Monday, May 31, 2010

The Flying Castle

A powerful wizard lords it over the land in his flying castle, yet he can't resolve the problems that lurk in his own basement!

A flying castle arrives in town. A flight of messenger crows deliver a threat and a demand for a bizarre assemblage of reagents. Will the township try to acquire the goods, or send a party to deal with the castle?

The Githyanki wars are long over, which makes it all the more alarming when an apparently abandoned flying castle drops through a portal from the Astral plane and hovers loomingly over the largest city on the continent.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Rise of the Githyanki

Back in the 80's some time there was a Githyanki astral dungeon published in Dragon Magazine. It was an awesome mind-bending high-level dungeon on a floating asteroid castle with towers and rooms sprawling in every direction in an Escher-like contravention of the laws of gravity.

There's something spectacularly awesome about the Githyanki.* Thus I declare this Githynaki week, with three vaguely Githyanki-flavored dungeons for your pleasure.

Trivia: Did you know that Githyanki were created by Charles Stross for his D&D campaign?

* If you are one of those small minority of Githyanki-haters, please don't despair. Next week I'll have some dungeons with Kobolds and giant spiders in them or something.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Equisite Corpse Dungeon Stocking

I have a lot of difficulty stocking dungeons, so for Go Play NW I’m devising an exquisite corpse dungeon stocking technique. It works like this:
Make three columns of words and phrases. Each column should have 12-20 items in it.

In the first column, list stuff you already know is probably going to be in your dungeon. I’m doing this with microdungeons, so it’s easy. I just look at the Barrow on the Hill map:

So in column 1 I put:
ancestors, swords, spite, bats, visions, crypt, mural, hunger, bone pit, tomb, maze, dome, standing stones

In column 2 I put thematic words, monsters, events, or themes that match the color I want my dungeon to have.

death, skeletons, ambush, gnawing, haunted, wailing cries, entombed, forgotten, blindness, tomb robbers, spikes, shadow

In column 3 I put macguffins, dungeon tricks, plot twists, and other fairly generic adventury bits.

Column 3:
not what it seems, treasure is hidden, item is actually magic, monster wants something, treasure conceals a monster, room is cursed, moving walls and floors, PC’s ancestry is involved, swarms of monsters, monster is also a wizard, rod of paralysis, scrying magic

Now roll 1d10 on each column, writing down the phrases you get and crossing them off the list. The three phrases are your exquisite corpse. Write 1-2 sentences about what encounter or thing in the dungeon this corpse represents. Do this 6-10 times. Each corpse is sort of an oracle to devise one encounter.

So, for example: a roll of 1, 7, 2 = “ancestors” – “entombed” – “treasure is hidden”. I decide this means that the protecting ancestral spirits who once guarded the barrow have been bound to their bones, swept into the bone pit, and magically entombed. The treasure is that if released, one of the skeleton warriors will serve a party member until destroyed. Perhaps opening the pit is quite dangerous unless the PCs can figure out the correct spell or command word.

Second roll: 3, 2, 3 = “bats” – “skeleton” – “monster wants something”. I decide that the ghosts of lesser servants buried in the barrow have possessed the skeletons of a swarm of bats in the cave labeled bats on the map. These creatures have a mindless compulsion to complete some ancient task that may be to the PCs benefit or detriment. They will fight if prevented from completing their goal. I don’t know what the goal is yet. I’m going to wait until I roll some more stuff up and see something jumps out at me.

I've made three dungeon outlines this way, and I"m very pleased with the results!

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Stonehouse

A dungeon doesn't have to be complicated to be great. This dungeon is inspired by The Book of Ruins by Judge's Guild, a book which I reviewed a while back, so I won't say much more about it here, except that it contains a number of excellent, simple dungeons.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Number of Dungeons

I took a little inventory today. I currently have 23 dungeons scanned, but not posted, 8 dungeons drawn but not scanned, and 36 blank dungen-sized peices of paper. That means there are 67 dungeons yet to come. That seems like more than enough microdungeons, don't you think? In fact, I'm starting to wonder if I have 36 more ideas!

If I keep to my current rate, I'll publish my last dungeon somewhere around September 20th. That's a lot of dungeons! Right now, I'm not planning to end this blog. This is turning out to be a good year of art for me, so I think I'll probably just keep posting gaming stuff and artwork here at a reduced rate once the dungeons are done.

Nevertheless, it's good to have a deadline.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Coffee Dungeon

12 Random Beverages

1. Coffee
2. Coffee substitute brewed from fungus
3. Slime mold juice
4. Fermented slime mold juice
5. Blood
6. Crystal clear water
7. Tainted water, causes abdominal cramps for 1d8 hours
8. Unstable quintessence, roll on potion imiscibility table
9. Ethereal water, invisible, weightless, and tasteless, but quenches thirst
10. Alcohol
11. Cranberry liqueur
12. Herbal tea, cures 1 HP of damage

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Saturday, May 22, 2010


Hey, you should probably check out Ben's journal Chronocide, because he's going through all the Planescape monsters, writing them up, and coming up with awesome plot hooks around them.

Friday, May 21, 2010


The core of this dungeon is violence. Don't let the manipulations and ammednments distract you; it comes back to violence.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Have a Beer with Go Play NW

As many of you know, I'm one of the organizers of Go Play NW, a home-grown Seattle role-playing game convention. Well if you happen to live in the Seattle area, you can come down to the Big Time Brewery and have a beer with us on Sunday, May 23rd. We'll be hanging out, talking about gaming, and having fun from 7:30 onward. This is a great way to get to meet some of the Go Play crowd, or just find out what we're about.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The Faithful Illithid (his or her true name being unknown) served many masters with a diligence and neutrality that belied the reputation of the Illithid race. When, in time, fame brought too many sages, kings, wizards, and demons willing to pay even the Illithids exorbitant price, it retreated to another plane of existence where it continues its work in relative peace. But if your reputation is high enough, even a pocket dimension without entrance is no discouragement.

The Faithful Illithid still takes commissions from a variety of customers, provided the customer has the knowledge and power to reach the Illithid in its private refuge. The creature is known to employ a number of trustworthy and reliable agents throughout the planes to carry out its customers requests. No commission is too obscure or too dangerous for The Faithful Illithid.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Cloud Giant Alchemist

Cloud Giants, as I recall, are pretty badass. Cloud Giant Alchemists like to test their theories on people. It's kind of like testing cosmetics on rabbits. So becoming a Cloud Giant alchemist's prisoner might not be a great move. On the other hand, alchemists are all about converting lead into gold, which might mean there's some free gold lying around, right?

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Mines of Ravenswood

Session three of the Apocalypse D&D game started out at Happy Harry’s Ogre tavern in the underground. Karl Ravenswood and Ebag the thief spent some carousing time trying to gather information for the road ahead (which also gave me a chance to try out the new town moves for ApocD&D).

Ebag befriended a rather stuck up wizard. He had an opportunity to befriend the fellow, but chose to wheedle some of his secrets out of him instead, gathering the location of a hidden horde of gems guarded by a Dwarven ghost of some sort. Karl was both less and more fortunate, finding himself in an unexpected an unwelcome interview with an Illithid who mockingly challenged Karl to take on a wererat King on the fourth level of the dungeon. The Illithid also got a real kick out of the fact that Karl's father, the local lord, technically claims sovereignty over the dungeon itself (a claim that Karl would love to enforce).

But our heroes are only second level at present, so they chose to pursue the Antlion king who they knew had taken refuge with the Kobolds. The Kobolds on the level 2 of the mines are a rather dirty “back to nature” lot, though not lacking in swords and pointy sticks. Down a dirty tunnel, the PCs and their retainers encountered a lone sentry, which quickly turned into a pitched battle with a sizable guard contingent. The on-again-off-again fight spanned a few rooms, ending in a huge cavern with an underground waterfall that marked the edge of Kobold territory. A hasty interrogation of prisoners turned into a full retreat when some sort of bat-winged cave Roc tore their best prisoner in half. Ebag also lost his backpack full of gear (which was better than losing his head).

In some confusion as to the Kobold’s true location, the PCs followed a narrow ledge, discovering the entrance to an abandoned Dwarven temple. It wasn’t Kobolds, but their curiosity got the best of them (plus Ston, their Dwarf cleric *really* wanted to check the place out).

There was an iron statue with gem eyes that they wisely left alone, as well as a fount of some sort full of coins, which they also avoided. The mirror-polished room with the dead adventurers was too intriguing to pass up, however, and Ebag and Karl soon had to do battle with mirror-images of themselves. Karl’s might saved the day, however, and the party decided to take a rest and bind up their wounds before continuing on.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Enchanted Princess

Because I assume that everyone wants to hear more about my daughter's seventh birthday party, here are paired dungeons created by my daughter, Miss M, and myself; my first Year of the Dungeon collaboration. The first dungeon (I drew that one) contains rooms requested by Miss M. The second she drew after expressing some disapointment with the shortcoming of my dungeon.

It's not entirely visible, but the hallways to the Dragon's lair ends in a blank wall with no door, "because then the dragon would get out!" Note also the Ballroom, and the all important Kite Room.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Week of Custom Dungeons

It's custom order week! I'm taking orders for custom dungeons at a reduced price. I'll keep taking orders until Tuesday of next week or until I get so many orders, I start getting worried about completing them in a timely fashion. That isn't very likely, but it's good to have an escape clause anyway.

To get a custom dungeon, email me at and give me up to 10 words you'd like included in your dungeon. If you name one of my dungeons as well, I'll do your dungeon in the style of the dungeon you named. Feel free to include extra details too.

When I'm done, I'll send you your dungeon original in a simple matte frame. The price is $30, including shipping (normal price is $40 PLUS shipping). The money may be sent via paypal to the email address above. Each dungeon will be black and white drawn on 3" x 4" cardstock paper. Unless you request otherwise, I reserve the right to publish the dungeon on this blog and elsewhere.

PS I also take requests. If there's a dungeon you want to see, post it in the comments and I'll add it to my list for the blog!

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Cupcake Dungeon

This weekend was my daughter's birthday. We had cupcakes from the best cupcake baker in the United States (which just happens to be up the street from our house), Cupcake Royale. I drew this cupcake dungeon there a few weeks ago.

There's this idea for a cooking-themed campaign that I've always wanted to do. The idea goes that any craft, taken to a high enough level, becomes essentially magic. In the Great City State of this campaign world, high-class chefs compete for wealth and acclaim. The PCs are employed by one of these chefs, a job that sends them across the world seeking rare recipes and ingredients, on missions to investigate the plans of rival chefs, and occasionally to fix a magical recipe gone horribly wrong.

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Brass Gulch Mine

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Harper's Canyon

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Store Woes

So setting up the dungeon store is turning out to be more than a pain than I thought. Specifically, trying to have art appear in the store at the same time as I put the dungeons on the blog is a pain. I'm still figuring out the solution to this one.

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January Microdungeon Compilation

The January Microdungeon Compilation is ready! Thanks again to Nick Kristof at The Fantasy Cartographic for doing the layout. Enjoy!

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Now you can buy the Dungeons

I'm still working on the Microdungeon Store. In fact, it's quite a mess if you care anything about Web design. Nevertheless, I'm now going to be making the original artwork for each dungeon available as I publish them (with the exception of some that already have homes). You'll find a little link at the bottom of each post going to the dungeon store. I'll also be adding past dungeons to the store as time allows, and announcing it here on the blog.

UPDATE OK, it turns out that posting the dungeons for sale as I post them on the blog isn't going to work logistically. So for now I'm going to post them sporadically as I'm able to update the store.

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The Wilderness of Bones

We played another session of Apocalypse D&D the other night and it went great! I'll have an AP for it soon, I hope.

I plan for this to be a year where I really develop an approach to game mastering that works for me. The next step in this process is going to be to come up with the kind of campaign that gives me the kind of play I want. The campaign I'm looking for has a specific scope (say 5-10 levels), lots of freedom of movement, but with plenty of places for me to prepare stuff for the players to encounter. I'm thinking of it as a sort of hybrid sandbox campaign style.

The new campaign will start with a map (The Wilderness of Bones, which I'm almost done creating already). I'll drop a half-dozen or so as-yet unpublished microdungeons into the map in specific locations. Then I'll seed the environment with a few hooks, rumors, and connections for the players to discover. Then I'll cut them loose and see what they do.

Microdungeons work well for this because they're small enough that I can sketch them out, then fill in the prep when the players get close. Knowing basically what dungeons are out there makes it easy for me to spin rumors and make connections between what the characters are doing and what's already out there. A few of the dungeons also have some consequences for the world if the players don't go there, like (minor spoiler) a trade route to the main campaign town that gets disrupted as the monster infestation increases.

There's also a dungeon that wanders around, and one whose location is likely to greatly surprise the adventurers. I'm very excited! When I'm done, I hope to have the bare bones of a publishable campaign setting as well. We'll see where the journey takes us.

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One Horse Town

Not much happens in this one horse town, unless you count the time bandits shot up a gold train just off the station. Or was it confederates shot up a troop train? I can never remember. Old Buck'd know. They say he was a gunfighter back in the day and still keeps a pair of pearl-handled pistols under the floorboards in his kitchen.

Sheriff Watts don't believe that, though. He says guns don't carry to keepin' the peace, but that people should talk things out. I don't know about that, but I've seen Kitty the Saloon owner pass him a bag of silver dollars to keep her private business private.

And things are pretty quiet at Sweeney's Hotel, but that don't signify. Sweeny's not around much. Spends most of his time visitin' his cousin's farm, he says. But I know he's got a shack just out of town full of shovels and a crate of dynamite.

And there's something strange about Father Pat. He preaches OK, but there's a mean, distant look in his eye that some folks miss. I've seen him whispering with Miss Kitty in the graveyard when no one else is looking.

Yeah, it's a quiet town, but I'm not sure how long it's going to stay that way.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Boot Hill Week!

Chris Bennett has been challenging me to create some microdungeons on the themes of the classic non-fantasy TSR role-playing games from back in the day. To show that I am up to the challenge, I declare the upcoming week Boot Hill Week! Nothing but Boot Hill dungeons all week long!

I have never played Boot Hill, but the way, and have only a vague notion of what a Boot Hill game might involve. Maybe you could also use these maps for a game of vs. Outlaws (which is a pretty cool-looking game I have also never played). OK, I admit it. My knowledge of Westerns comes mostly from growing up with a brother and father who loved Louis L'Amour books and John Wayne movies.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Games with Great Fantasy Maps

While we're on the topic of maps and information graphics...

This is one of my all-time favorite Board Game Geek geeklists: Games with the Best Fantasy Map Art. There is much here worth gazing at.