Mystic Ages Publishing

{imagination + fun}

Hey, you...

Yes, the vague advantage/disadvantage thing I punched out in my last update is now a rough draft manuscript. It needs work, but it takes this advantage/disadvantage thing to an extreme with Black Hack as its base. Please check it out below, and let me know what you think.


BTW, I will be getting comments going on this website soon.

-- Nathan

It's been slow here in Mystic Ages land.

I have been excited about the response for the Basic Hack - quite a number of people have tossed some spare change my way or downloaded it for free, more than I expected. It needs some work, I think, so look for an update and some clarifications. Plus, I do have a Lulu version possible, but I got a bit of fixing to do on it as well.

On the game design front, I still am working on some things in the midst of a busy life. I've got a draft going for my old Journey to Cannibal Island mega adventure, probably ported to 5E. And I keep toying with an idea of a simplified/streamlined 5E/OSRIC clone centered way too much on Advantage/Disadvantage.

Here is where I am stuck, for now.

I love Advantage/Disadvantage. It seems a way to both support some narrative kind of play and bolster roleplaying as well as giving some real mechanical benefit to gameplay. However, it seems that you get bogged down if you turn a D20-esque game into a dice pool system, rolling multiple D20s and keeping the largest. Rolling 2 max is just about perfect, keeping the highest or keeping the lowest.

In 5E, it does seem the balance tips toward advantage/disadvantage being a bit rare or uncommon in most situations. If you make it more common, kind of like how I play with it in the 2D10 One Page system, you end up with a tiny dice pool mechanic. I don't like it.

So what about building a setting and simplified OSRIC system where getting Advantage is the goal in all situations? And it's hard to get. And where even in the setting, the PCs and NPCs talk about having advantage/disadvantage.

For example, a hero wants to defeat some evil wizard. Fine. His goal will be to figure out some way to get advantage over that wizard. Is that discovering a secret name? A magical spell? An artifact?

Alternately, an evil wizard has a hero in disadvantage - because he captured his lover, has some super secret info, or is just plain better than the hero. In this case, the hero is going to do everything he can to avoid confrontation until he can level the playing field.

Do you get it?

I'm kicking this around - a more storytelling-esque OSRIC - and will let you know if something comes of it.

Happy gaming!

The Basic Hack

The Basic Hack is officially released tomorrow. I waffled back and forth on what to do with this simple hack of classic fantasy roleplaying game rules, inspired by David Black's incredible Black Hack. Think of a streamlined version of that ruleset, rolling under your stats on a D20, but adding in a solo adventure, cutting out levels, and focusing in a bit more on a pure story-driven advancement. And hopefully easy enough for youngsters to play!

With your trusty battle axe in hand, you leave behind your devastated village and begin to explore the surrounding woods. You call out for your puppy. There is no response. You are just about to give up when you notice an old, strange cave near a canyon wall. The entrance to the cave is muddy. In the mud, you can make out what look like tracks leading into the darkness. What would you like to do?

Here is your pre-release link on RPGNow. Pay what you want. Get it for free. Have fun!


Debate Night in America is my newest release, a sinister, mythos-inspired adventure and story for Cthulhu Hack. Your Investigators will work against the clock to uncover the truth about a savage murder and the forces at work as a political campaign hangs in the balance. The adventure can work for any Cthulhu or horror type game.

The great state of Maryland is undergoing a tight Senate race with the winner helping continue to shape the national political landscape in Washington DC. Senator Gold, a long tenured politician, is facing down the surge of a young, vibrant outsider, Racquel McBrennan. On the morning of their only debate, a jogger is murdered by what a video depicts as Senator Gold himself. What foul plot is at work? Who actually killed the jogger? Why does the murder reek of arcane magics? Will the Investigators, brought in by a shadowy government entity called the Organization, piece together the clues and stop the rise of a political juggernaut - or will they worship the one they came to stop?

Get it for free or pay what you want.

I've sort of been living under a hole or something, because the Black Hack and White Hack (and other variants) have basically been unknown to me. These are sort of old school versions of D&D, harkening back to some of the original fantasy games. Nostalgia is a powerful force, but some of the simplicity and wonkiness of those classic games are fun.

These new versions often add changes to keep the simplicity and streamline the game. I dig it. It means you have tons of resources that you can easily modify to work from all the variations of D&D, but you can also get playing quick and easy.

Black Hack is the chief among these.

It's my kind of D&D-clone, using a familiar core and then going nuts in a bid for simplicity and speed. I love it. In fact, last night, I started a fantasy campaign with my kids using an even more stripped down version which I call the Basic Hack.

Here's how it works:

  • Use your six core attributes and roll under to succeed. (I like the Black Hack's attribute generation technique to keep things balanced.)
  • Pick a class. Fighters are good at fighting. Clerics can heal and turn undead. Wizards are good at casting spells. Rogues are good at sneaking and stealing.
  • Pick a race. Elves can see in the dark. Dwarves can find secret doors. Humans get a +1 to an attribute of choice. (You can easily switch this up or add more complexity.)
  • Hit points are standard. I gave the fighter 10 and the wizard 4. (Might want to give them more in the future.)
  • For class or race features, I give them advantage on the roll per 5th Edition. Fighters always get to roll two D20s when attacking for instance.
  • I'd give wizards and clerics two starting spells they can cast once per day. In a bid for simplicity, don't worry about levels. Our wizard got sleep and magic arrow (aka magic missile). I'd give a cleric heal wounds and remove curse. The key is to pick spells that will have an impact in the story right away to make all the characters feel useful.
  • Weapon damage can be standard. I like armor as written in the Black Hack to keep things simple. (Plus, teaching your kids math is a bonus.)
  • No experience points, no levels. As the characters advance, give them magical items, extra hit points, new spells, or a new ability. Or let them raise another attribute.

I'll be writing this up in a couple of pages to post on RPGNow this weekend sometime.

-- Nathan