Monthly Archives: October 2022

Onion-, Zone-, Layer-, Shell-, Down-, Pancake, Gobstopper … Crawl

I’m not very fast at bringing stuff together …

Sometimes I wonder how long things take me. For example, I recently began to think how long ago I came up with the idea of an Onion-, Zone-, Layer-, Shell-, Down-, Pancake-, Gobstopper- Crawl for use in my adventure Carapace .

Aside – Onion/Zone-crawl what?

I’m sure we are familiar with Hex-Crawls and Point-Crawls. But what is an Onion/Zone-crawl anyway?

The idea is that, like layers of an onion, you can press through the various layers/zones of the adventure, or you can backtrack out again, or stay in the same zone. The onion could have a infinite number of layers!

So, basically, there is no map. Each layer can have its own theme, or could be more dangerous, or chaotic than the last. So in practical terms what’s happening in each zone is procedurally defined. For example you could be working your way through the planes of the 9 Hells etc.

My Zone-Crawl adventure >> Carapace << (about procedurally exploring a maze like giant insect colony) was published 11 December 2018.

Hrrmmmm … I wonder how long the idea of a Onion-Crawl has been out there? For example DriveThruRPG shows that adamantane bestseller Gardens Of Ynn (the best selling example of a Zone-Crawl) was published on the 20 March 2018. So it seems this idea was circulating around 2017/2018 – was there an Onion-Crawl Zeitgeist circulating back then? Quite possibly as this was arguably at the high-tide of the G+ era.

Aside over – back to my delays

Anyway, but looking back, I noticed lurking in my email account was part of a discussion I was having about Zone-Crawls & Carapace back in the 9 December 2017 on G+ (then with a working title of ‘The Hive’ or some such):

So, I suspect I had been working on Zone-Crawls for Carapace for some months before that. My best guess was that I was toying with this idea in about September 2017. Maybe.

Shamefully, I even now have new art for Carapace from Marcin s (probably for more than 2 years now).

This, or more probably next year, I want to buff this all up and finally put this out as a hard copy adventure.

Soooooo, if we say this idea has taken from ~ September 2017 to (hopefully) ~ September 2023 – that’s only 7 or so years !!!!!!

Summary of Carapace Timeline todate:

  • First idea of using a Zone/Onion-Crawl, probably ~ Sept 2017
  • First (found) shared draft of this idea ~ Dec 2017
  • First PDF on DriveThruRPG ~ Dec 2018 (so, only about year later)
  • –> HOPEFULLY an updated print version with new art ~ 2023 !!!!

This is probably my most delayed project, my note to self, must do better.

> WHAT’S your longest yet unpublished work that you (still) hope to get out? <

– – –

Me on DriveThru; some of my things:
:: High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea,
:: Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown,
:: Dungeon/network generator – In the Heart of the Delve & Dangerous

Do you even OSR ? | Response to Oct-OSR

I’ve recently been listening to lots of Oct-OSR podcast and I began to wonder why I find myself more often than not agreeing with what seem to be different/divergent statements about what the OSR is.

So, I had a bit of a think and tried to put a pin in it.

Some say the OSR is playing in a 70’s style (or at least what they think happened back then), others say the OSR must be mechanically compatible with 70s D&D, others think it is an ethos or is the DIY scene etc.

Can these all be OSR, can the OSR really be this broad?

Perhaps yes, if these are all views/movements that represent ‘dials’ in the OSR that people can dial up or down. So, when peoples say OSR is “X”, what they really mean is “X” is what is important to me in the OSR. The other stuff (that is not “X”) is not so important to me, and perhaps negligibly important. When enough people have the dials set at the same-ish position, then you begin to generate a gravitational well that draws in more adherents. This gravitational well may even become sufficiently distinct to gain a new identity like the NSR movement/wing.

So why these gravitational wells in the OSR?

I think what is important to you in the OSR is what drew you into the OSR in the first place. It is likely that what drew you into the OSR was a contact with an “OSR” (be it a person, group or product). If you liked that “first-contact-OSR” you joined the OSR. If you didn’t like that “first-contact-OSR” you left or never joined the OSR, and probably warned others off the OSR. That “first-contact-OSR” will therefore have strongly coloured your understanding of what the OSR is. Of course, the bigger the gravitational well of an OSR wing, the more likely it is to be a person’s “first-contact-OSR”, and so these wings of the OSR grow.  

So, bringing this together – what do I think the OSR is?

I think the OSR can be as broad as the various people say it is. People naturally think the OSR can’t be that broad. But, I’m not so sure. I think the OSR is like a thin membrane capturing all the OSR gravitational wells and movements derived therefrom.

To me, I now lean towards thinking that the OSR is … a non-conformist movement (like the Arts and Crafts movement) where free-thinkers do ‘RPGs’ in the way they want to, and do not simply accept what corporates like WOtC (or other main stream commercial publishers) said RPGs are, e.g. currently 5e D&D.

I think the OSR was kicked off (began to crystalize?) when people read D&D 3/4e and said: nooooooo, I’m not playing D&D that way!

But, what do I know!


– – –

Me on DriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural:
:: High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea,
:: Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown,
:: Dungeon/network generator – In the Heart of the Delve & Dangerous

Functional Entries in Random Tables | more scope but comes with more user load

Recently I been thinking about functional entries in random tables.

In my ‘In the Heart of Oz’ (a system neutral) sandbox, based in the land of Oz, I wanted to add some random tables but wanted these to “work hard” for the limited space available.

So, I wondered about replacing single entry random tables with functional entry random tables. For example instead of ‘sword’ you use ‘bladed weapon’ and let the user decide if it is a sword or an axe or a ‘bec de corbin’. 

This is a pretty trite example but of course you can take this further (see below).

I’m sure this idea/concept has happened in the past, but when I have done this (at least), it’s been more an unconscious design choice rather than a conscious design choice. I’d like to hold this idea up as a conscious design choice for the DM’s toolbox.

Benefit – gives a much bigger spectrum of outcomes

Downside – require the user to bring more of themselves to the table (which might be the very thing they are trying to avoid by using random tables!). 

Some might like the idea, but might displease others … I’m not the RPG police so please feel free to ignore this idea. 

– – – 

To see something I’m tinkering with this idea – Link:

The idea is to do this on the fly (or pre-prepare some), but also source the table – throw this at players – Tell me what item you find based on these 3 constraints … etc

Below is an text only extract from the above linked PDF: 

Random Creature Builder

Roll once on each of the two tables below:

Base Creature

1                 Apex predator

2                 Large herbivore or domestic animal

3                 Monkey, ape or lemur

4                 Rodent or marsupial

5                 Amphibian or reptile

6                 Bird or dinosaur

7                 Insect or arachnid

8                 Crustacean or echinoderm

9                 Gastropod or cephalopod

10              Human(oid) – or you decide

Creatures are normally at least man-sized


1                 Roll on table above – hybrid of both e.g. a Human(oid)-crustacean

2                 Unusual locomotion: Fly, hover, burrow, crawl, creep, jump etc.

3                 Oversized/mutantous body part or extra parts – limbs, mouth, eyes etc.

4                 Unusual sized e.g. giant, long etc.

5                 Exotic colouring or display

6                 Made of artificial material

7                 Mushroom, vegetable creature, or made of natural material

8                 Roll on ‘Terrain descriptor’ table 

9                 Roll on this table twice – has both

10              Roll again on this and on the below table 


1                 Offensive: looks, smell, charisma etc

2                 Insubstantial: ghostly, ethereal etc.

3                 Resembles man-made object, can mimic things, or is a doppelganger

4                 Spits fire, acid, ice, stones, spines, bile, eels, buttons, rainbows etc.

5                 Unusual strength or speed

6                 Contradictory property of a typical creature of the ‘Base’ creature class

7                 Teleport locally, or is transparent

8                 Ability to petrify – gaze, touch etc.

9                 Ability to cast magic or illusions

10              Roll on this table again – has both

– – – 

More info: 

In the Heart of (the Land of the Wizard of) Oz is a system-neutral procedural sandbox setting which draws inspiration from the books of L. Frank Baum and with artwork by the wonderful Nate Treme (Highland Paranormal Society)

In the Heart of Oz contains procedural Encounter, Terrain and Weather Engines for Wilderness Hex Crawling across the fairy-tale like land of Oz. There is also a procedural ‘dungeon’ to take on the Wicked Witch of the West in her Yellow Castle.

Preview image

Capture - WoOZ

Hex Flowers … what?
A Hex Flower is a bit like a random table, but with an inbuilt ‘memory’ (because the last turn affects the next outcome). Each time you enter a new HEX, you procedurally determine what is going on. 

Hex Flower procedural products you might be interested in
:: In the Heart of the Unknown –  procedural wilderness (Hex) exploration
:: In the Heart of the Sea – procedural High Seas exploration
:: In the Heart of the Delve & Dangerous  – procedural ‘dungeon’ exploration
:: Carapace – adventure exploring a giant insect colony
:: Planar Compass 2 – procedurally explore the Astral Sea 

More on Hex Flower Theory
You can read more about Hex Flower Game Engines in my Hex Flower Cookbook

and on my Blog:

This document can be conveniently printed using the ‘booklet’ option on printers that can print on both sides of the paper. Folding gives an A5 booklet.

Solo RPG idea | Sticky labels with QR codes

Recently I have been wondering if this idea might be fun – just a slight extension of an idea I had before.

Solo adventure kit

  1. Sticky labels with some QR codes, the QR codes lead to pages that describe an encounter
  2. Dungeon map, or page with lots of interconnected tunnels but no rooms

Solo Kit 1


Solo player peels some of the labels off the sticky sheet and adds them to the map page to create a random dungeon. This can be as you go, or beforehand. Hopefully, with this set up, the encounters will be surprising to the wouldbe DM-Solo-Player.

Solo Kit 2

Perhaps in a journal type game, these QR codes lead to blank google pages where the solo player can make a record of what happens.

A more dungeon-y embodiment:

Solo Kit 3

Solo players could build up a database of encounters/rooms. Want to help build a QR Living Dungeon, then please go to:

But, to see what’s there already (or just want some free stuff to vibe off), here are the (first?) 20 random room encounters I made:

20 QR random rooms

image_preview Get a better quality PWYW PDF version. Or, just want 20 unexpected rooms without the QR codes (20 Unexpected Rooms)


– – –

Me on DriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural:
:: High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea,
:: Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown,
:: Dungeon/network generator – In the Heart of the Delve & Dangerous