Thursday, December 21, 2023

Knock! News

I have some exciting news to share: I have been brought on board as the editor-in-chief of Knock! magazine moving forward.

Eric Nieudan, the once and future editor-in-chief, is still very Merry and Mushmany. He has just brought me on so he can focus on the other Merry Mushmen projects. (Speaking of, I really enjoyed the free playtest of Dungeon, Inc., where players play the dungeon's monsters endlessly cleaning up and resetting traps for rude adventurers.) 

By the way: I'd love to see you on the Merry Mushmen Discord. Come chat with us about games!

New Submission Portal

Since I'm coming into this role as an erstwhile contributor to Knock!, I wanted to make sure the submission process was smooth and simple. To this end, I've made a new submission portal on the Merry Mushmen website:

Now taking submissions for Knock! 5 and 6

The Workflow

My intention is that you'll get an email for each step in this process for transparency. (Watch me rue these words.)


If you have an article, a dungeon, a class, a random table, a magic item, a trap, etc. that you want to submit, we've love to see it! Because we might be able to use one thing but not another, please only submit one thing at a time, but feel free to submit as much as you want. 

Two big things here:

  • We need your name as you want to see it in print
  • We need your email so we can talk to you if we decide to accept your submission.

Because everything will be pulled into our chaotic neutral layout by Olivier the Layout Lord, plain text format is preferred. If you have a specific graphic that is needed to make the piece work (like a hand-drawn map for a dungeon), please submit that too. 

Pondering the Orb

We will ponder everything we receive. 

Because Knock! is a kaleidoscope of content, we might take one thing or another (sometimes leaving things we really love on the cutting-room floor). The book works because it's a collage of lots of different things, so we value variety. If a piece is rejected, you can submit it again a bit later and we'll see if it fits in better with a future volume.


If accepted, I'll place the text into a Google Doc and make edits for our house style and for print/space considerations. 

Author Approval

I'll email you a copy of the Google Doc so you can see the tracked changes. Accept them or push back to make the changes better. Let's talk about the piece! 


Once everything sounds good to both the editor and submitter, we'll pass things on to Olivier, High Graphic Artist. He'll make the words look good

Manic Last Touches

Of course, putting everything together into a magazine is a near endless series of edits, re-edits, typos, touchups, collapsing, expanding, inserting, moving. We'll be fitting everything together until the book is ready to print. If we need anything else from you, we'll make sure to reach back out.

Prep for the Campaign

Once the book is mostly assembled and we're prepping the crowdfunding campaign, we'll reach out to all contributors to get details for payment and to get final sign off. 

20 hours left on the Knock! 4 Kickstarter 

Don't miss out!

The Knock! 4 Kickstarter is in the home stretch with just 20 hours left. If you haven't already backed, don't miss out on completing your collection. 

(I am just a contributor on this volume, but my "1937 Hobbit as a Setting" post made its way in, so I am very excited.)

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Reasonable Reviews

Recently, the RPG social media sphere reheated one of the classic controversies du jour: Should RPG critics write a review of an RPG product they have not played?

Some insist that playing a module / an adventure / a zine / a supplement is a minimum requirement. Not just a minimum requirement, but a bare minimum requirement. How could it be any different? How could you write a review of a music album without listening to it?

Is it reasonable to write a review of an RPG supplement without playing it first? 

Reviews I like

In the most recent episode, Brad and Yochai were joined by Amanda Lee Franck to review The Reach of the Roach GodThe Reach of the Roach God consists of three adventures and supplementary text (I learned from the review).

Brad had run the first adventure, a Quiet Lake (using Spenser Campbell's Slayers? Haha!). 

Amanda had run the second adventure, Spider Mountain Temple. She regretted that she jumped straight to this adventure instead of running the first one first. 

Nobody had run the third adventure, City of Peace. Everybody on the podcast highlighted they thought this adventure seemed the most challenging to run and they weren't sure how they would start to go about it, although they liked certain things about it.

