Category Archives: Uncategorized

Perception-like checks too transparent? | add an ‘uncertainty/opacity die’ ?

Trends in modern gaming:

  • People like to roll in the open (transparency)
  • Players (not DMs) roll when possible

I can live with both of these (you probably sense a but), but I don’t like this when this is done for perception-like checks e.g. checks for traps, listen at doors etc.

The problem (for me at least) is that the player rolls and then immediately KNOWS the result.

Yes, players can (in theory) put aside their meta knowledge and act only on their ‘in game knowledge’. But, of course they can’t really, and I think the suspense is still lost in any event

Personally, for perception-like checks I think it is better to roll behind the screen and the DM to relay the apparent result to the player. Then, the player can then simply, unfettered, act on the knowledge their PC actually knows.

Below is a possible compromise …
Add an uncertainty/opacity die to the roll.

That is, ask the player to roll two dice, where one is real and one is the uncertainty/opacity die. Only the DM knows which is the real die and which is the uncertainty/opacity die.

Does that really add anything (… a bit) and aren’t we just behind the screen again (… not quite).

Player makes a test with one die and includes an uncertainty/opacity die, and the result is (only the DM knows if the green or orange die is the real die and let’s say the target is 10 or lower):

FandFPass & Pass – player knows and I’d say the PC also knows they passed the test, because they know they did a good job (the uncertainty/opacity die is almost a self-evaluation roll – in real life we have all done a examination/test etc. that we know we have failed and vice versa. Knowing you failed can be useful even if it is not the desired result).

PandForFandPPass & Fail – this is where it gets more interesting, the player and PC do not know if they passed the test – they are getting mixed information:

> > If the DM says “you think the chest is trapped” the player and PC can’t be certain if that is a false positive (you might want to include false positives in your game – e.g. when the test is failed badly, just don’t tell the players the criteria by which false positives arise); or can they safely assume the chest is trapped. That is, the PC thinks it is trapped, but they are not certain if they did a good job in their evaluation to be certain.

>> If the DM says “you think the chest is not trapped”, then what? The player and importantly the PC know that they did not do a good enough job to be certain.

PandPFail & Fail – The player and the PC know that they bungled the attempt and so cannot make any meaningful conclusion.

So in the top (Pass & Pass) and bottom (Fail & Fail) scenarios it is a bit like rolling in the open, but there is a reason why the player does not need to set aside in game knowledge, because the PC shares the same knowledge (well a bit anyway).

Maybe I should have gone with a Move Silently check (perhaps a better example, but I’m not re-writing this blog post, well not yet at least). In a Pass & Pass scenario the PC knows they aced it. In a Fail & Fail scenario the PC knows that they stepped on that cat’s tail it let out a massive yeolw, knocked over a glass bottle which then rolled noisily down the cobble steps. In a Pass & Fail scenario – the PC stepped on the twig snapping it, but was it heard by the guard; should they press on or not?

Just an idea for your consideration … maybe someone has already suggested this.

** EDIT: As always, I’m not the D&D police, please feel free to ignore this mechanic and not use it in your game ***

2022 | end

Got a few things done in 2022

2022 Stuff

Slightly amazed that I now have 48 products on DriveThruRPG with an average rating of 4.6 stars Check out my stuff here (most of it is PWYW):

10 Most viewed blog topics

1   Hex Flowers
2   Excel – Widgets & Mapping
3   Field Guide to Random Table Design RPGs
4   Analogue ‘Fog of War’ hack … | jigsaw over map
5   Hit Points replaced with ‘Usage Dice’?
6   Advent(ure) Calendar | 24 Days of Festive Dungeoneering
7   Solo RPG idea | Sticky labels with QR codes
8   Wolframs’ 4 colour Theorem
9   Caterpillar Method for character Stat Generation
      …. last but not least
10 Did I invent the Depth Crawl (first)?

10 Best sellers (where people paid money) on DriveThruRPG:

1    Face Folio (zine & playing cards)
2    Hex Flower Cookbook
3    In the Heart of the Unknown
4    In the Heart of the Delve & Dangerous
5    In the Heart of the Sea
6    In the Heart of Oz
7    Field Guide to Random Table Design in RPGs
8    In the Heart of the Eternal Forest
9    Hex Flower Template
10  Carapace

10 Most downloaded (including free downloads) on DriveThruRPG:

1    Hex Flower Cookbook
2    In the Heart of the Unknown
3    Weather Hex Flower
4    In the Heart of the Delve & Dangerous
5    In the Heart of the Sea
6    Field Guide to Random Table Design in RPGs
7    Hex Flower Template
8     In the Heart of the Eternal Forest
9    Combat Morale Tracker
10  Face Folio (zine & playing cards)

10 Most viewing countries (just for interest sake):

2022 country

Thank you (from wherever you hail) for stopping by my blog to look at all this nonsense.

!! Happy New Year !!

Puzzle Design – is it possible to try to make a (semi) rigorous system?

TLDR – skip to the “Proforma Questions

– – –

Kinds of Puzzles

I will start off by saying, I do not claim to be the best puzzle designer out there. I just like trying to make them.

I recently read this about puzzle dungeons in RPGs, and it made me wonder if having some structure (at least to start with) could help in making individual puzzles.

Before getting into this, I think it is important to recognise that ‘puzzles’ can be broken down into two main categories:

  • Class 1 – Pure inspiration – for example I saw an Arrhenius screw and thought that would be a neat stair case; or noticing that cannon balls float in mercury, and realizing that perhaps a large vat of mercury could be used to make a liquid bridge over a dangerous surface. But, other than a mind looking for D&D connections, there is nothing you can do to harvest pure inspiration.
  • Class 2 – Active designed – like this moon door puzzle, or secret chimney (pic below) or this rotating flooding corridor puzzle. These were constructed almost from the ground up. No raw inspiration. So, I began to think about my thought process in how I built these puzzles, and began to think – could I codify my thought process and would this be useful?

day-5-chimney-v2 Secret Chimney Puzzle

My thought process for Class 2 Puzzle (for what it is worth):

For example, my main thought process when making the Sun/Moon door puzzle was along the lines of: (1) I want a door that is not easy to get through (2) I’ll make a puzzle that needs to be solved to open the door (3) things need to be put in the correct place on the door to solve the puzzle (4) I’ll make the puzzle be related to the position of the Sun and the phase of the Moon, so I can give visual hints related to these positions in the current sky. Hopefully this will not be too hard, too easy is way worse than too hard.

  • So, in designing: Need an objective –> a ‘stopper’ that prevents getting to the objective easily –> a reasoned solution based on information –> hints that provide this information

I then went through a process of deciding if this puzzle was fun, dobale and not a game ending problem.

  • So, in checking the puzzle: Is this an engaging problem? –> Is it logical enough and not arbitrary, not too hard or too easy? –> Is it putative to the overall game?

I will say none of this was done in a premeditative way, it just sort of rolled out, using more of less those steps, but probably in a bit of a mind jumble. This is just me trying to retro-derive my thought process.

– IF – we put aside raw inspiration (i.e. Class 1 Puzzles) as an untamable beast, is there a way of coming up with a semi-rigorous method of designing simple puzzles for RPGs?

Let’s try:

Proforma Questions

1.OBJECTIVE – What objective will the PCs want/need (it can be a simple one)
2. STOPPER – What stops/frustrates obtaining the objective in 1. easily
3. RESOLUTION – What do the PCs need to do to resolve/overcome the frustration in 2.
4. HINTS – (using the Alexandrian 3 clue rule probably makes sense here)
(a) what hint/clue is there in getting to a solution
(b) perhaps add a second hint/clue
(c) perhaps add a third hint/clue, perhaps make this more of a thematic clue

Check/Validation Questions

5.ENGAGING – Is the solution engaging/fun (or at least not a mechanical drudge) – if not change something in steps 1‑4, probably in steps 2 or 3, and work back through the steps
6. LOGIC – Does the solution require some basic logic or common-sense reasoning – if not, change something in 1-4, probably in steps 3 or 4, and work back through the steps
7. PUNITIVE – If failure to obtain the objective in 1. is overly punitive and/or prevents/ends the game from progressing in a meaningful way – then change something, probably the objective

Worked Examples

:: Let’s try it out – DOORWAY 1

  1. OBJECTIVE – get through the doorway
  2. STOPPER – the door is rusted shut
  3. RESOLUTION – oil the hinges, the oil is in another room (if the players have no oil on them)
  4. HINTS –
    (a) mention that the hinges are covered in rust
    (b) there are greasy spots below the hinges (i.e. hint: they have been oiled before)
    (c) PCs have passed through another door in the complex that could only just be opened on screeching hinges (i.e. hint: oil would have helped open the door)
  5. ENGAGING – seems OK, perhaps it’s a bit on the mundane side …
  6. LOGIC – seems OK, no massive leaps of logic needed
  7. PUNITIVE – this door just leads to a non-essential part of the complex, so it’s OK if they fail to get past the door

Overall this puzzle seems OK, the main problem is that 5. is not especially interesting, so we could have another try or tweak things a bit.

So, we could make getting the oil more interesting, like perhaps the PCs should encounter a broken engine or robot/automitant and it is dripping oil, or they find a bowl where rusted metal items are soaking in oil etc.

OR change something in 1 to 4 above to try to make it more engaging. OK, let’s try that:

:: Let’s tweak it – DOORWAY 2:

  1. OBJECTIVE – get through the METAL doorway
  2. STOPPER – it’s rusted shut
  3. RESOLUTION – get a RUST MONSTER to eat the metal door
  4. HINTS –
    (a) PCs can encounter a rust monster eating its way through a giant metal chain like a row of sausages. Perhaps change the door in 1. to a portcullis, and it is the operational chains that have rusted solid on the portcullis
    (b) there is an abandoned reel of chain left near the door, or the door is also chained shut (i.e. hint: trying to link the door, chains and rust monster together).
    (c) perhaps there are lots of chains left in this complex, and some show strange signs of being eaten by something.
  5. ENGAGING – Perhaps a more interesting solution than above – the PCs can drag the metal chain to the door leading the Rust Monster to the door/portcullis, and then the PCs can come back when the Rust Monster has eaten the door?
  6. LOGIC – think this is a pass
  7. PUNITIVE – Again, the door just leads to a non-essential part of the complex, so OK

Of course, if the PCs come up with a better way of getting past the door, all well and good, as long as there is at least one way of doing this in your puzzle (but also see also PIT 2 example were there is no bespoke solution just an open problem)

:: For the fun of it, let’s make another – DOORWAY 3

  1. OBJECTIVE – get through the doorway (sticking with a theme)
  2. STOPPER – it requires a code/puzzle solution
  3. RESOLUTION – align 7 pegs in the correct holes
  4. HINTS –
    (a) perhaps the pegs are rainbow coloured and they have to be put in rainbow coloured order e.g.: ROYGBIV
    (b) there is a room with a giant rainbow mural with open doors at each end of the rainbow
    (c) the cult members in the complex all wear rainbow coloured robes (e.g. theming rainbows)
  5. ENGAGING – think this is a pass
  6. LOGIC – yes, hopefully not too obtuse. Added hint, maybe have a prism near the door, and when light is shown through the prism the split light shows the placement of the pegs in the holes on the door
  7. PUNITIVE – again, this door just leads to a non-essential part of the complex


  1. OBJECTIVE – get through the doorway
  2. STOPPER – it requires a code/puzzle solution
  3. RESOLUTION – align the 4 levers in the door in a(n): up, down or middle position
  4. HINTS –
    (a) There is a room in the complex where the up, down or middle positions are indicated – maybe horizontal bars on a tapestry e.g. _ — _ perhaps there is an open door printed above the bars.
    Or a painting of the door with 4 prominent markings on it, maybe knots in the wood, or physical holes showing the position of the levers; or carpet with a door with 4 branches growing out of it, each branch position equating to the position of the 4 levers
    (b) Maybe there are some wear marks (or greasy finger marks) on the door indicating the positions the lever should be in
    (c) Maybe the PCs can find a torn cloth that show a smudge drawing showing the level positions, but disguised as musical notes (maybe too obtuse); or they find a diagram on a dead thief, the diagram showing someone blowing dust on a door (the dust sticking to the greasy marks described above)
  5. ENGAGING – seems OK, but maybe the players will get fixated on just guessing the positions; a 1 in 81 chance. To discourage simple mechanical guessing, perhaps once the levers are moved, and a failed result is obtained, the door makes a loud “gong” noise, to discourage too many random guesses. Or, stress that the levers are old and look like the will break if messed with too much
  6. LOGIC – yes, think some is required
  7. PUNITIVE – again, this door just leads to a non-essential part of the complex

:: Sticking with doors just to see – DOORWAY 5

  1. OBJECTIVE – get through the doorway
  2. STOPPER – protected by a magical barrier
  3. RESOLUTION – walk backwards through the doorway
  4. HINTS –
    (a) perhaps a close look at the dusty footprints shows a person appearing to pivot just before going throught the door i.e. weird broad semicircular heel marks
    (b) maybe there is some sort of riddle in the dungeon giving a hint e.g.: “To go back is to go forward, to go forward is the way back”
    (c) maybe there is a magical hoop in the complex where things can only pass through in one direction. Maybe the hoop is positioned to control the flow of water through a pipe? Perhaps the archway and the hoop share a copper frame.
  5. ENGAGING – think this is a pass
  6. LOGIC – think this is a pass
  7. PUNITIVE – again, this door just leads to a non-essential part of the complex

:: Let’s try one more doorway – DOORWAY 6

  1. OBJECTIVE – get through a tunnel archway
  2. STOPPER – protected by circular chopping blades
  3. RESOLUTION – turn the mechanism off
  4. HINTS –
    (a) in the complex there is a switch, perhaps a large bowl of water on a pressure plate – solution empty or move the bowl.
    Hint, the bowl has level line markings in it which indicate which trap is operational when the water is between line X and Y. A picture of the circular chopping blades are shown between those X and Y lines. Between other lines on the bowl there are other traps that turn on, or portcullis that locks (again a hint of what happens is between the lines on the bowl, e.g. a portcullis symbol or picture of a lowered draw bridge etc.)
    (b) There is a jug near the bowl it is damp but empty – hint: it has been used recently. Perhaps someone has used the jug since the PC’s last visit?
    (c) If the PCs mess with the water level in the bowl they hear loud clanking and grinding noises somewhere in the complex. A more complex puzzle might require the PCs to find the bowl and place it on the pressure plate first, but perhaps the pressure plate needs a symbol of the needed bowl on it as a hint. Maybe the bowl has a unique identifying shape e.g. like a large clam or dolphin.
  5. ENGAGING – think this is a pass
  6. LOGIC – think this is a pass
  7. PUNITIVE – again, this archway just leads to a non-essential part of the complex

