Monday, September 25, 2017

Demon Week, Day 1 Notes


*If you missed it, here I am being interviewed about a new unannounced project for LotFP as well as Demon City.

If you go "What's the new LotFP thing?" and you didn't watch it I'll just shake my head like mmmm

*Do you not have Vornheim yet? Really? It got reviewed again--this time by someone who went out and made their own city book right after.

*There's a kick-ass Lamentations Bundle and it goes to support the civil liberties organization that protected Steve Jackson Games from illegal search and seizure.

*D&DWPS rogue Satine Phoenix is playing D&D with D&D head honcho Mike Mearls for a kids' charity.

*Green Ronin still sucks and only pays lip service to LGBT rights.

Anyway, it's Demon Week
Doing open playtests for Demon City.

1. Real worldy Demon City names ("Alex Walsh") are harder to remember than D&D names. When playing with scads of new wonderful generous playtest volunteers all in one week, maybe ask if you can just use their actual names as their character names to keep it simple...

2. The official rule for Demon City action is "Everybody rolls, highest roller gets to do what they want then Any Action Not Interrupted By The Winning Actions And Which Doesn't Involve Anyone Else In A Clash Happens".

Q: Does running away from somebody "Involve someone else"?

3. How long does contact take to get back to you? This is pure luck but formalize it. 

4. Character gen needs a chart, there's jusssst enough information that people can get confused about the math

5. Waiting for someone to come through the door counts as a round of aiming (extra die next round)

6. The best way to roll bad guy stuff is to roll the bad guy's dice then say "Anybody beat a...." 7, 8 whatever

7. There needs to be a mook rule, rolling 2-3 dice for 4-5 bad guys is dumb. Mooks always roll twice their skill, etc.

8. If you have 2 skills that could apply to a situation that should count for an extra die maybe? Need examples.

9. Rewrite character classes so that all of them have something that matters in character gen or in downtime, maybe? People are so panicked they forget to use class skills, and they tend to be the least important thing about a PC in play

10. What happens to Local Knowledge if you are in a multi-city campaign? Find a way this isn't a stupid choice.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

It's Demon Week

All day open Demon City playtests.

Monday: 6pm-4am Pacific Time
Tuesday: TBA
Wednesday: TBA
Thursday: TBA
Friday: TBA

If you are interested, email: zakzsmith AT hawtmayle with your available days and times in Pacific Time

Bring a PC with you:

Character Gen rules here.

If you make a "Problem" class PC, be sure to also make a 2nd PC in case the game already has a Problem PC.

If you have already made a PC for this game and used it in a playtest, make a new one now for Demon Week

Oh, and here I am being interviewed about Demon City plus some new stuff in the pipeline.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Attention Midwesterners, Contessa Needs You

Contessa, the con-within-a-con dedicated to promoting diversity n games is looking for folks to run games at U-Con in Ann Arbor NOVEMBER 17- NOVEMBER 19, 2017 and Acadecon in Dayton, November 10th – 12th, 2017.

Visit for details and help out with a great cause. Tell 'em D&DWPS sent you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Notes Taken While Starting to Write My Next RPG Book

Room When she is there, Room when she is not there.

Johannes Vermeer

100 Octopuses


“A terrible worm in an iron cocoon,” 


Sexual cannibalism is rare in the animal kingdom. Although cannibalism is not uncommon in cephalopods, here we report the first documented case of sexual cannibalism. A large female Octopus cyanea was observed continuously for 2.5 days in Palau, Micronesia, when she was out of her den. On the second day, a small male followed and mated her 13 times during 3.5 h while she continued to forage over 70 m distance. After the 12th mating, she aggressively chased a different small octopus that barely escaped by jetting, inking and swimming upwards. Shortly thereafter, the original small male mated her a 13th time, but subsequently she attacked and suffocated him and spent 2 days cannibalizing him in her den. This sort of intraspecific aggression helps to explain several reports of octopuses mating out in the open, a behaviour that may serve to allow the smaller mate to escape cannibalism.

