Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Nightmares Underneath, the Upside-Down, and Social Class in Labyrinth Lord

I have been wrestling with how to import the concepts of social class and background into character generation. My goal has been to have them be interesting and descriptive. I also want their implementation to be simple: only involving an extra die roll or two and taking, at most, a few extra minutes during character generation.

A few months ago I followed a few links to this page on Red Box Vancouver's Blog (a community-centric OSR blog from Vancouver). And that is where I found the basis of my new social class and background hacks... or hack, since they are united in one system.

The link to Red Box Vancouver gives a short, informative review and links to free pdf and POD versions of The Nightmares Underneath RPG. You should certainly check it out. The game is an OSR inspired/ D&D based ruleset. Nightmares author, Johnstone Metzger takes the basic D&D rules and adds to them, to make his own ruleset which he uses to describe his own unique setting. His game is set in a world under attack from a parallel dimension of nightmares. The nightmares take root in our world while we sleep, forming entry points for the nightmares to contaminate and devour our universe. Players represent the few skilled individuals who are able to enter the nightmares' realm and defeat them before they are able to enter our plane.

To me, Metzger describes the physics of the Upside Down, the home of Demogorgon in Stranger Things, better than anybody else. I have pretty much stolen this for my own game. In my game, it is not the focus of play, but now I have a "scientific" understanding of how the negative planes/ shadow realms ("Vale of Shadows" from AD&D) fits into my multiverse.

Starting on page 87, Metzger begins with a simple 3d6 roll for generating Social Class. I will have players roll this score after they have generated their six ability scores; I do not want to add a dump stat. Skipping ahead to page 102, we have a quite well developed starting equipment generation system which takes both social standing and a character's class into consideration when randomly generating results. For the first few iterations at my table, I am going to use Metzger's system "right out of the box". After I have finished descriptively fleshing out and codifying the basic races and classes available in my game, I want to take his system and link generation of backgrounds (which provide descriptive options that are based on a character's selection of race and class) with social class class generation (two die rolls rather than just one). I will also modify the equipment tables, adding equipment that is descriptive of my game's setting. I want to use the social class roll, background selection, and equipment generation processes to "teach" new players a about the campaign setting and their character's place in it... basically functioning like a mini gazetteer of the Boreal, Bohemian Borderlands.


  1. Hmm...I came up with some simple ideas about modeling social class in (B/X) D&D a few years back. If your interested:


    1. Thanks JB. I have been a fan of your blog for a while. I have linked you in some of my other posts. Your system is pretty similar to what I'm going to do.

    2. @ Christian:

      Cool...glad I could contribute to your fun!
      : )

  2. you can go to the website for more information about that

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