I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Thursday, January 21, 2021

D&D 5e x Pathfinder 2 (beating a dead horse)

This is old news by now. By this point, everyone has made their choice between these two... or something else.

I wrote about my first impressions of Pathfinder in 2019, when it was released. It has some interesting stuff. I've never actually played it. 

I did, however, watch a video about it, and found it very interesting. It illustrates lots of stuff I try to say here with actual examples from PF2. Mainly, about lots of complexity and lack of meaningful choices.

This is not a jab against PF2 specifically; I see it in 5e and lots of other games, even old school ones.

Anyway, I think it is worth watching not only for PF2 and 5e players but also people who are interested in RPG mechanics. 

Without further ado:

There is a follow up video, too, but this only deals with very specific comparisons between 5e and PF 2. Still interesting.

The channel is full of good stuff, especially for 5e fans. Take a look!

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Minimalist D&D VII - Six skill sets

You asked for it, and you shall receive!

More minimalist D&D is coming... hopefully, until it becomes an entire game.

I talked about skills before (read that first!) and I am 90% convinced that they are not needed. However, five skills remained useful in my analysis: sleight of hand, arcana, history, nature and medicine.

You might call them "skill sets", instead. Something like this:

- Nature: animal handling, survival, nature, maybe perception when in nature.
- Lore: religion, history.
- Thievery: sleight of hand + thieves' tools.
- Arcana: well, arcana.
- Medicine: just medicine.

I kept these because you can build interesting archetypes around them. The experience ranger or hunter that is not particularly wise (average wisdom), the thief who is better with lock-picks than with a rapier. Or a doctor and a wizard who are both very intelligent, but not in the same way.

I cannot see that with other skills. Acrobatics, for example - can you think of a hero in fiction which would have low Dexterity and STILL great acrobatics? Makes no sense to me.

I considered some kind of "influence" skillset for charisma skills (deception, intimidation, persuasion , performance). But nope. A knight who is a leader has high Charisma. A suave thief has high Charisma. That's enough.

But I am really tempted to add a sixth skillset. Which is:

- Observation: perception, insight, investigation.

Now, I can see how this is somewhat redundant to Wisdom... And, as I've said "wouldn't it be cool if perception were context-specific? So, the ranger notices everything in the wild, but the aristocrat measures every look in the court, etc."


I can see the opposite too. A thief with low Wisdom, but a great eye for detail. Maybe a skill set to find hidden stuff; secret passages, quiet noises... This stuff is so improtant in D&D! Or maybe that should be folded into thievery. So, the thief sees small secret doors, the ranger doesn't - but he gets too see an ambush in the woods in advance. And the wizard perceives magic stuff.

Thinking of it this way, the sixth skill set could be War (or a better name - any suggestions?). It wouldn't influence combat at all... but would allow you to see an ambush before it comes, the value of a good sword, some interesting tactics against another group of combatants... Maybe the can MAKE some simple weapons in extreme circumstances.

War certainly creates lots of interesting combinations. Barbarians do War and Nature, Paladins do War and Arcana, etc.

I'm thorn on this one. I confess having six abilities and six skill sets is very tempting.

HOWEVER, I wouldn't want skill sets to be something every character has (like abilities).

By learning medicine or arcana, you know things no one else knows, even if they have high Intelligence. This is NOT just a bonus.

In short... skills are feats. Common ones, but still feats. So they can contain whatever you find interesting... and can be multiplied infinitely.

Anyway. that's probably the direction I'm going. Skills are feats, they do relevant things, and not everyone is forced to pick them.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Dark Fantasy Basic is GOLD, a funny review, DCC RPG, and a huge sale

(Dear readers, I know I had a Christmas sale recently, bit I think this one is also worth sharing. We will go back to our "regularly scheduled programming" soon, I promise)

Dark Fantasy Basic has reached gold status on DTRPG, which makes me very happy. It means at least 500 people have bought it. 

It is a very small number when compared to big publishers, of course, but means a lot to me. And I think this might be a good opportunity to share this review (click to enlarge): 

I really love how the every character died and they STILL had a great time. That's the OSR for you... 

BTW, if you want to see other reviews, the other two in DTRPG are detailed and well written. They've read the book carefully, and it shows. You can read them here:

And, absolutely, DFB does play well with DCC modules - there is how I started testing it a long time ago. Notice, however, that DFB PCs are a bit more durable (and their saving throws are much higher).

DCC is certainly one of the best games I've ever read... One of the few that has inspired me in reading from cover to cover. I would like more simplicity and fewer tables, but it remains a huge inspiration.

It is one of these games that I would have a hard time reviewing... Like Shadow of the Demon Lord, the review would be something like "this is a near-perfect RPG"... Maybe I should just make a list of favorites instead.

Anyway, as you can see from the link, there is a big sale going on*, and most my products are included. In fact, it includes LOTS of products - including some classics like the original PHB*.

Even if you already have them, you'd help me a lot by leaving five-star reviews on your favorite ones. In addition, the links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links - by purchasing stuff through affiliate links you're helping to support this blog.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

2021 plans... and what would YOU like to read?

Happy new year!

I'll begin the 2021 run of this blog by listing my current projects. If you want, let me know what you find interesting - or come up with your own suggestions! I asked the same question last year, and I think it worked out well.

There is no deadline for these ones; most are in a very embryonic stage. Surely, more stuff will come up eventually.

Curse of Strahd (blog)
I have endless comments about CoS, in addition to the ones I already made. The sad part is that I'm not currently planning to run it again, so many good ideas will go unused... let's see.

Tomb of Annihilation (blog)
Like CoS, a good but flawed campaign - the one I'm currently running. I might have a tip or two, but not as many as CoS.

Reviews (blog)
RPG reviews are hard to do. They take some work to write, and I'm always very cautious to be both fair and respectful. In addition, my reviews do not get many views or comments, so I'm not sure anyone is interested. Sometimes, I read a book that interests me, and I publish a short review - including non-RPG stuff. Or just a recommendation - something brief.
Maybe I'll add a "currently loving..." tag to my posts? If you want to know which RPGs I like, I'd say try Shadow of the Demon Lord. It has been my favorite for a while.

D&D 5e Light (blog + PDF)
My minimalist version of 5e. I will continue to write about it on the blog and might publish a PDF one day. I'm aiming at 20-40 pages for the PHB, might add a minimalist MM and DMG too.

D&D 5e Dark (PDF)
A small collection of house rules to make 5e a bit darker. Many people did this before but I want to give it my own spin. About 10-20 pages or so.

Teratogenicon (print)
I really want to make a POD version of the Teratogenicon. It is a bit harder than it sounds but I think I can do it.

Dawn of the Bloody Sun (PDF)
My post-apocalyptic setting. Only a collection of ideas so far. Even the name is temporary... but yeah, something akin to Dying Earth, Dark Sun, Mad Max... Red Sun, Mad Sun, Scorched Watelands and so on.
Here are some related posts: one, two, three.

Dark Fantasy Cyclopedia (PDF)
Dark Fantasy Basic plus monsters and a combination of all my booklets. Just calling it "cyclopedia" makes me nervous, I'll admit, but aiming for the stars might be a good idea.

Weapons and armor (blog)
I'm not really focused on that right now... But it is a subject I love, and the ideas keep coming. So I'm probably writing a bit about that in 2021.
I might also make Manual of Arms: Armor, a defensive counterpart for my MoA:Weapons.

If you have any ideas, let me know! Do you like OSR, RAW 5e, minimalist 5e, other systems...?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 retrospective (blogging, publishing and gaming)

It is that time of the year. 2020 is nearly over. It was not the cyberpunk we might have expected (not talking about the videogame, although it might also apply), but maybe some other kind of dystopia. Certainly not the double crit I was hoping for... unless the villains were rolling the dice.

Anyway, I'll focus on blogging, publishing and gaming... because this is what this blog is about.


I maintained a decent pace, and I'll finish the year with around 69 posts (wink wink), making 2020 the most productive year in this blog.

I wrote about RPG theory, OSR stuff, Curse of Strahd, 5e house-rules, combat and minimalist D&D. So, I think I did manage to give the readers what they wanted. I'll do the same next year - see below!


I finished my Curse of Strahd campaign and started running Tomb of Annihilation online. It's going slow. One PC has fallen and that might have caused some loss of interest. The campaign itself is good but flawed, as it often happens with "official" modules.

My version of D&D 5e is now so house-ruled and minimalist I can barely call it 5e anymore. 

I want to publish the entire thing but I'm not 100% sure how to do that - as a collection of house rules? As an entire system based on the SRD? We shall see.

I might play other games in 2021. Maybe some one-shots, maybe with someone else as the GM...

Playing online might be less enjoyable, but it is very practical. 


Some of my 2020 goals were accomplished, some were not. 

The most important thing I published is the Teratogenicon. I really like how it turned out. It is what I wanted it to be - my favorite monster generator.

Also published my first adventure, The Wretched Hive. If you're looking for a short, low-level OSR adventure, check it out! I might add 5e conversion notes down the line, if there is interest.

My most ambitious projects - a Dark Fantasy Cyclopedia and a Minimalist 5e - went nowhere. Mainly because I'm not sure how to separate the two... or if I should separate them at all. Also, see "gaming", above.

What's next?

I'll make a post about my projects for 2021 very soon, and, as always, I'll ask for your suggestions.

Final thoughts for 2020

Here is a classic by Larry Elmore. Like many people, I absolutely love this picture:

A group of adventurers is showing off a slain dragon. They look happy (even if some are still concerned), and you can barely notice the small amount of rusted armor, torn clothes, bruises and scars. I cannot help but to ask myself if the helmet in the ground belongs to one of them... or a fallen fellow.

Their feat seems relatively small. There are certainly bigger dragons out there.

But they have succeeded. They've got the treasure and (what's even better) the XP. More important than all... they fought. And they survived.

More challenges will come... but they will be better prepared to face them.


I hope you have a great 2021!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Chaos Factory EVERYTHING - Christmas sale!

If you bought any of my books, you might receive a similar e-mail through DTRPG - unless you have disabled the option. We e-mail vey rarely, and only to tell you about relevant news and sales - see below.

And if you want to help me out (other than buying my products, of course), all I want for Christmas is that you give some five star reviews to your favorite products from Chaos Factory!

BTW, I'll soon make a post asking what YOU want from this blog in 2021. Stay tuned!


I'm dropping by to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! A great 2021 to all!

This is our second e-mail - ever! As we promised, our emails will be rare - no more than once a trimester. If you want to hear from us more often, follow Chaos Factory Books on Facebook!

In addition, we are making a holiday sale: the bundle with all RPGs we ever wrote has now 55% discount on top of individual discounts.

That's 12 PDFs for $14.99

Here is our entire "Christmas tree"; click the link below to get to the sale and see what each PDF is about!

As always, if you already have something on the list, the price is even lower.  We will keep this price until the beginning of 2021.

Our plans for 2021 so far is a print version of Teratogenicon (with a discount for previous purchases) and more dark fantasy, OSR and 5e content. You can keep updated by checking our Facebook page or my blog.


Merry Christmas and Happy holidays to all!

I'm not sure this is my last post on 2020 in this blog, so I'm wishing you a great 2021 in advance!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Bows are nearly useless (unless you're an expert)

"If you want to train a longbowman, start with his grandfather"
- King Edward III... allegedly.

D&D and D&D-like games treat bows as weak guns - probably more dangerous than daggers but not much better than a rapier.

Have you ever tried using a bow? I tried some modern (not professional) ones... probably easier to use than medieval bows. Let me tell you, shooting someone that is 80 feet away would be hard if you're not an expert (and I'm certainly no expert). That's the "minimum" range of a short bow in 5e - meaning that anyone proficient with simple weapons can use them without disadvantage. The "maximum" range of the short bow is 320 feet - with disadvantage (which would make you hit, say, 42% of the time instead of 65% of the time).

Consider seeing a bowman from 230 feet away (Olympic distance). How likely are you to simply move away from the incoming arrow?

Now, try swinging a bat at a punching bag. Or sticking a dagger-like object into a tree (please be careful... you'll might break your knife or hurt yourself). Even a child with a sharp knife is dangerous. A bow? Not so much. But the short bow deals 1d6 damage, the dagger 1d4.

Also... how many times can I stab while you shoot an arrow?

Bows also require strength... in real life, not in D&D.

Of course, there are people who can do amazing things with a bow. Just look at Olympic athletes, or even hunters... But they require extensive training. But in 5e, a shot bow is a simple weapon... while a short sword is a "martial" weapon, supposedly requiring more training.

D&D is not real life, of course. But even in a gaming perspective, bows seem to have an unfair advantage in 5e... they have better reach, nearly the same damage, and the best feats and fighting styles.

I know bows are useful in war... But that's an entirely different game. You are shooting at an army, not a specific foe. Arrows are good when you have LOTS of bowmen ("so many arrows that blot out the sun").

D&D fighting is mostly about small duels... not much more than half a dozen in each side. The way bows work might derive from the fact that D&D was originally a war game. Curiously enough, I think most games have kept the same reasoning since the. In GURPS, for example, the bow is an "average" skill like swords... although penalties due to distance are harsher IIRC).

There are good points to be made against this - bows have been used all over for hunting and wars, thousands of years. King Edward's archers beat heavily armored knights in Crécy... some bows can pierce heavy armor (although I think a baseball bat would do better on a one-on-one fight). Maybe big monsters - like dragons and giants - are easier to hit with arrows.

In addition, there are SOME limitations to archery in D&D - mainly, the fact that you have disadvantage if you're shooting with someone within 5 feet of you (another good point - maybe archery is so easy in D&D because you are not so worried about parrying, dodging, etc.).

And, when in doubt, I defer to the rule of cool... since everyone seems to like Legolas and Robin Hood, D&D 5e is good as it is.


In my current minimalist D&D game, missile and thrown weapons lose a single point of damage. So, if a short sword deal 1d6, a short bow would deal 1d4. Likewise, a thrown dagger deals less damage than getting stabbed (maybe 1d4-1).

In addition, damage is always determined by Strength. You use either Str or Dex to hit with a melee weapon (your choice), only Dex to hit with ranged weapons, and only Str gives a bonus to damage (more thoughts about this here and here) .

It is not a huge issue, but I like it this way, and it's been working well so far.