Session 0: The Isle of Xavius

In which I outline some rules, create two characters, generate a backstory, and set the opening scene.

Session 0: The Isle of Xavius
Photo by Alperen Yazgı / Unsplash

In my last post, I announced I was starting a solo TTRPG campaign to give me a creative outlet while I develop a new web app that’s taken all of my writing time. I’m going to set the campaign on an unpleasant, festering little island somewhere in the archipelago of Alashiya. I plan to dive in and out of sessions as I have the time. Thus begins my session 0, where I outline the rules, create a character or two, generate a backstory, and an opening scene.

The rules…

This is a game, as much as it is a narrative, and games need rules. The core ruleset I’ve chosen is Ben Milton’s Knave, a lightweight fantasy toolkit built for compatibility with old-school D&D. I like it because it’s simple, hackable, and released under a generous Creative Commons licence that encourages modifications.

And modify I shall, namely as follows:

  • Change the flavour of the included medieval material to suit my Classical Aegean-style setting.
  • Replace gridded combat with combat zones as used by Index Card RPG, et al. I like gridded combat, but I find zones and theatre of the mind work best for narrative-heavy solo play.
  • Merge Knave’s fixed saving throw mechanic with Index Card RPG’s concept of a room DC.
  • Replace Knave’s advantage mechanic with Index Card RPG’s easy and hard rolls, which I find to be more narrative — it really sucks rolling > 10 on two dice when you’re supposed to have an advantage…
  • Make spells last more than single use but can only be used once per day — treating magic like a condom just feels weird to me.

At some point, maybe after a few sessions to kick the tyres, I’ll write these rules up and share them with the world — or at least document them for my use.

Solo and accessory tools

While the core rules should work well for resolving most conflicts, solo play requires oracular and generative tools to act as the absentee Dungeon Master. To this end, I’ll use the following:

  • A Lonely Knave for my primary oracle. It has a nice, compact d20-based table for use as a yes/no oracle.
  • Mythic GM Emulator. From this, I’ll take the concept of the threads list and use its Event focus, meaning and subject tables when I need something meatier than a yes/no answer.
  • The Universal NPC Emulator. From this, I’ll use the tables when I want to flesh out an NPCs motivations.

Other prompts

In addition to the above, I’ve bought and collected numerous resources to serve as prompts and inspiration. There are too many to name, so I’ll write up a post of my favourites later.

The Characters

One of the many things I love about Knave is the speed by which characters are generated — and it’s even faster when you write a Python script to automate it! Because it’s so easy, I can knock up full character sheets for every character — both the player characters and NPCs. But let us start with our two unlikely heroes who will form the beginnings of this adventure…


Caleope is a former tracker who has suffered the misfortune of being abandoned. She speaks in a strong dialect, has a sinewy build with a wide face and weathered skin. She has wiry, unkempt hair, and wears the livery of her former command. Furthermore, she is disciplined but driven by vengeance. Her alignment is chaotic, and she is straight. She owes a debt of honour to a cult.

Ability Bonus Defence Item Slots Item Slots
Strength +1 11 1. Rations, 1 day 11.
Dex/Agility +1 11 2. Rations, 1 day 12.
Constitution +1 11 3. bow (d6, 1 slots, two-handed, 3 quality, quiver with 20 arrows) 13.
Intelligence +1 11 4. padded-linen armour, quality 3 14.
Wisdom +2 12 5. lantern 15.
Charisma +1 11 6. tent 16.
Armour +2 12 7. nails 17.
Hit Points 8/8 Max Heal 1d8+1 8. bell 18.
Exploration Speed 120 9. animal trap 19.
Combat Speed 40 10. brooch (boon) 20.


Kallipides is a former student who has suffered the misfortune of being discredited. He has flowery speech, a slender build with a patrician face and tanned skin. His hair is long, and he wears torn clothes. He is honest to a fault but is also whiny, particularly in the face of privations. His alignment is neutral, and he is gay. He owes a debt of 1,000 cp to a college.

Ability Bonus Defence Item Slots Item Slots
Strength +1 11 1. Rations, 1 day 11.
Dex/Agility +1 11 2. Rations, 1 day 12.
Constitution +1 11 3. dagger (d6, 1 slots, 3 quality ) 13.
Intelligence +2 12 4. padded-linen armour, quality 3, 1 slots 14.
Wisdom +1 11 5. chain, 10ft 15.
Charisma +1 11 6. lamp oil 16.
Armour +2 12 7. perfume 17.
Hit Points 6/6 Max Heal 1d8+1 8. bell 18.
Exploration Speed 120 9. quill and ink 19.
Combat Speed 40 10. Spell stone (boon) 20.

Set up

Well, they’re an interesting bunch — a rough and ready outdoors woman shafted by her command and a sophisticated urbanite who’s fallen from grace. For the record, I generated both randomly but tweaked their inventory to match the picture forming in my head. Interestingly enough, that only meant swapping their weapons and the animal trap for the quill and ink.

I also decided to hand out a couple of boons — a spell stone containing a single spell to Kallipedes, and a brooch to Caleope that once belonged to an unnamed foreigner. I’ll get back to these later.


So, the first thing I want to know is how these two met, and for that, I’ll roll against the event tables in the MGE.

MGE event meaning roll
Action: 88 Control
Subject: 96 The Public

Well, that’s pretty explicit. Caleope and Kallipedes met during a time of civil unrest, in which Caleope’s command was called upon to suppress an uprising. I would like to know if this uprising occurred in one of the four main settlements. I don’t know the odds, so I won’t weight the roll.

Oracular roll: unweighted
Rolled 15: Yes

Which settlement?

d4 roll against the island's four most populous settlements
Rolled 3: Fála

Given Kallipedes’ background as a student, I’m going to make Fála a place of learning, most likely religious in nature, but I’ll ask the oracle to make sure.

Oracular roll: weighted as likely
Rolled 19: Yes

So, Fála is a monastic or priestly college that was splintered into two factions by some kind of uprising. Where did Kallipedes’ loyalties lie in this uprising? Was he on the side of the authorities? Given he’s neutral, I’m going to make this an unweighted roll.

Oracular roll: unweighted
Rolled 16: Yes

Yes, Kallipedes was on the side of the authorities, which would put him on the same side as Caleope who was part of the force sent to suppress the uprising. However, Caleope was abandoned by her company, so was she injured during the fight?

Oracular roll: unweighted
Rolled 6: No but...

No, she wasn’t injured, but something else happened to cause her company to abandon her. Let’s do a meaning roll to find out why.

MGE event meaning roll
Action 59: Agree
Subject 15: The innocent

Okay, interesting. Caleope, for whatever reason, found herself at odds with the authorities and her command and switched sides to the aggrieved faction. As a result of this, Caleope was cast out and abandoned, but she was protected by the faction and owes a debt of honour.

Did Kallipedes also have a change of heart as a result of this conflict? I’m going to say it’s likely, given his honest disposition, and it must have been a pretty grim affair to make Caleope turn.

Oracular roll: likely
Rolled 11: Shakeup

So a shakeup is a complication or plot twist in which the original question isn’t really valid anymore. I’ll roll against the event focus and meanings.

MGE event focus and meaning roll
Rolled 73: PC positive
Action 58: Betray
Subject 75: A burden

Okay, so Kallipedes betrayed a burden, and I’ll interpret the burden as his religious vows. This actually feeds nicely into his misfortune of being discredited. Kallipedes was accused, rightly or wrongly, for breaking his vows and has been fined 1000 copper pieces and given three months (1d12) to repay his debt or else be cast out for good. Penniless and without the protection of the order, he needs to return home to (1d4) Plákardira to raise the funds and bribe his way back to an honourable life.

I want to know if Caleope agreed to help him. It is unclear to me why she would unless it has something to do with her debt of honour to the losing side. But let’s ask the question.

Oracular roll: unweighted
Rolled 10: Shakeup

Another shakeup. Why has Caleope agreed to help or travel with Kallipedes?

MGE event focus and meaning roll
Rolled 50: Move away from a threat
Action 3: Environment
Subject 86: Fears

Okay, so Caleope has agreed to travel with Kallipedes out of a sense of necessity or threat. Something in Fálas or the area surrounding it has made her afraid, and without the support of her former command, she’s decided to travel with Kallipedes through the wilds of Xavius merely out of expediency. They aren’t natural allies; they don’t even like each other overly much, but they both need to leave Fálas, and that’s enough to bring them together…

On to session 1

In session 1, we’ll join Caleope and Kallipedes on the road from Fálas, and you’ll forgive me if resort to using a hex crawl while I find my feet!

Our starting threads are:

  • What has frightened Caleope and forced her to flee?
  • Kallipedes must return to Plákardira and raise 1000 copper pieces within 3 months.