Dunkelwurm: One-roll Sword&Sorcery fantasy

It’s such a good time to be a roleplayer! So much creativity. And yes, hope. 

I’ve written about my Dunkelwurm game before.

Today, i’d like to introduce you to the Dunkelwurm One-Roll game: one roll of the dice, and you know who your character is – or at least, what he is right now, when the game starts. Everything else will be determined in play.

Roll a d4, d6, a d8, a d10, a d12 and a d20.

Now, take the d6 and the d10: Your Class

1–2 and 1: Rooster Rogue (Hahnenschalk)
Rooster? Hah! You’re so much more than a talking man-sized rooster with human hands and clothes! You are the direct descendant of the proud and noble House of Rooster Rogues. Your Art of Illusion is the stuff of legends. Bag of Magic Eggs, sword, noble clothes

1–2  and 2: Elf
You are ancient, but you look younger than most humans. A child you are not. Sometimes it amuses you to see those humans planning and scheming, without regards of the really long-term consequences. Plans will come to pass, and humankind is just a pawn in the Great Game. Bow and arrow, flute, bag of herbs

1–2  and 3: Dwarf
Rock gave birth to you. The ground shaped you. You know the mountains and stones and pebbles, better than anyone else. Ax, hammer, metal armor

1–2  and 4: Soldier/Warrior/Barbarian
One of the elite soldiers, you know battle. You love battle, and you have the scars to prove it. From the Flying Fields of Misan to the Dire Swamps in the South, you have fought there. One-handed weapon, leather armor, shield

1–2  and 5: Adventurer
Back home in the village, you were a nobody. Now, here, you’re free. Hungry and without riches, but free. You are one of the few who have left the Walled City, and the memories haunt you to this day. Knives, quilted uniform, musical instrument

1–2  and 6: Jarl:
A duke of the clods you are, a ruler over two villages. Or, you were. Now, Lady Adventure is singing her siren songs. Sword, polearm, leather armor, flask of schnaps

1–2  and 7: Magister
Your name is known in the Academy of the West. You haven’t made it into the White Tower, but a breakthrough in your research is only a matter of time. Books, writing utensils, magnifying glass

1–2  and 8: Man of the Woods
You know the forest and its inhabitants. You know them well, and they’re your friends, at least many of them. Dowsing rod, bag of herbs, a bottle filled with water from the Otherside

1–2  and 9: Sorcerer
You have opened a door you shouldn’t have opened. You have started playing with forces you don’t understand. Five spells have you defeated and forced into your labyrinthine cages so they may never escape. There are 95 more. Magic elmwood staff, foliants, scrolls, robes, pointed hat

3–4 and 1: Crusader
You know the One and True God. The ones who don’t believe in him are misguided. Heathens! Only when every city in the West and in the East are united under the banner of the Church, the world will know peace. Warhammer, chainmail armor, uniform, banner

3–4 and 2: Wandering Monk
Life in the monastery was good. Then, It happened, and you have never stayed in one place for long ever since. Some say, you are on the run. Sometimes, the gods are talking to you. Or is it the demons? Staff, frock, holy symbol

3–4 and 3: Fingersmith
Quick, agile and nimble. Specialized in property relocation. Dagger, bags, mask, rope

3–4 and 4: Stomptrooper
No kingdom, no empire, without mindless soldiers. Comrades in arms, a force to be reckoned with. Weak when alone. Form-fitting armor, sword

3–4 and 5: City
Some people know all the streets and places in town. Others have all the important contacts. But you. You. Are. The. City. Impromptu weapons you can find always and everywhere , Concrete plate armor, a horse, a carriage, a tiny house that‘s bigger on the inside

3–4 and 6: Officer of the Cult
Obey the Master. His word is Penultimate Truth. Obey the Master. Medallion with the image of The Master (acts as armor  on a good Luck roll).

3–4 and 7: Hunchbacked Mystic
Reclusive eccentrics. Wise men, sages and fools. Ask them, and you will get answers. Sometimes, they even make sense. Collection of Holy Books (count as armor)

3–4  and 8: Troll Cannoneer
One of the oldest tribes in the world. Their culture, both artistic, refined and violent. You are one of them. Young. Inexperienced. But proud. Trokkk® Two-handed Handgunne, bottle of moonshine

3–4 and 9: Nine Heavenly Seas Navigator
Pirates in flying ships. Adventurers in dark space. Scoundrels them all. Sextant, flintlock pistol

5–6 and 1: Netherworld Barbarian
Your people have lived under the land for as long as they can remember. Fierce and loyal, with an unsatiable lust for life. Huge two-handed sword or war hammer

5–6 and 2: Slugman Noble
Palaces up in the mountains, decadent, glittering in the sun. Your word is law, and has been forever. Aloof, distant and cold as ice. One month supply of rare tea, traditional chukri long dagger, an elastic, absorbing skin, eyestalks that allow you to look around corners.

5–6 and 3: A King/Queen in Exile
Men, women, wine, slaves, gold and riches, you had it all. Then the Others invaded your lands, and you ran for your life. Royal insignia, a rusty sword

5–6 and 4: Dwarven Engineer
Great tinkerers with a keen sense of weird mechanisms. Mechanical miracle workers. Book of Forefatherly Complex Constructions:, Dwarven Machines that imitate a spell effect

5–6 and 5: Panzer Templar
Defenders of the world. Unholy alliances threatening existence. The truth does not lie in the middle, it‘s both. At the same time. Scorchsword, roll 1d6: 1-5: metal arms, 6: metal head

5–6 and 6: Councilman
Secrets, trade deals and connections. Most of them shady, some outright dangerous. A fragile equilibrium. Poisoner‘s ring 

5–6 and 7: Holy Man/Holy Woman/Holy Hermaphrodite
Your god talks to you. And your life only knows one goal: to please God. Begging bowl, chillum pipe and hasheesh, Prayer Beads 

5–6 and 8 Runemaster
The secrets of Dere are contained in the eon-old runes the gods gave you. You know how to combine them. You know how to feed them. Treat them well, and they will be your allies. Set of runes consecrated with your own blood, sword, wolfskin complete with head , Book of The Nine Worlds

5–6 and 9: Stranger
You have no memory of how you came here, or who your parents are. Sometimes, you just know things, but how? Also, when you’re involved in a fight, bystanders have called your style „weird an unexpected“. You seem to have a natural affinity towards everything mechanical and… strange. Book written in a language nobody has ever seen, a small rectangular-shaped thing, flexible, but sturdy, with your name on it, a magic item that looks like a very flat rectangular box with unbreakable glass on the frontside. 

Now, take your d8: Where you come from

1–Havena, the infamous harbor city
2–Gareth, the capital of the Middle Reich
3–The Orkland, where the monsters roam free
4–Norbard-Nivesi, the cold steppe inhabited by small tribes
5–Thorwal Pirates
6–Khom Desert
7–Kingdom of Batubatan, on the highest peak of the highest mountain in the whole world
8–Southern City States, the cesspool of sin and decadence

Now, take your d4: The god you worship

1: an Angry and Wrathful God
2–3: a Neutral God
4: a Friendly God

Now, take your d12: a Skill

5–Magic Lore 
11– Negotiation

Now, take your d20: What’s your Sign again?

You were born in the Year of the 

1–2: Rat: charismatic, quick learner
3–4: Ox: smart, but huge, huge appetites
5–6: Tiger: courageous and strong
7–8: Rabbit: charismatic, but moody and angst-ridden
9–10: Bear: enormously strong, but gullible
11–12: Snake: smart, but pretty cold
13–14: Horse: fast, but easily frightened
15–16: Sheep: smart, but stubborn
17–18: Monkey: smart, but greedy
19–20: Dog: loyal, but a follower, not a leader


Love the characters. Respect the genre. Try to resolve every action by using common sense. Clarify your players’ intentions, then make a judgment. Grown-up healthy human beings can take 3 or 4 hits. Each hit with a weapon or bare hands reduces a character’s hits by 1. Especially good or dangerous weapons inflict more. Feel free to knock out or injure a character if the narration and common sense warrant it. If in doubt, go with the first idea that comes to your mind. If you want to roll dice, roll a d20 vs. another d20.

Magic Items, FKR style

So, everything is up to interpretation in FKR games, right?

Why don’t we apply that rule to… magic items?

Let’s ask the oracle for a name, shall we?

Ah, the infamous “Berserkers’ Cudgel of Platinum Cloud”!

Quick brainstorming here, and then I write down the following ‘tags’: HUGE SPIKES, EMITS PLATINUM-COLORED CLOUDS, HEAVY

After tagging, the fun part begins.

The players write down the tags, and so do I. The tags are all they have and know. No numbers, no mechanics.

When a situation arises where a piece of Loot or a Spell might fit, I roll a die. One die. The higher the result, the more effective that Loot or Spell works. How do they work? I’ll make a ruling. Maybe the Berserker’s Cudgel of Platinum Cloud does damage alright, but if the die rolls a really high number, a hit turns enemies into clouds, or engulfs them with clouds that do horrible things to them.

Of course, you can also ask the players what they think it might mean… and use their ideas for your sinister plans 😉

RANT with pics: And a no-glitz elf for me, please

I DO have an intense dislike of ‘high fantasy’ in general. It all reminds me (maybe with the exception of Tolkien, but only because his work was the first work of fantasy I encountered) of bad fanfic and bad kitchen sink rpgs.
I DO have an intense love for pulpy, action-packed, tersely written, sword &… literature and games.
Instead of high concept fantasy with dark elves that are nothing more than good-looking bad boys with goth makeup, instead of dwarves that are nothing more than short, grumpy master blacksmiths, instead of magic that’s as predictable as a happy ending in the latest boring Hollywood flick:
Give me Conan! Give me Tarzan! (and maybe a bit of Elric)
Give me evil witches and wizards!
Give me immense treasure!
Give me glorious violence!
Give me elves that are as alien as the elves of folklore!
Give me insatiable hunger for adventure!

The fuck? Issat supposed to be a barbarian or something? With a 20-kilogram maxi broadsword (“paddlesword”, I’m told, is the right nomenclature here; thanks, guys!). Sure. Why not. After all, everything’s possible in La-La-Land, right? Right?

Now that’s a warrior. Notice the difference? This one here has seen battle. The one above has only seen the mirror. A million times.

Geez. A tiefling. What the fucking fuck? Who wants to play that? Besides, everyfuckingbody knows that they’re a spawn of Hell. Chaos Incarnate. What the fucking fuck. But that’s high-concept 5e and glossy magazine, politically correct gaming to you.

See, that’s what a Chaos creature really looks like. And yeah, bullet to the forehead, serves him just right. John Blanche.

Aaaaaaand another polished looking, swanky character.  That’s the typically bland 4e and 5e look, and it’s disgusting. Sheesh, look at the swag mini fireball hovering above his palm. Neat braided beard, you loser.

If you want to know what a real magician in a real fantasy world looks like, look no further than John Blanche, the master. This is a slinger of spells. This is someone who was borderline fucking crazy when he started the Dark Arts. Now, he’s just a motherfucking abomination in human skin. Do you want to have someone like that in your party? Ha?

Ooooh. How cute. Mogogols. Frog men. A 5e player race. Much inclusive. Oh yeah, and roleplaying tip: “Always remember, when playing a Mogogol, they’re incredibly optimistic”
In contrast: real frog-men. The Slann. Aztec-cultured monsters. You know, Aztecs. What do you mean, blood sacrifice? But ain’t they, like, happy toads, or something? (Probably because they’re licking themselves, but that’s stuff for a future blog post)

Project Dwarven Runway. Neat little people, right? Just like humans, only stockier. That’s what happens when you make everything, everything equal. Dwarves? They’re vertically-challenged humans. Expert opinion: Fuck that outrageous lame-assery.

You know the drill. THAT’S what real dwarves look like. And see how… weird they look? That’s because they ARE weird, compared to what’s normal for us humans. Again, John Blanche shows the way.

Aaaw. 5e battle scene. So… dynamic. Look, Ma, no blood! Just the way the Committee for Decency and Clean Entertainmaint ordered it. My take on it: B.T.T. Bored to tears.

A battle scene in real, raw, down-to-blood-drenched-earth fantasy. That’s what battle looks like. Nothing like the Saturday morning cartoon idyll 5e and companions offer us. You gotta be kidding me.


d66 Landshut Rules mini classes

The kind soul behind the Meidos&Monsters blog has written a pretty interesting d66 table for fantasy classes you can use for the Landshut Rules. To give you a taste of what’s going on there:

1x: Martial Classes

  1. Archer. Your arrows can penetrate targets and find their mark in unlikely circumstances.
  2. Ranger. You can commune with animals and find paths through the wilderness.
2x: Roguish classes 

  1. Locksmith. You can unlock, or lock, doors with ease. 
  2. Burglar. You can get in to places where you think there’s treasure without triggering traps and surprises.
3x: Wizards 

  1. Black Mage. Your magic is destructive and dangerous. 
  2. White Mage. Your magic is near-holy in nature. 
To see the table in all its glory, go there: https://blog.waifu.haus/tables/d66-landshut-classes/

Way of the Exploding Sword – action-gaming with the Index Card RPG

Art © Jörg Drühl

Here we go!

I’m presenting the latest incarnation of my tag-heavy, freeform ICRPG.

Character Creation
  • no stats
  • write down 6 tags – they can be as short or long as you want, single words or whole sentences
  • mechanically, each tag counts as +1 to your roll
  • weapons and armor are tags

E. Honda,
Class: Sumotori
Bioform: Human
extremely heavy, strong as an ox, one of the best sumotori in the world, tough as nails, Buddha Thousand-Palm-Slap, deals massive damage

  • Method A:
    In a fight, add all relevant tags to your d20 roll. If there are any disadvantageous tags, subtract 1 from your roll for each. The gamemaster/referee does the same for monsters and npcs.
    Higher roll does damage.
    If one side has severely more powerful tags, add +1d4 to that side’s roll.
  • Method B:
    Count the number of relevant tags.
    If 0–2, roll 1d4
    if 3–4, roll 1d6
    if 5–6, roll 1d8
    if 7–8, roll 1d10
    if 9–10, roll 1d12
    if 11+, roll 1d20

You roll vs GM/referee’s roll.Higher roll does damage.

If one side has severely more powerful tags, add +1d4 to your roll.

Principle of Narrative Truth
  • Everything the players describe happens exactly how they describe it, when they describe it.
  • Narration must not describe the defeat of a character if they still have hit points/heartbeats left.
  • Higher rolls in combat now grant the right to narrate, and the side with the lower roll also takes damage.
  • This way, when winning a roll, a player could also describe how their character gets hit and/or injured, only to have a sensational comeback (when, mechanically, the opponent has been reduced to zero hearts).

One fighting against many
Your total result (roll+tags) counts against every single opponent – or you treat the horde as one single opponent

Checks and Attempts
roll d20+relevant tags vs. target number

either roll damage+relevant tags and subtract total from hp
1 heart = 3 heartbeats
1 hit = -1 heartbeat
1 crit = -1d4 heartbeats

have tags, GM/referee determines
when using loot or casting spells, GM/ref rolls 1d20; 18+: loot/spell has extremely beneficial effects, maybe even functionality it usually doesn’t have

Every tag is a +3 instead of a +1 to your roll.

Example combat, just the mechanics, no narration

_E. Honda, _
Class: Sumotori
Bioform: Human
extremely heavy, strong as an ox, one of the best sumotori in the world, tough as nails, Buddha Thousand-Palm-Slap, deals massive damage

Horde of goblins
there’s a lot of them, swords

Honda amazingly has 6 tags that are relevant for a fight. Note that if Honda or the goblins wore armor, it would also simply count as one tag. Honda adds 6 to his d20.
The goblins have 2 relevant tags for fighting. The goblins add 2 to their d20.

Round 1
Honda: rolls 9, +6 = 15
Goblins: roll 14, +2 = 16
=> Goblins hit, Honda loses 1 heartbeat and has 2 left.

Round 2
Honda: rolls 12, +6 = 18
Goblins: roll 10, +2 = 12
=> Honda hits, Goblins lose 1 heartbeat and have 2 left.

Round 3
Honda rolls a 20 (crit!), +6 = 26
Goblins roll 10, +2 =12 and cry
=> Honda rolls 1d4 to determine how many heartbeats the goblins lose, and rolls… a 1; the goblins are down to 1 heartbeat

Round 4
Honda rolls 16, +6 = 22
Goblins roll 13, +2 = 15
=> Goblins lose their last heartbeat; their fate now is in Honda’s hands. Will he slaughter them? Spare them? Befriend them? Enslave them?

HeroQuest as a roleplaying game

On New Year’s Eve, we played a few sessions of HeroQuest, the old MB board game that everyone is still in love with because it is the best game ever made. I went in with the intention to morph it into a full-blown tabletop roleplaying game. Success came easily.

