Tuesday 28 June 2022


Burdens are one of the more significant additions I'm playing with in Primeval Bastionland. They're inspired by Fatigues from Mausritter, which in turn made their way into Cairn and Runecairn (which you can click to see in my glowing readthrough earlier this week). 

It's a lovely feeling having so many brilliant designers tinkering with the Into the Odd chassis, but it's really useful when I can steal their innovations back. 

But to be fair to myself, I've not quite lifted things wholesale. In short, your knight picks up Burdens throughout their journeys, from a wide range of sources. They go onto your character sheet, separate to your inventory, and if you ever have three or more than you're Exposed, essentially being treated as if you have 0hp. 

Each Burden comes with a specific requirement for you to relieve it, or you can take the generic solution of "spend a season of reflection or indulgence", supposedly either praying or drinking a lot. 

Of course, in my first draft of this idea I went bonkers and tried to write as many as I could. Could I do 100? I mean, this game already has so many lists of 100 things, it would be a nice bit of symmetry. I could give each of the 100 Knights their own specific type of Burden that gets triggered when they act in a certain way. That way your Knight feels cool and unique, like some of the better PBTA playbooks!

Since then I've regained my focus, and most of all remembered the sheer joy that comes with deleting words from the page. Aaah. 

So we now have 7 Burdens (ignoring Scars, now a special type of Burden but otherwise very close to how they work in Electric) and I'm pretty happy with them. They'll definitely get changed around a lot, but it feels like a solid foundation. 

  • Ache: Get a hot meal and restful sleep.
  • Glory: Protect your legacy.
  • Oath: Prove your word to be true.
  • Shame: Perform an act of mercy or sacrifice.
  • Vanity: Ensure your deeds are known.
  • Woe: Spend a full day in reflection or indulgence. 
  • Wrath: Achieve a worthy victory of arms.

At first I was annoyed at myself for writing that big sloppy initial list. After all, this refined approach makes sense for a number of reasons:

  • The GM can learn the list more easily, giving them greater confidence to select the appropriate Burden for a Knight when needed.
  • The players will be less confused between a huge list of slightly different ailments. Eventually they'll just internalise what it means to have an Ache, not having to remember the difference between Hungry, Exhausted, Deprived, and Frigid. 
  • It's more accessible to anybody reading the book as a core list of things that Knights are likely to get hung up on. Helps get that theme across more succinctly. 

And there's no point beating myself up over it. After all, you can't have a refined thing without the process of refinement. It has to start with a crude material. 

The approach of "thrown down the block of clay and find the statue inside" has served me well for a while now, but I have to remember not to resent that initial raw heap. The statue was always in there. 


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If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Wednesday 22 June 2022


This week is the tipping point where I really do feel like AI is going to steal work from human creators. Of course this has been obvious for a while, but now I can see it in action in my own hands, as I've been testing out Midjourney for image creation. Naturally I prompt it to spawn inane creations that make me chuckle, but I've also been using it for actual RPG stuff. 

I tried it out on Primeval Bastionland hoping to slot in some placeholder art to help me and my playtesters visualise the world. 

Similar to the Failed Career spreads from Electric, I'm working on separate Knight and Myth pages for Primeval Bastionland. The former are your PCs, and bank of character ideas, the latter your world broadly painted through stories, all real. Underneath their name each gets a a two line shot of flavour text, just like the Failed Careers, but here I've leaned into some flowery poetry. For each of the entries I started the AI off with just the flavour text and a few general guidelines ("Greyscale Medieval Art" and canvas size)

Prompt: The Order. They were six in the circle, no first among them Each a knight and sage, master and student. Greyscale medieval art.

The first and most obvious thing about this art is it's actually good. There are tricks you can learn to get better outputs, but the real trick is to keep trying until you get something that looks good. Even then, the AI struggles with details, especially when you want actual humans.

God help you if you want somebody riding a horse.

Prompt: Female Knight. Within a blink they were on their steed Knight and horse at one, a red streak in the green. Greyscale medieval art.

That one took a LOT of attempts. You can't be too strict about composition either, but if you want dreamy mythic visions then this is good stuff. Making creepy scenes is easymode.

The Mournful spirit. They wandered ahere and athere, drawn by sorrow. Old as the sun, timid as a child. Greyscale medieval concept art.

So this tool can't do everything (yet?) but aside from helping out artless writers, there's something I actually really like about it for this project.

It throws out things that I don't think a human artist would draw.

WAIT I know how that sounds. Of course human artists can surprise you, even if you give them a relatively specific brief. 

The difference is that the AI doesn't seem to give a shit about making you happy. You aren't paying it. So sometimes you'll really want a Wyvern and it keeps giving you stuff like this.

(Prompt: The Wyvern. All jaw and neck like knotted string. All wing and tail a baleful sting. Greyscale, medieval, concept art.)

Yeah it's my fault really. When I wrote that flavour text I wasn't imagining it would be interpreted by a robot, so we get a monster that is literally "all wing and neck". No human would interpret the brief that way.

But I want this world to be a bit weird and dreamy, right? Maybe I can get on board with this Wyvern.

Well, no. I'm pretty sure I want this thing to have some sort of discernible anatomy.

Or... do I?

And that exemplifies why I'm enjoying this process so much. 

 (Prompt: When night met day, where water flame. They saw the child, rejoiced in name. Greyscale medieval art.)


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Tuesday 14 June 2022


When should you give the characters a bonus to their attack? This would be Enhanced in ITO or a Bonus Die in EB. 

Sometimes this can feel arbitrary, and it's just a game of "can I convince the GM". There's an element of that, but when I GM I try to look for one of three ways that the character is earning the bonus. In short, I look for something in return. 

A Note on Freebies: Sometimes a bonus just happens from a situational advantage if it makes sense. You're fighting cog robots that are winding down, and their description says attackers get a bonus against them once they start to flag. Orcs are vulnerable fighting under sunlight. The examples for this post are more for situations where a player might say "do I get a bonus because..."

What's Earning Your Bonus?

INFO: You've learned something that would help here. This how I might handle weak spots. Not glowing bullseyes, but a reward for going out and talking to hunters and those who have fought the creature before.  That stone mammoth has STR 19, Armour 3, so getting a +d10 to every attack because you learn of its hatred of fire is practically necessary. 

PREP: A good action now to reward good action later. The classic is "setting up" an ally for their attack. You could formalise this as a standard move, but I like keeping these things a little more open. In essence, if a player can point back to a previous action that specifically set up the current attack I'm happy to give them a bonus for it. 

RISK: Really there are a few ways this can go. The classic is "roll a save, if you pass then you attack with bonus if you fail then your attack whiffs and maybe you take damage" but there's a lot of fine tuning that can be done in there. I don't really like whiffs, so I'd probably just have the attack go through as normal, with either immediate damage to the character or, better yet, a bonus being granted to their target on their counter-attack. There are even cases where you might not call for a Save, and just allow a bonus in return for taking a hit yourself. Fight recklessly and both of you will get +d8 to attacking each other. If they join in the recklessness maybe it goes up to +d10! Here the Risk element is still present, even without a Save. 

How Much of a Bonus?

Now this is where it gets tricky. If it's something that can't be easily repeated I lean towards generosity, giving a +d12 bonus, otherwise I tend to go to +d8 if it's something that can be brought out again and again. Naturally that gives us +d10 to use as a middle ground if you're uncertain.

+d6 does work if you just want to throw them a bone, but I feel like I'd rather just grant the full +d8 or advise them to find a better approach. +d6 is better suited to passive ongoing bonuses instead. 

Sometimes removing a level of granularity like this lets the spotlight shine more brightly on player choice and agency. 


This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Tuesday 7 June 2022


Relax everyone, I've solved Soulslike Combat in RPGs™

Like all the great rules of our time this was written for my games but works with anything. 

SLOW ACTIONS: Some actions or items are noted as Slow. To use them the character must have declared the action at the end of their previous turn, declaring targets if needed. Declaring a Slow action is not an action in itself. 

Not complicated. Inspired by Into the Breach more than the actual souls games. Works on the idea that you can give some truly horrible abilities to your monsters as long as the players get a chance to respond. 

Put to use below. 

Callous, cruel, awful, and long Feasting far beyond its hunger, only happy in bloated rest 

The unending devourer STR 18, DEX 8, CHA 5, 10hp

Crush (d8 blast) or gorge (2d12, slow, swallow whole on 7+ for d8 ongoing damage until the victim is freed)
Craggy hide (A2)

  • A force of gluttony, greed, and sloth. It exists to ruin the balance of nature
  • Speaks to all living things but loses patience with anything that isn’t worshipping or bringing gifts
  • Cannot rest until its colossal hunger is sated, then sleeps for a year

In the wake of the feasting

  • Towns are left crushed and bare
  • Forests are torn from their roots, all creatures swallowed or scattered 
  • It rests in places dark, wet, and repellent to intruders


Spout hatred
Spread fear
Aggrandise self
Insult enemies
Seek submission
Entice fealty

Cut off escape
Trap them and leave
Target the weak
Break their arms
Flee to advantageous ground
Blunt assault



GM: The dragon rakes its claws at you for d10 damage (Rolls a 2) that's 2 damage.

Player: Phew, I still have HP, so I manage to dodge the worst of it. 

GM: At the end of its turn the dragon rears back and prepares to blast you with its acid breath. (Looks down at notes) Just to warn you, this one is nasty! It's a Slow action so it has to perform it next turn, targeting you. 

Player: Hmm.. how badly injured is the dragon?

GM: You've tired it out a little but it's in pretty good shape.

Let's look at 3 ways it could go from here


Player: Okay I'll run up and stab the thing with the spike of my billhook (rolls a 7).

GM: (subtracts the Dragon's armour of 2 for 5 damage, enough to lose some HP but not wound the creature) The Dragon is forced back, but your spike fails to pierce its glistening scales. Its jaws flash open and you're drenched in a spew of acidic spray (Rolls 2d10 damage, rolling 3 and 9) for 9 damage, and you're covered in corrosive bile that'll keep hurting you till it's washed off. Not looking good. 


Player: Is there anything I can hide behind?

GM: The ruined chapel is probably too far away, the rest is pretty open terrain. I'll give you a DEX Save if you want to try to dive into the ruins in time, otherwise you'll get hit with the acid. 

Player: I'll take it (Rolls a DEX Save, passing).

GM: You sprint and leap behind a fallen column just before the dragon unleashes its acidic breath in your direction. You hear the sizzling of corroding rock around you as you hide. Right, now it's your turn again, what do you do?


Player: How intelligent is this Dragon? It spoke before, right?

GM: Yeah it speaks a little, but it's definitely got an animalistic nature. 

Player: I throw myself down in front of the dragon. "Oh mighty creature, spare me and I'll show you where you might feast until you are truly sated"

GM: What's the idea here?

Player: The locals said this thing was just like raiding for food, right? Seems mostly driven by hunger.

GM: Yeah, good idea, but this thing isn't certain to be open to negotiation at this point. You'll need a CHA Save or it'll just ignore your pleas. 

Player: Okay, I go for it (Rolls a CHA Save, failing)

GM: The dragon doesn't seem impressed. It eyes you hungrily before blasting you with a shower of acid (rolls 2d10 for 4 and 6) 6 damage for now, how does that leave you?