What is O5R?

A while back I was talking about how I like 5e, but run it in an O5R way, and was asked "What's O5R?" Turns out that's a perfectly reasonable question because, despite running all my 5e games in the style, I had a hard time pinning down an actual set of rules/rulings and changes that make an O5R game different from vanilla 5e.

I've given it more thought and come up with an answer.

O5R isn't a distinct system, and it's not 5e that's been houseruled into something unrecognizable. It's 5e mechanics lightly molded and paired with the DM style and decisions to create an old-school feel at the table.

So what does that actually look like? The first, most important differences are:

1) Ignore balance.

Challenges don't scale to the PCs' abilities. There are real dangers confronting them and no guarantee that an encounter will be level appropriate. Your players should have to learn to judge if a situation is too dangerous for them, and if it is, to run away.

You should still at least check a creature's CR to see how dangerous it is, but don't treat it as the deciding factor in whether to use a monster or not.

2) Cut out all the standard D&D/WotC lore.

Keep the D&D IP creatures if you want (I love owlbears and rust monsters), but the setting lore gets pitched. No Faerun, no Sword Coast, no Underdark, etc. Can you have an ocean with pirates? Of course! A winding subterranean realm underlying nearly the entire world filled with unspeakable monsters? I'd be disappointed if you didn't! Just make them your pirates and your lightless underground hellscape.

Don't include things just because The Lore says they exist, and don't hesitate to bring out the gonzo. Throw true weirdness into the mix for your setting, give it some wondrous and bizarre style.

(The corollary to this is you have to explain it to your players clearly. Present them with the important setting details so they can make meaningful choices based on the conditions in the world you've made. Do this before the game starts, at session 0 at the very least, to give them plenty of time to ask questions and understand.)

3) Don't let the PCs start bogged down by a lot of backstory. 

Starting characters should be mostly formless. A basic personality and a handful of details like hometown, family business or previous profession, and a like, dislike, or goal is plenty. Let the rest emerge through play and the characters develop instead of coming to the table as an established entity with a specific build in mind.

(Do make sure your players have their characters take a background in the game mechanic sense though. That's a sizable chunk of their abilities. They can reflavor the backgrounds however they like.)

After you've done that, address the more mechanical aspects:

A) Good plans don't roll. 

If players do something clever or come up with an unorthodox plan that might work, reward them. They've done a good job. Their plan works without needing to roll for it. At the very least it should give them a partial success, positioning them to succeed later or to have an advantage in their current situation.

B) Move the focus away from combat.

This ties into ignoring balance because combat is more dangerous now and usually the worst option in a situation. Give players ways to solve their problems beyond "sword." A good way to do it is to put the focus on exploration. Have the PCs go out into the unknown and face obstacles that they literally can't fight. Rockfalls, deep chasms or cliffs, weather, crumbling structures, etc. Present them with things they need to work through or find ways around instead of a band of goblins that'll only slow them down for a few minutes.

There will still be some combat, but you don't need to change any rules or tweak death save mechanics to make it more lethal. You just need to make enemies smart. Have them use tactics, teamwork, have goals to achieve beyond plain slaughter, use the environment to their advantage, and care about their own lives. Sometimes the PCs have to retreat to survive, sometimes it'll be the enemies who cut and run; but it'll only take a few encounters with competent, coordinated enemies to teach your players that combat's not the default reaction and should be avoided if possible.

C) Homebrew! 

Throw your own stuff into the mix, but don't alter the player-facing mechanics. Instead of trying to lop off sections of the system or make radical changes to basic rules, have your homebrew material add to the existing game.

Pay attention to what the players are interested in and create spells and items that play on that. What you make doesn't have to be powerful, just interesting. For example, when my players fought and slew a bus-sized magically mutated scorpion they asked if they could harvest the chitin to make armor. Of course, they could! (I'm so proud of them.) They took some, dragged it back to town, and found someone to work it into gear. The finished armor had the same stats as a breastplate plus a little magic resistance. Not an exceptionally powerful magical item, but better than what they had and cool to them because of the origin.

Same goes for rules. Listen to what the players want to do and find a way to make it happen. The same group of players found several statues and wanted to try auctioning them off, hoping to get more money than they would with a direct sale. So I made auction rules that leave the exact amount of profit up to luck and keeps the party engaged in a mini game.

Whatever you decide to add, be sure it makes the game more fun and the world more wondrous instead of just harsher.

That's mostly it. Also for consideration is:

- Non-standard treasures and loot. Go beyond coins, gems, and magic items. Give out rare plants, harvested monster parts, spell components, and just generally bizarre artifacts that are maybe valuable, maybe powerful, but definitely intriguing.

- Magic is weird. Represent magic as the distortion of reality and entropic strain on time that it is. Encourage players to reskin the existing D&D spells to better suit their characters. Create new ones. Make it abberant and unsettling.

- Characters are beloved, but expendable. Make sure your players know their choices have consequences and you won't shield their characters. Also, let them retire their characters and make new ones if they want.

TL;DR O5R relies mostly on the DM's choices and flexibility to step away from vanilla 5e. They need to put in the thought and effort to apply basic old school concepts in how they run the game and make a world that's both engrossing and incredibly dangerous.

The price for my help is...

Do not deal with the fae.

Their values are incomprehensible and prices disproportionate. Their bargains are vague, riddled with loopholes, and held to the exact letter of the agreement, spirit be damned. Their power lets them claim the otherwise inviolable intrinsic properties of things, so with an incautious word you can accidentally barter away shards of your selfhood. And you're not getting them back.

Do not deal with the fae. It's folklore rule number one.

So when your players decide to deal with the fae, here's a d30 list to decide what it will cost them. I tried to leave each item vague enough to allow for classic loophole/"exact words" shenanigans from both sides, and to give hasty adventurers plenty of opportunities to doom themselves. If your players are clever, they might come out unscathed, maybe even better off. If they rush headlong into a deal without taking the time to determine exactly what they're promising, hit them with the full fairy tale treatment. Each possible result has a range of interpretations from whimsically innocent to horrifically inhuman.

The price for my help is...

1) A memory (happy, painful, inspirational, formative, childhood, forgotten)
2) A name (of my own, yours, your enemy's, my enemy's, your love's, a stranger's, a hero's, a god's)
3) A favor (small, large, specific, unspecified)
4) A dream
5) A surprise
6) A gift
7) An answer
8) A child
9) Your opinion
10) Your cooperation
11) Your company
12) Drink with me
13) Join me for a meal
14) Accept this small token…
15) Carry a message to…
16) Bring me…
17) Find (someone, something, a place, information)
18) Entertainment (riddle, song, story, game, wager, dance, combat, hunt)
19) What's most important
20) What's least important
21) Praise
22) Service (day, month, year, unspecified)
25) HAIR
26) EYES
27) BONE
30) Kill...


Roscoe is an exceptionally large mastiff. He's not very bright and is terrified of loud noises (like combat), but he's very gentle and loyal. No one owns Roscoe. He's his own dog, but he'll stay with the party through any hardship. Roscoe loves belly rubs and pets, thinks he's a lap dog, and he will slobber on you. 

Canecorsodog (en.wikipedia) bearbeitet von Caronna 12:25, 6 February 2008 (UTC) [CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

"Good boy"

Roscoe's solid presence and encouraging boofs give an advantage to saves against fear. He won't fight but he'll stand by and bark supportively. He won't let himself be hit by enemies and he won't abandon his people. 

"What's wrong, boy?"

His keen senses let him detect threats and alert friends with a warning boof. The party can't be ambushed while Roscoe is with them. If there's an opportunity to hide, the party can use Roscoe's warning to prepare and get a surprise round against approaching enemies.

"Roscoe? What are you eating? What's in your mouth?! Roscoe! Spit it out!"

Roscoe has a habit of rooting around and scarfing down random things. Occasionally he throws them back up. When the party stops for a rest or runs into an obstacle there's a 40% chance Roscoe will throw up something unlikely, but useful, he's eaten. It will be completely spit-covered. 

Unlikely-But-Useful Things (d12)
1) Ring
2) Marbles (small pouch of 10)
3) Folding pocket knife
4) Pocket first aid kit (waterproof)
5) Chalk (box of three sticks)
6) Wax paper (smells like meat/cheese)
7) Key
8) Small coil of wire (3')
9) Coin
10) Gem
11) Stoppered glass vial (oil, water, holy water, alcohol, empty, unknown potion)
12) Cake of beeswax

Roll one D12 to see if the item is:
1 - 6 Mundane
7 - 10 High quality or made with precious materials
11 - 12 Magic

When bringing up an item, Roscoe makes audible horking noises that may alert nearby creatures.

(Roscoe is originally from an item I contributed to a list of d30 followers in the OSR discord.)


I made a new system!

It's a lightweight, flexible skeleton ruleset that's easily adapted to any setting. Runs on a d4 dice pool, because the d4 doesn't get enough love. 

Get the PDF now here. It's free!

An Experiment

Last Thursday I took over DMing for my long-running in-person game group. We'll be starting this Thursday with a fresh 5e campaign and I'm going to try something that I've not done before: An all human setting.

This world will have no humanoids except humans. Not as playable races or monsters. None.

