Category Archives: Appendix O

Holiday-Themed Constructs

Look, maybe you want to run a fantasy ttRPG with giant animated fruitcake warriors… and maybe you’ll just get a giggle out of my actually taking this topic seriously. But if you want to reskin some class iron, clay, and stone constructs (or any construct-type creature) into holiday-themed materials, here are some options for powers to add based on the holiday material used.

Figgy Pudding/Fruitcake: Take half damage from bludgeoning attacks. Are sticky, so they gain a climb speed.

Gingerbread: As almost 2-d, flexible creatures, they can get through spaces a creature 2 size classes smaller could, without taking any penalties. Any fire damage sets them on fire, both damaging them and causing their attacks to do fire damage.

Holly: Anyone hit by the construct, or adjacent to it for a full round, must make a mental save or move towards the person present they would be most interested in kissing (though once they take that move, all compulsion stops).

Hot Cocoa: Gains all the powers of both a fire elemental and a water elemental of the same threat level. takes double damage from bite attacks.

Peppermint: These constructs are “curiously strong.” Tracking them by scent is easy, but they cover all other scents, and after being in an enclosed space for a minute, scent can no longer pinpoint their exact location with that space.

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Tavern Name Generator

It’s a trope that every ttRPG adventure starts in a tavern. But they can’t possibly all start in the SAME tavern, right? So, if you run a lot of adventures, you’re gonna need a LOT of tavern names. This system is designed to generate thousands of unique tavern names. It won’t create every possible tavern name of course (why, “The Mayor’s Coinpurse” isn’t even on the list!), but it’ll give you all the names you’ll need for a lifetime of fantasy ttRPG games.

Name Format: Roll 1d20

The results tell you what sub-tables to roll on, and in what order. You can always add “The” to the front of a name, and may or may not wish to add an Establishment (from the eponymous table) at the end.

If you get a ridiculous result, like “The Ale Alehouse,” you can reroll, add an element (somehow “The Drunken Ale Alehouse” feels more like a real placename), or lean into it and come up with a backstory as to why the place has such a weird name.

01. [Descriptor][Creature]

02. [Color][Creature]

03. [Creature] and [Creature]

04. [Number][Creature]

05. [Number][Descriptor][Creature]

06. [Descriptor][Icon]

07. [Color][Icon]

08. [Icon] and [Icon]

09. [Number][Color][Icon]

10. [Descriptor][Tool and Weapon]

11. [Color] [Tool and Weapon]

12. [Tool and Weapon] and [Tool and Weapon]

13. [Number] [Tool and Weapon]

14. [Creature] and [Icon] (or [Creature]’s [Icon])

15. [Icon] and [Creature]

16. [Creature] and {Tool and Weapon]

17. [Tool and Weapon] and [Creature]

18. [Icon] and [Tool and Weapon]

19. [Tool and Weapon] and [Icon]

20. [Descriptor][Creature]’s [Tool and Weapon]

Descriptor (Roll 1d100)

01-03. Bleeding

04-06. Bloody

07-09. Bold

10-12. Brazen

13-15. Broken

16-19. Dancing

20-22. Dead

23-25. Docile

26-28. Dodgy

29-31. Dreaming

32-34. Drunken

35-37. Fireside

38-40. Grievous

41-43. Grubby

44-46. Grumpy

47-49. Noble

50-52. Number (roll on table XX)

53-55. Prancing

56-58. Royal

59-61. Salty

62-64. Shifty

65-67. Slain

68-70. Sleeping

71-73. Somber

74-76. Stingy

77-79. Stout

80-82. Swaggering

83-85. Venal

86-88. Vulgar

01-03. Wandering

01-03. Wealthy

01-03. Yawning

Color (Roll 1d20)

1. Alabaster

2. Amber

3. Ashen

4. Azur

5. Bronze

6. Copper

7. Crimson

8. Ebony

9. Gilded

10. Indigo

11. Ivory

12. Obsidian

13. Onyx

14. Plum

15. Saffron

16. Sepia

17. Silver

18. Umber

19. Unseen

20. Vermillion

Creatures (Roll 1d100)

You can always do a variant of any creature. If the “Wolf and Hart” doesn’t grab you, but the “Dire Wolf and Stag” does, go for it!

