Microlite20 Revised Draft

For a long time, Microlite20 (M20) hasn’t been the most friendly game to newcomers. General vagueness of text (especially in the magic section) meant that gamers had to often refer to the standard d20 SRD.

To resolve that the M20 Rules Cyclopedia was made. This was tricky though because it wasn’t really a replacement rulebook, but instead of the collection of optional rules.

While this is nice a helpful twitter user pointed out that it was frustrating that they either had to send someone to the less detailed original M20 documents, or to the gangly Rules Cyclopedia.


That was such a HUGE oversight and I want to make sure to fix that now! Below is a download link to the current version of the Microlite20 core rules.

Functionally the rules are the same they have merely been much more clearly presented to make sure you don’t have to reference any other document to play.


The document is artificially large now because it needs a way more efficient layout. So please review this with the content in mind. because once we’ve gotten this through community feedback on the forum

Once we’ve gotten this through community feedback on the forum, it will get a nice proper layout with real art and everything!


So grab a copy of the rules and join us in the forums to discuss it!

Healing that even @TheAngryGM would like?

There are a lot of changes happening in with the Cleric class around domains. While the details are currently being hashed out with Patreon Patrons in the slack channel, the short story is that not every cleric will be able to heal people.

This creates and interesting dilema around healing that we’ve been discussing. Ultimatley some sort of healing mechanism should be added in, it was just a matter of what.

A lot of inspiration for this came from the excellent post that the Angry GM put up called Hitting the Reset Button that discusses how various editions of the game have handled healing. What we ultmatley came up with in the slack group is what we are hoping is a really interesting (and well paced) healing mechanic.

To accomplish this we delve into the healing systems for 2nd edition, 4th edition, and 5th edition of the d20 system


The idea of this healing system is to allow natural healing (because it’s semi realistic), but also allow characters to get a boost of HP in moments of need. This all has to be balanced so that it doesn’t feel like every night is like hitting the reset button, but also so that characters are not constantly taking weeks of recovery time.

The system worked up in the slack group is roughly as follows.

  • HP represents total level of fatigue
  • HD represents being able to push past extremes, which you can only do so much.
  • HP and HD are acrued at a natural rate which “feels” more realistic.

Maximum HD =’s level

  • Pushing (or what ever): standard action lets you spend 1 + STR Mod dice to heal +2 AC till next turn.

Natural Recovery

  • 1 hp + 1hd per day
  • 3 hp + 1hd per day bed rest

We’d love to here your thoughts on this healing system.

Additionally, either joining the free mailing list or becoming a supporting patron is an awesome way to be part of these discussions at ground level. This week we’ll be continuing to hash things out regarding changes to clerics.

Decision fatigue, and taking the dice from the GM

For some who know me on a more personal level, they are familiar with my habit of trying to reduce decisions to improve my life. I do things like where the same outfit every day, and buzz my own hair once a week.

I do this because having a full time job, older house, son, and all the M20 work adds up to a lot of choices. Every decision we make contributes towards a cumulative decision fatigue, that genuinely impairs our decision making abilities.

I bring this up because we expect our GM’s to make a lot of decisions. They function alone in Decision avoidancemaking all these choices, while the players have the ability to off load some of the choices on their end between each other.


But what real effect could this have on play?

Every time the GM has to perform calculations on their end they are making decisions that interrupt their train of thought, and continue to compound their decision fatigue. The result is that GM’s often start overlooking rules, or even simplifying story elements.

We’ve all probably seen the GM who is  totally on point in lower level games, but as the complexity of higher levels starts piling on they start to gloss over elements and miss things. This is a result of a persons unconscious decision avoidance taking over to try and relieve the burden of choice. Luckily we can help these poor GM’s keep their strides and remain nimble in their narratives.


There is a great alternate rule posted over at that suggests taking the dice from the GM. The short of the rules are as follows:


Attribute Values

  • Players subtrack 10 from their AC
  • When being attacked the GM adds +11 to any attack values of the NPCs


  • When the players are attacked they must roll a d20 and add it to their AC.
    • If they roll above the value they dodge
    • If they roll a 1 the enemy critically succeeds
  • If struck the GM can either choose to roll damage like they normally would, or just deal what the “average” damage would be.

