Friday, November 24, 2023


The X-Card emerged from the indie/storygamer side of the hobby maybe ten or so years ago. Originally taking the form of an index card with a simply X drawn it with a Sharpie or something like that, more elaborate versions--some involving multiple cards--have appeared over the years. (Example)

The idea behind the X-Card is real simple: pointing to it or holding it up is meant to signify that the game is going in a direction that the player finds uncomfortable, disconcerting, or hurtful. The rest of the table then backs away from whatever they were up to, perhaps with some sort of rewind or revision. Since the X-Card was formulated under a framework of ongoing consent, there is no option to challenge or override the usage of the X-Card. Nor is the person who played the X-Card under any obligation to explain or justify themselves.

I've never played in a game that used X-Cards and the kind of safety rails it provides seem less necessary in the stupid and shallow games I tend to run, but I still think they're a pretty smart idea. Especially in convention play where no one knows anyone else's psychological buttons or hard limits. The X-Card strikes me as a genuine advance in the field of role-playing technology.

That naughty fellow Venger Satanis seems to feel differently, though. His Cha'alt X-Cards are a response to the inherent squeamishness of the original concept. Venger's X-Cards come in sets of 8, one each for the major themes of his Cha'alt campaign setting: eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, postapocalypse, humor, sleaze, pop-culture, and grindhouse exploitation. Players hold up the card to indicate they want more of that theme, requiring the ref to oblige. In exchange for reminding the referee that Cha'alt ain't your daddy's vanilla D&D, the player earns a point of divine favor, which can be turned in to reroll a poor die throw.

This strikes me as one of those "the opposite of a good idea is also a good idea" situations. I wouldn't use both the original and Venger's X-Cards at the same table, but I think either could could enhance a lot of different kinds of games. To use Venger's idea in a non-Cha'alt game would require coming up with your own list of campaign themes to build your X-Card deck around. I've been thinking about this vis-a-vis my current Dillhonker City campaign. Here are my ideas for card themes:

Technically, We're in Early Modern Europe
Elves Fucking Suck
Wizards Make Everything Worse
Like Tolkien But Stupider

Maybe some of my players will have some additional ideas.

PS: Venger is running a Black Friday sale on his Cha'alt hardcover. Details here.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Bidding into Danger

I've posted about the James Bond 007 game more than once in the past. Today I want to talk about one mechanic that I suspect could do a lot of good in other games, but that I don't recall seeing elsewhere. When you have a chase in 007, whether by foot, car, air, or underwater, initiative is determined by bidding. Initiative starts at 7 and whoever bids lowest gets to decide who goes first. What are you actually bidding? What currency are you spending? Difficulty level for all rolls. Well, technically its Ease Factor, the mathematical opposite of difficulty. A higher Ease Factor means something is easier to do. Either way, you take initiative of a given combat turn by willing to be more dangerous than the other guy, by increasing the chances of a car crash or some other mishap.

A fun bit is that, for vehicle chases, every vehicle has a "Redline" score. This number is the safest number you can bid without additional, additional risk. Super sporty high performance cars have a 1 or 2 for Redline, allowing for a lot of high-risk action. While ordinary sedans have a 3 or 4. This means a PC in a Lambo can do more tricky maneuvers than his pursuers, even if they have the same Driving score. (And you can hamper the PCs by forcing them to flee pursuing baddies in a Volkswagen Beetle.)

This bidding method strikes me as appropriate for the genre. The person most willing to risk everything (typically, the Bond-esque devil-may-care PCs) gets to set the agenda for the chase. I feel like this is a mechanic that could be used in other games. Chases in a Star Wars style space opera could use the same approach.What other situations? Anywhere where a foolish willingness to risk disaster grants a short term advantage. Here are three ideas:
  • An RPG where pro-wrestling is for realsies: The flippy shit high-fliers can take the initiative by willing to risk botching their attack.
  • A fantasy or horror game: Wizards may go first if they are willing to risk accidentally unleashing the forces of hell.
  • Rolemaster, just for fun: Initiative bidding where the number goes up and the result is added to everyone's fumble range. 
I'm sure there have got to be other uses for bidding in RPGs. Anybody know of another game that uses it?

Sometimes I jibber jabber about a game and fail to give appropriate credit. Not this time.

Saturday, October 07, 2023

Rest in Peace, Dave Hoover

[This is not about the comic book professional Dave Hoover.]

Yesterday I learned that Dave Hoover passed away. Dave was a key person in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois rpg scene for decades. He GMed lots of local campaigns (I played mostly Feng Shui and Savage Worlds with him) and many, many games at the local convention. He once ran a game in every single slot of the con, something like 12 different games over one weekend. Dave also hosted some Halo LAN parties, if anyone remembers those glory days. He and his wife owned a game store called Armored Gopher Games for a while and it was the friendliest FLGS you could ever ask for. Nearly every store game I ever ran was at the Armored Gopher.

More importantly than being a Game Dude, Dave was just a decent human being. He was kind and caring. He was, by all accounts, a good husband and father. Certainly every time I saw him interact with his family he was earnestly trying to get that stuff right. He was also the kind of guy that, if it happened to come up in conversation that you weren't familiar with the work of the band Avenged Sevenfold, next time he saw you he'd hand you a CD burned with his favorite tracks from their catalog. That was the sort of generous spirit Dave had. He was a genuine good guy and the world is the worse off without him.

My heart goes out to his family.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Grim Weaponry

The other day I was goofing around on
and I decided to knock together a quickie Grim Reaper.

That's when I thought of this visual gag, which I call
"New Reaper Shows Up to 1st Day of
Work Having Misunderstood the Assignment."

So what else could a Grim Reaper wield?
This sword looks cool but feels kinda basic.

This battle axe looks pretty dang badass.

"What am I, a cleric over here?!?"

"Time to die. Square up, mofo."

Is this a Shaolin spade? The author of the
Zombie Survival Handbook insists that this
 is the best weapon for decapitating zombos. 

Dual wield spiked chains seems extra AF.

This Reaper is not messing around.

The ultimate horror.


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

An old fave from 1981

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

An Email Exchange

[Thanks to Steve for allowing me to post this.]


Hi, Jeff! I'm preparing to run Broodmother Skyfortress and trash my 20+-year campaign, played annually with good friends since university in the 90s. Per your kind  p5 invitation, checking in with Mission Control.

My campaign is not medieval/D&D but post-apocalyptic. System is genre-agnostic ELEMENTAL, easy enough adapt to d&d-style rules and kind of meant for this kind of stream-crossing.

I've decided the giants are mutants and, um, the creators are Space Gods or something? I don't think the average wasteland dweller is going to react much differently to the giant invasion than the average medieval peasant -- it's going to be days of WTF is the world ending again?! Armed response will be louder, and communication faster. But it's still baffling, early reports nonsensical. 

Our heroes are all packed onto a pickup truck and can get places fast. A number of ideas will no doubt occur for getting Up There, anticipating no problem there. The giants will still be very dangerous, and maybe firearms-resistant.

Some of my players may be bitchy about this wild upset of player expectations/tone. I'm fine with that (bitchiness is a part of our group's charming culture) but I hope to entertain more than dismay!    
  • I started the campaign with the map from the original (1997) Fallout, the PCs are from vault 13, and they've been everywhere in the region: spent a few weeks in LA, which would take the giants a few nights raiding (a week?) to destroy the populated parts of the city, maybe a neighbourhood a night. 
  • The underground vaults are probably safe from the giants for now. There's a nuke in the possession of one of the villains someone might turn on a vault or a skyfortress. 
  • Truck Stop, the longtime base town of friendly mutants and assorted refugees is perpetually in peril, packed with repeat NPCs and the PCs favourite cocktail lounge. There's more than enough people and stuff to threaten, but this place is probably the one that would hurt most. It would be crushed in a night.

  • The first village they came to outside the vault is Shady Sands, and that's where I'll start. Probably nobody remembers that first game in like 1999-2000, but there may be notes on the long-forgotten NPCs, none of whom are likely to be heartbreakers. Anyway, now it's all a trampled, mildly radioactive, gory mess anyway, gone in an hour, and the green cloud of mutant lightning nimbus death is headed to whichever locale is next on the shitlist. 
See what the players do next, so far so good. But then what? Do people honestly do this to their campaigns and remain on speaking terms with their players?



Thanks for the email!  Mission control is here to help!

To the best of my knowledge you've got the longest-running campaign anyone has inflicted Broodmother upon, so I'm not fully sure how to advise you. But here are a few thoughts:

If you decide that the giants are as resistant to small arms as they are to medieval weaponry (which I heartily endorse), you might want to signal that. A dying man whose last words are "whatever they are, they're bulletproof...ack." ought to do the trick.

Is there something the giants could steal or someone that they could kidnap that could serve as a symbol of hope for the party? "Truck Stop is in ruins and Shady Sands will never be the same, but at least we got ______ back. Life will go on." If you don't have such a thing already, have some NPC explain how the last known copy of Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" was the secret glue of the community. "We would always play it once a year as the centerpiece of the local festival. If only we could get that back, maybe we would have the heart to rebuild." Did you all have a favorite song back in '99? Maybe use that instead of Miles Davis. Or whatever other MacGuffin you could hang some emotional stakes on.

Does that help?

That does, thanks, Jeff! Turning my thoughts towards MacGuffins…There’s a functioning radio station with a popular brain-in-a-jar robot DJ, Dick Personality…so either he or the station/transmitter/irreplaceable music collection (the last Kind of Blue is a great idea) could suffice along those lines. Thank you for writing this beautiful bonkers adventure and helping interpret it!

Please let me know how it goes, even if it is a disaster. Hell, send me hate mail for ruining your campaign, if it helps you feel better.

First session rocked utterly. 

Destroyed a couple of places, including one PC's tribal homeland (and tribe). I laid down the campaign map and ostentatiously crossed the lost places off one by one. Much arriving too late, lamentations, whining, bitching, moaning, this is so unfair, so cruel, what are even supposed to do-hoo-hoo -- and then they started fighting back. They evacuated the base town  (Truck Stop) ahead of the mystery murder cloud, and watched from a distance as the giants wrecked all the old beloved places there, and finally saw what they were up against. 

Next up: The Doom of LA: While Swordmaniac, Chainmonster and Vomitboy rampaged across Disneyland, they landed on the Skyfortress in a handy small VTOL craft (they also took the precaution of packing parachutes, lucky as a gust of wind hit them at the Obelisk and whisked one character off into the wild blue yonder).  They explored the ruins, where they discovered the charm monster/mind control ring and a mighty rubble of various stolen landmarks of this campaign and others -- is that an entire medieval guard tower? 
Chainmonster by Ian MacLean

Enroute to the Skyfortress proper,  they caught the Runt mid-business at the Stank Hole, discombobulated him with some mutant psychic zapping, and, in an epic confrontation, FUCKED HIM UP! Victory, catharsis, to be continued (likely in a year, as that's about as often as this far-flung crew can manage to be in the same place).   

Holy shit, Jeff! It works! 

Hey, been busy at work at and just checked my gmail for the first time in days. Thanks for putting a smile on this tired guy's face.

May I incorporate some of your emails into a blog post? If not, no harm done.

Heck yes, blog away! 

[The new printing of Broodmother Skyfortress is available here. PDF version here.]

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Cosmic Purpose of Role-Playing Games

If your sessions are anything like mine, a lot of ludicrous stuff gets said by the participants. RPGs put people into imaginary situations via dialogue. That means people will say things in an RPG session that would never be said in any other context. Therefore, RPG play taken as a whole is a sort of Unique Utterance Machine. We are collectively reciting the Nine Billion Names of God, the spoken version of the Tower of Hanoi, the oral Library of Babel. The last RPG played will exhaust language itself.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Mystery Solved


Last December I posted a message asking if anyone knew what the heck this four-armed three-eyed weirdo was and today I noticed someone had an answer. An anonymous commenter has recently added some useful info:

It’s a Gobbler, a creation of gloranthan dwarves, whose job is to eat special metals and other materials the dwarves would prefer that humans, trolls, and others not get their grubby hands on.

Basically the dwarves take it near where they suspect other races have been doing technological espionage, feed some Gobblers a sample of X material, and then those Gobblers go crazy for X, can sense it from far away, can digest it, will fight past anything just to reach it, and will eat it in preference to continuing to fight

I don’t recall which book they are in. I don’t remember their RuneQuest stats either, but I don’t there was anything unusual about their combat abilities. Doubt they had magic, unlike nearly everything else in Glorantha, since they are artificial.

Thanks, anon-a-commenter! With that lead I was able to track down this image of the re-release of the original Archive mini back in 2005 or so:

I also found this new re-design for a more recent HeroQuest figure line:

The Gobblers are mentioned in Different Worlds issue 24, the special issue devoted to the Mostali, RuneQuest's dwarves. Here's what Greg Stafford has to say about them in his article "Why I Dislike Mostali": 
Dwarfs have other creatures to help them protect their possessions, too. One of the best known is the Gunpowder Gobbler. A horde of them appeared one time, and they ate much more than that arcane substance when they stampeded towards their prey. They have many hands and a great mouth, and they are very strong. Their appetite is enhanced by their eating the alchemical powder, and they get stronger from it as well . Thus, the more there is to eat, the hungrier and nastier one gets. Once it has eaten everything, it goes on a rampage. Many instances of Gobbler outbreaks are recorded, and most authorities are quite adamant about suppressing the development of, or even experimentation with, that alchemical powder in their districts.
I feel like Different Worlds is
overlooked nowadays. Good mag.

According to this web article by Sandy Petersen, Gobblers "can be taught spells, but has only those Arts and Presence which has been enchanted into its hide." I have no idea what Arts and Presence mean in this context, as I know very little about the RuneQuest/HeroQuest family of games. 

Finally, I was able to track down some RQ stats for these four-armed goons:

Characteristics Average 

  • STR 2D6+12 19 
  • CON 4D6+12 26 
  • SIZ 3D6+12 22–23 
  • INT 1D6+2 5–6 
  • POW 3D6 10–11 
  • DEX 2D6+8 15 

Hit Points: 29 Move: 8 Magic Points: 11 Base SR: 2 Armor: 7 points of metallic hide. Skills: Dodge 35%, Smell Foodstuff 160%. Magic: A gobbler can eat near-limitless quantities of its designated substance. Sometimes gobblers receive enchantments or long duration sorcery spells from the dwarfs.Weapon % 55 Damage 1d4+2d6  SR 5/8 Note: A gobbler attacks four times each round, with both upper arms on its initial SR and both lower paws 3 strike ranks later. Add +1% to its Paw attack skill for each ENC of the target substance eaten. For every 10 ENC of the target substance eaten, add +1 to one characteristic chosen by the dwarfs when the gobbler was programmed


Saturday, September 16, 2023

Starmongers Guild

The Starmongers Guild is the closest thing to an operational magic-user's organization in the Kingdom of Drazbin. The main guildhouse is in the city of Yowat, but there's also a large contingent in Dillhonker. The original point of the organization was to provide solidarity for astrologers and soothsayers during a royal crackdown on fake fortune tellers, but all practitioners of the arcane sciences are now welcome. The usual route to membership is to apprentice under a master for several years but adventurers can skip that nonsense and join for a mere 1,000gp donation and a successful Charisma check (the fee is non-refundable). Membership provides the following benefits:

  • Membership is a legal defense against accusations of witchcraft (but not Black Magic) wherever Royal law applies.
  • The right to participate in the parades and festivities of the order. This means anytime you carouse in a town with a guildhouse there's a 1 in 6 chance the XP gain is doubled.
  • The Dillhonker Tarot has 99 cards.
    Every time you level up after joining, you receive an additional benefit if you can roll OVER your level on 1d12. If this roll is successful, throw 1d6 on the chart below:
    1. Gain basic proficiency in astrology. (If re-rolled on a later level, you get nothing.)
    2. Gain the alchemical knowledge needed to brew 1d3 different random potions.
    3. Gain the ability to Read the Cards once per day, which works like the spell Augury (if re-rolled, gain an additional usage per day).
    4. Gain a random MU spell.
    5. Gain knowledge of an ancient language.
    6. Gain all the mental abilities of an Arduin Psychic equal to your level. (If rolled again, you lose these benefits. They can be regained later.)
Note that non-magic-users can try to join the guild. In these lazy days of warlockery there's only a 1 in 6 chance they detect that you're a charlatan. But woe unto ye if that happens.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Broodmother is back!

FYI, my magnum opus, Broodmother Skyfortress, is back in print at the Lamentations of the Flame Princess euro store. If you missed out on a hardcopy the first time around, here's your chance to buy one at non-collector prices. Also, it should be noted that among the many new LotFP releases is Black Chamber by my friend Becami Cusack of Systematica. Congrats, Bec!

Monday, July 31, 2023

Dude! Northumbrian Tinsoldier!!

In a great reply to my quickie humanoid post commenter 1d30 mentions that Northumbrian Tinsoldier carries a line of goblins in the vein of the muppets from Labyrinth. And he ain't kidding. Check out these great gobbos:

That's just a sample. There are many, many more goofy little freaks in the line. Here's some other fun stuff they sell:
I love an adventurer with a light source!

This delightful figure is called Sir Blessed of Briian.

And don't miss the licensed Time Bandits line, featuring the best dwarfs to ever appear in fantasy (fight me):

They've also got most of the cool characters from the movie. Conspicuously absent at the moment are either version of God and these scary mofos:

Anyway, if you like cool minis, check out Northumbrian!

Saturday, July 08, 2023

lotsa different humanoids

If you are going to use all the standard D&D races, you need a quick handle on how each of them behave. If you can't makes these sorts of distinctions, they become blurred into different hit dice versions of Generic Foe. Here are my usual elevator-pitches for them:

Kobolds - like the Gremlins in the movies

Goblins - everything you hate about middle class existence

Orcs - blue collar working stiffs, part Homer Simpson, part Archie Bunker

Hobgoblins - the goddamn Nazis

Gnolls - evil frat boys variously chilling on spring break or rioting after their team wins the championship

Bugbears - sadistic cannibalistic Bigfoot

Ogres - Sweetums from the Muppet Show

Sunday, June 25, 2023

mini-review: White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game

One of the earliest retroclones was Matt Finch's Swords & Wizardry, published in 2007 or 2008, if I recall correctly. S&W was an updating and reworking of original D&D. In 2009 Swords & Wizardry: White Box came out, which was a version of S&W that stripped the game back to the original three little beige books. White Box: Fantasy Medieval Adventure Game is Charlie Manson's 2016 reworking of the 2009 game.

Since this is an old school D&D type game (If you don't know what that means, good luck reading the entire blog archive.), I will only hit a few rules points for those of us who are really finicky about these things:

  • Stats are -1 for 6 or less, +1 for 15 or more.
  • Hit dice are d6. Fighters start at 1+1.
  • Single saving throw
  • Four classes but thieves are listed as optional.
  • All class charts go to level 10 except MU which goes to 12.
  • 'Thievery' is a skill that covers all thief stuff except backstab. You start at 2 in 6 with it. It goes to 3 in 6 at level 4.
  • Four races. Per OD&D elves switch between fighter and MU.
  • Both ascending and descending AC is supported.
  • Weapons generally do d6. Two-handers do d6+1.
  • The spell lists are unnumbered. I hate that.
  • Monster list is a bunch of old standbys but also includes Death Knight, 4 demons (balor, imp, succubus, lemure), and a neat little take on the Sidhe.
  • The magic item section is pretty nicely fleshed out.
  • There are some nice little jousting rules.
If there's a major revelation in these rules, I have yet to find it. But that's hardly the point, is it? As a retroclone, it's first job is to be a serviceable version of the Game. By that standard, White Box hits the mark nicely. One can both dungeoneer and dragonify using these rules. My only real complaint (other than failing to number the spell lists) is that it lacks a starter adventure, sample level, and/or dungeon generator.

What really makes White Box stand out to me is its physical format. The book is only 8.5" tall and 5.5" wide, 144 pages, paperback, black & white, and cheap. A copy on Amazon goes for only 4.29 in US dollars! The paper is a greyish newsprint quality, but the printing on it is all clear and quite legible. No index but the table of contents is robust. The illos by William McAusland are frequent and evocative. All-in-all if you need a small, cheap rpg to give out to newbies or to throw in a travel bag, White Box fills the bill nicely. Add a handful of dice, some paper, a writing implement or two and the gates of adventure lie open unto ye.

Monday, May 29, 2023

more cool skeletons

These cool party dudes are from a 19th century work by an artist named Kyosai.


a fun little cartoon

I'm a sucker for anything that depicts skeletons, orcs, etc. as ordinary working stiffs.


Friday, May 26, 2023

Venger Con is a thing that is happening again.

Venger Satanis is having his own convention again, in Madison, Wisconsin on July 21-23. The funny thing is, I will be driving through Madison on the 22nd, but I don't have time to stop to play anything. 

(Of course, I might not find it to my taste if I did stop, as it is advertised as "non-woke." I don't consider myself woke, but I rarely find myself on the same page as folks who get themselves worked up about "the wokes".) 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

two new Heroforge characters

My daughter wanted to play around with making characters on Heroforge today, so I whipped up versions of two new NPCs in the Dillhonker City campaign.
Please do not invade his section of the dungeon until Undead Steve has had his morning coffee.

Stanky the Elf has all 8s for stats, a magic wand, and terrible fashion sense.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

an unexpected synthetic deity

So I just finished the English translation Konrad Schmid's Genesis and the Moses Story. I give it a strong recommendation to anyone who would see 6 untranslated ancient Hebrew words and 5 footnotes on page frickin' 1 and go "that's my idea of a good time." Not much of it is gameable unless your game is set somewhere between the 8th and 5th centuries BC. But the section on Hellenic reception of the Pentateuch had some nifty stuff about Moses and Abraham being identified by Greek scholars as wizard guys. Here's my favorite bit game-wise: 

I love the idea of Hermes-Thor! The footnote says that he is also mentioned in Eusebius, so I'm going to have to check that out.In my current campaign all mainstream gods have 2 aspects pulled from two different pantheons. Instead of Hermes-Thor, I have Osiris-Thor, who is popular among adventurers. Gods with only one aspect are considered heretical. Only crazy cultists belong to one aspect faiths. 

The idea of these double gods came from an episode of Cosmos. In a segment on the Library of Alexandria, Carl Sagan mentions the synthetic Greco-Egyptian god Serapis, who struck me as a sort of multiclassed Zeus/Osiris.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

About This Past Week

Friday, May 12, 2023

problematic critique

James removed the identifying information when he posted this tweet thread to facebook. A tweet is a public statement, so I don't see any reason to do that.

Even when I am not a fan of the work itself, I have nothing but admiration for people who try to make a go in the RPG industry. You really have to bust ass pushing the boulder uphill to pay the bills. That's why I find it problematic as fuck that a small game company (it's just two people, as far as I can tell) would decide after the fact to rob a freelancer of the credit they are due. It seems like the message that sends to future freelancers is that Leyline are willing to do the same if, at some point, the publisher decides that they don't like you.  I dunno, maybe I'm being a crazy lefty worried about the rights of a worker in the face of corporate ownership.

"Corporate ownership" is a harsh term for a two-person garage band of a game company, but I stand by it. After all, they could have dropped the editor without pushing them into the Leyline Press memory hole. They could have stood by them and said "Hey, freelancing is hard and you got to take work where you can get it sometimes." Or they could have said, "We know our editor has some fucked up stuff in their credits. We know they have a gig with that bastard James Raggi right now. Some cowards and cheapskates are urging us to drop our editor like a hot potato. But we can do better. We've decided to help them shake off these bad gigs by hiring them full time/throwing more work their way/paying a better rate. That's how you improve the RPG scene, by investing in better outcomes." Instead, they chose the Hasbro Wizards option.

The first tweet of the thread is a fascinating artifact, by the way. If I was teaching a composition class right now I would build a lesson around it. Why the choice of the preposition "on," for starters? What does it mean to work on LotFP as opposed to for or with? Is this word choice the result of a clumsy attempt to come in under the character limit, or is something else going on here? Does Leyline Press even know what a Lamentations of the Flame Princess is? Hard to tell with that "on" in play. Maybe they are just replicating the rumor mill at several removes from anyone who has actually read any of LotFP's output.

Furthermore, it's a sly rhetorical trick to not explain what is wrong with LotFP but to immediately juxtapose it with "other problematic works that have received widespread critique for bigoted and other harmful issues." This creates an association between the two in the audience's mind, whether true or not. This is one of the tricks that venues like Fox News use to convince folks that mainstream democrats like Joe Biden are pinko commies. So, well played. I guess.

While I've got my teaching hat on, I would deducts points from this piece for its reliance on the term problematic. Better yet, I'd send it back for revision. Here's my comment from James's facebook post:

I regret the day problematic escaped out of academic discourse and into the wild. In grad school problematic meant "hey, this looks kinda fucked up, so we should slow down and pay attention to it and figure out what it means." Nobody slows down on the internet. Nobody tries to understand.

The way problematic is used in public now seems to be "this is fucked up and I am running away from it." Which is fine, I guess. Language changes over time. But it seems to me that what liberals have achieved with problematic is the same sort of politically self-serving bastardization that the right has applied to the term "woke."

And this is going out on a limb, since I don't really know what the "other problematic works" are, but I will hazard a guess that they have sustained criticism but not much in the way of actual critique. Criticism is about the critic's agenda. "The magic deer in Blue Rose promotes the fantasy that authoritarianism can work and is therefore bad" is a criticism based upon my personal politics. Critique is based upon the creator's agenda. "Broodmother Skyfortress lacks an extended example of how to apply the various re-skinnings offered as options, and thus fails its avowed project as an introductory module" would be a critique.

Finally, can I just say that I find it problematic (in the academic sense) that the Leyline Press blog contains a fic with openly stated themes of "grotesque body horror, torture, dehumanization, bestiality, pregnancy, sexual situations, and non-consent?" Can we talk about that? It feeds into my (admittedly paranoid) theory that liberals believe that you can create any kind of fucked up art that you want, so long as you are willing to make your own personal identity as a victim part of your artistic persona. If James wrote and published the exact same text, would he be put on blast? I suspect so.

Anyway, the LotFP sale is still a thing. There's never been a cheaper time to form your own opinion about what Raggi chooses to publish.

RPG Editor Gets Canceled for LotFP Affiliation - James Raggi Responds

I think Tenkar's refrain here of "just let the market decide" is not quite right, but I appreciate his coverage of this topic.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Big LotFP PDF sale

Some dipshit from some game company I never heard of was talking smack about Lamentations of the Flame Princess, so James did what James does in these circumstances: he sells more stuff. From now through the 16th, every LotFP title is only $1.25 on DriveThru. If you don't already own a copy of my award-winning adventure Broodmother Skyfortress, there's no better time than now to buy one.

Friday, May 05, 2023

"I can't tell"

 One of the greatest compliments a player can give me as a DM is to express confusion of a sort. 

Like the session where the party encountered a dungeon room that was a 1970's office full of clerks and secretaries and middle management types, except they were all bugbears. Zak said something like "I can't tell if this originally appeared in the crappy old module or if it is something Jeff added for his own amusement." I'll take credit for the suit-and-tie clad boss bugbear's two-handed sword +1 bearing runes in Old Bugbearese that spell out 'complaint department', but as for the rest? I'll never tell.

Or this week when Bec's PC saw "a crow or something" fly away from the old abandoned church. She was stumped. "I can't tell if that is integral to the plot or if you just made that detail up."

I suspect that the ability to seemlessly move between the module's nonsense and my own personal nonsense is the result of two tendencies:

  1. I try to never read aloud from the module. Okay, sometimes I'll read the boxed text that sets up the adventure. And occasionally I will read from the module for comedic effect, such as if it is really poorly written. (Example: I will read aloud dumb mistakes like "32. This chamber is 40' in diameter and perfectly circular, with a chest in the northwest corner.") In general, I'd rather restate the module info in my own words and, if I get things wrong, make my misstatement the reality of the gameworld, then take the words on the page too seriously.
  2. I don't take my embellishments to the module that seriously either.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

this actual play is nuts

I don't really watch actual play videos all that much, as I don't consider D&D to be a spectator sport. (Though I quite like Dungeon Majesty, if anyone remembers that silliness.) But this was one that my wife, who is a normal well-adjusted non-gamer type person, was interested in watching. We've been fans of Rhett and Link and their show Good Mythical Morning since 2020. The extra wrinkle to this actual play is the so-called "exorcist", who steals the show. He is one of those interesting people who seemingly can't distinguish fantasy from reality and sees demons as the explanation for nearly any phenomena. Also hilarious is how Link unironically makes his own daddy issues into his character's whole deal. Big thumbs up to him for sneak attacking the demon in the balls, though. That's A+ dungeoning and dragoning in my book.

After the Dungeon Master's first line my wife said, "Yeah, that's a Dungeon Master all right." I am having trouble thinking of another dungeon master she has heard run a game. You know, besides me. Make of that what you will.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

a typical spellbook from the Dillhonker City campaign

Title(s): Grimoire of Par Kaar, The Blue Book of Waaz

Language(s): Demonic, with some marginalia in Smadj

Period: The chaotic days of the Wizards of Old.

Author: The obscure wizard Par Kaar, with some additions by an unnamed apprentice of his and margin notes by a later hand but in the ancient hieroglyphs of a nearly-forgotten language.

Blasphemy: The world is a bit like a planetary turducken, with a second, smaller world inside it, and a third, even smaller world insider that one.


  • Magic Aura (reversible) (standard LotFP version)
  • Slivers of Stone (Invocation/Evocation) (Great Net Spellbook, sixth edition)

Range: 30 yards + 10 yards per level
Components: V, S, M
Duration: Instantaneous
Casting Time: 1
Area of Effect: One creature
Saving Throw: None
Author: Peter Gourlay <>
This spell creates a stream of sharp stone shards that unerringly hit their target. The stones inflict 1d4 + 1 points of damage. For every three levels gained, the wizard inflicts another 1d4 + 1 points of damage. This spell is the earth elementalist version of the magic missile spell, and protections against that spell are also useful against Slivers of Stone. Slivers of stone has the same limitations as magic missile. The material component of this spell is a handful of stones, which must be thrown at the target. 

  • Par-Kher’s Pain Blast  (Arduin Grimoire III)

Level: 4th Area Effected: 30' diameter. Number Effected : All within 30' diameter. Effects: Blast of sheer pain. All within go insane with pain for the number of turns less than 20th level they are. Range: 120 feet. Save negates.

  • Animate Dead (standard LotFP version)  

Note 1: The spell name and the title of the book have different spellings of the relevant wizard's name. Par Kaar/Par-Kher is inconsistent in his spelling practices in general.

Note 2: There may have been more spells in this spellbook at one time, but the last 33 pages have been scribbled over by either a mad man or a really determined toddler. Nothing can be gleamed of the secrets written on these defaced leaves.

Monday, April 17, 2023

There's an Ian Fleming quote

"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action."

Well, this is at least the fourth win for Zak. I wonder what Ian Fleming would say about that?

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Jordan rules

So my Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure Broodmother Skyfortress has this dead god in it called the Sky King. It is possible to bring this entity back to life. The consequences of doing this are less than ideal for the party. Here's a brief report of that happening, from the LotFP discord.


Forest: One of my younger players changed his name after the group lost three PCs to the Sky King.

Image from another discord shows user name Jordan (Fuck You Jeff Rients).

2 laughing so hard I'm crying emojis.

That Dark Sky: In the nice way?

Forest: Just salty lol

Spider Minstrel: What, only three?]

This is the first actual play report I have seen of the Sky King being awakened, so bravo to Jordan and his group.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

a step closer to my grand vision

I am a bad drawer. Or, at least, I haven't devoted any time to the prospect of getting better at it. One idea I have had knocking around my head for a long time is "What if a dungeon was laid out like a multi-level shopping mall, in all its 3-d splendor?" My lack of drawing skills has made this hard to realize in a visual form, so today I asked to do up this idea. The results were... not terrible.