01-02. Archer

03-05. Bard

06-07. Beard

09-10. Cockatrice

11-12. Corpse

13-15. Courser

16-17. Badger

18-20. Basilisk

21-22. Beast

23-25. Boar

26-27. Chimera

20-30. Eagle

31-32. Elephant

33-34. Fey

35-37. Giant

38-39. Hart

40-42. Horse

43-45. Hound

45-47. Hydra

48-50. Jester

51-52. Knave

53-55. Kraken

56-57. Lion

58-60. Mermaid

61-62. Minstrel

63-65. Monster

66-67. Necromancer

68-70. Oliphant

71-72. Ogre

73-74. Ox

75-77. Paladin

79-79. Peacock

80-81. Priest

82-84. Rat

85-88. Rooster

89-90. Seer

91-92. Spectre

93-94. Swan

96-97. Unicorn

98-100. Wolf

Icons (Roll 1d100)

01-03. Ale

04-06. Alicorn

07-09. Amulet

10-12. Anchor

13-15. Arms

16-18. Barrel

19-21. Bone

22-24. Cauldron

25-27. Cheese

28-30. Chalice

31-33. Coach

34-36. Flagon

37-39. Flute

40-22. Grave

43-45. Head

46-48. Heart

49-51. Hoof/Hooves

52-54. Jewel

55-57. Key

58-60. Lock

61-63. Maille

64-66. Marksman

67-69. Mead

70-72. Mug

73-75. Oak

76-78. Robe

79-81. Ship

82-84. Swashbuckler

85-87. Teeth/tooth

88-90. Tusk

91-93. Wagon

94. Web

95-97. Well

98-100. Wineskin

Tools and Weapons (Roll 1d100)

01-04. Adze

05-08. Anvil

09-12. Arrow

13-16. Auger

17-20. Axe

21-24. Bolt

25-28. Brace

29-32. Buckler

33-36. Gimlet

37-40. Glaive

41-44. Hammer

45-48. Hatchet

49-52. Helm

53-56. Lance

57-60. Mattock

61-64. Pike

65-68. Plough

69-72. Rake

73-76. Saw

77-80. Sheer

81-84. Sickle

85-88. Spade

89-92. Spear

93-96. Spindle

97-100. Sword

Number (Roll 1d10)

If you roll on this chart as a descriptor for a noun, pluralize the noun. For example, if you get “Dozen” and then ‘Hound”, your tavern name is “The Dozen Hounds.”

1. Two

2. Three

3. Five

4. Six

5. Seven

6. Dozen

7. Score of

8. 40

9. 51

10. Thousand

Establishment (Roll 1d12)

These are all optional, but you can add this to the end of any name. It’s worth noting that if a place is well-known, its name may be shortened. A place may officially be the Crimson Cockatrice Cantina, but most folks just call it the Crimson Cockatrice.

If a tavern’s name feels too simple, you can always give it two establishment types. Perhaps it’s “The Crimson Cockatrice Lodge & Pub.”

1. Alehouse

2. Cantina

3. Lodge

4. Market

5. Mughouse

6. Pub

7. Rathskeller

8. Roomhouse

9. Taphouse

10. Tavern

11. Teahouse

11. Woodhouse

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The Ampersand ttRPG Name Generator

Yes, it started as a joke. But I do ADORE making these, so you all get to be exposed to this overwrought exercise in my humor.

I’m not even sure why this is funny to me. Maybe the thought I would go to this much effort (hint: it wasn’t much effort) for something no one is likely to ever actually use? Also, just because you roll it up randomly here doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t already used it, so employ due diligence before you actually publish anything with a name you got here. Any similarity between randomly generated Ampersand ttRPG names and real-world copyright material or trademarks is, obviously, either unintentional, or a result of parody.

Using the Generator is simple. Roll once on Table 1, add an Ampersand (“&”), then roll ocne on table 2. If you don’t like it (“Burrows & Dynasties” sounds terrible) You should also see if a randomly-generated Ampersand ttRPG name sounds between when you reverse the two elements. I personally think “Wyverns & Warrens” sounds much better than “Warrens & Wyverns,” but your mileage may vary.

(In fact, I like Wyverns and Warrens so much I am unofficially putting my finger on it, and hoping no one else uses it before I get a chance to, or I give up on the idea.).

Table 1: Roll 1d100

01. Abattoirs

02. Abthains

03. Armor

04-05. Armsmen

06. Bacchanals

07-08. Balefire

09. Bandoliers

10-11. Barbicans

12. Basements

13. Burrows

14. Catacombs

15. Caers

16. Camarilla

17. Castles

18. Cavaliers

19-20. Caverns

21. Citadels

22-23. Crypts

24. Demagogues

25. Demesne

26. Draughts

27. Dungeons

28. Dynasties

29. Eagles

30. Ecclesiarchs

31. Eclipse

32-33. Elementals

34. Factions

35-36. Fanes

37. Fiends

38. Gates

39. Geas

40-41. Glyphs

42. Grottos

43. Guards

44-45. Harrowers

46. Heraldry

47. Inquisitors

48. Justiciars

49. Karsk

50-51. Kith

52. Knights

53-54. Labyrinths

55. Lairs

56-57. Legends

58-59. Mages

60-61. Mazes

62. Mines

63. Minions

64-65. Narthex

66-67. Naskins

68. Naves

69-70. Omens

70-71. Ossuaries

72. Parapets

73-74. Periapts

75. Quills

76-77. Realms

78-79. Runes

80-81. Sigils

82. Staves

83-84. Sword

85-86. Taverns

87-88. Temples

89-90. Towers

91-92. Tunnels

93-94. Undercrofts

95-96. Wands

97-98. Warrens

99-100. Warriors

Table 2: Roll 75

01-02. Acolytes

03-04 Abominations

05. Abraxas

06. Amulets

07-08. Arcana

09. Arachnids

10. Barghests

11. Basilisks

12-13. Behemoths

14. Bestiaries

15. Blackgaurds

16-17. Brigandine

18. Caryatids

19. Centaurs

20-21. Chimeras

22-23. Chronicles

24. Cyclops

25. Davenports

26-27. Demons

28-29. Dinosaurs

30. Dragons

31. Drakes

32. Eidolons

33. Eschaton

34. Eyries

35-36. Escapades

37. Fabulists

38-39. Familiars

40-41. Folios

42. Gargoyles

43. Ghouls

44. Giants

45-46. Goblins

47. Goety

48. Griffons

49-50. Grimoires

51-52. Harbingers

53. Haruspex

54. Heroes

55-56. Incantations

57. Incunabulum

58. Jailors

59. Jarls

60. Killers

61. Kinks

62-63. Knaves

64. Krakens

65-66. Legerdemain

67. Lexicon

68. Manuals

69. Minotaurs

70. Monsters

71. Mudlarks

72. Mystics

73. Nacre

74. Naptha

75. Nephilim

76-78. the Occult

79. Otyughs

80. Priests

81-82. Quests

83. Reliquaries

84. Rogues

85. Sages

86. Serpents

87. Shields

88. Slayers

89. Sorcery

90-92. Talismans

93. Thanes

94-95. Trolls

96-97. Uroboros

98. Warlocks

99-100. Wyverns

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Top Ten Modern Crystal Balls

I love stories that mix magic with a range of modern time periods and aesthetics. Inspired by some such stories, I’ve come up with some modern stand-ins to be used in place of crystal balls by urban, modern fortune-tellers.

Top Ten Things Modern Diviners Use as Crystal Balls

10. Magic 8-Ball
No one ever expects the Magic 8-Ball toy to be, you know, magic. But it’s a perfect place to hide your real scrying lenses, and already thematically aligned with divination energy.

9. Mirrors
They’re a classic, and remain a popular choice for modern spellcasters. however, the big wall-mounted mirror is no longer the standard for scrying mirrors, though some older models still exist. Instead scrying is more often done through bathroom mirrors (good for early morning divinations), car rear-view mirrors (especially for threats that are closer to you than they appear), and make-up compacts (which are particularly good for showing you your own faults).

8. Pocket Watches
While a few modern spellcasters have turned wristwatches and even step-trackers into crystal ball equivalents, its much more common to use pocket-watches for this. The practice dates back to the 1800s, when the devices were far more common, but the protective cover, larger viewing surface, and psychic link to conductors on railways (often built along ley lines) still make pocket watches better divination tools than more modern timepieces.

7. Mashed Potatoes
As homaged in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it turns out Starchomancy remains a powerful tool for foresight. Visions sometimes form within the mash itself, and other times the scryer finds themselves sculpting the vision received. The loss of scrying power is somewhat offset by the ease of acquiring and concealing the tools of divination.
This works best if you make your own mashed potatoes, but if you don’t have the time, store-bought is fine.

6. Fireball Whiskey
Long thought to just be catnip for college kids, it turns out cinnamon-infused spirits are a powerful medium for seeing visions, dating back to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. The bottle itself is most commonly used as the scrying surface, with the whiskey inside becoming briefly cloudy as it fills with visions.
A single drink of the whiskey can aid in divination, but more than that is a terrible idea.

5. Giant Novelty Dice
Though divination through casting lots with dice (a form of cleromancy) is common, using dice as crystal ball stand-ins is increasingly popular, using giant translucent dice the size of your fist or bigger. There is a direct correlation between the number of faces of the ide used, and both the complexity of the divination and the level of detail. A d6 may not tell you much beyond broad strikes, but it easily scryed with. A d100 takes much, much more effort, but a successful scrying gives you many fine details.

4. Cats
Yes actual, living, fur-covered cats. There is an entire school of scrying dedicated to feeding a cat a favorite feast, brushing them, luring them into a pillow, in a box, in a beam of sunlight, and then staring deep into their fur to foresee the future. While this is much harder to do on-demand than inanimate scrying tools, there are numerous curses and supernatural threats that can be detected by ailouromancy that other soothseeing methods miss.

3. Smart Speakers
While newer technology often takes time to be properly aligned with divination rituals, interactive smart speakers apparently come almost ready-made to be turned into crystal balls–though most use a purely auditory interface, rather than the old visions viewed without crystal-covered mists.

2. Stock Ticker
From 1870 to 1970, stock prices were broadcast via telegraph/telephone lines to stock tickers, then printed on ticker tape. While no one uses stock tickers anymore, many were enchanted during the near-century of their use, and those enchanted stock tickers are still powerful divination tools… especially if you want to predict financial news.

1. Old Computer Monitors.
The better the color and resolution, the better the vision you can get on it! Know someone with a pile of old computer monitors? They’re probably a modern spellcaster!
Or a hoarder.
Or both. Both is likely.

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Otherworld: A Mode for Wayward

One of my Shower Projects recently (things I only spend time thinking about while showering, making lunch, and so on) has been what my Modes (pocket parallel worlds that overlap with the “normal” world of the Ecumene may look like in the  Wayward campaign setting I hope to eventually release (as a private individual) for Modern AGE through the AGE Creator’s Alliance.

I’ll want my Modes to be distinct, different, yet feel like they belong in the same sets of stories. Two have already suggested themselves to me.

The first of those is Otherworld, a mode where creatures from various afterlife mythologies (Valkyries, angels, devils, ghosts, and so on) live and interact in a version of the modern world where every town, or every neighborhood in big cities, has a single distinct character. Svanrcroft is tall stone buildings, broad, tree-filled lanes, and massive rock municipal buildings and concert halls; Latssvin is another neighborhood in the same city across the river from Svanrcroft, and is entirely rusting steel, cracked concrete towers, and brutalist sprawls with homes and businesses and offices crammed in with little rhyme or reason.

Each of these distinct neighborhoods is controlled by one afterlife group that serve much like some combination of street gangs, neighborhood watches, local beat cops, organized crime, and community centers. Major otherworld creatures mostly believe they are agents of divine beings, getting their “orders” from what appear to be entirely random sources — the Valkyries of Svanrcroft believe they receive orders from Freyja in the form of messages written on Brísingamen-brand food and drink packages, but to anyone else they just seem to be random, common commercial quotes.