Saving Throws

  • Add +11 to all base save values for an opponent
    • 1d20 + spell level + ability modiferWhen the player would normally force a save instead they roll


I’d love to hear your thoughts on your experience with GM dice rolling over on the m20 reddit!

  • Has a game ever been negatively impacted because of the GM having to do to much bookkeeping?
  • Have you ever had a positive or negative experience with a GM not rolling dice?

Also don’t forget to join our Epic List so that you can keep update when new Microlite20 Rules Cyclopedia updates are released. Additionally, I’m still working on my own more story game style games that make use of more narrative rules: like no GM rolls.

Blog Carnival: OneNote to Rule Them All

Checking in this months entry to the RPG Blog Carnival. This months focus is on game master tools and tips, and my post is about the glory that is OneNote.

What is OneNote?

OneNote is not only my digital command center for life, but also a damn fine gaming tool. For those who don’t know what it is I’ll start with a brief breakdown.

The simple version:

OneNote is what would happen if Evernote was a good program.


The longer version:

OneNote is a program that organizes digital notebooks for the user in a structured way:

  • Notebooks: the highest level of structure that is very much the equivalent of a physical notebook
  • Sections: the next level of organization are topical sections that divide up your pages
    • Section Groups: sections can also be grouped into the equivalent of folders
  • Pages: powerful sheets that you can use for free form note taking

Pages are incredibly powerful and flexible capture tools. You can hand-write onto them (and convert it text), embed audio/video, attach files, input text, shapes and tables. There are even more crazy things you can do with onenote pages, but I’ll leave those for you to discover :).

How do you game with it?

First off you’ll probably want to start up a gaming notebook. Sections should be fine enough for each campaign, and you can keep all your games in one spot. Next let’s setup our gaming notebook for play.


Don’t get worried about perfecting your setup. One of the beautiful things about OneNote is that you can drag and drop section within (and between) notebooks. Let things start simple and just arrange things as they grow. Below is probably a good example of how simple your notebook can start.



I personally keep all my inspirations in my “command center” journal (maybe I’ll talk about that another day) but you might want to use here. You can amass a collection of gaming inspiration by embedding files, clipping webpages and jotting down notes on the fly.


Each game can get it’s own section to start. You can embed any rule books you’ll need, and make special notes on the alternate rules you might be using. From there you can also keep notes on,

  • PC’s (Player Characters) and NPC’s (Non-Player Characters)
  • locations
  • events
  • timelines
  • sessions

This way when you come up with something on the fly you can quickly capture it for later reference, including those on the spot rules decisions.


For those playing in the same setting frequently you might consider starting up your own sections devoted to those settings. As the players continue their exploits you can even track any effects they have on the setting. If the setting gets big enough, you need not worry because you can just create it’s own notebook and move the section over to it.


We’re sure you’ll have long healthy gaming careers, so keeping a section group where you can move campaigns too after you’re finished with them is a good way to keep things from getting cluttered up. You may also find it useful to be able to look back at past adventures for nostalgia or to steal ideas for a convention game.


I’m sure the second I hit submit I’m going to thing of a million more ideas for this, so keep an eye out for a follow up.

In the meantime I’d love to here you’re thoughts on the Reddit about productivity tools in your games!

Also don’t forget to join our Epic Mailing List so that you can keep update when new Microlite20 Rules Cyclopedia updates are released.

What Your First Dungeon Says About Your Campaign

Hi everyone – Ian here. As part of my work here, I’ll be posting odds and ends like this – general advice, cool ideas, project updates and the like.

                                                         Artwork by Bryan Gough!
                                                         Artwork by Bryan Gough!

So, when starting a campaign, most GMs will pick a quick dungeon off the internet to drop in as their players first intro to the world. We’ve all done it – I’m particularly fond of the One Page Dungeon entries to get something fun and unique.

But the first game of your campaign can really set the expected tone of the rest of the game. Imagine you signed on for a game of intrigue, politics and mercantile adventures – yet your first game involves delving into a dungeon to save the world from a Cthuloid menace. It creates a gulf between the game you want, and the game you have.


I decided to set my current game in Vornheim, which meant I needed to emphasise a few things: the urban setting, the weird-fantasy touches, and the city’s guilds and customs.

So, when discussing the players background, some were given ins with various Guilds within the city – the Thief was a member of the Honest Craftsman Guild (aka the Thieves Guild), the Fighter worked for several Mercenary and Bodyguard’s Guilds, and the Cleric had a few friends from his Church in town.

