Side-Based Action Initiative

I was reading (and loved) Prismatic Wasteland’s take on action based initiative. I’m running some OSR play by post stuff soon and was thinking how to apply this to side-based initiative, which is what I’m planning on using. So here are two methods (caveat, these are not play-tested, just right off the top of my head, though I may try them in my upcoming games):

Side Based Action Initiative with Static Enemies

This is your typical side-based initiative which determines if PCs act before or after their opponents. folding in action types to this:

Unarmed attacks or weapon die of d6 or lower - Act before enemies

Weapon die of  d8 or higher, spellcasting, or multiple actions (if available in your system) - Act after enemies.

This leaves unspecified actions such as dashing, swapping items, manipulating objects, etc. I figure there is two ways to rule this: In Prismatic’s system this is a d8, so it makes sense if these type of actions are a blanket act after enemies result. 

Alternatively, if using a system that employs skills or proficiencies, you could say that any character taking an action that uses one of their skills or proficiency acts before enemies, while any other skill or action acts after.

Side Based Action Initiative with Variable Enemies

This version of initiative acts like the above, but instead of one enemy turn there are two: faster enemies that act when faster PCs do, and slower ones that act when slower PCs do. This essentially creates quick and slow turns, similar to Shadow of the Demon Lord. In both cases, PCs act first in their designated phase. How it breaks down:

PC Unarmed attacks or weapon die of d6 or lower

Enemies with HD size of d8 or lower (Medium or smaller creatures)

PC Weapon die of  d8 or higher, spellcasting, multiple actions, or generic actions (as above)

Enemies with HD size of d10 or higher (large or larger creatures) 

Other Modifiers

So far pretty straightforward. What about modifying factors like bonuses or surprise? I think this is pretty easy to adjudicate. A side or PC with a bonus to initiative or some form of advantage can act first, regardless of action type. Similarly surprising an opponent allows you to act first. A monster with a speed-based bonus might act faster than its HD would normally allow.

If there is any kind of lair action or hazard, it happens at the top of the round. A multi-step hazard might act twice, especially if using the variable enemy type rule. 

Any type of condition resolution (saves, incapacitation) happens at the end of the round.

Overall, players will still have to think about their actions ahead of time, and can get a tactical advantage for quicker actions.

EDIT: I realized when implementing this for my Knave game that enemies all have one die size in old-school games. Here is the method I’m using in that case:

Decide your action at the top of the round. There are fast actions and slow actions making a fast turn and slow turn. All fast actions and fast enemies act on the first turn (PCs act first) then slow actions and slow enemies. 

Fast actions: Unarmed attacks, weapon attacks with damage dice of d6 or lower (including dual-wielding, as long as both are d6 or lower weapons), dashing, skills with which you are proficient. 

Slow actions: Weapon attacks with damage dice d8 or higher, casting a spell, multiple actions, all other actions.

Enemies act as their attack damage die or as makes sense for their other actions. d6 or lower attacks are fast actions. d8 or higher damage, multiple attacks, spellcasting are slow actions. Special abilities are typically slow but may be fast depending on the specific ability. 

Surprise or initiative bonus: If you gain the element of surprise you make a fast attack no matter the action / damage size. Enemies that gain surprise may act first in a given turn. 

If you cannot perform your planned action you can change it, but your action must take place on the slow turn.

June 22, 2023

Spellcaster Talents” for Knave 2e

Spell Level: A spell’s level is equal to what the caster would cast it at. In Knave 2e rules this is equal to the caster’s INT score by default. If you use another ability for casting use that score. If using leveled spells from another source, it is equal to the level of the spell.

If you have at least 1 in a mental stat (INT, WIS, CHA) at character creation, pick an option. You might be able to learn these options from mentors later.

Arcane Scholar: You may create INT scrolls per day from any spellbook you own. Scrolls are used once and then destroyed. They require 50c x [Spell level] in materials and 10 x [Spell level] minutes to craft each. You may choose to craft the scroll at a lower level. The spell is cast at the level you crafted it at.

Magical Thesis: Pick one spellbook you own, spend 200c in supplies, at least a day of downtime, and make an INT check. On a success, you modify the spell in one way (such as damage type, range, shape, duration). You can only have one magical thesis at a time, if you choose a new spell to modify, revert the old one.

