Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Son Works His Magic

On our vacation, my son Elias (age 8) has been working on a series of new classes and races for AD&D: half-ogre, half-troll, bomber, general, mage. (Actually, for Labyrinth Lord AEC if you want to pick nits.) They remind me of Arduin more than anything. More about that another time. For now, here are three sweet spells he wrote for the mage class.

Big Lock
Level 1
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent
This spell creates a huge elaborate lock on a door. All attempts to pick the lock of this door are twice as difficult as they would otherwise be: for these purposes halve the thief's skill.

Level 1
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 hour per caster level
This spell instills persistence in hirelings. They receive a -2 on all morale checks for the spell's duration.

Level 2 [edited]
Range: 60'
Duration: Special
This spell creates an invisible chain that tethers the target to one spot. He will remain tethered until he manages to roll 5d6 under his strength.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Sir Tresken the Vigilant, Rest in Power

Sir Tresken the Vigilant was the first to step through Ultan's door, the first human in a century to travel from the waking world to Zyan, flying pearl of the dreamlands. During many expeditions in that twilight realm his exploits were daring and remarkable. On his first excursion he slew the corpulent sow, torpid mother of the malevolent white swine. Soon after, he raided the catacombs of the Fleischguild, liberating treasure from shambling horrors and guild butchers. Much later, he traveled to the true planar temple of their deity, Vulgatis, where he slew her demonic organisms with impunity.  Sir Tresken tracked down the location of the lost legendary hanging Summer Palace of the Incandescent Kings, the El Dorado of the dreamlands. And he recovered from the cenotaph of the Lady Shirishanu her legendary Petal Blade. It was with the Petal Blade that he cut down the Shadow Weaver, beloved of Azmarane, spinner of countless soldiers out of the stuff of darkness.

Sir Tresken also won the Twin Saddle of Vyanir, fashioned by Saint Garanax, the founder of his order, the dread Storm Riders. Garanax had used it to break the first of the war crows, leading them from the inverted White Jungle to the waking world. Sir Tresken followed in Saint Garanax's footsteps. Each traveled to Wishery from Rastingdrung through a shimmering door. Each served the same two mistresses. In the waking world, Tresken was the sworn servant of the Chatelaine of Storms, the witch queen from whom he drew his powers. But in Wishery, the Petal Blade bound him to the memory of the Lady Shirishanu, legendary poet-warrior paramour of the last of the Incandescent Kings. Had he lived longer Sir Tresken too would have broken wild crows and been the stuff of fairy tales.

At the moment he died, the Chatelaine was drinking her tea as she inspected the sample cakes of her pastry chef for the Festival of the Sybarites. Their long love-hate relationship was a source of constant amusement to her, and she was preparing a particularly acerbic remark about the quality of the lime icing when her hand began to inexplicably tremble. Tea spilt in a cascade down her damask gown, and her eyes darkened. For reasons she did not understand, for the first time in long years she became afraid, not of the present, but of what was to come. The carefully prepared retort died on her lips, and hastily approving the splendid cakes, she withdrew to quiet her nerves, feeling suddenly alone in the halls filled with fawning courtiers.

At that same moment, in Wishery, as Tresken's life blood poured from a mortal wound onto the dueling ground, the Petal Blade gave a keening cry, a wave of raw grief that burst upon all at the pagodas of the hanging merchants. Fat Malichar burst instantly into tears, and even Nekalimon who hoped against hope that Tresken would be slain felt so sickened that he spilled the precious moonstones he was counting into the chasm below. The Petal Blade grieved on behalf of its mistress, and all of Zyan, for the waning of the hope that had begun to dawn in that hopeless place.

Sir Tresken died in the forty first session of our campaign. May he rest in power.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Zyan Below

At the bottom of the undercity, the offal sinks and great sewer river spill into Zyan Below. Here a fecund and ever blooming white jungle grows like a pallid reflection of the gilded towers above glimpsed in the fetid waters of a still pond. It springs from the base of the floating island downwards, a dense riot of immense fungal blooms, and thick snaking vines covered in flowers that look like the jeweled wings of insects. The place is the surreal nightmare of a jungle. The breast of a bird will open to reveal pale, trembling petals, on which its blind young feed with snaking tongues. The line between insect, animal, and plant is not respected.  Often, it is hard to tell where one living thing stops and another begins.

