Thursday, 22 December 2022

[Challenge] #Setting23


Write up to 2 pages per month and publish

Read and comment other's stuff Setting 23


I've stumbled upon #dungeon23, a daily (!) challenge to create a Megadungeon, piece by piece.

As much as I like fantasy roleplaying games, and I respect the dungeon tradition, I don't want to create a megadungeon. I don't think i'd run one anytime, so why bother creating one?

On top of it, this challenge is worded as "create a new room every day", and to be honest, my social life does not allow me such regularity.

This is why I've decided to come to you all with an alternative, with which you can create your next RPG, or at least your next setting. Hence the name #setting23


Like any such challenges, this is supposed to help you creating while providing an artistic constraint (which is strangely liberating).

  1. Write up to 2 pages plain text every month, on one of the monthly topics (feel free to change the order). Please try to keep yourself concise to allow others to have the time to read and comment your prose.
  2. Read and comment other's production. This is very important to create an healthy emulation.
  3. Play, play, play
If you post a link to your production on this post (in the comment section of this blog), i'll try to make a post where all of you are hosted, for easier referencing.
And publishing photos of your notes in a notebook, as long as your writing is readable, is good enough for me to count as your monthly participation 😉


I posted the challenge on mastodon too, if you are there, check

Prompt explications / examples

5 Cornerstones

This is the main part of your design. Define 5 cornerstones on which you'll develop your setting and always get back to these when in doubt.

If you're not sure where to start before that, just take 4 roleplaying books (GURPS is always a good start for this kind of ideas) and mix the stuff. (on, there is a "random" button at the bottom of their page, an alternative to picking out your books at random)

Using my books at home i'll try to quickly develop an example here, using:

  • Gurps Undead
  • Gurps deadlands: Varmints
  • Gurps Psionics
  • Gurps Y2K
So my setting, mixing these could be:
a post apocalyptic world set in the 2020ies, 20 year after a zombie virus apocalypse, with the zombies evolving with time to really big monsters and those surviving an infection with the virus developing psychic powers.

  • The virus is still dangerous, every contagion is harder to survive
  • Civilisation is rebuilding
  • Undead Monsters hold the secret to fighting the virus
  • Everything is scarce
  • Law of the strongest
Also important to determine at the start is: What do the PCs do? "everything the players want" was a still acceptable in the 90ies, but nowadays, that's outdated design. In my example, it would be "Survive, thrive, make the world more just, and then learn of the apocalypse and how to reverse it".


That one is not always what you should start with, but once you have your setting genre and cornerstones, writing down a "how did we get to this situation" is as good a start as any. Don't try illuminate everything, keep to the relevant aspects (and don't forget your cornerstones


Easy: what happened, and where and what's so different because the last 20 years happened differently. How did the virus spread, why no vaccine was found, etc.


Find out what are the sources of conflict in your setting. What is an unusual source of power in your setting? A fountain of youth? A supercomputer? A planet-destroying-raygun? 

Find possibly more than one, and determine how to control that source of power and who is trying to keep control of it, who's doing great without it, who has lost control over it in the past, etc...


Post apocalypse is about scarcity, so who is producing food, fuel/energy, and ammunition is bound to be powerful.

  • Food is territory-bound, landlords are big time powers.
  • Fuel is mostly location based, who's controlling that strategic oil reserve?
  • Ammunition is trickier, because energy and resources are needed for industrial production, so power might be more fluctuating here
  • Knowledge is important in this setting. Particularly if you wanna center your campaign on finding a cure for the virus


This is really webbed with the conflicts. You'll already have a good idea of who's controlling what after developing the reasons for conflict. All you need to do is develop 2 factions opposing each one that controls a source of power.


Food: The dukes are at the peak of wheat production, in a very protected valley. Opposed are an anarchist group of mushrooms growers, living in the cave system near the valley, and a hunter group that live nomadically.

Fuel: The oil barons are an extended family that controls the oil and are very good merchants. Opposed are the Refiners' collective, who do not gain enough from refining the oil. A mining corporation seem to be on the rise, offering good alternatives to their Oil.

Knowledge: An old CDC lab, under the nominal control of the Dukes, is the leading experimentation facility on developing psychic powers. A people's group of concerned citizens opposes their inhumane experiments. A group of herb gatherers seems to have good 

Main Town / Place

This is the place you're gonna play most, so don't bother putting to much details in the rest of the world. Keep it not too big and too detailed, add to it when improvising something during play.

Naming stuff also helps developping them


If playing in Europe, i'd go with a part of the Rhone valley, which is the french center for Oil refining. It would mean i'd have to have them find some more oil prospecting sites, but I could recycle a suburb near Lyon.

Special rules

What about the system then? Well I won't tell you which one to take, and i'd really encourage you to use an existing one, and then tweak it, adding special rules.
You know the particularity of your setting and you have now enough stuff to play with it, so develop a few rules to anchor this particularities in your setting and play !

  • Example:
  • Contamination rules
  • Psychic powers
  • maybe some crafting rules

I'd probably go with the Year Zero Engine from Free League, because a lot of support for post-apo already exists

Character sheet

The best way to get down all your rules in one place. I've often started a new project by creating the character sheet, but now I do think that the cornerstones are more important. How do these cornerstones reflect in the rules?


  • well, this is an example, so maybe i'll do that in July 2023


Well, who does lead the factions? Who is a lone wolf, but also a thorn in the faction's feet? Are they build like PCs, ruleswise?

Cartography & places

It's time to create more stuff in your main place, but also develop what's outside of there and what's around it.

If you're not into cartography, have a look at hexographer, it's free and easy to use

We recommend creating a 7-hex around your main place.

Adventure Seeds

If you know what your characters are, this is easy. And if you've already played your game, it's already developed, you just have to put it on paper.

If you haven't played your setting yet, always start with conflict between a faction and your group, add 2 other factions that are interested and let the powder keg explode. Write down what you improvise and all will be well.

This is actually an important part, because this is your only way as author to tell the ready: this is actually how I imagine playing in this world. 

If you're lucky, your readers will bring a lot of supplementary ideas to your base.


Take control of the CDC center and their research to try and immunize the valley's population, with the help of the Dukes that relent losing control over the laboratories. The barons will antagonize, because they secretly support the CDC-scientists. The herbal healers will be trying to get into the compound at the same time to break out one of theirs from the CDC-jails and they'd want to have the research results for themselves.

Cover Art

This is way to get out of your comfort zone. Try to make a cover. Not only the art, but also the texts on it, title, subtitle, colors.

I recommend using Canva if you're out of your league.

Commissioning an artist (or asking nicely a group member) can be also an interesting experience.

Having a cover will help you to get this project to it's end

Setting details

What's the currency? How is your calendar organized? Do you have particularly strange laws?

That kind of details will be develop along the process, but it's a good time to put it together

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

[OSR] D20 "Alternatives to scrolls"-Table


Spell scrolls are really boring. Automatically getting new spells at each new level is also boring. Like you'd find time to work on new spells when your stomach is empty, your campfire is not big enough, or your tent is leaky.

New spells should not be automatically granted at each new level (in my opinion) but actively developed by the character, or even better: found as a reward.

Keeping new spells to scrolls found in dungeons is stale, boring, and kills the magic. Academic magic, reproducible, tamed, and cleaned is the death of the sense of bewildering that should accompany Magic and its manifestations. Without sense of wonder / danger, you just have  a technology alternative.

So if you, like me, would like to reward your party wizard with a new spell, but think yet another scroll would be boring, here is a table of where a scroll might be found...


D20 Where is the spell ?

Carved onto a yellowing gnome skull


Naturally spelled out on the spots of a mushroom


Written onto a cloth doll of a marsh crone


Scratched onto an ogre's glass eye. He's unhappy of having lost it


Secretly written onto a portrait, seen when illuminated by green flame


Stained onto a small leather throwing ball


Signed by an illusionary fairy springing out of a music box


Tattooed onto a stuffed white ape paw


Dripped from the bleeding eyes and nose onto the ground, as the small idol is gripped in shaking hands; the blood forming the hellish, arcane symbols needed to cast the forbidden spell


Seen only by the half-crazed mage as flickering runes once they dare to open their mind to the alien presence that lives in the glowing orb of energy


Carved in goblinish language inside the shell of a giant turtle


Words were eaten up by insects on giant leaves collected in an herbarium


Embroidered into the hem of a gaudy cloak that unravels when the spell is read off of it.


Tattooed in minuscule script within the sorcerer’s eye sockets. They need to turn their eyes inside to read the spell


Spell is readable on the surface of the moon when observing with a very precious kaleidoscope


Hidden as an alchemical rebus on the most holy wand-tapestry in the private quarters of the archbishop


Encoded as the missing twines of the net of a poor fisher who never knew why he didn't repair that net - maybe because it belonged his grand-father, an archmage that retired as a fisher?


Written as a music partition / sheet, each note corresponding to a letter. If played as music, it sounds discordant and gloomy


Camouflaged and carved on the top bough of a tree in a forest accessible only by consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms. Beware of overdosing...


Carved as runes on the cylinders of a steam engine. Only readable if the steam engine rotates in unison with the heartbeat of the reader


This table started as a D8 table on mastodon, originated by Scott Malthouse ( and was complemented by Michael / Chgowiz (, myself, John W Sheldon (, and Gɪᴀɴɴɪ’s Eᴠɪʟ Tᴡɪɴ (
You can find the thread on mastodon HERE

More Alternatives?

On social media, Shane ward from 3 toadstools publishing reached out to me, because he also had done a table on the subject, and his entries are different ! More entries for your games !

Other Tables?

I have a few tables on this blog, but the following three are perfect to kick-start a game on the fly.

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

[D.R.E.A.D.] Neptoma's map progress

 It has been a very loong while since i've posted any advancement on dread's universe development...

And surprisingly, I have no new text to show, but the progress I've made on a map, the map of the main human city, the lagune city of Neptoma (in the Lacuna Nepis)c.

It's still a work in progress, and there are errors that I will have to correct in post-production (with gimp), but I really like how it's getting somewhere (and how ideas for the setting come from developing the map and naming the places)

Here's the map !

And because i've reworked on it, but it's worth not a new post, i'll give you here the new development: