Shield & Staff
October 1st, 2018

Shields are often underrated in play, so I thought for a while how to better express their general historical combat utility without overpowering them in comparison to weapons, and came up with something I thought could make them a little more useful (a solution I later learned others had also arrived at): sacrificing a shield to avoid damage.

What this means is when you have a shield equipped and are successfully struck in combat, before damage is rolled you can decide to sacrifice your shield to block the damage. This destroys the shield, but the attack is treated instead as a miss. A magical shield can be sacrificed one additional time per plus before being destroyed. Sacrifices cannot be “repaired”, however.

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All About That Mace
September 18th, 2018

One of the things that always bothered me about D&D-ish games were the “variable dice for weapon damage” rules, not necessarily because of concerns about “realism”, but because there didn’t seem to be any particularly meaningful trade-offs in not picking the biggest weapon you could. I’m looking at you, two-handed sword.[1]

It always made me wonder:

  • Why would a fighter take anything but a two-handed sword (d10)?
  • Why would they take a shortsword (d6) instead of a sword (d8)?
  • Why fight with a dagger (d4) at all if you didn’t have to?

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1st-Level Wizardry
August 7th, 2018

I’ve recently gotten back into regular gaming after a years-long hiatus, and am playing with a group almost entirely new to gaming in general. We’re running an OSR mash-up of the Elmore Red Box and 5th Edition, starting at 1st level, and having a darn good time of it. But even experienced gamers forget how things work when they haven’t played a particular game for thirty-some years.

One of the things I had only vaguely remembered, in an intellectual way, is that in the basic game, 1st-level wizards are one-hit wonders. To be fair, they are powerful one-hit wonders. But it leaves wizard characters with very little to do once they’ve fired off their single spell — besides running, hiding, and waiting for the fighters to mop up.

This was proving to be a frustration for our wizard players.

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FMW AtD AP Post-con Review & Other Letters
May 6th, 2018

Forge Midwest 2018 saw the play of two games of At the Dawn. One was with three players, and the other was with two. However, one of the players in the first game was unable to complete their elf’s story-arc due to time-constraints. While he was fine with this, as it was late and he wished to go to bed, I still feel badly.

A quick summary of the tales told follows:

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Casting through the Gap
October 9th, 2017

Þar munu eptir | undrsamligar
gullnar töflur | í grasi finnask,
þærs í árdaga | áttar höfðu.

In wondrous beauty | once again
Shall the golden tables | stand mid the grass,
Which the gods had owned | in the days of old

 

Völuspá, Poetic Edda, Bellows translation

The game system for Niflgap, as a stand-alone product rather than a Series Pitch for Pelgrane’s Drama System — and even back in the days when Niflgap was still titled Dead*Space — was one of those items that consistently resisted development. I knew the direction I wanted the rules to take, in an aesthetic sense, but developing a specific, concrete design led to dead ends or design paralysis.

A while back I came across one of those design attempts still lurking in Niflgap’s folder, and decided to polish it up, hoping it might be of use or spark some creative advancement on the rule-design. It has not. But the core of conflict resolution has always involved the use of runestones. To that end, here is some advice on how to design your own set.

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