octaNe, and old love of mine

octaNe. A true storygame classic. I bought the book as soon as it hit the shelves, and I was never disappointed. octaNe uses “scene resolution” most of the time. That means, conflicts are resolved with one roll of the dice. Hm.

How can I resolve octaNe conflicts in a way that keeps them exciting for the players? In a nutshell, conflict resolution in octaNe works like this: A threat has a hazard rating. Each Hazard Point neutralizes one of the player’s dice, always the highest one. The dice left after the Hazard determine who gets control of the scene.

For example: A T-Rex controlled by a mad dwarf scientist sitting in a bulletproof cockpit welded onto the dinosaur’s head is, say, Hazard 2. The T-Rex attacks a completely surprised Lucha Livre wrestler. The player rolls the usual 3d6 and comes up with 2,4,5. The two highest roll results, 4 and 5, are “eaten” by the Hazard, leaving only the 2. In octaNe, a 2 means the gamemaster has complete control over the scene – exactly the constellation found in the traditional game. Now everyone involved in the game would play the whole thing out.

The scene would, at least in my eyes, lose tension.

If, instead of subtracting the Hazard Rating from the players’ dice results in one go, I were to tell a short back and forth with the player for each single Hazard point before subtracting the next point of Hazard, it would considerably increase the tension for the players. In comparison to the example above, a Hazard 2 would have two scenes, “snapshots”, of the wrestler’s fight against the T-Rex.

And most importantly, the player doesn’t know the opponent’s Hazard Rating. Does the fight already stop after one scene? After two? Or does it last even longer?

Sorcerers & Sellswords: Hacking the rules II

My last post hacked the game rules of S&S by introducing two new attributes, and switching the dice system to roll on-or-under.

Now, let’s go one step further and simply drop the stats. Sorcery is gone, and Swords is history, too.

Creating a character now means choosing a Style and a Calling, a Goal and a Name. Don’t pick a skill number. Instead: in a few words, describe your character – history and abilities.

Let’s try this with the character we introduced in the first post:

Galgad O’Karrt, Shrewd Psion.
He’s been through a very rough patch. Lost his belongings in the fire when they started hunting people “not like them”. Hopes his brother is still alive. He managed to survive a few street brawls, but was injured pretty badly each time. His weapon is the mind.

AND NOW use Grant Howitt’s brilliant little system for his Retrograde game.

Situation: Galgad tries to PSI Blast an ignorant town guard. He’s in pain from a deep fall the day before, so the GM says the outcome of the blast is in doubt. I roll 3d6 because he is a Psion, he uses his mind as a weapon. I get a 3, a 4 and a 5. That’s two successes (die result 4+). Galgad succeeds, and I get to dictate what happens.

Cool! That’s even simpler and easier than the original system. I don’t have to compare a stat number or several stats to my roll. I simply roll the dice and hope for at least a 4 on every die. That’s it.

Campfire stories

The more 
– I’m tinkering with OSR systems 
– I’m adapting different systems to Arnesonian gaming 
– I’m thinking about what module or sandbox to run next,

… the more I’m picking up and reading (or re-reading, or re-re-reading even) storygames. pbta. Over the Edge 3rd edition. Itras By. Everway.


I know it’s *entirely* possible to run, say, Warhammer or Shadowrun or D&D with them. Because I ran a five-year Shadowrun 1e campaign diceless (meaning randomless) or using the Everway fortune cards.

And then.

And then I’m asking myself, ‘why do you bother with hit points, modifiers, all that mechanical sh…tuff? Why don’ tcha go full frontal freeform again?’

You know, it’s my 36th year of refereeing rpgs. And the majority of those years, we played freeform, diceless, or later, with Everway cards. And now, with ample time on my hands, I’m starting to wonder what happened. What happened?

Time to return to where I came from. It’s time.

Stop the presses! These rules are positively Over the Edge

I trying to avoid the F-word, so that’s that.
But: Daaaaaaayyum.

When the 3rd edition of “Over the Edge” hit the shelves, I bought the hardcover immediately. Today, I finally started reading it. I’ve loved every edition of OtE, and this latest one is no exception. Gawd, I loves me some Over the Edge!


Third Edition has the best rules system I can imagine. This includes, and that’s not particularly easy for me to say, my Landshut rules.

What’s so special about it?

A few highlights, neatly packed into a nutshell:

  • 2d6, player-facing rolls
  • compare player character’s level of competence (purely subjective) with the opposing force’s level of competence or difficulty; both on a 1 to 7 scale
  • if I start a conflict, I need a 7+ to succeed, if the other side initiates it, I need 8+
  • the difference between competence levels dictates if I’m allowed to reroll one die, or if the ref can force me to do that
  • a difference of 3 or more means either autosuccess or autofailure
  • rolling a 4 means a “good twist” on top of the success or failure
  • rolling a 3 means a “bad twist” on top
  • double-4 is called “Crazy Eight”, and is a really good twist
  • double-3 is called “Lightning Bolt”, and is a really bad twist
  • a 3-4 is called “Twist Tie”, and is one good and one bad twist at the same time 
It’s absolutely amazing how much narrative punch this little rules engine is packing.
Consider this:
Your rhino capoeira ex-soldier is surprised by 4 experienced barroom brawlers. He is competence level 2, but the goons are no slouches either (and there’s four of them). The ref says that’s a difference of 1 in the goons’ favor – and he can force one reroll on you if he doesn’t like your dice result.
You narrate how your rhino soldier goes in attack-mode almost instantly, after all, that’s what he has been trained for half his life. Taking initiative means you have to roll 7 or more to defeat the goons. You roll… a 4 and a 1: 5. Oof. That’s a failure, and because the ref feels it might be appropriate, he forces the reroll on you, saying “Hey choomba, please reroll the 4”. This move is NASTY because she’s taking the “good twist” (4, remember?) away from you. You roll the die again, and: score a 2, for a total of 3. That’s a really, really bad defeat, your soldier is getting hurt really badly, possibly with fatal consequences.
Replace this conflict with anything you want. It’ll work, and it’ll be rich and narrative and interesting and as crazy and bad and good as you want it to be. So so so good. 
Now, I finally KNOW what system I’ll be using for our next games. Thank you, Jon. Thank you, Chris.