Skip to main content

New Campaign Time! Unfathomable!

Starting up a new campaign, I sent a menu of options out to a bunch of perspective players:

Operation: Unfathomable!

Civilization stinks—an eternal tyranny of Immortal Sorcerer-Kings and undead nobility. Freedom is found on the borderlands, such as the primeval frontier of Upper Mastadonia. Here, rebels, misfits, and fugitives might scrape together a life on their own terms. Unfortunately, your band of rebels, misfits and fugitives have been press-ganged into a dangerous mission in the vastness of the uncanny Underworld.

System: D&D 5e

Initially available playable lineages: Human, Wooly Neanderthal, Citizen Lich

Tone: blacklight-poster gonzo fantasy

Monster Hunt

The freshly-ennobled Lord Saewig has been granted control of a long-abandoned castle of Hithercourt, provided he can fix it up, clear the monsters out of the wilderness, and keep a decent population of peasants alive. Saewig has recruited two bands of monster hunters, and the other band are a bunch of jerks.

System: D&D 5e; except that characters will be generated randomly using a life-path system, and advancement will be pegged to the success of the canton.

Initially available playable lineages: standard D&D races, but determined via life-path (I’m open to homebrewing life-path content for nonstandard lineages).

Tone: folkloric fantasy


Creation is an uncountable panoply of spheres, each separated from another by an expanse of humpbacked sky. The gulfs between spheres are crossed by golden barges and giant space whales. Troika, City of Interstices, sits at its center, a patchwork jumble of different spheres, different physics, and different people. In Troika, just navigating the post-office can be an epic adventure.

System: Troika! (a rules-light system with a British old-school flavor; a pdf of the rules will be made available)

Tone: odd multiplanar science-fantasy

Roll Our Own

Hey! Let’s make a campaign! We’ll pick a genre, play some world-creation games to flesh it out, and then run a campaign in it! It could be great or terrible!

System: In This World…, A Quiet Year, Microscope, eventually settling down with whatever system seems most appropriate to the world we’ve created.

Tone: TBD

Apparently, the words "blacklight poster gonzo fantasy" struck a cord in the middle-aged hearts of my players, and so we went with Operation Unfathomable.

Jason Sholtis has a great brain for juicy D&D nonsense. His Dungeon Dozen blog was one of the highlights of the G+ Golden Age of OSR discussion, and the two books that came out of it, The Dungeon Dozen and The Dungeon Dozen 2, are gorgeous sources of inspiration. Operation Unfathomable is his big dungeoney adventure, and Odious Uplands is his wilderness region expansion of the setting. Both are as packed with weird and magnificent ideas as the Dungeon Dozen.

I ran Operation Unfathomable several years ago, using Knave as the ruleset. Knave pairs really well for the tone and playstyle of OU. We burnt through PCs, which was fine and fun, but we soon found ourselves with a party of people who had no connection to the original mission. They were just wandering the Underworld to see what they ran into. OU is rich enough to support that kind of play, but I missed having a central arc.

Between that and the different sensibilities of my current group of players (who are less inclined to view their PCs as disposable), I decided to run the adventure with 5e so they'd be more durable.

Here's the player packet I put together to introduce people to the milieu of the game before character creation, including 5e write-ups for Citizen Liches and Wooly Neanderthals as playable lineages:

Unfathomable Player's Packet


Popular posts from this blog

Knaves, fancypants

I've prepared a new layout document of Ben Milton's Knaves . Knaves is a great, light rules set that has an extremely elegant core mechanic while retaining total compatibility with OSR material. It's pretty much the rpg of my dreams. This document contains the complete rules, plus a bunch of useful hacks from the community, plus a few of my invention, plus some useful resources from Ben Milton's previous effort, Maze Rats . EDIT: I've updated the layout to fix errata and make a few tweaks. Further, I've made 3 variations: KNAVES TABLET LAYOUT The Tablet Layout is meant for scrolling on screens, and contains hyperlinks. KNAVES SPREAD LAYOUT The Spread Layout is set up to print on Letter-sized paper. KNAVES A4 LAYOUT The A4 Layout is set up to print on A4 paper, and is probably the most elegant of the three versions. This is presented with generous permission from Ben Milton, and should in no way be an excuse for not purchasing a copy of Knav

Maze Rats by Post

In my previous post , I reviewed a bunch of my favorite rulesets for optimization for Play-by-Post. It occurred to me almost immediately that I hadn't really thought about Maze Rats enough. In fact, I'd mis-remembered and mischaracterized it. Upon reflection, one of the mechanics I took issue with is actually a big strength. Re-reading the rules, it seems like just a few very simple hacks could make it a highly-optimized PbP game. As follows: Danger Rolls are rolled by the GM. Danger rolls usually fail, so it is in the player’s interest to describe their actions plausibly and mitigate as many risks as they can, in the hopes that they don’t trigger a danger roll. 2d6 + ability bonus ≥ 10 If you have taken enough precautions to have a distinct advantage in an action, but not enough to have eliminated the distinct possibility of danger, the GM will give you a roll with advantage. 3d6 keep 2 + ability bonus ≥ 10 Because each character only has 3 ability scores (S

Reviewing Rules for Play-by-Post Optimization

I’ve played a lot of PbP games: all your favorite flavors of OD&D, AD&D, and their retroclones, Call of Cthulhu, Marvel Superheroes, Traveller, Dungeon World, etc. ad nauseam. In almost every instance, I forgot what ruleset we were using at some point. Which is a good thing. Once chargen is over, you spend a lot more time describing your characters actions and poring over the GM’s descriptions than you spend interacting with rules. When you do roll, it’s usually a combat to-hit roll, which you’ve probably programmed into the online dice-roller as a macro. Pretty much any game will work for PbP. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t points of possible optimization. Point 1: Resolution. Anything that can keep the action moving is a boon to PbP. A game that requires a back-and-forth exchange of information to resolve an action is going to progress very slowly. A good rule of thumb is that it’ll take 2 or 3 days to get a response from any given player. At that pace, an exch