Divine Blessing: You have the particular favor of a deity. Pick one relic you own. You can ask for direct aid from this relic for a number of times equal to your WIS score before it needs to be re-blessed. 

Primal Magic: Sacrifice a spellbook you own (destroying it) in an offering to nature spirits, and make a WIS check. The check has disadvantage if you equip metal arms or armor. On a success, you gain a nature spirit companion, which takes the form of an animal, wisp of light, or ghostly being. This spirit can cast the spell you sacrificed once per day at a level equal to your WIS score, and doesn’t take up an inventory slot. It is bound only to you. You may have one spirit bound to you at a time.

Magic Eater: You can absorb or consume spellbooks (destroying them), letting you learn the spell permanently without using inventory slots. You can do this with a number of spells equal to your CON score. However you can only prepare a number of spells equal to your INT score. You can switch prepared spells after a rest. You must have at least one free hand to cast a spell. When you do so, you take 1 direct damage (Fatigue).

Pact Knowledge: Make a bargain with a power–roll a CHA check with the target number 11 + the number of spells you want. If you succeed they will provide a number of random spell books equal to what you asked at your maximum casting level or lower. If you fail they take something from you—gain a permanent Wound (cannot be removed by any means). This Wound gives you a noticeable physical change or mutation. Cosmic luck disfavors this acquisition of power: each time you make a new bargain increase the target number by +1, no matter the source.

Blood Magic: You can take 1d4+[Spell Level] damage and cast a spell from a spellbook without expending its daily use (including if it has already been used today). Alternatively, you can kill a creature and use its blood to recharge a spent spellbook. The creature must have HD/level equal to or greater than [Spell Level]. 

Ritual Caster: You can take 10 minutes and cast a spell from a spellbook that has not been used today. When you do so it does not use up the spellbook for the day. You can do this a number of times per day equal to half your level (rounded up).

Potion Maker: You can bottle spells. This requires a brewing kit, which takes up an inventory slot. You cast a spell from a spellbook and bottle it as a potion, which takes up an inventory slot. This requires 50c in supplies and 10 x [Spell level] minutes to craft. You may choose to craft the potion at a lower level. Someone who drinks the potion is treated as if you cast the spell on them at the level you crafted it at. You can create a number of potions per day equal to your WIS score.

Runecarver: You can turn spells into magical runes inscribed on items, allowing the item to cast the spell. This requires a smithing kit, which takes up two inventory slots. To do so, choose a spellbook you own, which will be destroyed in the process, pick a non-magical item to inscribe (such as a weapon, armor, or trinket), and spend 1000c in supplies and at least 1 hour of crafting time. When the process is complete, the spell can be cast from the item as if it were a spellbook, once per day and the item uses at least one inventory slot. The spell is cast at a level equal to your INT score when you crafted the item.

June 20, 2023

Wounds in Knave 2e

Now for a post with some actual RPG content. First up a simple one.

 I’m gearing up to run Knave 2e in a play-by-post game, so of course I’m modding it to my tastes. I love the way wounds past 0 hp get loaded into the inventory system (and generally the way the inventory system is used in Knave and its various hacks). Usually just having a wound in your inventory is bad enough: it’s taking up precious space and is not as easily recovered as regular HP. But I wrote some added riders to various wounds for more effect (similar to Mausritter):

  • Injured (Sprained, broken) Arm/Hand: You cannot use the injured arm to hold items or for fine motor tasks. You have disadvantage on tasks that require two hands. If the injured arm is your dominant hand, you also have disadvantage on one-handed tasks that require fine motor skills (lockpicking, writing, etc). If both arms are injured you can’t take most actions, or do so with a severe penalty.
  • Injured (Sprained, broken) Leg/Foot: For one injured leg your movement speed is halved. You have disadvantage on tasks requiring use of both legs (such as climbing). If both legs are injured you fall prone and cannot move except to crawl (5 ft speed at most).
  • Blinded: You fail at any tasks that require sight alone, and have disadvantage on attack rolls and similar checks. Attacks against you have advantage. When you move make a WIS check, if you fail you move in a random direction as you are disoriented. If you are only partially blinded (one eye injured, sand in eyes, etc) you simply have disadvantage on checks requiring sight.
  • Deafened: You cannot hear and fail any tasks that rely on hearing alone. If only partially deafened (one ear, loud ringing) you have disadvantage on those tasks instead.
  • Burned: Once per day when you have this condition make a CON check. If you fail, you gain the Infected condition, replacing the Burned condition.
  • Infected: Once per day you take 1d4 damage from this condition and must make a CON check. On a failure you gain another Infected condition in a new slot (which does its own damage and requires a separate check). The old one remains. If you succeed, clear the Infected condition in that slot.
  • Fatigue: All Fatigue clears after a rest in a safe haven. It can also be cleared with healing spells, abilities, and items (1 per spell/ability/item). If any Fatigue is in your inventory after a rest in a risky location, combine them all into one Exhaustion wound.
  • Exhaustion: You have a -1 penalty on checks for each Exhaustion you have in your inventory. 
  • Concussed: You have disadvantage on mental checks (INT, WIS, CHA)
  • Deprived: Such as from hunger/thirst, or magical wasting. You have disadvantage on physical checks (STR, DEX, CON)
  • Persistent Wound (Bleeding, poison, acid, ect): Take 1d4 damage (or 1 generic wound) every round and make a CON check. On a success you staunch the blood loss, and turn this into a generic wound.
  • Frostbite: Your movement speed is reduced by 5 ft and you take a -1 penalty on tasks that require fine motor skills for each Frostbite wound in your inventory.
  • Spellburn: For each spellburn in your inventory, take a -1 penalty to your INT. If this reduces INT to 0 or lower, you can’t cast spells until your INT is positive again.

More to be added as I think of them.

Note advantage / disadvantage in Knave is a straight +/- 5 to a roll, though for my game I’m likely going to use the Boon/Bane system from Shadow of the Demon Lord and similar games.

June 18, 2023

An Introduction

With social media sites imploding somewhat and looking for a place to throw half-baked ideas at the wall I’ve decided to start blogging! So this is my introductory post.

I’m Elliot of Octopus Ink Games, I’ve written a couple of small 3rd party things (mostly for Mothership RPG). I also have some other projects baking. 

You can see my stuff at 



and I’m around various Discord servers at @teuthida.

June 18, 2023

Alignment as a Stat

Woke up this morning with this idea in my head and so I exorcise it here.

I’m not generally one that cares about traditional D&D style alignment that much, and certainly prefer it descriptive rather than prescriptive. But this system might at least make it more interesting? I still don’t know if I’d worry about alignment that much at all but here we go.

Alignment is on two axes: Good/Neutral/Bad and Law/Neutral/Chaos. Let’s call them the Moral axis and Order axis for now. So far so much the same. But, each axis has a score just like an attribute stat, from 3-18 (higher number being good/law, lower evil/chaos). At character creation you can either start at 10 in both or roll 3d6 for each for your alignment.

When you perform an act of significant Good roll a straight d20, trying to roll equal or lower than your Moral stat. If you succeed, bump your stat one point higher, if you fail nothing happens. It is the opposite for an act of Evil: roll d20 and succeed if you roll equal or over. A success lowers the stat by one, and failure again does nothing. 

Make the same tests for Lawful and Chaotic acts, with Lawful being roll under and Chaos being roll over. 

How about neutrality and acts of balance? If you perform an act truly dedicated to balance and neutrality (not just being passive or wishy-washy) roll over or under in whatever way will bring your stat closer to 10. (So if you have 14 in your Moral stat, you’d try to roll over as if you committed an Evil act, lowering that stat on success, and vice-versa if you had a 7 in Moral). If your stat is already 10 there is no need to make a check for such an act.

How can this be used? I dunno how useful it really is. It gives some more nuance to how good, evil, lawful, or chaotic or neutral you are. Its most practical use could be with deities, which would require a certain score in one or both stats to give you the time of day (and benefit of their power) regardless of your dedication to worshiping them. Similarly with magical items that test alignment. 

Maybe spells or other effects can force an alignment test, causing damage or a status effect on a failure instead of changing the stat.

For NPCs, should it be useful to give them this stat, I’d rule Outsiders such as fiends and celestials can break the normal bounds. Demons for example would always be at 1/1 for Moral/Order. Devils might be Moral 1, Order 20. 

Anyway, thought successfully put out there.

June 18, 2023