There were once elves, dwarves, orcs, etc; and there are still humans with maybe 1/32 or 1/64 non-human ancestry, but currently there aren't any full-blooded humanoids around except humans.

The humans don't know exactly what happened to them. Some species had mysterious slow declines, others just vanished. Whatever happened, it wasn't a war or human action. (And that's true, not just human historical revision.)

Humans still use the other species' languages (with linguistic evolution over time) as everyday languages. It's a cultural artifact from when the other humanoids were around and is treated normally. A human's first language might be dwarvish or gnomish or ettin, it all depends on where they grew up.

My goal with this is to:

1) Avoid fantasy stereotypes. If a player wants their character to be a cheerful farmer-turned-reluctant-adventure who loves good food, great! They certainly can, but they'll be playing it because they want to, not because they're a hobbit halfling and that's what Tolkien said they're like.

2) Avoid fantasy racism. If two characters have a beef, it'll be over their deeds, not because one's a dwarf and one's an elf. (This could really be item 1.1)

3) Let the characters have equal experiences of terror. Everyone will be spooked by the things prowling in the dark. Everyone will be exhausted after being on the run for days and unable to sleep. There won't be the one elf with darkvision who can see just fine and doesn't need to sleep so they're fresh as a daisy.

4) Let there be mysteries. The mysteries of the past, magic, and the underpinnings of the world are actually unknown. Lost to time or only vaguely recalled in folklore, not a living part of an active contemporary culture. You can't pop back home to Elfington and ask your grandma what words were used to sing the world tree into being at the dawn of time, you need to adventure to learn it.

I'm curious to see how it turns out. The probabilities that it'll go as intended or mutate into something bizarre seem about equal; and it'll likely take a few sessions before I can get a solid idea of how my players will respond to the idea. My suspicion is that it'll be more of an exercise for me in remembering to not reflexively add dwarves (it's a habit) and that my players will adapt just fine.

1d20 Reasons the Squirrel Broke Into Your House

1) Deeply confused
2) Just incredibly high
3) *chittering noises*
4) It knows you have cashews
5) It knows you have an N64
6) For snuggles and scritches
7) Wanted to ride on the roomba
8) Something about injustice and the cruelty of automobiles
9) On a dare
10) As a distraction
11) To deliver a dire warning
12) On a mission from your arch enemy
13) Drunk on fermented pumpkins
14) You left the window open
15) You've been feeding it
16) You live in a tree
17) Stubbornly insists you're the squirrel and this is its house
18) Rabies! :D
19) You know why, don't pretend
20) No reason :3

Kilodungeon Definition

One of the things I like most about the OSR is how often old tropes are tossed by the wayside. Ask folks what a gnome is* and watch how many different answers you get. That said, I also like solid definitions. Having a clear category with specific criteria so I can say [a term] and whoever I'm talking to knows exactly what I mean. It makes exchanging ideas easier because everyone is already on the same page.

It's especially useful when describing game materials. Knowing that something is a megadungeon gives me specific information about scale, play style, how much of a commitment is required to use it (either as intended or hacked), and how much game time and enjoyment my players will get out of it.

Photo by PtrQs [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Right now the terms I see used most often to describe dungeon sizes are:

One-page dungeon: Compact. Quick, light, and easy to use. Will probably get a session out of it, maybe two.

Microdungeon: A few rooms, maybe more than one floor. Quick to prep and run, but probably at least two sessions worth of stuff. Good for a site in a hex crawl.

Dungeon: The standard unit of adventuring space. Needs at least one read-through before running it, two if you're a conscientious DM. It's got multiple levels, plenty of rooms, maybe a distinct ecology of its own, and loot. Sweet, sweet loot. It's large enough to keep a party occupied for multiple sessions, but eventually they'll clean it out and move on.

Megadungeon: This place is your whole campaign. It's a world unto itself, an endless roil of brick, stone, and earthen chambers burrowing ever deeper. If you are lost inside, you'll never emerge. If by luck you find one of the scattered enclaves of safety and life, your descendants will grow never having seen the sun. A megadungeon is a huge commitment for both the DM and the players. Your game is here. You're exploring this endless maze and not going anywhere else. Granted, megadungeons tend to have a lot of variety in the form of factions, different underground ecosystems, and magically warped areas. It's still a lot.

http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=BA [Public domain]

The jump from manageable, discrete dungeon to sprawling, bottomless megadungeon is too extreme; especially when compared to how close in scale one-page and microdungeons are to the dungeon. It's more than a logarithmic step up in scope. We need something in between.

So we have the kilodungeon. A neat, logical step from the main dungeon unit to the mega-.

Let's define it. There's a lot of range between dungeon and megadungeon to cover, so we should give kilodungeons a distinct size/complexity band to fall into. Make it clear where they exist instead of leaving them in a gray haze of being either a massive dungeon or a tiny megadungeon.

The criteria required to be a kilodungeon is:

  • 5 to 7 levels
  • Multiple paths between levels
  • At least 12 rooms/areas per level
  • At most 60 rooms/areas per level
  • Multiple exits
  • A single cohesive theme

So the bare minimum needed to be considered a kilodungeon is 5 levels, 60 rooms, and 2 exits. The maximum possible while still in the range is 7 levels, 420 rooms, and as many exits as you can shake a stick at.

How did I come up with these numbers and requirements?

The level and room counts: I thought about the relative sizes and complexities of the dungeons I've run/been run through and aimed to have the amount of stuff in an average dungeon be roughly equal to one level of a kilo dungeon.

For example, Skerples' Tomb of the Serpent Kings is a solid-sized dungeon. It has 3 levels, 52 keyed rooms/locations, and 4 exits. Ignore the levels and flatten it down into 52 rooms, then make an area like that into 1 level out of 5 to 7. That's the step up in size I'm looking for when going from dungeon to kilodungeon.

The number of levels came from 1) looking at how many levels a dungeon usually has (1 to 3 is what I've seen most, sometimes 4) and wanting to go beyond that, and 2) just being realistic with my upper bound. Once you pass 7 levels or 420 rooms, it might as well be a megadungeon.

The multiple paths and exits: That's just good design. Can you imagine how boring a completely linear delve would be on this scale? Ye gods.

Also kilodungeons are large, but you can find your way out of them eventually. If you die or disappear in a kilodungeon, it's because you fell foul of a monster, trap, or your own poor planning; not because you had to settle down and make a life there after getting lost. It would be like deciding you live at the mall now because you forgot where you parked your car.

A single cohesive theme: The way I see it, a kilodungeon is a distinct, purpose-built structure. It has a specific role or job it was created to fulfill and it does that and only that. The role might be a necropolis, a stronghold, a mine, a magical research facility, whatever. The important thing is that the whole place is dedicated to its single purpose.

Megadungeons can have a wildly varying patchwork of interlocking cities, biomes, and architectural styles that make them feel like underground worlds. You won't find that in a kilodungeon. Kilodungeons have their own distinct flavor and stick to it.

Apart from size, that stylistic difference is what distinguishes a kilodungeon from a megadungeon in my eyes. When something is on the boundary between the two, ask yourself "How much is going on here? Is there one main theme?" If yes, it's a huge kilodungeon. If no, it's a small megadungeon.

0x010C [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

*For the record gnomes are 12 foot tall, spindly, fungal beings with leathery skin that eat primarily tar. They are usually very well-spoken and famous for their complex, regionally varied tea culture. You can find them pretty much anywhere, but they're good at hiding, which is strange for something 12 feet tall that smells like hot tar and Earl Grey. 

Plague Eater

Be advised: You can use this content right now, as-is, but you'll be missing out on the bizarre glory that is Penicillin vol 2

It has Plague Eater (a single facet of the glut of inspiring content) done right with gorgeous art and wild layout. It's a masterpiece and you need it. Grab a copy of the PDF, and a copy of volume 1. Happy Solstice!

It takes a moment- Jellied, attenuated seconds clawing through the haze of fever- To determine if the woman approaching your bedside is real. She is, and her eyes are kind.

Her movements are smooth and precise, observed detachedly through the heat shimmer of your illness. She presses a kiss to your forehead, grasps a fistful of hair with one gloved hand, places the other splayed over your nose and mouth, and pulls-

Deep in your chest something resists, digging barbs into your heart, your lungs, gouting sparkles of pain as she drags its coils out from your flesh. She brings her hand from your mouth to hers, trailing a mass of fine strands. Green-black and wetly iridescent, like beetle wings spun into thread. She gorges on it, drawing out yard after yard and slurping them up like noodles.

With each foot extracted, shards of lucidity rasp at the edges of your inflamed mind and congeal. Your breath comes easier. Your trembling chills subside. When she finishes her eyes glimmer with an edge of mania, a shadow of the fever she took from you. She takes a breath, coughs lightly into the back of her hand, then leans forward to kiss your brow again.

"Be well."

A Plague Eater heals the sick by drawing out illnesses and containing them encysted within their own bodies. The ritual required to consume disease is simple and can be learned by anyone so long as they find a teacher or detailed instructions.

Plague Eaters may consume as many different diseases or cases of the same disease as they like.

Consuming a disease takes as long as a short meal, completely heals the patient, and stores the disease within the Plague Eater. Stored diseases aren't contagious and the Plague Eater can't die from them, but a stat of their choice is reduced by 1 for each disease they hold. They also suffer an attenuated version of the symptoms (1/4 strength) that accumulates. Healing 2 people of different diseases will cause the Plague Eater to take 2 stat damage and feel a quarter of the symptoms of each disease. Healing 4 people of the same disease will cause 4 stat damage and the Plague Eater will suffer the full brunt of the disease's symptoms.

Plague Eaters can use their stored diseases two ways:

The can vaccinate others, granting immunity to any of their stored diseases. Every vaccination causes them to feel more symptoms. One quarter each time, after 3 vaccinations of the same disease they feel full symptoms.

They can inflict diseases on others. When a Plague Eater inflicts a disease it's expelled from their body. They lose access and immunity to it, regain a stat point, and all of the immunities they granted for that disease end. The disease becomes contagious again. They can only inflict a disease on creatures that can normally catch it.

The only way for a Plague Eater to recover their lost stat points or decrease the severity of their symptoms is by revoking immunities they've granted or purging themselves by inflicting diseases. They don't recuperate naturally from stored diseases and outside healing has no effect.

If a Plague Eater dies their stored diseases die with them, harmlessly contained in the body forever.

If a Plague Eater gets sick, actually contracting a disease instead of consuming it through their ritual, they will feel completely fine. All symptoms from their stored diseases will vanish and they'll begin to take 1 damage to their lowest stat each day. When that stat reaches 0 the Plague Eater disintegrates into an infectious dust, releasing all their stored diseases to be spread as an airborne vector. This can be averted by getting treatment or by inflicting all of their stored diseases on others.

Writing Coherent Session Notes

Who here takes bad notes?

It's okay. It's not like taking unclear notes (or none at all) is unusual. It's a shame because accurate, detailed notes are an invaluable tool for tabletop. They're vital for games that happen rarely (say, on a monthly schedule) or for DMs to keep track of what happened several sessions back. (Because how often do your planning notes reflect what actually happened?)

Getting in the habit of taking useful notes is absolutely worth the effort involved. Here's what I do when creating my notes as a player and as a DM:

1) Do everything in hardcopy

I use a legal pad or spiral notebook and rollerball pen. (Uniball Eye, UB-157. All the colors are good, but light blue is my favorite.) A liquid ink lets you write quickly/smoothly to avoid hand cramps; and writing on paper lets you arrange notes, extra details, and addendums wherever you want on the page. Ink also forces you to move on and not try to correct spelling/detail errors in the moment. At best you can cross out the incorrect data and rewrite. It keeps you moving, which is important. It also cuts out electronic distractions at the table.

2) Work in multiple drafts

For really useful notes you'll have at least two drafts. Sometimes three. It's important to keep in mind because knowing that you're not creating a final draft frees you from worrying about style. It doesn't matter if the first draft is ugly, and that lets you record information fast while still focusing on playing and enjoying the game.

Here's how the drafts break down:

First draft - This gets written during the game and will be recopied. It's disposable, so don't worry about how it looks. Your only concern should be recording all the relevant data of who did what and making sure your handwriting will be legible to you later.

When I'm writing my first drafts I only use one side of each page and number the pages. It uses more paper, but it also ensures I can lay the pages out and see everything I've written at once. That way I don't miss anything later when I'm recopying it for my second draft. (Try to recycle the paper from first drafts and get your office supplies from thrift shops/garage sales. It helps to reduce waste and save money.)

The relevant info to record is mostly names and actions. Locations and setting details are important, but you can ask your DM for clarification about them later (or consult your notes if you're the DM). Remembering who did what in a situation is more fluid and difficult to recapture once the moment is passed, so it's what you need to focus on. Make sure every action has a name attached to it. Use abbreviations and write fast. You're recording all this data in real time.

Second draft - This is where you copy and refine your collected info. Do it as soon after the game as you can, so the memory is still clear, and take your time. For most people this will be the final draft, so style is important. You need to be able to look back and say "yep, that's what happened", not "I know I wrote that down, where is it?"

I use hardcopy for my second draft too. Basically the same format of 8.5" x 11.75" legal pad (for uniformity when storing) and ink, written on only one side of the page and numbered.

This is where you fix spelling errors, add descriptions, and flesh out details (of items, NPCs, locations, etc) that there wasn't time for during the initial recording. Now that you have time you can also spell words in their entirety, so replace your abbreviations with the actual words and full names.

One of the major things I do in my second drafts is condense combats. Instead of listing each round of a fight I pare it down to general actions: Group tactics, kills, spells, dire injuries. The big stuff. Exact damage dealt at any one point isn't important and it's assumed that party members will be making attacks. It's not necessary to write "Character X attacked! Character Y attacked! Character Z attacked!" when you can shorten it to "Characters X, Y, and Z ganged up on the goblins and beat them to paste." The shortened, more narrative version is usually more fun to read too.

