Khosura Street Blues: where I get lazy and tell you about how my campaign is going making a post with some pictures, plus an attempt at a Knotromancy School for W&W

I’ve been running one of the two Mageblade playtest campaigns in Khosura [post in Hungarian], written by the always awesome Gabor Lux. I’m playing a prewritten module because I’m playtesting and I’d rather spend more time evaluating how the game mechanics behave and not tinker with the world as I go: less prep is better prep. Also, Mageblade requires no adaptation whatsoever from your typical D&D, you only need to raise[lower] AC by 2.

(see what I did there? I made a funny).

At any rate, this is the amount of Khosuran underworld we explored in about 6-7 sessions.


Yes in Glasgow we drink a lot of Tennets. Those in the front of the screen are dead PCs to remind players that I am a cruel douchebag.

Khosura seems to be one of those dungeons where sessions alternate between exploratory (finding interesting stuff) and resolving (getting the sweet swag out). At any rate, the party last night was as usual not at its full. In order from right to left: Durgon the Fighter, Alyna (yep, that’s a rogue with a scumbag hat and a monkey), Cailan the Knotromancer with his rope.


Durgon is short because I clearly can’t draw, depicted with his re-re-replaced plate mail. Durgon uses a pollaxe, not a sword, sorry. Alyna has dagers, but never dual-wielded daggers in her life, and I think she actually never made an attack roll ever in two sessions as she always, always slithers away. She’s good at that. Sometimes Cailan goes around with a goat, but only for sacrifice purposes, blame Brendan, and he’s depicted with his pet magic rope. Spaturny not depicted, but he usually goes around with a bag on his head. Rhaegar is also absent, together wish his basilisk-in-a-cloaked-cage.

Wait, Knotcromancer? It’s complicated. In my games a lot of casters tend to study a field of magic but also necromancy, for obvious reasons: it’s a very concrete, god-of-the-flesh, effective, if totally unsubtle school, so its perfect for those adventury shit-hits-fan, make-or-break times.

But Cailan is not like that. Cailan is a necromancer that is totally ashamed of being a necromancer, and never admits being one. So I started calling him Not-romancer. And he got progressively more and more funny (and by funny, I really mean creepy and weird yet hilarious) about his magic pet rope.

At any rate, how did Cailan get his magic rope? I make starting PCs roll on the Kata Kumbas Inheritance Tables. This is the Summoner/MU table:


No game mechanics defined for at least half of these objects. Yes, you can get 4 geese or an axe that never misses its target or a plum shortcrust pie or a pet snake. Roll well.

So Spaturny got a Gnostic Gem of Healing (spend a mana to heal 1d6, once a day) and a Ring of the Sea Gods, while Cailan got a magic rope and a bottled metamorphic ectoplasm.


58 it is

So it happens that Kailan has a bit of an easy trigger with magic and ends up always with no mana too soon. This is col because he’s forced to deal with what he has available, which in this case is an enchanted rope that can move as long as he holds it. So he used it to lazo treasures away from traps, rescue comrades fallen in deep waters, and so on. And treat it like a pet. Sam (Kailan’s player) feared he was pissing me off with this creative use, but it’s totally, totally fine, and when I groan and facepalm is because I’m surprised by the player creativity.

So Gary asked if I meant Notromancer or Knotromancer, and obviously it’s both.

So, here’s a first selection of Knotromancy spells. All have a 50′ long rope as target.

Sorcery School of Knotromancy

Brendan, don’t worry, they are not for the revised W&W.

  1. Rope Trick – you know that spell you throw the rope up and can climb and hide in a nook between dimensions able to host 1 person for sorcerer level? that one. You can also pull the rope in the nook.
  2. Tangle – like Entangle, but with a rope, affects only enemies. Victims are still slowed by the rope even if they save. Can be deployed with a glyph.
  3. Shuffle the Mortal Coils  – Ropes to “Snakes” that are actually still ropes: a rope per level, HD: 3, AC: 7[13], DMG: 1 tight squeeze, Special: after hitting either pin or constrict for 1d8 damage. Each rope has a 5% chance per sorcerer level of being a deadly rope, and when constricting the victim must save vs death/paralysis or die. The spell can be reversed and make real snakes into ropes, splicing them together if needed, permanently. I’m going to remind you that permanent spells can be dispelled.
  4. Stupendous Strand – a held rope can be completely controlled in its motion and can be made incredibly rigid and impervious to damage. In combat can trip/disarm/whip as a magic whip +1.
  5. How Long is a String? – for a turn the sorcerer can extend the rope up to 100 yards per sorcerer level. It’s not stretched nor elastic, the spell simply makes the rope longer (and shorter) as needed, and only when wanted. If still elongated at the end of the spell, the rope unravels into long, impossibly narrow and very weak fibres.
  6. Rope is Always Handy – the rope ties itself around the caster and acts as a third, mind-controlled yet semi-sentient, fully capable hand. Grants an extra attack.
  7. Bind, like the one from Diabolism but with Ropes – because you’re not a Coenobite.
  8. Cat’s Cradle – the sorcerer does some complicated figure-work with a rope, in a complicated yet silent spell cast over many rounds. In the first round, the sorcerer makes an opening, which has no effect. Every following round the sorcerer can elaborate the figure and either unleash the figure’s power or hold it to elaborate it into a different figure next round. The sorcerer knows an opening plus 2 figures per level (which can be openings). This is a tree with some of the possible figures: from a figure it’s possible to make figures tabbed within it; so from cradle, mattress, then candles, then either saw (which is terminal, and must be unleashed) or diamonds, then cat’s eye, etc.
    1. Opening A: opening, no power
      1. Open the Gate: unlocks and opens a door within 10′.
      2. Find the Owl: Detect Avian, 200 yards radius
      3. Dugout Canoe: the rope becomes a dugout canoe.
        1. Crab: the rope become a cranky crab: AC:1[18], 1HD per sorcerer level, ATK: claws 2x1d6. While hostile to the sorcerer’s enemies, its not friendly to the sorcerer either.
      4. Path to the Well: as the Find Water spell.
    2. Opening B: Opening, no power
      1. Fire Drill: seats a nearby thing on fire. Even people.
      2. What Will You Do?: as Confusion, lasts 1d3 rounds
    3. Cradle: opening, no power
      1. Mattress: up to 1 HD per sorcerer level must save or falls asleep.
        1. Candles: the rope shines bright light for 1 hour
          1. Manger: the rope becomes a meal for a person per sorcerer level
            1. Saw: a object or being of wood within 30′ is cut in twain.
            2. Diamonds: the rope looks and feels as if it’s made of pure gold strands.
              1. Cat’s Eye: the sorcerer can see in near-darkness as if it was in full daylight
                1. Fish in a Dish: if offering some food to someone, the reaction is automatically improved by 1 step (similar to Bewitch).
                  1. Hand Drum: terrifying noises make all enemies of lower level than the sorcerer flee if they fail a save.
                    1. Lucky Tea Kettle: it enchants a kettle of warm brew, enough for 3 people; if immedialtely drank, the drinker can reroll a die in the next hour.
    4. Index: opening, no power
      1. Fish: the rope become a fish friendly to the caster with AC:5[14], 1HD per caster level, and of proportionate size. It can be ridden by a human for each HD over 2.
        1. Pig: like Fish, but a pig.
        2. Frog: like Fish, but a frog.
        3. Dazzle: everyone within 20′ must save or stare at the rope. Bedazzled victims are freed when shaken or attacked

None of these spells have been playtested (except those that are inspired by other spells), so CAVEAT EMPTOR.



Rub-a-D&D: butcher, baker, candlestick-maker, tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor: the Spy as a B/X class

Rub a dub dub,
Three fools in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker.
Turn them out, knaves all three


The Spy: a full-shenanigans B/X class

Your butcher has always been a bit odd, and did not know the difference between sirloin and ribeye. The baker also, but for the opposite reason: he was honest and delivered always full-weight loaves. The candlestick maker gilting was great but the candlesticks were clearly not well lathed.

That’s because they were not tradesmen.

They were knaves.

They were competent spies under cover.

HP, Saves, hitrolls as clerics. Primary stat is Charisma.

Level XP Title
1 1250 butcher
2 2500 baker
3 5000 candlestick-maker
4 10000 tinker
5 20000 tailor
6 42500 soldier
7 70000 sailor
8 110000 Spy
9 160000 Spy-master
10 220000 Spy-master
11 440000 Spy-master
12 660000 Spy-master

Coverup: the Spy gets some basic training in whichever trade their title is. So level 1 spies get basic training as butchers. At level 2 as bakers. Level 3? Candlestick makers. The problem is that sometimes they are not that competent, but often it does not matter. So for expert tasks they get only a 3-in-6 chance of success modified by their reaction bonus: they might not do a great job, but they are great at selling themselves.

Three fools in a tub: spies in cities can locate another spy in 1d6 days and get useful something in exchange for something (material, contacts, information, safe haven, safe conduit are examples of what can be exchanged) if a successful reaction roll is made. Woe if the reaction roll fails.

Great Coverup: At level 8 they can either roll any of these rolls twice and pick the best result or have a 95% chance of coming up with a convincing reason, happenstance or coverup for the job not to be successful. For example having the workbench collapse, or the horse outside the shop to catch fire, or just mind tricks. Or, surely the best, they can convince you that you seriously do not need that gigot cop today, sausages will be better with turnips, or that, seriously Capitain, the mortar was somewhat cracked already.

Rogue Skills: use 1d6 Thieving, but starts with only 5 points. Gets 1 point per level gained. Or as a rogue of half their level, round up.

Agency: at level 9 Spies can set up an agency. They will attract 1d6 level 1 PCs per season, half of them spies, maximum one per Spy-master level. As they die, they will be replaced as long as the Spy-master does a good job of covering up their demise.


How I Hexcrawl

A friend asks how I hexcrawl.

Lega dei Baroni - Capolago

3 miles a hex map

This is how I hexcrawl:

First of all, determine the scale, both time- and space-wise. This is important because of how finely grained is your adventure and setting. I normally use 6 exploration turns per day, of 4 hours each. If 3 are not spent for downtime (camp and nosh), characters take some damage or penalty. My hexes are anything between 24 miles and 1 km (or 1000 yards). In general all these numbers are profoundly opinable but the procedures are based on my (mixed bag of) traveling, orienteering, navigation and sailing experience.

At dawn and evening, more or less frequently depending on whether you are exploring Scotland or a place with sensible, normal, non-crazy weather:

  1. Determine weather. I normally roll 1d6: low means weather is bad, high it’s clear. If you have a table for your campaign or season use that. Why weather? Bad weather means bad navigation and bad movement. If you have no idea, follow this table (GLoS is how far it allows you to see geographical features):
    1. horrible horizontal rain, GLoS 1/2 mile.
    2. rain, GLoS 1d3 miles
    3. fog, GLoS pretty much nothing
    4. cloudy and hazy, GLoS 2d6 miles
    5. sunny, GLoS 2d6x4 miles
    6. so sunny, taps aff, GLoS 4d6x4 miles. Roll again: on a 6, GLoS 4d6x8 miles

Then, each turn:

  1. determine line of sight. Fill in all the terrain types in hexes that the PCs can see. This is super-mega important, and please forget about all the bullshit about “how far can a character see at a given height” that you see every 2 months on the internet. In real life, unless you are by a very calm the sea with a super-clear weather, three things are going to impact on visibility in a much harsher way:
    1.  vegetation. If characters are in a forest, they don’t see any other hex unless they get on top of the canopy. And they won’t see much of anything unless it’s within a few hundred of feet, depending on growth. Chances are they won’t find any location in a forest hex unless they’re hunting for it or know where to find it. You can see forests probably miles away.
    2. weather. Fog and rain will reduce LOS to more or less nothing. Haze will often reduce LoS to 6 miles or less, which is convenient because it’s a hex for most of you people. With a crystal-clear weather you can spot mountains easily tens of miles away, possibly even a hundred. Corsica is visible from Monaco in the right conditions.Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 23.25.57
    3. height and orography. Photons go in a straight line. Photons are magic, but don’t go through soil or rock. In general you’ll see every geographical feature around you unless the line of sight is blocked by other geographical features or shit weather or vegetation.
      • in flatland you can see forests from a few miles away. That’s convenient if you use 6 miles hexes. You’ll also see anything that borders it. You’ll also see all higher ground behind it (up to GLoS), and forests on it.

        2013-05-25 19.23.15

        Glen Coe is lovely

      • If you are on the hills, you can see all the hills around, plus the mountains, and you got some amazing line of sight on lower ground, unless it gets blocked by other high ground or weather.


        good Los, but notice the haze

      • same for mountains. You can see forever from there. Except if the weather is horrible. Or other mountains block the line of sight. Or if the mountaintop is forested (been there, it’s incredibly annoying).

        see forever, until Mr Haze starts being annoying


    4. Landmarks. You should have landmarks, because they ground the locations. volcanoes, humongous trees, lakes, pillars of golden light, lakes, mountaintop monasteries. Consider making them a smidgen more visible than they ought to, especially in really shit weather, so to give a sense of “yep we’re definitely going somewhere” and “yep i saw that monastery before” and “I thing they must have phat loot in that monastery” and “I really wish that monastery was within fireball range”. Landmarks attract PCs like magnets.
  2. Movement: now, let PCs move. 30 miles a day on paths for a small group of medieval people way fitter than your usual nerd is totally achievable, 15-20 on hilly ground (cue the West Highland Way) and probably woods and generic broken-but-not-too-awful terrain , 5 for swamps. Horses add 60% movement on hills and plains. Mountains… it’s complicated. In general if you go in the valleys you can easily do 10-20, even 30, but going against the grain is a pain. And maybe not doable. Be generous and allow 6 miles, or 1d6-1 miles a day, and make horses save or die. In any case treat paths as not worse than 10 miles a day. At any rate, that’s the daily movement rate for 3 exploration turns (12 hours), so divide it by 3 to find out the miles per turn.
    As for rivers, I add anything between 1d4 and 1d20 miles as “cost” of crossing a river (find a ford, bridge or make a raft), depending on the size, weather, season and geography.
    Oh, in an unexplored forest characters not following a path will get lost and drift somewhat. Same for heavy rain or fog. Why? Navigation in these conditions is more or less impossible. Be inventive and exhilarating.
  3. encounters: you need to decide how trafficked and dense with bullshit the area is. The West Highland way, roll for a random encounter every hour. The road between Manchester and Liverpool, just roll encounters. There will definitely be peasants bringing produces to merchant towns and cities. Remote forested mountain valley, maybe roll twice a day. If you prefer you can have a flat chance (1-in-6 or 2-in-6) or have it varied. Make up your mind, this is very much the best way to characterise your wilderness: wilderness encounters have meaning. Wolves have meaning. Goblin hunting parties have meaning. That dragon you see flying over your head has meaning. You’re invading their turf. They will eat your face. Add also a “edible” encounter so characters can fight for forage: I found out hunting in RPGs is really, really fun for my players.
    The encounter will happen at a distance depending on the line of sight. Just remember that it gets hard to understand that a person is a person after less than a mile. Also, ambushes happen all the time.

That’s it. Rinse and repeat until you reach your destination or all PCs die.