Wednesday, November 12, 2014


So you peeps like maps, right?

I got what you need right here, customisable world maps that are Pay Whatever You Damn Well Feel Like for the next 5 hours.

From the blurb: "THE LAND BEYOND BEYOND range of interactive PDF Maps offers you beautifully illustrated charts of strange new lands for you to use in your roleplaying games, war games, and other creative projects. 

Evocative and inspirational, they are designed to take some of the hard work out of world building.

Each map is customisable so you can shape it to your needs: you choose the look and style of the map, you choose what kinds of locations are visible, and you choose the names for every feature.

Using the powerful tools in the free Adobe Reader software, you can draw all over the PDF, add notes, new text, and even attach images and concept art to specific locations. A six page User Guide is included to help you make the most of your world.

Each poster map is designed to be printed out at 17in x 12in / A3 size for you to use at the gaming table with your friends, or you can share your PDF Map online with them and let them add their own comments and illustrations, track their characters’ journeys across your world and make their own contributions.




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cinematic Superheroes

Confession: my glutinous intake of superhero action doesn't actually come from comic books. It comes from film. I know it means I miss out on some of the most fantastic storytelling in the genre but I'm a sucker for the spectacular. A sucker for sound, for visual stimulation. Kerplosions, stonking FX, punchy storylines, blaring soundtracks, fast scenes, action action action. That's what I love.

Fuck yeah, Nightcrawler.

So when I imagine a superhero roleplaying game, it's cinematic heroes that are my touchstone, not comic book ones (Hellboy and BPRD are a different matter). I can't tell the difference between Deadshot and Deathstroke. I don't even know who they are.

Which means that when I imagine running or playing in a superheroes roleplaying game I'm not looking for four color comic book emulation, or golden age glories, or gritty 90's angst (though from what I can gather that's what's guiding a lot of supers films). I want a game that combines the flashkerpow high stakes skyscraper smackdowns... with an element that I'm yet to find in the superhero rpgs I've looked at (and I haven't looked at them all, and am hoping there's a game out there that covers this so I don't have to make it myself).

And that missing element is intense character drama.

So much of cinematic superheroes revolves around the conflict of personal ideologies, challenging, affirming or breaking the belief system of the central cast. And this is something that I really want to see in any Superhero game I play or run.

My ideology is better than yours. Nyah nyah.

As much as I find the Mouse Guard RPG to be a beautiful disappointment, there's a section in the game that I would port over. The chapter is titled "It's Not What You Fight, It's What You Fight For", quoting the motto of the Mouse Guard, and it asks the players to examine their characters and establish a core belief system that the Game Master must challenge in the game. Either you stay true to your beliefs, or you grow from what you have experienced.

Taking cues from that I'd have the following bits bolted on to any supers game:

A deeply held belief that guides your actions, and ideal by which you live your life.

The manifestation of your conviction, it is the greater goal you strive to achieve.

The short term task you have set for yourself that brings you one step closer to fulfilling your purpose.

The means and methods you are willing to go to in order to accomplish your missions.

One very upset General Zod, expressing these very things.

Once the GM has a clear understanding of what each character's ideals are, they can craft adventures that specifically target and challenge these ideals, inflicting crisis after crisis to see if they can break the character or forge their beliefs into something stronger.

Tie the effectiveness of a superhero's power to how shaken they are in their beliefs, as though the strength of will that drives them forward is intrinsically linked to the willpower needed to manifest their powers. Characters who's beliefs are battered and bruised, shown to be flawed or faulty would see their powers diminish until they have come to terms with the events that shook them to the core and built up a new belief system. Flip that over, and heroes who's beliefs are affirmed by events in the game can use that ego-boost to punch their powers into overdrive.

Also worth thinking about is what deed will push them over the brink into the land of rage and rampage. We all get pissed sometimes, how come barbarians are the only ones who get to go berserk? Breaking a character, watching them give in to their darker selves, and the struggle that follows to atone or achieve redemption for their actions during their darkest hour is great story fodder.

Even the younglings were killed.

So yeah, these are the dramatic character elements of cinematic superheroes that I want in my games. With added spectacular destruction and eyewizardry.

Lemme know if there's any out there that do this.

Last thing: damn I love this game trailer. Not perfect, just perfect destruction.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


And the last in the series of Goreball related posts
til the rules are ready to be released into the wild is this here preview of the Arena board.

I've spent quite a slab of time designing this and am pretty pleased with how it's turned out. 
I wanted something bright and bloody and soiled and grim all at once. 
Once the rules are finalised there will be reference tables repeated
across the top and bottom for player convenience. 

So it's just wrapping up the rulebook and getting the mini figures designed,
then Goreball will be looking for playtesters. Can't wait.


In Goreball each team gets a Mauljaw, 
which is goalpost, monster, and team mascot all rolled into one. 

This table gives you over 1000 possible names and over 1000 possible titles, 
with a few oddities thrown in.

Also doubles as death-metal band name generator. Just in case you need it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Following on from yesterday's Team Name generator, here's one for the players.

Grab three D6's, roll three times to generate a Goreballer name.

One page, over ten million possible combinations.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Ever get stuck coming up with a decent name for your team?

Grab two d6's, roll four times, and get close to fifty thousand different names.

Had a lot of fun thinking this one through.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

GOREBALL : An Overview

You wanna know about Goreball? Take a squiz.

Currently banging out the layout, went for clarity in the writing over in-character speak.

And the logo if you missed it:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


[click to enlarge]


Still working out just what that means, but yeah, this is where it goes down.

Monday, October 6, 2014


SydCon 2014

Just wanted to throw out a big thank you to all those who stopped by and picked up some artwork at SydCon this weekend, and especially the organisers Grant, Ian and Tony. Your support is greatly appreciated. It was cool to hook up with the local rpg community and meet some folks from the wilderlands of G+ for the first time.

Also the first time I've tried selling artwork direct to the hordes, and just about broke even on the printing and framing costs. Tons of art cards to shift online now, so the whole experiment looks to be worthwhile.

Didn't get the chance to get any rpg action in, but did get to try out a bunch of boardgames including Small World, Relic and Spartacus. All excellent fun.

See you round!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Decline and Fall of the Thaumatian Empire

So this is the new stomping ground for my meatgamers: the last days of the Thaumatian Empire. It's the predecessor to Dead West— exiles and refugees will flee the Thaumatian Fall heading westerly across the Sea of Vex to the new continent of Carcassara.

click to embiggen. or just press your face to your monitor.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Free at Last!

Possibly the greatest words ever written by man.

And right now I know exactly how this guy feels. And it feels real good. 
The two major projects I've been going hammer and tongs over are finally at the printers! 
These babies:

RED & PLEASANT LAND, written by Zak S. (I worked the layout) and DEATH FROST DOOM, originally written by James Edward Raggi IV, extensively revised and expanded by Zak S.
(I did the layout, cartography and twenty-one illustrations).

Zak's talked extensively about Red and Pleasant Land on his blog over here.
It's fantastic, and I was lucky to work on it. 

Originally James had someone else lined up for Death Frost Doom—
I was knee deep in Red and Pleasant Land and way behind—
but when I heard the original designer he had lined up for it fell through
I literally begged James for the chance to do it.

It was his signature adventure and I knew my maximum black style
would be just right for the ominous mood. And yeah, hopefully you'll see what I mean.
I loved the endpaper so much it's now the banner of this blog, 
and here's the promo piece I did which shows off the mountain.

Both are out in October. So go get'em.

And the wonderful thing about finally nailing these two pretties? 
I'm free at last to start up a whole bunch of new stuff. 
More illustrations, maps, adventures, and dusting off this blog.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dream Askew Cover Art

Cover art for the queer apocalypse storygame by Avery Mcdaldno, out earlier this year.
 I like this one a lot. More info HERE

Saturday, July 12, 2014

[D&D5E] Combat Stunts: Fighter Probabilities

Following on from the last post about Combat Stunts for Fighters, I've sat down and worked out the probabilities for a Fighter succeeding on a Stunt check from Level 1 to Level 20. 

I've made my assumptions based on a 1st level Human Fighter made with the standard ability array which gives the fighter a starting Str 16, and I've bumped that Str up every level I could. 

The columns shown are only those where the to hit bonus goes up by +1 (so levels 2 and 3 have the same probabilities as Level 1, etc).

AC of
1st Lvl
Str 16
4th Lvl
Str 18
5th Lvl
Str 18
6th Lvl
Str 20
9th Lvl
Str 20
13th Lvl
Str 20
17th Lvl
Str 20
10 64.00% 72.25% 81.00% 90.25% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
11 56.25% 64.00% 72.25% 81.00% 90.25% 100.00% 100.00%
12 49.00% 56.25% 64.00% 72.25% 81.00% 90.25% 100.00%
13 42.25% 49.00% 56.25% 64.00% 72.25% 81.00% 90.25%
14 36.00% 42.25% 49.00% 56.25% 64.00% 72.25% 81.00%
15 30.25% 36.00% 42.25% 49.00% 56.25% 64.00% 72.25%
16 25.00% 30.25% 36.00% 42.25% 49.00% 56.25% 64.00%
17 20.25% 25.00% 30.25% 36.00% 42.25% 49.00% 56.25%
18 16.00% 20.25% 25.00% 30.25% 36.00% 42.25% 49.00%
19 12.25% 16.00% 20.25% 25.00% 30.25% 36.00% 42.25%
20 9.00% 12.25% 16.00% 20.25% 25.00% 30.25% 36.00%
21 6.25% 9.00% 12.25% 16.00% 20.25% 25.00% 30.25%
22 4.00% 6.25% 9.00% 12.25% 16.00% 20.25% 25.00%
23 2.25% 4.00% 6.25% 9.00% 12.25% 16.00% 20.25%
24 1.00% 2.25% 4.00% 6.25% 9.00% 12.25% 16.00%
25 0.25% 1.00% 2.25% 4.00% 6.25% 9.00% 12.25%

Friday, July 11, 2014

[D&D5E] Combat Stunts: Spicing Up the Fighter

One of my personal philosophies with game design is that combat abilities should never be exclusive.

If you can wield a weapon, you should be able to do what you want with it. The endless list of fighter feats in 3rd Ed D&D and Pathfinder was always a pet hate of mine: any fighter should be able to make a power attack, or a try a quick thrust or knock back or smackdown an enemy. They should be able to rush their shot and hopefully get off an arrow before the melee arrives; fighters should always be encouraged to take risks in combat.

The idea was totally stabbed in the face by DCC with its Mighty Deeds of Arms mechanic, which allowed DCC Warriors to try any sort of combat manoeuvre they could think of; they just needed to hit the target for the deed to succeed. It meant an end to "I hit it with my axe....again" and suddenly in every DCC combat the warriors were constantly asking for details about the battlefield looking for anything they could use to gain the advantage in their fights. 

It was a fantastic and inspired piece of elegantly simple game design. And with the new Dis/Advantage rules in 5th Ed D&D it's possible to emulate the Mighty Deeds mechanic, just with a risk/reward system.

If the fighter chooses to attack with a disadvantage he can declare a Combat Stunt.
If the attack succeeds, the enemy takes normal damage and the Stunt succeeds. 

The Fighter cannot already have disadvantage when they declare the deed.

[EDIT] The Fighter can only make as many combat stunts in one round equal to their # of base attacks.
So a 1st level Fighter can attempt 1 Stunt/rnd, at 5th lvl 2 Stunts/rnd, at 11th lvl 3 Stunts/rnd, and at 20th lvl 4 Stunts/rnd.

[EDIT] A non-fighter can also attempt a Combat Stunt, but they do no damage if the Stunt succeeds.

It's really that simple, and makes Fighters soooo much more fun to play. With that simple mechanic you can do all the basics:

• Power Attack: take disadvantage on the attack roll to gain add your weapon's damage dice to your normal damage roll.
• Disarm: take disadvantage on the attack roll to gain advantage on an opposed Strength or Dexterity Check to disarm (each combatant decides which ability to roll).
 Sweep Attack: take disadvantage on the attack roll and if successful gain an extra attack on an adjacent enemy (the second attack has disadvantage as well).
Smackdown: take disadvantage on the attack roll to gain advantage on an opposed Strength Check to knock your enemy prone.

