Thursday, 1 April 2021

Tales of the Goblin Horde & The Goblin Warrens

Last month's Tricube Tales micro-setting was an introductory scenario for the Drakonheim setting, so this month I thought it would be fun to base one on my own Saga of the Goblin Horde setting: Tales of the Goblin Horde!

“For time immemorial, goblins have been mercilessly hunted down and murdered by the so-called “civilized” humans, slaughtered in droves for the entertainment of bloodthirsty adventurers. But everyone has their limits, even the underdogs.

The pathetic goblins who eke out a living near the human lands are weak and timid, the aggression bred out of them through generations of culling, with only the most cowardly among them managing to survive. But the goblins of the western tribes are another matter entirely, as the rapidly encroaching scourge of human civilization is about to discover.

You are ferocious goblin bosses from the Redfang tribe, leading your gangs on a series of dangerous missions against the humans and other enemies. Chief Bignose is confident you won’t let him down!”

I published Saga of the Goblin Horde for Savage Worlds back in 2017, and I even won a Silver ENnie Award for it, but I've also used the setting for several other projects. It was the basis for a 200-word RPG called The Goblin Warrens, as well as Hightree Warren for Gold & Glory, and the Wiseguys crossover The Gobfather (which was in turn referenced by Goblin Gangsters). And of course, the work-in-progress Swift d12 Quick Start uses Saga of the Goblin Horde, as will the full setting book once I've finished it.

I've previously discussed converting Saga of the Goblin Horde to Tricube Tales, but now that I'm releasing a new micro-setting every month, I decided I should do the job properly! Unlike the other Tricube Tales micro-settings, this one actually adds some new mechanics (via gang tokens), and includes additional guidelines for turning the one-page RPG into a full campaign.

Another Jam...

Earlier this month, I also decided to update, reformat, and republish The Goblin Warrens for the Pleasure-not-Business Card RPG Jam, which was an interesting challenge! Business cards seem to be a pretty good size for 200-word RPGs.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Tricube Tales: Welcome to Drakonheim

The Tricube Tales One-Page RPG for March has now been released: Welcome to Drakonheim!

“Long ago, during the days of the Cevali Empire, a mighty hero slew a powerful dragon and used her bones as the foundations of Drakonheim—the “City of Bones.” After the empire’s gradual decline and eventual collapse, Drakonheim became an independent city, an oasis in the wild lands.

Several months ago the city was attacked by a hobgoblin army. Defeat seemed inevitable, until a cabal of necromancers raised an undead horde and turned the tide of battle. Although the threat was defeated, skeletal soldiers still patrol the streets; the City of Bones has earned its nickname once again.

You are a party of adventurers, visiting Drakonheim in search of fame and riches. Maybe you’ve heard of the Gray Society—the necromancers who saved the city—and wish to meet them, or even join their order. Or perhaps you view them as a dark influence that needs to be stopped.”

I've blogged about Drakonheim quite a bit in the past, but to briefly summarize: I backed the Kickstarter for a system-agnostic setting called Drakonheim: City of Bones several years ago, and I liked it so much that I contacted the publisher and offered to write the Drakonheim Savage Companion for it, as well as convert the Heroes of Drakonheim adventures to Savage Worlds.

Now that I'm releasing monthly micro-settings for Tricube Tales spanning a range of different genres, I thought it would be fun to revisit Drakonheim, so (after asking Matthew J. Hanson of Sneak Attack Press for permission) I've gone ahead and designed a Tricube Tales micro-setting that also serves as an introductory scenario to the full setting.

You can run Welcome to Drakonheim on its own, which is ideal for a one-shot, or combine it with the Drakonheim: City of Bones and Tricube Tales books for a full campaign (perhaps using the Hack and Slash genre rule to give PCs ranks).

Monday, 22 February 2021

Tricube Tales: My plans for 2021

Three months ago I discussed my future plans for Tricube Tales, and I mentioned that I'd like to repeat the strategy I used for Saga of the Goblin Horde, where I released a new character archetype every month. I decided to stick to that plan and publish a new micro-setting every month for 2021, and I've already released three more since that post, bringing the total number up to eight!

Here is an overview of the three new micro-settings:

Metahuman Uprising: Inspired by my recent binge-watching of Disney+ Marvel films and shows, and The Girl in the Box book series by Robert J. Crane. I wanted to show how Tricube Tales can be used to run a very rules-lite superhero game with a variety of different characters and superpowers. I also decided to make the Twist Table superpower-themed, so it could be used to help players choose their powers.

Rotten Odds: After writing Metahuman Uprising, I wanted my next micro-setting to focus on ordinary humans. I'd fancied creating a zombie apocalypse setting for a while, ever since running War of the Dead for Savage Worlds -- and while I did publish Blood & Bile a few years ago, that was more focused on the vampire vs zombie conflict. I'm also a fan of the Deathless novels by Chris Fox, particularly the way the zombies evolved in his book No Mere Zombie, and wanted to explore the idea of zombies mutating into increasingly dangerous forms.

Deep Trouble in Oldport Bay: Martian Muckraker launched the Cosmic Horror Tabletop RPG Jam on February 15th, and I decided to submit a suitable micro-setting. I initially considered creating something inspired by the short film The Fisherman, but later decided to make something conceptually more like the TV adaption of Sweet Home, except with Deep Ones (and hybrids undergoing their transformation) instead of desire monsters. I wanted to add something else though, so I decided to include a mysterious black obelisk in the bay, partially inspired by a video game called The Shore.

Future Micro-Settings

I'm still thinking about which micro-settings I'd like to release this year, but I've already started working on five of them.

Wardens of the Weird West: I looked to my Countdown Decks for inspiration, and decided I should definitely cover the Wild West. But then I thought back to when Owen Lean ran his Deadlands adventure The Taxidermist's Tail at Savage Con, and how much more fun I found the Wild West when there are supernatural elements as well. So I've decided to create a Weird West micro-setting about monster hunters.

Welcome to Drakonheim: One of my favorite settings is the system-agnostic Drakonheim: City of Bones. I liked it so much I wrote the Drakonheim Savage Companion for it, converted Heroes of Drakonheim to Savage Worlds, and even released a couple of One Sheets. So when I started thinking of fantasy micro-settings for Tricube Tales, it shouldn't come as much surprise that Drakonheim was the first setting to spring to mind -- yes, Drakonheim is a full setting in its own right, but a micro-setting would be ideal for someone who wants to run a quick introductory one-shot game. If they like it and want to turn it into a longer campaign, they can buy the full setting book. Note: I've already asked Matthew Hanson of Sneak Attack Press, and he's granted permission.

Firefighters: All of the previous micro-settings involve combat, but Tricube Tales is designed to work for non-combat games as well. One of the example scenarios at the back of the main book concerns a crew of firefighters, so I thought it would be fun to expand that idea. This micro-setting will involve fighting fires, rescuing people (and pets), and dealing with various other hazards. But there will be no combat or monsters.

Isle of Skulls: I knew I wanted a micro-setting with dinosaurs, but I couldn't make up my mind up about the specific theme. I had pondered something with time portals like Primeval, or maybe something more like Journey to the Center of the Earth, or perhaps even a cross between Jurassic Park and Lost. But after watching the movie Skull Island, I think I've finally made up my mind what style of setting it'll be!

Interstellar Laser Knights: Last year I released the Mandalorian-inspired Interstellar Bounty Hunters, and it proved pretty popular -- some fans even created a Discord roleplaying server and use Interstellar Bounty Hunters for their games! So I'd like to create another micro-setting along similar lines, this time for Jedi Knights (although once again with the serial numbers thoroughly filed off, so they're not really Jedi, just something that could easily be used for that style of gameplay). Naturally, I plan to release this micro-setting on May 4th :)

What about the rest?

I still have a long list of ideas for potential micro-settings, but I'm always open to suggestions. I may try another humorous one as well, as those seem to be quite popular for one-page RPGs (I've already made some notes for "A Welsh Werewolf in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch", but I'm not sure if I can make the concept work).

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Tricube Tales: Micro-settings as standalone one-page RPGs

Generic roleplaying systems can easily end up feeling bland, and I think it's very important to offer some example settings. Tricube Tales does have a few simple scenarios at the back (tied in with the vehicle rules), but I don't think that's anywhere near sufficient to really capture the feel of a setting -- compare it with Savage Worlds, for example, which has an extensive library of setting books. Or look at some of the TinyD6 games like Tiny Dungeon or Tiny Frontiers, which fill half the book with micro-settings.

However, it takes a long time to write a full setting, even smaller settings can take a while, and it's simply too much work for me to handle on my own. This was part of the reason why I released the Tricube Tales system under a Creative Commons license, as I hoped other publishers might take an interest (and I was very excited to see Nathan Carmen use it for Heroes of the Cosmos). But I'd still like to offer something in the way of official setting support.

One-Page RPGs

The One-Page RPG Jam 2020 motivated me to try my hand at writing a one-page RPG, and I decided to use the Tricube Tales mechanics for my game -- I figured that would provide a good cross-promotional opportunity, plus I wanted to see if I could compress the Tricube Tales rules down small enough to use for a one-page RPG. I'd also been wanting to establish a presence on for a while, and this seemed the perfect opportunity. Plus it allowed me to experiment with new layouts and color-schemes, which was fun!

The Fools Who Follow didn't attract much interest, I think it was simply buried in the huge pile of Jam entries, although I was also new to and didn't have an established customer base there. But I really liked the one-page format, so I decided to try another -- Goblin Gangsters, a prequel to The Gobfather. This received much more attention, along with some good feedback. Someone said they'd had difficulty coming up with ideas for the adventure generator, so after some further consideration, I added an optional second page with examples (technically this turned it into a two-page RPG, but as you only need the first page to play, and "two-page RPGs" aren't really a thing, I still refer to it as a one-page RPG). This proved popular, not only did it provide the reader with some good examples for the adventure generator, but it also added flavor to the scenario and helped flesh it out with some interesting people, places, and events.

After watching the trailer for season 2 of the Mandalorian, I decided to create Interstellar Bounty Hunters as my third micro-setting. I thought it would make a great thematic fit with my Galactic Countdown Deck as well, but I didn't want to add card-based mechanics to the rules, so after some deliberation, I added an oracle table to the second page (with similar symbols to those used on my Countdown Decks).

Not long after, DriveThruRPG put a call out for entries in their yearly Trick-or-Treat promotion, looking for Halloween-themed products ideally 1-3 pages in length. I figured this would be a great way to promote my products and draw more attention to my work, so I created my fourth micro-setting, Samhain Slaughter. Although it wasn't chosen for the Trick-or-Treat promotion, it received positive feedback, and helped cement the style I want to use going forward.

After that, I went back to Goblin Gangsters and added an oracle table to its second page, then added a second page to The Fools Who Follow, giving all four micro-settings a consistent style. The first page is split into four main sections -- an introduction to the scenario, character creation, game rules (covering challenges, karma, and resolve), and gameplay (an adventure generator, and guidelines for running and playing the game). The second page contains examples for the adventure generator table entries, and an oracle table for adding twists to the story.

When Manuel Sambs released his fantastic Sprawlrunners toolkit for Savage Worlds, he also inspired me to create Chrome Shells & Neon Streets as my fifth micro-setting, this time tackling the cyberpunk genre.

Why use Tricube Tales?

The one-page RPGs are designed to be standalone games, but they also double up as micro-settings for Tricube Tales, and I've noticed a bump in sales for the core rules each time I release another one-pager. However, I think the system itself also works very well in the smaller format. The mechanics are a little more complex than many one-page RPGs, but they hit the sweet spot for me.

Players roll 1-3 dice based on their character, against a target number of 4-6 based on the situation, so there are two sliders for controlling the difficulty (one at the player end, the other at the GM end). Then there are perks and quirks, which give the player a way to influence the rolls -- this is something I consider important in a system, because it adds a little tactical depth, giving the players some degree of control over the rolls depending on how important they consider the situation, rather than leaving the outcome completely to chance.

There's a lot of different setting ideas I'd like to try at some point, and absolutely no way I would ever have enough time to create even a fraction of them as full settings. But these one-pagers are relatively quick to create.

Going Forward

When I started working on Saga of the Goblin Horde, I released a new character archetype every month, as well as various One Sheet adventures, and I think this really helped keep the spotlight on the setting. I feel the same approach could work for Tricube Tales micro-settings, and I've already got several ideas I'd like to explore! Because they're pretty fast to write, I also have a lot more freedom to experiment with weird niche settings -- and also explore outside of my comfort zone, without worrying about getting burned out before I finish.

I think the oracle table could also provide a valuable tool for solo play, and this is something I'd like to look at in more depth in the future. My earlier Blood & Bile game was explicitly designed with GMless play in mind, and I think Tricube Tales would also make a good fit for solo gaming, so a solo one-page RPG using Tricube Tales is definitely something I feel is worth exploring.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Tricube Tales update, and Goblin Gangsters

Lulu recently did a complete redesign of its website, leading to a number of lingering technical problems, so I decided to move the print-on-demand version of Tricube Tales to DriveThruRPG. This required a full redesign of the print-ready files, and so I decided I might as well take the opportunity to incorporate the feedback I've received over the last 6-7 months (the previous version was published in February). By expanding the page count (from 52 to 59), I was also able to eliminate the blank pages at the end of the book.