:: Something new – PIT 1

  1. OBJECTIVE – get out of a deep pit or chasm
  2. STOPPER – the chasm/deep pit is rapidly filling with water, and there is little or no time to remove heavy armor
  3. RESOLUTION – float up on buoyant giant mushrooms that a growing in the base of the chasm
  4. HINTS –
    (a) PCs encounter these giant mushrooms before in the complex – if they decide to mess with the mushrooms they will discover that they are very light and strong for their size. They are easy to knock over as they have shallow footings
    (b) perhaps the PCs will cross a stream where the mushrooms were strapped together to form an improvised but buoyant bridge
    (c) the giant mushroom caps are used as seats by some of the inhabitants of the complex, or perhaps some inhabitants use the mushroom caps as coracles (boats) to move about on an underground lake.
  5. ENGAGING – think this is a pass
  6. LOGIC – think this is a pass
  7. PUNITIVE – a bit (but there are some pretty heavy hints above), but perhaps at worse the PCs might need to lose armor rather than drown.

:: Something new – PIT 2

  1. OBJECTIVE – a golden crown hovers over a wide bottomless pit, the edge/circumference of the pit is mobile, it shifts and oscillates like a writhing snake biting its own tail
  2. STOPPER – falling down the pit means death, and because the edge of the pit is always moving it is difficult to place a fixed structure like a plank across the pit.
    Hitting the crown knocks it down the pit. But, it will reappear again in the same position in about 10 minutes.
  3. RESOLUTION – in this case, the solution can be up to the players. Anything reasonable will be acceptable. Perhaps they try to hook the crown with a grappling hook on a rope?
  4. HINTS –
    (a) I think no hints are really needed here, as long as the crown is not vital to solving the mystery of the complex and reasonable solutions the players come up with should be allowed
    (b) perhaps there are some stones they can use to throw into the pit of no return
    (c) maybe they hear a rumor about the crown and pit in the tavern; or there is a
  5. ENGAGING – think this is a pass
  6. LOGIC – think this is a pass
  7. PUNITIVE – getting the crown is just a bonus

:: Let’s try it again (maybe you are not happy with the “any solution will do” concept) – PIT 3

  1. OBJECTIVE – a gold crown hovers over a wide bottomless pit, the edge/circumference of the pit is mobile, it shifts and oscillates like a writhing snake biting its own tail
  2. STOPPER – falling down the pit means death, and because the edge of the pit is always moving it is difficult to place a fixed structure like a plank across the pit.
    Hitting the crown knocks it down the pit. But, it will reappear again in about 10 minutes.
  3. RESOLUTION – the pit is in fact a living inter-dimensional creature/being and it is attracted and yet repulsed by the crown. It is doomed to circle the crown forever – spitting the crown out again if it falls into the belly of the pit. The pit is released if the crown is physically damaged or a portable hole is thrown into the pit
  4. HINTS –
    (a) PCs can find a broken portable hole, it is interdimensional, but only holds about a gallon worth of stuff. Unusually the edge of the portable hole is mobile and moves exactly like the edge of the bottomless pit. Hopefully the PCs will see a link and decide the throw the near worthless portable hole into the big interdimensional pit. Perhaps, better, the hole and the pit are connected, and when near to each other, the PCs can see the crown in the hole and reach in and grab the crown
    (b) both the portable hole and the pit share some other property, e.g. both impossibly black, have arcing sparks around their edge, or look like they contain the night sky
    (c) PCs can find a partly destroyed book about these interdimensional beings and how they are unstable if they are in the vicinity of interdimensional spaces or other interdimensional beings.
  5. ENGAGING – think this is a pass
  6. LOGIC – think this is a pass
  7. PUNITIVE – getting the crown is just a bonus

:: One more for luck – LAVA RIVER

  1. OBJECTIVE – a long dead monarch sits on a throne in decaying raiments of their office
  2. STOPPER – a river of lava bisects the chamber; the PCs are on the wrong side of the lava river. The heat is so fierce that it is nearly impossible to approach the lava river and any sort of normal bridge will be incinerated, or if metal, it will be white hot in seconds.
  3. RESOLUTION – there is a safe magical conduit over the lava stream covered by an illusion, or it is invisible
  4. HINTS
    (a) Exploration of the cavern may reveal that there is one area in the cavern that seems less hot, following the somewhat cooler area allows them to approach the lava stream, and if bold simply walk over the lava
    (b) Maybe the air around the conduit is different, less heat haze, or perhaps some (heat resistant) dark purple moss shows a path to the conduit
    (c) Maybe there is a painting (or legend about the same) showing the great monarch walking over the lava, feet wrapped in purple moss, their sword held aloft (the sword is a red herring). Maybe they find a fireplace where the heat resistant dark purple moss grows, the moss being largely unaffected by the heat of a normal fire.
  5. ENGAGING – think this is a pass
  6. LOGIC – think this is a pass
  7. PUNITIVE – not solving the puzzle only means they get less treasure

Final thoughts

So, these are just some ideas I came up with on the fly. Give it a try, maybe it will work for you (no promises).

