Sunday, January 1, 2023

Happy New Year and News

 Happy 2023!

I have a few items to share:

1. I've recently completed work on a tool I've developed for looking up spell descriptions for the HYPERBOREA (3rd edition) game. Check it out here:

2. There has been an issue with my lulu account, and printed DCC RPG reference booklets are currently unavailable for purchase. I've tried to simply create a new account and get the project back up, but the issue is that 6x9 saddle stitch seems to no longer be an option for print projects. It seems like I would have to do a perfectbound book, which I am loathe to do due to their inferior quality. Until I find a place that can host my project, you can get the printed book from Goodman Games here:

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Google Sheets Character Generator for Hyperborea 3rd Edition

Since COVID started about 22 months ago, my friends and I have been playing RPGs on Zoom/Foundry/Owlbear Rodeo/Google Jamboard/etcetera - every Wednesday. When I am Dungeon Mastering™, I've been running HYPERBOREA (formerly known as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea). I've really been enjoying the system. It strikes a great balance between fast and easy to run, and lots of crunchy bits to tinker with and discover as you go.

Somewhere along the way, we developed the habit of using a Google Sheets file to keep track of our PCs for the various games we've been playing. It turned out to be really convenient for online games, because you can have just one doc that everyone can use and each just keep their character sheet on a different tab. You can have one template tab that contains the layout, and just make additional tabs that are duplicates of the template as needed.

Anyways, as things go, characters die and need to be replenished with fresh new walking dead slabs of meat characters, so over the winter I built up a character generator and was able to get it linked in to Google Sheets. Luckily, I also got my grubby little paws on the 3rd edition rules in December as well, so I was able to integrate all the latest and greatest stuff. Here is a snapshot of what a freshly generated PC looks like:



If this looks like something you'd be into, below are instructions for accessing my read-only public copy of this sheet, and making a copy for your own personal use.

  • Click on this link to open up the public read-only copy of the character generator Google Sheet.
  • Click File > Make a Copy to create your own personal copy that now belongs to you.
  • Click Extensions > Apps Script to examine the code that retrieves the character data and populates the active sheet. Note that nothing untoward is going on. If you aren't sure, ask a friend. Blind faith is an option as well.
  • At the bottom of the Sheets doc, on the tab labeled Template, click the little arrow pointing down and choose Duplicate. The Template sheet is only there to create more sheets from, and you should never generate a character on the template. Now that you have a new sheet created, find the menu item across the top labeled Generate. It should appear immediately to the right of Help. Sometimes you need to wait a few moments for it to appear. Click on that, then click Random Class. The first time you (or anyone else) accesses this menu item, an ominous warning will pop up, and you need to grant permissions for the script to run. Only do this if you have followed the previous step (examining the code), and are comfortable with granting the permissions. Here's how to do it:
    • On the popup that appears saying Authorization Required, click Continue
    • Choose the google account you want to use with this sheet, and login if necessary
    • On the next window that says Google hasn't verified this app, click the small link on the lower left that says Advanced
    • Click on the link that appears below. It should say something like Go to Hyperborea3 Character Generator (unsafe)
    • It tells you all the nefarious things that could happen, but again, as you can see by examining the code, the only thing it does is update the active sheet with this Google Sheets doc. Click the Allow button.
    • You can now generate characters! Congratulations!
    • If you decide not to use this, you won't hurt my feelings. I would personally never use a tool like this from a stranger. 😃
  • You can enter an XP amount in the blue-shaded Experience cell, and characters will be generated at the corresponding power level.
  • You can select a class from the dropdown in the blue-shaded Class cell, then click Generate > Selected Class to generate a character of a specific class. Alternatively, Generate > Random Class will ignore any selection in the Class cell and generate a randomly classed character.
  • If you aren't satisfied with the first character generated, you can continue using the Generate menu to try again. Each time the information will be cleared and a new PC will be populated into the sheet. Be careful not to accidentally overwrite a character you care about!
  • Character generation usually takes a few seconds, but can sometimes take up to 30 seconds. Some classes such as the Ranger, Shaman, and Bard cast spells from multiple schools and to arrange these items in an easy-to-use layout, the script needs to merge/unmerge certain cell ranges, add or remove checkboxes... stuff like that, and these actions aren't very performant. There is a notification at the top that tells you when the script is running, and when it has finished.
  • In order for your friends to be able to use your sheet and create their own tabs to generate their characters, you will need to click the Share button on your copy of the Google Sheets document and add them as Editors by their Google accounts in order for them to be able to Duplicate the template sheet and use the Generate menu. They will also need to click through all the security warnings as outlined above. Also, make sure they know not to click Generate while they have someone else's sheet active, or a sheet of their own that they care about. Generating a new character will completely overwrite the active sheet!
  • The only automation that exists in the sheet is the initial character generation. You can update anything you want after that, but it is up to you to ensure that any other values that would be affected by such a change are also updated. For example, if you increase your Strength score, you will also need to manually update your melee attack bonus, damage adjustment, test, and feat values. If you change your Constitution score, your hit points may be affected and so forth.
  • One final note: Once you have clicked Make a Copy, per the above instructions, the copy is owned by you. This is good because no one else can go in later and update what the Apps Scripts code is doing, but it also precludes you from bug fixes or performance updates. That's just how it is, so be aware of it. If I have any worthwhile updates to make on the Google Sheets side, I'll update the public copy and make an update note at the foot of this post. If you are interested in the updates, you can use Make a Copy again to get the new version.

 I put a TON of hours into this project, making sure all the rules were applied properly for all 33 classes/subclasses across all 12 levels... all so my friends could resume playing faster once their character gets killed. I hope there are others out there that could get some enjoyment from this tool as well. Let me know how it goes!

Blogger comments are a shit show right now, so I've been forced to turn on moderation. I'll do my best to keep an eye and things and let your legit comments through.

Also, if you are a programmer nerd like me and are curious about the inner workings of the character generator, you can check out the python package repo here, and the deploy-to-heroku repo here. I do plan to publish the package to pypi so people can do whatever with it, and I plan to continue adding more stuff like spells and monsters and treasure. It's been a really fun project and I've learned a ton doing it.

Update 2022-02-12:  The sheet has been updated with selectable options for AC Type, Dice Method, and Subclasses, which indicates the set of classes selected from when generating a Random Class. Scroll to the bottom of the sheet (row 130) to select these options. Make these selections in the template prior to using Duplicate to have the same settings applied for everyone.

AC Type: Select an option by clicking the arrow in E130 [Default = descending]

  • In the ascending AC version, AC values start at 10 (unarmoured) and go up from there. FA is added into all attack modifier fields in the weapons sections.
  • In the descending AC version, FA is not added to the attack bonuses in the weapons section, as it is assumed you guys use THAC0 or the combat matrix, which changes with FA. There isn't currently a spot on the sheet for combat matrix, but if you wanted to add it, the data is there in the pc object in an element called... you guessed it, "combat_matrix".

Dice Method: Select an option by clicking the arrow in K130 [Default = 3]

Subclasses: Select an option by clicking the arrow in Q130 [Default = 2]

  • 0 for principal classes only (Fighter, Magician, Cleric, Thief)
  • 1 for principal classes plus subclasses
  • 2 for principal classes, plus subclasses, plus the subclass variants. These include Fell Paladin, the Warlock variants (Death Soldier, Ice Lord, Fire Lord), and the Legerdemainist variants (Mountebank, Ice Thief, Fire Thief)

Once all your selections are made, use the Generate menu at the top to generate your character.

Game On!


Play Report: Broodmother Skyfortress

I found this in draft form from April 2017... nearly 5 years ago! It is incomplete, but I no longer remember many details about this adventure, other than that it was very fun. I release it as-is!


Original text begins below


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Character Sheet for 5E

I was up late last night enjoying the quiet in my house and looking for a way to entertain myself. I decided to make this character sheet in Excel that gave me some nostalgic feeling of the AD&D 2E character sheets I spent so much time with as a youngster.

This is not the coolest character sheet by far, but I got enjoyment out of figuring out how to arrange all the boxes.

