Free: Whitebox Wizardry, and one day maybe probably how to make it into a real book.

Some people asked: how do you start binding books?

By taking a course or just, you know, get needle and thread and fool around with paper.

Since not all of you might live in a city with a university or an art school, I made this:


This is going to be two things: first, PDF files to download and print. Get them here: normal PDF and imposition PDF. The first file is also handy to use on mobile. Don’t use the second on mobile: it’s to be printed duplex, folded in a specific way and bound.

Second, a small tutorial on how to make some small (literally, they are going to be in A7 format), utilitarian books to use at the table. I’ll try to stick to no-glue books, mostly because every time I used glue recently I more or less destroyed the whole book and got really upset (if you wonder why I’m not selling handbound stuff anymore, it’s because I’m cursed). I have no idea when the tutorial part is going to be out: the PDF took only some light finangling to do, but the tutorial will take a while to put together.


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.


Sneak Peek: Magia Nova: Il Novissimo Metodo Didattico delle Arti Magiche

Oh, the joys of writing something purely for D&D. I’ve been working on a word/runic magic system for a while and while I was at it I though I could just spin off one of its subsystems. I also took the occasion to make a book with all the S&W Whitebox spells, but organized by level and not in alphabetical order.
Yeah, I know, de gustibus non disputandum but there is clearly a WRONG and a RIGHT way, and the alphabetical sort is a pain in the ass when you’re trying to allocate slots and need to check spell details across the level. Which is much a much more common scenario compared to, say, check spell details across the spells starting with the letter S. If you need to find a spell by name, an analytical index will do.
Hence Magia Nova! The principle of this new didactic method is a blah blah taxonomic approach blah blah system of mysticism blah blah correspondences blah blah great pedagogy blah blah left hand, right hand blah blah. Ok, enough babble. The whole point is that the Magic User will learn Arts and Elements instead of single spells.

Four are the Arts:

  • Creo for Creation
  • Disfo for Undoing
  • Sento for Perception
  • Cambio for Change and Control
Four are the Elements:
  • Foco for Fire and therefore Magic
  • Aria for Air and therefore Spirit and Perception
  • Aqua for Water and therefore Life
  • Terra for Earth and therefore Matter

The casters start by knowing an Art and an Element and will progressively get better at casting spells and gain more Arts and Elements. In due time they will fully master a specific type of magic, and summon elemental spirits.

This is the spell list as it is now:

Screenshot 2016-04-17 at 17.40.45

Stars and question marks are safely ignored (they are notes for me). Some of those gaps might be filled, and things rejigged, but that’s the gist of it.

You will find a resemblance to Ars Magica by Tweed and Rein-Hagen. The resemblance is indeed there, but.

First, I love Ars Magica. Gangs & Bullshit owe a lot to it. Also Chthonic Codex. But Magia Nova is a different beast. Merely identifying spell groups with 2 words (or two runes, which is exactly the same) is the extent of the copying. They picked Latin, I picked oldy Italian.

I could have picked English. I didn’t for two reasons: the first is that picking premodern Italian makes it peculiar even for Italians, the second is that it’s better to have domain-specific terms for game elements. If your GM says you’re stunned by someone’s display of wealth, they probably do not mean that your character can only move slowly this round. They just used a turn of phrase which happens to use a word that means something different from a metagame perspective: you’re outside of the game and you use words to describe it that do not mean the same to people in the game. For game terms choose words you would otherwise not use to avoid confusion (no, not the spell).

Second: this whole thing started though with a different approach: create a taxonomy, and see how to allocate existing D&D spells to its subdivisions in an interesting way, rather than coming up with a system and creating new spells fitting in it (which is I guess how the Ars Magica spellbook was developed).

There will be a new, alternate Magic User, the spellcasting rules, the spells sorted by level (with some new spells), a handful of new monsters and, possibly, a few magic items. I have no idea when this will be ready, but given most of the spells come straight from the book it won’t take long.

Gangs & Bullshit – first playtest

I love crime fiction. The kind of bullshit that happens in crime fiction is of the highest quality.

All my games get to what you’d call “domain game” really soon. Somehow my players settle in an area and start to infest the local society and violence and bullshit starts happening at an incredible speed. The point of the domain game is not to have a fief, but to play the game, that kind of politics that hilariously degenerates in threats and violence.

I’ve been wanting to run a proper crime organisation game for years. What kept me is a horrible feeling tied mostly to these two blokes pictured here.


In 1992-1993 the Sicilian Mafia cranked up the aggression level and started a bombing campaign (google translates okish). They managed to kill a couple of judges, politicians and destroy museums. I was in school back then, and vaguely knew about the existence of Cosa Nostra, the Camorra, the ‘Ndrangheta and the Sacra Corona Unita, but living in a small town in the north of the country their power was not as evident, as their tendrils there were not as strong. One of the my pizzerie caught fire remarkably often, and during trips to the South we had to pay protection money to park the car on the side of the road, but otherwise there was not a lot of crime going on.

The bombing season started because of many reasons, but my favourite (least favourite) is that the heads of the Catholic party in Sicily stopped being as pals with the crime bosses as they were before, and important criminals started to go to jail more often.

This was weird. The State does not fight back strongly, because organized crime means money, and money means corruption, and corruption means, literally, taking one’s money, and therefore power, and giving some as a tribute to someone else that is powerful already, so that they use their power against someone else.

If it sounds like organized crime paying protection money, or countries paying tribute to the Empire, or states paying federal taxes, or you paying taxes, is because it’s exactly the same act. Tributary and tributee enter a beneficial relationship, as ancient as giving a goat to feed the warriors so the reavers from the uplands don’t steal all your goats.

But the change of the political class due to, er, many reasons but mostly because it’s complicated, meant that the powerful were not as powerful, and in power now there were less friendly people.

The State answered with strength, some people started to be brave and stop paying protection money, and the situation started to improve. But elsewhere the crime syndicates made great progress, and nowadays their tendrils reach far apart, not only in historical bases like the US East Coast, but also in the rest of Europe, and are doing business with South American and East Asian crime syndicates.

The mixture of organized crime and conniving politics fucked my homeland too much, and as an expat it is really painful. Because I literally left. And here I am, ten years after and a thousand miles away, praising the effort and ultimate sacrifice of two judges, one of them botheringly right-wing, and all other victims in that war.

Because I am, like my homeland, a complicated mess.

So for years I wanted to run this game about wealth, and power, and threats, and corruption, and shady deals, and turf fights, blades in the night, burglaries and barbershops, real thugs and city watch thugs, firebombs in the night and pies filled with meat of uncertain origin.

All of it for power, the kind of power that despises other power and wants only to make it go away, so it can have more power, all of it, and demand everybody’s respect and tribute.

But the topic made me too sad, and it’s been doing the same for years. I never thought I’d manage.

I managed earlier on this month. It was fucking glorious.

2015 - 1

The name of the game is Gangs & Bullshit

Because all the PCs are in a gang, and there’s a lot of bullshit going on. There are other gangs, and in general they all are not too keen about each other. Because they have power, and are not afraid about using it, and that’s fucking disrepectful.

I’m putting together some kind of playtest package.

[resources] Oh god, it’s full of spells!

A while ago someone on G+ asked for some alternative spellbooks, as in “I need a bunch of new spells”.

Thing is, I love spell and the arcane in RPGs, and I bought a bunch of related books. I even wrote and published a few.

So, here’s the list, in no specific order:

  1. The Great Net Spellbook – the first “noncanon” supplement we brought into our game. Things went wild. It impressed my teenager self to no end. A bunch are boring, a number are utterly overpowered, all are somehow wonky and quirky and a labour of love.
  2. The Pangean List of Spells – a tagged list of rewritten spells, great interface, a bunch are new.
  3. Kellri’s Spell Reference – As far as I know, all spells from that famous advanced fantasy game.
  4. Arcane Abecedary – I can’t describe this with less than 7 words:”wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus wampus”
  5. Weird Thaumaturgy – Someone on g+ made a public thread asking for non-canonical, non-boring spells. I put together the document with some rough cut and paste but I did not finish it because reasons.
  6. Theorems & Thaumaturgy – a boat of spells, classes, items… PWYW
  7. Space Age Sorcery – the tin says, the book does
  8. The Basic Illusionist – Fancy a few illusion spells? what about about 8-score? 159 illusion spells and paraphernalia.

More will come to mind. Suggest some in the comments.

More on the Challenges Combat system hack: Multiattacks,

On Google Plus we had a small discussion about the last post. Nags were found. Here come fixes.


The first nag is that if you have multiple attacks per round and your target is hard to hit, you get more penalties. Which is true and a problem. If you use such a system, I advise ignoring all the negative effects from missing the target, but if you want you can keep “deal half damage missing on a 1” and “deal 1d3 missing on a 2”.

The table becomes the following (and it’s what I’m going to use when I run things using a d20 to hit):

When Hitting with a…

  1. or less: 5+ damage (or more), critical wound
  2. +4 damage, medium wound
  3. +4 damage, medium wound
  4. +3 damage, medium wound
  5. +3 damage, light wound
  6. +2 damage, light wound
  7. +2 damage, light wound
  8. +1 damage
  9. +1 damage
  10. Normal Damage
  11. Normal Damage

What About Scarlet Heroes?

Just use the table above, looking up the natural d20 result on the table if you hit. Apply the damage modifier from the table to a single damage die and then convert that to SH damage. I will playtest tonight with a newly rolled Fighter and amend the post with the results.

What if I don’t use d20? The AFG example

AFG does not use a d20. But it has 2 completely different combat systems. The adaptation therefore works this way: the result that guarantees a hit to both newbs and experts is the one that does no extra effects, with other results that are successes only for more experts deal progressively more damage. For example if you use a d6 and you hit with high numbers, 6 will deal no extra effects, 5 will have some extra damage, etc.

5MAIL always uses a single attack per round, so it’s safe to use both negative modifiers on miss and positive on hits:

Miss on a 1: deal 1d3 damage (or 1d6/2 if you’re strict about these things)

Miss on a 4: don’t attack next round

Hit on a 2: +1 damage die, save or trauma (-1 FC for 1d6 weeks) and staggered for 1d6 rounds

Hit on a 3: +1 damage die, save or trauma (-1 FC for 1d6 weeks)

Hit on a 4: +1 damage die, save or staggered for 1d6 rounds

Hit on a 5: +1 damage die

Hit on a 6: normal damage

Some of these results give an extra damage die, to be treated as all the other extra damage dice. If the character knows Secret Fighting Techniques that require activation, they can activate them foregoing this extra damage die.

FIGHTMORE might make you roll for melee multiple times per round. So for the purpose of modifiers just consider the roll used to potentially hit someone and not the defence rolls. If you roll once per round (for example using FIGHTMORE MAYHEM) then just use that roll.

On a Draw, deal damage normally, counter with a shield as usual. On every other result, use the 5MAIL table above. I might release a proper old-style CRT (Combat Result Table, like in old wargames).