1-2-3-4 I Declare A Mecha War Trial

This is a play session of a new, original solitaire Trial set in Warp Shell using Index Card RPG Core. I play a team of five Mecha (Eve, Izzy, Keys, Fish, and Nate) through this short scenario of three challenges.

If you would like to play this Trial, I have posted a write up of the scenario

Index Card RPG Core Set from Runehammer Games

Index Card RPG Vol. 3

Rigaroga is a technologist lost in the wilderness, having adventures in geekery and nerdy mishegoss.

The Odd Order is a place for Rigaroga, friends and acquaintances to gather online.

If you’d like to pitch in, add a buck to the tip jar.

Or become an ongoing Patron, get gratis music downloads, and help me geek out!

Behemoth Trial

This is a play session of Behemoth, a solitaire Trial from Index Card RPG Core, in the Sci Fi setting Warp Shell. I play V-4E, a Mecha Tank, in this short scenario.

Index Card RPG Core Set from Runehammer Games

Index Card RPG Vol 3

In the video, I use OmniGraffle by Omni Group for the virtual tabletop playing surface, which I’ve used forever for my projects, just nothing like this before!

Prior to OmniGraffle, I used Lighthouse Design’s Diagram! on NeXT, so it’s a tool that’s been around for decades, in one form or another! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lighthouse_Design

Rigaroga is a technologist lost in the wilderness, having adventures in geekery and nerdy mishegoss.

The Odd Order is a place for Rigaroga, friends and acquaintances to gather online.

If you’d like to pitch in, add a buck to the tip jar.

Or become an ongoing Patron, get gratis music downloads, and help me geek out!

Quartz Crystal Whistle of Double Time

I created this Quartz Crystal Whistle of Double Time for my character Take to use in the Yanking on Glorious Leader’s Chain scenario, as a follow-up to the Biscuits and Grave-y, both let’s play videos which you can watch on my video channel.

This is a new Loot item for Runehammer Games’ Index Card RPG Core you might find useful.

Quartz Crystal Whistle of Double Time

This is a whistle made of quartz crystal.

When blowing on the whistle, one can take 2 Actions per Turn, or take an Action even after a dash Move to Far. However, it makes noise, as a whistle does. That means no stealth while using it, and anyone within hearing distance will be alerted to the user’s presence.

You may want to add a Spell Burn die to balance the benefit of this device for each turn it is used, to account for the user’s hyperventilation and recovery.

The Holy Silver Talisman of the Fire God Zhipho

I created this Holy Silver Talisman of the Fire God Zhipho for my character Take to use in the Yanking on Glorious Leader’s Chain scenario, as a follow-up to the Biscuits and Grave-y, both let’s play videos which you can watch on my video channel.

This is a new Loot item for Runehammer Games’ Index Card RPG Core you might find useful, though, let’s be honest, it really was a bit underwhelming for Take in the scenario. Perhaps there’s a larger, perhaps backpack-sized, version somewhere that, one might say, “throws” flame? Now, that would be impressive!

The Holy Silver Talisman of the Fire God Zhipho

This is a small sealed box made of silver. It has a top that is hinged and reveals a small screen with holes around a miniature fire altar dedicated to the Fire God Zhipho.

With a Basic attempt, the flame can be lit by spinning the tiny prayer wheel against the sacrificial stone. When the flame is lit, the talisman acts as a strong and righteous holy item, in addition to being silver, which might be handy if one is facing things with weaknesses to such things. The flame also casts a sphere of light, much like a large candle; and can be used to light flammable thing on fire.

The talisman has 10 charges, but is refillable. Failure on an attempt to light it uses a charge. You may want to balance this by requiring a new Basic attempt each turn to keep it lit. Also, attempt rolls may become Hard in particularly windy conditions.

How to play Biscuits and Grave-y

I created this Biscuits and Grave-y scenario, as a follow-up to the Skull of the Cyclops Trial, to play in a solitaire let’s play video which you can watch on my video channel. I’ve actually included a number of elements and details from my next video, Yanking on Glorious Leader’s Chain, in this write up, so you’re getting a sneak peek as well.

This is a scenario of several Moments for use in the Alfheim setting of Index Card RPG Core. To play this you will need Runehammer Games’ Index Card RPG Core and may also want Index Card RPG Vol 1, Index Card RPG Vol 2, and the Moldy Banana from Axebane’s Moldy Codex #1 could be handy for measuring distances.

Biscuits and Grave-y

You’ve escaped the labs of the Red Mage during The Grey Hill Fire, managed to steal the Skull of the Cyclops, and now are carrying an annoyingly hard to carry skull across the landscape. Living off berries, bark and mushrooms, scavenged from the woods and bushes; it’s time for a real meal. You’ve found a town where a meal might be had, one way or another, and the burden of a skull might be lifted, one way or another.

Setup: Create or continue a character or characters in Alfheim. You have a Skull of the Cyclops weighing you down, making whomever has it struggle to keep holding it, unable to really do much of anything. At the outskirts of a new town, you find a place to stash the skull, so you can enter the town unencumbered to find some food, and perhaps unload the skull on a merchant for a sweet, shiny stack of coin, not necessarily in that order.

Town: Target 10. The town, whatever it is called, not that it matters, consists of several buildings, as one might expect. Probably the only buildings worth talking about for this scenario are the Tavern (ICRPG v2.26), Blacksmith (ICRPG v2.27), Magic Shop (ICRPG v2.26), Church (ICRPG v1.84), and Graveyard (ICRPG v1.85). The Tavern has all the usual tavern-y things for purchase or soever, including food and lodging. The Blacksmith has all the usual smith-y things for purchase or soever, including new equipment and repairs. The Magic Shop has all the usual magic-y things for purchase or soever, including potions and spells, but also a Merchant who might be interested in the Skull of the Cyclops. The Church has all the usual church-y things for donations or soever, including healing and rituals of faith, including funeral arrangements … wait, whut? (o.o). The Graveyard has all the usual … um, graves? Yeah. Don’t mess with those. You may find Skeletons and Shamblers and Goth Kids, oh my! And if things get slow in town, those may end up messing with you. (Feel free at, any time, to start a Countdown Timer that will trigger a few hors d’oeuvre horrors coming to town up from the graveyard or in from the farther outskirts.)

The Merchant in the Magic Shop: Target 11. The Merchant (ICRPG v2.83) will generally be quite honest in their dealings with the heroes. While they are interested in the Skull of the Cyclops, it’s a pretty special relic for which they don’t quite have enough coin to purchase. However, if the heroes are interested in making a deal, they’ve got one to make. The merchant wants a particular book. The book in the possession of some cultists. The cultists are squatting in an abandoned House outside of town doing cultist things, as cultists are wont to do. The merchant will loan 2 normal and 1 milestone loot items to the party of heroes, which they can distribute amongst themselves as they see fit, for the attempt, holding the skull in pawn, while the book is retrieved, by whatever means necessary, as long is no suspicion lands on the merchant. The merchant can’t do it directly, of course, because they’d be recognized and that would have damaging consequences for their ability to do business in this town. If the attempt fails, the merchant keeps and sells the skull, and forgets the heroes ever existed. If the attempt succeeds, the heroes can keep the items on loan and will also be given an additional sack sagging with weighty coin for the skull and the book, and the merchant might remember the heroes exist. It’s a good balance of risk and reward and necessity for both merchant and heroes.

House: Target 12. There is a nasty old dilapidated House (ICRPG v2.56) on outside of Town. There’s nothing of interest anywhere in this house, except the Basement. There is an inside set of stairs leading down from the ground floor, if the heroes look for it. The heroes may also discover there is a ventilation crawlspace from the outside that heads down. If the heroes are loud, the cultists may hear and come to investigate. If the heroes attempt to listen, they may be able to hear chanting from the basement.

Basement: Target 13. There are three cultists chanting in the Basement (ICRPG v2.53) attempting to summon something (ICRPG v1.64, if the cultists are somehow allowed to complete their ritual) that desires to devour souls or somesuch. Bastards! But, they’re only 1 Heart otherwise unremarkably human bastards, with weak wills, likely to flee if given the chance; though, they do have INT spell Arcane Missile (Core v1.3.4 p35) (which appear as GREEN FLAME, for the connoisseurs out there) with which to defend themselves, whilst running away like fools wisely heading for the nearest door.

As soon as the cultists stop chanting, at the beginning of combat or soever, start a Countdown Timer; upon which 3 Shamblers (Core v1.3.5 p 174) will burst from a previously-secret door in the back wall, that leads to the Crypt, and attack. The un-holy chanting woke the shamblers but was also, conveniently, holding them at bay. There is a book on the altar on the back wall, which the cultists will abandon if they are frightened away but which the Shamblers will attempt to steal if they get a chance to do so during or after combat.

Crypt: Target 14. The crypt consists of an entry Passage (ICRPG v1.21) leading to a Room (ICRPG v1.46-47) with two adjacent Chambers (ICRPG v1.23-24) and a further Passage (ICRPG v1.35). The adjacent chambers both contain some nasty permanent patches of fungus (ICRPG v1.15-16) that will release unhealthy spores for Basic damage every time they are disturbed, but can be snuck past. One adjacent room contains a Bookshelf (ICRPG v1.66) with the Book (ICRPG v2.13) the Merchant wants on it.

All remaining Shamblers from previous combat will be distributed evenly across the main room and adjacent chambers, with the odd shambler in the main, but maybe one or two were too dumb to find the door, getting stuck in the corners until now, and so there could be more fresh Shamblers here.

If the Shamblers have been left in the basement with the book, or managed to grab the book during the kerfuffle, they will take it into the crypt and place it on their bookshelf. If they grabbed the book, that’s the book the merchant wants. If they didn’t get the book, then the actual book the merchant wants is a different volume which was already on the Shambler bookshelf. Muahahahahaha *cough*.

When the heroes enter the crypt, start a Countdown Timer which triggers a Skeleton (Core v1.3.4 p103) entering from the further passage to patrol. As each skeleton enters, begin a new timer for the next.

If the Shamblers are not utterly defeated (And why would the heroes know Shamblers re-form unless burned or pulverized? Have they been reading forbidden and accurséd tomes?!), the shamblers from the Basement will eventually attempt to return to the crypt dragging any bodies (ICRPG v1.78) they can with them. Bodies left in the crypt will turn into additional Shamblers, which happens with a new Countdown Timer on each body left in their loving care. This is a new mechanic not mentioned in the stock Shambler description, but adds an interesting Flimes-like escalating twist (Ugh!), and, I believe is possible because of the sphere of influence emanating from the as yet shadowy presence of a Glorious Leader which might be encountered further in the depths of the once hidden crypt.

The Final Room: Target 15. The final room (ICRGP v1.32 & 42) beyond the further passage contains at least two (perhaps more if more than two were spawned and undefeated in the previous room to return to the Final Room) immobile Skeleton (ICRPG v1.59) sentries and a Sarcophagus (ICRPG v2.95). Within the sarcophagus is a slumbering Glorious Leader, a modified Unholy Leader (Core v1.3.4 p174), the boss shambler, which is “immune to ALL forms of harm, save the removal” of its jeweled necklace. This necklace also is the object that controls the Skeletons! The heroes might catch the Glorious Leader and sentries slumbering and unprepared, or they may have been foolish enough to cause them to all wake and prepare.

If the necklace is removed from the Glorious Leader, it will, and only then, immediately die, becoming a mere Shambler corpse with Countdown Timer. If the necklace is somehow recovered by another Shambler, it will attempt to wear that necklace and become a new Glorious Leader. In any case, whatever has possession of the necklace will control any remaining Skeletons by simply commanding them in whatever way is natural to the possessor.