The Weird Fantasy feel was brought through in a few ways – the Wood Elf player was given the background of Vornheim’s Wild Elves (fur-wearing winter rangers, ruled by Frost Giants, sharpened teeth and no taboo against cannibalism), and the players were introduced to some of Vornheim’s weirder aspects as background details (seeing nobles walking Slow Pets, encountering NPCs from the weirder parts of the globe).

Now all I needed was a module that fit the tone I was looking for. Luckily, with a few tweaks, The Jeweller That Dealt in Stardust, a Dungeon Crawl Classics module, fit the bill perfectly – without spoiling too much, the players are tasked with doing a little leg-breaking on a Thieves Guild fence who fell behind on his dues. As you might guess, weird shit on an almost cosmic level ensues (one hireling died, the Wizard went crazy, good times all round).

The adventure has multiple routes of attack, several cool encounters, and a whole dollop of Weird. It set the tone for the upcoming adventures (so far, taking down a bandit gang, a giant snail-napping, a quick trip through Death Frost Doom and dealing with the consequences of their excursion) remarkably well. The players now have contacts in the city, know how to abuse the Guild system to their own ends, and have seen first-hand how they deal with their own. The only thing they haven’t run up against (yet) is Vornheim’s ridiculously esoteric legal system, but that’s pretty much assured to be coming soon.


And the same can be said for any game – you have to consider the tone, feel, and content of the game you want to play.

Do you want dark and gritty? Look for hard moral choices, grimy environs, and deadly threats (mostly of the human variety). A high rate of lethality wouldn’t hurt matters either.

Light-hearted, cliché-filled fun? Look for the “classic” D&D starter modules – Keep on The Borderlands, In Search of the Unknown… anything older that can have a layer of loving parody added on top. Or anything Hackmaster, where the modules come pre-parodied!

Over-the-top action? Look for big cinematic set pieces, huge villains, and ridiculously badass characterisation.

Weird Fantasy? You want bizarre magic items, strange environmental factors, unusual mechanical factors (like time-travel, dimension-switching, or some other strange game effect that only lasts for one dungeon), and traps and monsters with long-lasting consequences (such as mutations, permanent injuries, or infectious monsterism).  


There are literally thousands of dungeons floating about on the internet for free, and a quick root about your FLGS will no doubt churn up a few more on the cheap. Even if you’re not sure about the content, pick them up – you never know when one little set-piece or encounter would fit perfectly into your next game. A few thematic changes here and there, and you can make an entirely unique experience from a handful of pre-made parts!

So if you’re looking for a good way to kick off a campaign – do a little research and make sure your first adventure sets up what you want from your game. And if it doesn’t, tear it apart and stitch it back together until it does.


  • What did the first first dungeon of your last/current game say about your campaign?
  • Creating and new game and you’d like help setting the campaigns tone?
    Head over to our r/m20 to discuss!

Major Update: New Rules & New Designer

[The link to the latest Rules Cyclopedia update is at the bottom of the post so read on!]
I am not just excited to be announcing this update because of new rules (more classes and races!), but because Microlite20 is bringing on a new designer to the team. Ian Coakley from the “Of Dice and Men” blog is partnering up with me to help kick things up a notch around here.

What Ian brings

For those familiar with a lot of the hacks I have done, you know that I have a leaning towards the modern “modern story game” style of play. While plenty of folks enjoy it, many of you really like the old school RPG style, and Ian falls into this more traditional realm… unless I corrupt him 🙂

For those of you who haven’t read “Of Dice & Men” (Ian’s excellent blog) you’ll know that he is excellent when it comes to the quality of his content. I have long ducked in and out of his blog, and used his advances in pretty much all my games since I found them.

What this means

Being a one man show, with a family and job can make hitting a deadline a bit tricky. Luckily two people with families and jobs makes almost 1 normal persons allotment of free time. Using the super powers of team work we plan to more consistently hit the deadlines that we’ve personally committed too.

Aside from just hitting deadlines though, this additional time will allow us to both branch out with new and exciting M20 material. We’ve been talking about a lot of different little settings we want to work on together, as well as a handful of other little projects.

What to expect

We’ve talked about it and we are going to go once monthly with the Rules Cyclopedia updates. The reason is that we want to reduce the number of times that you guys have to return to download. This will also reduce the total amount of work for us to put the same amount of content out.

Expect more “media” activity. By that I mean more regular blog posting, keeping to a weekly newsletter update and general interaction. For a long time interacting with the community in general has been trumped by getting work done on more admin things, but with two people that should be changing :).

One of the most exciting things about this partnership is the opportunity for both of us to get some really creative new content out. A big focus of my recent efforts has been on curating what is already out there.  Now we have the chance to work on a lot of stand along awesome products that we are jazzed about, and of course keep curating ;P

Rules Cyclopedia

Since you have waited so patiently, don’t forget to check out the new Rules Cyclopedia update at our

Lets talk about that

We’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions and hopes about this new partnership and what it means for the community. Please feel free to post over at the m20 reddit!

M20 modern fantasy

I was recently reading an article Ed Ortiz wrote about contemporary fantasy settings that really interested me. His article focused primarily on the concept of a fantasy setting that has advanced to a modern era: as opposed to it just injecting fantasy into our world. 

This article on top of the recent discussions in the M20 community about possibly a Shadow Run inspired mini setting, has me thinking that I might want to have the next Microlite20 Rules Cyclopedia include some M20 Modern material. I’m going to be doing a few posts as I explore this idea, but first I’d like to talk about some of the thoughts I’m rolling with to start.

I was recently reading an article Ed Ortiz wrote about contemporary fantasy settings that really interested me. His article focused primarily on the concept of a fantasy setting that has advanced to a modern era: as opposed to it just injecting fantasy into our world. 

This article on top of the recent discussions in the M20 community about possibly a Shadow Run inspired mini setting, has me thinking that I might want to have the next Microlite20 Rules Cyclopedia include some M20 Modern material. I’m going to be doing a few posts as I explore this idea, but first I’d like to talk about some of the thoughts I’m rolling with to start. 


The basic idea here is to imagine a fantasy world (think like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings) but then advance things to a modern-ish age setting. 

Technology vs Magic? 

Technology is often seen as a tremendously antagonistic to the advancement of magic. Often one wanes in the others growth. I’d like to see a society where magic and technology work hand in hand.

The idea I am running with is that magic users themselves were a primary driver for the rise in technology. I’m basing this theory on the fact that people who are highly technical at a skill (FIREBALL!) will often try to find ways to automate processes (CANNONBALL!) in order to focus on more important things.

This means that you still have mages performing highly complex and fancy spells that technology can’t replicate (yet) or even just simple quick things off highhandedly. Wizards are like the makers and programmers of society, and knowing some arcana is handy for when you need to do something around the house and can’t run out to the store.


The idea here is that society is near-ish future. Importantly though, this is also a fantasy setting, and so there will be some big departures from society as we are familiar.

I do plan to have multiple fantasy races naturally occurring within the world, but I have this idea in my head of an early industrial magical boom. As part of this I’m thinking of having a natural disaster that caused massive disfigurement in large portions of the population. This wide spread disfigurement will have actually caused a proliferation of sub-races.

Another aspect that would obviously need to be addressed would be social economics. 

I also imagine that while many kingdoms and empires existed across the planet the boarder-less guilds, and merchant societies have risen to prominent places of power. While I want powerful corporations far beyond the likes of what we have today, I don’t know that I want the a Shadow Run level of autonomy from governments.


A big question when it comes to something like this is what level of (if at all) other planes of existence and deities play in things. What makes these areas tricky, is the inherent determinations they make about the setting.

Omnipotent style active gods could totally work, but isn’t exactly the feel I’m going for. As far as gods I am thinking of going with a more they walk among us vibe. These will be powerful ageless entities that have moved into the background of society over time. 

Another aspect to consider is the overall cosmology of the setting in general. I’m thinking of doing a planets and stars style “material” plane similar to our reality, but also co-mingle that slightly with other planes of existence.

I know that an Under Dark style environment will exist within the setting, but I plan for the plane itself to be malevolent and it’s own thing. This other realm will be pushing and breaching its way into existence, much to the detriment of the material realm. Beyond that, I am thinking of sticking to purely energy based elemental planes (maybe even tie them into computers) and then some random pocket dimensions. 


Another major concern is what exactly the overall story possibilities are within the setting.