• Pushback: take disadvantage on the attack roll to knock your enemy back 5 feet.

• Feint: take disadvantage on the attack roll to give the enemy disadvantage on their next attack.
Hobble Strike: take disadvantage on the attack roll to reduce the enemy's move by 10 feet. Multiple hobbles can reduce an enemy to zero movement.

Awesome Attack: take disadvantage on the attack roll to gain advantage on a bonus Intimidation check against the enemy.

... and so on. These are just variant attacks, I've seen Mighty Deeds used for all kinds of off-the-wall advantages responding to the unique environment of the encounter. The key to making it work is this: any fighter should be able to do them.

And what are the probabilities of success?

Well thanks to this guy here [LINK] here's the basics of Dis/Advantage probabilities.

Take your typical 1st level 5th Ed fighter and they will have at least +5 to hit, probably more. If you're attacking a Commoner (AC10), you've got a 64% chance of pulling off a Combat Stunt. Pretty easy. Against an orc (AC13), that goes down to 42%. Still not bad. Against a big slow witted ogre (AC11), the chances go up to 56%, and against a Young Green Dragon (wherever would you find one of those? AC18), your chances drop to 16%. Seems reasonable to me.

And if you take the Archery Fighting Style (adds +2 to your ranged attack rolls) you can pull Combat Stunts off against a Commoner 81% of the time, against an orc 56%, against an ogre 72%, and against that green dragon 25% of the time.

Maybe too much? I'll let you know. I'm yet to playtest them, so no idea how it will play on the night yet, but if you do like these houserules and do take them for a spin let me know how they go.

No doubt when the PBH arrives in August all these ideas will be rendered moot, but if you're looking for a sweet and simple fighter mechanic to match the sweet as 5th Ed D&D Basic Rules, this might be what you're looking for.


The Art of Scenic Dunnsmouth

Scenic Dunnsmouth, written by Zzarchov Kowolski, art and layout by me,
published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, has been out for a little while. 

You can get it HERE (and really you should, it's very nifty).

All up there's about two dozen illustrations and over fifty character portraits. 

Personally, I'm rather chuffed with it. Here's some of my faves:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Random Table: Healing from the Snake God [D&D5E]

For use with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, but eh, use it how you like.

Constitution Save (DC 10 + the number of times healed) or roll d20 on the following table:

1. A small snake pours out of the wound and wraps itself around the injury much like a bandage or tourniquet. There it will remain long past the wound has healed, stirring only to remind the target that it needs the occasional morsel. It will stay there til the target’s dying days, quietly observing all the target does and informing the snake god of their doings. Remove it gently and it will simply make its way back to the old injury that night; use force to harm it or kill it and risk the snake god’s wrath, usually involving being pulled apart by huge 50’ constrictors that come either in the dead of night when you least expect it or smack bang in the middle of the day in a very public place. Nothing says “don’t fuck with me” quite like pulling apart an infidel in the market square with giant magical anacondas.

2. The wound heals miraculously, but the target collapses in panic as they are struck completely blind. The iris rolls completely back inside the head, leaving only the whites of the eye showing. Within a day the white hardens and fades to a dull eggshell color. For that is what they are: eggshells, that after d12 days begin to crack as the creatures within each are born: two baby snakes slither from between the eyelids and bury themselves in the warmth of the target's clothes. With their birth, the target's sight returns, but only to see through the eyes of their eye-born snakes. The target sees what each snake sees. They remain small throughout their lifespan – able to curl up in the void of the target's empty eye sockets –  and form a close kinship with their host, who is able to mentally direct them to some degree (treat as Animal Handling skill). They must be fed and cared for like any pet snake. The pair will die within d12 years, but not before mating and laying the next generation of eggs in the host's head, repeating the birth process and bonding with the host as their parents once did. 

3. The wound heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; but any child sired by the target will be born as a snake.

 The wound heals miraculously, but the target begins to choke and cough, bloodily vomiting up their tongue in moments. Inside their head they can feel something growing out of the floor of their mouth: any who dare look inside will be attacked by the poisonous viper that now lives inside. The aggressive resident is 1d4 feet long, and anytime the host's mouth opens it will strike out if a target is within range (though never at its host, which it guards with extreme prejudice). Roll on the poisonous snake table below to see the effect of the poisonous bite.

5. The wound heals miraculously, but the target immediately begins to feel like their skin is crawling. And it is: within moments their skin begins to fall away, as does their hair, revealing the iridescent sheen of a new coat of snake scales beneath. Within d12 hours the moult is complete. The leathery hide provides +1AC, but sheds three times a year. 

6. The injury heals but the wound does not close. Instead it is lanced with sudden pain as two fangs work their way out of the wound, as does a forked tongue, transforming the wound into the mouth of a snake. The damage caused by its bite equals the nearest dice size to the original number of HP healed by the priest, rounding down (so a 5hp injury now does a 1d4 bite, a 13hp injury now does 1d12, lucky you if your table has a d30). There is also a 50% chance the fangs are venomous, and if they are they require a Constitution Save vs DC 10 + fanger’s level/2, doing 1d6 HP damage each round until saved.

7. The injury heals but the pain from the wound immediately transfers to the target’s mouth as their tongue slowly splits in two. With this new forked tongue the target is able to speak the language of snakes and ophidians. The target also gains an enhanced sense of smell, able to taste the air for lifeforms within 30’ and know the general direction as the tongue flickers in and out. It also looks really weird.

8. The wound heals but fails to close; every dusk it gives birth to a live snake.

9. The wound heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects save for an occasional uncomfortable feeling in the innards that grows worse over the following weeks. Over the next month, the next slashing or piercing injury that opens up the target’s torso will cause them to gout a shower of snakelings that have infested their host (yeah just like that scene in Temple of Doom). The target has become a snake birthing machine, and every month will need to open up their abdomen in order to release them. Failure to do so is left to the cruelty of the DM.

10. The wound heals miraculously, with no immediate side effects; but that night first one digit suddenly drops off, and the following night another extremity. By the end of the first three weeks all fingers and toes will have parted ways with the target, and soon the hands, ears, and feet come clean off as well. Hairs start to fall out, scales growing in their place as the stumpy legs begin to ache, and soon the forearms, and then the upper arms are gone while the legs fuse together. In all it takes about a month for the target to transform into a giant snake. All mental faculties are retained, and typical ophidian senses are gained. 

11. Snake eyes! The wounds heals instantly and everything’s cool, except the target now has snake like eyes with awesome irises and slitted pupils. No particular benefit other than being a hit at certain parties.

12. The wound heals miraculously, leaving only a strange tingle in the target’s mouth and a foul taste on their tongue. The next time living flesh passes within 3 inches of their mouth the target will unwittingly bite whoever or whatever it is with venomous fangs extended. Roll on the snake generator table to see what kind of poison the target produces. The retractable fangs - the uncontrollable desire to bite anything that gets to close - are now a permanent feature.

13. The wound heals miraculously, but it begins to rain snakes in a one mile radius around the location where the target was healed. The snake storm lasts 1d6 minutes; on a 6 roll again, for the storm lasts 1d6 hours, and on another 6 roll again, for the storm lasts that many days, and so on… for weeks, months, years, centuries, millennia…

14. The wound heals miraculously, but the target is struck down with a splitting headache. For their head really is splitting, as 6d6 snakes burst from their skull, to a length of 1d4 feet. The crippling agony passes within a minute, but the target now has snakes instead of hair, much like a gorgon. Alert and vicious, they draw their nourishment from the target’s now purely carnivorous diet of live prey, and in return the snakes provide them with all round ophidian senses including infravision up to 60’. They are surly and cantankerous, a mess of flickering movement unless the target individually names each and every snake, in which case they settle down and become quite friendly in a wriggly snakey kinda way.

15. The target convulses and collapses in agony and swiftly strips naked, tearing at their skin as they begin to shed the outer layers of their dermis. The screams and convulsions are quite unnerving, as the target slowly peels apart over 1d6 minutes until they emerge from their shedded skin with their wounds healed. 

