The Return of Worlds Without Master!

Allow me to celebrate this the triumphant return of Worlds Without Master!

Behold, issue 11! A glorious 40-page PDF including:

(You may also seek out another tale of Kassmamon in issue 7 and the first Wolf Neighbours in issue 9.)


Get your copy of the issue at the Worlds Without Master bazaar, at the Dig a Thousand Holes Payhip store, or at DriveThruFiction. You can also read “The Shape of the World” as well as all of Epidiah’s other sword & sorcery fiction for free at

And as always, you can stand with the Patron Horde, lend your sword to the cause while guaranteeing your share of the spoils.

For Whom the Bells Jingle

Tis the Epimas season, once again. And once again, you get the unique opportunity to give the gift of games to friends and loved ones, and receive that same gift for yourself!

This year, each bundle has at least one issue of Worlds Without Master in it, which means each issue has at least one game from Worlds Without Master in it: Swords Without Master, Enter the Avenger, Wolfspell, A Scoundrel in the Deep, Sorceress Bloody Sorceress, Invisible Empire, No Longer With Us, Masks of the Mummy Kings, and The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku!

Epimas is a yearly celebration of gaming, a holiday tradition that stretches back to the dawn of civilization, and one known the world over. And the mainstream media has done everything in their power to erase it from the season. These eight pissed-off reindeer aren’t having it anymore.

This year, Epimas fights back!

Each bundle listed at is a trove of indie tabletop roleplaying games and supplements. Individually, each bundle is worth an excess of $20. But you can gift any bundle below to a friend for only $12. And you get that same bundle for yourself, for free! Here’s how it works:

  • When you click on an Add to Cart button, you will be asked for a recipient’s email address.
  • As per tradition, your gift recipient will receive an email on Epimas (December 24th) with instructions on how to get their PDFs.
  • Meanwhile, you will be able to download the PDFs at the moment of purchase.
  • That way you will have time to read the instructions so you can play the games with your friends on Epimas.

What’s more, if you purchase 2 or more bundles at once, you can use the coupon code ReindeerGames to get a 10% discount. If you purchase 4 or more bundles at once, you can use the coupon code SquadGoals for a 25% discount. And if you got for the whole lot, you can use the coupon codeWholeTofoose for a 50% discount. That’s over $200 worth of games for you and your friend for just $48!

Sale ends on the morning of December 24th!


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The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku

Published late last night, the 10th issue of Worlds Without Master holds within its covers the weird fantasy game The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku. The game is blend of horror and sword & sorcery, inspired in part by the works of Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance. You are skalds and half-scholars under the geas of Duke Vulku and compelled by witchery to adventure with him at the command of the seventeen sages. This game is also a glimpse at what Dread may have looked like if I had waited until today to write it.

It has been over 15 years since Dread was first conceived and over ten since it was born. When the first game ever of Dread was played, there was still an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The litany of changes to the design and structure of tabletop roleplaying games and to the methods of production and distribution since then is staggering. Pile upon that my own personal journey through gaming this past decade and a half, and you have a recipe for a new take on a familiar game.

The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku has all the elements of classic Dread.

  • There’s the Jenga tower, though now it is called the Spire.
  • Characters still die when it falls, but now there’s stuff to do once you’ve crossed over.
  • Characters are created through questionnaires, though much shorter ones and now the Host has their own questionnaire to fill out.
  • Fighting amongst yourselves is still bad news.
  • The heroic sacrifice option is still there, but with a couple twists, including the right to demand of your companions “Which among you will sing of this?”

The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku has a much sharper focus than Dread. It is a single scenario. One that can be played over and over without fear of spoiling the mystery, but it does not have Dread‘s scope. In its stead, you will find specific rules tailored to the scenario. This is the marriage of Dread and Apocalypse World with moves built around the pulling of blocks. Among the list of new wonders to be discovered by fans of classic Dread there are:

  • Custom moves for each character, inspired in part by some of the designs in Dread House, where each player keeps a cache of blocks that can be used in lieu of pulling from the Spire.
  • Each time the Spire falls, one of the surviving characters will learn new moves.
  • Those sinister enough to set their will against that of Duke Vulku’s must make their pulls with their off hand.
  • Those that have died can still mete their petty vengeance upon their former companions by forcing them to push blocks back into the Spire.

And more!

If you are all curious, I urge you to surrender yourself to the Duke’s will today. Pick up your copy of Worlds Without Master issue 10. Regret will be the least of your torments in Duke Vulku’s service.


This 42-page issue of Worlds Without Master contains:

  • “Because I Clasp the Clouds As Mine,” a tale of a shifting identity byOsmond Arnesto.
  • “The Hoard of Yengra,” a tale of commerce and justice by Epidiah Ravachol.
  • Illustrations by Wendy MartinVlada Monakhova, and Tiffany Turrill.
  • Another installment of Bryant Paul Johnson‘s comic Oh, the Beating Drum!
  • The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku, a game of horror and wonder based on the game Dread by the original author, Epidiah Ravachol.
  • A miscellany of delays and distractions for any journey.
  • And full-color cover art by Jabari Weathers.


Get your copy of the issue at the Worlds Without Master bazaar, at the Dig a Thousand Holes Payhip store, or at DriveThruFiction. You can also read “The Hoard of Yengra” as well as all of Epidiah’s other sword & sorcery fiction for free at

And as always, you can stand with the Patron Horde, lend your sword to the cause while guaranteeing your share of the spoils.


Wolf Neighbours, Mummy Kings, and Three Dozen Crypts

Worlds Without Master Issue 9 has just been released, and it is the second largest issue we’ve ever done. Losing out to issue 3 by only 8 pages.

Wolf Neighbours

Featuring the debut of Rachel Kahn‘s new comic Wolf Neighbours

This 40-page monstrosity barely contains:


Get your copy of the issue at the Worlds Without Master bazaar, at the Dig a Thousand Holes Payhip store, or at DriveThruFiction. You can also read “High Upon the Table of the World” as well as all of Epidiah’s other sword & sorcery fiction for free at

And as always, you can stand with the Patron Horde, lend your sword to the cause while guaranteeing your share of the spoils.

Worlds Without Master, Issue 8, Funerals, Ghosts & Buzzards

The latest issue of Worlds Without Master is now available. It’s a bit of a milestone being both our first monthly issue and very soon now it will be the first issue that will be available in print as well as a PDF.

Right now, however, the PDF is available and as always it is jammed pack with adventures to be told and experienced. This 32-page PDF includes:

399-IconYou can get your copy for $3.99 at, Payhip or DriveThruFiction.

Or read “In Search of a Slaying” for free at

Ensure that you always get your share of the spoils, join the Patron Horde!

Go buy it, read it, and get back here, because I want to talk about the game in this issue: No Longer With Us.

Got it? Read it? Good.

Confession: I love when my character dies. In a roleplaying game, that is. Love it. It’s a chance to shed the old skin and slither into a new one. And a chance I rarely pass up. Take pity upon my PCs, for they risk their lives for a joy and glory they know not.

Because of my eagerness to jump into a new character, there’s rarely a moment to eulogize the dearly departed. This is one of the many reasons by No Longer With Us appealed to me. Death comes hand-in-hand with adventuring and while successful adventures dig down to find new and interesting ways to elude it, eventually it comes to us all. This is a game for the inevitable. A way to celebrate a passing and, perhaps more tantalizing, create a new beginning.

It stands on it’s one, allowing you to create your own rich world at this particular crossroad. You can invent adventures past and witness the birth of new adventures in the conflicting agendas of the various mourners. But it can also serve as a moment outside your regularly scheduled game in which you can turn the passing of a beloved PC into an event with substance and impact.


Tonight’s the Perfect Night to Binge-Watch Some Dread

The first part of a game from Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop, part 1:

And a complete game from Kevin Kulp and his crew, parts:


Get your red-hot print copies of Dread here for $24+shipping and PDFs here for $12.

The One About the Barbarian, the Giant Spider, and the Invisible Empire

Campfire tales, giant intelligent spiders, a particularly vindictive emperor, and of course the Worlds Without Master debut of Barbarian Lord!

Behold the treasures that await you with the pages of Worlds Without Master issue 7:

399-IconYou can get your copy for $3.99 at, Payhip or DriveThruRPG.

Go get it now. I’ll wait. When you get back, let’s talk a bit about Invisible Empire.

This is the first of a trilogy of games designed to teach the fundamentals to the various Swords Without Master phases.

This first game is called Invisible Empire, which is an allusion to Italo Calvino’s Le città invisibili or Invisible Cities. They share some common ground. Both are about describing to rulers of vast empires the sights to be seen (or experienced) within those empires.

Invisible Empire is an exploration of the Discovery Phase from Swords Without Master. You don’t need to know Swords to play this game, but I want to talk to theSwords players for just a moment with a string of text that might not make sense to other folk. If haven’t readSwords, feel free to skip to the next paragraph.Invisible Empire is like an Overplayer-less Discovery Phase where Stymies and Mysteries make you look Suspicious, causing you to create a new thread called a Secret, and when you roll a Morale, you don’t create a thread but you do bore the Silent Emperor, which is not good. The threads produced in this game can be taken to a Swords game and used in tricks or overtricks.

Right, so that’s out of the way. Here’s what’s going on in that game. You all play explorers, emissaries, courtiers, wandering knights, astrologers, dancers, or whoever has an excuse to be in the court of the Silent Emperor. You will all stand before the throne and tell the court of the wonders and horrors you’ve seen in your travels through this massive empire. You start by rolling dice that will tell you whether your story should fill your audience with Awe or Dread. The dice will also tell you if you’re omitting something important—either through deception or ignorance—and if you might just be boring the Silent Emperor. Whatever you describe, even if you are omitting something, you will make one other person at court corroborate your account by asking them a leading question.

The whole game is a race between the players’ ability to describe the fantastic sites they’ve seen and the horrid fickleness of the Silent Emperor. As you give you accounts, the other players will be listening for moments of true wonder or horror, and they will record them. As you roll the dice, the Silent Emperor will be listening for lies, omissions and tedium. Characters who receive too many Black Marks of Displeasure this way are dispatched in ways design to entertain the Silent Emperor and the court.

You can get this puppy, along with two sword & sorcery tales and an episode of Barbarian Lord in issue 7 ofWorlds Without Master:

You can also guarantee you won’t miss out on the next in the series, Beggars’ Night, by becoming a member of the Patron Horde:

You can also increase the odds of finding someone else who will play the game with you by sharing the hell out of those links.


Here’s what I have said about #51in15:

Over the course of 2015, I intend to play 51 different tabletop games. Some of these shall be roleplaying games. Some shall be card games. Some may be boardgames. I suspect even one or two will be wargames. Some will be new to me. Some will be new this year. Quite a few will probably still be somewhere in the design process. Some will be old. And some I will have played a thousand times before. But I will only count each one once, no matter how many times I play it over the course of the year. So there will be a variety of them.

Several have taken up the challenge and begun their own list of 51 different games played in the year 2015. In fact, enough folks are participating that I thought it might be fun to add some achievement badges into the mix. Take them and display them proudly in your trophy room or upon the Internet. Or, secret them away, so you alone can enjoy the fruits of your victories. Don’t let me tell you what to do with them.


I’ll add more of these—one for each month—as those new months approach. But some folks are burning through their games so fast, and I wanted at least one badge waiting for them at the finish line. Also, expect badges for those of you blowing past 51. Ramping all the way up to . . .


But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. Instead, let’s take a look at some more manageable goals.


For those who have played at least five games with more than five players apiece.


For those who have played at least 30 games that have taken less than 30 minutes each.





As you might expect, I have a vested interest in seeing people play a larger variety of role-playing games. These are for the brave souls who can rise to the challenge and have made at least 6, 15, 30 or 45 of their 51 games roleplaying games.





If you’re going to earn any badges this year, make these the ones! (Here are a couple links to help set you down this path:’s list of women RPG designers and Designing Women on Board Game Geek.)

I’ve got more badges on the way, but these should get us started. Please feel free to make your own! Especially if you have a horse in the race. In fact, if you do have a horse in the race, congrats, you just earned this badge:


If you want to make your badges look like mine (and you are certainly under no obligation to do so), this is what you need to know:

  • The images are made from icons swiped from the nifty
  • The dimensions are 346 pixels by 116 pixels because that is the most harmonic of the dimensional ratios.
  • The font for the sash is Century Gothic and the other font is Trajan Pro.

The Near Destiny of Dig 1,000 Holes

  • Pencils have been pushed.
  • Numbers have been crunched.
  • Maths have been done.
  • And all calculations point to the same inescapable conclusion:

2015 will be my most productive year since the 70s.

This is no easy task, given the productivity of the past couple of years. In 2013, I published the entire Vast & Starlit library, What is a Roleplaying Game? and Wolfspell, not to mention launching the Worlds Without Master ezine. In 2014, with the combined might of the Patron Horde at my side, I published four more issues of Worlds Without Master and through them two new roleplaying games: Swords Without Master and Sorceress Bloody Sorceress.

However, 2015 will see, among other projects, at least four new games from me.


Lincoln-IconThere are many trials an idea must go through before it starts to take shape as an actual game. And that’s when the true tests begin. Thus far, this Robin Hood inspired game is proceeding apace. It has officially reached the point where I have more trouble envisioning a future without it than I do envisioning a future with it.

It will be well into the year before the game is done, but there will be mischief afoot in the Greenwood afore that. Keep a wary eye upon the #LincolnGreen hashtag on G+ for more details anon.

Worlds Without Master Presents

Worlds-IconI have three new games waiting to be published within the pages of Worlds Without Master. The first of these will likely be is Invisible Empire, wherein ambassadors, explorers and other dignitaries eschew crucifixion by delighting the Silent Emperor with accounts of the many splendors and horrors to be found under his gracious and benevolent rule.

This will probably be followed by Beggars’ Night which is about the night the beggars’ guild took their revenge upon the thieves’ guild. And then by one tentatively entitled The Red Ecstasy of Glory. Each of these is a stand-alone game playable in an hour or less, but they also make up the foundation for Swords Without Master and are designed to teach how to squeeze the very best play out of that system.

In addition to these new releases, a few titles previously published in the ethereal pages of Worlds will reappear in more tangible forms, the first of which you will hear about in a few weeks. I do not wish to spoil the surprise, but wolves may be involved. And mayhaps spells. Wolves and spells. But I have already said too much.

I’m not even stopping there when it comes to the future of Worlds. 2015 will probably see six new issues, which means more fiction, more comics, more games, more swords and more sorcery. Including some rather terrifying plans to blossom into new forms. If you’re not already a member of the Patron Horde and you don’t want to miss out on all this, you best get on that.

The Untold Future

D1kH-IconThere are a few games that have been sitting on the backburner (some for quite a while) that are slowly reaching a boil. I will not mention them by name, for I wish to avoid disturbing their simmering slumber. We cannot yet count them among the works slated for release in 2015, but we can hope.

We can always hope.

The Tally

But let’s set that bit of vague speculation aside for the moment and look at the cold, hard numbers.

Best Year for Total Game Releases

2013 with 3: Vast & StarlitWhat is a Roleplaying Game? and Wolfspell.

Best Year for Total Issues of Worlds

2014 with 4: Issues Three through Six.

Projected Releases for 2015

4 new games: Lincoln Green, Invisible Empire, Beggars’ Night and The Red Ecstasy of Glory.
6 new issues of Worlds Without Master.

As I have said, these calculations are inescapable: 2015 will be my most productive year since the 70s. I will dig these thousand holes yet!

The Fire is Lit

Issue 6 for Worlds Without Master has been unleashed upon the world. It’s a 23-page PDF that includes:

399-IconYou can get your copy for $3.99 at, Payhip or DriveThruRPG.

Go get it now. I’ll wait. When you get back, let’s talk a bit about A Scoundrel in the Deep.

Oh, you’re back! Wonderful! Now we can talk about playing with fire.

As you can see, A Scoundrel in the Deep is a two-player roleplaying game that—like some other ground-breaking roleplaying game Wil Wheaton has told me about—uses something far more exhilarating than dice to keep things moving. In the case of ASitD the action is prodded along with fire. Specifically, a lit match.

“…My lamp dwindles. Tired and hungry, I must scramble in pitch dark, only a few matches in my pocket separate me from endless inky blackness…”

One player plays the titular Scoundrel, who has plundered the Tomb of the Deep and now seeks to return to the surface world. This scoundrel is a bit lost and low on resources, but fortunately they have with them a handful of matches. Unfortunately, it is but a handful.

The other player plays the Deep who seeks to extinguish the light and the Scoundrel with it.

The players play a game of chicken with a book of matches, striking them and narrating as the flame burns ever closer to their flesh. Dropping the match or blowing it out before you’re finished advances your opponent towards their goal. The pace is, predictably, swift and delightfully frantic at moments.

But pacing aside, perhaps the most alluring aspect of this mechanic is the sensuous side of it. From the satisfying feel of strike; to the smokey, slightly sulphurous scent; to the warmth of the fire growing into an alarming heat, the matches are much more than a simple timer.

In just a couple weeks, Winter solstice will be upon us. Before then, I urge you to find a friend and play this game. Learn it well. Then, in the depths of the longest night of the year, play it again in the dark.