Tuesday, May 23, 2023

[Solo] The Magnificent Adventuring Circus, Session 2: Well- or Ill-met in Abazar?

Introduction and links to other sessions can be found here.

The cast of characters:

  • Julia Maxima, the Bearded Lady (Dwarf Cleric 1). Stern leader and cook of the circus.
  • Pointy Kid, the Knife Thrower (Halfling Thief 1). Sly acrobat with a pipeweed addiction.
  • Callisto, Master of Illusions (Human Magic-User 1). Archmage of the Highest Order, Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge. Obviously, he has a creepy ventriloquist dummy.
  • Sheila, the Odalisque (Elf Fighter/Magic-User 1). Exotic dancer and all-around cool girl. She won’t agree to be sawn into two halves.

Day 3 – continued [downtime in 3606, the settlement of Abazar]

On the third day of the journey, the Magnificent Adventuring Circus reaches the Abazar. They are received neutrally – the Abazarians natural grimness is mitigated somewhat by the presence of Julia Maxima (a Dwarf). The garishly painted circus wagon parks in the main square, next to “The Sleeping Ogre” tavern, and is converted into a makeshift stage by opening down one of the sides. Torches are lit when the evening comes, and a small group of 20 tired lumberjacks gathers around.

The Show

The show usually opens with the sword dance of Sheila, but the troupe decides that a semi-naked Elf lady swirling around with a sharp scimitar might aggravate an all-Dwarf audience… So Julia Maxima takes the stage first, with the stand-up comedy routine she practiced along the journey. At first the audience needs to time to adjust to Julia’s mountain dwarvish dialect, but gradually they warm up, and laugh wholeheartedly at the mining terminology puns and a couple of mandatory “elves smell!” jokes (Sheila allowed Julia a grand total of three). Next, Sheila puts on a “troll costume” (a dusty crocodile-skin and googly eyes) and prances around on stage. Then Pointy Kid bursts in, dressed as a knight. The two of them dance around a bit and put on a mock fight, as Julia Maxima narrates the events. On the one hand, the audience laughs at the Elf-Troll, but on the other hand, the troll is a very real danger around these parts. The lukewarm reception of this number makes Callisto very nervous, and he stutters while doing his Ventriloquism act. The audience boos and two out of three rotten tomatoes hit Callisto. Julia Maxima tries to save the situation by inserting a few jokes on the stuttering illusionist’s expense, but the evening is ruined.

The hat is passed around, and returns disappointingly light. Tough audience! But at least the troupe is treated to a free meal in the spirit of the approaching Harvest Festival.

The party retires into the wagon for the night. They would rather not carouse in this hostile town. Their plan is to reach a bigger, human-dominated town by the day of the Harvest Festival, and cash in on the festive mood of the populace… Julia Maxima goes out for a bit to mingle. She learns that there is a town called Tabriz on the river, about 30 miles southwest. Abazar sells lumber to them. This is where the Circus will head next.

Quick house rules: 

The circus is in town! List the numbers that the troupe puts on (3-4 will suffice). Describe them.

For every number, make an Audience Reaction roll.

Keep a running total of the numeric value of the rolls as well, and at the end of the show, that total x 50 is the base amount of copper coins gathered when the hat is passed around.

As a circus show is like a fight with the audience, experience points are gained as if the party has defeated every fifth member of the audience.





Outright hostility

Make a Reaction roll at -2 to see if the audience attacks or just tells the troupe to get out of town. No money gained, obviously.


Dislike, heckling

-1 to next Reaction roll


Lukewarm reception



Success, warm reception

+1 to next Reaction roll


Standing ovation

Number must be repeated, might override future performances. Double the amount of money earned.


1st number: Julia Maxima’s Dwarven standup comedy [Reaction roll: 10]

2nd number: mock fight between Pointy Kid and Sheila (dressed up as a troll) [Reaction roll: 7+1=8]

3rd number: Callisto’s rope tricks and ventriloquism number [Reaction roll: 4]

2200 copper pieces

20/5=4, 100 experience points

Friday, May 19, 2023

[Solo] The Magnificent Adventuring Circus, Session 1: The Road to Abazar

Introduction and links to other sessions can be found here.

The cast of characters:

  • Julia Maxima, the Bearded Lady (Dwarf Cleric 1). Stern leader and cook of the circus.
  • Pointy Kid, the Knife Thrower (Halfling Thief 1). Sly acrobat with a pipeweed addiction.
  • Callisto, Master of Illusions (Human Magic-User 1). Archmage of the Highest Order, Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge. Obviously, he has a creepy ventriloquist dummy.
  • Sheila, the Odalisque (Elf Fighter/Magic-User 1). Exotic dancer and all-around cool girl. She won’t agree to be sawn into two halves.