16. The wound rapidly festers and rots like a necrotic bite, only the area of the rot is still physically present, just not visible. Over the following d6 days the rots spreads until the target’s body is rendered permanently invisible. Not bad, but not great, for the target’s body has actually been transplanted to a different frequency of existence, and is able to see that the entire multiverse is crawling with snakes normally invisible to the naked eye. String Theory was close, only it wasn’t string, it was snakes. There are snakes everywhere, and everywhen, and they can see you. Surprisingly, you feel pretty ok with that. Magical effects like True Seeing will reveal the target, but not the ophidian nature of reality. What the ophidiverse wants with the character is up to the DM.

17. The wound heals miraculously but the target immediately becomes aware of a vast malevolence slowly constricting the world: it is the Encircling Serpent servant of the snake god, who shall bring about the doom of the world. It waits patiently and gazes hungrily at its waiting meal, and the character always knows the exact direction to the Encircling Serpent’s fanged maw. Facing that direction (it’s random every day as the Serpent slides around the globe) forces the character to suffer the effects of a Cause Fear spell, with failure to resist rendering the character unable to head in that direction until dawn the next day, though they can tack like a ship heading into the wind. The plus side is the character gains a global affinity and always knows which of the cardinal directions they are facing. Weird.

18. The wound heals instantly, but the cold reptilian logic of snakes is revealed to the target, and they are able hear the thoughts of any ophidian creature within 120’. In an environment crawling with snakes such as a jungle or a Yuan-ti city this can be a little overwhelming, and the character must make a Wisdom Save DC 10 or be overcome, putting them at a disadvantage until they can drown out the thoughts either with narcotics or sleep. The upshot is that all surface thoughts of said ophidians are revealed to the character, along with the benefits this information could provide. Highly sentient creatures are allowed an Intelligence Save with a DC of the character’s Intelligence to subconsciously block out any thought reading attempts.

19. The wound heals but as miracles go it’s one of the less fun ones: the sky overhead rips open and a snake of truly gargantuan proportions descends from the heavens in search of the target and swallows them whole before returning to its rightful place under the throne of the snake god. This beast cares not for what level of the dungeon you’re on, nor what plane of existence you’re hiding on. You’re dead. So sorry.

even cooler with googles
20. The target dies at the touch of the snake-worshipping healer and instantly desiccates to a hardened husk but that’s ok! Cause like a snake crawling out of the egg, the character is reborn as either as a Yaun-Ti or Intellectual Property Rights Issue Free Serpentfolk, crawling out of their dead body and emerging triumphant and all snakey-wakey. Unless your DM’s a dick and wants to give you snake arms, or make you lower half humanoid and upper half snake, you’re now a cool-as centaur-like creature with upper body humanoid and lower body of a giant snake. You’ll also get scaly skin and fangs and snake eyes and forky tongue action. Everyone will want to be just like you, and will come crawling to be healed by the snake priest. Job done!

Unless otherwise stated above, all wounds healed have the following conditions:

All slashing wounds healed by a snake priest leave a subtle patina of scales around the edge of the injury.
Crush damage that is healed by a snake priest leaves an angry patch of boils. Occasionally they swell and burst, spawning a solitary snake who is just really confused about its parents.
Piercing damage healed by a snake priest does not close up; instead it dribbles intermittent gouts of venom that can be used to coat weapons with a single use poison. 

Autopsies conducted on people healed by snake priests will reveal the presence of dozens of snakes winding around organs throughout the body. The more healing they have received, the greater the size and number of snakes.

All these effects can be completely avoided by taking an oath of obedience to the snake priest's deity prior to being healed.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Cast of Star Wars Episode VII Playing Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game

This just wrote itself.

EDIT: dang. I wrote it based on a mis-reported Max von Sydow sitting next to Hamill, which ain't true. It's Anthony Daniels.

Monday, April 14, 2014

DEAD WEST RPG: Five Pieces

So the Dead West RPG is something I've been tinkering with for a bit. 
Still a while away, but here's some art: