QUICK AND DIRTY REVIEW: A Doom to Speak

Disclaimer: I have met (at least some of) the Soul Muppet gang briefly and they seem like lovely people, and I backed the Kickstarter for these products. So... biases exposed, I'm a BigRGP corporate shill, let's go.

Also disclaimer: I haven't run these, its just a first impressions read through.

Link to the Publisher
(I can also attest that the Weird of the Wode is pretty solidly good stuff too)

TLDR: While the visual design is somewhat amateurish, the content is pretty solid, well presented, and creative. It fits the design goal well and should make for some excellent and memorable sessions. Final Score: 4/4 can't wait for more 

The Product

Let's start off with a description of what you get overall, then I'll dive into each one separately.

Credits: SoulMuppet Publishing, more specifically; Zachary Cox (writing), Ben Brown (art), Patrick Eyler (Maps), Fiona Maeve Geist (editing), and Jarrett Crader (editing).
There will however, be more of these Zinis, by more people too.

System: Best Left Buried (though like many OSR products, you can infer much of what is going own easily) available on DrivethruRPG, and Exalted Press, among other places I expect.

From the Kickstarter:
"For too long have dungeons been buried in enormous tomes, reliant on confusing referencing, obtuse layout and a little too much page-flipping.

A Doom To Speak hopes to revolutionise dungeon design, borrowing from traditions like the One Page Dungeon Contest, the Pamphlet Jam and the “Zini” (or mini-zine). With this Kickstarter, we're aiming to catapult the traditional dungeon formula into a short, hyper-useable system.

Every zini contains maps, dungeon rooms (complete with descriptions!) as well as monsters, random encounters and treasure, all in a dense, informative medium. There's a good smattering of art & illustration throughout all the zinis, and absolutely zero page-flipping required. It's everything you need to run a session on a single piece of paper that you can print quickly and cheaply in the comfort of your own home - no expensive shipping costs necessary!"

This is a relatively good description. While the concept itself isn't totally original, its certainly a  well-executed example of it, and I'd say some of the better "concise" dungeon executions I've seen.

The way it is constructed is this; take a piece of A4 paper, fold it in half like a book. On the front cover is the... front cover? A bit of art and a sentence description of the dungeon. On the inside pages is a central map, and room descriptions spiking off from each room/area. On the back page are the monster/npc descriptions, and a magic item or two if present.

You can grab each one for a couple of bob.

These are the descriptions of the four released so far;

Seacaves of the Octoclops
"A famous gang of smugglers previously claimed this coastal cave system—until the Octoclops arrived and devoured them."

Hearteater's Hall
"This rural Elven manor house was known as Holston Hall—famed for extravagant dinner parties until it suddenly fell silent. Surely this ruined manor is an excellent spot for Cryptdiggers to explore but, strangely, none who venture within return."

Lair of the Wyvern
"This cave network is full of chemical overflows and valuable ore veins, and was previous mined by the Undergem Clan until a wyvern took nest here. A colony of Devil Ants was released, and now
they work to expand their hive mine."

Ravines of Karn  
"Beneath the deep jungles of south Salver, two hidden evils lurk in the ravines. If they combine a calamity would befall the earth. Ancient goblinoids imprisoned their demon god, and their ancestors still dwell within the ravines."
(I think ancestors there should be descendents?)

So there you go, four (so far) short, one-session, one page adventure locations. Lets deep dive a bit more.

The Good

The Text
Its a fine line to walk between terse and bare-bones. I feel like it perhaps strays a little too far towards bare-bones some of the time, but this is understandable given the format. The area descriptions are good and cover the major bases of theme, and the room descriptions fill in specifics. Most of the time there is good use of other senses in descriptions of rooms and some good ordering of the things being described by obviousness. Most importantly, they are like, two sentences each. Usability is the key here.

The NPCs
I'm finding it actually a bit hard to refer to many of these as monsters. A lot of them are treated very well beyond the reductive "attacks on sight" agenda of most adventures, and even the more mindless random encounters are given "rules" that can be used to infer their behaviour.
For example, the Octoclops is a big monster-thing and main threat of its adventure, but you can bribe it with meat, and it can be stunned with sudden bright light. Thought was put into different ways to handle the obstacles in these adventures, despite the space limitations. The Devil-Ant Queen can speak common and isn't above talking. You can get a sense of her personality from the four or so sentences of her description. As I say, this is applied to pretty much every monster/character/encounter.

The Art
There's not that much of it, which is really to be expected for a small-scale project like this, but what there is, is great. Evocative, and they give a nice kind of gritty-ish feel I think. They set the stage for the adventures well.
Oh, and this is a good place to preface the next bit with the Maps really are very nice too, by Patrick (Foot of the Mountain productions).

Minor Note: The Tone and Fantasy
They're pretty classic OSR-level fantasy. I think the most magical things I really saw are a temple that binds a Demon into an obelisk, and a block of ever-frozen ice. The biggest monster is a Wyvern, which is dead anyway. Oh, and the Octoclops.
This is about perfect for my taste I think, and definitely fit for the type of fantasy the system sells itself on.

The Bad, Well, The Less Good

The Maps
Well, as I said the maps themselves are actually pretty nice I think. They're done very well in a semi dyson-esque style (which isn't quite consistent between the four adventurers, but I don't care to be honest) but I do think some more time could have put into the actual visual design of the documents. Its obvious that they are scans of hand-drawn maps, which is fine, but it is missing some colour-correction or something so that the image of the map is slightly blue-ish, and it has a distinct border compared to the whiteness of the rest of the page. This is exacerbated by how the text can sometimes over-lap with the map, making it a bit harder to read and less pleasing to look at. The map for the Sea-Caves is unfortunately bisected. I think the map for the Wyvern's Nest has been expanded a little too much, and has gone a little blurry.
Ultimately, this doesn't break the product, not at all. I even think it wouldn't be too hard to fix either, and maybe its not so noticeable when you print it, but you should be aware of it I guess.

The Layout
I think maybe sometimes the white space could have been handled a little better. Sometimes the text can be a bit squished together when there's plenty of white space around it. I think oftentimes its so a title can be centered above its table. Sometimes its not. Again, a minor issue.
Sometimes the little lines connecting the text to its room can be a little unclear too. Not too hard to figure out, but its there none the less.

The Mostly Inbetween

Here are some other though-bits.

- Maybe they could have used a few hooks, though I think its pretty easy to come up with your own for these places. The situations are open-ended enough for it, but its still a shame. Probably an effect of space limitations I'd guess.

- A couple of things could be cleared up a little perhaps. The Hearteater respawns from his marble statues. There are three statues, each with a statue marker on the map. One isn't described as marble. I assume it is? Does breaking them stop him respawning? That being said...

- Its nice that the situations are just there. There's no "goal" as such, though there are some pretty clear "set-piece" moments that jump to mind on a read-through. The scenarios presented are lovely and open and blank-canvas-ey in a good way.

- It could use another editing pass over. A couple of full stops where they shouldn't be, a weird word in one of the descriptions maybe? A minor point really. 

Closing Thoughts

Look, I'd be surprised if it won any awards for visual design, but as a product for a DM to run a game from, this is great stuff. Its easy to comprehend on a read through, and simple to understand at a glance. I think you'd only really need a half-hour before a session to give it a proper read over, and you'd be set. What issues I do have with them are minor, especially compared to the value proposition I think.
If you're ever in need of a speedy session, a quick and dirty one-shot, or a place to stash a rare goody, I think you would be well served by these.
I rank them an Octoclops out of five Kobolds. Very recommended.

And there's more of them to come! 

Look they're really good. If you aren't convinced, check one of them out. I'd recommend Hearteater's hall personally.

Downtime from my MegaDungeon game

Spwack said I should post it. Little did they know, I actually would.

Much of this was taken from a Google Doc that I wrote for my players. In a coincidence of fortunate timing, this has given me a chance to re-write parts of it to reflect changes in my approach. For example, Filth didn't exist until recently (and was going to get its own post once I had seen how it actually worked, so consider it a sneak peak I guess).

You can sort of tell what was written when based on the font, because Blogger is strange. (or you could use context you animals)

Also, for notes, Notes: are my general musings, Side Notes: are for the benefit of you who aren't playing in this game and so have missed the rest of the context for the house rules and sub-systems. For my hindsightful thoughts, they are right at the bottom.

[Also also, sorry for the terrible formatting. Much of this was taken from a google doc, as I said before. It would not play nice when I tried to cut and paste it. I have just pasted it as plain text for now. I will do nicer formatting later. Its late. I am tired. I am annoyed. Good night.]

Downtime

When you recover, you have 7 days of downtime. For ease, we will codify it into a bit of a procedure.

When you recover, apart from all the health benefits its provides, you also follow the following procedure:

You expend Gold based on your Lifestyle
You test against your Filth
You roll a Lifestyle Event
You choose a Daytime Action
You choose an Evening Action

Lifestyles
There are five ranks, in order of expense spared:

Squalid
You are basically living rough, its free basically.

When you recover, you regain only half your hit die, and at the end of the recovery, you roll all your hit die and add your con mod to each rolled dice. If the result is less than your usual HP max, it becomes your HP max until you next recover.

Poor
What the serfs have to deal with, costs 5gp per week.

When you recover, you only regain half your hit die, otherwise it works as normal

Comfortable
The middle of the road. Recovery is as normal, but this is where it starts to cost a little bit. 25gp per week.

Lavish
You splash out, have a few servants, its a nice place. 100gp per week.

When you recover, you may roll your hit die, and add your con mod as per the usual for hp, if the total is higher than your usual max, you make that your new max until you next recover.

Royal
You spare no expense. Crippling to most nobles even. 300gp per week.

Recovery as per Lavish, and you gain half your prof mod (rounding down) in bonus Hit Die to take down with you.

[Side Note: There are also three classes of district you can live in, Lower, Middle, and Upper. Lower class limits you to the bottom three lifestyles, Upper limits you to the top three, and Middle restricts you to the middle three.]

Lifestyle Events

When you recover, depending on where you live, and the level of lifestyle you have, you will receive a Lifestyle Event; such as being robbed, meeting a peculiar NPC, or finding a particularly useful specialist Vendor.

To do this, roll a d12 and a d20. The d12 indicates your event, and the d20 develops it.
If you live in a Low Class District, roll the d12 with disadvantage.
If you live in a High Class District, roll the d12 with advantage.

The d12 result is taken from the table below. The d20 result comes from the DM.

1 - Robbed!
2 - Made a Rival
3 - A Find on the Black Market
4 - Met an Odd NPC
5 - Receive a Quest!
6 - Receive a Rumour
7 - District Class Bonus
8 - Receive an Omen
9 - Met a Superior Specialist
10 - A Find at the Auction
11 - Make an Ally
12 - Economic Opportunity

For Lower class districts, the bonus result is Robbery.
For Middle class districts, the bonus result is Superior Specialist.
For Upper class districts, the bonus result is Economic Opportunity.

[Note: I will add a bit more of a detailed description for the d12s, but at this point these options are all known factors. It used to be more complex, but I've stripped it down to make this bit run smoother, as I felt this was the real speed-bump previously.]

[Side Note: This is where I learned the truth of the axiom "If you have two rolls, try and make it one." or something to that effect at least. The constant back-and-forth of "what did you roll?, that means this, roll again, what did you get? that means this..." took ages, and wasn't particularly interesting until right at the end. This at least means that more of it is player-facing so that it can move quicker. Sometimes, crunch is fun. Too much crunch is never fun.]

Filth

You accumulate Filth down in the Undercity, slowly simply by being there, quickly by messing around with poop and such. Monsters might inflict you with it. By itself, it doesn't do much, but when you next recover, you must make a Constitution Saving Throw with a DC = Your Filth. If you succeed, you suffer no consequences. If you fail, you catch a disease. If you fail a Filth save whilst afflicted with a disease, it gets worse.

 Resting only gets rid of half your Filth, rounding down.

[Note: The Cure Disease spell now works slightly differently. There are two spells;

Suppress Disease: A 2nd level spell that removes all Filth from its target. Gains another target for every 2 spell levels higher you cast it at.

Cure Disease: A 5th level spell that cures a disease. Cures an additional disease for each spell level higher you cast it at.]

 [Side Note: My game is in 5th Edition DnD, and has a level cap of 7. This means that the highest spell level you can (naturally) get is 4. To get higher than that, you must transcend your mortal limits, or huff hecking tonnes of Wizard Drugs. Its a cruel world.]

Downtime Actions

When you Recover, you get two special actions; the Daytime Action, and the Evening Action; which represent what you spend the majority of your time during the week.

In general, Daytime and Evening actions can do mostly the same thing, but the Daytime Action represents a more substantial contribution of time.

For certain actions, only one type of action can be used.

For others, you gain an additional bonus for using both your Daytime and your Evening Action for the same Recovery period, called the Combo.

Downtime Actions

These are the more general list, it is not necessarily exhaustive or limiting.

Carouse
(Evenings only)

In essence, blow your money on wild parties, get hilariously drunk, get XP for it.

When you use your Evening Action to Carouse, you spend an amount of Gold of your choosing (at least, initially) and make a Wisdom Saving Throw.

If you succeed, you spend only that much, and get a random Carousing Event.

If you fail, you spend an additional d% of your initial spend, and get an even more random Carousing Event.

In general, it is much more flukey than Philanthropy.

In the end, you gain XP equal to d6 x 10% of the total gold spent.

Don’t spend more than you have. You’ll regret it.

[Note: In classic fashion, 1gp recovered from the sewers = 1xp when taken back to town. Carousing (and Philanthropy, see below) is essentially a way to get bonus bang for your buck. And extra XP.

Commune

Pray to various gods, give some dosh to the poor maybe, sing a few psalms, whatever.

Gain blessing from the Gods, depending on your favour with them.

If you used a Daytime Action: The Blessing lasts until you next Commune.

If you used an Evening Action: The Blessing lasts until your next Recovery.

Communing has no special Combo effect.

[Note: I have yet to actually figure this one out. Thankfully, no one has really wanted to do it so I've just let it lie fallow in the mud. Poor Commune, I should treat it better.]

Condition

Train your feeble body to the VERY PEAK OF PHYSICAL CONDITION.

When you Condition, you may roll your Hit Dice and add your Constitution Modifier to each result, as if rolling for Hit Points. If your total is more than your usual Hit Point Maximum, then the new total becomes your Hit Point Maximum.

If you used a Daytime Action: You roll an additional number of Hit Die equal to your Proficiency Modifier, and discard that many die of your choice after rolling.

If you used an Evening Action: You roll your Hit Die as above.

If you Combo them: You roll an additional number of Hit Die equal to your Proficiency Modifier, and discard that many die of your choice after rolling. You also treat your Constitution Modifier as 0 if it is negative, or 1 higher if it is 0 or positive.

Craft

You get to make a thing! Hooray!

You may only craft with a Tool Set with which you have at least one “rank” of proficiency with.

Crafting adds a certain amount of progress to a project; 2 for initiate items, 4 for journeyman items, and 8 for masterwork items.

You must also have a minimum number of ranks of proficiency with your tools to make items; one rank for initiate, two ranks for journeyman, and three for masterwork.

For each point of progress you make, you must spend gold equal to 5% of the item’s market cost.

If you used a Daytime Action: You make 2 progress.

If you used an Evening Action: You make 1 progress progress.

If you Combo them: You make 3 progress for the price of 2 progress.

[Tiers of quality (initiate -> journeyman -> masterwork exist mainly as a money sink to get incrementally better die sizes for your weapons, or increase the maximum proficiency bonus you can get with tool kits.]

Investigate Item

You will presumably find some strange stuff down there in the sewers; here’s how you find out what the heck it does.

Items have a number of Facts about them:

Their Market Cost
Items they are a key component of
Major Properties (which can be leveraged for making new items)
Who is interested in them (potentially)
Any other Obscure Uses

If you used a Daytime Action: You learn a Fact of your choice.

If you used an Evening Action: You learn a random Fact of the DM's choice (or whatever he can think of first).

If you Combo them: You learn two Facts of your choice.

Mingle

Spread your time among the Taverns, the Salons, the Market Places, and hear what there is to hear.

This is a chance to gain extra Rumours about the Undercity. The more time you spend on Mingling, the more specific or numerous rumours you learn.

Topics of Rumours are:

Challenges you can face
Treasures you can find
Mysteries you can solve


If you learn about a rumour you have already heard, you will receive more specific information about it, so don’t worry about rolling rumours you’ve already heard.

If you used a Daytime Action: You may either choose the Topic of Rumour you learn about, you may learn a rumour of a specific area of the sewers, or you may learn two random rumours.

If you used an Evening Action: You learn a random Rumour.

If you Combo them: You learn a rumour of a specific area of the sewers, and you may choose its topic.

[Side Note: Woe is me and my Rumours.]

Philanthropy

Spend your money on worthwhile and virtuous things, and get XP for it. Essentially a safer version of Carousing.

Choose an amount of Gold, and gain an amount of XP equal to (d3+1) x 10% of what you spent. There are no other rolls, or saves, or anything.

If you used a Daytime Action: You perform the action as above, but you may roll the d3 twice, and choose the better result.

If you used an Evening Action: You perform the action as above.

Philanthropy has no special Combo effect.

Rest

If you have received a particularly dire wound or vicious disease, you may rest exclusively to help you resist their effects.

When you would take a saving throw for a Lingering Wound (such as from being Crippled) or to resist the effects of a Disease, you immediately make a saving throw, with no negative effects for failing it.

You also cure any Filth you may have.

If you used a Daytime Action: You make a Saving Throw with Advantage.

If you used an Evening Action: You make a normal Saving Throw.

If you Combo them: You make both this Saving Throw, and the subsequent Saving Throw against this malady with Advantage.

[Note: This one needs a bit of re-working with Filth, and also the fact that no-one ever gets wounded. But maybe that's just 5e.]

[Side Note: Crippled comes from my experimental replacement for death saves. When you hit 0, you pick one of being Unconscious, Crippled, or Dying. Unconscious means your out of the fight, even when healed. Crippled means you do everything at disadvantage basically. Dying means you must Con save each turn or die. If you are hit while at 0, pick another thing. All three is instant death (if you even make it that far). It might be a bit kinder than normal really, but its also more interesting most of the time. The only problem is that in 5e, its actually literally impossible to hurt characters.]

Retrain

Did you hastily pick a class feature? Do you regret it slightly? Do you think a different one would be more useful for where you plan on going next? Why not Retrain!?

If you used a Daytime Action: You may choose a different option for two different Class Feature which tells you to choose from a list of options; or the same such Class Feature twice; such as Fighting Styles, Expertise, Favoured Enemy, etc.

If you used an Evening Action: You may choose a different option for a Class Feature which tells you to choose from a list of options, such as Fighting Styles, Expertise, Favoured Enemy, etc.

Retraining has no special Combo effect.

Study

Use this to learn, or copy spells.

If you used a Daytime Action: You may copy a number of spell levels into a book equal to double your level, or you may learn up to three new spells and add them to your spellbook.

If you used an Evening Action: You may copy a number of spell levels into a book equal to your level, or you may learn a new spell and add it to your spellbook.

Studying has no special Combo effect.

[Side Note: Learning new spells from scratch is much harder than copying spells from a spell-book, unlike in 5e (irc, at least).]

Train

Use this to learn, or improve, skill proficiencies.

There are three effective “ranks” of a skill; Half Proficiency; Full Proficiency; Double Proficiency.

To improve a skill, you must roll a d20, with a result equal to or less than:

your intelligence score - the number of skills/tools/weapons you are proficient (or better) with.

Use the type of proficiency that is most applicable.

If the roll is successful, you improve your proficiency by one rank (or become proficient with the weapon group).

If the roll is unsuccessful, you may put a checkmark next to the skill. If you Train a skill which has more check marks than ranks, you automatically succeed on the roll to Train it.

If you used a Daytime Action: You may attempt to improve a skill that you have at most one rank in.

If you used an Evening Action: You may attempt to improve a skill that you have no ranks in.

If you Combo them: You may attempt to improve a skill that you have at most two ranks in.

[Side Note: I think its pretty good. It works for the megadungeon/west-marchy thing where the adventure isn't in town. It would be easy enough to change for a game where the average downtime period is a day too if you wanted. Its still a bit crunchy for me, but I think that's just slightly representative of playing 5e. It works enough at making the Downtime thing fun to do, without giving it the scope to spread too out of control. It wouldn't suit every game for sure, and I think you could parse it down to something suitable for every game. Eventually I may even do just that.]

Rumours - Delivery Methods & A Request for Help

[Hey, finally a post where I actually can sort of talk about something from a position of knowledge (well, sort of; see below) since this has actually been coming up in my games.]

[Alternative title for this post: Why is blogger so horribly American about spelling ey? or What's wrong with a few semi-superfluous 'U's ey?]

You know, I don't see a lot of people talking about Rumours, and how to give them out.
I think this is a shame. If people do talk about this; please let me know.

So I'm going to talk about Rumours, from the perspective of my group, in my game.

BACKGROUND
My group are all 5e dorks. Its what I got so its what I do. They like having a goal it seems; the whole exploring for the sake of exploration and discovery isn't quite enough to motivate them. At least, so it seems to me.

The game itself is set in the Sewer-built Undercity Labyrinth of a great semi-Utopian City; all is as good as it could ever realistically be up on the surface, all the adventure is below. The game itself is somewhere between a megadungeon and a pointcrawl, and it is very much a work-in-progress in terms of how it is even basically structured, even now.

It started off as merely a cool map I did that spread over like, 12 pages of A4 gridded paper.
Now it is a sprawling monstrosity of 100 locations (on the main layer at least, there's a smaller layer underneath, and then something else yet below that), but that's getting ahead of myself.
[Side note; this is what all artists mean when they say that you should start small, and not move on to something else until the first step is completely finished. It helps with scope, and with not being caught with your pants around your ankles when your party decide that they are going to go in a new direction today because although you've prepped like, 20 locations, they went a way you didn't expect.]

But yeah, there's a lot to do and discover; I wanted to stick more towards a sand-box-adjacent philosophy where there's no "set story". There is the undercity, there are the things going on within it, and there is a small inertia to events, but that is it.

In a game like this, Rumours are very important to provide information to your players. Informed choice is key in OSRish games, and if your players have no information, their choices mean less than nothing. This is something that only now (several months into the game) that I am really beginning to properly appreciate.

How does all this lead into rumours? Lets follow the story of my rumour system.

STAGE 0 - INTENT
So what did I want rumours to achieve? In short - I want them to inspire my players to action.
I want someone to go; I've heard X is in the neighbourhood of Y, lets pop down to Z, travel to Y and search for X before popping back home for tea and level ups.

So, in a few quick bullet points:
- They should offer semi-reliable information (such that there is room for exploration)
- There should be loads of them (such that there is room for longevity in the system)
- They should apply to everything within the megadungeon (such that the party are encouraged to actually explore it all)
- They should be relatively easy to get, but not effortless (to reinforce the second point)
And ideally:
- They should be somehow rooted in the game world in a meaningful way

STAGE 1 - RUMOURS BY BACKGROUND
Character backgrounds are one of the nicer features of 5e, and my original system was that there would be a list of rumours, divided up by a list of tags, that would be applied to each background.
Tags would be stuff like, Occult, Artisan, History, etc; and each background would have like, three or four tags, and each tag would have six or so rumours tied thematically to it.

E.g. the sage would hear occult rumours about the Wizardly population of the undercity, whilst the criminal might hear Criminal rumours about its less savoury inhabitants.

It was a nice idea, but fiddly in execution.

I wanted the distribution to be nice and neat, where no tag would be used more or less than other tags, and each tag would have its own unique list of rumours, and it would never work neatly enough. I suspect that this could work quite well if you set out your own list of backgrounds, built from the ground up to support this system; but another problem was that the content of the game itself interfered too. It didn't want to divide neatly either. I couldn't make enough criminal content compared to wizardly content for example, because it didn't quite fit the balance of flavour I wanted for the game.

If you could be a little less anal about it than me it could probably work out just fine tbh. I rate it Potentially Salvageable/10.

In the story of the campaign itself though, this is the system we began play with, and while I think it still sort of might hold up for new characters (not that anyone dies in 5e anyway), it quickly ran into a new problem; getting new rumours through play. Enter...

STAGE 2 - RUMOURS BY TYPE

I came up with kind of archetypes of things my players might like to know about, which I then boiled down to three categories of rumour; Challenges (things to be overcome like monsters and trials), Treasures (things to pillage and steal) and Mysteries (things to be solved or discovered). I divided up the whole megadungeon into these categories (sort of) and made a rough, d100 list of rumours. In the end, I made it up so that there were as many Challenge rumours as there were Mysteries and Treasure rumours, and they were semi-sub-divided again by area of the megadungeon, with larger subareas getting more rumours overall. There were a few spots I had vacant so I filled those up with broadly applicable rumours.

This worked somewhat okay for a while; I still had the issue where the environment somewhat resisted being carved up nicely like the system would have preferred, but I finally could cover just about everything I wanted, and I even had a neat little bit where each class had its own preferences of rumours; e.g. fighters were more likely to hear about challenges, wizards about mysteries, rogues about treasures, bards had no preferences and heard about everything equally, etc.

This bit I actually think works quite well overall, and tentatively recommend as a framework for rumours if it sounds cool. It would be quite easy to add categories and tweak the proportions between each category.
It also made it pretty easy to have lists by type of rumour, and by area of the dungeon. I rate it Just A Little Longer In The Oven, But Just A Little/10.

BUT

Now came my first Big Issue

BIG ISSUE 1 - HOW MUCH INFORMATION IS IN A GOOD RUMOUR?

I'm still kind of noodling through this one, but I think my big lesson is that
TOO MUCH INFORMATION IS PROBABLY NOT A BAD THING.

Well, there's a balance to it of course, but here's the evolution of my rumours actually as written;

- Thing literally exists.
- Thing exists, with a little bit of context, but not quite enough to really be useful.
- Thing exists, with a bit more information, and a name of the place it is, without any context

Obviously, the above don't meet the paradigm of informed choice. Knowing something exists will only prepare you to not be surprised when you meet it. You need more context that that.

Because here's the thing, it is very easy to try and hide information for cool reveals. Its an easy pit to fall into, but I still think its a pitfall. As I said earlier, if the players can't make an informed decision, they aren't actually deciding anything.

Its all well and good that they know that there are 6 patron gods of the sewers, but what use is that information if they don't have the context to apply it in?

What good is it to know that a group of paladins went down into the sewers and were never seen again, if that's literally all you know?

The best reaction you could hope to get out of the above situation is that you bump into the paladins and are like, oh, cool, those are those paladins. That's not cool. That's just, DM masturbation at best and literally nothing at worst.

So yeah, you need to give more information, but you can't give up the whole thing either of course , because uncovering mysteries is an exciting thing to do.

Now, in my next iteration of rumours, I want to really lean into this, and really push how much information I provide. Roughly speaking, in each rumour I want to; explain what the thing is, what the lure about it is, and roughly where it is, in relation to places that are already known, or have partially abstracted directions included.

It is at this point that I realise I have no framework to work off of. I actually have very few books that offer good rumours to reference - if you know any, please let me know!

I feel like of the few books I have, many of the rumours are limited to just 'factoids' about the setting, rather than useful information. Sure, having only interesting information might be a bit much, but I feel like when most of your rumours are pieces of setting information that the players ought to know merely by existing, something isn't quite right.

THUS, I DO DECLARE THERE TO BE THREE TYPES OF RUMOUR - FACTOIDS, SECRETS, AND HOOKS

It should be pretty self-explanatory, but here's roughly what they mean;

Factoids - setting information that has no real effect on play.
Secrets - gameable information about world elements, such as monster weaknesses, or the location of a secret passage
Hooks - rumours that inspire action, through the lure of something the party want, or an event they might want to be a part of

Note, the main difference between a Secret and a Hook is that only the Hook causes party action. At best, a Secret could enable it, but would only ever be applied to something that the party already want to do/solve.

Personally, I think the emphasis should be on the latter two types of rumour.

So, my next big problem, for which I don't have a smooth segue;

BIG PROBLEM 2 - PLAYERS DON'T WANT TO SPEND TIME ON RUMOURS

Now, this is a bit more specific to my campaign, but it is still a reasonably applicable lesson I think.

My Downtime system goes roughly as such; a "full rest" is a week long, and alongside resting you get a daytime action, and an evening action to spend on activities (somewhat analgous to 5e's main and bonus actions in combat). One activity you could spend your time on is "Gathering Rumours". Guess how many times people did that? 

Out of four or five players doing this six or seven times? 

Maybe once. There was just always something better or more exciting. Now, in a regular game, perhaps your system is a bit less chunky, so that players could afford to spend a little time doing this then you'll probably be fine. Here though, I really want my players to have a variety of rumours to chase and follow, but when it comes down to researching new spells, and new rumours; even I'd pick new spells every time. At the very least you could just pick a tunnel and go. You don't need rumours. 
But you sort of do for the best experience.

Here is the lesson I guess; If you want players to have access to something, don't make it cost something that could be used on something more exciting.
Revelationary, I know. I'll accept my Nobel Prize next Friday.

So here's how I solve this; (hopefully, this has yet to be deployed but I think it will at least achieve my goals. Betterment can happen later.) 

Every time the party go back to town to rest, they get a rumour or maybe 2. They can still spend their downtime on extra rumours as before, but they don't have to now.
Here's the catch; rumours also come with a source, that determines how truthful/useful the rumour given might be. Most of the time rumours will be at least mostly useful and truthful. But you never know for sure, unless you spend some of your time verifying the rumour.

That's it.

Now, I do think there might be room for "factoid" type rumours, but they should be a minority, or find-out-able without cost. potentially there could even be Secrets and Hooks disguised as factoids. Not the other way round though I think, what's the point in providing a sign-post to nothing?

Secrets and Hooks should be the most common type of rumour by far, and the ones that you put the majority of effort into, and should probably cost something for more than a basic stipend of Hooks, but hey oh. This post is getting long enough as it is. 

Next time; How do I even make a good rumour 'ey?
[Spoiler: I still don't actually know]

Sekiro: The Fantastical Mundane

I've been playing Sekiro, its pretty neat.

Its amazing, it might be my GOAT, maybe, but what it also is, is very niche. I can't tell you to go buy it even though you should. It really isn't for everyone, as many Dark Souls fans are discovering, which is a shame.

This little quirk of gaming reminds me somewhat of the kind of, OSR/Pathfinder split in RPGs, but I'll get to that later.

Here are some bits I like about it:

1. How Mundane it is.
My favourite part of Sekiro is how boring a lot of it is.

Woah
Woah
Hang on
Listen. I mean boring, relative to other media.

There is no Thanos who can obliterate half the universe with a snap of his finger. There is no weapon that has crazy weird magic powers (that you can use at least). There are no weird alien people running around everywhere. Its strangely grounded and normal for a Fantasy game.

And oh boy, is the fantasy of Sekiro fucking cool.

*Disclaimer; I'll try and keep spoilers to a minimum, but I find that sometimes, a minimum of spoilage can be beneficial. YMMV*

Setting:
The game is set in the real world at the end of the Sengoku era in Japan. Specifically, the game takes place in the mountainous lands of the Ashina clan, a fictional place, yet set in the real world.
You can fight such thrilling enemies as:

- Humans with swords
- Humans with spears
- Humans with BIG swords
- BIG Humans with swords
- little Humans with knives
- Dogs
- Chickens
- Lizards
- A Snake

Now, if you have played the game, or any of Fromsoft's games, you know its better than that. And I sell it really short of course.

The vast majority of enemies in Sekiro are humans, who can fall into a few categories:

- Normal people (though some of them can be like, 7 feet tall and thats cool)
- Really small people who are kind of weirdly shaped and deformed, but they seem to just kind of be treated like normal people really? Much like
- Really big people, imagine sumo wrestlers turned up to 11
- People who crawl on their hands and feet, with weird fuckin' hooks coming out of all kinds of places hooks shouldn't be
- Mummified monks who are somehow still alive (and oh god is it horrible fuck me dude)
- Weird bandage people who have inhuman heritage

And like, compare this to your more mainstream fantasy millieu, where you have like, explicitly non-humans of all shapes, sizes, outsider-derived sub-species, and all that running around like its normal.
You can have a party of a Cat-Lady, a big turtle-man, a demon-child and a elf run around Barovia in a pretence of Gothic-Horror. (this shit drives me bonkers)

This is fine of course. Sekiro's much more "contained" (for lack of a better word) speciation of humans is also cool. It feels to me somehow grounded, and yet also fantastical compared to regular DnD diversity. This is nothing new, but I think it is executed really well here. By having a relatively un-fantastical world, it makes the pockets of the truly weird stand out. After having fought humans, big humans, and little humans and having got used to them, when the crawling hook-people show up, its a surprise.

(Which I think is also one of Fromsoft's biggest strengths; not quite uniquely so, but the sense of wonder at each new discovery leaves me feeling constantly delighted and always in anticipation of what comes next)

This is pulled off consistently; a few more of the relatively-mundane things in this game;

- A valley guarded by a gargantuan albino snake
- A lake haunted by a huge carp with a man's face
- The most powerful weapon in the game's only real power is that it can kill immortal beings
- Magic is mostly restricted to things and places
- The first (sort of) boss in the game is a giant man (moreso that the other big men people)

And yet somehow it is amazing and fantastical. It nails the sense of cohesion that bog-standard (and I mean toilet standard haha yeah) DnD completely lacks.
The world design mirrors this again; be entranced by this list of areas:

- A mountain place
- A boggy valley
- A foggy forest
- A castle
- A dungeon

And yet it works, for me at least. There is the fantastic here, it is just buried, hidden behind the veneer. You need to seek it out, struggle for it, and this enhances it for me.

This is my main point I guess. Its a bit of a ramble, but for me it just further justifies my decisions to have human-only ren-fair (which I find is used needlessly derogatively, but that's a discussion for another time) fantasy. By surrounding you with the ordinary, the fantastic rubs off on it, if you do it right.

2. The Prosthetic Tools
Well, I am super in love with the idea of them, and their execution in Sekiro is really super good, but it has a few niggles for me.
Their upgrades are pretty neat, they all have a primary use which has other secondary effects which are really effective if used in specific situations, and they are all very unique and grounded in the way I say above. They aren't realistic at all (they are powered by the souls of the dissatisfied dead for one) but they have at least a veneer of plausibility.
I suppose I can include the grapple hook here, what it does for the handling of the game is absolutely incredible, even if locking on to the grapple points can be a hassle sometimes.

Some semi-counter points that are worth considering when designing similar systems:
- Its weird that you get three slots for tools, but can switch them out at any time by pausing. I feel like you should really only have been able to swap them out at Buddhas so that you are sort of rewarded for having the right tools equipped, or rewarded for good planning rather.
- Some of them do over-lap a little in their uses (though to the game's credit, their secondary effects and aesthetics do keep them all feeling distinctive) and the Shuriken are a bit too universally useful. I'm not sure how you could fix it specifically in Sekiro's case, but its worth thinking about in your game if you want to encourage switching tools out every now and again. (Similar thought could/should be turned to spell lists I expect)

3. The Sword Clashing
No other game that I have seen/played nails the feel of sword-duels as well, ever, period. For my tastes at least. If you really break it down, it gets a bit passive in that enemies can be so aggressive and can counter-attack so quickly that your aggression is much, much more tempered than theirs, so you are forced on the defensive a bit more, but its great that the system encourages you to stay on top of your foes so much more than Dark Souls/Bloodborne ever really did (as close as Bloodborne came to that).

4. The Boss Fights
Oh all right, this is basically point 1 again. But still, I find its the perfect balance for me between inventively designed mundane foes to make them feel fantastical, while tempering the truly fantastical foes with a bit of believability. Nails it in every case for me. 

5. The Sugar Items
You do a rad little pose before buffing yourself. Mega-Cool.

6. The Beautiful, fucking capital-B Beautiful design of the World.
Fromsoft are fucking masters of the Landscape-Reveal, as evidenced by your Arrival in Anor Londo in Dark Souls and walking through the clockface in The Old Hunters DLC for Bloodborne.
Sekiro is no slacker on this front.
I will fight to the death anyone who disagrees.

7. Sets of Mini Bosses
My boy Epicnamebro says that reuse of enemies is the games main weakness. I see what he means, but I don't feel quite the same way. I like seeing a mini boss of a set, in that pokemon collect-em-all type of way. Its a little thing, but when I see a boss called Six Bongo-Players United I say, damn, where are the other 5? It also sets that kinda collectable thing into the world-logic itself, its diagetic meta-gaming!

The Medium Bits
1. The Stealth
Its pretty good actually for a game that is so action-focused. You can definitely play the game completely steathily (except for boss fights) but it does push back a bit by how action-oriented it really wants to be.
The best way to play the game is to sneak in, set yourself up (maybe by picking off a few choice targets) and then battling and scrapping with the remaining foes. You can go full stealth, or full violence, but its harder. Its neat overall, but the limitations of the stealth system can be a little frustrating now and again.

2. The English Voices
Its not that I am a weeb (I am a little though), but the english voices are just so... american. And a bit crap. Wolf himself is so bland and slightly gruff like every other fucking man-character (which is also the reason I can't bring myself to play as Corvo in dishonored 2 now that he has a voice). Its a big pet-peeve I'll admit for myself, but I find it just so disconcerting hearing Emma talk so american-like in feudal japan-land.
Plus other people on reddit say that they think on the whole that the english voice acting is weaker in this game too, so I feel a bit vindicated in my views.
Like I say though, this one is pretty idiosyncratic.

3. The Mini Boss Sets
Look, they don't quite push it as much as I would like. Small beans really, but its there.

Now, some another point:

SEVERE INTELLECTUAL WANKERY AHEAD

OSR/Pathfinder
One of the most fascinating things I've noticed in response to this game, (and is again further shown by the differences in Fromsoft games and Nioh) is the strangely partisan reception of it. Let me explain:
There are a whole series of games made by, and in response to, Fromsoft. Here are the key ones I'll talk about:

- The Dark Souls Series (decent "customisation options", open-world-ish, moderately fantastical)
- Bloodborne (less good "customisation options, open-world-ish, quite fantastical)
- Nioh (maximal "customisation options", level-based, more fantastical)
- Sekiro (minimal "customisation options", open-world-ish, somewhat fantastical)

[And a brief aside, here I define "customisation options"  as meaning; ways to affect how your character looks, ways to affect how your character fights, ways to affect how your character plays]

The main "conflicts" so to speaks have been about replayability, and the "goodness" of the games. Its a bizarre world we live in.

The main "criticisms" I've seen that intrigue me are in thread where people say (in game specific subreddits) "I wanna play a Japan game, should I get Sekiro or Nioh?" and then people say Nioh because its replayable, and has better customisation. This baffles me to no end. Like, it doesn't really, I get that it's a preference thing, but when people present the argument as" Nioh has better customisation and more builds so you can repay it more, ergo it is better", it annoys me, because what they really mean is "I like that I can play this game with lots of different builds, therefore you might like it for that reason too". A small fee, but quite important I feel. A similar comparison is given for souls v sekiro, souls has more builds, therefore you can repay it more.

This I feel, has its roots in the same difference between OSR rpgs, and Pathfinder-esque rpgs (i.e. Buildless vs buildful rpgs). In Sekiro, you have one weapon, one armour set, a modicum of special skill trees, and a small variety of ninja tools. In Nioh you have several weapon types with a variety of weapons in each category, a dazzling array of skills.

But,
And its a big but,

This has no bearing on relative replayabilty or enjoyment. This is not a new idea I guess, but it is very clearly expressed here. (and as an aside, this is not a big deal, and Sekiro is ultimately a very niche game I think, I'm just indulging myself)

Nioh is replayable because you can go for a new build each time, and experiment with different weapons to achieve the ultimate version of your avatar.

Sekiro is replayable because you can go for a new approach with each encounter, and experiment with different tools and fights to achieve the ultimate version of yourself.

A subtle distinction, but a big one.

I've seen it said that Nioh is a game for everyone, and Sekiro is a game for speed runners, as if mastering something is less fun than trying lots of new things. They are no more or less fun than each other, one of them says to you "what kind of fun do you want" the other says "here is some fun, give it a go".

This I feel is very similar to OSR v pathfinder, like I said ages ago. In Sekiro and OSR you have a limited number of tools and you need to figure out how to use them to solve your issues. In Dark Souls and Pathfinder, you have every tool you could ever want, and you get to choose which one sounds the coolest at the time. These are neither one better or worse than the other. You can even mix and match if you like. Perhaps one is more accessible, and the other more niche, but both have their time and their place. If you're reading this, I'm sure you don't need me to say this, but I did.

Further [Dungeonpunk]ing - Encumbrance (and a bit on skills)

I continue to through Untested Brain-Matter-Produce at the wall. One day I will have a play-test to see if any of it stuck.

I think there will be two types of encumbrance, physical, and mental/emotional.

Inventory

Physical encumbrance works much like you might expect.

You have Inventory slots equal to (or maybe equal to X + half of) your Condition score (a hybrid mix of strength and constitution).

Some of your Inventory (depending on your Precision (a score which is about half of dexterity, the other half being the reflex score)) is Fast Inventory, which only takes a round to access, rather than a minute. Some items, like bandoleers, make more of your Inventory Fast.  

These are filled by your items, mostly. It is assumed that each item takes up 1 slot for the most part. A sword is 1 slot, as is a shield, as is a spell-book.
Some items might have the property Small (x) which means that many items can fit into a slot. For example, daggers are Small (2), 2 daggers fit in a slot.
Some items might have the property Large (x) which means they take up that many slots. For example, a Greatsword has Large (2), you need 2 slots to hold it.
Armour can take up a lot of slots, but that's the price you pay for protection.

Inventory can also be filled by special things, like water if you decide to go swimming, or a Curse of Burdens.
Most commonly, the two things you don't want to get into your Inventory are Exhaustion and Wounds.
Exhaustion you gain by, well... exerting yourself. You can get rid of it through resting, one slot's worth a day.
Wounds are a bit harder to rid yourself of. They fill up slots when you take massive damage, or something like that. They provide a penalty to Condition rolls, and take a Week's rest to remove. Particularly vicious wounds may even be permanent.

Memory

Memory is mostly much like Physical Inventory, but for your brain.

It is harder to change, in terms of putting things in there, and taking them out. Usually it takes a week's studying to do so.

You have slots (or X + plus half of) your Knowledge score (which is rebranded Intelligence).

Some of your Memory slots are Core (depending on your Insight score (which is what Wisdom wants to be, but is also only about half of Wisdom, the other half going into the Will score)) which means that you can stack up similar memories, most notably Skills.

Things that go into your Memory Slots are things like:
- Weapon or Skill proficiencies (with a further note on these later)
- A Wizard's Magical Traditions
- Memorised spells (ideally, this gets Wizards to haul spellbooks around with them and cast spells from books, which takes a bit longer, but means you don't have to go through the lengthy memorisation process)
- A Fighter's Fighting Styles
For example.

You don't have to put things like "What the king told us to do" in a memory slot, but if you do, it would help you never, ever forget it I guess.

A key thing about Memory is that skills are sort of, grouped into similar types of skill, which can be grouped together to give a big bonus; Medicine for example, could get a bonus made up of Surgery, Anti-Toxins, Wound-Care, etc. Each one of these skills takes up its own slot.
Core slots can be used to group Skills of the same group into one slot. This is the best way to become an expert at something, otherwise the cranial-real-estate cost gets too much.
It works the same way with specialising in weapons.

Hopefully this means that you can't become a total master of everything ever, and you have to rely on your team/hirelings to help you out with other things. Maybe.

Oh, right, there are also other things you don't want filling your Memory Slots; notably Strain and Trauma.
Strain is the mental equivalent of Exhaustion. Wizards get it sometimes when they fluff up spell-casting.
Trauma you get for seeing fucked-up shit. It gives a penalty to your Knowledge until you go to Therapy.
Mind-Flayers will happily gobble up your memory slots probably.

Not quite such an exciting one here, but its important. I want it to be easy to use, otherwise you never will. I also want it to be flexible, such that you can use it for all sorts. Particularly Memory slots (though I claim no credit for their inception, I know other people have come up with it before but damned if I can remember any :c so it goes) are a cool thing, I hope they work out.

[Dungeonpunk] - Ritual Spellcasting and Wizard Traditions theory-post


[As with the last couple of recent posts, I am doing my teeny-tiny bit to make the OSR a better place, in principle. This is an idea straight from the brain-noggin, there has been no play-testing for this what-so-ever.]

So I was thinking about how to make rituals good for Dungeonpunks, and I think where I ended up lead to some cool thinkings; lets dive in.

Background

So briefly, Dungeonpunks is ripping off borrowing from the GLOG for the basic magic system, which if you aren't familiar (but who isn't?) Magic User's get a number of magic die to cast spells, which take their potency from the number of dice rolled, and/or the total of all the die, which are exhausted if they display 5 or more. There are a few more wrinkles, but that's the gist of a very cool, flexible system.

Rituals

Firstly, what should rituals do? Here are the two things that I'm thinking of:

- They can be used to make spells more reliable, and
- They can be used to make spells more powerful than normally possible

Just like how some systems (such as Dungeonpunks eventually...) let you increase the chances of, or even guarantee success if you take more time, the same I think, applies with rituals. The more resources you put in, the safer/greater the results, and with rituals you have a chance to put in more and different resources than Magic Die.

Here's the rough shape of my thoughts for the system:

Rituals are spells, but they aren't directly fueled by Magic Die. You must have at least as many available Magic Die as the level of the ritual you want to cast, but you don't roll them. You can add extra magic die through other methods however.

A 1 Die ritual takes 10 minutes to perform.
A 2 Dice ritual takes 1 Hour to perform.
A 3 Dice ritual takes 1 Day to perform.
A 4 Dice ritual takes 1 Week to perform.
For each extra Die of effect, add an additional week to the casting time.

The following benefits can be applied to rituals to add additional casting die to the rituals' effect:
- Full wizard regalia, requires an inventory slot for each casting die that the ritual with have in total.
- Use of the rituals' key components (more on these later)
- An elaborate ritual space (probably equivalent to owning/building a medium sized dwelling)

The intent of these extra modifiers is to limit the use of these essentially "free" rituals within the dungeon-crawl environment, or other time-limited situations. You can still use them, but its other factors that you'll then need to think about.
[Designer's note: depending on how it works in play, its possible the additional requirements could add die without increasing the casting time, we'll see if its interesting to haul around a bundle of wizard-clothes and components to get "extra" magic die with extra limitations.]

Magical Traditions

Now, my actually cool idea; using the holes in the above theory to add to magic's "groundedness".

I like the idea of using physical components to spells, but as they are they kind of suck, in 5e at least and especially. Part of their problem is that its too fiddly to remember them all without extensive notes, and to actually use them often is lots of book-keeping.

This second problem is sort of solved by limiting it to ritual-casting, thus they are a choice that need to be weighed, is it worth giving up an inventory slot for a more powerful ritual?
But the first problem is more complicated, and this is my solution;

Spells are divided into "Magical Traditions" that all share a common list of components.

This hopefully means that there are only a few components that will ever need to be used, and since any combination of components from the tradition can be used, there should always be choices.
For particularly potent rituals, you could even demand a specific component if you wanted to.

For extra effect, I think the classic "5 W Questions" could be used to make an interesting list. For example;

The Tradition of Vexillor;

Who: A Chorus of Caged Song-Birds
What: A Rose carved from Ruby or Diamond
Where: In the centre of a Stone Circle
When: At Midnight
How: In complete Darkness

There will be a list of guidelines and probably a few tables of examples to demonstrate the principles of making one.
So far I think the guidelines are something along these lines:
Two entries should be relatively common or easy to come across (Midnight happens every day, and its easy enough to make your space really dark). Perhaps 100gp of expenditure or so.
Two entries should require some effort to achieve (There are (or should be) plenty of Stone Circles around, but they are never quite accessible as you might like, and the logistics of collecting a Chorus of Song-Birds in a medieval environment could be a bit of a challenge.) Maybe 1,000gp to gain.
One entry should be pretty hard to achieve, or even unique (a Ruby Rose could be quite a challenge to produce indeed) At least 10,000gp to get.

An further example;

The Tradition of Seutonius;

Who: With a circle of 6 other acolytes (Rare)
What: A sprig of fresh Wolfsbane (Common)
Where: Atop the Divine Mountain (Very Rare)
When: During the New Moon (Rare)
How: Whilst burning expensive incense (Common)

These are a few ways I can think of to use this system:
- Characterise a wizard and the way they cast their spells with their own spell-list and set of components to make it worthwhile to learn from a variety of wizards, particularly if you are somewhat restrictive of the way Wizards can learn new spells.
- To tie together a set of spells thematically; as in these spells are in a tradition because they share a common set of components, either because the spells are intimately related, or because the wizard who created them had that set of components easily accessible, which both have their own set of uses.
- To provide an incentive to encourage players to keep themselves themed without offering other abilities (as awesome as the glut of GLOG wizard schools are, they do add a certain pathfinder-ishness to the game again, and I am fully guilty of contributing to this of course).

You could even further distinguish between the types of spell-casting; maybe wizard "colleges" have quite straight-forward spell lists and more easily accessible components, and then the more esoteric traditions have rarer components, but better spell-lists, for example. Its a pretty flexible system I think.

It also is flexible in the way you want to engage with it; you can either entirely randomly generate it if you like, or you can put in lots of effort to create bespoke wizard traditions, even a bit of both perhaps.

I sort of envision a set of wizard tradition card-play aids, where the outside is decorated like a spell book, and the inside is dedicated to the spell-list and the components, maybe with a section for fluff for the tradition.

I think its a cool idea, I just hope it works in practice!

[Further idea that I came up with as I come to the end of typing this up and can't find a good place to insert somewhere else:
You can use these traditions to tie a new wizard to a new place, or reflect where they began to learn. If they aren't learning from a specific tradition then they get a half-filled in tradition spell list, and are missing two of their components. As they learn new spells, they can fill in the gaps of their tradition, and create a tradition of their very own.]

Fighting Styles

[Like last time, none of this is tested yet, its straight from the brain-noggin to the keyboard.]

I've been playing Sekiro. Its super good.

I was playing through and there are some abilities (minor spoilers I suppose) where you can regain your ability to resurrect by performing deathblows (specific kill actions, not just generic kills), and later on you can unlock the ability to regain life and posture by performing deathblows (at least, those are the ones I've found so far).

This got me thinking.

I have this idea for making Fighters a bit more fun without being too complex called (no drumroll please, I stole the name from 5e) Combat Superiority. Here's how it works.

Combat Superiority
As a Fighter, you can have a point of Combat Superiority (maybe two or even three heavens forbid, if you make it high enough level (and it would be very high to get two let alone three considering its intended uses)). You may spend your Combat Superiority to reroll a die to do with combat that involves you, somehow. [i.e. you can reroll your to-hit roll, or an enemy's damage roll, or a saving throw, or something like that]. Once it is spent, you can regain it by taking damage, or by "defeating" an enemy (which usually means "reduce to 0 HP).

That last sentence is the one that would be changed ENTIRELY AND COMPLETELY by my idle thought about Sekiro. What if; THERE WAS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO REGAIN COMBAT SUPERIORITY.

I know, groundbreaking, revolutionary, all that. (please, ladle on all the sarcasm you can muster for that sentence.)

I've been thinking about ways to make combat styles and schools work in a way that isn't just a list of minor abilities and bonuses. That's easy to do, boring to read, hard to balance, and is just... I don't wanna do pathfinder man. Sorry Joe, you'll never convince me. I don't see it.
I mean, its not bad, but I think I can do something better, more elegant.
I want it to evoke the Duel between Iniego and the Man in Black in the Princess Bride where they have a polite little chat about fencing theory whilst fighting each other, using the styles they are that moment using against each other!

So, getting to the point, a Fighter's Fighting Style is made up of methods of regaining Combat Superiority. It (ideally) encourages them to get into situations that their Fighting Style is suited for.

In theory, its elegant because no matter what your "style" is, you're always engaging with a single mechanic.

Your style is good against crowds of weak enemies? You regain CS for being in contact with multiple foes at the start of your turn, and for defeating enemies.

Your style empowers you as you are hurt? You regain CS for taking damage, and when you miss an attack.

Your style is all about parrying and using your foe's momentum against them? You regain CS when a foe misses an attack against you, and when... something else. I dunno.

There'd be some d12/d20 list of ones to roll on, because rolling is good, and you get two to start with. I think that would be fine.

Here's an example;

You regain Combat Superiority when...
1 - You take damage.
2 - You defeat a foe.
3 - An enemy misses you with an attack.
4 - You start your turn next to at least two enemies.
5 - You start your turn next to a friend.
6 - You deal maximum damage with your attack.
7 - You miss an attack against an enemy.
8 - You take the Dash action.
9 - You take the Withstand action.
10 - You take the Set-Up Parry action.
11 - You succeed at a Saving Throw.
12 - You move into favourable terrain.
13 - You attack each enemy for the first time in combat.
14 - You don't move on your turn.
15 - Someone you can see casts, a spell.
16 - A friend you can see takes damage.
17 - You knock an enemy Prone.
18 - You take an alcoholic drink.
19 - You begin your turn with less than 50% of your maximum hit points.
20 - You start your turn out of sight of your enemies.

(or something like that, I ran out of good ideas towards the end maybe)

I think that ideally, each option will get you back CS on most but not every turn. If it is regained by something you do, it should be either tied to a die roll, or an action that doesn't include an attack. Otherwise, you should need to go out of your way somewhat or put yourself in a specific situation to regain it. It shouldn't be easily exploitable. In other words, it should encourage you into certain conditions.

Next time, maybe I'll do Combat Mysteries/Masteries, which would provide other special ways of using CS for further differentiation.

Armour, Dodge, Parry

[In accordance with making the OSR a better place principles, this is an idea straight from the brain-noggin, there has been no play-testing for this what-so-ever.]

Here's a weird one, mostly from dark souls and such-like.

In dark souls combat scenarios, there are 3 main ways of reacting to damage:

- Tanking it with crazy armour, which reduces it down to manageable amounts
- Dodge roll through it which avoids all damage
- Parry the attack, which not only negates the attack, it also (usually) grants an opportunity to counter attack.

Amour is the most reliable method (as you don't need to actually do anything), though at higher levels it makes dodging attacks harder.
Dodging is the middle of the road in terms of skill, with relatively low risk for the chance to avoid all the damage of an attack.
Parrying is the hardest (and the riskiest) as you forfeit all chance to avoid damage, unless the parry is successful, which also gives you the chance to deal massive damage.

This trifecta of damage avoidance seems pretty cool to me, and is rife with interesting choices, without being over-complicated in the game.

If we wanted to port it over to our RPGs of choice, it isn't quite so simple unfortunately.

Parrying and dodging attacks require knowledge of enemy patterns and good timing on those actions, which obviously doesn't translate well at all.
Armour doesn't quite match DnD style games either, which is a shame.

I think we can make it work though.

We now have three numbers to track in combat in regards to defence (gasp, that's more than one! will it work? no idea).

You have your Dodge Rating, which is tied to reflex/dexterity. This functions like AC in DnD-likes. If an enemy attack roll is under your Dodge Rating, you take no damage.

You have your Armour Rating, which is tied strictly to your equipment. This is damage reduction; the better the armour, the more is subtracted from incoming damage, down to a minimum of 1. Your Armour Rating is also subtracted from your Dodge Rating, or something to that effect.

Finally, you have your Parry Rating, which is tied to your weapon skill. If the natural result of the enemy attack roll is equal to or less than your Parry Rating, they deal no damage, and your deal damage to them, as if you had hit them.

There is something to be said about having "active defence" rolls for things like dodging and parrying. There is also something to be said about keeping rolls down to a minimum, which is what I have gone for here. Hopefully its simple enough that its not going to be overly tricky in play.

It would probably also necessitate smaller numbers that regular DnD-likes, as anyone wearing armour takes less damage all the time if they are hit, but that'll come out in testing I think.

It also opens the door for more interesting "defensive actions". 5e's dodge is all fine and dandy, and LotFP and such's "defensive stance" or whatever it was called is also fine, but with 3 defence types, we can get more funky.

Withstand; forfeit all Dodge Rating, double your Armour Rating.

Dodge; forfeit all Parry Rating, enemy attacks have disadvantage.

Set-up Parry; forfeit all Dodge Rating, double your Parry Rating.

Its a shame I can't quite justify having a nice little defence triangle where each different action forfeited a different defence rating, but we live in an imperfect world, and that's why we can't have nice things.

I like that it seems that each action will be more or less useful depending on your set-up, and the situation, I suspect that much of the time, one will be better, but none will be terrible, and they'll all get their chance to shine.

Hopefully. We'll see I suppose.

Further Tables for Katawa's Bath-House

Its been a bit, I need to get myself back into this habit.

Here are some tables for my Ghibli-esque by way of strange folk-lore Bath-House.
Events!
Rumours!
Secrets!
Food Stalls!
The Actual Baths!

Events at the Guest House

1 - One of the Guests of the Bath-House is hosting a party, they have an Ulterior Motive
2 - An important talk is being hosted in the Bath-House between two Guests, a third Guest is out to disrupt them. If they succeed, the consequences could be dire indeed.
3 - A great Festival of Fire is being hosted at the Bath-House, it is cover for a crucial meeting. Security is extra tight.
4 - A Guest has gone missing in Pod 317, somewhere deep within indeed.
5 - Bath-Tokens are 50% off! A wondrous bargain! The Bath-House throngs with punters.
6 - A fight broke out in the Sake Bar. Milly sadly cleans up the mess.
7 - A special guest-Gourmand is doing business in the Food Court today, the level groans beneath the weight of the guests.
8 - Secretly, the Spring-Spirits are on strike today, the Baths are closed.
9 - A distinctly inhuman guest has come today, their appetites are overwhelming, and they are causing a bit of a scene about it really.
10 - One of the Guests has brought a large number of friends with them today, half of the general patrons are affiliated with the Guest in question.
11 - One of the Flame-Sprites has gone berserk and swollen to the size of an elephant. Servants and staff rush around in a mad panic trying to contain it and clean up after it.
12 - One of the Guests is hosting a soiree, and everyone is invited!

Ulterior Motives
1 - To steal from another guest.
2 - To discover the truth of the Bath-House's heating.
3 - To break into Katawa's office and read a document.
4 - To rob Administrator Goro's safe.
5 - To learn another Guest's secret.
6 - To break up talks between two other Guests.
7 - To ruin another Guest's reputation.
8 - To hunt down a Guest who knows their secret.
9 - To hunt down Katawa and have a stern word with him.
10 - To find the Complaints Statue's records. 

Rumours

Mundane Rumours - spoken by those unaware of the true nature of the bath-house
1 - The castle out on the lake is haunted by the spirits of the damned.
2 - A witch dwells there and transforms men who trespass into beasts and monsters!
3 - Echidna, mother of monsters, holds her court there on nights of the new moon.
4 - It is a prison for a Demon of monstrous size!
5 - Incredible riches and secret powers are hidden in the deeper dungeons beneath it.
6 - It was used as a meeting ground between ancient man and spirits of the world in elder days.
Extraordinary Rumours - spoken by those who know its nature, but have never been there
7 - A Masked-Spirit serves Sake of breath-taking quality, and magical property! 
8 - A spirit in the old Bath-House has gathered gold for centuries, and hidden it away within!
9 - At least one dragon has to live there right? Deep beneath in hidden caverns I'd wager.
10 - Elf folks hold faerie-courts there to decide the fates of those replaced with changelings.
11 - Humans are like ants to the occupants of the old bath-house! Ants I say!
12 - If you pay a shiny silver Obol to the doorman, you too can enjoy the finest Bath known to man.
Intimate Rumours - spoken by those who frequent the establishment
13 - Any meeting can be arranged there, between man, spirit, and most anything in-between.
14 - The baths are many, and all with especial attributes, some wholesome, some decidedly not.
15 - The Master of Servants holds a bag of many swords, and each can tell an ancient tale.
16 - The food-hall is something to behold! There are so many foods, and so many secrets to sample!
17 - Stay only during the day, at night, the spirits are replaced with foul demons.
18 - Djinni-spirits guard the Bath-House, beasts of flame with cage-metal bodies.
19 - The Master of the Bath-House knows many secrets, but is a mystery himself.
20 - Spirits play a Great Game of power and influence at the Bath House. They trade in secrets.

Secrets of the Bath-House

If a secret about the Bath-House is discovered by some means by the Party or a Guest, roll below to discover what is now known.
1 - The Servantry are enchanted by their contracts; Katawa is aware of everything the servantry see or hear while on duty, this is how he maintains such a close connection to the Great Game.
2 - Goro's Vault also holds the minds of the Water-Pumpers, without which they are docile and pliable. They are like storms in glass jars.
3 - A the meeting rooms have spy-cubbies, in which a watching, listening servant is festooned to eavesdrop on meetings.
4 - There is a cupboard full of paintings, depicting Guests who earned Katawa's ire. Their spirits are trapped within, never to escape without the destruction of the painting.
5 - The Flame-Sprites are small motes of a greater Flame-Being who is currently trapped by Katawa (in one of his paintings). He is decidedly displeased by this, naturally.
6 - A series of exactly five valves, if simultaneously closed, would shatter the Bath-House's entire water-system.
7 - A dormant Demon-Seed lies hidden in the earth in one of the gardens. No-one knows which.
8 - The Koi in the pond are not what they seem, but attempts to discover their true nature have yet proved fruitless.
9 - Mushi foolishly keeps a spare set of his keys inside a hollow lucky cat on his desk. Since he is almost never in his office, they are somewhat unguarded...
10 - Milli has venom in her bite that could kill almost anyone and anything. She is very, very secretive about this. Not even Katawa knows.

The Food-Hall

Everyone loves the food at Katawa's, and competition is fierce to keep one of the limited spaces for stalls. Its a chef-eat-chef world up there, and most everyone has a dirty secret of some kind...
Everyone at the Bath-House has a favourite food, even Katawa himself; find out what it is, and you will most certainly gain at least a small bit of favour with them.

What do the Stalls sell? (2d10)
1 - Curried                     1 - Animals, butchered
2 - Candied                    2 - Bones
3 - Roasted                     3 - Fruit and Veg
4 - Vegan                        4 - Wood
5 - Stewed                      5 - Stones
6 - Frozen                      6 - Insects
7 - Fermented/Pickled   7 - Animals, whole
8 - Dumplings of           8 - Seafood
9 - Raw                          9 - Birds
10 - Votive                     10 - Feces

What secrets do the Stall-Owners hold?
1 - The recipe to their secret spice blend.
2 - The "secret ingredient" which is supposedly well known, is actually something entirely different.
3 - Never flushes the toilet. Rude.
4 - Knows a ruinous rumour about another Stall-Owner.
5 - They can get you heckin' weird spirit-drugs.
6 - Knows how to pick the locks to the Sleeping Pods.
7 - Secretly forges Bath-Tokens.
8 - They know a Guest's secret. Perhaps you could persuade them to tell...
9 - They know a Bath-House secret. They are smart enough to know not to tell frivilously...
10 - Their stall is a drop-point for agents of the Great Game.

The Baths Themselves

The main attraction, the talk of spirits the world-over (probably), the decadent heights of luxury.
Needless to say, even the basic bath-tokens are pricey, and the higher tier ones are positively ruinous.

Bath Tokens:
For a normal bath, roll a d6.
For a more exotic bath, roll a d12.
For a potentially bizarre bath, roll a d20.
1 - White: The Classic; hot water, cleansing soap, wooden duckies.
2 - Black: Anti-scented Bath; removes all smells you might have.
3 - Red: Really Hot Bath; sweat out and neutralise poisons.
4 - Green: Herbal Soak; invigorating, gain 1 temporary hit point per level.
5 - Blue: Ghost Sauna; spiritually cleansing, the next time you roll a MD and it exhausts, it doesn't.
6 - Copper: Exorcist Massage; removes bad spirits, cleanses a random curse.
7 - Silver: The Bath of Princes; all the benefits of 2 d6 rolls, rerolling duplicates.
8 - Gold: The Bath of KINGS; all the benefits of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
9 - Feathered: Cloud-Chamber; become light and fluffy, double jump height, half jump speed for 24 hours.
10 - Crystal: Star-Stone Sauna; attune with the universe, and gain a random cantrip you can only cast at night when the stars shine bright. Lasts 1 week.
11 - Speckled: Multi-Coloured Ooze Soak; only slightly dissolves you, you can squeeze through spaces of 4 inch diameter or larger without trouble, though it feels really strange. Lasts 1 week.
12 - Coal: Spider Massage; try not to think about it, advantage on saves against sticking to things for 1 week.
13 - Squishy: Radioactive Sauna; save and mutate; random mutation on a failure, roll thrice and pick once on a success.
14 - Luminous: Aurora Plunge Pool;Your eyes emit light as hooded lanterns for 1 week.
15 - Bark: Mysterious-Moss Masks; your hair and face occasionally sprout plants, but you can also speak with plants three times in total, so there's that.
16 - Glass filled with Smoke: Ultra-Cleanse Vial-Pods; Enter hibernation for 2d4 days, at the end of which, emerge from your cocoon of soap physically restored, even lost limbs return to you.
17 - Rusted Iron: Butcher's Scrub; remove a limb, replace it with another limb if you have one. (You need to bring your own limbs please, the fresher the better)
18 - Tentacle: Hot Eel Rub; okay, this one is really gross, not going to lie. You have advantage on rolls to escape restraints for 1 week.
19 - Bone:Skeletal Sauna; just take all your meat off for a bit, and let your skeleton have a clean for once yeah? Reroll all your hit die and add any modifiers you usually add, if the result is higher than your current hit point maximum, it becomes your hit-point maximum.
20 - Tar: The Black Bath; receive a Revelation from the Beyond.

Revelations from the Beyond
1 - Worship of an Outer-Godling; each time you sacrifice a person to the Outer-Godling, you gain a random Cleric spell you can cast once.
2 - Star-Roads of Heaven; you never get lost as long as you can see the sky. Once per month, you and any who touch you can astrally project.
3 - The True Heart of Man; your mind can never be dominated or affected by the magic of another.
4 - The Path to Heaven; you can instantly ascend to any heaven you wish to go to, your next character gains a level instantly.
5 - Secrets of Time and Space; you can teleport instantly to anywhere you can see or have ever been. If you can see that location at all, it costs one maximum hit point, if you can't, it costs d6 max hp.
6 - ITS ALL TOO MUCH; go insane, for 2d6 days at least.

Some Bits and Bobs from Heat Signature

So I've been playing and reading a bit about Heat Signature; its super neat.

Here's some things I like about it.

1. The Random Generation

The space boats are cool, and I think Tom's got some (unintentional) interesting things to say about dungeon-design as such in his blog posts about the development of the ship's generation. Here's a link: https://www.pentadact.com/tag/procedural-generation/

2. The Gadgets

Easily my second favourite part of the game. Here are the three types of teleporter it uses:
Side-winder: You just teleport there, but there must be a clear line to get there (no closed doors for example)
Switcher: You switch places with someone, otherwise, no limits.
Visitor: You just go somewhere, no limits; BUT you go back to where you were when you activated it after two seconds (which in Heat Signature can be a long damn time.
Each has its own uses (though the Side-Winder unfortunately just seems to me to be the most usually useful) and I have great anecdotes about all of them, though they suffer similarly from the DnD anecdote problem where they are far more exciting in the actual playing than in the re-telling. They do roughly involve:
- Having literally 13 seconds to capture my target on the other side of the ship before they teleport off forever. Cue mad teleport dashing with a side-winder and shooting key-card-carrying-guards to get there in the nick of time. 
- Having accidentally jettisoned the only guard carrying the key to my objective into space, so using the visitor I picked up to slip inside just long enough to pick it up.
- Killing about a dozen guards who all teleported in on me by switching around them and unloading a couple of shots over and over so they could never quite get a bead on me in a glorious explosion of violence.

And that's leaving out my exploits including:
- Getting a jammer accidentally shot when he opened a door with a sentry gun behind him, which saw me, and fired, killing the Jammer.
- Grabbing my rescue target and deciding to take the window out into space to get picked up by my remote pod (a much better idea in this game than in real life presumably. The next few steps all happen in the same split second, in this order.
1. I fire my gun.
2. A half dozen guards hear the gun shot and teleport right next to me.
3. The bullet breaks the window.
4. All of us are jettisoned into space.
5. The Pod picks up my character and the rescue target before we asphyxiate.
6. We do not pick up the other guards. 
Similarly, watching a predator (the most dangerous contractor you can run into) step on a glitch trap, and get teleported off into space never gets old.

Oh, maybe I should say,

3. The Endlessly Entertaining Anecdotes.


4. The Death System

Its good. 
If you get knocked out, you're fine and will wake up soon. Unless they throw you into space, in which case you have an 02 bar while you float about in space, during which you can control your pod to pick you up. You only die if it runs out, and its quite generous.
Getting shot (or stabbed) is similar. You fall unconscious, and have 30 seconds before you bleed out. I'm not 100% sure how it works after this, but roughly speaking there are check-points in the bleed-out process which, once you pass, limit the maximum amount of time you can bleed out in the future. If you're quick, you won't bleed out much, and you'll still have plenty of time next time. If you faff about, you'll really struggle later.
I feel like there's some kind of system in there for DnD which is similar to 5e's, but better.
Briefly, back to the game, you can also sometimes end a character's run by being captured by one of the factions, which brings in a delightful element of the game. One of the available replacement characters will be spawned with a personal mission to rescue the character who was captured.

5. It has my favourite Style of Stealth.

This could possibly be a blog post on its own, but in short, there are a few ways missions go down.
1 - You figure out you don't have the kit to actually do the mission, and bug out. (Thankfully rare, and there are also no penalties for aborting missions, which is good.)
2 - The mission goes perfectly, and you execute the mission with slickness and precision. Very satisfying.
3 - You beat your head against the wall over and over, getting repeatedly thrown out the air-lock until eventually, you make it through. Aggravating if it happens too often, but still good.
4 - The Perfect Storm; These are the missions that are really just outside your capabilities as a player and/or character, but not quite, and they are the best. You infiltrate initially, maintaining stealth or concealable violence as long as you can, the tension mounting as you delve deeper into the ship until the barrier bursts, and all hell breaks loose. Guards are running and teleporting in all over the place, you're throwing out gadget charges left and right, using up that subvertor you swore you'd keep for the personal mission, teleporting that visitor you found ages ago in the first crate to you to deal with the guard, shooting your assassination target in the face, and then shooting out a window to throw yourself into space to escape, and then you release the pent up tension in your lungs.

I have a few gripes with the game, like how Guard Armour is an impassable barrier until it isn't, but shields are impassable until you begin to be able to sort of deal with them, but you never then progress to a point like with armour where they aren't a deal at all.
Most of my other issues are that there isn't more of it really.

If it looks like fun in the trailer, there's a tonne more than I've talked about like character traits, the rad progression system, and the neat music and visuals. Check it out. 

10 + 2 Animal Kings

A long time ago I wrote about some kinds of spirits which dwell in the untravelled places of the world. I don't know how much I still like the idea of basically everything being a spirit of some kind, but hey-o, here are some spirits in the shapes of animals! They are the exemplars of their kinds, mostly-natural, that warp the world around them to better reflect their needs and natures. 

Here are the first 10 (plus 2 silly ones) I've been able to churn out.

Ankhegs - Growth
The Queens of Ankhegs are almighty insects, legs like tree-trunks and shovel-ended. Their mouths drip with Alkahest, the universal solvent, and their piercing cries can shatter glass at their highest and split the earth at their deepest. Thankfully, they are really quite lazy and love to luxuriate deep in the earth. They bully other Ankhegs into serving, and carve out enormous cave systems with grand pillars and vast halls. They are spirits of growth, and their lairs are always overflowing with plants which constantly fight  the long slow wars for light and nutrients that plants always fight, but in a constant, furious slaughter, fueled by the presence of the Queen of Ankhegs.
The heart of her lair is so choked with vines and roots and creepers that moving through it is more like swimming or digging like the worm does, and with her acid-slathered maw, the Ankheg Queen most certainly can dig through it quicker than you can...

Apes - Fire
The King of Apes, unlike it is commonly supposed, are not much bigger than their lesser cousins. They still need to climb, but they will still stand head and shoulders above other apes. The most marked difference will be their pair of extra arms, and the flames they hold in their second palms. They are mysterious, and hold deep loves for their flames, which they protect with all their might. Some say they are care-takers of the forests in which they live, and decide when it is time for fire to ravage the land, that new growth can begin. Their families are sometimes described as being almost entire cities of apes, with the Ape-King sat in meditation, clasping its flame in the highest branches of the mightiest trees.
The oldest legends say that it was the Ape-Kings who first plucked fire from the heavens, and shared the gift with man, but man spurned their generosity, and turned against their cousins, leading to their long divisions. More reliable sources suggest that, since of course Monkey's can't talk the whole story is ridiculous. The Ape-Kings are certainly not about to tell, the only interactions between men and Ape-Kings anyone knows about all end in charred and ruined villages, and haunting choruses of ape-song.

Badgers - Luck
Badger Kings are admittedly, pretty big, and they have great ridges of bone all along their arms and backs and flanks, the better to scour out their tunnels. Supposedly custodians of that most precious and mysterious resource, Luck, they hoard it like gold in their lair. You can't quite see it, but still, if you were to delve deep into their lair, you would find it, shimmering and glinting. The Badger-Lord guards it jealously, and its blood-lust is surprising and deadly. And they are quiet.
So very, very quiet.
As long as you do not threaten them in their lairs, Badger-Lords are somewhat amenable, even friendly, and there is more than one story about a wanderer clutching a badger-given charm which grants extraordinary luck.
The stories almost always end with the Badger-King coming to claim back the luck, with interest, with particularly deadly consequences, one way or the other.

Bats - Curses
Bat Kings are lazy, lazy creatures, content to while away days and days at a time in quiet contemplation, wrong-side up to the world. Easily the size of a man, they choose great caves in cliffs and mountains to hold their courts, and even men are sometimes permitted to enter to ask their questions of the Lords of Night. They pronounce curses, upon you, upon others, upon whomsoever they please, though mostly it is on the deserving (from the Bat-King's point of view). They aren't above bribery; and if caught in a relatively congenial mood, they might be offered full-blooded and vital livestock to break curses you happen to bear, or perhaps as an 'incentive' to speak against your enemy. Rarely do they take to the wing, but when they do, it is best to stay inside and look not at the sky for a day or two. The Bat-King can only Curse you if it sees you, though sometimes it can be very forceful in the matter, and its screech can stun even the largest beast.

Basilisks - Stone
Basilisk Kings are great wurms, snaking along the earth on tree-thick legs, dragging their mighty bellies, scouring the earth clean beneath them. They are like immense fleshy centipedes, pulling their lizard-bodies along on many many legs; claws like boulders, scales like breast-plates, gaze like a hurricane.
For the most part, the eyes of a Basilisk Lord are closed beneath stone lids, or what appears to be eye-lids at least. Their powers of petrification are so strong that they petrify everything they see, the ground, the trees, mud, man, monster alike. Even the air is susceptible to the gaze of a Basilisk Lord, and when a Basilisk Lord does release its eyes from their lithic prisons, it is a like twin spiraling coils of rock erupt from their heads, smiting all it touches to rock and covering the area in rubble, petrified air flaking and filling the atmosphere with dust.
Thankfully they wake but rarely. Like the rock itself, they see in the tectonic inevitabilities of stone and awaken only for those things that they believe must happen.

Bears - Strength
They almost seem to be made from stone, so tough is their hide, their fur is like bark and twigs, knotted and cruel. Teeth long as swords, claws like spears, and their eyes are glossy and black.
Twice as tall as even the largest of their mundane cousins, their treads shake the ground as they casually tear trees out from the earth and toss them aside like garbage.
Their strength is, needless to say, ferocious. They shred plate armour-like tissue and batter stone to rubble under the immense pounding of their wrath. Despite their utter dominance, they are not wicked; they are mostly content to sit and chew up bushes in their great mouths and guzzle cows. People have even been known to approach them, and with proper gifts (very large gifts) and demonstrations of strength, they have been known to teach even humans the ways of the forest.
But that's also not to say that they never get angry.

Crabs - War
Great living fortresses with shells of coral-reefs and claws the size of people, though often much of their features are covered in the mighty swarms of mundane crabs that cover them thickly, and that swarm about their feet. In great sideways drifts they march along the sea-floor, conquering all in their way. Once a slaughter is completed, and the flesh of their foes eaten, great shrine-piles of bones are built and set to wander the sea, tumble-weeds of the dooms of hundreds.
The Crab Kings love war beyond all reason. Only twice, two Crab Kings were seen to be fighting each other, two-hundred years separating both sightings. It was the same pair of Crab Kings, fighting the same war.
They are not totally belligerent though. They have been known to enter into mercenary contracts with devastating efficiency.
The rate with which they turn against their old masters at the end of said contracts does not bear thinking about.

Goats - The Occult
Horns that spiral endlessly (literally), cloven hooves that spill smoke from their contact with the earth, eyes which branch in fractal patterns. Their fur ruffles forever in an endless ethereal wind, and comes in all manner of shades darker than black. They are not bigger than other goats, but you would not need that to recognise that they are something other. Proud they walk the depths of the woods, supremely confident in the power and worth of the dark secrets they know, written in the empty spaces behind their eyes.
Sometimes, they share their knowledge with the outcast and the vulnerable. Sometimes, they share their knowledge with the greedy who bring them many gifts for the knowledge the goat holds. Sometimes, they step into the darkened cells of the condemned, and off them them power and the means of revenge. Whenever they release their secrets, it is always in the name of chaos and tragedy.
Once in a hundred years, all 13 of the Goat Kings will commune together at the top of a hill crested and crowned with great stony spires.
No-one knows what they do. Perhaps we should never know.

Owlbears - OH GOD NO PLEASE
YOU THINK REGULAR OWLBEARS ARE BAD OH BOY HOWDY DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING COMING THINK HOW CRAZY A REGULAR OWLBEAR IS HOW THIRSTY FOR BLOOD IT IS HOW THE RAGE CLOUDS THEIR EYES IN A OWLBEAR KING THE RAGE SPILLS LIKE MIST FROM ITS SOCKETS BLOOD SPILLS ETERNALLY FROM THEIR CLAWS THEY WADE THROUGH MIST AND BLOOD TO SLAUGHTER AND KILL AND DEVOUR HOW DID THEY EVEN GET ANIMAL LORDS OF THEIR OWN THEY ARENT NATURAL THEYRE MAN MADE OH GODS SAVE US PLEASE

Rocs - Wait, hang on
Hey... these are just Bird-Kings. What are you doing putting this in the list? Surely there can't possibly be birds even greater than Rocs? Preposterous.

Scorpions - Fear
Look, Scorpions are terrifying as they are. Twinned claws, arcing sting, many many legs; it isn't hard to see why Spirits of Fear take this form. The first sign you will see of a King of Scorpions is a strange pillar of stone, curved in a quite improbably way jutting up out of the sand. Perhaps there will be other such stones just protruding from the dunes. They like to bury themselves in the sand whilst they are dormant, and burst forth to destroy trespassers and prey. Their legs are many more than other scorpions. Their sting strikes with such speed that it needs no venom, and turns the very desert itself to glass when it strikes. And their claws snip through stone as easily as flesh. Oh, and don't look at their mouths. Please. Luckily for us, they are few, and they are mostly loners, and rarely encourage great swarms of their lesser fellows. Rarely.

Sharks - Death
Normal sharks can taste death on the water, Shark Kings can taste the intent of death, even hours before it happens. Dread omens of slaughters yet to happen. Large even as Sharks are large, they lead great demon-packs of deadly predators in slaughters of blood and frenzy, even tearing out the bellies of ships in their blood-lust. At least, only some of the time. Long days will pass when the Shark King and its court are content merely to swim long, lazy circles. The Lairs of Shark-Kings are mighty coral reefs of sunken and ruined ships, spires of shattered masts and halls of splintered hulls. It doesn't bear thinking of what they used before ships were made...

Recent Stuff

QUICK AND DIRTY REVIEW: A Doom to Speak

Disclaimer : I have met (at least some of) the Soul Muppet gang briefly and they seem like lovely people, and I backed the Kickstarter for t...

This the gud stuph right hear