The Simon Multiverse

The universe is not a great wheel with planes shooting off like the gaps in the spokes. The simplicity and finity of the metaphor make that clear; rings are contained, restrained, and binding. And more, the idea that we can stand at the centre and look out upon creation from a position of authority is either willfully delusory or utterly naive. We are not at the centre but rather the bottom.

Look at the night sky in Sigil and you see stars. In Baator, stars. Celestia, stars, stars everywhere, separated from us by a dome of shadow. Or rather a sea, one which we can cross on golden ships to those bright points of light. After crossing the Nothing you find yourself at another plane, maybe one you recognise. You realise that this is true shape of things previously obscured my short lines and strange paths.

It is a sphere of shadows with orbs of light. This sphere is the bottom and the centre, yet most outer. Our physical intuition can't imagine the hyper dimensional spaces of the macroversal model.

Like an ant meeting a deer. On bumping into its hoof you perceive a great beast made of horn, towering in a neat column. This is hardly a fraction of the truth but the knowledge of it will suffice for your limited interactions with it. For that ant to become a great sorceror, shooting through the astral dark in a womb made of light, he would have to imagine legs and fur.

Imagine the ocean. The true god sits in a boat, sometimes throwing waste overboard, things unneeded and useless. They fall to the bottom of the ocean miles below in the darkness where life briefly blooms around it. Creatures fight and breed and live and die in the usual cycles of living things. The gods as we know them are whales, we feed on their corpses. Some of live by the thermal vents of the light universe above (below and inside), semi permanent sources of nourishment.

In all cases the nothing will settle, erode the shores it laps against. In some places the horizon knights rove back and forth, filling the nothing with something, but they cannot stop the tide.

Crypts of Indormancy - Kickstarter

Oh my, what's this? Why it's an adventure by the inimitable Ezra Claverie, Undercroft regular and bottomless font of curious concepts, illustrated by one Andrew Walter, whose art speaks for itself.

“Crypts of Indormancy” is a an evocative location-based adventure compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and most other Dungeons & Dragons clones. Set in a quasi-Polynesian island chain with a backdrop of postcolonial elves digging through their imperial past

This scenario is informed as much by sword-and-sorcery as by anticolonial politics, so you might say that it draws on a non-traditional "Appendix N," one that includes Aimé Césaire, Chinua Achebe, Frantz Fanon, Gyatri Spivak, and Edward Said.

This is the Melsonian Arts Council's first* stand alone, big-boy book and is being funded with big-boy money. How exciting! Let's hope it all goes well and gets funded so we can pay everyone and not end up living in the cardboard box the books get delivered in.

(*Oli Palmer's Something Stinks in Stilton counts sometimes, and will count even more if we hit the funding goal to have it reprinted all nice a pretty-like)

Some other initiatives

So, weird, useful and exciting initiative systems. Who's got some?

My current system is bingo calling/chit-pull initiative. I've written everyone's name on a token and pull them out of a bowl (I use numbers for monsters). Totally random, ensures I don't forget anyone, avoids having to roll dice and remembering an order.


  • Write them on blank cards and shuffle them every turn. You can keep AC/HP/effects timers/whatever written directly on it for convenience.
  • Use actual bingo balls. Number everyone.
  • Instead of numbering monsters, just put a star on them. When you pull a star move a monster. Even less paper work.

Declare a leader token. This can be an actual token, or a hat, or a sceptre, or something hard to lose. That person goes first and play proceeds to their left. All enemy NPCs act on the GMs turn. Once a round has finished pass the token to your right.

The player with the least health goes first and play proceeds down the line. The GM calls out "1, 2, 3..."etc and people chime in.

The player willing to take the biggest penalty to all rolls goes first. Like the drama initiative, GM calls out from 6 and goes down. Or some other number appropriate to your system. GM also picks.

All things happen at once. Any actions that would cancel out another are done as contested rolls and the winner gets their way. Damage is simultaneous unless it obviously isn't.

You've got a track of actions, each player places themselves on a spot. Play proceeds top to bottom. On proceeding rounds the players are relocated in reverse order.

A manoeuvre is any non-combat non-magic action, like moving around or rummaging in your pack or pulling a lever.

  1. Reckless Magics -6
  2. Melee attacks
  3. Ranged attacks
  4. Manoeuvre
  5. Risky magics -3
  6. Manoeuvre and melee
  7. Manoeuvre and ranged
  8. Safe magics

In a non-fun game where you don't roll for magic, just do it all on the last one.

Everyone starts with a little token on the shaded slice. Randomly pick who goes first and proceed left-wise for the first moves, after that the person closest to the shaded slice acts first. This can result in multiple actions in a row if they don't jump anyone.

  • Move 5ft - 1 space
  • Attacking moves you spaces according to weapon used (sword is 4, knife is 2, halberd is 5
  • Magic moves you spaces according to the spell (magic missile is probably 4, charm is 1)
  • Misc actions generally take 1 space.

Once you pass the shaded slice you may take no more actions until everyone has passed it. When the new round begins you start with the person closest to the shaded area. Moves continue from where the pieces are.

The Undercroft #10 is basically out

Say whaaaat? It's out already? But it's only been 3 or 4 or 5 or something months. Oh how time flies.

But don't mind that, mind that the latest issue of the worlds premiere, hyper functional, deluxe RPG zine is out and you don't own it yet. Exchange your boring, uninteresting money for pictures and written things by the industry's most talented humans in the world's most prestigious periodical.

Get it on RPGNow now! Now.

Order a print & PDF copy on my hot hot HOT shop shop SHOP (shipping end of the week)

Subscribe for future issues at something like a discount

WARNING: Don't buy the zine again if you already have this on your Patreon, you already paid me and I'm already sending it!

Universal Roads & Currencies

The City in the Middle of the Road

Troika is the City in the Middle of the Road, not of Windowless Rooms, nor of Doors. These are different places that one can get to through different means. Troika is reached by those who travel and have no destination. When purpose is abandoned its thick metal walls might loom on the horizon or peek above the trees to guide you to its open gates.

Its gates open on to the million spheres each with a road meandering away to be traveled by citizens with purpose. They step out with a destination in mind and travel until the city is out of sight, arriving where they intend to be and the way back wholly obscured.

To get back to the city is easier than first finding it; walk a road with nothing behind you and nothing ahead. Leave no one behind wishing your return, walk with no purpose, and Troika will open its gates to you again.

Bureau of Universal Exchange

Scattered throughout Troika are the silo-like Bureaus of Universal Exchange. Windowless and towering —either occupied because of these facts or floors and shutters have been welded on— one enters the ground floor to deal with its spider-like proprietors.

You find them hunched beyond tiny portholes and pass through your goods and currencies to be fondled by their hairy little hands. They have an uncanny head for the value of things, they will never confer, you will never get a bargain, they will instantly offer only exactly what it's worth and not a penny more, minus a small handling fee of course. Roll 2d6 to determine the % they add on top that day. Reroll 6s and keep adding them until you stop.

They will exchange anything for the Troikian penny, a brass coin of muddy source. The currency is worth whatever the standard currency of your game is, but only of face value to those who can travel to the city, which, while a large number, is far less than the entirety of the population of the universe.

When bringing them alien currency randomly determine how valuable it is at that exact moment. Roll 2d6 in order. The first is the penny, the second is foreign currency, thus determining the ratio. Always add one in the bureau's favour. They're running a business after all.

If a currency is a step above the base (gold>silver for instance) then just add a zero in its favour.

You can list these for later use if you like, but it's even easier to determine it anew each time. Time and space is unpredictable, change is relative.

The Alzabo

As large as a bear, taller than a man at the shoulder, the alzabo is an adaptable predator. Drop an alzabo into any environment that it can physically withstand and it will have mastered it by the first meal, for it gains more than simple nutrition from thinking flesh. With it they take on the full and unabridged memory of their meal, giving them the lay of the land, location of water, shelter and the rest of its kind.

The alzabo can produce —for it is not truly mimicking, rather recalling— the exact sound of any mind it possesses. Calling out in the night it draws its prey from safety, typically by imitating a recently eaten family member and calling to it's children or parents. Even if the devoured is a human, and those listening know that it's not truly them, the sound of the daughter you know to be dead tapping at your cottage door and begging to be let in from the cold is more than most can bear.

Skill: 10

Stamina: 21

Attacks: 2

Attack - Claw, stomp and bite

1 2 3 4 5 6 7+
4 4 6 6 12 13 14

Defence - Thick red fur

1 2 3 4 5 6 7+
0 1 1 1 2 3 4

The alzabo can recall any personality that it has eaten. When playing them assume that they are literally that person but with the added desire to eat and absorb more memories. The father of a child will beg them to come out to their dear papa and will argue and cajole with his intelligence and knowledge, for the alzabo will have all the feelings the father had towards the child in addition to wanting to eat and make company of their memories. This is not a parroting of the sounds and mannerisms, it is perfect and sincere.

The alzabo will hunt the family of the deceased above other prey. It desires their company and misses them dearly.

It will openly hunt at night, calling from outside the door or beyond the tree line. During the day it will follow from afar and is quite stealthy.

If the glands of the beast are removed and given to a suitably skillful physik it can be refined into an oil that will impart the memory eating abilities of the alzabo for a time. They need only take in a few mouthfuls for the full effect, the memories are permanent. The meat need not be fresh or raw, only edible. With the memories of another the player may ask the GM questions while searching their memories as though the person were present and completely honest. The PC may also use skills known to the deceased by testing their luck in place of a skill test of some sort. The memories are there, but the muscle memory and physical might are not. The PC may imitate the voice, but it will be imperfect since human vocal cords were not designed with this in mind (+6 disguise while doing it).

From this book.

The Ransom of Troika!

Some of you may be aware of Troika!, my ongoing Advanced Fighting Fantasy project. The core or it is now in place and fully functioning, ready to have a big bloaty body hung from it. But, just as in real life, bloaty bodies are expensive and take time. To feed it I am ransoming it off, chopping off the metaphorical finger and sending it to you in a box. The funds gained will pay for this extravagant project. Here is Troika! Basic, a complete and mostly comprehensible rule set based on Advanced Fighting Fantasy.

The rules are complete enough for you to go off and play it forever and never speak to me again. Which is fine by me, mission accomplished. However, I plan to make this into a significant work, not some light and breezy confection to be consumed and passed in time for the next. Though there will always be a free basic version like this.

Current plans for funds are to have the full list of 216 backgrounds illustrated, to round up my favourite Fighting Fantasy illustrators and shove money into their hands, and to make a book that can block a bullet. Don't ask how expensive all that is, I try not to think about it.

It will happen eventually, but that eventually gets here faster if I ransom the crap out of this half-baked playtest document. So that is exactly what I'm doing.

Pay what you want, download it HERE, play it, break it, tell your friends, the ransom of Troika begins.

Fighting Fantasy Luck

The Luck statistic is arguably the most interesting mechanic in the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG system.

In brief, it is a number between 7 and 12, generated at character creation. When something arbitrarily awful or wonderful might happen to you you may roll equal to or under it on 2d6. Much like saves in D&D. The difference here, other than there being only one "save", is that it is reduced by 1 every time it is rolled, successful or not and is entirely optional. The player can decide that he'll just take whatever is coming his way and save his luck for later.

Smart. Your Luck runs out. It's named something that you can even speak about out loud without breaking the tone. "Make a saving throw" or "Test you luck"? One of those is obviously stronger.

In the gamebooks from which the system is derived you would occasionally regain luck when choosing a path that, through no fault of your own, brought you fortune. Essentially you gained luck when you got lucky. This did not translate well into an RPG. In a gamebook there is no ambiguity, no fiat, whereas an RPG has a GM handing out the brownie points. A GM currency that keeps the PC alive encourages an irritating atmosphere of performing for the GM, "I did this thing, do I get a point?" or worse, conscious or unconscious favouritism.

Unlucky mate
The easy path would be to just give it all back when you rest, waking up nice and lucky. But strategic rests are also annoying, and it doesn't fit as nicely as regaining Stamina from naps does. There needs to be a concrete condition for regaining luck. I've already covered the possibility of regaining it through spending time with your family or getting wasted, but this isn't useful for long periods in the wilderness.

In a system where Luck is diminishing there must be a fair economy, or at least an economy which is transparent and controllable. Possible solutions:

  • You regain 1 luck every time you interact favourably with a suspicious aspect of the wilderness. For example, the party comes across a gauntlet on a pedestal in the middle of a room. Instead of wisely ignoring it or just stuffing it in a bag, the barbarian thrusts his arm inside. It's just a nice gauntlet. +1 Luck. This mimics the books quite well, is relatively plain and understandable. Encourages players to be a bit bold. Should also allow you to go over starting Luck.
  • You regain 1 Luck every time you have a meal. Eating is good for mind and body after all. If you're stuck in a shitty jungle, hounded by pygmy cannibals, a nice quiet meal with your friends can restore some sanity. Further reward for eating and wasting time. Requires thought and risk.
  • A good rest regains d3 Luck. Good dreams are important. Also, random encounters.
  • Fake-out saves can't be used in Fighting Fantasy. It's incredibly unfair to spend their resources for nothing. Alternative: Use fake-out saves, but if the player takes the bait (remember, testing your luck is optional) give them 1 Luck instead.
  • Regain d6 Luck at the start of a session. Represents the optimistic nihilism of the adventurer.

A lot of of these come down to calling the GM's bluff, which I think is appropriate. Rewarding curiosity is never a bad thing.