Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

coming back to the kingdom

Hey all, I’ve been away for a long time, which I feel bad about. I’ve still been working on the game, just not as intensely as I would have liked. Between a honeymoon, getting hired on to an ARG, getting a gig writing a live-action adaptation of Paradigm’s Witch Hunter RPG and a lot of art commisions, I haven’t had the brainpower to devote to this, my firstborn (more of a fetus at this point really). I’d like to change this. I’ve wanted to change this all along, but now I think enough things have slowed to a point where I can do it. So here’s where I’m at; I haven’t done much in the way of playtesting, except a character creation session where I ironed out some obvious flaws in my errata. I’ve heard from a few people who’ve played the game, or expressed interest in playing. Still a scary/cool feeling to imagine people running the game without me present…just the text. What follows are all the changes I’ve made/plan on making so far. I’ve split the post because it’s going to be lengthy (sorry in advance)…

stuff (character creation)

‘Stuff’ is a deliberately vague term that represents all of the gear a character owns. This could be

anything from a broken down car, to a bug collection, to a shotgun. Having the right tool for the job will

give a player a +1 modifier, so it pays to have a lot of stuff.

It has to be something the character could have concievably scrounged for and can store some place.

After everyone has written down what their character has, the Judge goes in and starts mercilessly

crossing things off that list. The Judge is encouraged to be a dick about this. Judges can feel

free to point to the above line if their players complain, however, the player can circle one thing that

the Judge can’t touch.

Creating Locations (character creation)

Because the Judge does not have a character sheet, there will be one person who gets skipped

every time. This person will take a separate sheet of paper and write down the name of a location and a

paragraph describing the place and why it’s significant to their character. When all the sheets get passed

to the left again, the next person will fill out a new location, and so on.

((This isn’t quite there yet. The idea of creating a location is cool, but there’s nothing to link that

location into the story yet. All the secrets are catalysts for dramatic scenes down the line, and I want to

make locations work like that))

Burdens (character creation)

For every two points of despair a character has, they must take a Burden. They begin the game with two

points, but it’s possible for players to gain and lose burdens as their despair goes up and down. Each

burden has a mechanical penalty and something that will affect roleplaying. The mechanical penalty will

only apply when they character would conceivably be impeded by that burden. For example, a character

with a bum leg wouldn’t be penalized if they were in an arm wrestle with someone else, but the penalty

would apply if they were trying to outrun the police.

If a character is able to buy off a point of despair, then the penalty goes away. This doesn’t mean

that the hardship doesn’t exist anymore, but the character has learned to deal with it, and it isn’t holding

them back anymore. There are several categories of burdens, each with their own mechanical drawbacks.


Susceptibilities are things that everyone faces living on the streets. Some deal with it better than

others. If a character is susceptible to one of these elements, it means that it affects them more. No

matter what a PC’s susceptibility is, it lowers their Survival and Lucidity by one. A character

may only take a susceptibility to a temperature extreme (like heat and cold) if the game takes place during

a time where that would come into play.





Mind Burdens range from quirks to full-on derangements. These Burdens lower a

character’s Lucidity by two.






•Delusions of Grandeur



Bodily Burdens are drawbacks to a character’s physical well-being. These include injuries,

hygiene issues like rotting teeth, Gangrene, Old age, and sickness. They lower a character’s Survival

by two.


‣Disabled, Broken Limb

•Disease and Infections

‣AIDs, Cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, sexually transmitted infections, high blood pressure,

diabetes, cancer, Gangrene,



‣sores, cavities, smell


If a character is addicted to either drugs of alcohol. This burden acts as an extra point of

despair in terms of challenge difficulty until they get their fix. Then it takes away a point of

Survival or Lucidity (depending on what kind of drug it is) for one scene. When the high

drops at the end of the scene add the point of despair again.






the Metaplot

The Metaplot is the over-arcing narrative that ties all the characters together. In this game, it’s

purpose is to put all the characters through a gauntlet where they have to make similar choices and go

through similar situations to the ones they made in their previous lives, only in a different environment.

By solving their problems in this other world, they find strength to deal with the problems in their own


This technique is often used in movies such as Labyrinth, Mirrormask and the Fisher King.

Before sitting down to play, the Judge looks over the backstories and extracts what the conflicts

and themes are that run through the storyline. The Judge then weaves a plot that some how incorporates

these conflicts, but with different antagonists and a different setting. There are essentially three groups of

antagonists the Judge has to draw from:



Cobwebs are by far the easiest antagonists the Judge has at their disposal. They can appear at any

time, they know more about the character than the character knows about them-self, and they exist solely

to torment the PC’s. Endemic (minor) cobwebs are best used as a pressure cooker, adding tension to

situations, and showing up out of the blue to push the characters into action. Personal Cobwebs should be

used sparingly, though they should be hinted at frequently.

Other Gatherings

Often other Lost can be used as antagonists. Going back to the technique of working in similar

conflicts as in the characters’ backstories, Lost can take on roles that were held by people in the PC’s past.

If the character was seduced by a co-worker in their backstory, maybe one of the Lost from another

gathering could seduce them in the metaplot. If there was a person in a character’s past who stole

something from the PC, another Lost could steal something from the PC in the metaplot.

The Judge should get an idea of what types of Gatherings live in the city before the game starts.

The Authorities

In most cities, being homeless is illegal. People aren’t allowed to sleep in public or squat in

abandoned places, even if there aren’t enough shelters to hold the whole population of homeless in the

city. It’s nearly impossible to land a job if you don’t have permanent residence, yet panhandling is against

the law. One man was put on trial in florida for the act of feeding the homeless in a public park.

Though the police can’t see the Lost (except when they’re sleeping), this doesn’t stop the city from

tearing down Forgotten Places when they can find them and tearing them down to make room for

developments. More and more, city developers are finding the Forgotten places and having the city evict

their residents. Though the individual policemen usually don’t have any personal issue with the Lost, but

their job often entails making life difficult for them. Whenever the PC’s get too comfortable in one place,

the Judge may want to have their home raided by police or just demolished with them in it

Coins and Tokens

Tokens are now called Coins. You can use them to buy Survival, Lucidity, Skills or Scenes.

Survival and Lucidity

Survival and Lucidity are now split up into Permanent and Temporary. Permanent Survival and

Lucidity are written in the top section of the character sheet to the right of hope and despair, and

temporary is represented by how many poker chips you have on your sheet. Your Temporary traits may

never go above your Permanent traits. Permanent Survival and Lucidity is capped at 7 to begin with, but

that cap can be raised by buying Remembrance scenes.

((Some of this stuff I’m still struggling with, such as what happens when you gohappens when you go above your max in survival or lucidity. I addressed it here,saying that players simply can’t go above their permanent lucidity, butI’m not sure that’s the best answer. It works mechanically andlogically, but I feel like there’s room for an interesting mechanic thatI’m missing. I’ve been playing around with the idea of making anotherpool devoted to echoes, and the excess points in survival and luciditywould go into this pool players can use to have their echoes help themin desperate situations, but this isn’t as mechanically sound. Thiswould essentially make the game say that it’s better for players to havelow stats because that would give them more room to earn these echopoints. That’s not what I want it to say.))


Buying Scenes

Coins can be used to buy skills, Survival or Lucidity immediately, but when it comes to buying

Hope, lowering Despair or revealing your secrets, it will work a little differently. In these situations,

players have to buy a scene. Each of the three scene types have a mechanical objective (i.e. what the

player is seeking to get out of the scene in terms of things they can put on their character sheet), as well as

a set type of conflict.

At any point, a player can put up their tokens and request a scene. The Judge has to run it, but it

doesn’t need to be immediately. The Judge has the option of working the scenes into the current storyline

or running it at the end of the session. These scenes are focused on the character and their personal

storyline. The other players may either have their characters help the character who bought the scene,

play NPCs/help narrate the scene or take a break.

Burden Scene:

Cost: 4

Mechanical Objective: Lower your Despair

Conflict: The character is put in a situation that directly makes them deal with one of their Burdens . If

you lower your despair you overcome a Burden. This doesn’t necessarily mean it goes away, but you learn

to deal with it so it doesn’t give you penalties.

Hope Scene:

Cost: 4

Mechanical Objective: Gain Hope

Conflict: Survive a situation on the street or within the Nothing…i.e. get food, get away from police,

survive the cold, get money, survive an encounter with a character’s personal cobweb, etc

Revelation Scene:

Cost: 3 for the first, 6 for the second, 9 for the third, and so on

Mechanical Objective: Reveal a Secret from your past, raise the cap on your Survival and Lucidity.

Conflict: The conflict in a Revelation scene is a little looser than the other two types of scenes. It can be

anything from a flashback, to a hallucination the character’s echoes put them through, to the character

trying desperately to connect to a person from their past. As long as there is some type of dramatic scene

with a conflict that stems from the character’s past it will work as a Revelation scene. Every scene raises

your Permanent Survival and Lucidity by the amount of coins you paid for it

The Named Ones

There are some shadows that hang over the head of most if not all of the souls living on the street; shadows so tangible that they became Cobwebs that plagued all the lost, not only the ones whose problems brought them into being. These endemic Cobwebs feed on the Lost, harrowing them until they’re catatonic shells who lie in the street shuddering until they starve or freeze to death. Over the years, they began to have motivations other than just the rampant destruction of the Lost. They grew their own personalities, and they became smarter. Also, where most Cobwebs can only affect the minds and sanity of their victims, some of these endemic Cobwebs have become so powerful that they are able to cause real physical harm to the Lost. Usually, these monsters are the spawn of the absolute worst aspects of the human condition, sins that are responsible for the misery of hundreds and thousands of people like Greed, Cruelty, Sickness and other woes.

These terrors can be in any city at any time to feed upon the psyches of the Lost. Soon tales began to spread of the atrocities these powerful cobwebs committed. They can take many shapes, but the most experienced of the Lost can always tell just by a story when the person was a victim of one of these Cobwebs. It didn’t take long for the Lost to give names to these Cobwebs.

Now tales are told in whispers among huddled masses of the Named Ones, in hopes that the Lost who haven’t lived on the streets for very long can hopefully survive an encounter with one of them. Though they may take different forms, they all have quirks and tells that allow people to spot them.

((These are going to be some specific monsters I come up with, partly as an example of what cobwebs can/should be, partly because a large part of what drew me in to DRYH was the characters, partly I like monsters and they’ll be fun to draw. Maybe these are bad reasons, but I’m not married to the idea))


Okay, so I apologize to the massive brain dump, but like I said, it’s been a while since I posted and I wanted to bring everyone up to speed. aside from the issues I’ve posted up here, I feel like the game is progressing along pretty smoothly, and I’m really happy that I’ve had a few playtesters who’ve gotten back to me. The longer I spend on this project, the harder it is to motivate myself to just write the damn thing, but I’m really confident that it’ll get done soon. Probably not by Dreamation as I’d originally planned, but within a few months. I’m looking forward to finishing it. I’m also looking to become more active in terms of commenting here on MM.


November 19, 2007 - Posted by | Kingdom of Nothing


  1. Jeff, is there anything in particular that you’d like us to comment on in this post? You’ve got a lot going on here, mainly in the terms of notes and the like.

    Also, I’m glad to see you getting active again. I really dig on what you’re doing with Kingdom of Nothing.

    I will say this: when I run DRYH, I don’t necessarily stick to the monsters Fred presents in the text. I let the text inspire me, but I use the players playing to actually create the monster. In fact, I add a sixth question at the end of character creation, something like “You see something out of the corner of your eye, and you’re afraid. What is it?” I say that to say that you might want to think about fleshing out the monsters of the world, but leave a fruitful void for folks to put their own stamp on taken from your inspirations.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | November 28, 2007 | Reply

  2. Contrasting to Ryan’s take on DRYH, I find the monsters inspiring and run them as close to the book as possible. I use the text of the book to inspire me and take the monsters as described and see how they view the PCs, then throw them at the group.

    So make evocative monsters.

    Comment by orklord | November 28, 2007 | Reply

  3. I should point out that while Rich & I have different viewpoints here, they aren’t mutually-exclusive. Fred’s monsters are so evocative that they encouraged me to do my own.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | November 28, 2007 | Reply

  4. I wasn’t looking for too much in the ways of commentary. I didn’t expect most people to read it. I’m just keeping everyone up to date. I’m thinking I’ll end up going with the monsters

    Comment by jhimmelman | December 2, 2007 | Reply

  5. I played in the ‘Kingdom of Nothing’ game Liz Teichman ran at Philcon. It was a fun session and I enjoyed it enough that I’m going to keep my eyes open for its continued development. I think everyone really liked the collaborative but secret character creation–both the process itself and the anticipation of learning about our characters during play. And the conflict resolution system is fun–I guess sort of like playing Craps. I don’t think we fully grasped how to learn our own secrets; muddling between secrets are learned as a result of winning conflicts versus secrets are learned as hope and lucidity advance. And we definitely weren’t sure how to resolve player character vs player character conflicts but that only came up once, I think. I’ve recorded the session and posted the full audio here:
    As well as writing about KON at
    I’m glad Liz ran the game; it’s hard to imagine a game about being homeless winding up as enjoyable as it was.

    Comment by Mel White | December 8, 2007 | Reply

  6. Mel,

    Thanks so much for dropping me a line. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the file yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.

    It seems your criticisms are shared by a lot of the other people who have played it. I think I’ve tweaked a few things in the errata (included in this post) that have hopefully fixed those issues. Players have more control over when the secrets are revealed, as they have to buy a scene with xp in order to do so.

    I’ll take a listen to the playtest and get back to you.

    Thanks again!!!

    Comment by jhimmelman | December 9, 2007 | Reply

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