Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What are you holding? - The GM's Most Important Question

RPGs are a conversational game. The GM describes a scene, the players ask questions, the GM answers them; the players take actions, the GM asks questions, the players answer them; repeat. For the type of games I run, there is one question that trumps all others:

"What do you have in your hands right now?"

(This is only mildly related to the "What's in your mouth?" question I'm always asking my dog on walks.*)

Image result for equipment slots

Everything a PC does is influenced by the answer to this question. A PC who isn't carrying a light source in a dark room won't be able to see--something the GM should know before they ever give their scene setting description. Anything a PC attempts might be hampered or helped by the answer.

Player: Can I climb the wall here and look over it?
GM: Well, the wall is made of crumbling brick, so sure, it would be easy. What are you carrying?
Player: I'll leave my sword and shield on the ground.
GM: OK. So you prop your sword and shield against the wall and start climbing the wall?

Example the Second:
Player: OK, I want to try and pick the lock on the weird door with the face.
GM: Who has the light source? (A variation on "What's in your hands?")
Player 2: I do. I'm standing guard by the first room to make sure nobody ambushes us.
GM: If you're trying to pick the lock but your light source is at the cavern's opening, you basically can't see what you're doing. That'll be a massive penalty.
Player 3: I'll pull out my torch and light it off of Player 2's and stand near the locked door to provide light.
GM: OK, that works. Make a Pick Locks roll.

Example the Third:
GM: You see a bunch of little cube-shaped cuties walking in a line through the forest. The last one in line notices you, exclaims in surprise, and then hurries to catch up with the rest.
Player: I want to catch one!
GM: Do you have a free hand?
Player: Uh, no. No I have my sling in one hand and my shield in the other.
GM: OK. How are you trying to catch one?
Player: I want to put my shield down in front of it. Like, reach over it and try and trap it between me and the shield.

The fiction of what a PC holds gives you immediate context for the rest of the scene.

* Spoiler alert: It's poop.

Monday, February 3, 2020

GLoG: Rat-kebab Edition

Goblin Laws of Gaming

Rat-Kebab Edition

Sources Cited:

Delicious in Dungeon

A hack about eating monsters, in case you like stupid shit like this

The Rat-Kebab Edition is a ruleset explicitly about trying to scavenge food in the mythic underworld. It's mostly an homage to Dungeon Meshi by Ryoko Kui. The main gimmick is that nutrients = experience points. The rules assume GLoG as your base (since it's so hackable), but you can probably port this onto whatever your D&D flavor of choice is. Include this with something like Veins of the Earth if laying it on thick is your cup of tea. Blend it with Gardens of Ynn or similar if you wanna get weird with it.

Ability Checks
Root for the trapsmith's success...from a distance!

As with core GLoG, almost everything uses a d20 rolled against a target number. If the outcome of an attempt is uncertain, the GM determines what ability score most suits the test at hand. The player rolls a d20. If you roll equal to or less than the tested ability score, but above your Fatigue, you succeed. 

Everybody starts with the similar stats.
  • Ability scores are determined by 4d4 in order, swap 2. Abilities cap out at 18.
  • Everybody starts with Attack 11 and Save 6 (modified by Cha) per core GLoG. Attack and Save scores cap out at 15. 
  • You begin with a template A class. You gain more templates when your ability scores increase, to a maximum of four templates.
  • Calculate Defense, Stealth, Move, and Initiative as normal. 


If you have a relevant skill to the task at hand, treat the tested ability as being +2. If you have a mastered skill relevant to the task at hand, treated the tested ability as being +4.

Mastered skills take up two skill slots and must be learned from a master trainer. For example, you learn master lockpicking from the head of the Thief's Guild.


Adventurers must be careful to balance their resources and their fatigue

Fatigue is a measure of how tired you are on a 1-20 scale. When you make a test, you must roll above your current Fatigue score but under or equal to your attribute test to succeed. 

Fatigue is gained from the Encounter Dice and from taking heavy damage (see below). The GM may also deal out Fatigue for strenuous or unhealthy situations, like wading through a fetid swamp or climbing a mountain during a blizzard.

You lose all of your fatigue when you eat a decent meal. See "Cooking" below.

The Encounter Dice

As the PCs explore the dungeon, the GM rolls the Overloaded Encounter Die. On a roll of 2 (Fatigue), each PC gains 1 point of Fatigue. 

Hit Points - Grit and Flesh

Look the fuck out

Grit is "don't get hit" points. It represents your ability to mitigate actual harm. You use these up first.

Flesh represents damage to your precious body. When you take damage to your Flesh, your blood is flowing. You take Flesh damage after you've used up all your Grit--or take damage in such a way that you can't get out of the way, e.g., falling onto spikes totally bypasses your Grit and goes straight onto your Flesh.

Characters have a number of Flesh points equal to 1/2 their Constitution, rounded up. Characters have a variable amount of Grit based on what they eat (see "Leveling" below).

You die when you're at - [Constitution] Flesh points.

If you're in the negatives Flesh-wise but not dead, a character can perform first aid. This is a Wisdom check (with a bonus if you have a skill like Leechcraft or Doctor or something). If successful, the character is restored to 1 Flesh and gains a number of Fatigue points equal to the negative value that was healed.

For example, a wounded character at -5 Flesh who is healed through first aid gains 5 Fatigue points.

You can also heal wounded characters through magic, as per usual. Healing magic adds Flesh points, even if in negative totals.


Cooking brings a brief moment of rest and respite in the dangers of the dungeon

When the party stops to rest in the deep dark dungeon, they have to eat. 

Eating rations and preserved food heals all Fatigue accumulated. It stops you from starving. This is the end of their benefits. 

A feast is a moment of actual rest in the middle of hostile and hungry darkness. All characters eating a feast heal all Flesh and Fatigue as feasts warm the heart and strengthen the body. Additionally, depending on the make up of the feast, characters might gain Grit, Magic Dice, and temporary or permanent bonuses to their abilities. See "Leveling" below.

To create a feast, you require:
  • Two unique ingredients
  • One portion per character
In addition, you must fulfill two of the following five criteria:
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Utensils
  • Cooking gear
  • Spices

A feast must be prepared and then immediately consumed. Leftovers don't count as a feast. 

Each monster eaten provides a certain amount of portions. A rat yields about one portion. A minotaur yields about eight. A dragon could feast upwards of fifty adventurers. 

If you eat something sentient, you gain a point of The Hunger (see below).

The GM should add together any nutritional benefits from the two ingredients used to make a feast and tell the players the totals for each nutrient category (see below). Decimal totals are rounded as normal; .5 is rounded up to 1, .4 is rounded down to 0.

A nutrient has a maximum score of 5. No matter the combination of ingredients, a nutrient can't go above 5 for any one particular feast.

The GM does not need to elaborate about which ingredient provided which benefit.

Example: After a battle with a basilisk, the party cooks an omelette out of the basilisk's eggs, basilisk bacon, and sliced shambling mound. They cook the omelette in Senshi's wok (cooking gear), flavor it with salt, pepper, and ketchup (spices), over a fire. This fulfills 3 out of 5 of the cooking requirements.

Leveling Up - Eat Your Way to Glory

Levels are a useless concept. Abandon them.

Characters grow and become stronger if they eat well-balanced, healthful, and magical meals. 

Each feast has five stats, called nutrients. 
  • Flavor determines how delicious the feast is. This nutrient reinforces a character's Save stat. 
  • Energy determines how many calories a feast has. This nutrient reinforces a character's Grit.
  • Minerals provide needed magical energy. This nutrient refills a spell-casting character's Magic Dice. 
  • Vitamins are good for your brain. This nutrient reinforces a character's mental abilities. 
  • Protein builds strong bones and muscles. This nutrient reinforces a character's physical abilities.
Each character eating a feast may choose to gain the benefits of two nutrients per feast. 

Example: The basilisk and shambling mound omelette both contribute their nutritional merits to the meal.

The shambling mound contributes 0.4 Flavor, 2.6 Energy, 1 Minerals, 2.5 Vitamins, and 2 Protein.

The basilisk contributes 2 Flavor, 1.5 Energy, 2 Minerals, 2 Vitamins, and 2 Protein.

In total, that's 2 Flavor, 4 Energy, 3 Minerals, 4 Vitamins, and 4 Protein. The feast is entirely of exotic foods so the Food Dice equals d6.

  • Laius the fighter and Senshi the dwarf were both injured in the battle, so they both dedicate one-half of the feast to energy to get back some Grit. 
  • Laius is training with Marcille to learn magic, so he dedicates the other half of his feast to vitamins, hoping to buff his mental stats. 
  • Senshi dedicates the other half of his feast to flavor, hoping to get a bonus to his Save stat. 
  • Marcille used magic during the last battle so she dedicates half of her feast to minerals to recover magic dice. She chooses vitamins for the other half of her feast hoping to gain a bonus to her Wisdom stat. 
  • Chilchak chooses flavor and protein for his benefits, hoping to gain some benefit to his Save or Dexterity stats.

Food Dice

When the rules call for it, the players may roll Food Dice (FD). Food Dice are either d4s, d6s or d8s. 
  • If the feast contained mundane animals or plants, the Food Dice are equal to d4s. 
  • If the feast contained no mundane animals or plants, only exotic ingredients, the Food Dice are equal to d6s. 
  • If the feast contained extraordinarily magical ingredients, like a dragon or an angel, the Food Dice are equal to d8s. 

Checks and Increasing Stats

If a player accumulates three checks on any stat except for Attack, they may immediately increase that stat by 1. Adjust derived stats accordingly.

Attack requires five checks to increase.

When you gain a physical stat increase (Strength, Constitution, or Dexterity), you gain a template in a class of predominantly physical prowess (e.g., Acrobat, Fighter, Thief, Ranger, etc.).

When you gain a mental stat increase (Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma), you gain a template in a magical, academic, or weird class (e.g., Wizard, Cleric, Rat Master, etc.). 

The GM will make a call for templates that seem to straddle the physical/mental divide (e.g., Muscle Wizard). Maybe you need alternating stat increases, or maybe the GM will set up prime requisites that trigger template gain.


The more delicious the meal, the better disposition the character has. The better a character's disposition, the stronger their willpower and more stalwart their heart.

If the players benefit from flavor: Characters may roll as many FD as the feast's flavor rank.
  • If the total of the roll exceeds the character's Save, the Save stat gains a check.
  • If any FD show the same face, the character gains a temporary bonus to their Save score equal to the amount of faces shown. This bonus lasts until the next time you rest.
    • For example, a roll of 3, 2, 2, 2, 4 would give a bonus of +3. 


The more energy a character has, the more resilient they are in the face of adversity.

If the players benefit from energy: After the feast, characters may roll as many FD as the feast's energy rank.
  • The character's current Grit score is immediately replaced with the new total. 


Minerals connect a character to the natural world and the ebb of mana. As a magic-user casts spells, their internal reserves of minerals becomes quickly depleted. In fact, magic-users are at great risk for hypokalemia and hypocalcaemia. 

If the players benefit from minerals: Characters gain magic dice (MD) of the same die type and number as the feast's mineral rank. A character can hold as maximum amount of magic dice as they have spell-casting templates. These MD are held until spent and expended through casting spells.

Example: Marsille (Wizard 3, Necromancer 1) currently has 3 MD. She eats basilisk and slime soup, which has a mineral rating of 2. This would yield two d6 MD, to be used whenever she wants to cast a spell. However, since her maximum is 4 magic dice, she only gains one d6 MD from the meal.


Vitamins produce a healthful effect on one's metabolism, reasoning, and cognitive capabilities. By eating foods rich in vitamins, characters benefit from increased memory and logical reasoning capabilities.

If the players benefit from vitamins: Characters may roll as many FD as the feast's vitamin rank.
  • Select one of your mental abilities: Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. If the total of the roll exceeds the character's ability, that ability gains a check.
  • A player may choose to "split" the FD between different mental abilities. For example, after eating a 4FD feast, you may put 2FD towards Wisdom and 2FD towards Charisma.
  • If any FD rolled against the same ability show the same face, the character gains a temporary bonus to their selected score equal to the amount of faces shown. This bonus lasts until the next time you rest.
    • For example, a roll of 4, 4 towards Charisma and 1, 3 towards Wisdom would give a bonus of +2 to Charisma. 


Proteins are important for building muscle and reducing soreness after exertion. Eating foods rich in proteins promotes physical development. 

