Monday, December 27, 2021

Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter RPG? (draft)

NB: This is a work in progress and spinning out much longer than I intended, so I'll post it unfinished and tinker at it during the holidays.

I just rewatched the 1974 Hammer classic Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter. What an epically entertaining and inspiring film! It was supposed to be the start of a series but Hammer bollocksed up the marketing, supposedly.

Too bad! It is splendid. I would dearly love to run a Ravenloft campaign with the same vibe.

Here are some random tables that might spice up a retroclone game of Captain Kronos. They are divided into PLAYER CHARACTER TABLES to make a protagonist, and VAMPIRE TABLES to make antagonists. These rules are meant to slip over your OSR ruleset of choice. If not using an OSR ruleset, substitute with minor bonus appropriate to the rules you are using.


Captain Kronos is dripping with atmosphere and intriguing character details. To replicate this in your game, roll on the following tables when creating Player Characters (PCs).

WHO ARE YOU? (1d6)

1 Disgraced noble - Double your starting money, but any other noble has a 5% per level chance of recognizing you and scorning you for your secret shame.
2 Runaway peasant - Half your starting wealth, but other peasants always react to you kindly and have a 5% per level chance of pointing you in the right direction.
3 Mysterious hunchback - You have a 5% chance per level of having an item (potion, key, gadget) useful for the predicament at hand.
4 Handsome farmhand / Alluring peasant girl - You are astonishingly attractive. 5% per level chance of an antagonist sparing you and taking you captive instead, or revealing a damning secret to you.
5 Gypsy - You are always harassed by nobles and authorities, but your quick wits and wisdom always save the day. 5% chance per level of knowing a secret (a hidden route, relationship between NPCs, history of a mansion) that will be useful during a crisis situation.
6 Vampire Attack Survivor - You never talk of it, but the scars are plain to see. You get +1 to resist any spell or attack from a vampire.


Hieronymous: "He... he gets like this. Before a hunt."
Carla: "I know."
Hieronymous: "Memories, I think. Of his losses. His wife and his..."
Carla: "To be expected. That's what made him HIM."
Hieronymous: "Yes. It drives him."
Carla: "What did you lose that made you turn to the trade."
Hieronymous: "Me? Nothing. Just scientific curiosity. A scholarly quest into the esoteric."
Carla: "That got out of hand."
Hieronymous: "What drives you then, my dear?"
Carla: "I had no prospects. That village, that little world... it would have been my life."

Each PC has a drive that keeps them going in their fight, and gives them a certain edge.


1 Lost loved ones - Their faces still haunt you, as does your failure to protect them. +1  or 5% to all rolls against the killer of your kin, and you get double vampire experience (see Advancement below) when you destroy them.
2 Bloodlust - You see red and become a beast when fighting the undead. You get + 1 to attack and damage and can keep fighting to negative HP, but you cannot run away.
3 Scientific curiosity - Only knowledge can drive away the darkness. 
4 Your family history - No one knows, but the blood of vampires is entwined with your lineage. Once a session, you can 
5 Vengeance for a friend - Your friend's dying words compel you to avenge them. 
6 Adventure - For the first time, you feel truly alive. 


All vampire hunters have links to various shadowy organizations that may help them with either of the following:

1) Bonus experience or advancement when you fulfill a mission.
2 Connections or support when in need.

1 Papists - Rome has sent you to purge evil and recover any holy artifacts you may find. Each relic found and returned counts as a vampire slain for experience purposes.
2 Gypsies - Your people survive due to their knowledge of the land and its inhabitants. Once a session, you can find a path, call on 
3 Statists - The Empire wants the rule of law to extend to all parts of its domain. Once a session, you can call for reinforcements who show up on your side when you are outnumbered.
4 Pagans - You follow the Old Faith, and know certain charms to help you. Once a session, 
5 Mystics - Your fellows and you crave mystical power at any expense. 
 Each magic item found and recovered counts as a vampire slain for experience purposes. Also, you can 
6 Illuminati - Your secret council craves the keys to world domination, especially the secret to immortality.
7 The Academy - You are a (wo)man of science, a professor studying natural phenomena.
8 Vampire Hunters - The society of hunters 


Vampire hunters are known for choosing curious weapons.

1 A holy artifact named after a saint. Does double damage against demons and the undead.
2 An Asian weapon (katana, nunchaku, or naginata). Does an extra die of damage, but hits you on a fumble if you don't save.
3 A steampunk weapon (repeating crossbow, compound bow, electric baton). Choose either double damage, damage to all in area, OR double number of attacks. Jams and is unusable until repaired during downtime on a fumble.
4 Blackpowder paired flintlock pistols or a musket. Does x2 damage, x4 if a critical is rolled. Can only be used once per combat.
5 Explosives. 
6 A whip. It's almost an extension of your body.


Forget XP for advancement. Instead, if a character defeats as many vampire threats as their next level, they proceed to that level. For instance, if a 1st level character destroys 2 vampire threats, then he becomes second level.


"Each species has its own talents and peculiarities. Some feed on blood, others on vital essence, others still on youth. The variation is endless. Some cannot cross water. Others cannot abide salt. Many fear daylight and burn in the sun, while others could pass for you or me in broad day and offer 'Good morrow'."

In the world of Kronos, the word vampire means more than our narrow term, with its limited range of power and weaknesses. Instead, each vampire has its own unique powers and weaknesses, so the vampire hunter's first job is to find out what these are, then prepare to defend against or exploit them before launching an attack.


"But I survived a vampire's bite!"
"He is not the man you are."

Characters can save vs vampire bite.

"A vampire only bleeds at the moment of its death."

Hieronymous: "If a vampire should bestrode, close to the grave of a dead toad. Then the vampire, life shall give. And suddenly, the toad shall live."

There are as many forms of vampire as there are beasts of prey! 
As are the methods of their destruction."


"In the shadow-world your name is spoken with dread. A killer of the night-kind, emboldened by god."

The more vampires a hunter kills, the greater their renown both among townsfolk and the undead.

"So the cross hurts you, but not your children."


"This poor town is a place of livestock. Your prize herd is the unwitting population, nurtured and kept safe so that it may be milked of blood."


"The horse is spooked! It shies from the living dead here."

Animals always react to the presence of the undead.

"I'm a Castine by birth, and the Castine are blessed by many dark secrets."


1 Biblical curse - The 
2 Family lineage - Instead of a lone vampire, their are an additional 1d4 family members sharing the same curse.
3 Occult studies - There may be a cure with a concerted effort of scientific and arcane research, followed by a quest for necessary materials.
4 Plague side effect - Remember the plague?
5 Deal with the Devil - Whether lusting for power or at a weak point, they signed a pact.
6 Cursed by witches - This means there are 1d4 witches in a coven nearby.
7 Returned from hell for being too evil - This vampire has known death and fell.
8 Turned by another vampire - The vampire might hate their actions and hope to die, but their sire will be waiting in the shadows.
9 Unholy relic 
10 Heresy or great sin

Each vampire can only be destroyed in one specific way. Scientists believe it is due to their physical make up, while the dogmatic believe it to be a curse by God.

Expect both a clue to the weakness in the surroundings, as well as one or more red herrings. 

1 Flames
2 Strangulation - Whether hung by a noose or 
3 Wooden Stake
4 Sunlight
5 Garlic
6 Steel
7 A cross
8 Running water
9 Explosion
10 Holy water
11 Blessed weapons
12 Salt
13 Decapitation
14 Silver
15 Gold
16 Its true name
17 Their own reflection
18 A house they enter uninvited
19 A saint's blood
20 A unicorn horn


Usually, the crimes committed by the vampire tells the tale of their hunger.

1 Youth - They suck the life energy out of the young, leaving their aged and shriveled bodies.
2 Blood
3 Strength
4 Constitution
5 Children
6 Intelligence
7 Love juices
8 Flesh

1 Mesmerism
2 Invisibility
3 Incorporeality
4 Animal form
5 Bestial form
6 Giant form
7 Invulnerability
8 Immense strength
9 Speed
10 Wall climbing
11 Regeneration
12 Plague
13 Vermin control
14 Weather control
15 Necromancy
16 Alchemy
17 Possession
18 Projection
19 Shadow Form
20 Telekenesis

If PCs encounter a vampire, feel free to swap out the power used for an alternate from your rule set.

Vampires rarely live alone, but instead surround themselves with humans and other monsters for protection or concealment.

1 Sellswords - They've hired the toughest fighters from miles about, who turn a blind eye for gold. They should be 1d4 levels higher in fighting skill than the PCs.
2 Brigands - The local highywaymen or bandits also double as guards for the undead.
3 Nobles - The vampire is nobility, and nobility protects its own.
4 Clergy - The church ironically protects the fiend. Have they been decieved, or is it a sign of vampiric infiltration of the clergymen.
5 Peasants - The villagers ironically take up arms against vampire hunters and protect the monster that feeds on them. Have they been deceived, mesmerized, or are they 
6 Lesser vampires - This vampire 
7 Ghouls - 
8 Demons - Hellfiends are known to appear when the vampire is in peril.

1 Mask of Concealment
2 Spirit Horse
3 Book of spells
4 Mirror of Scrying
5 Candles of Slumber
6 Cauldron of Brewing

"Whatever its breed, the vampire is a coward at heart."

As the above implies, vampires avoid direct confrontation, preferring instead to move in the shadows. This is because, as powerful as they are, their immortality makes them doubly afraid of death. The GM should only use direct confrontation as a last result, when the undead has no other options but to turn like a bear surrounded by hounds.


All scenarios using the above tables should follow a similar pattern:

1 Vampire activity is detected and reported to the hunters
2 The hunters arrive on scene and gather information on the vampire's strengths and weaknesses
3 The identity of the vampire is discovered
4 The hunters move to end the menace

If the game continues for a long while, this pattern can be spiced up with any of the following

1 pre-emptive strike by the vampire's guardians
2 another monster is also operating in the vicinity
3 a copycat killer is mimicking the undead's moud operandi


I hope you enjoyed this little thought exercise, and read any of the below to be inspired.


Captian Kronos, Vampire Hunter
Vampire Hunter D



Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Cure for the Stormbringer RPG? 3 Suggestions


I think I may have stumbled on a cure for what ails Stormbringer (and Elric! and Hawkmoon and Corum). The insight came to me after reading JB's comments on a previous post:

"I think the strength of the game (as originally designed) was in emulation of Moorcock's books...or rather the books to that point in time. A game with 1E Stormbringer feels very much like pulpy S&S adventure stories of a low-down/mean variety. The Young Kingdoms are "high fantasy" done in a grim-dark fashion (as opposed to Warhammer, which is much more grim-dark "historical"). Everyone dies...just as in Moorcock's stories...whether the PCs are farmers or beggars or warrior-priest-sorcerers. Finding Tanelorn and escaping from the rat-race-of-life is probably the best/ultimate goal of most Stormbringer campaigns: a place to wait out the apocalypse in relative peace and comfort. There is a particular fatalism that hangs over the head of the Stormbringer campaign (at least, when running the game with knowledge of how the series ends), which leads to petty machinations and misadventures of a "get what's mine" type. Perhaps because of this the struggle between Law and Chaos becomes a lesser issue in the drama of the game. It's a minor consideration...a momentary distraction (and/or occasional bonus) for PCs that want to explore that road. But the fate of the world is set."

As JB notes, the pulpiness of the 1e rules are very much at odds with the doomed setting of the Young Kingdoms. By allowing the playgroup to choose which aspects of the Elric saga to focus on, and to select rules anchored in this choice, the GM and his or her playgroup can shape the style of play in a way that pleases them. My prescription to cure what ails Stormbringer is thus to implement three concepts:

1) The establishment of the two different play modes, one to emulate the pulp origins, the other to follow Moorcock's angsty apocalyptic fiction 

2) Addition of the concept of alternate dimensions so that each gameworld does not have to slavishly follow the books, but rather is reset for every gaming group, just as a chessboard is swept clean then pieces reset for the next game

3) Make explicit the differences in rules for each setting so to keep them dynamic

1) Two Play Modes

Like Stormbringer, Alien RPG is another intellectual property (IP), yet is a wild success. This is due to several factors - the amazing art, the exhaustive research into and compelling writing about the universe, the simple system, and the great published scenarios in the boxed set and Destroyer of Worlds.

But one of the major factors for its success is, in my opinion, that it has two modes of play - Campaign and Cinematic. In Campaign games, PCs are tougher and more likely to survive, and unraveling the mysteries of the universe is the overriding theme. Campaign mode is suited to a continuing adventure in the universe of Aliens, and thus is akin to playing Aliens: Fireteam or watching James Cameron's Aliens. In contrast, Cinematic games are played like the original film, PCs are vulnerable and some bound to die or suffer. The mode is suited to the horror one-shot, and is in step with Ridley Scott's Alien, or playing Alien: Isolation.

Adventures in the world of Elric (and Corum or Hawkmoon) could benefit from a similar definition of modes. The two modes I propose are Pulp mode and Saga mode.

Pulp Mode

Want to adventure around the Young Kingdoms, kill demons, rescue victims, pillage ruins, infiltrate cult strongholds, and overthrow or lead kingdoms? This is the mode for you. This mode is based more on the pulp inspirations for the Elric books, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, as well as Moorcock's early work, notably The Golden Barge or von Bek's adventures in The Sundered World.

Although Pulp Cthulhu makes mechanical changes like doubling HP to reflect the hardiness of characters in the genre, I will refrain from suggestions at the moment until I have time to give it further thought. Suffice to say, any changes have to support and incentivize the play style. For the GM, making cultists of any stripe into baddies, backgrounding the struggle of Law and Chaos, and keeping things light yet dangerous would seem to be sufficient at this point. Travel between planes would seem to be par for the course, and the end of the world is to be either too big a concern or else fought and foiled fortnightly.

Saga Mode

Want to challenge death and the gods themselves for the fate of the world? This is the mode for you. This mode is based on the Eternal Champion books as they are, with a heavy slathering of angsty pathos and resonant themes.

Once again I'll refrain from making rules suggestions, suffice to say the struggle of Law and Chaos is front and center, PCs play their part in it, and Armageddon is just a few bad decisions and failed rolls away. Other planes are largely off limits except for in the course of quests to get the MacGuffin needed to keep forces in check.

"But," you say, "How can we enjoy either mode when the Young Kingdoms are doomed?" For that, we implement the next concept, that each gameworld is an alternate dimension that is not fated to the same end as the worlds depicted in the Elric, Corum, or Hawkwind books.

2) Gameworlds are Chessboards

As JB commented above, "The fate of the world is set,"  and this can put players off. Indeed, the story of Elric ends in death and thus is replete with fatalism. Yet this is only true for Moorcock's Elric novels, and the story of any gaming group does not need to be that way.

I think the original designers of Stormbringer made a mistake when they offered the following advice to gamemasters:


"...the underlying assumption of this game has been that most people will want to play during the lifetime of Elric. This gives the GM a choice to make - whether to include Elric and other known Moorcock characters such as Moonglum, Yishana, Smiorgan Baldhead, Jagreen Lem, Theleb K'aarna, or Yyrkoon, in your adventures, or whether to avoid them entirely. While the GM makes the decision, it might be nice to poll your players. They might wish to match their characters against Elric or Yyrkoon. (They'll lose, of course, but there's some honor and distinction in having your character's soul stolen by Stormbringer.)"

This assumption basically locks the PCs into lurching around Elric's world until it or they are destroyed. No wonder only direhand fans played it. To heck with that. Like NYC chess hustlers, the Lord of Law and Chaos sweep the board clean and start a new game without a second thought, but it is the same gameboard and pieces they use. Playing an RPG in the Young Kingdoms should be no different. The original author of the Stormbringer RPG also agrees with this sentiment:

"the GM and players have one more important decision to cope with - whether or not to abide by the writings of Moorcock. There are two possibilities. Either Moorcock's writings are law and players cannot cause them to deviate from the official saga, or your version of the Young Kingdoms is an alternate world where events do not have to follow the pattern outlined by the Elric stories."

I think people skip over this section a lot in their zeal to play in the world of Elric. However, the author himself makes the case for playing in another dimension, where the future of the Young Kingdoms does not necessarily end in apocalypse:

"However, there is no reason why GM and players must limit themselves to such a future. One could have a great deal of fun by actually playing Elric as a player character, using Moorcock's writings as only a rough guide, and letting the character determine his own fate in the course of play. If Moorcock's writings are not regarded as sacred and unchangeable, anything could happen. This requires more imagination on the part of players and GMs, but it offers more hope, because you will be playing in a world that is not necessarily doomed to be destroyed by the Lords of Chaos. This is the choice that I prefer."

More than in other games, Stormbringer PCs are just pawns. But having two game modes let them choose what type of character they are - free willed or aligned to greater powers. It is a choice that Moorcock himself often muses about through his protagonists:

“It was as if my fate had been taken entirely out of my hands. I had become a tool. If only I had known then to what use the tool would be put, then I might have fought against the pull and remained the harmless intellectual, John Dakar. But perhaps I could not have fought and won… At any rate, I was prepared at that moment to do what fate demanded of me.”

- The Eternal Champion

If you want, you can roll randomly to see who is in control of Melnibone and let that colour your game:

(Roll 1d8)

1 Elric, but hale, hearty and untroubled by conscience as his parents followed the teachings of Chaos

2 Yrkoon, but a perfectly old style Melnibonean emperor sending the dragons out again for tribute

3 Empress Cymoril, who uses her elemental powers to aid Melnibonean shipping and usher in a new age of trade

4 No one - the place was sacked by Pan Tangians who resented its old glory and now claim 1st place in the eyes of Chaos

5 Demons - Melnibonean sorcerers lost control of their summonings and Imrryr is now the Nightmare City

6 The Council of Elders (Dr Jest, Dyvim Tvar and others) overthrew the emperor and now rule from the shadows

7 Count Baldhead, whose surprise attack took the decadent city unaware and now rules as a benevelont dictator

8 The Jade Man, Arioch in an ancient guise, rules from atop the imperial palace and has started the Melniboneans on their next transformation...

And if players do tire of The Young Kingdoms or cannot shake the associations with the Elric saga, the stories of these other manifestations of Elric have different associations. The first Corum series ends in defeat of the Sword Lords and a happy ending with his love, while Hawkmoon also does get to a happier ending after several digressions. Happiness and triumph are possible in Moorcock's Multiverse, and should be the norm in a roleplaying game based on it. These unique realities of the worlds of Hawkmoon and Corum are also reflected in the setting-specific rules made for them, which should also keep players interested.

3) Special Rules for Specialized Settings

Just as Elric finds Stormbringer dulled when travelling to the End of Time, characters travelling between Moorcockian gameworlds will have to play by different rules. As noted in the Hawkmoon Science Book, characters travelling either way between the chaotic Young Kingdoms and lawful Tragic Millenia Europe will have to face certain changes:

In Elric's world, science from Hawkmoon's dimension works, but with certain restrictions. Lore skilled are capped at 20%, technological weapons cannot harm demons unless they are extremely powerful or time has been taken to scientifically study and prepare to counteract demonic nature. More importantly, there are also no tools, fuel, ammunition, or other examples of the infrastructure needed to keep technology going. The plane is what James Burke would call a technology trap, where machines in good condition work fine, but are useless and unrepairable when they break down.

Conversely, chaotic powers are hit hard in Hawkmoon's world. The sorcery skill and demon points are all reduced to 1/10 in Tragic Millenium Earth, elementals can be summoned but not bound, and magic cannot be learned at all.

I think the creators of both games had the right idea in reflecting the difference in a gameworld's lawful or chaotic nature in mechanical effects, even if the balance is somewhat suspect. Players will have to think hard about the effects when they venture from their home plane, and new or unknown worlds will hold even more surprises, not all nice.

This disparity between worlds is also evident in Moorcock's fiction. Arioch is a powerful and cunning entity in the YK, but for Corum, he is a corrupt and corpulent godling who is soon dispatched. So change up the narratives and rules governing by gameworld and keep the game dynamic.


From the above, I think we can see that there is life in the old game yet. Unhinging the game from the weight of the Elric stories, letting players choose which play mode to run in, and opening the door to other worlds with in game effects should make Stormbringer viable as a modern game system and setting.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Farewell OSR, Welcome NSR!

I don't think this blog is OSR any more. That's because I don't think the OSR is OSR anymore.

Let me explain...

To me, the OSR was three things:

1) An anti corporate movement

First, it was a response to what many saw as a step away from the games we love, through both the churning out of over-priced and increasingly complex new editions, as well as the unavailability of many out of print games people still loved, but were no longer supported.

WotC ironically ushered in the era of retroclones and tinkering with old systems with its Open Gaming License. I suppose they didn't see the harm in losing a few old neckbeards to older editions, and thought like a D&D fanatic friend of mine, who said about anything pre-3e "Who'd wanna play that old garbage?"

It was ironic that OSR consulting would lead to 5e, which has now become a corporation juggernaut whose marketing and production puts the splatbook excess of 2e and small press explosion of diminishing returns that was the d20 glut to shame.

The result of this corporate media 5e saturation is the rise of anti-5e Facebook groups and gradual disenchantment with 5e and profiling of other, new indie games by D&D Youtubers and RPG podcasters.

2) It was a DIY creative movement

In the Halcyon days of the movement, OSR meant high quality passion projects. Look at the Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope, Telecanter's Receding Rules, and Chogwiz just to name a few. They churned out content of amazing quality, and showed what motivated bloggers could do. Few of those old craftsmen OSR blogs are still around, with exceptions like Tao of D&D, and modern blogs offer mostly 5e reviews and mods (How to build X character from a movie / anime in 5e).

Even EN World has started musing about the drop in quality of 'D&D articles.' This is what happens when corporate media takes over coverage of a hobby and begins churning out soulless listicles to lure in young customers who don't know other games.

3) It was a diverse and inclusive movement

The early OSR was very diverse in its tastes, and if half of OSR blogs focused on older editions of D&D, the remainder looked at other TSR games (Top Secret, Star Frontiers), IP like 007, or cult hits like Unknown Armies. One of my favorites was the sadly gone Mesmerized by Sirens, which made a point of ferreting out old and obscure games.

The early OSR was also diverse, and featured women bloggers like Akrasia, and bonafide porn starlets throwing off stigmas and chucking dice. There was very little politics and polemics, but gradually these increased to be the deafening rumble of misogyny and attacks on leftist strawmen that we sadly see too much of today. When a blogger writes pages and pages insulting and belittling others instead of writing about games, it is time to head for the door.

I'm not the only one who is thinking this. Although I've had this post in mind for a while, the venerable Alex Schroeder has beaten me to the punch and also gave up the OSR moniker.

So does this mean I am shuttering this blog? Far from it. I'll keep chuggin away at my tinkering with old games, weird musings, and introdcutions of the newer games that now beckon to me from my shelf. I suppose changing the O to N won't make much of difference...

... but it'll feel right. And that is all that matters.





Sunday, December 12, 2021

2022 Directions


Just thought I'd get my head together over this blog in time for the new year.

Sweet Jeebus, 2022 sounds so Cyberpunk...

So what have I got planned for the next year?

1) As you may have noticed I am on a Stormbringer kick. I think it is part my love of the old game, as well as my need to limit my focus in response to the insane real life distractions I have. I intend to continue it, but talking to JB I realize how ignorant I am of the game. I am running on 20 year old memories, while JB knows his shit.

So for a little while I'll be doing a rereading of both the Elric novels and the 1st edition Stormbringer PDF I have. It is the only way to keep the re-design on track I wager.

Thanks JB for the inspiration!

2) I have a half-finished indie game based on Japanese culture called Giri-Ninjo (Obligation & Humanity) which was mechanically inspired by Lasers & Feelings. I hope to polish it off, finish a draft, playtest, then put it on

3) Get a better job and get sonny in a better school so the pressure is off me and I can have fun gaming & writing again.

Thanks to you few who've stuck with this blog, stay safe, and see you in the year 2022 or earlier if I have a free moment!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Stormbringer Redux # 4 - The Larger Struggle

So, I just picked up these two iterations of the Stormbringer rules at a good price, as I have no intention of paying hundreds for an older edition. (NB: If you have an older edition you want to get rid of, drop me a line)

The Stormbringer (2001) looks nice on the outside, but is a bit blocky and amateurish in both text and design on the inside. It is basically a reprint of the Elric! stuff, which was a neat update of the old game, but packaged with heroic character sketches to appeal to the younguns. Elric of Melnibone (2009) is a beautiful book, and finds its own niche and charm.

But both books show the difficulty in keeping Stormbringer alive.


First, with the 40+ year old Elric novels, young gamers do not know the source material, and so publishers try to appeal through art and languid summaries of Moorcock's fiction. Such summaries read like those click bait stories you see about the 'secrets' of some well known but older IP such as Alien or Bladerunner. At my age (50), you read one or two entries before you realize you know more than the writer, and that there is no point in further reading.

Second, Stormbringer never really mechanically tackled the struggle between Law and Chaos. Oh sure there was the allegiance system, where player characters can become Agents or Champions of their divine patrons, but this was more a way to empower PCs through a hybrid of D&D's alignment and experience systems. I think this lack of mechanism for replicating the struggle is why many old scenarios were just dungeon crawls, such as the old "Tower of Yrkath Florn" that came in early editions. There were scenarios that touched on the struggle, such as my favorite "The Hall of Risk", but again these were without any mechanical underpinning. Newer materials such as "The Struggle Against Pan Tang" also miss the point of the series - the squabbling between nations means nothing in the face of the apocalyptic struggle of the Lords of Law and Chaos Gods.

Just as the struggle between Law and Chaos is the center of the Elric novels, the lack of a system for determining the moves of the factions in the eternal struggle between Law and Chaos has lead to the growing irrelevance of the game. I think adding such a system would make the game stand out from the crowd of fantasy heartbreakers and retro clones, and make it more faithful to the source material. In terms of player satisfaction too, Stormbringer has often lacked clear win conditions. There is no experience system or levels like in D&D, and money is not an object. Essentially, PCs should be working to save (or destroy) the world amid the struggle between forces greater than themselves.

I think any other focus for the game, such as the rise of the Young Kingdoms versus Melnibone hinted at in the Kickstarter ad HERE, is doomed to failure, or at least continued ignominy.


At the beginning of any scenario, roll on the following table to see what is happening during the struggle at this time. Basically, the scenario becomes the A plot of the game, while the struggle between Law and Chaos becomes the B plot or metaplot. The faction turn thus represents a god of Law or Chaos making a gambit to increase the power of their faction.

Descriptions are necessarily brief and vague, and it is up to the GM to use them as inspiration to devise details themselves.

The Struggle (roll 3d6)

3 A Chaos god or avatar tries to enter the plane
4-5 A god of Chaos tries to send supernatural forces to tip the scale in its favour
6-8 A god of Chaos tries to incite mundane action on its behalf
9-12 Nothing happens
13-15 A god of Law tries to incite mundane action on its behalf
16-17 A god of Law tries to send superscience forces to tip the scale in its favour
18 A god of Law or avatar tries to enter the plane

NB: If the same result is rolled twice in a row, instead the Balance moves to correct the previous action

Way of Contacting or Entering the Plane (roll 1d8)

1 Cult's dreams
2 Unlocking a portal
3 Place of power or ruins
4 Ritual for summoning
5 Artifact for summoning
6 Previous incarnation
7 Offspring 
8 Avatar

Supernatural Incursion (roll 1d8)

1 Demon / Angel
2 Monster(s)
3 Edifice
4 Artifact
5 Environmental Change
6 Plague
7 Planar refugees
8 Agent or Champion

Mundane Action (roll 1d8)

1 Holy war
2 Piracy or banditry
3 Assassination
4 Fomenting unrest
5 Sabotage
6 Siege
7 Embargo
8 Coup d'etat

NB: A Player Character who is an agent or Champion may decide to create their own move by enciting one of the events above or assisting in one.


The easiest way to score the struggle between Law and Chaos is to count how many nations are held by each power.

In the Young Kingdoms, the Lords of Law and Chaos fight over 20 kingdoms. According to my reading, the Elric saga starts with 5 nations aligned with Chaos, 5 with Law, and 10 with the Balance, albeit implicitly, as follows.


1 Melnibone C

2 Pan Tang C

3 Myrrhyn B

4 Dharijor C

5 Jharkor B

6 Shazaar L

7 Tarkesh L

8 Vilmir L

9 llmiora B

10 Nadsokor B

11 Weeping Waste B

12 Eshmir C

13 Island of Purple Towns L

14 Argimiliar B
15 Pikarayd C
16 Lormyr L

17 Filkhar B

18 Oin B

19 Yu B

20 Org B

There are three conditions of the world:

1 In Balance

If the number of nations in Balance equals or exceeds the combined number of Lawful and Chaotic nations, and the number of lands of Law and Chaos are the same, then the world is in Balance. Law and Chaos can only act through individuals, and are easily stopped.

2 Out of Balance

If either Law or Chaos has a greater number of aligned nations, but their combined number is less than that of nations in Balance, then the world is out of Balance. In this case either side can use squads of adherents to further their aim, and require some effort to stop. Also, the Balance may send individuals to assist in returning the world to Balance.

3 Chaos or Law Ascendant

If the combined nations of Law and Chaos exceed the nations in Balance, the world is said to be Ascendant. Either side can send great armies or forces magic or scientific to further their aims, and will try to take over nations of Balance while fighting directly or indirectly against nations of their adversary. Only great struggle and sacrifice can return the world to Balance.


One thing that always struck me as strange in Stormbringer was how anyone could be an agent of a cosmic faction. In the books, only those with power, as reflected in social status, became agents. Emperor Elric, Prince Gaynor, the Sleeping Sorceress, all are leaders of men and the top of their society. There are no hunter, farmer, or beggar agents of Law or Chaos.

Agents thus can only come from the top of society - Nobles, Sorcerors, or Priests. Exceptions might be for a god of wealth, who has merchants as Agents, a nature or elemental god who could choose a hunter, and a Craftsman who could serve as a champion of Law. Each Master can devise their own special Agents.

Which begs the question, why are lesser professions playable at all? Who would want to roll up and play a Hunter from Troos when another player could get lucky with a Melnibonean Sorceror? 

Here again the struggle makes it work. Whereas the game rules largely center on the powers given to Agents or Champions, there are also serious drawbacks:

1 Agents are always targeted by the opposition, companions are often ignored.

2 Agents cannot refuse the call of their faction, companions may come and go as they please.

By following these two tenets, a new game style also comes into view, akin to Ars Magica, where Agents are the Champion of the story and others are a rotating cast of Companions. Each player could create multiple PCs and rotate them as the story demands.

And that is exactly what any game based on the Elric or Eternal Champion books needs to do.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

How to Run CoC in 2021

 (taken from an exchange on the I'm Begging You To Play Another RPG Facebook page)

Question: "If there’s one thing I’ve learned from D&D, it’s that all RPGs have three core books. What are the core books for your game?"

Tedankhamen: CoC rulebook, Dreamlands of Unknown Kadath, my fevered brain
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  • Mr X "my fevered brain" is my favorite rpg sourcebook 
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    • Tedankhamen
      Yeah, it is why this game has gone 10 sessions with no signs of stopping, we've left Earth for the Dreamlands, and PCs are picking up skills like The Cat Dance and spells like Summon Cats. Epic, off the rails.
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    • Mr X summoning cats is definitely the most important spell
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    • Tedankhamen I'm also realizing that CoC is dated and clunky, but also great fun when hacked this way.
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    • Tedankhamen It will probably save their lives and end the campaign...
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    • Mr X I've yet to play CoC, but I imagine the weirder you go the better it gets
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    • Tedankhamen Oh definitely! The rules themselves give an old school, clunky 'this is mundane reality' vibe, THEN you throw Dreamlands or non=Euclidean physics at them. It is the upending of the sane mesh of rules from whence the cosmic horror emanates bwahahahahaha
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    • Mr X I love that! I like challenging my players assumptions about how the world works (within reason) to keep them on their toes, or in this case, reinforce the themes of the game
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    • Tedankhamen  It is unintended consequence of outdated game design and Beggar psychology / gaming methodology