I’m still going to need to add some overall big picture stuff over time, but I do have some thoughts already.

  • Under Dark: there is definitely something going on behind the scenes. What is known now is that the Under Dark is some form of other plane that breaches the material plane. In some cases it lets things out, but in others this lets things in.
  • Gods: the gods have faded in power, and in the largest remaining empire are even hunted. Though their power dwindles and the ichor of their decedents thins, they play at their own machinations.
  • Elementals: I’m playing with the idea that elementals on their own planes are simply flowing primal energy. I was playing with the interesting idea that software is the weaving of this energy channeled through physical conduits. If I’m going with this theory I kind of like the idea of being on the verge of nearly AI levels of elementals.
  • Political unrest: in this setting one empire predominately rules


Unlike their traditional counterparts, common adventurer can’t just run around kicking down doors and robbing people: well technically they could. Adventuring groups could have a variety of motivations for drawing them together.

  • Government agents or independent investigators investigating under dark anomalies.
  • Agents working for clandestine organizations.
  • Mercenaries performing military operations.
  • Criminals staking out their empires.

There are so many more options you can riff off that I’m sure will crop up as the setting idea solidifies.


I plan to continue this series and wrap it up in some mini setting guide. I’d love to hear what the community would either like to see in a setting like this, or what you’d like elaborated on that was already mentioned.

If you’d like to help support to continued creation of Microlite20 gaming content consider supporting the community through Patreon!


Ed Ortiz (Contemporary Fantasy Setting: Adventurers in the Modern Day)

Shadow Run (affiliate link

Game of Thrones (affiliate link)

Lord of the Rings (affiliate link)

M20 Rules Cyclopedia Alpha Release

The M20 Rules Cyclopedia is an exciting project to gather together the multitude of rules and resources from the community into a single reference source. I’m pretty excited overall about this and I’d like to share a bit about what to expect, why I’m doing this and where we go from here.

The M20 Rules Cyclopedia is an exciting project to gather together the multitude of rules and resources from the community into a single reference source. I’m pretty excited overall about this and I’d like to share a bit about what to expect, why I’m doing this and where we go from here.

Dazed and Confused

As with many microlite games vagueness comes with the territory. Over time those new to gaming (or at least this level of spartan rules) will become more acclimated with the idea that they know what is cool, and when the rules don’t account for any given moment they’ll just roll with it.

Not all things can be cleanly hand waved though; this largely applies to the magic system. When magic was trimmed down to its original microlite20 format, a lot of things like saving throw details and attack details were stripped out. For someone fluent in the d20 system we take common things (like magic missiles automatically hitting) when these really can’t be inferred to a casual/novice player.

The most frequent questions to be made to the community surround things like “how does x spell work?” or “is x spell really this powerful?”. The most frequent  answer for these types of questions really unfortunately is usually refer to the System Reference Document (SRD) of the game this one is based on… annoying to say the least.

Another area people can some times run into problems is knowing where to start. There is just so much awesome content out there that at first it can be overwhelming. Overall, the volume of information isn’t terrible because it is easily digestible, but there is a lack of organized indexing and categorizing of this information.


Another thing that bothers me industry wide is the lack of widespread ebook format use. I feel like there is a large opportunity being missed, and I want to help solve it. 

This is pretty exciting because if you want ebook rpgs your choices are pretty limited, but after the initial round of feedback from the alpha draft that will change. I’ll be packaging up the M20 Rules Cyclopedia in not just PDF and .docx format but also epub, and shipping it off to the below channels:

  • Kobo
  • Kindle
  • Nook
  • iBooks
  • Smashwords
  • RPGNow
  • Patreon*


This is a trickier part because rules are going to keep trickling in over time and this is going to require continued revision. Because of that there won’t be a physical product released, I find the idea of it to be wasteful: though I’m not opposed to physical versions of other future products. On a weekly/biweekly bases (depending on the size of a given mod) I’ll be pushing regularly updated files out. 

The Patreon folks will obviously be getting the rough drafts of things about a week early so they can directly provide input into the development process. After that time I’ll push updates out all the other channels.

If you want to check out the current alpha of the game please feel free to reach visit the patreon page here. The first creator post is public. Since this alpha is primarily focused on document structure and content presentation it only contains up to level 5 for characters. Once I incorporate feedback I’ll add the rest of the content and the first mod or so.