Wednesday 27 May 2009

Free One Page Dungeon - Ognort's Goblin Nightclub

Ognort's Goblin Nightclub is where Goblins go to relax, drink, fight, carouse, party, fight, spew spoo and fight. Ognort, a stupidly rich Goblin has got a chest of treasure in his office that your player characters have heard about. Now they just need to get in and sneak out with it. Will they pass themselves off as Goblins or will they just plough in? How long can they keep their cover? Will they nuke the site from orbit? Oh, hang on, wrong genre.

Click for the PDF

It all came from a flippant remark I made to Michael Erb on Twitter. I've never made a dungeon before, so would appreciate any feedback. Could you run this? Would you run this?

Edit - How remiss! I should have mentioned that I made it for the 1 Page Dungeon Contest - check out the other entries.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Feel the subtle and delicate touch of Dark Dungeon by Jaap de Goede

Note: Link below is currently dead. I am in the process of getting the game onto 1KM1KT to save it. I'll update the link when that is done. Enjoy the review! Jaap, if you're reading this, I would love to get hold of the setting document too, if you could email that to me, it would be superb.

Dark Dungeon is a free fantasy RPG sitting neatly in the old school while offering a different perspective. Upon meeting your first Dutchman, you will soon realise that his grasp of English is superior to yours. The written language is exemplary. Dark Dungeon has everything you need from your fantasy RPG but its European author gives it an individuality that I find fascinating. I think you will too.

Character creation

A character is defined by Abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Willpower and Appearance. A score of 0 is average, 3 is high and 5 is exceptional. You can increase each up to 10 (with the agreement of the GM), which is a super human level. Specialisation comes in the familiar form of skills, some with Ability minima. There is a brief list of suggested skills (with some short descriptions), all quite typical fantasy fayre. Finally, appearance, history and personality are added. Not content to simply mention this as an item you really must do, Jaap suggests, prompts and gives and example. Excellent. Jaap offers some templates (Classes) to act as examples rather than to constrict. To give values to all this, you assign 50 points.


Skill and Ability checks are made by adding a D10 to the skill level to meet a target number. There is a list of things that each Ability covers and examples aplenty! Critical passes and fails on a 10 and 1 respectively. Critical passes mean you succeed even at the ridiculous. If you critically fail, you roll again. 5 or more and the task is a touch more difficult than before. If you roll less than 5, everything's gone very, very wrong indeed. Combat is split into rounds (like sandwiches) and you have one action per round (of sandwiches). Gaining in the initiative means that you get to act first (take the first sandwich), you do that by a Dexterity check. Everyone takes it in turns to do blood letting or taking to their legs (with their sandwiches). Foe ventilation is performed with an appropriate skill (for example Short Sword). To strike, you need to get at least 9. The higher the value, the more lethal your thrusting blade. Parrying, blocking with clashing shields and evasion (buggering off) are all dealt with. Crunch is sprinkled on in the form of damage and wounds. Compared to the rest of the system, it is quite involved, with rules for different types of critical damage and affects on your character. A profusion of examples solidifies all this.


Two luck points are apportioned on every player at the start of each session. You can only have three at a time, which avoids the player-driven re-roll-o-pocalypses. Luck can be employed to save the character's life or increase your chances of in a skill. Luck systems are not everyone's cup of tea (or sandwich) but it is not so integral that it would ruin the system if you chose to ignore it.


Magic is dealt with as an art form in Dark Dungeon. Blessed with simple but delightful touches. For example, to do magic, you need to be able to have Latin as a language. Finally, someone has found a use for my wife's education! I think that means I owe someone five quid. One needs a connection with the supernatural world (amulet, bracelet, ring or some other form of bling - perhaps a tiara?) and something to connect you with the target (their half-eaten sandwich). This avoids the out of visual range barrage. Casting it requires some kind of yabbering at the game table. Or hand waving. Or both. By those definitions, the babbling, gesticulating, frothing, malcontents around my game table spend every session casting magic in a game without any. Misfires cause side affects, scarring or causing all sorts of feintly humorous filth. You might think twice before making magic your bitch.


Woven with a fine thread, Religeon is a well considered of faith and ceremony. It takes more tangible form in Dark Dungeon, where miracles can occur. Praying builds up your divine intervention momentum as long as you retain your virtue. Sinning can turn your faith against you.

That's not quite it

Experience is gained by a mix of time elapsed; how well the game is played and how dangerous/heroic the adventure is. There is a substantial Game Master section, with some generic advice and some simple tips to get started. And although there is no setting included (I'll come back to that), there is an example adventure that reads very well. It will certainly get you going. The examples throughout are splendid - perhaps a touch too numerous but welcome nonetheless. Although there is no setting included, there is a setting right there on the website. It looks like a well considered medieval fantasy. More on that another time.

And now for the moan

Jaap's front page art gives a weathered homebrew feel to the game but the rest of the book is bereft. I rather like Jaap's art and would like to see more throughout. Jaap suggests that there is a more bristling purchasable version (this one is only Lite) but as strong as my Google Fu is, I can't find it. The quiet forum suggests that work has ceased. The site's last update is 2005, I wonder if any more is to be done on the game. I'm going to give Jaap a prod and see if the next version can see the light of day. If you have ever released a free RPG, please do join me on his forum to give him some support.

Wrapping up

Dark Dungeon is a tapestry of fine threads, sewn together with a steady hand. For all its talk of Lite, Dark Dungeon is finished. Jaap has produced a complete game. Although it is another fantasy game, its not yet another fantasy game. It offers a fine mix of the familiar with spice of something new. It has charm.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

News: Vikings, fantasy, podcast, one page dungeons and 24 hour lunacy

There is nought more delighting than Free RPGs that are still supported by their authors. In this post, I look at the recently revised: Midgard and Dominion Rules; both expanded, polished and improved. I point you toward Here be Gamers a podcast with a philanthropic bent. I cast an eye onto the 1 page dungeon contest and the PDF that will result and update on the 1KM1KT 24 Hour contest and the entries so far.

Midgard Updated

Midgard is a atmospheric viking game with a smart system that makes you feel like you're crouched around a fire in a wattle-and-daub hut casting stones into a pit to divine the future. I reviewed it in January 2009 and since then have nagged its author, Ben Redmond, to give it a setting. Now it has and a new cover and some other tightened sections. Hurrah! Ben is also experimenting with an at-cost Lulu print on demand version too.

Dominion Rules Updated

The Mysterious Anonymous Benefactor (MAB), who will remain anonymous (even to me) has produced a sparkling new version of the Dominion Rules (3.1). Do not be fooled by the "point one" on the version number. There is lots of new content and revisions to the rules. when I reviewed Dominion I felt it needed a setting and to a certain extent, I still do. However, it is a superb rule compost on which to grow your homebrew low-fantasy/historic setting.

Here Be Gamers podcast reviews free games

Around the other side of the planet from me are two Australian gentlemen who run the Here Be Gamers Podcast. It's a laid back (please excuse the racial stereotyping) and jolly affair where Marty and Nathan extol their gaming habits hobby onto the world in the form of a podcast. Nathan has a penchant for free roleplaying games (and has written a few) and has taken on the admirable task of reviewing one each episode. A free podcast with a free RPG section? Was there ever a more philanthropic pursuit? I'd recommend listening to the whole lot as it is the sort of podcast where you end up feeling like Marty and Nathan are your mates down the pub, even though they're not. Making you a form of net stalker. Do it for that shoddy justification if no other reason!

One to watch out for: PDF of 1 Page Dungeons

You may have noticed the One Page Dungeon Contest, which is nearly at a close (21st May 08:00 EST). The aim is to create an entire dungeon on a single page of US Letter paper. The part where you get excited is now. All of these submitted dungeons, the good, the bad and the ugly are going to be compiled into a single PDF and available for free download. Fabulous! A PDF of 70 (or more) dungeons for you to use, crib from or just laugh at! It's going to be brilliant and definitely one to watch for. I'll be posting my dungeon entry toward the end of the week.

1KM1KT/FRPGB 24 Hour RPG Contest

The contest is going great guns. We're about halfway through and there are already some superb free 24 hour RPGs. I cannot review just yet, seeing as I am a judge but I certainly will review the best after the end of the competition. Here are the entries so far:

You have until the end of June to have a go. Just pop along to 1KM1KT's Community and check out the rules. If the monkey judges at 1KM1KT like your game a lot, you might win £30 in Amazon Vouchers. Imagine that!

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Rob Lang's free guide to organising your RPG

In this entry, I take a look into a stock way of organising your free RPG. If you are stuck for ideas on how to get your idea onto paper in a way that other people can understand and ultimately run a game from. Using an example, I present an ordering that would work for most games I've reviewed (and is used by some of them) but if you feel it's not right for your RPG, then that's ok. There is no definitive structure. I include Setting here as I believe that if you want to be certain your game is to be played, you'll need a setting and a sample adventure.

Your brain is fizzing with ideas and you've projectile vomited the thought froth at full throttle into a word processor, PDF'd it and launched it onto 1KM1KT. You've joined the all-too-jolly clan of internet philanthropists. Well done!

Then you're bathed in stark daylight, every wrinkle deepening. You're pounded by a heart thumping worry and cold perspiration. Will anyone play it? Have I got my idea across?

Sometimes great ideas get buried by the author not due to bad writing but through poor organisation, which is a shame because it is a relatively easy facet to fix. I'm guilty of most of the below but I am working on changing to this format. Don't forget that an RPG is both read and referred to. It needs to be reference material as well as something enjoyable to read.

The Structure

A game should be organised in a logical structure and so that it reads well (more below in my section on style). To help illustrate my point, I'm going to use a completely fictional game from someone who really didn't know what I was up to. These are the main sections I would include:

Front Cover

At the very least, it should contain the name of your game. It does not need to be a graphic, a bit of text in a nice font will do. I'd also include your name too. You've put a lot of work into it, I do hope you're proud of it so put your name on it. Or, if it is a work of filth and you deteste it, put someone else's name on it. Not mine. Perhaps a nom de plume?

Contents Page

A contents page should include all the major headings and sub headings. Lists of tables or images belong in the Appendix. Try and keep the contents to a couple of pages and compress the font or line space to fit more on a page. Lines can be compressed as people will only scan through the Contents, they are unlikely to read it like paragraphs of prose. Only optional if your game is under 7 pages.

Thank you / Version / Dedication (TYVD)

Optional. Chances are you're going to need to thank someone for helping you through the game and this is best place for it. Might be a spouse, girlfriend (if you have both, don't include both here), online cohorts of evil, a special plushie you sleep with, therapist or parole officer. Try and keep it to a page. Always put a version on and a date. If you don't like software versioning (1.1, 1.2 etc) use round numbers.


The introduction is likely to be the first thing that the reader will go to after the cover, so ensure it is fluffless. It must include the following:
  • What is in the book? System? Setting? Sample adventure?
  • What is the genre of the setting? What are the major themes?
  • What will the characters do?
  • what sort of mechanic is it (dice/diceless/pool)?
  • Character Creation

    Begin this section by listing all of the steps so that the read knows what is coming. Then describe each of the steps, giving examples when needed. Optionally, include a start-to-finish character generation. Make sure your example character will fit into the example adventure you provide. Don't put your skills inline unless there is only half a page of them. Put them in the Appendix.


    If you have designed your own mechanics, start with an introduction to them. What sort of mechanic is it? Rolling dice? Lots of adding? After this brief introduction, deal with each section in turn. If you have a core concept that runs through them all (such as rolling dice to meet a target number), deal with that first. The sections you might have are Action resolution (doing stuff), Combat (hurting stuff) and Magic (doing unbelievable stuff). Give at least one example for each type.


    Free games live on their setting. Mechanics can't be played alone by anyone but a group of statistical mathematicians and statistical mathematicians aren't allowed to gather in groups without a license. Laying out your setting information is very important. Begin with a general overview, much like you did in the overal introduction above. Give the main elements, recent history, who the main NPCs are. A page at most.

    As the RPG is going to be used as both something to read as well as used as reference. With that in mind, I recommend describing your setting from the top and work down. For example, describe the world, the countries, the towns, the rulers and so on until you reach the campaign area for the sample adventure.

    Gamesmaster Section

    GM sections are important and at the very minimum include an Example Adventure. The example adventure should showcase your setting without relying too much on the system. Imagine the experience the roleplayers will have: They'll sit down. Make characters and the GM will begin. Make the adventure simple to understand and also get the point of the setting. Perhaps give example characters too.

    Additional setting information should also be included. If there are things the players should no know but the GM should, then include them. It is normally the GM that presents the game to play to the group so make it delicious for them too.


    My science background makes me an Appendix fascist. Any item that disturbs the follow of explanation should go in the Appendix. Lists are the biggest culprit. Put them at the back, they won't get read through from start to finish and are used more like reference. This is my biggest weakness and when I got the test print of Icar from Lulu, I was appaulled that I had all the lists (Skills, Psychotheatrics) inline with the prose. It might feel a bit jarring to move the skill list from inside the character creation section but I assure you that it will be better off in actual use.

    Examples of things that should really go in the Appendix are:
    • Skills
    • Equipment
    • Spells
    • Bestiary
    • Charts and Tables
    • Character Sheet

    Back cover

    I would have a bit of advertising blurb on the back and perhaps instructions to the print shop that it is ok to print for personal use. If a prospective GM has printed it and bound it nicely, the players will soon go to the back cover.

    On style

    In this section I talk about a few stylistic points about your RPG's organisation. Style is more ethereal than structure and as the beholder, your eye is king here. If you have no idea, then try these steps as a starting point.
    • Two columns is a must. Unless you're printing a pamphlet.
    • Use facing pages as most people will print on both sides of the paper. Be careful where you put your page numbers as they might end up in a crease. If you're not sure stick them in the middle of the page.
    • Put images in the top right and bottom left as a preference. The top left and bottom right parts of the page is where the eye scans to most easily, so best to put your text there.


    Fluff is what I call any words or content that does not directly assist player or GM in playing the game. Fluff can appear in the following ways:
    • Examples that do not demonstrate meaningful bits of the system
    • A chatty style of writing can add hundreds of words.
    • Justifications of why a particular rule was chosen over another
    • Marketing speak about how revolutionary and epic the game is. It is ok to describe why it is different by over the top adjectives is fluff.
    • Over-elaborate detail regarding a small part of the setting

    Choosing good examples

    Examples will help the GM firmly grasp your setting and mechanics. A single example should highlight a single facet of your mechanic or setting if possible. Examples can chain together, but each example should stand on its own too so that people can get a flavour of the example when refering it. Ensure your examples are fluff-free.

    Calling all designers!

    • Anything I've missed?
    • Any horrid travesties here?
    • Am I being too harsh?
    • Do you know of any other tutorials outlining similar ideas?
    All comments welcome, I'll build good ones back into the post.

    A big thanks

    To chgowiz for letting me construct this outlandish parody based entirely on his, erm, cartoon face! He had no idea what I was going to do with it, so I can only thank him in advance for having a sense of humour. If anyone does want to make chgowiz The RPG, then I suggest you ask him first. :-)

    Tuesday 5 May 2009

    Prance across planes of reality with Superliga by Brendan

    Superliga is a multi-genre RPG based on a bespoke d20 system. Superliga will see you characters exploring genre mashups: fight Knights with AK-47s, solve crime dramas with a magical axe, see off dragons in a mecha. This review concentrates on the main rulebook, which does a good job of setting down an ethos for the game. This is the second time I have cast a beady eye across it - the first time was to suggest some improvements to the layout (all of which have been implemented). The style is friendly, chatting and light hearted.

    Superliga is written as if talking straight to the Overseer (GM) and suggests (with some light hearted winking, nudging jokery) that the GM is at war with the players. I, like Brendan, appreciate this is not the case with most roleplaying groups but I for one spend most Tuesday nights fighting a war on four fronts against minds marinaded in the love sauce of Beelzebub. The rules persistently remind the reader that the Overseer can give out points and overturn results but I would use this sparingly. And I am a megalomaniac.

    Your Character

    Your character is described by statistics, skills and equipment. Statistics are split into rolled primary statistics and secondary ones, derived through simple mathematics. The primaries are self explanatory: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intellect, Willpower, Magic and Luck. Roll 2D10 and sum for each. If you don't like the numbers, you discard the lot and re-roll (except Luck). Luck is the odd one out as it is used to augment other stats. Secondary statistics: Stack (physique or beefyness), Health, Resilience and Skill Points are calculated from the primary statistics. Skills are broad abilities and a single skill covers a range of different game affects and are bought with points. Skill and Stat checks are made using a d20 roll (with critical passes and failures) and opposed rolls use a d20 with adding 10 to the relevant statistic of the person doing the task and then subtracting the relevant statistic of the opposed. This does feel a little odd but does seem to work in the given examples.

    The skill list is breathtaking in its size and detail. Brendan has opted to cover a range of skills from a variety of genres, including Fantasy and Science fiction. Although you do not get a lot of skills, there is loads to read for each one. They are organised into 'trees' to ensure you can do A before B.


    The lowest Dexterity goes first, time is split into rounds and a player may do one action per round. To hit someone, you roll the relevant skill, roll for a location to hit. Critical passes do double damage, critical fails mean that there is some sort of fumble. There is crunch sprinkled on how damage affects the character.


    There is an ample dictionary of equipment from flintlock pistols to AK-47. There are also some 'legendary items', which are super toys that the GM can dish out with care. Toys can have modifiers attached to them too, making them particularly good. A 'bestiary' of foes is hammered onto the back of the rules and is extensive. It begins to allude to the intended setting...


    Superliga is a plethora of planes of reality, called Splinters. A Splinter is a genre such as medieval, fantasy, modern, sci fi and so on. Splinters sometimes merge, giving bionic cowboys or vikings with rocket launchers. You can move between the Splinters by using the Etherium, a foggy place. This would suggest travelling to a specific plane isn't very easy. A list of Splinters is given but setting documents are provided separately. There is a sample adventure (hurrah) that gives a good explanation of how a single game is run but not how all these planes stitch together.

    Online and new

    Superliga is new and online right now. Brendan is over at 1KM1KT as Bryndon and although this doesn't sound too important, it does make a big difference. He's keenly adding and improving Superliga given feedback. Alongside the rulebook is a campaign setting for Ancoria - lavishly put together. Intrigue and Expertise contains even more skills, abilities and optional rules. A Compendium of Marvellous Sights (still in Beta) is a huge companion of things to throw at your players. I mean things in the broadest sense - monsters and people with professions alike. Having an author active in the hobby is extremely important for a free game (well, I would say that, wouldn't I?!).

    It is Version One

    The Superliga system feels like Version One of something truly superb. I'd like to see some of the fluff taken out (it's 122 pages!), some pictures added in and a reorganisation. I would start with what the characters will get up to and describe the bones of the setting before getting into the mechanics. Introductory pieces to each section to lead the reader through each step and provide quick reference. The system has some clunky moments and could do with some more polish. For example the number of skill points are based on intelligence but if you've ended up with a low intelligence, you won't have many skill points. Instead of using intelligence, you can use other statistics but it limits what skills you can buy. It works but it's not very neat. There are a few places you get this feel of 'nearly done'. It is the setting and resources that makes Superlia super, I'd consider binning the system entirely and use a stock system such as Fudge, Fate, Jags or Yags.


    If you've downloaded and read a bit of Superliga, you've already climbed aboard the runaway train that Superliga will become. There are screws left to tighten but the core idea is solid as granite. Superliga is doused in passion and the light style of writing draws you in. If you don't need a new system to run, get hold of Superliga and its source books for the sheer density of ideas. So packed it is that it might actually implode on itself. I applaud Brendan for a huge body of work, let's hope he carries on tweaking, improving and sharing.