Saturday, December 30, 2017

Half Dragons

I always start with the image. So, you're in a hallway, there's arched ceilings, there are torch sconces. The dust lies deep on the royal carpets, there's dust on the sconces, there's dust on the painted reliefs. They look like Final Fantasy concept art, the paintings, lemme find a pic.

Like this. It's the history of Orostranthy I suppose. The inside of Solemn Cry has a Final Fantasy flavor to it. Really high ceilings, polished marble, views of the city from high up. Guards in stone armor. Yellow light through open windows that look out on the cracked landscape of the wastes, in all directions a canyoned land, copses of poisoned trees, thin clouds blow in a whistling wind.

So you're in here. And what comes down the hallway at you--this is really as far as I've gotten--is the half-dragon. I have a few ideas for what it looks like but I'm imagining it's extremely traditional, like one of these:


Except it's cut clean in half, only half of it is coming at you. There's just a polished smooth surface on the flat side, hard as stone, and the live side is alive and reptilian.

I imagine it has half the stats of a full-grown dragon. So 1/2 the HP, 1/2 the attacks (except same damage and bonus), 1/2 the breath-weapon damage in half a cone, fuck maybe even 1/2 the AC. They only tell half-truths.

I bet the flat side is immune to magic and damage. Maybe it can fall over and crush you with it.

They are the children of Azhardhul The Black Drake, who was turned to stone by martyred Saint Coreme after oppressing the kingdom of Orostranthy for generations. The stone was quarried from his corpse and used to make a city at the mouth of the desert valley of Izorides. His genetic material remained in the stone and sprouted new dragons, and they were carved off and put to use as guards for princes and princesses. But the princes and princesses are dead now, and the dragons like all dragons collect treasure. They collect whole, undamaged treasure and virgins, and keep them and admire them for a while, and in fits of mania half them, and when they come to their senses, discard.

There are three or four, all different. I'm sure they tried to combine at one point but it didn't work out.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Places in the Goblin Wastes

Here are some places in the Goblin Wastes

Solemn Cry - the old capital of Orostranthy, fallen into decay over the past hundred or so years. A great palace rising over a metropolis, the palace is largely empty now, King Roderick gazes into a fragment of glacier brought back on an expedition to the Kraal, Queen Ang disappeared a year ago, half dragons and foreign harlequins crawl the halls of the palace, but the city continues its work. The palace alone could probably hold like five small dungeons, in addition to the weird city at its base. Go here for weird city adventures and scams and bite-sized dungeons, and to buy shit you can't get anywhere else.

The Black School, "Academy of Thaumaturgica Delirium" - a school of necromancy. I don't know much about this place to be honest, but I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to arrange a visit. A good place to buy or steal high level magic, and there's probably a modest but tricky dungeon inside with very good rewards.

The Shattered Labyrinths of Illith Varn - Deep within the Canyons of Misery and Despair is the place where the armies of Illith Varn were driven two generations ago, and the wizard pursued into its depths and beheaded, and the Skoros Orb, the source of his power, lost. Rumors say the Skoros Orb has been found, fog pours from the entrance to the labyrinths, and the floating fortress of the Sky Witch is anchored to the sky above. Many are gathering at the entrance to the canyons to conduct expeditions inside. This is a gigantic multi-level dungeon with a town at the entrance to rest and repair and get deep into NPC drama. Could probably last up to level 20.

The Augur of the Sun - a blue-walled keep kept by Threzdan Osc and the remnants of the dwarves which did not travel to Abazidun to serve the King of Diamonds. Dwarves have been seen throughout the Goblin Wastes searching for artifacts to bring to the Augur of the Sun, but Threzdan Osc receives no visitors. A friendly town if you can get inside, and they've been collecting magic items across the Goblin Wastes for an ~~unknown purpose~~ so these are here too.

The Red Lake -- its red depths are rumored to be the location of the Lunar Palace, where the Fairy Queen Marybelle fell to earth before time began, but dives have turned up nothing. A mystery???

The Corpse of Urizen and the Cathedral of Change -- here is where Urizen, Demon Lord of Change, was slain by the Fairy Queen Marybelle at the beginning of time. His corpse has blighted the landscape and reality here is twisted with the remnants of his will. The Cathedral of Change was constructed here millennia ago, its servitors search ceaselessly for the remnants of Urizen's soul and wait for the return of their carnifex, Pallid Gross. An extremely dangerous area and high level dungeon, there's probably some insane artifacts and bosses inside. Don't go here.

The Prison of Dendric Vast -- much discussed. A green-walled keep, within are hundreds of prisoners kept by a bureaucracy of prison wardens, and a prison block warped by the power of Urizen and crawling with demons and cultists. The prison dwells in endless night, a dragon of slime dwells its halls, and those who live here dissolve into rot and insanity. Dendric Vast has been assassinated, and the prison is now led by Witch Captain Ogremonde and the Judicar Taltralth Yrbicorn, while the imprisoned Medusa Malareth and Carnifex of the Church of Urizen vie for power. We've been here for about six months IRL, 10 days in-game.

The DeadBoys -- a renowned adventuring party, led by AXEN GREAT the thief, BLANK the wizard, and BLATHOUS HORZEN a paladin of Fnorn, Lord of Winter. They have all died and been brought back through loathsome means to further their power. They are rumored to possess a hungering bow, an arrow of death, a blade which can see in the dark, a spell which can erase reality itself, and a fragment of the body of Imix, Prince of Fire. They and their dozens of followers are responsible for innumerable crimes, and it is widely understood that they'll demolish any village that won't accomodate them, Blood Meridian style. Currently traveling to Rappan Athuk the Dungeon of Graves to plunder the tomb of Orcus. I prepped these motherfuckers as a potential rival party, they're still out there and they have some good shit in their inventory.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Here's a bunch of spells with names a computer wrote

I found a tumblr post that has a bunch of spell names a computer wrote. The spells are nonsense words the writer dismisses, and after a few iterations the computer starts writing more normal 4e sounding spells. I like the originals better. I will turn them into spells.

(OP here


5th Level
Casting time: 10 minutes
Duration: 24 hours
Area: A circle 300' wide extending to the sky
Requirement: The caster must be able to see the sky

A cursed and stony hill, where generations brought their children to be sacrificed in the name of the beast or spirit said to live beneath it. The stones on the hill are stained with the blood of children, a pebble is dark or black, there are dark stains on the boulders, there are charred spots too. Dig and there are bones. The people who did this were killed in crusade but alone parents will still come time to time and get the blessing of the god who lives under Wome on Frr. You may go there if you desire. But this spell conjures only the sky over Wome on Frr.

First the air becomes dry. All clouds depart, rain and storms cease, fogs are burned away, though not magical fogs. If daytime, the temperature is too warm, if night, the temperature is too cold. The sky looks dusty and the haze is thick up there. Flying animals will desire to quickly leave or take shelter close to the ground, other animals will also seek to not see the sky. Metal will rust and weaken within 8 hours. Small biting flies will appear, soon they will be everywhere. Wounds bleed freely if exposed to the air, each time a person is wounded they must save against Constitution or take 1d4 Constitution damage, all Medicine checks are performed with disadvantage, and magical healing has a 50% chance of failing. If murder is done, the murderer will become immune to Fear for 8 hours. Flies will enter fresh corpses through their nostril or mouth, it is said this is one way the beast takes the soul, those killed here cannot be recovered.

A Speak with Dead spell or anything similar will cause the caster to be overwhelmed by the children, they are stunned for 1 minute.


2nd Level
Duration: Permanent or until dispelled
Casting time: 1 minute
Target: A willing creature touched

This spell causes the next object touched to the person to be able to slide in freely and socket there, and when the object is removed the mold will remain in their flesh without damaging them. In this way can be made secret pockets and other hollow spaces. Too much of the Eser Wold will cause a person's frame to weaken, it is possible to sever a person if care is not kept.


2nd Level
Casting time: One action
Duration: 1 minute
Range: 100'

This spell will command a hostile object. Any object which is being wielded to cause harm to the caster, or which has the potential to do so, may be targeted thus. It is allowed a Charisma save with the bonus of anyone wielding it, if no one wields it roll 3d6 for the object's Charisma. If it fails, it is under the thrall of the caster, and will not harm the caster--weapons will miss, spells will not function, traps will not discharge, and so on. Once per round the caster may issue a one-sentence command and the object will comply to the best of its ability until the spell is complete.


4th Level
Duration: 8 hours
Area: Up to a 50 foot cube

The lelent warder appears as if lit by moonlight. It generally takes the form of falling dust, though sometimes it will be a cat that stalks the area, and sometimes will be a young boy who watches carefully. The spell is simple and cruel, a living creature that enters the area is mangled by the force of the lelent warder. They must make a Dexterity save or suffer 8d8 damage from crushing and twisting, on success they escape with half damage but on failure they remain caught in the grip of the lelent warder, as if grappled, and must escape or save again on the following round. The lelent warder grapples with a bonus of 15. Only one creature at a time will be in the grasp of the lelent warder. After killing, it is sated, and will be peaceable for the rest of its duration.


4th Level
Saving throw: Intelligence
Target: 1d6 sentient creatures within 30'
Duration: Permanent

The cleater seefen is an insolveable riddle, it is a labyrinth with no exit or center, it is one of the powerful curses. When uttered, those who hear it are bound to attempt to solve it. Those who succeed on the saving throw will be able to communicate this, no one they meet can be affected by the cleater seefen. While those who fail are driven to conspiracy, they seek only to solve it, their days are spent in obsession. Every week they lose 1d4 Wisdom points. The first week it is only a hobby, they try to keep it secret, they devote only a few hours per day to the riddle. Within a month it becomes clear to any onlookers that something is wrong, they spend all their waking hours devoted to the cleater seefen. When their Wisdom is reduced to 0 they die. If someone finds and reads their scribbles, they must save against the cleater seefen as well. Beware this spell!


4th Level
Range: 30 feet
Duration: 1d8 days
Saving throw: Wisdom

What they called the "Spiritul Plage" appears to be the ghost of a beetle or insect which appears crawling on the target. It is large, sometimes as large as a cat, and bears a strange weight, but objects pass through it. Belief in the gods will wane, the bearer of the beetle must make an additional Wisdom save or become atheist. Furthermore any divine spells cast within 15' of the beetle will not function. The bearer may make an additional Wisdom save each 24 hours to cure the plage, on failure there will be another ghost beetle. If five or more ghost beetles accrue they will begin to eat, each morning the target takes d20 damage per ghost beetle. This is abrupt and gory. Otherwise it may be removed by Remove Curse, Dispel Magic, or any spells which affect incorporeal beasts. It is not undead.


4th Level
Time to cast: Bonus action
Range: Within hearing

This is a word of strengthening. Any inanimate object spoken to thus will be emboldened. It cannot be broken, and will be immune to charm or fear, though the object will forget quickly. The spell lasts only 1d4 rounds.


4th Level
Time to cast: 10 minutes
Duration: Until the alanc is done, or half an hour

This spell must be cast on or adjacent to a body of water. As small as a pond or as large as the ocean. No basins or bowls, the alanc won't come. Within 1d6 turns the alanc comes from the other waters, or perhaps its shadow. It is so large the entire body of water is obscured, all that can be seen is the alanc, and its eye. It speaks with the language of fish. It knows the movement and location of all fish, it knows of things lost in water, it knows deep currents, it is befriended of the king of the blue elves, it also knows what happens in the sky above water, but only as if from a distance. It will answer one question. If preferred it will swallow something, it won't give it back. The alanc won't come more than once a week, if cast again within a week a gift is required, make a Charisma check DC 20, gold will lower the DC by 1 per 100gold worth.


3rd Level
Saving throw: Constitution
Duration: 1 hour, by Concentration

The plonting cloud emerges from a mirror, it is green as brass, it makes coils and tendrils, it is low to the ground and crouches, they say that it fears the sky and desires to dance. And it is slow, it creeps only 10 feet per round. A creature ensnared by the plonting cloud will stay with it as if the cloud were their shadow, and follow it where it goes. Furthermore they will not remember anything that occurs while they are within the plonting cloud. Otherwise they will act according to their normal nature.. There are drawbacks. The plonting cloud will not move under the sky. It will not enter a room where there is a goat or other hooved creature and it will obey hooved demons. Otherwise, the plonting cloud will understand and follow specific instructions to the best of its ability. It has the attitude of a particularly intelligent cat and it fills an area 20 feet wide.


8th Level

Six aurars come. They are clad in silver cloths that hang from their heads and cover their whole bodies. A singing is around them but it is not them that are singing. It is like the ringing of bells. The aurars are capable of opening closed things, each aurar will open a way that is closed. Something as small as a lock or as large as a canyon blocked. It can be done in an eyeblink, and then the aurar leaves. If it is an allegorical way that needs to be opened (such as a secret found or a person compelled to speak) the caster must convince the aurar, a Charisma check DC 20 is baseline, at failure the aurar simply leaves. The aurars will remain until their duty is done, but beg for scraps of food, it is important that the food already be partially eaten, they will take it up under their cloths and suck. If the cloths are attempted to be removed they will be angry and no longer come until apology is made. In combat they are weak, if an aurar is slain, they will come no longer. There are only six.


4th Level
Duration: 1 minute
Range: 30'

This conjures a skein of silvery and delicate thread which appears as a net or tangle in the hands of the caster, though it does not tangle them. It may be thrown once at a target as a spell attack, if it hits the target is restrained for the duration of the spell. The net then tightens, it slices through armor, dealing 4d10 damage per round this way. The target may make a Strength or Dexterity saving throw each round to escape the enstalice.


3rd Level
Duration: 1 minute
Range: Touch
Component: Any dagger

This will turn a dagger into the Stige Dling, the cruel knife of Yek the Sorcerer. Dull green and blue, larger than others, it can see in the dark, the caster does not need to see his target. It deals d20 damage, attacks as a magic weapon, and makes a critical hit on a 17, 18, 19, or 20. However if it leaves the caster's grasp it will turn to dust, and when the spell finishes it melts into slag.


3rd Level
Duration: 1 round
Range: 100'
Saving Throw: None

Pope Furno uttered the Comenthon of Prost in the Yelling Square to a crowd of 5000, but the Comenthon was taken and no one heard it. This spell causes his command to discharge. The caster  speaks a lengthy religious treatise at length in the voice of Pope Furno, but in the space of one round. Clerics, priests, paladins, and divine spellcasters that hear it stop what they are doing to listen, any action they are taking that round is interrupted. Under normal circumstances they will then treat the caster as a Cha 20 cleric of level equal to the spellcaster's level, under hostile circumstances they will fear and loathe the caster above all others. As a side effect to the spell, 4d6 monkeys will gather within the day and inhabit the area until they grow bored.


1st Level
Duration: Permanent until used
Target: One creature touched

A small blessing. The target must declare that they would like to use the monsen, and whatever is done next, 20 friendly mice will appear and assist. They act as well as their can according to their abilities, they will gladly die for the monsen. They stay for an hour or until the declared act is done.


1st Level

Conjures a scink somewhere within 30'. It will try to run away, but if caught and immediately eaten, the eater will heal 10 hit points and recover a lost spell slot, level 1.


3rd Level
Duration: 1 hour
Range: 100'
Target: One creature
Saving throw: Wisdom

Causes the target to be able to move only closer to the closest corner of whatever room it is in. Any movement it decides to take must bring it closer to the corner. When it reaches the corner it may make another Wisdom saving throw, and if it fails it may not depart until the spell is complete.


4th Level

This is a failed spell. If you cast it, roll on the list of mishaps below.

1.Head and hands fall off, still function
2.Massive wound, take 8d6 damage immediately
3.Magical EMP, all magical effects within 100' are dispelled, items don't work for 1d6 minutes
4.You throw up
5.Summon random monster, it is hostile to you
6.Fly up 60' per round, spell fails after 1d6 rounds

With 1000 gold and plenty of time and space for research, the spell can be retooled. After a month of experimentation, roll on the table below to see what it ends up as.

1. Gatling Laser: 10d6 damage in a 60' cone, save for half damage, if 40 or more damage a random limb is severed
2. Waves of Pleasure: Intense full body orgasm in a 60' cone, incapacitated for 1d6 rounds, no save
3. Spell Vacuum: Sucks up and stores a target spell within 60', which can then be recast elsewhere within 1 minute. Can be cast as a reaction.
4. Gravity Slide: Causes target's gravity to switch 90 degrees for 1 hour.
5. Summon random monster ally of level = caster level.
6. Summon Full Moon: A full moon appears in the sky for 8 hours.

It will work only once before failing again.


4th Level
Saving Throw: None
Area: A circle 60' wide
Range: 120'

What they call the cloud appears as a general malaise. All within the vicinity simply lose 1 point of their Wisdom, Charisma, and Intelligence scores. Those affected are unable to muster joy or humor for the duration, though they will not notice this.


4th Level
Range: Extends from the caster's hand up to 400'
Casting time: 1 round per 10' created
Duration: 10 minutes

Sreeat creates a strong, straight bar up to 400' long but less than an inch wide. It is always circular in thickness and made of dark metal. One at a time creatures may walk on it, that person who walks upon it will be unable to fall off, no matter the strength of wind or compulsion forced upon them, or how absurd the acrobatics. If they attempt to jump they will be unable. But if another steps upon the bar, it will buck, and all will be thrown off.


4th Level
Range: 120'
Duration: 8 hours, or until commanded, after which the cloud will last for 10 rounds
Saving Throw: Constitution

There is an exhale of crackling smoke on the ground and when it clears there is a silver orb, slightly fattened, like a fat pancake. This is the glasp. It is toxic, if touched, even through gloves or metal, it deals 4d6 poison damage per round. The glasp is said to despise elves and gnomes, any elf or gnome within 60' of the glasp will suffer 1d6 Strength and Constitution damage one time. A saving throw is allowed. As an action the caster is able to utter a command which causes the glasp to expire, when this is done it cracks and a yellow metal oozes out. It will create a stinking yellow cloud that expands outward at a rate of 10' per round until it is 100' wide and 100' high, it is opaque and cannot be breathed, those within it must hold their breath, if they inhale they are poisoned for 3d6 Strength and Constitution damage (Saving throw for half). Those who survive this say they have heard the glasp's cruel laughter, like an unkind child.


4th Level

The blenss is a small savory pastry. It is delicious to eat, though at the center sleeps a winged insect, similar to a cicada or locust. If freed from the blenss, the insect will unerringly follow a path deeper into the ground, until it can go no further, whereupon it will lay eggs and die. Typically, these eggs will shortly fade away, as they exist partly in another realm, perhaps the realm of shadow, but if they remain and hatch the maggots may be used to replace any organic spell component. Regardless, if the insect inside the blenss is eaten, thr eater will recall a fond memory belonging to their most hated enemy. This strange spell creates d4 blenss.


5th Level
Duration: 1 year

This spell conjures slime from the Bline Ons, an evil swamp. The slime can be thrown up to 60', where it lands will grow mosses, algae, and slime molds, at a rate of 10' per day, until it fills an area up to one kilometer wide. The air is humid, fog hangs in the air, at night there are shrieking bats, during the day there are invisible cats. Demons within the Bline Ons will be comforted and will seek to remain and will always speak the truth. Curses cast within the Bline Ons will have their duration doubled. Saving throws against enchantments will be made at disadvantage. After one year exactly all within are transported back to the true Bline Ons.


6th Level
Duration: Permanent
Range: Touch
Saving Throw: None, although if the object is magical or sentient it may be granted a Charisma saving throw

This spell must be cast upon an object made of stone, whereupon it seeks to return to the place it was taken from the earth. It will move along the ground at speed 30', with a Strength score of 16 +2 per size category over tiny (small, medium, large, huge, gargantuan, colossal, as usual). When it reaches the place it will be at peace again.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Here's the random encounter table for this dungeon

Basically roll on this every 10 minutes they're in the prison and every time they make some especially loud noise or just dawdle for a really long time. When they overcome an encounter, cross it off and write a new one. That's what the lettered encounters are.

1. the slime dragon HP ?? AC ?? Attacks ?? Special Attack SLIME BREATH, damage unknown Damage reduction ?? Movement 5' Special Movement: extend a slime pseudopod up to 60' and whip its entire body that length in an instant
2. d20 drunk prison guards. they jokingly arrest and imprison the players, haha!
2a. same prison guards, now sober. They are escorting a new prisoner, he is a blue-skinned meditating man floating in a pink crystal orb. The guards are very nervous and cranky and want to get to the inn. When they see the PCs they go, “Hey! Take this fellow to the cages in the big room. We’ve got work to do.” They are bristling with steel, and among them is MID SERGEANT ROBER LORB, who out-ranks the PCs by one (he has a badge to show it). If they don’t follow his orders he’ll report them to TALTRATH YRBICORN, who will write them up for insubordination. THE PRISONER: is COSEY NIO. As soon as he is alone he escapes his cell and gets added to the encounter list here, where he immediately flees anyone who sees him.
2b Cosey Nio. HP 30 AC ?? Speed 40, can blink 40' as a reaction when hit Attacks ?? Spells encountered: EXCEPTIONAL KNIFE: a giant glowing blue force-knife whirls around him for 10 rounds. Anyone within 10’ or who starts their turn there takes 4d6 force damage (DEX save 20 for half) and is pushed out of the area. If concentration is broken, the knife goes shooting off in a random direction, damaging everyone in its path, and shatters at the end in a 20’ radius explosion.
3. d4+1 prison knights. HP ?? AC Plate mail and shield attacks: Halberd, Longbow, shackles, nets, torches, ?? movement 30 They mistake the players for an escaped prisoner and arrest them.
3a. ??
4.  an escaped prisoner is sneaking! stalking him is a ghoul, who will catch and eat him in d6 turns. Ghoul: HP 12 AC 12 Bite+5 1d6+1 and Con save DC 15 or ?? Movement 30 Special movement ??
4a. ??
5. ??
6. ??
7. ??
8. ??
9. d20+8 HUNGRY AND CUNNING DOGS. As level 3 thieves. HP 12, AC 13, Bite +5 1d4+1 and sneak attack 2d6. Thieves skills: ?? Movement 30
9a. ??
9b. ??
9c. DOGS LEAD SOMETHING HORRIBLE YOUR WAY: barking and yipping, the room floods with dogs that run away as fast as possible, hot on their tail is: 1. the dragon 2. ?? 3. ?? 4. ??
9d. ??
9e. ??
9f. THE DOGS HATE YOU: at the next NPC encounter, there are a few of these dogs there hanging out with the locals. when the PCs engage, the dogs make threatening noises, and the NPCs immediately begin to hate and distrust the PCs. All charisma checks made at -5.
10. Lantern out of oil! It goes out.
10a. ??
11. Hungry! Eat or become fatigued
12. ??
13. Next room is a blessed or ??? room
14. Nothing
15. Nothing
16. Nothing
17. Nothing
18. The witch HOPE (a wretched crone) is searching for a demon head. She will answer one question in exchange for a taste of blood and a fond memory. HP ?? AC ?? Movement ?? Attacks ?? Spells ??
18a. ??
19. d4+1 dark-knights. they carry anti-torches that prevent normal light from functioning. HD 5 Fighters AC 18 2 Attacks +6 1d8+2/1d8+2 Movement 30
19a. d4+1 dead dark-knights. their anti-torches are nearby.
20. a LORD OF CHANGE  in the shape of a rotting, feathered man with a vulture’s head and a rotting wood staff accompanied by ??d?? cultists of urizen. DEMON: HP ?? AC ?? Special Defenses ?? Attacks ?? Special Attacks ?? Movement ?? Special: 1/round at random: 1. Room is now underwater 2. ?? 3. ?? 4. Polymorph into ?? or Elderly 5. ?? 6. ?? 7. ?? 8. ??

