Friday, February 22, 2019


A natural consequence of bad ideas. My entry in the Into the Odd PocketMod Jam (2019). CW: slavery, combat as sport.


  • Make gladiatorial combat interesting in a game where combat is best avoided.
  • Provide an opportunity for things to get worse.
  • Create something useful within the given constraints (time, form factor).


  • Amounts of money are rough. Pay should be enough to motivate free gladiators, but not so much that slaves are freed too quickly.
  • After first blood, combat is assumed to take turns.
  • Mutilations are meant to give combat consequences between "death" and "recovery". They also convey the passage of time on days when PCs do not fight.
  • Making more gladiators is easy: For captive gladiators I used 3d6. For free gladiators I used 4d6 drop lowest. For simpicity everyone starts with 1d6 HP and no mutilations.
  • As a starting point for adventure it still feels lacking to me because it doesn't provide many motivations of its own and takes away a lot of the PCs' toys.
  • Combat should be survivable enough that characters don't necessarily die, but unpleasant enough that PCs consider escape or revolt or other things preferable.
  • Consider gambits from Moonhop or extra HP from Electric Bastionland (under "Scars").


  • The booklet was written in LibreOffice with an A7 paper size. It's apparently quite difficult to do N-up printing without a margin, so I ended up using Had I time, I would like to use PDFjam.
  • The PocketMod format really forces an economy of words. I found myself writing sentences that were barely intelligible in other contexts.
  • The cover image is Piranesi. The Wound Man is Ambroise Paré.
  • Printing on US letter paper, I found printing at 98% was the largest I could get before I lost things to the margins. This is why all my PocketMods are slightly off-kilter. The reasonable thing to do would be to print them all with outlines and then trim the paper to size, but that's work. Or find a printer that goes to the edges.


bloodring-A7.pdf - for viewing on a screen.

bloodring-A4.pdf - for printing on A4 paper.

bloodring-US.pdf - for printing on US letter paper.

bloodring-A7.odt - for editing

Monday, February 11, 2019

About Zak

Apparently Zak S is an abusive PoS (CW: abuse, sexual violence, violence). Later today he is planning to make a statement, but what could he say?

I feel things, but obviously not nearly to the degree of his actual victims. From my place of relative privilege, what can I do? I'm not a large voice in this community, but I don't think that should excuse me.

What to do with his social media presence?

  • Unfollow him on Twitter, Tumblr, G+, and Instagram, even where I am not active on these platforms.
  • Unsubscribe from his podcast, and its associated media.
  • Stop my Patreon contribution ($1/mo).
  • Remove his blog from my sidebar and feed reader.
  • Leave his Discord server. I won't be updating the Gygaxian Democracy doc anymore either.
  • I don't have any of his porn, but like, I wouldn't watch it? I wouldn't watch James Deen either.

What to do with his stuff?

I've got some things of his:

  • Vornheim (print/pdf)
  • Maze of the Blue Medusa (print only)
  • Death Frost Doom (print/pdf)
  • A Red & Pleasant Land (print/pdf)
  • Dial H (print)(he drew one page of it)
For now I'll keep them I guess, but I don't think I'll be using them. None of them can't be replaced by other books.

What to do with his associates?

Some of his collaborators and friends are waiting for his statement, although most of them have already distanced themselves. The ones I'm still watching are:

  • LotFP. I have always thought of LotFP as an accepting place for minorities that got a bad rap from some corners because of their publicity-stunt GWARness. I believe that many of the other creators at LotFP have already cut ties with Zak, but if Jim continues to work with him, then I am not sure I can continue buying their products.
  • China Miéville. China Miéville is one of my favorite authors, and has collaborated with Zak in the past. I'm not sure if they are in frequent enough contact that he would comment unprompted, but I'll certainly think much less of him if I see a future collaboration without some significant statement.

What to do with myself?

I have recommended Zak's blog to people in the past, and given his books as gifts.

  • I'm attempting to reach every individual who I've recommended or gifted his stuff to to let them know, so that they can make their own informed decisions.
  • On this blog, where I have linked to his blog, I am adding the rel="nofollow" property to those links.
  • On posts where I have mentioned his things, I will comment with a link to this post.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

I think I might know someone...

When I first moved to Buffalo and didn't know anyone in the area, I ended up staying with my girlfriend's roommate's mother's friends in the area (they were great people). When someone on the OSR discord was asking for a good contacts system I thought I would try my hand at one that reminds me of that connection. I figure this is probably half a solid contacts mechanic, so I hope someone gets use out of it.

Draft One

RollRelation (1d20, 1d10)Ability (1d6)Strength (1d8)Weakness (1d12)
1classmatefence itemloadedowe them money
2roommatecarry stufftrustfuladdiction
3friendemploy partyrespectedsnitch
4fiance(e)get informationloyalhunted
5drinking buddyget itemmannersdumb
6exteach skillcautiouscowardly
9coworkerbad blood

This is what I made initially, and you can see it with a little more in the Google doc. When you have a chance to meet new contacts, you can roll up a contact at two removes (e.g. 1d20 and 1d10 under "Relation"). If that contact doesn't work out for you, add another d10 to relationship, then another d20, and so on each time you need a new contact before you can naturally make more.

Draft Two

Then I thought I'd try automating this process, because that's trendy these days. This generator owes a lot to Betty Bacontime and Spwack's work, but I had to rework it to make it do what I wanted it to.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


I have had the pleasure to play in two of Spwack's DIE TRYING playtests. While I'm only talking about the DIE TRYING rules here, these can be difficult to separate from Spwack's play style. I can also only discuss the rules that I've encountered so far.

antifa flag logo with "No Classes * No Levels" encircling
Click for the DIE TRYING rules. (Image credit: "Bogeyman")

The rules start with 7 pages of character generation. This is garbage unnecessary1. You need two links to make a character:

This is the first great innovation in DIE TRYING: to automate character generation without loss of interest. It's 1% of the effort of rolling an OD&D character with all the nuance of a million pounds of Pathfinder splatbooks. I recommend making one now, just to see what I mean.

And yet, for all the tricks and abilities your new character will have, they will still be lacking. One of my characters started with a spell, but no magic dice. Both of my characters started with the eye of a malign entity upon them. Another party member started with a mystery egg, and no way to hatch it. Every character is very weak and readily dismemberable.

This is the core of it: DIE TRYING is a game of want. I'm sure you can starve to death in the game, but mere hunger and encumbrance and exhaustion are not its motivating factors. Instead, DIE TRYING presents a world full of interaction and interest. Then it gives you characters that have abilities, but not power, and an immediate need to fill that gap in order to survive. Where the rules shine is the lists of ways to get more power and learn new abilities. Because you will need those to live.

This leads to the other major innovation in DIE TRYING: the X system. Characters get ad-hoc Xs instead of experience. Xs are awarded for achieving things or failing terribly, for good plans and bad ideas. Xs are awarded out-of character for things like attendance, character portraits, or this review2. And Xs aren't some nebulous investment in an eventual "level", they go directly towards meeting immediate needs. You can add an X to anything on your character sheet that needs more oomph behind it. I had a crowbar on its last legs, but with an X I shined it up good and now I have an acid-resistant crowbar. I appeased an ancient king, and now I have a little more leeway when dealing with it. After three Xs, my colleague's egg hatched, and now his "son" is a helpful slime that he carries with him.

In case I've been unclear (and even were I not being "compensated" for this review) I've had a genuinely great experience with the system. Especially if you're in Spwack's timezone, I believe he's still playtesting on Discord, and I recommend it.

1 The main reason I favor "OSR" type systems is that I find character generation to be a chore. The main thing I miss about more "bloated" systems is the bizarrely specific characters you could build, like a mutant half-elf blind seer/assassin. If this were my system, I would do it like Perl: the generator is the rules, and then relegate the whole 7 pages to an appendix.back

2 Missed opportunity for a hot take: "DIE TRYING is a transmedia storytelling project that blurs the line between platform and experience and transcends traditional narrative frames." For real though, the same colleague with the egg got an X for opening a door with a big red "X" painted on it. We knew in advance that he would, but I'm not sure if it's because it was an obviously bad idea (it was), or if it's because it had an "X" on it.back