New Font: PG Trampier Runes

David Trampier wrote this comic called Wormy on Dragon Magazine. In one of the issues a wizard opens a portal tracing some runes in the air with a golden stylus.


I made a font with those runes: PG Tramp Runes. You might want to use them with a runic magic system.

If you want to use it for anything commercial, don’t. I’m working on a better, saner version.

Here’s the mapping.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 12.36.27

Download link: PG Trampier Runes

Mageblade: development notes

So, I had a few days off and I started to flesh out a bit more Mageblade. Mageblade is meant to be some sort of D&D retroclone, except it’s not really cloning anything.

To put it a bit in perspective: I stripped down S&W Whitebox to the point where there’s not even the experience points tables, saving throws or classes left there. At the moment it’s there just to act as framing.

Then I started building. I decided that characters get numerically better at doing their thing using one single scale: the Focus Bonus. For Fighters, it applies to hit rolls. For Casters, more effective spells. For Mageblades, hit rolls with their athame (a bound blade) and saving throws. Here’s the advancement table, which is shared by all classes.

Advancement Table

Level XP Needed Hit Dice Focus Bonus
1 0 1d 3
2 1,000 2d 3
3 2,000 3d 4
4 4,000 4d 4
5 8,000 5d 4
6 16,000 6d 5
7 30,000 7d 5
8 64,000 8d 5
9 125,000 9d 6
10 250,000 10d 6
11 400,000 11d 6
12 600,000 12d 7

So a level 3 fighter has +4 to the hit roll, and Casters always have +0. While this might seem a bit odd, consider that magic do not gives bonus to hit or to AC, so plate mail and shield is pretty much the non-plus ultra. Said that, there will be magic barriers, giving AC equivalent to armour. This follows my “eschew numeric modifiers” philosophy: I’m trying to do everything without numeric modifiers, except where I use the Focus Bonus.

You might have noticed that there are only 12 levels, but players get to roll 12 hit dice. To avoid tears, HPs are rerolled at every level, and the new amount is kept only if better than the previous. If not, the new HP total increases by 1.

Characters get also skill points, a handful spread from level 1 to level 12. Each class can spend them in specific things: Fighters can get Stances and combine them to make combos (yeah, combos, you read well), Casters and Mageblades learn disciplines and magic schools. Learning requires teachers, and more exotic skills require cooperation if reclusive or exclusive or simply crochety masters.

Mageblades also learn new blademagic, which is some kind of battlemagic channeled through their athame during melee. An example of blademagic is Bane: there are many Banes to be learnt, one per creature type. When a Bane is active, the athame becomes deadly to that creature type and deals extra damage equal to the Focus, so for example if a Mageblade of level 5 activates Undead Bane their athame will deal +4 damage to undead. Other blademagic lets the mageblade attack many enemies, animates the athame, or just deal extra damage.

Hit Points and the merit of abstractions

Someone months ago was trolling me online about how “the OSR does not innovate” and was lamenting that hit points are dumb.

Yeah, hit points are dumb. They are an abstraction and abstractions, as a rule, leak.

The alternative is to assess wounding as things: wounds become first-order concepts and somehow an excess of wounds kills you.

Maybe they kill you because you can take only a limited number of wounds before being incapacitated. And maybe there are various types of wounds, but they have more complex rules on how you can reach the maximum; for example you can take only 4 wounds, but any wound that is more than half of your constitution counts as two wounds. But this approach is simply replacing hit points with different, chunkier hit points, with maybe more interesting interaction. Still hit points.

The other option is to replace hit points with affects (status effects). So, for example, this is an example I just came up with:

  • any wound that is less than 1/4 Con simply gives -2 to hit and AC and +2 to any damage received for 3 rounds. So you can just do full defence for a bit and recover. It’s still a pain to be on the receiving side.
  • any wound that is more than than and less than 2/3 Con gives -2 to hit and +2 to any damage received for 1 week. That’s some interesting damage.
  • any wound that is more than than gives -2 to hit and AC and +2 to any damage received for 1 month, plus save or die.

Or any damage taken causes a roll on the Internal Organs Are Supposed To Be Internal Table table. Or whatever.

This kind of handling has a problem. No, not the Death Spiral. Death Spirals can be fun. The problem is that not only it gives you penalties, but these penalties stack and they increase the cognitive load for the player. Is the purpose to make combat more interesting or to force harder math on players? Granted, it’s slightly harder math, but both it makes for a harder game through modifiers and harder because of the cognitive load. Increasing cognitive load as a mechanical negative consequences in RPGs is not something I’m keen on. I’m only keen on incresing cognitive load if the choices it creates are interesting.

And it’s not just a newbie thing. Image a combat of the PCs against a mage, its fighter pal and 5 ogre flunkies. The NPCs will have a number of stacking affects, and there are 7 of them, and some of those affects will expire, at different times and blargh. You could make it simpler by making all affects lasting at least until the end of the turn or making some bigger and some smaller but then again accounting.

Another option is to use saving throws to avoid dying. But this means that a small wound might kill you, but if it can’t kill you you are immune to small damage unless you use affects and then you are using affects anyway. Mutant & Masterminds IIRC does a smart thing where each wound needs a save, and the first slightly failed save gives you a no-stacking affect that makes subsequent saves harder. But that IIRC wears off.

So I’m happy with hit points for monsters. Stack the damage. No consequences until they run out. Easy to handle. I’m fine with keeping the combat abstract. For players, as always, talk to your players and see if they want to try something, and see what works.