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Showing posts from 2021

Ref Tips for Running Tales of the Scarecrow

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Tales of the Scarecrow is a short horror-themed adventure that is compatible with OSR games. It’s location based, and makes for a very solid “bottle episode” type of one-shot. Characters will find themselves in a small farmhouse, trapped inside a cornfield which holds a terrifying scarecrow and countless eldritch tentacles in a Hateful 8 meets Tremors kind of adventure. Now how can you use this thing and make it shine? Read on… 1. Take notes: While this adventure is brief and clear in its writing, it is not laid out in the typical A-B-C style making it somewhat difficult to find information by its physical location. Having the info sorted in this manner will help at the table. The At-A-Glance Referee aids give a quick visual overview of the external features of the farm and a table with a brief summary of the appearance and contents of the interior locations. This information is not intended to replace the text of the adventure, but page references are included to help find more in-d

Blame the Catholics! (Sirenswail 7)

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Date: November 5, 1640   Location: London   Main Cast: Shio the Acid-Burnout Alice, Gund the Amoral Magic-User, Salith the Cannibal Elf   Cast: Helga of the Ulvenbrigaad, Harold the Mule Previously: After a mostly unproductive break-in to Laud's prison chambers in the White Tower, the party kinda-sorta left Gund to solve his own damn problems. Gund dissolved the foundations of the Tower of London and legged it onto an escape gondola. Presently: Aboard the gondola, the party took off as fast as Melvin, Shio's new boyfriend, could push. Because of the large amount of lead shot flying their way, that was pretty damn fast. Laying rubber on the Thames as one might do in ye Faste & Furiousse , they hit a rough patch of water. A capricious die condemned their second donkey, Seamus, Harold's new boyfriend, to tumble into the river. Only one boyfriend thus remained. A protest was raised at the death of the innocent animal. Despite the tremendous child body-count, this was too

Well, Shucks. You're Probably Gonna Get Waterboarded. (Sirenswail 6)

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Date: Early fall 1640 Location: London Main Cast: Shio the Acid-Burnout Alice, Gund the Amoral Magic-User, Salith the Cannibal Elf Supporting Cast: Helga of the Ulvenbrigaad, Harold the Mule Previously: With a minimum of planning and the overconfidence that powerful magic items bring, our heroes quickly found themselves trapped in the Tower of London and Gundisalvus captured on the roof. Presently: Salith and Shio, in the prison chambers of Archbishop Laud, poke around. The twitching bodies held by massive iron bands to slabs were of surprisingly little interest to them- puzzling the Ref, but hey, these PCs been through some shit , so whatever. A chest was of somewhat more interest, and when inspected it seemed to have some kind of blurred field around it, as well as the materials being petrified and rusted. That seemed like too much trouble. The Archbishop was the objective, and they wanted to expedite things in order to maybe rescue Gund or at least escape. Salith removed the ring

Morale as a d6 roll

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It is known that I like to reduce miscellaneous rolls and mechanics to their approximate d6 equivalents. The foundation for this is the elegance of the LotFP d6 skill system , which I think is memorable, minimal, and hackable. So far, I have turned saving throws into d6 skills that can be improved by Specialists and downtime training and even a unified d6 single saving throw inspired by Swords & Wizardry . Morale is ripe for adaptation as well- even though it's determined with a 2d6 bell curve, the chances align rather similarly. It could go quite nicely with the d6 Save versus Death for Chainmail style combat , also. Not perfectly, mind you, but with a deviation of about 8% at most, which is right in the middle of the 16.66% gradations of a d6 roll. Is it a worthwhile price to pay? I think so- the more things that can be condensed into similar mechanics, the better for use at the table. And why do we really need 12 individual gradations of Morale, when the MM usually assi

Quick Combat: Redshirts and the Save Versus Death

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When there are large quantities of combatants, especially of the same type, there's no reason to roll individual attacks and damage, and no reason to keep strict, detailed records of who's dying and who's left. Of course there's nothing wrong with fighting them normally by making a d20 roll and then rolling damage, but why do that for every combatant when there's a bunch of them? Assuming that they're facing opponents of roughly equal strength, it can be streamlined into a single roll with a little math. Redshirts with low HP, AB and damage are easy to model, so we can just make a roll for each individual or unit without tracking their HP if we calculate the chance of them dying from an attack. Thus, they get two states: "Dead" and "Not Dead" (or "Not Dead Yet"). If they fail a save, they are Dead. If they succeed, they are either Not Dead (fully alive) or Not Dead Yet (reduced strength, suffer a Morale check, or other negative

Essential Viewing for a Weird Campaign Part II: Archetypal

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Here comes more inspiration and recommendation. This time around, it's archetypes, films so quintessentially and obviously weird that their relevancy to Weird storytelling should leave you with a gameable idea or two almost automatically. November by Rainer Sarnet This is a slow, black & white Estonian film. I'd probably characterize it as a European Kurosawa film in many ways (no samurai though). It has humor, horror and folklore all at once in a mix both incongruous and somehow elegant (think Rashomon). It's about common folk who use magic to control servant spirits called kratts made out of junk. They sell their souls to the devil to make these things, and they go mad and kill their masters every now and then anyway. What a deal. So this movie is about people trying to solve simple problems with extreme solutions. Kind of like a Weird Magic spell! Magic, demons, plagues and ghosts are just facts of life and you work with them just like you would a

Horsemeat? Raw? Are you fucking kidding me? (Sirenswail 5)

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Date: Early fall 1640 Location: London Main Cast: Shio the Alice, Gundisalvus the Magic-User, Salith the Elf Supporting Cast: Helga of the Ulvenbrigaad, Harold the Mule Previously: Our heroes adjusted to life on the island as Cult VIPs, spent their just rewards carousing and investing, and sought further adventure. Their queries aimed them toward the Tower of London to investigate the unexpected and suspicious imprisonment of Archbishop William Laud by Parliament for papism and overreach. Presently: Tired from their long journey, the party sought out an inn where they might avoid notice. They found themselves in London's Southwark, a seedy and pseudo-lawless district south of the Thames at the Strident Goat Inn. Operated by a sweet old couple, Shio overpaid significantly, shelling out a gold coin each night for silence and privacy.  After some time shopping and getting their bearings, they traveled as innocuously as possible to the Tower. Outside they found a young man about to

Maxin', Relaxin' All Cool, Torturing Some Children Inside A "School" (Sirenswail 4) CW: Child Experimentation

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Date: Early fall 1640 Location: South English countryside, London Main Cast: Shio the Alice, Gundisalvus the Magic-User, Sadith the Elf Supporting Cast: Helga of the Ulvenbrigaad, Harold the Mule Previously: The party sniffed out Father Osreth, fugitive priest, and took part in his sacrifice and the ensuing highly debauched feast. Presently: After coming down from the high of the orgy, the sacrifice, the feasting -you know, the little things that make all the dirt and blood-caked parts of adventuring life worthwhile- Shio and Gund had a frank conversation with Marvale. In a surprise twist, he revealed that they were originally intended to be sacrifices. Indeed, shocking- but he had been impressed by their sincere effort to help the island by hunting Osreth, and participating in the ritual which ostensibly would render Sirenswail sacrosanct against Christian influence and persecution via magical protection. They were, if they would agree to keep the Island's secret and serve Sar

Ok, fine, it IS a Human Sacrifice Feast. (Sirenswail 3.5) NSFW, Content Warning: Torture

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Date: Late summer 1640 Location: The Island of Sirenswail, southwest of Cornwall Main Cast: Shio the Alice, Gundisalvus the Magic-User Supporting Cast: Helga of the Ulvenbrigaad, Harold the Mule Previously: The party explored the Island, touring the cult's burial sites, orchards and House of Contentment. Shio found love. Presently: Having successfully made eyes at a sacred sex worker, Shio and the rest headed back to the tavern. There they found the small-town sense of community that everyone dreams of: it seemed the entirety of the Island had come together to drink, dance and hobnob. They settled into a corner table where Shio enjoyed the company of Ayesha, Gundisalvus the company of Sally Clay, Helga that of copious liquor. Harold, for his part, the soft fur of a fine young mule in the paddock- a purely physical but nonetheless enjoyable romp, as he knew that he was unlikely to find himself another of his own erudition in this land.  The party made small talk for awhile until

Essential Viewing for a Weird Campaign

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A good Ref takes inspiration from everywhere. Books, graphic novels, video games, movies, television. What's the canon? Where is the weird? We need an Appendix N. It's pretty hard to find many films that meet the standards of the type of games we try to run. To that end, I'm going to be doing a couple of posts about some movies that will give solid inspiration for atmosphere, aesthetics, creatures, and to a lesser degree, structure (because being a slave to structure is antithetical to good refereeing, particularly in the OSR). I will avoid spoilers without warning and give content warnings where appropriate. Every film comes with my recommendation. Of course, there is no way to begin a series like this without addressing the elephantine abomination in the torture room, the most obvious, perhaps even cliche choices of inspiration for a deadly, dark and weird game. The Obvious The VVitch by Robert Eggers This is one of a few films which will instantly be brought up

Welcome to our Not-Human-Sacrifice Feast, Outsiders! (Sirenswail Session 3)

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Date: Late summer 1640 Location: The Island of Sirenswail, southwest of Cornwall Cast: Shio the Alice, Gundisalvus the Magic-User, Helga of the Ulvenbrigad, Harold the Mule  Previously:   Arriving at Sirenswail, the party was greeted by the beautiful Sarah Marvale and her father Lord Arthur, who guided them to the idyllic village on the Island. Presently: The winding path from the beach along the cliffs took the party past beautiful golden fields of wheat and orchards of fruit trees laden with bounty. Lord Marvale was immediately open about the Island, telling them that their community served as a safe haven for users of magic and believers of faiths persecuted by Puritans and their Witchfinders. They sought out folk like the party and employed Rennie to bring them to the Island on the White Wind , where they hoped they would choose to join them and grow their numbers. And they wanted the party to celebrate with them, because they would soon be having a feast!  As their tour took th

Mr. Marvale's Neighborhood (Sirenswail Session 2)

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Date: Late summer 1640 Location: The White Wind , en route from Penzance to the island of Sirenswail Cast: Shio the Alice, Gundislavus the Magic-User, Helga of the Ulvenbrigad, Harold the Mule   Cosplay by Kanasaiii Previously: Ambushed by a child vampire of the Heart faction native to Shio's "Underland", our party tends to wounds and prepare to search for it, hiding in maggot form in the hold. Presently: The sound of the struggle awoke a drunken sot passed out behind a stack of supplies. He introduced himself as Gundislavus, described by Dylan as Dan Harmon in wizard clothes. He questioned their panicked state, and was further puzzled by their explanation in his recently-awoken, still hung-over state. Nevertheless, he was convinced of their truthfulness, because why would you not take the word of an absentminded youth, one-armed Amazon warrior and mule which seemed to be huffing and puffing in a fashion remarkably similar to a human biting their tongue in the presence

Don't join the illuminati through my comment section... (w/ bonus NPC)

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  Yup, I have the best chatbots. This has been going on for quite some time. Either the rest of you OSR bloggers are more fastidious in maintaining your comments, or I have done something to attract the attention of the great esoteric order of the cyber-illuminati. This really is great entertainment (for me at least). I'm not deleting their comments. Read them, be entertained by them. Please don't click them, get phished, and have your identity stolen and your cash converted into bitcoin.   Bonus Gameable Content: Dr. Odion Level 3 Specialist 9HP Armor 12 Dagger 1d4  The inspiration for this NPC Languages 3-in-6, Alchemy 4-in-6, Medicine 4-in-6   Elias Odion is an accomplished physician and apothecary. He is a servant of those in need alongside his husband Corbin. He provides his services as charity, provided he can do so while avoiding notice from those who distrust herbology and curative medicine beyond simple understanding. He has learned the arts of mundane medicine throu