In the style of Throne of Salt.
Armor has a single stat attached to it, called "Armor Value," or AV, which ranges from 1–6 (usually).
When a weapon's damage roll equal the armor's AV, the damage is negated. That means if you roll a 4 on damage against an AV 4 target, they take no damage.
Here's a sample AV chart:
- AV 1: padded cloth
- AV 2: quilted coat
- AV 3: leather gambeson
- AV 4: lamellar armor
- AV 5: chainmail
- AV 6: full plate
Critically, you can wear multiple kinds of armor. However, you can only wear 3 armors at once, and those three cannot be fully contiguous. AV 1 / AV 2 / AV 4 is fine, or AV 2 / AV 3 / AV 6, but not AV 4 / AV 5 / AV 6.
Armor takes slots equal to the highest AV, +1 for each additional armor. (Plate, chainmail, and a quilted coat takes 8 slots.)
Bladed weapons deal 1d4 + 2 (dagger) // 1d4 + 2 and 1d4 + 2 (longsword) // 1d4 + 2 and 1d4 + 2 and 1d4 + 2 (greatsword).
Blunt weapons deal 2d3 (cosh) // 4d3 (hammer) // 5d3 (big hammer) // 6d3 (maul).
Stabby weapons deal 1d6 (arrow) // 2d6 (spear) // 3d6 (pike).
SPEAK NOT THE NAME OF THE BROWN ONE
Honey-eater, tree-climber, fish-hunter, man-killer. All are the brown one.
The brown one is a god amongst men: as we do not say the names of the gods, we do not say the name of the brown one.
If you wish to face the gods early, speak the name of the brown one. It will summon him.
Within the heart of every living person lies a primordial desire, buried beneath a hundred generations of civilization and a lifetime's worth of training.
This desire is beneath shelter, beneath safety, beneath sex. It is the desire to eat. To devour. To take a living thing and consume its strength. To feed.
Eat someone. Enjoy the taste.
You can eat raw meat without penalties or danger.
Kill someone. Eat them.
You can drink blood like it was water, and eat meat like it was bread. You learn the spots to hold on someone's neck to squeeze the life out of them like juice. You grow broad in the shoulders.
Go a week eating nothing but human flesh.
You can eat an entire person in one sitting, and it will feed you for a month; you won't need to eat or drink anything else. You grow thick around the middle.
Bake bread from someone's bones: use the marrow for water, ground bone powder for flour, and the bones themselves as coal for the oven.
You grow strong, strong enough to snap someone's bones with your bare hands. You can sling a thrashing person over each shoulder and carry them both without issues. Your thighs, upper arms, and neck grow heavy and muscular.
Keep someone alive for at least a week, eating a new part of them every day.
You can smell when someone's afraid, even if they're hiding it. You can smell fear from up to a quarter-mile away. You grow tall, more than seven feet, rolling with muscle and fat.
Something about preserving people for a while
TOWER OF BABYLON ANTI-DEPTHCRAWL
Stolen from Ted Chiang.
Based on the math he gives us, the tower's about 50 miles high. The radius of the tower is between 5.5 and 6 miles: with a full day's walk, a person climbs roughly one vertical mile each day.
The base of the tower is all construction; the lower tower is crops and plants to feed the builders; the middle of the tower is sun-baked; the upper tower is more construction villages and hanging gardens; the top of the tower is near the dome of the sky.
Make a d150 table, roll a d50 on it every day, and add your current height in miles. The very bottom is all builders, the middle is encounters and birds and things, the top is angels and mystics.
LESSONS FROM THE MICRO-MEGADUNGEON
Things I learned from running the earliest version of Beneath Harlowe House:
- Make it dense and tight. When you think your hallways are narrow enough, make them even narrower. Compress vertically: lower ceilings, collapse upper levels, make them crawl on their bellies. Make them lose sight of each other around corners.
- Get them lost. Make them draw their own maps, and have passageways twist and wind. Being underground because you're looking for money is bad: being underground because you literally can't find your way out is terrifying. (Also, the elation of having your map-guesswork suddenly be correct is a joy for players.)
- Scarier is better, but this doesn't need to be complicated. They'll have to start leaving certain pathways unexplored if they want to reach the bottom: play on those fears. Have strange noises echo throughout. Have monsters leave "offerings" in places they know the players have gone. Leave clear evidence that they're being followed. Don't show the monster until it's ready.
- Embrace the physicality. What are they wearing? How much space do their packs take up? Can you fit a sword in there? How thick is this wall? When they lost that lantern, where did it roll to? What's the ceiling made of?
- Leave it voluntary. If the campaign says "they must go into the spooky hole because the Sword of Flour & Flame is down there," players know they have to. If the players say "let's go into the spooky hole" even though they know they don't have to, it means they might actually fucking die.
- Slow burn. For the first two sessions of Harlowe, my players didn't even see a monster. When they finally saw one, it was only because Phlox's character stayed outside after dark—and even then, it was just indistinct, elongated scuttling.
- Multiple trips. It's fine if they want to leave and come back
- Actual impact. Let them dig new tunnels, if they want to take the time. Remember thine hourly encounter rolls.
- A sudden trapdoor is fucking terrifying. If one character unexpectedly drops down two levels into the dark, and now they're almost out of HP, and they can hear monsters coming, players lose their fucking shit.
CHARACTER CONCEPTION vs. CHARACTER PERCEPTION
5e players hate rolling stats.
When you set out to play an RPG, you often have some kind of character conception: an idea of who you want your character to be, how they'll behave, where they end up. This conception more or less never survives contact with the table.
At the table, you only have a character perception: the gathered info on how your character actually behaves in practice, what character traits they literally show in play.
Dissonance between these—how you imagine your character to behave vs how they actually behave—usually annoys players.
OSR games try to deliberately break you of any conception by rolling for stats, rolling for history, rolling for random trinkets or quirks or whatever. You know ahead of time you can't conceive of a character because the chargen process is so non-player-determined.
5e, culturally, embraces character conceptions, though. And so 5e players hate rolling stats.
ALL ONE STAT
You have one stat: stamina. It starts at 10.
When you make a check, roll 1d20 under stamina. You have inventory slots equal to stamina. Your speed in feet is equal to stamina times 3. When you take damage, you lose stamina.
Every full day you spend resting, roll 1d20: if it's higher than your current stamina, now that's your stamina.
If you reach 0 stamina, you die.
RITUAL MAGIC TRADITIONS
magical traditions in the style of my slow ritual magic: each tradition has its own sites, trappings, and performances. Necromancy uses full moons, anatomy textbooks, and ritual removal of organs; pyromancy uses the noonday sun, burnt incense, and ceremonial salt-burning.
Go one step further: each spell has its own list of sites / trappings / performances, but there are some overlaps between them. "Illusion spells" are only a tradition because most of them happen to share foggy days, steel wool, and spinning of veils as their sites, trappings, and performances.
This is just a fuckload of legwork for a designer to build, though.
LANGUAGES AS SPELL LISTS
Different spell lists based on the languages you speak. Draconic gets you fireball and flight and fear. Deep gets you tentacles and telepathy and water-breathing. Terran gets you earthbind and wall of stone and whatever else.
Tie the number of languages you know to your Intelligence. A more powerful age is a more Intelligent mage not because their spell save DC scales off of INT or whatever, but because they literally know more spells and thus can combo them in interesting ways.
More to come, eventually.