Click here for link to the PDF

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Buddies and Pets for 5E

I recently purchased the 5E Essentials Kit boxed set to play with my kids. It allows for the PCs to have sidekicks if you have a small party of only like 1 or 2 PCs. Provided are stat blocks and leveling rules for three sidekick types: Expert, Warrior, and Spellcaster.

I think this is a cool idea, but I wanted to provide more options, so here is the list I allowed them to choose from, which generally consists of CR 1/8 or 1/4 entries.
  1. Aarakocra (MM 12)
  2. Axe Beak (MM 317)
  3. Blink Dog (MM 318)
  4. Blood Hawk (MM 319)
  5. Boar (MM 319) 
  6. Bullywug (MM 35)
  7. Camel (MM 320)
  8. Constrictor Snake (MM 320)
  9. Dretch (MM 57)
  10. Duodrone (MM 225)
  11. Flumph (MM 135)
  12. Flying Snake (MM 322)
  13. Giant Badger (MM 323)
  14. Giant Bat (MM 323)
  15. Giant Centipede (MM 323)
  16. Giant Crab (MM 324)
  17. Giant Frog (MM 325)
  18. Giant Lizard (MM 326)
  19. Giant Rat (MM 327)
  20. Giant Weasel (MM 329)
  21. Giant Wolf Spider (MM 330)
  22. Goblin (MM 166)
  23. Grimlock (MM 175)
  24. Kenku (MM 194)
  25. Kobold (MM 195)
  26. Kuo-Toa (MM 199)
  27. Manes (MM 60)
  28. Mastiff (MM 332)
  29. Monodrone (MM 224)
  30. Needle Blight (MM 32)
  31. Panther (MM 333) 
  32. Pixie* (MM 253)
  33. Poisonous Snake (MM 334)
  34. Pony (MM 335)
  35. Pseudodragon (MM 254)
  36. Pteranodon (MM 80)
  37. Riding Horse (MM 336) 
  38. Skeleton (MM 272)
  39. Slaad Tadpole (MM 276)
  40. Smoke Mephit (MM 217)
  41. Stirge (MM 284)
  42. Wolf (MM 341)
  43. Zombie (MM 316)
A mastiff and a blink dog were chosen.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Goblin Slayer Adventurer Ranks

One of the interesting things in Goblin Slayer is the adventurer's guild ranking system. Level 1 scrubs start out as "Porcelain" rank, and if they survive through many adventures they can work their way all the way up to "Platinum" rank.

The full rank list is provided below.
  1. Porcelain
  2. Obsidian
  3. Steel
  4. Sapphire
  5. Emerald
  6. Ruby
  7. Bronze
  8. Silver
  9. Gold
  10. Platinum

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Dungeon Crawling with TOON

Over the past "shelter in place" weekend I got the opportunity to play in a handful of online games in lieu of going to GaryCon. One of the games was TOON, a game I first played in 1995. This session helped me remember all the things I love about TOON. Let me list a few of them here for you now:
  • Fast character creation
  • No concern for balance
  • You can't die, so you can focus on having fun instead of staying alive
  • Failure makes things more interesting
  • It's just goddamn hilarious
Anyways, after the game, we were talking about doing some D&D-style dungeon crawls using TOON as the system. The more I've been thinking about it, the more excited I've gotten about the idea. I've been in search of the perfect mix of two of my favorite things - 80s cartoons and dungeon crawling - and I think this might be just what the doctor ordered.

Here are some draft character generation rules I've been thinking about.

Equipment: two or three six-sided dice
  1. Choose species/race. It's important to do this first to increase the chance you get something weird that doesn't fit the stats you roll.
  2. Roll 1d6 for each attribute: Muscle, Zip, Smarts, Chutzpuh. Maybe you can reroll 1s. Or maybe not. Sucking can be fun in this system.
  3. Roll 1d6+6 to determine max hit points.
  4. Select a class: Fighter, Thief, or Wizard (see details below). Make adjustments as needed. I've included some simple stat adjustments but the net effect is zero and I feel like they are optional.
  5. Spend your 30 skill points. You can buy one schtick if you like (you will get 1 or more schticks for free from your class).
  6. Choose 1-2 Natural Enemies.
  7. Choose Beliefs & Goals.
  8. Record starting equipment: 4 weird items and 4 mundane items.
  9. Draw a picture, or snag one from the internet.
  10. Write a description of your character.
Stat Adjustments: +1 Muscle, -1 Smarts
+3 to Max Hit Points, +2 to Damage Rolls
Schtick: Toughness (Physical),

Stat Adjustments: +1 Zip, -1 Muscle
Schticks: Bag of Many Things, Maximum Boggle

Stat Adjustments: +1 Smarts, -1 Muscle
Schticks: Cosmic Shift or choose two Spells

Other Considerations
In playing a few online games, I found the sweet spot for the length of a session for me to be about 3 hours. Beyond that I would start to get burned out. Others' opinions may differ, but let's operate under this premise.

Small Dungeons: This game should run a bit faster than traditional D&D, so small dungeons of 5-10 rooms should be about right for a 3-hour session.

Running a Megadungeon: I think a fun way to run different groups through a megadungeon in short sessions would be to have some sort of teleporter at the beginning that transports the group to a randomly determined area in the dungeon. The dungeon rooms themselves should be somehow marked or labeled so that the players can create maps in each delve, and have a way to know how to stitch them together after the fact.

Classic TSR Modules: I first got this idea from hearing about Adam Thornton's "TOON of Horrors" game. It sounded to me like a great way to experience that classic module. Since you never actually die you could play it more aggressively and not have to worry about dealing with the death of a high-level character as you would in D&D. Why not play the other TSR modules on my shelf as well? There's less of a barrier to entry with TOON characters and casual players.

Monday, January 20, 2020

New Campaign and World: Planet X

It's been a few years since I've run a campaign in earnest, and I'm looking to get a new one going. I have 2-3 potential groups right off the bat that I could run games for, so I want to get a decent amount of material together to get started.

System: The base system I will use for this is the excellent fan-made Gamma Five rules by Emanuele Galletto. I really like the streamlined character generation, and the fact that its basically 5E but even simpler.

Setting: The overarching idea for the world is that at some point in history (probably today plus or minus 20 years), the earth was devoured by another planet. Most of humanity, and the entirety of the world as we know it was wiped out. The result was an entirely new planet, henceforth referred to as Planet X. Fast-forward unknown aeons, and this new planet is inhabited by a mix of mutated life forms from the original two planets. The surface is largely primitive and wild, and there are underworlds made up of the lost ruined cities of past ages.

Characters: I will do away with plant-men and robots, but use all the other character bios (avian, beast, insectoid, mutated human, pure-strain human, and saurian). The idea I have for pure-strain humans is that they are hatched from ancient eggs. The ancient humans knew of the impending collision and stored as many embryos as they could in these biotechnological wonder-eggs that could sustain their lives and allow them to hatch when conditions were safe enough.

Influences: I've been reading some Clark Ashton Smith lately (the two Xiccarph stories, as well as Vulthoom), and I've also been watching 80's cartoons to get that beautiful science-fantasy vibe. These include He-Man, Blackstar, Thundarr and Silverhawks. Here is some additional inspirational art below...

Friday, March 10, 2017


I've been working on a condensed version of D&D 5E. Condensed mostly in terms of player character complexity. I think I have it in a ~95% or so completed state. That's usually around when I abandon things I work on, so I figured I'd just go ahead and share it. I have mixed feelings about it. All I did was scrap backgrounds and archetypes, streamline racial bonuses a bit, and that's about it. Not really much to write home about. Maybe some people out there will find some of the bits usable in whole or in part. If nothing else, the printable spell reference booklets ought to be handy. Enjoy!

D&D 5E LITE Player's Handbook (basically a character creation guide)
Basic Rules Cleric Spell Reference (Spell Levels 1-5)
Basic Rules Cleric Spell Reference (Spell Levels 1-3)
Basic Rules Wizard Spell Reference (Spell Levels 1-5)
Basic Rules Wizard Spell Reference (Spell Levels 1-3)
D&D 5E LITE Character Sheet

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

5 good things and 5 bad things about D&D5

So I've played and DM'ed about a dozen all-day sessions of 5th edition D&D. I'm certainly no expert on the system or anything, but I have enough of a feel for it to make these two lists about stuff I like and dislike about it. So here it is:

The Good
  1. The streamlined core mechanic: d20 + ability mod + proficiency bonus, with or without advantage/disadvantage. This makes the game so much easier to run. Fast, simple, and fun.
  2. Equipment packs. About time. (Can't remember if 4E had this or not)
  3. Pretty good balance of detail/simplicity. We play with minis more often than not, and it's refreshing to have this playstyle be well supported, but also fast and simple to adjudicate. Combats run well and I'm very happy with this.
  4. Backgrounds (the roleplaying cue parts). My players don't seem to have latched onto this at all, but for my PC, it was great to have the handful of cues from Trait/Ideal/Bond/Flaw to help me figure out how my character would act.
  5. Familiar but new. The game is without a doubt D&D, but every time I crack open one of the books I find a new twist on something. This is really cool because it's like rediscovering D&D all over again. Examples: add DEX mod to ranged weapon damage (even crossbows), partial move/act/partial move is something everyone can do without fancy feats, the concentration mechanic, the attunement mechanic, magic item and spell mechanics, etc. I haven't found many of these tweaks that I wouldn't be able to classify as improvements, although the way the sleep spell works is a bit clunky.

The Bad
  1. The game's been out for a year and there are no official digital/web tools. Character generation isn't extremely cumbersome, but it's time-consuming and complex enough that an app like the 4E character builder would be welcomed with open arms (minus the monthly subscription fee of course). The SRD is out now, so we have and people can at least start building stripped-down versions of these tools, but they won't legally be able to support all the options in the PHB. It makes me very sad because these things would make my life so much easier as a DM/Player of the game. P.S. - Fantasy Grounds, the only application that is fully licensed to have all the PC options, and meant for online play, is one of the worst pieces of software I've ever had the displeasure of trying to use. It makes the 2E CD-ROM suite look like sleek Apple software.
  2. Character creation as outlined is a bit goofed up and can necessitate some backtracking to re-select skills that are duplicated and that sort of thing. I think it should go Abilities > Race > Background > Class. This is kind of a head scratcher, like, how'd they screw this up? Also, character creation takes way too long. It would be nice if they got you up and running more quickly. In my experience it seems like it can take about 30-60 minutes depending on if you have to pick spells or not.
  3. The cover art SUCKS. On the whole, I think the interior art is mostly good, but the cover art is too monochromatic and lame. The Monster Manual is the least offensive of them, but the color scheme of the PHB cover honestly makes me want to vomit. If they ever release PDFs of the core books, the first thing I'm going to do is make myself some POD versions with decent cover art. Maybe if we're lucky they'll make some special edition sets with better covers.
  4. Backgrounds are cool to flesh out the character, but I think they went a bit overboard with them. Having skills, languages, equipment, and features tied to background make them too bulky and too much of a difference maker to discard completely. If background was just the roleplaying bits, Ideal, Flaw, etc. then the players who wanted it could use it and the players who didn't care could just generate their character faster. I'd be interested in ideas for a replacement system for backgrounds that is faster and balances with characters that have the regular by-the-book backgrounds. Maybe just choose a feat instead?
  5. The characters have too many class features. You can't really give too many magic items because they would just become way too goddamn powerful. I guess this is why they limited attuned items to 3. I'd rather have more goodies to acquire in play, and less abilities that you get automatically when leveling.
In summation, I guess you could say I love the gameplay, but not a huge fan of the complexity of characters. I like it to be possible to generate a character in 10 minutes or less, and I like the characters to get cool stuff through adventuring, not just have a billion built-in class abilities.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Rod of Seven Parts... In SPAAAAACE!

My 5E campaign is about 18 months old, and we just recently had our 12th session. We get together far too infrequently, but the campaign itself has really started to hit its stride in my opinion. Here are some highlights thus far:

  • Campaign began with the classic adventure T1: The Village of Hommlet. They left the moathouse mid-delve to go rest and come back, giving Lareth the Beautiful a chance to move his operation elsewhere. He has since come back to harass them once or twice. I need to work him in more. They got their first piece of the rod, which to them was just a wand with some healing powers.
  • One session had half the party absent, so we did the DCC RPG adventure Tower of the Black Pearl. The result was that all lawful heroes of the land of level 5 or higher had their lives extinguished. Oops!
  • A small homemade dungeon netted the party their second rod fragment. I was aggravated at how little a basilisk challenged the group. They all just averted their gaze and roflstomped him, even with disadvantage.
  • We did the classic Ravenloft adventure. I didn't use Curse of Strahd, I used the original adventure with some conversion notes I found on Reddit. First session was spent traveling to Barovia and farting around in town. The next session they went to the castle proper, and it was very interesting how it played out. Due to some random bat swarms in the courtyard, they ran around back and broke into the chapel window. Boom, holy symbol. Then they proceeded to go downstairs and spend lots of time demolishing a bricked up staircase that was in their way. They handled all the associated encounters this triggered (it was quite a few!) so I let them proceed. While in the crypts, they dealt with some monsters and got harassed by Strahd a few times, but it wasn't long before they had the Sunsword in hand. It was sheer luck that they got the items the way they did, because they literally had explored maybe 5% of the castle before having the two major items and also having found Strahd's resting place, giving them the opportunity to smash it up, pee on it, and pour holy water all over it. When they next encountered him upstairs, he was poised to start laying them out, when all of a sudden the fighter landed a solid blow, followed by an action surge and a critical hit, which reduced Strahd to a cloud of fog. They quickly ran down to his coffin to put in the final nail. I just gave them all the treasure in the castle and the castle itself as a reward. On the plus side, I'll be able to use the adventure again in the future since they explored so little of the castle. They also got the 3rd part of the rod here.
  • At this point, we had a bit of an interlude, and I had a wind duke come talk to the party and ask to take over the rod segments. Of course they refused, setting them on the path to complete the rod. He pointed them in the direction of a mind flayer lair (the one from Volo's Guide to Monsters) where they could steal a spelljamming ship, since the remaining four segments are on other planets/planes. They did surprisingly well infiltrating the lair and dispatching some mind flayers on their way to getting the ship, thanks to the party's assassin. Unfortunately this ship only has a lifejammer helm, and they weren't too keen on sacrificing lives to power the ship.
  • Next they had to travel to an island to plunder a long lost wizard tower (C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness) in order to raid his library to learn stuff about the rod and its history, traveling through space, etc. They got lots of cool information and books, an astrolabe and star charts which will help them navigate the local solar system, as well as lots of alchemical items and a few magic items. They are starting to feel how restrictive it is to only be allowed to benefit from 3 attuned magic items at a time.
  • Looking forward, they will need to complete some tasks in order to continue assembling the rod, but I intend to disrupt their designs by staging an attack on Castle Ravenloft by BROODMOTHER SKYFORTRESS! The giants will be space demons sent by the Queen of Chaos to harass the party. This will also be an opportunity for them to get a traditional spelljamming helm to replace the lifejammer they currently have. You know, so they can sleep better at night.
So the quest to complete the Rod of Seven Parts will be headed into space before long. I'm much looking forward to it. I got the two main books from the Spelljammer boxed set from half price books a few years back, and I've been poring over those. I have some ideas for how to adapt a few of these things to 5E, although most of it doesn't require any changes. I'm using our real-life solar system as the framework for all of it, and they are currently on earth. It's going to be awesome! More posts soon!

Here is the ship they stole from the mind flayers. Boy were they pissed!

Deck plans for the ship

Monday, January 9, 2017

DCC RPG Reference Booklet - In Spanish!

The good folks over at Other Selves have been hard at work translating DCC content to Spanish language versions. Go here to check out all the stuff they have going on. I've also added links to the Spanish versions of the DCC RPG Reference Booklet to my DCC RPG Resources page.