No-Prep Skeleton Adventure Gaming

An Implementation of Arise, Kill, & Eat
Daniel J. Davis
Spooktober 2018
Version 1

Version 1 is going to have broken links and be a bit rough. But I believe in you.


Click on the images to go to the main generators & resources.

You can listen to an actual play of it at gg no re.



This is a way to play reverse D&D, no-prep (from your phone if you want to), with S K E L L I N G T O N S.

You can play it with whatever system you want. The default is 5e D&D because I’m a corporate shill (and it’s free for players and the ref). But come on, it’s all the same.

Print out all this stuff:

Character Sheets 💀 Downtime 💀 Dungeon Map 💀 Overland Map 💀 Player Dashboard

The PCs are newly freed skeletons, but adventurers are already in the dungeon! And someone’s going to be the new SKELETON LORD. Deal with those things right now. Later, try to remember  who you were, and figure out how the skeletons should deal with the outside world, i.e., how will the SKELETON WAR go?


The game has one object for the players, individually considered, and a different object for the ref.

Player Object: make your story happen. That is, through play, attempt to bring your developing vision of your character’s story to fruition. You may fail, say, if your character dies before completing the goals you have in mind for him; or you may succeed, if you get what you wanted for your character. What you want for you character is not static; it may change as you encounter unexpected events through play. You will be constantly reevaluating how well you are playing in this regard.

Ref Object: make the setting ever more compelling. That is, at the end of each session, are you more interested in your setting? Do you want to see what happens there? Do you want to see what will happen to the player characters? Secondarily, do you think the players are finding the setting ever more compelling?


Read this part to the players.





So saith THE NECROMANCER as he gasps his last.

There’s an arrow in his back. Blood pools about your metatarsals.

THE ADVENTURERS will be here soon.

THE BONE THRONE sits vacant.

Put this on:


Have a Skeleton PC for each player. To make a PC Skeleton, print a RATTLED character sheet. Then either use the generator below or consult the Manual PC Generation Appendix.


Reroll ability scores? Players can reroll ability scores if you want, or take the default skeleton stats.

Grab a mini & battle mat. This is a game “playable with paper and pencil and miniature figures.”


Everyone should have a 💀 PC now. Read this to the players:

The BONE THRONE sits vacant.

The ETCHED SKULL that the NECROMANCER used to keep you ever-reanimated lies by his corpse. It is slick with his blood.

Whoever seizes and holds the ETCHED SKULL will become SKELETON LORD and command your LEGION.

Whoever desires lordship, put forward your mini.

Make a Strength (Athletics) check, and we’ll see how many others are vying for it against you.

Follow these steps to resolve the encounter:

  1. Roll 3d12 to see how many other skeletons are in the PC Legion.
  2. Roll d4 to see how many NPCs seek to seize the Skull.
  3. Make Strength (Athletics) checks for the NPC Skeletons and compare against the checks of the PCs.

Is there a tie on the highest check? If so, read:

Whoever tied for the highest is grasping the skull and struggling for it against the others.

The other Skeletons watch in the total darkness of the throne room.

All who tied, make Strength (Athletics) checks until there’s a winner.

Now, there’s a clear winner. Read this:

The winner takes his place on the BONE THRONE, holding the ETCHED SKULL.

Now, form the phalanx and hear your rank assignments.

Here you will assign initial ranks in the Skeleton Army.

  1. Consult the Appendix: Skeleton Army Rank.
  2. Start with Tribune, reading its description
  3. Ask if any PC wants to have that rank
  4. If a PC is Skeleton Lord, ask that player to choose who receives the rank
  5. If an NPC is Skeleton Lord, whichever PC wants the rank will get it
  6. If more than one PC want the same rank, randomly determine who gets it
  7. Repeat until all ranks below Legate (Skeleton Lord) have been read and assigned to anyone who desires

Make sure you write your current rank on your character sheet.

Now, bring out the Dungeon Map.

Play begins in Area B, in the location labeled START.

Bring out the Downtime Actions sheet and read this:

This is the downtime phase of play.

The pressing issue is the Adventurers who killed Necromancer. They are in your dungeon, somewhere. Your memories of this place are vague.

Everyone, make a Charisma check. In order of the checks, you’ll pick a Downtime Action from the Downtime Action sheet.

Follow the rules for the downtime actions.

Henceforth, you’ll be reactive to the actions of the players. Use the Referee Dashboard to keep yourself organized.


Pay attention to when certain things happen and respond accordingly.

  • A player fails a check. Bring an Encounter.
  • A Downtime Action succeeds. Downtime proceeds to the next player.
  • A fight happens. Run the fight like a normal D&D fight. A player can spend Calcium to reroll any die he’s rolled. Calcium resets to 0 at the end of the fight.
  • A player can’t decide what to do. Bring an Encounter.

Downtime 💀 Dungeon Map 💀 Overland Map 💀 Ranks 💀 Skeleton War 💀 Encounters 💀 Plots 💀 Monsters 💀 Treasure


Your object is to make the setting ever more compelling.

Skeleton War

Waste a Location. When the party takes this action:

  • grab a Location
  • sketch out a map of the listed terrain.

Generate it. Generate the hostiles per the CR of the location.

Situation check. The party leader makes a Perception check:

  • Compare to the Situation DCs of the Location.
  • Take the result of the highest DC that the check hit.
  • On a miss, take the worst.
  • Change terrain accordingly if called for.

Play out the fight. This is the deciding skirmish in the battle; assume they have been fighting for some time already.

Retreat. Treasonous! Wisdom check vs self to be able to retreat.

Success. Roll on the treasure table per the CR of the location to get the drops. (Make sure you’re using the hoard generator, not the individual.)

XP. XP for kills (use the 5e value or else just 100/HD).

Further Encounters. You may add additional areas. Repeat process above. The victory is not decisive until all areas are cleansed.

Build the Dungeon

For every 100 GP recovered, the players decide how to build the dungeon (choose one):

  • expand by a 10×10 square (or 100 square feet)
  • add a secret door
  • add/upgrade a simple trap (arrow, spear, pit)
  • bling an existing area (gilding the bone throne, bas-reliefs)


Follow the player Downtime procedures. React with Encounters.


When there’s a lull or in reaction to a failed check, pick one.

The point of Encounters is to see if the PCs change. That’s drama. After you set up each encounter, ask How do you react? Resolve their actions, and bring a relevant Encounter when appropriate.


The party sees evidence of a hostile force. Determine what it is and where they are; then give a hint to the players: material objects, a view, footsteps, carcasses. Write the specifics on a notecard and reserve for later fights.


Ideally escalates a Hostiles encounter. Generate the encounter; set up the terrain, and follow the Skeleton War rules.


The Skeleton Lord commands PCs to Scout or Waste a Location or engage in a particular Mission (q.v.).


Advance a Plot. The next logical step will happen.


Trigger the PC Downtime action Remember for any PC.


A PC witnesses evidence of intent to desert or actual desertion.


An NPC acts against the interests of the Army, a PC, or an NPC due to misunderstanding, prejudice, or illusion.


Plots are not foregone conclusions; they are opportunities.

Bring in a Plot as an Encounter. A Plot advances the agenda of something that threatens:

  • the ideals of the Skeleton Army
  • the strength of the Skeleton Army
  • the interests of a PC or an NPC
  • the understanding of the world

Incompetent Skeleton Lord (NPC Only)

He just isn’t very good at Skeleton Lording.

Treasonous Skeleton Lord (NPC Only)

The Skeleton Lord’s incompetence or the potency of the enemy is no accident at all. Reasons: love, enthrallment, nihilism.

Beneficent Necromancer

Introduce a necromancer who wishes to add to the numbers of the Skeleton Army but not keep the Skeletons under his command. Doubtful all in the Army will accept. Paranoia likely.

Regular Necromancer

A necromancer appears, with or without an army, perhaps pretending to be beneficent, but in reality seeking control.

The Inquisition

The Holy Inquisition is making sorties from the Holy City to root out all undead and necromancy in the region.


A powerful chivalrous knight and his retinue is on a personal mission to cleanse the region of undead. But he is a mere man.


An influential Skeleton in the Legion begins working signs and proclaiming a divine purpose for the Legion. Dubious.


The Skeleton Lord may have more complicated objects.

Skeleton War

The Lord commands you move against a known Location.


The Lord commands you to scout out a Location. This is the same as the Scout Downtime Action.


Return [an important figure] to the dungeon.


SPOOK the inhabitants away from an area to obtain its (perhaps magical?) resources. The inhabitants are too strong for you to cleanse right now; and thus we are pressed to this extremity.


Make an alliance with the inhabitants of a Location for mutual benefit in defense or offense against another Location’s denizens.


Take a location and construct a shrine or arcanum there.


Roll Downtime initiative with Charisma.

  • Choose and play actions in turn.
  • Each action will have at least one ability check.
  • +1 Calcium.
  • Something goes sideways; ref may bring Encounter.

Scout: Wisdom (Survival) vs Terrain DC

Lead a scouting party to scope out settlements and lairs.

  • Ask or command skeletons to join the scouting party
  • Choose an area on the overland map
  • Make a Wisdom (Survival) check for each day of travel
  • Upon arrival in the area, ref reveals Location info

Terrain DCs. Grassland 5 💀 Forest 10 💀 Desert 15 💀 Swamp 20 💀 Mountain 25


Something now stirs memory. In the past, what are you doing?

  • When the memory could go wrong, make an ability check.
  • +1 Calcium, and the memory goes as you wish.
  • Ref says how the memory goes + encounter.

Explore the Dungeon

Your starting dungeon is unstocked. Areas A-B are CR 1, C-D CR 2. Unguarded treasure is CR 0.

For encounters and treasure https://donjon.bin.sh/5e/random/

As you enter each room, stock it on the fly (d6):

  • 1-2: monster’s lair (50% chance of guarded treasure)
  • 3: trap (Investigation DC 20 finds unguarded treasure)
  • 4: special (come up with something interesting or ask ref)
  • 5-6: empty (Investigation DC 18 finds unguarded treasure)

Do Something Else

Find the point where things could go wrong, and make an appropriate ability check there.


When you level:

  • Gain 1 HD
  • Roll your HD (d8) and add your Con mod. Increase your max hp by that much.
  • Increase an ability score by 1.
  • If your total HD is 7, 13, or 19, increase proficiency bonus by 1 and get another attack roll when you take the attack action (and every 6 HD beyond 19).
  • Choose a feat from one of the Skeleton Types below. You can only have feats from a single Skeleton Type; so choose your first one carefully.

Finally, take a moment to imagine what it looks like when you first gain these powers and the circumstances in which you gain them. Brainstorm and reveal what you have in mind.


Advance as a fighter.


Phylactery. Even if your spine is destroyed, you’ll reform at midnight if the phylactery is not destroyed. Detail it.

Spooky/Holy. Choose whether to be a lich or a relic. If you’re a lich, all your spells must be spooky. If a relic, all your spells must be holy.

Cantrips. Each time you level, gain or replace a spooky/holy cantrip. You can have a number of cantrips equal to your proficiency bonus.

Feats. Your feats are spooky/holy spells.

  • Pick a spooky/holy spell that you’re high enough level to cast.
  • Treat yourself as having levels = your # of HD.


You gain a spiked wheel.

  • You are threaded through it and can roll in it in a straight line at 2x speed.
  • It does d4 damage whenever it touches a creature.

FeatsYou get 1/advance.

  • Overrun. You can move through an enemy’s space.
  • Wobbly.  You don’t provoke opportunity attacks when rolling.
  • Increase wheel damage die (up to d12).
  • Serrated. Creatures damaged by the wheel take ongoing damage = proficiency bonus.


You gain a huge bone weapon. You’re proficient. It does d12 damage plus double your Strength modifier. Detail the weapon.

Feats. You get 1/advance.

  • Sweep attack. Your attack is a 15′ cone.
  • Smash. Target saves or is prone.
  • Otherworldly. Counts as magical.
  • Like a heap of iron. Increase damage by 2.
  • Block. Thicc enough to shield. As a reaction, +5 AC vs incoming attacks.


Your bones grow thin and sharp. You can shoot your bones as projectiles (d4).

Feats. You get 1/advance.

  • Increase the damage die of your projectile bones (up to d12).
  • Add an additional d4 bone projectile (all others must be at d12).
  • Hobbling spikes. When hit, target makes Dex save or is slowed (save ends).
  • Spin attack. You’re proficient in dual wielding and can make a spin attack. When you take the attack action, you can move 10′ in a straight line.


You’ve been burned. You consequently have a fire breath weapon. The default effects:

  • 1 target next to you
  • d4 fire damage

You spend actions to boost the effects:

  • Action (3) 
  • Movement (2)
  • Bonus Action (1)

For each boost the actions you spend gives you, you can:

  • Increase a damage die (up to d12)
  • Add a damage die (all others must be d12)
  • Increase area of effect by 5′
  • Add ongoing damage (save ends) = proficiency bonus

Feats. You get 1/advance.

  • Fire aura. Creatures adjacent to you take damage equal to your proficiency bonus.
  • Fire bolt. You get the fire bolt cantrip and add your proficiency bonus to the damage.


You’re wrapped in grave clothes. You have expertise (double proficiency) in Stealth and have Sneak Attack (+d4) damage when an ally is adjacent to your target or if you have advantage vs the target.

Feats. You get 1/advance.

  • Increase a Sneak Attack damage die (up to d12)
  • Add a d4 Sneak Attack die (all others must be at d12)
  • Teleport between shadows in line of sight
  • Can move along walls and ceilings just like floors +Expertise in Acrobatics


You emit a black miasma from your skull. Enemies adjacent to you are cursed, suffering disadvantage to act against you.

Feats. You get 1/advance.

  • Place your curse on a target within line of sight
  • Your cursed targets take +d4 damage
  • Increase the size of a curse damage die (up to d12)
  • Add a d4 curse die (all others must be at d12)
  • Cursed targets take damage = your proficiency bonus ongoing
  • Increase the radius of your miasma by 5′ (up to 15′)


Grow 2 feet, gain 2 hp, and do 2 more damage on Strength based attacks.


The object of the game is to make your story happen.

By acting in game, make the things you want to happen happen. You win if things go as you’d like; you lose if they don’t.

How to Know What Your Story Is

Look at your Traits, Ideals, Flaws, and Bonds. This is your character now. Think about how he might change, or refuse to change. Act accordingly. Reevaluate. Repeat.

How to Change

To act against a Trait, Ideal, Flaw, or Bond requires a Wisdom check vs self. On a success, you can change that part of your PC.

How to Get Stronger

Rank Up. Increase your rank in the Skeleton Army. Each time you do, you get ¼ of the XP needed to hit your next level.

Waste a Location. XP (divided) for kills, whenever, wherever.

Recruit for the Skeleton War. Get the XP value of whatever recruits you bring into the Skeleton Army.

+1 Calcium when you succeed on an ability check between fights.

  • Spend Calcium 1:1 to reroll any die you’ve rolled in a fight.
  • After a fight, reset Calcium to 0.
  • Failing a check between fights means something bad.

Between skirmishes with the skeleton army:

  • pursue your own agenda (using Downtime Actions, q.v.)
  • or wait to be commanded

Check here when you level up: Advancement.


See below for the various location types. Roll for the CR of each and generate the monsters and treasure accordingly.


An unsuspecting settlement, ill-guarded and poor.


Overturned carts, ruined walls, fruit trees, burning huts.


DC 14. Party Surprises. Wailing and smoke. Ragged farmers and wives with butcher knives.

DC 6. No Surprise.

Else. Party Surprised. Crossbowmen at the ready. Barriers. Dogs.


A walled settlement with basic institutions.


Burning palisades, ringing church, stone ford across river, tottering statue.


DC 16. Party Surprises. Wailing and smoke. Ragged farmers and guards half armed.

DC 8. No Surprise.

Else. Party Surprised. Crossbowmen at the ready. Fortified. Dogs. Flaming oil.


A walled market town.


Overturned carts, mazy market, burning bodies, guard towers.


DC 18. Party Surprises. Wailing and smoke. Half armed guards.

DC 10. No Surprise.

Else. Party Surprised. Crossbowmen. Phalanx. Barriers. Dogs. Snipers in towers.


A well defended city.


Cathedral. University. Library. Palace. Courtyard apartments. Alley mazes.


DC 20. Party Surprises. Wailing and smoke. Charred civilians. Advancing soldiers.

DC 12. No Surprise.

Else. Party Surprised. Snipers. Phalanx. Gates. Dogs. Cavalry. Magic.


A cave or dungeon infested with chaos.


Chasms, pools, flowstone, tunnels, mines, weird dungeon stuff, a wizard literally did it.


DC 18. Party Surprises. Gore. Red bone. Unearthly screams.

DC 10. No Surprise.

Else. Party Surprised. Thrumming magic. Booming footsteps. Fire. Earthquake.


Cast thine eyes hither when lost & sorely confounded.

Object of the Game (Ref)

Make the setting ever more compelling.

Object of the Game (Player)

Make your story happen.

Structure of the Game

  • Downtime
  • Successful ability checks grant +1 Calcium for fight rerolls
  • Failed ability checks prompt Encounters
  • Choose an Encounter, ask How do you react?
  • Eventually, there’s a Fight Encounter
  • Generate the encounter, roll the treasure
  • Spend cash on upgrades to the dungeon base

Downtime Actions

  • Lead party to find new Locations in overworld.
  • Recollection based on something here now.
  • Find out more about the starting dungeon.
  • Pursue your Skeleton’s agenda.


  • Signs of hostile forces nearby/
  • Roll for initiative.
  • Command. The Lord commands us to Waste a Location.
  • Use the Remember downtime action
  • A Skeleton goes to climb the hierarchy.
  • A Skeleton tries to leave the Army.

Skeleton Motivations

Advancement, Order, Cleansing Flesh, Glory, Loyalty, Respect


From Dyson Logos.


From Outdoor Survival.


When you advance in rank, +¼ of the XP needed to level.

Skeleton Emperor

Lord over multiple Legions. There’s no emperor to start.

Legate (Skeleton Lord)

Commander of the Legion. Play starts with figuring out who will be the lord of your Legion, which starts with a single Century.


2nd in command of the Legion.


3rd in command of the Legion, in charge of training and order.


Commander of the Century. Your Legion starts with one Century.


2nd in command of the Century.


Bearer of the Century standard (detail). Always on front line, at the far right. If standard is captured, level up upon recapture.


Watch commander of the Century. DOOT DOOT that trumpet.


Commander of a unit of up to 10 Skeletons. Effectively the party.


You start here, Skeleton.


This is the alternative to the random PC generator.

Appearance (detail these)

The color of your glowing eyes and the features of your bones

Traits (all these)

Rattled. Unless your spine is broken, you’ll eventually reform.

Rank. Get XP when you rank up in the Skeleton Army.

Arise, Kill, & Eat. You get hp back from eating sentient beings.

Ideals (all these)

The Skeleton War Must Cleanse All Flesh; Order; Rank

Flaws (detail this)

A human concern or value and/or an insubordinate belief

Bonds (detail this)

A skeleton you had unfinished business with before death


Here are the 5e & OSR stats for a Skeleton if you need them. Full statblock, followed by one liners.

AC 13 HP 13 HD 2d8 Speed 30 feet CR ¼ (50 XP)
STR 10 (+0) DEX 14 (+2) CON 15 (+2) INT 6 (-2) WIS 8 (-1) CHA 5 (-3)
Vulnerabilities Bludgeoning Damage Immunities Poison
Condition Immunities Exhaustion, Poisoned
Senses Darkvision 60 feet Passive Perception 9
Languages Understands all languages it knew in life but can’t speak
Shortsword +4 to hit, 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage
Shortbow +4 to hit, range 80/320 feet, 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage

5e AC 13 HP 13 (2d8+4) SPD 30 ATK +4 > d6+2 (5) V B XP 50 CR ¼

OSR AC 13/7 HD 1 MV 60/20 DMG d6


Make one by hand. Full statblock, with 5e/OSR one-liners after.

AC 13 HP 13 HD 2d8 Speed 30 feet CR ¼ (50 XP)
STR 10 (+0) DEX 14 (+2) CON 15 (+2) INT 6 (-2) WIS 8 (-1) CHA 5 (-3)
Vulnerabilities Bludgeoning Damage Immunities Poison
Condition Immunities Exhaustion, Poisoned
Senses Darkvision 60 feet Passive Perception 9
Languages Understands all languages it knew in life but can’t speak
Shortsword +4 to hit, 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage
Shortbow +4 to hit, range 80/320 feet, 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage

5e AC 13 HP 13 (2d8+4) SPD 30 ATK +4 > d6+2 (5) V B XP 50 CR ¼

OSR AC 13/7 HD 1 MV 60/20 DMG d6


Add these tags as you wish to make the NPC Skeleton distinct:

  1. Hulking (1-10). +rating to Strength.
  2. Spindly (1-10). +rating to Dexterity.
  3. Overlaid (1-8). +rating to AC from metal on bones.
  4. Charred. Fire breath, 15’ cone, save or d6 damage.
  5. Wrapped. Expert in Stealth.
  6. Cursed. Disadvantage on all checks in its presence.
  7. Conjoined. Double hp, double attacks.
  8. Holy. Casts sacred flame (DC 9 Dex or d8 radiant dmg)
  9. Serpentine. Snake bonus attacks from skull (d4 damage).
  10. Towering. Large. Double HD and +1 damage die.


Add these features to make Skeleton NPCs interesting:

  1. Wants to interleave with a PC or NPC.
  2. Seeks to desert and bring others ASAP.
  3. Seeks to humiliate peers and subordinates.
  4. Seeks challenges far too threatening.
  5. Seeks to overtake/subvert the lordship ASAP.
  6. Seeks to aid a PC however possible.


I’ve actually run this. It’s pretty fun. As I think of topics I want to comment upon further, I’ll list them below.


I’m definitely planning on expanding the options here.

Expanding the Dungeon

The exact rules I’ve left somewhat vague. For instance, upgrading a trap. I assume all traps start at d4 damage, and each upgrade increases the damage die, or else adds a save vs element.





Gygax, Arneson, Moldvay, Mentzer, &c. D&D.

D. Vincent Baker. Poison’d, Apocalypse World, Dogs in the Vineyard

Dyson Logos. The dungeon map I used.

Drow. D&D 5e generators @ https://donjon.bin.sh/5e/random/

Bat in the Attic. The overland map I used.

pdimens. The character sheet I used.

Chartopia. Best random table web app that exists.

The Forge. 🤔🤔🤔: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php

gg no re patrons & listeners & players & refs. Bonds.

Google Plus folks. RIP










V1.0 (20181026). Initial upload.

  • This should be enough to work with if you’re okay at improvisation.
  • Intending to enhance soon


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