New solo RPG: Reavers and Rogues!

Hey, remember that solo game I was playtesting over and over? Well, it’s here!

In Reavers and Rogues, you become a classic sword-and-sorcery pulp adventurer. This solo game allows you to create a unique character and play out the story beats of a gritty fantasy adventure in the style of Conan the Cimmerian, Elric of Melnibone, and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Reavers and Rogues is easy to learn and quick to play. The guide walks you through the Scenes of your story, giving you options to choose from, and helping you to interpret your dice rolls. Using random tables, you will create exciting encounters with strange people and creatures in bizarre and dangerous locations. And the combination of tables, dice, and your choices ensures that every adventure is unique and unpredictable.

Play time is 30-60 minutes. All you need is a pencil and two 6-sided dice.

Seriously guys, this game hums. I just played it two more times right before I hit the big scary PUBLISH button, and I had two wildly different adventures that were genuinely fun, and tense, and surprising. I’m really proud of this little game. I truly hope you all really enjoy it. I can’t wait to hear about all your pulpy adventures!

Get Reavers and Rogues on DriveThruRPG for just $3 right now!

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New novella: Lawless Rogues

I still write stories! Lawless Rogues (Amazon | DriveThruFiction) is a novella containing six short stories about, well, you’ll see below the cover…

The ancient world of Harth withers beneath a dying sun…but it’s not dead yet. In the foul streets of Carcassay, all manners of merchants and thieves, mercenaries and assassins, magicians and alchemists, clerics and zealots, and tomb raiders carry on the business of the day. This novella features six tales about two of the more fascinating rogues stirring up a bit of chaos in the City of the Rat.

Bazil Mink, a weary occultist from a brutal theocracy, carries hundreds of magical trinkets that he has purchased, found, or stolen all over the world. With these strange and dangerous items, he does whatever odd jobs he can find to pay the bills.

Sarajel Solongo, a skilled assassin from a decadent queendom, enjoys the arts as much as killing her targets and manipulating global politics. She too uses bizarre magical tools and weapons, some taken from her own body, to serve her Domina.

Journey to a world inspired by the stunning works of Jack Vance, nestled between the borders of Tolkien’s high fantasy, Howard’s and Moorcock’s sword and sorcery, and Lovecraft’s eldritch horror. A world of scheming dragons that burst from the ground, mad vampires who fall from the stars, and lost civilizations buried under the corpses of titans.

Lawless Rogues on Amazon

Lawless Rogues on DriveThruFiction

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Solo RPG Playtest #98-100

Seriously, there have been so, so many playtests. But I think we’re there.

#98 – Enfys

Meet Enfys, a herder trained by a hunter, armed with an axe! In the tavern she heard of the Lapis Scarab, and strode out unchallenged to seek it. In the market she found invigorating spices for her food, but failed to hire an Ally.

While crossing a vineyard outside the city, she ran into an outcast prince, drunk on stolen wine. It was easy for her to persuade him to join her quest. But soon they were clambering over a jagged rust dump and spotted a swarm of diseased rats. Enfys called on the spirits to help her evade the vermin, and a kindly ghost of an elderly woman guided them to safety, and then whispered a helpful secret to Enfys.

High in the mountains, Enfys and the prince found a powerful gladiator making an unholy sacrifice at a blood-red altar. Enfys persuaded the gladiator to read the entrails of his sacrifice as a sign to join her quest. But as they descended the mountains through a rocky ravine, a swarm of frost mosquitoes began to whine as a deadly rime covered the sharp rocks. Enfys called upon the spirits to help her, using the secret knowledge provided by the first ghost, to summon a gentle wraith to lead them past the swarm. The wraith also whispered a second secret to Enfys.

Arriving at the Dark Tower, Enfys and her companions found an icy gate guarded by a bronze skeleton. They tried to evade the sentinel with the help of a spirit, only for the ghost to vanish and leave them slashed and bleeding on the ice. Once inside the Dark Tower, Enfys spied the crimson moon princess in a high turret. Using the secret whispered by the wraith, she found her way to a safe room, where she rested and healed.

Then Enfys, the prince, and the gladiator confronted the Villain of the tower, an elderly assassin armed with deadly razor wires. But working as a team, the three adventurers rushed in and struck down the assassin without taking a single wound. They claimed the Lapis Scarab and returned home with their valuable Prize!

Notes: When you roll high, things are pretty easy. But this was a fun game! I was not expected to get so much ghost-guidance, but that sort of gave the adventure a ghostly theme, which I really liked. Didn’t get any Loot, and didn’t lose any Allies. Not bad.

#99 – Raven

Meet Raven, an artisan trained by a thief, an expert with knives! At the tavern he learned of the Yellow Book of Light and Shadow, and sauntered out into the night with a few drunk friends. At the market, Raven bought some invigorating spices and hired a mercenary to help him.

Outside the city, Raven rested at an old hunter’s cabin, only to find a swashbuckling bandit already squatting there. But Raven persuaded the bandit to join him. The next day they crossed an abandoned temple graveyard and were attacked by a bounty hunter looking for the bandit! Raven called upon the spirits to help them evade capture, and a grim earth elemental rose from the graves to carry them to safety, where they found some fresh berries to pick.

High on a windswept ridge, Raven came upon a priest praying to a giant obsidian pillar. Raven asked the spirits to help him evade the holy man, and a ghost of an ancient sacrificial victim guided them to safety and whispered a helpful secret to Raven. Soon after, they came upon a huge bronze statue of a warrior nun, and a giant onyx scorpion emerged to patrol the area. Raven used the victim’s secret to summon a rock elemental to carry them to safety, but the scorpion leapt upon them and tore the bandit apart with its claws. Ashamed for having failed to protect them, the elemental bestowed upon Raven an Iron Dagger.

Raven and his mercenary then found the Dark Tower and discovered its secret wooden door guarded by a water elemental hiding in a wide shimmering puddle. With the merc’s help, Raven persuaded the elemental to join their quest and defeat the master of the tower. Inside the foul musty cells of the tower, the water elemental pointed out a mutated crab-cursed youth patrolling the area. The water elemental swept Raven and the merc to safety, and they discovered a bone amulet in an empty cell.

In the throne room, Raven and his companions confronted the master of the tower, the fearsome crab shaman! A terrible battle ensued. Raven hurled his knives to deadly effect, but the crab shaman exploded the water elemental using sea magic, and ripped the brave mercenary’s heart out with a dripping claw. But just as Raven seemed poised to win the battle, the shaman resurrected the mercenary as a crab-cursed mutant to slash, stab, and batter our hero until he lay dead in the briny remains of the water elemental… only to rise moments later as yet another crab-cursed minion!

Notes: This game was amazing! All of the characters kept lining up in great ways. The bounty hunter with the bandit, the water elemental with the crab youth and the crab shaman. The story just leapt to life. And the final battle was really epic! I’m so, so happy with this!

#100 – Aeryn

Meet Aeryn, a farmer trained by a soldier, carrying an old sword. At the tavern she learned of the Silver Scimitar of the Raging Flame, and slipped out the back to start her quest. At the market, she strong-armed her way into some powerful spices and a beefy mercenary.

Outside the city, they had to cross an old barge canal. But a dripping blue ghost haunted the algae-covered waters. Aeryn summoned a river elemental to create a bridge of water for them to cross, and the elemental tossed them an old iron dagger from the bottom of the canal.

Far out on the open plains, they approached an ancient tower of steel and rainbow glass. They could see a small army of soldiers exploring the upper levels. A single soldier slept in its entrance. To prevent the guard from raising the alarm, Aeryn and her henchman attacked the lone warrior and quickly defeated him. From his corpse, they took another iron dagger identical to the one they received at the canal.

Hurrying to the Dark Tower, Aeryn found the stone walls guarded by a pale elephant. Unwilling to risk battle, she and her merc summoned the ghost of the elephant’s dead caretaker to guide them past the beast and over the wall. The dead man whispered a lucky secret in Aeryn’s ear.

In the tower, they explored the cobwebbed workrooms and discovered the Black Widow Maiden. Aeryn tried to convince the monstrous woman to join her, but the Maiden became enraged and attacked! The Maiden sank her venomous fangs into the poor mercenary and choked him to death with her webbing.

Aeryn buried both of her iron daggers in the spider-woman, and then demanded her surrender. And she did! The Maiden agreed to serve Aeryn in exchange for her life. Then they proceeded down into the cellars of the tower, where Aeryn spied a strange jade knight. And with the Maiden’s help she avoided the knight while stealing his iron shield.

In the throne room, Aeryn and the Maiden ambushed the shrieking ghost lord who ruled the tower. The ghost’s devastating screams shattered the iron shield, and the Black Widow Maiden’s head exploded across the walls. Aeryn felt her organs starting to rupture as the blood ran from her eyes and ears. But then she struck the ghost with a demonic scream of her own and the ghost fell back into oblivion.

Aeryn found a scimitar hanging above the throne. But she knew from the dead elephant caretaker that the true Silver Scimitar was hidden by a tapestry, which she found! She carried it back to the City, where she learned the scimitar was possessed by a fire elemental. Huzzah!

Notes: I deliberately tried to skew this adventure with unlikely stats. I also skipped as many encounters as possible… and it was still a blast to play! No more notes, no more tests. It’s time to publish this thing. As soon as I create some art for it. And do the layout. You know. Stuff.

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Solo RPG Playtest #9-10

We are getting very close to a finished product here folks!

#9 Valient Vieno

Meet Vieno, a farmer trained by a traveling musician, afflicted by a fatal illness. He heard tell of the White Book of the Gently Healing Hand, which could save his life, so he set out to find it. Unfortunately, he was not able to get decent rations or find any Allies to join him.

Leaving the city, he passed the royal tombs where a swarm of diseased rats surrounded him. Vieno played his flute to charm the rats [parley], and they agreed to join him [recruit]! He then cross the temple grave yard and encountered a gray ghoul. The rats helped him converse with the dead man [parley], who revealed a secret that would help on his quest [bonus].

Vieno took a small ferry boat across a river and encountered a mindless fungus zombie, which he defeated easily with his axe [combat]. Then he harvested some healing herbs [plunder]. Soon after he had to cross a fragile rope bridge guarded by a tall muscular soldier. Vieno tried to sneak by the soldier with the help of his rats [avoid], but the rats tumbled into the ravine and Vieno was wounded. He then took a night to rest and recover.

Alone, Vieno found the bronze gates of the dark tower, guarded by a trained leopard. He played his flute and charmed the leopard [parley], who let him pass and told him a secret that would help him on his quest [bonus]. In the dungeon cells of the dark tower, Vieno stumbled upon a giant vulture‘s nest. The vulture was easily swayed to join Vieno’s cause [parley], hoping for its freedom from the cruel master of the tower [recruit].

Just moments later, Vieno bumped into the bewitched silver princess armed with a dream dagger. He tried to speak to her [parley], but the evil enchantment on her was too powerful, and a deadly battle began [combat]. With the vulture’s help, Vieno used the secret whispered by the leopard to defeat the princess [bonus]. And with the enchantment broken, she agreed to help Vieno as well [recruit]!

Finally, Vieno and the princess and the vulture confronted the master of the tower, a hovering psychic squid! The battle was swift and vicious [combat], and Vieno took a few wounds. But with his powerful allies he made short work of the Villain and found the White Book. Vieno and the princess flew back to the city on the vulture, where he found the book was genuine and used its magic to cure his fatal illness. Huzzah!

Notes: No notes. This was fun and smooth.

#10 Cursed Angel

Meet Angel, a merchant trained by a priest. At the tavern she learned of the Steel Rat of Trap Sniffing and Tripping. Might useful for someone dealing with a gambling debt! She tried to leave the tavern, but a drunk punched her in the face [combat]. She slipped into the shadows and rigged a snare [regroup], which caught the drunk. And then the drunk agreed to join her [recruit]! She also found a Lawful ring in a crack in the floor [plunder]. Then she hired a guide and they set out.