  1. Grant each adventurer type one or two special abilities or skills.
    These can either be freeform, or you can pick one of several freely available supplements for my minimald6 rpg and use those: Creatures & Classes, Deeds & Doers (not a supplement, but a major, major inspiration for minimald6), or Deeds & Doers Expansion.
  2. Keep the HQ combat system.
    It’s quick, simple and fun.
  3. But change the order of play.
    In regular HQ, each player, including the Evil Wizard player, gets to move and act in order. In rpg-ified HQ, one player rolls a d6, the Evil Wizard player as well – the side with the higher result gets to act first (ALL characters; players will have to determine who does what), then ALL characters of the other party move and act.
  4. Remember how trap doors work in HeroQuest? Use this as saving throw for all non-combat moves.
    When a trap door has been detected, an adventurer can leap across if the player rolls one Combat Die and it doesn’t show a skull symbol. There are three skull symbols, two white shield symbols and one black shield symbol on a Combat  Die. This is how you turn the board game rule into an rpg rule: To be successful, an adventurer rolls TWO combat dice and has to roll a white shield.If in a situation, the adventurer has an advantage of some kind, roll THREE combat dice instead of two. Remember, all you need to roll is one white shield.

    The same in reverse applies to disadvantages: Roll ONE combat die instead of two. Roll a white shield, and you’re golden.

And yes, these few minor twists turn the HeroQuest board game into full-blown minimald6.
Oooooh yeah!

Darkworm Colt — an Epic Fantasy of Sword & Magic

I’ve been looking for a name for my new fantasy game. Didn’t find it, at first, but it was right there in front of my eyes, the whole time.

Darkworm Colt — an epic fantasy of swords & magic

This is not only the name of my blog, but also appropriately weird, hitting all the right notes. Darkworm Colt takes its inspiration from Bakshi films, Heavy Metal 1 and 2, and other 60s/70s/80s fantasy movies. It will will contain:

  • a system based on Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland, i.e., super quick and easy to handle 
  • 30 weird character classes 
  • 4 traditional old school character classes, with 
  • clerics coming in two flavors: traditional clerics and holy men/women/hermaphrodites. Clerics use clerical insignia (item-bound spells) to do magic, holy people use guru prayer beads that bestow a new temporary power upon their wearer every day. 
  • 300 spells (colluted from Chris’s list and Ben Milton’s knave) 
  • simple level-less magic system with magic dice a la GLOG 
  • probably tables to generate mood and appropriate descriptions

I’m pretty happy with how it’s developing at the moment.

Through the week with a Holy Man: details on the Cleric in my Into the Odd fantasy hack

I’m currently working on a game that uses the Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland rules, but transplants the action into the fantasy genre. Depending on your mood, you can either pick the “weird” classes the game offers, or stay traditional and play one of the backgrounds of the original D&D game: cleric, fighting-man, magic-user or thief.

When you decide to play a cleric, you have two options:

  • a) Play a traditional Cleric (uses item-bound spells, colored to fit their god)
  • b) Play a Holy Person (prays each day and rolls to see what special power their god grants them for the day)
Clerics start with one Holy Symbol (spell-item) and one permanent special ability, bestowed upon them by their god. Holy Persons choose to pick so-called Holy Numbers and intonate them properly. Then, they roll a d6 to determine what happens.
Let’s stay with a Holy Man for this post. 

He has STR 8 DEX 11 WIL 14 hp 2. He gets a blunt weapon (1d6) and armor 1. His god is a protective god. 

On day 1, he picks the Holy Number 7, rolls a d6 and his god grants him the ability to turn a target or himself immaterial for 1d4 rounds.

On day 2, he picks the Holy Number 5, rolls a d6 and gains armor 3 for this day.

On day 3 and 4, he picks the Holy Number 3, rolls a d6 and gains armor 3 for these days.

On day 5, he picks the Holy Number 7, rolls a d6 and his god forces a target to be spiritually fascinated by a piece of armor the Holy Man determines, effectively cutting any damage the target does does in half.

On day 6, he picks the Holy Number 8, rolls a d6 and, for this day, can either turn ten pieces of garment into Armor 1, or give ten targets Armor 3, or let ten persons resist poison successfully, or turn ten persons immaterial for 1d4 rounds.

On day 7, he picks the Holy Number 4, rolls a d6 and his armor and that of his companions permanently gain +1.

These results are all pretty generic. That’s intentional. The random effects still need to be dressed up in colorful description by the player. The Holy Man I wrote about here might see the effects of his god’s powers as divine light surrounding his body, while another Holy Man might be protected by the giant spiritual hands of his goddess.

Bottom line: I’m pretty satisfied with how the Divine Miracles of the Holy Persons work. More on this after playtesting.