Saturday, April 25, 2020

OSR Social Challenges

Credit J Line

Puzzles are obstacles with one, singular, perfect solution. Nothing else except that solution will ever solve it in a meaningful way, though puzzles are often accompanied by clues that will guide the attempts taken to divine said solution. Any other method taken is stymied, and preferably quickly, because if it isn't obvious whether progress is being made or not, it's incredibly hard to tell what the proper (only) solution is.

Challenges are obstacles with no solution attached. They just exist! They are in your way! They have details and facts, but apart from that, they don't care about what attempts you might make. They won't break if somebody casts Detect Magic, or can fly, or can breath underwater. Those are just solutions! How many traditional adventures have traps and puzzles that come with a laundry list of restrictions and conditions to make the puzzle "work"?

Thursday, April 23, 2020


Thousand-yard stare. Credit Gabriel Dias Maia

Stress starts at 0 and is gained through injury, fear, overwork, forced marches, witnessing death and fates worse than death, lack of food, poor living conditions, the terrifying unknown and wet socks. Each of the following actions reduced Stress by 1:
  1. Despondency. Increase the Stress of two allies by 1.
  2. Paranoia. They are watching. Never let down your guard! An ally gains 1 Stress, you can’t relax or sleep with them on watch alone.
  3. Violence. Lash out at an ally for a perceived slight. Their Stress increases by 1, or 2 if they don’t react.
  4. Apathy. Ignore the suffering of your fellows, you need to concentrate on survival. Random ally has disadvantage on their next roll.
  5. Betrayal. Take them, not me! Random ally takes double damage from next hit.
  6. Hoarding. Never let this happen again, you must be prepared for the worst. Spend money on caches of food, torches, weapons, and other tools of the trade. If you use them, regain the Stress.
  7. Indulgence. Pamper the flesh, sooth the mind. Baths, balls, bars and brothels. Costly, relatively safe.
  8. Alchemical. Smooth over bad memories with tinctures and tonics, or go on a wild bender to replace them with good memories. Chance of gaining an addiction.
  9. Alcohol. The traditional method. Roll on “What The Hell Did I Do Last Night?”
  10. Worship. Find something greater than yourself to beg for protection.
  11. Safety. Retreat back to camp, back to civilisation, or even all the way back home (1 Stress each).
  12. Guidance. Spiritual or scientific, anything to make sense of it all.
  13. Nightmares. Let your sleeping mind take the burden, and wake in fright. Halve natural healing unless you are heavily medicated.
  14. Inanity. Focus on something completely innocuous and harmless to the exclusion of all else.
  15. Surrender. Just give up and lie down. An ally will have to smack some sense into you to get you up again.
  16. Phobia. Pick the thing that has caused Stress, or something relating to the situation (cramped spaces, darkness, deep water). From now on, take x2 damage while exposed to it and not fleeing.
  17. Amnesia. Just forget about it. A few other memories follow along for the ride.
  18. Disbelief. Just pretend it isn't real. Shut your eyes and relax. If something is currently trying to kill you, it deals x3 damage for a round.
  19. Shutdown. Will follow expressly given commands, but otherwise incapable of action.
  20. Breakdown. Raving mad and completely insensible.

While Stress is between 1 and 5, an adventurer might be grumpy, irritable, nervous or spacey. People will ask “are you ok?”.

If stress is between 5 and 10, an adventurer is starting to lose the plot. People will cross the road to avoid the adventurer. Whenever they gain more Stress, they’ll spend an action (if in combat) or an hour (out of combat) attempting one of the above methods.

Above 10 stress, they're on the edge of madness, and everyone can see it. At any point, if the adventurer has a clear opportunity to use one of the above methods, they’ll take it. This state lasts until Stress is below 5.

What this means: If you let your character get stressed enough, they’ll start taking matters into their own hands. They’ll no longer blindly obey the whims of a semi-diegetic nacho-eating god, they’ll flee! They’ll flee the dark death that awaits them below, blow all of your (their!) hard-earned dosh on booze and hookers, and go right back to turnip farming. Maybe one day they be able to face the nightmarish hole in the ground that you want to send them down, maybe they won’t.

Lads night. Credit Lap Pun Cheung

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Fool's Tower

Like this, but a little taller. Credit Maksym Harahulin

When you see it come over the horizon, you can't help but rub your eyes. It's a little like having an eyelash slowly drop down into your eye, but no matter what you do, it doesn't go away. It stretches up to the clouds and beyond, a flaw in the sky, an error in reality, an impossible structure that should collapse like a castle made of needles stacked point-to-point.

But it endures. Cannon has been brought to bear against it, once. Just once.

The nobility hate it. Peasants will drop tools and wander over from a town across, and flood in through whichever snarling visage the gate presents itself as that day. A couple come out bearing obscure trinkets or bizarre pieces of furniture. Some come out scarred and torn, missing limbs, missing memories. Most don't come out at all.

The rules:
  • Each room contains a small golden key and a wooden door
  • Touching the key to the door causes both to be destroyed
  • They key is immune to all spells, and breaking the door reveals only solid rock
  • The first floor has one obstacle (a pair of elements) the tower adds an additional obstacle every three floors
  • The key will usually be visible, but not always. The door will usually be visible, but not always. The room will usually be well-lit, but not always. Enemies will usually stay on their floor, but not always
  • No floor is a puzzle, there is not a hard-coded solution, merely things that are in the way of you getting the key and getting to the door
  • The Tower and everything in it resets each visit
  • A few items are specifically "loot" items, you will be told if this is the case
  • Everything else is "furniture", and will crumble to ash when removed from the tower
  • "Furniture" especially includes trap components, enemies, recruited allies, corpses and chunks of wall
  • Each entrant is permitted to bring a single item of "furniture" out of the Tower without it being destroyed
  • Speaking your true name has greater magnitude equivalent to the highest floor you have reached

Tower Der-Nin. Mark Makovey

Kévin Barbot

The Babel Project. Leon Tukker

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Once More 2: Unto The Breach

Once More 2: Unto The Breach is a combat-heavy OSR-adjacent system designed for relatively murderous gameplay and Wuxia nonsense. If you're in the mood for sending faceless murderhobos directly into the jaws of death, then you've come to the right place.