We’ve played three sessions of Mistmarch using FotF2e now, and I’m really loving it.

We’ve played three sessions of Mistmarch using FotF2e now, and I’m really loving it.

We’ve played three sessions of Mistmarch using FotF2e now, and I’m really loving it.

I have two separate groups of players making their way through the equivalent of a tutorial section: a journey through a broken, ogre-haunted land to the first hub.

I’m seeing a lot of stuff just click together: traits, bonds, burning luck, marking stats on a failure, ability damage, making camp. It all feels robust and flexible without being fiddly. Three or four of my players have never roleplayed before, and the system is great for introducing people to the hobby. The moves are discreet and easily explained; everything flows from the conversation, and the playbooks provide a handy go-to for when they’re stuck.

We had our first near-death and use of Bite the Dust last night — that move is grim. Several characters have levelled up, and I have never seen players so happy to gain hit points.

I’m thinking of making one tweak: just making one Venture Forth move per journey. I try to run each scenario in two short sessions, and rolling Venture Forth every day is stretching journeys to the adventure locations out a lot.

I may also abstract the return journey to the campaign hub with a custom move that summarises perils faced on the way into almanac-based consequences.

I’m experimenting running the game from a Trello (screenie below). This lets me store a whole almanac in each column. I colour code monsters, Discoveries, treasures and adventure locations, making it easy to scan through them. When I want details I can tap the card and pop them open. It’s a handy way to have a campaign’s worth of info a tap away (we’ll see if that stays true as the campaign grows). Working well thus far!

Finally managed to start running Mistmarch, which I’ve posted about here before, for people at work and their…

Finally managed to start running Mistmarch, which I’ve posted about here before, for people at work and their…

Finally managed to start running Mistmarch, which I’ve posted about here before, for people at work and their partners. Because 8 people wanted to play, I’m running two groups of 4, and then after the initial sessions people will be able to form ad-hoc parties out of the bigger pool based on who’s available and interested.


The travel moves provide a great practical introduction to the system – none of the players have played PbtA games before, and I’ve only run a few.

Keep Company is worth its weight in gold. It’s great tool for balancing spotlight time out after the GM’s attention has been on other players. We did a 2-player use of the move and a solo use of it, and both resulted in excellent scenes.

We’re not using alignment, so I let people earn an XP for fulfilling a vice and another for fulfilling a virtue. I don’t think that’s the best way to handle it, though.

Anyway, I really love this game. The more elaborate moves, like Venture Forth, provide good framing and meat for the rest of the session. The simpler, more immediate moves are flexible and resolve quickly. It flowed very smoothly (although I need to think more about possible 6-9 complications before rolling the dice.

A small Mistmarch adventure site for Freebooters:

A small Mistmarch adventure site for Freebooters:

A small Mistmarch adventure site for Freebooters:


A giant once began to lose himself to his hunger. To free himself of it, he scooped out his digestive system and buried it. Even removed, though, his innards still live, and they’re still hungry.

The hill has a mouth, a tongue, teeth and a stomach. Occasionally it grabs travellers with its improbably elastic tongue, and drags them back to be devoured and digested.

A pair of extortioners, Maurice Manhunter and Cleeve of the Oaks, have set up camp nearby to loot pickings from the hill’s victims.

The Hill

– A gorsey hillside, treacherous underfoot

– A cave, halfway up, its mouth sprouting with a triple row of flat, crooked stones

– At the foot of the hill, on the other side from the cave, a grove of reeking rowan-trees surround a meagre shack.

– On the crown of the hill, a rough well made by Cleeve and Maurice, opening into the cave (they use this to look down on the Hill’s victims, and offer them rescue for a price)

The Shack

Maurice and Cleeve dwell here. It’s not much. A firepit, two piles of bracken to sleep on, a frame holding two wildcat carcasses for curing. A stream runs nearby.

– The old-soap stink of rowan

– A firepit, still warm

– Two piles of bracken for beds

– A rough wooden frame, on which hang the curing carcasses of two wildcats (2 rations)

– A lidded clay pot, containing an ungent of rowan. (Anyone coated in it will not be seized by the Tongue, or digested by the hill)

Hidden under the packed earth floor is the extorters’ stash: 200sp in assorted silver and gold coins. Observant characters may see the disturbed earth under Cleeve’s bedding.

Maurice Mancatcher and Cleeve of the Oaks

Maurice and Cleeve were criminals driven into the Mistmarch, who formed a pact to extort a living from the Hill’s victims. Marauce was captured by the Hill, Cleeve rescued him and learned the Hill hates rowan, and Maurice proposed an alliance. Sometimes they offer to save people from the Hill’s grasp in exchange for valuables or information; other times they poison the Hill with Rowan and make it vomit up valuables.

Maurice has lank grey hair, and mottled skin (from his exposure to the Hill’s acids). He wears leathers and wields a noose-and-stick. He is canny, bitter, apparently affable.

Cleeve has short, shorn hair and hard grey eyes. She wields a cleaver and buckler and wears an ill-fitting mail shirt, secured with belts. She rarely speaks, and is wary and grim

Maurice Mancatcher

– Intelligent, Organised

– Noose-and-Rod (d3 damage + snare and strangle, piercing)

– Reach

– 6 hp, 1 armour

Cleeve of the Oaks

– Intelligent, Organised

– Cleaver (d6 damage)

– Close

– 5 hp, 3 armour (chain + buckler)


– Maurice snares someone and uses them as a hostage

– Cleeve bashes a weapon from a foe’s hand

– One defends the other

Within the Hill

The Hill may either be awake or asleep. When it’s awake, it’s hungry. After it eats, it sleeps — sometimes for weeks. Halfway up the hill is a cave, which is the Hill’s mouth. The gorse and grass leading to the cave may be crushed and sodden if the tongue has been stretching out recently.

The important parts of the Hill are the Tongue, the Teeth and the Stomach Chamber.

The Tongue

The Hill’s tongue is improbably elastic, able to stretch for up to a mile (by which distance it’s only a foot in diameter). It is able to taste living creatures on the air, like a snake, and roves the area around the Hill (especially along the Queen’s Road) looking for prey.

– Red, bumpy, slick, serpentine

– Glistening with glutinous liquid (saliva)


– Solitary, stealthy, large

– Bulk (1d4+grab when extended; 1d8 when retracted in the mouth)

– 32 hp, 0 armour

– Vulnerability: The tongue recoils from the taste of rowan.

– Retreat: If it loses half its hit points, it abandons its hunt and retracts.


– Seize a victim and drag it back to the Hill

– Thrash wildly to keep foes at bay

– Crush man intruder against the roof or floor of its mouth

The Teeth

If awake, the Hill will try to keep people from rescuing creature’s it is devouring by gnashing its teeth. Getting past them is Defying Danger. They deal 1d10 damage, or crush equipment.

Inside the mouth it is:

Humid as a greenhouse

– Slick and dripping with clear, glutinous slime

– Air is caustic and reeks of bile

– The tongue carpets the floor, undulating and restless

– Behind it, a sphincter-like hole leads down

– A narrow shaft above, reaching to the sky

Here, the tongue is a great, sluglike crimson mass. It will attempt to crush anyone entering the mouth, and slide them down its throat.

Stomach chamber

The throat leads, via a short, slippery tunnel (which is very hard to climb back up) to

– a large, ovoid stomach chamber with spongy ochre walls

– flooded to knee-height with simmering yellow bile

– littered with bones and small islands of sliding, half-digested matter

– a tunnel out, just above the acids, barely big enough to crawl along

When you are exposed to the stomach acids they will eat through clothes and leathers quickly, but only corrode metal. If they come into contact with skin, they burn a point of DEX (or 1d4 points, if immersed) as you suffer blisters and sores.

The tunnel out leads to the intestines, which are infested by gut-beetles. If the hill is awake, the beetles will emerge to drag anything in the stomach into the acid. If the hill is asleep, the beetles will only emerge if the intestine-tunnel is disturbed.

The intestine-tunnel knots and ultimately becomes impassable. It is full of gut-beetles.


– Horde, Small

– Mandibles (d6)

– Close

– 3hp, 3 armour

– Instinct: to drag creatures into the digestive acids


– Swarm across walls and ceiling

– Drag someone down


Assorted treasures totalling 250sp can be found in the stomach chamber with a thorough and risky search, mostly coins and simple jewellery.

Is this move for a FOTF setting ridiculously over the top?

Is this move for a FOTF setting ridiculously over the top?

Is this move for a FOTF setting ridiculously over the top? I don’t feel like I’ve got the balance between simplicity and versatility right in custom moves, and tend to overcomplicate. What’s the best bit to simplify?

Rose milk is harvested in droplets from Col Fen’s pale roses on misty mornings.

When you drink a cup of rose-milk, roll +CON. On a hit, forget your pain: recover half your lost hit points and write down the number you recovered. The next morning, take that much damage. Then, on a 10+, roll 1d6, add your Dose, and consult the table below. On a 7-9, roll 2d6, add your Dose, and consult the table.

1-6: Increase your Dose by 1

7: Forget your grief. Say what it was, then take INT damage equal to your Dose (min 1)

8: Forget your promise. Say which one, then take CHA damage equal to your Dose (min 1)

9: Forget your crime. Say what it was, then take WIS damage equal to your Dose (min 1)

10+: Forget your last hour/day/week/month/year. Each time you get this result, cross out the first entry on the list. If you role this result and all the options are crossed off, you forget your self and are no longer able to function as a player character.

I took a break from writing about Mistmarch for a bit because we got rather busy at work finishing and releasing the…

I took a break from writing about Mistmarch for a bit because we got rather busy at work finishing and releasing the…

I took a break from writing about Mistmarch for a bit because we got rather busy at work finishing and releasing the Zubmariner expansion to our Sunless Sea game. But! Now it is done, and I’m back to noodling at dark fantasy Freebooters. Here the first half of the almanac for Col Fen, one of the starter areas:


Then: A secluded garden-land of rose-bowers and orchards, ruled by three giant-brothers who guarded a well which allowed communion with the dead. The brothers were sworn never to drink from it themselves, but instead judged the appeals of this visitors who longed for one last moment with someone they had lost.

Now: A soggy, haunted fen. Pallid roses crawl across the pools. Knobbled trees jut from the waters. Its last handful of inhabitants offer sacrifices to the two giants that contest its dank pools.


– Skeletal trees, strangled by thorns and livid white roses

– Brown waters, still and quiet

– Pallid roses lying on the waters

– Ghostly mist, thin as a funeral shroud

– Statues with cat, crow or moth heads jutting from the pools

– Wicker pathways, muddy with small footprints

– Blue candle flames winding between the trees

– An abandoned hut, sinking in the marsh

– SPRING: bright yellow flowers studding the roots

– SUMMER: coils of steam rising from the water

– AUTUMN: a damp wind, smelling of mulch

– WINTER: a crust of ice on the pools

A Briar-Pool

Many of the deep, gloomy marsh-pools are clogged with drowned briars. Climbing out requires Defying Danger. Common risks include loss of and damage to belongings, or 1d4 damage from the thorns.


Knobbly toads the size of a haycart, that entangle prey with their long, sticky tongues. They use the marsh to their advantage, lurking in pools to complicate attacks and dragging victims into the waters.

Group, Large

Damage: Bite 1d8+1 (hand); Tongue 0 (near, entangle)

HP: 10 Armour: 1 (warty hide)

Special qualities: Long, sticky tongue; camouflage.

Instinct: to ambush unwary prey

– Lurk in a deep pool, and strike at someone injured or lagging behind

– Drag a victim stuck by its tongue into its mouth, then bite

– Perform a spasmodic leap to escape or crush

The Company of the Dead

If you look too deeply into the waters of Col Fen, you may the spirits of the dead. The GM will ask who see, and what unfinished business they have with you.

A saying: “The dead don’t speak”: Their voices are forbidden to them. They can gesture, nod, weep. Some exert power over beasts, using their cries and behaviour to convey messages. Others (or, on their behalf, necromancers) find ways to steal a living voice, through possession or sorcery (typically, this involves nailing a severed tongue to something).

The spirits are restricted to the mire’s waters. But should you enter one of the pools, they can touch you. Their hands are cold and slight; it would take a half-dozen of them to overwhelm a living person.


Flickering blue candle-flames, glimpsed between the trees. Spiteful spirits that lure travellers to their deaths in the fen. It is not widely known that willowicks are the jealous spirits of those the Fenfolk have drowned in their rites.

Willowicks can possess other spirits by roosting in their throats. As long as they keep their new mouths closed, no one will see their telltale blue radiance.

If you see the willowicks dance, roll +WIS. On a 10+ you resist their lure, and are your own master. On a 7-9 you may resist the lure by exerting your will; take 1d3 Wis damage. On a 6-, you are enthralled and follow them into the mire, dreaming of being bound and sunk under the waters. The GM will tell you when and where you recover your senses. Mark XP.

As spirits, they can be driven away or bound with appropriate magics. They fear the Fen’s giants, and will flee if one draws near. Willowicks are lulled by music, particularly the songs the Fenfolk sing when offering bodies to the marsh.

The Fen-folk

The folk that dwell in Col Fen are pale, slight, dark-haired and wary. Their homes are stilted wicker-huts, jutting from the marsh. Hunters and fishers, they also peddle rose-milk coaxed from the marsh’s briars. They have no villages, but live as scattered families tangled in a web of alliances and feuds.

To avoid the predations of the fen’s two giants the Fenfolk offer them tributes of food – specifically human victims, bound and drowned in the mire to marinade in the noxious waters. Sometimes one Fenfolk family will bribe a giant to attack another family, or to drive off intruders. To this end, the Fenfolk always keep an eye open for potential sacrifices. Though unlikely to attack an armed, organised party, they are quite prepared to pick off stragglers, or offer a trade of food or rose-milk for an obviously ailing companion.

When you encounter Fenfolk, roll on the following table:

1. An eel-fisher, with or without her retriever-cat, fleeing from pursuit

2. An injured rose-milker, dying in the mud

3. A bent old wickerweaver, mending an ancient path

4. A curious child, following the party at a distance

5. A candlelit procession bearing a wriggling, wrapped victim to be buried in the bog

6. A pair of crow-hunters with a brace of black birds

I’m looking for some help with this move for one of the Mistmarch almanacs.

I’m looking for some help with this move for one of the Mistmarch almanacs.

I’m looking for some help with this move for one of the Mistmarch almanacs. I think there must be a better way to deal with this than using Hold (especially GM hold – who’ll ever remember that?). And the 7-9 result feels like a fail, not a compromised success. Advice appreciated!

Encounter – the company of the dead

The dead haunt the waters of Col Fen. When traveling, you’ll often glimpse reflections of other figures walking beside you.

When you look too closely at the reflections in the fen-water, roll +LUCK; on a 10+ the GM will ask you the first question from the list below; on a 7-9 they will ask you the second or third question. On a miss, the GM makes a move as normal (WIS damage is a good fallback).

– Name someone close to you, now dead (hold 1)

– Name someone you killed, or whose death was your fault (GM holds 1)

– Name someone who was alive, when last you saw them (hold 1)

You may spend hold to call upon the spirit’s aid in one task (+1 to the roll, just like a standard Aid action. However, the spirits cannot touch anything, or speak). The GM may spend their hold to have the spirits interfere with you on a task (-2 to a roll).

The spirits you see in Col Fen always belong to people you knew. They are solemn, usually harmless (however, see the entry for Willowicks), but may convey messages or pass judgement. If you submerge, the spirits are clearer, appearing as drowned, drifting figures under the water. They still can’t touch you – except at the Heart of the Fen.

Maybe I should just lose the Hold and the Aid/Interfere stuff altogether. But then 7-9 feels even more like a failure. Maybe that’s ok?

I’ve been doing some more work on my dark fantasy treatment for Freebooters on the Frontier, which I’m calling…

I’ve been doing some more work on my dark fantasy treatment for Freebooters on the Frontier, which I’m calling…

I’ve been doing some more work on my dark fantasy treatment for Freebooters on the Frontier, which I’m calling Mistmarch.

First up, I’ve written the third of the magical traditions: the knotty sorceries of the Witches of Pelethé. Link here:


This document also includes a revised draft of all the traditions. Thanks to critique from David Perry I’ve carved each table down from 20 entries to 12. They generate more provocative spell names, now, and spit out fewer clunkers.

And secondly, here’s the introductory text for players:

Listen, oath-breaker, and I will tell it. The mists have lifted, the storms have stilled, the fires have died. This is the Age of Stone.

For a thousand years the wall has stood. Giants built it to guard their primordial thrones. Behind it, giants swore oaths to giant-lords, who swore oaths to the gloomy Mountain-King. But a generation ago, the earth heaved and the wall cracked. Those first souls who ventured through found its sentinels long-dead: mounds of great, graven bones.

Joda, the Queen of Nails, had long dreamed of the jeweled halls of the giants. Forsaking her king, she led her armies beyond the wall. Her champions accompanied her:

The Knight-Judge Laurentine, the Queen’s executioner.

Noske Knee-breaker, last of the giant-killers.

The Abbess of Owls and her prisoner: Bernhardt, the Living Saint.

The Six Sisters and their seven masks.

The leveler of kings, Eiron the Rhymer.

Twice-hanged Scholovander, the thief of days.

And the wanderer Spiral, who promised nothing.

They soon learned that not all the giants were dead. Some the Queen drove from their halls. Some she nailed to the grey hillsides. But the Mountain-King had champions of his own: the titanic Knights of the Chalice. The Queen’s March ended in ruin beneath a trembling sun, brave soldiers ground to paste.

Now, the Queen’s folly is condemned, and the lands beyond the wall forbidden. To all except you, oath-breaker. There is the gap, grey with mists. There is your new home. Go, and trouble us no more.

Another magical tradition for my dark fantasy Freebooters game, in the same style as this one:…

Another magical tradition for my dark fantasy Freebooters game, in the same style as this one:…

Another magical tradition for my dark fantasy Freebooters game, in the same style as this one: https://plus.google.com/108011757230733144917/posts/jLv4R8TEFi2

This time, I added a cut-down custom spell template table (to prevent some clunky configurations of the words I picked), and a minor tweak to equipment and spell generation to emphasise the tradition’s focus on staves.

It’s interesting seeing how classifying the same word as either a Form or an Element changes the outcome of spell generation. I moved ‘Hound’ back and forth between the Form and Element lists before settling on Element. Freebooters is an enormous amount of fun to fiddle with. Very keen to see what you do with the second edition, Jason Lutes!

The Wanderers

In ages past, a tribe of winds was driven from the vaults of heaven. Among them were the Wending Wind, the wise Serpentine, the Weeping Wind, the Graven Wind, the Wind of Pyres, the Thief-Wind, and the Ravelwind. Banished to the corners of the earth, the Pariah Winds withered and died.

But here, centuries later, come the Wanderers: grey-cloaked; bearing staves; never lingering. The wizards of Aulderley, with their close smiles and their secret speech.

A Wanderer always begins with a staff as a magical focus. When rolling her initial spells, she may change one of her Form words to “Stave”.

Wanderer Spell Template Table

1. [Element] [Form]

2. [Form] of [Element]

3. [Form] of the [Adjective] [Form]

4. [Form] of [Adjective] [Form]

5. [Wizard Name]’s [Adjective] [Form]

6. [Wizard Name]’s [Adjective] [Element]

7. [Wizard Name]’s [Form] of [Element]

8. [Wizard Name]’s [Element] [Form]


1. Aspect

2. Bane

3. Boon

4. Breath

5. Charm

6. Company

7. Hall

8. Glyph

9. Incarnate

10. Mantle

11. Mastery

12. Portents

13. Oath

14. Road

15. Seeming

16. Sight

17. Spell

18. Stave

19. Spear

20. Word


1. Ages

2. Blight

3. Bronze

4. Change

5. Fury

6. Hound

7. Might

8. Moon

9. Oak

10. Pyres

11. Quicksilver

12. Rain

13. Roads

14. Secrecy

15. Sense

16. Stones

17. Thunder

18. Will

19. Winds

20. Wrath


1. Binding

2. Bright

3. Exiled

4. Ensorcelling

5. Far

6. Fleet

7. Graven

8. High

9. Howling

10. Last

11. Ravelling

12. Restless

13. Serpentine

14. Singing

15. Thieving

16. Weeping

17. Wending

18. Wild

19. Wise

20. White

Further dark fantasy noodlage!

Further dark fantasy noodlage!

Further dark fantasy noodlage! This time, a tweak to the cleric class. This one is partly motivated by D&D clerics being weird as shit and me not knowing what to do with them, and partly because religion is such a critical part of a fantasy setting’s tone. I want something a little gothic and baroque.

The Pray, Bless and Curse moves in the FotF cleric class are fantastic. I’ve limited my change to the Disciple move, and plugged it into the existing system. This version grant two domains rather than one because (a) I’ve added weapon restrictions, and (b) some of the domains are narrow or favour colour over practicality.


You belong to a holy order of the Peregrine Church. Choose your sect from the list below and record its domains. Invent and record the tenet of your order which you deem the most important.

The only weapons you know how to use are the staff, the sling, the cudgel, the dagger, and one more associated with your order’s saint (often, it’s the weapon that martyred them).

The Crescent Order of Saint Beliphas the Bookbinder. Ink-stained scholars and historians, frequently reviled. Domains: Lore and the Moon. Arms: the spear.

The Owls, an order of St. Vigea of the Watchpost. The Owl, in her cloak of feathers, is teacher to the ignorant, pardoner to the penitent, and wolf to the heretic. Domains: Truth and Winter. Arms: St. Vigea’s followers may carry a sword, but only as long as they forsake armour (the truth is two-edged, and its weirder must not fear its cut).

The Ashen Order of St. Colchis, the Lampbearer. Silent shepherds of the lost: black-fingered and often blind. Those who Stray from the Path. Domains: Fire and the Wild. Arms: a forester’s axe.

The heretical followers of St. Bernhardt the Smith, who gather in fire-flickering caves to perform rites of toil in honour of their Living Saint. Domains: Craft and the Winds. Arms: a smith’s hammer.

The Rooks, an order of St. Astea the Gravedigger. A smiling sect that tends the dead, watches barrows, and salts graves. Domains: Protection and the Dead. Arms: the bow.

I have a bunch more notes on these guys, but I think the above is probably more than enough for players to deal with in character creation.

More dark fantasy FotF noodling – this time on magic.

More dark fantasy FotF noodling – this time on magic.

More dark fantasy FotF noodling – this time on magic. Rather than having one big list of forms, elements and adjectives to generate spells, I’m hoping to convey setting flavour through distinct magical traditions. Each tradition gets its own custom table for spell names.

During character creation, magic-users choose which tradition they wre trained in, and roll their spells on its tables. In play they can learn new words – even from different traditions – as normal. Here’s my first stab at a tradition:

The Empty House

The bleak arts studied by the necromancers of the Cairnwoods. Their study requires the imbibing of poisons grown on abandoned graves, provoking vision-explorations of a vast, silent house. Its hearths are cold. Its doors are numberless. But behind one of them, it is said, lies the Ivory Crown once worn by the King of the Dead.


1. Call

2. Candle

3. Circle

4. Crown

5. Cup

6. Curse

7. Subtlety

8. Door

9. Feast

10. Guide

11. Guise

12. Mark

13. Mouth

14. Noose

15. Oath

16. Sentinel

17. Servant

18. Shroud

19. Tongue

20. Whisper


1. Ash

2. Bone

3. Clay

4. Cold

5. Death

6. Dust

7. Ghosts

8. Gloom

9. Glory

10. Gluttony

11. Grave-gold

12. Mist

13. Midnight

14. Palefire

15. Poison

16. Quiet

17. Sight

18. Solitude

19. Spite

20. Cairn-stone


1. Bleak

2. Binding

3. Colourless

4. Deep

5. Harrowing

6. Hollow

7. Hungry

8. Icy

9. Joyless

10. Last

11. Lingering

12. Lonely

13. Moonless

14. Old

15. Patient

16. Sapping

17. Stirring

18. Thirsty

19. Unseen

20. Untiring

I don’t think this is quite there, yet. Some fruitier words would give it some sparkle. Also, I feel like this might benefit from a custom spell name template table as well, but I haven’t worked that out yet.