Tuesday, January 28, 2020

D10 Random Caravans You Meet in a Desert

Roll a D10 and see what type of caravan meets your party.

1 – Poor Caravan: A meager caravan with little to trade. The caravan master, Ali, explains that they were attacked mid-route by a set of bandits with a sorcerer. This caravan has little to trade and is desperately low on vital supplies like water.

2 – Foreign Caravan: A caravan of foreigners arrives with goods that cannot normally be acquired in this area. Communications tends to be a problem due to different native languages and customs. If a trade is conducted, roll a d10. On a 1, there is a misunderstanding that is grave and dangerous. A duel or contest of strength might be required to resolve the conflict. On a 10, there is a misunderstanding that is beneficial, if not comical for the PCs. Maybe one accidently marries someone in the caravan with a really cool hat, or does not understand that the trade comes with a herd of livestock. On a 2-9, the trade proceeds as normal.

3 – Seer Caravan: A caravan with a powerful Hakima (Wise Woman) arrives and is willing to help the PCs in their endeavor. They will host the PCs up to three days with food and lodging and any wounded will be treated. The final night the PCs are in camp the Hakima will coax Fate and try and provide insight to each of the PCs. These predictions can be pleasant, or possibly painful, the DM is encouraged to come up with appropriate messages for the players. If you want to randomize the message, roll D6, 1-3 a pleasant prediction, 4-5 and mixed result, and 6 a painful message.

4 – Rich Caravan: A royal tax caravan approaches under heavy guard. It is laden with taxes and officials for the local government. The caravan contains 1D100 x 10 + 500 GP worth of coins in various denominations, plus 1D1000 x 10 GP worth of goods. The caravan is guarded by 2d20 + 20 0-level guards, plus a 1st level fighter per 10 guards. The entire caravan is led by a 5th level sorcerer with a 3rd level Fighter who acts as a body guard. Half the guards have access to missile weapons, and the other half are mounted at all travel times.

5 – Nomadic Caravan: A desert tribal caravan appears in the distance. They will act with extreme caution sending out a scout party to investigate the PCs. The caravan will start as mildly hostile, but with clever role-play the PCs could be welcomed in for the night. The tribal caravan knows the terrain extremely well and can answer any questions the PCs might have about the nature of the area they are traveling. They know places to avoid, the best oasis, the types of dangers that might be posed, etc.

6 – Thieves Caravan: A false caravan approaches full of bandits and thieves. The bandit gang will pretend to be an honest caravan looking to trade. Careful PCs will notice certain things out of place, like the bandits not knowing how to read their accounting books, blood on some of the goods, often the caravan animals will react as if they do not know the bandits, etc. If the PCs do not discover the ruse, at night the bandits will attempt to rob them of their goods and make off.

7 – Undead Caravan: A caravan of the dead approaches. From a distance this caravan looks like any other, but as it grows nearer PCs might notice that something is not right. The caravan might be run by a powerful Ghul-Sorcerer, or possibly a Ghul Overlord themselves. The undead use the caravan as a disguise to lure travelers to trade then add them to their horde, or feast upon them. The caravan consists of 2d10 skeletons, 1d8 Ghuls, and a Ghul-Sorcerer or Ghul Overlord.

8 – Illusory Caravan: A caravan mirages is in the distance, if the characters choose to approach it they will discover it does not exist in 1d6 hours. The time to discovery can be halved if traveling with an expert in desert terrain that succeeds at a WIS check.

9 – Multiple Caravans: A large group of caravans are off in the distance is in camp. The camp has at least 2d100 + 50 people in attendance.  As the PCs approach it seems that the caravans are celebrating a high holiday/wedding/local festival etc. As long as the PCs show no ill intentions, they are invited to join the revelry. If the PCs decide to provide a gift/donation to the event, the caravans will be so honored they will return the gift/donation in some other form with twice the value. The celebration will last 1d10 days.

10 – Extradimensional Caravan: A caravan of genies approaches rapidly upon the dunes. Roll a d8. On a 1-3 it is a caravans of Jann, on a 4 Djinn, on a 5 Efreeti, on a 6 Marid, on a 7 Dao. If you roll an 8, roll again twice and combine the results. If the PCs choose to engage with this caravan the results will vary greatly depending on which type of genie they encounter. Jann and Djinn are generally helpful, if not playful. Marid believe themselves above all mortal affairs, and might just ignore the PCs. Efreeti and Dao have a tendency to enslave mortals, but might want to have fun with cruel pranks. If the PCs can trick them, they might earn their respect though.

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Delve World - A Setting Behind Enemy Lines

A few years back I wrote this as a primer to a game I ran with my friends. It was a semi-original idea that I expanded upon. I once heard a podcast or a YouTube video where someone mentioned a D&D game where the adventurers repelled into the darkness for their adventures. I expanded upon that and created what I titled Delve World. I originally ran this with Dungeon World, thus the summations at the bottom. I stumbled upon the document and had not seen it in a while so I decided to share. I hope you like it, don’t be too harsh it is a few years old. Most likely needs a better name too!

The chains are from ships, these Delvers are calling for an evacuation.


Several generations back the cloud cover of the world started to grow thick, and slowly blocked out the sun. Now the entire world is covered by clouds, and only the mountain tops see the light of the sun. As the Darkness grew, people retreated from the surface to high up in the mountains, above the cloud line. Monsters and other creatures thrived in the Darkness, and the old world was lost. Contact was lost with the demihuman races, most believe them to have been kill off, for they have never received word from their communities. Several city-states formed at the top of these spires, and the world was connected by several floating ships that can travel between the cities. Trade existed for a time, but supplies soon became depleted and this lead to desperate measures.
They are called different things at the various cities, but colloquially they are called “Delvers”. This group of trained individuals take are sent on missions below the cloud line. Air ships take them out over the clouds and then they repel down into the Darkness, in search of anything that might be of use to the community. Maps, artifacts, old equipment, steel and ore, even seeds, these are just some of the needs of the world. Often choosing to leave behind great “wealth” of gold and silver due to the weight, and the less than useful nature of the material.
The Darkness is Magic and Magic is the Darkness. Arcane wizards exist and are great in power, but their power comes from the Darkness. Wizards cannot access their gifts above the cloud line, but need to dip below to access that power. The power is great, but it also corrupts. After every mission, the Delvers as a whole must purge the “Stain” of Darkness that lingers on their bodies, Wizards must purge their minds as well. Anyone who does not purge the Stain from themselves after being below for too long can suffer from “Graft” which is different for each person, but always ends poorly, mostly with people going to live below.

Too much Stain can cause mutations.

Each Delver must go through the sacred Ritual of His Guiding Light. In this ritual, a tiny piece of the Delver’s Soul is removed and made physical.  This forms a small stone of light that the Delvers use below the surface, and is often worn around the neck. This serves as a mechanism to “keep the Darkness at bay,” and without them Graft sets in at an alarming rate. The delvers can brighten or dim the light as they see fit, it can always show true north, and if separated from it, can “feel” their way to its location. Each stone is slightly different in look and possible uses, often a reflection of the personality of the Delver. As Graft sets in, the stone can start to crack or take on unusual characteristics. This often times acts a measure of detection and is handled in specialized ways in different communities.
Religion plays a role in each of the cities of the known world to a greater or lesser extent. There exists two main entities, The High Lord of Light and The Keeper of the Darkness. They have different names and aspects in each locale, but common themes run through the religion. They also share in having lesser servants that act on their behalf in the world at large. The most faithful believe that the High Lord of Light has turned his gaze away from the world due to a lack of pious nature, and the use of dark magic. Since magic stems from the Darkness, practitioners and items of magic, are often looked at with a sense of fear, even dread.
Lastly, travel/trade is an important part of daily life for some of the realm. Most people are born and die without ever setting foot outside the city they are born. The two main ways to leave the city are to join the “Delvers” or to join the Navy. Ships are created by using wood treated with Phlogiston (except in Abbatia, see below), which is a liquid created by distilling magical items/artifacts. This allows the ships to use the clouds as if they were water. All ships use sails, but to have truly fast travel many ships have powered engines that provide propulsion, and a level of protection from attack. At a ships core is an engine that the Navigator connects with and uses his own life, to power and protect the ship. Navigators regardless of city are given great respect, as their lives are greatly shorten by their sacrifice.    

High Hold

Cities of the known world:

1. High Hold – Center of trade and communication for the known cities, the most like the ports of the old world. Run by a Council of Elders, suffers from political factions.
2. Abbatia – Also known as the Monastery, a city of devoted and pious individuals. Main belief is that their faith will drive the clouds apart and illuminate the world. Rejects the use of magic, has highly trained will workers.
3. Stoma – Home of the “The Breach”. Monsters have dug under the city and opened a hole at its center. A constant state of siege warfare exists there, and the city is under martial law.
4. La Ciencia – Home of the Academy, and most hold the belief that the Darkness that covers the land is a natural cycle that humanity will have to outlast. This city is a true democracy, with the city as a whole voting on most measures and positions.
5. Festungburg – This mountain fortress was around before the clouds rose, and is run by King Ruldolf the Provider. Ruldolf has command of the Order of the Pegasus, a group of knights dedicated to protecting his kingdom.
6. “Storm Spire” – There once was a city on top of a tall plateau it is now surrounded by a deadly storm, which has yet to be penetrated. 
7. Tuclesa – The lost city, now known as the Necropolis. Destroyed by and unknown force, monsters lurk in its crack and ruins.


·         Apocalyptic Fantasy

·         Military Behind Enemy Lines

·         Cronenburg Body Horror


·         Portray a desperate world

·         Fill the characters’ lives with hard choices

·         Play to find out what happens


·         Draw maps, leave blanks

·         Address the characters, not the players

·         Embrace the darkly fantastic

·         Make a move that follows

·         Never speak the name of your move

·         Twist every monster in a vile way

·         Ask questions and use the answers

·         Be a fan of the characters

·         Think dangerous

·         Begin and end with the fiction

·         Think off screen, too

·         Nothing is safe, destroy items, kill bystanders

·         Scarcity is a constant threat


·         Use a monster, danger, or location move

·         Reveal an unwelcome truth

·         Show signs of an approaching threat

·         Deal damage

·         Use up their scarce resources

·         Turn their move back on them

·         Separate them

·         Have something cost, fail, or break

·         Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

·         Show a downside to their class or equipment

·         Offer an opportunity, with or without cost

·         Put someone in a spot

·         Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask


               I never expanded it beyond this, in writing. In the actual game that I ran I had to create many more details due to the nature of Dungeon World. Maybe this will be worth returning to someday, I don't know? Did you like it? Hate it? Tell me below. I really had never created a setting whole cloth before, I was never into world building. I usually take a framework, like Morgansfort, and then make it my own. Change it how I see fit and add the cool things that I like.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

4 Amazingly Useful Websites for Old-School Games

               I am old school in the sense that I do not like electronics at my gaming table. I prefer that my players not bring computers and keep the cell phone activity to a minimum. I do not use a computer when acting as a Dungeon Master for my Old-School Essentials game, but that does not prevent me from using the occasional website when needed. I have a selection of websites that I keep bookmarked because they have an extreme amount of utility for me. They generally save me boatloads of time and effort and I wanted to share them with my audience in hopes of getting more people to use them. Each has a different focus, but all are the same in that they provide valuable content to speed up my play or prep. In no particular order we will begin.

                This website is the home of the One Page Dungeon contest. If you are not familiar with the contest each year applicants compete in creating various dungeons that completely fit onto one page. You would be surprised at how much information, including a map, can be crammed into a single page. I find this website very useful in having to either run something on the fly, or if my characters go off in an unexpected direction. I can take one of these pre-made dungeons and stick it wherever is needed. There are dungeons in these collections that span to gamut of the types of dungeons out there. Some are extremely traditional and others are extremely experimental, with many falling in the middle. The dungeons are also not limited to fantasy, as you will find the occasional modern or sci-fi elements thrown in as well. The contest has been going on for years, so there are plenty of entries to go through and find something that you want. I advise to find one that suits your game, print it, and stick it in a folder for that time that you need it.

                This website is designed purely to create hirelings for your adventurers. You can determine whether you are in a town or city, and whether you want to hire a town crier or not, then just hit generate and see who is available. You get a small summary of each character with all the basic information needed for the hireling, including any weird equipment or quirks. You could possibly hire Men-At-Arms, Non-Combatants, Demi-Humans, or even 1st level Henchmen. It gives some guidelines as to possible pay for the hirelings and even a small background. What more could you want? I use this almost every time I am at the table and cannot recommend the site more. So hire on some camp followers, it will be the best 10 GP you can spend.

                This is more of a collection of pages, but the one I use the most is the treasure generator. This has both Labyrinth Lord and BX Treasure Tables that can be selected and rolled upon. This is great for people using OSE/BX and running Barrowmaze, because many of the monsters are in the OSE/BX books, but some are exclusive to Barrowmaze which uses LL. This speeds up the treasure phase by leaps and bounds. Also, just the fact that it totals the amounts for you can save a load of time. The second part of these sites I use the most is the random scroll generator. Just plug in what type of scroll you are looking for and hit go. If you are playing a strict OSE/BX game, some of the spells will not be appropriate, but it only takes a single click to generate a new list. You should be able to quickly get something that works for your game. Plenty of other generators on the site, I suggest you take a look and click around a bit.

                Last, but not least, is the Total Party Kill character generator. This generator is great to make some quick NPC/PCs if needed. I have used these characters at conventions and one-shots more than I can count. You have the options for 0E, Holmes, B/X, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Select which one you want, click refresh to get something new. Be careful though, once you hit refresh, your previous entry is gone. I usually generate the characters, use the snipping tool in Windows to grab them, paste into Word, and print. You can even get a plain text version if that is more appealing to you. You might be able to piecemeal copy and paste into another format. If you are headed to a convention, or have an unexpected guest show up and wanting to play, this site gives you everything you might need to get playing fast.

                There are even more of these that I have, but this seemed like a good place to stop. If you have any great site, drop them in the comments below. I also did an article on 4 Great Out of Print Books for Old-School Gaming, if you did not see it try here.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

4 Great Out-of-Print Books to Expand Your OSE/BX Collection

                I have a few go to books that I always keep on hand because they are that useful to me. I have used these books either actively at the table, or in doing research for an individual session/ campaign. Most of these are treasure troves full of great material that can be imported into your Old-School Essentials/BX game or really any OSR compatible system. Most of these books I own physically, but there are a few that I have not got my hands on yet and rely on PDFs. I promise that if you get these books you will not be disappointed with the quality of the material within them and many can be acquired off-market pretty cheap.

I am including links below to places you can purchase the books.

1 – Rules Cyclopedia

                This is a bit of a cheat straight out-of-the-gate because it is not in print, but it is print on-demand. For those that do not know the Rules Cyclopedia is a collection of four of the five Mentzer Basic D&D sets. Mentzer’s D&D is extremely compatible with OSE/BX products because the core materials of the game are almost identical. What it does add is a whole host of options that you can have in your game. Want rules on Weapon Specialization? It is in there. Want rules on Mass Battles? It is in there? Want expanded ideas for running domains? It is in there. Expanded items list? It is in there. Oftentimes players might want to do something that is not in the rule book and I don’t want to make a flippant rules call on the spot and I will consult the Rules Cyclopedia for at least an idea on how to proceed.

                I will mention that the organization of the RC leaves a little to be desired, but not to worry. Dark Dungeons has done for the Rules Cyclopedia what Old-School Essentials did for BX D&D. Dark Dungeons is a cleaned up version of the Rules Cyclopedia. Remember how I said the Rules Cyclopedia was four of the five box sets, well Dark Dungeons added the 5th box set Immortals into the rules. It also has a cleaned up skills system and rules for Spelljammer ships if you are into that setting. I have copies of both and use both on a regular basis.

Rules Cyclopedia can be found here.

Dark Dungeons can be found here. This is the link to the hardback, the PDF is free.

I found this after publishing, it is an article by the author of Dark Dungeons as to the changes from the RC.

2 – Arms & Equipment

                I recently got my hands back on a physical copy of this book after several years using the PDF. The name of this book says it all it is a books that gives you big lists of stuff with great descriptions of all that stuff. Need to know the difference between a partisan and a voulge? This is the book for that. It is jam-packed with descriptions and pictures of all the different things you might run across in a typical fantasy adventure. It has a lovely list of expanded weapons that take no real conversion on your part to add into your game. It even has a great section on clothing for the general medieval era which is actually quite interesting to read.

This can be found here.

3 – Encyclopedia Magica Vol. 1-4

                I am counting these four books as one entry because they are meant to be used together. I do not have the physical copies of these, because they fetch a pretty penny on any website that you can actually find them. They contain every magical item that was created for AD&D, including everything in the Dragon Magazines. This is an amazing resource and well worth the PDF expense. When I am looking for an interesting item or artifact, I go into the books and just take a look around. I am bound to find something that is interesting and useful. Oftentimes the items come with great descriptions and histories which can really fuel the imagination. I find myself stealing one item’s history, using the stats from another item, and might add a personality from a third item.  If you can find the original sets of these books you will have a tough time choosing to either keep them, or sell them for a small fortune.

You can find them here.

4 – Player’s Options: Combat & Tactics

                This might be a controversial book on this list because many people do not like this book. I am a big fan because it gives you lots of interesting options for the martial side of play. Some people refer to this period as AD&D 2.5. You can see some of the groundwork for 3rd Edition beginning to take form. To be completely honest I do not love EVERYTHING in this book, but I do think some of the material is great for optional rules. I like some of the actions you can take in combat. I like the weird initiative system that is somewhat a hybrid of speed factor and side initiative. They even have interesting rules for conducting a Three Musketeers style duel with movement charts and different types of strikes. When I started to recollect my collection from back in the day, this was one of the first books I purchased, I have a strange love for it and I think it has a lot of fun materials.

This can be found here.

                I might do a follow-up to this someday with some more books that I love, but I can truly say that these books are ones that I actively use in my D&D life. I have been given great ideas from these books and many of the enhancements my players enjoyed. Most of the books can be picked up rather cheap, and if you go bargain hunting can be found at used book stores.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The OSR Game Generator and Free Humanoid Adventure

People often ask, “What OSR game should I play,” or “I have so many OSR games, I don’t know which one to use?”  I have a small solution in the OSR Game Generator. Simply roll a d100 and you can make your decision about what to play as random as your game outcomes. This list is far from completely inclusive and I might add to it over time. I just thought I would put something fun out there and see if people want to use it!


         Also, I wanted to point out that Fen Orc used my Old School Essentials Humanoid classes to create a really cool little adventure, Bury My Tusk at Broken Jaw, and it is absolutely free. I think it is quite good and plan to run it with my crew soon. Please go over and check out his blog and this free adventure.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

My $17 Treasure Haul

I discovered at my local hobby shop that they sell used RPG books. I was able to score some sweet deals over the holidays. They only charge half price of the original cover. Apparently a local gamer was moving to Japan and had to sell his collection, so the store bought it. It is two full Ikea bookshelves full of all sorts of goodness. I was able to snag a few choice items that I am listing below.

Books I Did Get

        I have been on the hunt for this one for awhile, and in fact had bid on it in an auction and lost only the day before. They could not find a listed price for it, so they sold it to me for $8. I told them it was more than fair and I appreciated it. I actually left that day and it was the only book that I purchased. I saw the two books below, but I did not get them. Over the week I was kicking myself for not getting the Arms & Equipment book, because it is great. The Complete Ranger Handbook is fun and full of great ideas and was more of a "I just want it purchase." So I went back to the store, which is 45 minutes away, just for these two books. For those two I was charged $9 in total, which is amazing.

Books I Did Not Get

         Below are pictures of books that I did not get, but caught my eye. The question is should I get them? You tell me. Many of them are from box sets, but are missing the box and the accompanying materials. Did I miss any gems?

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