Tuesday, December 22, 2009

10 Allies!

I'm not sure when it happened, but I now have 10 followers!  Hail and well met! Unfortunately for you, I'm going to be away for the next week, so there wont be any new updates till the middle of next week.

One of the things I do on my other blog is track the books I read as part of a 50 book challenge.  I have set a theme for next year for myself, and that theme is "Classics".  I'd like your assistance in helping to pick some of the classics I should read.  I'd like at least 3 suggestions of must read classics that I should add to my Appendix N

Friday, December 18, 2009

Remembering the Water Weird

Over at B/X Blackrazor JB wrote today about the water weird.  I was going to leave this as a comment, but it ended up being a little long.

The Water Weird never showed up in any of my Rules Cyclopedia (bless it's holy name) days, though apparently it was in the B7 adventure module.  I'm not sure it's a monster that I ever would have come up with, or used at the time either. 

In my second game of AD&D 2nd Edition I rolled up a low level cleric to join a party of adventurers who were all at least 1 level higher than I was.  I don't remember what the adventure was about, but I do remember that we had to cross a lake in basically a big row boat.  We were attacked by a water weird right in the middle of the lake, and one by one it knocked my companions off the boat and into the lake.  I was the last person in the boat.  I can't claim that my character was the last character standing, as he was in fact cowering at the back of the boat, holding my light mace and holy symbol.

It was looking grim.  The armored party members were desperately trying to shed their armor before they became permanent lake inhabitants, the unarmored ones were trying to catch up with the boat that the weird had pushed away from them, and my initiative came up.

Everyone looked at me sadly, knowing the fate that was to befall their newest, youngest, least experienced player and character.  The DM sat smiling behind his screen.  I gulped, and looked once more at my bare character sheet.  Do I have anything in my inventory that might help?  Non-magic items, and not many of them.  What about spells?  Cure Light Wounds, and Purify Food and Water.  I re-read the description of Purify Food and Water:
When cast, this spell makes spoiled, rotten, poisonous, or otherwise contaminated food and water pure and suitable for eating and drinking. Up to 1 cubic foot of food and drink per level can be thus made suitable for consumption. This spell does not prevent subsequent natural decay or spoilage. Unholy water and similar food and drink of significance is spoiled by purify food and drink, but the spell has no effect on creatures of any type nor upon magical potions.
I had nothing else.  I meekly said "I cast Purify Food and Water."

The DM described how the weird arched over the boat, moving toward me, and drenched me as it fell dead onto me.  My fellow player's jaws dropped.  The DM continued to grin.  Slowly I went from a cringe to a grin and yelled out "YES!"  There may even have been a fist pump.  A chorus of "Yeah!" and "Whooo!" arose from my fellow players, and everyone got back in the boat.

The DM showed me his Mosterous Manual when I asked about the spell having such an impact after the game.  Once the euphoria wore off I had been left to wonder if the DM had just given us a monster we couldn't handle, and used me to pull his fat out of the fryer, or if it had really been supported.  I was even more thrilled to find out that I'd actually pulled it off.     

That was the first, and last time I've encountered a water weird.  I've never used one in any of my games, mostly because all of my 2nd ed players (once I started DMing) had been part of that group, and they'd all seen the trick, and by 3rd edition I had other monsters that I was playing with.

I don't remember if the DM had seen my spell selection or not, or if he was running a home brew adventure, but I'll always remember that encounter, and how much it rocked!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winter Mittins

Nimble worked quickly.  That's why Rathgar hired him.  "Ok, ok, ok..." Nimble mumbled "we're just gonna ease... and then a slight..." as his tools clicked inside the lock.

Rathgar looked over his shoulder at Nimble "Can't you keep it down?"

Nimble froze "This is very delicate work, and I would appreciate not being interrupted." His tools resumed their task.

Rathgar sighed, and turned back to watching down the corridor until he heard a click.  Turning back he saw Nimble swinging open the safe's door.  A bit of fog drifted from the opening down the wall.  "It's cold" Nimble frowned.  He rubbed his hands together and reached into the safe, pulling them back very quickly once he touched the lockbox.  "Ouch!" He hissed, sucked on his burned fingers.  He dug his hands into an inner coat pocket and pulled out a pair of soft leather mittens.  Again he reached into the safe and pulled out the lockbox.  Frost covered the mittens and Nimble set the black steel box on the floor.  "I can't unlock the box while I'm wearing these, and I can't touch it without them..."

Winter Mittens are most useful when fine control isn't needed, but protection from the cold is.  They imbue the wearer with resistance to natural cold effects, and resistance of 5 to cold damage.  However they also reduce any dexterity based attacks or skill checks involving the use of hands by 4.

Jingle Bells

Rathgar hustled his companions into the chamber and pushed the stone door closed.  Panting heavily he dropped his rucksack and started digging through it. 

"I've got spikes" Nimble offered.  

"I've got better" Rathgar replied, as he pulled a leather strap attached to a brass loop.  It jingled as the half a dozen silver bells on the strap rang out together.   He slipped the ring over the door handle moments before the door shook with the impact of several sweaty orcs trying to bash their way in.  One of the bells on the strap shook, and broke off, disappearing before it hit the floor.  

"That'll keep us safe for now."  Sighing, Rathgar slid to the floor.  Lets get some rest, and then we'll see what we can do about avoiding those orcs."

Jingle Bells are decorative looking straps of silver bells on a loop or hook that when slipped over a door handle cause an arcane lock to come into effect.  The arcane lock functions as if cast by a level 10 caster for up to 8 hours.  They also increase the damage resistance of a door by 5 during that time, and protect the room as per the protection from evil spell.  Jingle Bells are almost never found new, and usually have 2d10 charges remaining, each charge being represented by a silver bell which drops off the strap every time a charge is used.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tis the season...

I'm very hesitant to do one of those appologies for not posting, or promises to post more often, but the truth is I'm pretty busy with real life.  What I will promise is this: I will post when I can.  

Progress is slow with the megadungeon.  I've hit a few speed bumps (pit traps?) in trying to stock the dungeon.  Mainly I'm not sure how detailed I want to make it.  Do I want fully fleshed out encounters and descriptions, or do I want to go with a more minimalist approach (along the lines of Stonehell)?  I'm not sure yet, but since I'm currently reading Stonehell I find myself leaning in favor of that style.  Expect a review of Stonehell soon!!

I've also been distracted by all the talk about hex crawls.  Much as I've never run a megadungeon, I've also never run a hex crawl, at least not as such.  I've run lots of wilderness travel, but never contained (constrained?) by the hex format.  Then again most of my players have tended toward reaction, rather than action. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Monster: Greater Pumpkin Head

Some farmers cultivate plants which create larger than normal fruit.  Some dark mages take advantage of that fact to create these monstrosities. 

Greater Pumpkin Head
Large Construct, Enchanted (uncommon)
Armour Class: 4
Hit Dice: 8
Move: 90' (30')
Attacks: 1 Claw or Thrown Pumpkin
Damage: 2d8 or 1d8 + Special
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: F10
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: U

Alignment: chaotic
XP Value: 2,300

The Greater Pumpkin Head, much like it's lesser form, is formed mostly of vines and leaves, topped by a large jack-o'-lantern.  In combat the Greater Pumpkin Head will toss gourds at it's opponents (range 60/120/200).  These gourds will hit for 1d8 points of damage, and then explode in a fiery burst for an additional 1d8 points of damage to all within 10 feet.  On a miss the gourd will still land at the target spot and explode as above.


Monster: Pumpkin Head

Those dark mages who would animate a scarecrow to terrorize a village would think nothing of using their fell magics upon the very fruit of the community's labor.  The final step in the animation of a pumpkin head is the carving of a jack-o'-lantern and lighting a candle made from wax of an intelligent creature. 

Pumpkin Head
Medium Construct, Enchanted (uncommon)
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4+1
Move: 90' (30')
Attacks: 1 Claw or 1 Vine + Strangle
Damage: 1d8 or grapple + Special
No. Appearing: 1-2
Save As: F4
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: U

Alignment: chaotic
XP Value: 175

Pumpkin heads are vicious combatants.  They're usual tactic is to attempt to grapple their opponent using their vines, and then constrict the vines and plunge their claws into the unfortunate victim.  Upon successfully grappling their opponent they will cause an automatic 4 points of damage per round and the pumpkin head will receive a +2 to their attack rolls against a grappled opponent.  

Due to the material used to animate this creature it is vulnerable to head shots.  On a successful attack roll of 19 or 20 an opponent always causes maximum damage.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Monster: Scarecrow

The scarecrow is a familiar sight in any farming community.  So common, in fact, that locals don't even notice them, don't notice that they don't always seem to be in the same position, don't notice the stains of blood that sometimes appear on their clothes and tools.  Sometimes they don't even notice that the crows hanging about seem well fed in spite of the fact that the crops haven't been touched.

Medium Construct, Enchanted (uncommon)
Armour Class: 6
Hit Dice: 3
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 1 weapon - farm implement
Damage: 1d8
No. Appearing: 1-2
Save As: F3
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: U

Alignment: chaotic
XP Value: 100(?)

The Murder of Crows that accompanies many of the animated scarecrows will often attack any creature that the scarecrow engages.  Treat the Murder of Crows as a 3 hit dice Insect Swarm with a moral of 8 as long as the scarecrow is active, and have it drop to 6 if the scarecrow is destroyed, and immediately roll a moral check.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It crawls out of the shadows...

Tim from Gothridge Manor asked in my last post if I plan on posting my stocked dungeon.

Yes, yes I do.  Just as soon as I'm happy with it.  I have been working on it, sort of.  Actually I've been working on stocking random dungeons the last couple of days, just to get the knack of it again.  I feel so rusty and out of practice, and as usual life keeps trying to distract me.  I've also been reading or rereading every dungeon and megadungeon boxed set, adventure, book, article I can get my hands on. This goes back to my over prepping for everything.

Last night I decided that my dungeon, my world will operate under the idea that bad things really do crawl out of the darkness.  Vermin do spontaneously generate in the back of store rooms.  Undead arise naturally from abandoned graveyards and tombs.  Goblins and kobolds spring from the dark woods and grottoes fully formed, fully evil, and ready to raid and destroy.  Trolls form under bridges as a matter of course.  Dragons bubble to the surface from volcanoes and swamps to take wing and terrorize for miles around.  Abandoned cities, villages, temples and dungeons (especially dungeons!) twist and the darkness consumes them, and what was once a logical structure more and more becomes a realm of nightmares.  This will free me from having to make my megadungeon "make sense" as it currently exists, and is heavily lifted from the idea of the megadungeon as the mythic underworld as explained by Philotomy in his OD&D Musings.   It also makes for a strong campaign that pits civilization against chaos.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thoughts on stocking my megadungeon

Over the weekend, I put my pencil to paper in an attempt to stock my dungeon and I didn't get very far.  The problem was that I knew what this particular level had been used for hundreds of years ago, but I wasn't sure what had happened to it more recently. 

The rooms to the north of the main hall were the dwarven rooms for dignitaries and such.  The rooms to the south of the main hall were for visitors to the dwarven realm.  The main hall could be used for diplomatic ceremonies, but most of the time it served as a market for surface dwellers and the dwarves to set up stalls and sell stuff to one another.  While it was constantly inhabited, the population rotated pretty frequently.

I didn't want this level to be inhabited by a particular group, i.e. this isn't an orc hold, or a bandit lair.  I want it to be a bit of a mix, probably with a fair population of vermin and a few undead.  I'm going to have some orcs in the vault level, having just raided part of it, and they'll be coming out of the vault when the PC's arrive.

What about the main hall?  A big nasty thing?  Or empty?  I'm leaning toward empty, or at least devoid of monstrous threats, especially as the vault sub-level will have some tough encounters. Well, as I'm going for a semi-oldschool feel, lets roll for it.  Using the tricks charts from OSRIC (pg 155-156) I came up with an antimagic alter.  That kind of makes sense actually.  You wouldn't want magic used during diplomatic negotiations!  Lets go with that.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A murder of crows

Yesterday when I got home from work and let the dogs out in the back yard I looked up and saw crows flying from west to east.  Lots of crows.  For over 20 minutes.  There were hundreds of them that I could see, maybe a couple of thousand over the entire period.  I took a video of some of it - Crows over Baltimore.  To be honest, it was kinda creepy.  Yet at the same time I thought what a great mood setter for a game.  How would players react to seeing a couple of thousand crows flying in one direction overhead?  It isn't really anything they can directly interact with, but they're left with a choice - go where the crows are going, go where they came from, or ignore it. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Megadungeon musing

I've been thinking more about the structure of my megadungeon, and the implications that a central shaft driving down practically to the lowest levels of the dungeon.  Players will be able to, from the start, descend the entire way down to the very depths of my as yet unnamed megadungeon.  It'll be a very exposed descent, but they could theoretically do it.  On the other hand, it'll be hard for a player to pass by all of the portals and doorways in between the surface and the lower levels!

Monsters of the megadungeon.  There will be a fair amount of vermin in the upper levels - lots of unintelligent critters.  Kobolds will be pervasive throughout the upper levels, though never in great numbers.  They've discovered that small tribes survive much better than large ones.  They attract much less attention!  Encounters with them will probably be with mining/scouting/salvage groups.  They'll often be attracted to the sound of combat, yet not reveal themselves until after the fighting is over, and they can pick through whats left, and if the victors appear suitably weakened, then they'll attack. 

One thing I don't think I've ever done in all my years of gaming is to create random monster charts.  I've used them, but I've never created my own.  Now I'm going to have to create some for the unique ecology of my megadungeon!  The way I figure it, the shaft is going to require it's own wandering monster table, possibly 2 of them, one for the upper half, one for a lower half. The first couple of levels from the surface can mostly all share a chart (with a few exceptions I expect).

I continued to work on my dungeon this weekend.  First up is the vault sublevel below the dwarven hall.

Next up I've got a section of mine.  I think this is from the abandoned hobgoblin area.  You can see the finished room where the miners stay after their shift.  Being hobgoblins I figure they probably used slaves to do the worst jobs.  In the "How to Host a Dungeon" game that I played, the hobgoblins encountered the cave of fate, ending their existence.  I haven't figured out what exactly that was yet, but there are a number of possibilities ranging from the mundane to the exotic.  Luckily I don't have to settle on the answer now. 

I did this section on plain white paper, and it was pretty freeing getting away from the grid lines of graph paper.  It's taking some time, but I think I'm getting back into the swing of map making.  I'm liking my efforts more and more as keep drawing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dungeoneers Parchment

 He slid the parchment from the scroll case, unwrapped it, and spoke the word written on the case.  Rathgar looked over at the blank parchment as a simple line box appeared on it.

"Great.  It drew a box."  He rolled his eyes.  "Is this why we cleared out that nest of ghouls?"

"Oh yes" his robed companion replied.  "This parchment will keep us from becoming lost in any dungeon we explore from now on!"

Crafted from water and fire resistant parchment, this magic item will accurately map any interior location that it is brought into.  In order to activate the map it must be held, and the command word spoken.  It will retain the map that it has drawn for as long as it is held, and for up to 12 hours after it is dropped or put away, starting with the locations it first mapped.  If it is again held the map will retain whatever locations remain upon it, and the 12 hour clock is reset.  The map can also be erased by speaking the command word in reverse.  It is possible to make notes upon the map, but these will also be subject to erasure, no matter what was used to inscribe it onto the map.  If the map is damaged it will cease to record any further locations, and will act as if it has been dropped, even when held, until it is repaired. 

In 4e terms, this is a level 3 wondrous magic item.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Megadungeon - Dwarven Hall

Last night I put some more work into my megadungeon and I've decided that I'm going to use the back story from the How to Host a Dungeon to build it around.  The dungeon under the castle is going to be but a small portion of the whole. The focus of the dungeon is in fact going to be the central shaft the dwarves dug down to mine the gold.  I've decided that this shaft was dug during a true golden age where dwarven magic and technology was well advanced from the current state of things, and excavating a shaft that is 60+ feet in diameter and miles deep with a spiraling stone staircase going down the enter depth was impressive, but not impossible.  It has become a well known feature, and many have delved into it's maw! Few, of course, have returned. 

Down the length of the shaft will be the entrances to the various levels of the dwarven halls, all the way down to the mines, and then even further down into the ruins of the dwarven city!  There will probably be some monsters that live in the shaft itself, and there will probably be plenty of wandering monsters on it.  I'm thinking the inhabitants of the various levels connected to the shaft wont try to defend the stairs near their lairs, but will have some pretty heavily defended doorways.  In fact, the stairs may very well be considered neutral territory... I don't envision the stairs having a railing.

Last nights work focused on one of the upper dwarven halls near the surface.

The shaft is shown to the far left of the image.  The central hall would have been the dwarves main feast hall, perhaps for several levels.  The room complex to the right would have been the lords residence.  The room at the bottom right will be a workshop room.  A forge & smelter?  The rooms along the top of the map will all be domiciles for those living on this level.  The irregularly shaped room to the top left I think might be a natural pocket that was used as a refuse room. I still need to add in stairs to a small vault level. 

I still wish I could map like Dyson.  The man is inspiring!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fey Rings

"Old-wives tell of people who step into a ring of toadstools and are whisked into the dance of the fairy court for what seems a night, only to return many years later... if at all.  Well, I'll tell you that I've stepped into many of those rings, and I've encountered not a single fey, red cap, or dandelion eating eladrin.  But I have gotten some nice mushrooms for my stew pot!" Red concluded, ladling out another bowl.

The patrons of the tavern nodded, some smiled, and others took a spoonful of the aforementioned stew.  

A young man who just recently started visiting the Toothless Rat turned toward Red and spoke with a smile "Perhaps they just found you too unpleasant to whisk away?" 

Most of the time rings of mushrooms are just that.  However there is some truth to the old tales, though not many know the secret.  Fay rings can be used as temporary portals to the Feywild, which can be opened from either side.  The ritual to do so is a closely guarded secret held by many powerful lords and ladies of the fairy courts.  It is very similar to that of a teleportation circle, but it can only be cast at a location where the fey ring exists in both realms.

Fey Ring Portal (4e Ritual)
Level: 16                      Component Cost: 700gp
Category: Travel           Market Price: 1500gp (generally unavailable)
Time: 10 minutes           Key Skill: Arcana (no check)
Duration: 1 hour

This ritual opens a portal between a fey ring in the physical realm or the Shadowfell and the corresponding ring in the Feywild. 

Fey Ring Portal (D&D Rules Cyclopedia Magic Location)
These naturally occurring rings may only be activated by those of elven blood, and when the proper ritual is performed, they open a 2-way portal to an outer plane ruled by the faerie.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I've been experiencing some real life breakdowns.  As I type my car is being looked at by the mechanics who will probably tell me I need a new alternator.  In a purely defensive exercise I've been trying to think of how this sort of thing could impact a game.

There aren't any alternators in D&D of course, but there are methods of transport that can break down.  Ships can lose a mast, horses can throw a shoe, wagons (with loot!) can break a wheel.  How does this slow down your group, how do they handle this?  What if someone comes down with an intestinal bug, or eats some bad cheese?  Something that healing magic wont handle, but is really only a relatively minor inconvenience.

In 4ethis is the sort of event that can be handled with a skill challenge, and maybe a loss of a healing surge during the next encounter.  In older D&D this is the sort of thing that could be role-played out. The thing about this sort of scene/encounter/challenge is that it forces you to make a choice.  Do you slow down, stop, keep going, do you try to fix it yourself, or pay to have it fixed?  Are people going to try to rip you off when you're in dire straights? 

I've heard back from the garage, and and it is the alternator, and now I'm spending $500 more than I was planning on. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Toothless Rat Taphouse

To enter this fine establishment you must turn off the main street into an unpleasant ally and almost immediately descend 5 stone steps to a nondescript wooden door.  Hanging above the doorway is a small wooden placard with a stylized rat burned onto it.  When you open the door to the taphouse the first thing you'll notice is the smell of pipeweed.  Next you'll see the stuffed rodent of unusual size (R.O.U.S.) that sits in the corner by the door.  It's clearly very old, missing some fur, and of course it's teeth.  When you look around to the taproom proper, you'll see an assortment of round wooden tables, support posts rising from floor to ceiling, and a wide variety of stools and chairs.  Along the back wall three large casks rest behind the unadorned bar.  Two small dirty windows look out onto the street, between them is a dartboard, and a fireplace is centered on the far wall.   The rooms illumination is provided by several oil lamps, the fireplace, and whatever dingy light manages to shine through the windows.  The patrons of the Rat are mostly neighborhood workers who come by at lunch and in the evening for a pint and a game of knuckle bones or darts. It's a fairly quiet bar, rarely visited by those from outside the neighborhood. 

The barkeep is a bald human with dark skin named Red.  He usually wears a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, dark pants and leather suspenders.  His left forearm is notably scarred, and Red will gladly launch into a telling of his battle with a pack of giant rats who had crawled up through the sewers and attacked him in the back room back when the bar was called simply "Red's".  With each telling the rat pack grows in size, and recently he's added a rat king to the tale! The truth is that there was but a single giant rat, but the damage their fight caused made it seem like there were many more!  Red will be thrilled to have adventurers in his bar, just so long as they treat him as a fellow monster slayer, rather than just as a simple barkeep.  Should he not receive the treatment he feels he deserves he will quickly become very unwelcoming. 

Red serves ale of middling quality for an average price, and he keeps on hand some harder drinks for those who desire them.  He also keeps a hot soup or stew pot (or two) cooking in the fireplace for those who need something filling, of not particularly flavorful.  The pot's contents vary by day, but usually contain a variety of root vegetables, bones from the butcher, occasional scraps of meat, and sometimes a whole rat if Red catches one in his store room. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kobold minis

There are a number of different kobold miniatures out there, from Wizards of the Coast's prepaints, to ral-partha, reaper, kenzer, and a whole host of smaller companies, but none of them really thrill me.  The WotC minis lack detail and definition, and just about everyone else goes for the more canine style.  Me?  I want kobolds that are truly draconic in appearance.

While I could just go ahead and do counters, and there are some excellent ones out there, I really like having miniatures to hold and paint.

One of the options I've been investigating is lizardmen.  Not the Games Workshop army, but generic lizardmen.  Too big?  Sure, in 28mm scale. But what about 20mm, 15mm or even 10mm scale?  There are some really nice figures being made in smaller scales that mounted on an appropriate base could fit the part.

One of the ones to catch my eye were the lizardmen from Magister Militum

There are also some interesting looking ones on this site: Comparing Lizardmen.  The pendrake lizardmen look pretty promising, and at least one guy, Rob, painted up some for his giant army.  

Anyone else out there ever try this?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

RPing Thoughts & The Sunless Citadel

This past weekend the wife, dogs and I went camping.  I brought along a whole box full of card games as well as my M20 binder and the 3.0 adventure The Sunless Citadel.  It's a good adventure with a fantastic background, that is left completely untouched.  The background states that the Gulthias Tree, which produces 2 fruits a year - a red apple that can cure at midsummer and a white apple that can kill at midwinter - was sprouted from a still-green stake used to kill a vampire in the depths of a sunken fortress.  How fantastic is that for a story seed?  Yet not even a mention of it in any of the offered character hooks. 

Also the village of Oakhurst is criminally under-developed. 

Anyway, what I had planned on doing was playing through Oakhurst with lots of role-playing, and then into the citadel, but I wasn't necessarily going to follow the dungeon map.  Too complex for camping and not really what Virginia is looking for... at least not as written.  We didn't end up playing D&D, though we did play a bunch of card games, but we did talk about it.  We read through parts of the adventure together and she told me what she felt was wrong with it as presented.  For instance comparing the map to the room descriptions, well, they just don't provide the info that a character needs.  She suggested that having a copy of the map, so that she can say "I move to room 21" and I can then tell her what the flavor of the room is.  I pointed out the problem of secret rooms, and she asked if the room was important. 

You know, it really wasn't. 

So what if she does have a copy of the map?  Would that make the adventure worse?  Even if it shows the secret doors?  I don't think it would.  I could even redraw it as if it was a map drawn by a previous party, say the party that hunted the vampire...

Friday, October 9, 2009

St. D'Arnson The World Builder

St. D'Arnson has a slightly smaller following than that of St. Gaxgy, but they are perhaps a more devoted group.  When the Primordials began to form the world, and the gods intervened, an early being of light helped shape things on the microscale.  Where the gods were concerned with shaping entire worlds, D'Arnson raised cliffs, drew rivers, and dug ravines, and when life was seeded on the worlds, his voice spoke to many in the early days of fighting back the chaos.   In modern worship, St. D'Arnson is the patron of builders and storytellers, those who help to bring order to the chaos.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Forge of Fury

This weekend I reread the D&D 3.0 adventure The Forge of Fury.  I've run several of the original adventures that came out for 3.0, but I didn't run this one, and when I was looking at my shelf, I couldn't remember it at all. 

The basic idea is that a lost Dwarven tribe used to inhabit this dungeon and were wiped out, but the master smiths cache of treasure was never found.    The adventure is split into several distinct sections, each of which is inhabited by a variety of monsters, from orcs, to troglodytes, to some undead, and a black dragon.  The author does a fair job on back story and of explaining why these creatures are all cohabitating within the dungeon, but I have a few issues with the adventure as presented.  First off, the adventurers are sent in after the dwarven smiths treasure.  The treasure ends up being a bunch of coinage and a couple of seemingly random magic and masterwork weapons.  I rather expected to have a chest of masterwork (or even magic) axes or hammers at the end.  The thing that really bugged me was the black dragon who has moved into the underground lake isn't even hinted at in the beginning (except on the cover of the damn thing)! 

Really?  A dragon has moved into the area and no one suspects a thing?  I know the game is Dungeons and Dragons, but I still feel that a Dragon should inspire some awe and dread.  It should not be stumbled upon randomly in an adventure without any buildup.  Even worse it shouldn't ever be an actual random encounter!

I also have an issue with the way many modules give away huge spoilers on the covers.  This one is a prime example.  The first adventure in the Witchfire trilogy is another.  I had a group try to take out the antagonist the first time they met her, and when I asked why they said "cause she's on the cover hanging out with a bunch of undead and holding an evil looking sword."  It's hard to argue with logic like that. 

Anyway, back to The Forge of Fury.  It seems like a rather serviceable adventure, but I would totally rework the beginning to include some hint about the dragon, and the treasure... the whole adventure would need to be reworked in terms of treasure. 

I must admit I am tempted to rework it too.  Not for 3.0, but for 4e.  I think it would actually work out pretty well as a nearly straight conversion, with appropriate story rewrites. 

Friday, October 2, 2009

technical difficulties

There seems to have been an issue with comments.  I think it's fixed now...

but if someone could try to leave a comment to check for me?


Thursday, October 1, 2009

St. Gaxgy The Lawgiver

It has never been a big part of my games, but I have always included Saint Gaxgy the Lawgiver in all of my games.  In the pantheon he is usually a lesser god under whatever the main lawful good god happens to exist.  On the surface his shrines are almost always attached to the main temples, and there are very few who venerate him primarily.

Yet deep in the dungeons and caves of the world, where the forces of chaos (elemental or otherwise) threaten, all adventurers know his name, and many seek his blessing before they tackle their toughest challenges.  Because of this, many shrines to St. Gaxgy can be found deep underground.  Most of them are impromptu setups, but a few fully equipped shrines do exist, usually in the larger complexes.  

Shrines to St. Gaxgy give lawful characters a +1 bonus to their defenses and saving throws while they are within it.  Any character, after visiting a shrine to St. Gaxgy may call out to St. Gaxgy for a +1 untyped bonus to any roll.  Such a call must be spoken aloud by the player, and will only function once ever.  Examples of such pleas include "By Gygax's Beard!" and "Gygax preserve us!" but a DM should encourage creativity in their players pleas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's time I went to the carnival!

Mistakes – ones you’ve made in the past and how you got past them, one’s you’re making now and don’t know how to solve

When I first started playing D&D it was entirely solo games with my friend Mike.  Sometimes he would DM, but most of the time I'd DM.  We never got too crazy, and I'm sure there were a fair number of mistakes that I made, but we had fun so it was all good.

Lately I've been having trouble getting a solo game going with my wife.  We have different priorities when it comes to gaming.  We both want to have fun, but our ideas of fun are light years apart.  For instance, in my previous post on How to Host a Dungeon, when I rolled a Great Wyrm during the primordial age I pictured this:
Whereas she pictured this:
The mistakes I'm making when I try to run D&D with her include:
I over-prep
I say no when i should say yes
I get impatient that she isn't interested in the aspects of D&D that I'm interested in
I become upset and feel guilty that I'm not running a fun game for her

I don't know how to break out of this.  Could it just be that I can't DM D&D for her?  Should I try a different game?  Am I just so out of practice, and so stuck in a certain style of gaming that I'm ruining gaming for her?

I don't know.
Updated to add links
Chgowiz's reply
Trollsmyth's reply

How to Host a Dungeon

Thursday night my wife and I played the free version of How to Host a Dungeon, and I kept a visual record of our dungeon as it evolved.

Our little part of the world started with the Great Wyrm Ralph (whose name is nearly unpronounceable to dwarves was translated into dwarven and then into the common tongue of men, and means in the original dragon something akin to sleeping earth digger in a fancy sweater), a Cave of Fate, a random cave, a Cave of Gems, and a Disaster!  The disaster ended up being an earthquake, which split the earth down  near the bottom of the page and sent several tunnels reaching up toward the surface.

The age of Dwarves arrived, and was relatively quiet.  A vein of gold formed about halfway down the page, and the dwarves dug to reach it.  Their civilization grew and eventually encountered Ralph, who took some of the dwarven gold in order to keep from eating them.  Eventually the dwarves dug too deep...  Actually they were well away from digging too deep, but the lack of interesting things caused us to speed up the end of their golden age.

The end came in a fiery inferno from the earth.  Volcanic fumes seeped through the rocks, ending the Age of Dwarves, and after a time the Age of Monsters arrived.  A surface realm was founded, and a set of monsters moved into under-realm.  A hobgoblin mining company moved into the western dwarven mine, and continued the work the dwarves were forced to abandon.  Goblin breeders took over some dwarven barracks, and a xorn burrowed into the easternmost dwarven mine.   The goblins were wiped out by ghosts lurking in the dwarven halls, while the hobgoblins mined too far and reached the cave of fate.  Whatever it was they encountered caused them to disappear, leaving significant wealth in their caves.  Ralph the Great Wyrm awoke from his slumber and attempted to take the treasure guarded by the ghosts.  They scared him deeper into the dwarven halls.  The xorn gathered treasure.

A portent, the meaning of which would be argued for years to come, arrived in the guise of a fallen star. 

The surface civilization continued to grow, and a banished mage found his way down into ruins of the Dwarven City Greater Awesomeville.  He was followed by an ogre who settled himself down at the bottom of the dwarven mining shaft.  The mage while looking for magical treasure found the orge instead, and was squashed.  A year later an evil cult moved into ruins of Greater Awesomeville.  They also encountered the orge, formed an alliance, and set up a shrine in his cave.

We rolled yet another happening, rather than something fun like wandering monsters, and this time got a disaster, and we rolled another earthquake.  We decided another earthquake would be boring, so added some wandering monsters.  Slimey giant slugs moved in near the xorn.  It turns out that slug meat isn't very tasty.  While the slug died, it did give the xorn indigestion (a tie).  The surface dwellers, having finally equipped their kingdom with appropriate farms (giant venus flytraps, bear ranch, flying hamster aviary) sent an explorer group into the dwarven tunnels.  They didn't encounter anyone of note, but did find a whole bunch of dwarven loot, and they then attracted a wizard of some note, and built him a tower near the volcano and meteor crater.

The Age of Monsters is about to come to an end. The surface dwellers have 5 treasures, and are likely to get another if they can survive the ghosts!  Buy by this point we'd been playing for about 2 hours, and were both ready for bed.

While we haven't finished the game I think we both enjoyed it.  Our priorities were different.  I was looking for a good naturally developed dungeon ecosystem, and maybe even a back story for the megadungeon.  Virginia's priorities leaned more toward having a fun excuse to draw things like worms in sweaters, flying hamsters, and dwarven ghosts!  All in all I think this is a really fun game, and 'd love to have a computer program that would do the rolling and In the future I'd like to have smaller tokens.  Coins were the only thing I had on hand, but even using legal sized paper it was getting really crowded by the end.

I also found myself hunting around for the encounter rules.  They are listed on page 8 under the heading "Monster Groups", while I would have found "Encounters" a better heading.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Old School? New School? It's all cool!

I started playing D&D with the Rules Cyclopedia, and loved it.  I moved onto AD&D 2nd Edition when I got to high school in the mid 90s.  When the players option books came out I used them too.  I was working in a comic/game shop when 3rd edition was announced, and I was thrilled.  I hadn't really been playing any D&D since I got to college, both because it was a really small school, and my games had become pretty bloated from all the books that had become "necessary" to play 2nd Edition, so I thought this would be a great way to get back into things.  As soon as the players handbook came out I started a group.  I continued to play until about a year or so after 3.5 came out.  A whole bunch of real life crap happened, I got into Warhammer 40K and Lord of the Rings SBG, and role playing just fell to the side.  Then 4e was announced.  I was apathetic about it.  I wasn't playing, and I had plenty of 3.x books, and my Rules Cyclopedia.  Who needed more?

Sometime between the announcement of 4e and it's release I became more and more excited about it.  Much like when I moved from 2nd to 3rd it felt like 4e would clear the clutter of 3rd, and I eventually caved, bought Keep on the Shadowfell, and pre-ordered the core books.  I read and re-read KotSF until the core books eventually arrived.  In the year since then I've yet to play 4e, and I've discovered the Old School Renaissance, and all the assorted other movements out there.  I've read a whole bunch of the different free games out there, and I only wish I had daily gaming groups in order to play them all.  Of course I'd probably screw up the rules all the time if I did that...

Anyway, as my previous entry showed I don't think there needs to be any sort of division between us gamers.  Be you an old school grognard or a new school gamer there is plenty of room for everyone and for all ideas.

What does this mean for me?  It means I get to read all sorts of cool stuff that people come up with.  It means that I can the best ideas and try to apply them across the board.  Of course I don't have an active gaming group right now, but I'm hoping.  And while I'm hoping, I'm reading and assimilating ideas and getting ready to game.  If someone offered me a chance to play right now, be it OD&D, a retro-clone, M20, T20, D20, or 4e I'd be there!  If it was 2nd edition... Hell, I'd play that too, though I'd need to get the books again for that one.

Whatever you're game of choice, go play!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monster: Gallowsgaunt

The body had hung for days, swinging from the tree branch, rotting away.  Of course, this wasn't where he died.  After being driven from the village, chained and hobbled, beaten the whole way, he was stretched apart, his limbs torn from his body, and what was left had been strung up from the gallows tree, out near the squash fields.  He'd deserved no less for his crimes.  The only witness to what happened next was the scarecrow, and a black feathered bird.

The body was cut down under a sickly noontime sun, and all through the day, and into the night the worker of dark arts performed a foul ritual.  As the new day dawned a ghastly abomination shakily rose up.  It's sickly legs wobbled like a newly fowled calf, and it's sightless eyes looked around in malevolent astonishment.  With not a word, it's creator sent it forth to terrorize

Gallowsgaunt (Rules Cyclopedia Version)
Large Undead
Armour Class: 3
Hit Dice: 4+2
Move: 100' (50')
Attacks: 2 Slam
Damage: 1d8
No. Appearing: 1-2
Save As: C4
Morale: 4
Treasure Type: nil

Alignment: chaotic
XP Value: 100(?)

In combat the Gallowsgaunt will lash out into it's victim with it's wooden limbs, chains, and ropes.  Anyone attacked by the Gallowsgaunt must save vs paralyzation or flee at top speed from the monster for 1d6 rounds.  At the end of the d6 rounds the character will have immunity from this fear effect for 24 hours.  Due to the nature of the reanimation, turn attempts made against a Gallowsgaunt are made as if it is a 6 hit die creature.

Gallowsgaunt (microlite 20 version)

AC: 18
HD: 4d12+2
HP: 28
Initiative: +2
2 Slam (+4 1d6+fear) Undead, +2 turn resistance

Gallowsgaunt (4e)
Level 4 Skirmisher
Large Undead  Exp: 175
Initiative: +6 Darkvision
HP: 58 Bloodied: 29
AC: 18 Fort: 17  Reflex: 16  Will: 16

Vulnerable 5 Radiant
Speed 5

Basic Melee Attack: Slam (Std. At-Will)
+9 vs AC 1d10+4 damage

Scream of the Damned (Std. Recharge on 6)
Close Burst 3 +10 vs. Will 2d6+4 psychic damage

Alignment: Evil
Str: 16 (+3)   Dex: 16 (+3)  Wis: 16 (+3)
Con: 16 (+3)  Int: 10           Cha: 10

I haven't finished painting my gallowsgaunt yet.  This picture is from Cool Mini or Not.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Megadungeon mapping thoughts

Yesterday I pulled out some graph paper and stared sketching out what I thought would be the first level of the dungeon. I had spent some time looking at maps other had posted, at random map generators, and put pencil to paper.

And I wasn't happy.

I enjoyed it, and I think I came up with an interesting dungeon, but it was just... too random.  I wanted there to be more story behind the dungeon, not just... a crazy hole in the ground.

So while cooking dinner I thought about what this megadungeon was built for.  I decided that it was originally built for the reason I imagine most dungeons are built for, storage under a castle or other fortress.  Now what sort of things would a castle store?  Thinking about what sort of things I store in my basement I realized a castle would probably be just like that, only more so.  There is food storage of course, but also stuff storage.  Imagine after a couple of hundred years how much junk might accumulate in someones huge basement.  Things like seasonal decorations, old tools, broken items of furniture, grandma's plates and bowls with the really ugly pattern, the stinky stuffed owlbear wearing wizard robes and holding a decorative wand, and even more would be kept down in the basement.  There are probably treasures mixed in somewhere, or at least there were before mold or monster (or monstrous mold) got to them. 

The first level of the dungeon would be for bulk storage.  Things that would be too large or too heavy to want to move too far from the main castle.  The next level would most likely include smaller stuff, and prisoners.  You don't want those screams echoing up into the castle now do you?  There are probably areas where the garrison can fall back to should the castle be taken, and crypts.  The crypts can be pretty extensive, extending down and out for quite a ways.  Further below that are the vaults, and the most heavily trapped area of the dungeon. 

 This is how the dungeon was originally built, many many years before.  150 years before now the castle fell, and the area became wild as civilization was driven out.  The ruins of the castle were raided, and the dungeon plundered and inhabited.  Over the last 150 year it's inhabitants have expanded and remodeled the dungeon.  Recently a trade route reopened nearby, and stories of the fallen castle and it's vaults have begun to spread. 

So after dinner out came a fresh sheet of paper, and I basically drew large warehouse style rooms, pretty boring by themselves, but I intend to fill them with both the stuff from the castle (what's left anyway) and a humanoid clan and a human bandit gang that has set up shot to raid the trade road.  I figure the bandits and the humanoids have come to some understanding about the only exit to the surface from this level and they keep themselves segregated.  Members of both the goblin band and the human gang will be out of the dungeon and will return after the heroes have passed through the first time, or while the heroes are in there if they decide to camp out in the dungeon.  There is  a hole down to the 3rd or 4th level (I haven't decided), and stairs to the 2nd level.

The second level will have some undead, as well as critters, and more humanoids.  From the second level there will be access to the first level, and the 3rd level via stairs.  There will also be access to the 3rd level via holes dug in an attempt to avoid the traps and get into the vaults.  Sections of the 2nd level will be cut off due to collapsed corridors.  These sections may or may not be accessible from the 3rd level.  The crypt section of the dungeon may be accessible from the surface.  Might be blocked off though. 

The third level will have lots of undead, as many have died trying to get into the vaults. I also figure that a wizards workshop will be down here, which can include all sorts of fun things.  The wizards workshop can delve deep into weirder sections.  There will be further additions to the dungeon on this level by kobolds or other diggers.  The levels below the 3rd will include natural caverns which will connect with some dwarven/kobold mines.  There will also be a hidden escape route from the 3rd level to an as yet undiscovered location on the surface.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monsters & Minis

Lately I've been painting Lord of the Rings minis, but this past weekend I really wanted to do something different, something that was monstrous, something that jived with my increasing anticipation for Halloween. Years ago I picked up a couple of Ral Partha pumpkin 'eads, scarecrows, and a greater pumpkin 'ead just because they were cool.   I also have a Gallowsgaunt from the Chainmail line, which fits the theme pretty well too.  Monday night I pulled them out of the cabinet of minis I've yet to work on, and started to work on them!

Once I had them out and on my painting tray I was further inspired to write up stats and descriptions for them for D&D.  Which D&D?  BECMI, M20, and 4e.  Thats right!  3 different sets of stats!  

The figures are assembled and based, and I've started to prime them.  Painting them up shouldn't take too much time, as they are all pretty simple minis, and once I've got them done I'll start posting the stats that I'm writing up along with the pictures of the finished minis.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to Basics

While shopping yard sales this summer for a gaming/craft table I came across this.  It was only $1, and it came with what I think are the original dice and crayon.  My wonderfully tolerant partner Virginia looked at me incredulously and asked me if I seriously wanted it as I snatched it from the table.  I replied "Oh yes!" and and refused to put it down until I had paid for it. 

I've been reading it, and I'm struck by how different it is from 4e, and yet how familiar.  That makes sense as I started with the Rules Cyclopedia, which is pretty much the BECMI rules sets in one book.  The assumptions built in to the game, the old school feel of it if you will, certainly brings a smile to my face.  I'm tempted to try running this at some point, just a one shot, going through the intro adventure. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mini Dungeons and Mega Dungeons

My first mega dungeon was drawn out over... 6 newspaper sized sheets when i was about 11 years old and playing Rules Cyclopedia D&D. I don't think I ever ran it, though I did spend a fair amount of time stocking it! It was probably one of the most random assortment of monsters ever put to paper. As much as I enjoyed doing it, I was always dissatisfied with it, though at the time I didn't know why.

It was almost a decade later when I returned to a mega dungeon. This time it was Undermountan and my adventuring party only dipped their toes into the vast halls. This was the last time I ever messed around with a megadungeon, and I haven't really missed it.

Minidungeons (a word I first heard over at taichara's blog) were much more my style, even if I didn't have a snazzy word for them. They just made more sense to me than the huge sprawling complexes with everything plus the kitchen sink (mimic) thrown in. How would that work?!? Why are there gnolls next to a necromancer, next to a goblin clan, next to human bandits? And why are there human bandits so deep in the dungeon? Who are they raiding anyway?

For the past couple of months the idea of a giant dungeon complex keeps poking itself into my consciousness. Sending a group down into it's depths, not to see the light of the sun for weeks or even months... But how to make it work? How do you make a megadungeon make sense?

The answer I arrived at is this - A megadungeon isn't just a big dungeon, it's a huge one, sprawling over vast amounts of space. Sprawling is the key. A megadungeon is nothing but a series of interconnected minidungeons! There will be miles of tunnels with little to nothing in them, areas that started to be excavated but were abandoned before they got more than a room or two deep, lots of areas that would qualify as a minidungeon, and a few larger complexes that would take up a page or 3 of graph paper.

Why? Easy, why build something if there aren't any resources nearby? Areas that are dug out are dug out for a reason, and that reason usually will have to do with resources; water, minerals, lay lines, etc. and whatever resource is nearby will influence the construction of the surrounding complex. Exits to the surface or to lower levels, or areas where multiple sections naturally come together will be busier and have more variety of encounters. Areas without any resources will be empty. Why are there lots of long tunnels connecting all these mini dungeons? Well, there are lots of large burrowing creatures out there, and lots of natural caves, and people want to get from place to place in order to exchange things... plus with thousands to millions of years of underground empires, it's logical to presume that various avenues would have been created.

So where will my megadungeon start? At the top! More to come...

Friday, September 11, 2009


Trollsmyth over on taichara's blog had the word "wayedge" as his word verification for a comment. It sounded like a cool name, so they decided to individually make a magic item with the name Wayedge. The name caught my imagination too, so here is my take on Wayedge.

Jie Chue, master forger of the ancient empire, long ago crafted a small blade for a patron who's name has passed into the sands of history. Tales of the blade, however, have turned up from time to time. An elven assassin once used Wayedge to slay a noble baron, which spurred the baron's daughter to take up his sword while his son took up the crown. It is also told that Wayedge brought low the Goblin King of Thunder Rift in the hands of a courageous halfling.

It is not known where Wayedge currently rests, but it never stays out of bardic tales for long.

Wayedge is a single edged shortsword with a gently curved blade. It's hilt is a flowing brass knot-work design that begins at the cross-guard and finished at the pommel. It is preternaturally sharp and polished without ever needing to be tended. Wayedge is enchanted as a +2 shortsword with two unusual enchantments. The first allows it to be thrown as a dagger. The second manifests itself rarely, only when it has been thrown as a dagger and the player rolls a natural 20 on their attack. When this happens the character who threw Wayedge will be instantly teleported next to the target and able to make a second attack without penalty.
In 4th edition terms as an at-will interrupt ability on a critical hit when thrown, Wayedge allows the owner to teleport adjacent to the target and make a second basic attack after the teleport.

Trollsmyth: Magic Item: Wayedge

A Hamsterish Hoard of Dungeons and Dragons: Magic Item: Wayedge

**Edited to add**

Oddysey's version

Blackrazor's version

Thursday, September 10, 2009


In the dusty halls of this blog I plan on posting whatever random gaming thoughts I happen to have at the time. They will likely range across a variety of systems, though most will probably be related to various editions of D&D.

I also have a livejournal account where I tend to post more about what's going on in my life, and far fewer of my gaming thoughts.

As for my role playing gaming history, it stretches back almost 2 decades at this point! I've played D&D, Star Wars (d6 and d20), old World of Darkness, Alternity, Nobilis, and I've flirted to various extents with a number of other games and systems.

I'm also a miniature gamer, mostly focusing on Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings game, as well as Warhammer 40K. I have a cabinet of unpainted minis and am trying to work through it before buying more.

In real life I have a beautiful wife, and together we have a pair of corgis, a hamster, a guinea pig, 2 foster guinea pigs, and some fish that we keep in our colonial style house just outside of Baltimore.