a blog of short and medium length ttrpg thinking posts

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

3eish: bones

Alright, without further ado here is the mechanical skeleton of my 3eish rules. This does not include any character options or combat-specific rules, other than a brief description of how attacks work. It also doesn't include rules for equipment, adventuring hazards or any kind of magic or special abilities. It is literally just the resolution and injury/endurance parts of the system.

a skeleton. spooky!

Monday, May 16, 2022

it's a small (domain level) world

So, domain play rules tend to turn games into different games. I like playing Smallworld, so here's campaign rules that kind of turna campaign into that.

A picture of a set-up board for the game Smallworld.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

3eish: a closer to 3e hack

Heaven help me, I'm about to make a "why I haven't been posting as much recently," post, aren't I.

I won't dwell on it because no one cares, but honestly the reason I haven't made many posts is that instead of rapidly flitting from idea to idea I stayed relatively focused on a couple of projects. For a while, this was hulk rats, which I just posted, and then I moved on to my current obsession which I am calling 3eish.

No, I won't be posting a draft (even an incomplete one) of a second whole-ass game today. I just want to talk about the project a little bit.


So, I've worked on hacks that have said they're based on 3e or d20 modern before but their relationship to those systems beyond my invocation of their names have been, uh, unclear. For Target 20 Modern, it was basically the names of the stats, and for my previous 3e-based hack it was basically just the words "Fortitude, Reflex and Will," which were used in totally different ways than before.

Having recently regained possession of my old 3e books, however, I was poring over them and realizing how much I genuinely do like about the first DnD I learned; especially knowing what I know now about the history and motivations of a lot of its pieces. And, inveterate tinkerer that I am, there are simply so many points of pain in the system that I can't help tearing it apart and rebuilding it.

This is not a small project; I'm basically rewriting the entire SRD from the ground up. I'm about thirteen thousand words deep already, big beefy chunks remain more or less unwritten (the arcane spell list, to name a big one). So like, watch this space? But don't hold your breath.

Nevertheless, I feel like I do have a distinct vision for the game, here's my attempt to articulate what I'm doing with it:


Hulk Rats, with the help of Heaven a game by Zev, after the fashions of Orbiters Local 519 and Maze rats, in the year 5782 of the world

Well, it's certainly been long enough since I made that uncharacteristic scifi weapons post, so it was only to be expected (as, indeed, Orbiters Local 519 was itself the sequel to what was meant to be a standalone scifi post) that in the meantime I have written up HULK RATS as its own hack.

what's in it

  • A very cool, very sexy take on Maze Rats saves and attacks, where saves are to roll under and attacks roll over targets' saves.
  • Adventurer templates rebranded as skills.
  • Adrenaline as HP
  • Rules for resource exhaustion and how much you can carry on your spacesuit.
  • Extremely half-assed environmental hazard rules.
  • All the power tools stuff, in somewhat less clunky form.
  • A surprisingly detailed bestiary with eighteen stat blocks for iconic sf/horror enemies that I hope are all absolutely busted in different ways.

why's in it

To be honest, one of the main reasons I pushed through to completion on this project despite losing my steam for it weeks ago was because I wanted to make more posts about the Maze Rats-derived GLOG chassis I developed here. I really like the way this hack uses templates as "skills" and I really like its lineup of RUN, HIDE and TRICK for the saving throws. I will probably post a more traditional fantasy GLOGhack using them at some point.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

power tools (towards HULK RATS)

I have spent too much time thinking about first person shooters for someone who has not played one in years. Here's a sketch of a system encompassing scifi power tools (and, correspondingly, guns). This was written with a (forthcoming? who knows) mashup of Orbiter's Local 519 and Maze Rats in mind, working title: HULK RATS.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

HP as adrenaline (also initiative, I guess)


In the general course of events, characters have Stamina which is depleted by strenous activity or injury. Every time they become injured, roll (an appropriate type of roll) under your stamina or take Critical Damage. However, when a crisis that needs to be resolved moment-to-moment breaks out, they can rely on a Rush of strength and agility to protect them instead.

a truly incredible diagram of a woman leaping through the air, annotated with all the 'adrenaline superpowers' that she benefits from

Once a character becomes aware of danger, the player may spend points of their stamina up to your level (if your game has variable hit dice per class, two-thirds level for clerics/thieves and one-third level for mages [rounded up]) and roll that many dice. The total is your Rush, which is used for several things:

  • Each round, action proceeds from highest Rush to lowest Rush and then from highest Stamina to lowest Stamina for characters that do not have the benefit of a Rush.
  • When a character takes damage, they may spend points of Rush to reduce the damage by that amount (to a minimum of zero).
  • If you have a Rush, taking any careful or deliberate action while being menaced by a danger (for example, within reach of a foe) costs 1 point of Rush.

A player may only roll for a Rush when their character becomes aware of a new source of danger. An encumbered character can't roll up a Rush.

If they have a chance to rest after a crisis is resolved, characters may exchange Rush for Stamina at a rate of three to one. If there is no opportunity to rest, or if there are excess points of Rush after exchanging the rest for Stamina, they are lost.


Joke: everyone can backstab.
Woke: everyone can rage.

Listen, there are a lot of different interpretations of HP. This is another one, clearly. Probably someone's thought of it before. A lot of different ideas are coming together to form this: hit dice as a resource to replenish hit point pools (sort of reversed), hit dice being rolled at the start of an encounter, Into the Odd-style critical damage rolls, and (weirdly enough) an example consequence for failing a 4e-style Skill Challenge being the loss of a healing surge (out of combat) or damage (in combat).

Oh, and the rule about spending Rush to take actions while you're being menaced is taken from the Pressure mechanic from OLOG, an extremely cool replacement for Attacks of Opportunity which is (as far as I know) only described in the parenthetical note to the Arsenal ability of the Marine class in this post.

One thing I like about this is that the consequences of surprise/backstabbing sort of comes for free. I also think the Electric Bastionland rule about burdened characters having zero HP fits in very naturally. Not sure what else to say, I just kind of like it.

Friday, November 5, 2021

the straight road through the seas of night

Though the voyage is not easy, it is known that a mariner who can find the Straight Road can sail beyond the edges of the world and reach the stars, islands of bright light studded into a silent, dark, astral sea, colder than the grave and vaster than imagination.

A white ship on a blue sea, sailing toward a darkening horizon.

The first thing an astral sailor must know is that one may not sail to any star at any moment. The Straight Road leads away only to the West, and one may find it only when sun and moon set as one. The astronaut sets their course only by the star that rises opposite the setting of the Sun. They will know their course is true if the heavens cease to turn, their guide-star rising no higher than a beacon from an impossible shore.

Friday, September 24, 2021


(Being a magic system for the marginal and desparate, to be used with these 3e-like rules.)

a witch, writing at a table and holding a demon in her left hand, while another woman carries a basket of fish and looks on nervously

The world is a cruel and capricious place, over which we have very little power. The power we do have hurts us, it seems, almost as often as it helps. Witchcraft is an attempt to seize control of your own fate by whatever means necessary.

You can use witchcraft to try to make something happen even if it is totally outside of your control. To do so, you need to be able to see, hear, smell, touch or name whatever you want to bewitch, at least in part. You also need one or more of the following:

  • Will. You are willing to burn for this. This is automatic if you're using witchcraft to save your own life or that of someone you love, but otherwise this calls for a Will roll. This is what the Witching skill is; it is the skill of making yourself want something badly enough.
  • Words. You know powerful words to say, specifically for this purpose. Words are usually fairly specific, but it's simply a matter of learning them, either from a teacher or from magical writings.
  • Ways. You have an efficacious ingredient (usually some animal part, herb or mineral, but sometimes a more complex preparation) and know that is suited to the task at hand.

Roll 1d6 for each of these that you have. If the highest die is a 6, the witching works immediately and completely. If it is a 4 or 5, choose one of those. Otherwise, it accomplishes nothing.

When bewitching beings sensible to speech, witchcraft can accomplish one of two things. It can either curse their body and mind with some sort of disease, or it can mesmerize them for as long as the witch is able to continue muttering the witching under their breath. One mesmerized will take no action other than those commanded by the witch, but each command requires the witch to succeed in a Will attack against their mental resistence.

There are prices to be paid for witchcraft. If doubles were rolled, the Referee interprets the stated intent of a witching in bad faith, if possible. For every 1 rolled, the witch loses nerve or takes damage equal to the number of dice rolled. If triples were rolled, the witching lets something demonic into the world:

1s1d6 wisps. If the damage from the witching critically injures you, one of them seizes your body as a ketev.
2s2d6 mournful shades of the dead.
3sAn unbound imp, cruel and evil-tempered.
4sA wraith that knows your name and can wear your likeness as it rides away, intent on mischief.
5sA wraith whose name you hear as it slips into the world, to bind them with if you catch them again.
6sA bound familiar, unquestioningly loyal to you til death.

Monday, September 13, 2021

whence 3E's skills

The third edition Player's Handbook lists more than forty skills in which its adventurers can have ranks. Although prior editions of the game had skill systems (AD&D's Nonweapon Proficiencies and BECMI's General Skills), the 3rd edition skill system breaks with them in two ways:

  • It is no longer an optional part of the game, but instead arguably the most-used non-combat mechanic in 3E D&D.
  • The skill system does not use (modified-)ability-score-roll-under, as NWP and General Skills do, but a d20 + bonuses vs target number mechanic, similar to the newly-rationalized d20 + bonuses vs armor class mechanic used in combat.

I'm not going to spill any (digital) ink addressing those points. If you have strong opinions about them, good for you. Rather, I'm going to address the question: where did 3E's list of skills come from?