks, and certain generous stars.
Wizards who speak via are often called mendicants, wanderers, or sages.

The language of caverns, and the sea, and ancient hidden things.
Spoken by mind flayers, squids, octopi, crabs, the ocean depths, stalactites, stalagmites, limestone, elder gods, caverns, anything petrified, pale blind wriggling things, fear, caverns, pits so far you cannot see the bottom, and whale-bone.
Wizards who speak deep are often called warlocks, occultists, or esoterics.

There are obviously many more old tongues: the language of mirrors and eyes, the language of cities and machines, the language of secrets and murder, the language of coins and laws, the language of blood and heart, the language of wind and thunder, and many, many more. These are just the ones I came up with sitting at my machine here and now.


There are a lot of ways you could approach this. Some languages are taught from master to apprentice, some via a huge collection of dusty tomes, some by divine blessing, some by living far from humans for many years, and some by having some otherworldly thing touch your brain.

Books that contain these languages are very, very dangerous. Those are books that turn ordinary people into wizards.

I'd probably seed these throughout my game world, let players chase after them. Maybe, instead of being a highborn noble or a trained soldier or a devout priest as a starting character, you're somebody who happens to know one of these languages.


I can talk to you and, with the right words, make you do things. 
  • Here's $100 for your new book.
  • Take me out to dinner and I might give you a kiss.
  • Give me all the money in the bag, or I pull the trigger.
The old tongues operate by the same measures: you offer something, and they'll do something for you. Difference is, dead bones and wolves and wagon-wheels and ancient caves all have very different desires; some achievable, some not.

Part of what distinguishes one wizard from another is which languages they speak, yes, but what really distinguishes a good wizard from bad is how they use the languages they know. 

And, obviously, what they do with that knowledge, now that they have it.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Wisdom for Wizards

Hot Take: Wizards' power should scale more from Wisdom than Intelligence. 

Maybe. I'm not 100% convinced. But given the historical tradition of the clergy as the educated, monastic, institutional class and sorcerers as the mysterious, outcast, freak class, I'm inclined to base Clerics on Intelligence, and Wizards on Wisdom. There's decent arguments against this (and really it should scale off of both but that's a level of crunch nobody wants to deal with), but we're going to roll with it.


Anybody can cast a spell. It takes time and knowledge and effort and you might mess it up, sure, and those who carry around ancient tomes full of spells might well be wizards, but merely spellcasting does not a wizard make.

What makes a wizard? Secrets. Insight. Perceiving reality as others do not. Seeing that which others cannot. Wisdom.

With that in mind, here is Wisdom for Wizards:

10 Wisdom
You are as perceptive and observant as an ordinary person. You know that which an ordinary person would.

11 Wisdom
You can always remember your dreams.

12 Wisdom
You know when you perceive a lie, be it written or spoken. When you meet someone, you instinctively know one secret about them.

13 Wisdom
You can speak the secret language of birds; if properly bribed and persuaded, you may be able to recruit spies.

14 Wisdom
You can see through illusions, and can see invisible things.

15 Wisdom
You can see ghosts, faeries, demons, angels, and spirits. Each of those—whether others can see them or not—will sometimes tell you things they wouldn't others.

You can also see DEATH. When you die, he'll come to collect you personally.

16 Wisdom
You can read all written text, no matter its language or script. You know the secret language of runes.

17 Wisdom
You can see the true forms of shapeshifters and the disguised. If they have multiple forms, you can see one form in your left eye and one in your right.

18 Wisdom
If looking through a mirror or lens, you can see and speak into other planes of existence, like Hell or Fairyland; assuming there's someone there, they can see you and reply in turn. 

19 Wisdom
You can see into the future. If you keep your eyes closed for more than a minute, you will start to see fragments and snatches of what will, inevitably, happen to you. The visions may be unclear, but they are always accurate.

20 Wisdom
Any question you perceive—through sight or sound or another force entirely—you know the full and complete answer to, whether you want to or not. 

There maybe should be some hits to your CHA or INT to go with this, but whatever it's fine. 


It's etymologically sound, nerds.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Δ Discipline Redux

This is based on my old troublesome Discipline delta tree.


Anyone can learn the disciplines. All it takes, fittingly, is discipline.

Each discipline has requirements: complete the requirements, and you can perform the discipline. Requirements are in italics.

These disciplines are numbered: you must have all disciplines from the previous rank to learn a discipline of the next. Other than that, no requirements: any class, any level, any person.


(0) Meditation
Every day, meditate for ten minutes at one of the following times: sunrise, sunset, high noon, or midnight. If you fail to do this, you cannot use any other disciplines until you do.
You can feel every inch of your body in sharper focus and greater detail. With a moment, you can regulate your breathing from any variations. If you spend a minute focusing on your breathing, you can soothe your mind to an even calm.

(1) Limber
Spend an hour every day practicing calisthenics in complete silence. If you speak or make other noise, begin again.
You know how to do all of the basic athletic and acrobatic moves required of you: climbs, rolls, vaults, leaps, hurdles, handstands, handsprings, somersaults, flips, and so on. You can't do them perfectly every time, but you know the foundations. 

(2) Strikes
Find somewhere stony and barren, where no plants grow. Spend a full day meditating there in silence, from your chosen meditation time all the way to that same chosen meditation time.
Provided you have meditated today, you can strike with your hands, feet, elbows, and knees with the power and might of clubs and stones—and you can do it without breaking your bones. 

While clubs and stones are not as strong as axes and arrows, they are certainly stronger than ordinary fists.

(2) Weave
Wear nothing but threadbare rags: no shoes, no gloves, no proper clothing. Just wraps and shifts and robes, enough to provide for decency's necessities.
If you keep your hands in front of you and regulate your breathing, you can avoid the strikes and blows from a single foe.  If you move your hands (like to hit them), or if your breathing gets out of whack (like to sprint away), or if you can't see them, this doesn't work. But: keep your hands up, keep breathing, and keep your eyes on them, and they can never hit you.

This doesn't work against multiple foes. It also doesn't work against non-physical-attack-ish attacks, like dragon's breath or magic lightning.

(2) Concentration
Meditate with your eyes closed. Adorn yourself in at least a couple tattoos, scars, or brands.
While you meditate, your mind cannot be unduly influenced: charms, possessions, and their similar ilk cannot affect you. 

So long as you meditate at least an hour per day, the long-term damaging effects of loneliness, isolation, and routine cannot effect you. 

(3) Rest
Sleep on uncompromising stone or wood or earth, and carry a pebble in each of your pockets.
You can meditate and sleep anywhere—atop sharp sticks, on jagged rocks, in bitter snow, half-submerged in stagnant water, and the like—like it was a soft feather pillow.

You decide exactly when you want to fall asleep, how long you want to sleep for, whether you can be roused from your sleep, and whether or not you wish to dream.

(3) Fall
Find a mountaintop where you can see nothing higher. Meditate there for a full day, from chosen time to chosen time.
If you fall and shed some external piece of clothing as you land—like a cloak, hat, scarf, sash, and so on—you suffer no harm from the fall, regardless of height.

(3) Leap
Touch solid earth with bare skin, or touch something permanently affixed to solid earth, like a tree.
With a length of something loose and light in your hands—a scarf, a whip, a rope, and so on—you can leap as far and as high as a mountain lion. Critically, though, you only travel as fast as a normal human jump; this might leave you in the air for several seconds. 

(4) Haste
Using only your bare hands, chase after and catch a squirrel, a hawk, and a carp.
With empty hands and bare feet, you can run as fast as a horse canters. For every ten minutes you've spent meditating today, you can run for an hour without growing over-tired. 

(4) Throws
Carry a pack at least half-full of rocks.
If you hit someone with a kick or punch and have two limbs squarely planted on the ground, you can launch them backwards. If they're small, they get launched far; if they're large, it's not quite as much distance.

(4) Tranquility
Touch no metal. Wood, stone, and bone are fine, as is metal wrapped in leather or cloth, but you cannot touch metal with bare skin.
While meditating and unarmed, you appear harmless; foes will be put off-guard, and enemies hunting for you will likely not mark you down as anyone of import. It takes someone of great will and passion to attack a person harmlessly meditating.

(5) Balance
Spend an entire day with only your hands touching the ground, never your feet.
As long as one hand or foot is touching a solid surface, you never lose your balance. You might sway and bob and tilt, but you'll never fall over. This includes handstands, meditative poses, odd martial maneuvers, and that kind of thing. 

That said, if something hits you hard enough to literally lift you off the ground, this probably won't work.

(5) Coordination
Shave all the hair off the top of your head. Adorn yourself in at least a few scars, tattoos, or brands.
While your breath is held, you always know exactly how close to you everything is, and if it's moving, how close it will be. This means, for example, you know precisely where a falling raindrop will land on you, or where an enemy's arrow-point will pierce your body.

With difficulty, you can move to avoid or interact with such moving objects: brush arrows to redirect their course, catch enemy blades mid-swing, or avoid oncoming falling raindrops.

(5) Empath
Do not speak.
If you observe a living thing for fifty of their heartbeats, you can feel their basic emotions: anger, fear, joy, hunger, and so on. If you touch them, skin to skin, this only takes three heartbeats.

This lasts as long as you can hear them and you do not speak. You can feel the emotions of multiple living things at once.

(6) Iron Hand
Forge a weapon with your own two hands. Then, hang it on a wall within easy reach, and never use it.
When you wield a weapon, you can feel every inch of it as if it was the skin on your hand; just as you do not have to think to ball your fist or take a step, you do not have to think to cut or thrust with the weapon. 

As long as you aren't holding up something else with the weapon, it is as if the weapon is an empty hand. This works for Weave, Haste, Balance, and so on. 

If the weapon intentionally leaves your hand, you can still feel it until you lose control: for example, if you toss a club in the air and then catch it, you feel it for the duration; if you toss a club in the air and let it fall, you feel it until you no longer could have caught it. 

(6) Whirlwind
Hold your breath for ten consecutive minutes.
While your breath is held: when others strike, you strike twice; if a foe misses you, you can strike them instantaneously; you can draw and stow your weapons in a flicker of an eye.

(6) Prediction
Blindfold yourself, unable to see.
When you speak someone's true name, you know exactly what they're going to do, moments before they do it: where they'll strike, where they'll move, how they'll next maneuver. If you name someone new, your predictions transfer.

(7) Awareness
Engage in no vices.
Your senses no longer require their organs to function: you can see with your eyes closed, hear with ears muffled, smell with your nose filled, taste with your tongue gagged, and feel with your skin numbed.

(7) Truth
Omit nothing relevant. Spread no rumors. Tell no lies. 
If you can detect a person in any way, you know when they're lying, when they're hiding something, and when they're going to betray you.

If they meditate with you for an hour, you can compel them to tell you the truth.

(7) Paralyze
Spend a full day without moving a muscle. A full chosen-time-cycle where, other than your breath, you may not move. If you move, begin again.
When you strike a foe, you can choose to inflict no harm. If you strike them in this way once for every sense they have (for most creatures, this is five), you can paralyze them, leaving their body rigid and their muscles locked. 

They remain paralyzed for fifty heartbeats (your heart, not theirs). If you begin meditating during that minute, they stay paralyzed for as long as you meditate.

(8) Synchrony
Wear no finery, indulge no pleasures, possess no wealth.
Every hour you spend meditating feeds you like a full meal, and refreshes you like sleeping for two hours. If you spend six hours of a day meditating, you do not age that day.

(8) Improvise
Choose a weapon: it must never leave your side, it must be used in your meditations, and you must never fight with it.
You master a weapon. Once mastered, you can wield any item at all similar in place of it. For example, once you have a mastered the sword, you can wield a stick with the same power and efficacy as a blade of the finest steel.

(8) Quiver
Only one foot may touch the ground at a time.
With your eyes closed and your breath held, you can Weave against as many opponents as you have limbs. 

With Iron Hand, you can increase this number beyond your natural four (if you can juggle weapons, this number can get very high indeed).

(9) Emptiness
You must stand atop a cricket, an ant, a beetle, a fly, and a preying mantis, each in turn, without crushing any of them. If any of them are harmed, begin again.
At your choosing, you can compel your body to weigh as little as an insect, but maintain the strength and size of your regular form. This means you can leap huge distances, run up walls, walk across the surface of water, glide on a strong wind, balance atop thin reeds, and otherwise remain near-weightless. 

Whenever you choose, you can return to your normal weight.

(9) Rend
Kill no living thing: not animals, not plants, not people. 
When you strike a foe, you can choose to inflict no harm. If you strike them in this way once for every year they have been alive, and are not struck once in turn, you mark them.

Within a year and a day of a foe being marked, you can, with a twitch of your finger, cause their spirit to leave their body. 

After rending a foe in this way, you can never perform this discipline again.

(9) Wisdom
Meditate for one hour for a year and a day.
Once per month, while in meditation, you learn the true answer to any one question you might have.

(10) Mastery
Learn every other discipline, and meditate for a decade.
You can fly.


The original Discipline had serious issues because it involved mountains and mountains of "do X task for Y amount of time"—people rightfully joked that it would take a spreadsheet to keep track of all. 

This redux solves that by essentially making any previous ability that followed that system into a modal ability: if you perform some specific task or follow a specific rule, you get the perk. Otherwise, you don't. 

This does lead to a slightly odd scenario where actually unlocking abilities is very straightforward—the challenge is then in maintaining them. You'll have to spend some time before an encounter thinking through which of your abilities you want to active and when.

The other big change I made is that now you have to have all three Disciplines from a rank before you go to the next one. I did this because 1) each level has about one non-modal ability (e.g. complete a task, get a permanent benefit) and it helps to slow the otherwise-possibly-rapid bursts through the modal ranks, and 2) because I feel like Discipline is about proving yourself every step of the way; pyromancy or whatever can be more loose and fluid, but here, you gotta put in the work to reap the benefits.

But yeah. There are still some "complete a one-day task" requirements and a couple later ones that involve very long stretches of time, but I hope this version of Discipline is much more usable.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Big Wet Six: Bloody Ballistics

Continued from quite a while ago
c/w for violence and gore

I've spent a fair bit of time mulling over how to gun combat in the Big Wet. Here's what I want the system to do:
  1. Feel extremely fucking dangerous; a huge commitment. In my view, the Big Wet's not about violence itself so much as it is about the continual threat of violence. It's about tension, slowly building and then releasing all at once. 
  2. Feel messy and unpredictable. Things should go wrong in a fight, frequently. I like my apocalyptic games gory, both in literal terms and in the "gory details" sense—a kind of, like, old-school tactility. I want players to feel the fight.
  3. Be reasonably tactical: players' moment-to-moment tactics should matter (do I shoot? do I go for cover?) as well as their bigger strategic decisions (which weapons should I bring? how many bullets do I spend?). I don't need full wargame here, but I'd like a layer of depth to it.
  4. Not be monstrously crunchy. Ideally, I'd like a single turn of combat—one volley / exchange / shot / etc.—to just take a single dice roll. 

I'm not sure this is all achievable, frankly, but that's not going to stop me trying. Boot Hill, from what I know of it, hits points 1-3 but not 4. Base Mothership hits 1, 3, and 4, but not 2. Apocalypse World hits 1(ish), 2 (assuming you use the harm moves), and 4, but not really 3. 

Here's what I got:


This assuming combat's begun and now it's your turn. Here's how it works:
  1. Roll your dice to attack: 1d100 under the appropriate stat, plus any skills, but over your Wet score. As normal. Lungs for melee, Nerves for range; Fighting applies to both, CQC to melee and firearms to guns. 
  2. If you succeed on the attack, look up the result of your 1d100 attack roll on the wounds table: this is what you do to your opponent. Go look at that chart right now—it will help explain what's actually going on here.
  3. The target's Wet score increases by the result of the units die. This is "damage." 

Some modifiers to this:
  1. Weapons have long, medium, and close ranges: long gives disadvantage, close gives advantage. Simple, really.
  2. Cover blocks the parts of your body that it would actually block. So if your legs are covered and your opponent gets an 06, you simply take no damage. If it's really thin cover like plywood or something, then, I dunno, they get disadvantage on the units die or something.

And here's how different "weapon types" work:
  1. Automatic weapons roll one tens die, but then get to roll as many units dice as bullets they fired. Decide how many bullets you're firing before you roll. Each of the results apply on the wounds table, and all of the units get added together to increase the Wet score. This means, basically, that you might still just whiff, but you're much more likely to do lots of serious damage. 
  2. Shotguns roll one tens die, then get to roll ~4 units dice, which explode. This means if you get a 10 on one of those unit dice, it goes higher—which makes you more likely to miss with a pellet (as you might over your skill limit), but also means you tend to deal big damage if you roll low.
  3. Sniper rifles and their ilk get to roll extra unit dice, and get to pick their favorite. "Extra" is probably based on the amount of time you spend aiming down your scope. Means they tend to deal big damage, and also not miss.

That's combat in a nutshell, I think. (Yes, this requires throwing out the Mosh-esque guns I had before and coming up with some modified versions. A cost I'm willing to live with.)


Here's the wounds chart:
  1. Leg: calf gets scratched, basically harmless.
  2. Leg: shin gets grazed.
  3. Leg: toe gets blown off.
  4. Leg: ankle is sprained, possibly dislocated.
  5. Leg: thigh takes a bullet in the side.
  6. Leg: middle of the foot catches a bullet.
  7. Leg: shin is cracked, right in the center.
  8. Leg: ankle is shattered. Bone shards everywhere.
  9. Leg: knee explodes. Leg may need amputation.
  10. Leg: bullet pierces femoral artery. Severe blood loss. Death in minutes.
  11. Arm: forearm is grazed, minimal damage.
  12. Arm: shoulder is scratched.
  13. Arm: pinky or ring finger gets blown off.
  14. Arm: elbow gets hit, likely dislocated and sprained.
  15. Arm: hand takes a bullet, clean through.
  16. Arm: upper arm eats a bullet head-on, right in the beach muscles.
  17. Arm: wrist is broken in several places.
  18. Arm: index finger and thumb are destroyed.
  19. Arm: elbow detonates in a shower of bone.
  20. Arm: shoulder and blade shatter. Arm is useless.
  21. Torso: waist gets scratched.
  22. Torso: an exterior rib is grazed. 
  23. Torso: heavy bruising on lower back.
  24. Torso: gut wound, shallow but bleeding.
  25. Torso: one rib cracks.
  26. Torso: liver catches a direct hit.
  27. Torso: bullet rips through the ribs and out the other side.
  28. Torso: sternum cracks in two.
  29. Torso: stomach punctured. Foul smells emerge.
  30. Torso: kidneys pierced. Internal bleeding.
  31. Torso: multiple broken ribs. Some jut.
  32. Torso: spine breaks. Paralysis likely.
  33. Torso: lower-torso organs ripped to pieces. 
  34. Torso: an aorta is pierced. Death in minutes.
  35. Torso: digestive tract riddled with lacerations. Death in minutes.
  36. Torso: lungs punctured in a dozen places. Death in less than a minute.
  37. Torso: spinal column bursts. Death in less than a minute.
  38. Torso: sternum splinters, ribs shatter. Death in seconds.
  39. Torso: guts ripped open. Innards spill out. Death in seconds.
  40. Torso: heart is torn asunder. Instant death.
  41. Head: ear blown off entirely.
  42. Head: nose, front teeth shatter. 
  43. Head: lower jaw entirely destroyed. 
  44. Head: throat hit. Windpipe collapses. Death in minutes.
  45. Head: blow to the back of the head. Death in minutes.
  46. Head: eye gouged out. Death in less than a minute.
  47. Head: jugular spills everywhere. Death in less than a minute.
  48. Head: spinal cord detonates. Death in seconds.
  49. Head: frontal lobe hit directly. Death in seconds.
  50. Head: skull explodes, brain ripped to pieces. Instant death.
  51. Dealer's choice. On a 51 or higher, the attacker chooses any lower option above their Wet score.
Very nasty. Lots of options mean death very soon, lots more options mean long slow death instead. Getting hit in combat is very bad.

If you have two of something (ears/eyes/limbs), evens is the right, odd is the left. If you lose your right ear and then get the same result again, now it's the left ear. If you lose both ears then, hey, lucky day, you don't take any new damage.


Jacobs, a PC, is shooting at an enemy scavenger: Jacobs has an SMG, and is currently at medium range; the scavenger has a shotgun, and is currently at far range. For the sake of convenience, neither is in cover.

Jacobs has a 29 in Nerves (about average), but also has the Firearms skill; her Wet score is currently a 6, as she's spent a few hours tromping through the marshes. This means she needs to roll under a 45 and over a 6—good odds, all things considered. For ease of use, the scavenger has a general Combat score of 30 (good, but not amazing).

Jacobs decides to fire three bullets with her SMG: she rolls the tens die, and gets a 30; she rolls her three units dice, and gets a 3, a 6, and a 7. Her bullets hit the scavenger: their intestines get shredded, their lungs are punctured, and their spine splits in two. The scavenger collapses, instantly out of action, and will be dead in less than a minute. After a few minutes of no shots being exchanged, Jacobs goes to investigate, and finds them dead in the mud. 


Lets imagine for a second that Jacobs had made the same decisions, then rolled and gotten a 00, instead of a 30: her 3 and 6 would've missed, due to her Wet score (her fingers, reddened from the cold, were shaking). The 7 would've cracked the scavenger's shin, making it difficult for them to walk.

The scavenger, limping, blasts their shotgun back. They roll with disadvantage due to far range, and get a 20 and a 10—unlucky for Jacobs! 10 being the worst result, the scavenger rolls their four units dice, getting a 4, 7, 8, and 10. The 10 explodes, turning into an 18 (and thus a 28 on the wounds chart): Jacobs' right elbow is dislocated and bent oddly, her left wrist gets cracked, her right thumb and trigger finger get spattered, and her sternum cracks after being hit with buckshot. 4, 7, 8, and 18 added together comes out to 37, bringing Jacobs' Wet score to 43. 

Jacobs collapses: not dead yet, but severely injured, and in so much shock and panic that she's unable to function properly for hours or days. The scavenger hobbles over and, with a nearby lump of rebar, finishes her off. 

If we imagine for a second that the scavenger left her there for dead instead, she might have a slim chance of being able to stagger back to camp, clinging to life. More likely, though, the blood loss would've killed her, or she might've slipped and fallen into the mire, or run afoul of some other danger and been unable to handle it. If she had comrades nearby who could help her, though, to apply first aid and help lug her out, she might have a decent chance of surviving.


In the first scenario, Jacobs got reasonably lucky and ended the fight fast. In the second, she was less lucky, and the scavenger had a stroke of good fortune—ending Jacobs' career then and there. There are lots of other ways this fight could've gone: if the scavenger hadn't had a shotgun, if they'd missed, if there was cover, if Jacobs had only fired one shot, and so on.

Just for reference, the first fight was one attack roll. The second was two. A lot goes into and out of those rolls, but it's still just the one roll.


There are a few different Weird Things going on here that help smooth this whole process out:
  1. Wounds are almost entirely non-mechanized. I, Sam the designer, trust that you, the GM and players, will be able to come up with interesting consequences for "your liver is punctured" or "your knee's been shattered." This means that the consequences flow diegetically—rather than try to nail down stat mods for every conceivable injury, the pieces just fall where they fall, and it's up to the table to figure out exactly what those mean.

  2. Wet score increase is a kind of "pseudo-damage." In my mind, a PC's Wet score going up isn't literal damage—we see the literal damage firsthand, from the wounds table. The Wet score going up is shock, panic, loss of focus, dissociation, horror: it's all of the psychological bad shit that goes down after experiencing trauma. Critically, though, it still has an impact: for most PCs, if their Wet score breaks 30, they're hosed. Equally critically, though, is that a high Wet score on its own doesn't actually do anything—it makes checks basically impossible, but checks can be avoided. Likewise, your Wet score's not that hard to get down: even if it hits 100 and literally everything but walking is impossible for you, it only takes a few days to get back to normal. Shock, like moisture, isn't permanent.

  3. Wounds and Wet come from the same sources, but aren't inherently linked. My Wet score can drop in a matter of hours or days: healing wounds happens slowly, diegetically. Because wounds don't have any fixed mechanics are just relying on players' know-how of real world injuries, it avoids the "you go to sleep and are totally fine the next morning" issue: Wet score recovers, because Wet from is mostly psychological (and Wet from being literally damp is easily solved), so it heals quickly. Wounds, however, are much more permanent.

  4. The to-hit roll and the death & dismemberment roll are the same thing. This skips Boot Hill's weird d6 roll for "severity of hit" or whatever and just boils down the whole thing: a good roll does a ton of damage, a bad roll does shit. 

  5. The major downside here, obviously, is that you have to look up the damn wound table every time. My future solution for this is to just print it everywhere I can: on the inside cover of the zine, on the back of the character sheets, maybe even on some kind of handy-dandy player cheat sheet. It also divides nicely (0-10 is legs, 11-20 is arms, 21-40 is torso, 41-50 is head; higher numbers are always better), so even if you don't know the exact gory result, you can get the gist with a look.

  6. Due to sandwich rolls work, two oddities emerge:
    1. PCs with poor combat skills can't land headshots. On the one hand, this feels silly: why shouldn't they be able to? On the other hand, it's an extremely convenient way to seriously knock down less-combative PC's combat power, and has a certain amount of sense to it once you think about actual firearms training—headshots are difficult to hit, especially on moving targets. (A possible solution here is to say that doubles are a critical, and thus inflict a severe "death in minutes"-esque wound no matter what, if you really wanna keep crits.)
    2. As a PC's Wet score goes up, they are less likely to hit, but the hits they land are more likely to be dangerous. Think about it: if my shooting score is 40 and my Wet is 30, I only hit on a 30-40, but 30-40 does a ton of damage. This is weirdest interaction that comes out of this, but I think I can live with it. There's a certain cinematic quality to it, maybe? "The wounded hero fires once, then twice, missing both! But then the third shot hits the blackhat squarely in the chest, toppling them to the ground!" I dunno. I can't find an easy way around this without making everything crunchier, so I'm resolved to live with it.

  7. Caliber and "big guns do more" doesn't really happen. Like, by these rules as written currently, a .22 pistol and a .45 magnum do the same amount of damage because they're both just rolling their units die, and obviously a .45'll do a hell of a lot more than a .22. Possible solutions to this include:
    1. Give bigger guns advantage on their units rolls. So, a .45 rolls 2d10 for its units and takes the highest. This does make them more likely to miss, but it does do more damage. Not a terrible solution? But gets kind of squirrelly if you already have advantage on the overall to-hit roll.
    2. Just give them a flat bonus on the to-hit roll but not the associated combat score. Big guns get +5 to-hit; huge guns gets +10. I kind of like this one because it means big guns will always do more, but also will miss way more. If you've got the training (and thus the fat combat scores), they're always worth it: if you don't know what you're doing, you should stick to smaller stuff. Again, crunchy, but interesting.

  8. I don't really know how melee should work. Like, in theory, this all basically works the exact same way (other than the references to bullets in the wound table), but it feels sort of... weird? Like, I feel like I should get more control over where my knife goes compared to my bullet. And it feels like my opponent should be able to defend themselves, somehow. Not sure.
But yeah! Big Wet Guns! They sort-of-kind-of hit all 4 of my criteria!

Saturday, May 8, 2021

The GLOW: the Goblin Laws of War

You can get it here.

I return from my long absence with a new hack: the Goblin Laws of War, aka the GLOW.

The GLOW diverges pretty far from the original GLOG: there are no stats, no HP, and no levels. Instead, there's an overgrown skill system and a domain-level-ish focus on military and warfare.

You can get it right here:


If you need a character sheet or an army sheet, here they are as well:



I should warn you: the GLOW is messy, complicated, ugly, and only semi-complete. But, critically, it is interesting. As far as I know, nobody's made a hack like this before, probably because it's very weird and not very OSR-ish, really. There's a decent chance you'll hate it. 

Let me know what you think. I'll be putting together my thoughts in a separate post soon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

GLOG: Sorcery

This doesn't have triangles. It's also flawed. 


Wizards study magic from dusty old tomes and rune-carved stones. Witches learn their craft from covens and crones. Priests channel miracles from their g_ds. All have to find magic, to practice and train and learn.

Not sorcerers. Not you. Your heart pumps magic like blood, your lungs breathe magic like oxygen, and your nerves crackle with magic like so much electricity. It's a part of you.



You get spells in the same way standard GLOG wizards do: a couple of spells at level 1, +1 for a few levels, and then a legendary around level 4. 

As a sorcerer, you have a brink. This is your physical limits, your ability to control your own magic. Reach your threshold, and you might lose control.

By default, your brink is 6.

If your brink reaches 0, something terrible and wondrous happens to you: your soul detonates in an etheric inferno, or you morph into gibbering star-spawn, or your neurons fray and you lose all sense of self, or maybe you ascend into a crackling g_d of madness. Who knows? Whatever it is, you're gone.

Sorcerers have 1 MD. You don't get more when you level up.

When you cast a spell, you must spend all of available MD:
  • If the results are less than your brink, your dice return to your pool of MD. 
  • If the results are equal to or greater than your brink, your dice are spent.
Pretty familiar so far, yeah? Basically just higher-powered, more reliable wizards. 

Here's where things get fun:

At any time, you can add +1 MD to your pool; when you do so, decrease your brink by 1.

Spent MD (meaning they rolled equal to or higher than your brink) count as doubles for calculating mishaps and dooms.

Each of the following raises your brink by 1, back to a max of 6:
  • You go a week without using any magic, sleeping through the night all seven days.
  • You level up.
  • You get a powerful dose of magical healing (like a remove curse or regenerate or something, not just a basic healing).
  • You eat the heart of something of roughly human intelligence and magic (or something very intelligent and not very magical, or something very magical and not very intelligent).
  • You mutate (roll on your favorite scary mutation table that has a chance of killing you).
  • You carve, brand, or tattoo a magical rune onto your skin, at least a few inches large. This can and will hurt you in the process.
  • You decide to release your juices: the GM rolls 1d20 secretly; that many hours from now, you will detonate in a fiery blast, burning off all of your clothes and dealing [6 - brink]d6 damage to everything but you inside 1d20 × 10 ft. (use the same d20 roll for time—the longer you go without release, the bigger the blast).
There might be other ways to back off the brink. Awakening inanimate objects, maybe, or consuming sickening amounts of food and drink, or rapidly aging living things until they turn to dust. Something spooky and costly and strange.

Use mishaps and dooms as per your standard wizard class. If you get a quadruple, something nasty happens that isn't a doom: you explode into a million pieces and have to reform painfully over a week, you're transformed into a goat, diamonds or insects come tumbling out of your mouth, something bad. 

This sort of enables a "shooting the moon" scenario where it's better to get a quad than a trip, but I think that's okay. Dooms should be reversible anyways.



You can and should change all of these to better fit whichever wizard class you pick. This is loosely based around the orthodox or "standard" wizard.

Starting skills:
  1. Military experiment escapee
  2. Faerie Queens' favorite
  3. Djinni's wish recipient
  4. One who reached enlightenment
  5. the Devil's own investiture
  6. Seventh child of a seventh child

Signs of your approach:
  1. Scents of sulfur & brimstone hang in the air
  2. Grass withers beneath your feet, and does not regrow again
  3. The wind tugs at your hair and clothes, always
  4. Animals and insects follow you around in neat, peaceful lines
  5. Gold you touch turns to lead, but lead turns to gold
  6. The sun shines its rays to alight your path

Physical manifestations:
  1. Your voice reverberates and wavers, as if more than one voice were speaking
  2. Your eyes are heterochromatic, almost iridescently so
  3. You have six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot
  4. Your hair grows an inch every day
  5. You have a swishing, animalistic tail
  6. The lines on your palms form pentacles



It's a gambling class, basically. You can tap into an almost-limitless number of MD, if you need them, but you risk more and more as you burn through more and more MD. 

Critically, you're always the one to control when your brink goes up and down, but you don't decide when your MD will get permanently spent. It means you might suddenly run out of power unexpectedly, but you won't ever be in a situation where you're going to blow up with no way out (or, well, you might, but you'll be the one to get yourself).

This draws a lot of inspiration from Cthulhu Dark's Insight die, which does a similar thing as you investigate and your mind opens to the true horror of reality. This just has magic dice stapled on.

Also, this isn't a complete class. You still need a wizard to go with it. In my head, you play "a Necromantic Sorcerer" or a "Sorcerous Illusionist" or whatever, not just a plain ol' "Sorcerer." I dunno. Maybe that's weird? Maybe "Sorcerer" should be it's own thing? But to me, sorcery is less about literally doing different magic, and more about being a different kind of magician.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

GLΔG: Knife-Fighting

 A shorter triangle-GLOG, since the other two are very long.


Anyone can use a knife: they're the most ubiquitous weapon, and any fighter worth their salt knows how to use one. 

Some people learn knife-fighting in fancy schools, but most people learn them the old-fashioned way: by getting in lots of knife-fights, and probably getting cut up a bunch in the process.

Every knife-fight has requirements: complete the requirements, and you can fight that way. Requirements are in italics.

They're numbered, as normal; you need one from the current rank to unlock one of the next.

(0) Learn the Hard Way
Lose at least one finger to a knife—a foe's knife or your own.
You know how to safely handle a knife with the hand that's missing a finger: how to hold it, cut with it, carve with it, stab with it, threaten with it, guard with it, and all the other snazzy things anyone skilled can do with a knife. You're very good at the knife-finger game, and know a seemingly-endless number of tricks with a butterfly knife.

If you're down a finger on each hand, you can wield two knives simultaneously, ambidextrously.