The PDF versions of Tricube Tales have also been updated to version 4, and they can be downloaded as usual from the product page here. As always, you can download the full phone PDF for free by clicking on the Publisher Preview.

Aside from a few minor cosmetic tweaks (and updating the credits and contents), here are the changes:

  • Rephrased the "Recovery" section to include an example.
  • Added sections for "Opposed Challenges" and "NPC Confrontations", covering PC-vs-PC and NPC-vs-NPC situations respectively.
  • Switched around "Combat Styles" and "Examples" on page 28, as I think it makes more sense for the examples to come first.
  • Rephrased "Another Perspective" to hopefully make it clearer when you need to spend karma.
  • Added new sections on "Assisting Allies" and "Stacking Perks", to give some further clarity on the usage of perks.
  • Updated "Superheroes" to reference limitations, and added another page for "Power Limitations".
  • Added a "Supernaturals" section (originally posted here on my blog).
  • Added a couple more example vehicles (exploratory starship and battle tank).
  • The PoD version of the book now has a description on the back cover.
I'd also like to stress that none of the rules have changed, so if you've got the earlier version it's still 100% compatible with the current rules. All I've done is clarify a few things that people found unclear, and expand a few areas that hadn't explicitly been covered.

The printed version is 5"x8", as DTRPG didn't support the smaller pocketbook size, but I actually quite like the larger book now that I've gotten used to it. The font size of the body text is around 13, which is quite large, but I actually find it pretty comfortable on the eyes (at least, on my old eyes!).

Goblin Gangsters

I also decided to try my hand at another one-page RPG, based on the same template I'd used for The Fools Who Follow. This time I tried to adhere more closely to the Tricube Tales rules, and I designed the game as a prequel to The Gobfather.

You can download it here: Goblin Gangsters (click on the Publisher Preview to download the full PDF for free).

Overall I'm very pleased with it, I think Goblin Gangsters does a good job of capturing the essence of the Tricube Tales system while also serving as a light introduction to The Gobfather, and it all fits on a single page!

One-Page RPGs as example settings?

Although Tricube Tales does include a number of genre rules and even a few example scenarios, it doesn't have any real settings of its own, and I think that can be a weakness (from a marketing perspective) for generic systems. That's something I'd like to address in the future.

I think Savage Worlds owes much of its success to the wide range of settings it offers, and the popular TinyD6 games often include a selection of micro-settings in the back of their rulebooks. Perhaps I could offer some micro-settings for Tricube Tales in the form of a library of one-page RPGs? It's certainly something to consider, and much more realistic (from an effort perspective) than writing full settings.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

One-Page RPG Design: The Fools Who Follow

The One-Page RPG Jam 2020 was announced last week and started on the 27th of July. I decided to take part, as I like trying out different things and expanding my skill set, and I really needed a short break from my other projects anyway. I submitted my game last night, and you can grab it free from here:



The Chosen One is a classic trope, but it doesn't work very well for most tabletop roleplaying games, as you don't usually want one player hogging the limelight. I've seen some fun ideas for subverting it, though, such as the Chosen One unexpectedly dying and the PCs having to pick up the slack (the very NSFW Oglaf webcomic also did something similar, with the Chosen One being killed by a shopkeeper for "stealing" the weapon he was prophesied to wield).

I originally considered doing something similar, with the Chosen One being killed (perhaps even at the hand of the PCs) prior to the adventure, but I eventually decided it would be more interesting if I turned the Chosen One into a liability, an ongoing problem the players would have to deal with as part of the story. That also meant I could revisit the shenanigans rules I first used in Saga of the Goblin Horde, and see how well they could be adapted to other settings!


A single page doesn't give you much space to work with, but I had a look at a few other one-page RPGs for inspiration, and eventually settled on four sections: Scenario overview, characters, game rules, and running adventures. Back when I worked on The Goblin Warrens, I combined a 200-word RPG with a 200-word adventure, and that was the benchmark I decided to use here. Likewise, creating a scenario overview was pretty similar to the various adventure seeds I wrote for Saga of the Goblin Horde and Blood & Bile.


I decided to base the system on Tricube Tales because I already knew it worked, plus it provided me with a cross-promotional opportunity. I had to streamline the rules significantly, and even dropped traits -- but I chose to keep karma, as I consider it an essential part of the system (it gives players a degree of control over the outcome of their rolls, rather than leaving everything to chance).


I've been meaning to try my hand at a landscape PDF for a while, and this seemed the perfect opportunity. Four columns would have been too squashed up, however, so I placed the scenario overview at the top of the page and split the rest into three columns. I also had a look at the layout of other one-page RPGs -- in particular, I drew inspiration from the way Lasers & Feelings designed its tables (although I kept the dice icons I'd used for tables in my earlier products).


For the initial trade dress, I picked a page background I liked from Lord Zsezse Works and found a suitable jester illustration from Fat Goblin Games. I adjusted the colors of the jester slightly to better match the purple corners of the page background, then realized the illustration's three main colors (purple, green and orange) followed a triadic color scheme on the color wheel, so I decided to use it for the text and tables as well.


It took me a couple of days to transform The Fool Who Follows from a rough idea into a polished product, and I'm pleased with the way it turned out. One-page RPGs are fun to design, I can see them being a great way to try out different ideas (much like I've suggested using One Sheets to try out ideas for Savage Worlds settings). It also allowed me to experiment with different styles of layout and trade dress.

I've been meaning to establish a presence on for a while, so it's nice to finally have something on there, even if it's just a tiny one-page game. Will I create some more? I've not decided yet. Would you like me to? Let me know!

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Starships & Salvage: Running Gold & Glory in Space

One of my favorite Savage Worlds settings is Gold & Glory: Seven Deadly Dungeons, where the heroes explore various randomly-generated dungeons looking for treasure -- and one of my favorite board games is Space Hulk, where space marines fight their way through abandoned space vessels. So ever since Gold & Glory was released, I've been pondering using its rules for a sci-fi game, where a rag-tag crew of explorers hunts for salvage among the stars (or perhaps the PCs are a company of mercenaries, or a unit of drop troops, sent on various military missions).

Wild Draw Character Creation

Gold & Glory has some nifty card-based character creation rules. However, for a sci-fi setting (assuming the PCs are not all human) I'd recommend using the species from the Science Fiction Companion instead of the standard fantasy races, and I'd propose handling them with an additional card draw:

2: Aquarian
3: Aurax
4: Avion
5: Construct
6: Deader
7: Floran
8: Human
9: Insectoid
10: Kalian
Jack: Rakashan
Queen: Saurian
King: Serran
Ace: Yeti
Joker: Choose freely

Similarly, the classes would need to be changed to something more suitable for a sci-fi theme, perhaps including options such as "soldier," "mechanic," "pilot," "psychic," "scientist," "scout," etc.


I'd suggest renaming the currency to something like "galactic credits", and giving characters access to gear from the core rules and Science Fiction Companion. You might also want to pick up a copy of Savage Space (it's free), particularly for the vehicle rules, as the PCs will need a spaceship for their adventures!


The dungeons can be designed in much the same way as Gold & Glory, and there are countless movies and TV shows you can use for inspiration. Here are some adventure seeds (along with their sources of inspiration) to get you started:

Distress Signal: The heroes investigate a distress signal coming from an alien vessel that's crash-landed on a nearby moon. While this plot hook is an obvious nod to Alien, the story could unfold in any number of ways.

Missing Colony: A colony base has gone silent, and the PCs are hired to investigate. Although this seed is inspired by Aliens, the adventure could go in any number of directions -- perhaps the colony's droids turned on them, or maybe the colony was driven insane (like the reavers in Firefly/Serenity).

Breakout: The PCs are hired to break into an automated prison ship and rescue one of the prisoners. Inspired by an episode of the Mandalorian, this adventure could introduce various unexpected twists and challenges related to the ship, the identity of the prisoner, and so on.

Ghost Ship: Inspired by Event Horizon, a starship with a prototype FTL drive vanished on its maiden trip many years ago, and was never seen again -- until a few days ago, when it reappeared, drifting aimlessly through space. The PCs are fortunate enough to be nearby, giving them an opportunity to explore (and loot) the ship before any other vessels come into range.

Alien Outpost: Inspired by the Doctor Who episodes "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit", the PCs discover a planet orbiting a black hole, with an abandoned base of ancient alien design located on the surface. Who knows what sort of advanced technology might be found within?


Gold & Glory is as much toolkit as it is setting, and the core concept should work just as well for other genres. A horror setting where the PCs investigate dark crypts and haunted houses? A cyberpunk setting where the PCs break into automated factories and military facilities in search of hi-tech loot? A mafia setting where the PCs need to break someone out of a prison, or steal evidence from a police station?

Not every adventure needs to be a dungeon crawl, but sometimes a dungeon crawl is exactly what you need, and the semi-randomization tools provided in Gold & Glory are a great way of handling it.