Common citizens of the Otherworld are shades of Ecumene folk who have died, living agelessly in very much the condition they were in shortly before they died (though obviously ways to get better if sick, or younger if old, will be major potential plot drivers for Otherworld adventures featuring shades). The status of shades within Otherworld influences how they are remembered in Ecumene — a great writer whose shade has suffered misfortune and poverty within the Otherworld slowly loses their place of relevance and fame in Ecumene.

When major forces from Otherworld influence Ecumene, they tend to be voices heard by Ecumene commoners, who are driven into zealotry. A single Otherworld creature may be occasionally whispering to dozens of Ecumeners , or be spending vast amounts of time influencing a single person. Those affected are encouraged to perform acts, rituals, or influence world events in Ecumene that grant an Otherworld faction more prestige, power, and territory within Otherworld. Left unchecked, Ecumeners under Otherworld influence become Zealots, and begin to actually be able to bring tiny bits of Otherworld (and its Mode rules) into corners of Ecumene.

Within Otherworld, heroics are commonplace and easy, spellcasting is hard. This will be handled with some combination of special rules for stunt points — something like, whenever you reference the value of the stunt die (including when you roll doubles and need to determine the number of stunt points you get) you use the highest value die of your roll, rather than the stunt die–and special hindrances for spellcasting.

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Appendix O: The Ladies’ Sewing Circle

This is a group I have put in a few ttRPG homebrewed worlds, brought forth from the old files of my hardrive.

The Ladies’ Sewing Circle is, on the surface, simply a regular gathering for women of different backgrounds and social classes to get together and sew. Officially, the purpose is to trade sewing tips and tricks, and perhaps combine efforts on larger projects, and the cross-class nature of the circle is promoted as a way to ensure the important skill of sewing is not allowed to degrade within a culture, and to act as a back-channel for issues to be shared from member to member. Usually any woman of good standing may attend, picking up sewing skills if she doesn’t already have them, and gatherings are hosted by senior members. Where those members have space under their control, such as a dressmaker with a shop or a lady with a manor she can use, the meetings are private. In other cases, they occur in public meadows, or the town square, or a barn borrowed from a farmer in return for one new quilt a year.

But beyond that official and public purpose, the Ladies’ Sewing Circle is actually a powerful equalizing force with society. The senior and full members can communicate through stitch-speech and sewing patterns kept secret for generations, allowing them to talk secretly while in full view. And when the Sewing Circle comes to a consensus that an issue would be solved by someone dying, that person is assassinated.

Most Sewing Circles have a few different assassins working for them. Often these are members of he Circle itself, with a few women usually trained in slitting throats and choking foes, as well as stealthcraft. Less commonly, the Sewing Circle may outsource their killing, generally to a trusted ally (sons, daughters, brothers, aunts, and uncles of members are all common choices) who may have had their assassin training and gear paid for my the Circle. In cultures where some specific method is seen as a woman’s way to kill (such as poison, summoning magic, or archery), that method is least-used by the Circle just to ensure suspicion doesn’t fall on other women inappropriately.

Most Sewing Circles keep their assassination rate quite low, less than one per year, though in more dangerous or higher-population areas they may well feel comfortable doing more. When extrajudicial killing is not needed, their resources turn toward spying, exposing secrets detrimental to the public good, and information gathering. Since each ladies’ Sewing Circle is self-government, their methods can vary wildly. Some never resort to assassination, depending on rational discourse and gentle cultural pressure to achieve their ends. Others prefer to used late-night warning visits to push public figures towards more desirable behavior. Others ruthlessly kill, and main and steal, as needed to carry out their goals.

In all cases, the Sewing Circle is publicly well-insolated from all its actions. It’s commonly known that the members talk among themselves, and thus their opinions are spread to multiple households. Wise local authority figures see a Circle as a place to make announcements and receive feedback, even without any inkling that the members may be actively engaged in shadow actions. But any hint that a Sewing Circle is some kind of politically active group that has resources beyond needle and thread is considered laughable.

It’s important to note that this concept can be applied to any group that isn’t normally already gathering to make law and enforce their will, and have some excuse to do so that the powerful members of the culture approve of. In an absolute monarchy, you could have the Noble’s Hunting Lodge, where nobles gather to arrange hunts and other entertainments for the Royal’s amusement. In a rigidly hierarchal church you could have the Incensor’s Affiliation, where the lowest-ranked acolytes discuss incense-management and cleaning. In a totalitarian nation you might have the Rulekeepers, common folk who specifically get together to go over how the government wants them to behave. In High School you might have the Extra Study Club, where students gather to tutor one another in a display of self-motivation.

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Appendix O – Ragabonds

I originally presented the idea of Ragabonds, a form of fantasy migrant culture not built directly off any real-world society or group, in a series of Twitter posts. But some people asked if I had compiled them, so here they are. 🙂


No one knows the Ragabond Rules’ origin, which state that Ragabond kithpacts must be allowed to travel freely. While many kingdoms that follow the rules allow nearly anyone to travel freely if they didn’t otherwise cause trouble, the Ragabond Rules are respected by numerous tyrannies, totalitarian theocracies, even dragons and devils.

The Ragabond Rules predate the elven empire of Te Astra, the Pact of Akkesh, and even the Tarsian Palatinate, but are not as old as the Jotunlaw or Drakkenjar. Further, while no divination can reveal any reason why, rulers who violate them tend to come to bad ends.

Thus for centuries, Ragabond Kithpacts have wondered freely through lands blessed and cursed, rich and poor, bright and dark. If they interfere in local matters individual Ragabonds lose their protection, but are still excellent sources of trade and news. Of course the Ragabond Kithpacts also have restrictions imposed by the Rules. None may band themselves in armors, gather in numbers more than 120, or be in sight of the same drop of water, green of plant or pinch of earth for more than 90 days or each year. Freedom costs stability.

Each Kithpact addresses these needs in their own way. Some form caravans of pachyderm-carried houdahs, or horse-drawn carriages, or well-laden mules and horses. Others travel in small fleets of nimble boats, or exist as walking nomads, carrying all that they own on their own backs or in travois.

Most Kithpacts have a route they travel over 2-3 years, ensuring they never risk overstaying their time in one place. Even so, these often take them through many different lands, leading each Kithpact to pick up some notes of multiple societies and cultures. A Kithpact is likely to have drawn music, art, language, mysticism, religion, stories, crafts, lore, and traditions from many lands–some from their current route, others from lands traveled centuries ago. Only adherence to the Rules themselves unite all Ragabonds.

Every few years, numerous Kithpacts will gather in a land that allows such things, sometimes called a Pactdom. this is a time of great celebration, but also a risk. As soon as more than 120 Ragabonds are in one place, the Ragabond Rules no longer protect them.While each Kithpact is unique, those of one Pactdom are often similar, and may answer to a single Ragabond Matron, or a Council of Caravan Masters, or the Bishop of Rags. These governments are separate from the Ragabond Rules, but no less rulers of their citizens than any landed nobility.

Most Kithpacts are made up of the same peoples as the lands they travel, and recruit new Ragabonds when their numbers are low. Multiple ancestries and ethnicities are often found within one Kithpact, and their bloodlines are as intermingled as all their culture. Freedom is crucial to all Ragabonds, and the willingness to give up nearly everything to be free is the one thing that is common to all of them. A Ragabond that lacks that drive eventually leaves their Kithpact, and settles down in one place.

Ragabonds are often misunderstood by the cultures they interact with, but not more or less than other foreign lands. They may be seen as flighty for not setting down, or shameless for having little room for modesty, or evil for mixing multiple traditions and religions together. For some Pactkiths, these things are largely true. For others, they aren’t. For many, it depends on the Rangabond. But Ragabonds all have advantages in wide perspective and eclectic training, because they move freely through lands where others dare not, or cannot.

The Rules

The Ragabond Rules state that Ragabonds must be free to travel, trade, talk, sing, craft, perform, and be free of harm or harassment.

These protections last only as long as the Ragabonds themselves do not violate the Rules, requiring them to wear no armor, gather in no number greater than 120, and to take to action to harm the bodily person, wit, or livelihood or any they encounter unless the Ragabond believes doing so is mandatory to keep their own body, wit, or livelihood secure, and even then only in even and minimal measure. This doesn’t mean Ragabonds are all pacifist or vegetarian (though some are). A hungry Ragabond is free to hunt if needful to nourish themselves, and free to study fighting and use it whenever threatened if they fear there is no hope for peaceful safety.

The Ragabond Rules also require Ragabonds to shun for a year and a day any of their own they find to have broken the Rules willfully or foolishly. Those shunned spend that time unprotected by the Rules, though they may (or may not) still travel with their Kithpact.

Ragabonds are treated with suspicion in major towns and cities in Merothia, but seen as trade and news lifelines in smaller towns and villages–though if local youth choose to become Ragabonds themselves rather than aid in their parent’s farms and shops, that can breed ill-will with the abandoned families. Older empires tend to see them as annoyances–not a danger, and not worth struggling against, but not a group you are happy to see walk down the road. Less established groups and marginalized people often welcome Ragabonds as kindred in their lack of towns and walls, though this feeling isn’t always reciprocal.

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Building New Things That Feel Iconic

I love making new fantastic things. Not just “fantasy” things, but amazing and otherworldly things you could find in supers stories, or ancient mythology, or scifi, or weird west tall tales, or all of the above.

I especially love to make new things that feel like they have a long, established, iconic niche even if they are brand new. Obviously that’s a great *goal*, but it’s extremely difficult to do without making something that’s just a pastiche. It’s also extremely difficult to know when you have succeeded.

I do have some tricks I try to apply. Firstly, I often find if I can’t explain a thing within the number of characters allowed by a Tweet, I don’t have a firm enough grasp of what the core of that thing is. Second, I try to think about what the base of a thing is, and what the expansion is.

For example, today I had an idea leap into my head (likely due to insomnia-induced fatigue toxions) which I described thusly:

Ghortal are 7-8 foot tall unguligrade bipeds with roughly bull-like heads featuring tusks and 2-7 curling horns. Immune to undeath, if infected their faces take on skeletal features as their aging slows and they gain occult power.
They have a strong clan structure.

The base of ghortal is clearly that they are a kind of minotaur-kin, though with tusks and more horns. But then the idea is expanded to give them a special immunity to undeath, and a reaction to undead exposure that’s unique to them.

Minoaturs are clearly iconic, and there are a lot of similar beast + biped creatures in myth and fiction. Bovine skulls being used as masks and symbols is also extremely common, so I wanted to find a neat way to combine those into my minotaurs-with-extra-pointy-bits concept to make ghortal new and more interesting.

As for how I know when I have succeeded — it’s always a matter of how other people take to the idea.

But it’s sure a good sign when a professional cartoonist is so taken by the idea, they do art for it. Relatedly, here’s art the amazing Stan! did after reading my ghortal post earlier today. 🙂


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Modes for Wayward, a Potential Setting for AGE Creator’s Alliance

Some more thoughts about the Wayward campaign setting I hope to eventually release (as a private individual) for Modern AGE through the AGE Creator’s Alliance.

So, one of the core conceits of Wayward is that there are “modes,” which represent adjacent realities to the (mostly) normal world, or Ecumene, where PCs call home. Things from other modes can influence, or even partially leak into the Ecumene, causing trouble and pain, but cannot be permanently destroyed except in their native mode.

Luckily, there are the Wayward, people native to the Ecumene who can travel to other modes to deal with things found there. Most modes are twisted parallels of the Ecumene, familiar in some respects and terribly (sometimes horrifically) different on others. Modes are all dangerous, even deadly, but just as things from other Modes (I’ll need a name for “things from other modes” at some point) can’t be permanently destroyed while in the Ecumene, PCs native to the Ecumene cannot be permanently destroyed while corporeally in another mode. However, that doesn’t mean being Put Down in another mode does hurt… and leave scars that stick with you whatever Mode you are in.

I’m using the term “Mode” so far, because I want to treat these alternate realities in roughly the same way Modern Age treats its different Modes of Play (gritty, pulpy, cinematic). So while the Ecumene itself is gritty, the laws of reality on others may be pulpy or cinematic, AND have other local rules changes to represent their altered rules of reality. That might not be a good enough reason to stick with “Mode” in the final term (‘demesne” comes to mind as having the right feel, for example), but it’s definitely good enough as a placeholder name for a in-progress game concept for a campaign using a working title.

Since there are likely going to be options that work differently in different modes [like having a Fiery heart talent might just give you a bonus to Willpower (Confidence) checks in the Ecumene, but allow you to actually summon fire magic within the Otherworld Mode), the rules are going to assume there are a finite number of “core” modes. A GM building a new mode should either make it an offshoot of one of the core modes (perhaps in addition to Otherworld, there is a very Nordic Helvangr which has different creatures and powers and appearance, but follows the same game mechanical rules as Otherworld.

That of course means the core modes I include in the campaign setting are important to the overall success of the setting, and need to be diverse, iconic, compelling, and fun.

So, no pressure.

I already foresee having at least two, which I’ll discuss tomorrow.

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Quick Notes for the potential “Wayward” Setting for AGE Creator’s Alliance

So I am planning, as a private individual (rather than as a developer for Green Ronin or the publisher of Rogue Genius Games) to release an AGE Creator’s Alliance product… eventually. Not at that program’s launch, but hopefully within a year or so.

For what seem like obvious reasons I originally thought that would be a Fantasy AGE product… but now my opinion is shifting. I have had an idea for a Modern AGE setting I might prefer to release though the Creator’s Alliance, and that might not only be a great way to divide what I am doing as a GR dev and a private citizen but also help me have a more baseline feel for the Creator’s Alliance experience.

Now, this is far from a done deal. I could discover there are good reasons not to do this setting, or change my mind about the best rules set for it or venue to offer it in. I could find something I like better as a first offering, I could just lose interest. Who knows?

But since part of what I wanted to do was showcase my own journey through the Creator’s Alliance, I wanted to offer up the short notes I jotted down at 5am for this setting idea.

Product/Product Line Title: Wayward
This idea began as I was driving on errands, listening to a song used as a theme for one of my favorite TV series. So, yes, I’m wearing one of the inspirations on the sleeve of this concept. Like anything that might change as the product moves forward, but working titles are useful.

Product Type: Campaign Setting and Adventure Line
As I currently envision it, Wayward is a campaign setting for Modern AGE which comes with built-in adventure support. each Wayward product would have a chunk of setting material, a smattering of new rule options, and an adventure designed to highlight both.
For example, the first product would be Wayward, which would also serve as the name for the whole setting, and be the in-world title of a certain kind of person most PCs are expected to be – the “Wayward,” people who operate outside the expectations and even the reality of common society. The Wayward operate in a shadowy world with creatures and abilities that are literally set apart from most of existence. This Wayward World normally isn’t “real” enough to impact most people, but there are rare exceptions, which Wayward Heroes need to deal with.
So in this first product there would be rules for what makes people Wayward, and an adventure for 1st level characters just discovering the existence of the Wayward World around them and dealing with something leaking out of it.

Wayward is clearly in big part inspired by specific modern media, but I don’t plan for it to be a pure pastiche of one thing. Instead my inspirations include Diana Tregarde Investigates (novels by Mercedes lackey), MAGE (the comic, especially The Hero Discovered and The Hero Defined), the Maxx (animated series especially, but also the comics), Sin City (just the first movie), Supernatural (TV show and it’s literally tie-ins)… and especially the trailer for the Max Payne movie (Yes, really just the trailer. not the movie itself, not the games–just that one trailer) and the trailer for Dark City (yep, again, JUST the trailer).
And I really mean “inspiration.” Wayward is an idea that grows out of thoughts I had when exposed to those sources (and many, many more), rather than an effort to duplicate them. It’s very much a thing I wish existed and had movies and comics and games, but doesn’t quite. Not a wholly original idea of course–just my take on a slice of the zeitgeek.

Kernel: Modes of Reality
The core kernel of an idea for wayward is that there are modes of reality that overlap slightly. Most people live only in the Ecumene, the “normal” world we all know and that (roughly) follows the real world rules of physics and history. But there are other modes, where twisted, dark, and blindingly bright things dwell. Sometimes you can glimpse those things when you sleep, or are in an altered chemical or emotional state. And, sometimes, those things can glimpse you. The most powerful things from other modes can sometimes visit or influence the Ecumene. But no Ecumene dweller can go into other modes to deal with the root of those problems.
Well, none but the Wayward…

And that’s as far as the idea has gone so far. 🙂

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