Zyan Below can be divided into four levels. Each level is represented by a hex map, composed of hexes one half mile wide and high. These maps are stacked one on top of another. While I cannot reveal the maps (alas!) since they are all in play, I can tell you a little bit about the levels, which are these.

The Brambles (Level 1)

A deep loamy soil is caked to the uneven bottom of the rock of Zyan. At the base of the great tree systems, enormous root balls burst from this fertile ground. From this firm anchor spring down the immense trunks that disappear into a black chasm below. In this dark wooded free-falling expanse, storm clouds gather, pouring forth occasional showers of stinking offal rain that feed the jungle below. After the lightless chasm of cyclopean trunks, the trees branch out into interconnected brambly thickets. In these nighted tunnels, the air is hot and dank, reeking of pungent decay. Fungal blooms are everywhere, and strange rotting plants that have the look of offal. Here on may find, among other things, the Cenotaph of the Lady Shirishanu, and the tempting mossy road that leads to the lair of the Empty Witch. 

The Depths (Level 2)

As one travels down from the brambles, a dim grey light dawns and fetid stink is replaced by a fragrance sweet and sharp. Here the white jungle blooms forth with the alabaster fronts of ferns, accented at bursts by jewel-like flowers, and clumps of unnatural fruit, oozing a milky sap. The sounds of life and death are everywhere, the buzz of insects competing with the staccato cries of strange birds, punctuated by the unsettling roar of alien beasts. Here life intertwined in lethal cycles that will devour unwary travelers. This is the living, beating heart of the jungle, in all its lurid glory. Here one may gaze upon the Emerald Pools, a massive waterway of pitcher plants that spill down to glistening ponds below, or brave ruined temples, now the roosts of lamia. It is here too that one may find the abode of the chittering masons, or the eerie valley of the flowers, where lies the wreckage of the Parapraxis, a fine vessel that once sailed the oneiric seas.

The Bright Groves (Level 3)

As one travels further down, the trees become thinner. Here, the air is bright, and a fresh breeze sways the leaves. Birds take wing, flitting amongst the luscious fruit and enchanting flowers. In this airy vertical forest, alien horrors slide up and down with frightening rapidity. The latticework is patchy, and broken, and travel here is difficult. Much of the fauna is floating or gliding, and it is here that the great lens plants can be found that channel the light of the Endless Azure Sea up to the Depths above. It is in these luminous groves that nobles built their pleasure grounds and swaying manses at the zenith of Zyan's power. Here one may find the legendary Summer Palace of the Incandescent Kings. 

The Dangling Isles (Level 4)

In a few places, the forest extends further still, penetrating the Endless Azure sea that surrounds Zyan on all sides. These dangling forest isles are buffeted by fierce winds and fogs of white downy cloud. Here, the strange aquatic life of the surrounding sea penetrates the jungle. Amongst blossoms of coral, flying fish move in the eddies of air, laying their eggs amongst thick swaying reeds. Potent artifacts washed up by the currents lie tangled in the groves here, which are stalked by strange beings born of the boreal winds that blow through the Azure Sea. The demons of the wind have their foothold here, including Bazekop the Prince of the West Wind, whose invisible towers can be approached across a slender crystal bridge. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Old School(s): Reflections

I want to make explicit some shared assumptions and practices of the people whom I play old school Dungeons & Dragons with online. I thought it would be useful to have this post here, as something I could link to later. Part of my point is the obvious one that "old school" means a bunch of different things that sometimes it's helpful to disambiguate. But my main point is that some things that some people seem to think are incompatible actually go together like peanut butter and honey.

I'm going to describe four different sets of things that I look for a game. I think these things are widely valued by all the people I play with and form the basis of a culture of google+ hangout gaming that is one of the best things about the OSR scene, but I speak for myself (obviously). To be clear, I don't mean to putting down games that differ from the ones I like. I rather mean to be making explicit a set of values that are realized in a certain community and a certain style of game. There are other values, different ways to weight the same values, and other ways to realize (some) of them through play.

Here's what I want from a game. I want an open world. Railroading is the pits. Adventure paths take all the fun out playing. The world should be the players' oyster. The whole glorious point is to see what unexpected things emerge when a group of creative people put their heads together in anarchic unscripted play. This entails that the dungeon master should strive to set up open-ended situations. There should be hexmaps, pointcrawls, location-based adventures. There should be encounter tables, treasure tables, carousing tables, what have  you. There should be factions, and schemers so that vectors of force move through the game to some extent independent of the players, which the players can then interact with in fun and unexpected ways. Rules should be structured so that players can make real and informed choices, often tactical. The whole point is to enable people to interact in meaningful ways with a developing environment.

This doesn't involve giving the players narrative control over the setting. The players play their characters. It's through the choices of their characters that the delicious chaos unfolds. They do not "help the DM write the story". No one is writing a story. Stories emerge from play and are not scripted, not scripted by the players, and not scripted by the dungeon master. If the player could just change some story element, this would actually take away from the sense that they are interacting with an independent world. There are no story elements, we're not thinking in terms of telling a story. As a DM, it's hard to emphasize how much fun all this is. The glory of setting up a situation in the full knowledge that you don't know what is going to happen, and then seeing it go in some unanticipated direction is almost an elemental pleasure.

William Hope Hodgson's vision was fucking weird 

Here's the second thing I enjoy in a game. It's not as important as the first thing, but it is important. I enjoy games that are fed by vaguely Appendix N sources of inspiration. (The list is open-ended and always shifting and reaches up to the present.) Let there be the cunning rogues of Vance, the opium dreams of Dunsany, the dying suns of  C.A. Smith, the pulp glory of Robert E. Howard, the freakishness of William Hodgson, the bleak metaphysics of Gene Wolf, and the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft. With Vancian picaresque lies the aesthetic appeal of what initially appears the most hopelessly reductive equation of early D&D 1 GP=1 XP. This elegant equation at one stroke guarantees a game of low-cunning rogues who may, or may not, end up joining the rebellion if they want to.

The third thing I enjoy about the culture of G+ gaming is a heavy DIY approach. The idea is that you're not being fed some pre-packaged goods by a game corporation. It's a community of people who value tinkering, changing, innovating. We love the craft. Some of us are artists, others graphic designers, others writers, and so on. We love making our own maps, as nice as we can; we draw; we make miniatures; we hand produce zines; we build terrain. We constantly share ideas with one another, rules, settings, spells, items, maps, and so on. We're curious about what other people are doing, and take inspiration from all sides. There's a lot of teaching that goes on, and the spread of useful techniques and ideas.

How could you not love this guy?

Before he invented D&D, Gary Gygax spent his time building numerous different sets of rules for war games. Sometimes he built a set of rules for a single battle. And he didn't do it alone! He was at the center of a vibrant community, connecting whole groups of people who loved sharing their endlessly tinkered rulesets in newsletters. Those guys had to invent everything from the ground up, their own rules, their miniatures, their own terrain, their own sand tables. This is the kind of milieu and mindset out of which D&D emerged.

There are some consequences for rules, although not as much as you might think. They can be complicated, but they should be hackable. It can be fun to run a game straight, but it's usually more fun to tinker a bit. Complicated character builds and byzantine resolutions systems that are on the verge of falling apart if one gear is removed do not lend themselves very easily to this sort of thing. On the other hand, modular systems, and numerous sub-systems do. Potion miscibility. Thieves skills. Intelligent magical swords. Simplicity has its charms here too. There's something about stripping something down and building it back up that lends itself to clever innovation. But simplicity isn't necessary; AD&D is the default in my mind, and Call of Cthulhu's basic roleplaying chassis isn't exactly simple, but one can ring endless changes on it.

The fourth thing I want from a game, whether I'm the player or the dungeon master is a strongly imagined setting that is a joy to engage with. I want there to be mysteries. I want it to be full of wonder. I want to imagine things together that I wouldn't have imagined alone. I want it to be good and weird. I don't want to play in the Forgotten Realms. At its best Greyhawk could be weird at the margins (Vault of the Drow, Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun). But, to be honest, running AD&D straight from the implied setting in the Monster Manual, along with the Greyhawk Folio, is not going to cut it for me. I want a setting to blow my mind. I want Tekumel. I want HMS Apollyon. I want Kutalik's slavic weird. I want to play in Michael Raston's mutated jungles, or Gabor Lux's lurid science fantasy islands, or M. Diaz's Pernicious Albion, or to crawl through the Veins of the Earth. In the culture that I prize, this kind of lushly imagined setting is hugely valued. It's a consequence that one thing that I don't want are generic modules, supplements, etc. that can immediately be plugged into any campaign supposing only that it's a renn faire + orcs type of setting. Why would I want that? That's not the kind of game I want to play in, and that's not the kind of game I want to run. (I want things that are well-designed and usable, but not generic.)


Now, the main point I want to make is this. The fourth thing I want from a game stands in no tension at all with the other things I want from a game. First of all, it's connected to the love of Appendix N type books, since these are all wildly imaginative books that depart from known assumptions to present strange and lurid worlds. Second, a setting is not the same as a pre-scripted story. It's not the same as an adventure path. A setting is where a sandbox is located. It's the milieu in which open-ended adventures are to be had. It's the home of point-crawls, hexcrawls, location-based dungeons. It's the place where factions live, literally. Being interested in the setting of a game is not in any tension with numerous old school ways of playing. For example, you have learned something about locations on a hexmap. One of your reasons for wanting to go to point A in particular to do your extracting of precious metals is that it sounds totally badass and you ache to know what is going on there. In an open-ended tactical game, you want to know about a setting because it's useful information to make important decisions. Knowing about X will give you a leg up when trying to get faction Y to help deal with faction Z. But if the game world is amazing, then ferreting out the relevant information is glorious.

However, spurious arguments abound. I have heard it argued that having a distinctive and highly imaginative setting of one's own requires handing players a manual to read. The thought is that this takes away from the anarchic and gamist elements of play I mentioned in my first point by forcing the players to read a thinly veiled piece of gaming fiction. I have heard it argued that having a strongly imagined setting also makes it difficult to interact with the environment, because it removes the set of assumptions that allow the players to make meaningful choice.These are the kind of arguments people make when they've never seen a good DM handle a setting properly. Sure, it helps to make a bit of orienting material available to players in some digestible form, for example, a couple of blog posts. But it's also possible to learn about a setting entirely in game making meaningful choices all along the way.

Ultan's Door

For example, in the game I've been running now for almost two years, the players have a home base in a city in the Wilderlands. It's cute, with a pleasure cult and witch queen, but well within ordinary sword and sorcery type bounds. However, the game has mostly been played through Ultan's door, a door in that appeared under the stairs of a printmaker's shop. It has opened to the sewers and catacombs of Zyan, a flying city in the dreamlands. The players have learned about the strange world of Wishery through dungeon crawling, point crawling, hexcrawling, and faction play, all on the other side of Ultan's Door. I usually write a blog post about something after its been discovered in game. No one has to read it who was playing in the game, since they've already lived it, and perhaps burned it to the ground. Of course, context accumulates, as is vivid to me now that new players are joining in almost two years into the game. But context accumulates in any campaign that's lasted for a good spell.

Morals. Here are some different things we might mean by old school: (1) open ended adventure through meaningful interaction with an independent environment (no railroads, adventure paths, or story gaming). (2) drawing on some of the same literally sources, and their living inheritors, that influenced Gygax, Arneson, Barker, et al. (3) a DIY approach of making art, tinkering, innovating, in terms of rules, in terms of setting, in terms of game concepts, drawing, drafting, etc. I have mentioned a fourth thing that is not especially old school (or new school): (4) a desire for wildly imaginative settings. I have argued that (4) stands in no tension with (1)-(3) in the hands of a competent DM. To be sure, (4) does stand in tension with something else that also has a claim to being old school. This is: (5) Using some original and well-played game as is along with its implied or explicit setting, for example, AD&D with Greyhawk. This is obviously old school too. So what?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rules for the White Jungle, Take Two

This is my second attempt at presenting rules for a vertical hexcrawl through the White Jungle, an inverted jungle in the dreamlands that hangs from the bottom of a flying city. You can see the first attempt here

In developing rules for the exploration of Zyanbelow, I have balanced two competing impulses. On the one hand, adventuring in a vertical wilderness sandbox of inimical and unseemly life ought be perilous. Most of the all, there must be a way to emphasize the ever-present possibility of plunging to ones death. On the other hand, negotiating at length what sort of system of the party will use to tie itself off, and the minutiae of how they physically move on these strange expeditions, much less in the heat of combat, seems utterly foreign to the aesthetics of a game set in the dreamlands. I have responded to these difficulties by introducing a set of abstract rules emphasizing resource management, always in some connection with the fear of falling. The idea is that the players will experience the strains of travelling in this vertical heavenly hell through the game-like choices they make and the high-stakes rolls that result from their choices.


PCs can move in three dimensions in the White Jungle. They may travel up, down, or any of the six normal hex directions. Moving any normal direction costs 1 hex of movement. Moving up a hex costs 2 hexes of movement. Moving down a hex costs 1 point of movement. There are three levels of security that PCs can employ while traversing the White Jungle that affect their base movement rate: unsecured, lightly secured, and heavily secured. Characters should declare a marching order for travel. If they are lightly or heavily secured, then this marching order can be at most two abreast. 

Unsecured: When unsecured, the PCs are traveling without some system of ropes. They can travel more quickly this way, moving 5 hexes worth of movement a day. However, this is the most dangerous option, since it does not provide a bonus to the all important fall checks.

Lightly Secured: PCs are traveling with some system of ropes, but are keeping it loose. They may travel 4 hexes a day. They receive +1 to their fall checks.

Heavily Secured: PCs are traveling with a system of ropes, and are playing it safe. They may travel 3 hexes a day. They receive a +2 to their fall checks.

Pushing it: The party may opt to move an additional hex before resting for the night, but this hazards fatigue. The rules for the White Jungle use a series of conditions to keep track of the effects of fatigue on the party. The first hex requires everyone to roll 4d6 under con. The second, and all further, hexes requires everyone to roll 5d6 under con. Those failing each roll move one condition down the chain of fatigue conditions, listed below.

Fatigue Conditions

There are four fatigue conditions of increasing severity arranged on a chain: alert, tired, exhausted, and collapsing. These conditions can provide penalties to rolls, including fall checks, as people become wearier and less careful. Alert characters suffer no penalties. Tired characters receive -1 on all rolls, including fall checks. Exhausted character receive -2 on all rolls. Collapsing characters receive -3. Characters at tired or worse cannot memorize new spells. Collapsing characters cannot move hexes.


-1 to all rolls; cannot memorize spells
-2 to all rolls; cannot memorize spells
-3 to all rolls; cannot memorize spells; cannot move hexes

Gary Chalk, obviously

Starvation and Dehydration

There are two types of rations: food and water. Each ration provides sufficient food or water for one character per day. If one does not eat or drink then one begins to move down the chain of fatigue conditions. Once one has a condition arising from thirst or hunger, one must consume an extra ration of the relevant type to remove the condition. Note that conditions stack. For example, a starving character who is exhausted from starvation and also fails the first check when pushing it will move down the chain from exhausted to collapsing. There is no worse condition than collapsing. 

Days Without

When supplies are getting low, characters may ration food or water by consuming only a half share. Those who consume a half share must test 3d6 under constitution the first day, and 4d6 under constitution on the second and later days. Any failed checks involve moving one link down the chain of conditions.


Resting for the night removes any conditions arising from pushing it the previously day. (It has no effect on conditions arising from starvation and dehydration.) However, it is hard to get a good night’s sleep in a latticework of branches. Without having proper gear, e.g. a hammock, those sleeping amongst the branches must make a 3d6 under CON check to get a good night's rest. Failure means starting the day out one down on the chain of fatigue conditions. (Note that spellcasters who start the day tired or worse cannot memorize new spells.) A night of good rest removes this condition.

Getting Lost

When moving through unexplored hexes without landmarks to navigate by, there is a 1 in 4 chance per day that the party will become lost. (If the party contains a ranger, the chance drops to 1 in 10.) The DM will dice randomly to see in what hex they became lost and move them from that point on in a random direction. On the following day a new check is made. Provided the party does not fail, they will then realize that they are lost, although will not know in what direction they have moved or how far. (They may then try to backtrack.) If they stumble upon a previously explored hex, they will also realize their error as well as their current location.

Logan Knight


Players must keep precise, numbered records of what they are carrying in the White Jungle. Each player may also choose one item that is secure. The secure item will be the last one lost if one fails a fall check. For these purposes worn clothing, jewelry, or packs, do not count as items. Small items can be bundled using common sense. Four flasks of oil count as one item, as do four torches. Two rations count as one item.

There are four levels of encumbrance used for travelling the White Jungle: unencumbered, lightly encumbered, heavily encumbered, and severely encumbered. These are calculated using a system of encumbrance points. These statuses have consequences for the player’s fall check modifier. (The mechanics here mostly derive from LoTFP.) 

Total Encumbrance Points
Fall Check Modifier
Lightly Encumbered
Heavily Encumbered
Severely Encumbered

Relevant Condition
Encumbrance Points
Strength 15+
Strength 6-
Carrying 1-5 Items
Carrying 6-10 Items
Carrying 11-15 Items
Carrying 16-20 Items
Carrying 21-25 Items
Carrying 26-30 Items
Wearing Chainmail or Scale Mail
Wearing Platemail

Encounter Checks

Every time the party enters a new hex, there is a 1 in 6 chance of an encounter. There is also a 1 in 6 chance of encounter per night of rest. If an encounter is rolled, the DM should check to see if either or both parties are surprised (2 in 6). Next the DM should determine distance. Unless the party is surprised, creatures encountered will start 2d6x10 feet from the party. Roll a 1d6 for their relative elevation: (1-2) lower, (3-4) the same, (5-6) higher. Assume that you can move 1/3 your normal move during a combat round, given the difficulty of the terrain.


Unless the party is surprised, they will confront a creature in their marching order. (If surprised a creature may flank the party, attacking back ranks.) In combat, a character can move ¼ their move safely as a full action. If they wish to move up to ½ their move, they must make a fall check.

If characters in the back ranks want to move up to flank an enemy that is engaged with the front rank, they must go off the rope, losing bonuses to fall checks from being secured. Characters that flank an opponent get +1 to hit. One may also spend a round changing elevation. Those attacking from a higher elevation receive +1 to hit.

Thieves who wish to backstab must also detach themselves from the rope and spend one round getting in to position. The stealth roll here is interpreted as looking for a vulnerability in an already engaged opponent to exploit. If a thief fails the stealth roll she may still attack as normal on the next round with the +1 for flanking rather than the +4 for backstab. A thief may only backstab once per fight against intelligent opponents.

Falling Checks

A falling check is incurred if something happens that would be likely to make someone fall, for example, being buffeted by sudden winds, or hit by a fireball. However, the most common instigator of fall checks is damage in melee combat. Every time a character or monster suffers damage in melee combat, it must make a fall check. (Most missile weapons do not induce a fall check.)

