May 20, 2015

Class Remakes (Version 3)

I've continued to work on this project. Here's the most recent version.



Necrocarcerus rules that would be useful to know to interpret this document:

1) Swords and Wizardry Complete

2) My skill system is built off of Skills: The Middle Road, so PCs need to roll 5+ on a die type that escalates in size as their skill level does. Rolling the maximum result possible on the die not only succeeds, but accomplishes the task in the next smallest increment of time (weeks become days, days become hours, hours become turns, turns become rounds, etc.).

3) My grappling rules involve the opponents rolling and comparing their hit dice, with the higher winning.

4) Feats of Strength allows brief but superhuman feats of strength (jumping, lifting, throwing, etc.) if you roll high on a d6 (the die type does not escalate). The abilities listed in tables for the thief, ranger and monk use the same mechanic.

5) I flipped the numbers around to make rolling high always good.

6) I have a perception system where passive perception is equal to the # of party members, and active checks involve rolling a d6 and adding that to the passive perception score.

7) There are only two alignments in Necrocarcerus - Lawful and Chaotic.

8) When you drop to 0 HP, you begin rolling on a critical table. Only some of the results are likely to kill you, but your chance of getting one increases as you continue to take hits.

May 18, 2015

Class Remakes (Second Version)

Original class remakes post

The new version

After thinking it over, I decided to pare down the number of classes in Necrocarcerus 1.3, mostly by eliminating choices that no one has ever taken that come from external supplements, but also by eliminating the assassins. This means no more bards, no more dandies, no more spiritualists, and no more walking ghosts. I rewrote the barbarian class from Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque Compendium to be a berserker class similar to the fighter but with rage. I'll be keeping the four spellcasting classes - Elementalist, Necromancer, Vivimancer and Weirdomancer, from Theorems and Thaumaturgy.

In the new version, I've updated the ranger and monk classes based on feedback, removed the assassin class, redone the fighter, cleric and thief, and added the berserker class. In later versions of this, I'll add the magic user, paladin and druid (more or less unchanged, though reworded from the original rules to be more concise). The psionicist is basically done, but will be issued once I'm finally done my psionics supplement. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to use Courtney's Psionics supplement.

My goal here, once all the class rewrites / remakes are done, is to incorporate this into Necrocarcerus 1.3 to reduce the number of external supplements referenced and the number of conversions required from other systems, and to consolidate the various house rules applying to each class directly into its entry, rather than requiring PCs to jump between multiple documents.

As always, comments and feedback are welcome. These are still works in progress.

May 17, 2015

Class Remakes: Assassins, Rangers, Monks

I'm working on a side project that might make it into Necrocarcerus 1.3. The project is to redo the classes I dislike the most (on a mechanical level) in Swords and Wizardry Complete and the various supplements I use for Necrocarcerus, as well as the ones that seem the least popular and useful under the Necrocarcerus rules. Generally speaking, these classes tend to be the grab-bag classes built around skills / non-magical powers. Tonight, I redid the assassin, ranger and monk classes (thieves, bards and psionicists are upcoming; dandies, spiritualists and walking ghosts are cut entirely). Not entirely coincidentally, the assassin, ranger and monk are all classes from later supplements.

My overall goals were to simplify these classes enough so that each fits on one page, to give them clear schticks, and to emphasise their abilities. I think most of these write-ups are straightforward, but just in case anyone isn't familiar with the Necrocarcerus house rules, the following may be useful to know.

1) Ability checks are made like a Thief's Hear-Noise skill (on a d6)

2) Skills use Skills: The Middle Road, so "Max result" means a character who is a Master of a skill (rolls a d12) who makes their ability check gets a result as if they had rolled 12. A character who is an Expert (d10) gets a result of 10, etc.

3) I have a perception system in Necrocarcerus.

4) Feats of Strength (for the ranger) are explained here.

5) Grappling rules are explained here.

I'm soliciting feedback, especially from the PCs & potential PCs in the current Necrocarcerus game, about what they think about these remakes of the classes, and whether they make them more appealing to play. These are first drafts, and will probably undergo some revision yet.

May 15, 2015

Charity for the Dead

Monks, Paladins, and Rangers have to donate substantial portions of their wealth to charity. Fortunately, Necrocarcerus has a robust third sector of NGOs, QUANGOs and radical social movements. Since there are no alignment restrictions in Necrocarcerus, these classes are free to choose the cause most closely aligned with their personal beliefs. A selection of causes follows:

The Committee to Abolish Life (Lawful) - The most influential and least radical Undead rights organization. Advocates gradual policy reform and other useless measures. Relies on the sale of branded merchandise and cash donations via mail.

The Communist Party of Necrocarcerus (Marxist-Leninist) (Chaotic) - Actually a Trotskyist front. Cash donations may be made in person at scattered booths, or by buying newspapers.

Doctors Without Scruples (Lawful) - Organ-harvesting for distribution to underprivileged Citizens. Donations of cash or parts can be made via mail.

Elderly Druids Association (Lawful) - Really a price-fixing & coupon-clipping scam pretending to advocate for ancient Citizens. Cash donations via mail. Has a mandatory monthly magazine full of "savings".

The Ferrymen (Chaotic) - Want almost everything abolished right away. Known for their protests at the least convenient times. Occasionally violent. Donations (Cash or product) may only be made in person.

The Fire Keepers (Chaotic) - Illegal health providers running hospitals, de-cursing clinics and the occasional spawning vat for impoverished wizards. Cash donations may be made to their capital campaigns at any Fire Keeper location.

Friendship Society of Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Reformist claptrap focused on Undead-Citizen harmony. Donations (cash only) can be made to chuggers in malls or via text message if the money is in a bank. They also sell quarterly subscriptions to their newsletter.

Golemic Families of Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Mainstream polygolemous advocacy that's as much about making it appear nonthreatening. Primarily receive corporate donations, but cash donations can be made via mail, text message, or via pledge form.

High Adventure (Chaotic) - Marijuana legalisation group. Mostly stoned into ineffectiveness. Donations of potions and cash may be sent via mail or in person. Sells weed at legalisation fairs.

The Museum of Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Exhibits are a little shabby, but a donor wall that dates back 10,000 years. Cash or curio donations can be made in Downtown. They also sell calendars and posters.

Oozy International (Chaotic) - Really a pro-ooze political group pretending to be a charity. Advocates peace with the oozes. Accepts cash donations via mail, and donations of weapons etc. (secretly) in person.

Pets Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Sentimental softies about animal-likes. Currently attempting to have muzzle laws on hellhounds overturned. Donations made by purchasing branded t-shirts, calendars, stamps, etc.

Portal Now! (Chaotic) - Wants AUC to open the portals and allow everyone to escape. Regularly subject to mass arrests, but strong grassroots support. Cash donations can be made via mail.

Railworkers, Grocers, Acrobats and Plumbers Union (Lawful) - Heavily armed trade union engaged in a cold war with their employers. Supports improving workers' rights. Donations of cash, weapons or armour can be made at any union hall / rail station.

Upright Business Bureau of Necrocarcerus (Lawful) - Shills for big business who claim to be interested in helping consumers. Cash donations may be made via mail or text message, tons of corporate donors.

The Wilderness Downtown (Lawful) - Hippies romanticising the environment. Donations of cash, plants and photographs may be made by mail or text message.

May 13, 2015

Chief Druidic Officer

So in Swords & Wizardry Complete, druids all belong to a single world-spanning druidic hierarchy that you have to fight your way up to the top of to become the arch-druid.

In Necrocarcerus, druids are employees of the utility companies (obviously), and the druidic hierarchies are the four utility companies, and you have to fight your way to the top of the corporate ladder to reach 20th level, where instead of becoming the arch-druid, you become the CDO (Chief Druidic Officer) and help maintain the natural balance of Necrocarcerus by ensuring oil flows, electricity is generated (the sun is replaced regularly and on-time), water gets purified and moved around (and Ocean Null doesn't accidentally drain out into Necrocarcerus), and phone calls and packages circulate smoothly. You spend your mid-levels in druidic middle-management, overseeing the construction of the animal-likes and plant-likes that constitute the ecology of Necrocarcerus and learning about nature crap like where the fans that keep everyone from choking to death on smog are and how they work and where the secret phones are hidden. At lower levels, you're probably responsible for some local domain, making sure people are paying their utility bills on time and collecting money / their heads when they don't (esp. monsters, who are notoriously tardy debtors). Yes, you still have to challenge and defeat higher level druids to move up - you don't get to be a druidic Regional Vice President of Sales without showing you've got the killer instinct a closer needs.

The druid secret language is just Elemental with a lot of management jargon thrown in, and it evolves fast enough that no one outside the utilities can ever keep it straight.

May 12, 2015

[Review] Dreams of Ruin

I'm home today with a sprained ankle, which gave me the chance to read Dreams of Ruin.

Dreams of Ruin is a strong idea that's clearly been thought through. It describes how a negative energy ecology suitable as a campaign-level threat to challenge high level PCs works, and provides a model for the various subcomponents involved in running it - sample encounters, information on how to run and adjudicate the PCs setting up a research laboratory or magically rewriting society and landscape to fight it, the colossal efforts necessary to cure / banish / control / weaponise it, etc. The ideas are well-done, interesting, coherent and nearly exhaustive. Even if you didn't want to use the Forest of Woe exactly, you could adapt a lot of this material to any sort of depersonalised creeping interplanar threat. For example, if you run Kevin Crawford's Red Tide setting, you could pull out tons of material here and use it with minimal conversion to depict how the PCs drive back the Red Tide itself (it helps that both settings are Labyrinth Lord ones). Or if you have a chaotic blight that threatens the campaign area a la Beyond the Wall: Further Afield's new threat pack, you could do some easy price conversions (I'd divide all prices by at least a thousand gold) and use it to run the blight in conjunction with the threat pack. The research component is especially well done, including handouts that chart out research paths for potential facts you can discover (while under tremendous time pressure that the book lays out clearly and in great detail).

The main flaw of the book is basically the same thing as its strength: Its singularity of vision. Dreams of Ruin sets up the Forest of Woe as something that stories and adventures spin out of, but it only gives you some rough guidelines and ideas about what those stories and adventures would be. In particular, the book could use a table or set of tables that cover "What is the weird magical material your research project requires?" "Where is it found" "Who controls it?" Magical items required for things like research are laid out (including building a device that requires 60 Gems of Seeing) but a lot of the other devices / spells / options just basically say some variation on "Spend an ungodly amount of money". Having a larger master table of random magical junk could either replace the pedestrian gold costs, or augment them with concrete detail ("So, uh, I rolled that you need 100,000 gp worth of Titan spittle," or "You need the baculum of a leviathan, and six rare flowers of eternity to build your Automatic Augerer"). (Edit: You could repurpose the system it gives for breakthrough critical items that refers you to the LL AEC, but that still wouldn't help you come up with who owns it and where they are, and what you need to do to get it).

It might also be useful to have a random high-powered NPC You Need to Recruit To Your Research Team table that covers what they want ("We need to recruit the Witch-Queen of Blagoblag - she wants the Gem of Guzzendle as payment") to spur ideas.

Similarly, the prolixity of the book is greatly appreciated in some areas (describing how the Forest of Woe works; facts PCs can find out through research; elaborating on the challenges of liquefying a god and running them through an oil pipeline) but less so in others. In particular, the sample encounters are overwritten, and could be more concise. It took a second read and the memory of a picture a few hundred pages back to realise there were devil mechs in one encounter.

Overall, I think it's a good book to pick up (especially because it's free) if you're trying to get ideas about how to run high level campaigns. There's a lot of material and structures here that, even if you don't adopt them directly, should serve as a useful model for how to structure such material in your own game.

May 10, 2015

There Is No Ethical Consumption Under Capitalism

Necrocarcerus Gear List (293KB PDF)

I'm hard at work on Necrocarcerus version 1.3. There's going to be a ton of new content, but most of the rules will be either identical or similar to version 1.2. There are some minor rewordings, clarifications or changes based on playtesting, but most of the new content is adding options to what's already there, or explicitly laying out procedures that I'm using in game anyhow but didn't stick in the rulebook previously.

I finished the gear list earlier today, which is now 7 pages long, including new medical items, new hats, new foods, new poisons, and the long-awaited grafts. Crossbows are now harpoon guns because harpoon guns are cooler than crossbows. Now if your PC wants to jack their headtubes full of morphine while guzzling soda and shooting harpoons coated with industrial sludge, you have all the tools you need. As always, Necrocarcerus is a mod for Swords and Wizardry Complete released under a CC-BY license, so feel free to use anything here in your own games or products.

May 7, 2015

A Procedure for Exploring the Wilderness Redux

From the Necrocarcerus House Rules Document v. 1.3, which will finally contain a rewritten version of A Procedure for Exploring the Wilderness. I am still in the process of writing the rules for searching hexes and foraging for supplies.

Overland Exploration

Overland exploration happens in 4-hour blocks on a 10km hex grid. There are six blocks in each day. Each PC must rest for at least two.


1) Determine the weather and any paths.
2) Caller determines the direction of travel and marching order.
3) Any relevant spells may be cast.
4) Referee determines if the PCs are lost or veer off-course.
5) PCs move into a new hex.
6) Mapper records the terrain of the hex that the PCs are moving into.
7) Guard rolls for and records any random encounters.
8) Resolve any encounters.
9) Timekeeper records any resources expended.
10) Caller determines whether to travel on, search the hex, or rest.


1) Quartermaster draws the camp layout.
2) Note-taker records any landmarks spotted.
3) PCs may attempt to determine if they are lost.
4) Caller determines the watch schedule.
5) Any relevant spells may be cast.
6) Guard rolls for and records any random encounters.
7) Resolve any encounters.
8) Timekeeper records any resources expended.
9) Any research or preparation may be done.
10) Benefits gained from resting are gained if appropriate.
11) Caller determines whether to travel on, search the hex, or rest.


1) Caller assigns party members to search parties.
2) Any relevant spells may be cast.
4) Guard rolls for and records any random encounters.
5) Resolve any encounters.
6) Timekeeper records any resources expended.
7) Referee determines whether the PCs find anything.
8) Timekeeper records any resources recovered.
9) Note-taker and mapper record any locations discovered.
10) Caller determines whether to explore any locations discovered.
11) Any exploring, dungeon-crawling etc. is done.
12) Caller determines whether to travel on, search again, or rest.

Roll (2d6)
-4 to saves vs. cold effects
-2 to passive perception score
Save or 1d6 points of damage
2d10m encounter distance
+1 to saves vs. fires
+1 to saves vs. gases
-1 to saves vs. gases
Heat Wave
-4 to saves vs. heat effects
-2 to passive perception score
Save or 1 random object lost


Paths in hexes are determined by rolling a d4-1. The result determines the number of paths heading into and out of the hex. The directions of the points determine which direction the paths proceed in. If there are fewer than three paths, the first path is generated in the direction of the point with the lowest value, and further paths are generated in order of ascending value. A path proceeds from the midpoint of one hex to the midpoint of another through a shared edge.

Getting Lost

The referee rolls 1d6 for each exploration block the PCs travel. On a 5+ they stay on course. The following conditions modify the roll:

Already lost
Bad weather
Following path
Good map
Terrain obscures sightlines 
Landmark in sight
No map

When resting, the PCs may determine if they are lost by making a successful Geography check modified by the above factors.


Creating a good map requires a surveyor’s kit and may be done with a successful Geography check. A navigator’s kit may add to this roll.


A landmark is any object that is continuously visible between the midpoint of two or more hexes. A river that passes between multiple hexes, or a mountain higher than surrounding terrain, or even a tower on plains may be used as landmarks.

New landmarks may be identified while resting by making a successful Geography check.

May 4, 2015

Safe Area Duvanovic: The Major Players


Chairman Rotman Carkell

Chairman Rotman Carkell - The face that launched a thousand posters. He appears in public once a week to oversee the execution of "traitors" selected from amongst the ranks of refugees. He wields the feared sword Tchlag, a gift from the Oozocracy.  For every hundred people killed it can send one person back to the living worlds. The promise of one day making it back to life is one of the Popular Purity Front's most powerful recruitment tools. Carkell is brutal and dangerous, but incapable of long-term strategy. His incompetence and impatience have led to the collapse of the food supply in Safe Area Duvanovic.

What's He Here For: Killing, mainly. He's Ooze-Hitler (or at least Ooze-Radovan Karadzic). 

Xi Fushan, the Mother Of Murder

Xi Fushan - The austere and infamous "Mother of Murder" oversees the black market that keeps Safe Area Duvanovic even barely functional. From an obsidian throne in the ruins of an apartment complex, she sees tens of thousands of obols flow into her coffers. Refugees bid their lives away for scraps of bread, and swear eternal service to the tongs in her service. Those who cross her vanish in the night, with rumours that they end up in the torture temple of the theosadists, selected for the most rarefied and bizarre "experiments". The exact nature of her relationship to Chairman Carkell is unknown, but the Popular Purity Front does not interfere in her operations.

What's She Here For: Deals with the Devil. When the PCs need something badly, she's who they can get it from, if they're willing to accept her terms.

Parakletos, Elpis and Ainos

Parakletos, Elpis, Agape, Ainos, Synesis, Theletos, Makariotes - A rogue cabal of theosadistic guardians who have allied themselves with the Oozocracy in exchange for the right to treat the citizen refugees of Safe Area Duvanovic as the raw material for their magnum opus, tentatively titled "Fragments Towards An Exploration of Total Power". They are inscrutable and rarely seen outside their temple, though their whims, no matter how quixotic, must be indulged under threat of a yet greater atrocity. Though Carkell thinks he is in charge of Safe Area Duvanovic, the oozes know the theosadists are the real sovereigns. Lately, as the work moves closer to completion, aesthetic disputes between the guardians have become more severe, and the entire cabal may collapse into civil war.

What're They Here For: Grossing the party out with their "experiments", providing the tangible evidence of how awful life in Safe Area Duvanovic is, and providing an explanation for any weird or horrible magical stuff you want to feature.

Lieutenant-General Arawa Okoye

Arawa Okoye - "The Butcher of Highway 735" has been tasked with recovering Sector 5 of the mega-borough of Duvanovic after a successful but bloody campaign for the eastern highway. Her forces ("The Fighting 7041st Division") are encamped to the south-east of Safe Area Duvanovic, waiting for reinforcements to arrive before advancing in force against the ooze-pyramids located nearby. She is an ambitious officer, next in line to replace General Yehan, commander of the overall Duvanovic theatre.

What's She Here For: Handing out quests, escaping to her encampment, pleading for mercy from, winning the favour of through feats of derring-do.

Veruca DeLeon

Veruca DeLeon - The luckiest of the blockade runners so far. Veruca is a Projector from the island of Cuba on the living world of Terra who was trapped in Necrocarcerus by an evil wizard from a nearby empire. She is an excellent airship pilot, in command of the sky-sloop Nuestra Senora del Cielo. Though no fan of Rotman Carkell, the oozes, or Xi Fushan, she has worked with all of them to push past AUC and its fearsome Weapon Q to deliver supplies and extract refugees from Safe Area Duvanovic. Unlike other blockade runners, she chooses not the highest paying, but the most deserving (in her view) refugees to extract. She will also drop teams of mercenaries and scavengers off in the wastes for the right price.

What's She Here For: Getting into and out of Safe Area Duvanovic, airship adventures, someone to fence stuff to, #notalloozelovers 

Oozocrat #514

Oozocrat #514 -  Oozocrat #514 is the merger of over 261 war-oozes into a single being gifted with their combined intelligence. From its regnal pyramid in the ashes of Duvanovic, #514 coordinates the ooze invasion of Duvanovic. Surprisingly heterodox, #514 has shown it is willing to work with non-Braemonian citizens when possible, including establishing Safe Area Duvanovic. It is, of course, merciless and unwavering about the need for the ultragenocide of Braemonian citizens, as are all oozes, but it accepts that other citizens have not wronged the oozes as they have.

What's It Here For: Providing an unending stream of nameless, inhuman antagonists and perils populating the great outdoors and preventing people from just walking out of Safe Area Duvanovic.

May 3, 2015

Wonder & Wickedness: A Review

I splurged and picked up a ton of stuff from a few days ago to read. Expect reviews of River of Heaven, Silent Legions, the Basic Illusionist, Beyond the Wall: Further Afield, and Yoon-Suin to come down the pipeline. I'm writing these reviews basically in the order that I go back and read them again more carefully.

First is Wonder & Wickedness, which is an 88 page pdf (also available in print) detailing a new magic system by Brendan S. (of Necropraxis fame) that's compatible with most versions of old school D&D. Full disclosure: I bought the book on my own dime, I've gamed with Brendan S. twice in Courtney Campbell's Numenhalla game about a year and a half or so ago, and he's occasionally mentioned stuff from this blog kindly. On the other hand, he has never once shown up for a session of Necrocarcerus despite being invited every time, so you can expect this review to be a forty-thousand word denunciation of his personal shortcomings (feel free to use that as the pull quote).

The organisation and layout are pretty decent. The book has 56 new spells, listed both in alphabetic order and by specialty, with an index at the back listing them by page number. There's a light sprinkling of grammatical errors, but nothing that obscures what the text means at any given point. The art is good - lots of evocative line drawings that are busy with detail showing the various spells being cast by wizards, and the various magical items. The text is clear and legible, in a large-size serif font that remains readable when displayed as facing pages on a screen (since getting physical copies of this book involves sending away to Italy, its legibility on-screen is an important factor for me). There's a lot of white space at the tops of pages, some of it of irregular size, that looks like an artifact of using desktop publishing software to format the document, but it's not particularly galling or bothersome. Unfortunately, there's no index of magic items.

The key point of differentiation between the Wonder & Wickedness system and traditional D&D magic is that spells do not have levels. Some spells increase in power as the sorcerer does - affecting more targets, or allowing you to summon more powerful creatures - but it's a flatter progression than traditional D&D magic-users have. Sorcerers also have far fewer spells readied (just one per level, though they may know more spells than they have slots to cast and choose which ones they have memorised). Sorcerers may also dispel / block spells or deal damage directly to an enemy by sacrificing memorised spell slots, whereas the magic-user has specific spells they must memorise to do those things. Magic is also split up into different specialties / schools than the abjuration, conjuration etc. of traditional D&D. The spells are well-charactised, distinct, and make sense, as do the specialties.

Really, the highest praise I can give this book (or any RPG book really) is that once I was done reading it, I immediately started trying to figure out how to integrate it into my campaign. Necrocarcerus intentionally only incorporates free resources into the rules document as part of its design, but this was the book that nearly made me break that rule.