Item Quality

thinking: elfgames have items that do X or Y. in the system im writing, weapons just deal damage based on their size. but they also have a quality: this applies as a bonus to attack and damage in the way you expect. it is EXPLICITLY not a magical bonus, even though it sounds similar. a +1 sword is just a really, really nice sword.

since im writing a bronze age game, the big thing is that: bronze kinda sucks. it’s really soft, and breaks easily. this is a giant pain in the ass, but also kind of important? so item quality can also degrade. i’m thinking of two parts to this:

if you are attacking somebody with a weapon and you roll a 1, your item quality degrades by 1.

if you are fighting somebody, you can intentionally try to wreck their shit. we called this ‘sundering’ in the 3e dnd days. bronze is harder than meat, so it always has, let’s say, 3 damage reduction. if you are trying to break

since most weapons deal 1d6 or 1d8 damage (before bonuses, if any), this means you can do 1-4 points of damage to an item’s quality. bigger weapons do more damage, so they’re better at breaking things.


Since you’re in the bronze age, it’s not inconceivable that you’re attacking somebody wearing bone armor, or leather armor, or bronze armor, or possibly all three in the same fight. you should get Advantage if you are breaking something softer. Bronze is harder than bone, which is harder than meat. (There are too many kinds of stone for anybody to guess how hard it is to, for example, hammer through some stone wall or whatever. You guess.)

I like Advantage as ‘get a free reroll, if you want it.’

If I had to write this as actual rules instead of stream of consciousness word vomit:

Apply an item's Quality to any rolls you make while using it. For weapons, this is both attack and damage. For armor, this is your Armor Class. 
If you strike an enemy with a weapon and roll a 1, reduce your weapon's Quality by 1.

You can choose to 'sunder' an enemy's gear and attempt to ruin it. Make an attack as normal. If you hit, you deal 1/2 your damage as a reduction in the target item's Quality. If your weapon is stronger than what you're striking, the damage roll gains Advantage.

What to do with loot

Traditionally, loot is kind of a boring thing

You don’t actually need much money in elf games, because the things we spend money on (and the reasons we spend them on things) in real life aren’t part of the game

Nobody cares if their character’s shoes are uncomfortable. Nobody’s paladin notices their socks are getting holes. Nobody’s wizard ever pines for a more vibrant robe

(if they do, it’s out of the joy of roleplaying, and, again, that’s not really covered by any rules, nor should it be.)

But that leaves a conundrum. What, exactly, are people going into those tombs for? It’s dangerous in there! There’s a reason nobody’s been in there yet to take the loot and it’s not because nobody can use the money.

Old school dnd assumed you would spend the money on building a castle and creating some sort of realm. There were rudimentary rules for this, although I don’t think they were used often

Do people play like that? Do people stop adventuring to draw big castles and balance budgets and hire people to adventure for them?

My tentative bronze age collapse system/setting gives a couple good, built in reasons why you might want to have a hoard of wealth or two:

  • You are working on behalf of a king, governor, (or perhaps an Emperor themself) to recover ancient wealth to pay for soldiers and trade. Failure might mean your homeland collapses just like everyone else’s is doing!
  • You are working on behalf of an illegitimate actor-warlord, raider, etc. You also want money to pay soldiers and buy food from afar – But your inherent goal is destabilization for one reason or another
  • You want the money for yourself, to get the heck out of here. Travel is expensive and difficult, and if you want to survive in a strange new land, you’re going to want some wealth!
  • You are also going to want some gifts handy to pay off raiders or get other randos to help you

Remember, coins don’t exist yet, and seafaring vessels tend to be large and oared. It tends to take a lot of people working together to get anything done, and it’s a lot easier to get people to do things if you can give them a reward.

Of course, this being the very ancient world, you can also force people into working for you with threats or violence. (This has its own drawbacks, naturally)

But WATCH OUT! Carrying around giant piles of precious gems will attract notice, and it will attract thieves and raiders who will just kill you and take it. How do you stop them?

You might be a mighty Warrior or clever Thief but can you fight off 30 axe wielding, feather-hatted raiders?

See? Now the game starts to take form. Every step of the process is dangerous, difficult, and fraught with challenge.

Welcome to The Collapse!

The Bronze Age

Taking an ancient art history class online has reinvigorated my dormant love for bronze age societies and my interest in the absolute oldest history that I can get my hands on. Some pictures, and then some words:

Friendly Lads going off somewhere interesting for reasons lost to time. Marching for hours, almost certainly, and hopefully ending in something resembling victory. Or how about these Industrious Dudes:

Minoans trading with one another from their island homes. One man is hauling a standardized ‘oxhide’ bronze ingot, one hauling a bunch of ivory (poor elephants…), and one dude looking at some swords. Is he in conversation with the man selling pottery? Hard to tell.

This is a world in which literacy is novel and mostly limited to a set of professional scribes, where kings found walled cities and brave traders traverse long distances across sometimes untouched wilderneses to meet staggeringly diverse peoples and trade with them. (Or raid them, as they prefer). It’s a world before coinage, where you just have to barter for what you want.

Bronze, the main useful metal, is expensive because tin is rare. There are only a handful of useful tin deposits, and the folks that control them are fabulously wealthy. In hard times, they pillage and plunder their neighbors- or their population might simply start to leave, and wander to who-knows-where in search of greener pastures.

Eventually, the system will collapse catastrophically, resulting in wars that engulf entire subcontinents and in mass death, famine, and suffering. The Bronze Age Collapse upended a system of interlocking empires and city-states that had lasted for thousands of years and, within a generation, erased almost everything. Massive walled cities were destroyed by looters or upended by unrest as the starving population rebelled against their useless kings. Crops failed in the fields, and raiders destroyed the all-important infrastructure required for farming. In its place, pastoral nomads made their living, tending to sheep in the shadows of impossibly ancient cities, standing unknowingly atop ancient tombs holding kings with unknown names.

In other words, it seems a lot like the perfect D&D setting, doesn’t it?

All this to say I’ve been working on a thing, tentatively called Ziggurat. Here’s a screenshot of my Affinity page. It’s a game about trying to survive the Bronze Age Collapse by looting ancient tombs and (hopefully) either setting yourself up as somebody important or just leaving to somewhere that isn’t awful. You will also want lots of loot to bribe warlords and would-be kings, and to buy food with, and lots of other things. Good luck out there!

Mostly I’ve been playing with Affinity, but I do plan on sticking my weirdass hybrid B/X 5E 3E houserules / ideas into it and releasing it into the world.

I might just play with Affinity more, borrow a bunch of rules from Five Torches Deep and Cairn and Knave and Maze Rats and call it a day. It’s not like I’m trying to make money or whatever- I just like making things.

Anyways, I’m out of time and I want to write this before I decide it’s too stupid to post. Thanks for dealing with me.

Goblin prom

Living in my head is a game where you play as a group of eligible goblin aristocrats entering a grand ball and otherwise it’s basically a reskinned dungeon crawl

Your team goes through the duchess’ ball and verbally battles the guards to crash the place. To get to the princess, you have to fend off suitors and interlopers and storm from room to room. Etc etc

Instead of getting “loot”, you equip titles and reputations and your wits might deal 1d8 damage. Your tank is just the goblin that is the most emotionally stable and resilient (she’s just stoic), and your next “dungeon” is the High Magister’s Feast where you all plan to confront an NPC about etc etc


Poking away at some stuff in Affinity, as one does on an otherwise dull weekend. Squishing together some ideas I’ve been thinking about, reading about, or tinkering with in my spare time. The thing here is that it’s designed to get up and get going- you roll stats, then you pick a skills bundle (origin), and a class which gives you starting gear and

In combat, it’s standard 1d20+attack versus defense attribute. Damage is usually a d6. Warriors have d8 hit dice, wizards have d4. Armor gives you bonus HP.

Skills are just written down, and you add your proficiency bonus to them. Proficiency bonus is 2 at 1st level, and +1 at 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th levels.

There’s more left to write and a lot more work to do before this is even halfway decent, but still! working title ‘portcullis’ is just a working title based on some clip art i was looking at

my plan is to have something up on itch at some point, since it’s been years and years since i’ve even self-published a pdf

Iris and the giant // armor and damage

Iris and the giant is an artistic, thoughtful entry into the deckbuilder genre with strong movement puzzle and good out-of-game progression based around optional challenges you can complete as you attempt to progress through the main gauntlet. You burn most cards as you play them, and running out of cards loses you the game. Your main obstacles are various mythological demons, who represent the inner struggles of the main character. They will attack you if they’re in the right position and you don’t kill them first. They tend to deal one or two points of damage, with larger damage totals tending to come from the ‘big demons,’ who also drop new powers and interesting abilities. Sometimes they wear armor, which blocks a point or two of damage. Sometimes your attacks deal multiple points of damage- usually from a power or other modifier. Speaking of your attacks, they are a big part of what makes the game feel so ‘puzzl-y’- they are highly directional and highly situational, but the decision of which cards to take was made many, many rounds ago. You must constantly balance the cards you take against the cards you spend, while the constant damage of the monsters pushes you forwards.

Its tight design and clear visual style means that everything is as clear as possible. Every card has mouseover hints, and every time you play the game it unobtrusively asks if you remember the rules. Every monster has a clear silhouette and a role. Every item has a purpose. Every twist to the game feels intentional and interesting and fair. My deaths have all been my fault. It’s brilliant!

So naturally I was thinking about dnd. In Iris, enemies sometimes have armor that blocks a point of damage. Sometimes they even are wearing helmets or something and absorb two damage. A few rare enemies block three damage.

It works well in the game. If we did something similar in DnD, it might look like this:

Light armor gives you 3 Armor Points.

Heavy armor gives you 6 Armor Points. (optional: gives you disadvantage on swim/climb/sneak/hide)

Magical armor gives +3 Armor Points.

Shields do not provide Armor Points- instead, they provide +2 AC/Defense. [1] Of course, shields shall be splintered.

When you take damage, you can choose to take the damage to your armor points first. Your Armor Points recover when your hit points recover. If your Armor is reduced to zero Armor Points, mark 1 Wear on that armor. Wear reduces the maximum armor point value of armor until it is repaired, patched, and/or maintained during a rest period, at a rate of -1 Wear per rest. [2]

[1] In my ideal world, attack bonus would be checked against Defense, and we would all agree that Armor Class deserves the same fate as THAC0. This is assuming that you like static armor class, of course.

[2] Even for a short rest, maybe you can just knock some dents out, adjust some straps, improvise a repair, whatever. The idea is that armor points are a pseudo-temporary hp and that you need to rest to get them back. But not immediately.

Some snippets of abandoned houserules:

Armor Points Value:

Light Armor is worth 1d6 armor points. Medium Armor is worth 2d6 armor points. Magical armor is +1d6 to whatever the base was. You roll your Armor Points at the beginning of each battle.

Taking Damage:

When you take damage, you can choose to take the damage to your armor points first.

When you take damage, your armor is damaged first.

Armor Point Recovery:

Your Armor Points recover during a rest, at the same rate your hit points do.

When your armor is reduced to zero Armor Points, mark 1 Broken on the armor. When there are as many Broken marks as the armor’s maximum armor point value, it gains the Broken status and provides no benefit until it is repaired.

When your armor is reduced to zero Armor Points, mark 1 Wear on the armor. Wear reduces the maximum armor point value of armor until it is repaired, patched, and maintained during a rest period.

Your Armor Points recover at the beginning of any given combat.


As long as you are wearing Heavy Armor, you have disadvantage on swimming/hiding/climbing/sneaking rolls.

As long as you have at least 1 AP, you are considered Armored. As long as you have at least 4 AP, you are considered Heavily Armored. As long as you are Heavily Armored you have disad…

As long as you are Armored, you reduce incoming damage by 1. As long as you have at least 4 AP, you reduce incoming damage by 2.

Skill Passives

houserules for D&D 5 and probably other games too

Ok so instead of rolling 1d20 and adding attribute + proficiency for every skill every time, we are going to do three things.

  1. We give every skill a ‘passive’ score. A skill’s ‘passive’ score is you character’s attribute bonus +5, plus your proficiency bonus (if proficient, of course). For a first level character, you will generate passive scores from 5 to 11.
  2. Any time you would be asked to roll a skill check where the DC is less than your skill’s passive rating, you simply succeed. You’re skilled enough that such a task is routine, or the knowledge is obvious to you.
  3. Any time the DC is higher than your passive, you roll 1d10 and add your skill’s passive rating. If that roll is higher than the check’s DC, you pass.

This system evens out some of the peaks and valleys of the traditional 1d20+proficiency+attribute scheme and makes characters more reliable. It probably fits the fiction better but you lose a lot of the wildness. I think I’d like to run a session or two with these houserules (and a couple others) and see what happens.


Named after one of my old internet pseudonyms, this is my collection of houserules to turn 5e into something I enjoy running games with.

It’s pretty plug and play, and really just changes a couple of things in character creation. It’s very customizable to home settings, and, simultaneously, invites you to create your own world at the table with your players. The big change is that it axes Race and Background in favor of an Origin

It also changes the way skills work to reduce the number of boring failures that 5e as written has in spades.

Want to check it out? Here’s the link. It’s still very much a work in progress!

Arcane Secrets

Imagine that the world as we know it is a book. On it are written the tales of heroes and triumphs and disasters and bloodshed. Just as that book is made of sentences, so too is the world made of things. And just as a sentence is made of words, so too are things made of something else.

Now imagine that we’re talking about the ink on that book. Now we’re talking about magic.

Or so it has been explained to me.

If you’re playing a Wizard, you know some Secrets. You can make your own list, or you can use mine, which I ripped from an OSR source and remixed and mangled.

The basic idea is that you roll on the chart to see what Secrets (spell fragments) you have at hand. You pick two of them, decide what it does, and then go for it.

Here’s the list of everything I’ve got. I’ve been thinking of dividing them into discrete themed lists, but this is your general purpose all-rounder Wizard.

Wizard Draft 1

Ok so here’s the gist- this wizard has a bunch of spell fragments, if you will, called Secrets. I actually went through an OSR game’s fixed spell list and took all the adjectives and nouns that I thought would be fun and put them in a big list.

When you create a wizard (or level up) you get a couple Secrets. And when you rest, you have a couple of those Secrets ready. You can take any two Ready Secrets and decide that’s a spell. You pay for the spell with your Magic Dice, which give you pseudo-hit points you can spend to fuel the spell. Or you can use your hit points, too, if you want.

So as an example, imagine you’re a Wizard and you have the following secrets: Animating, Cone, Greasing, Pushing.

From those Secrets, you could try and cast:

  • Animating Grease (Maybe a little grease monster?)
  • Pushing Cone (A cone-shaped blast that knocks stuff around?)
  • Greasing Cone (Grease spray, I think that’s an actual spell)
  • Animating Cone (Maybe a bunch of little stuff in a cone comes alive?)
  • Greasing Push (You push on something and it moves as if greased?)

Anyways, I really don’t like writing spell lists, or choosing from discrete spell lists either. Let me just make something up. I’m a wizard, damn it!

To make it a little less random, you always get to choose one Secret to learn and one Secret to make Ready, so that you’re never entirely at the whims of fate. Just mostly. Hey, magic is weird sometimes!

Check out the PNG of the class, soon to be turned into a PDF whenever I get around to it: