Background: Sweaty Grump-Lord

Sweaty Grump-Lord
The Incisive Fraternity of Dissertators, as they prefer to be known, is a loose joining of great minds and taste-makers. They have no central hub, rather they write to each other to discuss the people and cultures they meet on the road to better determine their worth and, if necessary, seek advice on how best to instruct the misguided plebs on their shortcomings. Their very frequent and reasonable discussions often leave them in a state of agitation, or with cause to flee, thus explaining part of their denigrating sobriquet.

Courier gremlin
Writing material
Walking stick (as club)

1 Spell - Befuddle
1 Unarmed
1 Sneak
1 Stick Fighting
1 Etiquette
1 Locks
1 History
1 Religion
1 Architecture
1 Healing
1 Tracking
1 Locks
1 Alchemy

The Grump-Lords possess a special breed of logic unique to their order. They are immune to being swayed by coercion, word play, seduction, or any other form of verbal or written communication, magic or mundane. However this cuts both ways, when the Grump-Lord attempts to convince another of doing something, no matter how reasonable, they must roll 2d6. On a double 6 they have infuriated them to the point of violence.

They may write to another grump-lord by giving the letter to their courier gremlin. They have a broad but shallow base of knowledge, but in 2d6 days one or more of them will have returned an answer with a 1 in 6 chance of being useful. Gremlin couriers work no matter where you are in space or time.

Mortal enemies of the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks.

Running Troika?

In case you didn't know, I wrote Troika. It's an RPG about messy people being lost in a confusing cosmos and trying to find themselves (or treasure).

I thought it only decent to extend the same offer here as I have elsewhere: If you are you planning to run Troika tell me about it, I wanna know how it goes. Not looking for reviews, just want some insight on how people are using this thing. Write it up and link it, post it, email it (kysadurasATliveDOTcoDOTuk), whatever. If you do this for me I'll give you one of two things.

  1. I can send you a PDF copy of the pretty-picture version if you're only working from the free PDF 
  2. Or I can make you a new super-official background for use in your games that you can keep secret or spread about as you please. At least until I one day compile the best of them in the distant future of the 2nd edition.

As a freebie you will also get my eternal gratitude for helping me out with some actual play information that would take years to get on my own.

If you're feeling extra generous you could even spread the word, tell the world I'm bribing people for play data. Worst case scenario I have to write backgrounds for the rest of my life.


Wizard Weaknesses

Thanks to +Andy Bartlett for reminding me of this trope

Some wizards, tower wizards, necro-wizards, lonely wizards, have the time to commit to exceeding the typical human limitations of knowing the unknowable. As you approach the Planck scale of magical minutiae it passes beyond mere education and study, as this level you must cheat.

These cheaty boss-wizards should be freely given outrageous skill and stamina ratings. Huge, gigantic, suicidally dangerous sorcerous chops. The players can go ahead and literally brute force the issue of killing them, or they can be smart and figure out exactly how this bastard is cheating and catch them out.

When these weaknesses are exploited the wizard's skill and (total) stamina is halved. Some might just apply to the individuals exploiting it, or it might cause the wizard to be generally weakened. The exact details will suggest themselves.

D66 Wizard Weaknesses

11 - Having his hat knocked off. Its special lining was keeping the spells inside.
12 - The pet rat he keeps in his cummerbund, a great sorceror in its own right
13 - Seeing a tattoo of a bare bottom. Prude or ancient pact with Slaanesh?
14 - An albino ferret, brandished. The wizard cowers and cringes, obviously disgusted. Whether this effect is magical or psychological is unclear.
15 - The secondary brain they keep in a jar under their bed helps them think.
16 - A deck of cards full of occult symbolism. the wizard has actually invented a revolutionary note-taking system allowing him to offload a lot of the mental strain on to small cue cards. Regardless, destroying them would be quite a set back.
21 - Direct sunlight causes the warlock's crystallised plasmic crown to evaporate. It is otherwise invulnerable and irremovable.
22 - The daemonic parasite which clings to the back of his head. To the ignorant observer it looks like a rather gaudy evil-guy hat, but those viewing it via Second Sight will know differently. They must also test their luck or be blinded by the brilliance of the creatures true form. Daemonic hat - 5/20/4
23 - The true wizard is an old man behind a curtain in the room beyond, controlling this simulacrum with gossamer tendrils of plasma disappearing off into the ether. Requires a good few hours to rouse himself, so is essentially defenceless.
24 - Warlock wands are old fashioned, something a grandpa-wizard would use. A few enthusiasts see past the passe and into the pragmatic, creating extravagant wands of manticore spine and unicorn feather to compliment their abilities. They are tragically easy to break, however. When hitting the wizard successfully you may test your luck to break the wand. If you fail you do no damage to anything.
25 - One thing that never goes out of style are bangles and talismans. One of these doodads is the source of the warlock's power. Test your luck when grabbing at them to nick the right one.
26 - When the wizard says he has more power in his little finger than you have in your whole body, he is being entirely literal. Cut off that finger! Test your luck to hit the finger and deal at least 3 damage to it.
31 - Once a year at a particular juncture of the aeons the wizard goes out amongst the people and, into the ear of one poor fellow, mutters the word that will unravel his power. The person listening doesn't know what the word does, but they do know they will die in a year and a day if they ever reveal it. Anyone else saying it is fine, and greatly upsets the wizard.
32 - Every wizard worth his salt knows that copious consumption of fairy blood grants you elevated magical mind powers. However it also makes you very weak to the touch of cold iron and requires an industrial quantity of tiny faeries. Ecologically unsustainable.
33 - The wizard is careful to surround himself with mirrors at all times. While in the presence of a reflective surface he maintains his elevated state.
34 - Usually kept tucked up in his gums, the wizard chews on the psychoactive mushrooms that grow in dragon turds. Separated from his stash he will soon come down.
35 - The warlcok stole all his power from demons way above his station, but because of his high-heeled ostrich boots covering his tracks he's kept the demons off his tail. He's strapped in quite securely so they'll need cutting off, but when his feet touch the floor the demons will come and claim him. 1 in 6 chance the gate stays open.
36 - Standing in his foyer is what was once a flattering sculpture of the sorcerer but is now partially obscured by blue moss. As the sorceror taps into the false image of the sculpture it is further taken over by the 5th dimensional moss. After a few years of everyday use, or 6 months of intense wizarding, he will commission a fresh one.
41 - In an egg in a duck in a pond in an island in a lake in pocket dimension in a box in a cupboard is the source of (half) his power. The box must be found, entered, and hex-crawled.
42 - The warlock has sacrificed his mirror-self for power. While held in a full body reflective surface his powers are diminished as the astral corpse of his other self retakes its position.
43 - Their claim to knowledge is so great that if they were to be presented a riddle that they could not answer their confidence would be shattered. Will always answer riddles. The group may collectively offer one per round and if the GM can answer it the wizard is assumed to have done so. The GM may also roll the wizard's luck once to solve it instead.
44 - The wizard isn't bad, he's mad; subtle senility has settled over his already power addled mind. Anyone researching and performing an adequate impersonation of his wayward son will rattle him profoundly.
45 - The wizard has replaced all his blood with liquid magic. He needs to put it back inside once in a while, and without it will be terribly weakened.
46 - All of his organs have been put into (2d6) jars and hidden in secret places. Each one foudn and destroyed takes a portion of his power.
51 - The wizard sits in the middle of a miasma of chemical unguents with the distinct tang of body odour. However, he is not just a disgusting human being too wrapped up in the pursuit of power to wash, he is actually cultivating a vast colony of bacteria and other ambulatory filth to offset some of his sorcerous strain. A good amount of soap and water should put an end to his reign of terror.
52 - Light is a terrible trickster, if one could avoid the sloppy interaction of radiation and surfaces and get down the the nitty gritty objective reality of things we would all be wizards. Now imagine if  someone who was already a wizard got that insight. The wizard is blind and manouvres around his manse with a series of seeing stones mounted in ceiling orbs and hidden on bookshelves. Inside his house his is powerful and omniscient. Outside he carries a small bag of variously sized stones for on-the-go observation of the objective world.
53 - Being fully undead has many many problems. Minor injuries become permanent problems, the smell is awful, your joints get all gunked up, and so on. Why not just have an undead heart? While it still beats in his chest he is immensely robust. Somehow he can function without it. I don't know how.
54 - The wizard cannibalised a wily demon and took his hands and tongue. Allergic to religion
55 - Every night the sorceror sleeps in crystal pod which guides his dreams and reverses the rigours of age. Without access to it he will lose its calming powers and become tired, old and cranky.
56 - Bit by bit the warlock has replaced his bits and bobs with mechanical parts. His blood is creamy, plasmically charged goo, his hands weave spells without a thought and he's got sub-dermal weapons under his synthetic skin.
61 - The warlock maintains many many clones of himself. d6 are currently active while the others are in their rest cycles in vats of goo. If you can find and smash the original to bits they will loose their hub and focus.
62 - The wizard doesn't have a weakness, he's just really great. He will however act like he does, begging them not to touch his special deck of cards or say bad words. He finds it funny.
63 - The unimaginative magic worker sold his soul. If you tear up the contract it's void.
64 - In his basement he keeps a fairy/genie/angel or other adorable but magically potent creature rigged up to a transmitter tower and feeds of it abiently.
65 - The wizard has an agreement with a dark(er) lord to boost his powers
66 - The wizard delegates much of the physical toil of magic to his apprentices, who remain mind-linked throughout the apprenticeship. Any stress of hardships befall them instead of the wizard. Most don't last long.

A lot of these seem like the kinds of things that would be incredibly impractical limitations in combat. Remember they are wizards, not soldiers. Their magic is to further their inscrutable ends, not arm wrestle (unless they're endomancers I suppose).

(This is written for Troika, which is freely available)

Brief reflections on the intersection of spheres

The Red Priests think mass is sinful and so strive to suppress it in both its material and spiritual forms. Huge construction projects, trans-spherical immigration, fat people. Bring down the towers, they say.

The million spheres are exactly that. Mostly that. As long as you bear in mind that you are talking about a multi-dimensional object expressed on a three dimensional plane. They look like spheres from a distance and behave as such. Mostly.

The Nothing, Chaos, The Demon Sea, whatever you call it, is a two dimensional plane. If a theurgist were trying to school a bumpkin on metaphysics he would demonstrate the interaction of the spheres and of the nothing by dropping an apple into a trough of water. He may hammer nails of chaos into it and cause it to sink further, or lift it gently with his (comparatively) hyper-finger. Beneath the water are hungry larvae, who eat the apple. Above the sea is a tree with bare branches.

The Nothing is an inverted sphere, inside of which the spheres float like lights on the water.

A plane intersecting a spherical surface will appear as an angled wall. Cunning scholars can detect the objective nothingness of a sphere by measuring the exact angle.

Horizon Knights are some of the only people to travel via the nothing between spheres, protected in their hermetic keeps. The sensible traveller rides across the humpbacked sky.

Troika, innit?

211 - Wall Wizard

Inspired by the hilarious way you regain magic juice in the new Final Fantasy. 

211 - Wall Wizard
It's common knowledge that magical effluvia gathers in liminal spaces such as the corners, ceilings or the gaps between walls. No magician would argue with that obvious fact. However most magicians are happy to shoot fire from their eyeballs and then accept that they will get a little bit winded, maybe need a little wizard-nap. But not Wall Wizards, they have found a way to tap that energy through arcane stretching, excellent upper body strength, overcoming fears of tight spaces, and the judicious use of pitons.

Hammer and piton
Bent wizard's hat with chin strap

3 Climb
2 Sneak
2 Spell - Affix
1 Spell - Assume Shape
1 Spell - Breach
1 random spell
1 Second Sight
1 Astrology
1 Strength

Wall Wizards receive phantom points of stamina to use towards magic. Although corners and doorways do accumulate plasmic effluvia the passage of people and brooms disturbs it. However if you wedge yourself inside a wall, or hang from a ceiling, or get onto a high shelf you may have 1 free point of stamina to spend towards any spells cast from that vantage.

It's more or less out

Due to unpopular demand, I'm putting Troika! on pre-sale in the run up to Dragonmeet. There are only 200 copies being printed, there might never be any more. The first 100 hard copies sold get a free bag of adorable tiny dice appropriate for use in the initiative system.


You can get a free artless PDF from the link above if you just want to get right to it. And do tell me if you run it!


The Melsonian Arts Council has started our first convention trail. We'll have a table at Dragonmeet in a couple of weeks and then every other UK convention we can afford a seat at.

To celebrate this excess of consumerism we have booted Troika! out the door and got it ready to be put into people's hands. Troika! is a response to decrepit UK RPGs as imagined by someone who has no right to do so. A "retro" RPG rebuilt without sentimentality, corpses of darlings litter the streets.

It won't be on general sale for a while, but it will be accompanying me to conventions, where you can find a copy or so for sale.

Crypts of Indormancy won't be there, unfortunately. But soon!

Something Stinks in Stilton will be though, so feel free to pick up a copy if you backed it through the kickstarter. I'll discount you some postage if you buy something.

A D66 list of backgrounds for Troika

11 Ardent Giant of Corda
Every giant has a different story about Corda, well told and interrupted with bouts of hysterical crying and laughter, of how they lost it and mean to find it soon enough but oh, what of today? We should drink and cheer, I’ll search again in the morning!


  • An artefact of Lost Corda, being either an enormous blue star map offering +1 astrology when studied for 12 minutes OR a contraption for telling the weather (5 in 6 accuracy) OR a ruby lorgnette offering +1 Second Sight while worn

4 Heft
3 Astrology
2 Run
2 Climb

12 Befouler of Ponds
A wise man, a high priest, a pond-pisser, a typical but committed adherent of P!P!Ssshrp. The bloated toad god has no church other than the periphery of ponds where the foulness catches in the reeds and no congregation to address other than the gnats and dragonflies. You council them all the same.


  • Sackcloth robes, caked in stinking mud and undergrowth. +1 to Stealth rolls in marshy terrain while wearing it, -1 everywhere else ‘cos it stinks
  • A large wooden ladle (damage as mace)

3 Spell - Toad Blessing
3 Swimming
2 Spell – Tongue Twister
1 Sneak
1 Second Sight

May drink stagnant water without harm

13 Burglar
As a second-story man you often have cause to wander. Enemies come naturally from both sides of the law and it pays to keep ahead of trouble.


  • Crossbow & 18 bolts
  • Roll of lock picks
  • Grappling hook

2 Sneak
2 Locks
1 Awareness
1 Climb
1 Trapping
1 Knife fighting
1 Crossbow fighting

You may test your luck to find and get in with the local criminal underbelly, if one exists.

14 Cacogen
Those filthy born, spawned in the hump-backed sky lit only by great black anti-suns and false light. Your mother was sailing on the golden barges or caught in some more abstract fate when she passed you, far from the protective malaise of the million spheres. You were open to the power and the glory at a generative time and it shows in your teratoid form.

  • Pistolet OR Fusil
  • 2d6 plasmic cores
  • Sword
  • Velare

2 Pistolet Fighting OR Fusil Fighting
2 Astrology
2 Second Sight
2 random spell
2 random spell
1 random spell
1 Sword Fighting

15 Chaos Champion
You no longer have the spiked brass armour  but you still have the ear of your Chaos patron. He’s happy for you to experiment with not plunging your sphere into disorder and, ultimately, darkness but the door is always open. Name your patron.


  • Ritual scars
  • A huge hammer
  • Assortment of ragged armour (Modest armour)
  • Dream journal, almost full

6 Language - Kurgan
3 Maul fighting
3 Secret Signs - Chaos Patron
1 Random Spell
1 Second sight

You may call upon your patron for aid once per day, to do so roll three 6s on 3d6, the GM will interpret his intervention.

16 Claviger
The key masters wander the universe fathoming the workings of all entry ways they can find. Though they’re quite fascinated with simple chests and doors they are most excited by metaphysical and metaphorical barriers.


  • Festooned with keys (counts as modest armour)
  • A sledgehammer
  • Lock picking tools

4 Locks
4 Bash Lock
3 Trap Knowledge
1 Spell - See Through
1 sledgehammer fighting

21 Demon Stalker
You stake your reputation on your ability to hunt and kill demonic creatures and those who break bread with them. Goat men in the wilds, or the angel cults of the slums, all needs to be driven back off the edge of the map and into the shores of chaos.


  • A silver sword OR 16 silver arrows and a bow
  • Pouch of salt

5 Language - Abyssal
3 Spell - Blood Shroud
2 Second Sight
2 Sword fighting
2 Bow fighting
1 Tracking

1 Sneak

22 Dwarf
You are a short, hairy, belligerent, alcohol dependent creature. The latter two may be linked, but you’ll fight anyone who suggests as much. Since there are no dwarf women (or men, technically) there are no dwarf children or dwarf families, so you can fully commit yourself to the important dwarfy endeavours of creating fine art in unusual places. You intend to find the most unusual places ever seen in all the million spheres.


  • Masons hammer
  • Roll of artists supplies

3 Awareness
2 Sculpting
2 Painting
2 Metalworking
2 Construction
2 Hefting
2 Fist Fighting
2 Wrestling
1 Hammer fighting

May eat gems and rare metals as a food replacement. You in fact far prefer the taste of rare minerals to mundane food.
Dwarves are genderless. You are immune to all compulsions that play on a creature’s desire for the opposite sex. This also means you don’t have sexual organs. Instead of urinating you excrete through sweating, thus explaining the odour.

23 Epopt
A roaming seer, selling your visions at courts and fetes. You are instantly recognisable by your yellow coif and habit as being open for business. Road weary and world wise, your unpopular visions cause you to constantly move on.


  • Yellow epopt outfit, padded for protection against unhappy clients (counts as modest armour)
  • Epopt staff, being a walking staff with seeing crystal on one end (counts as staff)
  • Collapsable tent, big enough for your stall

2 Awareness
2 Evaluate
1 Second Sight
1 Etiquette
1 Fist Fighting
1 Run

May test their luck to get a yes or no answer to a question about mundane matters. The GM should make this test in private, not informing the epopt is they are accurate.

24 Exotic Warrior
No one has heard of your homeland, your habits are peculiar, your clothes are outrageous, and in a land jaded to the outlandish and new you still somehow manage to stand out.


  • A weird and wonderful weapon
  • Strange clothes
  • Exciting accent
  • A tea set OR 3 pocket gods OR astrological equipment

6 Language - Weird Exotic Language
3 in the fighting skill of your weird weapon
2 Language - Local
2 in one random spell
1 Astrology
1 Etiquette

25 The Fellowship of Knidos
Mathmologists honour the clean and unambiguous truths of mathematics, and coordinate it with their observation of the multiverse. All things can be measured and predicted with the application of the correct mathmatical ratios, their methods applied to penetrate the ethereal surface to glimpse the fundamental numbers below.


  • Large Astrolabe (as mace)
  • Abacus
  • Lots of scrolls and writing equipment

3 Mathmology
2 Astrology

2 Spell – Find

26 Fellowship of Porters & Basin Fillers
Luggers are a servile group by nature, most often found in the service of others, weighed down by loads that would buckle a donkey. You take pride in that. Maybe so much that the everyday assignments of the guild could not sate your desire to serve and so ventured out in search of a real challenge for such a talented varlet.


  • A wooden yoke which gives you +2 Heft while worn. Suffer -4 to all other physical rolls while wearing it
  • Brown over coat and soft doffing cap of the guild
  • A bale hook. Counts as a knife for damage and gains you a +1 on rolls to lift heavy objects if used to do so
  • Length of rope

4 Heft
2 Fist fighting
2 Run
1 Hook fighting
1 Sneak
1 Awareness

31 Gremlin Catcher
No matter what country, sphere or abstract dimension you may find yourself in, be sure that gremlins will be there digging their warrens.


  • Small but vicious dog
  • Flat cap
  • A club
  • A sack
  • D6 empty gremlin jars
  • A jar with a pissed off gremlin inside

4 Tunnel fighting
4 Trap knowledge
2 Sneak
2 Awareness
2 Club fighting
2 Tracking
1 Swim

32 Journeyman of the Guild of Sharp Corners
You are an assassin in training, graduated from fighting dummies or branding practise clients, now you have a license to do it for real. You haven’t fully developed the idiosyncratic methods required of a master but you are on the path.

Black clothes of the apprentice
Curved sword
3 vials of poison
Crossbow & 6 bolts

1 Poison
1 Sneak
1 Locks
1 Knife fighting
1 Climb
1 Awareness
1 Crossbow fighting
1 Swim
1 Disguise

33 Lansquenet
You were a mercenary retained in the exclusive service of the autarch, handsomely paid and sent to distant spheres on golden ships to spread the ineffable glory of your paymaster at the tip of your flaming lance.


  • Exquisite pistolet 
  • Bandolier containing 18 plasmic cores
  • Great sword
  • Brightly coloured clothing with lots of tassels and bells (-4 to sneaking). Though frivolous looking it is in fact built with the autarch’s divine alchemy and considered modest armour while weighing the same as normal clothing

2 Great sword fighting
2 Pistolet fighting
1 Run
1 Golden Barge Pilot
1 Astrology

34 Lonesome King
You were a king! The ruler of all your surveyed, a great conqueror, a law-bringer! But your horse sped off into the pixie forest, or the court magician saw to it that you dissapeared, or you led a sortie into the stars to put your tsamp on that as well. Either way you are a lost and lonely king without a kingdom, no one has heard of you or your people. Most don't believe you and laugh, or worse they do believe you and shrug at the vagaries of fate.


  • A nice weapon of your choice
  • A crown

3 Etiquette
3 Weapon fighting in the weapon of your choice

35 Miss Kinsey’s Diner’s Club
The Eaters know that there are only two worlds: the without and the within. They intend to insert as much of the prior into the later as they can while experiencing the finest delights available. All culinary experience is open to them, nothing is forbidden at Miss Kinsey’s. Try the other, other, other white meat.


  • Sharp metal dentures (damage as sword) OR forked metal dentures (as knife, but on a critical you may cleanly strip all the flesh from one small appendage) OR blunt metal dentures (damage as knife but may be used to eat hard objects)
  • Embroidered napkin

3 Etiquette
1 Strength
1 Tracking
1 Trapping
1 Gastrology

Immune to mundane ingested poisons. Also can identify any object if eaten, gaining knowledge of its material, its origin (if plausibly familiar), and its magical properties. Must be thoroughly masticated, not merely swallowed and passed. This does not grant special immunity to any effects it may possess.

36 Monekymonger
Life on The Wall is hard. One is never more than a few yards from an endless fall but those precarious villages still need to eat. This is where you come in with your edible monkeys (the distinction is purely for appeal, since all monkeys are of course edible). You used to spend days on end dangling your feet off the edge of the world watching over your chitering livestock while they scampered hither and thither. But there was no future in monkey meat, or future on The Wall. You wanted much more and so stepped off. Or you fell. Either way you and some unlucky monkeys are here now and that's all that matters.


  • Monkey Club
  • Butcher Knife
  • d6 small monkeys that do not listen to you but are too scared and hungry to travel far from you
  • A pocket full of monkey treats

4 Climb
2 Trapping
1 Club Fighting
1 Knife Fighting

41 Necromancer
The least popular magical practitioners. Shunned by the major centres of learning, they’re left to their own devices on the edges of society, passing on knowledge in the time honoured master student dynamic.


  • Dusty robes
  • The skull of your master OR a zombie servant OR a ghost with whom you have developed a codependent relationship with

2 Heal
1 Spell - Posthumous vitality
1 Spell - Skeletal Counsel
1 Spell - Torpor
1 Sneak

42 Parchment Witch
Known for your smooth skin, midnight gatherings and being fearful of rain and open flames. The parchment witches are long dead sorcerers who cannot give up the vanity of living and so cover themselves in perfect paper skin. A patiently painted and folded imitation of life to hide ancient bone and gristle.


  • d6 rolls of parchment skin
  • Vials of pigments and powders 
  • Collection of brushes

2 Spell - Protection From Rain
2 random spell
2 Spell - Quench
2 Spell - True Seeing
2 Disguise
2 Second Sight
1 Healing
1 random spell
1 random spell


You are undead so do not need to breathe, circulate blood, and so on. You takes double damage from silver weapons and regain stamina half as effectively from all sources. You must test luck if outside in the rain, made wet, close to open flames, or suffer general grievous wounds. A failure will see your skin ruined. While your skin is damaged you are very obviously a walking corpse and take damage from salt as though it were fire.

43 Poorly Made Dwarf
Dwarves are known for being the finest artisans of the million spheres. Give a dwarf a rock and he will make gold, give a dwarf a boulder and he will make a dwarf. You were supposed to be the finest expression of dwarfy craftsmanship, a masterpiece, a brand new dwarf like those made by the old masters. But you were imperfect and abandoned.


  • Woodsmans axe
  • An empty firkin

3 Fist Fighting
3 Awareness
2 Hefting
2 Wrestling
2 Axe Fighting

as Dwarf, but in addition...
Other dwarves completely ignore you as though you were an item  or openly examined and criticised for your flaws. Though to the non-dwarfy eyes you probably look like any other dwarf.

44 Questing Knight
You are on a quest for the grail, or the sword, or the throne, or for god, or a lost love, or some other significant object. Your sort are common enough, wandering the worlds acting out your romantic melodrama, accusing good folk of being demons or faeries. Generally considered to be harmless.


  • Heavy armour
  • A horse
  • Lance (as spear)
  • Sword
  • Shield
  • A never ending quest

3 Jousting
1 Sword Fighting
1 Spear fighting
1 Shield fighting
1 Awareness

45 Red Priest
Evangelist of the red redemption, wandering confessor, cauterizer of the wound of sin. Sin being the accumulation and recreational consumption of mass. How can your spirit fly free while shackled and flabby?


  • Red robes
  • Traditional faceless metal helmet of your order (modest armour)
  • Symbolic (but fully sized and fully functional) single headed axe, to help batter down the door to Sin

2 Spell - Ember
2 Spell - Fire Bolt
2 Spell - Flash
2 Great Axe Fighting
1 Second Sight

46 Rhino-Man
The original Rhino-Men were created by an insane sorcerer several centuries ago, but rebelled and killed him. They are fairly rare creatures, serving as formidable and loyal guards to those who can afford their services.


  • Horn (counts as dagger)
  • Thick Skin (rhino men always count as being modestly armoured)
  • Glaive
  • Knuckle dice
  • a half full firkin of Rhino-beer (20 rations worth)

3 Glaive fighting
2 Run
2 Bash Lock
1 Gambling

51 Skeptical Lammasu
Body of a bull, head of a man, forelegs of a cat and the wings of a swan, sweetest children of the gods. You, however, were not content to rest on your cloud and instead descended from the heavens (or crawled up from the abyss) and set upon finding your own path among the stars.


  • Incidental sacred jewellery worth 10d6 monies if traded
  • Peaked hat
  • Claws (as Swords)
  • Hooves (as Clubs)
  • Wings, able to fly as fast as a running man over clear ground

3 Fly
3 Spell - Random
3 Spell - Random

3 Spell - Random
2 Claw Fighting
1 Hoof Fighting

52 Sorcerer of the Academy of Doors
Troika’s very own wizarding academy, pride of the city, experts in pan-dimensional mobility. You were an apprentice of the school and were able to penetrate the (2d6)th door. No master, certainly, but few outside your peers can claim to know more about the vagries of skyward travel than you.


  • A small functional door, worn on your forehead. You channel your magic through it
  • Flashy robes

2 Second Sight
2 Spell - Astral Reach
1 Spell - Teleport

1 Spell - Web

53 Sorcerer of the 
College of Friends
You were trained in the sub-dimensional academy of the Cordial Wizard God. You spent your childhood learning about the fate of pixies, the colour of magic, ritual grammar and endless other theoretical topics. Now you’re out in the world, discovering that your education hardly accounted for any of it.


  • Pointed wizard hat you received at graduation
  • Pocket full of wizard biscuits (2d6, each count as a ration)
  • Wand used to help focus new apprentices, now kept for sentimental reasons

4 Secret Signs - Witching Words
2 Run
1 Climb
1 Swim
1 Second Sight
1 Spell - Jolt
1 Spell - Amity
1 Spell - Mirror Selves
1 Spell - Protection from Rain
1 Spell - Helping Hands
1 Spell - Spark
1 Spell - Purple Lens

54 The Sublime Society of Beef Steaks
Brawlers believe the application of might and a good beef steak is the universal truth. Words do not have power. Words can no more define the universe than they can build a house, lift a cup, or sear a steak. Might can. Really, they have thought a lot about this.


  • A weapon of choice
  • A small gridiron
  • 2kg of premium meat cuts
  • Waistcoat
  • Bottle of strong but fancy wine

2 in a fighting skill of your choice
2 Wrestling
2 Swim
2 Climb
2 Run
2 Fist Fighting

55 Temple Knight of Telak the Swordbringer
You were once (and possibly still) a fanatical monk set to maintain constant martial readiness in preparation for the end times when all doorways crumble inwards. You are never unready and always have spares.


  • The blessing of Telak
  • 6 swords of your choice

2 Awareness
1 Sword Fighting
1 Greatsword fighting

The blessing of Telak allows you to carry as many swords as you like and count them as a single item for encumberance purposes. While carrying 12 or more swords you count as having modest armour, while carrying 36 or more swords you count as having heavy armour. You must be overtly armed at all times or else Telak will take this blessing away until you forge, and donate to the unarmed, a brand new sword.

56 Thaumaturge
Wandering miracle workers, the depths of whose clothes are filled with pouches of unguents, holy icons and herbs. No matter the metaphysical need, they are always prepared.


  • Thamaturgical fez
  • Staff, bedecked with charms and bells. May reroll one die on the Opps! Table if using this staff, however may never sneak up on anyone because of the ringing and clattering it makes
  • Curled Shoes
  • Voluminous robes

2 in one random spell
1 in one random spell
1 Second Sight
1 in one random spell
1 in one random spell
1 Astrology

May test their luck to just so happen to have exactly the (common) mystical nicknack the situation requires

61 Thinking Engine
Your eyes are dull ruby spheres, your skin is hard and smooth like ivory but brown and whorled like wood. You are clearly damaged, you have no memory of your creation or purpose, and some days your white internal juices ooze thickly from cracks in your skin.

  • Large cloak
  • Soldering iron

3 Golden Barge Pilot
2 Astrology
2 Pistolet Fighting
2 Healing
1 Run
1 Bash Lock
1 Fist Fighting
1 Cooking

You don’t recover Stamina by resting in the usual manner, instead you have to spend an evening with a hot iron melting your skin back together like putty. For each hour of rest with access to the right tools you regain 3 Stamina. 
May recharge plasmic machines by hooking your fluids to them spending Stamina. 1 Stamina and 6 minutes per charge.
You always count as being lightly armoured.

62 Vengeful Child
Your village was burnt down by ruffians, or your mother was beheaded by snake cultists, or your father was hung by corrupt officials. Either way, you took up the sword and entered the world with a chip on one shoulder and oversized sword on the other.

A too-big sword, +1 to Sword Fighting and Damage Rolls while using it. Only you may benefit from this bonus, it’s not magic just sentimental
An old hunting bow & 12 arrows

1 Sword Fighting
1 Awareness
1 Climb
1 Bow Fighting
1 Run
1 Swim

63 Venturesome Academic
You’re a classically trained academic, a product of the universities of the Brass City, the Palace of Tigers or some other less prestigious centre of learning. 

  • Reading glasses in a sturdy case (you cannot read without them)
  • Small sword
  • Bundle of candles & matches
  • Writing material
  • Journal

2 Evaluate
2 Astrology
1 Healing
1 random spell
1 Sword Fighting 

You may test your Luck to recall facts that you might reasonably be expected to have encountered relating to the natural sciences and humanities.

64 Wizard Hunter
Some people say man is the most dangerous prey. They're wrong. Can men turn into flocks of seagulls when cornered in an alley? Can men ignite the air and freeze your blood? No they can't. Wizards are the most dangerous prey.

  • Large sack
  • Witch-hair rope
  • Crossbow & 12 bolts
  • Sword
  • d6 Poppets
  • Ruby Lorgnette

2 Tracking
2 Disguise
2 Crossbow Fighting
1 Sword Fighting
1 Sneak
1 Locks
1 Etiquette

65 Yongardy Lawyer 
Down in Yongardy they do things differently. They respect the law. Every day there is a queue outside the courts to get a seat to see the latest up and coming barrister defend his case with three feet of steel. The people follow the careers of their favourite solicitors, watch all their cases, collect their portraits and sneak into the court after hours to dab the patches of blood on white handkerchiefs. In Yongardy they love the law.

  • Rapier
  • Puffy Shirt
  • Manual on Yondardy Law

4 Sword Fighting

66 Zoanthrop
At some point in your past you decided you didn’t need it any more. You found a zoanthropologist and paid him well to remove your troublesome forebrain and so elevate you to the pure and unburdened man-beast you are today.

  • Nothing except a wooden club. Remove all starting possessions, cast off the shackles of civilisation. You are probably nude.

3 Climb
3 Run
2 Strength
2 Fist Fighting
2 Club Fighting
2 Wrestling
1 Swim

You are immune to all mind altering effects. You are able to speak but usually choose not to. When making advancement checks in skills related to abstract thought, such as spells or astrology, you must roll twice and succeed on both or else fail.


Astrological Equipment - +1 to Astrology when used. Requires twenty minutes, doesn't need to be outside. Consists of ruby specular, charms against reciprocal observation, and complicated charts of the spheres.

Grappling Hook – Test your Climb skill to attach the hook securely. Everyone climbing it gains +1 Climb skill.

Knuckle Dice – The nimble, petal shaped knuckle bones of goblins make excellent two sided dice. 

Manual on Yongardy Law - If you spend some time studying the manual you may forgo all advancement rolls to instead roll and additional time for Sword Fighting.

Pocket Gods – Little wooden statues made in the image of your numerous gods. If you whisper a secret to one and hide it somewhere you may regain 1 Luck

Poppet - A poppet allows you to reroll a failed Luck roll regarding magic directed at you. Successful or not the poppet is saturated with unwanted magic and is best thrown away.

Roll of lock picks: +1 Lock skill when using these. On a critical failure they break and need repalcing

Ruby Lorgnette: Gain +1 Second Sight will using these to peer at things. Requires one hand to use.

Tea Set - +1 to Etiquette skill when you have the time to sit down and make tea

Velare - A small metal brooch that, when activated, provides a perfect visual disguise for a day. Requires plasmic cores to recharge.

Witch-Hair Rope: Anything tied up with this rope will be unable to change shape.

The Simon Multiverse

The universe is not a great wheel with planes shooting off like the gaps in the spokes. The simplicity and finity of the metaphor make that clear; rings are contained, restrained, and binding. And more, the idea that we can stand at the centre and look out upon creation from a position of authority is either willfully delusory or utterly naive. We are not at the centre but rather the bottom.

Look at the night sky in Sigil and you see stars. In Baator, stars. Celestia, stars, stars everywhere, separated from us by a dome of shadow. Or rather a sea, one which we can cross on golden ships to those bright points of light. After crossing the Nothing you find yourself at another plane, maybe one you recognise. You realise that this is true shape of things previously obscured my short lines and strange paths.

It is a sphere of shadows with orbs of light. This sphere is the bottom and the centre, yet most outer. Our physical intuition can't imagine the hyper dimensional spaces of the macroversal model.

Like an ant meeting a deer. On bumping into its hoof you perceive a great beast made of horn, towering in a neat column. This is hardly a fraction of the truth but the knowledge of it will suffice for your limited interactions with it. For that ant to become a great sorceror, shooting through the astral dark in a womb made of light, he would have to imagine legs and fur.

Imagine the ocean. The true god sits in a boat, sometimes throwing waste overboard, things unneeded and useless. They fall to the bottom of the ocean miles below in the darkness where life briefly blooms around it. Creatures fight and breed and live and die in the usual cycles of living things. The gods as we know them are whales, we feed on their corpses. Some of live by the thermal vents of the light universe above (below and inside), semi permanent sources of nourishment.

In all cases the nothing will settle, erode the shores it laps against. In some places the horizon knights rove back and forth, filling the nothing with something, but they cannot stop the tide.

Crypts of Indormancy - Kickstarter

Oh my, what's this? Why it's an adventure by the inimitable Ezra Claverie, Undercroft regular and bottomless font of curious concepts, illustrated by one Andrew Walter, whose art speaks for itself.

“Crypts of Indormancy” is a an evocative location-based adventure compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and most other Dungeons & Dragons clones. Set in a quasi-Polynesian island chain with a backdrop of postcolonial elves digging through their imperial past

This scenario is informed as much by sword-and-sorcery as by anticolonial politics, so you might say that it draws on a non-traditional "Appendix N," one that includes Aimé Césaire, Chinua Achebe, Frantz Fanon, Gyatri Spivak, and Edward Said.

This is the Melsonian Arts Council's first* stand alone, big-boy book and is being funded with big-boy money. How exciting! Let's hope it all goes well and gets funded so we can pay everyone and not end up living in the cardboard box the books get delivered in.

(*Oli Palmer's Something Stinks in Stilton counts sometimes, and will count even more if we hit the funding goal to have it reprinted all nice a pretty-like)

Some other initiatives

So, weird, useful and exciting initiative systems. Who's got some?

My current system is bingo calling/chit-pull initiative. I've written everyone's name on a token and pull them out of a bowl (I use numbers for monsters). Totally random, ensures I don't forget anyone, avoids having to roll dice and remembering an order.


  • Write them on blank cards and shuffle them every turn. You can keep AC/HP/effects timers/whatever written directly on it for convenience.
  • Use actual bingo balls. Number everyone.
  • Instead of numbering monsters, just put a star on them. When you pull a star move a monster. Even less paper work.

Declare a leader token. This can be an actual token, or a hat, or a sceptre, or something hard to lose. That person goes first and play proceeds to their left. All enemy NPCs act on the GMs turn. Once a round has finished pass the token to your right.

The player with the least health goes first and play proceeds down the line. The GM calls out "1, 2, 3..."etc and people chime in.

The player willing to take the biggest penalty to all rolls goes first. Like the drama initiative, GM calls out from 6 and goes down. Or some other number appropriate to your system. GM also picks.

All things happen at once. Any actions that would cancel out another are done as contested rolls and the winner gets their way. Damage is simultaneous unless it obviously isn't.

You've got a track of actions, each player places themselves on a spot. Play proceeds top to bottom. On proceeding rounds the players are relocated in reverse order.

A manoeuvre is any non-combat non-magic action, like moving around or rummaging in your pack or pulling a lever.

  1. Reckless Magics -6
  2. Melee attacks
  3. Ranged attacks
  4. Manoeuvre
  5. Risky magics -3
  6. Manoeuvre and melee
  7. Manoeuvre and ranged
  8. Safe magics

In a non-fun game where you don't roll for magic, just do it all on the last one.

Everyone starts with a little token on the shaded slice. Randomly pick who goes first and proceed left-wise for the first moves, after that the person closest to the shaded slice acts first. This can result in multiple actions in a row if they don't jump anyone.

  • Move 5ft - 1 space
  • Attacking moves you spaces according to weapon used (sword is 4, knife is 2, halberd is 5
  • Magic moves you spaces according to the spell (magic missile is probably 4, charm is 1)
  • Misc actions generally take 1 space.

Once you pass the shaded slice you may take no more actions until everyone has passed it. When the new round begins you start with the person closest to the shaded area. Moves continue from where the pieces are.

The Undercroft #10 is basically out

Say whaaaat? It's out already? But it's only been 3 or 4 or 5 or something months. Oh how time flies.

But don't mind that, mind that the latest issue of the worlds premiere, hyper functional, deluxe RPG zine is out and you don't own it yet. Exchange your boring, uninteresting money for pictures and written things by the industry's most talented humans in the world's most prestigious periodical.

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Subscribe for future issues at something like a discount

WARNING: Don't buy the zine again if you already have this on your Patreon, you already paid me and I'm already sending it!

Universal Roads & Currencies

The City in the Middle of the Road

Troika is the City in the Middle of the Road, not of Windowless Rooms, nor of Doors. These are different places that one can get to through different means. Troika is reached by those who travel and have no destination. When purpose is abandoned its thick metal walls might loom on the horizon or peek above the trees to guide you to its open gates.

Its gates open on to the million spheres each with a road meandering away to be traveled by citizens with purpose. They step out with a destination in mind and travel until the city is out of sight, arriving where they intend to be and the way back wholly obscured.

To get back to the city is easier than first finding it; walk a road with nothing behind you and nothing ahead. Leave no one behind wishing your return, walk with no purpose, and Troika will open its gates to you again.

Bureau of Universal Exchange

Scattered throughout Troika are the silo-like Bureaus of Universal Exchange. Windowless and towering —either occupied because of these facts or floors and shutters have been welded on— one enters the ground floor to deal with its spider-like proprietors.

You find them hunched beyond tiny portholes and pass through your goods and currencies to be fondled by their hairy little hands. They have an uncanny head for the value of things, they will never confer, you will never get a bargain, they will instantly offer only exactly what it's worth and not a penny more, minus a small handling fee of course. Roll 2d6 to determine the % they add on top that day. Reroll 6s and keep adding them until you stop.

They will exchange anything for the Troikian penny, a brass coin of muddy source. The currency is worth whatever the standard currency of your game is, but only of face value to those who can travel to the city, which, while a large number, is far less than the entirety of the population of the universe.

When bringing them alien currency randomly determine how valuable it is at that exact moment. Roll 2d6 in order. The first is the penny, the second is foreign currency, thus determining the ratio. Always add one in the bureau's favour. They're running a business after all.

If a currency is a step above the base (gold>silver for instance) then just add a zero in its favour.

You can list these for later use if you like, but it's even easier to determine it anew each time. Time and space is unpredictable, change is relative.

The Alzabo

As large as a bear, taller than a man at the shoulder, the alzabo is an adaptable predator. Drop an alzabo into any environment that it can physically withstand and it will have mastered it by the first meal, for it gains more than simple nutrition from thinking flesh. With it they take on the full and unabridged memory of their meal, giving them the lay of the land, location of water, shelter and the rest of its kind.

The alzabo can produce —for it is not truly mimicking, rather recalling— the exact sound of any mind it possesses. Calling out in the night it draws its prey from safety, typically by imitating a recently eaten family member and calling to it's children or parents. Even if the devoured is a human, and those listening know that it's not truly them, the sound of the daughter you know to be dead tapping at your cottage door and begging to be let in from the cold is more than most can bear.

Skill: 10

Stamina: 21

Attacks: 2

Attack - Claw, stomp and bite

1 2 3 4 5 6 7+
4 4 6 6 12 13 14

Defence - Thick red fur

1 2 3 4 5 6 7+
0 1 1 1 2 3 4

The alzabo can recall any personality that it has eaten. When playing them assume that they are literally that person but with the added desire to eat and absorb more memories. The father of a child will beg them to come out to their dear papa and will argue and cajole with his intelligence and knowledge, for the alzabo will have all the feelings the father had towards the child in addition to wanting to eat and make company of their memories. This is not a parroting of the sounds and mannerisms, it is perfect and sincere.

The alzabo will hunt the family of the deceased above other prey. It desires their company and misses them dearly.

It will openly hunt at night, calling from outside the door or beyond the tree line. During the day it will follow from afar and is quite stealthy.

If the glands of the beast are removed and given to a suitably skillful physik it can be refined into an oil that will impart the memory eating abilities of the alzabo for a time. They need only take in a few mouthfuls for the full effect, the memories are permanent. The meat need not be fresh or raw, only edible. With the memories of another the player may ask the GM questions while searching their memories as though the person were present and completely honest. The PC may also use skills known to the deceased by testing their luck in place of a skill test of some sort. The memories are there, but the muscle memory and physical might are not. The PC may imitate the voice, but it will be imperfect since human vocal cords were not designed with this in mind (+6 disguise while doing it).

From this book.

Fighting Fantasy Luck

The Luck statistic is arguably the most interesting mechanic in the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG system.

In brief, it is a number between 7 and 12, generated at character creation. When something arbitrarily awful or wonderful might happen to you you may roll equal to or under it on 2d6. Much like saves in D&D. The difference here, other than there being only one "save", is that it is reduced by 1 every time it is rolled, successful or not and is entirely optional. The player can decide that he'll just take whatever is coming his way and save his luck for later.

Smart. Your Luck runs out. It's named something that you can even speak about out loud without breaking the tone. "Make a saving throw" or "Test you luck"? One of those is obviously stronger.

In the gamebooks from which the system is derived you would occasionally regain luck when choosing a path that, through no fault of your own, brought you fortune. Essentially you gained luck when you got lucky. This did not translate well into an RPG. In a gamebook there is no ambiguity, no fiat, whereas an RPG has a GM handing out the brownie points. A GM currency that keeps the PC alive encourages an irritating atmosphere of performing for the GM, "I did this thing, do I get a point?" or worse, conscious or unconscious favouritism.

Unlucky mate
The easy path would be to just give it all back when you rest, waking up nice and lucky. But strategic rests are also annoying, and it doesn't fit as nicely as regaining Stamina from naps does. There needs to be a concrete condition for regaining luck. I've already covered the possibility of regaining it through spending time with your family or getting wasted, but this isn't useful for long periods in the wilderness.

In a system where Luck is diminishing there must be a fair economy, or at least an economy which is transparent and controllable. Possible solutions:

  • You regain 1 luck every time you interact favourably with a suspicious aspect of the wilderness. For example, the party comes across a gauntlet on a pedestal in the middle of a room. Instead of wisely ignoring it or just stuffing it in a bag, the barbarian thrusts his arm inside. It's just a nice gauntlet. +1 Luck. This mimics the books quite well, is relatively plain and understandable. Encourages players to be a bit bold. Should also allow you to go over starting Luck.
  • You regain 1 Luck every time you have a meal. Eating is good for mind and body after all. If you're stuck in a shitty jungle, hounded by pygmy cannibals, a nice quiet meal with your friends can restore some sanity. Further reward for eating and wasting time. Requires thought and risk.
  • A good rest regains d3 Luck. Good dreams are important. Also, random encounters.
  • Fake-out saves can't be used in Fighting Fantasy. It's incredibly unfair to spend their resources for nothing. Alternative: Use fake-out saves, but if the player takes the bait (remember, testing your luck is optional) give them 1 Luck instead.
  • Regain d6 Luck at the start of a session. Represents the optimistic nihilism of the adventurer.

A lot of of these come down to calling the GM's bluff, which I think is appropriate. Rewarding curiosity is never a bad thing.

Issue 4 Reprint In Stock

New covers for the second printing of issue 4 of The Undercroft, recoloured by Matthew Adams. Insides are largely the same, so you're not missing anything by having the first printing.

What people have said:

Undercroft #4 is a beautiful gem of a zine that genuinely captures the best freewheeling spirit of the original wave of zines but brings modern art production values and sensibility. Its quirkiness and whimsy marks it as something quite different from its peers and its well worth forking out for the paper version for the genuine old school experience. 
-Thee Rapture


If you worked on this issue, please email me your address so I can send you a copy! If you have a subscription check Patreon before buying this.

Nuts & Bolts of Interdimensional Language

Let's call every language a skill, and let's also make a universal language called Portal Pidgin. We'll assume it's so incredibly simple that almost anyone can learn to speak it passably after a couple of weeks immersion. PCs are fully fluent, they've been through Troika, or lived there, or just dealt with those ambiguously foreign traders everyone seems to have been visited by.

Portal Pidgin is almost a Unified Theory of Language, the roiling sweaty pile of interdimensional culture at the centre of the universe has solved communication. Knowledge of it grants a deep understanding of language, a unique vantage point from which to approach new ways of speech. People native to it have little trouble picking up the basics of any new language met.

Every time a PC meets a new language they may test their Skill to fumble through it. If they fail, they get no where, if they pass they manage to communicate basic desires and get an advancement tick in that particular language.

However unlike standard skills, advancement is not a matter of rolling higher than your current skill. Instead each language has an in built difficulty. If you don't have one in mind, just roll a d6. That is how difficult that language is to learn, and with each advancement you must roll equal to or greater than that number.

When talking to some foreign sorts, roll against you Skill. If you pass, you can chat to them roughly, if you fail you get lost.

If you roll a critical on your language check you instantly take an advancement test.

If you fumble your test you must roll below:

1-3 Your audience has become tired with your hooting and pointing and refuse to participate any longer. This goes for the whole party.

4 You have offended them somehow. They respond appropriately, be that with indignation or violence.

5 They have got the wrong end of the stick, thinking you are trying to say the exact opposite of what you meant. This could cause issues while protesting innocence or complimenting someone.

6 You have accidentally been obscene, insulting religion or state. Their response will depend on the context, but assume the guards are being called right now.

Once a PC has 6 in a language they are assumed to be completely fluent to all but its most arcane usages.

In a long campaign the PCs will develop cultural scars. They'll look at the list of languages they can stumble through and see the trail they took up to this point.

Family and Friends and Drinking and Dwarves

I assume a situation of strangers in a strange land. What friends or family the PCs have is what they have made there.

Spouse & Children:

If PCs want to start with a spouse let them roll for the privilege. 1 in 3 they already have one, with d3-1 children. Each child is 2d6 years old.

If a child is 10 or more years old you can take them on adventures with you, allowing them to learn on the job. If you get the child killed you lose 10d6 social currency with your family. If it goes below 0 your spouse will never forgive you and leaves with your remaining children.

DOWNTIME FUN: As a downtime action the PC can spend quality time with her family. This will fully restore their Luck & Stamina. Gain d6 social currency with them. On a 6 there is a new child on the way. (if appropriate). Recommend hand-waving pregnant PCs. Baby magically appears later between adventures. Don't make it weird.

DOWNTIME FUN: The PC trains one of their kids. That kid gets a skill advancement check in one skill the PC knows but can't be raised higher than the father. Keep track of this stuff. When a PC dies they may take up playing one of their children instead of making a new character as long as it's old enough. Gain 1 social currency.

ON AGEING: Time differences between planes is weird. If you spend a week in Baator a month might pass in Troika. Age your children a year for every 3 planar trips you take.

DOWNTIME NOTSOFUN: Every downtime you do not spend with your family their social currency reduces by 1. If it reaches 0 they will leave.

DOWNTIME FUN: You may give a gift to a family member. It must be something you have, that you got, you can't just wishy-washy declare a state of giftness. Gain 2d6 social currency.

DOWNTIME FUN: You wanna get married but don't know anyone? Go looking. 1 in 6 chance you meet someone to make friends with. Costs 10 social currency to convince a friend to marry you.


DOWNTIME FUN: Friends are able to accompany the PC while carousing. Roll 1d6, if it comes up as anything other than 1, chose the order of numbers in your carousing roll. If it comes up as one, the friend has got you in trouble, the GM chooses the order to use. Regardless, +d6 social currency for hanging out with them.

Other PCs are not friends. Spouses can be, but you need to make it clear to the GM.

Every friend will either have a trade or an association. Roll a background for them.

Friends might be convinced to go on adventures with you. Costs 20 social currency minus their highest fighting or magic skill. Lasts for one excursion.

DOWNTIME FUN: If the friend's background causes her to have some influence or power, it costs 5 social currency to lean on it.

DOWNTIME FUN: A friend will teach you something they know for 3 social currency. Gain an advancement tick in any skill they have.

Carousing in Troika

In between games a PC may aimlessly go out on the town rather than do something constructive. Every major city or other interesting location should have its own carousing table, but smaller less lively places will likely have slimmer ones. It's probably a good idea to replace them when they get used up.

Carousing restores either Stamina or Luck (choose ahead of time) and costs 2d6x10p to have a roll, if you spend more than you own you are in debt to either:

  1. The Manticore Bank. They charge 10% interest every day and are happy to let that accrue. It takes a downtime activity to get in to see a representative of the bank, and there is only a 1 in 6 chance that you'll get seen before closing time. If the interest gets out of hand they'll send a manticore after you.
  2. The Black Bishops. If not paid 9 times in full they will repossess your entire life. All friends and family and homes and treasures belong to the Black Bishopric until bought back. She's their wife now.
  3. A petty gangster who will kidnap a friend or family member if they aren't paid back double in a week. Lacking a family, they'll break your legs.
  4. Miss Keansy's Social Betterment Scheme. Miss Keansy's loans only come in bundles of 200p and are measured against a percentage of the benefit it affords you by uplifting your social class. She'll take 5% of all income for the next 5 years.
  5. A random friend or family member covers it at the cost of -d6 social currency
  6. A Gold Man gives you a bag of his weird gold nuggets. He never seems to want anything for it.

Roll d36 for carousing!


  1. Caught the Time Fever from a beggar. Every game you age 2d6 years in a random direction until cured, dead, or unborn.
  2. You cross paths with a group of Brawlers out on the town. Test your Strength or lose 1d6 stamina and lose 1d2 teeth. If you pass you beat them up and are invited to join the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks.
  3. You get caught up in a Dwarven art project. Before the peacemakers dismantle it and rescue the participants, you are partially enamelled and menaced with spikes of cobalt. You lose 1d6 Luck but count as wearing plate armour until it all chips off. Should take roughly until the end of the next adventure.
  4. You wake up in a pile of skyskiff sailors with a new tattoo. 1 in 6 chance you're (and they're) naked and missing everything you were carrying.
  5. You attend a public wine tasting at Miss Keansey's estate. Being the uncultured swine that you are, you delight the members by swilling the latest vintage from the kelp orchards of the demon sea. For the next adventure you must test for random encounters with demons at every convenient opportunity. Only you can see them. They might not be aggressive, instead happy to just cause trouble, but they can also straight up devour you in front of your friends. You do gain a skill advancement check in Second Sight for the experience though.
  6. A beggar you were mocking turns out to be a Gold Man in disguise, testing the city for moral turpitude. He curses you by turning everything metal you own into clay and pelting you with nuggets of gold (lose 1d3 stamina). You're luckily carried away by the crowd grasping for the gold before he can really lay in to you.


  1. Wake up in the mortuary. The Dustmen demand you repay the corpse fee they wasted on you (d6p). If you can't pay they will insist you go corpse collecting on your next downtime activity to pay it back, or else.
  2. You lost sight of your senses at some point and joined one of the newer cults in town. They seem friendly enough. Randomly generate it, you are now a member.
  3. You council an orc out of ending his suffering. He has latched on to you. For good or bad, you have a new friend.
  4. Inebriation leads you to agree to test a new Ven cerebro-plug. You gain 1d6p and +2 in a random skill (owned or not). If you ever roll a fumble in that skill the plug will burn out, causing 2d6 damage. A Ven bubble will be sent to collect the wreckage data, regardless of location in time or space.
  5. You lost hard at a game of Roly Bones. Lose 5d6x10p. If you can't pay it all, the skyskiff sailors you'd been rolling with rough you up and take whatever else you're carrying as payment. Lose d6 stamina.
  6. You just so happen to be holding the key to a little known portal while wandering right through it. You find your way home by the next game, but not before ageing 3d6 years and returning with a child of almost equal age. Time is funny.


  1. You get chatting with a beggar, share a drink, kill some time, only to find out he's the king of some distant land. He never found his way back after he fell through some portal or other, no one had ever heard of his home. For your kindness he gives you his last possession: his crown and his kingdom with it. It's very pretty, made of iron and bronze, worth 50s to the right buyer.
  2. You meet a tourist with only rudimentary understanding of the language. They seem nice, and keep buying drinks, so you take them around town with you. At the end of the night he turns to give you a tip for your trouble but, finding he's out of native silver and the bureau de change is shut for the night, he gives you one of his native coins with an apologetic smile. It's roughly 6 inches wide and as thick as your finger, intricately cast and made of pure gold. Worth 1000p
  3. Make a new friend on your raucous night out. Make them as a character and get d6 social currency with them.
  4. Won big in a game of Roly Bones. 5d6x10p
  5. Spend an amorous night in the arms of a stranger. Restore Luck and Stamina. 1 in 6 chance a bastard appears in your future.
  6. Meet the love of your life. Can count as a spouse and a friend. Roll a background for him.

And finally, Dwarves and their family

That is to say they don't have one. Just passions and projects. They have no genitals, are all "male", if one was forced to judge.

A dwarf, on their downtime, may choose to work on a mysterious project. Even the player won't know until it's done, since the dwarf's compartmentalised mind is so strong. Secrets are secret! Each time the player works on it they gain d6 social currency with themselves. When they have 15 they finally reveal the project for all to see. Roll to find out what it is.

  1. A dwarf! A shiny new fully grown dwarf. This is your son, fashioned from iron and stone, and you may tutor him as with children, above.
  2. A weapon, encrusted with rare minerals, menaced with spikes, and only beautiful to a dwarfs gaudy eye. The dwarf gets +1 to their weapon skill while using this weapon. Everyone else gets -1 since it's so spiky and weird.
  3. A beautiful piece of furniture, you may choose what sort. It is of course very spiky and almost randomly enhanced with minerals and bones. +1 permanent luck for completing such a project.
  4. Armour, made of an obscure or unusual material, and yet completely usable. Better than usable in fact, since the wearer always adds +1 to their armour roll while wearing it. The dwarf player can choose the type of armour and the size (dwarf? human? lammasu?).
  5. A statue of transcendent beauty. The topic is up for the dwarf to decide, but it is huge, of unusual construction, and probably spiky. If this is gifted to a group or institution it is worth 10d6 social currency with them.
  6. A fey mood has struck, the materials are rare and transgressive. The dwarf makes a public exhibition of flesh and bone, against the laws of man and gods. 1 in 6 chance it's alive and rampant, 1 in 6 the dwarf is arrested for this act of wanton art. It is also spiky.

Social Currency

By performing services for a faction, group or god you may accrue social currency with them. Track it somewhere, you can spend it later.

This does not replace an organic exchange of favours. Someone can still ask you to do something in exchange for X service as part of an everyday game. This is a list of things your players can rely on being available.

NOTES ON JOINING GROUPS: You may only be a member of one instance of a group type. For instance, the Dustmen are a philosophy and a faction, therefore no other groups that are either of those may be joined. A Dustman could join a church or school of magic without any conflict of interests, though if he worships a god of life then there may be issues.



Type: Philosophy, faction

Downtime activities at the Mortuary
  • Tuition in the mortician's school (-2s/100p, free if a member), giving a skill advancement check, in: embalming, healing, surgery or disguise
  • Join the Dustmen (-5s). Benefit from the Dead Pact, whereby the dead won't bother you if you don't bother them. 
  • Forgo the right to resurrection and sign the ownership of your corpse over to the Dustmen. (+5s). Can only be done once.
  • Go corpse collecting. +d6s
Services Provided
  • Borrow an undead bodyguard for a week. He comes equipped with chain mail and a spear. (-15s). Members only
  • Borrow an undead assistant for a week or one significant job or adventure. (-10s). Has 2 Strength and comes with a sturdy backpack. Members only
  • Funeral. 1s or 10p, the dustmen will bury anyone with the correct rites.

The Academy of Doors

Type: School of magic

Downtime activities at the Academy of Doors

  • Tuition in the School of Entries & Exits (3s/500p, 1s/150p if a member). Skill advancement check in either: Astral Reach, Teleport, Web, or Second Sight.
  • Join the Academy of Doors. (3s or 1000p). Members are given their own apprentice's magic door to wear on their forehead.
  • Take the test to become a Master of the Academy. Roll 4d6 and score under the amount of social currency you spend. 
  • Teach at the academy. Must be a master or have 4 or more in a spell regarding transportation or planar travel. Gain currency equal to 1d6+skill level and 1d6 hundred pence. Skill-less masters do happen, but tenure is tenure.
Services Provided
  • Planar travel. For 10s or 1000p per person they will transport you anywhere in the cosmos. Roll 2d6, on a double you are all off course.
  • Keys. For 5s you will be permitted to use their library of information on portals and their keys. 1 in 3 chance you find the information.

The Church of Arn

Type: Religion, Faction

Downtime Activities for the Church

  • Help in an exorcism procession through Troika, scaring off demons +1d6s
  • Become an ordained priest of Arn. 20s. Receive a red robe and exorcism hammer
  • Add a demon's name to the Book of Names (base 1 in 6 chance it's not there already). Gain social currency equal to the demon's Skill.
Services from the Red Temple
  • Exorcism. 1s/50p. as spell
  • 5s, access to the Book of Names. 1 in 6 chance it has something useful on the demon you're researching.
Miracles (only usable by ordained priests)

  • Exorcism 1s. As spell
  • 2s, see demons and ghosts, penetrate all glamours created by them, see through their lies, and so on.
  • 1s talk with demons fluently. Convincing them to leave still counts as an exorcism, more or less.

P!P!Ssshrp, Befouler of Ponds

Type: Religion

Downtime Activities
  • Poison wells, ruin river sides, and so on. 1d6s. Roll 2d6, on a double someone catches you doing it.
  • Take up the worship of P!P!Ssshrp, 5s
  • Chat with frogs. 1 in 6 chance they have something useful to say
  • None. There is no church of P!P!Ssshrp, just ponds.
Miracles (only usable by worshippers)
  • 1s make any source of water stagnant, up to your body size. Big priests are better.
  • 5s purify any source of water. Same as above.
  • 2s communicate with frogs and toads. Lasts for one conversation. They are mostly concerned with what's going on in the water and how damp the soil around here is. But they respect your authority as an ardent worshipper of The Befouler of Ponds
  • 2s summon gnats, worms, beetles, and other creeping things. They will squirm out of cracks, from under doors, crawl over everything, ruining food and causing a terrible fuss.
  • 3s Turn yourself into a mass of leeches. In the water you move very fast, on land not so much. If at least a third of your body weight in leeches survives you can reconstitute yourself from them. You can stay as leeches for as long as you like.

Miss Kinsey’s Diner’s Club

Type: Faction

Downtime activities at the club
  • Become a member. 10s/14,000p
  • Give Miss Kinsey a fresh, preferably live, rare creature. 1 to 5 d6s depending on rarity. The last of its kind gives you unlimited access to meals for life, including the one made of your donation.
Meals (members only)
  • Sunday - Boiled unicorn, whose flesh cures sickness. 1s
  • Monday - Braised manticore in ant milk sauce. Offers insight into a single question. 2s
  • Tuesday - Live pixie fondue. Gain 1 skill advancement against any skill. The pixies will give up many secrets to avoid the cheese pot. 5s
  • Wednesday - Orc brain served in situ. Induces a profound sadness and immunity to all miracles for a week. 1s
  • Thursday - Beef. There is always too much, allowing you to take away 2d6 rations.
  • Friday - Egg hunt! Search the manor for the hidden egg. 1 in 6 chance to be the one to find it. The rich goodness gives you +1 permanent Stamina and an ever increasing gut. 8s
  • Saturday - Brandy and crow's feet. A day for gossip, learn something interesting that's going on. 1s

Too much stock, too little cash. Also too little stock.

People looking to pick up the Undercroft: The POVO free shipping coupon will be active until the end of the Sunday the 26th. I reprinted the out of stock issues, so they're good to go again.

Also the blood stained issue 7 is almost out of stock. I will not be making more of those 'cos they take way too much time and blood.

Show your friends! Buy one for the neighbours! Tell your FLGS they suck!

Planar Cultures

All those noble traits you have? Not inherently noble. All those moral or terrible things you do? Not moral or terrible. Take ambition, for instance; plenty of cultures consider it to be undesirable bordering on anti-social. Some people reading that are sneering and thinking arrogant thoughts. Yes, you would probably be that "leader of men" as the Zuni sarcastically put it. Back in the day they'd stone you as a witch, you know?

To make truly alien cultures we need to accept that what we think is inalienable truth is just a coincidence of time and place. Roll it back all the way to monkeys in trousers, assume the fundamentals go no further and just pick the colour.

The following assumes essentially human. More alien people should be weirder. It is important to remind yourself that these are not people who are repressed, who need to be shown the way, be freed or educated. They are right, what they believe is true, you are weird.


  1. Weaponry is obscene and must be covered. Soldiers might fight naked, since they are basically sluts anyway. They whip off their burkas when trouble starts. Polearms upholstered in tasteful flowery linen.
  2. Energetic greeting. Headbutts, flailing, psychic probe, elaborate hand shakes. Harmless if both parties are good at it. Test etiquette or take damage as club.
  3. To refer to yourself is considered rude. Even doing weird robot talk like "this one" is quite tacky. Huge amount of linguistic acrobatics is required to ask for something "what a handsome sandwich that is" = "can i have that sandwich please". The people are considered very attentive to others' needs, but really they're just being pragmatic since no one can ask for anything.
  4. Displays of emotion are rude to the point of being non-existent. People smile and function normally, but showing sincere feeling is not done. Private lives might be rife with exuberant vented emotion, or it may bleed over into the bedroom. Possibility of traditional emotion, such as polite clapping, laughing at set intervals.
  5. A body part is considered highly sexual. 1-noses 2-ears 3-eyebrows 4-tongues 5-fingers 6-nails 7-elbows 8-backs 9-knees 10-toes 11-heels 12-rolltwice. 50/50 chance they will kept covered and subject to taboo and modesty, or exaggerated. Think prosthetics, makeup, revealing clothes. Thickly drawn on eyebrows, crotch extensions.
  6. Wearing shoes is disgusting. Poor people wear shoes for work, but usually just walk about with filthy, calloused feet. Rich people might have teams of servants picking clean the road ahead of them, taking forever to walk anywhere. Regular foot baths. Every house has at least a small muddy foot bath at the door.
  7. Noteworthy peculiarity in greeting. Kissing (consider: kissing foreheads, eyes, noses, ears. Asymmetrical, one kisses the nose, one the chin. Hierarchical implications). Exposure (lifting hats, raising/dropping trousers, flapping aside your cape. These actions may have lost the physical object they were associated with, thus lifting your cap is now an odd salute).
  8. Dancing/singing/comedy/theatre as routine parlour entertainment. Performed by attendees of meals or parties as matter of course. They may be improvised or may draw from a rich selection of traditional routines.


  1. Homogeneous. Everyone wears very similar outfits, or of similar materials, or a single colour. Maybe all clothes are made of wound rope or they all wear fezs and blue spectacles.
  2. Clothes optional. Nudity is casual and met with indifference. This may be limited to a gender or age group. Naked old ladies.
  3. Mutilation is common. Piercings, tattoos, fashionable dismemberment. Removal of nose/ear/eye.
  4. Everyone covered everything. One random body part is considered acceptable to be shown. Probably eyes or hands. Consider more exciting things than burkas, like ninjas or thickly wrapped togas where the people look like balls of wool with knitting needles in. This may be due to beliefs in modesty or just fashion.
  5. Pets. Common to use live animals as fashion accessories. This may be practical, like having a hawk to keep away pigeons, or purely display, like teaching a ferret to drape around your neck.
  6. The sexes are very different. Roll them completely separately. Very distinct look and expectations. In this culture cross-dressing will be possible and more common/prominent. Explore that possibility, consider implications.
  7. Hair is manipulated heavily. Held firm with animal blood or specific coloured mud. Total hairlessness as a sign of beauty. Kept huge with elaborate metal frames. Covered in dead animals. Replaced with cloth. Hair topiary, matted into shapely "hats".
  8. Nudity as social scale. The rich wear nothing while the poor dress in endless filthy layers. Nudity represents the access to warmth? The opposite may be true, where the rich wear clothes 'cos it's valuable, the poor are prevented. Like the the old Imperial Purple. Origins or traditions may be misty. Skin painting a distinct possibility.


  1. Families are communal under a patriarch/matriarch/location/street/date of birth. Blood relatives are not considered noteworthy.
  2. Marriage does not exist. Unions are like friendships, improvised, sprawling, personal
  3. All social engagement is official. Marriage ceremonies, friend ceremonies, enemy ceremonies. Most significant interactions must be played out within the confines of a relationship or else is considered illegal/immoral.
  4. Men/Women collect partners as a sign of fertility/wealth/power. Large families, easily enters hundred of grand children. What do the many single people of the dominant sex do? Underclass? Ruling class? Workers? Exiled? Killed? What are the interactions between families?
  5. Clans of extended families. Family name carries a lot of weight.
  6. Families have historical subservient families. Complicated interrelations and dependencies. Entire subclass of bureaucrats are needed to maintain this.
  7. Gender is determined by familial role. Between 3 and hundreds. Consider the multiple partner marriages: as the Xs marry large numbers of Ys the Xs left without the chance to marry become Zs. Circumcisions can change things, dress can be involved, soldiers might be a gender of their own, renouncing traditional gender states in favour of big soldier orgies.
  8. Stringent child screening. Babies aren't named until a certain test (physical or spiritual) is passed. Babies are left out for the wolves, the uneaten are taken in. Babies are submerged in chaos matter, causing them to be peculiar like everyone else.
  9. Pregnant women are sent to special pregnant towns, where everyone is pregnant. Run by mothers of miscarriages? Priests? Public pregnancy is likely either taboo, or obscene.
  10. Everyone is raised by the government. The king/pope/mayor is their father. Blood ties do not exist. Very patriotic.


  1. Flower wars. Ceremonial warfare is conducted. This will have different rules to all out war, set places, set traditions, set methods and purposes.
  2. Champions. Two individuals fight, or small ceremonial "armies" of 5 guys. With this sytem soldiers would be useless. Hero culture, stables of heroes being trained for war. Small handfuls of them. Live like sumo wrestlers. Maybe they sumo wrestle?
  3. Hill of the king. Wars end when the leader dies. Battles are mainly attempts to get to them. Kind of like a rugby match with two balls.
  4. Auction. Mercenaries long ago replaced standing armies. You won by having the best mercenaries the longest. In time people cut out the middle man and just competed on who could throw away the most money.
  5. No soldiers, only mobs. The leader raises a rabble many thousands strong and they rabble on over to their enemy.
  6. Coup only. Assassins are sent to infiltrate and kill en masse. Might be people or just politicians. Carries on until surrender, each side assassinating like mad.
  7. Monster hunters. The only military is grizzled monster hunters who track down the gnarliest cthonic beasts to unleash on their enemies.
  8. Seasonal. Wars are a matter of course. If you don't have an enemy you make one for a few months and go home.

Cherished Attitude

  1. Sincerity. As long as what you do is done sincerely it is considered acceptable. If murder is done sincerely people may sincerely prevent you from doing so, but it is not evil.
  2. Hospitality is of primary importance. Welcome to homes, many traditions of protection or service.
  3. Peace. Anger, ambition, any conflict is considered extremely harmful. Those pushing too hard against the peace are evil. Retaliation to those breaking peace may be very hostile. Executions, trials, banishment.
  4. Ambition. Personal success is a priority. If you must harm others in you ascent it is okey as long as you win. Lots of business, war is common, retention of arms and power is desired.
  5. Kindness. The integrity of others' feelings is a priority. Politics is slow and gentle, fraught with frustrations.
  6. Secrets. Knowledge shared is knowledge halved. People are respected by the amount of knowledge they might have. Demonstrate it by dripping it out to apprentices. Gain apprentices in exchange for favours. Currency of secrets.
  7. Violence. Physical dominence is prime. If you can overpower an opponent you are correct. This may be personal power or the ability to accumilate those with it to your side.
  8. Piety. Religious sincerity, or just knowledge or trappings, is important. A good person is religious, perfectly observes tradition and so on.
  9. Individuality. Strive for uniqueness. Eccentricity loses its meaning among these people. Encourages taste makers, influencing others to imitate for the chance of mirrored originality.
  10. Academic. Being able to talk eloquently on a wide array of subjects. Everyone is learned, or at least capable of appearing so. Problems with half-knowledge being passed off. Pseudo-intellectuals.
  11. Renaissance men. Ability to perform many tasks is respected. Variety and vitality.
  12. Post modern irony. Roll again for the attitude that has been past. That attitude is parroted and mocked, a pale imitation. Some old people might still adhere to it, young people snear.