Category Archives: Appendix O

Themed Fantasy Tavern Week: The Rise and Fold

I’m looking at pulling a ton of my personal campaign notes, from up to 22 years ago, into actual for-sale polished products (maybe on Paizo Infinite, maybe just as rules-light, map-, art-, and flavor-heavy pdfs on OpenGamingStore and DriveThru –anyone have opinions on which you’d rather see?).

That includes a TON of material I wrote on locations for 3.x/Pf1/4e/Wizards & Warlocks games–some as part of old professional projects that ended up not happening, some for home campaigns, some for my previous online efforts before this blog. While a great deal of that material really needs the conext of a world or city to link it to, some stand on their own pretty well as drop-anywhere fantasy locations.

Especially the taverns.

Throughout this week I’ll be putting out short descriptions of four Fantasy Taverns. they are designed to be unusual and interesting, the kinds of places PCs gravitate towards, investigate, buy, or turn into regular hangouts. (Wednesday will be an Owen Explains It All article tying-in to the show recording Feb 14th.)

None of these are as complete as I’d produce as for-sale products (which would include exterior shots, interior shots, and maps for each one), but if you like these snippets, let me know and maybe I’ll add some polish to the bigger entries of my old material and turn them into a professional product. The longest entry is the first one, and the rest are currently more written sketches. But, if they are popular enough, I can easily do another week worth of entries from Feb 21-25.

The Raise and Fold

Officially, The Raise, a Public Parlor and The Fold Alehouse are two different businesses, and indeed they have two different owners. It’s not even known if the owners like each other–they are never seen together or speak of one another–but they obviously have some kind of arrangement to benefit both establishments.

But since the two businesses are the top floor and bottom floor (respectively) of the same building, and a tab run up at one must be paid off before purchases can be made at the other, and they both feature gambling and drinking, people just call them The Raise and Fold, unless greater specificity is needed.

(The Raise and Fold, art by 3drenderings)

The Raise, A Public Parlor

“The Raise” is run by Gyster Feirn, a half-elf poet and scion of a winery-owning family who seems to have been stuck with the tavern to wait from him to “season” over a few decades before being allowed to benefit from any other familiar businesses. Feirn is genteel and runs a small, expensive, selective establishment where from dusk to dawn there is always a table of high-stakes As-Nas being run by the house and buying 20 gp/glass drinks is part of the cost of participating. In addition to socializing and playing cards, numerous deals are made within the parlor of “The Raise,” often including the buying and selling of “opportunities,” which range from the rights for caravan goods stolen by bandits (which you can buy for coppers and the gold… but then need to go recover yourself), to ancient maps, logbooks from sunken cargo ships, and debts due to be collected from grumpy dragons or infamous wizards.

Feirn acts as host and card dealer more than proprietor. Business issues are generally handled by the quiet, taciturn dwarf Drun Ironnail, who rumor suggests is related to the owner of “The Fold,” though no one who would know is ever willing to talk about that. Drun is a very minor spellcaster, using cantrips to clean and brighten the room and fetch drinks, spending about as much time in the tiny “back room” (where money goes and drinks come from) as in the parlor which takes up most of the upper floor. No one else seems to work for “The Rise,” though if anyone starts trouble, “cudgelers” from “The Fold” quickly stomp up the stairs to deal with it.

“The Raise” is kept bright, clean, and fresh-smelling, with comfortable and high-end (though mismatched) furnishings, warm carved wood tables and posts, and is set up more like the sitting room of a minor noble than a pub or gambling house. Pillows, books, flowers, and teapots are common, with many patrons appreciating a hot tea chaser and a few sweetcakes to go with their fine wines and expensive card games. Small trays of foods keep easily, including sweets, cheeses, nuts, and dried fruits, can be purchased along with a vast and ever-changing wine, mead, and spirits list.

(The Raise Parlor, Art by Digital Storm)

No one gets into “The Raise” unless they are a member, the guest of a member, or are recommend by Maridern of “The Fold.” Anyone who makes trouble or can’t pay their debts are banned from “The Raise,” and directed to “The Fold.”

The Fold Alehouse

The Fold is much lower in asperations than it’s upstairs neighbor, but is also shockingly much, much larger. Though from the outside it looks to take up only a single lower story, in fact “The Fold” has 5 lower levels, which have rooms for for private meetings and parties, storage, cooking, living quarters for its owner and her “cudgelers,” a small infirmary, and a vault (in the middle of lower-level 3, with no exterior wall that doesn’t have a room on the far side). Lower levels are always guarded, and are heated by brick stoves connected to the main kitchen fires.

(Lower level stove in The Fold, art by Ralf Kraft)

However, most patrons never go below the main level, which is the open “Aleroom,” a dark space light by candles (which seem to glow more than their flames should suggest), with sturdy wooden furnishings designed more to survive a brawl than provide comfort. The walls and floor are stone, the room more thick wood (though any loud commotion from “The Raise” can clearly be heard), with a few fire pits, a serving station and a secure counter and door where cudgelers watch for troublemakers, and keep anything the Tavern’s owner, Maridern decides not to let patrons hold on to while drinking.

Maridern is a older dwarven woman whose face has been compared to an dried potato… a comparison she doesn’t mind. She’s an ex-adventurer, though no one is sure how long ago or what her area of specialty was, and she retired to “the Fold” when her bones creaked more than the doors she’d burst through. She runs her Alehouse like the stern grandmother of a rowdy family, shamelessly admitting she has favorites who get better deals and care than typical patrons, and if someone doesn’t like it they can drink and play tiles elsewhere. In addition to a diverse crew of staff (which Maridern treats as her grandchildren–for good and ill), there are a half-dozen “cudgelers,” enforcers of good behavior that are trained to use their cudgels to make a point without killing anyone. At least, not anyone who behaves after getting cudgeled once.

“The Fold” offers cheap but not watered-down drinks, simple food (leaning towards stews, meats, grains, root vegetables, and fungus), and a a rule that stealing or stabbing a fellow patron will be dealt with harshly. The second rule in the Fold is that if anything said would mean you have or were going to break the law or insult or threaten someone, you are assumed to be lying for entertainment of others. This rule is the source of many tall tales, but also allows lawmen and rogues and members of opposing factions to drink at the same table, though overlooking such statements doesn’t always last beyond the alehouse’s walls.

(The Fold Aleroom, art by IG Digital Arts)

If someone drinks until they pass out, or is knocked out, they get moved to the corner near the cudgelers, and looked after until they come to. The major pastime is betting on games of “tiles,” a dwarven dominos-like game played with square tiles with numbers on all 4 sides, and one of the 4 corners. Maridern loves teaching tiles to new players, and allows trusted players to set up coin-per-round tables, but never, ever plays or bets on the game herself.

Newcomers pay for all services in coin-in-advance, but someone clearly down on their luck, and trusted regulars, are allowed to run up a tab. Tabs in theory come due every month, but Maridern often allows token payments for those who are genuinely trying to make good. She also appears to buy debts from “The Raise,” and people not allowed into that establishment for any reason that doesn’t put them in jail are generally allowed to work off their debts (or reputation as a troublemaker) by working at “The Fold.”

Another way to wipe out a debt is to “leave your sword.” In this case something Maridern accepts as an important weapon or tool owned by the debtor is left behind, stacked up on a counter behind the cudgeler post in the Aleroom. Anyone can buy it for whatever the debtor owes (including the debtor if they come into money later), or when the ex-debtor shows up again, Maridern retains the right to give it back to them, in return for it being used to perform a service for her. Maridern has a reputation for being harsh, but not evil, and while she has given people back their swords and told them to go kill someone, in general that’s always been someone the community agreed needed killing.

The Fold is often a popular bar for mercenaries, guards, thieves, and adventurers. Maridern often directs people toward, or away, from such careers as she judges best for them, though she never insists. She also lets people coming up in the world, with money and class and manners, know that if they want, she can get them an invite into “The Raise.” Some adventuring groups have formed from tables of regular tiles players having one of their number begin visiting the Raise, then coming back with an opportunity for adventure for which they need assistance.

If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

MoviePitch: “The Cabin at Camp Sorority Lake”

#MoviePitch #CabinAtCampSororityLake

A group of very different women, who clearly have all survived horrifying and dangerous experiences, gather to deal with the evils they’re sure are lurking near the about-to-be-opened eponymous cabin.
And this time? They’re prepared.
Ideally this would be “The Expendables,” but with actresses who have survived horror and horror/action movies.
(For example, they all take out million-dollar life insurance policies, and name each other’s friends and families as beneficiaries. But not the group themselves — no one who is going to be at the Cabin is benefitting directly).

“Is that a chainsaw?”
“Yep. Top-handle 16-inch always-start Stihl, with custom grips and fuel gauge.”
“Did you get it from… yaknow?”
“Oh, heck no, he used a stupid-huge, heavy, rusty monstrosity. Bad for combat. I DID salvage some of the links from it’s chain, though.”

“So, you wear full body armor?”
“When hunting, with backup? Fuck yeah. NIJ-certified Level IV. You don’t?”
“No, I prefer stealth and mobility. I have a stab-resistant undersuit. Machete-resistant, too.”
“Tested it against power drills?”
“Haven’t had the opportunity.”

“All right, precheck. Defiled indigenous holy sites or burial grounds?”
“I mean, yes. But no more than anywhere else in this country. None of the surviving original local cultures have any specific warnings for us. I asked.”
“Toxic dumps?”
“Not that the eco-groups I talked to are aware of.”
“Illegal labs?”
“Shipping and power records suggest no.”
“Previous incidents?”
“Three recorded massacres, roughly one per generation. Just rare enough for people to forget. Always on a solstice. Like the one coming up.”
“So, cult or supernatural evil.”
“Seems likely. I have silver, jade, white oak, mistletoe, holly, salt, and holy water — in Catholic, protestant, and Eastern Orthodox flavors. And some from a guy named Giles. Oh, and bullets. Lots of bullets.”
“Sounds good, let’s go.”

I specifically wanted a mashup title for this idea, but after expanding a bit I wondered if “Final Girls” would be a better choice. But, it turns out a movie by the title already exists and is just similar enough (it’s kind of Scream via Last Action Hero; an actress’s daughter and her friends get pulled into the actress’s horror movie, giving them a change to use their self-aware trope knowledge to defeat the killer) that I think it’s better not to risk confusion.

If you enjoy any of my various thoughts, ideas, and posts, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

Twenty-Year-Old Files: Game Notes – Myrina

When I am too scattered to write, or need to chew on some design or description problem for a bit while occupying my conscious mind with busy-work, I spend time going through old files on my hard drive. I try to keep archives and backups of everything, each time I move computers especially, but the orignaization hasn’t always been consistent. I literally have a folder under OwensWork/OldWork/OldWork/Games/OldGames/Unused/OldWork.

The files in there are between 20 and 25 years old. Many haven’t been cracked open this century, just being copied and moved and copied from machine to machine to machine.

Every once in a while, I find something that I absolutely do not remember writing, and kinda like. Sometimes I can see the genesis of trends and ideas I have played with since. Here’s an example, which was saved as a WordPerfect document in 2002.


Virago leader and champion of the Argive League (for which the third king of Argos was later named), a technologically advanced society in roughly 10,000 BC. Defeated the Atlanteans and Gorgons. Was betrayed in the Battle of Thermondon by the sorcerer-demigod Thrax and badly injured. Thrax’s dark magic drove the Argive forces back, and did significant damage to the land and people around its use. As a result of the betrayal and loss, the Argive League dissolved and, not wishing to fight a war where both sides loose, the Viragos retreated. Myrina convinced the Waves, also known as Enesidaon, to create a city beneath the sea, named Mytilene, where the Virago could live peacefully away from Thrax and his chaotic empire. Having done this, Enesidaon is also moved to grant Oceanic Cities to the remaining Atlanteans and Gorgons (naming the cities Cerne and Neith, respectively).

Once her people were safe, Myrina succumbed to her wounds and slept in stasis for thousands of years, until she was awoken in 1920 by the chaotic energies unleashed in random and half-understood rituals performed by occultist members of the Ultima Society who were attempting to wake the Hyperborean divine champion Donar. Myrina discovered Mytilene had waged numerous terrible wars with the Cerne and Neith, which had left all three Oceanic Cities significantly diminished. Upon discovering the Surface World had been broadcasting radio for decades (a technology long though exclusive to the Argive League and a sign the Surface World might be finally advancing to the same technological level as the Oceanic Cities) Myrina choose to travel to the Surface World. She wished to understand how and why the Surface had evolved, and seek any sign of Thrax. She became a costumed adventurers, and when World War Two broke out fought against the Axis.

Myrina is tough, swift, and powerful, as all Viragos are, and is a master of all forms of combat and strategy. She also possesses the Areioi (a divine girdle that grants its wearer the strength of titans and flight of the gods), Ancile (a shield that can turn away any force as long as it is held with conviction), and Harpe (an indestructible adamant blade that can pierce any magic defense).

If you are enjoying any of these, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!, or dropping a cup of coffee worth of support at my Ko-Fi (which is also filled with pics of my roommate’s cat).

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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