Monday, January 20, 2020

Dungeon Madness

You can wield a Tommy Gun in IA.  It is badass.
Art by Waddany.

Infra Arcana is a wonderful little roguelike... well, not little.  It has thirty floors of ghouls, cultists, flying skulls, witches, oozes, zombies, and other things far worse.  You play an adventurer trying to find answers at the very bottom of a dungeon below a ruined church.  The game is highly lethal and bloody difficult.  Light and time are crucial but exploration of its floors, items and monsters is the only way to get experience points.  Note that you don't HAVE to fight any of the monsters.  You just have to observe them.  You have to play around the knowledge of where the stairway is and balance exploration and time.  It is these elements alone that really solidify the game in my mind as a great example of the OSR dungeon play style.  Treasures and exploration are the key, not straight up fighting the monsters.  The rogue class with the stealth skills is a superb character choice for this reason.  Fire and dynamite are fantastic but should be used carefully, much like in OSR D&D.

I should probably also mention that the game is basically Call of Cthulhu meets Old School D&D meets Blood and Evil Dead II.  If that's not enough of a pitch then I don't know what is.  I once blew Keziah Mason's head off with a pump action shotgun after dispatching Brown Jenkin with a knife to the spine.  Yes, the game is THAT good.  You can get it here.

Watch out for the Rat Things of the lower levels.  They are weak
but can ambush you in a swarm...

One of the very best mechanics is the sanity system.  The longer you stick around a dungeon floor, the more your stress levels begin to rise.  Once it is 100+ you must quickly lower it with light or some other means or suffer a permanent trait of madness.  Reaching the next floor resets your stress back to zero.  Monsters and other supernatural events (such as using magic) make your stress far worse.  I have written on sanity before so I'm not retreading that ground exactly.  What I find super interesting is the relationship between the dungeon and its maddening effect on adventurers who stay for far too long.  Here is one approach that does not require bookkeeping but keeps the fear of madness very palpable for the adventurers.

Failure to escape the dungeon by the end of the session will force the character to remain in the dungeon.  They will return to the party next session but their stay in the labyrinthine chaos that is the dungeon will have afflicted them with a form of Dungeon Madness.  Here are 1d4 examples of Dungeon Madness:

1. Babbling: You babble in an unfathomable language at the most inconvenient of times, loudly enough to alert nearby monsters.

2. Shadows: You are occasionally haunted in the dungeon by 1d3 per dungeon level humanoid shades.  Other former adventurers?  Your dead companions?  Who knows.  They will harass you and deal "damage" that wears you down but can never kill you.  Only you can see and suffer them.

3. Phobia: Roll on the wandering monster table for that dungeon level.  You now possess a phobia of that creature, for some reason, and must save versus fear to deal with them.

4. Nutty Room: You had taken a random empty room and lived in it for a while.  You were subsumed into the chaos of the dungeon and created a ghastly abode.  Revisiting the Nutty Room will trigger an inhuman impulse to continue to serve the dungeon and further "decorate" your lair (treat as a sort of Geas).  Save versus Nutty Room.  This relapse lasts only for the session and will generate tragic/amusing interactions with the rest of the party.     

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Let's Attack Aggressively! (Stay Frosty Contra Hack)

Stay Frosty is an excellent military science fiction RPG by Casey G. that is 100% elegant and badass, 0% bullshit.  You can purchase the game here and I would highly recommend it. 

I have created a rules hack (for fun) that is inspired by the classic Contra run and gun games by Konami (back when they actually made video games).  You can access it by clicking on the code below: 


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

D8 OSR/D&Dable Things Inspired by Splatterhouse

Splatterhouse is a brilliant arcade side scrolling beat 'em up released in 1988 by Namco. It plays solidly and has similar gameplay to Irem's Kung-Fu Master (1984), but elevates itself by being stylistically both very gory and a wonderful love letter to 80s horror and slasher films. I would highly recommend this game to both fans of classic arcade action games and horror films such as Evil Dead II.

The cast of gruesome and ghoulish opponents that you have to punch, kick and, well, splatter are kickass, memorable and could definitely serve as inspiration for your D&D/OSR game of choice. Here are some examples:

1. Monsters that have their head fly at you after you attack the body (whether the body is actually destroyed or not) are fantastic, and when used can create a great surprise that will really give the players a very memorable and interesting encounter.

1D4 flying head attack types: 1. Standard try-to-bite-your-larynx-out attack. 2. Vampiric/Stirge type attack (attaches itself to victim, drains HP until victim is dead, will probably lead to Evil Dead II antics). 3. The head suddenly generates fire and its face melts off, flaming headbutts. 4. Long, prehensile tongue. Will try to trip up victims AT-AT style to assist its separated body in combat, pull victims towards them into a bite attack, and other such shenanigans.

These bastards are a prime example of 3. 

2. Hanged, bloated and rotting reanimated corpses that projectile vomit acidic bile at adventurers. When struck by weapons this corrosive bile will spill out of the wound which can damage weaponry and whoever struck the bloated zombie. These could be used as, for example, grotesque sentries placed by a necromancer outside of his/her lair or a cursed hanged man in the gallows of a haunted ghost-town.