If the players benefit from proteins: Characters may roll as many FD as the feast's proteins rank.
  • Select one of your physical abilities (Strength, Constitution, or Dexterity) or Attack stat. If the total of the roll exceeds the character's ability, that ability gains a check.
  • A player may choose to "split" the FD between different stats. For example, after eating a 5FD feast, you may put 2FD towards Attack and 3FD towards Constitution.
  • If any FD rolled against the same ability show the same face, the character gains a temporary bonus to their selected score equal to the amount of faces shown. This bonus lasts until the next time you rest.
    • For example, a roll of 4, 4 towards Attack and 1, 3, 3 towards Constitution would give a temporary bonus of +2 to both Attack and Constitution. 

Example: Following our example above, let's zoom in on each member of the party and see how the feast impacted them. 

  • In total, that's 2 Flavor, 4 Energy, 3 Minerals, 4 Vitamins, and 4 Protein. The feast is entirely of exotic foods so the Food Dice equals d6.

    • Laius the fighter rolls 4d6 for Energy and 4d6 for Vitamins. He dedicates all 4d6 to his Intelligence, hoping to raise that stat (currently a 12). 
      • Laius rolls a 15 for his Energy. He sets his current Grit total to 15. 
      • Laius rolls a 13 for his Vitamins. Since this is above his current Intelligence score, he gives this ability one check.
    • Senshi the dwarf rolls 4d6 for Energy and 2d6 for Flavor. Senshi's Save stat is currently 11
      • Senshi rolls a 7 for his Energy. He sets his current Grit total to 7. 
      • Senshi rolls a 5 for his Flavor. This is lower than his current Save score so he gains no checks.
    • Marcille the elf rolls 3d6 for her Minerals and 4d6 for her Vitamins. She currently has 1 Magic Die and a maximum of 4. Her Wisdom stat is currently 15.
      • Marcille gains 3 Magic Dice. This sets her total back to 4, her maximum. 
      • Marcille rolls an 8 for her Vitamins. Since this is lower than her current Wisdom score she gains no checks.
    • Chilchak the halfling rolls 2d6 for Flavor. Chilchak's Save stat is currently 10. He wants to raise both his Strength score (currently 8) and Constitution score (currently 10). Because the feast provides 4d6 Protein, he puts 2d6 towards Strength and 2d6 towards Constitution. 
      • Chilchak rolls 10 for his Flavor. Because this meets but does not exceed his Save stat, he gains no checks.
      • Chilchak rolls 4 for his Proteins vs Strength. Since this is lower than his current Strength score he gains no checks.
      • Chilchak rolls 11 for his Proteins vs Constitution. Since this is above his current Constitution score, he gives this ability one check.

The Hunger

The Hunger is always thrilling

Only the very desperate or the very wicked eat the flesh of sentient races.

If you succumb to the temptation, you gain 1 point of The Hunger.

At the end of each feast where you gained a point of The Hunger, you make a The Hunger check. Roll a d20.

If you "succeed" on The Hunger check, you become a ghoul. You no longer can return to the surface--the mana up there cannot sustain you. You can no longer eat normal food. You can only digest the flesh of the dead or sentient races.

The Hunger never decreases. Once you're on this dark path, you're on the dark path for the rest of your life.

There may be some wiggle room here. Eating harpies might illicit The Hunger whereas eating harpy eggs might not.

The GM is the ultimate arbiter of what's sentient and what isn't, but they must be forthcoming about this up front. No fair saying, "Ha ha actually slimes are like, super intelligent and secretly altruistic. You just ate the Mother Theresa of slimes" after the fact.

Example: Senshi the dwarf, starving and delirious, is served a stew of dwarf flesh after a desperate and failed delving. He partakes and gains 1 point of The Hunger. At the end of the feast, he makes a The Hunger check. His player rolls a d20 and gets a 15--well above the 1 needed to "succeed" on the check. As such, Senshi remains a dwarf but maintains a permanent point of The Hunger.

Finding Food

Each floor of the dungeon has an ecology that makes a perverse amount of sense.

Here is a link to a spreadsheet that has the nutritional details of everything in the 1st Edition Monstrous Manual.

Cross-reference this with the Monster Menu-All from Skerples for full-blown info on everything you want to devour (see Sources Cited).