Beast of Many Backs

Dealing with multiple opponents is often needlessly fiddly. If they are all the same, then why should you think so hard about them? And why, on top of that, should they get that same treatment as a PC would? Symmetry is seductive.

So you come across a room with 7 orcs and they all have slightly different stats, but ultimately close enough.

7x Orcs skill/stamina
  1. 6/5
  2. 5/5
  3. 5/5
  4. 6/6
  5. 5/6
  6. 6/6
  7. 5/6

Instead of rolling for each of them separately, harming each of them separately (and somehow remember which is where), you can just do some maths to them. 

Add all their stamina together, accurately or roughly. Let's go rough and call it 35 stamina.

Pick a skill that represents the groups competence. In this case, I like 6.

Give them 1 attack per absorbed member. So 7.

Now we have :

7x Orcs 6/35 7atks

Roll once for them each turn to generate the groups attack total. Whatever each of the members are doing, this is the number. Ignore fumbles and critical hits, treat them as just being the numbers rolled. It's not as granular as rolling individually, but it does the job.

How do we kill it though? Easy, divide the stamina by (number of members)+1 and kill one of them (and reduce the attacks by one) after each divide after the first.

In our example, it divides into 4 and a bit. Chop it up roughly and call it a day.

This track below is backwards, count down (up?) from 35 and the last dies at 0.
  1. -
  2. -
  3. -
  4. -
  5. DED
  6. -
  7. -
  8. -
  9. -
  10. DED
  11. -
  12. -
  13. -
  14. -
  15. DED
  16. -
  17. -
  18. -
  19. DED
  20. -
  21. -
  22. -
  23. DED
  24. -
  25. -
  26. -
  27. DED
  28. -
  29. -
  30. -
  32. -
  33. -
  34. -
  35. -

Obviously keep anything interesting as a separate monster.


Mental constipation is a bitch.

Fighting Fantasy is not a setting. It is a series of unrelated stories forced to live together, the act creates tension. The tension is where the game is. Bespoke settings lack this, replacing it with accidental or deliberate synergy. Tension resolved, game less fun.

Mechanics in games should be be tidy. Individually beautiful. One should be able to look at the interlocking system and appreciate how pretty it is but also how to take it apart.

Copyright is very complicated. Handle professional advice or discussions of morality by ignoring it when it gets in the way of a good idea.

Settings should leave gaps. The space between places is magic. Maps are inimical to exploration.

Ignorance is fun. Game from the position of an outsider. Create a setting from the perspective of unravelling a strange and dangerous world. Give them Sigil, the literal hub of the wheel, and let the centrifugal action of curiosity take them outwards. Make the experience magical by being ignorant of the truth. Create as you go, focus down to the ground and ignore the big picture. As you explore more elements are added that do not fit. Tension is created.

Point buy systems are terrible.

Death is less fun than an ignoble retirement.

The best dungeon is a room with a box that says "Do Not Touch"

An atmosphere of lightness is lubricant for running your mouth to interesting places. Jokes are often genius creations. The desire to create laughter in others makes us create harder. Horror is funny. Transgression is funny. Horror games aren't real.

Jokes live or die by much harsher standards than precious dour creation. They are therefore stronger.

Have a healthy disinterest in tempo. Genius appears in the gaps.

Don't publish a setting. Publish how you arrived at the setting you didn't publish.

Any novel is better and more useful than a setting book.

Separation of player and GM is desirable. Either side of the wall tends its own garden.

Selling RPG literature is hard. It is much easier if you don't count and pay more. Marketing is a colonial invention.

Is wearing armour a skill?

Blaaaark. Ok, I'm done.

Something Stinks in Stilton is in stock

It's here! It's here!

In the 13th century, Stilton produced amazing cheese. Then the Church came and suddenly the cheese trade died out. Now it’s 1730 and the village of Stilton has started producing great cheese again.
You intend to find out why.

An adventure into darkest Cambridgeshire, for levels 1-3. Compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and most other old fashioned Dungeons & Dragons clones.

Issue #8 of The Undercroft, written and illustrated by +Oli Palmer , with a cover by the inimitable +Anxious P. . 

On sale now at the store amd RPGNow

Initial Thoughts On Itineraries

Thanks to +David Wilkie for his Wiki diving.

Step away from the idea that a map needs to be a survey. Why not, right? The concept of "Map" isn't a fundamental aspect of being human, we made it up. Even our modern maps aren't just sky photos, they've got their own contrivances, an arbitrary level of accuracy more than the one pictured above. Negligible even.

Itineraries tell us where cities or other useful stopping points are, the routes between them, and how long they take. Note, how long, not how far. If the route between Caragnium and Prax goes through a swamp, or the road is poor, or it's a dangerous area that requires careful going, then it will take more time. Just time. The map hardly has any indication of anything otherwise, certainly nothing not within easy reach of the paths. Leave the itinerary and you're on your own.

You can buy these in cities, so they almost always include directions from cities, to cities. Village folk need their wits about them to travel, so they rarely bother.

To generate an itinerary

  1. You get your two places, any two. Let's use cities, since that's most likely.
  2. Roll d3 for how many direct routes there are between them
  3. roll d6 per route for the number of settlements on the way
  4. roll d6 for each settlement - 1-3 village 4-5 stop (fort, tavern, waystation etc.) 6 something weird but traversable (ghost town, bandit canyon)
  5. roll d6 for each connection - 1-4 one day travel 5-6 +one day, roll again
  6. Paint in implied terrain. Anything you could see from the road and use as a directional aid (maps don't care for anything further)

See here, we have two cities linked by 3 routes with 6, 4 and 3 stops on the way. The top route will take a total of 11 days, middle 7 and bottom 7.  Since one is quite a bit longer than the other we can guess there is likely stuff in the way between the top two routes. Some hills here, a swamp there, done.

Now, when you get yourself one of these maps from an itinerant you have to remember they aren't always accurate. Things can change, people can be dumb or liars. Maybe he got it from another traveller and wrote it down wrong? Maybe the road is washed out?

How do we resist marking all the villages and forts and ghost canyons? Easy. If you don't remember a place or a village when you come to do another itinerary it's probably not on the way there. A city will have tons and tons of settlements within reach, it's plausible to not visit the same one twice (unless it's interesting and you remember it vividly).

What about the wilderness? Well it's wild. You know roughly what form it takes so just roll with it from there. No one goes cross country. No one! If you take the party offroad then you just decided to have a capital A Adventure. You may or may not turn up where you wanted. Remember, those trails are only relative to the beginning and end, the parallel paths might as well be on the moon for how accurate they are to each other.