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.