Souls-like Knave Hack Alpha

Here's a thing I've been working on recently; side project sixty three of eleventy seven. Yeah yeah, too much design, not enough play, I know. Get used to it.

This is a Souls-like hack of Ben Milton's lean Old School ruleset Knave. Bits of how Knave works are really suitable to emulating the digital games, such as stat-building and tight equipment management.

Conceptual Status: Warning - Unfinished, Untested, Ungrounded Notional Design

It deserves a more interesting name, but this certainly gets the idea across.
Feel free to comment on the doc with suggestions!

Gameplay Assumptions
Note that, in service of emulating the digital games, this is much more of a mathfinder-style thing than my usual fare. While Knave is created for and suited to Old School Style gameplay, Knave Souls embraces aspects of its inspiration in ways that don't always align with that set of principles.

The most notable differences: Combat is the central focus and more Sport than War, with a crunchier action system to support rich decision-making in that context. Character stats are upgraded early and often, and building and optimizing stats and inventory loadout are major factors. The world, environments, and options for progress may be less open-ended, but also more dungeon-like. The Referee and group must decide the amount and nature of play outside of combat encounters.

Development Progress
I have no real intentions of making a big production out of this and no firm plans to proceed with developing it, so feel free to rip out and reuse bits as you see fit. It will likely return to the backburner while I get distracted by shinier things. But the next step might be to run some solo combat simulations to root out the most obviously broken parts in the stat/combat system.

Of course, if you're inspired to actually put it in play for some testing, I'd be delighted; please do report back.

This is yet another of a long line of Dark Souls-y RPGs and hacks thereof. A few that were influential to this instantiation:

There have also been many great pieces written about the intersections of RPGs and Souls-like gameplay that I'd love to assemble in one place, but my threshold for bloating this post has just been crossed.

I encourage you to comment below, rather than elsewhere.

Long live the Blogosphere!

Quintessential BX

Quintessential BX is a trimming and tweaking of Gavin Norman's B/X Essentials, itself a revision of Tom Moldvay and David Cook's Basic/Expert edition of the Original Fantasy Adventure Game. It includes a few refinements, additions, and options from myself, Gavin, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, such as ascending AC, a reasonable Encumbrance system, and various new options in combat. QBX is intended to serve as a solid base upon which to layer other, modular rules; it does not include classes, monster stats, or spells. These can be referenced from original or new sources, or created yourself. Season to taste.

Suitable for printing as a zine-style booklet

The primary differences from BX are ascending AC, consolidation of some fiddly bits like ability score adjustments into standardized modifiers, and trimming of some things I see as extraneous like prime requisite XP adjustments, extensive rules for water and air travel, and encumbrance by tracking the weight of every item (two new Encumbrance options are added).

Special thanks to Gavin for both taking on the endeavor of creating B/X Essentials, and for conferring with me on attribution. It should also be noted that Gavin is further refining, compiling, and re-branding B/X Essentials to Old School Essentials, and the new editions will include Ascending AC.

As a side note, this (along with the original version of Principia Apocrypha) also serves as an example of how one can wring decent-looking, printable zine-booklets out of Google Docs. I might eventually write up a guide and templates for what I've learned.

I encourage you to comment below, rather than elsewhere.

Long live the Blogosphere!

Grotty PC Relationships

Your PC's relationship with the PC to your right:
  1. You're connected quite literally, by ten feet of chain, shackled to an ankle each.
  2. You're revolted by them, but somehow they're the only thing keeping your shit together.
  3. You're old friends, but always take credit for their accomplishments.
  4. You both know damning secrets about each other. Like, really bad.
  5. You stole their Wand of Self-Pleasure after finding them asleep with it in an alley.
  6. You both ripped off a crime boss in The City and owe them way more coin than you'd be able to earn in a lifetime of honest work.
  7. You discovered you both collect something gross, and have only confided in each other since.
  8. You were both somewhat accomplished adventurers, until the incident. One of you lost their shield-hand, the other half their face.
  9. You really look up to them. They always overlook you. Seriously, you're way shorter than them. But, figuratively, too.
  10. You're positive they covet your pig (loyal, obedient, and loving).
  11. They look very much like the face on a bounty poster you found. The others don't see the resemblance.
  12. You grew close in the trenches of The War. Very close. Whether you can even stand each other now is another question.

Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. The duo on the right were inspiration for R2D2 and C3PO.

Conceptual Status: Warning - Untested but Play-Ready


I have vague intentions of running some fast, loose, funnel-style OSRish one-shots at local pub game nights. The system would be pretty rules-light, and character creation would be dead-simple and lightning fast to get into the gameplay ASAP. These would probably be on cards, along with two other character aspect cards, randomly selected.

I want these and the other related character aspects to...

  • Not be as boring as most PC relationship tables ("18: Siblings.")
  • Give the players something to grab on to RP-wise, when everything else is also random and they're plopped into a weird situation with little context
  • Give the players reason to interact among themselves in the absence of external pressure to do so, because this is where a big chunk of the fun of one-shots always seems to arise
  • Encourage a wee bit of PVP, or at least dramatic irony, which are likewise generally good in a one-shot
  • Naturally generate "leading questions" without forcing them
  • Establish an appropriately grotty tone and aesthetic for the flavor of modules I want to run, and that your characters are not Heroes
  • Let it be clear that they're free to lean-in to the Murderhobo instinct

Related Resources

Somewhat inspired by:

Do you know any other really good, flavorful tables for PC relationships?

I encourage you to comment below, rather than elsewhere.

Long live the Blogosphere!


Dinosaurs, played straight, annoy me. Something about the dissonance of them existing alongside rust monsters and bulettes. If a module calls for a dinosaur, I intend to reskin them with this.

In rough order of increasing weirdness (adjust die size accordingly)

1. Too many horns
2. Big, sharp, scissor-like beak
3. Mouth too wide, splitting down the neck or torso
4. Proboscis tongue, flicks out with startling speed and range, injects strange toxins
5. Head like a giant reptilian claw
6. Moth-like antennae, communicates with static sounds, limited intelligence
7. Big faceted gem-like eyes that shoot frickin' laser beams
8. Articulated exoskeleton, can fold up into egg like shape for protection like a crab
9. Elongated body, 1d4 exploding extra sets of limbs
10. It never evolved limbs, remove them
11. Thick, gummy, rubbery skin and meat, cartilaginous skeleton, lower damage but higher HP, lose weapons in it
12. Encrusted in crystals, longest on the back where they don't get broken off
13. Fed by the heat of a radioactive heart-stone, exposed to the air through the ribcage for thermal regulation
14. Glow-in-the-dark skin, with that gross pale translucent quality in normal light, absorbs magic
15. Still mostly a fish; replace limbs with fins, somehow gets along on land
16. Saurotaur - replace head with an intelligent humanoid upper body
17. Take the 1-4: front, 5-6: back half of it, jam 2d4 of them together like a starfish
18. Crudely simple skeletal structure and body plan, too few joints, like a children's drawing, viscerally unsettling
19. Badly made; mouth sealed shut, webbed digits and limbs indistinct from trunk, seam-like lines, eyes seem painted directly on flesh
20. God's plaything; composed of glazed porcelain with gold embellishments, moving in clay-motion, cracking, flowing, re-firing itself as it moves

Youtube video "11 worst dinosaurs in my collection"

Conceptual Status: Warning - Untested but Play-Ready


I tried to add things that might give these creatures a slightly-to-highly gonzo charm, reminiscent of that of the original D&D monsters, which Gygax based a number of on knock-off toy "dinosaurs".

Speaking of that brand of charm, I don't think I've seen a monster resource that comes closer to reproducing it than Roger GS's Varlets & Vermin (and that includes the Creature Compendium). It's straight-up D&D canon, in my book! And free. Print it. Put it on the table.

I encourage you to comment below, rather than elsewhere.

Long live the Blogosphere!