Overall, maybe having some initial structure is a good idea. The concept you get can then be iterated until you get something you like. Perhaps throw some random tables in to help spark more ideas especially when designing a solution e.g. how the heck is a ladle going to be used to open a secret alternative doorway to the dungeon.

Again, I’m not expert, just thinking about how I’ve done this in the past.

Further Reading:

I’ll try add to this as I go along (hopefully):

Day 5 - Chimney

Did I invent the Depth Crawl (first)?

EDIT: I got some push back on Reddit about this post. Basically, it was asserted that I was all bitter about Emmy’s success. That is not the case (you can see below that I wish her well). What this post is, is a enquiry of fact. That is, did I put the idea of a “depth/zone crawl” out there before Emmy. Once you have the answer to that question, you can choose what you do with that answer. If the answer upsets you (and I really cannot see/understand why it would), then, I think you should ask yourself why that is.

I’d add that I’ve had some small measure of success in devising RPG mechanics in the past, in particular with my Hex Flower Engine, and have no desire to appropriate anyone’s ideas as my own (it’s happened enough to me).

– – – POST – – –

I was recently reading The Alexandrian blog and saw a topic close to my heart about “Depth Crawls” LINK.

The blog opens with:

“The concept of the depthcrawl was created by Emmy “Cavegirl” Allen for The Gardens of Ynn and The Stygian Library.” (emphasis added)

If you are reading this post then you already know that Emmy is the author of the well-known Depth Crawl ‘The Gardens Of Ynn’ (GoY), how it works, and that GOY has been very successful, and more power to Emmy for her success.  

But … The Alexandrian blog post got me wondering: did Emmy create the concept of a “Depth Crawl” (I prefer the term “Zone Crawl”) with GOY, and in particular, did GOY pre-date my procedural module Carapace (which also contains a Depth/Zone Crawl).

The short answer is: it seems I had put this idea of a Depth/Zone Crawl out there before Emmy did.

Here’s a brief timeline of events as I understand them:

– – – Supporting information – – –

:: G+ message notification dated 9 December 2017 with a comment from a G+’er on my procedural Zone/Depth Crawl adventure (I also have some direct messages to some other G+’ers before February 2018):

I’ve redacted the identifying information of the G+’er in the message above. Below is a link to the file I was sharing at this time (as it was a work in progress, this is the file update as of 28 December 2017):

:: Link to a Dropbox folder containing an early version of ‘Carapace’, with a file upload date of 28 December 2017

Here’s the PDF version if you want to read this early draft of Carapace, a draft that had not even included a Hex Flower option yet.

TLDR: Well here’s a extract from this 2017 document ([…] denotes section cut for brevity):

:: Link to Emmy’s blog post dated 20 February 2018 (clipping below):

– – – End of Supporting Information – – –

So, for what it is worth, I think (unless Emmy also posted the idea on G+ (or elsewhere) before me, and I have missed it), I created the idea of a Zone/Depth Crawl first. Certainly, Emmy was first to market with a finalized product. My best guess is that a ‘procedural-adventure Zeitgeist’ was circulating on G+ in late 2017, and Me and Emmy honed in on the idea of a Zone/Depth Crawl about the same time.

My inspiration for my Depth Crawl was Jason Cordova‘s “Labyrinth Move” written for Dungeon World; which is concerned with abstraction of the navigation of maze like spaces. I wanted to take Jason’s idea further and came up with the idea of a Zone/Depth Crawl.

I’m happy to be shown to be wrong on any of this. Perhaps my Google-Foo is not strong. Perhaps I’m operating under some misunderstandings. Maybe you think Carapace (or “Into the Hive” as it was titled then) is not a Depth Crawl.

Also, if you know of an earlier root or example of this Zone/Depth Crawl idea, please get in touch, I’d like to know more.

This post is not casting shade on anyone. In particular I’d like to congratulate Emmy on her creativity and success.

Carapace … what’s next?
I am working on a updated version of Carapace with Art from Marcin s (Carapace is about exploring a giant insect colony), … but the current PDF version can be found
>> HERE << and it is PWYW.

Below is a fun ‘concept sketch’ of the Giant Insect Colony from Carapace, from an email of 17 November 2017, showing the idea of Zones 1 to 4 (also, I think back then, the idea was to have a Giant Ant, Giant Wasp and Giant Spider area, each with Zones 1 to 4):

Carapace reviewed/referenced
Carapace was reviewed on the Fear of a Black Dragon podcast, and gets a mention in the ‘External & Complementary Resources’ section (page 160) of Andrew Kolb’s great work Neverland.

