Category Archives: Boardgames

Eldritch Chess, ver 1.1, Expansion Alpha

These rules have already been added to the Eldritch Chess ver 1.1 page, but if you just want to see what’s new, it’s all written out below.

Victory Conditions

Normal victory conditions are to checkmate your opponent’s liege. If a liege is in check, its player must take it out of check. A liege cannot choose to enter check. In some cases, destroying your opponent’s liege may occur without it ever being in check, such as if it is destroyed by a Fireball. This is considered checkmate for victory conditions.

If neither side has pieces remaining capable to checking the opposing liege, the game is a draw. For example, if both players are down to an archmage and some oozes, the game is a draw.

New Eldritch Pieces

Miasma
Miasma can move one space orthogonally, but cannot capture. As an invoke, it can destroy all non-royal pieces in squares adjacent to it, including you own. It is a spell. You can replace one or both knights with miasmas.

Pendulum
The pendulum can move and capture one vertical space forward or backwards. You can replace two pawns with three pendulums, but you cannot have pendulums that bring you over 24 total pieces.

Sphinx
The sphinx moves, jumps, and captures as a knight or a pawn. If it does not currently have one, as an invoke it can create a riddle in any empty adjacent sqaure. A riddle does not move or capture, but otherwise acts as a piece for purposes of other pieces’ movement (stopping the movement of any piece that cannot jump, and being captured when another piece ands in its square). Your own priests can capture your riddle, but not other pieces of yours. A sphinx is a priest and a royal. A riddle is a spell. You can replace one knight and one bishop with one sphinx, or both knights, both bishops, and two pawns with two sphinxes.

Supporting This Blog
I’m absolutely not immune to the money crunch in the game industry, so if you want to help ensure blog posts like this keep getting produced, please consider supporting my efforts 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).

Eldritch Chess, ver 1.1

I love Chess variants. The origin of this love is twofold. First, I adored the idea of “Martian Chess,” or Jetan, that Edgar Rice Burroughs in The Chessmen of Mars, complete with full rules of the game. Second, my father loved classic boardgames, including chess and chess variants. As a child he taught me Go, Checkers, Chess, and then Shogi and Xiangqi. When I fell in love with Jetan we played it for months (using tape to temporarily turn a Go board into a Jetan board), and he introduced me to Chancellor Chess, Checker-Chess, and a tone of other variants.

When Dragon Magazine published Dragon Chess, he and I used out multiple chess sets and many of my lead miniatures to make a set, and played. I don’t think we ever got through a whole game, but we made multiple runs at it.

(Somewhere in here I also found the video game Archon, which was also a big influence).

So, I’ve adored the idea of chesslike games for a long time, and have played Knightmare Chess, and various 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-player chess variants. Eldritch Chess is an outgrowth of that old passion, and while this version is highly experimental, it’s grown enough I want to have all the current rules in one place.

Also, a BIG shoutout to Mike Myler, who first collated a lot of my social media posts into a pdf, and codified some rules I had hinted at but not written down. Thanks, Mike!

(Art by Martin Bech)

Basic Rules
Eldritch Chess uses the rules of regular chess, with the possible addition of new special pieces called “eldritch pieces.” Each player begins before play with a typical chess army of eight pawns, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, a queen, and a king, but may substitute a number of pieces for eldritch pieces.

Setup and Substitution

All eldritch piece substitutions are decided on prior to pieces being placed on the board. Then, after both sides have decided and noted down what pieces they are using, each side places all their non-eldritch pieces on the board, each in one of its legal starting places, alternating with White placing the first piece. If one side has more non-eldritch pieces, they place all their remaining non-eldritch pieces after the two sides stop alternating.

Then, the two sides take turns placing their eldritch pieces using the same rules as for non-eldritch pieces, above. When placing an eldritch pieces, a player must put in on the beginning square of one of the pieces it replaces, if possible. If not possible, the player chooses any open starting square on the first 2 rows of their side of the board. If there are no such open squares, the eldritch pieces is placed on their third row, as close to the side of the board as possible.

Each time an eldritch piece is placed, which piece it is and what piece(s) it is replacing is revealed to the opposing player.

First Game

It’s recommended that when first playing Eldritch Chess that each player be limited to a single
eldritch piece, increasing the number of allowed eldritch pieces by one for every three matches played.

Matched Sides

To ensure balanced sides, it is possible for eldritch chess to be played with both sideshaving the same eldritch pieces. The players decide on how many substitutions they will have, limiting themselves to an even number (2 eldritch pieces, or 4, 6, or 8). Black then selects one eldritch piece both sides will begin with, and which piece(s) it replaces. White then selects the next eldritch piece and what it replaces, and the players continuing taking alternating turns until all eldritch pieces are selected. Players then set up their pieces, as described in Setup and Selection, above.

Invoke

Some pieces have an invoke. this is something the piece does when you invoke it, which can only be done on your turn and counts as your move, but does not move the piece using its normal movement.

Promotion

Pawns retain the ability to promote if they reach the far row, but can only promote to standard chess pieces (even if you did not being with any of that piece on the board), and eldritch pieces you began the game having on the board. Other pieces only promote if they say so, and may have special rules. A peice can never promote to a liege.

Piece Types

An Eldritch Chess, some pieces are defined as spells, priests, royals, or lieges. Of the standard chess pieces bishops are priests, kings and queens are royals, and the king is a liege. Some eldritch pieces have special rules that interact with these types. Each player must have one and only one liege, which can castle as a king (unless it states otherwise), and is subject to the rules of check and checkmate as a king.

Victory Conditions

Normal victory conditions are to checkmate your opponent’s liege. If a liege is in check, its player must take it out of check. A liege cannot choose to enter check. In some cases, destroying your opponent’s liege may occur without it ever being in check, such as if it is destroyed by a Fireball. This is considered checkmate for victory conditions.

If neither side has pieces remaining capable to checking the opposing liege, the game is a draw. For example, if both players are down to an archmage and some oozes, the game is a draw.

Eldritch Piece Rules

Abjurer
An Abjurer can move and capture 1 space in any direction. An Abjurer cannot be captured except by royal pieces, and cannot be jumped over (even by pieces that normally can jump). Substitution: You can replace one or both rooks with abjurers.

Archmage
The Archmage can move up to 2 spaces in any direction, jumping. It cannot capture. It cannot castle. It is a liege. Substitution: The Archmage replaces your king.

Barricade
The Barricade moves/captures 1, 2, or 3 spaces orthogonally or vertically. It can invoke to Block, preventing the opponent on their next move from capturing it, moving pieces adjacent to it, or jumping over it. It is a spell. You can replace one or both rooks with Barricades.

Berserker
A Berserker moves and captures as a pawn. It can move and capture as a knight or queen, but after doing so it is removed from play. The Berserker cannot check a liege. It can promote on the back row as a pawn. Substitution: You can replace one or both rooks, and/or one or both knights, with bersekers.

Celestial
A Celestial moves and captures up to 4 diagonal spaces. It can jump pieces. It is a priest. When the Celestial is captured, you can immediately promote one pawn that is not in a position to capture or check if it becomes a knight into a knight. Substitution: You can replace your queen, and/or both bishops, with one Celestial.

Conjurer
A Conjurer moves and captures like a pawn. If you have fewer than 8 pawns, as an invoke the Conjurer can create a pawn you control as a move, placing it in a clear adjacent square. Substitution: You can replace your queen, and/or both rooks, with one Conjurer. You cannot have more than one Conjurer.

Court Magician
A Court Magician moves as a king or knight, and promotes as a pawn. It is royal, and remains royal after promoting. You can replace one or both rooks, or both knights, or your queen with one Court Magician.

Diviner
A Diviner moves and captures as a king. You can discard a Diviner without taking a move to force your opponent to undo the move they just took. It’s still their move, but they cannot repeat the same move.
Substitution: You replace your queen, and/or both bishops, with one diviner.

Geomancer
The geomancer moves and captures as the king, but is not a liege. As an invoke, the geomancer can add a strip of four squares to a side of the gameboard. All the edges of one long 4-square side must be adjacent to the original board, and black and white squares alternate with the original board. The added squares can be moved on as normal, but don’t change where pieces promote. Substitution: You replace one or both knights with geomancers.

Ghost
The Ghost can move 2 spaces in any direction. It does not capture pieces, but instead suborns them,
sharing their space and moving with them and preventing your opponent from moving them. It
cannot suborn priests. While suborning, the Ghost moves as itself or the suborned piece, whichever you select for each move. If captured while suborning a piece, the Ghost is destroyed and you place the suborned piece in an adjacent open square where it is returned to your opponent’s control. Substitution: You can replace your queen, and/or both bishops, with one Ghost.

Doppelganger
A Doppelganger moves, captures, castles, and follows the rules of check and checkmate as your king. It is not a liege or royal. However, both your king and Doppleganger must be checkmated for you to lose the game. Substitution: You can replace your queen, or both knights, with a Doppleganger, but may only have
one Doppelganger.

Dragon
A Dragon can move 2 spaces diagonally or orthogonally, and can jump over a piece. It can capture a piece it lands on, or one in any square adjacent to where it lands. Substitution: You can replace both knights with Dragons (but not just one).

Druid
The Druid moves and captures as a pawn. If it doesn’t already have one, it can create a beast as a move. A
beast appears in an unoccupied adjacent space, and moves and captures as a knight. A beast can only move twice, then disappears. If a beast is captured, so is its Druid. The Druid is a priest, but its beast is not. Substitution: You can replace your queen, or both bishops, or one bishop and four pawns, with druids.

Enchanter
An Enchanter can move 2 (and only 2) spaces diagonally or orthogonally. It can capture only by moving into an adjacent enemy piece. An enemy piece adjacent to an Enchanter can’t move. Substitution: You can replace a queen, or a pawn plus one bishop, knight, or rook, with an enchanter.

Evoker
The Evoker moves and captures as a pawn. It can also invoke to capture a piece that is 1 vertical and 2 orthogonal spaces away, or 2 vertical and 1 orthogonal spaces away without moving. The Evoker can capture your own pieces. Substitution: You may replace one or both rooks with Evokers, and/or your queen, and/or one or both knights, but cannot have more than three total Evokers.

Familiar
The Familiar moves/captures 1 in any direction. As an invoke, it can hop onto an adjacent piece of yours. It thereafter moves and is captured with that piece, until it uses it invokes again to leave the shared space and land in an adjacent, unoccupied square. You can replace one or both bishops with Familiars.

Fiend
The Fiend moves up to 3 spaces in any direction, can jump pieces, can turn once during its movement, and can capture friendly pieces. The fiend can capture but not land adjacent to a priest, and the fiend captures a friendly pawn when landing next to it. Substitution: You can replace one or both knights
with fiends.

Fireball
The Fireball moves/captures 1, 2, or 3 spaces diagonally. When it captures a piece that piece, the Fireball, and every adjacent piece, is destroyed. If a liege is destroyed, this is treated as checkmate. It is a spell. You can replace one or both rooks with Fireballs.

Gargoyle
The Gargoyle moves as a knight, but cannot jump pieces. It cannot be captured, removed from the board, or suborned by spells. You can replace one or both knights and/or one (but not both) rook and/or one (but not both) bishop with Gargoyles.

Giant
The Giant moves and captures 1 or 2 spaces orthogonally. As an invoke, it can throw any adjacent non-royal piece of yours 2 or 3 spaces in any direction, jumping pieces, to an unoccupied space. You can replace one or both rooks with Giants.

Gremlin
A Gremlin moves and captures as a pawn, but does not get a double move on it first turn, and does not promote. If it reaches the far row, it turns around (moving and capturing toward you, rather than away from you). You can replace one or both knights or bishops with three gremlins each, or a rook for 5 gremlins, or a queen for 9 Gremlins. However, you cannot have more than 24 total pieces at start of the game when using Gremlins.

Highlander
The Highlander moves and captures as a queen. When captured, it returns as a bishop or rook (your
choice) on your next turn, on any unoccupied square on your back row, without requiring a move to do so. (If you do not have an unoccupied square on your back row, it can appear on any unoccupied square on the first row closest to you that does have one.) If captured again, it returns as a knight, and if again as a pawn. Substitution: You can replace your queen and one knight and one pawn, with one Highlander.

Illusionist
The Illusionist moves as a bishop, rook, knight, or pawn, but only captures as a pawn. Substitution: You can replace your queen, or one rook, with an illusionist. You do this by noting which piece you swapped one of those pieces for an illusionist, but don’t have to reveal to your opponent which it is until the Illusionist is first moved. When placing pieces, you don’t place any queen or rook until you place your illusionist, at which point you place the Illusionist and all remaining rooks and queens.

Initiate
The Initiate can move 1 forward or 1 to either side, but can only capture when moving 1 forward. It can
be promoted to any priest if it reaches the back row. The initiate is a priest. Substitution: You can replace up to two pawns with initiates, or as many as you like if you also sacrifice a knight.

Lightning Bolt
The Lightning Bolt moves as a pawn (with all associated rules), but can take two moves (including capturing twice) as your turn. It is a spell. If it promotes to a knight, it retains double moves and is still a spell. You can replace your queen and/or a single rook for a Lightning Bolt.

Miasma
Miasma can move one space orthogonally, but cannot capture. As an invoke, it can destroy all non-royal pieces in squares adjacent to it, including you own. It is a spell. You can replace one or both knights with miasmas.

Mystic
The Mystic moves and captures as a pawn. If captured, the Mystic can be immediately return to its starting space without taking a turn. It captures any piece in that space. Substitution: You can replace one or both knights, and/or one of both rooks, with Mystics.

Necromancer
The Necromancer moves as the bishop. As an invoke, a piece captured by the necromancer can be used to replace your identical missing piece, placing it in the starting position of the piece being
replaced. The Necromancer does not block the movement of enemy pieces. Substitution: You may
replace one bishop and a rook, and/or one knight and a rook, and/or your queen, with one Necromancer.

Ooze
An Ooze moves 1 in any direction. It cannot capture or be captured. Your own pieces can always jump
over your ooze. Substitution: You can replace both rooks, or both knights, or four pawns, with two oozes. You can have up to 6 oozes.

Pendulum
The pendulum can move and capture one vertical space forward or backwards. You can replace two pawns with three pendulums, but you cannot have pendulums that bring you over 24 total pieces.

Pontiff
The Pontiff can move and capture 2 spaces along any diagonal. It is a noble, priest, and liege. If you have a pontiff, pawns that reach either of the far 2 rows can be promoted to bishops, but never queens.
Substitution: The pontiff replaces your king.

Portalkeeper
The Portalkeeper has no move and it cannot capture. It can invoke to Portal, switching places with any other piece of yours. A king cannot portal out of check. A piece that is Portaled to a place where it would normally promote does not promote (but can later promote if it takes a normal move that would promote it). You can replace one or both knights with Portalkeepers.

Shadowmancer
The Shadowmancer moves and captures as the king. Your king cannot be put in check as long as your Shadowmancer is in play. You can replace you queen, and one bishop, knight, or rook with a single Shadowmancer.

Shapeshiffter
A Shapeshifter can invoke to become a pawn, rook, bishop, or knight without changing squares. Substitution: You can replace your queen, or any two pieces made up from bishops, rooks, and
knights, with shapeshifters.

Shieldmaiden
A Shieldmaiden moves and captures as a queen. When your liege is in check, you can invoke your Shieldmaiden to swap its position with your liege, if this gets your liege out of check. You can replace your queen and a rock, or a rock, knight, bishop, and pawn, with one shieldmaiden.

Sphinx
The sphinx moves, jumps, and captures as a knight or a pawn. If it does not currently have one, as an invoke it can create a riddle in any empty adjacent sqaure. A riddle does not move or capture, but otherwise acts as a piece for purposes of other pieces’ movement (stopping the movement of any piece that cannot jump, and being captured when another piece ands in its square). Your own priests can capture your riddle, but not other pieces of yours. A sphinx is a priest and a royal. A riddle is a spell. You can replace one knight and one bishop with one sphinx, or both knights, both bishops, and two pawns with two sphinxes.

Valkyrie
The Valkyrie moves and captures as the knight. As an invoke, the Valkyrie can take a pawn of yours (or any piece you have that can be substituted for a single pawn) and return it to play in an unoccupied square adjacent to the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie is a royal and priest. You can substitute your queen, or both knights and one bishop, for a Valkyrie.

Vampire
The Vampire moves and captures as a knight. Each time it captures, it gains the ability to alternatively
move 1 in a single direction of your choice (such as 1 forward, or 1 diagonally back left). If it captures 8
times, it can also move as a queen. It is a royal and liege. Substitution: The Vampire replaces your king, and queen, and any one of your bishops, rooks, or knights.

Supporting This Blog
I’m absolutely not immune to the money crunch in the game industry, so if you want to help ensure blog posts like this keep getting produced, please consider supporting my efforts 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).

Tabletop Gaming Space

People talk about game rules and social contracts and spotlight time and a dozen other interaction-facing things much, much more often than they talk about having an actual space to play tabletop game.

So, as I sit here in a 20×21 dedicated gaming room, with two 5-foot-long, 2.5-foot wide tables in the middle, several office chairs, a slew of stacking padded church chairs, ceiling fans, led lights bright enough to power solar calculators (which mattered when we designed the room 24 years ago), it’s own refrigerator, a computer hooked to a sound system, and bookcases on every wall, I wanted to talk a little about what I find useful in a physical gaming space.

This isn’t a must-have list or some professionally surveyed best answer. It’s just what I have found over my 40 years of playing tabletop games, as game to me today in no particular order, and generally using my current main gaming space–a dedicated gaming room in the house I’m living in–as a point of comparison.

Comfortable Seating

This may seem obvious, but it’s still worth thinking about. Especially if you have people with disabilities, what may work for you for 4-6 hours or more of sitting might be torture for other members of your group. Also, think about sturdiness. Not just for regular use (our gaming chairs see many more hours per week of sitting than the dining room chairs of my childhood home ever did), but for the people you want to have over. I’m a heavy guy — more than 450 lbs. on average — and I’ve lost track of the number of times I have been invited by people to hang out at their place where all they have are thin folding wood frame or aluminum tubing chairs. Those do not safely hold me. Consider who you want to make accommodations for, and give people an opportunity to tell you if they need something nonstandard.

Accessibility

Our game room is 3 steps down from the rest of the house. We have railings, and happily pass things up and down for folks having issues with the balance or steadiness, but I still wish our space wasn’t sunken in that much.

We’re pretty central to our town, which is a plus, but not particularly close to public transit. Some people walk here for gaming. Some carpool. But an easier way for people to arrive would be a help.

We have the game table in the middle of a big room with two ways in and out, so mostly people can walk around without bumping into people. But when we cram 9 people in for the big Tuesday Night game, it’s cramped. We can’t even get everyone at the table if the whole crew shows up.

Tablespace

How much tablespace you need depends a lot on the needs of the game you play. If you are wanting to have Starfinder games where sniper rifle ranges are relevant, you may need a ton of space for miniatures and terrain. If you’re playing Dread, everyone needs to be able to reach the tumbling tower, and it (probably) ought to be on stable level surface.

We have a table-topper that puts a 2 ft. x 3 ft. space up about 4 inches off the center of the table and can slide and spin. that’s great for letting people pull the map closer to them and turn it to see what is going on behind a shack or hill, but also means we can’t really have many drinks on the main table, and laptops often have to be closed as the table topper is spun. We also have TV trays, which people can use as additional space for books, dice, water bottles, and so on.

Climate

Our space is large enough that even with 9 people rammed in, the AC and ceiling fans and tower fan can keep us pretty cool, even in summer. But it takes 4 AC ducts, 2 returns, two ceiling fans, and 1 tower fan to do it. If a space is likely to get too cold, it can be worthwhile to have blankets and fingerless gloves as options. If it’s going to get too hot, plenty of water, and be understanding if folks decide they are just unwilling to get too hot while trying to have fun.

Atmosphere

Once of the nice things about a dedicated game space is that it serves as the geeky visual center of the house as well. There are miniatures and maps and game books on shelves, light sabers and swords and starships hanging on the walls, a fleet of sailing ships on top of one bookcase, plastic towers, mountains, and a 3-foot wire-frame oil derrick on other furniture. The walls have framed posters of comic books, movies, and game magazine covers. Overall, it helps put people in the mood to play games.

You often can’t go this far–kitchen tables and living room coffee tables are much more common as play spaces, and those often need to serve aesthetic desires beyond “look geeky.” On the other hand, some people go much further, with faux-stone walls, stuffed dragon heads, and wallscapes of fantasy forests with distant castles.

Whatever your options, think about little things that can help put people in the right frame of mind for the game you want to run. Even just having a GM Screen for a specific adventure or game system, or a single small prop tied to a game’s theme (like a model of the PC’s starship, or miniatures of the allied royal court, or a picture of the fungal ghouls destroying civilization) can help make a game space feel tied to specific campaigns, even if those props have to be put away between games.

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Big Bones, a Betting Die Game

Big Bones is a WEIRD betting dice game I mused over for a long time, and never felt was ready for playtest or something I had a real use for. Essentially my current concern is that it works, but there’s no sense to me that it would be fun or easy to play.

But it’s a game you can use a d13 in, or not, so

Big Bones

Each player picks a die, which can be anything from a d6 to a d20. If you have weird dice, like d13s, they are fair game.

This die is placed in a die cup and covered in front of each player, so no one knows what die size you picked.

Everyone antes 5. (5 gp, 5 poker chips, 5 dollars, 5 betting units each of which are worth $4,16, it doesn’t matter.)

Everyone reveals what die they are rolling.

Starting with the lowest die size (or the youngest player among the lowest die size if there are multiple), each player must stand, raise, meet, or drop.

If you are at the current bet, you can stand or raise.

>If you stand, play passes to the player to your right.

>If you raise, you put in another 5, increasing the current bet by 5. Play then passes to the player on your right.

If you are not at the current bet, you can match, or drop.

>If you match, you put in the different between how much you have invested and the current bet. Once you have done this you meet the current bet, and can stand or raise.

>If you drop, you remove yourself from further play. However, your bet money stays in, and you may owe even more than that (see tallying the winning pot, below).

Once every player has gone at least once, and all remaining players stood or dropped on their last turn, the your resolve the game.

Everyone rolls their revealed die.

The lowest die result wins. In case of ties, the highest die size among the lowest rolls wins.

The winning pot is tallied for its full value. That value is then divided by the number of players, and multiplied by the number of sides of the winning die. If this total is less than the pot, the winner gets the full pot. If the total is more than the pot, all players who anted must pay the winner funds calculated as (difference in winning pot)/number of players who anted. If this takes all their remaining funds, they are out (but do not owe money past what they had on the table).

The round is over, and every decides whether of not to ante for a new round.

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Social Distance Thoughts. GM-less 5e Gaming: Part One – Skills

Pandemic changes things. For everyone’s sake, we need to adapt. For our own sakes, we need to stay sane.

At least for the next few weeks, a lot of us aren’t going out and doing the things we normally do. That leaves us with only online options to interact with friends.

RPGs are a great way to spend time with friends. And if you are willing to go theater-of-the-mind, it works great just via chat or video conference.

But, no one may be in the mood to act as GM.

So, a group of 2-4 friends sure CAN run through a pre-generated adventure without a GM, or a map. Just treat it as a board game, deal with one encounter at a time, roll targets of attacks randomly, and don’t get too hung up on things like tactics or worrying about player knowledge. One Facilitator reads each encounter as you run into it (and maybe that role rotates), and players agree to deal with things cooperatively.

You can even use these ideas to run yourself through adventures on your own, a kind of Gaming Solitaire.

But… it might be nice to have some guidelines for things like skill checks interacting with encounters, when you don’t have a GM to make rulings. So:

GM-less 5e Skill Rules

This is just the beginning of a potential ruleset for playing through a published 5e module with friends, likely online and without a virtual tabletop, and without a GM. This is a first set of thoughts—the beginning of this idea, rather than the end.

Group Skill Decisions

When you want to try something the text doesn’t give you guidance on, the group needs to decide on a DC for the effort. The player proposing the action suggests an ability and related skill, and describes how the action would work. The group then sees if they can agree that the thing being proposed would be Very Easy to accomplish, Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard, or Nearly Impossible. The default DC of anything the group can’t decide on is 20 (Hard).

3d illustration of low poly mystical dungeon with a gate in the rock. Game locations with poisons. Above the stone gates is a dragon sculpture with glowing green eyes. Stylized art with bokeh effect.

Ability Checks Table: Typical Difficulty Classes

Task Difficulty   (DC)

Very Easy (5)

Easy (10)

Medium (15)

Hard (20)

Very Hard (25)

Nearly Impossible (30)

Each ability score lists the skills associated with it, along with typical results for success and failure of skill checks that aren’t specifically outlines in the adventure. Have fun with these checks. Describe the attempts, discuss how the story plays out. It’s a different kind of roleplaying, but no less fun or effective for being more cooperative.

For example, the adventure says there is a locked door. Kyla suggests her barbarian should be able to shoulder the door open with a Strength (Athletics) check. The group agrees that’s possible, but given it’s a sturdy, well-maintained door, it’ll be Hard. Kyla attempts a DC 20 Strength (Athletics) check. If she succeeded, she could bypass the obstacle (forcing the door open). As it happens she fails. The typical failure for Strength Athletics) is to take Damage equal to DC -20 -2d6. That’s a base of 10 (DC 20 -10) hp of damage. Kyla rolls 2d6, and gets a 7, which she also subtracts. She ends up taking 3 (10 -7) points of damage, and the door is not open.

Strength

(Athletics) – Success: Overcome one obstacle. Cause one monster to be unable to act for 1d4 rounds. Failure: Take damage equal to task DC -10 -2d6 (minimum 0).

Dexterity

(Acrobatics) – Success: Overcome one obstacle. Cause one monster to be unable to affect you for 1d3 rounds. Failure: Take damage equal to task DC -10 -3d6 (minimum 0).

(Sleight of Hand) – Success: Take one item of fist-size or less from the encounter. Cause one monster to be unable to use an item for 1 round. Failure: Disadvantage on defensive rolls for 1 round.

(Stealth) – Success: Escape an encounter. Examine an encounter without triggering it. Failure: Trigger an encounter, lose turn failing to escape the encounter.

Constitution

Endure a hazard or circumstance for 1d4 rounds without taking additional damage or penalties.

Intelligence

(Arcana) – Learn the details of one magic creature, effect, trap, curse, or similar item. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the magic examined.

(History) – Learn the details of one ruin or established settlement, or item pertaining to it. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the place or related item examined.

(Investigation) – Learn the details of one location you can examine unhindered. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the location or a related item examined.

(Nature) – Learn the details of one natural creature, effect, hazard, location, terrain, or similar item. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the natural creature or phenomenon examined.

(Religion) – Learn the details of one religion or a related creature, effect, trap, curse, or similar item. This specifically includes angels, demons, devils, and undead. Failure: False information causes you to be at disadvantage for your next check against the religious subject examined.

Wisdom

(Animal Handling) – Success: Overcome one animal-based encounter that has not yet become a combat without it becoming one. Cause one animal to be unable to affect you for 1d3 rounds. Instruct a friendly animal to take a specific action. Failure: Bad interaction causes you to be at disadvantage with your next check with the relevant animal.

(Insight) – Success: Learn the true intentions of one intelligence creature. If the creature intends to attack you, you may take an action to begin the combat before the creature does. Failure: Bad conclusion causes you to be at disadvantage with your next check with the relevant creature.

(Medicine) – Success: Learn the nature of one disease or poison. Stabilize a dying creature. Prevent a disease, bleed, or poison from affecting its victim for 1 round. Failure: target takes 1 hp.

(Perception) – Success: Learn all elements of an encounter. Failure: No penalty.

(Survival) – Success: Live off the land without using up supplies for 1 day. Avoid one natural hazard. Locate a natural encounter and observe it without setting it off. Failure: One random party member takes 1 hp.

Charisma

(Deception) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Gain advantage on your next check with one creature in a combat encounter. Failure: You are at disadvantage on your next check with the creature you attempted to deceive.

(Intimidation) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Gain advantage on your next check with one creature in a combat encounter. Failure: Creature attacks you.

(Performance) – Success: Gain advantage for the next check a party member makes in a non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures. Failure: Suffer disadvantage for the next check a party member makes in a non-combat encounter with intelligent creatures.

(Persuasion) – Success: Overcome one non-combat encounter with nonhostile intelligent creatures. Failure: No penalty.

A Request

I now depend on my Patreon for more of my income and support than I ever expected to. If you find any value in my blog posts or videos, I could use help with the Patreon. If you can spare a few bucks a month, it’s a huge help. If not, even just sharing and linking to my blogs, videos, and the Patreon itself is a huge help that just takes a moment of your time.

Thanks, everyone.

“Three If By Air”

Okay, this is one run at “Three if By Air, the Game of Revolutionary War Air Combat.”
Written by Owen K.C. Stephens, Illustrated by Stan!

The final may play nothing like this.

MAP

Play on a hex grid at least 22 x 36. Each player sprinkles a handful of coins (no more than 20, no less than 5) across the grid for terrain. These represent things sticking up into the air–steeples, treetops, flagpoles, and so on. (Look it’s the 1700s, You are fighting HIGH in the air!) Center each coin in a hex. If an attack you be traced through a hex with a coin, you can’t make that attack unless an ability says otherwise.

PLAYERS

Players — 2          Units — 6 each
Players — 3          Units — 4 each
Players — 4          Units — 3 each
Players — 5 or 6  Units — 2 each

Each player is British, or American. In 2, 4, and 6 player games, make teams of an even number of players. In 3 or 5 player games, it’s a free-for all (fog of war, and all that — the final game may include more factions such as Canadian Moose Dirigibles, Tidewater Steam Gliders, and Pogo-Armed Yetis, for all I know).

British players may have British or Hessian troops. American players may have American or French troops, but cannot have more French than American.

Make your units before play. You get 10 points. Divide them among these 5 attributes, which are used with combat characteristics, no more than 4 in any one attribute.

Attributes
Offense: Used with ATTACK.
Defense: Used with EVADE.
Toughness: Used with HEALTH.
Speed: Used with MOVE.
Accuracy: Used with RANGE.
.
COMBAT CHARACTERISTICS
ATTACK: For each attack, roll 1d6 and add your Offense. If the value exceeds your target’s Evade, the difference is the damage you do.
EVADE: Each time you are attacked, roll 1d6 an add your Defense to see if you are damaged.
HEALTH: You can take damage equal to 2 + double your Toughness value. If damage would reduce you below this number, that unit is removed from play.
MOVE: Determines both movement order and how far you can go. Each round you can move a number of hexes equal to 1d6 + your Speed, to a maximum of 7. If you choose not to ATTACK, you may move an additional 1d6 hexes in phase 2. You can always move less than your maximum (including moving 0).
RANGE: Each round at the beginning of Phase 2 you roll 1d6 -3, and add your Accuracy. On that Phase you can attack foes a number of hexes away equal to this number, to a minimum RANGE of 1.

UNITS

If you are AMERICAN, your units are Lightingrod Class War Kites. If on your first attack against a target your attack roll is a natural 6 (a 6 shows on the d6), you may also attack a second unit if it is within 6 hexes.

If you are BRITISH, your units as Beefeater Rocket Cavalry. You gain a +1 to attacks made against a target in an adjacent hex.

If you are FRENCH, your units are Hot Air Balloon Dragoons. When one of your units takes damage, it moves 1 hex in a direction of your choice.

If you are Hessian, your units are Trebuchet Infantry, lobbed into the air by ground forces each round. You may only move in a straight line each turn, and gain +1 ATTACk and +1 EVADE.

PLACEMENT

Each player picks one side of the map to begin on, in secret. All sides are then all revealed. If two or players pick the same side, and there is a side with fewer players having picked it, the players each roll a d6 (rerolling ties) and the one who rolls highest decides to stay or move 1 side clockwise to the nearest side with fewer players. After that, each other player in descending order of die rolls must  move 1 side clockwise to the nearest side with fewer players until there is not a side of the map with fewer players assigned to it.

The each player rolls 3d6 and totals them. In descending order of those die rolls, each player places 1 unit within 3 inches of their side of the map. Proceed through this order until all units are placed.

PLAY
Phase 1.
Everyone rolls their MOVE. The unit with the highest move may choose to go first, or wait and go last. If two units have a tied MOVE, they may defer to one another, or write down their movement and reveal them simultaneously to move simultaneously.

The unit with the next highest MOVE then decides to go immediately, or go last (or next-to-last if the highest MOVE is going last).
Proceed until everyone has moved.

Phase 2.

In order of MOVE, each unit rolls its RANGE, then attacks or moves another 1d6 hexes.
Proceed through all units, then the round is over, and go to Phase 1 of the next round.

RETREAT

If a player ever goes 3 rounds in a row without any unit making an ATTACK against a target in range, that player’s units are considered to have no taste for battle and retreat, and are removed from play.

VICTORY

If you have eliminated more than half of an opponent’s units, that opponent is eliminated and any remaining units are removed of play.

One side wins when all opposing sides have had all their units removed from play.

Cooperative Chess

I’m not saying this is a good version of this idea, or even that this is a good idea.
But it SHOULD be playable…

*There are three colors of pieces, white, black, and red.

*Black and white are both lines up on one side of the board, with the white pieces being the left half of each line, and the black pieces being the right half. There is no queen, instead both black and white have kings.

*Red pieces are set up normally on the opposing side.

*One player runs the white pieces, and one runs the black pieces. They work together, and are considered to be on the same side (for example, their pieces cannot capture one another).

*The red pieces represent the opposition, and their movements are determined randomly.

*White moves first. Then red. Then black. Then red. Repeat this sequence until a king is in checkmate, or normal rules of chess would indicate a draw.
*Number all of the Red pieces, 1-16, starting with the pawn on A7, running right to H7, then moving up to the rook on A8, and running along the back row to H8.

*On Red’s move, move it’s pieces by following these priorities:

1. If its Red’s King is in check, it takes a legal move to capture the piece placing its King in check (if this removes the King from being in check from any piece), block check, or remove the King from check. If multiple such moves are possible, Red prefers capturing a checking piece, then moving the King out of check, then using another piece or block the King. If multiple such moves exist determines which move it makes randomly.

2. If Priority 1 move does not occur, and a Red pieces is in a square where a black or white piece can capture it on the black/white’s next turn, and the piece can legally move to where that will not be true, it does so. If it can capture an opposing piece with this move, it does so (see Priority 3 if there are multiple pieces it can capture).

Otherwise it moves the fewest squares it legally can to move to a square where it cannot be captured on black/white’s next move. If multiple such squares exist, select which one it moves to randomly.

If multiple Red pieces can fulfill priority 2, move the one that is of the highest value. If multiple pieces of the highest value exist, move the one that can capture an opposing piece. If none can capture, determine which one moves randomly.

3. If a Priority 1-2 move does not occur, and Red has a piece that can legally capture a black or white piece, without exposing its king to check or ending in a square where a black or white piece can take it on their next move, it does. If there are multiple such legal captures, it takes the highest-value piece it can. If there are multiple such captures of pieces of the same value, determine which one it takes randomly.

4. If a Priority 1-3 move does not occur, and Red has a piece that can legally capture a black or white piece, without exposing its king to check, but doing so leaves it in a square that can be immediately taken by a black or white piece on its next move, roll 1 six-sided die. On a 1-3, the Red pieces makes the capture. On a 4-6, it does not. If there are multiple such captures possible, roll once to see if Red makes any such capture, and if it does use the rules from Priority 3.

5. If a Priority 1-4 move does not occur, and Red has only a single legal move, it takes it. This is true even if it is a move that was ignored during Priority 3.

6. If a Priority 1-5 move does not occur, roll three dice, total them, and subtract 2 from the sum. If the result is 1-16, and that Red piece is still on the board, move the piece matching that number. If that Red piece is no longer on the board, go to Priority 7.
6a. If the piece is a Red pawn, and it can move to the Black/White home row without ending in a square where it can be captured by a black/white piece on its next turn, the pawn takes the move and is promoted to a Queen. It retains its original numbering.
6b. If the piece can move to a square where it could take a black or white piece on its next move, it does so. If there are multiple such squares, it selects the one with the fewest black or white pieces able to take it on their next move. If multiple such squares exist, determine which one it selects randomly.
6c. If no move is indicated by Priority 5a, make a legal move that goes as far as that piece can go, in a randomly determined direction, that does not end with it in a square where it could be captured on black or white’s next move.

7. If the Red piece indicated by the die roll is no longer on the table, instead move the remaining Red piece with the closest number. If two remaining Red pieces are equidistant in numbering, go with the lower number if the result was odd, and with the higher number if the result is even.
7a. If the newly-selected Red piece can legally capture a black or white piece, it does. If this would expose its King to check, the King is moved in a randomly determined direction however many squares are needed to keep it out of check, in ADDITION to the Red piece making a capture. If there are multiple black/white pieces the Red piece could capture, use the preferences from Priority 3.
7b. If the newly-selected Red piece cannot capture a black./white piece  with a legal move, it is moved in the following manner. Roll 1d6 and add one. This is the numbered row the piece moves to. Roll 1d6, with 1 being B, 2 C, 3 D, 4 E, 5 F, and 6 G. This is the column in that row the piece moves to.
If there is a black or white piece in that space that is not a King, it is captured, if there is a black or white King in that space, the Red pieces is captured. If there is a Red piece in that square, the higher value of the two Red pieces takes the square, and the other is capture. If the two red pieces are of the same value, determine randomly which one gets the square.

*If either the Black or White king is placed in Checkmate, or if both are ever in Check, Red wins. If the Red King is ever in Checkmate, black and white win.

PATREON
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All Hail the Nerdarchy!

I had a chance to sit down with the awesome folks of Nerdarchy at Gen Con 2018, and talk a bit about tabletop gaming, content creation, and the evolution of RPGs!

(And some thoughts on Starfinder RPG, Paizo Inc., 5th Edition D&D, Green Ronin, crowdsourcing, and more!)

PATREON
If you enjoy any of the content on this blog, please consider adding a drop of support through my Patreon campaign!

Ctheckers: The simple board game of cosmic insignificance

 

It started as a joke. It still is, really, But I wrote up the rules for Ctheckers! (Which is even sillier than Golem Chess!)

Gameplay is as standard checkers, with the following changes.

On the bottom of the checkers of each side, make the following notations:
Cth: This is the Cthecker. Ia! Ia! Each side has a single Cthecker.
Cu: Cultist. Each side has eight cultists.
Ny: Nyarlathotep. You’ll also need chess pieces for this piece – a pawn, bishop, king, knight, queen, and rook. And a d6. It’s an elder god, things can get complicated. Each side has one Nyarlathotep.
R.C.: Randolf Carter. Each side has one Randolf Carter.
Nec: Necronomicon.

Once all checkers are marked, flip them so the markings are concealed and shuffle them. Once you no longer know which of your checkers is which, place them on the checker board as normal.

When a checker is captured, and when it reaches the far row of the board to be promoted, reveal what the checker is by flipping it over. Then follow the rules for each checker as noted below.

Cthecker: If the Cthecker of either player is revealed, either by being captured or by being flipped over as a promotion when it reaches the far row of squares, the game ends and both players lose. The coming of the Cthecker is bad for everyone, and nothing else you insignificant humans has done matters at all.

Cultist: If you reveal a cultist by capturing it nothing special happens – it is captured and removed from the board. If you reveal a cultist as a promotion when it reaches the far row of squares, you stack one previously taken cultists from your side, and one from your opponents side, under it. The top cultist in this stack now acts as a king from checkers. However, as soon as it moves, the next top cultist also acts as a king, and you can move it independently. But if you do, you reveal your opponent’s cultist, and IT now acts as a king which your opponent can move normally on his turn.

If you or your opponent do not have enough previously captured cultists to stack the correct number under a promoted cultist, place however many you can and proceed normally.

If all eight of your cultists are captured, you lose the game.

Cultists think they are working toward a goal, but mostly they just spawn more powerful cults, not all of which are working toward the same goal.

Nyarlathotep: If Nyarlathotep is revealed by being captured or reaching the far row and being promoted, it is not actually captured. Instead, it assumes one of its many forms. Roll 1d6. One a 1 it becomes a chess pawn, 2 a bishop, 3 a king, 4 a knight, 5 a queen, and 6 a rook.

Unless Nyarlathotep is in its king form, no piece can take it except another revealed Nyarlathotep. If Nyarlathotep is in king form it can be taken by being jumped or by having an opposing Nyarlathotep land in its space. Unlike other pieces in Ctheckers, Nyarlathotep can capture your own pieces (but is not required to if it has the opportunity). If your Nyarlathotep is taken you lose the game.

When your Nyarlathotep is revealed, place the chess piece it becomes on top of the original Nyarlathotep checker. While it is on your checker you can move it as the corresponding chess piece. You capture any piece you land on the space of (ending your turn) or jump over (as a knight). At the end of your move, roll 1d6 to determine the new chess piece Nyarlathotep acts as, and place any captured checker of your opponent under it. This is still considered your piece, but only your opponent can move it, as his turn, if he wishes, and he can capture your pieces when he does so. Once your opponent moves Nyarlathotep, roll the d6 to determine its form again, and place your original checker under it. You can now move it again. Repeat as each of your moves the piece.

If your opponent has not had a piece captured, he cannot move Nyarlathotep until he does have a piece, and it remains stationary until your opponent has a piece captured or the game ends.

Nyarlathotep has many forms, and his plans are impossible for mortal minds to comprehend.

Randolph Carter: If Carter is revealed as a result of being captured, flip him like a coin. If the checker lands top-up, promote him. If it lands bottom-up, he goes mad and is replaced by a captured cultist from your opponent, which your opponent now controls. (If your opponent does not have a captured cultist, nothing else happens).

When promoted, Carter moves like a king. Also, when he is promoted, you may look under one checker of your opponent. This is not considered to be revealing that checker, and you do not have to tell your opponent what you learn. You can even lie about what you learn. The rules specifically say that is okay. After being promoted Carter is allowed to look under a checker of yours as a move on your turn, but if he does so he goes mad (as if coming up bottoms-up in the case of being captured).

Carter is a human scholar and traveler through dreams. Maybe a madman.

Necronomicon: If your Necronomicon is revealed, it remains in play, but you can no longer move it, and it cannot be captured by your opponent. It can be captured by you (and if you can capture it you must, unless you can capture a different piece in the same turn). If you capture you own Necronomicon you look inside and are torn apart by invisible demons. Also, you lose the game.

Either you or your opponent may sacrifice a promoted cultist, removing it from the game, to move a revealed Necronomicon. If you have revealed Randolph Carter, you may sacrifice him to remove your own revealed Necronomicon from the game. Either of these actions counts as your move.

Become a Patron!

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GOLEM CHESS (1.1)

Since almost no game design is perfect with just ten minutes of work:

GOLEM CHESS (1.1)

A chess variant with 20 minutes of design time. (Traditionally played on a black-and-purple checkerboard)

Each side has one golem, one hero, and one wizard. These are determined randomly, and have special powers. Other than that, the game is played as normal chess.

Each player should do the following:

Number you rooks, bishops, and knights each, 1-2.

Create a deck of cards (index cards work). This is your “court deck” that has two rook cards (1, 2), two bishop cards (1, 2) and two knight cards (1, 2).

Before play, shuffle the court deck. Then, without looking, deal one card each in the golem slot, hero slot, and wizard slot. Remove the remainder of the court deck from play without anyone looking at it.

You may now look at the cards in each slot. Do not reveal them to your opponent.

Golem: The top card in the golem slot determines which of your pieces is a golem. A golem can only be permanently captured by specific opposing pieces. When a golem is captured by most pieces, it is removed temporarily from play. You may, as your entire turn on any turn thereafter, return it to a space on your back row. The space must be one from which no opposing piece can immediately capture the golem, and from which the golem could not capture a piece if it were to move immediately. Also, the golem cannot be placed in a space that would prevent the king from being in check.

A pawn can never permanently capture the golem. The king, queen, and hero automatically permanently capture the golem if they are used to capture it. For any other piece, the golem is captured only temporarily unless a piece of the same type (bishop, knight, or rook) has previously captured it.

Hero: Once per game, before or after its normal move (or in place of its normal move), a hero may move as a knight. If a hero captures a piece, its turn ends with no further movement. Each time a hero captures an enemy piece, it gains the ability to move as a knight in this way one additional time during the game.

Wizard: A wizard may do do one of the following things during the game.

Fireball: The wizard captures one adjacent enemy piece. This cannot be used to capture the king, and the threat of this ability does not place a king in check. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Polymorph: The wizard becomes any one normal chess piece, and then moves as that piece. It captures as that piece. After moving (and capturing, if appropriate), the wizard goes back to being its normal piece. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Summon: The wizard summons a pawn into any adjacent space. This counts as the wizard’s move. The pawn can move, capture, and be captured normally (but cannot move two forward on its first move). You must have lost a pawn to use this ability. If the pawn reaches the row that allows it to be promoted, it can only choose to be a bishop, knight, or rook.

IN PLAY

You do not have to reveal that a piece is a golem, hero, or wizard until it does something a normal piece of the same type could not. When a pawn is promoted, it cannot choose to be a golem, hero, or wizard.

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