My cultural awakening

I have decided that I’m no longer trying to produce anything that borrows artistic, lingual and religious traits from other cultures (than my own). As a North American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, I am pretty much the very worst kind of creature to do that.

This isn’t out of fear, but respect.

I was undertaking a project that was a fantasy world inspired by Pacific aboriginal cultures (Koru). I thought I was being original and creating greater cultural diversity in a hobby rife with Northern European settings. I was doing my research and everything (or I thought that I was, but it was barely competent and from books and blogs, not people). It’s gross how much I was patting myself on the back.

Such works should only be made either in collaboration with people who are from those ethnic cultures, or wholly by them alone. If there aren’t any game designers from those groups, them maybe these works shouldn’t be made in the first place.

So where to go from here? I’ll be wholly avoiding creating works with analogues of real world indigenous peoples. It sounds racist, but I’m sticking to my own heritage: making an effort to find wonder and pride in my ancestors.

There’s still room for explorations of German, Swedish and Scottish culture and history. The mainstream has created stereotyped caricatures of them, but there’s a lot left to unearth. I have no ethical qualms about this: these are my histories, my people. I will make an effort to learn and find pride in my great-grandparents. There’s a lot to learn that isn’t in pop culture.

I sincerely hope that some day a game will be made inspired by Pacific Aboriginals, but more importantly, made by people from those cultures. If I ever see one in progress, I’ll give them my support from the sidelines.

I have to admit that I am a bit selfishly sad: my passion for Koru was genuine and huge. But it was the wrong project for a person of my identity.




Here is an old article that I never published for Koru. It focuses on an optional humanoid race evolved from Trilobites (which are the most numerous wild animal on Island World.

Even though it’s a bit rough, and likely will change a lot when the final book goes it, it’s worth checking out!

The Trilobite folk are bipedal humanoids who share an ancestry with the most common arthropods on Koru. While there are three varieties, each with some major distinctions, they all a set of hard, segmented plates going down from the top of their heads down their backs and along their short tails. While they have lost most of their ancestors’  many limbs they have kept the ability to roll up into a hard, armored ball for defence and mobility.


There are three “types” of Trilobite-folk. All three are Amphibious, have Natural Armor (of varying degrees) and can roll up into an Armor Ball.

1. Deep: these are the ones who most resemble their ancestors: they are shorter than other humanoids (roughly 3 to 4 feet tall) and have four sets of limbs. They can assume a bipedal stance by standing on two sets of “legs”. Their insect-like hands are completely unable to use tools or weapons designed for human hands, but their hard chitinous armor allows them to naturally replicate just about any basic tool. Their Natural Armor is the toughest (Plate Armor). A choice for players who wish to be very non-human and alien.

2. Tidal: Their Natural Armor holds the middle ground in terms of hardness (Chain Mail). A choice for players who wish to be unique but still relate-able to near-humans, like Dwarves, Gnomes or Halflings.

3. Shallow: the most human-like of this folk. Their dorsal armor is slimmer and more flexible, allowing them greater mobility at the cost of less protection. While they still possess two sets of arms, the lower pair are almost completely vestigial: too small and weak to perform any arduous tasks beyond lifting small objects. Their faces are almost completely human except for their segmented irises and their mouths which, while closed, look small, but while opened completely split open the lower halves of their faces into long mandibles and maxilla “fingers”. Their hands, are slimmer and more flexible, allowing them to use human tools. Their Natural Armor is the least hard (Leather Armor). A good choice for players wanting to be very nearly human but visually different with minor differences to set themselves apart, like Elves, Half-Elves or Half-Orcs.

People of the Tides

As with the slow movement of the moons and tides, these people have profound ideologies around peaceful and deliberate lives. They rarely act hastily or without some deliberation beforehand.



Labyrinth Lord (or OSR game of choice)

As Dwarves, except replace their racial abilities with the following:

Their unique physique prevents them from being able to use weapons, armor or tools made for human use. However their limbs function perfectly for most tools needed for hammering, cutting, digging or scraping (they do not need tools for most tasks).

Armored Shell: Trilobites have a natural AC of 5 from the tough shells on their backs.

Amphibious: Trilobites can breathe equally well underwater as above land. However prolonged exposure to a dry environment will have consequences on their health. Reduce each of their saving throws by 1 for each entire day spent away from a body of water large enough for them to be fully immersed.

Armor Ball: Trilobites may roll up into a tough ball. This form makes them nearly invulnerable (Armor class of 4) and their movement speed of 150′(50′). However they cannot perform any actions except rolling around and smashing into things (attack as a war hammer, dealing 1d6 damage).

Dungeon World

Coming soon


Koru: Harm system

So in my upcoming setting + game, one of the ideas is to take inspiration from my favourite games. I wanted to create a health and injury system that was less abstracted than plain numerical values (i.e., hit points).

I’ve drawn ideas from:

  1. Apocalypse World
  2. World of Darkness
  3. Torchbearer

The basic idea is this: Harm has a spread something like this on your character sheet:

  • [] Want
  • [] Strain
  • [] Fatigue
  • [] Injury
  • [] Illness

When you take Harm from any source, you check the first (or next) box in the sequence. So if you haven’t checked anything yet, you mark Want. If you already had Want checked, you’d check Strain. This represents how much your character can take or bounce back from external sources of trauma. For a while you can just get a bit winded, tired or dehydrated from fighting monsters. Eventually, though, if you don’t recover, you’re opening yourself to far worse consequences (i.e., injuries and illnesses).


Recovering from each step requires greater time and resources. For example, to recover from Want, you need to have some food or water in your inventory or at least a turn (in combat) to catch your breath.

  • Want: you just need to catch your breath, eat or drink to replenish yourself. Takes only a moment.
  • Strain: you are emotionally or even mentally drained or upset to some degree and need to calm down, try to relax and collect yourself. Takes a few minutes.
  • Fatigue: you are physically drained and need rest. That means doing nothing strenuous for, say, an hour. Like a Short Rest in D&D 5e.
  • Injury: requires medical or magical attention. This is serious, like a bleeding wound or a broken bone. Requires a longer period of time to recover from an injury; say, at least 8 hours. Like a Long Rest in D&D 5e.
  • Illness: requires recurring, persistent medical or magical attention over a longer period of time. This is very serious: infections, fever, disease and such. Takes a much longer time to recover: a week (at least).

These timings are for a more “heroic” feel and if a group wanted more grittiness or whatever, they could make them take much longer. An Injury could take a week and Illness a month, if you wanted.


If ever all of your Harm boxes are full and you take more Harm, then you die. Plain and simple.

Bonus Boxes


A character’s age plays an important role in Koru. Amongst other things that it determines about a hero, it also affects how much Harm that they can take.

This is handled by applying extra “boxes” for Want. Youths have two extra Want boxes. Prime aged characters have one. Elders have none.

Having multiple checks in a type of Harm has no effect on recovery times.


Armor provides an extra box for Injury. Thicker, more effective armor just lasts longer, in game terms (Koru will use the “Usage Die” mechanic from the Black Hack).

Other protection and abilities

Some of these Harm boxes will increase depending on other factors, such as enchantments, good equipment or even special abilities. A Shaman, for example, who is an expert at healing, can grant other characters an extra temporary Illness box (if the right conditions are met).


I have yet to play-test these rules, but I’m liking how they look on “paper”.