Clipping from a concept sketch for the new art by Marcin s:

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

” R ” is for Religion [[ OSR ]]

I recently posted about what I think is common to, and so is, the OSR (link), and why your ‘faction’ of the OSR is a self-fulfilling prophesy. That is, your OSR is THE OSR because you liked that faction of the OSR, and that is the reason why you subscribed to it.

Recently I’ve been thinking more about this factionalism in the OSR. [[Edit: Reddit has pointed out that ‘Faction’ is perhaps a bit too strong – so, when I say ‘faction’ please read this to mean ‘hot spot’, ‘gravitational well’, ‘leaning’ or ‘wing’ etc.]]

I think this factionalism in the OSR is a bit like Religion.

Whatever faction of the OSR you first encountered (and the people in that faction) will heavily influence what you think the OSR is, and importantly if this was an attractive or repulsive experience.

If your first experience of the OSR was rules-as-written-TSR-era D&D – then that will probably be your (OS)R, especially if you liked it or hated it. If your first experience of religion was hyper austere Calvinism, then that will shape what you think “R” religion is. Again, this might be what you are after or you might hate it. Later discovered “R”s are clearly deluded/imposteRs. Or, of course, you might drift from one “R” to another overtime as you become more enlightened. Some “R”s may be tolerant of other “R”s, but others may be very intolerant of other the “R”s.

Anyway, if you want to hear a more expanded view on this (I was going to write the whole thing out, but I need to recover some time in my life) – please see my podcast:—-R–is-for-Religion–OSR-e1rjg1u/a-a8vedcu

(yes, I have a podcast)


– – –

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

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

Monster Doodles | 1988 Dungeon

Some Monster Doodles

These monsters all appear in my ‘1988 Dungeon’ as encounters:

I know these are just doodles, but should I update the PDF to include these pictures (I figure some pictures are better than no images)?

Images updated to remove backgrounds:

Original photos: 

– – –

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

100,000 views | I suppose it is a landmark of kinds

Apparently my blog has recently ticked over 100,000 views.


I know this is chump-change compared with the RPG-luminaries, but since that’s not me, I think that is decent enough.

I’d just like to thank everyone that has taken the time to read any one of my intermittent posts. If you downloaded and/or bought any of my stuff – also thanks.

So let’s dig just a little into what I’ve done  …

First post
It seems that my first post was 25 October 2018, but I think I only started posting in earnest in response to G+ closing in April 2019:

2018 – 4 posts
2019 – 102 posts
2020 – 35 posts
2021 – 27 posts

Most views
Oddly, it was yesterday. An old post seems to have caught the attention of Reddit. 

What have I done …
I’m probably best known for developing (19 Hex) Hex Flower tools.
But, I have done a few other things, like using Excel as a gaming tool, considering dice mechanics, and some other unusual bits and bobs

Product I wish more people would look at
My procedural adventure Carapace

Most Wacky
Battleships dungeon or my Rubik’s cube dungeon / stat generator

Most of my more refined work is on DriveThruRPG (40K downloads), but you can get an idea of what I’ve done here.

Audio/visual media
Did you know I have a YouTube channel (37K views) and a podcast?
Yes? Again, thanks for watching/listening.
No? Well maybe that is for the best!

Feedback/comments below
Liked something I’ve done, then feel free to comment below …
Didn’t like something – save it for Reddit

My blog is just one of many, so again thank you for spending some time here.

Blogging Break

I’ve decided to have a blogging break. Nothing terrible has happened. I’ll probably be back in 2020. I’ll probably be following social media, emails, etc., but may be slow to respond, or I may respond once the break is over with. A few ‘Tuesday Toots’ are scheduled to publish on the blog, and I’ll simply let these come out as intended.

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InHotS the cover imageMe 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

G+ | going, going, gon…

time to go

I don’t really write ‘opinion pieces’, but here goes …

I’m going to boil down what I learn from G+ into 2 points:

(1)  Don’t debate with ideologues – they want validation not discussion

(2)  Don’t consume the oxygen – share your ideas, but leave creative room for others

Thanks to all the creative people on G+ good enough to share their time with me.

Here’s the rest of the ‘meme’ (lifted from G+, I’d share the link, but, ya’know, I can’t):



A Spin on Abnormally Large Spiders

Abnormally large spiders are always good foes to throw at PCs; so here are 5 new spiders re-skinned from page 90 of the Monster Manual (i.e. their stats are the same but their abilities and descriptions are different).

Spider table clip

With the exception of the Phase‑Snatching Spider, they have all been inspired by unusual spiders found here on Earth.

Spiders - Assassin1. Assassin Spider is a giant version of the normally sized ‘assassin spider‘. The Assassin Spider is a voracious ground hunter. It has an unusually long neck, which extends upwards about 6 feet and has two massive six foot long mandibles.

On a successful hit, it grabs and lifts its prey 6 feet into the air, holding them at bay. In this predicament, the victim’s AC is reduced by 4 (or by one class criteria, e.g. plate to chain, etc.). Generally, the victim is also unable to hit with hand weapons. The %chance to break from is twice the character’s ‘Bend Bars/Lift Gates’ (BB/LG) score.

The next round, the great mandibles begin their deadly work, pinching together like a pneumatic press. Each time a successful to hit roll is made the victim’s effective AC is reduced by another 4 units (or by one further armour class type), and one extra damage die is added, e.g. 2D4 (1st hit), 4D4 (2nd hit), 6D4 (3rd hit), etc. The next hit after the victim is at 0 HPs, results in the victim being pinched in half (the Assassin Spider’s goal), the mandibles meeting like a pair of giant chitinous secateurs.

Spiders - Casting2. Casting Spider is a huge version of a normal ‘net-casting spider‘. This spider weaves a man‑sized ‘net’ between its elongated front limbs and will try to ‘net’ any appropriately sized prey. It can jump 18’’, but prefers to descend stealthily above its prey on a line of web.

It surprises its victims 1-5 on a D6, gaining +3 to ‘net’ the victim. A netted victim is enveloped head to toe and cannot readily move their arms or legs. Typically, it will wait until its prey is off guard or distracted (e.g. sleeping or perhaps when they are in combat with another foe). On a miss, it will skulk off to weave a new net.

The %chance to break from the net is twice the character’s ‘Bend Bars/Lift Gates’ (BB/LG) score. However, each failure lowers the chance by 5%, as such wriggling tightens the net.

The spider comes feeds when the wriggling has stopped, when the prey is fully incapacitated.

Spiders - Gobbing3. Gobbing Spider is a large version of a normal ‘spitting spider’ and is nearly transparent. It has an unusually large head and when in range it blasts its prey with a mass of webs that are coated in strong poisonous and digestive juices.

The web is not very robust and halves the mobility of creatures with 9 or less strength.

Until the web is cleaned off, the digestive juices burn like acid, doing 1HP of damage per round per coating. A slow acting poison takes effect after 5 rounds of contact – save vs poison or fall unconscious for d6 turns.

These spiders generate enough web for three attacks and regenerate this in 24 hrs. After spraying their victims, these spiders jump on and bite their prey, latching on and draining 1HP per round while they are attached.

Spiders - Phase Snatching4. Phase-Snatching Spider is a relative of the Phase‑Spider (MM, page 90). Usually, the only visible part of this spider is their foot long fangs. The rest of the spider is normally in the ethereal plane. The spider will position its fangs to snare a victim (e.g. spanning a dark tunnel or placed in a position to attract the curious.

When a victim is in range, the spider will try to grasp them. A successful hit (+4 if the victim is unsuspecting) results in the victim being dragged into the ethereal plane, where the spider is then fully visible. The spider cannot attack for 1 round while it ensures its body parts are back in full harmony with the ethereal plane.

Unlike the Phase-Spider, this spider is only mildly poisonous (failed save makes PC hard to understand; e.g. player must talk with tongue between teeth). The spider has two glands, a big one that produces a fluid that acts like oil of etherealness and a smaller one that produces a fluid that counters this. If desperate, it will spray this second fluid (+4 to hit the unsuspecting) that will return the ‘victim’ back to the prime material plane.

5. Web Bolas Spider is a huge semi-intelligent version of a normal ‘bolas spider’. This spider normally hurls up to 4 sticky blobs of web at its prey before attacking. The spider needs a turn to make new web projectiles.

The hit location (D100):

  • 1-10 – head (temporary blinding; -6 to hit; +6 to being hit)
  • 11‑20 – primary arm (can’t use weapon arm; +2 to being hit)
  • 21-30  – secondary arm (can’t use that arm; also +2 to being hit)
  • 31-40 – right leg (+3 to being hit; movement is halved)
  • 41-50 – left leg (+3 to being hit; movement is halved)
  • 51-100 – chest (+1 to being hit; only 50% chance to draw a weapon; and only 25% chance to take an item out of a pack/pouch/pocket etc.)

While semi-intelligent, their natural instincts are to attack the prey hit by its bolas.

It also has a poisonous bite that induces hallucinations in most humanoids (a failed save vs poison results in -2 to hit in combat; and +2 to being hit). Goblinoid races, and by extension half-orcs, are not affected by the poison. Goblins have been known to have these semi-intelligent creatures as companion animals.

– – –

c AntMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony.

The fate of half-baked ideas …

wolf moonI had this half-baked idea inspired by (or at least building on) someone’s half-baked idea. I wanted to post my thoughts on G+, and see what other people thought, and to see where the idea might end up. If anywhere.

Most of the most interesting ideas I’ve seen (and had) have come about this way on G+. I’ve shared silly ideas that I nearly didn’t post, only to see them evolve into really interesting things. At least in my opinion. There have been duds too of course.

But, it seems G+ has now shut off notifications, and so has in essence killed off the engine that facilitates active discussion.

Post it here? I just can’t see any value in making a blog post about the seed of a seed of an idea; and the rate of any discourse is going to be glacial at best.

MeWe it? I’ve found MeWe to be like a busy nightclub. You can try to have a discussion, but it never seems to work. The proprietor seems to want to encourage certain behaviours, but lengthy inter-customer discussion does not appear to be one of them. The nested comments just seem to (and perhaps are intended to) strangle off any meaningful discussion.

Reddit it? The life span of any discussion is so short (posts even close – Why, What?). And all this voting up and down doesn’t seem to be helpful if you have a niche idea … The ideas I like most are often not the most popular ideas circulating in the OSRZeitgeist . I can only imagine Twitter is even more temporal than Reddit.

Faceb … I can’t even finish it

So what now …

I suppose this post is merely a howl at the moon …. Aruuuuuuugha

Tuesday Toot!! | Ford’s Faeries now in Print

Tuesday TootG+ is closing. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.

5E49E4BB-02BB-45C4-832F-36F3D6E06AD0:: Ford’s Faeries: A Bestiary Inspired by Henry Justice Ford ::

This is an example of when G+ really shone. This is a collaborative work by many G+’ers (including me).

Of all the things I’ve done as a result of G+, this is one of my favourites!

As well as the free PDF, Ford’s Faeries is now available in print (POD) from DriveThruRPG : Link

DriveThruRPG bio page: 

“A bestiary inspired by the masterful work of Henry Justice Ford.

Meet the Moon-Headed Giant, the Leechlich, and the Fencer Familiar, and more than 50 other weird creatures fit for campaigns of every level. The full-page illustrations, often taken from fairytale books, have led our 15 authors to create original monsters that will give a quirky twist to your game. They all come with enough material to become the centerpiece of the session.

Contributors: Dan D., Daniel Lofton, Dat Epic Fish, Emmy Allen, Eric Diaz, Eric Nieudan, Goblin’s Henchman, Guillaume Jentey , HD Atkinson, James V. West, Jean-Marc “Tolkraft” Choserot, Ktrey Parker, Magimax, Roger SG Sorolla, Sébastien d’Abrigeon, and Vance Atkins.”

A review can be found here:

– – –

c AntMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony.

James V West Gexit
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”
Fight on dear Gexit
(drawing by James V West)

Interesting maps of underwater cave systems

I was thinking about rules for breathing underwater and stumbled on some interesting maps:

caves big.png

The above map was found here:

caves new

Some more interesting maps like the above can be found here:


Not much to add … except a few more drawings:




UPDATE: Reddit user GrendelFriend pointed me to this webpage, which looks neat: For example, clicking randomly about , I found this map (so there must be more great stuff on this page):


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c AntMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony.

LinkedIn of Monsters | Monster Matrix

LinkIn of Monsters ii.png

I’d like to know if there is some sort of online resource (wiki, database, webpage?) that shows which monsters are linked to which other monsters …

Let’s consider the curious case of the Hobgoblin and Carnivorous Ape, both of which are listed in the AD&D (1e) Monster Manual.

If you read the Hobgoblin entry you’ll see this (see highlighted passage):

hobs text

But, the Carnivorous Ape entry in the same book is silent on this interesting connection. Essentially, you could get some inspiration by reading the Hobgoblin monster entry, but not the other way round.

This is not the only example. Bullywugs and Froghemoth have a connection (mentioned in the ‘Expedition to the Barrier peak’), but this connection is missing from the FF and MM2. Ettercaps in the FF are mention to “get along well with all forms of spider”, but of course, the earlier MM1 makes no mention of this in the Giant Spider section.

Some of this can be explained by the difference in the dates the various books/modules were printed. There may have even be an editorial choice to save on space.

Either way, I would still like to see some resource that joins all these loose ends together, a LinkedIn of Monsters if you will.

If you know of any such resource, please post a link below!!

Goblin’s Henchman wrestling with the pressing issues of the day … 

This post was prompted by listening to the Monster Man podcast.

– – –

c AntMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony.

D&D Cockney Rhyming Slang | let’s build dictionary?

I had this ludicrous thought of building an in-game D&D Cockney Rhyming Slang Dictionary.

ChancerFor example:

  • :: Horse & Wagon = Dragon
  • :: Evil Lord = Sword
  • :: Eye of the Deep = Sleep

So you could have “I stab the horse and wagon with my +2 evil lord”; or possibly more correctly “I stab the horse with my +2 evil” 

It might even make a fun/passable Thieves Cant.

If for what ever strange reason you want to make/contribute to making such a dictionary, see here:  link to Google Sheets 

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c AntMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony.