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.

More Godly Bits

How much of the way we deal with religion in RPGs is dictated by its american protestant origins?  Probably all of it that isn't orientalism. Daddy-god, looking after me, giving me gifts when I do good things. "Good" things, rather than "evil".

Typically the trappings change but the relationship doesn't, and the relationship is the interesting part.

On top of this list of divine miracles we can add a further layer of mad-libs:

Priesthood's relationship with god

  1. Antagonistic - The priests prevent the god from awakening, arriving, sleeping, or some other transformation.
  2. Daddy god - He watches over you in a paternal capacity, the priests are bigger brothers to the lay members
  3. Indifferent - The god just is, no need to milk it
  4. Fearful - God is imminent, angry, harmful, barely contained
  5. Paternal - God must be cared for, is weak, dying, wounded
  6. Seeking - God is lost, hiding, sending them somewhere
  7. Businesslike - An exchange of services, exact costs and measures
  8. Intimate - Possession, sex, transubstantiation 
  9. Open - Many gods, specific circumstances only
  10. Casual - Only on Sundays
  11. Shifting - Friendly to violent to indifferent to etc.
  12. Roll twice

Source of priesthood's magic

  1. Taught - Academic traditions, books, teachers, classes
  2. Miracles - Meditation, communing with the deity
  3. Relic - Possession of a single or many objects that grant gifts
  4. Traditions - Ritualistic acts, rote traditions, repetitive work
  5. Drugs - Potions, vision quests, hallucinogenic audiences with the divine
  6. Direct - The god physically instructs

Priesthood's primary relationship with lay worshippers

  1. Non-existant - Priests are cloistered, separate, physically or spiritually distant
  2. Paternal - Guiding, protective, punitive
  3. Gatekeepers - They communicate with god on their behalf
  4. Psychopomps - Ushering worshipper towards an ideal spiritual state, condition, place
  5. Authoritative - Distant leaders, control over every day life, dictators, directors
  6. Political - Spiritual and temporal power combined
  7. Martyrs - Priests suffer, pray, battle demons, on their behalf
  8. Roll twice

Lay worshipper relationship with god

  1. Direct - through prayer, messages in bottles
  2. Indirect - Through priests, designated representatives, animals
  3. Present - Talk directly to a physical god, object, possession
  4. Distant - Works in mysterious ways
  5. Absent - Force of nature, abstract presence, no direct force on single life
  6. Practical - the god is a tangible force that is dealt with as a mundane necessity

Lay worshipper relationship with priesthood

  1. Fear - Superstition, tradition, taboos, or they are dangerous
  2. Love - Admired, worshipped in their own right, sought out
  3. Indifference - The priests do not serve a function for them, only god or other
  4. Practical - Serve a purpose, officiate
  5. Temporal power - Priests occupy a position of actual power over worshipper
  6. Symbolic - maintain temples only, ritualistic engagement
  7. None - the priests are separate entirely, a different level of engagement with god
  8. Community leaders - Practical engagement as advisers, administrators, landowners, businessmen

And now some weird traditions. 

  1. Transubstantiation/symbolic cannibalism
  2. Mortification of the flesh - Drowning, burning, beating, bleeding, mutilation, flagellation, circumcision, foot/skull binding
  3. Burial rites - Post-mortem consumption, burial, sea, worms, magic, alchemical, mummification etc.
  4. Worship of the dead - Saints, mummies, relics
  5. Eating habits - rocks, only one thing, everything but one thing, nothing with eyes, nothing above the ground etc.
  6. Symbolic god - Popes, caliph, festivals, ritual sacrifices
  7. Theatre - Religious recreation, hero quests, passion plays
  8. Anchorage - remote meditation, starvation, walling yourself up and taking questions through a letter box
  9. Holy sites - crusades, pilgrimage
  10. Inherent holiness in a state - Women, men, children, eunuchs, mentally damaged, whores, soldiers, etc. etc.
  11. Holy object - an animal, type of animal, specific object or category of objects
  12. Roll twice

I made some injuries

Following on from this post. They cost about £2 and took 30 minutes. The rules are right there in the discs, the stickers mean you can house rule and mess with them whenever you get bored.

Discs from, who are lovely. Stickers are some random 25mm laser printer sticker sheet off amazon. Got hundreds of them for practically nothing.

I also did the initiative tokens, but there's nothing exciting about looking at discs with numbers on.

Troika is...

... a city on a plate on a mountaintop. The city's governors must maintain balance in all things lest it tip and slide down the mountainside. Sensitive to all forms of unbalance, their building laws are a tangled mess, each brick must be examined and weighed, it's manufacture and origin listed. Ethnic diversity is mandatory, a ghetto could doom the entire city. The government takes it upon itself to form and sponsor metaphysically opposing religious groups. For every fire god there will be a sea lord.

... a city of chains, hanging from a distant source. The buildings are chains, the roads are chains, the doors and windows are chains. Everyone feels the draft, privacy is bought with thick hedges of chains. The dispossessed live up the foundational chains, in the huge arches of their links. The further from the goodly citizens of the base the better.

... diffused. A great forest, scattered buildings, unmapped and reliant on local knowledge and word of mouth to traverse. Directions are sought from old men in doorways who instruct you on changing bird song and leaf shape, to follow the sound of water. Sections come and go, swallowed by nature.

... a dungeon. Gigantic, sprawling and dangerous. The city occupies a certain area, but that certain area shifts like a great slug in response to changing environment. As the east becomes dangerous it organically sprawls west, chambers are vacated and occupied, land is ceded to random encounters.

... in the world giant's eye. From their perspective the city covers the walls of an enormous bowl, able to look out past the rim at the activities of the world giant, progenitor of fire and life and many other important things. This vantage point has made Troika a seat of farseers who spend their days watching the unfathomable sights of the world giant trying to divine the past and future from what they see.

... at the end of time. Its edges crumble into stark nothing. A slice of an ancient city populated by the people of the past who use this unique position to double back on themselves through its many doors.

... the eternal city. It changes with the age but is always a city of doors and crossroads, philosophers, doomed to fail.

... the philosopher city. A mecca for thinkers, who flock to it in hope of the chance to demonstrate their ideas. Every corner has a creature on a box shouting its theories, every back room is occupied by a master and his pupils, the government are the most lauded masters competing for a term of philosophic hegemony.

... the city of the universal congress. The mysterious governors pass down obscure edicts, to collect one of every book, to kill all starlings, to not look East for three days, to not step on the cracks. To live in Troika is to live every day like an eccentric parlour game or ritual. Despite their apparent lunacy, the city is prosperous and safe, its edicts effecting beneficial change in the most sideways manner.

What have wargames been up to?

Common knowledge: RPGs are an offshoot of wargames.

Chit: A wargame specific term for a counter or token.

We should steal all the knowledge they have hoarded and fold it back in to their bastard child. So to that end, have Chit-Pull for Lamentations of the Flame Princess:

Chit-pull Initiative

Each participant in a battle has a specific chit assigned to them. Players might have long standing, unique ones, while enemies will be numbered arbitrarily. Alternatively, just number everyone in a list.


  1. Bob the paladin
  2. Frank the wizard
  3. Suzy the thief
  4. orc A
  5. orc B
  6. orc C
  7. orc D
To determine whos turn it is, draw a chit. Whichever character is associated with the chit pulled gets to have their turn.

The GM pulls out a 5, so orc B takes a turn. He then pulls a 3, indicating that it is Suzy's turn.

This process continues until the chits are exhausted, at which point you pile them all in again, minus anyone who died.

Chit-pull Injuries

Remove hitpoints. Instead, when your AC is beaten you pull a chit from a bag of 20 possible results, as follows:

Stunned (x2) vs. paralyse 
Character can't take any further actions until he recovers. 

Killed (x1)
Character is dead. Make another.

Pressed (x5) vs. breath
The character is pressed and on the defensive. May not move or escape, though he may fight. 

Shaken (x2) vs. magic
-1 AC until recovered.

Unnerved (x2) vs. best save
No effect. 

Panicked (x2) vs. poison
+1 AC and cannot attack until recovered. 

Overwhelmed (x5) vs. breath
Character is overwhelmed by the assault. -2 to attack rolls.

Berserk (x1) vs. best save
The character is incensed, gripped by the thrum of battle. +2 AC, +2 attack.

A character may hold 2+conMOD chits without dying. Once this number is surpassed that character is dead.

Chit-pull injuries - Recovery

The player may spend a turn taking an appropriate action related to an injury chit upon him, be that stopping bleeding or shaking himself out of it. To do so he rolls the related save. If this is passed they may remove that chit. At the end of a battle they may remove all chits as long as they rest for 10 minutes. If a fresh fight starts before that time they may attempt one recovery roll for free.

How Weapons Are Still Different

  • One handed swords give +1 to all attack rolls
  • Axes ignore shield bonuses
  • Polearms never need to roll higher than 16 to hit
  • Two handed swords are either polearms or swords, as desired.
  • Maces always hit on an 18+
  • Bows get +-dexMOD +-strMOD
  • Crossbows only get +-dexMOD

Ways to make a chit pull pile
Card are pretty easy to use, though not ideal. Shuffling is tedious. Numbered tiles can be bought easily, throw them in a bag and you're good for initiative.

The injuries require either writing on some cards or custom tiles. The rules could be written directly on them, which is handy.

Why the chit-pull system is excellent and we should steal it from those cunning wargames

It's not readily replicatable in any other way. Tables are close, but they don't have the self eliminating aspect of the chit pull; once a result, say an injury, is drawn it is out of circulation until it is dealt with or the owner dies. As a fight continues, longer and longer, there is an escalating risk of the instant death chit coming out, creating tension without any manual tampering. End your fights quickly or someone will lose an eye. 

Between 6 and 8 things

I used to spend late nights sat in a comfortable silence with a good friend on the other end of a headset. I'd do my thing, they'd do theirs. Few people are comfortable being bored together.

8 things you might find in the dead guy's pocket

  1. A piece of string with two knots in it, a reminder of something
  2. A locket with a picture of somebody else's family in it
  3. A ticket for a ferry
  4. Dog treats
  5. Sand
  6. Bunches and bunches of hair, different colours, shreds of scalp attached
  7. A Russian dwarf hamster chewing on something else from this list
  8. A flattened Russian dwarf hamster, crushed in the fall
Usually it's a performance. Nothing controversial about that, not going to put it in my manifesto. You meet up with someone, you do a little dance for each other. It's exhausting though, isn't it?

8 things that happened while you were away
  1. Squatters moved into you home, they're very nice but won't leave
  2. The mayor was outed as a lizard man. Emergency elections have been declared. He is running again, this time as a lizard man.
  3. Your serving maid was turned into a settee by a travelling goblin leatherworker
  4. Gremlins have infested your thatch
  5. A cult who worship a prophetic goat have followed it into town and protect its rambling way. They make money by selling audiences.
  6. All of your furniture has been moved. Nothing has been taken, you think.
  7. The ancient prophecy that the dark one would return while you were gone didn't come true. His followers liquidated their secret cult and went legit as a loans company with the assets.
  8. I dunno, your house burnt down or something.
But being bored together was easy. Just two guys struggling to stay alive, doing cool little things, making games, creative subsistence living. And then one day one of them fails to keep on living. What a gyp.

6 ways you could be a better player
  1. No more fights. Don't fight ever again. Passively resist, appeal to their humanity, be the change you want to see.
  2. Decide your character has fallen in love with the villain.
  3. Invest all your adventuring money in real estate
  4. Invest all your adventuring money in charitable works, become the most beloved person in the country
  5. Settle for less
  6. When things get rough just kill yourself
Then you find out things about yourself. About how important that comfortable silence was, and of having someone around who wants nothing from you. I wrote this stuff mainly to get a rise out of him. Offence or a giggle, either way. I lost my audience and I don't really want another.

8 wedding gifts from old friends
  1. Shelac the Circumspect made a familiar that looks just like you, but small, naked and in a cage
  2. The pixie collective gathered up all the pixie dust they can and made a wish that the pair of you'll always be covered in at least a bit of glitter
  3. Go'Ol'o'Ololo the slaad presented you with a box full of hands. One of them was his.
  4. King Ngarund sends you his regards
  5. The mayor presented a box of mysterious eggs
  6. The ghost of your departed party members send their direst warnings
  7. The son of a family you once saved offers his services. He's all grown up
  8. The goblins have made you a settee of one of their grandmas
And what's worse is life goes on. People eventually get weary of sympathy but not enough to just go away. It's all so sad-sad-so-sad until something I'm led to believe is just normal and the done thing is required. Come do this, go do there, wake up, don't starve, justify why we should keep paying you. No?

The 6 layers of hell
  1. The Hall of Records. A series of small to very large rooms full of chairs. Somewhere there will be a window at which you can get the correct rites to pass through to the next. Cities and wildernesses are found in these, but to travel anywhere requires paperwork.
  2. The Tiger's Banquet. A continent sized party. Very formal, the rules change rapidly and spread like a ripple. Anyone failing to maintain small talk is devoured by the other guests, who are forbidden to eat from the tables until the host arrives. He never will.
  3. Jangling Solitude. Iron boxes on chains, hung in darkness. The insides are lit to better reveal the hopelessness of it. Anyone escaping their box will discover an expanse of them hanging from some unseen ceiling. Falling will drop you, quite literally, in to some new hell.
  4. The Sorting House. All of the unworthy dead are sorted according to height, each to a separate layer. They are then packed into rooms of exactly their height, nose to nose, heads scraping ceiling, unmoving for eternity.
  5. The Garden of Imminence. Appears to be a leisure garden where demon mingle with the damned. All the people look haunted, in contrast to their pleasant environment. Each of them awaits a fate they know is coming. An indistinct dread haunts them. The demons sample it like a rose.
  6. The Field of Want. A great snowy expanse where the demons keep their regal homes. The damned wander the snow naked, freezing but never dying. The demons wander about in many layers of furs, demanding foul acts and entertainments for the chance to sit by their fires.
It's nothing new. Old hat. We all die alone. I could take a lesson from this whole thing. Selfishly, ghoulishly, turn it into a lesson. But it's meaningless. It doesn't get better, it just changes. Don't let them lie to you.

Backgrounds and books

I am not a fan of knowledge or social skills in RPGs. They give strange results and are usually either junk or used to hand wave some juicy jibber-jabber (whoever came up with the 3.5 concept of the diplomancer should feel bad). However expecting players to come to the table with game-world knowledge, or even the awareness of what knowledge their characters should have, is unfair.

To fix this I'm using backgrounds. Talked about them before, simple things. Everyone gets a random one that determines what they were before they came to the game, what they should know. If the player is from the College of Friends then they might recognise a wizard at the party, a gremlin catcher would have all kinds of useful knowledge about sewers, necromancers can tell how long that guy's been dead, and so on. It's vague and implied.

It's not important that we know exactly how exhaustive a necromancer's CSI skills are until we start questioning it. The questions a player thinks to ask will shape the accepted remit, the GM will feel out what's too far as things proceed. A happy level will be settled upon.

There are no grades of smartness. If the necromancer is an obvious buffoon it goes one way, if he's a committed corpse fiddler it goes another.

Further knowledge is up to the players to stumble upon either organically through play or by study. Books come with a comprehension level, roll equal or higher to get an answer out of it. Go grab the book, take a 20 minute break, try to find that page you know was in here. If you find it the GM may answer your question, if the book covers that kind of thing. Or maybe a wandering monster will interrupt your study time. A good sized book will probably do D2 damage.

It's very common to find adventurers with well worn bestiaries and geological surveys strapped to their backs.

The City in the Middle of the Road

The City is not inevitably a city, not in the metaphysical way the inner planes are all fiery or wet. That is to say, it isn't an elemental representation of essential City-ness any more than London is. Rather it is a useful place at a convenient confluence, and you can't be much more convenient than a spot that is between everything.

In the shadow of its walls it's all packed buildings on top of buildings from incongruous worlds and ages. Men, demons and wayward gods walk its streets Nothing overly surprises those that live there for long.

The gates stand open, rusted on their hinges. The sand blows in along with the people, touts stand ready to greet them. Water and answers in exchange for whatever secret riches the lost brought with them. "This isn't heaven nor is it hell. This is Troika at the Middle of All Things. Now sate your thirst and tell me, from where do you come and what do you want?" They can be confident in their bargaining since anyone who knows the road knows the path and enter like any civilised fellow: through the closed doors.

Planar Time Dilation

So Planescape loved its taxonomies and endless demystifying, but they never mentioned time dilation. When it is 9am in Sigil, what time is it in Dis? Two twins left home, one twin moved to Arborea and another to Mechanus, when they meet again many years later will they be of equivalent age?

 To help think about it, we need to decide on a measuring stick. Using the old rubber sheet analogy is difficult, since the planes don't have our universe of space and stars rolling around on it. No good thinking like that then. What about vortex theory? Spacetime enters from the centre of all solid matter, diffusing from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration. The point of highest concentration also coincides with a zone of lowest entropy, the past. All energy then proceeds to a zone of high entropy, the future. The flow is time.

 More suitably mysterious and mystical I think. Entropy manifests as the ragged edge of nothing, nibbling at existence, watched over by the horizon knights in their roaming fortresses. To the knights time moves quickly while they watch the nothing, circling the planar sink. In the city at the heart of creation time hardly moves at all, giving its citizen a unique vantage and the leisure of philosophising and discussing the minutiae of life, the universe and everything. When the discussions come to talking about the outside world one can pass through a portal, spend years investigating first hand, and be back in time for next week's meeting of minds.

 You couldn't create robust rulings for time without explaining the universe to death, but knowing that The City is almost static and the outer edges are roiling rapids allows an amount of sense. In practise consider the time of another plane to be completely disconnected to the one you stand on and with only the centre holding. While the party's activity is in one place they can rely on their sense of time and space, if they leave time moves at the speed of drama.

Character Backgrounds in Troika

Been quiet 'cos I've been busy. Let's talk about a part of that.

Troika is an RPG I'm writing. A revision of first edition Advanced Fighting Fantasy mixed with the Planescape I imagined existed when I only owned a couple of books for it.

It turned out my imaginary Planescape was more exciting than the generally stodgy fare we ended up getting. The early books hinted at vast worlds of weirdness, but then every writer who came after tried their hardest to stomp it into boxes, to categorise and order everything. Labels everywhere, nothing felt far away or mysterious. If you wanted an answer you just needed to buy their next book for it to be explained in painfully uninspired detail. Harumph!

So, ambient story telling. No essays on the definitive categories of demons, just rules and gaps to be filled. Every character made in Troika gets a random background like the two below:

Temple Knight of Telak the Swordbringer
You were once a fanatical monk, set to maintain constant martial readiness in preparation for the end times when all doorways crumble inwards.

The blessing of Telak
6 weapons of choice, kept in pristine condition and carried at all times
(Telak will withdraw his blessings otherwise)
Suit of scale armour
Traditional skull plate, affording you excellent vision for watching out for the end of days

3 in three fighting skills of your choice
3 Awareness

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,experiencing the finest culinary delights possible.

All dining 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, for crushing (as knife)
Embroidered napkin

1 Strength
2 Tracking
2 Trap Knowledge

They're packages, taking away the un-fun hassle of buying skills or making important decisions in a setting that is terribly vague until contact is made. Empirical campaign knowledge only, mechanical knowledge taken out of your hands. Each background gives the player a point to work from, immediately encourages fun (rather than un-fun) decision making on how they interact with the world. They can decide how Miss Kinsey's Diner's Club functions just by rubbing their character against the world. If the GM comes at it with no great vantage point they end up building in the gaps as much as the player. Which is exciting.

What's more, my Diner's Club and others' will differ greatly. It's not pinned down by essays and rules. We know they are stronger than average, they're good at tracking and trapping, and they all have weird mechanical teeth. Why they have these and how they use them is implied broadly enough for the player to come at it however they fancy.

Prompts are powerful and useful. Once there are a couple of hundred of these you'll have a broad spectrum of what the game world is about. We can use sections of it and form our knowledge from just those pieces, triangulate a bit of game world for ourselves without labouring under a weight of words. More is there for you if you want it, and every point you add multiplies the possible interactions between them, until eventually you finally have something that is very much your own. A wider planescape.