Session 1: The Road to Abazar

The Magnificent Adventuring Circus sets out to chart a new route between Treble Cliff and the Dwarven hamlet called Abazar. Julia Maxima thinks that they might put on a show there and earn a couple of coins. She is preparing a special standup comedy act in Dwarvish.

Day 1 [travel from 3907 to 3806 (plains, grassland), weather favorable, no random encounter]

The trip starts out quite peacefully. The garishly painted circus wagon slowly rolls through the grasslands to the north-west of Treble Cliff. Large patches of purple orchids bloom here: Julia Maxima weaves a couple of flowers into her beard, while Callisto presents a floral wreath to Sheila.

+ [travel from 3806 to 3706 (mountain, grassland), weather worsening, no random encounter]

After lunch, however, the going gets harder. There is the occasional drizzle of rain. The terrain becomes steeper as the circus travels into the northern reaches of the mountainous area. Ominous, crudely carved totem poles dot the landscape. They seem to depict a stork-beaked evil deity – perhaps set up by the goblins of 3707?

As night falls, the party sets up camp. They warm by the fire, then retire to sleep in the wagon, with a single 2-hour watch for each of them. Luckily, no monster wanders by during the night. Julia Maxima prays to Yucla, “the small and grotesque god of laughter”.

Day 2 [travel from 3706 to 3606 (dense forest & swamp, river, the settlement of Abazar), weather worsening, no random encounter]

Dawn brings heavy rains. The circus wagon gets stuck in the mud, and it takes many hours, all the strength of Julia Maxima and all the slyness of Pointy Kid to get it moving. Callisto fakes indigestion so that he doesn’t have to help. Sheila stands on watch, but it looks like monsters hate this weather as well and remain in the lairs.

However, the party definitely doesn’t want to stay in this area too long, and a forced march is ordered to at least get down from the mountains. By nightfall they reach the edge of the dense forest, but they are too tired to go through it in the darkness and set up camp. The rain stops, and there are no nocturnal encounters.

Day 3 [travel inside 3606 (dense forest & swamp, river, the settlement of Abazar), weather favorable, random encounter: the Troll that lives in this hex (party non surprised, monster surprised)]

After an early breakfast, the circus rolls out – the ground is no longer muddy, but the trailless dense forest is a challenge to traverse for the circus wagon. There is the smell of decay and rot in the still air. Bamboo the draught horse neighs with disgust. Julia Maxima tries her best to find the way towards the river and Abazar. Pointy Kid is on lookout, and sits atop the wagon. From this vantage point, he manages to spot a large, putrid gray creature. The monster is busy feeding, hunched over the half-rotten carcass of a deer… and, luckily, doesn’t notice the wagon at first, and then doesn’t pay attention to them. The circus gets away this time!

Around 4 o’clock, they finally reach the hamlet of Abazar, and plan to put on a show in the evening… 

To be continued!


[Hex 3606] Abazar, Dwarven hamlet, population 49. Sits on a river, dense forest on one side, swamp lands on the other side.

Industries, locations, shops: dock, boatwright, lumbercamp, butcher, tavern (“The Sleeping Ogre”)

Community of river dwarf woodcutters and raftsmen. Gruff, unfriendly folks, especially to non-dwarves.

Known dangers: a Troll lurks in the nearby swamp and forest.

[Solo] The Magnificent Adventuring Circus: Introduction

In 2021, I played a solo game, focused on the (mis)adventures of a travelling circus of adventurers. It was a part of a shared sandbox game, The Pit, where participants all played their own solo sessions, then updated the global hexmap with new features. It's a great setup, because you create your own stuff, but also crosscheck the existing map and you can visit stuff that other people generated. You can follow up on rumors that others posted. I don't participate any more, but the game is still going on, and you can join if you are interested! Here's the invite link (Discord server), it's a nice and welcoming community.

Like most people on the server, I relied on
I went into the game with no particular expectations. Just rolled up a party of four 1st-level characters, picked a starting point and a destination a bunch of hexes away, and travelled. New hex - check for weather - check for feature - check for encounter, rinse and repeat...

But here's the beauty of old-school play: from this baseline procedure, a cool story emerged! I played 10 sessions altogether, took notes, wrote reports, shared them with the others. It was a lot of fun! 

As I still have these reports, I thought I would share them here on my blog as well. So from now on I will be posting it in installments. 

This is the intro post and "table of contents".

The Troupe:

The Magnificent Adventuring Circus! Their shows are re-enactments of their daring adventures that totally happened. They ride around on a garishly painted stagecoach (still paying off the debt on that one…).

Julia Maxima, the Bearded Lady (Dwarf Cleric 1). Stern leader and cook of the circus.

Pointy Kid, the Knife Thrower (Halfling Thief 1). Sly acrobat with a pipeweed addiction.

Callisto, Master of Illusions (Human Magic-User 1). Archmage of the Highest Order, Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge. Obviously, he has a creepy ventriloquist dummy.

Sheila, the Odalisque (Elf Fighter/Magic-User 1). Exotic dancer and all-around cool girl. She won’t agree to be sawn into two halves.

...and their adventures:

Monday, May 8, 2023

My phased combat sequence house rule

I LOVE PHASED COMBAT! Yes! Behold, my phased combat sequenced that I use in certain games. It's based on OD&D/Chainmail/Delving Deeper, but modified according to my experience of running phased combat in Mazes & Minotaurs.


Each side rolls d6 for initiative, higher is better.

Each round, we go through the following steps:

1. Morale checks (for monsters & NPCs).

2. Declaration of intent, in reverse initiative order (so the faster side can react to the actions of the slower).

3. Action phases; all sides complete each phase in initiative order, Referee adjudicates sequence of actions as needed:

A) Missiles, Movement & Miscellaneous actions

  • Stationary characters with ranged weapons at-the-ready can fire twice (or fire once and reload crossbow)
  • Non-stationary characters with ranged weapons at-the-ready can fire once, with a -2 (elves ignore this penalty)
  • Ducking in-and-out of cover counts as movement
  • Firing into melee is allowed, attack rolls that miss their mark are checked against the nearest friendly participant of the melee
  • Spell-casting starts in this phase; caster must remain stationary

B) Melee

  • All in melee range (10’) can attack or be attacked; performance is determined with a single attack roll (against 1 (or less) HD enemies, fighters and monsters can opt to do multiple attacks [a number, equal to their HD])
  • Sequence of attacks is determined by logic (e.g. longer weapons strike first on the first round, but last on subsequent rounds) or initiative
  • Grappling/overbearing: each participant rolls their HD, higher wins; grappled character is immobile until held, or even knocked/choked unconscious (save against Paralysis applies)

C) Magic

  • Spells begun in phase (A) go off
  • If the caster took damage in the previous phases, they must save against Spells/Magic or the spell is interrupted and lost


Referee trying to adjudicate phased combat, by Francisco Goya

I'm too lazy to write up an example of play, but maaaybe in the future.

Monday, May 1, 2023

The Golem Master's Workshop - translated into Russian

I checked my blog stats and found out, through the referral links, that there is a Russian translation of my short adventure, The Golem Master's Workshop!

It is appended as an example to a translation of Tristyn's guidelines for 10-room/30-minute dungeon, my favorite lightning-fast dungeon creation method.

The Golem Master's Workshop, Russian PDF: https://imaginaria.ru/attachments/get/1342

Ehh I should *really* update that map...

Science fantasy campaign with floating islands, quick notes

Floating islands are cool. I want a science fantasy campaign, a big hexmap, with, like, five islands floating above it, each with its own quirks and behavior. Of course, there is Skyrealms of Jorune, I'm intrigued by it, but I cannot use settings so dense (and I envy Samwise who can grok it and runs a BRP Jorune campaign!).

Anyway, in this campaign I envision, the Referee would have to track the movements of the floating islands, which could be a hassle, but perhaps could be done in weekly turns. 

The islands would be like wildcards, most of them moving around randomly. Due to the randomness, they could crash into each other, into the ground, or tall mountains. And some islands would have environmental effects. Obv. all of them would be adventure locales with ruins and dungeons and treasure and conflict and peril.

Something along these lines:

Floating island



1, Inhabited by monsters


Weird weather magnet.

2, Inhabited by sentient beings, split into two warring factions

Controlled by dominant faction, 1 hex/day or 30 degree turn/day

Mostly functioning tech and ecosystem.

3, Inhabited by monsters

Erratic, roll 1/week

Corruption field. If the island stays on the same hex for more than 1 week, the hex becomes Corrupted.

4, Inhabited by a single sentient being and a bunch of monsters

Continuous, roll 1/week

Transporter beam. Every midnight, a 30’ diameter column of red light projects from the lower tip of the island, stays for 1 minute, then teleports everything in its reach to the island (incl. a hemisphere of ground below).

5, Inhabited by sentient beings

Continuous, roll 1/week

Crumbling. There is a chance of either a rain of small debris or a large chunk falling down from it.