3. A fleshy, worm shaped blob with the malformed face of a human in an expression of agony.

“WHAT THE HELL DOES IT WANT?”: 1D4: 1. To kill with it's acidic vomit and eat victims. 2. To die. 3. To absorb living things into its flesh and grow. 4. Revenge.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS IT?”: 1D4: A former heroic figure, twisted and warped by Chaos. 2. A failed attempt to replicate humankind by another race. 3. A relative of one of the PCs. 4. A noble's son/daughter who spurned the love of a witch/warlock and was cursed.

4. An incredibly strong but very visibly mutated humanoid clothed in rags and wearing a sack on its head. It has two huge swords embedded into the flesh where its hands once were. It feels only pain and constant frustration, and will lash out on anyone it senses nearby. Local rumours say that it is the result of a pact between the champion warrior of a tribe and the forces of Chaos in an attempt to gain the strength of a god-killing titan, but there may be another explanation.

Hope you brought two shotguns...

5. A holy symbol possessed by a malignant spirit that floats upside down and surrounds itself with flying, undead heads (1D6+2 heads when the symbol is encountered). It will launch a number, say 1D3, of these heads per round at the PCs and will attempt to put some distance between itself and the party. It can also, instead of launching heads, use its action to regain a similar number of heads. These things usually inhabit churches corrupted by unholy forces, and for bonus points you could make the holy symbol that of the god worshipped by the most Lawful cleric in the party.

6. The spirit of a serial killer and necromancer inhabits a body that is an eerie amalgamation of bones, with strands of rotting flesh, and a scarecrow with a greyed cloak and hat. It flies in the night, summoning the dead and seeking vengeance against its slayers. [1]


7. Maggot men. Near silent, creeping humanoid things with red eyes fully visible in complete darkness. Their lairs are caves or ruined places that are “infected”: womb like flesh grows over the walls and ceiling, from which the embryos of infant maggot men are secreted. The young will leave their embryos quickly when they touch the ground and attempt to swarm and cling to any intruders, dragging them down to either feed upon them or allow the fully grown maggot men guarding the lair to slay the victim easily.

At the heart of the lair is a heart like sac which is the source of the fleshy walls. Killing it will both stop the growth of the walls and the maggot men's means of reproduction. Some say that the “heart” sac and the resulting maggot men were created by the rituals of a powerful Muianomancer [2]. Others say that it was an angered deity of insects that cursed a sinful tribe long ago and that a maggot man both old and powerful enough, like a reverse butterfly, cocoons itself into a sac and grows as the new “queen” of the lair. Others simply do not want to know.

8. When the party finds the important NPC they need to kidnap/rescue/etc., have this happen to that NPC:


[1] Excellent groovy tune is optional.

[2] A mage or conjurer of flies and fly-based sorcery, derived from Baal muian (βααλ μυιαν, "Baal of flies"):

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Blog Recommendation: Rotten Pulp

Jack's blog Rotten Pulp is one of my absolute favourite gaming blogs of all time.  It's musings, resources and advice are top notch and full of flavour and usability.  I'm going to recommend some of my personal favourite posts but the entirety of Rotten Pulp is full of gold from start to finish.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Tongue in Cheek Reworking of an Infamous Race and Archetype

The elves desired more time to engage with their various arts, festivals and wondrous magics, and to distance themselves from the labour their civilization required as much as possible. To achieve this, they attempted to emulate the legend of the great forge god, who created metal men in its image to do its bidding. Despite the great pride the fey folk had in their ability, the forging of these metal elves went catastrophically awry and created rebellious and murderous automatons.

These robotic elves fled from the forest and into the mountains. There, they conquered a dwarf outpost deep underground and used the resources to develop a lifeless civilization of steel factories. They developed technology such as imitations of curved elven blades, a pair for each warrior, as well as metal mountain lions as attack animals. It is theorized that the ferocity of the mountain lions they contended with on their way to the mountains made a large impression on them.

Once, in a great battle against invading elves, the automatons were pushed deeper into the depths of the underworld and accidentally roused from its slumber a humongous being. It was a gigantic arachnid creature that devoured the elves and left the inorganic race alone. They saw it as their savior and made it their deity, augmenting it with their technology and turning it into a monstrous war machine.

Something like this.

These "elves" are completely metallic and camouflage themselves in fuligin hues to blend with the darkness. They are frighteningly quick with a pair of curved swords and occasionally employ metal tools that emulate spells. Some say they take living beings alive to do... something with them. Some say that they are assimilated into machinery, others say that it's something to do with machines fueled by blood, but all we know is that they never come back.

They can't be bargained with, they can't be reasoned with, and the last thing you hear before they get you is the horrible buzzing sound of their voices:


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Quick Darkest Dungeon-style Game Kit

1. Grab LOTFP for free.

2. Use these Darkest Dungeon adventurer builds by LOTFP666.

3. Use a sanity and stress system such as this one by The Id DM. Optionally, you can give them a save to stave off the madness, with a 17+ giving a beneficial, virtuous trait.

4. Use a random dungeon generator ( or make your own dungeons up quickly via a system like the one from Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e (drop dice on a sheet of paper to determine room placement, checking for 1-3 exits from each room via the number rolled on that die, and work from there).

5. (Optional) Come up with some sort of village building upgrade system. I have been recommended An Echo Resounding and Other Dust by Kevin Crawford for this purpose (thanks to Andy from Known World, Old World for the suggestions!).

6. Practice your best Wayne June impression (Not to be confused with Wayne Knight, although that would be great in a different way).

7. Get some cool droogs.

8. Delve into some goddamn dungeons.

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

D8 OSR/D&Dable Things Inspired by Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania IV is an excellent action platform game originally released for the Super Famicom and Super Nintendo in America in 1991 and Europe in 1992. Essentially a remake of the classic NES game, you take the role of whip wielding vampire hunter Simon Belmont on his quest to defeat Dracula in the eponymous Castlevania.

It has a commitment to a strong Gothic atmosphere, varied level design and an imaginative approach to various mythological creatures. Coupled with solid gameplay, it is a classic that really helped showcase the leap in technology from the NES to the SNES.

There have been examples of OSR and D&D settings that have emulated the Gothic genre [1] and this game could definitely be of great inspiration for those doing a setting of that style or for any sort of fantasy setting.

D8 OSR/D&Dable things inspired by Super Castlevania IV:

1. There is a great evil holding a tyrannical sway over the land but look, a new member of the family of heroic monster slayers is here to help!

1D4 complications:

1. "Hero" seduced by dark forces or pure greed and wants the ungodly power of what they are trying to slay.

2. Hero is way too old for this shit, will need assistance from the party. [2]

3. Hero is actually a massive prick who will attempt to take all the treasure they can from the great evil's lair and then will gloat about it to the party. Hero will most likely become a treasure hunting, monster slaying rival of the party after the great evil is destroyed.

4. Not the hero but rather a servant of the great evil posing as them, with the intention of bringing a relic/magic item of the family to the great evil to augment its power. The actual hero has been murdered.

2. Magical/Blessed Equipment (1D6):

1. A goddamn boomerang cross, a true ranged relic.

2. A holy whip, randomly determine the foe it was made to slay.

3. Silver pocket watch that can very briefly stop time.

4. Holy water vials that can be thrown and create a blue fire upon impact.

5. A strange tablet that increases one's rate of fire with thrown weaponry such as hand axes or daggers.

6. A bronze statue of a bat holding a hoop. Can be activated once per day to animate and be directed where to “hover” with the hoop, allowing someone to use a rope or whip to swing across, throw a grappling hook onto it to climb upward, and so on.

3. Skeleton Knights, with a similarly skeletal steed. Will wield either a sword or a lance.

Personality/Quirks Table (1D4):

1. Bloodthirsty, berserk, will definitely charge at the party.

2. Cool headed, honourable but still aligned to Chaos, willing to strike a bargain or engage in a reasonable contest.

3. Not actually evil, wants to be chivalrous and help people, too naive to realise why people scream and call for a priest.

4. Haunted by memories prior to being undead, obsessed with a key memory of a lost love/family member/place of importance and will not rest or let anyone deter it from following their obsession.

4. Calcified Rock Men who break into smaller rock men when damaged enough. A close relation (possibly feuding with the Rock Men) is the Granite Giant, which becomes smaller but faster when it is damaged.

5. Bloody, fleshy blobs that will stick to walls and “stretch out” into a form resembling the skinned upper half of a human, with the intent of strangling their victims. A similarly deadly surface hugging creature are green masses of tentacles with a single mouth that fall from the ceiling onto prey.

6. A mummified but very much alive and furious chronomancer, who has taken over a clock tower with both loyal followers and amazed neophytes alike. This is part of a planned ritual to reverse time back to when he was the tyrannical ruler of the city, so that he can prevent the rebel coup that killed him. In my head, due to messing with time itself, all chronomancers are in a strange flux that makes them look like stop motion animation.

7. Gold skeletons (or any golden monster). Has a base value per HP in gold coins, thus the value depreciates when it is damaged. Yes, there are individuals who will buy one alive. Yes, they are probably a wizard.

8. A flesh golem alchemist, or one that has basically found good results from chucking alchemy flasks at people.

Example flask types table (1D4):



3. A sort of alchemical flashbang.

4. Roll a potion effect from a different source [3] or GM's choice.

[1] Such as the classic Ravenloft modules and setting, or the wonderful blog Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque.

[2] There are lots of ways to go about this. My immediate instinct would be to make the aged heroic slayer a Don Quixote type character, and that his family are very worried about his obsession with the family legacy, but that doesn't mean you can't go with a world weary warrior, someone guilt stricken for not following the family tradition earlier in life, or something else.

[3] Such as this brilliant one from Goblin Punch.

Also, the soundtrack is amazing.