Monday, 14 August 2017

Improving Your Encounter Tables With Gimmicks!

Encounter tables are the lifeblood of my game.

Overland encounter tables are probably the single most reusable thing you can make, make it once and just use it over and over forever, and the steady beat of the dungeon encounter roll is the time pressure that penalises overcautious parties.

I mentally divide encounter tables into vague categories - Dungeon, Overland, and City.

So here's some tips.

Dungeon Encounters

This is based on Brendan Necropraxis' Overloaded Encounter Die aka the Hazard System.

I assume you know how to stock a dungeon encounter table - just put whatever you'd find on this dungeon level in the table, plus maybe a homeless wandering beast or two and some scouts from the next level of the dungeon.

Roll the Encounter Die every 10 minute turn. In my game I track this fairly loosely. Down long hallways I might start eyeing up squares and movement rates, but this usually gets rolled any time the party stops to investigate a room, messes around with the scenery, or they Take a Break to eat and heal.
"Are you guys aware that this will take long enough to need an encounter roll?" is something I say whenever somebody wants to spend time poking around a room.

Anyway, the Encounter Die results are as follows:

1. Encounter
Your classic encounter. Roll number appearing, make a Reaction roll, roll Surprise if necessary and go.
In a dungeon it's usually quite easy to make up a reason for what they're doing there based on the surroundings and/or the party's recent activity.

2. Encounter Clue
Roll for an encounter, but give a clue about what's out there instead.
Maybe they hear it growling, or voices down the corridor, or see a silhouette in the distance. Corpses are good too, whether it's of the encounter creature or one of its victims.
Basically just make something up that gives an impression of what's out there.

3 & 4. Dungeon-Specific Effect
This is the big one. Effects are on a per-dungeon basis and supposed to give some unique character to the locale.
A more dangerous area will have more directly dangerous results, while a safer area might simply be set dressing.

In the Spooky Dungeon, 3 might be "Chill up your spine! Hirelings check morale." and 4 might be "ankle-high fog floods through rooms and corridors, hiding anything on the ground this turn".
In the Earth Elemental Dungeon you could have "Earthquake! Save vs Stun or fall to the ground! Unsecured objects jostle and fall" and "Floor becomes a muddy quagmire, halved movement this turn".
The Tentacle Dungeon had "Distant groaning and shuddering sound, denizens distracted by the great tentacle's sermons this turn" and "Questing tentacle slithers through room, will summon enemies if disturbed".

Basically put a couple of interesting environmental effects in this category. Between these results and the encounters, different dungeons will hopefully feel very different from each other.

5 & 6. Light Source Burnout
Torches have two checkboxes. Lanterns have 4 checkboxes.
On a 5 or 6, tick off a torch checkbox.
On a 6, tick off a lantern checkbox.

This means that, on average, torches last 6 turns (1 hour) and lanterns last 24 turns (4 hours). Just like they're meant to! Plus there's some variance in how long they last. How lovely.

Overland Encounters

You can do a lot of messing about with Overland encounter tables.
The beating heart of my overland encounter tables is this absolutely inspired Procedure for Wandering Monsters by John Bell.
The core innovation is that you have a standard table of encounters paired with a sliding scale of severity. You roll for encounters and also roll a d6 for severity.
If players are up for it, they can keep track of the numbers rolled so they can predict what's out there.
You end up with something like this:
Click to Expand - or Drive sheet here
As you can see, each Encounter also has an entry for Lair, Spoor, Tracks, Traces and Traces/Benign.
This is explained at the link, but I'll reiterate how I do it here for ease of access.


Encounter: Your classic encounter. You basically stumble right into the situation, or they stumble into you.
Lair: Either an actual lair, or a situation where they're real close. Either way, you might be able to avoid an encounter if you take immediate action.
Spoor: They're real close! Encounter easily avoided, but also easily approached.
Tracks: Evidence that something's been past here recently. You can usually follow the tracks if you want.
Traces: Some evidence pointing to the existence of the encounter in the area.
Traces/Benign: Some more evidence or, if I can't think of anything, some vaguely on-theme set dressing.

Weighting Tables

You likely already know about bell curves, where the average result of two or more dice is most likely to occur. On overland encounter tables I usually use 2dX, so it's weighted towards the middle of the table, and put the most common encounterables there.

The clever thing you can do is vary what you roll on the table to get some variation within the area.
Maybe you don't want the elven forest to be completely homogenous, and want to weight it so there's more magic treant stuff near the centre, and more natural normal stuff near the edges of the forest.
Maybe you want the Dragon to only be found near its lair on the east of the map.
Maybe you've got two factions in the area and you want more of one faction to be around their base in the north, and more of the other around their base in the south.
You don't need to break the area into smaller zones, just vary what you're rolling.

There's two main ways I do this:

Roll Different Dice
Down the bottom left of the encounter sheet image above, you'll see that the dice rolled on this encounter table change based on how dangerous the area is.
This table is for the Contested Farmlands area of my map, where man and necromancer alike are still dealing with the aftermath of Death Frost Doom.
In the safer areas close to cities and on main roads you only roll 2d6, limiting the results to the safer lower end of the table.
As you go deeper into unsafe territory, you roll 2d8 and then 2d10, increasing the scope of possible encounters and making the result more likely to be undead-related.

The other way I weight tables is to just add something to the roll.
On my River encounter table I wanted encounters to shade between the weird creature infested Deep Carbon Observatory aftermath at the top of the river, and the less fucked up area at the river mouth.
This means that results 2-5 can only be found in the DCO area, and results 17-20 can only be found at the rivermouth. So this is where you put the big rare stuff that's very specific to those areas, like a big ol' age of sail galley at the river mouth, or a big ol' Giant Cuttlefish around DCO.
Everything in between can be found further away from that main starting point.
Remember, the average roll also changes this way, so result 7 will be very common in the DCO area, rare in the Centre and, and not seen at all at the River Mouth.

Using Excel for fun and profit

Excel is fucking great, and you can do a lot of encounter table automation with it.
I'll go into the wacky world of automated subtables in the City Encounters section, but for now allow me to tell you a really simple trick.
You'll want to grab a copy of this sheet.

The main trick is RANDBETWEEN, aka the Excel diceroller.
=RANDBETWEEN(1,6) will roll 1d6.
=RANDBETWEEN(1,10)+RANDBETWEEN(1,10) will roll 2d10.

The other trick is that you can chain text into a formula with & and quotation marks.
="Ghouls ("&RANDBETWEEN(1,12)&") led by a Ghast" will give you Ghouls (1-12) led by a Ghast.

Thus endeth the lesson.

City Encounters

The trouble with towns and cities is that I want to make the district/borough/area unique, but also allow each district to be part of a cohesive whole.
So unlike, say, having a different encounter table for the Forest and the Mountains, or rolling different dice in different areas of the Forest, I want one that has a fair amount of overlap while also giving each area its own flavour.

First you want to split the city into zones. In Moondin, a town that was in the middle of riots, I had a central Anarchy Zone and several other zones under the control of various factions.
My campaign map's capital, Fortress-City Fate, has 12 main districts arrayed like the face of a sundial. Each district is defined by the sort of businesses or housing that the area is known for.

Rather than have a separate encounter table per district (too much effort), we're going to have table entries we swap out per district. The other results will be permanent fixtures or subtables that remain the same no matter where you go.

Here's the encounter table for Fortress-City Fate. It's the most complex one I have since it's the most important city in the country, and players can get embroiled there quite easily.

Drive link here if you want to check it out, you'll have to save your own copy though!

Man that's a lot of subtables and lookups!
It's all automated on the actual sheet, but this calls out what each thing means.
Cells highlighted in yellow point to subtables for things you'll see or experience in any district of the city.
Cells highlighted in blue are swapped out depending on the district.

The encounter roll at the bottom is the equivalent of the overland severity roll, just more loosely defined and city-related.
Clash between two encounters (result 3) isn't necessarily a fight, just one result affecting another.

District Differences

The blue-highlighted per-district results are the most important part.
My hope is that players who get lost, or find themselves popping out of a manhole somewhere after a deep dive into the undercity, might be able to work out where they are based on these.

For instance, Result 7 is "Common Local Encounter", which is the population you'll see most often in an area. It pulls from the following table:

So in the Lower Class district you'll often see money-grubbing urchins, while in the Learning district you'll come across lots of boisterous students.
Bear in mind that if the players look around they'll probably see these types of people, rolling them as an Encounter just means they're directly notable.

City Subtables

The yellow-highlighted cells are subtables for things that can happen anywhere in the city. This could be because it's a more generic result (like thieves), something that could happen anywhere (like a cart crash) or something that affects the entire city (like a rainstorm).

As an example, here's the City-Wide Event subtable:

This stuff could happen anywhere. You may notice that some results are from Vornheim, steal from it liberally!

Excel Again

You can automate this whole process with Excel. Rather than flipping between tabs or physical pages to use subtables, you can just pull everything into the one front page.
As an example of the final result, check these out.

Entertainment area

Middle Class area

If you already know the wonders of VLOOKUP (or its mighty brother, Index Match) then you have finished the blog post! Congrats!
For those who don't, you were going to have to learn one day.

First, make a table. Numbered first column, results in second column. Standard D&D stuff.

Second, set up your auto-roller with VLOOKUP. To our D&D-trained eye, the formula looks like this:
=VLOOKUP(Die Roll,Random Table Location,Column,FALSE)

Replace Die Roll with our good friend RANDBETWEEN. As in the Overland Encounters section, this is the Excel dice roller.
RANDBETWEEN(1,6) will roll 1d6.
RANDBETWEEN(1,10)+RANDBETWEEN(1,10) will roll 2d10.
Adjust to however many "dice" you want to roll on the table.

Replace Random Table Location with the coordinates of your table. 
If your table is between Cell A1 and Cell B10, this will be A1:B10.
Usually you just click and drag over the area.

Replace Column with 2 for a simple two-column table. This means that we'll get the result from the second column, ie. the results.

Keep FALSE as is. It needs to be there for some reason.

And voila! Your very own hands free in-Excel dice roller and results-giver.
Top tip: you can press F9 to reroll.

That's all folks

There's a bit of extra Excel bodgery going on in the Fate encounter table, but it's mostly based on VLOOKUPs. Feel free to poke around! If you need a hand, send me a message.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Animal Training for Non-Rangers

Animal Companions are a pretty sweet gig, but what if you don't have quasi-mystical mental control over your pet beast?
Looks like you're going to have to train it the hard way.

Instructions on how to use the spreadsheet itself are at the end, but links are here for convenience:
Animal Training sheet is here. (So you can save your own version)
Excel verson is here (Works better, click on the yellow box on the Lookup tab to get a drop-down menu of available creatures)
Gygaxian Democracy sheet that YOU can add to is here. (Add new creatures to the Backend tab and it should all update automagically)

This training system should result in a lot of emergent complexity from some fairly simple rules. That's the plan, anyway.


Animal Instinct

Each type of animal has four natural Instincts.
Take the humble dog.

This is the natural instincts of a dog, boiled down to four things.
In any given situation, the dog will follow these instincts.
If there is some doubt as to what the dog does in a situation, choose the course of action that satisfies the most Instincts. That's what the Weight column is for, just add them up and see which course of action has the most Weight.

But not all dogs act the same, right? That's silly! Let's add a random personality.

This dog LOVES to play. It's a very friendly dog. In fact, given the choice between barking at a stranger and playing with them, it'll choose to play every time.
Personality gives +1 to a single instinct, randomly chosen when you generate the dog.
This means dogs are generally either playful, yappy or clingy-protective. Good enough for me!

Finally, the most important part. Training!

With Training, you can adjust each of the dog's instincts up or down by one point.
So if you wanted a guard dog, you'd train it so it has +1 in "Bark at potential danger" and -1 in "Run around and play".

The exception to this whole thing is that every animal has the fourth instinct to Survive.
This always has 1 Weight, can't be Trained, and can't be boosted by Personality.
Every animal has the will to Survive. The only way to get over that instinct is to outweigh it. A dog's will to Survive can be outweighed by its will to protect its master.

The main wrinkle here is that the players have to work out what instincts an animal has. Fairly obvious for dogs, but more important if they try to train some exotic beast!


Training examples:

This dog has been trained as a guard dog. His instincts are weighted so he'll bark at strangers and protect his master.
Note that you can't completely train the dog's personality away, this guy will always want to run around and play if he's got nothing else to worry about. You can't train all the dogginess out of a dog.

This dog has been trained to be the friendliest dog in the world. His instincts are weighted so he'll will always prefer to run around and play (even at the expense of protecting his master) and never barks at danger.
Good for being your bestest friend, bad for adventuring.


So that's the basic concept, animals have Instincts and you can Train them to enhance or reduce how much they follow those instincts.
The neat part is that these instincts are different depending on the animal.

Here's a horse:

This horse will stay in his stall if he hears a loud noise, because "Remain safe and secure" is more powerful than "Flee danger and noise".
A more skittish horse with a "Flee danger and noise" personality might run away as soon as it hears a loud bang, causing horses with strong "follow the herd" instincts to follow!
The trick with a horse is to make the horse consider you part of their herd, much like the trick with a dog is to make him consider you his master.

And here's a giant spider:

Good luck training this thing, she's got no instinct that makes her want to follow you. Spiders aren't domesticated. Without Training, the best you could do is try to make her change her territory, and maybe chase her towards enemies with a light. Make sure you're not on your own though, because this spider's instinct to "Ambush lone prey" outweighs its instinct to "Stay away from light"!

This is a good example of why the Survive instinct is important. If this spider sees lone prey with a light wandering about outside it's territory, it won't bother approaching.
But if the spider is hungry, the need to Survive will clock in and it'll leave its territory and ignore its light aversion in order to eat that tasty morsel.
Keep a spider hungry if you want it to eat your foes!

You could use this for working out wild creature's reactions if you wanted to go that far, but you'd do just as well with a reaction roll honestly. Best for pets.

The other trick with predators - try not to be considered Prey

Teaching Tricks

"But how do I teach my doggo to play Fetch?" you say.

Behold, the Learned Instincts section aka Tricks.
The Learned bit is where you put new instincts you've trained into your dog.
Two crucial points:
- Once an animal fills up a slot with a trick, it can't be unlearned. That's permanent. You can't teach an old dog new tricks and all that.
- Not all animals can learn new tricks. Dogs get all 4 slots, horses get 2 slots, undomesticated beasts (like Giant Spiders) get none.

Let's train your doggo to Sit, Shake, and Sic Balls.
You can improve or negate these learned instincts through Training, like natural instincts.
If you want your command to Sic Balls to outweigh the dog's instinct to Survive, you'll want to add +1 to that learned instinct through Training.
But if you give away your dog to a good home, training him not to Sic Balls on command any more is probably a good idea!

But How Do You Actually Train Things

Honestly, for all the layered complexity of this system, I'm leaving that to player skill.
The core difficulty of this system on the player side is:
- How do I identify the creature's instincts?
- How do I train those instincts?

Instead of an Animal Handling skill, it's on them to work out what a creature wants and what to do to train it. Plus, since it's player skill, they'll get better at training a certain type of animal over time.

The other issue is time.
You don't have to be especially strong or kind or wise to train an animal, but you do need patience.

Training an existing Instinct takes one week.
This can be done during normal adventuring time, presumably while you're resting between adventuring days.
You have to say what you're doing to train it. If it can't understand what you're trying to make it do, or you really freak it out, or otherwise fuck up - see Stress Mishaps below.
If you succeed, at the end of the week it gets a +1 or -1 to whatever instinct you were working on!

Teaching a new Instinct takes one week.
This has to be done during downtime, no adventuring for you while you're training a new trick!
You have to say what you're doing to teach it. If you try to teach it more tricks when it's already filled up those slots, or really freak it out, or otherwise fuck up - see Stress Mishaps below.
If you succeed, at the end of the week fill one of its Learned Instinct slots with the new trick!

I figure it's up to the DM to work out what is and isn't good for a particular animal. What's good for a dog isn't useful for a horse, etc.
Of course, in either case, you could pay a trainer to train your animal for you. Dog trainers and horse trainers are likely to exist, basilisk trainers not so much. You're on your own there!

This is a lot of work, but if you want perfect control of an animal you should play as the animal dominator class. Otherwise it's on you to train your beasts as best you can!

Stress Mishaps

All that said, this is basically just programming. Sometimes there will be times when your pet simply locks up based on this simple AI, usually because it has two equally weighted but conflicting options on what to do.
In a non-stressful situation it'll probably just lie down or look around for food.
In a stressful situation it needs something to break the deadlock. That's when a Stress Mishap happens.

And as above, if you fuck up training your animal you'll stress it out and cause a Stress Mishap too.

Just roll a d6 and see what the animal does! Gaining a permanent +1 to Personality will hopefully be fun, because it means an animal can get more set in its ways over time.

Walkies is over

The Table Itself

With all that knowledge at your side, and without further ado, here's the tables.

Animal Training sheet is here. (So you can save your own version)
Excel verson is here (Works better, you can use the List on the first tab to see what's available)
Gygaxian Democracy sheet that YOU can add to is here. (Add new creatures to Backend and it should all update automagically)

And here's the basics on how to use them:


This first page is where you can look up the instincts of a particular animal.
Put a "Y" under "Personality?" to generate a random personality. Put an "N" if you're going to choose it yourself.
In Excel, clicking the yellow box will give you access to a drop-down menu (down arrow to the right) with all the available animals in it. It's pretty neat.

Individual Player Tabs

This is where you put each PCs unique beasts so you can track them and update them whenever they get trained or stressed.


Probably best to copy-paste values from this Template tab rather than the Lookup tab.
To paste values: Copy an area then press Ctrl+Alt+V and select "Values".


This is where the magic happens - the database of all the creatures and instincts you've added thus far.
When adding a new creature:
- Put its name four times in the Creature column (so it's easy to sort)
- Add 3 animal-specific instincts plus Survive
- Add how many Learning Slots it has at the end of the row.

Everything should have updated automatically, so you can go ahead and try typing it into the Lookup tab to see if it pulls everything through correctly.


Woah, henchmen are on here?!
Yes, turns out this works out ok for human minions too. It feels weird to put them on the Animal Training table but there you go.
The big difference is that they check Morale if you ask them to do something they're not inclined to do. On success, they do it anyway.
Also you can't train people like animals (probably). Instead, after every session or delve, add an extra thing that they've learned that might influence their future actions.
"Don't trust the PCs" is a common one, naturally.

There's an entry for generic hired Henchmen, and an entry for Followers who are your more unique NPC characters and hangers-on. The latter get some bespoke "instincts" that describe how they act on a more individual level.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Unified House Rule Document Update AND Handy Linked PDF

Mid-year update whaaaat.

Mostly this is because I'm always a little bit "oh no!" when I discover someone's been reading the house rule doc and it's NOT UP TO DATE OH NO.

Occasionally I get a comment that's like "hey could you put all the Lorebonds and elf powers and stuff into the one pdf?" so that it can basically be played out of the box.
The answer is - kinda!

You can now find a Linked PDF Version here. Intended to be used/perused digitally, everything you need an external resource should have a handy-dandy link.

You can find the non-Linked PDF Version here. Intended to be printed out for table use.

Linked Version

Unlinked Version

For context for some of these changes, at the beginning of the year we had the campaign's first ever TPK! So we skipped the timeframe forward half a century so people could see what's happened in the interrim.
How exciting!

Change Log:


- Added Zeanism, based on the teachings of one of the player characters who took the Termaxian "do whatever you want, the gods aren't watching!" thing to heart.
Basically this is the drug religion now, and the Cleric spell allows you to take drugs with no downsides!
- Termaxianism has changed in the last 50 years, mostly because they're pretty sure that God lost the final war for all creation. Now it's up to them to finish the fight. No change besides their general lore.
- Nonanism is now accepting of the Undead and Necromancy in general. Pragmatism or corruption? Who can say? Another lore change, they're mechanically the same. 

Char Gen:

- Removed the Cartographer equipment pack because it contained paper and pens and I can't be fucked to enforce the need for paper in order to draw a map any more. It was a boring idea anyway.

Experience Points:

- Added Party Roles as directly inspired by John Bell at the Retired Adventurer. This has been real useful for keeping track of stuff and keeping players engaged even if they're not directly involved in the action.

Living Standards:

- Originally you needed to get to Comfortable conditions in order to heal from 0HP to 1HP, no longer! Otherwise it interacts weirdly with the "Take a Break" option where you eat a ration to heal 1d6 HP.
- Comfortable conditions now give you an extra 1d6 bump if you're already at full health! You'd imagine everyone would prefer comfy sleeps, but if you get nothing extra at max health you may as well save your money and live in a bin.
- Splendid conditions grant 1d6+level extra temp HP, since Comfortable conditions stole that thunder.

Big Purple d30 Rule

- Now upgrades a single die roll to the next die size when used. Previously you could replace any single roll with the Big Purple d30, which had the surprisingly underwhelming effect of making it an "I Win" button. This compounded by the large number of d30s players would accrue through buying me beer...

Downtime Activities

- Magical Research went through a few changes to make it slightly more interesting.

Fancy Combat Actions

- Changes to Sneak Attack. Now you roll when attacking from surprise to find your extra attack bonus, and enemies with high Awareness (renamed Search) have a chance of avoiding the damage multiplier.

Fancy Combat Reactions

- Split these off into their own heading.
- Parry covers all defensive melee actions. Smaller weapons can counter, larger weapons can disarm, and setting spears against charge is now covered under the Parry banner.

Melee Weapon Types

- One day I'll probably either remove these or make them Fighter-only, but for now I'm simplifying further. I've got lots of players and don't want things to stay as fiddly as they were.
- Axes remain the same - double damage on evens vs low armour.
- Hammers get +2 vs Chain or better. Straight up.
- Swords get +1 to hit across the board. Versatile, never a bad choice, a little boring.
- Knives give bonus damage if you beat their AC with your Wrestle Roll because you're shanking the shit out of them.
- Whips remain.

Ranged Weapon Options

- Flintlocks are in the game post-timeskip! Hurrah! That's basically it.

Death & Dismemberment

- Rewritten for the millionth time. This remains one of my favourite subsystems but boy is it hard to explain when you're not just passing out dice around a table.

Running Away

- Added a section on this very important aspect of not dying.

New Skills

- Search renamed to Awareness.
- Sneak Attack: When attacking from Surprise, roll Sneak Attack. On success, gain the result as a bonus to hit. If the enemy fails an Awareness check, multiply damage by your whole Sneak Attack score. Even your standard 1-in-6 character gets a little benefit maybe.

Saving Throws

- Hey what I renamed them! Makes it easier, and I don't think I ever called a save vs device.
- Stun, Doom, Blast, Law, Chaos.
- All as per usual, except Law is your save vs Lawful magic. Makes that more of a divide I guess!

Also one of my players made a rad new character sheet. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

FLEE!!! Snakes & Ladders chase mechanics

Some time ago I posted that Snakes & Ladders is the superior way of conducting a chase sequence in D&D.
Some time later, I was at an OSR game day and people agreed!

And so David Black made this doozy of a thing -

So much improvement! Find it here.

This is, of course, the tits. Some slightly different rules for my game though, as follows.


- Pursuers go last.
- Each group rolls 1d6+Speed Die of the slowest member of the group and moves that many spaces.
- Movement can be forwards or backwards.
- Distance is abstract, after each roll the DM will yell a choice at the Pursued. If they don’t answer before the Pursuer’s dice hit the table, they choose a route at random.
- Groups can split up into smaller groups at will. Doing so must be decided before the group's pursuit roll, and groups cannot rejoin until the chase is over.

Speed Dice
- Speed Dice are based on encumbrance:
  - Unencumbered - 1d10
  - Lightly Encumbered - 1d8
  - Heavily Encumbered - 1d6
  - Severely Encumbered - 1d4
  - Over Encumbered - 0

- If Pursuers catch up to the Pursued or get to the end, the chase is over and the Pursuers automatically win initiative.
- If the Pursued get to the end, they've lost their pursuers!

My alterations are pretty ghetto, but laminated to the back of the Marching Order sheet so you can flip it!

Additional Notes:

It's pretty much perfect.
Easily grasped, unpredictable, exciting, it's everything you need a chase to be.
Plus it's abstract, so you can use it for anything from dungeon chases to horseback races.

In my game, this is basically the only thing that encumbrance really matters for. I tend to just eyeball encounter roll frequency, and combat movement speeds are boooooring as fuuuuuck.
Armour is a tradeoff between protection and escape speed. Treasure is a tradeoff between money/exp earnings and escape speed. Having lots of stuff just-in-case is a tradeoff between preparedness and escape speed.
It all boils down to whether you'll be able to run away.

Ending each roll with a LEFT OR RIGHT?! or STRAIGHT OR DOOR?! is fun because it means the party's likely to get lost if they're not used to the place.
I have them flip their maps when a chase begins to make it harder. Keep up the pressure.
I mark which choice they took on a secret sheet, that way after the chase ends I can go through the dungeon map and see where they ended up. Hopefully in the lair of another monster!
The thing with splitting into smaller units means fast guys can leave slow guys behind if they want. If you've got one guy loaded up with Plate and Shield and Greatsword, you can leave him behind to fight off the monsters while everyone else escapes!
Groups can't reform until the chase is over, so if you run off on your own you've got a better chance of escaping but you'll be alone if you end up getting caught.
This is also good for when people have to flee in two different directions. Good luck finding each other now, kids!

Oh and finally, squares 20 and 21 on the table are "Quickly!" and "Slow going!".
I have these change the base d6 pursuit die to d8 and d4 respectively.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Making Magic: Spell, Potion and Scroll Creation for Wizards and Clerics

PDF here.

Main changes are adding some tables to roll on when Chaotic classes research spells, and adding a minigame where Clerics can craft Protection Scrolls by killing stuff with a blessed weapon.
Hopefully it's more interesting than the default!

So spell research! Something I'd never really thought about much.
Base LotFP has it as a time sink and a money sink. You gamble how much time (and thus, money) you're going to spend, the DM rolls how long you actually needed to spend, and if you gambled too low you lose the time and money.
As Perttu is fond of saying and Logan points out in his spell research rules, this is boring as fuck.

The reason I haven't really gone into it much is that I quite like time and money sinks.
Time sinks mean I can jump the timelines of various encroaching dooms forward, and also hopefully make game time keep up with real time.
Money sinks are because it's always nice to have another thing for players to burn money on.
Keep them poor. That keeps them hungry for more!

The other thing is I quite like the idea that a wizard spends time researching spells alone in a tower while their friends are having fun carousing in the town below.

The Last Gasp spell research stuff is pretty kickass, but I do want to keep Spell Research as a downtime time sink and my wizards have got more trad spellcasting mechanics than Logan's Maleficar.
Also I needed to put Cleric spell stuff on there.

So I basically boiled it down to this. Intended to be printed double-sided.
Costs in silver standard as normal for me, change it to gp if you use a gold standard.

Making Magic: Lawful Version
Making Magic: Chaotic Version

For Chaos

The chief gimmick is still that it's a gamble, except unlike base LotFP a failure means you suffer some sort of negative consequence beyond just wasting time and money.
This is most notable in Spell Research itself. You could lose that spell slot forever!
On the other hand I don't want manufacturing consumable potions and scrolls to be a massive risk. What's the harm? They only get to use it once, and it's never actually come up in my game yet.

Some notes on modifiers:
  • There's no bonus per level. I don't want to hamstring low level casters, and I don't want high level casters to succeed automatically.
  • People can still just spend the maximum amount of time to ensure success. I'm ok with that, at least it means they burn a bunch of money and time.
  • You can still research spells if you can't find a big enough library, it just takes longer and/or is more risky.

Some notes on the rest.
Changes for those who aren't using all of my house rules in
  • Arcana is a skill that replaces Architecture in my game. Int score improves Arcana, as does having Identify prepared. Intelligent wizards with access to Identify can thus get a sizable bonus.
    >Just ignore the Arcana bonus if you don't use it, it's easy to get bonuses just from spending more time anyway.
  • Spell Research, second result: "Can only be cast via a spell swap" refers to my house rules. Casters can swap spells on casting, but risk doom on Last Gasp's Cast the Bones table.

    >Change to something like "take spell level in damage whenever you cast it"
  • Scroll Making, second result: "Even you need to use Arcana or Read Magic to use this scroll" refers to another house rule.
    Anyone can roll Arcana to use a scroll, even if they're not a caster. If a caster uses Read Magic on a class-appropriate scroll they can use it without needing to roll Arcana.
    >Could be swapped for something like "Scroll is half as effective"

For Law

Clerics, as the only Lawful caster class, have a less random system.
Because Law is reliable and Chaos is random. Something something thematic mechanics.
I also like that Holy Water and the new Protection Scroll mechanic require returning to the same church every day. I like this because Clerics are encouraged to stick around one church for a while, even if they adventure in the meantime.

Holy Water:
Pretty much as per LotFP. Bless the same font of water every day for ten days, receive a vial of holy water.
Differences are you can make a few at a time if you're willing to use up more than one Bless per day (not explicit in the LotFP rules), and if someone drinks it they get affected by your Denomination Spell.

Spell Scroll:
As per LotFP, without the rolling.

Protection Scroll:
Big changes! And hopefully a fun mini-game.
LotFP has some strange mechanic where you have to sacrifice creatures of the appropriate type and the total HD slain is the percentage chance the scroll is actually created.
Which is cool and all, but having to commit goblin genocide in order to reliably get a scroll that keeps them away for up to an hour is a hard sell. By the time your scroll's ready, there won't be any goblins left!

Now its a minigame where the Cleric has to kill creatures with a special knife they create, and at some point they'll have killed enough for the Protection Scroll to be completed!
You can still do this in a church, and it's still percentage based (guess I lied when I said god doesn't play dice with the universe), but the key thing is that you can make your sacrifices when you're out adventuring.
Want to make a Protection from Goblins scroll? Go out there and kill goblins! With the knife! In the name of your god! But make sure you're only killing goblins, anything else makes all your prior effort for nothing.
You could also kill just one goblin then wait around until you eventually get the Scroll. It's 50sp a day and you've got to stick around the church though.

This also leaves it open for Clerics to have multiple Protection Scrolls (and thus multiple ritual knives) on the go at once, making sure they're murdering the goblins with their Goblin Knife and humans with their Man Knife.
I don't think there's a literary precedent for this, but it sounds pretty cool.

"What if I don't want to use a knife?!"
Any minor weapon is fine, mostly so you have to remember to use it if you want those sweet sweet Sacrifice points.
Fuck, although, a wax-sealed pistol reserved for killing demons would be rad as hell. Maybe you have to put a seal on every shot?! I'd probably allow this.

this was a cool thing in Equilibrium but there are NO good screenshots of the cross-shaped muzzle flash

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

So I Helped Make Secret Munticore

This is a review of a product that will blow your mind.
It is Secret Munticore.
Back in 2016, since Santicore just never happened, a bunch of us Mongrels decided to do our our shitty version of it.
What followed was a bunch of horrible requests, followed by a bunch of replies that were actually pretty good!? At least... some were.
The good David Black said he'd put it all into a pdf for us... and that never happened. So after some grousing in the group I just went at it with scissors and paper and a marker pen, scanned it in, and scooped all the trash into one purchasable trash heap.

I will deal with each nugget of geniousness in order.

Apps by Oli Palmer
A whole list of pretend fantasy smartphone apps to assist your players with their lives.
Do they not have smartphones?
They do now!
Why do they have smartphones?
Post-apocalyptic something something!

Basement Referee by Nick LS Whelan
A terrifying "monster" encounter where YOU THE REFEREE are the monster.
A referee who lives in a basement and makes things terrible for everyone around them.
Gives true ultimate power to whoever defeats it.

Bears by Gregory Blair
Greggy-boy's first foray into the making-things-for-other-people santicore-style melting pot.
He put a heap of effort into this as a result. God knows why.
Anyway, you've got a big TWELVE new bear-based monsters for horrifying your players with.
I decided to try and doodle all the bears which is why I ended up illustrating more. Poor bears.

This bear is made of herpes
Beers by James Young
I don't know who this James Young guy is but he fucking nailed this one. 26 beer ingredients, each with flavour imparted and in-game effects!?
Holy shit this guy is amazing.
And he did all the interior art!? What an animal!

Bordello, Orc by Evey Lockhart
A short but juicy (the wrong sort of juice) table for spicing up the inevitable whore-fights in your D&D games.
My players end up in Orcish whorehouses at least twice a session so this is going to be massively useful.

Christmas Party by Tore Nielsen
Nobody asked Tore to do this, and he did it anyway.
An encounter table of things that could happen at a mongrel christmas party.
We got animated tinsel.
We got a diabetic.
We got whoever Waylon Jennings is.
We got the best party, basically.

Elderly Lady by Tore Neilsen
Tore's "real" entry involves the goings-on behind the closed doors of the elderly lady in 4a.
She's up to all sorts, let me tell you.
Can easily be reskinned to a space opera setting if you replace the elderly lady with an elderly alien sitting on a space chair watching space telly.

The thousand yard stare of those who've seen too much
Familial Complications by Jarrett Crader
In the most personally-affecting entry in the Munticore rankings this year, Jarrett delves too deep into his own soul and experiences to portray a dire portrait of a family edging close to ruin behind a fantasy veneer.
Liminal spaces are crossed, boundaries are transgressed, and your sister is inseminated by your grandad's evil twin.
A harrowing journey into the id, where the question of self is constantly brought into question.
Plus discover whether you win D&D.

Jarrett Bum by David Black
David Black shows us exactly what's been hidden from view for too long.
There are many strange things up there, but in true D&D style we use the oracular power of dice to discover what was truly there all along.
The capacity for a single random roll to change the fiction in such a massive way is something to be celebrated.

Mongrel Carouse by Reece Carter
Given the prompt of "a carousing table with meth on it", Reece crafts gold.
Iconoclasm. STIs. No less than seven results that involve smoking something weird.
An easy addition to any carousing table, maybe to roll on if someone rolls a mishap they've already had?

Mutant Pet Table by Richie Cyngler
Boy, we've had the Esoteric Creature Generator and the LotFP Summon spell and the Guests in Red and Pleasant Land, but they all quail before the mighty Roll-All-the-Dice mutant pet table.
Does YOUR random mutant/demon tables have such wonders as the Hard-Face Fake SLime Dominator that devours goodwill or the Mysoginist Gnome which is so foul it defies even description?
That is the sort of shit you're getting from this crazy table. If anything, this is the thing that's worth the price of admission.

I don't think anyone's having a good time in this book

Unicorns by Christian Kessler
Delving deep into the ancient layers of mythology, Christian reinvents unicorns for the modern age.
Also many of the results may be useful for manticores.
We've got some crazy shit in here, like a rad motorbike unicorn mutation and a unicorn whose blasted-off skin makes you invisible but ALSO forces you to hunt down and kill the rest of its still living body.
Grim shit.
Also a unicorn with a dick for a horn, obviously.

What are we doing?! by Ben L
Given possibly the most difficult prompt because Evey couldn't get her shit together to ask a proper request, Ben L still manages to put on a good show.
This would be a sick way of starting off a new campaign. "You all got fucked up and ended up.. roll dice!" and now you've just got to deal with the consequences.
Go wild!

this is all performance art

So there you have it! A thorough review of the worst best the OSR has to offer.
You can buy it here.
My mum bought 5 copies and has stopped talking to me.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Running for Big Groups

Since early 2015 I've been running for BIG GROUPS more or less constantly. We usually hover around 7-10 players per session.
This is great (since I never run into problems with not enough people showing up, a holdover worry from the shaky early days) but difficult to manage if you're not used to it.

This boat battle had 4-5 different mini scenes going on at once involving 8 players, it was awesome

So here are some tips.

Running the Game

Tell them to speak up
Possibly the most important, and something I learnt from Courtney when I was in one of his big hangouts games.
Make sure you stress that a big group is ok but you need people to speak up if they want to do something. Players want to be involved, so let them help you!
With this many players, it's not worthwhile to concern yourself with how much "spotlight time" people are getting. It's going to have to be up to them to seize the spotlight, and up to the group to give them that spotlight if they're not a natural spotlight-grabber.
Just keep an eye out for people who seem like they're about to say something but get interrupted by a louder voice. A quick "hold that thought" is usually all you need so you can circle back round to them.

Be lenient
Alex Chalk states this well in his recent Maze Rats house rule guidelines. Interpret play actions in good faith.
In a large group, it's very possible that someone at the table misheard or wasn't concentrating on something that happened way over on the other side of the table. Dumb "gotcha" stuff isn't usually fun, and being in a bigger group makes it worse.
I find it useful to get other players to describe what's going on for me, because it's not uncommon for me to discover that the whole group's imagining something differently to what I had in my head.
Usually a simple "so you're doing X, do you realise that Y?" is enough to realign understandings.

Embrace the chaos
There is going to be a LOT going on, and sometimes things will happen that just screw up everything! Spells will go awry, somebody will shoot into melee and hit a friend, a crit or fumble (fairly common when you've got up to ten people rolling attacks) will completely fuck you over, and all those random abilities and bits and pieces any normal party picks up over time will turn up at the worst possible time.
Embrace it!
If something really crazy happens, it's a good idea to take stock at the end of the round or other convenient break point. Give a little summary of the current situation. This is so that you can get a handle on what's going on, so the players can work out how this changes their plans, and so the guy at the end of the table who missed it can enjoy the spectacle of the dad-faced eel that is wriggling its way from the wizard's throat even now.

Split the party! 
If it gets too big, split the party! This is classic bad advice, but it works with big groups.
Make the two groups change seats to sit together to help with attention-switching. Easiest in sprawling megadungeons because they've got splitting paths in which you can run two parties more easily, but we've also had geographically displaced mini-parties before, with one group in a dungeon and another group travelling in the overworld. This gets chronologically messy when the groups are travelling on different timescales, but whatever.
If you haven't run a split party before, the main trick is this - get one group to a decision point where they can discuss what to do next, then switch to the other.

Group Initiative
It's really easy to get bogged down in combat with a big group. Group Initiative solves this little problem by meaning anyone can go at any time during the player's round. I'll generally sweep round the circle from one side to the other, and come back to anyone who's still deciding what to do.
Also with a big group, it's ok to be a bit heavy-handed with exactly how much a person is able to do in a round.
In a smaller group I'll tend to let several smaller actions slide, in a larger group it's going to be a round to grab the potion AND a round to drink it. The party has TONS of actions at their disposal, so it's ok to leech them away when you can. Just make sure you're not devaluing actions that are more interesting than "I attack". If someone wants to drink a potion AND attack in the same round, I'd probably ask for a Gambit.

Party roles
Something else I've been trying recently that's been well received is to use a variation on John Bell's Party Roles. They work well! It keeps people engaged because they're still keeping track of what's going on, and also takes off some of the DM overhead.

Party roles in my game, in general order of priority, are as follows:
Remembrancer: Records what's happening so I can do the recaps more easily.
Caller: Announces what the group as a whole is doing. This is even more important in a split party situation - you want a Caller per group so when you switch back to them there's someone to tell you "this is what we're doing next".
Mapper: Drawing the maps. A classic role.
Treasurer: Keeping track of party loot.
Quartermaster: Keeping an eye on consumables, weapon breakage, and encumbrance.
Guard: Organising marching order and initiative, and rolling for random encounters.
Tracker: Tracking party HP, spells remaining, and special conditions.

I'm giving 100 bonus exp to anyone who takes on a role, as an extra bonus.

There may be a time when you say "there are too many characters" and you will probably be right.

Game to Run

Run a sandbox
Sandbox gameplay is important for big groups. Your plot-based campaign can and will fall down when a plot-centric player drops out without warning or someone leaves who was the only one who really cared about recovering the Nega-Gems of the Boom King. A sandbox means the game's much more resilient to change.
With so many people in your group, there's no doubt that at least one person will have a goal, and player-set goals are the key to running a good sandbox.
Also, make sure you've got a rumour table to drive player goal-setting. This isn't specific to large groups, it's just real important. You're the car, the players are the driver, and rumours are the fuel.

No Session Zero
Having an assumption-setting Session Zero is good advice for lots of games but bad advice for big groups. Session Zero is a lot of time spent not playing the actual game, and a lot of time for a bunch of people in the group to get bored.

Play with whoever's there
It's impossible to run for a big group if you're expecting everyone to be there every session. It's a good tip anyway, but having a sort of West Marches philosophy of "we play with whoever shows up" is absolutely crucial. Gameplay is more important than narrative continuity.
I've seen groups where a single player being off that night means that the people who showed up do some little one-shot or side quest or something, if you did that with a big group you'd never play at all!
The most important person at the table is, of course, you. It can't go ahead without you there, so be committed! Even if you feel a bit shit that day, drag yourself to that place.

Abandon game balance
Are you hoping to have at least some semblance of combat balance in your game? Good luck buddy!
Maybe you'll have ten players. Maybe you'll have 4 show up due to everyone else being on holiday or something.
You can't plan around player numbers and with larger groups your players will have way more raw firepower than ordinarily available to a party. Modules will be skewed, monsters will fall before the laws of averages, and something that would kill your average group of adventurers only slays half of them because the rest couldn't fit into the trap room.
Luckily there is a natural balancing system inherent in old school exp-for-loot. The players are safer and more powerful than the average party, but they're getting the same loot and sharing the same exp out amongst a larger group. They'll need to go to some REAL dangerous places if they want to level up as fast as a normal party.

Hardcore Mode
Apparently I'm more hardcore than I realised, since it's not as common as I imagined to enforce a "new characters come back at level 1" policy.
This does a few things to the game:
- Death is actually scary. Just generally a nice thing to have in D&D.
- Attendance is rewarded. If everyone levels up together, isn't it unfair to the guy who turns up every single week? Sure, they're there because they enjoy the game itself, but it's nice to have that translate into an actual in-game advantage.
- High level is a high score. It's a mark of pride. Getting to level 7 (the highest level anyone's ever attained in like 3 years of game) is a big fuckin' deal, and you feel massively powerful compared to any new players and characters that show up!
- Increases campaign longevity. If people are occasionally dying and working their way back up the ladder, it keeps play from straying too far from the grotty lower level stuff I like running. This thing could go forever, there's no distant endgame where the players are arbitrarily powerful and have to fight gods to find a fair fight.
On that last point, it might seem that the massive setback of losing a higher level character and coming back as a level 1 woobie would be constant slam on the brakes for the party's capabilities as a whole. Yet somehow the power of the party as a whole is always increasing. Characters may die, but the party remains.

Play somewhere that's not someone's house if at all possible
I'm lucky enough to run my game at a pub, which is ideal. Access to food and drink, fairly central, enough room for everybody, staff to clear up the mess.
Plus it's hard to get ten people sitting around a table in a flat in London, and a bit of a dick move to your housemates who have to deal with a swarm of people all showing up at once and queuing for the toilet. And it'll be difficult for at least some of your players to get home, because the vagaries of fate ensure that at least one or two people will live right across the other side of the city!
These are pretty London-specific problems though.

And finally...
Enjoy your good luck! There are heaps of people who can't manage to get together even a small group of players. Obviously you're running a pretty good game if all these people keep coming back week after week!

You can do it! I believe in you!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Dungeons and Druggies

You guys wanna get fucked up?

Having my campaign area's capital as an exaggerated fantastical other-London means that London's furtive yet pervasive drug culture gets blown up into a whole RANGE of fantasy drugs!
Good times for all! Unless you get addicted and it ruins your life of course, but that's by the by.

Mind-Altering Substances table here.

The silly names for real drugs were initially placeholders, but I kept them because I think they're a little bit endearing and give some plausible deniability if the drug doesn't work quite how the player was imagining.
"Oh no, our characters aren't taking ecstasy! This is a fantasy drug called Unmandy!"
Do feel free to change the names in your own game.

Mind-Altering Substances: Gygaxian Democracy Edition table here.
If you make up more drugs for your game, definitely add them in.

The basic mechanics are meant to be simple enough to bolt onto any game. 
Drugwise, the upsides are meant to be useful enough to make getting high on a dungeon crawl a tempting proposition, and the downsides bad enough to make drug addiction a big deal for your characters.
You may notice some Fallout influence, and that some Narcosan drugs feature on the Rare Drugs part of the table. I'll be adding more over time, I'm sure!

Here's how it works.


  1. Take a drug and get its Upsides and Downsides for the Duration.
  2. If you're already on something and you take something else, also roll for Drug Miscibility
  3. At the end of a day in which you took drugs, check for Tolerance
  4. If you have a Tolerance to a drug and haven't taken it in the last 7 days, check for Withdrawal


Take a dose of a drug, and you're saddled with Upsides and Downsides for the drug's Duration.
Extra doses stack.

Sick. Smash a couple doses of Alterket and you're taking -2 damage per die from all sources and won't pass out from Pain, but you've got -2 AC, move 2 encumbrance levels slower, and the DM keeps track of your HP in secret.
Good for when you're about to run into a room of unfriendly looking cultists with 1d4 damage daggers. Bad for running away from the demon they just summoned.

Mixing Drugs

Mixing your drugs is a gamble at the best of times.

Any time you're on something and take something else, roll 1d6 on the Miscibility table for each category of drug currently in your system.
So if you're on a depressant and then take another depressant, roll once on the Depressant table.
If you're on a depressant and then take a stimulant, roll once on the Depressant table AND once on the Stimulant table.

For the DM - decide now whether you can be bothered to track what mixes with what. I probably won't bother (you never can be sure about the purity), but it might be cool to do it on a per-combination or even per-character basis.
Everyone knows that Notcoke goes great with a couple of pints of lager... right? Or so you think until your mate passes out on his bar stall and cracks his head on the way down.

Tolerance / Addiction

The main downside to drugs is, famously, addiction.
The true tragedy of drugs to the end user is, in fact, tolerance.
This mechanic is meant to model both at once.

Well I mean, the real tragedy is dying of an overdose, but I figure if you're a heroic player character who can eat a few sword thrusts to the face you're heroic enough to snort a line as long as your arm.
Take drugs and there's a chance you'll build up points of Tolerance.

At the end of each day, Save vs Poison per drug you took that day with the following modifiers:
  • +/- Tolerance modifier (see table)
  • +/- Wis modifier
  • +1 for each Tolerance point you already have with the drug.
  • -1 for each dose of the drug taken that day

Success, and you're fine. No change.
Failure, and you gain a Tolerance point with the drug.

Each point of Tolerance builds up Tolerance Effects.
Generally the Tolerance Effect is the opposite of what the drug does, or a downside that the drug will make irrelevant.
So not only do you have to take more of the stuff to get the same effect, you've also got to take a bit of it to take the edge off and act sorta-normally.

Damn. Your Alterket habit is catching up with you and you've gained an Alterket Tolerance point. You take +1 damage per die from all sources and take double penalties from Pain.
Good thing taking a dose of Alterket will equalise the first effect and nullify the other...

Kicking the Habit

So you're addicted to something and don't want to be addicted any more.
Or even worse, your stash ran out a couple of days ago and you're still stuck in this stupid dungeon!
What to do?
Whatever happens, it's going to suck.

The easiest thing to do is shift your addiction onto some other substance, hopefully something that it's easier for you to obtain and/or control.
The hardest thing to do is go cold turkey.

If you have Tolerance points in a drug, you've got to take it at least once a week or risk going into withdrawals.
If you haven't taken it in the last 7 days, Save vs Poison with the following modifiers:
  • +/- Wis modifier
  • -1 for each point of Tolerance you have with the drug
  • +1 for each point of Tolerance you have towards other drugs
Success, and you can remove a Tolerance point for the drug.
Failure, and you double the Tolerance Effects until you take the drug again.
If you get this result again, triple the Tolerance Effects until you take the drug again, and so on.

A bad Example to children

Jack is the party Fighter. He knows the next room is dangerous - full of ratmen at least. Ratmen like to set ambushes and to grapple you and bite you.
Luckily Jack's brought some Notcoke with him! Keeps you alert for ambushes and bumps up your melee skills. He carefully unpicks the little paper wrap, pretends to sneeze, and takes a couple of bumps off of the end of his dagger while he "blows his nose".
BOOM. It kicks in! He's PUMPED! +2 to Search and +2 to melee!

2 doses of Notcoke - Upside is +1 to Search and +1 to melee per dose.

The only downside is he's got to Save or do something risky and impulsive - he saves successfully, but they were planning to charge into the room anyway!
He boots down the door, sees the Ratmen dropping from their ambush position on the ceiling, and charges into GLORIOUS BATTLE!

2 doses of Notcoke - Downside is Save vs Paralyze or do something risky and impulsive with a -1 penalty to the save per dose.

That evening, Jack's regaling the people at the local tavern with his exploits. His teammates look at him with wide-eyed awe. "I can't believe you saw the ratman that jumped out behind me!" says the Wizard. "You were amazing, Jack!" says the Elf he's got a crush on.
He gets to bed and peels off his ratblood-soaked armour.
He has to check for Tolerance. He's got average Wisdom and Notcoke has a +0 Tolerance modifier, so he's just rolling a Save vs Poison at -2.
Shit, he failed.
Jack gains 1 Notcoke Tolerance point.

Check for Tolerance:
+0 for Notcoke's Tolerance modifier. 
+0 for average Wis. +0 for having no Tolerance to it. -2 for doses taken today.

The next day he wakes up feeling groggy. Weird. -1 to Search. -1 to melee. 
Entering the dungeon the next day, he feels like he's not up to his usual dungeonbashing standards. 
On the sly, he does a fat line of Notcoke to keep his head in the game. 4 doses means he's up to +3 Search and +3 melee! -4 to his Save vs recklessness of course, so he's charging in more often than before, but why hold back when you're this good?
Over the next few weeks he'll begin relying on it more and more to get him through the adventuring day, and need to take more and more of it to get to his normal baseline.

1 Notcoke Tolerance point. Effect: -1 to Search and -1 to melee per Tolerance point.
4 doses of Notcoke - Upside is +1 to Search and +1 to melee per dose.
4 doses of Notcoke - Downside is Save vs Paralyze or do something risky and impulsive with a -1 penalty to the save per dose.

- A few weeks later -

Jack's been smashing Notcoke every time he goes into a dungeon. He's not even bothering to hide it any more.
He's got 5 Notcoke Tolerance points at this point, meaning he starts the day at -5 to Search and -5 to Melee.
The rest of his party is worried about him, but the few times he's taken their suggestion of delving without taking it he's been a fucking liability.

5 Notcoke Tolerance points. Effect: -1 to Search and -1 to melee per Tolerance point.

Finally he's caught stealing drug money from the party coffers and enough's enough.
"No delving until you get clean" says the hot Elf. He'll do it for her.
After a week of feeling fucking terrible, it's time to check for Withdrawal.

He's got 5 Notcoke Tolerance, average Wisdom, and no other addictions. That's -5 to his save.
He rolls a Save vs Poison at -5. Against the odds, it's a success! He feels marginally less shit!
The next day he's got 4 Notcoke Tolerance! That's -4 to Search and -4 to melee.
If all goes well, he'll have kicked this in a month.

Check for Withdrawal: +0 for average Wisdom. -5 for 5 Notcoke Tolerance points. +0 for other addictions.
4 Notcoke Tolerance points. Effect: -1 to Search and -1 to melee per Tolerance point.

Another horrible week goes by. It's time to check for Withdrawal again.
Same again with a -4. This is getting easier!
Or so it seems.
He rolls a Save vs Poison at -4 and... fails. God fucking damn it, he needs some Notcoke.
All Tolerance effects are doubled - now he's at -8 to Search and -8 to melee.

Check for Withdrawal: +0 for average Wisdom. -4 for 4 Notcoke Tolerance points. +0 for other addictions.
Withdrawal - double Tolerance effects until you take the drug again.
4 Notcoke Tolerance points. Effect + Withdrawal: -2 to Search and -2 to melee per Tolerance point.

He's never felt this bad! 
And he knows, he knows, that if he just took one little bump it'd be enough to set him back up to -4 for everything. He'll still bad, but not this bad. Just one little bump to get him level, then he'll be back on the wagon.
Fuck it. While the rest of the party is out, he rifles through their stuff to find where they hid the last of his stash... and finds it.
Just a little bit left, but it's enough. A single dose, and he's no longer affected by Withdrawal! Phew! Even though he knows this could give him another Tolerance point and set him back a week, it was worth it.
Unfortunately he's still got a negative Search skill so he doesn't even notice when the Elf comes in early and sees the party's stuff scattered all over the floor as he snorts a little line.
She gasps, tears in her eyes, and he starts at the sound!
He fails his save against doing something impulsive! He approaches to kiss her! And she easily wrestles his -3 melee penalty arse out of the room and tells him never to come back.

1 dose of Notcoke - Upside is +1 to Search and +1 to melee per dose.
1 dose of Notcoke - Downside is Save vs Paralyze or do something risky and impulsive with a -1 penalty to the save per dose.
Withdrawal reset

4 Notcoke Tolerance points. Effect: -1 to Search and -1 to melee per Tolerance point.

Now Jack's on the street, no job and no money and a ruthless Notcoke addiction.
At the end of the day he'll be checking to see if that single dose gave him another Tolerance point, but until then he's got to find some way to scrounge money and survive.
Add him to the encounter table boys, he's an NPC now.
Requiem for a Dungeoncrawler.

Tips for Cooking Up Drugs

So you're a DM and want to add more drugs to the the game.
Here are some tips!

  • In general, modifiers for upsides, downsides and tolerance are +/-1. This is so people can take several doses in order to improve the effects, and so that tolerance effects build up fairly slowly.
  • If it's something that you don't think is that dangerous (like Otherpot), feel free to make the upside negate any amount of Tolerance Effect. In the case of Otherpot it only takes one dose to negate all the Tolerance Effect you've accrued.
  • If you want the addiction to be harder hitting (like Notcoke), make the Tolerance the exact opposite of the Upside without negating any of the Downside.
  • If you want to make an addict act a bit weird all the time even when they're on it (like Unmandy), have a Tolerance Effect that can't be negated by taking the drug. With Unmandy, you're on a -1 to reaction rolls per Tolerance point but you can still read intentions from facial expressions. You're still useful in the party's negotiations unless you're speaking directly to people.
  • Don't go overboard with the Tolerance modifier. Maximum of +4 for extremely addictive and -4 for non-addictive.
    Psychological addiction is like 80% of addiction, man. Hell, I once met someone who was addicted to nangs of all things.