(1) Sneaky Bastard
Smuggle a dozen knives into somewhere very high-security, like a castle or noble's party.
If you have no knives, you can always produce one knife. Maybe it was hidden down your boot, maybe it was beneath the pillow, maybe it was from your enemy's belt, maybe it's magic. But you've always got a knife.

(1) Dance the Finger-Dance
Win a game of knife-throwing against a circus performer, a street kid, and a military veteran.
When you throw a knife, you can always decide exactly which end of the knife (the stabby end or the blunt end) will connect with the target. You're very good at throwing knives.

You're also very good at catching knives. If you see a knife flying towards you (either because you're juggling or because someone's trying to kill you), you can always catch it. 

If you can't see it coming or if it's attached to something solid—like, say, the arm of a murderer—it's much dicier.

(2) Blink of an Eye
Escape a pair of handcuffs using only a knife and your wits.
If you have a knife in one hand, you can always get it to the other hand, and you can do it more or less instantaneously. This works even if you're, say, bound on a cross, or have one hand in an alligator's mouth. Again, maybe it's clever legerdemain, maybe there was a second knife, maybe it's magic.

(2) Knife to a Sword-Fight
In cold blood, slit the throat of someone who didn't deserve it.
Your knives' blades can reach an extra couple of inches past where it seems they like should be able to. Imagine a three-inch knife, but it cuts like a six-inch knife, somehow.

This lets them stab very deep into stuff, obviously, but also makes them very useful for: snagging objects that are far away, poking at dangerous things from a distance, or winning odd bets.

(3) Twisty-Stabby-No-Release-y
Kill a bear (or something bear-sized) by stabbing it once, and then hanging onto that one stab for the rest of the fight until eventually it bleeds to death.
If you stab your knife into something—flesh, wood, ice, etc.—and then twist it, your knife will never come loose, unless you want it to. 

This doesn't stop the thing your knife is stabbed into from coming loose—like a single brick coming dislodged from the rest of the wall—but your knife itself won't ever come out until you want it to.

(3) Doesn't Seem So Bad
Lose an eye and an ear, get your nose and tongue split in twain, and lose at least six square inches of skin—all from knives.
At your option, when you cut someone with a knife, you can delay the damage. This means that for about 10 seconds (give or take), there won't be any blood, they continue to function normally, and they don't feel any pain.

The cut's still there, obviously, like you can touch the cut-mark and feel the flap of skin and everything, it just takes a bit for the target's brain to realize something's wrong.

(4) Only Friend You Can Trust
Successfully fake your own death.
You can't be killed by knives. You can still get horribly wounded and mangled and cut up, but the knife-blows themselves won't kill you. 

That said, if you get stabbed thirty times and then get hit once with a rock, you'll be a goner for sure.


Trying out more martial ideas for GLΔG. Not entirely sure how I feel about this one, but it's got some interesting ideas. Also, none of these are "essentials" or "freebies" in the same way some of the pyromancies and disciplines are.

Largely inspired by the "stereotypical rogue," Carcer from Night Watch, and that one Donnie Yen alleyway knife-fight scene.


In general, I think part of the issue with Martials With Deltas is that traditionally, Fighters et al. get "system-crunch" abilities. If you imagine the four-to-five fundamental categories of D&D ability as:
  • Physical (fly, grow or shrink, etc.)
  • Social (lie, convince people, etc.)
  • Intellectual/Informational (learn secrets, get bonus info, etc.)
  • ""Magical"" (non-specific world-manipulation stuff, like Wish or w/e)
  • System Crunch/Combat (+1 to hit, bonus HP on rest, etc.)
Fighter-type characters almost exclusively fall in the last category. This isn't an exhaustive statement by any means, but I've noticed that in nearly all trad systems and many OSR systems, Fighters are the ones who get the most system-crunchy abilities. They get bonuses to hit, extra HP, better stats, more attacks, more feats, all that classic D&D crunch. This is fine, mostly, since in typical D&D it just transforms them into the "badass normals" of the group, and some players (like me!) are into that kind of angle.

For my nascent little GLΔG project here, though, where I'm trying to avoid any and all systems or systemic terminology, that gets a little dicier. How do you explain "you're really good at killing people with a sword" diegetically? How do you "make the Fighter interesting"?

Well, I don't really know. My instinct is to expand into the other categories, and give the Fighter-types perks from the other categories (my Ranger does this, sorta, in that it's a "martial class" but its abilities are largely informational-focused), but I'm also not 100% convinced that this is the best path forward. Obviously, there are some social and knowledgeable perks a Fighter can get, and plenty of physical ones, but it's hard to describe being good at combat in a way that A) doesn't descend into fiddly minutiae and B) doesn't invalidate a bunch of what it feels like others should be able to do anyway.

I'm going to keep noodling around with this sort of thing. As always, if you want to hack/remix/alter any of this, please go ahead—and tell me! I'm very curious about how to develop diegetic fighters.