Tag Archive for fantasy game

[200 Word RPG] Gambling on the River Styx

Written for the 2017 200 Word RPG challenge. This started as an offhand joke, but became a real game.

Gambling on the River Styx

To cross the river Styx, you owe Charon two pennies. Penniless ghosts play mahjong on the riverbank to win passage.

Place a skeleton nearby. That’s Charon, waiting for you.

Place six matching pairs of coins into a bag. Pass the bag around. When you get the bag, draw one coin and explain why you fear the afterlife. If your coin matches a coin you already have, instead return it and don’t explain. Repeat until the bag empties.

Place the mahjong tiles in the bag. Each player draws five tiles.

Each round, everyone antes a coin into the pot. Draw one tile. Play one tile. Reveal simultaneously.

The highest numbered tile wins the pot. The winner recalls a memory of their life, based on suit:
-Dots: selfishness
-Bamboo: cruelty
-Characters: tragic mistakes

Ties: Split the pot evenly (randomly), leaving the remainder in the pot. Include the other tied players in your memory.

If you play a un-numbered tile, you lose the round. Tell a story about redemption.

If you ever match a pair of coins, you must approach Charon and cross to your afterlife. None know what comes after.

If you have no coins, you shiver on the riverbank for eternity.

[13th Age] More monsters

These were more things I created for my _13th Age_ campaign but never got a chance to use them. Maybe someone else will find some use for them.

1st level kenku necromancer
Initiative +3

AC 12 PD 11 MD 14.
Hollow Bones: Critical threat range for attacks against Contarius is expanded by 2.
HP: 12

Black dagger Melee basic. +3 vs. AC; 1d4+2 negative energy damage and Contarius gains temp HP equal to the escalation die.

Ghostly Swarm: Ranged spell, at-will. +5 vs MD; 1d4+4 ongoing negative energy damage. The subject has to take a standard action to swat away the spirits, allowing them to roll a normal save (11+). Miss: 1 damage.

Summon Undead: Daily, creates 1d3+1 crumbling skeletons

Deathknell: Enemies nearby Contarius die if they have 5 hp or fewer, and Contarius or a nearby ally heals 1d6 HP.

Flock Together: Allies attacking an enemy engaged with Contarius add 1 to their critical threat range.

Sorta Dead: Contarius chooses whether to count as undead or not for spells and effects. Contarius gets one ‘get out of death free’ card per PC level.

Missing Leg: Is stuck unless the escalation die is even.

Ritual Caster

Cantrips: Contarius can cast most basic wizard cantrips, but not mending or light.

Death Priest: Contarius can spend his Icon relationship dice to speak with the dead. He has two points in the Lich King (ie, any dead person) and one in The Emperor (anyone associated with the Empire)

Find shiny things +7
Reluctant necromancer +7
Trickery and mimicry +6

Dunstan, badly wounded commander
1st level leader
Initiative +1 (but allies gain a +2 to initiative when following his advice)

Longspear +5 vs. AC; 1d8+4. Miss: 1 damage. Even hit or miss: One ally adds the escalation die to their next attack (an additional time if they already gain it.)

Shortbow (ranged) +4 vs. AC; 1d6+2 damage. Even hit or miss: One nearby ally gains temporary HP equal to 4+escalation die.

Try Again! Interrupt action when an ally misses with an attack while the escalation die is even. Reroll the attack die.

Never Say Die: Once per battle when an enemy scores a critical hit against an ally, increase the escalation die by 1.

Missing Leg Dunstan is considered stuck unless the escalation die is even.

AC 15 PD 13 MD 13
HP 27
8Recoveries (1d8+2)

Seen too many wars +7
The Emperor’s Investigator +7

Demon bred hydra body
Level 3 Wrecker
Initiative +3

AC 19 PD 17 MD 13
HP: 45

The body of the hydra stays in its pool of brackish, disgusting water. Enemies in the demon tainted water take 5 necrotic damage if they end their turn in the water. And probably have to roll a background check (DC 15) to stay swimming and still fight. If they fail, they they spend their standard action simply staying afloat. Most of the time, you’ll have to get in the water to engage the hydra body, but you might swing on ropes or float on wooden rafts or come up with some other clever plan.

Crushing Claw +8 vs AC. Hit: 10 necrotic damage. Any even hit: The target is knocked into the brackish, disgusting water. Miss: 2 damage

Hold Under Water: If a target is in the water at the start of the hydra’s turn, it will hold the target under water as its standard action. The target takes 6 damage per turn and has to make last gasp saves to keep from drowning. (Ie, the target only gets one action per round, and the have to roll a hard save to keep from getting worse. On a success, you shake off the condition. On a failure, you are unconscious and have to start making death saves (16+). 16+ means spend a recovery and regain consciousness, 20 means you do that and can take your turn as normal. After four failures, you die.)

All One Being: When the Hydra Body is hit by a status effect, it can transfer that effect to one surviving Hydra Head.

Regrow Heads: Each round, roll a d4. If the result is equal to or lower than the escalation die, the hydra grows a new Hydra Head. After the hydra has grown a new head through this ability, use a d6 from there on, then a d8 and so forth.

Resist energy 12+. Attacks with an energy type that roll a 11 or lower do only half damage to the hydra body. (The heads are normally vulnerable.) For necrotic and poison damage, resistance is 16+.

Hydra Heads
Level 2 mooks (blockers)

AC 18 PD 15 MD 13
HP: 9 each

Clamping Bite +8 vs AC. Hit: 3+escalation die damage and the jaw clamps down on you. Until you disengage (at a -4 penalty), you cannot move away from the hydra head, you cannot make opportunity attacks and a -4 to hit any enemy that is not a Hydra Head biting you. Hydra Heads biting you get a +2 to hit you.

Tear Apart: If two Hydra Heads are biting you, they can both work together to try to tear you apart. This is the attack for both Heads. +8 vs. PD (+10 with the bonus from Clamping Bite); 6 damage and 5 ongoing damage (normal save ends).

Mass of Whipping Heads: Once per round when an attack targets the hydra body and the attack roll is odd, a hydra head gets in the way and takes the attack instead.

Mooks. As mooks, they share a pool of HPs. Kill a head for every 9 damage the heads take.

The Hydra’s Secret Weapon: When you kill a hydra head and the attack die result is odd, the hydra heads regrows two new heads.

Death Frenzy If the Hydra Body dies, then all remaining Hydra Heads get a +2 to hit for the rest of the battle.

[Death Takes a Holiday] Major Revision

I’ve been working to revise an old game of mine into a version that I’m more happy with. So I took another mechanic that I’ve been using and jammed the game into that. And now you have an exciting new version of Death Takes a Holiday, my game of substitute Grim Reapers finding that Death’s job isn’t as easy as it first appears.

This version uses Tarot cards as a core mechanic. You may want to use these cards I made for the game, though you could just as easily use any deck of Tarot cards as long as all the players can more or less agree what a card signifies.

Ghost Lines Dark

I really like the setting and idea of Ghost Lines, a minigame by john Harper. Except for the fact that it runs on the Apocalypse World engine. I really hate Apocalypse World. So I took .INDD files that Mr. Harper provided and hacked a new system for the game, based off of Cthulhu Dark by Graham Walmsley.

An afternoon of hacking gave me Ghost Lines Dark, largely because Messers Harper and Walmsley had already done all the hard work.

Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut

Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut is a little game I wrote about Russian fairy tales as a quick game design refresher. This version of the game is still pretty rough, but it playtested pretty well. (as always, there is a lot I’d like to tweak about the game.)

I’m still using a modified Deck of Many Things for my fate deck. Mostly, this is because I didn’t spend as much time crafting this game. You could easily substitute various Tarot and Tarot-like decks or the cards from Once Upon a Time.

[House of Masks] New playtest version

House of Masks 0.3 is the latest revision of my (award winning) 2008 Game Chef game. The idea with this one is that it is a series of cards to be read out loud as you play to explain the entire game. (The last few pages are the backs of the first few pages, and act as a FAQ/commentary track.)

I’ve been using a modified version of the Deck of Many Things for the tarot-like cards in my playtesting. That deck may change eventually over time, but for now it seems to work pretty well.

Here are the sheets for the player characters.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. The art is copyrighted by the fine artist Dale Horstman and Wizards of the Coast.

Once I Was a Warrior

For my brother’s 30th birthday, I made him a roleplaying game. It’s a meditation on fate, growing older and how people change over time.

Once I Was a Warrior

The Alchemists of Pwang


The alchemists of Pwang commit soul staining sins in an effort to cleanse their souls. Unfortunately, no one in Pwang can be sure what the gods approve of and what they do not, at least while they live.


Take a tarot deck, separate the minor arcana from the major arcana. Shuffle both decks.

Each player writes on a card one miracle that alchemy can perform. Place a random minor arcana under the miracle’s card.

The recipe for the miracle will require doing something immoral and something illegal.

(Miracles can’t give eternal life, but they can save you from death by restoring a spent life token.)

Each player writes a sin on a card next to their lefthand miracle. Place a minor arcana facedown under the sin’s card.

Each player writes something on card next to their righthand miracle that the tyrant of Pwang has declared illegal. Place a minor arcana faceup by the sin’s card. Larger values = more severe punishments for the crime. Face cards mean the death penalty.

You must commit that sin and that illegal act during a scene to perform the miracle.


Draw a major arcana and interpret it to explain why you hate the alchemist on your right.

Draw a major arcana to explain why you need the help of the alchemist on your left.

Every character starts with a life token on their character sheet.

Name you alchemist something grandiose.


Starting with the oldest player, you’ll take turns framing scenes where you are pursuing one of the miracles. The player on your left will describe opposition and problems along the way.

When you reach the climax of the action in a scene, draw a major arcana card. If you were working to harm the alchemist you hate (their call) or if you were given assistance from the alchemist that you need help from, you get to interpret the tarot card to describe how the scene turns out. Otherwise, the player on your left interprets the card as negatively as possible.

If you drew the Death card or if the interpreter thinks you were in danger, then you experience a brush with danger. You can remove the life token from your sheet to survive. If you don’t spend a life token, then your alchemist dies.

If you’re dead, then you can frame scenes for NPCs, such as the Tyrant’s Secret Police or the Mawgwamite Church’s witchhunters. NPCs hate your right and lefthand players.


Write down any sins you commit in play, or any miracles you perform.

When everyone has died, turn over the sin and miracle cards. For your sins, discard all Cups and face cards, then add up the numerical total. For your miracles, discard all Swords and add up the numerical total (face cards are worth 12.) If your miracle total is higher than your sin total, then the gods welcome you to paradise. If your sin total is greater than your miracle total, then you are sent to eternal torment.

Death Takes a Holiday

UPDATE: I made a major revision to the game, which replaces the core system with something else. You may want to check out that version in addition to/instead of this one.

Raw text hosted here, for your convenience.

The pretty version is over here because I can’t get it to upload to WordPress.

A World of Fire and Sand

While reading through old 2nd edition D&D stuff, I got so excited by the Dark Sun campaign setting‘s calendar that I wrote a totally different, weird hippy freeform game to play in Athas. It’s not in any particular way anything like playing Dark Sun using D&D.

It’s also completely unplaytested.

A World of Fire and Sand
Fire and Sand Cards

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