Another thing to consider when writing your second draft is the balance between technical writing and creative writing in your notes. The technical part is important for clarity and ease of referencing. (You know, the reason you're writing the document at all.) You're not writing a novel, so long passages and paragraphs of description are out, but that doesn't mean your notes have to be dry after-action reports. This is a record of your campaign, and even if you're the only one who will ever read them, throw a little creative writing in to commemorate the fun you had. It's entirely possible to make an outline of events entertaining through word choice and bombasticity.

Third draft - This isn't really necessary if you're happy with your second draft, but I have two types of third draft that I make depending on my role in the game.

If I'm the DM, I use my second draft notes to refer to while planning and at the table for a few sessions. When I have enough (usually 7 sessions worth) I recopy them into a composition notebook for long-term storage and give the second draft notes to my players. The composition notebook serves as a campaign bible with the final versions of all my planning and session notes. (In my current campaign we're at 28 sessions and I've filled 1.5 notebooks.)

If I'm a player, I type up my second draft notes and share them with the other players and DM. Because I'm nice. I usually only do this if it's a long time between sessions and it's really necessary, like for the monthly game I'm in. For weekly games folks are on their own.

3) Record the important info

Earlier I mentioned that names and actions are the most important things to catch, and that's true, but you should still try your best to write down everything you can. I rely on abbreviations and basic stenography to speed my writing up. If you want to learn shorthand, awesome. Proud of you. If not, the basic tricks that will help are:

  • Shorten names. Write a character/place/spell name out fully the first time you encounter it, then use the first initial or a short combo every time after. (Ex: Magic missile = MM)
  • Use abbreviations for common words (Ex: dmg, not damage) and choose the shortest words possible that will still capture the situation. You can improve your word choice later when you're copying the second draft.
  • Fill margins. If new info comes to light or you missed a detail, cram it into the margins or between lines. Any empty space is good. If you want, treat it like a footnote and give it a symbol (like an asterisk or double cross) to link it to related info.
  • Ignore errors in grammar, style, and spelling. Your first draft will be sloppy and ugly, that's fine.
  • Don't edit. If something you wrote is factually wrong, just cross it out and move on. Don't try to erase it or spend time correcting it, you'll fall behind and miss something. Just put the correct info wherever it'll fit.

4) Have consistent organization

Presenting info in a way that it can be accessed and absorbed efficiently is just as important as having the info at all. You're going to end up with lots of notes and want to be able to reference them fast, so it's important to decide on an organization method and stick with it. When I write my notes I do them in outline format with bullet points for events and sub-bullet points for details. If there are multiple lines I use a hanging indent to keep each section visually distinct.

The most helpful things you can do for yourself are:

  • Have a clear structure. Decide on a style of layout and stick with it. Be consistent with whatever you decide to do.
  • Maintain visual separation. Make facts and details stand out from each other. You should be able to quickly scan a page of your notes and pick out the important info at a glance. Avoid paragraphs and dense chunks of text if you can.
  • Make sure it makes sense to you. Those notes are for you. If they're not in a format that's useful to you, then there's no point in having them.

It takes practice to get to the point where all this is second nature, but once you do it's definitely worth the time and effort you put in. Practice filtering for important data. Practice writing as fast as possible (while still being legible) and develop your own shorthand abbreviations. You'll get there and your notes will be incredible.

Infectious Bug Bite Rules

About a month ago I ran a session set in a swamp infested with biting, disease-carrying insects. If you stopped moving, bugs converged and you got bit. The more you got bit, the higher your chances of catching a disease.

The idea was to throw my players into a miserable, tense downward spiral towards fever and delirium with each bite yet still have them be able to keep moving. Here's how it worked:

- Bite roll: Every time the party stops moving (for an encounter, to rest, etc) have each player roll 1d6 to determine how many times they get bit. If they've failed a check/save or are being incautious and taking a long time have them roll 1d12 instead. Bites stick around and build up until they get some sort of treatment.

- Fever roll: After a player gets bit once, have them roll 1d20+(# of bites) at each encounter in addition to the bite roll. On a 16 or higher they contract a disease and start suffering from a fever and delirium. (-1 to saves, checks, and initiative rolls for each bite.)

- Players can decrease their chances of being bitten (give themselves a negative mod to their bite roll) by taking anti-bug precautions like:

  • Covering exposed flesh in mud (-1)
  • Using bug repellents (-3)
  • A physical barrier, like mosquito netting or a beekeeper's suit (-5, you can't completely escape mosquitoes)
  • Creatures with natural armor or protective traits (ex: flaming hair that acts like a bug zapper) get -2 or whatever feels right
  • Creatures without blood, a circulatory system, or flesh are immune to bug bites

- If you get bit 15 times you collapse into a feverish stupor. The rest of the party needs to cool you down quick or find some way to cure you. You might say something embarrassing in your delirious ravings. Or something useful. Or true prophecy. Mostly just nonsense tho.

Ravings (d100):
 1 - 60   Nonsense
61 - 70   Embarrassing (heartfelt)
71 - 80   Embarrassing
81 - 95   Useful epiphany
96 - 100  Prophecy

d60 Mundane Magical Bindings

A list of everyday household things that might be incorporated into magic circles, bindings, and wards.

Some of the items on the list are traditionally associated with magic, like chalk and mirrors, but most aren't. The idea is that all the items listed could reasonably be found inside an average modern household or be obtained without any raised eyebrows from the neighbors or local authorities. What the DIY mage does with them will probably need to be hidden, or at least camouflaged, but they're not trying to get questionable or illicit magical materials on Craigslist.

The resulting wards/circles/bindings/whatnot also have the potential to be delightfully creepy.

Imagine walking into a room lined floor to ceiling with dolls, their eyes all fixed on the center of the floor where a hopscotch grid is drawn in brightly-colored sidewalk chalk. Each of the grid's cells is labeled with a scrawled prime number and contains a shot glass full of something opaque and unidentifiable. The middle cell's glass contains a single hand-forged nail wrapped in thin copper wire and dark green silk thread.

What does this binding do? Don't know, don't want to. Get the hell out and forget you saw it.

It's a d60 list because the d60 is a shamefully unloved and underused die. If you don't have a d60, roll a d30 and a d6. If the d6 is odd, take the result of the d30 as usual. If the d6 is even, add 30 to the d30's value.

If you don't have a d30, maybe you should.

Roll as many times as you like.

(Note: I wrote this to use with modern settings, mostly Hunter, but over 2/3 of the stuff could probably fit in just about any time period where the concept of a household exists. Like bricks. Bricks are old. If you use it for a different time period and roll an anachronism, follow your heart.)

d60 Mundane Magical Bindings

1) Twist ties
2) A doll set on guard (1 more than one, 2 non-doll classic toy (teddy bear, rocking horse, toy soldier, sprung jack-in-the-box), 3 modern toy (Barbie, ninja turtle, transformer, troll doll), 4 is pristine, 5 is dirty, broken, or mutilated, 6 has ritual markings or strange parts)
3) Non-figure toy (1 marbles, 2 jacks, 3 dice, 4 dominoes, 5 pogs, 6 trading cards, 7 cars, 8 plastic animals)
4) Tacky Souvenirs (1 somewhere you've been, 2 somewhere you've not been, 3 somewhere famous (ex: Vegas), 4 somewhere obscure (ex: Pope Lick, TN))
5) Lawn ornaments
6) VHS tapes ( 1 intact, 2 unspooled, 3 cassette tape, 4 Betamax)
7) Buttons
8) Old clothes (1 rags, 2 casual, 3 formal, 4 vintage, 5 kids, 6 national costume)
9) Old electronics (1 last model, 2 last year's model, 3-4 decades old, 5 retro/vintage, 6 antique)
10) Outdated electronic cords and charge cables
11) Books (1 children's, 2 novels, 3 biographies, 4 repair manuals, 5 text books, 6 cook books, 7 field guides, 8 holy)
12) Bubble Wrap
13) Keys
14) Plastic bags
15) DVDs/CDs
16) Magazines (1 tabloid, 2 popular-vapid, 3 popular-educational, 4 trade publication, 5 scholarly journal, 6 kid's)
17) Broken components (1 appliance, 2 vehicle, 3 computer, 4 other electronic, 5 scientific, 6 industrial)
18) Holiday decorations (1 garlands, 2 ornaments, 3 jack-o-lanterns, 4 decorated eggs, 5 bead necklaces, 6 buntings/swags, 7 nutcracker, 8 fake webbing)
19) Paperweights
20) Confetti
21) Newspapers
22) Film canisters
23) Sheets
24) Light fixtures (1 floor lamp, 2 stained lass shade, 3 night light, 4 desk lamp, 5 goose neck, 6 vintage, 7 tacky, 8 lava lamp)
25) Cans (1 soup, 2 pop, 3 other food, 4 open, 5 sealed, 6 empty)
26) Eating utensils
27) Dishes/china (1 intact, 2 chipped, 3 dirty, 4 bowl(s) full of something)
28) Pots and Pans
29) Bottles (1 full, 2 empty, 3 colored/opaque glass, 4 hanging, 5 tiny, 6 holds something odd/alive)
30) Salt and pepper shakers (1 ornate/valuable material, 2 industrial, 3 kitschy, 4 mismatched, 5 spilled, 6 full of something else)
31) Glassware (1 shot glass, 2 tumbler, 3 goblet/wineglass, 4 stein, 5 colored-matching, 6 colored-eclectic, 7 full of something, 8 novelty shape)
32) Nails (1 pounded in a pattern, 2 laying loose, scattered or arranged, 3 rusty, 4 giant/railroad spikes, 5 hand forged, 6 securing… something)
33) Random hardware (1 screws, 2 eye bolts, 3 hooks, 4 hinges, 5 doorknobs, 6 drawer pulls)
34) Pipe (1 lead, 2 copper, 3 PVC, 4 aluminum, 5 steel, 6 garden hose)
35) Bricks
36) Cinder blocks
37) Bathroom tiles (1 square, 2 rectangle, 3 hexagon, 4 octagon, 5 tiny, 6 large)
38) Sharpie/paint pen (1 mundane text, 2 arcane text, 3 warnings, 4 complex diagrams, 5 crudely-done drawings, 6 nauseating patterns, 7 repeating shapes, 8 tally marks, 9 some kind of code…, 10 roll 2d10 and use both)
39) Paint (Roll on the sharpie (38) sub-table plus: 11 one wall a solid color with evidence of being painted again and again, 12 an incredible mural)
40) Crayon (Roll on the sharpie (38) sub-table plus: 11 children's drawings, 12 piles of melted crayons)
41) Chalk (Roll on the sharpie (38) sub-table plus: 11 a brightly-colored hopscotch court with only prime numbers, 1 a loosely-sketched labyrinth)
42) String (1 circle, 2 staked between points (in shapes, lines, figures, at different heights), 3 wrapped around objects, 4 in knots, 5 hanging loose or draped around, 6 soaked in glue and formed into 3D shapes, 7 wound into balls, 8 hanging with weights or supporting random junk)
43) Rope (1 natural fiber, 2 synthetic, 3 twist, 4 braided)
44) Chain (1 fine, 2 medium, 3 heavy-duty, 4 rusty, 5 unusual material, 6 covered in locks)
45) Thread (Roll on the string (42) sub-table plus: 9 looped into a web, 10 silk, 11 difficult to see, 12 in 1d30 different colors)
46) Tape (1 scotch, 2 masking, 3 painter's, 4 duct, 5 electrical, 6 packing, 7 surgical, 8 old and brittle)
47) Wire (1 thin gauge, 2 heavy gauge, 3 copper, 4 silver, 5 steel, 6 bare, 7 coated, 8 multi-strand, 9 anodized, 10 kinked and twisted)
48) Bungee cords
49) Mirrors
50) Wood (1 sticks, 2 logs, 3 split firewood, 4 untreated lumber, 5 furniture fragments, 6 whole dead sapling)
51) Shells (1 clam, 2 snail, 3 zebra mussel/razor clam, 4 tropical/saltwater shell)
52) Piles of small objects (1 beans, 2 beads, 3 rice, 4 hex nuts, 5 bottle caps, 6 chicken bones)
53) Rocks
54) Meat
55) Broken glass (1 from bottles/glassware, 2 safety glass cubes, 3 long shards, 4 colored/stained)
56) Shredded paper (1 hand-torn, 2 strips, 3 cross-cut, 4 could be pieced back together)
57) Sawdust (1 common wood, 2 exotic wood, 3 from a local tree, 4 fresh)
58) Tea (1 loose leaves, 2 bagged, 3 in containers, 4 the brewed drink)
59) Coffee (1 whole bean, 2 fresh ground, 3 used grounds, 4 instant crystals)
60) Cardboard (1 tubes, 2 boxes, 3 large sheets, 4 made into something structural)


I write, a lot, and some of it feels like it might be useful to other people. This is where that material will see the light of day. If you find something of mine that you'd like to use, please do! Take it, use it, or adapt it until it's nigh-unrecognizable. It's all good. Ideas are meant to be shared.

Most of the material here will be about gaming, game design, or dice collecting. You can expect to see:

  • Ideas (with or without mechanics attached)
  • Homebrew (mostly of 5e or O5R)
  • Lists (so many lists...)
  • Advice (for everyone! DMs, players, about general life skills...)
  • Many pictures of rare and unusual dice

(If you do use something from this blog, please report back about how it went! Doesn't matter whether it's good or bad, I'd like to know. Data from the field is valuable and I'm curious.)