Friday, August 27, 2021

Scraps and Scrawlings: Dungeonfall over Bal-Caraid

quentin mabille
Some notes on the campaign I'll be running for my college friends this semester. Players, avert your eyes.

The Pitch:

There is a cloud that rains dungeons. Fifty years ago, one of those dungeons fell in a wetland valley. Adventurers pillaged the old ruins and built the city of Bal-Caraid on the wetlands with its riches. These days, Bal-Caraid is a hub of criminal activity, where you can buy and sell anything or anyone.

Soon, the dungeon squall will drift overhead. In anticipation of its arrival, the city is throwing a week-long festival. In spite of the fun, tensions are high; factions from outside the city are causing trouble, and the whole of Bal-Caraid seems infused with a sinister energy. Something terrible is going to happen here if you don’t act.

You’re here…
- …for the festival!
- …to find something/someone in Bal-Caraid.
- …to learn about the dungeon squall.
- …to make a profit.

The Twist:

The dungeon squall is actually a floating tomb-city, a la Laputa, wreathed in clouds and shedding pieces of itself as the magic supporting it fades. It belonged to an old empire, and is full of artifacts, traps, classic dungeon shit. It's also full of curses, and if it were to fall out of the sky it would crack like an egg and spill chaos over the continent.

concept art for Castle in the Sky

The Factions:

There are two rivers that feed into Bal-Caraid, the Tressent from the South and the Krahm from the North, and they refuse to mix. The rivers are feuding, probably because one of them has been steeped in cursed dungeon bits for a few decades (causing some unfortunate necromantic side effects downstream). River politicians navigate this conflict, trading favors with each river in exchange for safe travel for merchant clients. Thugs and druid cults serve the rivers in equal measure; think of them as wealthy, immortal, disaffected barons.

The Antiquarians are outsiders who follow the squall. They investigate its fallen dungeons, and pay handsomely for artifacts found within. Among their ranks are descendants of the lost imperials (by blood or belief) who seek to master the city and reclaim their heritage. If they are allowed to succeed, they'll drop the city back into the wetlands.

The Wizard Police are academy brats shepherded by a wizened old sage. They cruise about in their flying paddywagons and ask unwelcome questions to locals. Officially, they're here to root out necromancers and unlawful magic usage. Unofficially, they're here to throw their authority around and steal whatever magic shit they can get their hands on.

There are also local gangs, constantly battling over territory on the riverside, and the local detectives who hunt down traffickers. Both are deeply concerned for their communities and neighborhoods. Some worry that a dungeon will fall on their head, but they can't just leave the city. A huge Blue Lotus shipment is coming into harbor this week; if the two sides clash, it will be a bloodbath.

Also, sky pirates.

ruthless, greedy, and oddly sympathetic
they're the rival adventurers

Monday, August 16, 2021

Dragons are murderhobos

Dragons see the world as players do. No, not PCs; players.

Dragons are big, scaly murderhobos with breath weapons. Reality is a game to them, and they’re very concerned with winning it. They’ve been playing for a very long time.

They use XP for GP, obviously.

According to a dragon, everyone else is an NPC. You’ll need to demonstrate your own player-ness and buy into their worldview if you expect to be treated as a sapient being. Other dragons are rarely exempt from this scrutiny, although they do acknowledge that if anyone were to be a self-aware actor, it would probably be someone who looks like them.

Draconic is the language of ego. There is one subject pronoun (wild guess as to which one), and all other objects are discussed in relation to it. Treating others as self-aware actors is a great shame for dragon-kind.

No matter how long their lives, how big their hoards, or how potent their magicks, all dragons fear being some nerd’s role-playing device.


You can replace your eyes with a dragon’s—their eyes are huge, so this will take some effort—to see the world as a dragon sees it; pliable and comparatively unreal, like a reflection at water’s edge. Poor creatures; someone must have written them all wrong.

In times of uncertainty, you may hear murmurs, laughter, and the sound of clattering dice. By paying EXTREMELY close attention, you can attune yourself to the world beyond the veil and learn their secrets. Basically, this allows your character to metagame within the fiction by eavesdropping on players outside the game.

Try to prevent your character from understanding this too deeply; if they lapse too far into existential dread, they’ll go mad and become a dragon.

(Inspired by PCD's classic post)

Thursday, August 5, 2021

BOSSRUSH: The Basics

timofey stepanov

You are a Hound.
Your objective is to kill bosses and take their souls.
Your secondary objective is to piece together your lost memories.
You start with a weapon, a random item, and a flask (heals you fully, refills at camp)
You have 3 primary tools at your disposal: VIOLENCE, WIT, and the ever-important DODGEROLL


VIOLENCE is measured in hits.
If you take 3 hits, you’ll die. Your team will have to find another Hound.
A Boss can take as many as 20 hits. You won’t beat them in a fair fight.
Hits don’t scale linearly: A standard hack, slash, or stab deals 1 hit. Firearms and explosives deal 2. Lightning and falling buildings deal 3.
Some enemies have physical or supernatural weaknesses, like fire or kindness or women. VIOLENCE from these sources deals +1 hit to them.

VIOLENCE can be emotional; the death of a loved one can hit as hard as a cannonball.

Attacks always land, but they don’t always “hit”.
Each enemy has a VIOLENCE threshold. This describes the minimum magnitude of harm that will inflict a hit on them. (i.e. fists, swords, cannonballs)
You can bypass the VIOLENCE threshold with WIT. A dagger won’t pierce plate armor in a stand-up fight, but if you describe wrestling them to the ground and stabbing them in the eyes, that’s going to count for a few hits.
You can raise your own VIOLENCE threshold with armor.

Example: Rudimentary Angel
6H; VT=Dagger; Paper-wax feathers weak to fire.
Airborne. Guards gates/VIPs. Imperious. Grovels if wings are lost.
After players act (d6):
1-4: Fly-by khopesh slash (1H)
5-6: Nurses fireball, winding up. Next action, hurl (2H, ignites area)

sam dutter


You can avoid attacks, ignore magic, evade notice, or abrogate responsibility with a well-timed DODGEROLL.

Each player has 5 six-sided dice. To DODGEROLL, roll any number of these.
If the sum equals or exceeds 6, you are safe. Otherwise, you take the hit.
Each die you roll is spent until you fail a DODGEROLL or take a breather.

If you have an edge, roll an additional die from outside your pool and add it to the sum.

This is the only roll players make, analogous to saves. Everything else is adjudicated via facts and logic(tm)


To perform a miracle, sacrifice something important. Write down your sacrifice; each must be greater than the last.

DODGEROLL to determine your [sum] and [dice]. (So it really was a GLoGhack!)


A magical lady follows your journey, always a safe distance from danger. She is mysterious, eccentric, and often refers to you in the past tense. She gives good advice, can point you toward the next Boss, and trades souls for memories.

Besides acquiring memories, all other advancement is diegetic; you don’t have stats or a “build”.
Your memories define you; each adds to your backstory and grants an ability. You start with two.
It’s not clear whether these are actually your memories or someone else’s, but does it really matter?

Example 1: The Frozen. The cold of winter creeping down your throat. Peace. You can’t feel cold.
Example 2: The Glutton. A porcine squeal rouses you from rest. Regret. Nothing in your stomach can harm you.
Example 3: The Beaten. The throb of lashes across your back. Hatred. You have an edge against whips and chains.

You can also use RATGLoG, adapt your own templates, or stick around for a more comprehensive list.

"sword collector"
michael macrae

Inspired by Dark Souls and all its descendants, particularly Iron Gates and Through the Veil, as well as VaatiVidya. I guess you could call this my love letter to a game I've never played.

Thanks for your patience as I procrastinated over and over on posting this project. Procedures, setting, and bosses to come, hopefully in a timely manner.