Crackling some lotus petals, or something

Having finished up some other projects (and gotten some work- and family-related nonsense dealt with, at least for now), my thoughts are drifting back to my plan to do a new version of the Blue Lotus Hack using the Merry Mushmen’s CRACK! as a base.

(I’ll be changing the title when/if I get it done.)

Leaving aside questions like “but why not stick with The Black Hack as a base?” (answer: 1) CRACK! looks fun and I want to use it, 2) Lotus is using TBH 1e and if I’m tweaking at all, might as well go on, 3) CC feels more comfortable to use than OGL right now, 4) CRACK! looks fun and I want to use it), there’s some things I need to contend with, but that’s okie.

– The Lotus classes are front-loaded and most of them also get more ability picks as they level, which I wrote one-half because I like it (still do) and one-half because Lotus was written as much as an exercise in distraction from a miserable work situation as anything else and more stuff = more to write = more distraction.

Contrariwise, CRACK! jobs are pretty compact, which I also like. Also, if I don’t make super-elaborate jobs, then dropping in any other jobs that look cool from other sources will be easier for anyone who happens to pick up and poke at Lotus mkII.

So, how to reconcile? I could make beefier jobs — and I suspect I by and large already do, if the handful I wrote and posted up here already are any indication — but then the compact little job blocks get lost, and I like them. So what I’m probably going to do is split some up and pull out abilities and make even more jobs.

Might even use one or two of those blog ones besides.

Jobs jobs jobs.


– Related to the above: BLH has kinds, humans + three others, which amounted to a smallish bonus to one thing. CRACK! as-is uses heritage-as-job. I would definitely miss having Puss-In-Boots-but-a-wizard, though, so atm I’m thinking of working up new small traits or adapting the ones I have (and may also include optional kind-as-jobs, in case someone wants them).

– I am absolutely ripping out levels for magic spells and psionic gifts moohahahahahahaha

– The systems for the above I have no decisions on whatsoever yet and it’s not impossible I just brazenly adapt what I use in pocketrpg, lol

– There are some things that aren’t in Lotus as it stands that I am really tempted to use this opportunity to get off my arse and add in; hirelings-and-henchmen rules, frex, or (related) how to recruit in a dungeon or whatever (probably borrowing from my navel-gazing on incorporating that into pocketrpg sheerly for the lols of using it with Lost Emblem Saga).

And of course the whole general tearing out of a rules set and putting in a new one, etc etc.

In a perfect world, I’ll also be adding more critters/spells/gifts/trinkets, because I’m me. I am absolutely looking forward to writing up little starting equipment kits for each territory in Varas let me tell you (I love writing little equipment kits the last few years and now I have an excuse for Lotus ahahahahaha).

Do I have any idea when I’ll get this done? Nope. I am not putting even an estimate on, because that way lies screaming and black brain spirals and terribleness, and also every time I turn around something Stupid[tm] happens in my life and derails my plans so I’m erring on the side of “this is a personal project anyway so”.

But I want to do it.

So I’m bloody well going to try.

Spirit Stones, and experience point musing

A thought that marched hand-in-glove with my tinkering with a B/X cultivator class (which took me the better part of a year to actually commit to and I can’t believe I’m admitting that ye gods), and that I kept on coming back over and over again, involved spirit stones.

Spirit stones (lingshi) are fancy mystical stones — or jewels, or crystals, or some kind of bit of shiny valuable rock/crystal/whatever — that have a pile of descriptions (or none at all, lol) in cultivation novels. They’re basically storehouses of spiritual energy, and cultivators can use them as energy sources or —

— this is the bit that I kept circling back to —

— to boost their cultivation level.

There’s even varying grades or levels of power for these stones, and apparently some series have higher powered versions also (“god stones” and the like) although I haven’t spotted those yet myself. Cultivators hoard spirit stones, use them like candy, treat them as currency, squabble over sources of them, and on and on. Sometimes they, or jewels a lot like them, get found inside the carcasses of powerful monsters or demons, even.

I bet you can see where I’m going with this ~

Spirit Stones and Experience Points

There’s a whole pile of extra bits and bobs that could get piled onto the spirit stone concept as applied to OSR stuff, but the crux that I’ve been rolling around is this:

If treasure = xp up to this point, but say you don’t want to just run a treasure hunter kind of campaign — or you can’t wrap your brain around just what the PCs are doing with that treasure to justify the xp gains, or the treasure piles are just piling up, well, why not decouple it altogether?

Have piles of normal loot for awesome normal loot reasons.

Have finding — or claiming, or stealing, or carving out — and then consuming spirit stones as the actual source of experience points.

You could even make up a set of tiers for grades of stones (type, colour, names, whatever) like in the source material; low-grade stones have 50 or 100 or whatever xp in them, sage-grade stones have thousands or more. Give them different appearances, and go to town.

– some combat encounters could give a lot of spirit stones/xp, if the target is likely to carry them. some, not so much. choose wisely.

– that said, think of the stone or stones likely to be found in the roiling innards of a mighty dragon, or condensed in the core of an ancient, sorcerous undead prince, or or or

Which brings me to notion number two!

Claiming stones from innately powerful creatures is one way to get powerful stones fast, if the GM enables that, yeah. But what if there’s a side effect of shortcutting one’s way through the shortcut, and too many spirit stones (too much xp) gained from a specific kind of source twists or changes you.

Consume too many demonic cores, start to take on demonic traits. That probably won’t go over well with a lot of people. Might be better to be cautious.

I’d probably decide on some particular ratio of “flavoured” xp vs. “standard” xp.

And yes, yes, I know, this sounds like some unholy amalgamation of “gold = xp” and “milestones” and an esoteric economy straight from satan’s arsecrack, but I’m still tempted to beat out a few more details and try it sometime, lol.

Imagine the possibilities! Players might even be tempted to slow their characters’ progressions (not consuming stones) in order to use them to wheel and deal and influence by trade/barter/etc etc. And that’s without layering on any other possible uses for the things …

on the eve of Dungeon23

By this time tomorrow, it’s going to be a new year.

I just finished the last page in a scribble-journal I’ve kept for a year, after several year’s hiatus.

I used to use Moleskine journals, but I couldn’t find one that just had dates, and this was more stressful than it needed to be; in the end I was saved by finding, oddly enough, an unused and very old (1975 at the youngest, by the calendar on the inside cover) government diary-pocket journal-agenda squirrelled away in the bookroom. (the gods only know where I found it initially, and when.) And it’s served admirably.

In 2023 I’m going to use a Moleskine again, and will just ignore the bujo notations down the side of the pages, and not let them bother me. I will fill larger pages than the little green diary, the way I used to; word lists and fragmented ideas, bits of prose and imaginary quotations, descriptions of places that don’t exist and that I might write someday, or not, or just in an expanded form on some other journal pages. And when I’m finished this one it will go stacked on a shelf with the other Moleskines, and with the little green diary.

Yes there’s a point I’m getting to here.

Sometimes, I miss days, in the Moleskines or the little green diary. I make them up when I have the opportunity; it’s the filling of the pages that I like to do, not flagellating myself if I double up a day down the way. Some stories need more than one page in any case.

By this time tomorrow, I’ll be starting Dungeon23.

In the time since I decided to take part — spurred by being aggravated at someone on the webs taking pass-agg “humorous” potshots at folks’ happy preparations and chatter — I’ve gotten myself settled into what I plan to do, which is still what I already posted about, more or less. (I’m kind of predictable?) I may leave some dangly bits on my maps to make linking bits together later easier, if I decide to.

I’m also not planning to transcribe my dungeons afterwards, at least not now, because I don’t want this to be a Thing[tm] — it’s something I want to tinker with and poke at and add to, and I might miss a day and catch up a day.

Like my journals, and all their contents that sit contentedly in their pile.

I might snap a picture or roughly scan dungeons to show, if I remember to. (that’s the plan, we’ll see if the plan survives.)

And that’s fine.

Some folks are planning to release their dungeons (or cities, or environments, or spaceships) as finished products.

That’s also fine.

Some folks are making theirs expressly to be played as they go.

That’s fine too.

Others have made special journals and workbooks and the like, some for free and some not, some fancy, some not.

Also fine. (I’m using a little one myself, I like it a lot.)

Whatever we want to do with our work, that’s fine.

You know what’s also fine? Feeling that the Dungeon23 activity — in whatever form — isn’t for you. Not all things are. I was feeling that it wasn’t for me, until I realized that no, all the folks pointing out that it doesn’t have to be a megadungeon were right.

And also that I don’t need to be a brilliant artist or anything either.

I can just make my dungeons.

My dungeons.

For however many weeks I have ideas for.

And that’s fine.

And if someone feels the need to cut down folks who are doing this thing that — one hopes! — makes them happy; or if someone feels the need to try to guilt those happy folks out of their fun and their conversations and their plans, just because they don’t feel it’s for them themselves; or if someone decides to start a tirade about how dungeons (never mind that not everyone is even making dungeon-dungeons) are BadWrongFun and terrible and we should all feel bad —


Yeet them all into the sun.

We got dungeons — and spaceships, and maps, and cities, and towers, and a zillion other things — to make.

Dicember 2021 – world

Here we are, at the end of Dicember and at the end of the year, and this one time I’m going to diverge from the posts I’ve made up to this point to instead offer, if not “advice” exactly (because what works for me may not be guaranteed to work for thee), then a very brief glance at how I get grist for the worldbuilding mill.

(for all you “anti-canon” folks and similar, this applies just as much to making tables of possibilities and similar as it does to describing places and things. just saying ;p)

Because every once in a while I get asked how I make things, and — leaving aside that analyzing any of my creative impulses is a foreign country for me anyway, it would boil down to the following:

01. Read. Read a lot.

And I do mean read. Not watch Youtube videos or tv shows or Tiktoks. Put the words into your head. Go back and re-read parts. Chew on them. Mull them over. Compare them to other things you’ve read. Don’t be afraid to return to the material again and again, especially if you enjoyed it the first time.

02. I mean read non-fiction.

Stuffing more rpgs/novels/plays/manga/comicbooks/whatever into your skull shows you how other people implemented their ideas but it doesn’t give you where all that stuff came from. Read about the world; read about things that exist in the world (and beyond the world, for that matter). Which brings us to

03. Read non-fiction widely.

History textbooks are all well and good *glances at part of shelves* but you want more than that. Read anything and everything that looks interesting. Read about plants, animals (living and dead and very dead), rocks and stones; read about food — where it comes from, how its made, what’s eaten or not and why and how it got there. Bathing habits to bees, textiles to tombs, fossils to flowers, soil to space.

An illustration: the holidays are basically when my collection gets notably expanded, because I ask for books. Topics of the 2021 holidays include but are not limited to the Old Kingdom Egypt Pyramid Texts, the use of specific (author-selected) colours in art, an overview of 7000 years of worldwide jewelry, and the sociocultural and political history of the potato outside of the Americas.

The more you take in, the more you can send out.

04. Read outside your own experience.

Go beyond your own country, your own ethnicity; go beyond the modern era. The world’s a big place, it’s always been a big place. Check it out.

05. You don’t need to own it to read it.

In these benighted pandemic times, it can be tricky, it’s true. Nonetheless, a library is your best friend if you have access to one — wander the stacks, see what catches your eye. You might be surprised. Interlibrary catalogues and loans can bring sources to your fingertips that your local library doesn’t have. Many library systems are also online, now, so you can at least browse the catalogue from home (and often arrange book pickups).

If you have access to — or can have a sit-down in even if you aren’t registered (pandemic situation allowing) — a college or university library, these are also excellent sources of often very specific books. I’ve chased down my own copies of texts I used to read to death from my university library.

And that’s basically it.

Yes, yes, I haven’t said what to do with it all — that part I can’t help you with beyond “enough stuff in your head means inspiration to make your own stuff”. (I did say that analyzing any of my creative impulses is a foreign country for me.)

But seriously, this is my advice.

Reading up on all the cool stuff that has existed prompts me along. Maybe it will for you too.

To setting or not to setting …

Or to system or not to system … That is the question, two questions in fact, when I have a notion rattling around in my head but not quite firming up quite yet —

There is an idea; it is most certainly a setting concept. I have my “pitch”, for lack of a better phrasing (lol), which would set the tone and also the thrust of, if not everything that a PC or several PCs would be doing, then certainly the flavour that would be overlaying what they did do a good deal of the time. But maybe “overlaying” would be a better plan in general? Instead of spinning out a whole new continent or part-of-continent again (though I do love making places), create a thing that could — at least in theory — be overlain over an existing location/setting/concept.

It’s a thought; a rather tempting thought. I could make up tables (tables ~!) to go with the broad strokes. Maaaaybe even a small community just as a jump-point, more easily insertable into an existing world.

But, oh, system. Wretched system.

Continue stubbornly pecking along using pocketrpg? Use Black Hack, or OSE, or Cairn, or another? (not Troika.) Give vague notations, hopefully easily parsed to a system of choice? Write up a new bespoke system, whether inspired by another or no? Or systemless, sort of like City Of Chains, which at the moment I think just might work.

I’d still need to decide just what I was making though, and I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Things are still percolating and firming up as the concept, and — just as important — I’m coming off a very rough spring and a miserable late spring, just in time to hit the start of summer and already breaking out in heat welts and tiny blood blisters for my pains. So things will probably still be slow, if they do start.

Maybe, if I get started, I could post it all on here. Maybe in chunks as I go; serialized setting bit-lets?

I haven’t forgotten my planar project, but I did burn out badly on it which is probably part the project itself (I need to dial back the sample planes to a drabble of words per plane, I think) and the lion’s share the above mess of the last few months. I have that other pocketmod of setting I’d like to revisit, also. And just write some more tables, and bits from prompts, and whatever else.

If I make it through the summer. Blegh.

why did I write an rpg: some navel-gazing

At some point over the weekend — said weekend was cold, raining, and generally gross, which made work a grind and my brain search for distraction but fail to have energy to do much constructively — I had a somewhat incoherent train of thought that went basically like this over a day and a half or so:

“There are other setting ideas kind of rattling around aside from the plane-hopping one, and hell I’m practically admitting that the plane-shopping supplement is also basically a setting; should I post up somewhere a ‘generic’ version of the rules I use for my pocketrpg?”


“If I posted up a generic version of the rules somewhere, wouldn’t it make sense to add a ‘feel free to use these to make stuff’ note or something along those lines in case someone would like it?”


“An ‘SRD’ or a make-stuff note is kind of extraneous isn’t it, there’s piles of games that people would rather use/would get more out of/already tinker with and oh gawd the brainweasels are closing in”


“But doing a Whole Thing every time I might want to post another minisetting or whatever also kind of feels presumptuous? Or ridiculous? Or something?”


“Oh gawd I need this weekend to be over, I can tell I’m doing terrible things to myself here”

… and from there (by this point I was trundling around on Sunday evening), I wisely chose to divert myself away by indulging in the recording of the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade and hauling several comforting textbooks on dynastic Egypt to work, which did help. It also had me ruminating on a different-but-related topic by the time last night rolled around:

Why did I write an rpg/these rpgs/these rules?

I mean, the first answer is also the simplest: because I wanted to. All of the various iterations have boiled down to “because I wanted to”; so will the ideas I’m still nibbling away at, because this is a hobby for me and I like to create, and rpg things are one of the things I like to create.

The actual path for this pocketrpg thing went basically like this:

-Two summers ago(ish) I was at work and had a moment of “I wonder if I can fit a tiny system+enough flavour for an implied setting into a pocketmod?”, and proceeded to peck at the notion for a bit. Nine Black Jewel Moons was the result, which I then promptly also reskinned into a cyberpunk-with-psionics version (Neon Burning Skies) because why not. A few folks liked this, which was reassuring.

-Not leaving well enough alone, I made a companion pocketmod for NBJM with some magic items and more setting snips and a few ideas for rules additions. (originally I was also going to do a companion for NBS and I still have the scribbles, but to this day it’s never actually materialized …)

-About the first time it looked like Fantasy Flight was about to kill off L5R *bitter laughter* I tried my first take on “here is a different type of setting, please see NBJM for the rules” and wrote Steel Blossom Dreams, my little pocketmod take on what I got after shaking my fist at a lot of L5R’s … L5R-ness and hauling textbooks to work. (said books are probably why SBD owes as much or more to Heian as to later eras.) At the same time, I was experimenting with a setting-with-map-in-a-pocketmod, and in the end tried to sort of thread the needle to make Six Swords Rising usable with or without SBD, though the two were (tenuously) connected.

(I am tempted to give SSR an overhaul and expansion, and maybe a different map, and probably lean even harder into being a fantasy setting not meant to emulate any specific thing, I freely admit. it would also make borrowing over the one thing I kept-ish from L5R, descriptive clan/family/whatever-you-like-in-your-setting names, both much easier and far less fraught.)

(… I also just really like pocketmods >.>;;)

-Hilariously, expanding past pocketmod-size was entirely prompted by my being thoroughly annoyed by several years’ development in a completely different arena — the Fire Emblem srpg franchise — and throwing up my hands and yelling fine I’ll make my own, then! … And then I did, if by “made my own” I mean “emulated the tropes common to FE characters with traits and equipment and then wrote another small setting from scratch while including a few nods to FE plot tropes here and there”. I’d use my mini rules (+ the companion bits) as a base and expand a tiny wee bit, and add a wee gazetteer, etc. And so, Lost Emblem Saga. Which also had a few folks like it, which was also reassuring.

Equally hilariously is this is where I actually started calling these things my “pocketrpg” because — this is 100% true — since what I wanted to do would never fit on one sheet, I would make something that once printed out, would be the size of the quarter-page handmade notebooks I make. Which conveniently fit snugly in the back pocket of my work pants.

Yes these are literally pocketrpgs and I am not even sorry.


-Some time shortly after LES, I started thinking I’d like to use its expanded rules (I’d elaborated on magic a little, among other bits), originally from NBJM/Jewel Moons, to actually expand out Jewel Moons itself into a similar pocketrpg. This was not so much prompted as a sort of “I think I’d like to do that …” and then I started tinkering. Oops?

What eventually because Wandering Jewel Moons took a lot longer to pull together, but there were more hurdles (even more pandemic brain; other ideas, like what became Wilusa, City Of Chains, itself spinning from my first ideas of the “mini-not!Planescape”; etc) to get past to do it. But I did. And a few folks like that also.

This is a lot of rambling to basically still say, at the end, I did it because I wanted to …

There are and were other games I’ve done. The Blue Lotus Hack (which is out there on the interwebs) is a flavour tweaking of The Black Hack 1e with a setting/bestiary/magic items selection attached, and I also used TBH 1e for a conversion of Final Fantasy (yes, the original; no, this one’s not out there on the interwebs) including the whole bestiary. Some day I might finish the “space hack”; sometimes I muse on seeing if I can switch it over to pocketrpg or pull what system it has out altogether.

But, it was nice to make a little game framework of my own? Even if, in my personal opinion, there are plenty of folks who do much better — and yes I can name quite a few without batting an eyelash — I wanted to make it, and it made me happy, and I can use it to be that framework for other things I write. I just need to keep taking a newspaper to the brainweasels over it.

I still want to make more things for the pocketrpg (which if I ever do pull up my britches and post a generic version, for folks to use or otherwise, probably needs some kind of name). I need to also keep on telling myself that that’s fine. This is a hobby, after all. I like to make things, and I like to make little notes about little worlds.

This has been a lot of babbling and if you’ve made it this far, congrats *lol* There’s no grand conclusion, alas, not to the babbling and not to the questions that kicked it all off. But sometimes, it’s like that –?