Characters have a base fall check of 1, unless they are thieves, in which case their base fall check is whatever their climbing skill is. This base is then subject to a variety of modifiers summarized below to arrive at a total fall check number. Falling checks are made by rolling 1d6 equal to or beneath ones fall check score, unless ones score is 6 or higher. The fall check ascends the dice chain. If ones score is 6 then one fails by rolling an 8 on 1d8, if 7 one fails by rolling a 10 on 1d10, if 8 by rolling 12 on 1d12, if 9 by rolling 20 on 1d20, and if 10 or higher by rolling 100 on 1d100.

Relevant Condition
Relevant Condition
Normal Dex (7-14)
Lightly Encumbered
High Dex (15+)
Heavily Encumbered
Low Dex (6-)
Severely Encumbered
In The Brambles (Level 1)
In The Depths (Level 2)
Lightly Secured
In the Bright Groves (Level 3)
Heavily Secured
In the Dangling Isles (Level 4)

Results of Failing a Fall Check

If someone fail a fall check, then she will begin falling. Someone falling will fall the entire distance she falls in one round. She must make a series of checks. For the first check she fails, she will fall 50’. She will lose 1d4 items rolled randomly from her equipment list of numbered slots, losing all items in the slots rolled. She must make a saving throw vs. paralysis to avoid taking 1d6 hit points of damage. She then gets a second climb check to stop her fall. This second check must be made without any bonus previously had for being secured. If she fails this second roll, she falls 100’ further and must lose 1d4 more items and save vs. paralysis or take 2d6 damage. For the third failure and every failure thereafter, she will fall 150’, lose an additional 1d4 items, and save vs. paralysis or take 3d6 damage. Characters who fall can move as normal to rejoin the party during combat.

First Failed Check
Lose 1d4 Item Slots
Save vs. Paralysis or Take 1d6 Dam
Make Second Fall Check (No Bonus for Being Secured)
Second Failed Check
Lose 1d4 Item Slots
Save vs. Paralysis or Take 2d6 Dam
Make Third Fall Check
Third and Later Failed Checks
Lose 1d4 Item Slots
Save vs. Paralysis or Take 3d6 Dam
Make Another Fall Check

Example of Falling Rules in Play

Celwin the Conquerer (F3) is traveling in Level 2 of the white jungle. His strength is 16 and his Dex is 10. He is wearing chain armor, and carries 11 items. He receives one encumbrance point for his armor, two more for carrying 11-15 items, but subtracts one since his strength is over 15. This leaves him with 2 encumbrance points, making him lightly encumbered. He is playing it safe and so is heavily secured with ropes. Given that he is a fighter, his base climb skill is 1. His total modifiers are: Normal Dex +0, The Depths (Level 2) +2, lightly encumbered +0, heavily secured +2. So to make a climb check he must roll 5 or under on 1d6.

Celwin has a base move of 3 hexes per day. He passes through two hexes without incident (no checks necessary), but in the third hex he is attacked by a faceless lion. After clouding his intellect in the first round with the alien images that flit across the white expanse where its face ought to be, in the second round it strikes some good blows, batting him around like a rag doll. He must now roll a falling check.

Bad luck! He rolls a 6. He has now fallen 50'. He rolls 1d4 to see how many slots of items he loses, rolling a 1. He dices to see what has tumbled into the jungle below, losing two water rations. He now must save vs. paralysis. He makes the save, managing not to take major damage on his plummet down.

He now makes a second fall check without the bonus for being heavily secured to see whether he can catch himself. So he must now roll a 3 or under. His bad luck again, missing with a 4! Now he falls 100'. He rolls 1d4 to see how many items he loses, this time rolling a 3. He loses his hammock (2 slots) and his lantern. He makes another save vs. paralysis, failing this time and taking 2d6 damage. He loses 7 points of his 10 remaining hit points!

Sweating, Celwin’s player now makes a third falling check. This time he just passes with a 3! His head is bloodied from a terrible blow against a tree, but he has stopped his fall, clinging desperately to a branch at 150' lower than he was originally. The lion looks briefly for a route down before giving up in frustration. Celwin shakily pulls himself to his feet, wiping blood from his eyes.