Vaults & Vagabonds


Principles of Old School Gaming

I've been toying with the idea of writing my own little Player's Handbook for possible forthcoming old school games. I'm currently playing, and enjoying, a Castles & Crusades-campaign, with some modified rules, but real old school it definitely isn't. The simplified, combined with the improvisational and procedural, rules of old school is becoming more and more appealing to me, and I need to solidify and put to paper what I ideally would like to play. In the process I will pick and choose from my betters of course. Many blogs are inspiring, and also rulesets like Labyrinth Lord, The Black Hack and even maybe the slick skill-solution from Castles & Crusades will possibly be a part of my house rules.

However, before I begin the process of putting the rules together I need to define some of the principles of old school gaming.

What is the game about?

  • The game is about player ingenuity, not character abilities or power level
  • The game is about exploration and survival in a dangerous environment
  • The game is about creative problem solving
  • The game is about making choices, and facing consequences
  • The game is about improvising with what is at hand, and uncovering what is hidden

How does it work?

  • Character generation is quick and easy
  • Solutions are seldom found on the character sheet
  • The character's backstory is happening now
  • The game takes place in a sandbox
  • The game is open-ended
  • The world is not static and it will evolve whether the characters get involved in current affairs or not
  • The farther out, down or up the harder it will be
  • The game is lethal and unbalanced.
  • Be prepared. Be aware of portents. Never fight fair. Be smarter. Apply tactics. Run!
  • The real killer is the dice
  • The decision of the referee is final. Rulings, not rules.
  • Player agency is the driving force
  • Random tables will surprise both players and the referee through encounters, treasure and events
  • Experience (XP) rewards from spending gold, and defeating, overcoming, befriending or bypassing opponents and obstacles
  • Metagaming is allowed, as there is no strict line between player and character knowledge
  • There will always be several solutions to a problem, many might be hidden, or even unknown to all

#OSR #RPG #mygame

Mace of Divine Memory

As I read through some published modules and plan my new fantasy campaign I substitute every bland magic item and vanilla +# weapon with something more colorful.

This is my reworking of a simple +1 mace.


Heavy Mace


This heavy mace consists of a long wooden handle and the top is an oblong iron ball with five equal iron flangs. It is designed for delivering one-handed concussive damage against armored opponents. The Mace of Divine Memory is obviously of superb craftsmanship, but have no noteworthy features except a deep purple shine to the iron flangs.


The Mace of Divine Memory has been used by especially devote war priests through centuries. The clerics wielding the mace were recognized as very accomplished in battle and the weapon’s power is believed to come directly from the god of war. Succesful battle clerics recieved a small amount of divine power on succesful attacks, but could just as well fall out of favor when not doling out divine rage.

Game effects:

Only clerics get the benefits of wielding the Mace of Divine Memory. To all other classes it works as a normal mace.

The cleric receives a +1 bonus to hit and damage.

Also a cleric wielding the mace will be able to recall a spell on a critical hit (natural 20). Likewise a fumble will make her forget a spell (natural 1). The spells received (or taken away) in this manner must be among the spells the cleric knows and has cast during the day. It can not increase nor decrease the cleric’s spell limit. That is: a cleric that has cast no spells scores a 20 to hit and received the battle blessing of the Mace of Divine Memory – but since she is at her maximum spells she won’t receive an extra spell. A cleric that previously has cast Cure Light Wounds will find that it miraculously returns to her memory. When a cleric loses a spell she must randomly determine (i.e. let the dice decide) which spell she loses. A spell lost in this way can be regained on another critical hit with the mace. If the cleric has cast several spells before she scores a 20 she can decide which spell to regain.

#RPG #OSR #magic #weapon #item

What is on the fantasy menu?

Sometimes you need to know what is served at the inn the characters are staying. Roll on the table below to find out.

I have researched some medieval and renaissance foods and tried to break it up in a way that will work for different types of inns. No more flavorless stews!

Know that in the old times all fresh vegetables and fruits were prepared in some way (cooked, dried, pickled, salted or fermented) as fresh produce were thought to cause sickness. Furthermore only the upper classes regularly enjoyed fresh meat or fish (settlements near fishing waters are obvious exceptions). Spices and herbs were widely used. Dairy products spoiled quickly and was seldom used in cooking. Almond milk was the prefered substitute. Salted butter was used, if not common.

During fast the menu is usually changed. Normally this means no food served before a certain hour, all meats substituted with fish or vegetables, or determined by local customs – use your imagination. During feasts or other celebrations the menu will also offer something different. Solve it by adding another 1d4 to your roll or make something up for these occasions.

Assign 1d4 for each step of quality of the inn up to a maximum of 5d4. Like this:

1d4 = poor 2d4 = cheap 3d4 = average 4d4 = good 5d4 = extraordinary.

If you don’t know the quality of the inn just roll 3d6 to find out what is served.

  1. Stale bread and rancid butter
  2. Gruel of barley and almond milk
  3. Frumenty – Potage of boiled wheat and currants
  4. Cabbage soup – Potage of cabbage and sometimes onions, garlic and leeks
  5. Tredure – Broth thickened with egg and bread
  6. Mortrew – Potage with broth, salted meat and vegetables.
  7. Makerouns – Noodles and cheese.
  8. Buttered greens. Cooked herbs and/or green vegetables with butter. Poured over stale bread.
  9. Pickled herrings, onion, butter and bread
  10. Smoked eel served with beans, stewed cress and chard
  11. Meat pie, white bread and butter. Meat varies, but beef or game is typically more expensive. Could also be fish pie if near fishing water.
  12. Pork meatballs with currants in almond milk. Served with bread.
  13. Cheese and onion pie served with boiled sprouts and a cup of warm broth.
  14. Stuffed eel in a spicy and red almond sauce. Typical stuffing is bread, onion and mushrooms.
  15. Braised pike with herbs in wine sauce.
  16. Wild boar with pickled pumpkin and sprouts
  17. Roasted venison and mushrooms with red wine baste.
  18. Lobster with vinegar dipping sauce.
  19. Roasted whole swan with ginger sauce and boiled greens.
  20. Fantasy/Extinct/Mythic/Unique animal/creature served with fresh vegetables and foreign (extraplanar!) spices. This meal should be really extraordinary, bordering on perversion. Examples include unicorn, cockatrice, owlbear and hippogriff. Replace with any type of rare game or bird if this doesn’t fit your style or campaign. Or take it even further into depravity and serve some gelatinous cube, otyugh, purple worm or even a small dragon.

#RPG #randomtable #table #OSR

Shield of the Basilisk

As I read through some published modules and plan my new fantasy campaign I substitute every bland magic item and vanilla +# weapon with something more colorful.

This is my reworking of a simple +1 shield.


Medium wooden shield.


This round wooden shield is secured to the arm with a thick leather strap at the back. It is rounded around the edges so as to be almost hemispherical. The shield feels light on the arm and actually weighs approximately the same as a small equivalent (EV2/3 lbs.). In the middle of the front is a very worn painting of a closed reptilian eye.


Created and once owned by a beastmaster that specialized in creatures with paralyzing and petrifying abilities. The beastmaster fell victim to one of his own creatures, and the Shield of the Basilisk disappeared from living memory long time ago.

Game effects:

+1 AC in addition to the usual +1 from medium shields. The total bonus of +2 AC is only applicable to one enemy each round.

The Eye: Once per day the wielder of the Shield of the Basilisk can tap the shield and make the eye open. One humanoid target of medium or smaller size of the owners choosing that is directly in front of the eye will be affected as per the spell Hold Person (save, spell resistance and so forth as normal). The effect will remain as long as the eye is directed at the creature, i.e. the wielder can no longer use the shield for defense and the target must be in line of sight of the eye. The spell will be broken if anyone or something equal to or larger than the target interferes with the line of sight.

Vulnerable: The Shield of the Basilisk has become very frail over time and will no longer save as a magical item. Consequently it will be damaged by fire, and other actions that could destroy a normal wooden shield.

#RPG #OSR #magic #shield #item

Glass Blade of the Ancients

As I read through some published modules and plan my new fantasy campaign I substitute every bland magic item and vanilla +# weapon with something more colorful.

This my reworking of a bland +1 short sword wielded by goblin leader in a module for character levels 1-3.


Short Sword, acts as +1 but gives no bonuses except the abilities described below, ie. it can hit creatures that require +1 but gives no +# bonus to hit or damage.


Double-edged short sword. Both hilt and blade is translucent, but the grip is wrapped in fine dark leather for comfort. The circular pommel acts as a small magnifying glass and can be used as such. The scabbard is plain leather with no particular marking or pattern. The inside however is extremely soft and tight to protect the blade. The blade is preternaturally sharp and capable of dismembering even an armored enemy.


Old beyond memory these swords were once made for an ancient army in the battle against an opposing force of magnificent constructs. The swords were sharp enough to injure the otherwise indestructible golems, but also prone to shatter in the hands of the inexperienced. At the time of their making the swords were not particularly rare, but most was destroyed during the war with the constructs, shattered in the hands of the untrained or lost in the many aeons that has passed. The knowledge of how to make these weapons are also lost.

Game effects:

Exploding damage: On a strike doing maximum damage the sword will do an additional die of damage. This effect stacks.

Shatter: on a fumble (attack roll of 1) there is a chance it will break. Roll 1d6. The Glass Blade of the Ancients will shatter completely on a result of 1. It is otherwise difficult to damage, but if so happens it will loose its magical properties. The blade is impossible to repair as the art of making Glass Blades is lost.

Magnifying glass: Can be used to make fire, but need a directional light source equal to the sun. Using the magnifying glass to study small or detailed objects can sometimes give clues about the objects making, origin or peculiarities (can require an INT check, in that case with +2 bonus).

#RPG #OSR #item #weapon #magic