Saturday, August 29, 2020

Fantasy Chainsaws

 Bit of a weird project, but if you ever want to include some form of chainsaw in your fantasy games, at least one of these should fit the tone. Maybe that's just me! If you're doing full gonzo, go ahead and roll that wonderful d20.

1. Lotus Petal Saw

Softly shining, pink petals spin along an ornamented bar, conjured by a Blades of the Endless Wheel mantra.
Exactly this, by me

2. Thornwheel Blade

A great enchanted rose bush, grown by fairies to have a rotary thorned stem.

3. Jaguar Claw Macuahuitl

Empowered by a jaguar spirit, its many obsidian blades command incredible cutting power even when swung like a normal sword.

4. Necrospinner

A spinning weapon of animated bone, using fangs and teeth along the whirling edge.

5. Meatcutter

So named for cutting meat as well as being meat itself. The blade is comprised of sharp, hardened claws, and it spews its own blood when spinning.

6. Crystal Prismus

Enchanted weapon of stone and gems. Each tooth is a different kind of gem, and they can create a glinting rainbow of slicing power.

7. Brimstone Spinblade

Spewing hellfire when it spins, the heat of its flames can burn through steel as well as any warhammer punches through.

8. Starlight Spinner

An elven weapon of silver, hammered as fine as eggshells, with a radiant blade that captures the light of the stars.

9. Slimesaw

Somehow when spinning, the goopy edge of this blade cuts much faster than the slime can normally corrode.

10. Classical Sparksaw

Ancient spinning blade crafted of olive wood and bronze, spits blue sparks as it spins. Made by a brilliant inventor centuries ago.

Ancient Bladesaw, from Zelda


11. Trimerian Sawbeetle

The curious horns of this giant beetle can spin to cut through wood or, presumably other Trimerian creatures. They are dismembered and reconfigured to be useful as tools.

12. Winding Sharp-Frost

 Unnaturally hardened frost, spinning and cutting with a fractal edge.

13. Whipsaw

A bladed whip that can be activated to coil in an elongated shape, spinning to cut more effectively, in exchange for shorter reach.

14. Terracotta Blade

A living clay weapon that spins with razor sharp clay shards along a lengthened edge.

15. Runic Stormblade

Constructed by wizards of moderate-quality steel. The runes etched into its surface conjure the rage of storms into a crackling, whirling edge of deep indigo lightning.

16. Gilded Relic Blade

Built of marble set with gold and finely cut gems, this spinning blade contains a warrior-saint's hand bones that they used to wield weapons, and radiates with divine cutting light.

17. Trimerian Wasps

Angry insects that have been specially bred and trained to fly in a long, rounded formation and devour anything they touch. This was the only formation in which they wouldn't turn back and attack whoever holds their hive.

Lasersaw, by Andrea Sibilla

18. Jade Dragon's Fang

Gifted by a divine being from an unearthly realm, it is surprisingly easy to carry.

19. Spectre's Wrath

 As ghostly mist whirls and spins, the hatred of the dead calls out in a hollow wail.

20. Splitting Organistrum

The powerful tune of this slow instrument projects a small aura of cutting sound near its neck when played properly.

Many of these were inspired with help from Gal Paladin on Discord!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Combat systems

The point of combat

My goals when designing a combat system are that it should first have enough dynamism to not be a solved game or rote repetition, second be as simple as possible, and third be as realistic as it can. The order there is very important. I do not want to play a tabletop RPG that is mostly or entirely about combat, that's something I find video games will always have the advantage at, in terms of providing an exciting, tense experience. So here are three of my favorite attempts I've made at creating the kind of combat I'd want to play.

Duel by Antonio J Manzanedo

Three Hand Duel

There are three combat stances: fast stance, parry stance, and feint stance. Parry beats fast, feint beats parry, and fast beats feint. Anyone can use fast stance, anyone with a weapon (or specialized unarmed training) can use parry stance, and anyone proficient with their weapon can use feint stance. Anyone whose stance beats opponents’ stances deals damage dice plus bonus damage. Anyone whose stances matches their opponent's both deals and takes bonus damage (but not damage dice). Blocking stance is available if you have a shield, allowing you to roll a 'damage die' that will reduce any damage you take in the following round. Weapons and high strength increase damage, armor reduces damage taken.

Advantages: pretty complex without being hard to use, gives plenty of active decision making opportunity to players. Inherently feels flavorful because you're declaring how your character will fight. Easily scalable up to mass combat with something like charge, flank, route or similar (I haven't looked into medieval battle strategy). It also addresses the massive threat of being flanked, as both opponents can doom your options. There is also some opportunity to add special stances as class abilities or other kinds of specialized combat training, but this should be done with extreme care. Also runs faster than most dice systems, because someone is always taking damage.

Challenges: make sure you choose what your stance will be before you ask someone, you'll probably want to write it down. Honestly cards might work for this purpose. Also a bit hard for people to wrap their head around if they're not familiar with the terms, but they can be easily equated to rock, paper, and scissors (obviously what the system is based on). Also if you're unarmed or not proficient, there's always a best choice against you, so that's iffy.

Battle by Faraz Shanyar

Behind the Blades

Each character has a stamina stat. Before the turn, they can invest however many they want into offense and defense respectively. If one side's offense totals higher than the other's defense, that amount of damage is dealt. Armor and shields add fixed defense points, weapons and strength add fixed offense points. Possible additional rule: one may invest a third of their stamina in a 'guard break' that reduces enemy defense to zero. Stamina may lower each turn.

Advantages: very simple, very deadly. Again, possible to add special moves with a fixed stamina cost, or a fixed portion cost.

Challenges: again relies heavily on not knowing what the opponent will do. Even more so, knowing the enemy's stamina can potentially cause problems.

Spilled Wine Drawing

11"x14" Prismacolor pencils on Dura-lene acetate.
Spilled Wine by Daniel Landerman (NSFW warning)

Steel Ruckus

An attack is a d20 roll. If the result is higher than the opponent's defense, the attack is successful, and you can either strike them or shove them away. The first strike throws you off guard for a turn. If struck while off guard, you are wounded and unable to fight until healed. Strikes can be either deflected or absorbed, with a weapon or tool you are holding. Deflecting causes you to drop that item, while absorbing the strike damages the item. It takes one turn to attack, close distance (such as after being shoved), run away, grab two items from the ground or your belt, or grab one item from a container within reach (like your backpack) or from another belt in reach. Armor and shields add to defense, weapons and combat training add to attack.

Advantages: most compatible with D&D style combat systems, which includes a lot of OSR stuff, so conversion of existing combat should be a lot easier. Lots of potential for environmental fun, like shoving people into hazards (down stairs, into spiders) or dropping a weapon out of reach (off a bridge, down a cliff).

Challenges: the way shoving and running away work, there should probably be a similarly robust chase system. That seems like fun, but it is a challenge. Should also come with somewhat strict limits on what can be hung from a belt, lest players simply load their waist with spare weapons and shields.


If you've been following for a while, the Three Hand Duel was what I was using for my Skies Below stuff. These are still broadly in chronological order, in the order I came up with them. I'll probably stick with Steel Ruckus for the time being, and flesh it out with more details in the future.