Some Ways of Killing D&D People

We live in a world without hitpoints. Death is not a certain countdown.

  1. Smash Bros HP. Play D&D as normal but add your damage up. When your damage passes a threshold, save or die. Roll d100 and roll over your damage total or die. Do this every subsequent instance of getting hurt.

    Maybe use the old HD as the threshold. Like, wizards start testing at over 4 damage. Or alternatively save every time they take damage, screw the bookkeeping.
  2. I'M THE FUCKING DADDY system. Standard HP, except they are now how you hit things. Gamble your HP as dice. Each HP spent lets you roll a die, but keep the same number as you usually would. Rolling to hit, spend 3 HP, roll 3d20 and pick the best one. Spend 8, roll 8, keep 1 and so on. All violent action takes energy.At 0 HP you are at the whims of the enemy. They can automatically kill you, or the DM can have them do something else, like kidnap you or chop your arms off.

    Damage works like normal, but use HP to roll the dice.

    Probably wanna increase HP pools a bit.
  3. DAMAGE DICE EXPLODE. The d4 knife is now interesting

Unsure death is fun. Having a sense of impending doom is fun. Knowing you can take a couple of shots is too comfortable. Turning your life resource into currency is exciting.

What's up my droogs?

What's happening, what's going to happen, who are we, what are we, where is that, why are that, where do?

Calm down.

Firstly this is very important:

Talking about your blog is boring, but this blog is fine and as alive as it ever was. I'll be here in my spare time between helping other people make things real.

I care about politics a lot but I'm not gonna talk about it with any seriousness in public 'cos others do culture war a lot better. Assume everyone who is obviously a shitlord sits comfortably on my shitlist.

I am too busy, but fine I'll be the ambassador of the OSR.

I figure since I talk to myself while I'm working I might as well do it on Twitch and make a spectacle of myself. I even have a cat that won't fuck off, people love that right?

G+, the only social media platform that wasn't complete and utter shite, is on its way out. You can just stay here, I'll keep you company. Or go to Discord and harass me in retro relay. Follow me on other platforms if you like, but they'll be mostly shitposts and self promotion (you know, like absolutely everything else on them)

I'm going to have a table at Dragonmeet on the 1st of December. Come and say hi.

Business plan for the Melsonian Arts Council:

  • Make books forever and never stop
  • Earn enough money to pay the bills
  • Earn more money than hype-man invaders
  • Win more prizes
  • Become insufferable egomaniacs
All work in progress.

HEY, you know what still exists? THE UNDERCROFT! 
Do you write weirdo D&D stuff for funsies?
Wanna tidy it up enough to be published in a trashy periodical?
Wanna get paid 3p a word for it? (don't have to google it, bad rate but more than the publisher will be getting)
Then tell me about it and we'll talk.

Art Preservation

Here, have a list of excellent artists that I have had reason to interact with.
 This was maintained on G+ but somebody decided to ruin that. For now I'm just cutting and pasting it here but I'll tart it up later.

 +Evlyn M -
 +Matthew Adams -
 +Simon Forster -
 +Claytonian JP -
 +Jeremy Duncan -
 +Jim Magnusson -
+Sean Poppe -
 +Anxy Anxy -
 +Nicolò Maioli -
 Louise Perfect, who doesn't do the internet (I can get you in touch if you want) +Oli Palmer -
 +Andrew Walter -
+Jason Sholtis -
 +cecil howe -
 +Dirk Detweiler Leichty -
 +Courtney Campbell -

Troika: Numinous Edition 24 hour warning


This is the obligatory 24 hour reminder, and then we can all take a breather.

The Troika! Numinous Edition Kickstarter is 24 hours from ending. We've unlocked the Plastic Sea and maxillae slurping vampires, along with an expanded bestiary.
Here's a list of things we currently aren't getting
  • An adventure on The Wall by ENnie award winning Andrew Walter
  • A book of Kafkaesque nightmares by critical darling Jeremy Duncan.
  • The Troikan Guide to Chromatic, Metallic & Pseudo Pigs.
  • And more art!
Who knows? We pray for pigs. Deus ex social media!

Troika! Numinous Edition Kickstarter is live

Details in the Kickstarter. Give me money, me and my friends will make a book. It'll be a good book.

You guys know Troika! though, you're reading this after all. However I'm cashing in all the karma I've accumulated from not being that guy hanging about forums and suggesting Troika! whenever someone so much as mentions something slightly appropriate to it. If this game or anything we've made has been significant to you in any way then I kindly ask that you shove this campaign in peoples' faces, tell them what you think about the game, saturate the nerd world. Tell all your podcast friends that I'm an interview hoot. I dunno, improvise.

Redjade Embassy

Ambassador Reapget 5/7/2
Spell: Slide Skyward

Reapget is a thick necked and affable man, dressed in a sackcloth decorated with red stones. His hat of office, begrudgingly donned when with company, is a huge bored out red rock. Only one staff member, an old secretary that mostly keeps the fire warm and gets the shopping in. A fine office, now very homely. Clothes hang across the room on improvised washing lines, extra mismatched comfortable chairs have been added to the original furniture around the fire. Desks are used as shelves for potted plants. 47 red tone Redjade coins distributed evenly among the sides of comfortable chairs. A tin of coffee. Three fine chiming stones.

RUMOUR: One of the animals in the Vaulted Animarium is actually a cokcroached deputy alcalde

Main directory

Precious Gem Tree

Full map

Precious Gem Tree
Plump Remains 7/10/5
Spell: Earthquake

Plump Remains is excitable, prone to oaths, and boneless. The grocery is open to the street, colourful, and fragrant. He imports seasonal fruits from all over the spheres, but has a particular love of artichokes and will expound upon their virtues. 5p/lb of fruit. Minor glamour on the display stands, visitors must test their luck or buy one provision's worth of fruit. Always busy, all variety of customer, high and low, though popular with tourists.

RUMOUR: The Tsar of River Stately is about to arrive in town, his legions of fans will undoubtedly erupt.

RUMOUR: A shipment of poorly made dwarves has gone missing on the way to the incinerators. The dwarves do not care.

Hastorus Demagoguery

Haitif Hastorus 9/16/1 (1)
Spell: Babble

Bloated almost spherical man. Dressed in a rubber suit covering everything but his bald and lumpen head. Shop is full of books recording speeches throughout history. 4 in 6 chance any given speech is present. Many mirrors, some full length and covered in thick cloth. You can see all of the shop in any one mirror. Drawer full of needles and cotton balls. Bottle of bonal behind a book on alternative history speeches, along with three glasses of unique design. Charges 100p for consultation, 5p per word written, 658p per hour of live demagoguery. 1 in 6 chance he is drunk, 1 in 6 chance his mouth is blistered and unable to speak only write.

RUMOUR: A gang of fish-people plan to kidnap the Bishop of Barley at his sermon in the Plaza of Time this afternoon.

Bit O' Troika

A neighbourhood of Troika, notable for its traditionally constructed goblin labyrinth and the presence of a mustering ground for the clockwork army.

Click to see a big version

Alcalde Station Juniper - F5
Cuboidal Roses - D4
Court of the Summer King - B6
Group of Seventeen - E6
Hastorus Demagoguery - E6
Hugefish - E7
Jasper's Fine Mare - F4
Owl Street - H7
Pittsworth Teethery - G5
Precious Gem Tree - C6
Redjade Embassy - C5
Royal Copyists Charter - F2
Temple of All-Gods - E8
Vaulted Animarium - G3


Court of the Summer King - B6
Redjade Embassy - C5
Precious Gem Tree - C6
Cuboidal Roses - D4
Group of Seventeen - E6
Hastorus Demagoguery - E6
Hugefish - E7
Temple of All-Gods - E8
Royal Copyists Charter - F2
Jasper's Fine Mare - F4
Alcalde Station Juniper - F5
Vaulted Animarium - G3
Pittsworth Teethery - G5
Owl Street - H7

Troikan Bumble-Logic

When running interplanar games reduce time and space to an abstract narrative tool. While the party stays in close spatial and temporal proximity to something, such as a town or an NPC, they will not change. However if the party hasn't seen a memorable NPC (etc.) for suitably long time then change them slightly, add something or take it away, alter their memory of the party (this has the side effect of aiding the forgetful GM by allowing them to claim their misremembering is canon).

Consider: Recurring NPC Shoutpurple, a prominent homeless person keyed in to the local goings on through his close ties with other homeless people. Has endeering delusions of grandeur and always invites the players in for formal tea in his upturned barrel he lives in.

Time has passed, players have either travelled a long way and or forgot about him. When they get back Shoutpurple is in charge of the secret police and heading a furious witch hunt. He still has delusions of grandeur and is incredibly polite to the players. One thing has changed and recontextualizes the others. This is not a transition in his or anyone else's eyes, he always was this.

We're putting on a fake mustache.

When re-shuffling people it's most satisfying to keep it small. Change their name slightly (Shoutpurple is Shoutyellow), or give them a job, have them forget the players, or re-use their image as someone completely different.

With places, push them forwards or back through the timeline, change the name, replace the inhabitants with flump-people.

Keep enough sense to move the game along and not confuse everyone terribly. Build up a catalogue of unique symbolic devices that will help place the players.

Consider: You use pigs as a device on Shoutpurple's secret police badges, they are nicknamed pigs. Pigs can recur as objects of oppression and violence. A person owning a pig could turn out to be the killer all along. Pig-in-boots is a notorious sapient-consumer and diabolist. Undermine the pattern occasionally like we do with the Christian symbolism we use so reflexively.

Have events play themselves out again and again. Consider all the Christian patterns used: death and rebirth, brother killing brother, and other things a more competent writer could tell you. Figure these events out by picking up on something the players respond well to. Maybe they throw Shoutyellow off a roof to end his reign of terror. Have that become a standard way to dispose of tyrants, have them go to a town where that is the standard method of executing shoplifters and so on.

We don't need a plan in mind when placing these narrative devices, just use them. They will either snowball and gather up meaning and weight or they will wither naturally. Using them too deliberately will make the game predictable and possibly eye-rolling. Imagine you put a Jesus analogue in every campaign you run. Yea, like that, don't do it.

This should be easy. Easier than tracking time and places and names would be. When the players decide to return to some interesting place they visited a year ago you don't need to know the exact details of what happened and what happened in the interim, you just need to reacquaint yourself with the feel of it and build something new. If they look up old friends maybe they are exactly as they left them, maybe they are gone, maybe they have changed beyond recognition. And change isn't permanent, they can go back.

Your world is plastic.

Finally, consider the meta-textual possibilities of building your own bank of devices. You end one campaign completely, you and your players start another. You introduce pigs, the players all laugh about that time with the pig where you threw it off the roof. You then either reinforce that or you undermine it and have them reassess it. If you've done well you have a pocket full of these things you can throw out that will communicate in a secret language you and your players have built up. The sense and logic of the world is a step removed from the surface; we are not looking for mundane links between places and things but symbolic. You and your players are magicians.