Glorious Leader: An Unholy Leader of Shamblers whose sacred animating jewelry also commands Skeletons, and will cause any corpses in its sphere of influence to become additional newly animated Shamblers. Further, the Glorious Leader can have an appearance that lampoons some real world leader, such as a cornucopious variety of golden medals across its once military chest with a strange flat top helmet or perhaps a paunchy potato-sack body with pursed lips and golden skullcap that looks like a pile of dog poop with tentacles randomly akimbo, and so on, as you like. Here’s a chance to make fun of whatever Glorious Leader you feel needs it.

Conclusion: You survived a visit to Town. Huzzah!

Perhaps you plumbed the depths of the scenario and are truly proven heroes. Or, perhaps you skirted all danger and skulked away from the town like little frightened, but adorably fluffy, rabbits, not having gotten to experience any of the good stuff, or seized any of the rewards.

You may have have gotten the book and brought it back to the Merchant for your reward.

If you have not succeeded in utterly destroying the Shamblers, Skeletons and Glorious Leader; they will be back, build their forces again, and eventually begin to attack the town in even greater numbers. The merchant will detail how Shamblers must be utterly destroyed if asked or told about their existence. If the merchant’s book has been successfully retrieved, the merchant may be willing to loan additional loot for the further and utter destruction of the remaining threat from the Crypt, describing the possible presence of an Unholy Leader, and how to defeat it.

The merchant will try to negotiate for additional loaned loot in exchange for the promise of receiving the jeweled necklace that empowered the Glorious Leader, created the additional Shamblers from convenient corpses, and controlled the Skeletons. That necklace might still retain some or all of those powers for a while after … only time will tell!

If you did defeat the Glorious Leader and the all the other threats in the crypt, and have the necklace to exchange for your reward, the merchant will research in his books the story you tell about the Shamblers, and find out about a long lost record of the Glorious Leader, an even more dangerous form of Unholy Leader of Shamblers, and tell you what he has learned. The merchant will also examine the jeweled and tooled surface to unearth from these some grave and cryptic clue that leads you to your next, new, and bigger glories!

But, first, let’s eat!

How to play the Hacky Sack Trial

I created this Hacky Sack Trial to play, as a follow-up to 1-2-3-4 I Declare A Mecha War, in a solitaire let’s play video which you can watch on my video channel. This is a micro scenario of three Moments for use in the Warp Shell setting of Index Card RPG Core. Here’s how you can play this Trial. You will need Runehammer Games’ Index Card RPG Core and may also want Index Card RPG Vol 3.

Hacky Sack

You’ve gotten stuck and cannot proceed on your overall mission. You have determined there is specific information you need to resolve your issue that is stored on a particular network. Finding that information will require accessing that network, travelling the network as virtual copies of yourself, locating and reading a particular file. You must go all hacky and sack it.

Setup: Create a character or characters in Warp Shell. Overcome all three Obstacles. If you are killed while connected to the network, make a CON check or die IRL. Optionally, if you are killed online, you are disconnected and incapacitated IRL for 1d6 ROUNDS, leaving you unable to move or take actions, vulnerable to whatever is happening around you, including being attacked or killed again IRL, you St00pid N00b!

Screech-Warble-Warble: Target 10. Heroes must find and use a physical network access point, then decide who all will enter the network and who, if any, will stay behind to physically protect the vulnerable hackers while they are virtually travelling. This takes an action at the physical access point and moves the hero to the I/O node on the network map. Optionally, connecting to the network might require a 1 HEART challenge for each hero going virtual, and connecting may be something that can only be done one at a time, requiring the first heroes on the network to enter alone.

Hacky Sack: Target 11. Heroes enter a network at the physical I/O node. They must find a STR node where a particular file must be found, a Perception check. They must use the Read action to determine the contents of the file, a 1 HEART challenge. While the heroes are engaged in these activities, a TIMER counts down to when enemy Ice program spawn at a network ACC node, where they will explore the network seeking intruders to attack using Delete actions, or specialized programs if they have them.

In my example run, the heroes were also held captive within a lab, behind a locked door. The heroes had the secondary, necessary task to enter the IOT node which controlled the door lock, and succeed at a 1 HEART challenge to Update the lock, to set it to unlocked.

+++ATH0: Target 12. Heroes must leave the network, and return to their IRL bodies. This takes an action at the I/O node on the network map, and move the hero back to their actual map location. Optionally, disconnecting from the network might require a 1 HEART challenge for each hero leaving the virtual map, and disconnecting may be something that can only be done one at a time, requiring the last heroes on the network to stay behind, holding the flank, increasingly alone.

Hey! Wait! Don't pick up the ph{#`%${%&`+'${`%&NO WARP SHELL

Conclusion: You have succeeded in finding the file you sought, and now have the information you needed. Not only did the file solve your showstopper issues, it also contained the location and access code for a lonely Warp Shell awaiting worthy passengers at the nearby spaceport, which may also contain 1d4 chests of Warp Shell loot in its hold. Optionally, if you’ve already got access to your own Warp Shell, you instead find the location of a shipment of 1d6 chests of Warp Shell loot that has become lost in a forgotten storage unit at the starport.

Type of Nodes:

These are the node types I used for this Trial.

CPU is a machine on the network. Could be represented by a d20 placed on the map.
HUB is an interconnect, or empty room. Could be represented by a d12.
I/O is a physical, direct access port, where players or rival hackers can enter the map. Could be a d10.
ACC is a system access node, a virtual or network point of entry for units coming from a larger outside map. Could be d8.
IOT is a device, an Internet of things, connected to the network, like a door or camera control point. Could be a d6.
STR is a storage location, where files can be found. Could be a d4.

There are six node types, so one could simply roll a d6 to determine a new node to place, if one wanted to randomly create a network. Interconnections between nodes could be represented on the map by toothpicks, paper clips, bobby pins, or soever. One might also use Looney Labs Pyramids for nodes and interconnections, which would be cool. Here’s a representation of the map from my video using dice and pennies for the map on a tabletop (though as I look at the image, I’ve accidentally swapped suggested die for some nodes. Oops!).

For the purpose of moving, the current Node a character is at on the map is CLOSE. Any Node directly connected is NEAR. Nodes connected to NEAR Nodes are FAR. Visibility from a Node includes each NEAR node. Movement to a NEAR Node allows for an Action. Movement in a Dash to a FAR Node precludes an Action. In all other aspects, Nodes act as discrete rooms, about which normal, physical room-like moves and actions can be taken.

I have not yet brainstormed how to represent the wider outside network, whatever one calls it: Internet, Matrix, Cyberspace, Aethyr, or soever. Maybe I’ll do another Trial in future to explore that! One thing that occurred to me was using something like cards Steve Jackson Games Illuminati to create a large map of bizarre organizational networks to attack and play around in, but that’s probably not specifically an ideal theme for Warp Shell. Probably cooler to keep it more abstract, like another chance to use Looney Labs Pyramids. Optionally, one might consider this part, the travelling between maps, as something similar to how a Warp Shell travels from place to place, simply by showing up, folding the locations together, without bothering with the intervening path.

Types of Actions:

There are four basic actions one can take on things on the network.

Create makes something from scratch, like crafting or summoning.
Read reveals the contents of something, like perception or deciphering.
Update makes a change to something, like persuasion or intimidation.
Delete removes something, like attacking.

In this example, I really only used Read and Update, to reveal the contents of the file the heroes found, which contained their Giant Mecha instruction manual and a bonus bit about how to find their new Warp Shell and to unlock the lab door. If the heroes had encountered the Ice spawned, they could have attempted to Update the Ice’s programming to “persuade” or “charm” it to stop attacking, or to target another Ice program, and so on. The heroes might have attempted to Delete the Ice, essentially an “attack” using their weapon or magic programs, their skills or loot. The heroes may also have attempted to Create a firewall or an ally program, based on some kind of magic or skill they possess, which would cast or summon something IRL similar.

Various upgrades and programs, and class or bio-form bonuses or disadvantages might apply to various basic actions. I didn’t explore what that might have looked like, but perhaps there would be some kind of permissions that were required. For example, perhaps a Lock file would have to be Deleted before a target file could be Updated. Or, perhaps, a permissions bit must be Updated before any Create actions could be taking in a particular Node on the network. I didn’t explore these ideas in the example run, but it could lead to interesting or puzzling complications for players.

Class or Bio-Form:

I didn’t use these, but I brainstormed a few class/bio-forms purely from the world of this scenario.

Programmers, whose leader type is Lead, has +2 create, +1 update, -1 read, -2 delete bonuses.
Users, whose leader type is Manager, has +2 read, +1 delete, -1 create, -2 update bonuses.
Data Entry, whose leader type is Analyst, has +2 update, +1 read, -1 delete, -2 create bonuses.
Admin, whose leader type is Superuser, has +2 delete, +1 create, -1 update, -2 read bonuses.

I don’t know what “leader type” means. Perhaps a leader type, a kind of Boss version of each type, would have +1 added to each of their natural actions. For example, a Lead would have +3 create, +2 update, 0 read, -1 delete bonuses to each action type, respectively.


IC, or “Ice”, are Intrusion Countermeasures, or programs that are on the network to destroy hackers, like the heroes. In order to implement an Ice, just take any enemy from Core and remove the vowels, converted toupper(), then add an “.EXE” at the end of its name. Everything else functions as it would otherwise, but provide colourful narration to make the effects of actions have a “cyber” twist.

In the example, I used the Goblin from Core, renamed as an Ice GBLN.EXE program running on the network. In the example, I had a threat timer that spawned Ice at the ACC, network access point. Ice could be stationed or mobile, just as any monster would be. Additionally, I improvised that Ice can see activity in any adjacent node on the local network, for the purposes of going aggro, raising an alarm, or soever.

In my example run, all enemy Ice that spawned were GBLN.EXE, essentially identical to Goblins from Core, but a virtual “program” version. I also had BR_WRM.EXE (Bore Worm), BRN_HRR.EXE (Brain Horror), CRRDR.EXE (Corroder), and FLMS.EXE (Flimes; oh gods, not Flimes! Please, anything but Flimes! Send me to Detroit!) Ice held in reserve as other possible monsters to spawn, but didn’t end up using them.

IRL Tactics

One element possible, that I didn’t explore, is that the character were not being guarded IRL while they were jacked in. This could be an important aspect of play, which would necessarily “split the party” and allow various hijinks to ensue. In the first and third Moments of this Trial, the party might have to deal with various IRL confrontations before, during, or after the events occurring in the middle, online, Moment.

Also, IRL characters might have particular technological “decks” they must use to jack in, which could have advantages and disadvantages. In the example, I allowed the Mecha to have built-in means of connecting, or at least the Mecha Zurin had appropriate cables and dongles on his meditation chain. But, getting connected could require several IRL steps, a HEART challenge, and/or a kind of puzzle player must confront, especially for unfamiliar, or even literally alien to them, technology.

Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow

Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow by Brandish Gilhelm is the first book by the creator of Index Card RPG and host of the Drunken & Dungeons channel on YouTube.

This was a good, short story. There’s a unique narrative voice and a compelling swords and sorcery adventure. It’s worthy on its own merits, and does not require any knowledge of ICRPG, even though the setting Alfheim is used as a world in the game. The narrative feels deeper and more engaging than the short length would suggest, and it’s actually pretty darned epic.

However, I cannot recommend the ebook edition on Kindle as it is in awful shape from poor conversion. I made 358 highlights as I painfully read through this, and the vast majority of those were about sometimes egregious formatting errors. There were a few other errors, and a couple regular highlights, in the mix, but the formatting issues are overwhelming. So, pick up the print edition, or wait for the electronic text to get updated at some point.

Because of the sheer number of highlights about formatting issues and only having made a handful of non-issue highlights, I’m not making any of them public; but I did send them all to the author directly. (If I hadn’t been making notes to send to the author, I would have given up reading halfway through.) So, I hope a future update will make this good story possible to read for those buying the electronic version.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow