Grim Gears

I would like to introduce a game that I have talked about in the past. Grim Gears. For quite a while, I have been interested in a movement called OSR, or Old School Renaissance. Though, for the longest time I did not get a chance to try out that style of play with my group. However, eventually we tried a game called Lamentations of the Flame Princess. From this point, my view on RPGs shifted. We began to play more and more of OSR style, and I developed my own system for it.

I have also been working on a setting of mine. A dark fantasy clock-punk world where airships and cosmic abominations are the norm, and witch hunting is a favorite past time. This world is called Himinil, and I have been struggling for a home for it. At first, I was going to make it a setting for Gates. But, that did not feel right. Gates is an action oriented, hero-simulator. Himinil is not about heros. What it is about is the struggle between faith and magic, law and freedom, and survival. It took a while, but I finally connected the two. Make Himinil into an OSR game. 

I had a homebrew system that I was playing, which evolved into a game called Stone and Spear. It was about playing as cavemen starting civilisation. Moving passed that game, it turned into M.O.S.S. A generic RPG that was a bit too generic for its own good. Now, finally, I have solidified the idea into Grim Gears. So, let’s talk about what it is.

Grim gears is a game about surviving the witch hunts while gaining as much treasure as possible. You are soldiers, mages, cultists, or even witches that have nothing else to do except to hunt for treasure and loot monsters. Here is a rundown of the mechanics, rules, and tidbits. 

  • Sandbox play. Grim Gears is meant to be played as a sandbox, with rules for generating hex-maps, sailing through the skies, and generating encounters and challenges.
  • Class based game. Each character chooses from Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Magic-user, Elf, Dwarf, and Witch. Clerics, magic-users, and witches each have different mechanics for magic.
    • Fighters are simple. They are tough and fight well.
    • Rogues have a selection of talents that they can use to make themselves more skilled.
    • Clerics are more like cultists of dead religions. They are hunted for being heretics and using foul magic. Their prayer system gives them freedom to cast magic as they see fit, but each cast risks their gods wrath. They do not like to be bothered.
    • Magic-users have a new magic system. Each spell has four levels, and when a mage casts a spell they may choose what level they cast it at. Though, this is limited by level.
    • Elves are short fae. Child sized, and magical. They are like a combination of fighter, rogue, and magic-user.
    • Dwarves are tough and crafty. They are clock makers and warriors. Though, their numbers are low.
    • Witches are fun, but dangerous. Their magic system, Wyrd magic, is a soft-magic system. Where almost any magic can be performed, but failing to cast it can have deadly consequences.
  • Roll under. Stats are low, and it is difficult to succeed at even simple die rolls (unless you are a rogue). This is on purpose. I want players to avoid solutions where they have to roll dice at every opportunity. Why try to jump a pit when you can solve the solution with a clever use of tools or spells?
  • Modularity. The game has several optional rules that can be pieced on or removed from the game. This allows a GM to make the game into what they want it to be. It also gives me plenty of room for future content. 
  • Witch hunts. Rules for the public viewing the characters as a danger, mobs, and witch hunters make it difficult for characters to use magic in public.
  • Monster Generation. Instead of a long list of possible monsters, Grim Gears takes a generative approach. Rules for generating monsters, dragons, Ghouls (orcs and goblins), Rippers (clockwork abominations), Lycanthropes, Fae, cults, and witch hunters. This means a game can be played with no prep, but it does require a lot of dice rolls. 
  • Merchant based equipment. Instead of a list of items, Grim Gears applies its generative approach to its equipment instead. A list of merchants is provided, with rules for populating their shops with objects, and rules for those objects.
  • Alchemy. Alchemy rules allow players to seek out ingredients and craft their own potions with a fun mini-game. These potions are interesting, rather than generic. Instead of an invisibility potion, it’s a potion that turns you into smoke, for example.

Like I mentioned before, Himinil takes a large roll in Grim Gears. Though, any dark fantasy setting can be played in it. The following is a rundown of the setting.

  • Veritism. The faith of veritism has taken over the world completely. They worship an entity called The Truth, but it provides no clerics. They are deeply suspicious of magic, and send witch hunters and inquisitors to seek out practitioners of it, and destroy them.
  • Clockwork. The world is run by clockwork. Airships, clockwork devices, and clockwork weapons are used. 
  • The Great War. 20 years ago or so, the Great War ended. Essentially a world war which boosted all sides technology, and has created a new peace.
  • A crumbling world. Each of the 13 nations of Himinil are on the brink of destruction. Civil war, unrest, conflict, and other issues give players the potential to save the world. It is up to the players to save who they wish to.

The 15 realms are…

Bitter Winds and Vadath

One of the three largest realms. It is mostly land, a large continent. It is a realm of giant monsters, cold survival, and a dichotomy of progression and tradition.

Noble Clouds and Krithia

The second largest realm and the one presented in this book.  A continent where it rains often. It is a land aesthetically similar to renaissance period England. It has themes of nobility versus peasantry, witch hunts, and the church.

Windy Wilds and Mokso

The third major realm of Himinil. It is a wide continent of plains. This realm has anarchists, trains, and civilisation.

Unmappable Sky

The unmappable sky is a realm filled with many islands with secret ways to find. It is a realm of treasure hunting, temple running, and magical maps.

Unkind Sky 

This realm is ruled by a witch of crows. It is a place of freaks, carnivals, and birds.

Stormy Sky

A realm of pirates, deadly storms, and dangerous port towns.

The Sky Below

The home of the dwarves and a realm with much more going on inside the islands, than on-top.

Searing Clouds

A realm of fire and ash. A realm of deadly firestorms and blazing monsters. 

Jeweled Sky 

A realm of magic and home of the elves. It is a realm most similar to the default medieval fantasy setting.

Cloudless Desert 

A realm of sand and heat. A dessert place with ancient tombs and mummy warlocks.

Sky of Silver Clouds

The home of the talons of the sea and a realm about honor, duty, and illusion.

Broken Expanse

A jungle realm with the highest density of islands. A place of hidden peoples, forgotten cities, and island exploration.

Umbral Clouds

A dark realm of Gothic horror and grim people.

Star Sky

A sky far above the rest. Rumored to exist, but often not believed in. It is the home of the dragons.

The final Rest

A realm with no islands and the highest chance to witness a Nerre rising from the sea.


Here is a snapshot of the game in progress. It should be everything you need to play it, except for the casting classes. The full version will have art by Kent Willmeth, all of the tools I mentioned before, and a full list of spells.

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