Movement types:





Turn clockwise


Descend 1000’


Move 1 hex

Move 1 hex




Ascend 1000’


Turn counter-clockwise

Bonus Lin Carter quote:

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The OSR server bingo!

I'm an active participant of the "purple" OSR discord server, and there are a handful of topics or phrases that come up often... So here's a little bingo game you can play at home!

Download the PDF with four sheets!

With contributions from Jenx, vilecultofshapes, Sylvanas_iii, Tomes, DustyHalo & HiveMindfullness.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Piles of Downloaded Files... #2: a deeper delve

Time for another installment of Piles of Downloaded Files, where I go through my folder of unsorted RPG-related PDFs. We all have that. Here's the first delve.


Adventures on Mars: An Addendum to Doc’s Excellent Warriors of Mars, Rules by gloriousbattle

This file is named “MARS WITH LARGER FONT NEATER LAYOUT” in the folder. Did I rename it to aid myself in the future? It’s still not a very informative title… Anyways, this is “Adventures on Mars: An Addendum to Doc’s Excellent Warriors of Mars, Rules” (sic!). If you don’t know it, Doc’s Warriors of Mars is a cool homebrew amalgamation of OD&D and the old TSR Warriors of Mars ruleset, for Barsoomian adventuring. Available on Grey Elf’s website! Now, this is a supplement for that. Some searching shows that I found it on the ODD74 board, and it was created by user gloriousbattle. Then a file with larger font was created by Bastet1002. The document contains Barsoomian gazetteer tidbits, but also brings in other pulptastic science fantasy monsters as well, like the Leeches of Yoh-Vombis and Mi-Go and Star Vampires. There is a 4xd12 random table for Indescribable Martian Artifacts, so now you can find a Circular Ceramic Orange-and-Silver Intelligent (as a magic sword) object while “groping through black pits”. There are also mass combat rules. This is a useful grab-bag for sword & science OD&D gaming!


Conrad’s Fantasy Free-Style Role-Play by Better Games

From 1990! I got it from Drivethru. Offered as “a companion to HUGO (original underworld’s generated by computer, no two alike)”! But also a system on its own. Promises free-style rules with “Quick and Dirty” combat. Attributes are not measured numerically, you either have them or don’t. Advance on the Progression Path from Bumpkin to Delta Zaire (a high-level wizard)! There is, however, a plethora of skills. The combat mechanics are maaaybe quick and dirty once you learn them, but there are several charts, so I’d need more time to really understand it. This is a wonderful artifact or old-school gaming, complete with DIY art.

Stuck under a pile of unread PDFs.

The Cuboid Prison of Joanna Cahb by Mariuswasright

A short little adventure, I downloaded it from itch.io. Free PDF. It’s a cube-shaped prison for a Dwarf singer. The cube is now “half-submerged in the magma of Mount Thal’s caldera”, that’s always a good thing. The volcano is not part of the adventure document, though. The dungeon has 7 areas, laid out on one level (there’s no multi-level cube shenanigans). Science fantasy stuff, guardian constructs with eyebeams, anti-metal artifacts. Barebones layout, some highlighting and bulletpoints. Monster stats are included in each room description, which seems like an overkill, because there is a stat appendix too. No biggie. It’s pretty cool as a last-minute drop into your setting’s volcano adventure!

Go on, open your unsorted PDFs folder! If you dare!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The Universal Random Table

The OSR thrives on random tables. *I* thrive on random tables. I have books of random tables. Print-outs of blogposts. I've written a couple. I respect the prolific creators of random tables, let's chant their names together: ktrey, Konsumterra, Jason Sholtis, semiurge and many more. Meticulously crafted lists of infinite random inspiration for any situation. But ultimately, there are a set archetypical results one might find on a random table of any kind. Without further ado, I present thee...

The Universal Random Table (d10)


Predictable stuff


Outré/gonzo stuff


Annoying curse, trap or mutation


Delayed effect that has to be tracked or forgotten forever


Quirky or whimsical thing


Meta-gamey element or campaign-breaking bullshit


Painful pun or pop culture reference

That's it. The only random table you'll ever need!

Okay, maybe this and the Amazing Inspirational Animal List.

PS: Idea for next post: a random table of the greatest random table creators of the OSR blogosphere.

Monday, April 17, 2023

[Map] LEG DAY! The Dungeon of Stairs

I drew a slightly ridiculous dungeon map - a level chock-full of stairs leading up and down. Ridiculous as this map is, I do like certain parts, like the bridge/tower above the water caves in the north-east corner (#32-32).
I don't have keys or even a particular concept. I guess this dungeon was built by creatures who just LOVE stairs. So, this isn't a great fit for Barsoom (where they use ramps instead of stairs). 

Or for certain areas of Jane Gaskell's The Serpent:

'Now we should like to see our rooms,' Zerd said.

The governor led him over to the staircase - the more menial of us followed closely, the rest trailed behind or simply didn't bother - and the governor stood aside to let his guests precede him. I ran up, two steps at a time, and only when I was at the top did I realise that everyone else was still at the bottom.

They all stood quiet, with upturned faces, then gasped.

'What's the matter?' I said, feeling appallingly self-conscious alone at the top there. T'm sorry, I thought we were supposed to come up here - ' and I began to descend again, feeling the blushes rising up my throat and scorching my cheeks.

'How do you do it?' 'Where did you learn?' said several voices.

'Learn what?' I asked, most embarrassed.

'She ran up, two at a time,' said someone.

I was now at the bottom and a crowd of winegirls ran forward cheering me, and Isad came up, dripping wet, hooting on his pet horn. Lara looked sour.

'Do it again, do it again!' cried the winegirls to me.

'What is it?' I said.

'You're so fast, could you do it again just as fast?'

'Of course, my country is full of stairs. Our houses are often four-storeyed - aren't yours?'

'No,' Zerd said. 'We don't have stairs in the North. Do it again, Cija, it's fascinating to watch.'

So I ran up and down the stairs for them twice more, and they cheered me and chanted compliments, and at last all trooped up after me.

This version has the relative depth of areas:

Friday, April 7, 2023

Wizard duel/Counterspell house rule

A quick house rule for magical duels!

A Magic-User character can try and counter an opposing caster’s spell by entering into a duel. Depending on the combat/initiative system in use, this must either be declared first or the declared action must be cancelled in favor of counterspelling. The countercaster has to be aware of, or at least anticipate that the enemy is about to cast a spell.


Both duellants roll d6 and add their character level.

Caster’s roll > Countercaster’s roll

Caster’s initial spell works as intended, Countercaster must roll on the Effects chart

Caster’s roll = Countercaster’s roll

The two wizards are locked in duel! Repeat the procedure next time, unless one participant decides to withdraw or is distracted or takes damage (in which case this duellant must roll of the Effects chart)

Caster’s roll < Countercaster’s roll

Caster’s initial spell is cancelled (and the spell (slot) is lost)


Effects chart (d6)

  1. Suffers the effect of Feeblemind for a full day
  2. Falls unconscious for 2d4 hours
  3. Loses spellcasting ability for a full day
  4. Causes an eruption of uncontrolled arcane energy, everybody in a 20’ radius must save against Breath weapons or fall to the ground
  5. Suffers d6 damage
  6. Is thrown back 10’ and must spend the next round getting up

Friday, February 24, 2023

Lenormand deck content generation

When you are a DM, everything is a random generator... Oracular/divinatory tools are a great source of inspiration, because they are full of flavor, they tap into archetypes, and so on. I've experimented with a couple of Tarot-based generators. In this post, I'm just going with something rather simple: drawing three cards from a Lenormand deck, and coming up with an encounter, scenario, or situation based on them.

Oh, and a cool thing about the Lenormand deck: it contains 36 cards... so you can roll that with a d66 or put it on a 6x6 matrix if you don't have your deck at hand!


















































Without further ado, six random draws, interpreted:

  1. (tower, clover, anchor) - A tower stands in the middle of a clover field. The edifice leans slightly to the east. A large anchor on a chain descends from the topmost window, as if keeping the tower in place.
  2. (crossroad, snake, clouds) - A normal crossroads during day, but fog rolls in at night, and a serpent slithers out from the bushes. It grants a wish if it can afterwards switch bodies with a human.
  3. (tree, moon, key) - A venerable oak with a keyhole in it. If a silver key is inserted and turned clockwise, the keyhole swallows the key, then expands into a portal. It leads into the Treasure Vault of the Moon Princess.
  4. (sun, rider, letter) - Encounter: Messenger of the Sun King, cursing and shouting “clear the road!”, urging the horse to ride faster; but the animal is at its last breath and will soon collapse from sheer exhaustion. The Messenger carries a highly important message.
  5. (bouquet, cross, fox) - An old cemetery, moss-covered headstone, overgrown crosses. After the abandonment of the nearby settlement, wild animals reclaimed the land. A fox has dug a deep hole into a mound – and a couple of silver coins shine in the dirt…
  6. (fish, moon, house) - A noble estate, the house’s façade reflected in a small pond. The family’s coat-of-arms is a silver crescent on a green field. The eldest son is suffocated by responsibilities; he feels like a fish out of water – but he must take care of his sickly parents.