D6 places you got in the middle of

  1. Troika green rooms. Arrive in the green rooms of troika, brightly painted streets designated for use by visitors not in possession of the correct and ever changing passes and permits. The area is small and rife with controversy. The spider bank offers papers of passage for an extraordinarily high price, allowing honest visitors to earn their way in. They are however forbidden to work without a permit. The easiest way to get a work permit is to work for the state. The Congress of Animals sets jobs which typically include repainting streets a different colour or demolishing a building. Typically multiple groups have been set to the same task with differing colours, or are set to repair or rebuild that which you are breaking. The constables insist the Congress did not make a mistake and all work orders are as intended.
  2. War Sphere. The north and south hemisphere hate each other and have stripped the planet bare with their war. The origin of the war is something mundane like a border or trade dispute that escalated due to a few extreme actors. War crimes pile up on both sides, everyone is justifiably (and irrevocably) hateful towards one another and eager to enlist help. Hex crawl. Terrain is minefields, open ground/sniper alleys, quiet killing fields, shattered towns (25% chance occupied by a field command), active battlegrounds. These guys are using huge cthonic barges, flyers, heat weapons, psionic nukes, null bombs.
  3. Palace of tigers. Hex crawl. Palatial rooms, solariums, halls, grand dinning rooms, water features, scent gardens, kitchens, towers (where up can lead to another ground floor). And endless palace that shifts through styles and one travels and makes little sense. The place is always clean and the cupboards are always stocked in the "wilderness". Non-wilderness is occupied by carnivalesque courts, each grander and more ridiculous than the last. People farm the fruit gardens and scavenge the dining halls.
  4. The inner world. An inverted sphere, where life is on the inside. Inner sun, dinosaurs probably, large wilderness with isolated groups of marooned sailor civilisations. The only way to get off this sphere is to get outside, and to get outside you have to go through the crust. The crust is occupied by an advanced civilisation of rubber-clad anti-personality conformists who know nothing about the inner world and rightfully think their sphere is a lifeless rock.
  5. The Living Room. A sphere that consists of a single room, about the size of a typical lounge. Every time it is visited there is a different monologue or kitchen sink drama occurring (50/50). The inhabitants can enter and leave the room but no-one can follow them; anyone leaving will end up where they came from. The inhabitants will monologue and not acknowledge anything outside of the context of their drama, doing mental acrobatics to fix or ignore it. The place is harmless, and harm rarely finds its way inside. Few people know about it and it's hard to get in to. The atmosphere is comforting and slightly smothering. Put on an Allan Bennett play if you can't muster the angst or twee to do it. The dramas often communicate useful truths.
  6. Sun Chaser. Sunny desert hex crawl. Assemble your typical fantasy hexcrawl except there are no ancient well used towns. The towns that exist are indeed ancient, but the people there are effectively squatting in well kept ruins. All civilisation is nomadic, constantly outpacing the night, in which you all shall surely die. Every week in-game time the night covers the easternmost hex column. The night is cold, totally dark (the only light is what you bring), and full of monstrosities. Each nomadic group has different ideas about what's going on, though they all agree it wasn't always like this. Once a year (so somewhere near a century our time) the day reveals the source of the sinister night, or the origin point, or at the very least something that offers hope to crazy adventurers. Consider: the land is barren and desert-like near the dawn and becomes lush and pleasant as evening closes (plants and animals have time to re-grow in time for the night).

D6 Things You Saw in the Window While Passing

  1. They are boarded up, but not in an unsightly manner. The wood is fine grained and varnished.
  2. The resident, a yellow and blue fellow of an amorphous nature, leans out of the window and talks to its more recognisably hominid neighbours. You feel that you have seen an inappropriate amount of flesh, but you can't be sure by how much.
  3. An alchemist, chemist, or possibly just a collector of caustic fluids is angrily clearing out their apartments by hurling their possessions in to the street. Some chitinous children are playing in the rainbow puddles, while other softer people are nursing colourful welts.
  4. An elderly person in a dusty gown speaks meaningfully at the people who walk by. The window remains shut and no one hears. Anyone approaching will be met with angrily closed curtains.
  5. The curtains move like kelp, the light enters the room thickly and shimmers. There is vivid moss under the sill, and you swear there are nicknacks floating about inside.
  6. Seven fellows in large padded coats innapropriate to the weather dance around in circles, stomping and running until they bump together and roll around laughing. They repeat this over and over, but invite anyone who interrupts them in for a quiet interlude of tea and backgammon.

D&D more Troika

Following on from my previous post on making initiative enjoyable (and arguably more realistic*) I've got the comprehensive and very complicated way you can make D&D fit better.

  1. Use that initiative system
  2. Attack rolls are contested, with the winner dealing damage
  3. AC is replaced by damage reduction

Some armour DR:

Full plate - 8
Half-Plate/Chain/splint/whatever flexible metal bullshit you have going on - 4
Padded/leather/cloth/etc etc - 2

Shields might add 1DR or +1 in combat rolls. Or both? Shields are pretty great.

Feel free to add DR ignoring rules for bludgeoning weapons, and also make it so grappled enemies do not receive the protection of their armour (pin them down and stab them in the eye holes)

Anything that might otherwise increase your AC instead increases DR

* Realism doesn't matter, but have you been in a real brawl? Or some sort of emergency situation? People choke, step up, fall over, and otherwise don't take turns.

Troika! Initiative Rules

(UPDATE: The cards exist and can be owned now)

This initiative system can replace most I-go-you-go style initiative arrangements in role-playing games without much fuss. You need the following:

  • Two identical cards for each player character
  • One card that signifies the end of the turn
  • An abundance of one card to signify henchmen
  • An abundance of one more card to signify enemies 

When a fight breaks out you gather up the player cards, the end of round token, henchman tokens equal to the number of henchmen present, and a number of enemy tokens equal to the total initiative value of all enemies. Shuffle these.

Draw a card, the owner of the drawn card acts. If the end of round card is drawn you gather up all the tokens and start again.

Player tokens

Each player gets two. You could play with this for spells that speed up or slow down, but generally don’t fiddle with it too much. (delayed actions, aiming)

Enemy tokens

When you draw an enemy token any enemy may act. This means that a single enemy can perform multiple actions in a given round, even above the number of initiative tokens they contribute. Assume this represents the bolstering effect of having leader-sorts around, or lots of their friends. In practise the GM is encouraged to not use this to purely mechanical advantage, but in a way that makes sense and is enjoyable for everyone.


Each henchman contributes one token. When a henchman token is drawn the GM must take an action for any one henchman present. They can take instructions from the players but are not obliged to follow them, henchmen are people too.

End of round card

If the end of round card is drawn then all cards, including the end of round card, are put back in the stack. Resolve any per round or end of round activities such as magic effects, fire, poison or bleeding out, remove any cards belonging to dead or absent participants, then draw another card and carry on.


On your turn you may decide to take aim with your ranged weapon. To do so, declare you are aiming and hold onto your initiative card. When your next initiative card is drawn you shoot, rolling twice and picking the best roll. If the end of round token comes up and you haven’t used your aim action you may decide to hold on to your aim token or abandon your action and put it back in the stack.

Delay an action

You may choose not to act when you hold initiative, in which case you put the token back in the stack. This increases your chances of acting later, but does not guarantee it.

Converting initiative from other games

Enemies contribute to a communal pool of enemy initiative equal to their initiative value, representing the broad press of opposition. Initiative doesn't just represent physical speed, but also confidence of action, bravery and general quick wits. Place your monster on a spectrum, with 1 being a cowardly goblin or a brain dead zombie, 3 being a charismatic captain, 5 being an ancient manticore, and 8 being a dragon who can literally see the future. Place your bad guys in there, trying to stick to 1-3 for the most part, and don’t be afraid to tamper with them if you feel you’ve made a mistake. The system is spongy and forgiving, feel it out until you can confidently throw numbers about.

Converting initiative tampering effects from other games

In general you do not want to tamper with the number of cards anyone uses too much, however sometimes you need to show how fast or slow someone has become. In the caste of a sped up participant, let them use a third (or fourth etc.) card as an additional initiative card for the round (or as many rounds as are required). To slow them, do the opposite. Be strict with round counting, since this might cause them to not see much benefit/hindrance from their alterations before it resolves itself. Violence is capricious.

Alternatively, if you are insistent on being very very fast, allow them to “recycle” their initiative cards for a turn. By which I mean let them put any initiative they draw back in the stack after using it. This could be a finite number of times or only limited by the passing of rounds. For slowness in this case you could force a player to possess two whole initiative cards to act once. Have them hold onto the first one drawn and let them pray another shows.

Head over to the ongoing Kickstarter if you'd like to see these cards made. Just a slice of money left until we can afford them.

Troika Initiative Cards Kickstarter

We're having a little whip-around to get some cards made for use with Troika! and as an insertable stand-alone chit-pull-style initiative system. They're already drawn and ruled up, so they're definitely a thing that can exist. The Kickstarter is so I can put in a wholesale order and import them from the restrictively local manufacturing centre that DriveThru use for cards. I'd like these to be reasonably available to everyone, not just the US. If the KS fails to raise enough for that then we'll probably sit on them until we can fabricate them elsewhere.

The cards are super simple stuff. Where before we had to recommend people put tokens in a bag or other handy receptacle for initiative, now we can point them to these things which are guaranteed to do the job in handsome purple-ey style. For those already familiar with Troika! they work pretty much as you'd expect but with one small change to how henchmen work (a line of errata will happen).

Kickstarter here:

Free version of Troika here:

POD Troika here:

Print-run Troika here:

The best way you can support Troika! is by playing it.

Where's My Ring?

Mangled by a card,
A drawing of honest attitudes.
Where now?

Oh but for the grace of bookshelves,
They hid them from us,
For the better.

Take them down and don't go further,
The crevices hide multitudes of histories,
Sweetly minted notes of sensations.

Others, unacquainted, will say it happens,
For the best,
For the time being.