Notes from the Keep VII

The Keep

1d12 Things the Goblins are launching from their slings.

d14 Trapped Chests

Digression: Finding and disabling traps is a goddamn dungeon staple. It’s bread and butter. And yet Perception + Disable Device is the shittiest fun way to handle it, because you’re just throwing those skills at problems like a robot. It becomes a test of the character sheet, rather than the player.

Apparently PCs are very sound

..alternatives to the “wake up in a dungeon cell” method of starting a scenario.

David Hargrave’s Critical Hit Table (Classic) V 1.0.1

OD&D Annotations: A Closer Look At A Seminal Work

Gary Gygax’s Whitebox OD&D House Rules

Straits of Anián

I deleted my Twitter account. It’s a breeding ground for thoughtlessness and contempt (via Cal Newport)

Procedures for the Liberation of Sir Uravulon Calcidius

Tower of the Stargazer

Everything Herein is Fantastic

BX Houserules; interesting pdf

Last-Minute Keys and Locks & Last-Minute Keys and Locks Revised

Every locked door forever in my game.

Jeff Rients: On System

My advice to anyone currently fretting over which edition or retro-clone or whatever they should use is to just pick one. It doesn’t matter which one. No matter which one you pick D&D isn’t there. It’s your job to take that text and turn it into D&D. Interpret, interpolate, edit, house-rule, mangle, spindle, mutilate. Run that text into the ground. Import crap from other editions, other games. Break it and remake it in your own image. Only once you have your own version of D&D up and running does D&D in any way exist.

NYT: The Return of Paganism

I frequently conflate communion and ritual with D&D so this.

Why D&D Has Lots of Rules for Combat: A General Theory Encompassing All Editions

Basic Megadungeon Play and Procedures (via Chris Tamm)


Bone Marshes Workshop I and II

Fairy Generator

d100+ directions, higher numbers weirder

If Symbolist/Decadent Artists Ran D&D Campaigns

TFP DMG: How To Run Combat

Ten Foot Pole: Pollute the Elfen Memory Water

Room five tells us:

5. Frigid and icy. Vegetation here is dead and withered. Blocks of ice stacked against wall.

* Pink tendril worms frozen in blocks of ice.

* Some blocks have melted and pink tendril worms either wriggle slowly half frozen or plop onto the frigid ground.

Note how it moves the from the general description, as the first line, to the additional lines providing more info if the party looks closer. The wanderer table has them engaged in some activity. The rando flowers on the wall get a little rando table. The monsters have short descriptions, with goals and motivations clear and terse, the writing focused on party interactivity.

Ten Foot Pole: Life & Death

Oh, my heartstrings! A literal call to adventure, tt’s a pretext for all those players that seem to need one, and there are about a dozen different ones buried in the speech. It’s does this with a playful wink and a nudge. We’re all playing D&D tonight. Further, the guild is an interesting design choice. I’m usually not down with adventurers guild, but this one is a little different. It’s loose with requirements, gives the folks benefits, like food and lodging, provides the occasional pretext, AND DOESNT BACKSTAB THE PARTY. It also gives the DM a couple of tools, like magic portals, etc, to get the party moving across the game world and interacting with stuff.


Iambic tetrameter flavor text of the entrance to the woods:

Beyond the mossed and tumbled walls, the air convolves with inky swirls. Beneath the moons dance shimmering wisps. But on the road, beneath the looming trees, the night is dark and clear.

Questions and Hex Describe

Questions to establish characters, via Alex Schroeder.

On Skill Deconstruction: Why Roll for Resolution? via When to roll

AD&D Study & Reading

A Set of Unified Wilderness Travel Procedures


Procedural Dungeons

Notes from the Keep VI

The Keep

We Three Kings

It is Christmas Eve, 1567. Mary, Queen of Scots has abdicated the throne and fled south to England, leaving her one-year-old son James to inherit Scotland. In my game, the players are traveling to Edinburgh, hoping that the uncertain political climate means available work for ne’er-do-wells.

An evening snowfall finds the players marching through a pine forest, whiting out the deep green-blue of the trees and blanketing the mossy undergrowth. Just as further travel becomes impossible, they emerge to find a sorry castle against the horizon. At least it’s shelter.


30 Thieves-Guild Plots

The plots are roughly ordered in terms of their difficulty and scope. Roll 1d10 for a simple plot, 1d10+10 for a medium plot, and 1d10+20 for a master plot. 1d6+10 for plots against rival guilds.

A Procedure for Wandering Monsters

Foreboding is a difficult emotion to evoke, but amplifies the enjoyment of having wandering monsters in adventure games. This is a procedure for using them in old school D&D. I used a variant of this procedure in Emern, but this is the cleaned up version.

d100 Off Duty Monsters

So when not sleeping or at work what is a monster to do? Roll this to find what monsters are doing during their downtime when you sneak into their barracks like a murder hobo.

5e Basic Rules, updated


I was going to make a list of adventure hooks to steal, but I decided to delay it. It needed a preface. Adventure hooks are the sort of thing that never get good explanations in guides for aspiring dungeon masters, so I’m going to try my hand at it.

“The Bill Murray Stories” chronicles the star’s strange appearing act

Perhaps the key to Mr Murray’s unorthodox hobby can be found in “Zombieland” (2009), Ruben Fleischer’s undead comedy. Playing a fictionalised version of himself, Mr Murray explains why it is that he potters around a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, disguised as a reanimated corpse, instead of staying barricaded in his mansion. “Suits my lifestyle,” he shrugs. “You know, I like to get out and do stuff.”

Philotomy PDF

A brief word on some recent online controversies

Be kind to one another. For fuck’s sake. It’s not that hard. Just be kind.

(from the comments)

(It’s funny, because I was drawn to sandboxes and away from D&D 3/4-style scripted-combat games precisely because of my growing distaste for narratives of heroic violence. From my perspective, it’s new-school D&D which is really wedded to the idea that the One True Way is to kill everyone different from you!)

Alignment Distributions

So what I’ve recently switched to is a quasi-normal distribution, in which the majority of men are Neutral, and only the exceptional outlier has some ethical commitment, thus: 1: Lawful, 2-5: Neutral, 6: Chaotic. This seems to give a better flavor to my background campaign. Most men are merely self-interested, mercenary, and incurious; as seen, for example, in a Vancian or Leiberian work. The Lawful and Chaotic types are more rare and surprising (and the Chaotic one thus easier to hide themselves unexpected and unrecognized).

Luck Tokens

Whenever a player fails a roll they receive a Luck Token (poker chip, coin, die, etc). Luck tokens can be spent at any time to increase the result of any roll by 1, even after the die has been rolled.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Notes from the Keep II

The Keep

I deleted my MeWe account. Too frustrating.

I’ve been exploring Discord, which has some features that I like, most notably the potential to jump in on a game while the children are napping, etc. It’s a mess of things going different directions, however.

Generally though, my OSR Social Media Plan is to just ride G+ out.

A lot of interestingness in these Ritualising D&D Spells. I enjoy mechanical elements that inform on the game world, and these certainly do that.

This good thing, better: Tomb of the Serpent Kings v4

The cover to the novel The Time of the Dark (Darwath, #1) by Barbara Hambly; Artist Unknown


How to Write Usable Room Descriptions A good reminder to be concise and packed with kinetic energy. Something that I fail at even when writing in my personal notebook.

Map by Quentin Forestier

B/X: Unearthed Arcana Illusionist Spells

Whispering Wind

Range: 1 mile per level

Duration: Special

This spell allows the illusionist to send a message or other sound via the wind to a distant location within range.

• The destination must be known to the illusionist.

• The message travels on the wind, unnoticed, at a speed of up to 10 miles per hour.

• Once it reaches the designated destination, the wind delivers the illusionist’s message — up to 100 words or one minute of other sound.

• The message is whisper quiet, relayed by the susurrations of the air, but can be heard by all within 30′ of the destination.

• Even if no one is present to hear it, the message is automatically delivered.

Away With the Faeries (a racial mechanic) I’m wary of new stats but this simple little thing adds quite a lot, reinforcing the peculiarities of the game world.

I Swear Upon Your Death I love this sword.


Rambles: Digging up the past?

Once I removed the strata of garbage which composed the wasteland, such as all the modern fantasy and science fiction, once I dug deeper and deepr and uncovered the real dungeon did it all start to make sense. Fantasy genuinely only began making true sense to me when I found Conan, Elric and the stories of Vance..

Impromptu OD&D Session Report On my gamestart bucketlist.

A Severe Lack of Creativity (But Also 3 New GLOG Classes)


The Fencer is a melee glass cannon: it’s able to do way more damage than seems reasonable, but a single good hit could get him rolling on your favorite Death & Dismemberment table.

The Fencer rolls 1d4 instead of 1d6 when generating HP.

Face net not mandatory.

A: Improved Critical

B: Challenge, +1 Critical Margin

C: Bleed Out, +1 Critical Margin

D: Nimble Strike, +1 Critical Margin

A: Improved Critical

The Fencer’s experience makes it easier for them to accurately strike: they Critical Hit on rolls of 19 or 20, decreasing with each Fencer template. (On Template D, a Fencer would Critical Hit on rolls above 16.)

B: Challenge

The Fencer can challenge opponents to duels: in combat, the target must Save or be goaded by his calls. Outside of combat, nobles, knights, bandits, mercenaries, and similar will begin combat: if the Fencer wins, he gains +3 to Charisma when persuading the duel’s audience.

C: Bleed Out

Successful attacks by the Fencer deal 1d4 CON damage as well as their normal damage.

D: Nimble Strike

When using a one-handed weapon, the Fencer can make 2+DEX mod attacks per round.

Further Into The Forest As Zak pointed out, these are not only good, they’re concise and good. A worthy ring. Also, I’m currently building a forest and some of these are definitely going in.

John Harris