Tuesday, March 27, 2012

OSH with the Solo Deck Part 1 - Creating a Hook, and New Location Mechanic

I apologize for the delay in posting. I've been promising that this would be coming soon but unfortunately how my life is right now 'soon' is longer than I would like it to be. I've finished up some projects I've been working on so my schedule is freeing up a bit more so hopefully I can start knocking out some posts on a semi-regular base for a little while.

(some people have mentioned that they have had trouble commenting on my posts. I've tried to solve it so hopefully it works now. If not please message me and I will try and get it straightened out.)

So. I've been messing around with my solo deck idea some more. I've been using it in conjunction with Old School Hack - a great homage to basic D&D in a a super sleek rules lite format. For those who want to GM OSH, I think my deck design system is perfect for on the fly gaming. Check it out: http://www.oldschoolhack.net/

There are several reasons I decided to use this:

A) I love old school D&D

B) Three categories of monsters that can be tweaked with small variances. Also easier to set up the difficulty level of a obstacle deck.

C) I want a rule set that's super easy and straightforward so as to not burden a solo session with too much number crunching.

D) Love the light and "this is not that serious" feel which I think is a great for  short dungeon crawl.  I've played 2 sessions that were both no longer than 1 hour each.

E)The arena system which I'll show how I use with the detail cards.

F) Awesome points can be used to encourage a more bold and daring play style, as well as more interaction with the world of your dungeon. This was originally of course designed for group play but I think this can work for a solo session too. I'll explain more soon.

I've also been reading and been inspired by some mechanics from some other RPG's: On Mighty Thews, Dunjon, Minimus, Storming the Wizard's tower and others.

Here is a quick overview of how I'm setting up my sessions. Later I will give a more detailed play report. I recommend downloading the free pdf of Old School Hack if you haven't already at this point. I have a few sections listed below that I copied from the OSH SRD.

Read my earlier posts that give some details on my solo adventure deck system at http://solodungeoneer.blogspot.com/2012/01/random-thoughts-about-gm-less-play.html

This is for those who are looking for a solo dungeon crawl experience that's closer to a gm led session and less like the number crunching and randomness of the solo rules from the DMG 1ED. 

1) I got this idea from On Mighty Thews (this is optional but I find that this can help quickly create the world and context for your adventure in map form) Take a sheet of paper and roll 4 different results on the Mythic Description table found at the Mythic Yahoo Forums (join if you haven't already). Each word represents is a "pole" which you will place an inch or two in from each corner. Random results: ancient, mundane, rare, cold. Each word describes one of these four kingdoms. Build a description for each kingdom based on the word.

Upper right: Ancient civilization elves that live in huge cities on the sides of cliffs in the northeastern region of our world.

Upper left: Mundane civilization of humans. The area is know for trade. The kingdom is along the coast. Many merchants and traders and a large powerful imperial army.

Lower left: Rare, black moors of the southwest. Life is harsh and dangerous here. Few people are able to live and it is economically depressed. Many wild lands.

Lower Right: Cold frozen south lands. Again very bleak are made of huge vistas of ice fields and mountainous crags. Dangerous as hell. A few keeps and dwarven miner camps exist here.

And there is your world. I'll show a picture from the next session. Mark a few cities or mountains or locations to flesh it out so you have a rough version of a world map. Should take about 5 minutes.

2. Choose or roll a d4 for the kingdom where your dungeon crawl takes place. Come up with a reason why your there.

Like: times are tough in the black moors. You're desperate for some money and a place to lay your head. A small village of old people are in dire need of an adventurer. What's the hook? roll on the mythic event meaning chart. Example: Decrease/ Rumor. Old people seem to be disappearing - why?

Now come up with a specific location. I've been using Mythmere's Adventure Design Deskbook chart for the adventure location. I may provide a more simple table of my own soon. The 'Adventure Design Deskbook" is kind of hard to come by unless you buy Mythmere's new Tome of Adventure Design.

Results: the Isolated Spire of the Flaming God.

These two results are the hook. Old people are mysteriously burning in there beds as they sleep at night. Rumor has it that in the mountains to the west a fire god is ridding the valley of its humans through his magical powers to expand his domain. Save the old people from certain death!

3) Time to make your deck. write out 20 - 30 obstacles on blank cards and 20 - 30 details on your playing cards (using 2-10. kings, queens, jacks, aces, jokers will represent special cards with a specific function which I will discuss later). I'll show what I mean when I write up a session report.

I have some new ideas and mechanics that I will try to explain in detail in my upcoming posts. Here is the first new mechanic that will be used in conjunction to the detail deck:


Numbered cards in your playing deck (2-10) indicate combat arena.

Old School Hack uses 5 arena types that affect combat (taken from the Old School Hack SRD):

Weapon Types and Arena Types
LIGHT WEAPONS 1 point of damage

Smaller and quicker than other melee weapons. Using a light weapon allows you to roll 3d10 instead of 2d10, ignoring the value shown on the lowest die.

Examples: shortswords, rapiers, one-handed maces, daggers, truncheons, nunchucks, clawed gloves


Narrow places that often limit your mobility somehow.
REACH WEAPONS 1 point of damage

These are usually pole-arms or cool chain-based weapons. It’s easier to keep your enemies at bay, so wielding one improves your Armor Class by one category.


Places where footing is difficult or visibility is limited and requires care.

Examples: quarterstaff, poleaxe, spear, flail, net-and-trident, sword-and-chain
RANGED WEAPONS 1 point of damage

You attack earlier in Combat order, and can attack an opponent that’s in an adjacent arena as well as the one you’re in.


Stark, wide-open areas where there is little to no cover.

Examples: long or shortbow, blowgun, sling, bola, crossbow, throwing spear
HEAVY WEAPONS 2 points of damage

Nice and big, so they do an extra point of damage if you manage to hit with them.

Examples: bastard sword, warhammer, battleaxe, falchion, spiked ball-and-chain
VERY HEAVY WEAPONS 2 points of damage (sometimes 4)

Frickin’ huge and powerful, requiring both hands (no shield). They also do an extra point of damage; beating an opponent’s armor class by 5 or more does
two extra points of damage.

Examples: caber, spiked club, zweihander, double-headed axe


A crowded environment that has lots of fiddly but smashable bits that might get in the way.

A bland or ambiguous environment that’s hard to define. No weapon type gets a bonus in a neutral arena.

Each card number from 2-10 will indicate arena type. For example:

2, 3 = Tight

4 = Hazardous

5, 6 = Open

7 = Dense

8 - 10 = Neutral

This will be randomized before each session via a table so when you are writing your details on the cards you will have no idea what arena you are assigning a detail to.

Some Examples:

Fire and Tight arena = a small circular room with a very small space around the central oven.
Cracked and Dense = a courtyard of crumbling statues
Smoke and Dense: The inside of a burning barn.
Descending tunnel and Open = Huge slope descending in a massive cavern.
Temple and Neutral = ruins of a temple chapel that has been scavenged clean.

I think this is a helpful little mechanic that not only aids combat variance it also adds a whole lot of flavor to a session. Meaning, basically that every new location detail drawn is combined with an arena to create the actual location your PC arrives at obviously justified by the context of the adventure. This can be evocative and I think really aids the atmosphere of the story. It also specifies and kicks your detail/location into high gear.

Locations now actually have an affect on game play and are not just for the atmosphere of the dungeon crawl. They are also a lot more specific and help create a location much faster 'on the fly'.

In my next post I will discuss another idea I have for a mechanic that encourages interaction with the environment.

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