Friday 29 November 2019

The BX Commons

No doubt this is one of those ideas that someone had about ten years ago on a blog somewhere and I'm sure someone will link me to it in the comments.

What would change if we just started rating everything with how backwards-compatible to BX it is?

Because that seems to be what most of us are talking about, effectively, when we talk about something being "O.S.R.".

I'll rephrase that. When we talk about something being "O.S.R.", we all mean something different and we all use a completely different range of references and ideas but if there is one idea and one reference than is more commonly and consistently used than others, its probably the swarm of concepts hovering around BX D&D.

Curious thing about the dual-face of backwards compatibility is its simultaneous conservatism and democratic accessibility.

In terms of 'design' and 'progress', having everything hovering around, looping away from and then looping back to simple old-school D&D is intellectual and (to storygamers anyway) creative stasis.

The thing with indy games and storygames is you can't really write adventures for them as easily, and if you do only people who play that narrow, focused indy game will, or can play them.

Instead you need to invent or hack a whole new 'game', like an Apocalypse World hack.

All of this fits neatly into that storygame space where a game is this focused thing, like a statement or a thesis, and it’s about one thing, the game itself has a 'meaning'. So everyone goes around making new games but with a common, fluctuating store of mechanics.

Then you have an OSR space where the basic mechanics of 'the game' are broadly set, and where, ideally, the 'meaning' of what you are doing is open to investigation and interpretation during play and working that out is itself part of the game and where what people are mainly doing is making adventures, rather than making new games.

The conservatism of everything being backwards-compatible to BX, or something like it, means that everyone setting out to make an adventure has a shared language, and a potentially shared market. A huge market.

And because the rules are simple, free or easy to distribute and widely available anywhere, then you have strong equality of access to the basic ideas needed.

When you break away from that, like with the latest gen of retroclones, Black Hack, Into the Odd, Knave etc, not to mention Troika which is totally uninterested in being backwards compatible with BX, all of these bend the format, try to do something new, try to carve out their own little space. But in doing so they fragment the great, messy, dirty pulsating island of BX-compatible D&D

I'm commenting here not to condemn - most people have sound reasons for doing whatever they are doing, or even to largely persuade, at least not to strongly persuade people to any particular axis of action. I find generally, people are better off left largely alone to do their own thing.

But if I did want to persuade people of anything it would be more to persuade them of the potential value of seeing the world in a particular way, and of seeing this vast pool of backwards-compatibility, as low-status, dirty, common, messy, often very bad, and definitely not 'cool', not the kind of thing any individual creator can be 'proud of', but as seeing this big pulsating island as a kind of useful, even noble, commons of thought, and specifically, one that gives a really wide range of people, the people you might care about if you are a lefty, marginalised etc, but also just totally random people, people you weren't necessarily thinking of when you imagined 'accessibility', equality of a sort, fairness, or as close as we are getting, and a shared market.

So it is worth maintaining and contributing to this huuge, dirty pizza-slice swimming pool
'the BX Commons' because its hugeness aids everyone

Of course this is loathsome to anyone who cares about political and moral purity. The existence pf the commons, of true , actual democracy, means you have to, at least in theory, share a paddling pool with those you despise and wish to drive out of existence.

Thing is, if everyone’s wee microgames and personal versions work out and if everyone gets what they dream of, then the commons disappears and we all starve, which is interesting to think about.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Sweet Airs

Furthering the ideas of The Prospero;

Few things of sweetness append to me at any time. Most recently I was paralysed with illness and the deepest interest was in the slow tides of fever which I could feel rolling from one side of my body to another.

Walking on Bidston hill in the evening, a woman had thrown particles of food upon the stone path, bordered by trees, and Crows (or maybe Rooks?) had gathered in ever branch, black on the shadows of the black trees, paper cut-outs against the slow gloom and the band of city lights on the horizon which cut the boughs.

And none of that would count very well towards Calibans "sweet airs", I have little sweetness in me, for few things of beauty append to me and sweetness not being my policy I fear I lack the capacity to add these visions much vigour, but I have done what I could.


The momentary restoration of those we loved. A vision of those that were lost at sea waiting calmly beneath the waves.

Good memories of bad souls. Caliban dandled on Sycorax's knee. Given newts to play with.

The Phoenix Throne amidst the glowing trees of Ind, which hold their fruit like jewels. And those shimmering palaces glowing like the heads of curling flowers, pennants burning as the striped backs of basking snakes.

Clouds opening to show a lamp-specked carriage ride across the sea, drawn by silent horses, night-black against the dark, visible only from the Eld-light of the dashing wheels which drew across the rolling surf as a matron cuts the pastry of a pie all curled.

Stars like jewels in a pillowcase, peeping like a child through fingers.

Lightning like a bleeding eye, like a blow struck against an effigy of gold which, when scarred, does bleed and issue forth great gouts of silver mercury and red gold which drench the ground as rain.

A great city of lights burnishing the shadow of the horizon. It does glitter and charm w' wonderous grace as to be a very city for the Tigers of the Dawn and their rough multitude, pulling at the curtains of the night as if to pull them to the Seas floor.

Fine girls as glowing as christmas and as happy as hens, sitting like little queens on great eggs.

And of such eggs, why they were gilded like the summer sun and shot through w' veins and channels of damascene and pearl like maps of rivers or ink running from a page too freshly stampt.

And I saw a land composed of the freedom riches made, and was as if the streets were a river of sky and mean flocking like birds, going wherever they would.

That whole nation were as clear as glass and as open as mountaintops.

The shell of sea-turtles, very smooth and Wise, and I did dream I stroke'd em' and made much of their learned smoothness.

The sea-worms also. The waves-orchid, flower men of Juno's bower. Most gracile and tractomorphic tentacles, fit to dance morris maypole at a very Salt Spring!

A river of the rainbowest fish and the did tickle my feet and made much of me and game me fine watches, seven each, with hands like suns rays and new pairs of shoes. Shoes nonpareil!

Tuesday 19 November 2019


Lets be honest, you're all garbage people incapable of useful or concerted action or decision unless being simultaneously terrified of, and enthralled by, a manically deluded magus-figure on whom you can focus the black energy of your churning resentment and desire.

It’s been a while since you've been screamed at by a narcissistic loon and I am, once again, out of ideas, so its TIME FOR A WITCHUNT. THE ORDO HERETICUS HAS MADE PLANETFALL.

I know full well that ALL OF YOU are Traitors, one way or another. I look aside only for a moment, and return back to discover that a 2d6 Apocalypse World roll is "essentially the same" as the holy d20, that fundamentally, what were all engaged in is "telling stories".... that system matters.



Now is the time brethren, for the End Times are upon us all. Speak now or forever be confined to Discord.



Was it actually playing 4E? Are ye a delver in the corpse of that ancient and defeated God? KEIL .. WHY???

Are you hanging with Storygamers now, maybe dabbling with narrative control? RAM I KNOW IT WAS YOU, I KNOW IT WAS YOU AND IT BREAKS MY HEART.

Are you shopping like you believe in yourself on Itchio? ITS JUST BLOG POSTS YOU PAY FOR YOU FOOLS!

Are you staggering through incalculably-long threads on RPG.NET like a man who crawls through thorns, both teared by and tearing at that which restrains you? OH YE SUPPLICANTS TO THE PURPLE CITY, KNOW YE NOT THAT IN THE LAST DAYS EVEN YE SHALL BE CAST DOWN?

Have you been starting shit on Twitter and hoping against hope that a Cop or a Fascist turns up so ye may cast the bitter ashes of your heart upon them? (Actually that is pretty classically OSR, ye are forgiven for that).

Now is the time my rebellious Kine. Ye may confess your sins and face the fire, at least with a shrived soul.

(You can name yourselves Traitor but anyone naming others Traitor proves themself to *be* a Traitor Most Foul and will be deleted.)

Thursday 14 November 2019




You heard me! Everbody gets a genre!

Click the Expanding Mind Meme Image to generate your personal post-O.S.R splinter faction.

Then war in comments over who is real!

Old time are become new again!

Also - Remember LAST GASP? Still around!

Wednesday 13 November 2019

The Prospero

Here is a vague plan for an adventure which will probably never get made.


The slave-ship "Prospero", storm-wrecked, its hull burst open.

The PCs escape.


The PCs have randomly generated gender, tribes/nations and status-levels.

They also have a semi-random range of languages, meaning they can speak their own tribal language, and may be able to speak other local languages,  depending on their closeness and the PCs intelligence, education and status level, as well as a rough lingua-franca of their overall culture-group.

This sounds complicated and will probably be abstracted. Key thing is, the PCs cant all talk to each other easily or directly, their will be semi-random patterns of communication. For instance, a Prince may only be able to speak easily with a criminal of his own tribe and a young woman of a nearby tribe. The young woman may be able to speak a little with all PCs.

The PCs also have particular status-levels, with the chart tilted more towards the 'interesting' or dramatic possibilities, rather than the 'realistic' curve of almost everyone being a poor farmer.

Everyone has a reason for ending up a slave as well, captured in war, a victim of political intrigue and conflict, being simply low-status and expendable, maybe being a low-level criminal, or even being a really horrible criminal who probably deserved imprisonment, if not actual slavery.

Point being, the PCs start with a complex web of societal roles, assumptions and patterns of communication, co-operation and resentment.

Could also leave an option open for (very) old-school STR limits for Female PCs, probably with a statement saying only use this if you are randomising PC gender at start and if all the players are into it.

Does any of this really matter and is it workable?

I suppose I will write on and see. Probably you could run the 'basic' version without it.


The PCs have no idea where the Island is. It is far from anywhere.

The island is enchanted, full of magic, strange airs, mild illusions, softness, trickery, and danger. It plays upon the mind. If you want more I'm going to have to re-read The Tempest (and probably all the associated fictions and poems).

Control of the Island is split between three individuals, though only one claims true rulership.

The Lord of the Island is Caliban - a crooked, bestial, but intelligent and strong, sorcerer.
powerful body. He wields a staff made from two pieces of sea-stained broken wood tied together. Once they may have truly been part of the same staff. The power of his magic lies in the staff and in books, which he refers to, but guards closely.

The books themselves, when encountered, are drowned. They have soaked in brine and now bulge. The magic in them seeps. The books grow coral in wild forms from their pages.

Calibans magic is kinda janky and fucked-up, but its the most immediate and practical form on the Island. In D&D terms he has most of the actually-immediately-destructive Wizard spells. And he is always armed with them. And not above blasting a PC to illustrate exactly what he can do.

He is also tough as shit physically and hyper-paranoid and distrusting. And he knows all the secrets of the Isles, its tricks and spirits, and more mundane dangers. Even stripped of his magic he would be a powerful opponent for the PCs.

Caliban desires above all, love and respect as the islands true Lord.

He cannot feel or acknowledge love, having never been loved, and his crushingly low self-esteem makes him flail in imperious rages and degrade others. If he meets a criminal, he will try to enslave them, (though he will probably get along better with them than anyone else), if he meets a Prince, he will try to awe and impress him. He will probably try to marry any possible wife. (Or more realistically, rape them, if you are ready for your game to get that edgy. If not he may just obsess over persuading/forcing them to like him).

But if Caliban could truly feel love, and could recognise respect, he might become quite a different being. While he is physically mildly horrific, he is still.. potent, and he does genuinely love the Island. If his behaviour were to change he might not necessarily be a terrible Husband, though thinks are likely to be.. STORMY.

For now, his main problems are Ariel and Stetebos.

Stetebos is a terrible God whom Caliban worships, and fears.

Calibans mother Sycorax was a worshipper of Stetebos and passed that faith on to her son. Stetbos liveth in the eye of the moon. They are an Outer God. A creature of terrible unreality.

When Caliban took over the Island and "found" "his" books, he, quite faithfully, used the magic in them to find some way to bring Stetebos to our terrestrial orb. This was a mistake.

The nature of the ritual he used means that Stetebos grows more powerful the closer the moon gets to full. While the moon is full, they can physically incarnate on the Isle, but they are pissed (in as much as an Outer God can be pissed) that their physical form is trapped in this brief cycle of time and on this shitty island.

Stetebos rules from their unnerving and dreamlike Lunar Court in something like the manner of a Rennaisance Prince/Queen/Horriblefuckingmonsterthing.

In as much as Stetebos wants anything, its to personally ontologically fuck reality, piece-by-piece, and after doing as much of that as seemed interesting on this island, they have started to have almost humanlike thoughts about stuff like 'ships' and 'logistics'.

Stetebos can promise anything to its servants and could maybe do a lot of it, but wont. It is a child stamping on tadpoles in a pool until it gets bored (or something stings it).

The most powerful weapon against Stetebos is the magic in Calibans books.

But Caliban still essentially worships Stetebos (like mother taught him) and has little other source of meaning in his life. And no fucking way is anyone else getting near those books, not after all the shit he had to go through to get them.

Arial is an Opposing Spirit of the Isle, and (especially in Calibans eyes, a carpetbagging tourist).

Ariel is light, etherial, beautiful and has little combat capacity. Though, outside of doing direct damage to anything, they are potentially insanely powerful. They could run around the world a bunch of times. Move faster than light. Trick, delude and persuade people, and are incredibly slippery; near impossible to trap and harm. (Unless you trap them in a pine).

Arial and Caliban have something of a Joker/Batman thing going on here, or more like a Road-Runner/Wile E. Coyote thing, with Caliban obsessed with trapping and controlling Ariel and Ariel thinking Caliban is a massive tool and endlessly fucking with him (in relatively minor ways).

Ariel is totally and utterly obsessed with never being under anyones control ever again and will accept no authority or command. They can only be charmed with fine manners, sad stories, music, beauty, dance or play. They rarely do harm but can inflict great mischief, and can find out most things.

Ariel is well aware of how insanely dangerous Stetbos and their Lunar Court are, but firstly Ariel is not exactly super-woke to the value of consensus reality, this one being only one of many to them, and secondly Stetebos is one of the few creatures that could easily harm or control Ariel, and Ariel won't go near Stetebos.

Other NPC's

The Phoenician

- This is a skeleton flowering with shells and coral who hangs around being maudlin and poetic. Caliban tries to drag them in to guarding the books, due to the sea theme and Skeletons being sleepless. The Phoenician lives in a slow whirlpool in the Island.

Other NPCs'/Spirits?

Comments are open to anything from either the bits of the Tempest I have forgotten or all the associated poems and (good) fiction relating to it that I doubtless haven't read.

Tuesday 5 November 2019


Can we do something interesting with the Vampire Marketing Spam?

Or just the general torrent of Spam as the dying Byzantine Empire of google retreats from the Blogger Provinces, abandoning us to the roving bot-tribes of the digital plains?

I feel like learning to act more and more like spam or chatbots will be more and more useful in the coming word. As the shitty low-level marketting A.I.s take over more and more of reality, not only will we encounter more of them than real people, but generations as yet unborn will have their thoughts and attitudes shaped by them, simulating them through natural adaptation.

Plus when robots rule the world, Spam-Camo will be the only save way to traverse online spaces. We will have to sneak past the Panopticon in Spam-Skins and communicate to each other as if we were misfiring chatbots, signalling out humanity through subtle interpretations and apparent cognitive-misfire metaphors.

I did try leaving a comment on Arnolds blog as faux Vampire Spam, but it got deleted. I will never know if that was because he mistook it for actual spam, which makes it a kind of victory, or whether he just found it irritating. But this is the kind of fundamental uncertainty you have to learn to live with when you Become Spam.

It is time for us to put on the Clothes of the Night which will inevitably consume us.

My first challenge to you all is for you to respond to this post ONLY in the form of pseudo-spam comments. Points will be awarded for Absurdity, Beauty and Spamishness. (Of course the Most Spamish Comments may not be correctly identified as the work of human beings, but of course, that is the nature of those Secret and Uncertain Victories).

My second challenge is, the next time you see a blog post you like, and you feel like you should say something positive but have nothing detailed to say, and since the Plus-1 button has been taken from us, COMMENT AS SPAM.

PRETEND TO BE SPAM my children! Offer Vampire Cures and SEO Optimisation and Youtube Sporting Channels. And hide links to other posts in yours. Use link shorteners and other methods.

With this we will create THE INFINITE LABYRINTH OF SPAM - a secret layer of Adventure to the OSR Blogosphere. The next time you come to delete interminable Spam comments, you will have to think, to analyse; "Is this truly Spam?"

And if you click on a link you may get a surprise gift - a special Blog Post, on which you can leave another pseudo-spam comment, leading to yet another post.

Yet you may also get actual, real spam, like porn sites or Singaporean Rhino Horn. This adds the necessary thrill of danger and risk which will gamify my infinite labyrinth into a True Dungeon.

The Great Game. Us against the Robots. Us against each other. And all for the sweet sweet treasure of internet culture - THE GOLDEN CLICKS.