Kang the Conqueror

Christianity from Judaism from Canaanism 


Nimue, Viviane, Vivien, Elaine, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne

T.H. White's 1958 Arthurian retelling, The Once and Future King, in which "Merlyn", as White calls him, has the curious affliction of living backwards in time to everyone else. This affliction also appears in Dan Simmons' Hyperion as the "Merlin sickness." A related novel is The Book of Merlyn.


Abbas II of Persia

Kamāl ud-Dīn Behzād


Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba

This unfortunate time for Ibrahim was unfortunate for all monarchs. The
Holy Roman Empire was unsettled by the famous Thirty Years War. Civil war
devastated France and forced the mother of Louis XIV to flee with her children
from her capital. In London, Charles I was condemned to death by his own
subjects. Philip IV, king of Spain, having lost almost all his possessions in Asia, also
lost Portugal.
Voltaire went on to consider the careers of Cromwell in England, Li Zicheng in
China, Aurangzeb in India, and others who had seized power by force, concluding
that the mid-­seventeenth century had been ‘a period of usurpations almost from one
end of the world to the other’.1

The Loe
Llyn y Fan Fach
Llyn Ogwen
Ribbon lake
Llyn Llydaw
Dozmary Pool
Witch's ladder
Martin Mere

dolls and doll carriages harnessed to mice

Lady of the Lake

One Thousand and One Nights

the Seclusium of not Orphone


Islamic Golden Age
William Adams (sailor)

sorceress / witch


Valmont (film)

Thessaly rebellion (1600)
Giordano Bruno
Haunted Lake
Elizabeth Báthory

wfrp career list



History of Spain

Les Liaisons dangereuses

Clathrus archeri

A Coconut Octopus Uses Tools to Snatch a Crab - YouTube

Octopus leaps out of water, grabs crab - YouTube

octopus wraps around the Wildlife Man`s head - YouTube

Tortuosa willow

Ich Dien


 a piece of John the Baptist’s head. (relics)


Paimpont forest
Pergusa Lake

Beeswing, Dumfries and Galloway


The Decameron

The War Hound and the World's Pain

Battle of the Planets


G-Force: Guardians of Space

All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku


Eustache Deschamps

Eleanor de Montfort

a rainwater fishpond on the roof.

chinese painting

Rime dictionary

Ancient Canaanite religion

Origins of Judaism




Jean Le Maingre

a mere Wrecca

Grimoires—17th c


1674  A Hindu conqueror, Shivaji, is crowned king at Rajgarh. Maratha power is established. Shivaji gives assurance to Hindus across India.

1675  The Mugal emperor, Alamgir, has escecuted Tegh Bahadur for refusing to accept Islam. Tegh Bahadur's son and successor, Guru Gobind Rai, vows to combat Alamgir's oppression. He adopts the surname Singh (lion) and gives his closest followers the same surname.

1686  Isaac Newton presents his Principia, Book I, to the Royal Society. 



Ranulf Higden

Cephalopod Attack

Octopus Wrestling





Salix babylonica

Weeping Willow

La Maupin

“List of Women In the Old Testament”

Joanna of Flanders

Imagine an umbrella. Or a willow. Salix babylonica (Babylon willow or weeping willow; Chinese: 垂柳) is a species of willow. This is the situation. 



I'm sailing away set an open course for the virgin sea
I've got to be free free to face the life that's ahead of me
On board I'm the captain so climb aboard
We'll search for tomorrow on every shore
And I'll try oh Lord I'll try to carry on

I look to the sea reflections in the waves spark my memory
Some happy some sad
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had
We live happily forever so the story goes
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold
But we'll try best that we can to carry on

A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said
They said come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing, come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away come sail away
Come sail away with me

Hourglass Heads

“We risk all, we win everything”

Randall, Time Bandits

Monday, September 18, 2017

So, I said, You are a gnome on a goat

First, some heads-ups:

The Lamentations of the Flame Princess bundle is live (including Death Frost Doom 2e rewritten by me and the recent LotFP Ennie winners)*

Fever Swamp is gonna be weird and full of freaks, it's being Kickstarted

Vote for Red & Pleasant Land for Reddit game of the month


I'm playing in False Patrick's game, here's what happened last time:

The Forest of Swine was ruled by the Swine King.

So we fought him, of course. He was like 30' tall? My cleric successfully used a Command spell. You get one word with Command, I said: "Abdicate". Pig wasted a turn throwing his crown on the ground, then I put an animal trap (standard equipment in 5e) on his balls. We took him out and rolled his crown away, along with his hoard, which the GM never thought we'd score.

A session or two later we lost 3 guys, including that cleric, to the Sky Queen's knights, but managed to keep ahold of all that gold--we had a cart. Our wizard also stole a polymorphing staff. News of our exploits spread across her lands. She's a massive pterodactyl-peacock-dragon, the big boss of the whole place.

As we passed back through what was once the Forest of Swine, we ran into a pack of tiny humanoids, mounted on large ungulates--horned and ruminant.

"So," I said "you are a gnome on a goat."

He took offense, I think. He explained they were the Goat Masters, and were bent on wiping out the tigermancers and populating this forest entirely with giant goats.

"Do you like gold?" I said, hoping to recruit them in our scheme of vengeance against the Sky Queen. We already had the xp from the treasure from sessions back so fuck it.

"No! We care nothing for baubles! We respect only strength--and the ability to psychically control goats."

Hmmm...I thought. I had a ranger now, and he was second level The ability to psychically control goats?

Strode did he boldly toward the leader astride his broad billy and engaged the rangerous ability of Animal Friendship. Dice rolled.

The gnome gasped and fell from his rebellious steed "I AM NOTHING!" he cried, and fled into the mountains.

The remaining band of Goat Masters stood in awe.

And "Behold!" cried the wizard, casting Polymorph with the staff on one of our fighters "I HAVE THE ABILITY TO CREATE GOATS!"

Overawed, the Goat Masters stood enrapt--"Imagine!" he said, casting Minor Image and summoning a hooved and capricious hallucination "...a world of infinite goats!"

The next day the horns were blown, and the entire population of 300 Goat Masters came to our side, abandoning the forest to join us, enraptured with visions of holy war.

They described to us the many factions that vied beneath the yoke of the feathered Queen--Tortoise Lords, Bathing Apes, Undead Frogs, and more. The Goat Masters seemed to have the least quarrel with the Frost Witches.

Animal Friendshipping again, we entrained a snowbird to seek the witches out in their mountain lair and bring a message. We dictated it:

"So...frost witches? You know the Sky Queen? We're gonna kill her. We have like 300 guys on goats. I don't know if you're into, like, gold but....we have that? Or however you want to get paid we could use the gold to buy whatever you're into like jewels or babies or magic stuff...anyway, let us know"

The next day a loose-limbed and formidable woman approached the camp, asking "How many babies?"

"Well," I said "where do you usually get babies?"

"Once there were explorers--like you--and they created a city and it was full of babies. But we ate them all...."

"Well, our leader has the ability to create babies!"

The Marquis cast polymorph on a squid.

"Imagine!" he said then, now casting Minor Image again "a world of infinite babies!"

So now we have a goatgnome-and-hag army and are going to go up a mountain assault this fucking dragon queen.
*Full list:
Blood in the Chocolate (Ennie winning)
Carcosa (Only hexcrawl product laid out to be usable)
Isle & Dungeon of the Unknown (by the author of Carcosa)
The Monolith From Beyond Space and Time (freaks people out)
Death Frost Doom 2e (rewritten by me.  spooky.)
Lamentations of the Flame Princess (the game)

Veins of the Earth (by Scrap and False Patrick, also Ennie-winning)
Broodmother Skyfortress (By Jeff Gameblog, also Ennie-winning)
Towers Two (by the Gwar guy)
No Salvation for Witches (Raphael Chandler)
Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess (by Zzarchov, I was in the playtests its fun)
Now, a word from our sponsor:
Vote Red & Pleasant Land for game of the month, here

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Weekend Retropost: Bad Games

Retropost Saturday: What bad means..

Thirteen Ways Of Looking At The Terrible Thing You Just Made

When you say a thing is bad, you are usually using it as a shorthand for one of these things.

There are 13 of them.

So, instead of just saying "bad"…maybe say which one you mean next time?
They wanted it to stay up. It didn't.
(1) The Hindenberg

What you really mean:
It Fails to Do What The Author Wanted It To Do
This is a poorly crafted game. People say "broken" a lot here. This also covers things like typos and literal math errors (like the author expects one outcome but it inevitably produces another, things meant to be weak are strong, etc). It is the kind of "bad" where a designer (if they were honest) would agree they missed the mark.

"I co-wrote Mythus with Gary….One of the first things I did when I started playing was to throw out half of the rules we wrote…."
--Dave Newton, co-author of Mythus)

What's a helpful thing to do? 
Show the author saying it does a thing, then demonstrate that it can't, under any circumstances, do that. Then you're right. After that you then might have to prove that that thing is important or outweighs all the good things about the game, but you have proved--at least--a failure of craftmanship.
They were lying
(2) The X-Ray Specs

What you really mean:
It Fails to Do What The Advertising Said It Would Do
People also call this "broken", too. This is a dishonestly made or poorly-tested product.

Seclusium of Orphone says you can make a Seclusium in half an hour (or an hour? Can't remember. Anyway:) You really can't. If you can I haven't heard anybody say you can. You might say Mythus is this, too, if you assume Dave and Gary knew they'd throw out half the rules they wrote before they played.

What's a helpful thing to do? 
Point out the advertising says one thing and demonstrate it's impossible to do that thing. If the advertising is ambiguous and you're railing against it, you're back at (10).

(3) The Left Handed Scissors

What you really mean:
It's relatively unpopular
Not very many people like it. Often conflated with (4).

Torchbearer. All RPGs ever, really.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain why anyone should care whether a game is popular or not. I mean: what's wrong with left handed scissors? Left handed people need scissors, too.

(4) The New Coke

What you really mean:
The Thing Is Underperforming in Terms of Popularity
Less people than you'd expect like it, considering everything it had going for it in terms of advertising, licensing etc. More of a big deal than (3) above--but only if somebody claimed it was supposed to make money. If part of the designers' goal was to make lots of money and sell lots of copies (true in the case of Marvel Heroic, not true in the case of many DIY D&D products) then this is a bit of (1), as well.

Marvel Heroic RPG

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain why anyone not working for the company should care whether a game is making as much money as somebody expected it to. Are you evaluating the ability of the designer to guess the public taste? Sometimes that's important, sometimes it isn't.
In case you had any doubt, Dave Sim's comics had
loooooong text pieces in the end telling you in the
first person that he's sexist.

(5) The Cerebus

What you really mean:
The Thing Accurately Reveals the Author Is A Douche
The words or images in the RPG reflect attitudes on the behalf of the author that only douchebags have. Games called racist or sexist are often this.

Frequently conflated with:
(6), (7), (11)

Example: Those dumb novelty RPGs people make that just make fun of other peoples' RPGs

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain how there is no possible way anybody but a douchebag could've written what's on the page . The easiest way is to find some nonfiction piece the author wrote which echoes the bad ideas in the piece. The most tortured and fraught path is to assume that whatever the author depicts it's something they like--that's almost always wrong and very hard to prove. Ask yourself: are you guessing the author of Ghostbusters hates ghosts, or just assuming?

(6)  The Garfield

What you really mean:
The Author Chose To Do Less Than Their Best Work
A variation on 5. The particular douchebaggery in question being the author clearly could've done better. A lot of stereotypes are supported by this kind of bad because stereotypes are easy to write.

Ruins of Undermountain.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Prove the author knew a better way to do a thing--or grasped that finding it would've been useful--and then show how what's there isn't that.

(7) The Russian Roulette

What you really mean:
Literally the world outside the game gets worse because of this game existing. Games called racist or sexist are often this.

DragonRaid (an '80s Christian D&D alternative), Fate

What's a helpful thing to do?
Prove it with facts. Like DragonRaid for instance made money for some shitstain who had a problem with D&D on Christian grounds, plus maybe granted legitimacy to bigoted attacks on the RPGs that made a lot of peoples' relationship to their hobby (and parents) pretty traumatic when they were young. I'd probably have to do some more research to confirm all this if I really wanted to go after DragonRaid, plus prove that this wasn't balanced out by the fact that it probably introduced people to RPGs who otherwise would've had nothing because their parents were fundamentalists.

If a thing is, objectively, Russian Roulette and will cause harm and the author knows it and agrees with that and puts it out anyway, you have a clear case of (5).
(8) The Offensive Thing

What you really mean:
The Thing Upsets You (When extreme: Triggering)
Games called racist or sexist are often this but it doesn't necessarily mean they are racist or sexist because culture offends people, period. Like any game with gay guys in it will offend someone but whoever it offends doesn't count. People taking offense usually implies they believe it's bad in some other way, too.

Frequently conflated or combined with:
(5), (7)

Blue Rose--the setting purports to be an egalitarian paradise but sweeps class issues completely under the rug. I'm offended. I have no evidence that the authors were classist (5) or just didn't think through egalitarianism very much (1) or that RPG people became any more classist because of it (7), however. It wasn't exactly a popular game (in which case (3) may have led to it not being (7)).

What's a helpful thing to do?
Make a case for whether the people who are offended are just offended alone (in which case who cares?) or whether the offense might indicate (7) or (5). Here's a thing: are people offended by two guys kissing actually not harmed even though they think they are or are they harmed but who cares because fuck them they suck?

(9) The Bad Influence

What you really mean:
It's A Harmful Influence On Other Games

Caves of Chaos, most other early adventure modules--companies realized that authors paid by the word could bulk out 5 pages of ideas to 15, 30, 100, or even 200 pages of text and people would buy it. Thus leading to a lot of (10) and arguably (2) and undeniably (6).

What's a helpful thing to do?
Point out how the tendency didn't exist until that thing came along and make a case the new tendency was some kind of bad.
(10) The Thing You Just Don't Like

What you really mean: The Thing Is Not To My Taste
Like the game is broccoli flavored and you hate broccoli.

Apocalypse World

What's a helpful thing to do?
Describe what kind of person you and/or your group are, what you like, and why that game doesn't do those things or doesn't fit. It's as much about you as it is about the game, acknowledge that, it'll help people who are like you and who aren't decide what to do with the game.


What you really mean: Not To My Taste Plus It's Part Of A Whole Trend Of Things Not To My Taste (Aka "I'm so sick of these games like…")
You like pizza, this game is a hot dog, plus it seems like every ten seconds there's another hot dog.

Apocalypse World Engine-games

What's a helpful thing to do?
As (10) plus describe why you think anyone else should care that there are a lot of these games that you don't need to buy (if you are). Are you arguing (9)? Are you arguing that a critical mass of (11)s result in (7)? Are you just sort of irritated at not being a majority? If it helps: you play RPGs, you're not and never will be.

i.e. Are you saying "less of this, please" when the problem could be just as easily solved with "more of that, please"?
(12) The Game For Douchebags

What you really mean: Not To My Taste Plus It's Only To The Taste Of Shitty People
This is like (10) on overdrive: You don't like it and can't think even imagine a worthwhile human being enjoying this thing, nor have any such people come forward.

Bliss Stage. Maybe it does what it's supposed to and what it advertises and does it to the best of the author's ability and hurts no-one but what it's supposed to do doesn't seem to appeal to anyone who isn't a moron.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Describe what shitty characteristic of a person links to the shitty part of the game. If someone you like is into the game, then you have to revise your opinion. Like so even thought tons of terrible people like Monsterhearts, so does Shoepixie and I like Shoepixie and don't begrudge her entertainment, so I guess that game is ok.

(13) The Chew Toy

What you really mean: One or More Of The Above Plus the Author is a Douche
It has flaws that may or may not be objective. But the author is pretty objectively terrible.

Example: FATE

What's a helpful thing to do?
You can keep calling the game "bad" because the only person it's unfair to is the author and they're a douche. But if someone asks then you need to point out what made you decide the author's a douche.
So this simplifies life. Most critiques are 10 dressed up with other stuff to make them seem more objective, like

The standard knock against White Wolf is a lot of mechanical (1) with either (10) ("I'm not a goth") or (2) ("I am a goth and it wasn't goth enough").

The 4venger attacks on Old School D&D were a lot of (1) and (2) with, at least on some sides, some (7) leading to (3).


Friday, September 15, 2017

Horde Creature

Click to enlarge
The phrase refers to any kind of misshapen patchwork supernatural grotesque—generally found swelling the ranks of demon armies, unwholesome laboratories, other dimensions and Hieronymous Bosch paintings.

Horde creatures can be designed by hand or created using the random tables.
This guy probably has like Toughness 8

Typical Horde Creature (Demon City stats)

Calm: 0
Agility: 2
Toughness: 4
Perception: 1
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: 0

Calm Check: 8

Special Abilities:

Some horde creatures will have special powers derived from their bizarre anatomy. The base creature may be a human or any animal.

Horde Mutations (roll 3 times or until disgusted)

1, Extra head
2, Extra arm
3, Second torso, head, arms
4, Spider legs
5, Extra leg
6, Shrunken head
7, Massive head
8, Lobsterlike claw hand
9, Mouth the size of a head
10, Massive eye
11, Extra pair of arms
12, Face in chest
13, Headless
12, Armless
13, Legless
14, Eye instead of mouth
15, Mouth instead of eye
16, Mouth instead of ear
17, Mouth instead of hand
18, Covered in eyes
19, Clawlike fingers
20, Prehensile tail
21, Scorpionlike tail (poison intensity=Toughness)
22, Fangs
23, No eyes
24, Snake tail instead of legs
25, Batlike wings
25, Hole through chest
26, Cavity in chest from which smaller creatures spill
27, Froglike legs
28, Cat eyes
29, Goat eyes
30, Goat horns
31, Goat face
32, Goat legs
33, Snake heads for hands
34, Asymmetrical body
35, Rotting body
36, Intestines hanging out
37, 5 foot-tongue
38, Tentacles
39, Crow head
40, Covered in spines
41, Skull head
42, Heads for arms
43, Just a head with 4 tiny legs
44, Gazelle horns
45, Gaunt, starved appearance
46, Cavities throughout body
47, Covered in boils
48, Tusks
49, Translucent skin
50, Crawling with maggots

51, Covered in ooze
52, Giant foetus with umbilical cord
53, Lower body is a giant hand
54, Massive chest cavity lined with teeth
55, Insect head
56, Insect legs
57, Mantis arms
58, Fly wings
59, Insect eyes
60, Insect mouth
61, Arms so long they drag
62, Mandibles
63, Joints up and down extremities
64, Serpent head
65, Membranes between arms, legs and torso
66, Left or right half only
67, Eyestalks
68, Eye on tip of tongue
69, Crawls on all fours
70, Hunchback
71, No mouth
72, No features
73, Scales
74, Mane of fingers
75, Webbed fingers
76, Cyclops
77, Half size
78, Leech mouth
79, Leech head
80, Patterned skin
81, Covered in mouths
82, Mouth full of tentacles
83, Crablike carapace
84, Birdclaw feet
85, Mantalike head
86, Wolf head
87, Multiple animal heads
88, Tail with head on it
89, Tail with animal head on it
90, Wolf heads for hands
91, Bat face
92, Stag head
93, Claw-tipped probes for arms
94, Upper body only, drags organs behind
95, Tentacles from head
96, Obese beyond conception
97, Mouth across stomach
98, Arms for legs
99, Crab head
00, Courses with electricity