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

Character Creation: ICONS

ICONS is the second superhero roleplaying game from Mutants & Masterminds creator Steve Kenson. ICONS is loosely based on FATE and so is a rules light game. It differs from FATE in that it relies more on numbers and actually simplifies the concepts of descriptors and Aspects. Character creations is hugely different as well.

ICONS uses randomized character creation and very little is actually controlled by the player. This character creation example will be using the original rulebook from 2010, but know that a updated edition called ICONS: The Assembled Edition was released in 2014. This new edition, as far as I understand it, corrects a few rules and includes some material from previously released supplements. I don’t know if character creation is the same process in the two editions, but the original rulebook is the one I have.

Character creation is a simple 7-step process. We will either roll 2d6 or 1d6 & 1d6 and looking up results on tables in the rulebook. I have no clear concept of what my superhero will be like. That would probably be moot anyway due to the random nature of the creation.

So, let’s see if we can get my superhero off the ground shall we?

Phase 1: Origin. I roll 2d6 and get an 8. Checking the Origin-table on page 10 I see that the character’s powers is a «Gimmick». This means that my character will rely on items and devices as the source of his/hers powers. I also get to choose one mental ability to increase by +2. I will get back to that.

Phase 2: Abilities. There are six abilities in ICONS. The book calls for separate 2d6 rolls for each of these. The result is compared to the Level Determination-table on page 11. Let’s do it! The abilities (and my Level in each) are:

Prowess: 4 Coordination: 8 Strength: 4 Intellect: 5 Awareness: 3 Willpower: 6

Whew! I rolled really well! The rulebook allows for swapping two abilities, but since I still have no real concept for this character I will need to take a moment to consider what I really got. As rolled I can see that this character is not overly strong, nor perceptive or very good in close combat. On the other hand I will be extremely proficient in ranged combat and dodging. That is pretty handy. My smarts and sheer force of will is pretty good as well. I kind of like this and decide not to swap any abilities. I still have my +2 increase to add to any mental ability, but won’t do that yet.

Phase 3: Powers. This is the real meat, and what will make my character spring to life. Spider-man wouldn’t be Spider-man without sticky webs and spider sense, right? I know that my powers stems from gimmicky devices, so let’s see what the dice say about these powers. First I need to roll on a table on page 11 to calculate how many powers I got. I rolled 2d6 and got the total of 6. Looking at the table it tells me that I now have 3 powers. I’m guessing that is quite average when it comes to superpowered beings. Not bad, but not quite The God of Thunder either. Now I need to roll on quite a lot of tables to discover my awesome new powers. I’ll do them one at a time.

First I need to roll to discover my first power’s Power Type. Rolling 2d6 and comparing the result on the Power Type-table on page 12 I get a total of 8 and see that my first power is Movement. Now I need to narrow down what this Movement really do. Rolling on the appropriate table on page 13 I discover that my movement-power is Swinging. OK, that was not as awesome as I thought it would be, but it could still come together quite nicely. Swinging feels like poor man’s flying to me, but using a rope/line I can also pull things towards me. That could be a plus. I roll on Level Determination-table to find the power level of my Swinging. I roll a 9 and assign level 6 to Swinging. On to the next power.

Ah! This is better! I roll 10 and get one Offensive power. I feel ready to kick butts! Smelly villain butts. Rolling on the Offensive-table I discover that my Offensive power is Strike. Another letdown! I was really hoping for some kind of long-ranged option here, but it seems I’m determined to roll a barely coherent mishmash of abilities and powers. My Strike level is 4, so I’m not very good at it either.

Last chance to make this character a force to be reckoned with. My last Power Type will be Control. That could be cool! Let’s see what it does. I get Elemental Control! Now we are talking. Rolling on the appropriate tables for Elemental Control I discover that my Elemental power is Air Control. The rulebook states that I can choose two effects of this power and since I still feel like I’m not up to standard in a combat situation I opt for both Attacking and Defending with this power. Rolling for my Power Level I get a 9, which corresponds to a Air Control power of 6.

Phase 4: Specialties. That last power made me able to create a hero around the concept of Air. We will see how it all will fit together later on, but right now we must roll for something called Specialties. Rolling pretty average I get a total of 2 Specialties. Let’s see what that is. Reading on I understand Specialties as a way to specialize on an area thereby giving bonuses to abilities when performing that Specialty. So far I have wanted to get basic powers that will help me in a fight or purely physical situations. I look at my abilities and find that I will place my +2 increased ability points in Intellect raising it to a total of 7. I then choose Electronics and Mechanics for my Specialties. This will give me +1 bonus whenever performing actions within these fields of expertise. Given that I’m reliant on devices and tools to use my powers I’m guessing that this will be quite handy, and also a natural fit for my character.

Phase 5: Stamina & Background. Calculating my Stamina by adding Strength (4) with Willpower (6) I get a total Stamina of 10. When it comes to background I need to say something about who my character is and how he came to posess such mediocre superpowers. I decide to go with a Peter Parkerish type of character. Marcus Moll is therefor a young electronics engineer who discovers that his well regarded father is secretly the super villain Typhoon. Following his father to his super secret and totally evil mountaintop lair Marcus inadvertently disturbs one of Typhoon’s dangerous experiments thereby killing (probably…) his father and saving thousands of innocent lives. Being curious and morally obliged Marcus continues his father’s research to right his many wrongs. He obtains and eventually improves on some of Typhoon’s air- and wind-controlling devices. Marcus’ superhero alias is known as Windling, and he has built some really awesome bracers that propel powerful and highly concentrated winds that can be used for Swinging (push/pull, but not flying). His Strike power also stems from these bracers and can be used in close combat as a bashing attack to push the air quickly out of the lungs of an opponent. His Elemental Control-power (Air Control) consists of a belt that when activated acts as a Force Field and a self-built Cyclone Gun that shoots air like a Blasting attack. Windlings getup is of course light blue and cloudy white spandex, with a helmet shaped like a reversed tornado. The bracers, gun and belt are made of glimmering blue metal.

Phase 6: Determination. Subtracting Windling’s number of powers from 6 he gets a starting Determination of 3. The rules state that each character needs to choose 1 to 5 qualities and challenges. These can ultimately effect Determination. Quality #1: Catchphrase – “I’m a breath of fresh air!” Quality #2: Identity – electronics engineer working for huge company Quality #3: Motivation – Right my father’s wrongs! Challenge #1: Enemy – Is Typhoon really dead? Challenge #2: Personal – Lonely and insecure Challenge #3: Weakness – Claustrophobic. Phase 7: Game Master Approval. Yeah, we will skip this.

I really like ICONS’ character creation, and must admit that I’m especially fond of the randomization here. It makes for some odd results sometimes, but the idea that you describe the trappings of your powers will usually bring it all together. Character creation is fairly quick and can actually be done without reading most of the rules. I would have liked the process even better if the layout had been following the process. As it is now there is a lot of flipping back and forth to check abilities, powers, specialties and aspects, but that is really the only downside to this easy character creation. I am actually quite excited for my Windling-character and that must mean something.

#charactercreation #ICONS #RPG

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

Dungeon Crawl Classics Deity: RaccRocc

I'm working on the setting for my Dungeon Crawl Classics-campaign and I’ve got a smallish map and some nations and areas worked out in my mind. Among the things I feel are promising is an evil nation of undead elves (a sealed off area held at bay by a knightly order of heroic warriors) and a nation ruled by draconic druglords.

Anyway; the thing that gets the creative juices flowing most at the moment is working on the pantheon. I have previously presented the god of festivals, orgies, food, wine and gluttony, Omnomnom. Today I give you the twin gods of chance and destiny. It is loosely based on Oponn from the Malazan-books. As usual I like to give the clerics some small benefits and drawbacks from their deity.


Alignment: Neutral Domains: Luck, fate, destiny, mishaps, games, gambling, coincidences, irony, duality. Holy symbol: A standing coin with a woman’s face (Racc) on one side and a man’s face (Rocc) on the other. Description: RaccRocc is better known under several other names. Among these are The Twins, The Jesters, Masters of the Game and Shakers of Fate. RaccRocc is not one god, but two, but they almost never appear separate. They are always man and woman – he represents mishaps and bad luck, she represents luck and fortune. He pushes, she pulls. They are known to be twins, and considered children of Ato (the True God of time and everything in between physical reality). Their relation to Ato is, however, theologically debated. The Twins are also gods of gaming and gambling, and their symbol is often used by establishments that offer this sort of entertainment.

RaccRocc is (naturally) a very ambivalent deity, and most common folk will, according to circumstance, only offer prayers to Racc or Rocc. Nevertheless it is impossible to predict whom of the twins that will hear and act upon these prayers (if they will act at all). Theologians think The Jesters are locked in a never ending struggle, and that the mortal realm both benefits and suffers because of this. RaccRocc is a very common god.

Physical manifestation

RaccRocc is typically depicted as a man and a woman holding hands with their back turned against each other.

Game mechanics for clerics

  • Clerics of RaccRocc must totally devote themselves to chance. When confronted with difficult ethical choices, or choices that effect alignment the cleric must flip his holy coin (symbol) and let the faces decide what he must do.
  • The cleric must make their own holy symbols (the two-faced coins) and can only own one of these coins at any time. To make a new coin the cleric must have access to a forge and work a full day.
  • Every time the use of a holy symbol is required the cleric must flip his coin. This seldom has any mechanical effect, but it requires one action and the use of a free hand.
  • The cleric must pray to The Twins as one god, not two. This means that he can’t swing any outcomes through prayer, and he must silently accept the whims of his deity.
  • The cleric must always have Second Sight (1st level spell) among his known spells. He is considered one level higher when casting Second Sight.
  • Clerics of RaccRocc may burn Luck as a Thief of one level lower (i.e. as a 1st level Thief when Cleric level 2).
  • Each week the cleric roll 1d3. The number rolled is regained Luck.

#DCC #RPG #deity

Dungeon Crawl Classics Deity: Omnomnom

I've decided to make my own setting for my Dungeon Crawl Classics game. Every setting (mine is called Qis) needs a unique pantheon of gods right? I like how gods imbue their clerics with some new powers and drawbacks. This is a god I’m quite certain will make the cut.


Alignment: Neutral Domains: Food, drinks, orgies, gluttony, drugs, partying Holy symbol: A large cornucopia Description: Omnomnom is worshipped all over Qis, and he’s especially popular during feasts, festivals and holidays. Omnomnom has relatively few regular and devoted followers, but clerics that follow him must always strive to enjoy, consume and acquire the best of what life has to offer. Because of this his clerics are normally loud, colorful and relatively corpulent. It is regarded as a sin to loose weight, to abstain from anything and to refuse any gifts or offerings.

Physical manifestation

Omnomnom is popularly depicted as an obese man riding a cornucopia towed by five well-fed sows.

Game mechanics for clerics

  • Clerics of Omnomnom must blow their cornucopia to turn unholy.
  • They receive +1d against all digested poison.
  • They are regarded as one level higher when turning unholy that do not feed (i.e. skeletons, but noe zombies and vampires).
  • Clerics of Omnomnom can cast Food of Gods once per day. This spell will never fail and always produce a feast as a die result of 12+CL. This daily spell does not count against number of spells known. Subsequent castings of this spell follow normal game rules.
  • Because of their physical size a cleric of Omnomnom has his speed reduced by 10′ and he will receive negative modifiers for actions in cramped spaces.
  • Clerics of Omnomnom can only lay on hands if they have recently fed.

#DCC #deity #RPG