As always, they gave an overview of the product and talked about what they liked and didn't like in the product. Subjects of discussion included: 
  • the quality of the art
  • the amount of art
  • the position of the art on the page related to other content
  • the NPCs
  • the boxed text
  • the procedures
  • the maps
  • the keying of the maps
  • the (custom!) font
  • the layout of the pages
  • the terseness and humor of the writing
  • the relationship of the art to the text, etc. 
(This content seems to be the same regardless of whether or not the hosts have actually played the product or not.)

Was this a reasonable review of The Reach of the Roach God?

Reviews I do

I have tried to review a few RPG products. I tried really hard to do a good job. It was a difficult task to do well (and I'm not sure I did do well). So I do not do RPG reviews.

I do have a job where reviews are a regular part of my job. 

Product reviews

  • Is this feature aligned with the overall strategic goals of the company?
  • Does the feature solve the actual needs of a specific user profile? Does it balance the needs of multiple user profiles? What are the tradeoffs?
  • Is this the right level for an MVP? 
  • What metrics will be used to determine next steps?
  • Are there bugs in the MVP?
  • Are these bugs launch blockers?
  • What is the correct positioning for this product?

Design reviews

  • Are the CTA buttons the right size?
  • Do the navigation buttons make sense?
  • Are elements that look interactable actually interactable?
  • Is the design responsive to screen size?
  • Is the UX copy primed for translation?
  • Is the color contrast accessible?

Technical writing reviews

  • Are the instructions consistent? 
  • Are the screenshots up to date?
  • Are unhappy paths documented?
  • Do code samples exist?
  • Do code samples have proper formatting and highlighting?
  • Will the sample code provided actually run if you copy and paste it?
  • Is the language in active voice?
  • Are the headers descriptive?
Because my job is in software, I am not an end user. I do not do the job that our end users do. Nobody I work with uses the product that my company produces on a day-to-day basis

Is it reasonable to provide reviews for a product I do not use?

User testing and feedback

For all of the above, something that is missing is the feedback from actual users. Did we get it right? 
  • Are we providing value to our customers? 
  • Is the UX delightful? 
  • Is the documentation helpful? 
We spend a lot of money and a lot of time to try and get these answers out of real users. Our business depends on it. 

Does the the need for user feedback invalidate the other types of reviews provided during the product development process?

Is user feedback helpful in the same way as other types of reviews?

Friday, November 24, 2023

Gods are high level PCs

Listening to Between Two Cairns about Caverns of Thracia, and I was thinking about Greek-mythological elements in the hodgepodge mélange of D&D. 

I realized: Greek gods are just high level PCs. 

Greek elements in D&D

A preponderance of fantastic elements in vanilla D&D are Tolkien-esque, North/Western European. Old-school D&D is definitely more of a melting pot, with a Saturday morning cartoon blending of dinosaurs, samurai, and spaceships thrown in the mix. But even in the most vanilla D&D have these decidedly Greek mythological elements: hydras, harpies, medusa, minotaurs. 

Gods in vanilla D&D have a Greek pantheon vibe. They have these very Greco-Roman spheres of influence - Raylor is the god of the sun, good, human fighters, and archery. There's usually a ruling hegemony of major gods and dozens of minor gods. In major cities, you can find temples to any god. Gods can be patrons to a particular race or people. When you say, "I worship the god of the sun and you worship the goddess of the moon," nobody blinks.

(This is often very boring. The endless iterations on this theme, with vaguely different names and groupings, are so tedious to read. Not to yuck anybody's yum, but there should be public decency laws  where you go to jail if you make me read your re-coloration of the Faerun pantheon.)

It would be more interesting if the gods in D&D acted more like the gods in Greek mythology. And the gods in Greek mythology act like high-level player characters, overloaded with magical items, zipping around and causing trouble for everybody.

Rethinking the gods

People say "Greek gods are more human." I guess that's true. But they don't act rational, like normal humans. They act irrational, like a 14 year old boy playing "Mars, God of War" who asks for his PC to bang every bar wench the adventuring party encounters.

They are not omniscient. When you pray to them, you hope they or their messengers are nearby in shape-changed form or invisible. You offer them things not abstractly, but in the deliberate hope that you're luring them to your altar.

They are not omnipotent. They are powerful beings who wield technologies invisible to humankind: weather, seasons, disease, emotions, birth, death. 

When gods act for or against you, they do so very directly:

  • They give you magical items - a helm of invisibility and a mirror shield - to slay Medusa. 
  • They summon a monster to devour you.
  • They summon veils of mist to obscure you from your enemies in battle. 
  • They cast Clone on you so that your eidolon can take your place in an unpleasant situation.

Gamifying this

Anybody can pray. When you make a prayer to a god, you have a 1-in-20 chance of having your prayer fulfilled. 

  • +1 if you make a significant offering (at least 10% of gold value to advance to your next level)
  • +1-3 for doing something awesome that that god likes (feats of battle for war gods, clever plans for wisdom gods, good deeds for good gods, etc.) since your last prayer

On a successful prayer, call a friend that's pretty good at RPGs but isn't part of this particular game. Tell them they have a level 20 PC, with any build they want. Tell them they're given a quest to do X (where X is the other PC's prayer). Ask what they do.

That's how the god reacts to your prayer.

Sunday, November 19, 2023


(Hey look, I can make posts that aren't just His Majesty the Worm shilling. I still am playing games and thinking about them!)

For my current Dolmenwood game, my players said they wanted to all play witches. To play to this gimmick, I wrote a magical familiar subsystem. Rules below in a His Majesty the Worm parlance, but can be adapted to any OSR system without difficulty. Lots of inspiration for this system came from the unparalleled Goblinpunch

A thing I really like about this subsystem is how it creates trouble for the players. Each familiar wants something weird and outrageous, which pushes the characters into interesting/dangerous situations to try and keep the little shit happy. 

Also, because this system creates such interesting little personalities, the players never have the "Oh right, I have a pet I forgot about" moment. Actually, they're penalized with an in-character justification if they ever have that realization as the familiar has felt neglected and slipped away into the dreaming world (see below).

The one big con about this system is that I have to talk in a lot of funny voices to handle the bonded NPCs that the players all have now. Exhausting on my vocal chords. 

Binding your Familiar

To bind a familiar to your service, you must go on a vision quest into the lowest realms of Dreaming (the parts that are tangent to the upper levels of Hell). Find some drugs that can get you there, if you have no spells that can do it.

Creating your familiar is like going to Build a Bear Workshop. Choose three representative pieces of the familiar and combine them together. (The art I made for my players for this is amateurish, but was accepted with applause, which made me feel good.)


In my heart, I know my familiar is:

  1. Toad with teeth, speaks in a deep baritone voice (my dear boy!)

  2. Blind crow, flies backwards

  3. Black goat, always stands on your shadow, causes discomfort on places where it's hoofs touch

  4. Shoulder imp, smug as Hell (literally)

  5. Fat hare, walks like a man, fond of eating bones and skin

  6. Moth, tiny crown, everyone gets goosebumps when it appears, speaks like a king


I most desire:

  1. Ghost. Can teleport you (only) to the nearest graveyard. 

  2. Fat. You can tickle it and it opens up to reveal an extradimensional space 1 slot large (does this for free, no need for a favor). Can burp out 1-21 gold coins, but these fade away during the next full moon. 

  3. Circle-Square-Triangle. Can conjure 1 random spell component every month. 

  4. Spellbook. Can ask it a question about the future: “If I do X, what will happen?”

  5. Silvery. Your familiar is white. Once a month, it can speak to the moon. The moon can see anything that happens out of doors during the night, except for nights of the new moon. Can tell you where something is or how something went down.

  6. Bat wings. Your familiar gains bat wings. It can lend them to you, allowing you to fly. 


For this, I would trade:

  1. Silver lantern. The familiar seeks new frontiers (especially of the mind and/or other planes) and cosmic truth

  2. Gilded birdcage. Familiar craves political power to rule the world and become a leader of men (preferred: starting a cult, marrying royalty)

  3. Cookie jar. Strange, dangerous, and terrible things to eat. 

  4. Cage carved of a single ruby. Money. Give it treasure.

  5. Doll-sized wizard tower. Familiar desires the construction of a vast object, built for some distant, undefined purpose (preferred: tower, ziggurat, ship)

  6. A mirror (familiar appears as a reflection). Familiar wishes for your ego-death through dissociative drugs, anomie, and constant exposure to danger.

Lastly, each familiar is unique. Roll on the 1d100 Familiar List to see how your combination is different from every other familiar. This also gives your familiar a random name.

Feed your familiar a portion of your own blood mixed with milk and honey to bind them to you. 

Familiar Rules

Once a familiar has agreed to work with you, it is your familiar for life. You and your familiar may fall out, get into fights. It might leave. It’s still your familiar, but until you come to mutually agreeable terms, you won’t be able to work together.

When you have a bound familiar, you can ask it to dwell with you in the dreaming world or the waking world.


When in the waking world, your familiar is physically present with you. It rides on your shoulders, trots at your side, sleeps in your sleeve. 

Familiars don’t like to be ignored. Every time you—as the player—mention it, describe what it’s doing, talk to it in-character, the familiar is pleased. It can feel it is being noticed.

Every time the GM has to say, “Wait, what is your familiar doing while you do that” the familiar feels hurt. You’ve forgotten about it. When this happens, it slinks off into the dreaming world. Summoning it is done with disfavor.

Familiars go into the dreaming world when they’re hurt. They rest there for 1-21 days.

You can dismiss a familiar to the dreaming world whenever you want, if it would be dangerous or inconvenient to have them around.


When in the dreaming world, it appears to you in your dreams. You can talk to it here, if you want. 


Whenever you attempt to summon your familiar from the dreaming world to the waking one (or vice versa) make a Wands test. Success means that the familiar arrives immediately. Otherwise it arrives in 1d4 watches. If you have annoyed your familiar, you automatically fail this test, while familiars that are extremely pleased will always arrive promptly.


Familiars can perform services, but never more than 1/day. However, for every service it performs, you owe a favor.

1. Familiars can use one of their special powers at your behest.

2. Familiars can give you a spell slot.

3. Familiars can do just about anything that a normal animal could do—and then some! They could fly away, spy on a bandit’s camp, and report back. It can even give its opinion about plans on how to ambush the bandit leader. 

4. You can ask a familiar to fight with you. This counts as one service. In His Majesty the Worm, use Cups cards to command them during a Challenge.

5. Familiars can save you from a violent death—but only once ever.


Each favor is always something that the familiar can call in immediately, or at a later date. 

If you perform the favor that the familiar requests, that's the end of it. But if you refuse, that is a violation of the contract with the familiar, and deserving of a roll on the Breach of the Covenant table.

Playtest Note: There's a bit of extra mental load with keeping track of all the familiars, their names, and their desired favors. Write a notecard with all this information to keep next to your campaign notes. At the start of each session, go over who owes their familiar a favor, and think about nearby things the familiar would be interested in. You can have the start of a session be a familiar demanding something troublesome nearby.

Breach of the Covenant 

1. random curse 2. random mutation 3. -1 to a random attribute 4. lose 2-8 XP

Bonus Picture

Friday, November 17, 2023

HIS MAJESTY THE WORM Deep Dive - The Adventurer Sheet

 His Majesty the Worm is a new-school game with old-school sensibilities: the classic megadungeon experience given fresh life through a focus on the mundanities and small moments of daily life inside the dungeon. This post is part of a series of deep dives into the mechanics of the game.

The Adventurer Sheet

Here are two mild takes:

1. I think you can figure out what an RPG is about by looking at the page count dedicated to discussions of that subject.

2. I think you can figure out what players do by looking at the character sheet.

Here is the adventurer sheet* from His Majesty the Worm. 

Click here to download a copy of the adventurer sheet. What do you think players do in this game?

The front of the booklet is who your adventurer is at a glance. Their name, kith & kin, their motifs, attributes, their relationships with other characters. 

The back of the booklet is a rules reference for players. The book is a shared resource. Pull as much commonly-referenced information out of it so people don't need to hog it.

The inside of the booklet (page 2) is where the stuff you track is kept. On the left page, you track your talentsconditions, and animal companions. Talents can be wounded, so they're included near the status tracker. On the right page you track your equipment, separated between what you're carrying, your pack and your belt. (It's easier to grab things from your belt than your pack!)

Read on to learn more about the design decisions involved here.

* I think "adventurer" is the more natural-language sounding word for a player's character (as opposed to the insurance-salesman-sounding acronym "PC"). 


First, let me call out the people who actually designed the sheet. One of my players, M. Finch, designed the initial version of the sheet in more-or-less its final form. One of the contributing artists, Michael Strange, gave this sheet a nice design. My graphic designer, Pete Borlace, iterated on and finalized the sheet.

Design Decisions

First, the adventurer sheet is designed to be printed double-sided and folded into a booklet. (I don't know if this is the first game with a booklet-based character sheet, but I have not seen one in the past.) It is aesthetically and tactically pleasing (to me) to have a pretty little folded booklet in my hands. It's appealing.

There's a subtle visual language to the sheet. Circles tend to signify resources being taxed: damage taken, light flickering out, Resolve weakened. Squares tend to signify resources gained: Bonds charged, Arete triggered. Your light source is carried, as shown by the etched line connecting that section of the sheet to your hand slots.

If you have the Beast Master talent, an animal companion you have can be upgraded to a familiar and learn five commands instead of three. Notice how the 4th and 5th command slots are slightly rolled up to show that they're non-standard. 

You have four belt slots and twenty-one pack slots. This was done for a game design reason: it allows the GM to randomly target a piece of equipment. Either glance at the suit (1 of 4) in the minor arcana discard pile to target the belt or in the major arcana discard pile (1 of 21) to target something in the pack.

When I say that "His Majesty the Worm focuses on the human elements of dungeon exploration," tracking what's in your hands is sort of what I mean. It's important to think about what's in your hands. It changes as you adventure. If you're carrying a shield and a mace and you say, "I want to cup the moth in my hands," the GM can follow up to see how you're trying to do that. Do you put your weapons down? These things feel important to think about.

Want to learn more about His Majesty the Worm?

If this sounds interesting and you'd like to check the game out, please sign up for the mailing list in the sidebar of the blog. I will email you to tell you when the game is ready for purchase. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

HIS MAJESTY THE WORM Deep Dive - Characters

His Majesty the Worm is a new-school game with old-school sensibilities: the classic megadungeon experience given fresh life through a focus on the mundanities and small moments of daily life inside the dungeon. This post is part of a series of deep dives into the mechanics of the game.

What do characters do?

Players take on the role of adventurers. Adventurers descend into the Underworld in search of impossible things that can never exist on the surface world. They explore collectively as a guild—a  chartered union of adventurers. Adventurers fight monsters, avoid traps, get treasure, spend it all on drink, and maybe live long enough to do it twice.

This is all pretty bog standard stuff for folks used to games with dragons and dungeons.

I do think there are innovations in His Majesty the Worm that I want to talk about, though. There's something about the character lifecycle that's really compelling to me as a player and a game master. That's what this post is about.


Adventurers walk one of four paths. 

  • The Path of Swords is that of violence.
  • The Path of Pentacles is that of slyness.
  • The Path of Cups is that of learning.
  • The Path of Wands is that of sorcery.

Your attributes are the four suits of the tarot. Think about them like jobs - fighter, thief, scholar, wizard. By putting points into them, you determine which job is your focus and which jobs are your back up. Your highest attribute determines your path. 

When you select your path, you gain access to a set of talents that define your special abilities.


The GM creates the underworld - an exciting megadungeon to explore. The players create their quests

Quests are your reason for going into the underworld. Normal, healthy-brained people don't want to go there. That place sucks.

The GM places your quest somewhere in the underworld. There, it sits fermenting, gestating, and shaping the world around it--sending out rumors like satellite signals to lure you towards it. 

You get 3 XP for agreeing to help one player with their quest. 

XP is spent as a resource to use talents that you do not have mastered. You get XP at the start of an adventure to help you use new talents during the adventure.

You get 3 XP whenever you complete a quest.

You also get 1 XP (much less) for taking on assignments for NPCs and for blowing all your coin on drink at the City. Little incentivizers. 

When you have finished your quest, you're encouraged to retire your character. You've done what you've made that character to do. Retire them to the City and have the fun of playing a new type of dude for a little while.

In the last quest before we called the playtest "finished" (after 7 years!), one player defeated the Locust Lich that ruled the first level of the Underworld, rescued her dryad girlfriend, married her, and carved her tree into a figurehead for her pirate ship so the two of them could return to the surface and sail together forever. 

That's the sort of stories I want to be a part of.

Wide, not deep growth 

It’s worth noting that adventurers in His Majesty the Worm grow “wide” not “deep.” That is, XP allows you to use and master more talents, broadening the options available to you. You do not gain bigger numbers, +1s, more hit points, etc. 

You can learn any talent in the game. Your path determines what talents you start with, but you can train with your other adventurers or NPCs to learn their talents too. 

In my current campaign, I've put like 30 more talents into the game and seeded their trainers around the map. I'm having fun with players trying to find the right dude to teach them X talent. 

Arête and beyond

In addition to XP, there are two other types of growth that adventurers benefit from. The first is arête, a feature of your kith. 

Each kith (your larger racial group) has three arête triggers. For example, here's the ones for the fay kith:

When you check all of your arête, you gain a new talent specific to your kin. These unlockable talents are the only example of "deep growth" in the core game.

The second is “weirdness.” As you journey through the Underworld, you get weirder. You accumulate scars, mutations, magical items, pets, mutilations, phobias, etc. There are no rules governing the latter. Finding out how your adventurer gets weirder is essentially the whole game.

To be continued

My next deep dive is going to discuss the tech of the character sheet. What better way to learn about what characters do in the game? Stay tuned!

Want to learn more about His Majesty the Worm?

If this sounds interesting and you'd like to check the game out, please sign up for the mailing list in the sidebar of the blog. I will email you to tell you when the game is ready for purchase. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

What I'm Listening To

Despite the fact I GMed for an AP podcast, I've never really liked podcasts. I've found them difficult to listen to. However, luckily, local millennial with beard has gotten into podcasts. (I also enjoy the works of one "Modest Mouse.") Rejoice. 

I've gotten into a few podcasts that talk about the theory of RPGs (especially indie/OSR play). This is my jam. My jim jam. 

Here's what I'm listening to.*

Between Two Cairns

Local dudes Brad Kerr and Yochai Gal talk about modules (NOT SETTINGS) in Between Two Cairns. I'm hooting and hollering. Yochai talks about the folklore and background of modules, and I say "Ha ha yeah, that's right." Brad does a long form joke. I laugh and say "Ha ha yeah! YES!"

Blogs on Tape

I already read blogs. But someone has done the hard work of aggregating them for me, and read them to me aloud? So I can listen? At the gym? THANK YOU NICK LS WHELAN OF BLOGS ON TAPE

Into the Megadungeon

So few genres of RPG are as close to my heart as the noble megadungeon. Ben L's deep dive into megadungeon theory, Into the Megadungeon, is a super helpful, super insightful look into the place I've spent - shucks - I guess most of my time. Every episode has some new insight. 

* The fact that I'm on a few of these has no** bearing on me recommending them.

** It has enormous bearing.

Saturday, October 14, 2023


His Majesty the Worm is a new-school game with old-school sensibilities: the classic megadungeon experience given fresh life through a focus on the mundanities and small moments of daily life inside the dungeon. This post is part of a series of deep dives into the mechanics of the game.


His Majesty the Worm uses a standard deck of tarot cards to play the game (instead of dice). 

It is not the first RPG to do so. I read maybe half a dozen while designing it to get the lay of the land. Here is a pretty thorough list of games with card-based mechanics, including tarot cards.

Many of the games that use tarot cards lean into it as their primary gimmick. "This is the tarot card RPG," they say. Not so with His Majesty the Worm. His Majesty the Worm is a megadungeon exploration game. The tarot cards are mostly incidental--but certainly referenced in the art and graphic design (see page borders, below).

The page borders of each chapter have a different arcana as a theme. The page numbers rotate as you flip through the book, too.

How are tarot cards used?

Tarot cards are used as randomizers in His Majesty the Worm

Cards can do lots of cool things when used as game mechanics:

  • Cards are informationally rich. Each card has a number and a suit. There are numbered cards and face cards. Some suits are phallic and some are yonic. The cards have art and imagery. 
  • Cards are persistent. You can have a hand of cards. You can count the cards in your discard pile. 
  • Cards are physical. You can trade cards to your friends. You can play cards face down. You can turn/tap cards to represent different states.
  • Cards are limited. You won't get the same effect on a table twice if its keyed to a card.
  • Cards are gameable. Draw 3 keep 1. Put 1 on the bottom of the deck and 1 at the top of the deck. Play from the top of the discard pile. Etc. 

In the combat system, the Challenge Phase, I think all of these elements come together in a very fun way. Every player draws 4 cards. One card will be their Initiative, which represents how fast they move and how easy it is to hit them. The rest are spent during the round to take actions. You can take actions at any time if you play a card whose suit matches the action you want to take. Combat takes on this Dark Souls quality where you're dodge rolling, backing off to regain stamina, and performing split-second attacks. 

Tarot spreads can also be used to generate interesting and inspirational city and megadungeon layouts. I published rough drafts of these chapters as Omphalos and Dungeon Seeds, respectively.

How are tarot cards not used?

Tarot cards do not have any oracular properties in His Majesty the Worm. That is, there are really no mechanics for using the normal methods of tarot symbolism and interpretation to generate scenarios, NPCs, plots, etc. 

I think you can do that. I just don't, myself. His Majesty the Worm is essentially me capturing how I run games and trying to teach you how to do it. I don't use the cards that way, so I don't talk about it.

I'd love for a future supplement to dive into this more.

Then why tarot?

I think tarot cards look cool. That's pretty much it.

by Emmy Verte

I do not think tarot cards are magical. Tarot cards are just Rorschach blots. They're groups of symbols and inspirational art. 

For example: You draw a card that represents something that's blocking your progress. You draw The Emperor (IV) and think about a male in a position of authority. You think of your boss. You think about your relationship with him. It's Mad Libs. 

I wanted to play with tarot cards because they're weirder than playing cards, they make the game feel more heavy metal and arcane, and they're interesting to look at. I like them.

Want to learn more about His Majesty the Worm?

If this sounds interesting and you'd like to check the game out, please sign up for the mailing list in the sidebar of the blog. I will email you to tell you when the game is ready for purchase. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Monster Masquerade - a Halloween party game

Here is a party game for Halloween. And when I say party game, I mean party game. This is designed to be played by folks walking around at a party, giving this maybe 10% of their attention.

Print off the different characters. Hand them out at your Halloween shindig.

Monster Masquerade


Try to accomplish all three of your goals. Some require you to talk to other players. Some require you to scavenger hunt. Not everything you need to find is in the house. In fact, I have no idea if it is or not. 

Some players have special rules that turn you into different creature types. For example, a Frankenstein might kill a human and make that human a ghost. A vampire might make a human into a vampire. 

Ghost Goals

If you are a ghost, possess and buddy up with a living player.  You have to help them achieve their accomplishments. If they win, you win.

Ghosts don’t have any special abilities. You can just provide advice.  


Vincent St. James

Human Monster Hunter

You are a monster hunter. Can you escape this party alive? 

You know that one of the humans at this party is secretly a werewolf. 

You know that if a vampire or werewolf touches a Coors Light can, or if they drink a Coors Light, that person becomes a ghost.

1. Turn two non-humans into ghosts. 
2. Find some garlic, a stake and a mallet. Good vampire killin’ gear.
3. Find at least three pairs of sunglasses. Wear them all at once. Now you look cool. 

Alouicious de’Morte 

Vampire Sensualist 

Nobody has you beat for being a pretentious prick in the Anne Rice tradition. 

Vampire Special Rules: 
  • If a vampire or werewolf touches a Coors Light can, or if they drink a Coors Light, that person becomes a ghost.
  • If a vampire gives a living person a red drink (red wine, red eye, kool-aid, whatever), and they drink it, tell them that they are now a vampire.

1. Compose a melodramatic poem for three other guests and perform it for them.
2. Find and give flowers to your hostess. Thank her gravely for inviting you inside her home. (Don’t steal the flowers from the neighbors.)
3. Make a LiveJournal to fit this persona and make at least one post on it.

Count vonDoom

Vampire Lord

Blah! Come children of the night! Blah!

You know that one of the humans is actually a werewolf. 

Vampire Special Rules: 
  • If a vampire or werewolf touches a Coors Light can, or if they drink a Coors Light, that person becomes a ghost.
  • If a vampire gives a living person a red drink (red wine, red eye, kool-aid, whatever), and they drink it, tell them that they are now a vampire.
1. Make allies with the werewolf. Give him your dark mark on his right hand in marker. 
2. Gather your children to you. Find three things shaped like a bat. 
3. Turn at least one human into a vampire. 

Randy Butternubs

Werewolf Cowboy

You are a werewolf. But don’t tell anyone. If anyone asks, say that you are a cowboy.

Special Werewolf Rules: 
  • If you touch a Coors Light can with your skin, or if you drink a Coors Light, you become a ghost.
  • If somebody asks you if you are a werewolf and you are outside at night, you cannot lie. You have to confess to being a werewolf.
  • You can kill a human player by saying “I kill you.” You can only say this if a) You are outside and b) You are absolutely alone.
  • If someone thinks you’re human and tries to kill you, you have to say “This doesn’t work because I’m actually a werewolf.”
1. Kill a human player. This human is now a ghost. They HAVE to possess you. They now win if you win. (None of your other goals can be accomplished by this person.)
2. Be a turncoat. Steal some item that somebody else needs as a goal. That item fulfills this goal for you, now. 
3. Be a skin changer. Change a costume with somebody else. 

Aubrey Frankenstein

Sexy Frankenstein 

Move over Twilight. It’s not just Vamps and Werewolves who are sexy. FRANKENSTEINS CAN BE SEXY TOO. 

Frankenstein Rules: You can kill a human player by saying “I kill you.” You can only say this if you are absolutely alone. That player is now a ghost.

1. You are looking for a mate. Get someone to leave a big lipstick mark on your cheek. You are now friends.
2. Make a crude drawing of three other party guests. Give it to them. You are now friends.
3. Kill someone who is your friend. Get Dr. Forester to make them into a Frankenstein. You are now best friends.

J.R. Witherwit

Human Investigator of Eldritch Horror

The horror! The horror!

1. Make a “wizard staff” of beer cans. Only this talisman can protect you against the Deep Ones. It has to be at least 5 cans long to count. 
2. Find a fossil. It’s horror calls out for you to make a shrine to it. 
3. Protect three of your friends from MADNESS by drawing an Elder Sign on their right hands with a marker. 

Dr. Forester

Human Mad Scientist

They called you mad? Well, YOU’LL SHOW THEM WHAT MADNESS IS.

Special: If you make a ghost a suicide drink out of 3 different types of drinks and they drink it, they stop being a ghost and become a Frankenstein instead. 

1. Make a suicide drink out of 5 different types of drinks. Drink it. It’s a good potion! Mm mm!
2. Make a grave rubbing. You need to keep it for your records. (You’re a grave rubber, not robber)
3. Collect up to 5 hand-held lights (glowsticks, flashlights) that don’t have to be plugged in.