Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dungeon Musings

Go Play NW gave me a big energy boost. There's a bunch of awesome stuff going on right now, so that I hardly know where to begin.

First up, thanks for all the great dungeon ideas in the Thanks for all the Dungeons thread! There were a ton of great ideas. That will help keep us all in dungeons for a while to come. David of Tower of the Archmage won the dungeon giveaway. Go check out his megadungeon maps on his blog!

Also, I'm adding a new theme to the blog: city tiles. I have very fond memories of the City of Lankhmar setting that TSR published. These city tiles were created for John Harper's as yet unpublished Stranger Things RPG. The first one, Wound Way was posted yesterday. I'm going to start posting these once a week as well.

Finally, the Apocalypse D&D project has a new home over at Vincent Bakers Barf Forth Apocalyptica. Most news and discussion of this D&D hack will live there, though I'll make the occaisonaly announcement through this blog as well.

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Wound Way

At the bottom of Wound Way there is a well that is widely held to be bottomless. Certainly torches or lamps dropped into the maw fall without sound until the light is lost in distance. Ropes and chains lowered into the well find no bottom. This has become a popular place to dispose of unwanted items: cursed trinkets, embarrassing correspondence, or, given the dangerous character of the neighborhood, bodies. Curiously, a bucket lowered to a depth of 15 feet comes up filled with brackish but drinkable water.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fool's Gold isn't a Useless Spell

There's this spell in the AD&D PHB called Fool's Gold. It turns a big stack of copper pieces into pretty good fake gold pieces for a while. But that's not all! If you want to be sure of fooling your target, you can crush an expensive gem on the fool's gold to make it doubly fooling! Why you wouldn't just offer someone the gem you're going to crush anyway is a little unclear.

Has anybody ever used a memorization slot on this? Has anyone ever used it to good effect? Fool's Gold is just one of those many practically useless spells in the PHB (Leomund's Trap, anyone? Mending?).* If you're into measuring the utility of the spells you memorize, it's hard to see why you'd chose this over Magic Missile, Charm Person, or Protection from Evil, for example.

At least, that's what I used to think. But now I'm starting to see that utility isn't the only or even the main reason those spell lists exist. Those lists show what wizards in this world can do. And if your wizard has Fool's Gold in his spell list, it's the kind of thing he/she can do too. That's a small but important part of the game of D&D.

As a DM, you can put this to good use. What happens when the Orcs that the party is trying to bribe have a dreadful distrust of Wizards, owing to their reputation for making fake treasures? If wizards have a reputation for deception in your world, it can make all kinds of interesting trouble for your party. Or maybe the kobolds in that ruined tower are helping the mage with his experiments because of that huge chest of "gold" he keeps showing them. And Fool's Gold might not be worth a memorization slot, but in a wand or scroll, it might see use. A wand of mending would be a handy and colorful item for a wizard to be toting around.

The deeper I dig into AD&D the more respect I have for Gary Gygax's game design skills. There's a lot of gold (not Fool's Gold) buried in the texts--perhaps an endless supply!

* I'm also deliberately ignoring another purpose for useless spells: to make a certain brand of player bend their brain trying to find a good use for them. I played a bard in 3rd edition, so I know whereof I speak on this.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

March and May Compilations

The microdungeon compilations for March and May have now been uploaded. Links are to the right. Woot!


The Purple Worm Graveyard

What happens when you read those weird, squiggly inscriptions written along the bottom of that wall? What if you kneel in front of the altar of light and let what comes, come? And when you try to cast that really hard spell and it goes horribly wrong?

You open your mind to the worm god. The worm god is an ancient chaotic entity whose domains include destruction, decay, hunger, compost, and gardening.

Roll 2D6 plus your CON hit point bonus.
  • On a 10+, your mind is in contact with the Worm god and it shows you what you want then offers you a bargain or a gift.

  • On a 7-9, you receive a true impression or vision of what you're interested in, but then suffer a temporary insanity.

  • On a 6 or less, the DM decides what happens.

Temporary Insanities:
  1. Fall on your hands and knees and start eating dirt voraciously for 1-4 rounds

  2. Projectile vomiting for several minutes

  3. You realize that somewhere, somehow, there's a worm in your body. You can feel it, but you can't tell where it is.

  4. The Worm god has a command for you, and he's watching to make sure you carry it out!

This is a little tidbit from the con scenario that I ran and Sage ran at Go Play NW. Opening your mind to the Worm god is fun!

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Back from GPNW and Fully Recovered!

Vacation, work, and Go Play NW conspired to keep me from my dungeons for a couple weeks, but I'm back now.

Go Play NW was a real blast. I'll probably post a lengthlier writeup some time in the near future. Microdungeons figured large in my convention. I brought three microdungeon adventures with me to GPNW and got to run all of them using Apocalypse D&D. Plus the generous Sage offered to take one of them and run it for a couple of groups as well. That was a pretty amazing experience.

Apocalypse D&D fared very well at GPNW, despite the fact that Apoc D&D wizards are crazy. After each game I gathered up the pre-gens and handed them off to the next group to keep playing. The mage got to fifth level and blew up most of his buddies in a nasty fireball mishap. The Dwarven fighter went evil and ran off with a professional vampire slayer, while the theif was turned into a lesser wraith by one of the bad guys and later ran off with a risen saint to start a new undead religion.

I also got to run some Poison'd and played in a spectacular game of Fiasco and Brandon A's Minions hack for Apocalypse World. What a great con!

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Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm Goin' on Vacation!

I'm going off on vacation, so this will be the last dungeon for at least a week. Then after I get back it's Go Play NW! I've got three dungeons prepped for play at the con, and I'm bringing a fourth one (and a Monster Manual) with me to work on the plane.

I am totally exhausted. I don't expect this to be a relaxing vacation, but it's much needed. It's been very hard keeping the blog going this month. Work has been crunch time all the time, and I've had a few art commissions on deadlines to squeeze in. I think a break, followed by some 30-ish hours of gaming is just what I need to re-prime the creative engine.

See you in a week!

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thanks for all the Dungeons! We need more Dungeons!

It's hard for me to admit this, but I'm running out of dungeon ideas. I just finished three Gamma World dungeons and I've got nothing left.

So please send me your dungeon ideas! I'll take themes, words, geographical features; anything you've got! Post them in the comments.

Also, one random person from the comments will receive the original copy of The Meteoric Shrine of Kintok-Glau mailed to them in a simple matte frame.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More Dungeon Compilations

Nick has come through with some more compilation PDFs! You can find them linked just to the right there. We now have January, Febrauary, and April. March is waiting for me to fix a graphic (oops), and more are coming in the future. Woot!



Crocodiles are pretty badass. Even out of water they can move fast. The ancient Romans feared them. Fantasy crocodiles are even worse. They're smarter, bigger, and meaner, and some have magic resistance. Although some crocodiles have the gift of speech, they rarely use for any other purpose than taunting their prey or luring it into a trap. In at least one account, crocodiles have been known to shadow an adventuring party, trying to provoke them into an ill-advised attack. Some crocodiles also live in symbiosis with will-o-wisps, who lead prey into deep mires where crocodiles can ambush them at their leisure.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Four Cursed Items

Dullard’s Blade

The Dullard’s Blade is named for King Wenclas the Dull, famous for his cowardice. The Dullard’s Blade provides +1 to damage, however on a natural 1, the weilder must save versus spells or attempt to flee from combat if possible. If the wielder is already surrounded and unable to flee, they will drop their blade and put their hands in the air.

Holey Shield

They say these shields were forged by the Eyrines before the dawn of civilization. Each bears a different sigil, some of which may be known to the very knowledgeable. The shield provides +1 armor protection over and above the normal shield bonus; however, whenever an opponent rolls a 20 in combat, they will strike through the invisible magical flaw in the shield, doing double damage. These shields have an unlucky aura to them.

Icarus Draught

This potion is indistinguishable from a potion of heroism except through powerful divination, and has all the effects of that potion. However, it's imbiber also becomes subject to bezerk rage and must save vs. petrification to do anything other than attack the nearest target until the potion's effects wear off. If there are no targets visible, the drinker will immediately fall into an exhausted sleep for 1 hour.

Potion of Trust

Not strictly cursed, this potion is prepared in using hair and skin from a particular individual. When given as a gift by that individual and drunk immediately, it prevents the drinker from acting directly against the giver or lying to the giver. Doing so causes intense abdominal pain and requires the drinker to save versus poison, or collapse in helpless pain for 1d10 minutes.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Stone Head of Asclepius

There's a weird stone head out on the edge of the wilderness. Some folks say it talks from time to time, but nobody can understand what it says. Lately some weird characters with big hoods and shiny silver hands in their sleeves have been hanging around the place. The mayor's not too happy with that, so he's hired some toughs to go check it out. So go check it out!

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Friday, June 4, 2010

The Third Lost Githyanki Space Dungeon

A strange artifact floating in an endless gulf, carries secrets of a forgotten magic.

A legendary threat resurfaces with terrifying results in a remote space dungeon.

The true cause of an ancient war lies hidden deep in the gulfs of limbo.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Four Magic Armors

Drake Chain

Forged by a legendary race of highly developed lizardfolk in a previous age, this +1 chainmail has a slimy feel and greenish cast. However, it is nearly weightless in water, providing no hinderance to movement. The owner may not harm any lizardfolk while wearing it.

Meteoric Shield

Few of these were ever made, owing to the rarity of meteoric iron. In addition to the regular effects of a +1 shield, a meteoric shield provides +1 protection against any hot, cold, or acid attack and an additional +1 to saving throws where these elements are involved.

Terrance’s Spectacular Helm

This +2 helm never belonged to Terrance but was forged in imitation of his legendary headgear, the Borealis Helm. Terrance’s helm produces an unwavering light from gems set around the rim, illuminating up to 30’. This light cannot be extinguished by magic or any other means. If the wearer removes the help or hides its light in a way that the help deems cowardly, it disappears from their possessions to find another master.

Wildwood Leathers

While many armors go by the name “Wildwood leathers”, true items of this name allow their owner to hide in shadows as a theif of their own level. If the character is already a thief, they may become invisibe with a successful hide in shadows attempt.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Skein of the Lesser Abyss

It is over a thousand years since the eighth cohort appeared at the obelisk, but the Zentacor still watch. Once the skein was a minor stopping point on the endless offensive of the Gith, and later, of the Ilithid slave armies in their retreat. Now it's a quiet place -- almost unearthily so, such that the rare mortals who walk there can sense the terror of endless empty, unfriendly planes of existence stretching below. Nevertheless, the place does see the occasional traveler. Every dimension nexus does. Some stay a while and make thier their lair. Others move on as quick as they can. Some are helped into oblivion by the undying denizens of the place.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nomen Ludi

There's a fantastic and haunting feature on Boing Boing today by Rob Beschizza about his hunt for the mysterious and obscure 8-bit video game that somehow formed the foundation of his personal mythology.

Dungeon Dressing: Rope Bridge

The humble rope bridge has many adventages for dungeon-dwelling folk. First, it can be assembled entirely from lengths of rope, iron spikes, and pieces of firewood; in short, items that can be readily scavenged in a dungeon environment. Second, it can be quickly assembled and deployed or disassembled to prevent passage: using an axe if neccessary. Finally, even left intact, it poses some barrier to the threat of adventurers. An average adventuring party encountered a rope bridge, even assuming a desire to pass over it, can be held up for many crucial minutes and even hours of debate and discussion. Tromrick's Theives Guild has been known to offer training courses on rope bridge use and navigation, among other things.