A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.


Gygax '75

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on February 20, 2022

Tagged: osr gygax homebrew

Dark Souls Knight

In 1975 Gary Gygax wrote an article describing a simple approach to creating a campaign world over 5 weeks, which you could then expand upon through play: like God intended. Ray Otus took this article and expanded on its ideas to create a structured work book with concrete steps for each week and his own example of creating a small campaign setting. Recently Dungeon Possum posted about his plans to go through this process. This got me interested in doing the same. I am keen to create a basic-ass fantasy setting. I normally gravitate towards Gonzo He-Man nonsense. Playing Dark Souls and Demon Souls over the last year has me interested in Arthurian fantasy—by way of a confused Japanese man. And so that’s what I will go with. We’ll call it Misericorde for now, until I figure out the names for things in this setting.

Follow along on my blog, of course: Gygax ‘75: Misericorde.


Shopkins Party

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on April 13, 2017

Tagged: diy homebrew kids shopkins contest 200wordrpg

Here is an entry for the 200 Word RPG Challenge. It’s a game to play with my daughter, a serious scaredy cat. Whenever we play D&D she just wants to stay in the town and hang out with her mom or go to birthday parties. I’ve tried to turn that into a story telling game. All you need are a bunch of Shopkins to play. If you don’t know what Shopkins are, lucky you. (All you need to know this: The core mechanic of Shopkins is not knowing which one you’ll get.)

Shopkins Party

Grab four Shopkins for each player in the game and put them in a bag.

The youngest players draws a Shopkin from the bag. Everyone should say, “Happy Birthday!” Today is this Shopkin’s birthday party! On a sheet of paper write down her name. Place the Shopkin on the table: she’s waiting for her friends to arrive.

The player to the right draws another Shopkin from the bag. The first guest has arrived! Write her name down and flip a coin: on heads the guest is one of the birthday girl’s best friends forever; on tails she is a mean bully. Note this down. The players now act out a scene involving the party goers. If the birthday girl stands up to a bully during a scene the bully is now one of her best friends forever.

Continue to draw guests till you have drawn half your Shopkins. The next Shopkin drawn is the birthday girl’s mom. She’s got the cake. Everyone sing Happy Birthday!

Each Shopkin drawn after this point is someone’s mom. They are here to pick up their kid. Make sure they leave with a loot bag!


World of Carcosa

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 25, 2017

Tagged: pbta thewarren carcosa homebrew diy

Players, don’t get too attached to your characters, because the game isn’t about them—the game is about the warren. Individual rabbits are cheap and the continuity of the warren is everything. Death is explicitly on the table and will occur as the fiction demands, so breed early and often. Your kits are your legacy (and the pool from which you will probably draw your next character).

Think of the game as a generational saga rather than an heroic narrative. Although your characters may well be leaders, poets, and scofflaws, they are still at the bottom of the food chain in a world determined to kill them. Perhaps their children can finish what you so bravely started. Generational play is great fun, and having a strong connection to the warren as a living community pays great dividends over time. You’ll start to care about its health and goals, and build a mythology around the exploits of previous generations. And, despite all these lofty assurances, in the end making up a new rabbit takes only minutes. - Marshall Miller, The Warren.

The Warren is a Powered by the Apocalypse game about rabbits—picture Watership Down.1 I’ve tried to play it a few times with my daughter, though without much success. My daughter is a scaredy cat. She doesn’t like games with conflict or danger.2 Most RPGs aren’t particularly interesting without either.

The Warren is full of writing I could imagine being pulled right out of an old-school D&D book. Stories about rabbits are often stories about survival and horror. Watership Down is very much in this vein. Your rabbits struggle against the world, and many will die so others may live. One can picture running some real meat grinder games playing a by the book game of The Warren.

I’ve wanted to run a session of this game with people closer to my age for a while now. Bully Pulpit Games has published several “playsets” (basically very terse setting documents) to help kickstart games of The Warren. They’re all quite good, but sometimes it’s fun to make your own.

Of course anyone can do anything he likes with Carcosa. There is no One True Wayism about Carcosa, nor is there an “Official” Carcosa. My attitude towards my creations is that of Gary towards D&D in 1974, not Gary towards AD&D in 1982. — Geoffrey McKinney on Dragonsfoot

World of Carcosa is a playset for The Warren that is set in the doomed world of Carcosa. If you have been reading this blog you know it’s one of my favourite settings for D&D. I’m not sure what the Venn diagram is for people interested in Carcosa and people interested in a game about rabbits. Perhaps it’s very small. This is for my people!

I haven’t had a chance to run this playset yet. Buyer beware!

Download World of Carcosa.

  1. You are no doubt already familiar with The Warren as it was awarded an Hounorable Mention in the Ramanan Sivaranjan Awards for Excellence in Gaming, 2016

  2. A brief recap of one of our games: “I thought my daughter might like a game about rabbits. She was sent out for carrots and narrowly avoided an owl! That was too scary, though, so she decided she’d just play the predators and the rabbit she made is now a turncoat working with the humans after eating a soup that made her evil.” A few weeks later I tried playing with her again: “In this session she is searching for cutie rabbits to also convert to evil. She also travels in an invisible bag carried by her human friend so foxes and owls can’t get her.” 


Nan's Bag of Sweets

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on February 23, 2015

Tagged: homebrew lotfp

James Raggi recently ran a contest soliciting magic items for the new LotFP Referee book. My entry didn’t make the cut, so you get to enjoy it right now. I think it’s pretty LotFP.

A simple looking leather bag, with drawstrings to hold itself shut. A crude image is burned on to one side of the pouch. Like a Rorschach print, it’s unclear what image the artist had wished to convey. A face, perhaps?

That bag is full of sweets: liquorice and other such things. When opened it is so full the candy almost spills out. The owner of the bag may draw out any number of sweets, fistfuls at a time if they desire. There are always more sweets in the bag. These sweets are unremarkable: tasty, but likely to give you a stomach ache if you eat too many.

Upending the bag will cause all the candy to fall out: one small bags worth. And then the bag is empty, its magic gone.

If anything else is placed in the bag—a tough feat, the bag is bursting after all—the bag looses its magic: when opened next it will be empty.

If someone who does not own the bag attempts to draw candy from it, there is a 50% chance the candy is both tasty and poisoned (save vs. poison or die in d6 turns, bleeding from all orifices during that last turn of life).

The owner of Nan’s Bag of Sweets will feel a supernatural compulsion to offer candy from the bag to any children they encounter, the voice of old Nan echoing in their head. (Save vs. Magic to resist the bags charms.) Children always draw poisoned candy from the bag.


Desert Lotus Potions, Poultice, Poisons and Powders

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on February 22, 2015

Tagged: carcosa lotfp osr homebrew mastersofcarcosa

Potions and poultices prepared by an experienced hand can temper the addictive and dangerous properties of the desert lotus, producing powerful restoratives. There is always a risk associated with the lotus, but they are perhaps greatly outweighed by the rewards.

d20 Item Description Cost
1 Green Lotus Poultice Restores a dCarcosa of hit points to a wounded character. Takes 1 turn to apply. 1d6 x 50GP
2 Green Lotus Potion Ingesting this potion will restore 2dCarcosa hit points. 1d6 x 100 GP
3 Black Lotus Poison A slower acting variant of the deadly Black Lotus Powder. Those ingesting this poison will die in dCarcosa days if they fail their Save vs. Poison at -6. 1d4 x 1000 GP
4 Jale Lotus Potion This mind expanding potion grants the character d6 psionic wild talents. Each can be used once, over the course of the day, while the drug slowly works its way through the characters system. 2d6 x 200 GP
5 White Lotus Potion Cures those afflicted by the effects of White Lotus Powder 1d10 x 100 GP
6 Blue Lotus Potion Ingesting this potion fills a person with a deep sense of calmness. Characters are immune to all fear effects. This potion is a favourite of Sorcerers who wish to commune with terrifying Old Ones. 1d4 x 100 GP
7 Blue Lotus Poultice Applying this poultice takes one turn, after which a characters skin will feel completely numb. Characters are immune to damage from extreme cold, heat, and acid. This effect lasts 9-12 hours. 1d10 x 100 GP
8 Yellow Lotus Powder The powder distilled from the beautiful Yellow Desert Lotus produces the most horrific waking dreams when inhaled. Characters must make a Save vs. Poison or go completely mad, physically paralyzed, their mind trapped in a terrible nightmare. 1d10 x 100 GP
9 Yellow Lotus Poison This poison is a powerful paralytic, usually applied to the tips of arrows and blades. Characters must make a Save vs. Poison or be unable to move for 1d6 turns. 1d10 x 100 GP
10 Bone Lotus Poultice Applying this poultice takes one turn, and renders the character skin and organs translucent like those of a Bone Man. This effect lasts 9-12 hours. 1d6 x 50 GP
11 Bone Lotus Potion Drinking this translucent potion will render the imbiber gaseous, allowing them to pass through anything that isn’t air-tight, and making them impervious to most attacks. 1d10 x 100 GP
12 Purple Lotus Powder When mixed with other slow burning herbs and smoked this powder acts as a depressant, relaxing the mind and making its user completely open to suggestion for 1-4 hours. 1d6 x 50 GP
13 Orange Lotus Potion Produced using the sweet nectar found within the buds of the Orange Desert Lotus, this potion grants super-human strength to those who drink it. Characters do an additional dice of damage when attacking with melee weapons. This effect lasts dCarcosa turns. 2d4 x 100 GP
14 Ulfire Lotus Poultice Applying this poultice takes one turn, and leaves the characters skin feeling dry and rough. Characters gain an addition +2 to their AC and to their saving throws where applicable. This effect lasts 9-12 hours. 2d6 x 100 GP
15 Ulfire Lotus Potion This potion is a powerful anti-poison, nullifying the effects of any lotus based poison or powder. 1d6 x 100 GP
16 Brown Lotus Poison Typically applied to the tips of arrows, this poison instantly kills those who fail their Save vs. Poison. 1d4 x 500 GP
17 Dolm Lotus Potion The character feels a quickening of their body and mind as this potion takes effect. Characters double their movement rate, and start combat at the top of the initiative order. This effect lasts 1d6 rounds. 1d4 x 500 GP
18 Dolm Lotus Powder When smoked as a powder this lotus produces an unnatural lethargy (and euphoria) in its user. Characters regain dCarcosa hit points, but are unable to do anything besides lay around for 1d6 turns. 1d4 x 50 GP
19 Red Lotus Poultice The restorative power of the rare Red Desert Lotus is without equal. Rubbing this poultice over a dead character’s body will restore them to life, assuming they fail a Save vs. Poison. 2d6 x 1000 GP
20 Red Lotus Potion This potion fills the drinker with supernatural vigour that lasts 9-12 hours. If killed while under the effects of the drug the character will instantly return to life with dCarcosa hit points, as their body absorbs all the red lotus in its system. (This effect can only occur once.) 2d6 x 1000 GP

Each usage of a potion or poultice produced by a desert lotus apothecary has a 1 in 20 chance of producing a great feeling of a addiction in the user. All powders have a 1 in 6 chances of being addictive. Players who are currently addicted to what they have just ingested must take another dose (which grants additional positive effect) or be at a -1 on all rolls for the session. Using a desert lotus product more than once a session increases the chance of addiction by 1, 2, 4, 8, etc.

Apothecaries that work with the desert lotus will generally have a random selection for sale week to week, prices varying based on the availability of flowers.


Why Are We Together

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on February 14, 2015

Tagged: carcosa lotfp osr homebrew mastersofcarcosa

The default setting for Carcosa is full of xenophobia. I wanted a list of reasons why a group of adventures of various races might be adventuring together. I started writing one, but got stuck fairly quickly. So, I asked my friends to help out. The good entries below were all written by people other than myself. They call that Gygaxian Democracy.

Why are we together?

  1. Awoken from a lotus induced stupor you have fled from a sorcerer. I’m sure they want you back.
  2. Escaped from Slavers! One day you will have your revenge on those bastards—unless they get you first.
  3. Members of a traveling troupe of actors. You know one play, which you tweak based on your audience to play up on the local prejudices.
  4. Members of a janissary regiment, put together by long gone—perhaps?—Alien overlords.
  5. After years of wandering with your herd the symbiotic fronds were yanked out from the backs of your heads. Who knows how many years you lived as root heads.
  6. Returned to Carcosa after being experimented on by the Space Aliens. Hopefully they don’t come looking for you again.
  7. Cultists! (Must share a common alignment.)
  8. Foundlings raised by Lawful spawn hunting illuminati.
  9. The wrong coloured children of an otherwise homogenous village. Did they treat you well?
  10. Refugees who have fled a natural disaster. Famine? War? God damn Aliens with laser guns?
  11. Kidnapped orphans raised deep in the desert by a mad, but kindly, old couple.
  12. Psychically summoned to a crashed space ship. You have no memory of the recent few months.
  13. Members of a diseased community of outcasts. Everyone shares a common (mostly harmless) mutation.
  14. Emerged from a sorcerer’s birthing vats deep within an abandoned complex. (Thousands of other pods full of replacement PCs available as well.)
  15. Once from a religious community, where all members wore body obscuring clothes and lived as equals without colour based caste. After the sorcerer’s troops/raiders/slavers/shaggoths came that dream, and the obscuring robes and windings, have been cast aside.
  16. A bad medicine show went through some villages a while back selling poisonous mutation causing ‘snake squeezings’. The adventurers are relatives of the slain, banded together to hunt down huckster and deliver ‘justice’.
  17. All that remains of the local criminal underworld, driven out by an unspeakably violent new boss or spawn inquisitors.
  18. Each character bears the same tattoo, which causes horror amongst village elders Carcosa wide. (The characters have no memory of when or how tattoo appeared.)
  19. The former retainers of a group of strangely coloured people who spoke a weird language and claimed to be from another world called Dirt (or Earth or something like that). The original adventurers are all dead, but retainers continue to adventure together. Some continue to search for a portal to this world of Dirt, because there are no shoggoths there.
  20. You each have vague memories of a past life as a White Man sorcerer, until you performed some ritual that split you into different facets of your core personality.

In the game I am running now, the players rolled a 3 when starting the campaign. So, they are all members of the acting troupe The Rainbow Connection. Their back story has been far more fun than I had thought it would be.

Thanks to Stuart P, Brendan S, Evan W, Gus L, and David R and everyone else for their ideas and suggestions.


Eating Sorcerer Brains

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on December 11, 2014

Tagged: odnd carcosa homebrew mastersofcarcosa

Sorcerer’s in Carcosa are creepy and despicable, and the magic of the setting is totally horrific. I had originally assumed no one would want to play a sorcerer in the game I was running because they are quite villainous. Since everyone is using my random character generator to make characters there is a 20% chance of anyone playing ending up with a sorcerer. There are currently two in my game.

It only took two sessions before one of my players turned to cannibalism. The goal was to learn some sorcerous rituals, and eating the brain of your rival sorcerer seemed like as good a way as any.

Running Carcosa has been fun and lighthearted thus far—seriously.

Eating Sorcerer Brains

Sorcerers may attempt to learn new sorcerous knowledge by devouring the brains of other sorcerers. This isn’t an ideal way to learn ritual magic, but sorcerers are often quite secretive about their sorcery, and reticent when it comes to sharing what they have learned.

The player should roll under their constitution score. Success indicates they have learned some new ritual(s). The number you succeed by indicates how many rituals the player learns, which are selected randomly from those the dead sorcerer knew. Those who fail this check should roll on the I shouldn’t have ate that brain … table. Brains need to be harvested and eaten as quickly after the death of the sorcerer as possible: impose a penalty of 1 to the roll for each minute that passes after the death of the sorcerer.

Players who are not playing sorcerers, but decide to eat a sorcerer’s brain, should just go ahead and roll on the I shouldn’t have ate that brain … table.

I Shouldn’t have Ate that Brain

d8 Effect
1 Maybe you ate it wrong? No ill effects, but you have learned nothing.
2 Your stomach feels terrible. Moments later you are on your knees retching. The character is completely incapacitated for one turn, and making a fair amount of noise.
3 That’s just not sitting right: you dry heave for one round and feel woozy for the rest of the day. The character is at -1 to all attack rolls and dexterity checks.
4 The brain acts as a mild hallucinogen. The character is has a 1d6 penalty to all Wisdom and Intelligence checks for the rest of the day.
5 The rituals trapped within the sorcerer’s brain are too much for your body to bare: you collapse on the ground as your body spasms. The character takes a dCarcosa of damage.
6 You hear voices in your head? Or maybe your stomach. The sorcerer’s personality has survived within the ritual magic burned deep within his brain. The characters decision making is impaired while his mind fights to push out the invading id: the DM may request the character re-roll any die rolls (when doing so will be most annoying) if the player fails a Save vs. Magic. This effect lasts for the remainder of the session.
7 Oh God: roll on the random mutation table.
8 Delicious: you recover all your HP.


Coming Out of Retirement

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on November 18, 2014

Tagged: odnd carcosa homebrew mastersofcarcosa

At the start of 2014 I decided I would finally run a game of D&D, rather than always being a player. It was a sort of gaming New Years resolution. If you read this blog you can probably guess what I wanted to run: a game set in the doomed world of Carcosa! I started writing up rough notes for where the campaign would begin, and fleshed out a small region within the larger world map for players to explore. I then sat on those notes for 8-9 months.

Deciding what to run and how to run it wasn’t that difficult. My main stumbling point was getting over myself and actually running a game. I hadn’t DM’d anything in probably 20 years, if not longer. It seems weird to feel apprehensive about an activity little children do without much fuss. I’d talk about running a game, eventually, and leave it at that. Until yesterday.

Being on the other side of the DM screen was a strange experience. I didn’t find it as stressful as I had thought it would be. Because everyone I normally game with was busy it was just me and two players, Eric and Gus, but that was probably for the best. I found the logistics of managing players was probably easier. I decided to run an OD&D, a system so poorly fleshed out you don’t really have to worry about playing the game wrong. The nice thing about our group is that we all have a rough sense of how to play an OD&D game, and make the same sorts of assumptions when playing. The adventure we were playing was one I made myself. That familiarity with the material probably helped the game run smoothly.

I think the session went well enough, but I have been trying to reflect on what I need to do better. I want to run a Carcosa game with a healthy dose of He-Man, but this first session lacked anything that would suggest a Masters of the Universe vibe. I don’t think I did that great a job highlighting what makes the world weird. The dungeon I had made was supposed to seem mostly empty, with the big reveal being, “oh shit it’s actually full of Bone Men!” I think the actual result of the session lacked that critical, “oh shit.” From the game side of things, I need to firm up when I roll for random encounters. I was too inconsistent here, sometimes letting the players search without consequence or travel through larger chunks of the dungeon unmolested.

All in all it was a lot of fun. In hindsight there was really no way it wouldn’t have been. I think the people you play with really make or break this stuff.



by Ramanan Sivaranjan on October 15, 2013

Tagged: diy osr dnd homebrew

Rolling 3d6 to randomly determine a characters weight is probably a stupid idea. No doubt Gary Gygax included a realistic table to figure this stuff out in the 1e DMG, which I should have used instead. So it came to pass that my character in Nick’s Dungeon Moon game weighs 60 lbs. That’s pretty small. I figured my LotFP specialist would be a 10 year old chimney sweep turned adventurer. In the next session of our game the character hired a retainer. I wanted to hire a torchbearer so my character could carry a bow and arrow around, like a lost boy. I decided the person he hired would be his babysitter.

Tasked with taking care of their young stewards, babysitters are a strange breed of adventurer. Many a child has gone off in pursuit of treasure and danger, followed into the mythic underworld by their attentive babysitter. Often torchbearers and porters, the babysitter is the unsung hero of many an epic poem.

The prime requisite for a babysitter is Wisdom. They receive a 5% bonus to earned experience points if they have a wisdom score of 13-15, and a 10% bonus if they have a score of 16+.

RESTRICTIONS: Babysitters use six-sided dice (d6) to determine their hit points. They may wear nothing more protective than leather armour, and may not use a shield. They may use blunt weapons only. Saving Throws and XP progression as a Thief.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Babysitters are hard to surprise, and so begin the game with a +1 bonus to avoid being surprised. Babysitters have a +2 to all reaction rolls. This value increases by +1 every 3 levels versus humanoids, to a maximum of +4. They ignore any penalties they may have for having a low Charisma score when making reaction rolls. Babysitters have a 2 in 6 chance of finding hidden doors and passages and in picking locks. These values increases by +1 every 4 levels.


16 More Encounters for Carcosa

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on April 21, 2013

Tagged: carcosa lotfp osr homebrew motu

Continuing with the theme of my last random encounters for Carcosa, here are an additional set of weird encounters for your PCs to stumble upon.

d16 Encounter
1 A Green Man cyborg (AC 18, MV 60’, HD 6, Lawful) leads a battalion of 3-12 soldiers armed with an assortment of Alien weaponry. The cyborg will repair any Alien technology Lawful PCs may possess, and will attack any PCs who make their allegiance to the forces of Chaos known. He is searching for his adopted daughter.
2 Citadel of 98 Red Men led by “The Ram”, a Lawful 4th-level Fighter. “The Ram” is a behemoth of a man, never seen without his indestructible helmet.
3 Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 14, MV 120, HD 6, Multiple Alignments [intelligent]): An Orange humanoid with a smooth hide and 3 heads. One head is humanoid (and Lawful), one head is robotic (and Neutral) and the last head is bestial (and Chaotic). When first encountered, or whenever the creature is under stress, roll a d6 to see which head is currently in control of the beast: 1-2 - the humanoid; 3-4 - the robot; 5-6 the monster.
4 A Jale Man Sorcerer (AC 16, MV 120’, HD 8, Neutral) wearing a Red breast plate sits on a giant Cthulhu shaped throne, alone at the lowest levels of the Cavern of the Time Lords. He may share his knowledge of Carcosa with those who seek him out.
5 Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 14, MV 120’ / 160’ [Flying], HD 6, Neutral [intelligent]): A Brown avioid with a feathered hide and a toothed mouth. There is a 4 in 6 chance that when encountered the beast will be in flight.
6 A squat Purple Man Sorcerer (AC 12, MV 90’ / 120’ [Flying], HD 2, Lawful) in flowing robes and an over sized hat is in the process of botching the ritual The Glyphs of the Ebon Lake.
7 1 Sabertooth Tiger (intelligent).
8 A Blue Man (AC 16, MV 120’, HD 2, Lawful) with a cybernetic augmentation that allows him to extend his head several meters above his body is surveying the wilderness. He is armed with a bright yellow mace and can not be surprised.
9 A damaged Alien vehicle, with 4 tank treads instead of wheels. Characters with an intelligence of 16 or more may attempt to repair the machine, with a cumulative chance of 10% per week of succeeding. (i.e after ten weeks the tank will be repaired.) It is large enough to comfortably transport 12 men.
10 Village of 366 Brown Men ruled by “the Silver Fist,” a Lawful 6th-level Fighter. The Silver Fist rides into battle on cybernetic horses and wields a mysterious purple sword.
11 A foreboding grey castle sits empty save for its custodian, an Orange Woman 18th-level Sorcerer. The castle is circumscribed by a bottomless chasm. A single bridge leads to its imposing doors shaped in the visage of a skull. The sorcerer will not leave the castle, and is immortal and invulnerable while within its walls. She will aid all those who actively seek to defend Carcosa from the forces of Chaos.
12 What appears to be a simple rock is in fact The Starseed, a source of unlimited power. At any given time there are at least 1-6 high level sorcerers actively searching for the artifact.
13 A White Woman (AC 14, MV 120’, HD 4, Lawful) is locked in battle with a Deep One. She fights with a large wooden staff and is searching for her mother.
14 1 Orange Mastodon. The beast may shoot acid from its trunk 3 times a day.
15 A beautiful young woman, an astronaut from Earth, lays wounded in a recently crashed spacecraft. The ship is damaged beyond repair.
16 Village of 130 Dolm Men ruled by “The Master of the Universe,” a 1st Level Fighter. He wields a magic sword in battle: on command the sword grants +20 HD, and the saving throws of a 20th level Fighter. Only those chosen by the powers of the Grey Castle may hold aloft the magic sword.

The Kraal

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on April 05, 2013

Tagged: osr homebrew code

Zak Smith was so happy with how his previous crowd sourced hex crawl went he decided to run another. This time I actually participated, offering up a few hex descriptions of my own. All told we had 66 people writing for the project. All the more interesting, this was all organized and run on Google+, the ghost-town social network.

This project seems perfectly suited for a crowd sourced effort. The little descriptions are quite varied and creative, and producing all of them happened quite quickly. I suspect if you asked a single person to write up 400 odd hex descriptions they’d fall into a certain amount of sameness pretty quickly. This is a common complain with Carcosa, for example. Taking a bunch of junk like this and cleaning up can also be a chore, but a few people offered to help and that made the process go much quicker and probably better than it would have had one person done the editing alone.

People also did a good job expanding on each others descriptions, making the area described feel alive. I mentioned early on that in Hex 0116 a group of spies were making their way to a city just North of that Hex. I mentioned they were from a far off city in a Hex that had yet to be described. Well before we got to point that city was fleshed out other people had written about the city.

The Kraal sounds like an interesting place to run an adventure. You should check it out.


The Hexenbracken

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 31, 2013

Tagged: osr homebrew code

Zak Smith (from D&D with Pornstars) took a hex map by Brendan from Untimately and asked people on G+ to fill it up with descriptions. Over the course of a few days he filled in the entire map with little descriptions.

Random Wizard took all the descriptions and put them up on Google Docs. I saved the Google Docs file as a CSV and wrote a Python script to spit out everything in a slightly nicer format. You can view the resulting web page over here: The Hexenbracken.

If you are a little bit tech savvy, you can edit the Google Doc as outlined in Zak’s post, and use the python script I wrote to create your own version of the site. You can also work with the CSV file in the repo directly.

In a follow up post about this project, Zak discusses how to run a ‘hexcrawl’.

This is some serious ass communal game development at its finest.


Tomb of the Rocket Men

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 29, 2013

Tagged: osr homebrew map dungeon ase

My friend Gus from Dungeon of Signs is running a contest. He wants you to draw him a map for the following locale, which he plans to key and run in his gonzo science-fantasy D&D game.

Screened by thicket, swamp and forest, a necropolis of the ancients sinks slowly into the earth. Its existence rumored by foresters and vaguely referenced in some of the Temple of Science’s oldest logs, the tombs and monuments have remained slumbering and undisturbed for ages. Ancient construction materials provide protection against the elements, but in the glorious times when man traveled beyond the sky tombs were not considered sport for plunder and the treasures of the ancient sky-farers should be unguarded, untrapped and ready for any hand that has the audacity to reach for them! Hack through the brigand haunted forest and seize the wealth of the very stars, amongst the TOMBS OF THE ROCKET MEN!

I’m not 100% sure why he’s bothering with this contest, because if you look at his dungeon maps they are all amazing. Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t enter. I ended up drawing something that looks like an office building or an old high school. That is to say it is kind of boring. This means you have all the more chance to win!


Wild Talents

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on February 28, 2013

Tagged: dnd darksun homebrew psionics

I’m thinking of running a Dark Sun game using the Original Dungeons and Dragons rules at some point. As such, I wanted to figure out a simpler set of rules of psionics. I thought a good first step would be to settle on rules for wild talents–people who have some small psychic ability. I wanted about half the population to have a wild talent. It turns out that if you ask a random character to roll under their random wisdom score, they’ll succeed about half the time. I wanted a set of powers that weren’t overly powerful, but still interesting enough to be used in a game. I’m curious to hear what people think.

Player’s should roll under their Wisdom score to determine if their character has a wild psionic talent. If they fail the roll the character has no wild talent; if they succeed, the amount they succeed by determines their wild talent as follows:

d Power
0 Know Direction - The character knows which way is North.
1 Far Hearing - For one turn the character hears all sounds within 50’ as if they were being whispered directly into their ear. The character may choose what sounds to focus on.
2 Far Seeing - For one turn the character may view a scene up to 50’ away as if they were right there. They may see through walls and other obstacles, but not through lead.
3 Thought Projection - The character may communicate a brief message mentally with a creature up to 50’ away. The target understands the character, even if they share no common language.
4 Object Projection - The character may teleport a small object in their possession up to 50’ away.
5 Telekinetic Grasp - For one turn the character may manipulate small objects from up to 50’ away.
6 Spark - The character may ignite any flammable object within 50’ of them. (The “heat” this power generates is no greater than that of a candle.)
7 Levitate - For 1 turn, the character can float above the ground (up to 10’).
8 Minor ESP: For 1 turn the character may read the mind of another creature. (The character understand the creature even if they share no common language.)
9 Cell Adjustment - The character regains up to 1d3 lost hit points. (This increases to 1d6 at level 3, 1d8 at level 6, 1d10 at level 9 and 1d12 at level 12.) The character may make a Save vs. Poison to cure themselves of any non-magical disease.
10 “Invisiblity”: For 1 turn the character can completely hide his presence from up to one sentient creature per level. The target may make a Save vs. Magic to resist the character’s power.
11 Id Insituation: All sentient characters, friend or foe, within 25’ of the character feel an uncontrollable urge to eat, murder or fornicate.
12 Psychic Distress: All sentient characters, friend or foe, within 25’ of the character are immobilized for 1 turn.
13 Minor Mind Control: For 1 turn, the character may manipulate the target into doing whatever the character wants. The target will have no memory of any events that transpire while under this mind control. The target my make a Save vs. Magic to resist the mind control.
14 Minor Precognition: The character may re-roll any saving throw.
15 Psionic Defence - Once per day per level, the character may make a Save vs. Magic to avoid the effects of any psionic power that targets them. (This is in addition to any saving throws the power may allow for.)
16 Psionic Immunity: The character can not be the target of any psionic power.
17 The Haitian: no character within 10’ of the character, friend or foe, may use their psionic powers. The character also gains Psionic Immunity.

A character may use their psionic power once per day. (Psionic Immunity and The Haitian are exceptions here: they are always active.)


16 Encounters on Carcosa

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on October 20, 2012

Tagged: carcosa lotfp osr homebrew motu

In How Brightly Coloured Should Carcosa Be? Richard Guy discusses the relationship between He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Carcosa. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable things i’ve read since getting back into gaming.

With that in mind, here are 16 new hex descriptions for your Carcosa game.

1D16Hex Description
1An Orange Man 1 dressed in furs hunts a band of mutant men. He is armed with a whip and accompanied by 2-12 giant beasts and dinosaurs; these creatures are under his complete control.
2Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 18, MV 120, HD 3, Chaotic): a blue arachnoid with two red eyes and a toothed mouth. It currently entangled in a grappling hook and 100' of rope. An orange laser pistol can be found in its belly.
31 Deep One.
4Village of 278 Yellow Men ruled by “the Evil Queen,” a Chaotic 9-th Level Sorcerer.
5A humanoid robot (AC 16, MV 90', HD 4, Chaotic) guards the remains of a crashed alien spaceship. He is armed with a sword and a laser pistol. His 3 large eyes rotate about his head. He can not be surprised and will react with hostility to all who approach.
6A Blue Man Cyborg with a metal jaw and a robotic hook arm (AC 18, MV 90', HD 4, Chaotic) commands a group of 6-36 Blue Men bandits armed with bone weapons. The bandits demand the players hand over any metal items in their possession, which their leader will proceed to eat. The Cyborg earns +1 to hit for each piece of metal he consumes; this effect lasts one day. (When encountered he has a 0-3 bonus to hit.) His hunger for metal can not be satiated.
7A hulking Blue Man (AC 15, MV 120', HD 6, Chaotic) with unusual red hair wields a cursed two handed sword. (This character wields the sword one handed, carrying a shield in the other.) Any character possessing the sword is compelled to eradicate all white men from the world; with each white man they kill their hair turns a darker shade of red. The sword is -1 to hit, but +3 to hit vs. White Men.
8Monastery of 56 Brown Men ruled by “the Golden Hand,” a Chaotic 5-th Level Fighter.
9Village of 156 Green Men ruled by "the Dragon," a 4th-level Sorcerer. The Sorcerer's research has left him disfigured: he has the scales and tail of a lizard, and is cold blooded.
10Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 18, MV 90' / 120' [swimming], HD 3, Neutral [intelligent]): an orange anthropoid with scaly skin, two yellow eyes, and a toothed mouth. One of its arms is an oversized claw. In its other hand it carries a green mace.
11A large bird of prey stalks the players. After 1-3 hours it will turn and fly off into the distance. The bird does not attempt to hide its presence.
12A disfigured two-headed mutant man lays face down in the ground. His body is half purple & half blue. Characters who investigate the body must make a Save vs. Death Ray each turn or suffer a random mutation.
13A Purple Man hangs limp from a tree. He is pierced head to toe by spikes. Two tridents lay near his lifeless body.
1412 Black Men led by a putrid smelling Sorcerer (AC 18, MV 120', HD 3, Chaotic) are in the middle of casting Manifestation of the Putrescent Stench. The Sorcerer is armed with a laser pistol and wears a bright orange alien space suit.
154 Snake Men attempt to repair a time machine. The Snake Men and their collection of high-tech gadgetry are incomprehensible to characters with an intelligence score less than 18.
16A massive snake shaped citadel coils around the peaks of a craggy mountain. Within 22 Bone Man are led by a Chaotic 16th-level Sorcerer. He is planning the total conquest of Carcosa.

Rune Knights for Baroviania

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on August 18, 2012

Tagged: dnd baroviania constantcon homebrew

Celes by Yoshitaka Amano

I’ve revised the Rune Knight I wrote about earlier this month after getting some feedback on Google+ about the new class. Briefly, the goal here was to recreate the character Celes from Final Fantasy VI for use in Reynaldo’s D&D campaign world Baroviania. Whether by design or by accident, making your own class for his game seems to be the thing to do. The rune knight is a slightly re-skinned B/X D&D elf.

Rune Knight

Rune knights are genetically enhanced warriors from the Dark Capital. They are artificially infused with magic, which grants them some magical ability. Their ties to the dark forces of the world leads others to regard them with suspicion and mistrust. Rune knights are often introverts and loners.

The prime requisites for a rune knight are Strength and Intelligence. They receive a 5% bonus to earned experience points if they have a 13 or more in both skills. They receive a 10% bonus to earned experience points if they have at least a 13 Strength and an Intelligence score of at least 16.

Rune knights progress in levels at the same rate as Elves. (In other words, slowly.) They share the same saving throws.

RESTRICTIONS: Rune knights gain 1D6 hit points per level. Rune knights gain all the advantages of fighters. They may use shields, can wear any type of armour, and may fight with any kind of weapon. A character must have an intelligence score of at least 9 to be a rune knight, and must have a charisma score of no more than 9.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Rune Knights can cast spells using Rune Magic. A Rune Knight gains spells per level as an elf, and this is the exact number of spells the character knows. The character gains these spells as soon as they level-up, and may choose from any magic-user spell of the appropriate spell level. Rune Knights do not require spell components to cast any of their spells. The spells are a part of the character, infused into their very DNA. Rune Knights can not research new spells, create scrolls, or otherwise act as magic-users.

Rune Knights can dispel any magic cast in their vicinity using the Runic ability. After a magical spell or ability is used the player may declare they are using their Runic ability. They may only do so if they have not yet acted in the round. The Runic ability will replace the action the character had declared they would make. (So the character may only nullify one spell per round.) The character makes a Save vs. Magic: on success the spell or magical ability has no effect whatsoever, and the character gains 1 hit point for each level of the spell; on a fail the spell or ability proceeds as usual. Note: this ability is not a dispel magic spell. The character can’t disenchant a wand, but they could try and prevent the spell a wand casts from working; they can’t dispel a magical trap, but could try and stop any magic the trap itself casts; they can’t unlock a magically sealed door.


Rune Knights for Baroviania (Old)

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on August 12, 2012

Tagged: dnd baroviania constantcon homebrew

Update: You can read about final version of this class in my follow-up post: Rune Knights for Baroviania.

My favourite character from the game Final Fantasy 6 was Celes. The character was a warrior crossed with a magic user. Her special ability was called Runic: when used as an action it would negate the effect of the next spell cast in combat; Celes would gain hit points equal to the magic points the spell cost to cast. I could write pages and pages about how FF6 is the greatest game ever, and even more about the fact Celes is the best character in that game, but I won’t. You’ll just have to trust me.

I wanted to make a Rune Knight class for Reynaldo’s D&D campaign world Baroviania so I could play some variation of Celes in his game. I was originally thinking a Rune Knight would be some sort of cleric, but Reynaldo suggested I look at the elf from D&D. I always forget about the demi-humans in D&D. Elves are actually a pretty good fit for the class: a plate wearing magic user does sound like Celes.

Rune Knight

Rune knights are genetically enhanced warriors from the Dark Capital. They are artificially infused with magic. This grants them the ability to cast spells like a wizard. Their ties to the dark forces of the world leads others to regard them with suspicion and mistrust. Rune knights are often introverts and loners.

The prime requisites for a rune knight are Strength and Intelligence. They receive a 5% bonus to earned experience points if they have a 13 or more in both skills. They receive a 10% bonus to earned experience points if they have at least a 13 Strength and an Intelligence score of at least 16.

Rune knights progress in levels at the same rate as Elves. (In other words, slowly.)

RESTRICTIONS: Rune knights gain 1D6 hit points per level. Rune knights gain all the advantages of both fighters and magic-users. They may use shields, can wear any type of armour, and may fight with any kind of weapon. They can also cast spells like a magic-user, and use the same spell list. A character must have an intelligence score of at least 9 to be a rune knight.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Rune Knights can dispel any magic cast in their vicinity using the Runic ability.


As mentioned above, in FF6 Celes’ Runic ability dispels the next spell cast after it has been activated, regardless of its strength. An anti-magic ability like this in D&D seems quite powerful, though this is in some ways balanced out by the fact the ability must be used before a spell is cast (it’s preventative) and that most low-level D&D monsters don’t actually cast a lot of magic.

Option 1: One take on the Runic ability is to use the exact same mechanics from FF6, more or less. On a character’s turn they may declare they are using their Runic ability. Any magical spell or ability that is used before the characters next turn is immediately dispelled and has no effect whatsoever. The character gains 1 hit point for each level of the spell. The ability may only nullify one spell per round. The character may activate the ability again on their next turn.

Option 2: An alternative take would be to make the ability more useful in combat by making it reactive, at the cost of making it less reliable. After a magical spell or ability is used the player may declare they are using their Runic ability. They may only do so if they have not yet acted in the round. The Runic ability will replace the action the character had declared they would make. (So the character may only nullify one spell per round.) The character makes a Save vs. Magic: on success the spell or magical ability has no effect whatsoever, and the character gains 1 hit point for each level of the spell; on a fail the spell or ability proceeds as usual.

Another idea would be to make the player and the monster do some sort of opposed roll, rather than a save. You could also add critical success and failure results: on a critical fail (a roll of 1) the character takes 1 damage for each level of the spell, on a critical hit (a roll of 20) the spell is reflected back at the caster.

One thing I was thinking of doing was requiring a rune knights have charisma scores lower than 9, so they always have a negative reaction roll. That seems inline with how Celes is treated in FF6. I don’t think I’ve seen classes with maximum requirements on their ability scores, though. I also need to figure out how the character would fit in the actual game world.

If you have any thoughts about the class, let me know.