Saturday, May 22, 2021

10 bandit gangs which ambush you along the road.

1. Avery's Autarkic Army

 As you walk through down the road, dozens of identically clad bandits step out of the shrubbery. They're all brandishing similar swords in similar poses. One of these is Avery, the lone bandit. The rest are magical puppets mirroring Avery's moves.

2. Brutus and Billy, the Brute Brothers

A couple of beefy blokes relax out in the open next to the road, big cudgels in their hands. If your group looks weak, they'll step into the middle of your path, and demand that you hand over your valuables. If you look tough, they'll smile and wave as you go past.


3. A Cloudy Encounter

There are rumors of strange thefts on the road between Castletown and Cabletopia. Some evenings, a strange thick fog rolls in, acompanied by the clanking of bells. Then three silhouettes and 6 glowing eyes are seen charging forth from the darkness. The burly silhouettes shoulder past travelers, knocking them aside. After the fog clears, these unlucky travelers  find that they're missing their satchel or waterskin or somehow their shoes.


4. Denny (and his devilishly deceptive traps)

The cobbled road in front of you suddenly gives way to a short section made of regular red bricks. A crude amateurishly-carved statue has been recently installed along the road-side, with a wooden chest at its feet. From here, you can just barely see a set of cables running out of the back of the chest and into a hole in the statue.

 Ah, the local shire-reeve warned you about this. And sure enough, when you look around, you see a man in wizard's robes off in the distance, poorly concealed behind a small boulder and accompanied by several bored-looking mercenaries.

The man in the robes is Denny, a former wizard's apprentice with a concerningly pulsating growth on the side of his head. The growth whispers to him in dreams, gifting him grand visions of elaborate traps. Even when his devices manage to catch a traveler unaware, he rarely walks away with a haul worth more than the cost of their construction, so it's a bit of a mystery how he's managed to operate for so long.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

d6x6 Sources of Magic.

What is magic anyways? Where does it come from? What is it all about?


1... Magic comes from nature.

  1. It just comes out of big holes in the ground.
  2. Dragons radiate it. Mana is dragon waste. Some creatures have evolved to collect this waste and reuse it to open doors or clean their clothes.
  3. Lightning supercharges matter with mana.
  4. People learned magic by studying the abilities of the ancient titans which roam the land. Pyromancy was learned from the father of dragons. Divination is a gift from the Moonwatcher. Necromancy comes from the Corpse Ball over in Glasmont.
  5. Only animals have access to magic powers. In order to cast a fireball, you need a pet fire toad.
  6. Gold. Gold is where magic comes from.

 2... Magic comes from the divine.

  1. There are multiple competing gods, who disagree about the laws of physics and try to change things when they think the other gods aren't looking.
  2. Gods are playing hyperchess with people as the pieces. Magic is given to the important players.
  3. God just really likes certain sounds and gestures. Spells are divine applause.
  4. Spells are what happens when spirits show up in the physical world. Ghosts, demons, spells--all the same.
  5. The universe is a dream, and if you think in ways similarly to the dreamer, you can exercise some control over the dream.
  6. Magic is the divine. Not a manifestation of the will of the gods, but the actual physical form of the gods.

 3... Magic is metaphysical in nature.

  1. Magic is what happens when parallel universes slam into each other. You get magic by stealing power from your alternate-universe selves.
  2. The universe is actively anti-inductive. A previous civilization figured out the laws of physics, which made the laws of physics change to become weirder.
  3. The cosmos used to be chaos, filled with the unlimited force of creation. From this chaos, many universes were born. Ones in which the force of creation was limited tended to be more stable. But entirely constrained universes can't use the force of creation to create new universes. So there is a selective advantage for worlds just unstable enough to support the creation of child demiplanes. The anthropic principle does the rest.
  4. Magic is just the leftover scraps of physics that haven't been banned. At the start of time, magic was limitless and birthed the universe. Any time magic becomes degenerate enough to cause an extinction event, it becomes more limited. Eventually, only the magic of magical exclusion itself will remain.
  5. Chunks of another reality fell through the holes in the sky (the stars) and warp the world around them. Mages carry around little slivers of these other worlds and throw them at people.
  6. The laws of physics are a government cover-up. Anyone can do magic if they stop eating the fluoridated ham.

4... Magic comes from the self.

  1. Magic comes from meditation and attunement with the universe.
  2. Magic comes from the power of emotion! Specifically, an emotion that most people can't feel anymore. Ancient sages trapped the emotion in a bottle and distilled it into a more concentrated form.
  3. Magic comes from Fighting Spirit! Scream loudly and passionately! Wizards train to scream in the most passionate manner.
  4. Blood is liquid magic. More blood = more wizard powers. The gods have severe hypertension.
  5. Magic occurs when your soul leaves your body to go do other stuff. Counterspells are dark magic that directly erases the soul.
  6. Mana is the byproduct of normal metabolic processes. Plants transform stale air, water, and light into fresh air, sugar, and magic. Wizards transform fresh air, sugar, and magic into stale air, water, and bad decisions.

5... Magic comes from technology.

  1. The universe is a simulation. Magic is just a hacked together solution to some universe-crashing bug, and will be removed in a future update.
  2. Spells are just technology from a long-dead civilization.
  3. The universe is a simulation. Due to a security flaw, you can send commands to some subroutines you weren't supposed to be able to access.
  4. Inter-dimensional aliens are doing science. Spells are experimental tech, and the aliens are having expendable lower-life forms run the safety tests.
  5. Listen. There was this talking bird who crashed into a psychic ocean monster, but he was so good at video games that he was able to take over the monsters brain and then used his new psychic powers to transform himself into a spaceship and fly around the stars but then he got into a fight with a big robot crab and the robot crab pushed him into a black hole but instead of getting squished he became omnipotent. So anyways when magic happens, it's the bird guy.
  6. Nanomachines, son!

6... You are mistaken about magic.

  1. Magic is a hoax. Doesn't actually exist. It's all just mirrors and bits of twine.
  2. That's not magic. It's just a very elaborate form of camouflage for insects.
  3. It's all a coincidence. Particles can, with very low probability, spontaneously rearrange due to quantum tomfoolery. You just happen to live in one of the vanishingly rare Everett branches where magic coincidentally seems to work. Chants and finger-wiggles correlate with the spontaneous appearance of fireballs. There's no reason for it to continue working tomorrow, though.
  4. That's not magic. It's a tumor.
  5. Magic is just an allergic reaction to certain foods.
  6. The real magic was the friends we made along the way.


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Color-coding Monsters by Genre

I've been making a lot of wood-block minis, lately, and need a good color-coding system.

Here's what I've settled on:

Artificial, Bestial, Chimerical, Dungeonesque,
Ethereal, Fay, Grubby, Haunting,
Inflamed, Moist

Each category is associated with a basic color term. I tried to make the split be along aesthetic and thematic lines, so that the color-coding of a monster indicates something about the style of game encounter it leads to, as opposed to indicating something about the monster's appearance or physiology.

For example: Werewolves are fully alive, but in terms of thematic associations, interactions, and weaknesses, they're very similar to vampires. (As recognized by pretty much every piece of 21st century pop culture.) So Instead of having a category for "undead", I have "Haunting monsters", which draws a big circle around that whole chunk of slightly tragic halloweeny horrors.


Creatures of artifice. Robots, golems, and alchemical oozes. 

Thematic Commonalities:

  • Rigid programming gone awry. (Golem guards preventing people from stealing, but doing nothing to retrieve stolen items. Oozes mindlessly cleaning all 'filth', including living creatures.)
  • Unhealthy relationships between creation and creator.
  • Unique specimens trying to make more of their kind (with potentially apocalyptic consequences if they succeed)
  • The dangers of hubris.

Mechanical Commonalities:

  • Very durable.
  • Aversion to water or fire. (Sinks or short-circuits; overheats or explodes)


  • Extremely inedible.
  • You can eat these things, but they will really do a number on your digestion.
  • 0/5. Would not recommend steel nachos dipped in alchemical cheeze.




Big animals, ogres, any any critter that's down for a good wrassle. Things that you'd hunt or which would hunt you.

Thematic Commonalities:

  • Hunting, being hunted. 
  • Uncomplicated Nature, red in tooth and claw.
  • Straightforward fights. Brutal but necessary actions.
  • Overcoming adversity, making new friends (bestial creatures are the most likely to be tamable as pets.)

Mechanical Commonalities:

  • No fancy tricks. Just brute force and animal cunning.
  • Will attack if they have the advantage, and retreat if they don't (unless enraged).
  • Wary of loud noises and fire (but only because they don't understand it.)
  • Trying to exploit some other sort of clever weakness (like smelling salts or holy water) is more  likely to drive such a creature into a murderous rage than it is to actually scare them off.


  • Yes, very edible.
  • Delicious too.
  • Just be warned that the feeling is mutual.


Whimsical creatures of folklore, especially those composed of two real beasts stapled together. Cryptids, centaurs, fearsome critters, and the like. I'm including flying-saucer style aliens here too.

Thematic Commonalities:

  •  Solitary and elusive creatures, often the only one of their kind.
  • Tall-tales. Chasing rumors. Piecing together clues. Monsters as mysteries.
  • Fairytale-style allegories. Storybook logic.
  • The wonder of the unknown.

Mechanical Commonalities:

  • Flashy magical abilities.
  • Some exploitable eccentricity. Easy to trick, if you did your research.
  • If all else fails, it will probably help to play soothing music.