When under the influence of HORSEHEAD, 50% chance any of these encounters is replaced by d20 glowing radioactive skeletons. HP 5 AC 11 Attack: Claw +5 1d4+1, also 1d6 damage per round to all within 15’, if a player takes 6 damage at once this way they gain a random mutation.

Good luck!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Here's how I do it

steal a hexmap somewhere online, google "hexmap" until I find one I like
get Zak to send me giant hexlists years ago so I don't have to do all the work myself and copy paste them in over half a decade or so
spend a long time in 2013 using Logan Knight's random generator factory at to make a hex generators 
forget that I did that and just write a bunch whole-cloth around where my players are
then use cedric howe's hexkit program to completely remake my hexmap, and then accidentally save over it, and facepalm in the middle of a game when I try to open it up and realize what I did, and just go back to using the random janky online one I started using in the first place
when they say "let's go to X place where there's a dungeon" I go "time to write a dungeon"
go to and mess around til it makes a dungeon map I like
google castle maps until I learn that dyson logos himself made a useful numbered keep on the borderlands map
find an online copy of keep on the borderlands and re-write everything to make it weird
literally everything actually
give every NPC a blurb or two to say when PCs interact with them.
for instance: "smithy and armorer DARKBAN OPEN, a skinny guy with upset stomach . . . 'THIS TORTURE EQUIPMENT IS DEPRESSING THAT I NEVER KNOW WHAT ITS BEEN USED ON.' " or "Provisioner. BLAD OKLEBY. . . . 'I WISH I HAD A WAY TO SEE THE SUN IN HERE' " 
this is so if I'm too drunk or at a loss there's something I can blurt out
I don't know where I get the names
let's see what else
I try to put treasure and secrets everywhere, sometimes nested. so there's secrets hidden inside secrets. and I make it so some NPCs want something specific and concrete and some want something abstract and some want something random ("I LOST MY LUCKY DICE IN THE SKULL CRATER EAST OF HERE WHILE I WAS ON MY EXERCISES.”) and some want something that can't be fulfilled and some want something that can be easily fulfilled. so there's plenty of variation. and I try to make it so nothing found is purely helpful, there's almost always some kind of catch. and I try to make it so no one is purely good or sane. and I try to make it so there are multiple ways in to everywhere, but there is no no-cost path. every path has some kind of cost--it's about choosing which one, and finding the most fortuitous way at the moment, which takes luck.
like for instance this prison is layered. there's a part of the prison that's more or less public, it has an inn and a smithy and a tattoo shop and a wizard and a cleric and stuff like that. and then there's a more private part where the warden and guards live, you have to get special clearance to get inside that. and then inside that part is the actual dungeon, with its own layers. there are multiple paths into all of these layers, but the most obvious path is in this case heavily guarded. my players opted to become prison guards (their idea) and went through an application and interview process. but there are other ways in.
anyway then I have a like 80 room dungeon and I just go into a fugue state and write it
here are some techniques I use:
go to a coffee shop and get really caffeinated and handwrite rooms
when that fails I write directly on the map
or I open up a jpeg of the map and write stuff on it
for this one I had been excited about Zelda and decided to put zelda type stuff like a BIG CHEST and BOSSES and a BIG KEY and stuff like that, so that got written directly on the map and the ideas are folded in
and I know who the leaders of the multiple factions are, so I think about the implications of their factions and write that down and use it as a guide
then I make a random encounter list that has some really deadly possibilities and a couple bosses and and a few nothing entries and also some really weird stuff they haven't encountered yet
and then.... I just write it down in the text file
and do the "one more thing" technique when the going gets tough
and also do the "anything can be inspiration" technique when the going gets tough
and the "actual research provides insane ideas you would never think of" technique also when the going gets tough 
(i would never have come up with the idea that the hand of glory candle can only be put out by milk)
and I hand-draw diagrams of complicated rooms, of course, but generally try to keep it to "one thing per room" since this is an online game and it's pretty hard to do complex rooms online
but google piranesi pictures because this is a gigantic labyrinthine fantasy prison and it would be just be a big fat missed opportunity if I didn't have insanely complicated and beautiful etchings to show my friends with stuff all over it they can point to it and go "what's that" and I can say "oh that's an ice sculpture with a brain at the middle of it"
and put secret treasure and magic items and gold and spells and secret doors and magic doors and weird NPCs and friendly NPCs and friendly places and totally hostile places and traps and mysterious stuff with hidden explanations, so that it feels really textured
the idea is to make it varied and textured. you want it so you never really know what's going to be in the next room, but it also sort of makes sense, and so that stuff that is similar is similar in a way that echoes pleasurably. like how the violence in twin peaks is never the same each time, but always reminds you of itself... or not
and it needs to feel unfathomably old, and like no one else really knows what's in there, or really cares, except maybe for the witches. witches always care about stuff like that.
and then i just steal ideas whole cloth from zak and jeff rients and patrick and scrap because, i mean, they're great ideas
and then I just do that over and over again between sessions until it's just insanely complex
honestly I think I'm too easy on my players. I could stand to put more treasure in there though, I'm pretty stingy still after all these years.
also the ways I make dungeons and adventures changes each time. I don't know what I'm gonna do for the next one. this is just how I did this one.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Some Names I Made Up For This Adventure

Torgun Ut
Algan Gorb
Tucker Lope
Rashal Von Der Butte
Darkban Open
Blad Okleby
Witch Captain Ogremonde
Prelate Mondi
Numran Orki
Curate Obscellan The Wise
Judicor Taltralth Yrbicorn
Terfcorm Abradec
Forstep Ankerstrom
Orben Oyl
His Honor Judge Worral Blunt
Dark-King Mornling Droc
Blordath Vorn
Kormleth Wunt
Orachai Kordul
Plotry Mundle
Normrod Eckstrom
Orlen Sindwe
Gorgon Wreck

Monday, May 15, 2017


Built on the back of the cracked canyons of the Goblin Wastes, far enough to keep the prisoners sequestered. It is a great keep of blue stone, where traitors against Orostranthy (and its capital Solemn Cry) too politically dangerous or otherwise dangerous to kill were sent. 

The first curse was the dying words of King Gregs, who was usurped and kept in the castle dungeons and murdered by the wardens. So now the sun does not shine within the castle walls, from the outside it is as if the castle is within shadow, from the inside it is as if the whole world were night forever, sunlight simply does not enter the castle. Looking from the castle walls during the day is looking into a dark land, the castle is cold as winter, no plants grow, and fires are kept burning at all times for heat and light.

The curse of Prince Llolg, a rival of Solemn Cry, who was kept hostage in the prison from boyhood and died. His adult sisters, sorceresses from a western land, pronounced the curse. An immortal monster appeared in the castle. Like a dragon in appearance, but mucal and transparent, its slime corrodes, its wings cannot fly it, it is slow but cunning, and quick when hungry or malicious. It lives in the castle now and goes where it desires, and though when it grows too large the prison puts it to death (at great cost) it returns.

Then the curse of the sky. A stone fell and where it landed the ground was poisoned. Those who live in the castle too long begin to rot from the inside although their bodies seem to maintain consistency and health when they are cut open their bodies are filled with a pus. But the rock is beautiful and it is kept, according to the whims of Dendric Vast.

And Dendric Vast is insane and each day insists on new rules. And the prison is overflowing with the prisoners. And the central prison block has been added onto and added onto and no one person knows exactly what is inside anymore or how it is laid out or how deep the dungeons go. And it is forgotten who is kept prisoner, despite the efforts of the scribes, who toil to record their crimes. And the Prison Knights patrol the countryside searching for criminals, and they patrol the castle searching for criminals, and they patrol the prison searching for criminals. And the prisoners say that the true keepers of the castle are the blind medusa Malareth and Pallid Gross, Carnifex of the Church of Urizen, who are sequestered in opposite ends of the prison, and warring for control.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Here's my collected thoughts on the MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA

I wrote a few posts on G+ about MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA last Spring and Patrick Stuart the co-author is looking for public posts about it to link to. Here's the transcripts of those posts for easy reference. 

A. A "review?"

A few more (spoiler free) thoughts on THE MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA now that I've read it all the way through, run it once, and spent some time mentally tracing my way through the labyrinth;

- this is the most dungeony dungeon. It has everything you'd expect in a big dungeon: different factions, shifting alliances, magic fountains, cursed treasures, teleportation, strange poisons, history, traps, trick doors, secret passages, rooms with no entrances, riddles, pits, everything.

- there is a lot of really deadly stuff in here, but I think even level one characters could survive and make it out with a good haul if they were smart and very careful.

- it was very easy to run for me. I had read the book through before playing (which the authors recommend) and sure enough it was simple to look at the picture on the painting and just remember what was inside, looking at the text for reference. The layout is ingenious: each section of the maze has a chapter with a labelled close-up that also shows nearby room numbers. Even on a PDF, flipping quickly back and forth between rooms was no problem, because on the zoomed out view the shapes of the rooms and the pictures in them are so vivid that i could identify them. Plus there's nothing egregious or lame that I would want to modify before playing. It's all high quality gameable stuff and has a similar aesthetic to the kinds of weird dark fantasy games i like to run. In the future I might want to tweak stuff here and there just for aesthetics and difficulty, but running it as-is seems like it would pose no problem.

- the hardest part of running this was the characters. I had a lot of trouble remembering exactly how each character got to be in the dungeon and why they were staying there, as well as remembering what they knew, what they would conceal, and what they would be willing to tell, as well as their relationships to the other characters. Information is as important to this dungeon as physical treasure, and I found myself defaulting to my old DM habit of drastically limiting information so as not to give too much away. Many of the character descriptions have specific instructions for which information they do and do not know, and still I had some trouble tracking it. Not to mention I kept getting the uncomfortable feeling that many of these characters were a lot smarter than me. I think the authors have done everything they possibly could to supply the necessary tools to run a huge cast of complex characters (there's literally an alphabetical character index in the back, complete with motivations and a short description)--it was still difficult on this first run.

- the dungeon itself is incredibly evocative and dense and interconnected. Almost every room has a unique feature or character, and a lot of them relate to another sometimes very distant room. In play, the denseness makes for slow going: we played for five hours and got about ten rooms deep with no treasure found, and I don't think I was rolling random encounters even as often as recommended. This isn't bad, just different from how I usually run dungeons, and I'm curious to see what this will feel like as time goes on.

- After my initial read-through I went back and traced my way through different parts of the labyrinth I was curious about, and found myself getting totally lost going between the different people and sections and trying to find the easiest way through the dungeon and the likeliest ways the players might take. You can flip to any one page and the references there (and geographical connections) can send the reader all over the book. It gives a kind of weird vertiginous effect.

- I've spent so much time with this book this weekend that I dreamed about it last night (specifically the exteriors, which don't exist in the book). The art and language and my own obsession for dungeons in particular adds up to an intensity of experience that I haven't found in many of the previous releases from Patrick and Zak, whose dungeons have been groundbreaking but nothing at this scale before. I think part of what makes it work the way it does is its smallness--RAPPAN ATHUK for instance is way too big for me to comprehend all at once, and ditto for most other dungeons that have more than two or three floors.

- I like it

B. Some advice:

Here's how I would work the Medusa Maze into a long-term campaign:

1. Introduce it with a simple and more or less easily attainable and concrete goal, probably something within the first ten rooms, or even the first five. Something that could be gotten within a session of play along with the necessary heist that unlocks the dungeon.

2. Give them a map to their destination, and tell them up front the dungeon's deal--I'd make the NPCs at the dungeon's entrance honest and helpful, or have the NPC giving the players their quest tell them exactly what the dungeon's deal is.

3. Give the players easy access to the entrance, so they can go back over and over more or less whenever they want.

4. Tie stuff outside the dungeon into the inside, so there's really good reason to take a trip inside to get exactly what you need and then escape.

And then I'd relax and let them do whatever. The dungeon is an excellent set up for a heist and is naturally resilient, but it's incredibly dense, dangerous, confusing, big, and scary to explore. And as the players level up and explore the dungeon, there are mechanisms written in which make the dungeon more difficult.

Giving them bite-sized chunks and clear outlines to start, and an easy in and out, would probably do a lot to make the dungeon appealing instead of overwhelming. I could even imagine the PCs clearing out a district, taking out one of the bosses, and installing themselves an HQ or as a faction in the dungeon.

Also I just really like the idea of my players carrying on their adventures a magical painting which leads to a lethal megadungeon whenever they feel brave enough.

C. And a couple play reports (caution, spoilers):


Ran a five hour session of the MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA with a couple friends tonight. Here's some highlights, spoilers galore: present were Jon as Northrop Grumman the Tiny Man With A Riding Dog Rogue and Nick as Melt Banana the Human Paladin of Trump, two thugs in the island city of Tcorsk, hired by Edgar Voad, an aesthete, to steal a painting from the estate of a recently deceased eccentric. Giant land shrimp hung in the palm trees, moonlight washed over the tropical waves. Melt Banana and Northrop Grumman bought forties. Melt Banana and Northrop Grumman pretended to be tax inspectors and bullied the estate manager into letting them in. Melt Banana and Northrop Grumman pretended to have to report the smutty painting False Chanterelle to the morality committee and lugged it back to Edgar Voad's house. Northrop Grumman bullied Edgar Voad into giving them more cash for the painting, while Melt Banana hid in the alley with Northrop Grumman's Rottweiler, Boeing. Edgar Voad, desperate to view his painting in the proper context, forked over the cash, payed them a fiver to hang the painting, and committed suicide in ecstasy when the bound woman came alive and asked them for help. Northrop Grumman cased the kitchen for salami and beer while Melt Banana licked his lips and watched the bound woman. They asked her some questions. She gave some confusing answers ("No don't leave! If you leave the magic will end ... No you mustn't go in the rooms beyond, they're filled with lizard men"). They freed her. They made her promise to sit and watch the other side of the painting while they explored. They re-chained her to the far wall and went inside ("Just an hour lady, if you leave, the magic will end"). They met the blue skinned woman who asked them for art. They went into the room where the shadows make you fall into pits. Northrop Grumman fell into a pit and Melt Banana helped him out. They met the bad king stabbed with swords and tried to bring him back to the blue-skinned woman as a work of art, but were attacked by chameleon women and the king ran away. They went to the room where the mosaic poses a rhyme and if you don't listen, she won't repeat it ("Is this art?" they dead panned). They didn't listen and Northrop Grumman was bitten in half and dragged into the mosaic by the mosaic, and Boeing the Dog as well. Melt Banana ran across the rope bridges and met ("Okay Jon, you can rejoin the game as soon as you have your character sheet") King Hu Harpagos, an idiot and mute reptile man monk who meditated his way into the Medusa Maze in search of his ancestors. King Hu and Melt Banana met the screaming snakechild being mind controlled by chess pieces. King Hu threw napalm on the chess pieces and Melt Banana body slammed them. They found the white room with a single black line down the middle ("Let's stay away from the crazy line room"). They found the black room with the jade tiles that paralyze you. They each got paralyzed and then they made it through. King Hu examined the giant snail for sexual organs ("You find no genitalia"). They drank the bad wine. The end. What a dense dungeon.

Deaths so far: 1.


Session two in the MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA (spoilers ahead): King Hu the Reptile Man and Melt Banana aka "The Knave of Swords" a Paladin of Trump meet Chronia Torn, a naked woman and everything around her is rotting and ancient and weathered and her babbling insect pet with six radial legs trundles across her room and bites King Hu and King Hu likes it and they play together and it bites King Hu and King Hu likes it more and playfully bites back and it bites King Hu and Melt Banana asks Chronia Torn to stop her pet from killing King Hu and she says "Come" and it does. She asks them to bring her silks. She asks them if they've seen, you know, anybody, around. They haven't. She puts on a silk robe and it disintegrates off her body. They want to find treasure. They go into the art galleries. 13 drunk orchidmen stumble out. King Hu tries to burn them with napalm and sets the creepy staring arch of goat skulls on fire. The orchidmen run away. The orchidmen go into the room where the naked critics are. The orchidmen eat some of the bloody critics and the critics stand around and criticize them. King Hu and Melt Banana kill some critics in order to get XP. King Hu vomits slime on the orchidmen. The orchidmen surround King Hu. "They get two attacks each." King Hu is torn apart by orchidmen and his body is digested by plants. Melt Banana runs away. He looks at the room where the tank of bubbling frothing milk and meat chunks is. Melt Banana steals some light-stealing roses from a tangled garden. "I cut a whole bush and carry it around." Melt Banana befriends a scattered group of men in bird masks who call themselves bird gods. They can't agree on whether to help Melt Banana Make The Maze Great Again by building a wall to keep the orchidmen out, and some of them start getting drunk on the bad wine. Vetchling the bird god man agrees to help though. Enter Edogawa Ranpo the Drow Bard. Edogawa Rabpo insults the birdmengods. Edogawa Ranpo insults Melt Banana. Edogawa Ranpo insults a lecturing and argumentative man hung by a noose who starts screaming and attracts the attention of Torgos Zooth, who has a moon for a head and makes them tell the truth. Torgos Zooth asks them questions and appears to not have been paid by his boss in five or ten thousand years, but nonetheless is desperately loyal to her, but wants to rescue his sons from where he thinks they're imprisoned by an invisible mathematician in the Reptile Archives, but doesn't want to go there because the archives and the reptiles and the mummies are her property, and he's breaking the rules by wandering off shift in the first place, and he cries fat moon tears at how stuck he is in life. He offers them food and drink, but they want a crossbow. Edogawa Ranpo insults him and he teleports them to room (roll roll; they say "That's a lot of dice") 247 where a pale guy with vampire fangs is chained between two dim Suns. "Free me... I'm not... a vampire... I'll help you in, your quest... I'll be, helpful to you..." They stake him and decide to rest up there and then they see the hummingbird made of jewels which looks at them and flies away. Melt Banana says "I should definitely not go after the thing that looks like it wants me to go after it." They decide to take a break.
Deaths: 2
Treasure found: Still Zero

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Here's a couple critical miss tables for when you roll a one!


2 Uh-oh, snake-eyes! Either critical hit yourself or roll on the disaster table. 
3 Drop what you’re holding 
4 Trip and fall
5 Trip and fall on your face, you have a bloody nose and take 1d4 damage
6 Throw what you’re holding 1d4x10’ away (roll d4) 1-2 straight ahead  or  3-4 straight behind you 
7 Stop punching yourself! Make an attack roll against you
8 Make an attack roll against another person next to your target, if there aren’t any make one against yourself
9 Weapon breaks in some minor way (string snaps, handle falls off), broken until you get a chance to fix it
10 Jam your hand, ow! Disadvantage with that hand for next round
11 Twist your ankle! Speed is 10 until you’re healed
12 Total fuck-up, lose your next turn. You narrate why.


Your insane fuck-up is so shameful that you’re now blighted from the sight of the gods. You can no longer cast divine magic, and divine magic no longer affects you. Animals attack you on sight. This lasts until you perform an over-the-top ritual obeisance worth 1d6x100 gold.
3 Your armor gets nicked in a crucial point. Next time your armor would stop an attack, it breaks and you take a critical hit
4 Your weapon gets nicked in a crucial point. Next time you hit with an attack, your weapon shatters into pieces. You and everyone around you needs to make a Dexterity save DC 18 or take 1d4 damage.
5 You fall and break your dominant arm. You just can’t use it until you’re healed or its splinted, and then you’re at disadvantage with that arm until you rest for a week and make a Constitution save DC 15
6 Your weapon nicks an artery. You take 1d8 damage and 1d8 damage at the start of each turn unless the bleeding is somehow stopped. 
7 Your weapon clangs or scrapes super loud. A random encounter immediately joins the fray
8 Your pack breaks and your entire inventory falls onto the floor, anything fragile has a 25% chance of breaking
9 A level 10 thief backstabs you. Where’d he come from???
10 You fall and get a concussion. Unconscious for 1d10 rounds, and take 1d6 damage to all stats.
11 Sorry, you still critical hit yourself, except now you fall down too

12 Earthquake! It goes for 1d6 rounds. Everyone has to make a Dexterity save DC 20 immediately or fall down and can't get up until it's over, even if they don’t they can only move at half speed.  Within 50 miles buildings collapse, avalanches occur, roads are wiped out, bridges crumble. If you’re underground, then every round you take 2d6 damage from the ceiling falling, Dex save 15. Walls and hallways collapse. 5% chance of tsunami.