At the old dam, they ran into an escaped prisoner. Once again, Angel convinced the foe to join her party [recruit]. Then they spent the night in a yurt camp of pilgrims, but a galvanic drake attacked the camp with blasts of lightning! Somehow, with the aid of her friends, Angel persuaded the drake to leave the camp in peace [parley]. Perhaps she convinced the monster that they were all sickly and no good to eat?

The party (Angel, the guide, the drunk, and the prisoner) arrived at the living flesh drawbridge above a chasm of bloody spears, which led to the dark tower. A shadow elemental guarded the crossing, but Angel persuaded the creature to stand aside and let them pass [parley].

In the echoing halls of the tower, Angel found an ensorcelled knight. She used her Lawful ring to free the knight of the spell, and he whispered to her a secret about the master of the tower before he fled for his life [parley]. High in the turrets of the tower, Angel met the black widow maiden, whom she convinced to join her party, though this scared away the hired guide [parley].

Back down in the halls, they woke the Beast that slumbered in the pit. A huge white wolf burst through the floor and proceeded to hunt them by running on the walls! Angel tried to sneak past it, but the Beast sniffed her out [avoid]. They fought the wolf to death’s door, and the Beast agreed to serve Angel [recruit]! And she pulled a Chaos ring from the wolf’s fang [plunder]!

Finally they found the master of the dark tower, an undying saint armed with a soul-stealing sword! A terrific battle broke out [combat]. The party slashed away at the saint, but one by one it cut them down. First the escaped prisoner fell, then the white wolf, and finally the black widow maiden. Angel used her secret knowledge and her Chaos ring, and finally dealt the killing blow. Victory!

Utterly alone, Angel returned to the city, only to find her treasured steel rat was a cursed trinket that doomed her to lose every time she played at dice. Cruel fate!

Notes: I think we’ve got a winner here, folks. Time to work on some artwork!

Question for you… how is this game sounding now? Interested? Anything bothering you, off the top of your head?

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Solo RPG Playtest #7-8

I added in a mechanic to negotiate with a foe (and possibly recruit them) and to sneak past a foe to avoid any confrontation.

#7 Victorious Vanja

Meet Vanja, a farmer trained by a beggar, equipped with old knives and a lot of Luck. She heard a rumor about the Emerald Dagger of Vile Venom, and had to fend off a rabid dog to escape the tavern. Then she geared up and headed out.

At a crumbling aqueduct, she was accosted by a blind bandit. She convinced him to let her pass, but he needed to prove to his boss that he was doing his job, so she let him stab her a little to bloody his knife.

At a holy shrine, she found four diseased sailors praying for healing. She tried to be friendly, but in their sea-madness they attacked her! Vanja called out to the saint of the shrine to help her, and a ghostly sea captain appeared to help her subdue the sickly sailors. She took a well-made cloak from one of them and carried on.

She arrived at the hidden stone door of the Villain’s tower, which was guarded by a black unicorn. Hoping to gain its help, she spoke to it. It agreed to show her the secret door, but only if she gave up her new cloak so it could clean its hooves.

Inside the tower, Vanja found a winged albino lion prowling the cellars. She begged the lion for help, and the winged beast agreed to be her mount! Then Vanja confronted the decrepit lich that ruled the tower and possessed the Emerald Dagger. Her initial ambush failed, and the lich’s plague magic wounded her and destroyed her rations. But with the lion’s help, Vanja called upon the power of an earth elemental to thrash the lich, and then she set a series of traps to snare and impale the lich to death. Victory!

She returned to the city, where she found that the Emerald Dagger was genuine and enchanted. A priceless magical relic! (Vanja is the first adventurer to get this Best Ending.)

Notes: The mechanics to negotiate and recruit foes seem to work well. The fail-state for both is to enter combat. If you want to fight everything, you can. But you also have these alternatives. I also created more options for Plunder (2d6), which seems right for this little game. We’re still at about 15 pages.

#8 Fortunate Fiore

Meet Fiore, a fisher trained by a hunter, good with a spear. He heard a song about the Bronze Spear of Blinding Thunderbolts, knocked out a guard, and set off for adventure with a hired mercenary.

While crossing a foul trash knoll outside the city, Fiore encountered an occultist digging for trinkets. Fiore convinced the occultist to join his expedition as a high level ally [+2]!

As they crossed the burning sand dunes, they met five starving sailors who were wrecked on a nearby shore. Fiore tried to parley with them, but they were desperate for rations and attacked. Fiore defeated them, but lost his hired mercenary in the battle. But he did find a Chaos ring on one of them!

At the dark tower, Fiore and the occultist climbed a rotting bone stair guarded by a living marble statue. The occultist helped Fiore convince the statue to let them go inside, and the statue revealed a secret about the villain’s servants. In the dim passageways of the tower, they found the villain’s thrall, a swift-moving demon sorcerer, but using the statue’s secret information about the thrall’s habits and movements, they avoided a confrontation.

Then Fiore and the occultist confronted the villain, the Ruby-Eyed King armed with a deadly maul. The battle began poorly, costing Fiore several wounds (and a lost camel), but then he summoned the ghost of his grandfather to deal a devastating blow. And with the occultist’s help (and the Chaos ring), he slew the king and found the fabled Spear of Thunderbolts. They returned home and learned that the spear had no power, but was worth a month’s wages. Huzzah!

Notes: This was a great game! Being able to recruit foes as allies, sneaking past confrontations, having dynamic weird battles. Aces! I’m going to get rid of the mounts (bye bye, camels and gilasaurs) and just have allies. But otherwise, I think this game is super close to complete.

Question for you – As someone reading these playtests, is this sounding like a fun game? It’s basically a sword-and-sorcery version of Solitaire. It takes about 30 minutes to play. You probably have a better-than-average chance of winning each game, but the chance to lose (die) is very real. And I find it fun to roll the dice and then imagine how the results would manifest in a written short story (or movie!).

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Solo RPG Playtests #4-6

Several more summaries…

#4 Doomed Thief

Meet Beren, daughter of murdered merchants and trained by a thief. At the tavern she heard tell of the Fabulous Ruby Nose of Nojj Dol Min, and charmed her way out of the bar just before a fight broke out. Then she deftly stole a few delicacies and a camel, and convinced a fellow named Sevan to be her guide.

As they left town, they passed through a tall field of wheat and ran afoul of two poachers with a fresh kill. Beren tried to trip them up with snares and traps, but they kept breaking free and shot her with their crossbows again and again. She had to sacrifice her camel just to escape!

Then high in the moors, they stumbled upon a hideous eldritch altar of red stone guarded by two giant scorpions. Beren dashed about the altar, setting traps and hurling knives. She manged to wound one scorpion, forcing it to withdraw. But the remaining scorpion killed Sevan with its bristling claws and then stabbed Beren with its deadly stinger… and our hero was no more!

NOTES: The game was working pretty well, but Beren kept rolling Misses! I made the Action table simpler, down to just 6 options in combat. It feels right. We just need more testing.

#5 Cruel Cudgel

Meet Kajal, a clever brute scarred by fire and desperate for attention, armed with a cudgel. He rode out in search of a fabled Silver Tongue. At the village hot springs, an elderly poisoner attacked him with toxic needles, but Kajal beat the old man to death. Then he spent a night with a camp of fur traders, where he spotted a mad zealot with four legs and five arms. The Chaos fanatic cornered him, but again his cudgel won the day.

Kajal found a path behind a waterfall to the ruined tower, where three witches tried to curse him to slip and fall to his doom. But instead he rushed in and bludgeoned them all into oblivion. Then in the dank cellars of the tower, Kajal ambushed a psychic carnivorous plant and pounded it back into the darkness. Finally Kajal ambushed the Master Runecarver of the tower, and while many enchanted tools and weapons wounded our hero, he made short work of the Villain.

He then returned home to find the Silver Tongue was quite valuable and used the money to attract a crowd of shallow sycophants.

NOTES: Again, this character kept rolling very high and cake-walked the game. I guess that’s just how dice games can go.

#6 Fearsome Farmer

Meet Liraz, a farmer mentored by a priest, who stole an old sword from a tomb. In the tavern he heard of the Bronze Ring of Animal Speech. He knocked out a drunk as he left the bar. Then he geared up and headed out of the city.

At the reservoir, Liraz encountered a drunk soldier. Not taking him seriously, Liraz was stunned when the soldier killed his camel, and then he made short work of the soldier. He then passed by a prospector’s shack, where he spotted a member of the Dancing Assassins. His ambush failed and a deadly duel ensued. But Liraz triumphed with few wounds.

At an old army watchtower, Liraz stumbled on a nest of four fire-spitting pettydrakes! They quickly surrounded him, but he slew the little dragons. He then arrived at the Ruby Gates of the ruined tower, guarded by a bald time mage. Liraz lured the mage out with a trap, and then it was steel against bubbles of twisted time magic! Eventually the mage, fell, but Liraz was hurting badly.

Inside the tower, Liraz laid an ambush for the ensorcelled blue knight. Again a terrible duel ensued. Liraz’s hired mercenary was slaughtered, and Liraz slew the knight, but only after taking terrible wounds. Now at death’s door, Liraz confronted the Artisan Glass Spellwright. He had little chance of success, but against all odds, pierced by many glass spikes and spears, Liraz defeated the Spellwright and claimed the Bronze Ring!

NOTES: I had an sudden insight about how to improve the combat system. This time, I changed how the numbers work (basically the Hit Points) and I removed one of the minor combat mechanics. So I think it’s much better now. I need to keep tuning the math, but I feel like this is super close!

Question… are these playtests sounding like a game you want to play? An easy little 30-minute solo game that lets you create a unique Conan-esque adventure?

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Solo RPG Playtest #3

Tonight’s test only took about 20 minutes and showed me a few gaps in the system, and an imbalance in combat.

Perfect Hunter

Meet Hadyn, daughter of fishers and trained by a hunter in the way of the bow. At the tavern she heard a song about the deadly Coral Serpent of Cruel Strangulation, and set out to find this relic. Just as a fight broke out, she found a secret door and slipped out of the tavern unharmed.

Hadyn then worked to earn some rich foods, wrangled a wild gilasaur to ride, and bumped into an old friend named River to be her guide.

As Hadyn and River left the city, they crossed the old plague cemetery, which triggered Hadyn’s phobia of disease. There they spotted a rampaging nobleman with the plague, armed with a sword. Hadyn swiftly felled him with her bow, and collected a vial of poison.

Out in the wilds, Hadyn and River took shelter from the heat in an old shipwreck, where they discovered a starving vampire hiding from the sun. But again, Hadyn killed her foe with a few swift arrows.

Then they arrived at the tower where the Coral Serpent was kept. The only entrance was a magma tunnel guarded by two short mercenaries with bone daggers. Hadyn began shooting arrows, but a little merc killed River! The mercs cornered Hadyn, but she managed to kill one and wound the other, who fled from his post. She headed inside.

As she crept through the huge echoing halls of the tower, a spotted panther attacked Hadyn. This time it only took a single arrow to send the enemy running for its life.

But the sounds of battle drew the villain to her, and Hadyn met the dire Vampire Alchemist! The undead countess attacked with grotesque blood magics, but Hadyn led her on a running battle, firing arrow after arrow! After an exhausting chase, the countess fell dead with seven arrows in her heart. Hadyn claimed the Coral Serpent and headed home.

The journey back to the city took a full year, but she suffered no injuries, and arrived to discover that while the Coral Serpent had no powerful enchantments, it was a valuable trinket. She fenced it for a small fortune and spent the rest of the season carousing at the tavern. Huzzah!

Design notes

This adventurer rolled +2 in two traits, and made phenomenal Action rolls, so she cake-walked most of the fights. Never took a single injury. To balance that out, I increased the number of baddies for a bunch of encounters, and made sure that ranged fighters could take more injuries. I also added more features to the Adventure Sheet. Progress!

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Solo RPG Playtest #2

After refining a few tables and adding an encounter, I ran a new adventure with the Solo RPG. Again, it played for about 30 minutes, and conjured up a lot of exciting imagery for me.

Soldier of Fortune

Meet Jothi, son of a skilled artisan, but stolen away and raised by a soldier in the way of the spear. At the tavern, Jothi heard an old war story about the Grinning Shield of Arrow Eating and decided to go after it. But as he strode out of the bar, he ran afoul of a drunk guard and a vicious fight ensued. Jothi barely survived the opening scene!

Not feeling very tough, he then negotiated (poorly) to buy some dried rations, an old camel, and an even older guide name Voski.

As they left the city, they passed a hermit’s shack haunted by the ghosts of three cruel children that rose up and slaughtered the poor camel! Unable to fend them off with his spear, Jothi found a holy amulet in the shack and used it to subdue the ghosts one by one. Then he found a scrap of a breastplate and carried on.

Far out on a high grassy ridge, Jothi passed through two rows of statues, where he discovered a fire-breathing drake. The small dragon was amusing itself by destroying the statues. Jothi covered himself in dust and dirt and posed like a statue to wait in ambush. When the drake approached, Jothi rammed his spear down the creature’s throat, causing its fire glands to explode. He then took a claw as a trophy.

Arriving at a ruined tower, Jothi and Voski spotted a pair of armored skeletons guarding a drawbridge. Jothi rushed in and smashed one of them off the bridge into the rushing water below. But the other skeleton stabbed him the back. They smashed the remaining guard and limped into the ruins.

In a cluttered workroom full of weapons, they found a young duelist tinkering with his sword. Jothi fired a crossbow into the youth, pinning him to the wall. Then Jothi rushed in and finished off the fighter before he could call for help.

Then Jothi crept through a block of empty cells where he found more rusty old weapons. But as he entered a narrow passageway, four guards discovered him! A deadly battle broke out in the confined space, and Voski died cursing Jothi’s name. Two of the wounded guards fled, and Jothi ran the others through with his spear.

Injured and alone, Jothi returned to the empty cells only to find a huge white ape bursting through the wall to attack him! After a desperate exchange of blows that destroyed his armor, Jothi lured the wall-crawling ape into a cell and cast him down into a pit full of old broken spears.

Grievously wounded, Jothi staggered into a treasure vault. There he spotted the Grinning Shield, as well as the villain who owned it, an armless sorcerer with telekinetic powers! Jothi hurled his spear, scoring a shallow wound, but the sorcerer collapsed the doorway, trapping our hero. Jothi made a last desperate attack, but the sorcerer used his psychic power to yank the spear from Jothi’s hands and killed him with his own weapon…

Such is life!


This was a great run-through. It was fun and easy to play, the prompts and die rolls made for evocative scenes. I need to keep refining the tables for the encounters with a little more detail, and I need to keep balancing and tuning the Action table for combat. But overall, I think this game is working pretty well and should be done in the next couple of weeks.

Thoughts? Questions?

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Solo RPG Playtest #1

My current top secret project is a solo fantasy RPG! You get to play as a classic pulp Sword & Sorcery adventurer, like Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or Elric. The game is structured to play out the standard scenes in a S&S short story, so if that’s your jam, then this is your jam.

You’re broke in a tavern when you hear about a fabulous treasure just waiting to be claimed. So you gather up your gear, and maybe a sidekick, and set off. You cross the rugged wilderness, overcome a few minor baddies or beasts. Then you enter a creepy ruin, sneak past the guards, fight a monster, defeat the villain, and claim the treasure. Then you roll for your denouement (how does the story really end?).

The first playtest

Meet Durga, the son of a trapper who lost his lover, and was inspired by a priest to travel the world with his trusty axe! One night in a tavern, he heard a rumor of the Black Iron Ring of Wall Walking, a treasure desired by all ambitious thieves!

So Durga stole some delicious provisions, wrangled a wild camel, and hired a mercenary named Tovia to travel with him. As they left the city and crossed a foul midden heap of waste and bones, a grim bounty hunter ambushed them. [ Meta-interpretation: Someone had accused Durga of killing his lover and put a price on his head! ] The hunter got the drop on them, but Durga slew him while only taking a minor wound.

This masked warrior could be Tovia. Could be. Maybe.

A few days later, as they rode through a petrified forest of twisted cypress trees, a swarm of vipers surrounded them. Durga and Tovia climbed up into a tree while their camel galloped away. Unsure of how to defeat so many beasts, Durga cried out to the spirits to aid him. Suddenly the clouds darkened and a freezing rain poured down. The cold-blooded snakes slithered away for shelter, and Durga found a pouch of silver coins. They caught their camel and continued on.

The only approach to the villain’s lair was a narrow stone stair. Lurking in the caves under the stair, Durga spotted a sleeping witch and thousands of bats. They decided to sneak up the stairs in silence, but the witch awoke and unleashed the bats. Durga and Tovia sacrificed their camel to the bats, and entered the lair.

This crystal raptor has nothing to do with the playtest, I just think he’s neat.

Creeping through a low tunnel, Durga found a maze of cellars under the lair. Terrified prisoners sat chained to the walls. Before he could help them, six (!) guards discovered the intruders. Durga attacked while Tovia protected his flank. They wounded two guards, but Tovia fell in battle! Durga dashed into the shadows and laid an ambush. When the guards walked by, he burst out and ran through the passage, slashing them all in the side. Two of the guards fled the battle, but the remaining four dealt Durga several more wounds, forcing him to flee up into the main building.

In a great hall full of mounted animal heads, Durga found Malak, a renowned trophy hunter. [ Meta-interpretation: Malak now hunted Man, as evidenced by the prisoners below! ] Malak unleashed a hail of arrows, forcing Durga to retreat to another room. There he set a quick trap using a crossbow and net. Malak burst into the room, taking an iron bolt in the belly and becoming tangled in the net. Durga then rushed in and slaughtered the cruel hunter.

Durga claimed the Black Iron Ring from Malak’s hand, and returned to the city. It only took him a few days to get back, but disaster struck on the road, costing him his left hand! And to make matters worse, when he reached the city, he discovered that his treasure was nothing more than a worthless fake! Oh well, back to the tavern…

Designer notes

It only took about 30 minutes to play through this adventure. At first my die rolls were massive and everything felt too easy, but then things turned against poor Durga quite a bit. The tables for creating encounters were pretty good, and the rules for running a battle worked well. I need to continue fine-tuning the roll results. And I made some upgrades to the character sheet / adventure chronicle as I went.

So I feel pretty good about all of that.

How does this game actually work?

The dice mechanic for this solo game is 2d6 + Trait with three possible outcomes: Miss, Weak Hit, or Strong Hit (similar to PbtA… or identical to PbtA). And I’m creating some detailed tables to help the player choose what to do and interpret rolls. For example, there are eight specific Actions you can take in combat, and each roll result is clearly stated in one table.

It’s turning out to be a neat little engine for creating Sword & Sorcery characters and short stories. It might be a good tool for creating a character concept you could play in other games (not the mechanics, but the back story). Maybe.

More as it develops!

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Poll: A new stat block

This is a thought experiment, just an exercise. For no particular reason.

Imagine for a second that an adventure said “Armor” instead of “AC”. Or that is said “Health” instead of “HP”. That’s easy enough…

Now. Imagine you’re a 5E player used to using six stats and saves. What if the stat block said “Body +2 // Mind -1”. Could you use that +2 for Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution? Could you use that -1 for Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma?

Now. Imagine you’re an OSE or BX player used to five slightly different saves. What if the stat block just said one number, the average number?

What if a stat block looked like…

What do you think?

[yop_poll id=”4″]

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